Out of Everyone
Aito had been in the orphanage for as long as he could remember. Both his parents had died when he'd been barely one year old, Mother had told him, and one of the shinobi who'd fought together with his parents had taken him to the orphanage afterwards.
After the war had ended, children in the orphanage didn't tend to stay very long. Lots of adults were eager to start anew, Mother explained, and were happy to adopt orphans, wanting to give them a chance in a world which was changing for the better. At most a child tended to remain at the orphanage for two, maybe three years at most.
Except for Aito.
Aito was seven, but no dad or mum had shown any interest in him so far. It was because of his face, some of the kids giggled cruelly, pointing at the long, thin scar running straight from his forehead down to his left cheek. Thin it might be, but it was quite visible, staring back at him whenever he looked into a reflecting surface. He didn't know how he'd got the scar. Mother thought it might have happened during whatever had caused his parents to die and by the time the shinobi had found him, it had been too late to properly heal the wound.
At first he hadn't paid the scar any mind. It was something that had been on his face for as long as he could remember, so why should he pay attention to it? But as he watched kid after kid leave with their new parents, excited to go to their new home, the scar started to sting more and more.
Mummies and daddies didn't want ugly children, Aiko told him, popping her finger out of her mouth. They want cute, beautiful children; boys and girls who didn't look like monsters. The scar was really ugly, Haruto said apologetically, patting his shoulder. Kind of hard to ignore and really, really not that pretty.
Like someone had tried to slash his face apart, Ichika brutally remarked, shrugging when Mother scolded her.
Aito tried to ignore their comments, because Mother said they didn't know what they were talking about anyways and soon he would have a new mummy and daddy too. Every kid got their family eventually; that was how it worked.
Except it didn't. Not for Aito at least.
Most adults who visited the place looked straight past him as if he wasn't even there. As if he was a ghost, not a boy hoping to finally find his own family. A couple of times he'd tried approaching them, following the advice of one of the nurses who sometimes came to visit them. Seven he might be, but even he could see the grimace on the mum's and dad's faces when he walked over to them, hoping they would want to talk to him. He watched their faces drop, watched their eyes grow more distant and some even turned away completely from him as if they couldn't stand the mere sight of him.
"People don't like being reminded of the war," Urushi, one of their main caretakers, murmured to Mother. "Scars, injuries, permanent or not – they remind them too much of what they lost."
Aito sat hidden around the corner, swallowed up in the shadows. He had only wanted to get some milk because he couldn't sleep, when he'd heard voices coming out of the main playroom. He knew eavesdropping wasn't nice and that he should just forget about his milk and go back to bed, but he couldn't. He could only sit there, frozen, listening to Mother and Urushi talking.
"Aito-kun is just a little boy!" Mother hissed and Aito covered his gasp just in time. He'd never heard her this angry before! "They're judging a child for something he can't do anything about, how's that fair? He's deserving of love just like any other kid, scar or no scar!"
"I know, I know," Urushi sighed. "I don't agree with them, but that's how a lot of them think."
She uttered a noise of pure frustration. "You know what one woman told me today after her visit here? That if she had wanted an ugly child, she'd have got one with her previous boyfriend. Who on earth says something like that?!"
"Don't let her get to you."
"How can I not? How am I supposed to look at Aito-kun and tell him that he'll probably never have a family who loves him, because people care too much about appearances?"
Aito had heard enough. He slunk back upstairs, no longer interested in the rest of the conversation. In his room he stood in front of the small mirror and traced the long, thin scar over and over again; his small index finger sliding over the little bumps and ridges that had been there his entire life.
He stared at himself, at the long too obvious scar; the one that made him stand apart from the other children, that made adults grimace and turn away, shuddering in dislike.
He stared at it and then went to bed, pulling the blankets tightly around him.
Sleep took a long time to happen.
Aito watched one of the girls leave the orphanage, skipping between her new parents while holding on to their hands. Her little bag thumped on her back as she departed to her new life.
