Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto and I make no profit from this work of fiction.
Naruto has nightmares. Everyone has nightmares, especially if they are shinobi, and he doesn't think anything about them; certainly not enough to refer them to other people. Not before Gaara asks him about them, that is.
Naruto is sitting in a swing, kicking the dust up. It isn't a real playground swing, just a piece of rope tied to a sturdy tree branch, but he remembers that Gaara has a thing about swings and so he has made two. Gaara is wearing his robes of office and his gourd, but not his nice hat. He still eyes his stretch of rope suspiciously and Naruto thinks he is afraid of looking silly.
"Live a little," he says. "Tomorrow we will go to a battle, but today we can have swings and ramen."
I can smell the Uchiha, Kurama growls in his mind. When he speaks nowadays it isn't only words, but also flashes of emotions and sensory memories, images blending over what Naruto can see and hear and smell. This is why he knows that Kurama isn't speaking of a real scent, but the elusive bite the wind and the nature energy carries, a whisper of burning hatred.
Which one are we talking about, he asks and thinks of smug, smug Madara with bigger superiority stick shoved up his ass then the whole Hyuuga clan put together, smug, cruel Madara who wants to tear everything Naruto knows and loves to pieces. He thinks of the other half of Tobi, Obito, who apparently was the one responsible for the death of his parents and Iruka's parents and everyone else who died that fateful day in October, Obito whom he should either hate or pity, but he can't quite decide which to do. Obito who may hate the world or just be out of his mind. It's kind of hard to say with these screwed-up Uchiha.
He thinks of Sasuke and tries to think of something else. He has forgiven Sasuke for the Valley of the End and even joining Akatsuki, after he had run away to play a lost boy with Orochimaru none the less, and making Sakura-chan cry and making Sakura-chan lie about something as important as love and all. This doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt, that he isn't angry, isn't looking towards kicking the bastard's ass halfway across the continent. Because he is going to do just that and it's going to be glorious.
Does it matter? They are all the same, as stable as an egg standing on its top and as fragile in the head. There will be fight and we are going to bathe in the blood of our enemies tomorrow.
Not if it's Sasuke, we aren't. And I want ramen too, Naruto adds his clauses to it and Kurama growls deep within his mind. But it isn't as if his insistence is anything new and Kurama doesn't even bother wasting words on the matter, but just sighs like the last gust of a storm, raising his skin in goosebumps with the bite of the last slush of the winter, letting Naruto feel his conviction that his partner is an utter fool.
"You are talking with Kyuubi," Gaara states as he lowers his gourd to the ground and settles down on the rope. He isn't swinging, though, but just sits there like it was a bench. The sun is setting behind his back, a glorious golden and orange avalanche falling towards the treetops. Actually it's just clouds, but it looks to Naruto like the whole sky is falling. It's really, really pretty.
"What it was like for you, before?" Gaara doesn't have to elucidate. "Did you ever have troubles sleeping?"
"Not like you at all. Well, I of course had nightmares like everyone els…" Naruto pauses here because he suddenly realizes that some of them probably had to do with Kyuubi – Kurama. There were the normal nightmares, the ones with Iwa nin or Kumo nin attacking Konoha that everyone had, the ones where Naruto would walk and run through Konoha and grab people and shout to them and plead with them and nobody would look at him, not even Iruka-sensei, and those were born of his childhood when no-one would look him into the eye, spare him a kind word.
But then there were the other dreams, the dreams where he was big, terribly big, towering over Konoha's rooftops. Konoha was burning and the air was thick with oily smoke and the heady scent of blood, the crackle of fire and shouts and screaming, the night full of gleaming steel and the flickers of hearts ceasing to beat and tingling chakra snuffed out, dying and fear. And he was laughing with glee as he leaped towards the three huge heads on the mountain and the stone crumbled under his hands, now that would teach them…
"Hey, you did that to me!" he shouts suddenly, startling a few Anbu who are surreptitiously making sure that no-one attacks either the precious Kazekage or the precious Jincuuriki, the second last left.
