A/N: AU, non-massacre. Still, there will probably be spoilers leading up to the events immediately before the massacre, so...keep that in mind.
This is (hopefully) a spin on the ol' arranged-marriage rag :) The pairing is ItaHina.
Disclaimage: The title and the opening quatrain is by John Masefield.
I went down by the waters, and a bird
Sang with your voice in all the unknown tones
Of that self of you that I had not heard
So my being felt you to the bones.
The night the Fifth Hokage was assassinated was the first time Uchiha Hinata ever refused her husband anything.
"I won't accept this."
"That does not concern me. Take it."
They sat facing each other across their clean kotatsu table. They were a tidy couple--all frigid couples are tidy--and everything they owned was spotless. Their curtains matched flawlessly with their cushions, down to the complementing thread count of each piece of cloth. They hung ther shuriken holsters on hangers instead of tossing them on countertops. Their wood floors were waxed to a dull shine. They would have spotted and immediately eradicated any visible nick in the grain.
Both husband and wife, after all, had very good eyes.
The patriarch of the tiny family was motionless. His hand was extended across the table and lay there, patiently unmoving, with the silver ring as prominent as a wound in the center of his palm.
"Take it, Hinata-san."
She moved back from the kotatsu table with the precise grace found in Jyuuken users and bowed very low to the ground. Although they had been married for almost a year at this point, Hinata hadn't been able to break the habit.
"I'm sorry, senpai. I won't accept this. It won't do me any good now anyway."
"By my estimation, we have until dawn before the fighting breaks out. You should be able to sell it before then."
"This is a shinobi village, senpai. Nightfall means nothing here."
Itachi's eyes narrowed slightly. It was not a prominent movement, but for some time at least, Hinata had been his wife, and she knew enough to read it. She took the ring and bowed again. Itachi retracted his arm like an instrument and stood up.
"I should be thanking you, senpai."
One of the first things Itachi had noticed about his wife was that her omnipresent stutter disappeared entirely under pressure. Now, this was the only indication he had that she was under any pressure at all. He was grateful for it--intelligent as he was, he still found his wife difficult to understand at times, with her odd moments of bravery that defused her daily personality and made her, in the instant of peril, an entirely different woman.
There is still a great deal I do not know about her, he mused. Were this an official Konoha mission, I would have failed.
"Why are you troubled?" he asked. "We both knew there was nothing to hold this agreement together after Tsunade-sama was gone."
"It's earlier than we thought," said Hinata quietly. She was correct; neither of them had expected the Hokage's death so soon, although it was only amatter of time before either a dissatisfied Uchiha or Hyuuga clansman decided to accelerate the process that had already begun. Tsunade had been unpopular in both clans since she had forced the peace treaty of the preceding year. But with her death, the treaty no longer existed. And neither did the marriage of Uchiha Itachi and Hyuuga Hinata.
"You knew why your clan made this agreement, Hinata-san," said Itachi, not really knowing what else to say. He never called it a marriage, probably for the same reason she never called him by name.
"Our reasons were similar to the Uchihas'," she agreed. "I fulfilled my duties, just as you fulfilled yours."
Itachi still remembered the searing July day when he'd received the mission scroll from his father, with the telltale blue endcaps and wax Uchiha seal telling him that it was an infiltration mission and a confidential one at that. He had anticipated a routine Hyuuga clan infil, challenging and somewhat complicated, but still something he could handle easily. He'd opened the scroll without thinking.
It was an infiltration. But it came in the form of a lifelong commitment.
The civil wars in Kiri and Ame had unsettled most if not all of the other hidden villages, and even after their resolution, the Kages had become wary of their most powerful clans and the networks of civilians they controlled. In villages where clan skills were not passed on or bloodlines were rare--such as Suna--clan tensions were easily defused, but in older villages, where bloodline limits were still profuse and highly regarded, civil war was an everpresent threat. No one forgot that clans had at one point not long ago been little more than impromptu militias. The Kages had been under intense pressure to take preventive measures.
Tsunade had been no exception. She had demanded an alliance between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha, and as was traditional with alliances, she had suggested a marriage between heirs as a guarantee of security.
Itachi felt that this had been naïve, in retrospect. Both the Uchiha and the Hyuuga had little respect for concepts like peace, friendship, and family in the normal sense of the words. There was no reason for them to honor a marriage contract.
The Uchiha had done so anyway, with the edict that their most trusted spy, their pipeline to the village, their most talented soldier, could use the marriage as the opportunity he needed to gain information on the Hyuuga.
"How much information do you need?" Itachi had asked his father on that July day, with the sun beating on his exposed neck and making him feel uncannily like an animal with its head bowed, waiting for slaughter.
Fugaku's response was not surprising.
"Times are dangerous, Itachi. The Fifth Hokage's term may be ended soon due to--"
"…Yes. War, however, will not happen until we have sufficient intel on the Hyuuga to minimize casualties from our own clan."
