He wakes up, and there's a horrible taste in his mouth as the alarm screams in the background. A heavy, uncoordinated hand slams randomly on the top of the clock, hoping to hit the right button. Eventually it works, and he yawns, stretching his arms and stumbling towards the bathroom.
The boy who would become the Sandaime Hokage doesn't remember his father much. He died during a clan insurgency when he was small, led by a few ruthless shinobi who didn't want the head of the Sarutobi clan allying himself with some strange man. A strange man with a lunatic idea to unite shinobi and create a country. His mother would always hold her head high when the death of her husband was brought up. She'd smile, trace her long, fine fingers over the swirled emblem that he had started to wear, and say that her husband fought to save lives, that he died a hero, even if he was killed by his own family members.
She passed her sentiments onto her three year old, who was born to believe that dying to save something important was the only death worthwhile. That his father was a valiant man, a strong man, and that this Konohagakure was what he wanted. He wanted to be just like his father, someone respected and someone brave enough to go against everyone else to do something right.
The boy who would become Sandaime Hokage remembers that his father always smelled like tobacco, and that the hairs on his chin tickled and scratched him when he would give him piggy back rides. The boy never started shaving, and his mother turned a blind eye when she noticed that her dearly departed husband's pipe and tobacco pouch had gone missing.
It wasn't until years later that the boy discovered that his father's death hadn't been clean. They had tortured him first, trying to get him to concede to their views. He had died after hours, maybe days, of excruciating agony. He had died alone.
But by then, the boy had discovered that smoking was a hard habit to kick, so he continued to puff on his pipe and trim his beard.
Cloudy eyes blink as he stares at his reflection in the mirror. A hand smoothes over his cheek. There's a sharp, prickling sensation and he groans, before bending down and retrieving a shaving kit from underneath the sink.
Asuma wasn't sure when he decided to be like his dad. He wasn't even sure when he started to like his dad, to be honest. The man was grouchy, and perverted, and way too preachy. Asuma didn't like that, he didn't like the standards either. It's hard to be an academy student when your father's been the hokage for the last three years. Everyone expected him to be a prodigy, an expert. He surprised everyone when it was clear that he was just a mediocre shinobi with no discernable specialty. He wasn't bad, far from it, but he wasn't clan prodigy material.
That role seemed to fall to his younger brother. His otouto was the ninja that everyone expected Asuma to be, one that was born to fulfill their father's footsteps. He was an idealist, bright eyed and eager to be stronger to protect the village. It was easy for Asuma to see that his conception of an overly preachy father wasn't shared by his sibling. His otouto flew through the academy, and was a chuunin at the age of eleven.
Asuma graduated the academy the same year, when he was thirteen. It would have been easy to hold resentment against his younger brother, had he been a shinobi with any sort of ambition. Luckily, he wasn't. Their father made no reprimands, he loved both his sons equally, even if only one held any sort of promise for a shinobi career.
Asuma didn't mind that his brother was the perfect Sarutobi, he didn't even care that he got married first, or was going to have a kid first. He wanted the best for his little otouto, and if he wanted to be the next Hokage, then so be it.
But he drew the line at his younger brother growing a beard and starting to smoke.
"Shave." He said when he showed up at the house for a visit, having been let in to the backyard by his very pregnant sister in law.
His brother snorted, "Why?"
"You look like a moron."
"You mean I look like dad."
The two both cracked a smile at that, knowing that it wasn't in any ill will. His brother flipped the top of a silver lighter over, igniting it and taking a drag of the cigarette. "I think it fits with my new family man image." He said with a wink.
Asuma smirked, "Along with excessive chain smoking, I take it?"
His brother laughed, "No, that's for the nerves."
"Missions?" His brother asked in concern, himself being only a chuunin while his brother was a special jounin in the ANBU black ops.
"I heard that!" Called said wife from inside the house.
His brother winced, before pulling out a cigarette, "Want one?"
Asuma waved it away, "No thanks. I don't smoke."
His brother rolled his eyes, "Sarutobi tradition, Asuma. You don't smoke yet."
His hands rubbed together, creating friction that formed a thick lather on his palms from the soap. A little more awake, he began to rub it over his cheeks, his chin, and down his neck. A white, foamy beard appeared over his face and he let himself admire the look for a moment before pulling out a razor.
His progress was astounding, a seemingly deadbeat, average ninja was soaring up the ranks. He still lacked a specialty, but filled that void by specializing in everything. Gone was the carefree slacker from the academy, replaced by a somber but determined young man who would be attending his jounin induction ceremony in two weeks. A white sash was soon tied around his waist, symbolizing his arrival at elite shinobi status.
