title: for wanting
pairing: Fugaku & Mikoto, except for when it's Minato & Mikoto and Minato & Kushina; there's also a splash of Inochi & Kushina. Yes, you read the last one right.
summary: Now, as she watched him next to her, sipping sake with perfect delicacy, the pearls hung heavy around her neck—an elegant noose, she thought, tied with blue silk to match her new blood.
notes: AU—an experiment. Inspired by allurement's own parent!fics, and Epiff Annie's Unmarked Margins. Writing this actually gave me all sorts of trouble since the piece pretty much wrote itself from one line—and yes, that is a contradiction. The tone of it is something I can't really put into words, and that worries me, because I'm neurotic and everything must be categorized.
It's meant to be disjointed, and the first bit is out of order on purpose—so no, it wasn't a mistake. :)
Also, there are hints of smexy smex sex. So please, take the T rating seriously.
In conclusion, this piece proves that I really don't know the meaning of subtlety. But I can pretend, right?
disclaimer: Not mine at all.
"I don't like pearls," she tells him once, while they are waiting for drinks, "because they soak in your soul through your skin and leave you hollow. That's why they're so valuable, you know—and that's why the world is missing its ghosts."
Fugaku scoffs, but indulges her, laughing rich and low.
"You say the strangest things, you know—the best sort of novelty. And anyway, ghosts don't have skins, and all they do is haunt us—I would hardly say the world misses them. Even if your theory were based in fact, wouldn't more pearls just mean less trouble?"
"No," Mikoto says, arguing in earnest. "It means less truth. That's what ghosts are, you know—the truth of their lives. Solid truths—what's left after the after." She looks down at her fingers, unadorned.
"Every pearl I've ever had, I've thrown away."
"That's waste," he says, frowning.
"It's caution," she amends, and he does not reply.
They had met in college.
She had been half-blinded by the glare of rare April sunlight, and he had caught her as she fell, just-so, his hands careful and polite, barely touching her as he helped her down. Her books had fallen in an undignified sprawl, half-open, and almost obscene against the pristine lawn. He had waved away her apologies as he set them in order, one on top of the other, alphabetically disorganized—just the way she hated it—with their corners aligned. It had been terribly cliché, or so she remembered thinking, fraught with the mundane. She hid her disappointment under a smile, and thanked him prettily. "Is that a habit of yours," she had asked him, eyes wide and honest.
He had smirked sardonically.
"What, rescuing damsels?"
She had been unmoved.
"I've seen you before, you know. You broke Tsume's heart quite nicely. My compliments," she had said, with candor, "for a bad job well done."
"Not fond of her?"
She had given him an indignant glare.
"We exchanged man-hate stories the night you dumped her, and split a gallon of coffee ice-cream. I gained three pounds because of you." Mikoto had eyed him thoughtfully. "I was right when I told her you weren't worth it."
"She got over it rather quickly," he had stated, nonchalant, and clearly unrepentant. Behind him the clock struck twelve. "Someone else will make her happy." He had looked at the watch on his wrist, hesitant to trust something as valuable as time to someone other than himself—or so she fancied. They'd parted ways then, but she kept him in mind.
Fugaku, ever mindful of the niceties, had sent her flowers the week after—an apology for the grass-stains he hadn't caused—and invited her to dinner a month after that. The days between had been sprinkled with incidental meetings, and quiet conversation—endless witticisms exchanged over tea and French pastries.
"You know," he'd said on a Monday in December, "I probably wouldn't have helped you that day, if you hadn't been wearing that ridiculous peacock skirt. Jewel-toned blues, that green top, and yellow pumps—a red band in your hair. And you were wearing onyx earrings. It was all so very dysfunctional. I knew you'd be amusing."
"You're quite a charmer," she replied, brows raised, but still appreciating the honesty. "Has anyone ever told you that? Because they were probably lying."
He had laughed, Mikoto remembered, and she had reveled in the sound she suspected not many had ever heard.
"You will not embarrass us, Mikoto."
"You will curb your tongue."
"And Mikoto, You will be happy."
They were real pearls.
It was the first thing Fugaku had told her after he had tied the knot around her neck, while they rested quiet at the white hollow of her throat. Iridescent, flawless, and painfully real—small worlds in the palm of her hand. Their light, he had said, was a stark contrast to the darkness in her eyes, and the perfect complement to the marble of her skin. Mikoto had smiled, lovely and delicate and so-very-grateful, and he had gone.
