Hayate began smoking when he was eleven. An older boy, a chuunin in a stained flak vest, gave him a cigarette and said that it would calm his nerves. Hayate hadn't been calm since Akino died, all of three weeks ago, and so he flicked the lighter, touched the filter to his lips, and breathed in.
His hands were still shaking after he finished the cigarette, and the older boy said that it took a few times to get used to the nicotine. Then, the boy said, Hayate's hands would stop shaking.
Hayate was a chainsmoker by the time he was twelve and a half.
Hayate's first solo mission came three days after making chuunin. It was a two week reconnaissance into Cloud, and it was, as Hayate's old sensei said, a promise of time spent sitting around in trees. Boring, boring, boring. There wasn't much of a promise for excitement, but Hayate was alright with that. He didn't want anything more dangerous than the threat of slivers from climbing a tree, thank you very much.
Problem with Hayate, though, was that when he wasn't under the watchful eye of an adult, he tended to do stupid things.
Like eating all of his food (all two weeks worth) within two days.
Afterwards, all Hayate could ever remember about his mission was a hunger gnawing deep in his stomach and his fingers curling around cigarettes that weren't there.
Wednesdays were laundry days. Hayate's mom would wash the clothes, and then they'd sit on the couch, in sunbeams and cloudshadows, and fold the clothes, warm and soft from the dryer.
Mitsuko folded the last shirt, set it to the side, and Hayate pushed the laundry basket to the floor. He padded from the room, fingers digging into his pocket, and by the time he was on the porch he was holding a cigarette to his lips, flicking a lighter with his other hand. Hayate slumped down onto the warm wood as he smoked, feet hanging over the edge, toes curling into the dusty dirt.
Mitsuko didn't say a word when she stepped out onto the porch. She crouched down next to Hayate, fingers plucking the cigarette from his lips, and she flicked it into the dirt. Hayate slumped a little more as she grabbed the packet of cigarettes and rose, leaving the porch without saying a word.
It was much harder, Hayate learned, to stop smoking than to start. It was easy for the first few hours, to ignore the way his fingers shook a little, and his throat burned with want. After the first day, though, it got harder. And harder. And harder. He slipped up a few times, lighting cigarettes with an ease that disgusted him.
Mitsuko never said a word about it. She'd just pause, looking at him with faintly-veiled disappointment, and move on, carrying the laundry basket to the back room to gather clothes from the dryer.
Sometimes, when Hayate was slumped back on the couch, arms thrown over the back, he wanted to die of shame.
The problem, Hayate figured out, was that he grew addicted to things far too quickly. Pain-pills after he broke his arm, cigarettes after Akino. A feeling would grow, tight and hot in his stomach, and he'd get light-headed, dizzy. He would need something, need it more than he needed to breathe, and it felt like it was killing him, when he couldn't get it.
He moved out of the house during the summer, after a gruesome B-rank mission turned A. He had money in his pocket, burning his skin whenever he dug around for his keys, and he spent it on an apartment he'd never be able to afford in the future, because it was easier than walking down the street, surrounded by vending machines with cigarettes and drugstores with pills, and knowing that he had money, enough money to make his breathlessness go away.
Another mission, and he had more money. He fingered the bills, counting them again and again until the edges were soft and ragged. He paid his rent, paid rent for the next month, too. He bought groceries, bought his mother a present. He got a cheap paperback novel and sat on a bench across the street from a vending machine. He didn't read more than a half-chapter before he couldn't breathe again.
Regret, he decided, tasted bittersweet and sour, and it curled in his stomach like a ball of sickness.
The day Hayate decided it was finished was the day he burned himself with a cigarette. His hands were shaking pathetically, and he was close to tears. A week and a half on a mission, and he wanted nothing more than a cigarette. He'd fumbled with the coins, and he'd come close to hitting the vending machine, watching the wheels move so very slowly. He tore the plastic off the pack as he walked back across the street, and he palmed his lighter, flicking it up as he lifted a cigarette to his lips. His hands shook, and he burned his finger, and he was suddenly felt very, very sick.
He opened his apartment door, set the pack of the cigarettes on the counter. Hayate slid his lighter into his pocket, and shoved his keys into his other pocket. He breathed in, breathed out, and turned, running away.
