Summary: Bloody Saturdays, blue Mondays. Death yesterday, funeral tomorrow. See what's in between. (Hiashi x Genma)
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Kishimoto Masashi. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: It will be a slow progress, but this fic will be continued. Thank you to all the reviewers who had made their opinions known. I am glad that most people are willing to try a new possibility. Feel free to interrupt me if you think I'm not making it work. The 'how' will come later, but right now the 'what' must be told first.
This fic has been beta-ed by Lil' Monk. Any remaining mistakes are my own.
Hyuuga Hiashi carefully folded a piece of paper and inserted it into an envelope. He wrote a name on the envelope with a couple of deft brush strokes and put it aside after he was done. He picked another piece of identical paper, folded it, and repeated the routine. After collecting three similar envelopes, he stopped and rose from his desk.
A motion and rustling of clothes behind the fusuma signaled another's presence outside the room.
Hiashi smirked. Too obvious.
"Come in, Neji," he ordered.
A petulant-looking youth slid the fusuma open and stepped inside, keeping his posture low and respectful. Hiashi knew how sobering this attitude must've been for his only nephew—his prodigal, aloof nephew. The closest thing to a son he'd ever had.
"As usual, three envelopes for the sisters and yourself."
"Yes, Hiashi-sama." Neji received the envelopes without preamble and tucked them inside his sleeves.
"I trust the renovation is going well?" Hiashi asked. Last month another assassination attempt on the Hyuuga patriarch had left a portion of the east wing uninhabitable. Despite his gradual withdrawal from Fire Country's political scene, Hiashi still had some formidable enemies who wanted him silenced.
"Smoothly, Hiashi-sama," Neji said. He'd been at the scene, witnessing first hand the capability of a first-class nin against unsuspecting victims. They had four dead and two men injured. Six of the strongest, privately owned bodyguards of the Hyuuga family. A costly battle. Not even the women and servants were spared. The assassin had not believed in going down quietly and he'd stormed the female quarters in his desperate attempt to escape.
"How is your mother?"
"Well, thank you." Neji's thought went to his mother, lying on her bed like an invalid. Her condition had grown better since then. She could move her hands already. The assassin had been skillful in poison use that was hard to dispel using only chakra. Luckily, Konoha was blessed with an excellent team of medic-nin.
"That's good to hear." Hiashi nodded. His sister-in-law was a woman he'd never given a thought twice. Ever since her husband, Hiashi's twin, died, she had been a shell of her former self. But from a woman like that sprung someone like Neji.
Life, sometimes, was fickle. It didn't always know what it wanted.
"If that's all, I will excuse myself, Hiashi-sama," Neji said.
"Yes, that will be all."
Neji took a step back and was about to leave the room when his uncle stopped him. "Today's the Akimichi funeral."
"At ten, yes," Neji said. "I will be there."
Hiashi looked at his nephew and his straight, thin lips. Since when had he been so good at hiding his feelings? Neji at eighteen was very different from Neji at thirteen. Gone were his smirk, his air of superiority, and his short-fused temper. Instead, a cold and hard youth with finely chiseled feature had replaced the boy.
Akimichi Chouji and Neji had been good friends. Yet Hiashi saw no remorse or loss in his nephew's eyes.
Or maybe he was getting old? Too old to notice these little things? Forty-six going on forty-seven.
"Will you stay for the wake?" Hiashi asked Neji.
"For a while, then I have to report to Hokage-sama."
"Very well," Hiashi said, nodding again. Neji took this as a sign that he was dismissed and closed the thin sliding door. His retreating footsteps could be heard against the wooden floor.
Hiashi let out the exasperated sigh he'd held in and went back to his desk. Such a difficult boy! Five years and he'd not opened himself much. If it was possible, Neji had closed himself further. This wasn't what Hiashi had expected when he'd taken Neji under his tutelage.
Suddenly another shadow on the fusuma screen alerted him on a second guest. Hiashi smiled, recognizing the small figure kneeling outside his private room.
"Come in, daughter," Hiashi said.
Enter Hanabi, his youngest child. Twelve-years of age and she had become a genin a year earlier. This month she would take the chuunin exam along with her team. Sometimes Hiashi thought that Hanabi had grown too fast, too soon, and too strong without him realizing it. She was unlike her sister who was cultured and gentle-natured. If Hinata was a rare blossom bred in a warm green house, Hanabi was the opposite. She would thrive even in winter.
"Father, it's time for breakfast," she said. A child, no more than a child. She still had baby fat around her cheeks and her voice was still too high.
Akimichi Chouji was only seventeen when he died. Five years older than Hanabi was.
Too fast, too soon. Too strong. Fate, was it? A child dying before his parents. It was common, it was not unnatural. They knew the risks.
They all did.
"I will be there, daughter. Go ahead first without me."
Three years ago
They met at a teahouse with pastel green curtains and shallow tables. The tea was served in green ceramic cups and their plate of complimentary manju came in the form of a pretty servant girl. Genma expressed his thanks with a wink that brought out a tinge of happy pink on the girl's cheeks, ensuring a better service next time. Hiashi sipped his hot drink carefully, observing the little exchange. It amused him how fake it was.
"You should be kept away from the female population," Hiashi said.
"I like women, they adore me," Genma replied, watching the sway of the servant girl's hip as she departed. He made a low whistling sound before redirecting his attention back to the man in front of him. He picked on the manju, chose one, and swallowed it without chewing.
"Keep 'em entertained, y'know?" Genma added. "Good deeds."
"If I were a decade younger, I might agree with you," Hiashi said, though his own youth was nothing as rambunctious as Genma's days.
"What? You're telling me the great Hyuuga Hiashi chased skirts when he was young?"
"I didn't have to." Hiashi smirked.
