Kissing A Smoker

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Written for iamzuul, who is and always will be the only Asuma-sensei for me. It's not exactly what you asked for. But I hope you like it anyway.

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Asuma started smoking when he was eleven years old, the day his sensei caught his hands shaking as he washed the blood off in the red-tinged waters of a shallow stream. Sensei didn't say anything, just dragged deeply on his cigarette and stood watching until Asuma pushed himself to his feet and wiped his hands dry on his pants and thrust them deep into his pockets to hide the trembling.

"Here," Sensei said, and held out his half-smoked cigarette.

Asuma's hands haven't shaken since then.

He tells himself it's because of the cigarettes, and not because he's grown used to killing.

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Kurenai used to argue with Asuma and Sensei about their smoking, back when she was young and foolish and thought nothing could be worse than dying with your lungs rotting inside you. She'd ask Sensei how he ever expected to catch a wife when he smelled like a burning trash heap, and she'd bug Asuma about how he'd be wheezing like an old man by the time he was fifteen, and she'd hold her nose pointedly even when she was upwind.

Then their third teammate caught a Katon jutsu full across the face and Sensei bled to death in Asuma's arms while Kurenai worked frantically to stuff his guts back into the gaping hole in his belly, and she found there are worse ways to die.

Asuma probably won't live long enough to get cancer, anyway.

And Kurenai's learned not to mind the taste of smoke on his lips.

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She still nags him, every once in a while. But her words have lost their old edge, and now they're as close to endearments as she'll ever come in public, because both of them still have trouble with the simple things. It's easier to tell him that she'll come visit him in the hospital when he's minus a lung and breathing through a machine than it is to say I love you. It's easier to sigh and turn his head just enough that he doesn't blow smoke in her face than it is to say I love you too.

Underneath the underneath, Kakashi always says.

Underneath the underneath, Kurenai knows that his smoking is one of the things she loves about him.

Underneath the underneath, Asuma knows that if he ever does quit, Kurenai will be there to hold his hands until the trembling stops.