…It took you this long to realize? Kurama's voice radiates disbelief, but Naruto honestly hadn't thought much of it at all. Bad dreams happened to everyone, Iruka-sensei had told him, and the best part of it was that it wasn't like the waking world. When you woke up it was over and you could choose to not think about them anymore, and so Naruto hadn't.
And obviously they were nightmares because when bad things happened in dreams they were nightmares and Konoha falling was a bad thing. Obviously. Why was Kyuubi giving him that look anyway?
They were supposed to be revenge fantasies.
"I apparently mistook revenge fantasies for nightmares," Naruto refers the conversation to Gaara, who isn't privy to it. "Kyuubi's kind of bad at making fantasies…"
"This doesn't bother you at all. You forgave me. You forgave Pein. You even forgive that Uchiha. Is there anyone at all you won't forgive?" Gaara asks and pushes himself back, swinging back forward again.
"That bastard Madara," Naruto says without even thinking about it. "And Orochimaru and Danzo and Obito, maybe… except he's Kakashi-sensei's precious person. Dammit." Naruto remembers all those mornings he would sneak to the Memorial Stone and find Kakashi crouching in front of it, speaking to someone who wasn't there. Oh, Obito's getting his ass kicked too for letting Kakashi feel guilty all this time… but he guesses he can't really hate someone his sensei still loves. Though Kakashi tries to deny it and doesn't really speak of it, Naruto knows he does.
This is how easy it really is for Naruto and Gaara understands it, somehow. It's nice how they don't have to explain these things to each other because explaining always makes the really important, too-big-for-words things sound so silly. Speaking just isn't enough for some things.
"What if one of your precious people loved Madara or Orochimaru or Danzo?" Gaara asks. Naruto's mouth curls into a thin line of grimace like he had bitten into a piece of candy only to find it was one of those stupid sour candies. Really, doesn't sour taste defeat the purpose of candy somehow?
"Please tell me nobody I know has that bad taste," he pleads because the thought of having to befriend Madara is a bit much even for him. The sun is setting and Naruto has to squint his eyes when he looks at Gaara; he doesn't see his friend's face very well, but the tilt of Gaara's head is wistful, somehow.
"I want to live in your mind," Gaara states eventually. Kurama knows it is a metaphor and not to be taken seriously, though with his help Naruto could arrange for it.
The spot is already taken, he says.
Kurama killed Naruto's parents and Naruto forgave him for it. Well, more like shifted the blame to first Madara and then Obito, but in any case, he doesn't blame Kurama. He saw the chakra ghosts of his parents, saw their last moments, and the first thing he decided to do was to get through to the tormenting demon within and befriend it because Killer Bee had inspired him and friendship is always a good idea, right?
As far as personality goes Uzumaki Naruto resembles Rikudo Sennin very little, but there can only be one so pure a soul in existence. The person who is now Uzumaki Naruto was once Kurama's father. Kurama then killed his father – and mother and would have killed him as well had he been able to – and was forgiven for it. This is probably supposed to make him feel better instead of guilty, but irrational human emotions have proven contagious like that.
Kurama has learned a lot about Naruto since the seal was opened. There was once a sewer in Naruto's mind, a miserable, wet, dark hovel. Now there is a palace made of Kurama's own memories and in the palace there is a door and beyond the door lies open Naruto's subconscious mind, hidden in the metaphors of gently sloping hills and deep, beautiful, dangerous forests with snow-cold ponds and little caves, of open fields and a village that eerily resembles Konoha, yet is subtly different. Kurama has the freedom to wander across the landscape that is Naruto where no-one runs away screaming and no-one spits hateful words and he has learned to read his partner quite well. There are tigers and man-eating giant centipedes in the forest, a few frowning faces and white-knuckled fists in the village's dark alleys, the lasts vestiges of the manifestation Naruto named Dark Naruto. (It is Kurama's opinion that Naruto shouldn't be allowed to name anything, ever. He can only hope that the brat's future wife has a good head on her shoulders or else, well, pity the children.)
