Chapter 1: Wherein the staff assembles.
A/N: Well, I emerge from a two month absence not with an update from one of my established stories, but with this. I promise that it will be short, three chapters, max. I charge you, the reader, with holding me to that promise.
The purpose of this story is to drum up love for Kuroshitsuji ("Black Butler"), a new-ish series that combines Upstairs/Downstairs Comedy, Horror/Fantasy, Dark Humor, and A Main Character Who Looks Like Itachi Wearing a Very Attractive Suit. You need to watch/read this series.
I've always been a big fan of all butlers, with the exception of Butler: Hayate, The Combat. Jeeves is my hero. So, after watching this series, I naturally wanted Itachi-the-butler fic. And I couldn't find any. Fanfictiondotnet had failed me. Thousands of Naruto stories, and no crazy, half-incoherent fangirl had once thought of making Itachi a butler. This is unacceptable, and, as a longstanding supporter of fanfiction, I set out to fix this. And make people watch Kuroshitsuji.
Warnings: Potential light slash, Hyuuga airtime
"How do you tie one of these things?" Kisame growled, fumbling with the black bow-tie on his white chef uniform.
"One moment," Itachi said, quickly and expertly looping his own tie into a handsome knot.
"I mean, what kind of fop wears a-,"
Itachi winced at the sound of tearing fabric. "I said I'd be there in a minute," he sighed, whipping another bow-tie out of the front pocket of his suit as he turned around. Nimble fingers danced with the ribbon for a moment, and Kisame barely had time to admire Itachi's long, skilled hands, so much more suited to this delicate job than his own calloused, scarred digits, before the young Uchiha was brushing imaginary dust off Kisame's shoulder and admiring his handiwork.
"There, finished," he declared, moving aside so Kisame could see the full body mirror hanging from Itachi's closet door. Kisame watched his eyes narrow at himself. His neck was too thick for the little tie, and his blue body did not suit the starched white jacket and pants, nor the hat. Especially not the hat.
"I didn't know people still wore this stupid shit," Kisame growled petulantly. He saw Itachi's reflection, resplendent in its much more suitable black jacket, gray vest, and long, not ridiculous tie. His young partner's obvious natural affinity for his new uniform did nothing to improve Kisame's mood.
"Of course they still do," Itachi said with a small shrug. Kisame knew that Itachi shrugged in place of changing his facial expression, but he certainly could appreciate how much easier the gesture was to recognize with the bulky Akatsuki cloak removed. "All the top chefs dress like this. It's tradition. And the young master is very eager, I think, to live up to his ancestors' standards, so the outfit is a must."
"The young master?" Kisame asked, his jaw dropping with sarcastic disbelief.
"While we are on this mission, he is the young master," Itachi said without breaking his typical monotone. "Our position here is not a given, Kisame. We must act the part to go undetected."
Kisame grinned. Pointy teeth glinted in the mirror. Their mission was simple enough. Orochimaru was always a threat to Akatsuki, of course, and now word had reached them that he had more money than he could really account for to the Internal Revenue Service... not, of course, that Orochimaru paid taxes. There were other, less substantial rumors of him developing some new, more dangerous jutsus. It would be wise to keep an eye on him. And the best way to do that was to do a little espionage on his latest business partner.
Enter Itachi the Butler and Kisame the Chef, a reputable team of hired servants with such excellent letters of recommendation. This year's must-have for fashionable and reliable hospitality.
"What's so funny?" Itachi asked, no interest in his deadpan voice, as per usual.
"I don't know how to cook," Kisame laughed.
Sai's new butler greeted him at 8 o'clock sharp, just as instructed, silently pulling back the curtains on the floor-to-ceiling bedroom window before moving onto the curtains on the four-post bed. A silver teapot and delicate porcelain cup stood on the nearby table, patiently waiting for him.
Sai smiled as the butler helped him out of his pajamas and into a dark business suit before expertly pouring him his morning tea. A rather perplexing set of rituals for a young man raised as to be an ANBU, where waking up meant your sensei ripping your sheets out from under you at 5:30, where getting dressed was done in the dark at light speed, and where breakfast was for weaklings. Even more perplexing for a young man who had, until a month ago, shared an apartment with Naruto, where waking up meant you had cut yourself bashing in your alarm clock and needed a band-aid, where getting dressed consisted of sniffing the clothes on the floor until something smelled slightly less noxious, and where breakfast involved stale Lucky Charms.