And now, she was alone.
She stared at the reflection in the mirror dispassionately, noted the thick frame of her lashes, the clear pallor of her skin, the pink of her small full lips. Her nose was small, straight, and she smiled, the white of her teeth gleaming. Her black hair fell in a waterfall, dark and thick, to the small of her back, leaving her shoulders bare, her long neck openly adorned. She fingered the choker, thoughtfully, wondering when she had started thinking of herself in monochrome.
It was an engagement gift—the best, as expected, because so was he. Armed with a world-class education, and an aristocratic bearing, he had gotten his money the old-fashioned way—by inheriting it. The scion of a multi-national corporation, he had spent his life drinking from Wedgewood, driving a Maybach, and sleeping alone.
She thought, perhaps, that she had been his first and only rebellion.
The wedding was quiet, small—only fifty-three guests, whose voices rang hollow with their hellos and good wishes. But then, she thought, perhaps it's just the echo. Fugaku, for his part, radiated assurance, strength—power measured in atoms and molecules instead of coins and paper, though to be fair, he was short of neither. Like a ghost, she trailed after, but her steps were measured, and unbearably solid. Her feet were light, but she wore black, and thought back to her last disappointment.
When he'd first presented her with the pearl necklace, she had been pleased. Rings are conventional, she thought, and here, and he, is a break from the monotony.
Then, he'd revealed another smaller, square-shaped box.
"A matching set," he said, not-quite smiling, and the rest remained unspoken. Like us.
"Oh…it's lovely." It was a white gold band with a shining pearl, surrounded by small diamonds arranged in concentric circles. There was no inscription, no promises of eternal devotion, no words of lovers entwined.
Mikoto thought it odd, and vaguely sad, that in the house of Uchiha, there was room for luxury, but not fancy.
Nevertheless, she knew her role and played it as everything else she had in life—to perfection.
"Thank you," she said demurely, lashes lowering to cover her eyes. It was a pleasantry with no real sentiment behind it, and they both knew it. As the wife of the Uchiha heir, that she would be lavished with such treasures was given—a statement of fact, as evident as the slant in his eyes, the black of his hair. It did not matter; it wasn't as though she had never worn jewelry so fine. Her family was certainly not as affluent as his, and nowhere near as influential, but the margin of difference was slim enough that she was not unused to such things.
"You're welcome," he said anyway, because it was tradition, and he was a traditional man. "And I know how you feel about pearls, but you should forget that nonsense. Pearls are nacre— that's all."
Oyster irritant, she thought, and tried not to take it personally—her fiancé was still speaking, after all.
"…nothing so romantic as your ghosts, or what's true."
"Of course. I was just being silly."
Fugaku smiled indulgently.
"Please come downstairs soon—everyone's waiting for you."
Now, as she watched him next to her, sipping sake with perfect delicacy, the pearls hung heavy around her neck. An elegant noose, she thought, tied with blue silk to match her new blood.
The first time she met Namikaze Minato was at a gallery opening five months after the wedding. He'd walked in, brighter than the sky, and Mikoto was blinded. Fugaku was civil enough, if a little reserved. "New money," he said, by way of explanation, "and dirty at that." Still, it was not in him to be outright rude, so he talked racehorses, and sailing, and golf handicaps with Minato, and left the women to themselves. Uzumaki Kushina, an acquaintance from college who served as Namikaze's escort for the night—or perhaps it is the other way around, thought Mikoto—giggled, defiantly unrefined, and pulled her to the side. Mikoto tried hard not to be surprised at her forwardness—Kushina, if she remembered rightly, had always been friendly enough to be just shy of presumptuous. The woman had, after all, even refused to take up her husband's name when they were wed three shy months ago.
"Yamanaka has too many syllables, and even if it doesn't—I'm perfectly capable of counting, thank you—it's certainly more awkward than Uzumaki, and I hate the name—it doesn't suit me as well as my own. Is that—oh! I never saw him when we were all in school together! He's very handsome." The fabric of her white sheath dress rustled softly in her excitement.
Mikoto smiled placidly.
"Hm. Yes, he is. But Namika—"
Kushina waved her formality away, smiling softly.
"It's so strange to hear people call him that. He's very informal, you know."
"You probably feel that way since the two of you are friends," pointed out Mikoto.
"All the same, you should probably just call him Minato."
Mikoto demurred, quietly protesting. "It would be improper, Kushina. I don't know him by anything other than his name."