No, Naruto's mindscape isn't all happy pink unicorns frolicking under sparkly rainbows because no mind can be that uniformly positive, not even Naruto's. But it is rather more positive than should be humanly possible, Naruto's circumstances considered.
For humanity what is most common is considered normal. What deviates from the average by big enough margin is considered abnormal; this applies also to how human mind works, Kurama knows. It is true that he has only been sealed within three people – and that is two too many – but he can sense negative emotions, all the hatred and bitterness whether it is hidden under sugary layers of politeness or not, the oily, cloying fear and the envy with silver tongue coated with poisonous saliva. He knows the tenacity people clutch these cutting things to their bosom with like a mother clutches her babe. Uzumaki Kushina had held the pale shadows of this reality-defying optimism, but how far Naruto can force things, decide to feel in a certain way and then do so, honesty, genuinely feel what he wants…
Naruto could be considered either clinically insane or the only sane man in the world. It is a good thing, then, that he strives to feel good things.
Naruto can forgive anyone and everyone, Kurama will only forgive one. Not Naruto, for Naruto doesn't need anyone's forgiveness, not even his. The one Kurama forgives is Umino Iruka. Even the kind sensei didn't love Naruto right from the beginning, didn't give the chance to prove himself for free, but he is still the one the brightest, happiest places in Naruto's mind are associated with, his house and the Academy. Naruto cares for many and Kurama only cares for the multitude of them as far as necessary to protect Naruto from heartbreaks, but Iruka-sensei he cares for because of the man's own merits.
He wonders if the man has any idea how unique he is among all humankind, for Kurama has only ever loved three and two of them can technically count as one.
Sasuke hates. He hates Konoha for killing his family and for not everyone being part of it because then he wouldn't have to feel guilty, he hates Madara for killing them and himself for serving Madara now (but it's for revenge...) and Itachi for killing them and still making Sasuke love him. He hates hates hates, and all his many hates blur together in his mind until there is only one monster. It has a bulging, shapeless body with a hundred hands that all hold weapons and many, many faces.
Now even the faces are starting to blur together. Is that Sandaime's face, or Danzo's? Orochimaru or Kakashi, what does it matter? Both used to be his teachers, it all amounted to the same in the end. He betrayed them both.
"They keep deploying him to the front lines, the fools," Madara drawls as be bends his head over a map. It has lines drawn on it with pins, red for Konoha, golden for Suna, silver for Kumo, blue for Kiri and black for Iwa. Each of these stand for a hundred men. There is one white pin placed in the middle of the reds and the golds and one is still on its case by the map, for Killer Bee's whereabouts are still a mystery.
"More like the idiot deployed himself and Tsunade humoured him," Sasuke snorts and tries to not feel the constricting of his throat. That would be the Naruto thing to do; he only has to stay out of trouble to halt Madara's plans, so obviously everyone's screwed.
"More the fool of her, then. So Senju to be soft with her soldiers." Madara spits Senju out like one of those four-letter words mother told Sasuke to never use or she would wash his mouth with soap...
Sasuke has issues, but Madara has him beaten on that count. He has spinned this delusion about how beating Naruto in a fight is some final victory over the Senju and a proof that the Uchiha way is superior just because the Uzumaki were an of-shoot of the Senju line long, long before Konoha was even founded. The only thing Madara is going to prove is that he's a better fighter than Naruto and it isn't like that's anything to boast with. If only the maniac would see that.
