Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine...most regretfully.

Title: Around My Heart (The Man I Loved)

Summary Notes: My muse is hateful and spiteful. Anyway, after purchasing the third soundtrack from my favourite show and listening to it over and over again, I found this one song that made me think a lot about Asuma and Kurenai. It's actually a very sad song, and does influence a lot of this oneshot (it's even sadder because the song was written for a time in the show where my favourite character died, leaving his wife and baby behind. I know, I'm a sap). However, it just didn't want to stay sad all the way...I think my muse is still pissed with me for Never Let You Go, among other things.

The song that inspired it is called The Man I Loved – Rebecca Lavelle. I strongly, strongly advise you listen to it if you read this. It is a truly beautiful song, and can be found on Youtube. If you can't find it, just PM/Email me and I'll be glad to help. But for now, here is a little glimpse of the song that influenced this story.


Don't say, don't dare to say

I won't see him one more time

Don't say that he's gone away

I close my eyes and I see him smile

I feel his arms around my heart

As they should be as they are

Why, oh why

Why here, why now?

Why can't I have the man I love?

Not enough. No time. Why here? Why now? Why them? Just...why?

How many times had those words run through her mind? How many times had she sat curled up on this very couch, knees tucked against her chest, staring past the red poppies with their heart achingly sweet reminder of days and nights that seemed so long ago now? Staring past them, watching the rain trickle in broken trails down the window pane, much like the way her tears had fallen during those dark hours when she was alone with naught but the frustratingly empty reminder of a pillow or a shirt that still smelt of him, a pillow or a shirt that she was loathe to wash, simply because it was one step closer to erasing his presence. Because it was an empty reminder, an empty comfort that barely held a candle to the bright flame that was Asuma himself.

Erasing it from what, though? Her heart? It'd be rather like cutting her insides out one organ at a time if that happened. She was stupid to even think that it would happen, and she could clearly envision his expression as if he stood in front of her. He would raise an eyebrow in that infuriating yet charmingly 'you're not serious?' look at her thoughts, and his mouth would twitch as he fought to muffle a grin. Yes, he would find it very amusing, and despite herself, she found herself smiling at the thought. Asuma would do just that, and then he would kiss her forehead in that equally infuriating action that told her just how much he loved their height difference, and tell her that yes, she was being quite ridiculous.

But he wasn't here. He hadn't been here for a long time now.

Had it really been almost a year?

She could still remember everything. She remembered Shikamaru's tear-stained yet set features as he tried to deliver the news in the gentlest way possible. Yet there was really no possible way to tell someone that their precious loved one had died, was there? And he had wanted to stay with her, had promised to look out for her, yet she had, somehow through her tears and grief, managed to order him to go home as if she were still the tough, firm sensei, and not a broken-hearted, crumbling woman.

She remembered tears. So many tears; she had never thought she'd have enough tears to shed. She'd never really been an over-emotional sort as it was, but that had been indescribable. Yet eventually, the tears had faded, leaving salty trails on her cheeks and hiccups in her throat, and she had found herself curled in the very same spot she was in now, in the very same position. Sitting there, letting her mind whirl numbly as it struggled to comprehend. As it both denied and acknowledged the fact that he would not be coming home tonight. That he would not shuffle in, shivering and wet and bloody, that he would not greet her with that sheepish, bashful grin that was as present for her as it had been from their Academy days. That grin that was just for her, that told her he appreciated the fact that she cared enough to leave a light on for when he got in, that he loved her for loving him enough to scold him so ferociously, even if it was just for dripping muck and blood on the carpet.

And the questions. Her mind had asked question after question, like only a logical, intelligent mind such as that of a genjutsu genius kunoichi could. Question after question as she sat there, huddled against her rounding stomach in the dark, as she cried again.

Why? Why here? Why now? Why us? Why isn't he here? Why can't he be here? Why?

The logical part of her mind had reasoned that it was always a possibility. They were shinobi, and had a duty to their village. Death always figured into that equation; in fact, they'd both done pretty well to live through what they had lived through. It was an ingrained part of the shinobi code, something that had been drilled into their head since their days as little academy brats who teased and bickered and got into scuffles. He had died with honour, he had died with duty, that logical part had reasoned; she should be proud.

And she had been proud. But the other side of her, the side that was still human, that was still a being who loved and loathed and felt passion and simply lived, had told her otherwise. Not even the cruellest training could ever truly erase one's humanity, after all, and for someone as gentle as she was under the hard kunoichi, nothing, no amount of training or experience could ever truly prepare a person for that one moment of heart shattering grief. And it was that side that ruled, even as she stood in front of his grave, even as she put forward the mask of the reserved kunoichi over those coming months. It was that side that refused to let her think she was selfish, that asked those questions over and over again.

Why here, why now?

Is it really that wrong to have wanted happiness, to have felt it?

Why couldn't I have the man I love?

Why can't I have him back?

Why so soon, when we barely had time to even be together?

Those questions had sounded over and over again in her mind, like the beat of a drum in the darkness before the dawn. And in a way, she was thankful that they had, for it meant she was still that person; it meant that she still lived. Even if it had filled her with anger and heartbroken denial, had refused to let her believe people when they referred to him in past tense.