"Well," said Kushina, adamant in her informality, "we'll fix that right now. Though," she said, dragging her by the hand, "I don't remember you caring about that sort of thing in school."
"Yes, well, marriage changes people."
Kushina arched a brow in disbelief. "In five months?"
Mikoto felt the strain it took to maintain her smile, but persevered. There was a cold cream at home she could use to fix the lines on her face, after all.
After a few more minutes, they'd crossed the expanse of the gallery, and after dropping her off, Kushina had crossed back to get some light refreshments. Minato seemed almost reluctant to let her go, and Mikoto did not miss the way his fingers brushed against the small of the other woman's back, or the heated look they exchanged—one that was quick to bring color to the Kushina's cheeks. Mikoto was struck with the odd urge to give them their privacy, as though she were intruding on a moment too intimate for the eyes of casual strangers.
She turned her attention to finding her husband. Fugaku was engaged in a conversation with a visiting dignitary from overseas, and she tried to meet his eyes to see if she was needed. He avoided her gaze, though, and she was left with no answer but the blond man in front of her.
"Hello," he said, pleasantly unruffled. "And who are you?" It was an odd way to phrase something so conventional—almost rude, really—and Mikoto was intrigued; it took effort to remain outwardly composed.
"I am Uchiha Fugaku's wife, Mikoto," she said, feeling somehow diminished against the mural of black oblivion behind her.
He smiled with meaning—a travesty in their sea of polite indifference—revealing even white teeth. His blond hair was achingly bright—the color of the sunlight that had blinded her the day she had met Fugaku, had an artist chosen to preserve it on canvas. Mikoto found herself leaning in, almost unconsciously, gravitating to the blue color in his eyes. She pressed the pearls into her skin, uncaring of the imprint she knew she was leaving behind. But, what now, she wondered. He was shaking his head.
"You're very funny."
"I am," said Mikoto in bemusement. "I apologize. I didn't mean to be. What did I say to make you think so?"
"Well," he began, an almost-apology, or so it sounded to her ears, "forgive me for saying, because I notice that many people here seem hesitant to speak their true mind—I've had at least three people compliment me on my abysmal handicap—and I'm babbling, aren't I?" He made a face, and Mikoto felt the corners of her lips quirking up before she could stop them.
"No, not at all," she replied, composing herself. "Do go on."
Minato gave her an uncertain look.
"Well," he said, now clearly uncomfortable, "I suppose I just found it funny that before you gave me your name, you introduced yourself as your husband's wife. That's all, I think. Though, now that I think about it, you weren't the only one…" He trailed off, and smiled sheepishly. "I guess I still have a lot to learn about this place," he continued, spreading his arms out to encompass the small gallery, just barely missing a passing server.
Their conversation spread to safer waters, and Mikoto found herself enjoying it. Despite the initial awkwardness, she found him to be well-read, and witty, if a bit coarse. In the middle of their discussion, he stopped and looked around, as though he had only now noticed something.
"So, are all of these things black-and-white affairs? The only color I see here is in the salmon."
Mikoto paused, considering. It was an interesting observation, one that she'd never really thought about. She looked at the black ties, and the white dresses. Even the paintings seemed to be toneless, and the charcoal shadings, only forgiving enough to allow room for gray. She looked up, and started to apologize before noticing the way his blue eyes seemed to follow a particular swath of white across the room.
"There is a time for color," she said anyway, privately wondering if she missed hers.
They were never warm.
She kept them on in the house, in the garden, at the parties. One morning, she bathed in them with water hot enough to steam. Ever mindful of the silk, she'd kept one hand dry and wrapped it around the robin's egg blue, tugging it so tight that the globes chafed against the skin of her neck and left imprints.
She was left with still-cold pearls, and water spots on the swath of silk that held her worlds together. Fugaku looked at her with censure because yes, of course, we are wealthy, and of course there is money for more—always more, but never enough, she thinks—but you should know better, really, and why don't you?
But there were never words, just warnings, and along the line, she forgot the difference.
Mikoto didn't know why she was so desperate for warmth—only that she was. Fugaku was gone a lot, and she was home to stay, so without him, she found other ways to live. In the morning, after the refuse from breakfast had been disposed of by the invisible servants—the sign of a good home, said her mother, and Mikoto never forgot—she would slip into her black peacoat and, out the door.
There was a broken line on the outskirts of their property, in the space between the manicured lawn and the dark forest, and she walked it every day.
