Shallow Days, Dead Skies Ahead
Disclaimer:
I do not own Naruto

A/N: Don't count on this staying off hiatus, but I really wanted to do something for Naruto's birthday. Masashi Kishimoto, thank you for everything. For making Naruto's quest possible, because even though it's not really real, somehow the feelings behind it are. You've helped me through a lot, helped me persevere through many challenges. So thank you.

OoOoOoOoO

Uzumaki Naruto #2
"
Candle"

OoOoOoOoO

He's a candle.

He's a mistake. He isn't a part of the shinobi world. And still, somehow, he forces his way through. As a child, he's ignored, estranged. He tries to push himself, attempts to be the best he can be, but he's a child. He can't compete with his classmates, even people like Inuzuka Kiba and especially not people like Sasuke.

He can't compete with their brilliance, he can't compete against anyone. No matter how hard he tries, he's going to fall. It's inevitable.

But he still gets up, regardless. He still wakes up every morning, still trains, still vies for acknowledgement he'll never receive. He stares into the mirror and sees a monster, but hopes someone will see past it. He hopes that there's a light in this world, and that he's hear for a reason.

But what's the point in living if you're alone? There's no one to tell you "good job" or "there'll be a next time, buddy" or even just simple, easily-spoken kind words like, "It'll be okay".

He doesn't have friends for that, or even parents or family members. All he has is the darkness that creeps onto him every night, that tells him there's no point in his existence.

It's a mystery why he never killed himself, or why he never left the village, the horrible people who hated him for no reason at all.

It's a good thing he didn't.

Naruto is the sort of person that comes once, maybe twice in a lifetime. He's the sort of person who believes. He is the person who knows there's a brighter day, even if he's never seen it. There are second chances. There is hope.

And he is that hope.

Years passed on and he grew. He became a ninja, despite all odds. He failed the test to begin with, but it didn't stop him. He took it again and again – and finally, Umino Iruka gave him the greatest thing he could have hoped for. Sure, the headband went a long way, but to say that? To say that and mean it?

"Yeah… the demon fox would use the power of the scroll to do whatever it wanted… but Naruto is different. I've acknowledged him as one of my excellent students. He may not be the hardest worker… and he is clumsy and no one accepts him… but he already knows what it is to feel pain inside your heart. He isn't the demon fox. He is a member of the Konohagakure. He is Uzumaki Naruto!"

After years of trying to gain attention with stupid pranks and a loud voice, Naruto received acknowledgement. His name, his being… he wasn't just a brat, wasn't just a monster. He was a comrade, a member of his village. He was – he was accepted. Even if it was just one man, it went as far as to carry him to the day that he couldn't see.

He was Uzumaki Naruto. And he was going to be Hokage, he was going to be the greatest and the best, and no one could stop him.

He made enemies, he lost people he cared about. He was being hunted; he wasn't catching the eye of the girl he loved. He couldn't stop Sasuke, and couldn't keep his promise to Sakura, even though he said he'd never go back on his word.

But so what?

In that darkness of a truly terrible, gruesome world, Naruto was a small light. He was a warmth, a place of comfort. He wasn't much, but no one let that stand for long.

He slammed his hands on the concrete and forced himself up, wounds and all.

He made friends – friends that relied on him and respected him. Gaara, Rock Lee, Hyuuga Hinata and Neji, his sensei Hatake Kakashi, Sai, Jiraiya, and even Sasuke (although he'd never admit it) – they all realized he was worth something, that he wasn't a waste.

Even to the people he was running from, they treasured his memory and hoped for him. Uchiha Itachi knew Naruto could save his brother. Pein gave his life for Naruto's friends, realizing Naruto was the answer to end hatred. Konan saw Yahiko in him, believed Naruto could carry on his will. Even Obito, who lost his heart to suffering, who dreamed of a new world, tried to find hope in Naruto.

They all depended on him. The entire world, the entire alliance, was putting their faith into a boy – who they wouldn't have trusted not even a five years ago – they believed would change the world.

He wasn't just another shinobi. He wasn't just a rotten, stubborn brat. He was a belief.

"I never go back on my word… that's my ninja way!"

The words echoed out like firelight, and the world heard him after years of him screaming. They all turned and gave breath to his fire, ignited him.

They gave everything they had, and he gave it all back in return. He was a light that could banish the darkness, the shinobi that could put end to hate, the boy who would stand back up.

That candle was Uzumaki Naruto.

OoOoOoOoO

A/N: *sniff* I watched the first episode before I wrote this, and now I'm looking back. I am a hardcore fan of Naruto. I have followed every chapter and watched every episode. I've been a fan for years, and watching episode one made me feel nostalgic. :3 Happy birthday Naruto! :D