Desolate Hearts

Asuma stared at the candles on the birthday cake in front of him and frowned.

"Go on, make a wish." His mother smiled and said.

He blew out the candles in a puff, not caring to close his eyes and make a wish.

"I'm gonna sleep, mom. Have to wake up early for school tomorrow." With that, he stood up and walked out from the kitchen, leaving his mother standing there, ignored.

"Don't you want to wait for your father? Or at least have a slice of cake…" his mother's voice rang behind him, growing weaker with each step he took.

Asuma had a sudden urge to yell back, "Would ya stop this? This whole celebrate birthday thing is pointless. And stop bringing up father. He never kept his promise!"

Instead he bit his lower lip and headed to his bedroom silently. He was only seven years old, but he had already given up the idea of celebrating his birthday with his father after being let down for countless time. His father always had a good reason for not turning up for his birthday celebration or forgotten about it entirely - he has work to do, there's an emergency coming up and he couldn't leave and blah-blah-blah.

The next morning when he woke up, there was a pouch with a note saying, "Happy birthday, son" sitting on the desk besides his bed. He chucked it into his cupboard without looking what was inside.

Asuma loathed going to the ninja academy school. The teachers would shower him with unwanted attention in the class and the other kids would distant themselves from him.

When he scored first place, his classmates would made faces and whispered behind his back, "Gee, who wouldn't score first place if we were him? His father was the Hokage after all." Asuma tried his best to pretend not to hear the sarcastic remarks and ignored them. He knew it all along that it was all because his father was the Hokage.

That was until a kid called Kakashi who was a year younger than him entered his class and snatched the first place from him effortlessly. This time, the kids in the academy no longer whisper behind his back. They mocked him openly and made sure he heard it clearly.

"Oh my, look who's first this time. What a surprise that it isn't Papa's kid this time. Hahaha…"

This time, Asuma didn't hold back - he punched the kid and broke that boy's nose.

"Why did you do it?" the Sandaime asked his son calmly when he summoned Asuma into his office.

Asuma remained silent. He hated it when his father spoke to him that way - pretending that he understand when he really doesn't. The old man doesn't understand anything.

The Sandaime continued to smoke his pipe while waiting to hear his son's answer patiently as silence descended for the longest time. Asuma merely stood there with his fists clenched tightly on his side, refused to answer or look at his father in the eye the entire time. The Sandaime eyed his stubborn son, shook his head in defeat and sighed.

"You're not going to explain yourself? Very well. You will apologize to Abume-kun and you'll be suspended from school for a week."

Asuma tilted his head and met his father's gaze with a glare. And then he said, "I will not apologize. He deserved it."

The Sandaime narrowed his eyes in disapprove, clearly angered and disappointed by his son's response. The normally cool-headed and collected Hokage finally lose his temper and raised his voice as he spoke, "You will do as I said. Not only you refuse to admit your wrong doing, you even push the blame to someone else. You really disappoint me."

"Make me then."

Asuma sneered, allowing himself to savor the rare moment that he managed to rip away his father's indifferent façade. But that moment was short lived as he received a hard smack across the face in return.

That was the first time the Sandaime ever smacked his son and also the last.

Asuma didn't go home that night and when he did, he never spoke to his father again until much later.

By the time the Sandaime retired from his position and began to spend more time at home, Asuma had already moved out. Asuma rarely went home except when he gave in to his mother's nagging and went home once in a while for dinner.

The Sandaime didn't ask questions like "Are you sure about this?" like any other ordinary parents would when Asuma decided to leave to the Temple of Fire. He already knew why - his son no longer wanted to live under his shadow and he supposed he should be proud of him.

Asuma had returned to Konoha once after the Kyubi had attacked the village. His mother was killed in that incident. And the Sandaime was forced to take up the role as the Hokage once more as there was no one else.

The Sandaime suddenly looked much older than Asuma had remembered in years when they met at his mother's funeral. When the Sandaime couldn't find his lighter, Asuma offered to light his pipe for him casually.

"Thanks, didn't know you smoke too."

"I guess it runs in the family."

"My bad."

They didn't talk afterwards. They merely spent the rest of the evening smoking, each lost in their own private thoughts.

Asuma left the village again the next day and the Sandaime had let him.

Asuma went back to his parent's house briefly a few days after attending his father's funeral. The house was now empty. Both his parents were gone. He went into his room and lied down on the dusty bed sheet. His hand itched to reach for his cigarettes but decided against it.

Then he suddenly jerked up from the bed as if remembered something and searched his cupboard. The pouch that the Sandaime gave him as his birthday present years ago was still at where he left it. He never did find out what was inside. Curious, he opened the pouch and poured out its content. They were some mini shurikens, a little rusty on the edges but when their shiny surfaces caught the light, they reflected some carvings on them. When Asuma scrutinized its surface, he found his name carved on it.

His eyes glazed with tears when realization struck him - the Sandaime had made them specially for him.

Happy birthday, son.

It was too late to say "thank you" now.

A/N: I always had a feeling that Asuma wasn't on the best term with his father, the Sandaime when he was young although he grew to respect and understand his father as he matured. My version of story is not cannon and merely the product of my imagination. But I hope you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for reading.