The whispers flew of course, especially when they noticed the stubble, and how he started to flick open a silver lighter more frequently. The way he distanced himself from the Sandaime Hokage, and how the Sandaime Hokage had suddenly become far more involved with his paperwork than was usual, hardly leaving his office and never personally assigning missions.
He was the perfect Sarutobi, no one could find it in themselves to argue the point. His little nephew, almost two years old, began to play with his uncle's kunai, oblivious to his watery eyed mother standing in the background and the framed hitae over the mantle place.
After a few years, Asuma took Konohamaru, leading him by the hand, to a very familiar grassy meadow. He was surprised to see his father there, standing quietly in front of the memorial stone. Konohamaru didn't understand what was going on, but like most children, he intuitively sensed that something was wrong and stayed quiet.
Neither of the Sarutobi men said anything to each other, and their eyes both stared at the same name.
"Grandpa?" The five year old asked in confusion.
The older man smiled, and bent down on one knee, Konohamaru let go of his uncle's hand to stand next to him. A wrinkled finger, stained yellow at the tip, pointed at the name. Konohamaru sounded out the syllables and his eyes widened.
"This, Konohamaru, is what it means to be shinobi." His grandfather explained quietly, "Your father died protecting this village, because its people were important to him."
Konohamaru took this in with childlike fascination, while Asuma stood silently behind them, hands jammed in his pockets and eyes unblinking.
"But…did he know he was going to die?"
The Sandaime licked his lips thoughtfully, "Perhaps, perhaps not. But he knew there was the risk. And he decided to take the chance, because the lives of the villagers were more important to him than his own." Asuma stiffened, and Konohamaru obviously didn't understand.
"What about me?"
He ruffled his spiky brown hair, "Your father loved you very much. He died to protect you, and your mother, and your uncle." He paused, "His way of the shinobi was to protect those who were important to him at even the cost of his life. It is my way of the shinobi as well, and I am…proud that it was passed on." He looked up for a moment and something wistful crossed his eyes, "But it's also alright to be sad, and angry, and hurt about his sacrifice. Just remember to honor it, alright Konohamaru?"
Konohamaru nodded quickly, "I'm proud of my dad too! I want to have the same way of the ninja, and I'm going to be Hokage one day to protect everyone just like him!"
The Sandaime smiled, while Asuma stared down sadly at the ground.
"That's a very admirable dream to have, Konohamaru."
Silver gleams as it scrapes slowly along the planes of his face, a repetitive motion only broken by a hiss when he nicks the skin, causing blood to well up. Quickly, he reaches for some toilet paper, inexperienced fingers quickly clotting the spot where he cut himself. It takes him a while, but he gets better at it everyday.
He bawled like a baby at the funeral. Snot, red eyes, and all. And he doesn't stop there, either. He cried on the way home, where he went straight to his room to cry some more. He liked the old man, even if he was boring, and smelled funny, and was way too bossy sometimes, but he was his grandpa and he was supposed to smell and be bossy and now he wasn't even going to be around to be boring and it just wasn't fair!
He wasn't sure what made it worse, the fact that his grandpa had died to save the village, or that the entire village was now without his grandpa.
The hot water steams from the facet, and he takes a towel to pat away the extra foam on his face, running a test hand over his cheek. There's a few shallow depressions from the past times he's cut himself with the razor, but overall it's smooth and he's proud of himself.
And he looks like himself, not like his grandpa, or his dad, or his uncle. Just like Konohamaru.
He doesn't know who he likes seeing least: his aunt with the big stomach, or his uncle's chain-smoking student. They're both far too familiar pictures, and he sees his mom when he sees Kurenai waddling through the market alone to buy some groceries. And he sees his uncle, and the father he never knew, and his grandpa when he sees the student and it doesn't feel right because he's not Sarutobi, and he shouldn't have to be Sarutobi. No one should have to be Sarutobi anymore.
Sprinting, he quickly goes over to his aunt and offers to help her carry her groceries. She looks at him sadly, before her pretty face lights up with a smile and she gives him a bag and her thanks. Konohamaru takes the opportunity to talk with her as they head back to her home, asking about the baby who may or may not be a Sarutobi, and how his chuunin exam is coming up and she listens very patiently and Konohamaru thinks she's a very special woman.
He stays away from Shikamaru when he sees him, because the smell isn't gone from memory yet and Konohamaru doesn't want to feel ashamed of himself.
Everyday Konohamaru shaves, and he's never touched a cigarette. Because there are cycles, and he doesn't want to follow them anymore. He wants to be remembered as Konohamaru, not as Sarutobi, and he wants to build a village where children no longer have to grow up learning how to shave on their own.