Then what? He would leave Naruto for Sasuke to fight like he promised he would, though Sasuke knows he lies as easily as he breaths? Sasuke hasn't quite decided yet if he's going to kill Naruto or not. The fool certainly couldn't have had anything to do with Sasuke's family if only because he's much too young and his father died before he could do it so Sasuke hasn't even got that to hold over the Uzumaki's head. It is on days like this that Sasuke hopes he had. On days like this in this rich red, Sharingan red tent, with Madara's head bowed over the map with its hundred little pins, it hits Sasuke that they are at war with practically the entire world and he begins to doubt if even they can win a fight like this. Somewhere out there beyound a dark forest and gently rising hills awaits a mountain's edge. Somewhere out there awaits a shinobi who would make a better samurai if he could only learn some table manners. In Sasuke's imagination Naruto always stands in sunshine and rubs his head sheepishly, grinning like he has no serious thought in his head and wearing that garish orange that he somehow manages to actually pull off. There is the tiniest hint of purple hiding in the blue eyes, ready to burst out in red at a moment's notice.
Sasuke hates Naruto for his shining, golden legacy of unquestionably heroic parents, he hates Naruto for still smiling after a lifetime of suffering, for never having to doubt himself when Itachi's name still can tie Sasuke in a hundred knots and, when he is honest enough to admit it to himself, Konoha's name does the same.
And most of all Sasuke hates Naruto for forgiving him. What business has Naruto doing so when Sasuke can't?
It is the aftermath of yet another battle and Naruto has emerged victorious. He returns to the base camp grinning, sweaty, bloody and chattering with Sakura. Kakashi smiles under his masks when he sees his two remaining students walking up the road, Sai trekking with them. Umino Iruka is standing there with him, right beside the Checkpoint Akari. He isn't a field shinobi, for even and especially during the war someone needs to teach the next generation of soldiers, but the Academy is on spring break now and he has volunteered for courier duty. It's just so he he can meet with Naruto, Kakashi is sure. This makes him happy
"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto shouts with more elation than either Kakashi or Jiraiya - peace to his soul, as much as possible for a shinobi - has ever coaxed out of the exuberant boy.
"I see you are well, Naruto," Iruka says and ruffles Naruto's hair. This is when the hell breaks out.
It is an ambush by a mercenary group allied with the Akatsuki, disposable canon fodder too foolish to even realize how cheap the price tag on their lives is. They matter not, Naruto channeling Kyuubi and putting a Rasenshuriken through a missing-nin from Kumo and a good deal of the surrounding landscape doesn't matter, just like Sakura punching a kunoichi in red leather and fishnet through a small three, Sai decimating another wearing only bandages for a top or Kakashi dispatching three of attackers without much ado doesn't matter. What matters is Iruka-sensei, Naruto's precious Iruka-sensei, how he takes one of the mercenaries on and dispatches the burly man at the cost of a deep cut to his left arm. What matters is how Naruto flutters by the teacher's side like a frantic butterfly while Sakura heals him.
"I'm alright, Naruto. It's just a flesh wound," Iruka says. His face is pale and his lips thin from the pain of the cut, but if Kakashi has learned to triage worth a shit during his long career, Iruka is right. No major blood vessels have been severed, the bone is intact and the tendons of the arm are undamaged.
"You worried us, Iruka-sensei!" Naruto chastises his old teacher and bumps his good arm gently, blue eyes bright with relief as he kneels on the dirt by the disheveled-looking man. "Like, Kyuubi totally unzipped when you shouted and we smelled blood..."
"Ah, Naruto? Kyuubi was worried?" Iruka asks with a mild voice. Sakura is between him and Kakashi and so the look on his face is a mystery, but Kakashi has heard that voice several times before. That voice only makes an appearance when there is something Iruka wants to clarify or clarified to him, yet is careful to not cause distress. The man isn't as good as he thinks he is at hiding his emotions - yet he can fool Naruto. But then, that isn't saying much.
"Yeah, Kyuubi likes you, you know? I mean, he cares from my precious people because I would be distraught if something happened, but he likes you for you," Naruto explain innocently.