On a Wednesday afternoon she wandered into town by accident, swept away by her own two feet. Around her, a sea of nameless faces floated past, lighter than air, and all so very busy—businessmen in their business-suits, with their black leather briefcases, and slicked-back hair, poring over numbers and letters and hyphenated-words; a toddler in powder-blue babbling into the palm of her hand; the rhythmic clatter of designer pumps against the even concrete. Mikoto shivered, and drew the lapels of her trench coat closer, eyes darting to the grey skies above.
Rain, she thought, listless and lovely, drenched in flesh-toned monochrome. Rain, she hoped.
There was a café on the corner—a study in dissonance, with its green walls and orange shutters. Purple vinyl seats served as her only respite from the storm, and she ordered black tea to offset the sudden malaise. Outside, the rain was falling, and she felt her neck grow damp with heat.
"You look lost," he said, as she knew he would. She knew he would—he would be here.
"Hello, Minato," she replied, because he'd insisted, and she'd forgotten how to say no.
"What are you here for," he asked, ordering chamomile to match his mood.
A reason, she wanted to say, but she knew he wouldn't understand.
"I was just…wandering, I suppose. And I ended up here."
"Well, you're late," he said, disapproval painted in his blue eyes. It didn't suit him, she thought, frowning herself. Mikoto watched him sip his tea, gripping the cup with startling firmness, so hard it crinkled. Your blond hair is blinding—and too vibrant for tea, she thought, and tried not to voice the idea aloud. It wasn't too difficult—her mouth had run dry at the first glimpse of tan skin exposed by his rolled-up sleeves.
"I wasn't aware that we'd made an appointment," she said, after finding her voice, stirring her unsweetened tea and lemon, because she liked it bitter best—like rain, like quiet.
He said something then but she tuned him out, lost herself in the cacophony—the cliché—and then forgot to leave.
Theirs was a strange, sad affair.
Some people, Mikoto knew, broke vows for the pursuit of pleasure, or the proverbial forbidden fruit. There was the thrill of discovery, the element of danger in the hushed sighs and heated glances. Always, always, there was the promise of passion.
Mikoto did it for color.
Now, as she watched him above her, the glazed blue of his eyes, the tan of his cheeks flushed red like apples, like the most intoxicating wine, she thought perhaps, they were wrong.
There was passion here, yes, and pleasure, to be sure—but they were nothing she couldn't have achieved in Fugaku's bed.
Nevernevernotenoughnevernonono—the mantra reverberated in her head in tandem with his increasingly frenetic thrusts—a testament to her failure, because what sort of woman was she that she couldn't even sin the right way?
She watched a slow trickle of perspiration make its way down the angle of one tan cheek, and fought against the grip he maintained on her hands, high above her head. The sheets were damp with heat and clung—cloying, sticky to her skin of her back. She wanted to lick him clean, to drink him in, to start with that drop and never stop until she was filled with him—with the color imbued in his every breath. She felt the coil in the bottom of her stomach, that knot of tension growing tight, and taut—
And then she arched, stretched out until she thought she would break with the force of it, her back curved like an archer's bow, her eyes wide with pleasure-pain, her mouth open in a soundless scream, and it was unbearable, this pressure, and pleasedon'tstop—
And then he was over, sighing a name into the hollow of her throat, his breath a whisper over her pearls like an unanswered prayer.
Mikoto shut her eyes and wished her hair was red.
He gave her flowers once—asphodel in yellow. "For remembrance," he said, sheepish in the light of day.
"For regret," she corrected, and tried to hide her disappointment.
"My hair is yellow," he replied, as though she needed reminding.
Mikoto smiled, with feeling, and thanked him—tried not to wish it were something more permanent.
She pressed them when they died, in a diary littered with imaginary happily-ever-afters.
She kissed him once, twice, on each corner of his lips—dry, paper-thin kisses, so soft they broke at his seams. He drew patterns on her skin, nonsensical words, in curved lines and graceful arcs. He ran his fingers into her hair and pulled at knots, and she winced at the sting, drawing back when he tried to deepen the kiss.
"I'm sorry, Mikoto. I'll try to be more careful," said Fugaku, smiling like a rare occurrence
(and it was)
He turned his face into her neck, indulging, and placed a hand on her cheek, murmuring nonsense.
"What time will you be home," she asked, trying not to breathe him in.
