Author's Notes: This is for the 50 Alternates challenge at Live Journal, using the theme "sheriff." This is very AU, probably very fluffy, and possibly OOC as I've never written Asuma/Kurenai before. You be the judge.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am making no profit from this fan fiction.
An Agreeable Arrangement
The mayor's office building had exploded into chaos, and Asuma Sarutobi hardly knew why. It wasn't as though a mere case of vandalism was something to write home about. Overzealous political party advocates were everywhere. Since it was the mayor of New York City's venue, however, and because Asuma was the city's chief of police, he had an obligation to be there.
It was the fact that the mayor also happened to be his father Asuma resented. But that was as out of his hands as the current state of the disturbance site. Digital lenses were snapping every square inch of the lobby, and shouting was set to maximum volume.
The mob of photojournalists made sure, of course, that they took a decent shot of the giant, vicious-faced donkey that had been spray-painted in bright green over and around the various artworks that hung on the east wall of the lobby.
Asuma had three teams operating in the packed lobby; one to hold back the straining reporters, led by dog-training cop Kiba Inuzuka, one to question the on-duty staff, and one to analyze the vandalized wall. He cast a half-hearted look around for Jon Stewart, very sure this bizarre case would end up on The Daily Show before it hit NYPD records.
As he did, he spotted a woman ducking beneath the yellow police tape. Well-honed skills had him both assessing and reacting in rapid succession. The assessment confirmed that the woman was notably attractive, with long black hair, a flattering crimson business skirt and blazer, which accentuated a shapely body, and a surprising pair of garnet eyes. The reaction involved heading her off at breakneck speed.
"You are?" he asked.
"Not interested," she snapped out without looking at him.
Faintly amused, Asuma held out an arm to cut off her path toward the elevators. "Miss, I think you misinterpreted my question."
She registered his uniform then, and her eyes went wide. In an attempt to take a step back from him (many people seemed to be under the impression that standing too close to a cop was a legal offense), one of her absurdly high heels skidded on the tile and sent her pitching forward. The stack of files she carried under her arm scattered, and print-offs flew in all directions. Kiba's dog, Akamaru, began to bark madly.
Perfect. Asuma desperately wished for a cigarette.
"Oh, God...sorry. Shit." The woman knelt on all fours and began to gather her paraphernalia.
Heedless of the reporters, Asuma bent in order to help. "Didn't mean to scare you," he said honestly. "But we can't have you crossing this line."
"I work here!" she flared at once.
God, Asuma thought, not this act. "For who?"
Wrong line. "Lady, I've got personal connections with this office, and I know you don't work for the mayor."
He cut her off by thrusting the retrieved files – those not trampled by officers at work, anyway – into her arms. "Save yourself the trouble, won't you?" Taking her by the arm with gentleness but firmly enough to show he meant business, Asuma led her back toward the throng. "Tell the Times I said hello."
Asuma's patience thinned considerably, a feat not easily achieved by anyone other than this addressor. He tossed a bland look at the old man standing behind him. "What?"
Mayor Sarutobi, dressed in a starched black suit and tie, stared balefully back. "I'll thank you not to mistreat my secretary on her first day. I'm sorry, Miss Yuuhi. My son can be quite rash."
"Your son?" the woman called Yuuhi echoes.
"Your secretary?" faltered Asuma uncharacteristically.
Cameras flashed and journalists yelled out questions. The mayor was disapproving, his secretary look shocked, and Asuma appeared more or less humiliated.
This very picture (the donkey conveniently visible in the background) was printed in The New Yorker the following morning. Sitting at a tiny café to which she was partial, Kurenai had one scarlet fingernail trained on her reading place while she perused the article and sipped coffee at the same time. She was dressed as confidently as yesterday, but the attire did not match her mood. Already she had become the unlucky recipient of several sidelong glances ranging between amused and disgusted from other breakfast-goers.
As she was approaching the third column of the article, Kurenai felt a presence too near her and looked up as a somewhat gruff voice quoted, " 'Mayor and son share friction over secretary?' " He even afforded the upward inflection that denoted inquiry.
Kurenai saw a faintly smiling Asuma Sarutobi standing beside her table and did not react in any way. The plain white coffee cup he held was devoured by his large hand. "It seems I've been disgraced," he said.
Kurenai's physical response was caught somewhere between a tensing of her shoulders and a relaxing of her jaw. "You can't count on the media to report anything accurately. A story like this," she waved a hand in dismissal, "isn't the kind to be taken seriously."