Sai wasn't entirely sure that he could get used to this. But he was sure that he wanted to try.
"Is the suit really necessary?" he asked as he sipped his tea. "My usual outfit is... well, different."
The butler nodded politely. "There is a girl outside wishing to apply for a job here. I thought it would be best that you greet her looking... professional."
Sai rolled his tongue over his teeth. What was it that made this tea so delicious? "What job does she want?"
"Anything, she says," his butler responded. "She has no weapons on her, and doesn't seem to be a threat."
Sai tilted his head. "I'm not worried about assassination. I don't do anything very controversial... and I know how to deal with ninjas. What does she look like?"
"Very flustered, sir. I believe that she is nervous about the interview."
"No, I mean physically. Is she well-proportioned?" Sai's eyes wandered to the painting canvas set up by the window.
There was the slightest pause before Itachi responded. "I would say so, yes."
"Oh, good. Show her in, then."
Itachi bowed and left. Sai liked this position of power, he decided as he finished off his tea and peaked under the silver serving dish at his breakfast. He cared very much about his friends in Konoha, but they were so complicated. Sai liked people, but they confused him. Why could Sakura call Ino "Ino-pig" but Sai wasn't allowed to comment when her outfit was distinctly pig-like? Why did Sakura get so upset when he asked her out to ramen and then invited Naruto, too? Why did Naruto get upset when he asked him to dinner and a movie and didn't invite Sakura? What was the difference between friends, best friends, be'effeffs and friends with benefits? What was wrong with saying that Naruto had a lot of boy friends but not many girl friends? It was true, wasn't it?
Having friends was exhausting. Sai often felt like he was drowning when he spent too much time with them. So much he couldn't understand, so much that Sakura insisted 'you had to figure out for yourself.' Around humans, Sai was not only lost, but miles from the next village.
So he was already enjoying this simple relationship with his new butler. Their roles were conveniently laid out for them. As long as he followed the script, or at least glanced at it from time to time, there could be no awkward moments, no yelling, no 'baka-Sai' muttered under the breath. And without the stress of maintaining those difficult things called friendships, Sai could focus solely on his art.
Sai's eyes surveyed his new bedroom. The furnishings and woodwork were all dark with detailed carvings, the curtains were brocade and heavy, the walls were covered with ornate wallpaper. The whole mansion was decorated like this, and Sai had to admit it was far too opulent for his tastes. But, he couldn't change it. After all...
His glance fixed on the large oil painting in an baroque gilt frame, much like the rest of the art that currently festooned the mansion. But this one was special. A couple, both dark-haired and attired in the style one would expect, given they had once owned this house and were sitting in a room Sai recognized as the parlor. The man looked stern and masculine, as men were supposed to look in these types of pictures. The woman gazed regally out of the portrait with dark, placid eyes, so familiar because they were the same eyes gazing back at her, the same eyes that gazed at Sai when he looked in the mirror.
He wasn't sure how to feel about his mother and father. He was so used to being an orphan, more or less without a past or identity. It had been a relief when Sakura told him that she wouldn't know what to feel if she was in his position. At the moment, Sai had settled for feeling far too many emotions, none of them very strong.
Surprise was certainly one of them. Danzo-sama had been very certain to emphasize that all of the Root trainees were nobodies. And, granted, a nasty majority of the things he had learned from Danzo-sama had turned out to be blatant lies, but he had still had no reason to suspect that he was the only child of the wealthy Keni family. Indeed, he had never been aware that there was a Keni family. Nobody really thought of Keni shoes as being a name brand at all. They were just those shoes that everybody wore, usually blue, open-toed, sometimes opened-heeled, and comfortable as hell, if not very flattering.
The Keni family had been very wealthy. And, for the past seventeen years, had been considered very dead. Nobody thought that the infant heir had survived... until last month.
Sai was a level-headed young man, but he felt nauseously dizzy when he considered the past month. The lawyers, the DNA testing, the documents, the overload of information, and his parents, suddenly given a form, even if the form was only an oil painting in an ugly frame.
