This story has some of Masashi Kishimoto's characters from Naruto in a universe of my own devising. I do not own Naruto. I do not make any money from these writings.
Warning: This story features male/male relationships. If you are uncomfortable reading about gay male relationships do not read this story.
Scenes considered too graphic have been replaced by oo******oo
Chapter four: Needing
This chapter begins immediately after chapter 43 of 'Iteration'
Haku saw them bring back the pieces of meat that had been Ranmaru. He watched Konohamaru turn from Naruto to Inari like a hurt child turns from its father to its mother.
Ranmaru had confessed to him.
He had died buying presents for Mai.
Itachi and Kisame were still out, collecting evidence and dealing with the authorities. Haku went to the nursery. He was meant to decant Mai in three days time.
It was unimaginable.
He changed out of the kimono he had been wearing into the simplest and plainest clothes he could find. Then he fetched a hover platform.
He set the gestator to isolation mode, disconnected it and placed it in its shell. Then he lifted it onto to the hover platform, being careful to wedge it so that it could not roll.
When he reached the infirmary, Rin and Dan were unavailable; busy with Ranmaru's body. Shizune was there. Haku told her that he needed Mai put into stasis as soon as possible. For a moment he thought she might question him but instead she nodded and said that she would make sure it happened.
Back in the nursery, Haku lowered the hover platform to the floor and dragged the chest Sasuke had given them onto it. He considered for a few minutes and then opened the lid.
Inside were all the dolls and other toys that Kisame and Itachi had bought or made.
He went through the nursery. Gifts went into the chest. There weren't many of them because most people were waiting for the gift-giving. There were the pictures the children had painted and a few nick-knacks.
Yuki's included a blob that Haku knew was Ranmaru.
He hesitated but added it to the chest with the rest.
He shut the lid, locked the chest and elevated the hover platform.
Once the chest was safely in storage, he systematically destroyed everything in the nursery. Everything made of fabric was snipped into small pieces. He watched the pieces fall from his scissors into a disposal sack.
Destroying the crib was more of a challenge but he managed to do enough to make sure it could never be mended.
The sack and the remains of the crib were piled onto the hover platform.
This time Iruka was waiting when he opened the door. Haku was not surprised. It showed how shocked everyone was that it had taken this long.
He pushed the hover platform towards Iruka, who had to step back to avoid being hit by it.
"Please ask someone to dispose of this," Haku said.
He then stepped back into the room that had been the nursery and locked the door.
He stood in the empty room. Once he could no longer stand he sat down.
Caring for people was the first step towards losing them. This time it had been Ranmaru. Next time it could be Kisame or even Mai.
Ranmaru had reminded Haku of himself before the slavers. Watching him with the children had brought back so many memories. Haku had thought with fondness about the brothers and sisters he had tried so hard to forget.
He had broken his own rules. He was allowing himself to love. Not to obsess, like with Zabuza, but to love.
This was his reminder; a hint of the punishment to come.
Kisame's voice; he ignored it. Knocking; that was easier to ignore than the voice. A pause and then he heard Kisame's voice again.
Haku refused to hear.
A long silence; then the door between the nursery and Haku's room was open. Itachi strode in and made straight for Haku.
Haku looked about for Kisame but he was nowhere to be seen.
Itachi had hold of him before Haku could react. He tried fighting but it was hopeless; Itachi had him fully restrained within seconds.
He was carried through to his room. Somehow Itachi managed to shut the door to the nursery with his foot. He put Haku on the bed but did not release his hold.
"You are upsetting Kisame," Itachi warned him. "You are breaking the rule."
"Kisame comes first," Haku whispered.
"Kisame comes first," Itachi confirmed. "I am going to let go. You are going to stay here and work out a way of explaining to Kisame what you have done. You will make it sound sensible rather than borderline insane. He has gone to get Shino to open the door. I will intercept them. When we get back your explanation will be ready."
Itachi let go and stalked out the door.