"It's a good trick for front page news. Word it as a question, and suddenly there's no liability." Asuma shrugged. "But that's not what I'm here for. I came to apologize for yesterday, Miss Yuuhi."
The words sounded rehearsed, Kurenai noted. This was doubtlessly a man unused to contrition. "It's all right, Chief Sarutobi. I think I came out of this comparatively unscathed." She paused for effect. "Unless, of course, this bad press gets me a pink slip."
"It won't," he hurried to assure her. "Tactless as they are, the story focuses on the vandalism, not us."
He really did look sorry, Kurenai thought, in a sort of high-school awkward way. "Did you come here just to see me? You must be busy."
"I just wanted to clear my name."
That she got a kick out of. As big and dangerous as he looked, the mayor's secretary had trouble picturing him on the stand. He was the head honcho at NYPD, after all. Everybody's friend. "It was never in danger," she told him, smiling.
His entire stance altered with her forgiving change of expression. "In that case, will you let me buy you another cup of coffee?"
The smile vanished, and Kurenai's mind raced. Didn't see that coming. It would have been easy enough to shake him off using the old I'm-already-seeing-someone routine. But frankly, she wasn't seeing anyone. And Asuma was impossible to miss.
Her smile materialized once more. "There are free refills here."
Asuma bent his long legs and squeezed into the opposite side of the booth she occupied. "Well, that's just convenient for me, isn't it?"
Kurenai laughed. Both of them rested a hand on the tabletop, their fingers scant inches apart.
That Asuma saw her working for his father now and then, during those visits to the mayor's office his position required him to put up with, did not phase him. As much as Kurenai stirred him (and that was the perfect word for it – some men claimed complete and total bulldozing by women, but so far he had been merely stirred), he was adept at sticking to professional boundaries. Mastering right place/right time techniques had brought him so far, so young.
That wasn't to say the chief of police ignored her casual smiles or polite conversation, or that he did not enjoy the conservative-yet-sexy pantsuits and skirt-blazer combinations she wore without fail to work. He just preferred the far more liberal ensembles Kurenai chose to don for the dinners they went to, such as the miniskirted black halter dress with the sky-high heels, or the V-neck tee shirt and skinny jeans she sported the day they took Coney Island by storm.
Oh yes. Asuma liked those just fine.
He discovered, however, about a month after the tentative initiation of their singularly unexpected relationship, that he relished her good looks as much without clothes as he did when she was dressed.
Not so shallow as some of the other, less choosy men he knew from the force, Asuma was as drawn in by her intellect as her physical features. She lacked little in either mind or body, and what she did (Kurenai possessed, for instance, the unique inability to contain her true feelings, try as she might) was easily compensated for by other aspects (those feelings were always well-founded, in fact).
She respected herself, which was more than he could say for past brushes with romance. And she liked people of all sorts, which relieved him because he was bombarded by requests to meet her by various friends and acquaintances; she handled Shikamaru well, and the Nara lawyer apparently acquired yet another client in the form of his girlfriend. She thoroughly enjoyed Chouji's food when they visited the restaurant where he cooked, Uzumaki's. And she even wore some of the clothes Ino modeled, which helped the two polar women to connect on some level.
It had been Kurenai who had first suggested the notion of taking their relationship to the next level – if one can suggest with their wordless mouth and persuade with their hands simultaneously. Asuma took her up on it because, by then, he had arrived at the point where the idea of her in the arms of any other man incensed him almost to possession. Of course, Kurenai was no woman who could be possessed.
"How do you feel?" he softly queried in the minutes after they managed to catch their breath in the dark of his bedroom that first time.
Kurenai grinned impishly, turning her head to press a follow-up kiss to his warm, bare chest. "Curiously powerful."
"Well," she confided, laughter visible in her eyes in the light from the adjoining bathroom's open door, "you can be so daunting. Physically."
He chuckled, passing a hand over her soft, black hair. "You're pretty scary yourself," joked Asuma, earning an unheated smack to the shoulder and her playful giggles when he dove beneath the sheets with her.
In his teenage years, he had considered all of the things he might have wanted from his life, primarily disentanglement from his father and the politics beyond campaigns and causes. Now, the younger Sarutobi, all at once, could not think of a single thing that would content him further.