"There's a board meeting," he replied, straightening and slipping into waterproof skin, "but I'll try to be home for dinner." He looked at her, running his eyes down the length of her body, stopping at her rounded stomach.
"I'm very happy, you know," he stated, like fact, like truth. "Thank you, Mikoto. It doesn't happen often."
He turned to leave, but stopped. For a moment, Mikoto thought she saw his shoulders tense, but she blinked and it was gone.
The question was delivered with uncharacteristic care, with hesitant softness—as vulnerable as she had ever seen. Fugaku was tepid, and solid, and unbearably sure—
He wasn't enough, she knew, but that truth would break him.
"Yes," she said, lied because somewhere, she loved him—perhapsmaybeplease—and her pearls were still cold.
When she shut the glass door behind him, she felt the warmth of souls at her throat, and tried not to shudder.
"You're quiet, today. Is something the matter?"
Fugaku had been more considerate than she was used to, and Mikoto couldn't breathe. She was used to indifference—to the feel of apathy. This new persona that he'd chosen to adopt due to the upcoming birth was unsettling.
Mikoto wasn't used to him being home at lunch time.
"I'm fine," she said, folding the napkin in her lap so its corners met the seams, "it's probably just nerves."
"You're Uchiha," he said, as though the fact was her saving grace. "You'll be fine. No need to worry—you're getting the best care available, you know that." Then, he stood up, pushing his black seat back, and wiping his mouth at the corners. She looked up when she felt his shadow looming over her, met his lips in a slanted kiss.
The sensation is different, she thought to herself, surprised at the realization, and the accompanying shock. Fugaku and Minato were two different men, after all, and only one of them was wrong.
The baby was born on the ninth of June, squalling and red-faced, a tuft of black hair crowning his princely-head.
His dark eyes are Fugaku's, though they were red-rimmed from the colic.
Mikoto almost screamed.
"He's perfect," said his father, pride evident in the light of his eyes, and the satisfaction in his smile.
They were a lover's knot, a tangle of limbs—arms and legs entangled like distorted art. Minato held her close to him, hard enough to bruise, and she was grateful, even as she knew that she was not enough—that she wasn't who he saw.
"You'll never touch her," she panted, surprised by the iron-taste of bitterness. "She won't leave him for you."
His expression was almost feral now, darker at her words, and his motions uninhibited. She wished it was darker outside, that the moon was their only light—that they had the luxury of shadows.
"Shut up! If you're still talking, then I'm not doing…my…job—"
"Filthy," she taunted, not knowing whether she was talking to him, or to herself. Still, the syllables were staccato—disjointed like their movements, like their time.
"Harder," she said, pushing herself up to meet him, "damn it, I…can still…"
Mikoto reached up to tug at the blond hair above her, the shaded beacon she'd come to see as her last chance at color.
He slanted his mouth over hers, and gave her silence.
Mikoto gasped at the sudden fullness, and knew this would be their last.
The blue silk was frayed, and she was tired.
The peacock skirt was long gone, and the yellow top lost, but the yellow heels, Mikoto stowed away.
I've outgrown that skin, she realized—outgrown or outlasted. Either way, there was no room—not anymore.
She threw away the diary and shredded the flowers, taking care to rip the petals one-by-one. The words she muttered were a mockery—enunciation forgotten, and childhood rhymes despised.
She slept, and wished for a different meaning.
At three months, the tears stopped, and Mikoto began.
She was attentive—almost obsessive—in the way new mothers were, and Fugaku warned her against the coddling.
Itachi did not acknowledge the attention, but it seemed to most that he recognized the benefits early on. Even when his mother was out at charity events and his father overseas for business, there waited an army of servants, whose sole purpose was to listen for a break in his breathing.
At five months, he was gurgling—nonsense words with missing vowels that made Mikoto ache with the incompletion. Minato was gone to stay, and she'd done away with color. Her son's dark eyes seemed locked on the world—the worlds that rested against her throat, now hollow, again cold.
On a Thursday, he tugged once, twice, and Mikoto felt their protest—the ice almost searing into her skin with the imprint of the pearls. Her hand flew up, over his, and she could not decide whether to help or hinder, so she stayed, unmoving, her hand gentle and soft on his small fingers. There was a small snap, and they fell—truths against hardwood, splayed like so many colorless stones.
In the white blankness of March, Mikoto laughed.
In my world, Ino and Naruto are either siblings or lovers.
I would very much appreciate comments and critiques, so please review. :)
I think some crack!fic is in order, though.