Haku stood up. He was trembling. He checked his appearance in the mirror and put his hair up. He then slid open the door between his room and the sitting room the three of them shared.
He had a tea tray ready and the kettle heating by the time Itachi returned with Kisame.
"It would be wrong to taint Mai's birth with the crew's grief," he said as he poured three cups of tea. His hands were surprisingly steady. "It is better to delay a little."
He could see that Kisame was unconvinced but, thankfully, he decided to accept it.
"With Mai due to be decanted so soon, the decision had to be taken immediately," Itachi stated.
Haku picked up the thread. "Yes, I am sorry I did not discuss it with you first, Kisame-san," he added.
Kisame looked from Haku to Itachi and then back to Haku. "Do not worry yourself, Hime-chan. It would always be your decision to make."
Once Haku had convinced Kisame that he was coping, just very tired, Kisame agreed that it would be a good idea for Haku to lie down while he and Itachi found out the latest about the assassins.
Itachi hung back. When Kisame was out the door he came over to Haku and, to Haku's surprise, kissed his temple.
"I am very proud of you, Haku-chan," he whispered.
Haku watched him leave and the door close.
He found himself agreeing with Itachi; he was both surprised and proud that he was sitting drinking tea rather than in pieces on the nursery floor.
"I have reserved you an appointment with C-san," Itachi told him two days later.
Haku opened his mouth to protest but a look from Itachi silenced him.
"What you did the other day was not normal, Haku-chan," Itachi reminded him. "Putting Mai into stasis, perhaps. Cutting up a roomful of baby clothes and frilly stuff into tiny pieces, no. Destroying the crib, no." He looked at Haku with his penetrating dark eyes. "You cannot go back on your decision to conceive her."
Haku was stung. "I don't want to," he insisted.
Itachi frowned at him. "Then go to C-san and work it out."
It was his fourth session with C-san. Haku still felt uncomfortable being in the working half of C-san's apartment as a client rather than in the residential part as a guest. He was only there because Itachi would say something if he missed a session.
This time C-san had introduced a prop. Haku recognised it as a sign of how unproductive the other three sessions had been. There were twelve small candles in amber glass holders on Haku's side of the low table between them, arranged in two lines of six. On C-san's side there were another five. To one side there was a box containing more of the candles.
Once they were settled, C-san lit one of the candles on his side.
"In memory of my grandmother, who always encouraged me to be what I was instead of what others wanted me to be," he said as the wick caught and burned.
Haku sat perfectly skill.
C-san waited for five minutes and then took a candle from the box. He placed it equidistant between them.
"In memory of Ranmaru, who loved children," he stated.
Haku watched the tiny flame flicker. "Ranmaru," he echoed.
"What does C-san think your underlying issue is?" Itachi asked that evening when Kisame was socialising with the elite warriors in the shared area. Haku and Itachi were in their sitting room; Haku was sewing and Itachi had been reading.
Haku sniffed. C-san had not said but Haku knew; the twelve candles stood for his brothers and sisters. "He thinks I have never grieved for the people I have lost."
"Have you?" Itachi queried.
"Maybe not," Haku admitted.
Itachi went back to his book and Haku to his sewing.
Next time all the candles were in the box. C-san took one out and lit it.
"For Ranmaru," he said.
"For Ranmaru," Haku echoed.
His hand went to the box. He picked out a candle and set it on the table. He picked up the lighter and touched it to the wick. Then he placed the lighter carefully on the table.
It was the first time he had deliberately thought of his baby sister in over a decade. Not that memories did not steal into his mind, particularly when he felt a baby's soft hair.
"In memory of Megumi," he whispered, "and her smile."
Then the grief hit him like an avalanche.
He refused to break in front of C-san. He sat there, immobile; incapable of maintaining his control if he should move or speak. C-san tried talking to him but swiftly desisted and summoned Kisame using the intercom.