Kurenai wasn't highly prone to swearing unless placed in a frightening or embarrassing situation. Her current predicament satisfied both conditions better than any she had previously been in.
The word, in any case, was likely the most appropriate in this instance, anyway. She felt both hot and cold as she exited the ladies restroom on her floor at work. Her fingers were tensed into the same arrangement of moments before, when they had been occupied by a slim white stick, upon which her future appeared like a dreaded poltergeist.
Mayor Sarutobi stepped through the elevator doors just as she was crossing the room to her desk, in clear view of the older man's perceptive gaze. "Miss Yuuhi?" he queried, addressing her with the usual appropriate title. Behind him, the muscled pair of his regular security guards dispersed, leaving them alone together during the late-day lull.
Kurenai's eyes flashed to those of her boss with the startled alacrity of a nervous bird, seeking the source of strange noises. "Mr. Mayor," she greeted him, her voice breathy and unusually empty of welcome. "I thought you weren't scheduled to come back until..."
But the secretary trailed off, unable to finish the sentence that she was only forming to stall the inevitable question.
"What's wrong?" Sarutobi asked her.
She wavered. No matter how bitterly Asuma may have felt toward him – the animosity between the mayor and the police chief was not only obvious, it was practically palpable – Kurenai had continually seen him as fatherly and warm as was possible for one in so stressful a profession. At the very least, he had never spoken out against her dating his son. This fatherly warmth now buckled her, and tears silently debuted on her ashen face.
"I..." Grasping the edge of her desk for support, Kurenai saw the overhead fluorescent light crack, then burst with the moisture in her eyes. Speech lost to the subtle hum of air conditioner and elevator motor in the office, she was capable only of pressing a hand to her still-flat belly and communicating that way.
Mayor Sarutobi took one of her shoulders into his hand and patted. "I see," he said. "I see."
It was, considering the circumstances, surprisingly comforting.
"I'm afraid there's been an occurrence."
Those were never good words to hear from Yushiro Sarutobi. It was just Asuma's personal hatred of the man's bullshit polite phrasing that really put him on edge. "What?"
He stood in his father's office, having shown after a call put in to his desk over the private line he reserved for emergencies. His reluctance had ebbed, however, once he had reached the correct floor and found Kurenai away from her desk; away from the building, apparently.
The mayor sat back in his high-backed, leather swivel chair – not for the effect of appearing intimidating but because he truly seemed quite exhausted. Raising a hand to rub at his age-lined eyes emphasized the notion.
"I take it you know she hasn't felt well lately." Sarutobi's eyes were two identical bullets, spiraling into Asuma's head.
It gave him one hell of a headache. "Yeah, she mentioned it. What's the matter?" His tone grew steadily less composed, but his father remained unchanged.
That is, he did until Asuma's glare intensified in a blatant attempt to procure a direct answer by intimidation. Asuma could not know that, on the sidelines of his current thoughts, Sarutobi wondered exactly when he and his son began to fit into the category of dysfunctional. "Miss Yuuhi – Kurenai – is pregnant with your child."
Asuma's spine straightened as though someone had thrust an iron rod up his back. It was a good thing Sarutobi sat several feet away. The old man could have breathed on him and knocked the much bigger man to the floor. "She's..."
"Pregnant. Don't act shell-shocked. You're mother did give you that talk when you were a boy, didn't she?"
This wasn't the time for sardonic put-downs, but old habits died hard. "Kurenai told you?" Asuma had a difficult time believing his girlfriend would go to her boss before she came clean with him.
A gray eyebrow elevated over the other by a half-inch. "Not verbally, if that's what you mean. I've gotten to know her in the months she's been here. It wasn't very hard to figure out when I caught her crying."
Even he had never seen Kurenai cry. A long, jagged-edged silence penetrated the space between father and son. "What do you want me to do, Dad?"
The title of "dad" momentarily threw off the mayor, but the police chief was too preoccupied to notice. "What is it that you want to do? All of this means scandal, you know."
"I don't give a damn about scandal!" he said heatedly. "Jesus. You don't think I'll be there for you, do you? I wanted to know if you thought I should marry her before or after she gives birth to my...my..." Asuma's face suddenly drained of all color, fingers twitching. The import of the situation had settled completely on him.
"We call them children here," said Sarutobi, amused in spite of himself. "And I'll leave the matter of marriage to the two of you, if you don't mind. It's not like you've ever required my advice anyway."
