A/N: This is set in the universe of one of my one-shots, The Covered Sun. It isn't necessary to read that before this, but it will provide a bit of background.
The long limo pulled up in front of the Uchiha tower. The windows were all strongly tinted black, and the only indication that it belonged there was the flag flying from the hood. It bore the Uchiha insignia, on a field of royal blue.
The driver got out, his assistant springing out of the cab and running the length of the vehicle, opening the door so its sole occupant could get out. Thanking the assistant in a soft voice, the man collected his briefcase and walked up to the entrance, the two guards standing beside it scrambling to get the glass doors open fast enough. He walked through, a nod to both, and with purposeful strides not affected at all by the sudden scrambling of Uchiha family members to bow as he passed, went right up to the receptionist's desk. She looked up at him, did a double take, and went pale.
"I'm here to see Fugaku. Now."
"O-Of course sir, I'll page him and tell him you're on your way up." The receptionist, a pretty young Uchiha named Shiroi, knew that Fugaku was in the middle of a meeting right now but he would definitely leave it for this man. "You know which floor to go to."
"Of course I do." He smiled at the girl, and she flushed. "Thank you." Turning, the man made his way to the elevators, pressed the button, and pulled an executive keycard out of a pocket.
The receptionist had been reaching for the special phone that connected right to Fugaku's phone, anxiously watching as the man got into an elevator and the doors closed. At least the boss picked up, sounding distinctly irritated. "What?"
"He's here, Fugaku-san, sir," Shiroi said, swallowing.
"Your uncle," she said, the silence on the line becoming oppressive now. "Uchiha Madara is on his way up to your office right now."
Fugaku was waiting when the elevator doors pinged open on the sixty-third floor of the Uchiha compound. The head of the Uchiha family and its associated underworld ring was a man in his forties who had once been fit, but now had the look of an athlete gone to seed. Nonetheless, he had an air of authority around him that his underlings respected and obeyed. Fugaku was a strong man, but a fair man, and they respected that, for they knew there was nobody he feared and nothing to fear as long as he was around.
Except, of course, this man.
Fugaku's expression betrayed none of his trepidation or worrying however. The myriad questions—why is he here, what does he want—could, and would wait. Madara, ever the mercurial one, would explain himself on his own time. That was always how it was with the older man, and even with his limited contact, Fugaku had learned to deal with this.
So when Madara stepped off the elevator, that chilly smile on his face, Fugaku was there, bowing as low as he could. "Madara-sama," he said with the proper amount of reverence. "It is always a pleasure to have your company here."
"Fugaku-san." Madara nodded his head. "It is good to see you again. You are looking well."
"Thank you, Madara-sama." Fugaku rose after a moment, gesturing to a table and chairs set off in a little nook of this part of the airy offices of the chief executives of the Uchiha Corporation. "Would you like some tea? I thought perhaps you would be thirsty after your long trip."
"Of course I would like tea, Fugaku-san," Madara said. Fugaku went ahead of him immediately, the office assistants bustling around to set out the teacups, bring the kettle of water and a warmer to put the kettle on to warm it. "But," he continued as he sat, and gave that curious little smile again, "It has not been a long trip here. I am back in the city once more, after many long months spent abroad."
"In the city?" Fugaku asked. His tone was innocuous enough, the enquiry of one man to his superior. Inside, he was gripped suddenly. What would bring Madara back to the city after so many years away?
A young man, long black hair in a ponytail, brought the tea leaves over. With a tiny pair of silver tongs he lifted each leaf and put them into a tea ball until it was full, and lowered it carefully into the warming water. Every motion was graceful, purposefully made. Fugaku nodded. "Madara-sama, may I present my son, Itachi? He has recently graduated from the premier university of law in the city at the head of his class. He is due to sit his exams to get licensure in a month."
"Itachi." Madara's smile was more warm, welcoming. He inclined his head. Itachi bowed lower than his father.
"Great-Uncle Madara-sama," he said. "I am honored to meet you."
"The honor is mine. I have heard of your achievements, Itachi-kun, and I am impressed. You will be an asset to this company." Fugaku, in that minute, decided he did not like Madara smiling so much. It did not mean any good, particularly when focused on a certain person as it was now. He felt a surge of parental protection for his eldest son.