"Tell me about it," Genma demanded. Hiashi didn't particularly strike him as a social butterfly, not even when the Hyuuga was younger.
"Haru's parents were my father's friends," Hiashi said solemnly.
"Your wife." Genma paused, then shook his head. "You never said much about her."
"She was a good woman." Hiashi raised his cup again. The answer came too fast.
"What was her favorite flower?"
Hiashi's hand stopped mid-air.
His mouth opened but no sound came out.
He didn't know.
A letter from the Hokage's office came earlier this morning. Neji-niisan has been wounded during his mission. Tsunade-sama expects him to be back to the village by sunset.
Hanabi's chuunin exam form for you to sign is on top of your desk.
There is a package from Akimichi-san addressed to Neji-niisan, and I thought you should know.
I hope this reaches you before the afternoon is over. We don't know where to find you.
He took a pen and added the word 'timid' next to his daughter's name.
And crumpled the paper before throwing it away.
Two years ago
An unlikely friendship, what they had.
At thirty-two years old, Shiranui Genma was whimsical. Genma was unremarkable, a bachelor nin too common in a shinobi village such as Konoha. Genma didn't think of the consequences. Genma got drunk in public and vomited at the same spot. His apartment looked like a girl's, maybe because he had women coming and out there too often, straightening his sheets, wiping the counter of his kitchen, and washing all his underwear for him. Really he was, back then when Hiashi had first began to know him better, a perfect cast out of the single, male mold.
Genma was also fond of alcohol. Too fond.
They never got drunk together because Hiashi didn't get drunk. Inebriated, in trance, heads full of sweet, tangy haze but in the end it was Genma who lost his composure. Hiashi, twelve years older, was always in control because he was older and age had everything to do with it.
Age that had made him witness the greatest disaster (Kyuubi, oh, you wicked, sly, fucking pelt factory, that was my mother you had between your teeth) or the greatest joy (daughters, children, perfect, tiny babies with silver mutant eyes calling, 'Hey, Daddy' and growing up too fast), experience the greatest pleasure (his wife, Haru, in bed, black hair smelling of jasmine sprawled on the pillow, with beads of glistening sweat on her collarbone) or the greatest pain.
(Genma collapsing next to him, whispering solemn curse words, weeping because he remembered despite all the clear liquid he'd consumed, and the blood streak on the tatami from his dreadfully chewed nails)
There was a hand that tangled itself within his loose, long hair, gently pulling him down. The hand moved along the nape of his neck, upward, until it cradled the back of his head. He didn't resist because it felt right at that time, didn't think that it was strange, didn't mind the warm breath that smelled like something had been trapped inside too long, no, he didn't. He wasn't surprised when the hand finally drew him closer, when it finally moved to his face, blindly stroking his lips, rough but purposeful.
Hiashi didn't get drunk, Genma did. That was why Genma had been looking at him with drunken sadness all night and putting on that wistful face, while Hiashi noticed these things and felt sober.
He tasted blood on his lips and discreetly licked it away. It didn't belong. Now a thumb was opening his mouth, pressing down on his lower lip, the chipped nail against his even teeth.
Down, it demanded. Closer.
He obeyed, eyes half-lidded, closing, and followed. His hands knew where to go, his body knew how to adjust and soon it wasn't a thumb on his lips anymore.
We were waiting for you to come home last night. I told Hanabi to go to sleep, but she refused. There was news from the hospital. Neji-niisan is not in critical condition, but he may not be able to carry out missions for at least six months.
The chuunin form is still on your desk. It requires your signature. The exam is next week.
The servants didn't know where you were going, so we weren't able to look for you.
A son, two daughters, and a horde of silver-eyed people behind him.
He had never felt so stifled before.
A year ago
Their friendship, or something that resembled that, had started with alcohol and ended with alcohol. It had been a premature thing that died early.
Maybe, maybe if they had waited.
"None of this would've happened," Genma said, lying on his back.
"Pick yourself up," Hiashi said, sipping his tea.
They met at a teahouse with dull decor and a servant lady whose polite, stupid smile reminded Hiashi of his own Haru. The tea was unexceptional, but it was decent enough.
"Why are you looking at her like that?" Genma asked. He glanced at the lady who was serving another table. "Interested?"
"That's okay." Genma's head was still on the tatami mats.
"Pick yourself up," Hiashi repeated.
"She's not bad, nice set of—"
"Don't you miss it?" Genma asked, rising. He almost knocked down his own steaming cup of tea.
"What?" Hiashi asked. He didn't like the direction their conversation was taking.
Genma gestured with his head towards a table of young women. "Them."
"I don't know those people," Hiashi replied.
"What a bore. You know that's not what I meant."
They were silent for a while, each staring at the still surface of the tea. Genma's senbon was perched as always between his lips, but at a somewhat awkward angle. Later Hiashi would realize that he had been biting the steel.
"You should remarry."
It startled Hiashi, but he showed no change in his demeanor. Instead he glowered, demanding an explanation.
"Forty-five. Perfect age for a second wife. Not too young, not too old," Genma continued, as if he didn't see the angry glare directed at him.
"What is your point?" Hiashi asked.
"But now you should at least remember her favorite flower."
"Or take her to hot spring trips sometimes, y'know?"
Hiashi had told Genma that some years ago that Haru had wanted to go to one of those famous onsen to soothe her back pain. He didn't think that Genma would remember, or throw these things at him at the most unexpected time.
"What are you trying to say?"
Genma removed his senbon and pursed his lips. He was serious. And agitated.
The clock ticked.
"We should stop seeing each other."
The tea was getting cold.
To be continued
Glossary of Japanese Terms
fusuma: sliding door that separates hallways.
manju: Japanese confectionary.
senbon: weapon made of steel, shaped like a thin, long needle.
onsen: hot spring site.