And then the lawyers were gone, leaving Sai with a phone number, an estate, and no clue. He had gone to Naruto. Naruto was always the one to go to, no matter the situation.
"I don't know what to do with myself."
"What do you mean, you don't know what to do with yourself?" Naruto had yelled at him through a mouthful of ramen, Sai's fortune's treat. "You're a trillionaire! You can do anything you want!"
"What do I want?" Sai asked.
"I don't know! Go find out!"
"How do I find out?"
"I dunno. Run around and do random stuff until something fits."
"Random isn't what I want, though."
"Then do something methodical. I don't care, just enjoy yourself!"
So Sai had decided to do something methodical. He had decided to set up his parents' mansion as a respectable home again. The old home was deep in the country, and he would have as much privacy as he wanted. Then he would work on his art and read, two things that he never had time to do and which he enjoyed very much. Maybe he would even illustrate a few books. And he would try to feel comfortable in this old, ostentatious giant of a house. After all, he had been born here.
Guilt was another emotion, a weak one, but still there, certainly. Guilt that he didn't remember this house, his old life, his parents. Granted, he had only been a few weeks old when he had been lost, but this was where he had belonged, once. He felt guilty when he thought of replacing the artwork in the hallways, or moving into the servants' wing. But he was getting more comfortable with this lifestyle. And surely his parents would not mind if he renovated one little room for an art studio.
Itachi coughed slightly as he opened the door, letting Sai know, delicately, that he had returned. Sai shook himself from his mother's eyes and turned to his butler.
"The young lady," Itachi said.
Sai nodded and picked up a scone. "Send her in."
Sai looked her over as she minced in. She looked mildly familiar, but he couldn't place her. Anyway, he knew a lot of Konoha villagers by sight, and it wasn't surprising that one had come here to look for work. He was more interested in her physical appearance, and he was very happy with what he saw. He was often accused, mostly by Naruto, of having no taste in feminine beauty, but it wasn't really true. It was just that Sakura... well, all the girls he knew in Konoha, were so skinny. They looked unhealthy. This young woman looked a little more human. And she had breasts. Ones that didn't look artificially altered, like Tsunade's. She looked natural.
Sai approved. He smiled at her as he offered a her a seat and a scone. She accepted the first and declined the second, a shy smile and slight blush on her cheeks. Her hair, Sai noticed once she was in the sunlight, was not black, but deep blue. Unusual... and wonderful. Sai really approved. She was perfect.
The interview was short, although it would have been shorter if she hadn't stuttered so much. Her name was Hinata Hyuuga, she didn't have any references, but she was a mean hand with a feather duster and she thought she would make a decent maid, and she could start immediately.
"One more thing," Sai thought he should be honest, especially since she was shy, and might be against the side job he had in mind for her. "I paint."
"And I was hoping to spend my time here improving my work. I was wondering if you would be against modeling from time to time."
Hinata blushed even deeper red, if that was possible. "Er... Uh... Modeling?"
"Not naked, of course," Sai said. "That seems a little improper."
Hinata nodded. "It would be my pleasure."
"Excellent. You're hired. Itachi?"
Itachi materialized from the wallpaper. "Yes, sir?"
"Take Ms. Hyuuga downstairs and show her around," Sai turned back to Hinata. "Pick out any bedroom you'd like. Itachi will give you a more detailed list of your responsibilities."
The two servants exited. Sai let his false smile drop off his face, but found it replaced with a natural one almost instantly. "Kisame, Itachi, and Hinata..." he said to the portrait. "I think I'm doing pretty well, aren't I, Mother?"
Hinata chose a room on the far end of the servant's wing, as far from the rest of the house as possible. It wasn't that she disliked the other servants. The butler was very reserved, true, but kind. The cook she hadn't spoken to much, since he was busy swearing at a pot roast, but he looked up long enough greet her and whistle a little as she walked past, and in Hinata's experience, men who whistled at her tended to be very friendly indeed. Kiba whistled at her a lot, for instance.
But she was a shy soul, and she wanted her privacy. This job was perfect. She was lucky that one of the Konoha Kids had turned out to be a multi-millionaire who liked his privacy and didn't know her by name. All Hinata really wanted to do right now was lay low and save up a little money. Anyway, she liked being helpful, and (although she wouldn't admit it) she thought maid outfits were pretty attractive.
