Companion piece to the Broken Ninja series. Happens a few years before the start of Naruto.
Note 1: If you haven't read Kinds of Love, this will make no sense.
Note 2: Vague spoilers for the last story in 'Broken Ninja,' though no major plot points.
Note 3: This is dark. Rated R for the f-word.
Sometimes, he felt like he lived in a glass bubble. He could hear people talking to him, but the words were distorted; he didn't understand. And when he tried to explain, they just shook their heads and looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language.
He could see the world passing by, people laughing and hugging, kissing, fucking, touching, smiling. But it was just that; passing by. He couldn't touch it. He couldn't feel the heat from the sun or the wet from the rain. It pattered off the shell of his bubble, and when he tried to say something, people would edge away from him like he was a monster.
Sometimes he would walk down the street, and just when he thought he understood, he would say, "Hey! Look at that little fat guy!" and whoever he was with would look at him and answer, "That's a tall skinny woman," and then he would realize his view was still distorted, that the glass twisted things all wrong. The glass would twirl and shine, laughing at him, reflecting rainbows in his eyes so all he could see was red.
It was glass no one else could sense. But he knew it was there.
He dreamt, once, that he could draw people into it. Certain people. People who believed in glass bubbles. People with glass bubbles of their own.
It was like a code, after that. Finding the others who could look at the world, but not touch it. He could touch them.
He smiled, and touched little Lee's hair carefully. The little ones got frightened easily, though it helped that they looked up to him, called him sensei, trusted him. The glass distorted Lee, too, made him older, made him safe. The bubbles melted away, or maybe he was pulling Lee through, or maybe Lee could walk through. The orphans almost always had bubbles. They understood. They liked touch, and they would touch back, and the two of them could live in a glass bubble together for a while, watching the world spin by.
He had to be careful, of course. He'd learned well from childhood that people without the bubbles didn't understand. They would drag his precious ones away and leave him alone again, alone in a city bustling with people, hammering to get out.
But the little ones understood. The orphans with no families, no one to go to. He could be there for them. They were there for him. And if he just held them tight enough, maybe they wouldn't go away.
People always went away.
So he touched little Lee's hair, and smiled soothingly. He kept the boy in his glass bubble, kept him talking, waiting for the moment when the child wouldn't watch him warily, waiting for when the boy realized that they could reach through their bubbles, or merge them, or something.
Because no one could live without touch.
Because he couldn't touch the rest of the world. He could only look. Look, and scream, and beg and plead--but they didn't hear him, and he couldn?t make them.
And then he looked up, and another man was there, watching from a bubble that had cracked, though neither of them understood why.
He knew that the man was going off to join the living, breathing world, leaving him alone. He laid a hand on Lee's head, daring the other to object.
"Lee," the man said, smiling softly, "I think your friends are looking for you."
And the boy jumped up and was gone, just like that. Leaving him alone in his bubble, alone in a room with a man who didn't understand.
His friend looked at him, concern heavy in liquid brown eyes. "Are you all right?"
He shook his head, pounded against the bubble and screamed, "No! Help me!" But when the words pushed through the glass they were distorted beyond reason, and he heard them echo back to him. "Fine, Iruka. Lee just wanted to talk."
Iruka nodded slowly, and left the classroom.
Mizuki leaned back against the desk. The sun shone through the windows, lighting the glass, sending rainbows of color to blind him. Inside his bubble, his world was cold.
Sometimes, he thought he lived in a glass bubble. He could see the world passing by, people laughing and hugging, kissing, fucking, touching, smiling. But it was just that; passing by. Nothing could shatter the glass.