Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Naruto franchise.
The first thing I remember of this world is pain and confusion and an odd kind of serenity.
There was a period of indistinct nothingness and the I found myself exposed lost and outside I don't want to be here then comforting warmth around me, only to be taken away leave me alone, please, please, it hurts and fell into exhausted sleep, against the the backdrop of malicious pressure bearing down on me. This respite was short lived, as I was once again woken by a flash of unbearable hateful energy stuffed into me suffusing my unresponsive body. Then it was done, the source of that evil, distilled intent tucked away into some distant, safe corner, and I was free to scream and cry in terror, panic, relief, and discomfort.
My name is Uzumaki Naruto. It cannot be anything else, anymore. Please listen to my story, and judge me as you will. It is all I can truly call my own.
Babies' eyes do not develop well enough to see until several weeks after birth. Those few weeks, in my second life, were some of the most confusing and miserable I have ever had the misfortune to experience. The sensations I was experiencing were utterly mystifying, and contrary to both my logical-such as it was-reasoning and instinctual responses of a baby. Baby-side was expecting a mother to cuddle and feed from. Adult-side was wondering why could not see, my limbs were not responding, and what, exactly, had just happened. That very first day, it took nearly an hour-a horrible, hungry, tired, uncomfortable hour for anyone to find me, lying in a position of honor among the rubble.
My first days among the living passed by in a vague blur, although I reason that must have been a horrible baby. As far as I could tell, I had grown a second pair of veins to channel some sort of energy-containing substance-and they were unnaturally bloated, the energy they carried painfully corrupted. It hurt, and I could never get comfortable. Ergo, I cried. Every single moment I was awake. It's a wonder I was not strangled to death the first six months. As it was, I believe they resorted to forcibly knocking me unconscious a few times.
I was placed in the orphanage a few months after my first birthday, still pondering the transition into a supposedly fictional and scientifically impossible universe. There, I found the caretakers to be extremely perfunctory but emotionally distant, refusing to attach themselves to the child of disaster. I had believed that the trauma of my first day here was merely the unfortunately necessary process of being born into a new, quasi-magical world, but the disinterest and tension in child care specialists was igniting dismaying suspicions. It was ridiculous, and, well, rather arrogant to seriously consider that I had miraculously been reborn as a hero of a world full of superpowered beings. But I finally got confirmation on the bi-annual checkup, when I was one and a half.
I was sitting up in my crib, trying to work up to a full standing position, when a few my caretakers walked in, looking rather harried, and hastily conferred with each other in a japanese-based language I was finally starting to pick up. Finally, Curly-Hair grabbed me and brought me outside for the first time since I was originally brought to the orphanage; or, as I thought of it, the Isolation Tank. I was hustled to a formal waiting room, where an old man in white robes and a triangular hat was waiting. He gently held me up, speaking kindly, and carefully inserted a spike of chakra into my system, immediately destroying any chance of a serene environment as I exploded into wails. Something as traumatic as having a bijou sealed within would not be without reprisal-in this case, the insertion of chakra was so similar... Impressively, he did not react in any way to having a baby suddenly throwing a tantrum in his arms as he quickly and efficiently completed the scan, then held me still until my wails desisted into quiet sniffles. As I started up at -the hokage?- he sadly told me something involving hope, leaf, shinobi, and fire, before handing me back to a nurse and leaving. To my profound irritation, my understanding of the language was greatly inhibited by the lack of people willing to interact with me.
As the caretakers finally left, I stared up at the ceiling, rocking with baby giggles. I was Naruto! I had my chance to be great, a real hero, to help all those people with the advantage of foreknowledge! This was a dream come true!
Stop with the fangirl.
So, I could be a fabulous ninja, but I needed a plan to get there. Training first, or people? People were more important, probably.
In Konoha… first opportunity was the chūnin exams, where canon Naruto had faced off against Neji, and Gaara, and… the Hokage had… died…
The hokage was the best of the best, Shinobi no Kami. He had died in the first major arc.
Clan children, like Hinata, had training from at least the time they were three. As in, people were training them. And they were all still genin level by the series proper.
If I was lucky, I might be on the Rookie six's level by the time we graduated.
And how, exactly, was I supposed to mimic Therapy no Jutsu?
Naruto was integral to the 'niceness' of the Narutoverse. I had barely been able to communicate, much less significantly influence people in my past life. I wouldn't be able to make a life-changing speech in the middle of some overpowered battle. I didn't have his incredible determination, much less his ability to unconditionally forgive anybody, no matter how they wronged me. How would I really be able to stand constant discrimination and no loving family as a support base? Naruto was some kind of situational prodigy, and accrued support by inspiring various incredible mentors and teachers. Was I expected to yell Tsunade into getting rid of her haemophobia? Impress Jiraiya with a personality and decorum so disparate from his, or Naruto's own?
Not to mention, was I mentally prepared to become a shinobi? It wasn't like the Jinchūrikki would get a choice. Kill on orders, die for something as ephemeral as the Konohagakure no Sato? Not to mention what overpowered enemies I would be facing if my future went anything like canon. I would have a great advantage being able to mentally focus so much earlier, not to mention the huge chakra reserves, but I might not have the fortitude to make the most out of these opportunities, not to mention the difficulty of getting teachers.
I would just have do my best. I would not-could not be Naruto, or a anywhere near his level of positive impact upon this world, but I try my hardest, do the most with the advantages I had been afforded in this second life. I owed it to Naruto, my predecessor, the hero and savior of this death-torn world-the innocent, wonderful boy whom I might as well have killed.
So, a self-insert. I really admired a few like Dreaming of Sunshine, Only a Moron, and A Cage of Blood and Circumstance. And then I got into the genre, and found... the more typical quality of a self-insert. And I found quite a few where the character was inserted into the role of Sasuke or Naruto, depending which one they thought was cooler or who they wanted to romance. Most of the time, they basically become their interpretation of the character while removing anything they see as a fault. Naruto is a hero because of his incredible strength of character and morality against everything that has gone against him in his life-integral qualities that none of us can hope to claim. I wanted to experiment with a real person, not a hero, thrust into Naruto's life. Basically, a person aware of the fact that they live on the brink of apocalypse and knowing they might as well as killed the world's savior.