"And you want me to gather that intelligence under cover of the peace treaty?"
"Under cover of your marriage. Tsunade has given us an unexpected opening, Itachi. You know better than to let an opportunity go to waste."
And so Itachi had married and brought his bride home to the Uchiha compound, where they stayed in the large mansion the Hyuugas had erected as dowry and began the long process of housecleaning and silent meals that seemed to constitute their entire 'marriage.'
Itachi, of course, understood the terms of the peace treaty better than his father did. He understood how delicate the matter of his position as a spy was. He also understood that, since this was a classified and therefore off-the-books mission, he didn't actually have to succeed, per se, as there was no one with the authoritative power to take him to task on it. Therefore, he reasoned that as long as he did nothing and treated his arranged marriage as just that--an ordinary arranged marriage--war could be averted or at the very least postponed.
That was, until the last winter they had spent in the house, when he had found another blue-capped, wax-crested mission scroll nestled inside his wardrobe next to his own.
"You abandoned your mission," Hinata had said when he had questioned her. She refused to meet his eyes. "I found the scroll when I was cleaning--" those byakugan eyes, he should have known-- "and I thought it would be…unfair…if I carried out my mission and you neglected yours."
At that moment, and only that moment, they could have become a real husband and wife, instead of a pale political mockery of a couple in a beautiful empty house. Hinata, however, was Hyuuga to the core. She would never abandon what she had set out to do. And so the two spies had lived together, gleaning what intelligence they could from their supposed marriage, and waiting until the day the Hokage was killed and their families' plans came to fruition.
Now they faced each other over the kotatsu and it was just like any other silent evening over the almost-year they had been married, except that this was the last time.
"I'll take my leave now, senpai."
Itachi found himself fixated on that word; that was all she had been before their marriage, a semi-competent kohai in his brother's class, and that was all she would be now, after she walked through the door and out of the compound and back to where she had come from. He was surprised at how little he cared. He had heard that one was supposed to feel something when things of this nature happened. It just made the entire process more of a farce.
"I have a question for you, before I go."
"Why are you doing this?"
He waited for elaboration. Many shinobi had been thrown by rhetorical questions asked in fits of emotion; Uchiha Itachi would never be one of them.
"I didn't think you were so concerned with…clan honor, senpai. Does it matter so much to you if they--if we come to power?"
"I'm not concerned with clan honor," said Itachi. It was the first time she had ever overstepped their unspoken boundaries--don't talk about it, don't think about it, don't act like you have a right to know--and had she done it months ago, he might have found it promising.
"You are correct, Hinata-san. I am concerned with the fate of Konoha as a whole."
She looked bewildered. She was standing in his doorway with his ring in her hand and his last name on the end of hers and she still wasn't his in any way that mattered, and this was what made Itachi say what he did.
"If you believe that the fate of Konoha would be improved under the control of the barbarians you call a clan, Hinata-san, I am afraid you are sadly mistaken."
Her chakra spiked in the involuntary way that signaled anger and nerves, rather than the start of a technique. Itachi waited calmly until she was ready to speak again, as he knew she would be. It didn't actually matter what Hyuuga Hinata thought.
"I understand perfectly well what will happen If your father and that abomination known as your Council of Elders attains power, Hinata-san. I am certain that at the very least, it would involve branch seals on the greatest threats to that power--including myself, my brother, and any other shinobi who pose a threat. I am aware of what you have done to your own prodigy. Do not believe I will allow that to happen to the prodigies of this village."
He was sure, for a second, that she was going to drop the ring. But her fingers only curled around it.
"And this, senpai…?"
"That is compensation, Hinata-san."
"I'm not in need of money--"
"You still have a chance to leave Konoha should you desire, Hinata-san. Our…agreement…is over. After you have turned in your mission report to the Hyuuga, you are not obligated to take part in this war. Should you decide that, you have a way out." He gestured to the ring.
Hinata looked from the ring to Itachi's face. He knew she would never leave Konoha.
Then she placed her hands together and bowed formally, very low, just as she had on the day of the actual peace treaty and the agreement that had bound them together. All nonsense. Itachi knew it was all nonsense. But he returned her bow nonetheless.
"Goodbye, Hinata-san. Thank you."
After she was gone Itachi found that there was nothing to do but wait for morning. Shisui, who had been the one to bring them news of the Hokage's assassination, would be by early to ensure Itachi's part in the fighting that would ensue.
His entire being felt catatonic. It was as if someone had smashed something and hollowed out the insides and left nothing behind, just deadness and a few seeds that hadn't had a chance to sprout. War. War. War.
In his clean, beautiful, empty, perfect house, Uchiha Itachi put his head in his hands and closed his eyes. He had known Hinata wouldn't sell the ring and leave. He understood that. But that wasn't the reason he had given it to her in the first place. It was just a moment of weakness in which he'd felt that, after all was said and done, she was still his wife.
And Uchiha Itachi, whatever else he was, was a husband who provided for his wife.