It was a well known fact among the Hyuuga clan that Hiashi Hyuuga was not playing with a full deck. At best he was playing with about seven clubs, a few jokers, and a handful of old maid cards that got mixed in by accident. Nobody knew this better than Hinata.
She was inclined to be forgiving of her father's general instability, because before he had buried his marbles next to his brother, he had spent a lot of his time keeping her from dying, and she felt that had to mean something. Not to mention, she was his daughter, and if she didn't forgive him for occasionally kicking her out of the house or accusing Branch members of stealing all the sugar cubes, who would?
But, alas, all delicate balances must come to crashing, chaotic ends at some point. Hinata thought that this particular one was tipped by Hanabi.
Of course, her mother had every right to want her daughter somewhere safe. And Hinata, Neji, and two hundred Branches could attest that the Hyuuga compound was not safe. And you couldn't blame the judge for giving her custody. And Hinata could even admit that it was for the best that Hanabi live with someone normal. In so much as Hinata's former stepmother could be considered normal.
But the problem was that Hiashi's midlife crisis child was gone, and he was now not even playing with a full poker hand.
"Hinata, I have a proposition."
Hinata smiled. "Pizza night?" she suggested.
"Close. I was wondering if you wanted to sacrifice your body to bring your Uncle Hizashi back from the dead."
"How is that close to pizza night?" Hinata whispered to herself. "Wait, what? Sacrifice... dead... what?"
"It'll be relatively painless."
"And where did this idea come from, daddy?" Hinata asked patiently.
"I looked up necromancy at the library... don't you think it's time you gave something back to this family?"
"Um... do I have to die to do it?"
"He died for you, you know."
"Um... I guess you could put it like that..."
Hiashi smiled. This in and of itself was terrifying enough. "Well, think about it and let me know by dinner, ok?"
Hinata blinked blankly at the door for a few minutes after her father left her room. Well, she couldn't say that she hadn't seen it coming.
Hinata decided that the time was ripe for a change of scenery. And Naruto-kun's friend Sai had just inherited the Keni fortune and announced his intent to become an eccentric rich hermit. Just once, Hinata decided, Neji could babysit Hiashi.
"Itachi?" Sai left off mid-brush stroke as he stared out the giant window of his studio. "Who's that in the garden?"
Itachi set down the sandwich and the silver platter that it was sitting on to lean closer to the glass. "It looks like someone is trimming the hedges," he assessed.
"Do you know him?"
Itachi shook his head. "Should I go see to him, sir?"
The figure below in the garden did a little victory dance with his shears in celebration of his victory over the boxwood.
"Maybe," Sai said. "Before he hurts himself... we do need a gardener... you can see the difference in the hedge where he's trimmed. I have been neglecting the outside of the house, I suppose."
"If he seems qualified I will see if he is interested in employment," Itachi said. Sai smiled. It was nice to find someone who could read your mind.
"You, there," Itachi called to the lunatic hedge-trimmer. The young man, little more than a teenager, turned to him with a salute, narrowly avoiding braining himself with the shears.
Itachi regarded the khaki shorts, green T-shirt, and oddly bushy eyebrows poking out from under curly dark hair. The young man looked back seriously. "Who... are you?"
"Er..." The vigilante gardener faltered. "B... Brock Lee, sir!"
Itachi narrowed his eyes slightly, measuring up the boy. "Why are you trimming our hedges?"
"Because they need trimming, of course!"
"Wait here a moment."
Itachi turned on his heel and relayed this brief conversation to his master. He returned a moment later. "Well... Brock Lee... Would you like to be paid to trim our hedges?"
"You'd hire me?"
Itachi's eyes flickered to the corner of his eye as if to suggest that it was not his idea at all. "Yes, Master Keni wishes to employ you. We pay your salary as well as provide room and board. Are you interested?"
Sai smiled out the window at the antics of the new gardener, visible even from the second floor. So what if Itachi did not think the new hire was wise? They needed a gardener, and a gardener had to be very enthusiastic to take care of the giant garden that surrounded the manor.
"Hmm... so, we have a butler, a maid, a cook, a gardener... and me," he said quietly, wiping the paint off his hands to eat the sandwich Itachi had left behind. "That's what all the TV shows recommend. I think we're off to a good start."