Asuma drew a very deep breath, then released it in the same way he exhaled nicotine smoke. "I should go to her." He realized that he very badly wanted to, right now. Turning, he made a beeline for the door of his father's office.
Hand on the polished knob, he paused and spoke without looking back. "I'm sorry." He watched the wood grain of the door as he waited for a response.
"As long as you take care of my grandchild," it came, "everything should be all right, Asuma."
He left, leaving his father to accept the sound of his footfalls as a goodbye. It was a usual means of farewell between the two of them. But this time, there was less negativity to it and something that contained a semblance of peace.
It was a deliberate choice to not answer her cell phone. Kurenai could not trust herself to speak to him if it wasn't in person, fearing a new overload of stressed sobbing. She had heard hormones went haywire in expecting women, but she hadn't felt this anxious since her last bout of college finals. It was a far cry from her usual put-together self, and she didn't like it at all.
This probably explained why she was back in her coffee shop, drinking tea this time, and staring out the window at the current bustle of activity. There was a high school kid delivering pizza on his bicycle, and an elderly woman was purchasing that morning's New Yorker from a burly man at a corner stand. A group of Columbia University students stood with their smiling, bun-haired instructor, calling to passersby with her and handing out flyers on weapon awareness.
Kurenai felt like their polar opposite; she was not busy, but someone was, inside of her, busy growing and gaining life while all she could do was sit here in a lonely booth, feeding it occasional drinks of tea that was losing heat by the minute.
She couldn't help but note the gleaming wedding ring on the Columbia instructor. And the woman looked quite a few years younger than herself. The thought was depressing enough to make her sigh. So absorbed, it took her a few seconds to realize someone had seated himself across from her at the table.
"Asuma." The note of surprise that worked its way into her tone was likely unnecessary. She hadn't planned on avoiding him, but Kurenai now understood that was what she'd been doing since his calls began coming at ten-thirty this morning.
Six hours later, Asuma looked thoroughly perplexed by the evasion and, more than that, a little hurt. It was odd to see him look hurt, just as it had been odd to see him nervous that first time he had approached her in this very booth.
"Why didn't you tell me yet?"
Beside the baby, something inside her kicked – guilt, she realized. She child certainly wasn't old enough to be so aggressive. "I didn't mean to not tell you," she mumbled, raising her cold tea to her lips.
Familiar with the tactic, Asuma pressed his hand over hers before the cup could obscure her face. "I mean it, Kurenai. Did you think I wouldn't care?"
"No." The idea startled her as it hadn't ever crossed her mind. "I was...I was worried you would care too much," she said, the words confusing even her.
Asuma, however, seemed to know exactly what she meant. "I do care too much," the younger Sarutobi intoned quietly. He had yet to withdraw his touch. Kurenai realized he had no intention of doing so. "But I don't mind. I can only hope you really don't, either."
His eyes seemed so dark at the moment, Kurenai errantly thought. His face actually looked considerably paler, the hair of his beard stark against his cheeks. It hit her quite forcibly that Asuma Sarutobi, chief of the New York Police Department, was as terrified as she was.
Seemingly of their own volition, her hand turned to grip his from beneath. "I don't." A smile bloomed on her lips. "It's just...I'm going to be a mother!"
A low, somewhat jittery chuckle escaped his throat. "Don't take all the credit, Kurenai," he said, some of his former tendency to joke returning. "I helped. I'm gonna be a father. The father." What he murmured next, softly enough it felt as though he were telling the most important of secrets, made the pregnant woman's heart go from zero to sixty in a split second. "And the husband, too, if I'm lucky."
Absurdly, her eyes flitted about, first to the service counter as if she thought someone was listening, then to the cluster of students outside. The married woman, however, was now gone – home to the groom, probably. It was almost five o' clock.
"The husband, hm?" she whispered, the smile transforming into a delighted grin. "Well...I think I could be agreeable to that." Meeting his eyes, she leaned into the large palm of Asuma's hand as he pressed it to her cheek.
"Ah." Leaning forward, he grinned back. "That's a relief. I haven't known many agreeable people in my life. I have rowdy cops to deal with, and that lawyer friend of mine you met can be the laziest guy, and of course Ino—"
Kurenai stopped his energy-inspired rambling with her own lips. "I can't make promises to stay this way," she warned him. "I like control."
She was pleased that Asuma gave up on talking, preferring to pull her in for more kisses. This, Kurenai thought, was an arrangement she could definitely agree to.