Summary: Genma, Hayate, and the beauty of things unsaid.

AN: Blame Kimi no Vanilla. I know I do. This takes place when Hayate is seventeen and Genma is twenty-three. There's oodles of symbolism in this fic. Blame the fact that my current novel of choice is the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.


The sun rises every day, because it doesn't have a choice in the matter. It trudges, weary and full-bodied, bursting with a monochrome dervish of red, across the sky. In the evenings, it hangs low and heavy in the west, a pitiful, mournful thing that's seen too much and saved too little. In the mornings, it rises renewed and full of vigor, ready to face a day that will run it ragged, never mind its efforts to the contrary.

Genma's known lots of people in his life that have died. His mother, father, kid sister…hell, he's got a whole compliment of ghosts just riding around on his shoulder, enjoying the view of an existence they no longer share. So when he meets a new person, a bright smiling face or a melancholy scowl or a gruff glare hiding weakness from the world, he doesn't see them, he sees what will happen. He sees that bright smile splintered, lips cracked and bleeding, face smashed beyond repair. He sees that melancholy scowl become a frantic gasp for air that won't do anything but prolong the agony of living in a shattered husk of a body. He sees that gruff glare burned out by a firebrand, and once he gets these things in his head, it's hard to make them go away.

When he sees Hayate, he sees death. Notices but doesn't comment on the way the sickly kid coughs up blood and tries to hide it. But maybe it's because Hayate's death is already imminent, that he knows he's going to die, maybe that's why Genma can stand being around him. Because when somebody's accepted their own death, well, you can't help but accept it as well. It makes things easier. Genma likes easy.

Hayate's only seventeen, but he's a genius. He may be rather twitchy and a little shy, standoffish if you so much as hint at insulting him or anyone he cares for. Fierce but slow to true anger. He's gentle and hesitant, when he thinks no one's looking, and he doesn't complain about anything. Genma knows that if he knew he was dying (well, everyone is, he just likes to ignore the fine print), he'd go so bat shit insane that he'd end up in a psych ward somewhere with some pretty lady feeding him gourmet applesauce for the rest of his life. So he respects Hayate, because he knows strength when he sees it, and the kid's got a reserve deeper than any ocean.

And today he's crying.

It's not a dramatic sort of event, no heaving sobs, no trembling shoulders, no runny nose or puffy eyes or anything of that sort. He's just standing there, on a bridge, looking down into the chill dark water below and there's tears running down his cheeks, conjoining briefly at his chin before they carry on into the open arms of the small stream.

Genma's a ninja, sure, but he's not a sneaky sort by nature, so when he strolls up to Hayate, he makes a lot of noise, knowing that the young boy could take it as a warning and leave, but he doesn't. Just keeps standing there, looking into the water and mourning something he's never had. All things converge and diverge and eventually fall to ashes, so Genma isn't quite sure why this bothers him the way it does.

"Yo, kid," he greets, lifting an unnoticed hand, flicking his senbon from one side of his mouth to the other. "You're up early." And it is early, he notices for the first time. The sky's only just been grayed with the coming dawn, and there's a heavy mist eclipsing Konoha Village. The sun will come later, and burn away the fog, and by noon, the town will be a proper town again, busy with bustle and life and routine, not a world of ghosts and grayscale.

"So're you," Hayate points out wryly, not turning around. He leans further on the guard rail, kicks one booted foot between the bridge's slats and fidgets.

Genma claps a hand to his shoulder, all camaraderie and chaos, all that golden bullshit that's so hard to swallow after seeing so many comrades die, but he thinks maybe the kid could use a friend. And being friendly is just one more way of coping, because if you're friendly with everyone equally, you never get too attached to any one person.

"Look like you could use a drink, kid."

Hayate snorts with heavy irony. "Too young to get into a bar."

"Bah. Age has nothing to do with physicality." So Genma rummages around in his pockets, patting them down systematically until he finds what he was looking for, and he discards his senbon and unscrews the lid of the flask with his teeth, proffers it to Hayate. "Drink up, kid."

"Is there a reason you're here?" Hayate asks, somewhat coldly, but he accepts the flask and takes a small, quick sip which leads to a coughing fit and a look of disgust. "What the hell is that shit?"

"Good stuff," Genma assures him. "And…ah, I'm here because…" he glances up at the sky in supplication, and a small sparrow flits across his line of vision. Enlightened, he snaps his fingers. "A little bird told me somebody needed a drink."

"Right." Another snort. At least he's not being standoffish, the way he can be sometimes. Genma makes allowances for Hayate, because it seems like no one ever has before, and he knows that it's nice sometimes to have someone just take you at face value, without double entendres or hidden motives or anything but honesty.