"Thank you, Madara-sama," Itachi said. He remained bowing, abasing himself.
"Please, call me Uncle from now on. I should like to be more familiar with both of you—and I will be, in the months to come."
That, Fugaku decided, definitely did not bode well.
"Yes, Uncle," Itachi said smoothly, and collected himself. "Father, with your permission I will return to pour the tea once it is ready. I would like to continue studying."
"Of course, Itachi."
"And do join us for a cup," Madara called. One of the servants flitted forward, bringing an extra sitting. Fugaku hid his displeasure with ease. That done, Madara dismissed the other people in the area with a wave of his hand, and they left quickly and quietly. Fugaku was glad for the moment he'd had to prepare them all.
"Now, Fugaku…" Madara leaned forward on the table, dark eyes calculating now. Every other time Fugaku had seen the man who had founded the Uchiha business and set up the drug trafficking ring that the business covered, he had worn this expression, and he relaxed. This was known territory.
"I am sure you are wondering what I am doing back here so suddenly, without announcing myself to you beforehand…" Actually, Fugaku was more wondering the first part; the second, he scoffed at, as Madara never bothered to announce himself anyway, he simply showed up. "It is because, dear nephew, I have found a cunning way to elevate ourselves and bring to heel that unruly dog which nips at both our heels, using it to crush the wolf circling us."
It wasn't hard to decipher Madara's metaphor. The man had looked out the tinted glass windows toward the Hyuuga tower, the bright sun of their insignia blazing gold in the smoggy sunlight. And in the distance, Hebi Corporation's tower, the three purple commas barely even visible. "You seek to bring Hyuuga under…our control? And crush Hebi? How?" Madara's smirk was positively evil this time, and Fugaku felt a chill run through him.
Madara told him.
Sitting at a low table just within earshot of the small area where Fugaku and Madara were having tea, Uchiha Itachi sat, bent over his study book with a black ball-point, and listening to every word said.
Fugaku had barely had time to set the spot up (it was hidden behind a screen of bamboo beside one of the tinkling fountains that jutted out into the long rectangle that was the CEO's office) before he'd had to rush off to the elevators to greet Madara. Itachi had set his books here as though he was indeed studying, and had performed admirably when asked. And now he was listening, and writing, and mulling the whole conversation over in his head.
"What I propose is a marriage, Fugaku-san. A union of Hyuuga and Uchiha—unprecedented, isn't it?"
"But Madara-sama, the current boss, Hiashi… he does have two daughters and a nephew of marriageable age, but—"
"Hyuuga Hinata. The oldest daughter and the heir to Hiashi's seat. She is the one." Madara's tone had shaken something within Itachi at this point, and he'd very studiously written nonsense in the margins of his study guide while listening.
"There is no way he'd ever agree to it. And even if he did—who? Itachi and Sasuke are both of the proper age, but…"
Itachi had pursed his lips at that. He knew that until one of them became head, he and his younger brother were pawns to be married off or withheld at will, and he knew some of the up-and-coming rings, hoping to get the backing of a powerful leader such as the Uchiha, had sent daughters. Fugaku had held off on accepting any offer for either of his sons, as Itachi was barely out of law school and Sasuke would be starting university soon.
During his musing, he'd apparently missed some of the conversation, because as he tuned back in, Fugaku was speaking.
"…impossible, utterly impossible, Madara-sama. Even Sasuke is a stretch at best, but this—"
"Do you doubt my ability to arrange things as I please, Fugaku-san? I will have this my way; Hiashi will bow to my wishes as I ask them. It simply requires delicacy."
Remembering the tea, Itachi got up and straightened his black suit jacket. He liked this suit, and how it looked with a black silk shirt and red silk tie, with a red square of cloth in the breast pocket, and a little uchiwa pinned to the lapel. Itachi liked to cut a nice figure, and dress properly. He swept in at a quiet moment, and did not look at either as he poured first Madara's tea, and then his father's tea. Seeing there was a third setting, Itachi could only guess who it was for, and poured his tea last before sitting with his hands on his thighs.
"So, Itachi-kun." Madara turned to him, smiling as he picked up his cup of tea. "So sorry to interrupt your studies. I always try to encourage education as much as I can; it is important to learn. Knowledge is a luxury not everyone can have, you know."