He turned his head when Mother came to stand next to him, meeting her soft smile. She squeezed his shoulder.
"They're going to play a boardgame; you want to join them?" she suggested with a smile.
He stared up at her, recalling the conversation between her and Urushi two evenings ago, and blurted out, "There's no mummy or daddy ever going to take me with them, huh?"
"Of course you'll have a mummy and a daddy!" she immediately reassured him brightly. "Don't worry about - "
"But they hate my scar," he muttered, poking at the ridges of it near his eyebrow. "They never like me."
She sighed softly and abruptly knelt down on her knees, pulling him onto her lap. "Listen to me, Aito-kun. All these people don't know what an amazing boy they're missing out on," she insisted and hugged him. "They're the stupid ones for not seeing that. But I promise you: some day soon you will meet your new parents and they're going to love and adore you so much, I just know it!"
She sounded so certain, so reassuring that Aito wanted to believe her, because Mother would never lie to him.
It was getting harder and harder to believe her, though, when he could do nothing but watch one child after the next leave the orphanage and he wouldn't even be given a second glance.
Would he never find his own family?
The whole orphanage was abuzz. It usually was like that when adults would show up, wanting to adopt one of them, but today was the most special day of them all so far and had every child cleaning up as best as they could out of their own volition this time.
Because today the two main heroes of the war would show up to adopt one of them.
Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto they were called and not only were they the heroes who had saved their world, but they were also best friends and even loved each other like a daddy and a mummy loved each other! Mother had said they were boyfriends, instead of boyfriend and girlfriend.
Aito hadn't even known it was possible for two boys to like each other. Now they would show up at the orphanage, wanting to adopt one of them to form a complete family. A part of him couldn't help but be excited about that, because the other children's enthusiasm was infectious and who wouldn't want to call the two heroes their dads?
As he passed a mirror, however, he was quickly reminded why he couldn't be excited about today and his stomach twisted into knots as he slinked back upstairs. On the ground floor everyone was gathering, grouping together in the big playroom, awaiting the moment the two men would arrive. They were all dressed in their nicest clothes, eager to meet the heroes and be the one who was chosen by them.
Aito should be downstairs too, but …
There was no point, right? The two heroes would take one look at his face, would see the ugly scar and they would immediately turn away. He'd heard many stories about them, how brave they had been when they had barely been adults themselves, how they had saved the entire world from an evil man, how they were so strong they could fight goddesses themselves! About how Naruto was on fast track to become one of the youngest Hokage ever as soon as the current Hokage stepped down.
Brave, strong heroes like them – they wouldn't want a scarred child. They would want a cute and a beautiful child, someone who would fit with them.
Aito wasn't that child. He was scarred in the face, older than most of the children here. He wasn't cute or beautiful and he didn't fit with people who were literal heroes.
It was best for him if he just stayed in his room and didn't go near the window. If he avoided the window, he wouldn't have to see who the lucky boy or girl was this time. He wouldn't have to watch yet another kid leaving while he remained behind.
As the front door opened and unknown footsteps entered the hallway, Aito curled up in the corner of his little room and buried his nose in one of the books he'd found in the hallway a few days ago.
Staring at the pictures and ignoring the excited voices downstairs.
He jumped nearly three feet in the air when a cheerful voice remarked, "Ah, so here you are! I was starting to think that I had chosen the wrong floor."
Aito could only stare, frozen, as Uzumaki Naruto sauntered into his room, dressed in a black orange jacket and black trousers. His headband gleamed in the sunlight as he drew closer and he sat down on his haunches, a few feet away from Aito.
Blue eyes gazed at him friendly. "Hello there, my name is Uzumaki Naruto."
"A-Ai-Aito," Aito brought out eventually, his mouth uncomfortably dry. He tried to hide his face behind his book, but a tanned hand reached out and gently pushed the cover back down.
"Hey there, Aito-kun, nice to meet you," Naruto grinned. "How old are you?"