It took just over ten minutes to get from his apartment to the gates of Konoha. It took just over twenty minutes to get to the top of the cliff. It took less than three seconds for him to leap off, body arching downwards, arms stretching out before him, hands crossed and pointed.
It took somewhere between two and three seconds for him to hit the water. It seemed to take far, far longer for him to reach the surface, and he gasped in the air, sucking it in like he wanted to suck in acrid smoke. The lake was wide, and he rolled onto his back, floating in the center. When he finally dragged himself onto the bank, wet and muddy and cold, it was dark, and he was shaking.
Hayate was thirteen.
A month and a half after Hayate dived from the cliff for the first time, he made special-jounin. It didn't change much in his life, except that now he was making more money. Now he always had a wad of cash in his pocket, burning his fingertips when he reached for his keys. He avoided all the streets with vending machines, and soon he avoided the streets all together. If he was on the rooftops, he couldn't see anything but the top of Konoha, spread out around him, and the sky wide above him.
Jumping became his new addiction. His heart rate would accelerate, his breathing would strain. He'd leap off the cliff, arching his body, stretching out, and the sickening weightlessness as he fell made everything, for a few moments, alright.
Hayate found higher and higher cliffs, deeper and darker water. He twisted and turned, and it felt like immortality, when he hit the water, cold water peeling over his skin like burning razors.
It was almost as addicting as smoking.
Hayate got drunk one night. It was early summer; the nighttime was warm, and the crickets were loud. The beer had been amazingly easy to get a hold of. Someone was dead, a chuunin, or maybe a jounin, and the nin's friends were throwing an impromptu death party at a bar. Hayate got a few beers, then a few more, and when he stumbled out, he was feeling deliciously lightheaded. He walked all the way out to the cliff, and when he was moving so slow, it took him over an hour.
When he reached the cliff, he broke into a run, and he leaped when he neared the edge. He fell. He was scared.
Hayate hadn't been scared before, falling, but now, when he was drunk, he was suddenly terrified. The water was coming up too fast, his body was falling too fast, and he'd never felt so out of control before. He hit the water, ice-cold, with a gasp, and he panicked, fighting for the surface.
When he dragged himself out of the lake, onto the soggy ground, he cried, fingers twisted around sharp blades of grass, trying to hold himself to the ground. He didn't move, trying to cling desperately to the solid ground, until his sensei found him, hours later.
Hayate broke his arm when he was drunk, jumping off the cliff. His sensei took him to the hospital, and his mother came to take him home. The cast was a painfully clean white, and Hayate stared at it for a long time, because he couldn't look at his mother's disappointment. He spent the next few days feeling sorry for himself, sitting on the couch in his mother's house, and then, once she sent him out of the house, he spent another few days in his own apartment.
After a few weeks, his sensei stopped by, holding a bag with some books in it. His sensei didn't say anything about the carton of cigarettes, unopened, on Hayate's counter, or the lighter, price tag still on it, sitting next to the cigarettes. Hayate didn't say anything, either, and after a short, almost uncomfortable tea, his sensei left the apartment, leaving behind the dime-novels and well-thumbed magazines. His sensei paused in the doorway, though, and made a half-mindless comment about the ANBU.
When his sensei was gone, Hayate put the tea away, setting the cups into the sink clumsily, careful of his cast, and looked at the counter. The cigarettes and lighter were gone. He patted his pockets, making sure he had his wallet, and grabbed his keys, leaving the apartment.
Hayate's problem, he decided, was that he grew addicted to things. He grew addicted to pain-pills, and to cigarettes, and to jumping from cliffs. He grew addicted to life.
He packed up the last of his books, some dime-novels his sensei had let him borrow, and he taped the box's flaps closed. When the box was taped and pushed to the side, he grabbed another box, filling it with odds and ends, things collected over the last few years, since Akino died. It didn't take too long to pack up his apartment, and his life, and when he was done, he dropped a half-empty pill bottle into one of the boxes, after swallowing two of the pills. Hayate grabbed his wallet, and his keys, and set a cigarette on his lips.
The ANBU wouldn't be so bad. It would be interesting, at least for a while, and maybe he'd grow to like it.
Maybe it'd be his new addiction.
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