"I understand, Uncle," Itachi said. "You are correct."
"I am glad you think so." Madara sipped his tea. "Ah, this is perfect. Well-done, Itachi-kun. In my time away from the city, I fear that I have had to sometimes endure sub-par tea."
"Thank you, Uncle." Itachi shot a look at his father, a sidelong one. Fugaku had twin spots of color high on his cheeks; he was furious, Itachi thought. What was it that he had missed hearing?
"Truly you will be the future of this company." Madara put his hand on Itachi's shoulder. "Fugaku, name this young man your heir."
"Madara-sama, then what of—"
"That is of my concern." Madara smiled. Itachi felt chilled, despite the fact the sunlight was hitting them head-on through the window. "It has naught to do with this company, other than the lip service. You more than anyone know that all that runs this city is lip service." A sip of tea, droplets glistening on full Uchiha lips before they were licked up by a quick tongue. "It is deplorable, however much it benefits our ilk."
"Then what you are saying…"
"Get rid of it entirely." Madara made a cutting gesture with his hand. "Dissolve the government of this city—and the country too for that matter. There is no need for it."
"That would throw the citizens into confusion, Madara-sama."
"No, for there will be another to look to." Madara smirked. "Uchiha-Hyuuga, Incorporated."
"Forgive me, Madara-sama, but I still think—"
"You doubt too much, Fugaku-san." Madara smiled. "It will work. Trust me."
That, Itachi thought as he listened to the older men talk, was the last thing anyone would want to do.
Sasuke walked right up to the elevators of Hebi Corporation without a word to the receptionist, sliding the keycard, thumbing the button and standing back, waiting for the elevator to come down. To his surprise, it pinged open immediately; someone must have just come down. He stepped in and slid his keycard, pressing the button for the top floor.
With a high-pitched whine, the elevator rose into the sky. Impatient, Sasuke shifted. He never liked this long ride up; in the windowless elevator, it felt too much like he was drifting, unrooted to the Earth, and that was a feeling he didn't like one bit.
At last the elevator opened and he stepped out, heading to the checkpoint. Sliding his card, Sasuke let his fingertips rest on the edge briefly for identification of DNA, and when the device beeped, he pulled his card out and walked through the now-open gate, nodding to Kidoumaru. The snakes on the stairs slithered aside for his passage.
"Sasuke-kun," his teacher said, standing. "How was your school?"
"Boring." Sasuke stopped a few feet from the huge mahogany desk and bowed, strands of dark hair shifting around his face. The sound of feet on plush carpet.
"Rise." Fingers touched his chin, tilting his head up, and the rest of Sasuke's body followed. "I have a job for you."
Sasuke's voice betrayed nothing when he spoke, but his eyes had glittered dangerously. Orochimaru smirked; the boy was learning quickly and well, and was already more skilled than any of his previous pets had been. Of course, Sasuke was hardly the lapdog they'd been… he was a dangerous child, just the way Orochimaru liked him.
"Who is it?"
"The information is in this folder." Orochimaru scooped a manila folder off his desk and handed it to Sasuke. "The client wishes it taken care of posthaste."
Sasuke noted the little sun marking in the upper corner of the documents and snorted. "The Hyuugas can't take care of their own dirty laundry?"
"They like to keep their hands spotless. And that is what we are here for, isn't it?" An underling brought tea; there was a little message-paper tucked under one of the cups, and Orochimaru scooped that up too, reading it. Sasuke watched as his brow furrowed. That was never a good sign.
"What is it?" He gestured with the cup to the piece of paper as Orochimaru set it on his desk.
"Carry that out," Orochimaru said. "But before you do kill the man, be sure to go back to the Uchiha tower first. Your great-uncle Madara is back in town, and it would be highly suspect if you did not go pay your respects."
"I do not know." Orochimaru pinched the bridge of his nose. "I do not know what the man could possibly want. He left the business a long time ago, or so we all believed…" Orochimaru appeared lost in thought a moment, until his amber eyes snapped back to Sasuke. "Report to me when the job is done. I will notify Hiashi-kun."
"Yes, sensei." Sasuke bowed again and left, mind whirling.
Why the hell was Madara here?