Don't you dare say that he's gone away. Don't you dare say I won't see him smile again. Don't you dare say that I won't feel his arms around me again.

It still hurt so very much, even as the memories made her smile. Because he wasn't here. He wasn't here to help her, and she grit her teeth as her heart clenched at the sound of cries echoing through the house. He wasn't here to help her. He just wasn't.

She shut her eyes tightly, willing the cries to fade back into silent sleep. And then she felt guilty, like she had from that very first night after the birth. Guilty because she let her pain and uncertainty get in the way of something that was infinitely more important, and she swallowed the lump in her throat as she thought of how he would react if he knew that she, of all people, would allow this to happen.

Briefly, she debated calling Shizune, but her prior thoughts made her reconsider, and finally, she mustered up the courage and energy to stand up and make her way to the room that had been converted into a nursery – the room he had started working on, yet his students had finished instead. She opened the door slowly, tired crimson eyes peering in. The cries were louder, and she hesitantly made her way towards the crib near the window. The rain had risen in volume, pattering loudly against the window sill, and she peered into the crib.

She was a little miracle of perfection, really. Pale skin, sable hair like her own that contrasted with the soft red blanket. She could already tell her eyes would be dark, like her father's, and even crying, she was still beautiful. The baby paused in her crying to look up at her, whimpering softly at this person that was both familiar and unfamiliar, and she felt the clench of guilt again.

"Hey, little one," she said softly, "Do you miss him too? You didn't even get to meet him."

The little girl seemed to listen to her voice, but a flash of lightening suddenly illuminated the room, and she winced as the crying started up again, wanting nothing more than to curl up beside the crib and cry too. But Shizune had said that she needed to bond with her daughter – their daughter –, but try as she might, she found herself unable to calm her crying daughter, and finally gave into the urge to cry herself.

"Please, little one, please stop," she whispered, tears trickling down her cheeks even as she straightened and walked to the window. Burying her face in her hands, she wondered how the hell she was supposed to do this on her own, how the hell she was supposed to do this when she couldn't even quiet her own child. What sort of a mother was she, if she had barely been able to look at her child those first few nights, and could hardly calm her now?

"Damn it, Asuma, why did you have to go? Where are you?" she whispered, shivering as she struggled to hold her sobs in. Maybe she should call Shizune after all; it was obvious she wasn't succeeding here, and she felt her heart twist as another cry from her baby tore through her frame.

And then, it quieted. Startled, she pulled her hands down, crimson eyes peering over her fingers as she swivelled around to look back at the child in the crib. The little girl was still sniffling occasionally, but she had stopped wailing, and her dark eyes seemed to be fixed on something unseen above her. She watched as the baby's eyes slowly slid closed, and wonderingly, she took a step closer.

"What..." She froze, crimson eyes widening at the warmth against her cheek, sudden and shocking in the cool air of the room. She could have sworn she could smell cigarette smoke, mingled with a masculine scent she recognised as easily as she recognised herself, something not even a year could diminish.

Was he...here?

The warmth against her cheek seemed to caress the skin, and she found herself breathing unevenly, tears pricking her eyes again even as a sense of safety and protectiveness descended over her tumultuous heart and mind, the scent wrapping around her gently, and a sense of complete love and tenderness wrapping around her heart in a way that only his arms, his smile could.

He was here.

"Asuma..." she murmured, and suddenly, it was as if all those lonely months and dark moments had faded away. She felt something warm press against her forehead, soft kiss, and the first real smile in a very long time curled her lips as she leant into it. He was here. He was okay. They were going to be okay...

"They're called poppies. I was gonna get you roses, but I figured you'd like these more. They're a lot tougher that most flowers, so you won't have to worry about them dying when you're out on missions. They won't go down easily, but they're still beautiful... he trailed off, giving her that bashful half-grin she knew so well and mumbling, "They reminded me of you. You won't let anything ever break you down, no matter how many times the world tries to."

It was the most romantic thing she'd ever seen him do, and she smiled, standing on tip toes to kiss one blushing cheek softly as she took the seeds.

"Thank you, Asuma."

Even as the warmth began to fade, she smiled softly. Moving over to the crib, she leant down and gently lifted her daughter – their daughter – out ofher crib, holding her close. The little girl stirred and hiccupped, yet she settled back against her mother's breast with a sigh that seemed too big for such a little creature, one tiny fist curling around the ring on its chain as she nestled closer.

Looking down at their daughter, she felt that pervading sense of peace and warmth that she had not felt for a very long time, and as she looked out the window, she felt the smile grow ever so slightly at the sight of the poppies in the rain, drenched and bowed, but not broken.

"Daddy's watching over us, Asura," she whispered softly to the little girl. "He hasn't gone away forever."

The man I love is still with me.


A/N: Yes, Kurenai like this probably seems a bit odd to people, but anyone who's had someone they love like that die knows that it changes you. And also, I just wanted to dice with this idea of her struggling a little bit with being a mother and having the thoughts she had.

Now though, I'm tempted to write more AsumaKurenai at some point. Again.