Once Kisame and Itachi arrived and C-san had withdrawn, Haku's facade shattered. He knew that he was rocking and he could hear the most appalling wailing that had to be him because it could not be anyone else.
When the worst was over he was sitting in Kisame's lap, wrapped in his embrace. Itachi was kneeling beside them. He placed a hand on either side of Haku's head and wiped away the tears with his thumbs.
"We are privileged that you should allow us to share this," he whispered. "We are in awe of the love you feel. We are grateful to be your family. We would be honoured should you one day tell us about the family that went before us."
Kisame's touch and Itachi's words anchored him.
"C-san invited us to stay in one of the suites here," Itachi told him. "Or we can go back to the crew room."
"I want to go home," Haku insisted.
They sat in their sitting room. Itachi made tea.
"Kisame has something to tell you," Itachi said.
Kisame's head whipped around. Haku was surprised at the hostility in the look he gave Itachi. "Now?" he queried.
"Now," Itachi insisted.
Haku was intrigued.
He listened carefully. Kotohime had a technique to make human chromosomes containing Kisame's genes. Kisame could have children, although they would be purebred rather than shark-human hybrids.
Haku considered. "A little brother for Mai," he suggested.
Itachi smiled with his eyes. "A little brother for Mai," he agreed.
Kisame did not play along. "Haku-chan, what is happening with Mai?" he asked.
They talked. Haku realised that it was the first time they had ever discussed their family within a family. Previously he had done what he had thought was best and Itachi and Kisame had acquiesced or merely complied.
"So we all have things to do," Itachi summarised, looking at the list they had made. "I am going to speak to Sasuke about whether we can pick out some furniture from the old household. If he says yes, I will speak with Iruka-san. Kisame is going to ask Rin to proceed with making his humanised chromosomes so that we can take the decision about another child when we are ready. Haku is going to talk to Kiba-san about whether it will be possible for Mai to be cared for occasionally in the playroom, like Ayame-chan."
Ten days later, Haku regarded the new double room with immense satisfaction. Itachi really did have the most exquisite taste. While Haku had been overwhelmed at the quantity and quality of furnishings in the various Uchiha apartments and storerooms, Itachi had unerringly selected elegant items that looked good together and were not so delicate or ornate that Kisame would feel uncomfortable.
Their new shared bedroom was where Haku's room had been and Haku's room was now on the far side of the nursery. For now that had him walking through an almost empty room, but he had finally managed to convince Itachi that he was fine with it; that day by day they would make decisions and, slowly, the room would develop.
There was one item in the room; the chest. Haku had asked Kisame to retrieve it from storage the day before.
Second would be Shou's gestator, followed by what they required to care for Mai and then Mai herself.
Today would be their first evening together since completing the room. Choza was cooking them a special meal that Kisame could serve from the tiny kitchen that they had built off the sitting room.
Haku went to get ready. As always, he made sure that he was clean and prepared, even though he knew it was unlikely they would end up fucking.
It had taken him a long time to understand that the intimacy was much more important than the sex. Haku had thought that dancing with Itachi, or Itachi sitting on Kisame's lap, were substitutes for fucking. They were not. They were expressions of their intimacy. Fucking was another such expression but one that, unfortunately, Itachi still struggled to negotiate.
He sat at his dressing table, brushing his hair and thinking about Itachi. The three of them had edged forwards for standards with Itachi always giving the impression he was on the edge of cracking or bolting. C-san had helped greatly, but even he had admitted that Itachi was so damaged that optimism might have to give way to realism.
Yet all it had taken was for Haku to be weak. The more he needed Itachi, the stronger Itachi became. Haku smiled. The children would need Itachi. He would respond to that need and grow even stronger.
The dinner had been lovely. Itachi, mindful of Haku's hatred of mess, had tidied up perfectly while Haku had flirted with Kisame. It had been nice.
This was more than nice.
Then they cuddled.
It was, Haku decided as he drifted off to sleep, perfect.