"Se-seven years old."
"Oh, that makes you sort of the big brother to everyone here, huh?"
Aito shrugged awkwardly. "Not really. Erm, they – the others don't stay here for long," he said haltingly. A lot of them tended to avoid him, claiming his scar would give them scars too. Mother said it didn't work like that, but they didn't listen to her.
Naruto nodded thoughtfully. "How come you weren't downstairs with the rest of them?" he questioned curiously.
Aito shrugged again, staring down at the picture of a girl running after a horse. "Just … didn't think I should," he muttered, fiddling with the corner of the page.
"Why not? Sasuke and I want to meet everyone."
"Mummies and daddies, they – don't really like looking at me," Aito admitted embarrassedly, lowering his head.
"Because of your scar?"
Aito flinched, feeling stupid when some hot tears started to prickle the back of his eyes. It was stupid to cry when he had heard worse, no?
"You know there's nothing wrong with your scar, right?" Naruto remarked lightly.
Aito frowned, touching the long line running down his face. "Yes, there is, all the mummies and daddies say so," he said, biting down on his lip.
Naruto plopped down on the floor, crossing his legs. "Then those mummies and daddies are idiots," he said frankly and Aito stared at him, gaping. "There's nothing wrong with scars whatsoever, Aito-kun. I've got a scar too! A really big one even."
"What? Where?" Aito asked mystified. Was it the marks on his cheeks? They didn't look like scars.
Naruto smiled again and removed his jacket for some reason, revealing his right arm completely wrapped up in bandages. As Aito stared, the blond man started unwrapping the gauze, revealing an arm which was slightly textured differently, like that part had been in the sun for too long and had tanned more.
Flexing his fingers, Naruto said, "I got hurt really bad during a fight and I had to get my arm completely fixed. They couldn't fix it completely, you see, so I'll always have this scar. I don't mind, because it means I'm still alive."
"Yeah, but it's not on your face," Aito pointed out, flushing when Naruto raised an eyebrow. Still he persisted, "That's different."
"You know," Naruto leant back with his hands behind him, "Sasuke has several scars, some more visible than mine. I don't think he's ugly because he has them. To me that shows just how strong he is, just like your scar shows how strong you are." He gently poked Aito's cheek close to the scar. "Because this scar is proof that you survived and that you're still here. That's nothing to be ashamed of."
"But they say it makes me ugly," Aito mumbled, feeling like the spot where Naruto had touched his cheek was burning, so hot was it.
"It doesn't. Far from it. You're the coolest kid in this entire place," Naruto declared and clapped his hands together. "What do you think, Sasuke?"
Aito whipped his head around in surprise, gaping at the dark haired man standing in the doorway all of a sudden. "I think Naruto is right," Sasuke said; his voice deep. The sleeve of his left arm was dangling a bit; had he hurt his arm as well? "What do you think about coming home with us?"
"Home with you?" Aito repeated, not daring to believe it. This was all just a dream, right? No way they were asking him what he thought they were …
Naruto grinned and ruffled his hair. "What do you say about you and us becoming a family, hm?"
Become a family with them …
Aito couldn't even say anything as he slung his arms around Naruto's neck; the lump in his throat too big as he lost the fight against his tears. When he felt Sasuke's hand descended on his shoulder, he could only bury himself deeper into Naruto's chest, listening to the blond man laugh and say, "Now we can all be cool together!"
This time it was Aito who walked away from the orphanage while the other kids were left staring at him.
This time it was he who got his own family. Out of everyone who would have thought they would choose him? He with his ugly scar?
But maybe, he considered as he gripped a bandaged hand and held on to an empty sleeve on the other side, watching his new dads exchange a quick kiss as he skipped between them, maybe his scar wasn't so ugly after all.
Because if his dads said the scar was cool, then it had to be so, right?
Perhaps he could learn to love his scar after all. Now that he finally had a family of his own.