"So, you, ah…problems?" Okay, so he's not the most diplomatic of men. It's not really his job. He can kill people in cold blood, scurry over rooftops undetected and bake a mean cherry pie, but he's never going to be a politician.

Hayate inhales sharply, and his breath hitches, and he's coughing again, a spastic fit that lasts longer than usual, and so Genma shifts to the other side of him, turns his back to the dark little creek and rests his elbows on the partition. He regrets the loss of his senbon, because it'd be a handy conversation piece right about now…

"I'm dying," Hayate says finally, his voice tinged with pain-sharpened clarity, brought into stark relief by a peculiar sort of resignation. Stating the obvious had never carried quite so much of a bite. "They say it'll be another six months before they can't stop this disease any more, and then my lungs will fill with fluid and I'll die. Drown, actually." Thus the stream, of course…

"Is that so?" Genma gestures for the flask with a little wave of two fingers, and Hayate gives it back almost reluctantly. He takes a swig and swishes the fiery liquid around in his mouth appreciatively, because this is the expensive, special Jounin 'I'm gonna fucking die and I want to do it when I'm well on my way to being thoroughly sloshed' brand alcohol.

Hayate gives him an odd look, and he just returns it coolly. And then the sickly boy smiles, a hesitant, shy little smile, the sort that probably never sees the light of day. "That didn't sound like sympathy," he says in wonder.

"It wasn't." And Genma quirks an eyebrow, reaches up and scratches his forehead under the knotted ends of his hitai-ate. "If you think I'm gonna give you sympathy 'cause you're gonna die, kid, then you've got another thing coming."

"Hm," Hayate murmurs thoughtfully, and he waves for the return of the alcohol. "Didn't think of it that way before."

Genma grins. "Well, it's like this. I could go on a mission tomorrow, take a freak hit out of nowhere and die. I could get drunk and drown in a puddle of my own vomit -'scuse me but ew- or I could get hit with a bolt of bloody lightening. Death happens. There's only one thing you can do in the meantime."

Hayate gives him a wry look. "Get drunk and have a spotter?"

Genma rolls his eyes, holds up one finger and says, "Well, that's part of it. But what I mean, is that you just have to live, y'know? How'd you like it if you spent the last few hours you had left on this miserable planet sulking around like a whipped pup?"

"Yeah, well, how much living can I do in six months?"

"Meh, dunno. You ever been laid? That's not something you'd want to miss out on."

Hayate flushes, rubs one hand across the base of his neck and mumbles something about waiting for the right girl and true love and some other cockamamie crap that Genma doesn't even bother listening to, because he's heard it all before.

"You need to get your priorities straightened out," he says with a very amused smirk. It's funny, in a sad sort of way, that the kid's a ninja, and he's killed people with his bare hands, bathed in blood and haunted by screams of the dying, and yet when it boils right down to it, he's still an innocent. An innocent with maybe six months left to live, barring freak lightening strikes.

Hayate, still blushing, turned back to the water. "Well why don't you do that for me, then?"

"What, sleep with you? Sorry, kid, I don't swing that way. I'd try Kakashi, if I were you." He grins, takes another drink of alcohol and waits for the statement to sink in.

Hayate makes this little noise that's a cross between a squeak and a growl and he punches Genma's shoulder, hard. He's spluttering too badly to comment, but the effect is enough, and Genma's grin widens.

The moment passes, and Hayate's smiling again. He laces his hands together, re-rests his forearms on the rail and exhales, long and slow, like he's trying to expel some sort of poison from his body and it's not quite working out the way he'd wanted it to. "I could die today," he says, picking up on the discarded thread of their earlier conversation.

Genma salutes with the flask and takes another drink. "Yup."

"Right now, almost." He glances around as if expecting some random ninja assassination squad to drop out of the sky on their heads.


"You don't seem worried," Hayate continues, raising both brows at Genma's utter nonchalance.

The taller man merely shrugs. "Take things as they come, and don't think too hard. Does nothing for no one and usually gives you one hell of a headache."

Silence, again, but comfortable this time, a childhood blanket wrapped around your shoulders, a cup of cocoa clutched between your hands, sitting on a bear-skin rug in front of a blazing fire. The colorless city is starting to live again, and it takes in one shuddering breath, the resurgence of a beloved giant. In the distance, a window shutter bangs, a bird twitters and there's a baby crying. The sun's just starting to reach over the mountains, slow and tentative like one of Hayate's selective smiles, and so Genma just sits with his face to the warmth and basks.

"Hey, Genma…"

"Shush, kid." He screws the lid of his flask back on absently and tucks it away in his vest for another rainy day. "You'll miss the sunrise."