Kakashi is surprised to hear that, for he hadn't thought Kyuubi had enough heart in him to care for more than Naruto. Naruto, after all, could probably entice trees and rocks to love him. He isn't surprised to find Iruka drinking that night. Kakashi has to give the man credit for choosing a good spot for losing his self-control: it's the edge of the camp, a small strect of grass wedged between a storehouse and a cliff face, far from prying eyes and far from any likely venue of attack. It is clear Iruka doesn't drink much if a few cups are enough to get him this wobbly, for the jar next to him is almost full. Kakashi thinks it better to keep the man from drinking any more or the man's journey back is going to be a miserable one. Iruka may have come to visit Naruto, but he is still on duty and can't dawdle.
"It likes me," Iruka blurts out. He hasn't turned to look at Kakashi; good. He isn't so drunk as to be unaware of his surroundings, uncapacitated. "It killed my parents and now it likes me!"
"I think you have had enough," Kakashi says and plucks the cup from the teacher's hand like a crow plucks an eyeball from a cadaver's head. Iruka's face is flushed and his pupils just a bit dilated as he gives Kakashi a mournful look. Kakashi knows that for the peace of everyone's mind it's better to put an end to this line of thought now or something will slip out sooner or later and then Naruto's feeling will be hurt.
Naruto forgives so easily. Naruto also judges other people by his own standards; this isn't unique to him. But often it causes him to forget that most people carry grudges far, far longer and much more bitter than he does.
"I think we can blame Madara for that - or Obito," he says gently as he pull Iruka up from his crouch, his voice only hitching the littlest bit. "It was Sharingan the first go-round and it was Sharingan the second as well." He is lying with ease, but then, aren't shinobi born liars? The truth is, while he doesn't know the details of that fateful night he is fairly sure that no mind control had been required to make Kyuubi attack the village. After all those years held prisoner within Mito and Kushina - and yeah, Kakashi can objectively admit that was more than a bit unfair since Kyuubi had been mind-controlled the first time he attacked - Kyuubi must have been enraged and desperate to escape. After the seal crashed everything Kyuubi did was almost certainly of his own free will. Kakashi knows this and he hasn't forgiven Kyuubi for a single lost comrade, for sensei and Kushina, but he is willing to pretend for Naruto's sake. Naruto at least has earned it.
Naruto wasn't beaten with a stick as kid or anything, Sandaime's protection counted for that much at least, but sometimes Kakashi thinks of the shadow his father cast upon him as a child and wonders how badly going through what Naruto did would have screwed him up. Playing with a child in the playground until a red-faced adult came to drag their offspring away and the child never playing with him again. People switching to the other side of the road when he walked up to them, half-heard mutters of "demon child" and "bad seed" and cruel speculation about his parentage. No-one meeting his eye, store-owners only serving him if there wasn't any other customer in the store, ever so coldly and only because the Anbu would make a visit if they outright refused, the teachers - with the exception of kind, but sadly busy Iruka-sensei - never calling on him to answer a question and never offering advice when he did something wrong. How badly would it have screwed anyone else up, going through all this and never knowing why?
Kakashi is guilty of neglect as well. He let his grief over sensei and Kushina distance him from Naruto and this is why he now holds his peace, coaxes Iruka-sensei to do so as well. If Iruka can only bear to shift the blame, well, it's good enough practical purposes. Naruto's forgiveness benefits Konoha, benefits them all. It isn't as if Kakashi has earned the right to dictate to whom the boy may and may not extend it to.
In a world where the chains of hatred bind whole generations and resentment is passed down in the family like special techniques Naruto passes on kindness like candy to kids and bread to hungry men. His way is the hard one, but it's also the best. An eye for an eye makes the world go blind, and while Naruto has no doujutsu, there has never been anything wrong with his sight.
(And isn't it funny, in that special way that mostly involves things NOT being funny, that his biggest enemies literally depend on ripping off the eyes of those they love for power?)
AN: I am working on the next chapter of How to Win Friends, I swear! This just demanded to be let out of my head!