Kurenai-centric for onijutsu : it´s all about the Asuma/Kurenai and the Sasuke tragedy and its aftermath. A bit more explanatory than my usual but everything I write sucks these days, I´m in a crisis and the only way of finding out what´s wrong is keep on writing.
Once Hinata told her that she believed she was invisible some times. These days that´s exactly how Kurenai feels.
Invisible, but mostly useless.
The Hyuugas are letting Neji train as if he were from the main family; Hinata can´t compete. Most of the elders leave her alone, and she only trusted to serve the tea. She is such a good actress that there are days Kurenai almost believes she doesn´t care and she wants to take the girl by the shoulder and shake her, tell her that there is so much more than this, but Hinata knows, she knows, she knows...
Kurenai makes a second attempt in her life at convincing the Hyuuga clan of what Hinata is worth. The elders glare at her, the message clear again: she is a poor ninja, and you are a poor teacher.
She feels more enraged than sad.
"I don´t want people telling me what I can´t do, what I can´t be," she tells Asuma, because for all his scruffy looks, his chain smoking and his laid back attitude Asuma knows exactly how to listen to her. Because he is the one who knows her better, and he has for some time, and because there is something very much like unconditionality in his affection for Kurenai.
She realizes she doesn´t know that much about Sasuke, not much more than what she sees in Kakashi´s sadness, in Tsunade´s bitterness, in all the kids´ grave silence, but she remembers his older brother (she remembers Asuma crying out her name, she remembers his blood) and somehow Itachi´s face is clearer in her mind. She has seen Sasuke grow; she feels guilty that his absence leaves no visible mark on her.
Shikamaru will never be able to forgive Sasuke, though, she learns from Asuma, in one of their unexpectedly quiet conversation, just walking through town, no destination, but no will to admit it´s a date either.
Even if Asuma is proud of Shikamaru he admits he resents the boy is such a gifted ninja. It´s more dangerous this way, he says, lighting another cigarette when the one before is not nearly finished yet, and what he really means is that he is fucking scared about Shikamaru.
It´s odd for Kurenai to hear this; she would give the world to get the village to aknowledge Hinata´s efforts and here is Asuma, wishing Shikamaru was a worse student. She has never seen herself as a mother figure to her students but she knows that Asuma has grown to love that boy more than his own life, maybe that´s the difference.
She wants to comfort him somehow, to tell him everything it´s going to be okay (though they both know it´s not, but one learns to tell lies when you love someone), to run her hands over his hair (she knows how soft it can be, she took a handful of it after the fight with Itachi and Kisame, she needed to touch him, she needed to make sure he was alive, that they were alive) but somehow she doesn´t dare.
Something always holds her back when she is with him.
She wants to ask Hinata if she resents Neji sometimes, but she already knows the answer: Hinata loves her cousin, and in any case resentment is not in her nature.
Kurenai is more visceral than all that (Asuma told her once that she felt with the bottom of her stomach, and he must have been right, because he knows her better than she even knows herself), she resents Neji and his quietness like poison, and his talent and his genius for shadowing Hinata, she hates Sasuke for leaving and for Kiba´s wounds, for so much silence in the village, so many forbidden words, she even resents Shikamaru a bit, for not being able to bring everybody back intact, for Kiba´s scars and her sleepless nights by the hospital bedside, but that´s okay, because in exchange she is grateful beyond words for bringing everybody back safe, and Kiba is alive, and the scars will fade away.
She wants to ask Kakashi if he resents Sasuke, and this time she doesn´t know the answer: Kakashi´s way of loving is much more complex than Hinata´s.
"Leave him alone," Gai tells her when he catches Kurenai staring. "He doesn´t want us worrying, too."
Gai is right, she guesses, but Kakashi talks less and less as the days goes by, and he doesn´t hang around with them anymore, and he doesn´t steal Asuma´s cigarettes anymore (which has always been a peculiar gesture of friendship, because Kakashi doesn´t smoke) and he doesn´t make jokes about her and Asuma dating anymore.
She misses him.
A few weeks after Sasuke´s dissapearance Shikamaru invites Naruto, Chouji, Neji and Kiba, and the Sand brothers to dinner in a way of apologizing. And a way of saying thanks.
That very same day Asuma asks her out.
"Why now?" she asks absently, as if it wasn´t such a big deal.
Asuma shrugs, and it´s his way of saying because those kids have seen death and you have seen death and I have seen death and it´s only a matter of time before we run out of chances for this and for anyone other than Kurenai this would have been dificult to decipher; there is nothing special in his tone, or in the way he holds his cigarette between his fingers (though he is so distracted somehow that the ashes end up on his clothes), the way he walks by her side a bit closer than friends are supossed to, and a bit further than couples are.
There is no hesitation at all in him, and she thinks that it´s a bit cocky, the way he presses his hand, open-palmed, against her inner thigh as she searches for her key to her flat, outside the door. But cocky is fine, Kurenai thinks, in one of those precious, fleeting moments of carelessness, a luxury; she thinks cocky is fine as long as he keeps doing that thing with his lips on her neck...
She runs late for training the next day and all the way she thinks about how strange it is recognizing Asuma´s scent in her sleep and then waking up to it, on the pillow, on the sheets.
Hinata has learned a new jutsu, she smiles (just on the corners of her lips, but there anyway) when she thinks Kurenai can´t see her.
The sun filters through the high trees and yes, Kurenai thinks it´s a cliché picture but she smiles anyway.