Hana never thought she'd find the smell of cigarette smoke comforting. Now, though, poised at the edge of nineteen and twenty, the smell is intoxicating in the safety it emits. Smoke means Asuma, and Asuma means things that Hana can't name, because they're too many.
Hana doesn't know Asuma, not personally. They meet sometimes, because it's impossible not to run into people in a village the size of Konoha. Sometimes they nod hello, and sometimes they stand in the street for a while, Hana leaning forward on her toes, face turned up, Asuma leaning down, cigarette held out to the side.
One time, they run into each other at the river. Hana's swimming where the river runs wide, the width from bank to bank the size of a small lake. The current is slow, and the water is cold. She's floating on her back, her hair brushing her shoulders, wet and slick, when she smells a cigarette. She closes her eyes, water moving her further downstream at a most lazy pace, and after a while, she can't smell the cigarette anymore. She smells the smoke on Asuma, though, acidic and sharp, long before he touches her, because no amount of water can wash away a smell that's deep in Asuma's skin.
They kiss in the river and Hana wraps a foot around Asuma's leg, because the current's threatening to pull her away and she can't reach the bottom of the river.
The sky, when she looks up, is very blue.
Hana is the other woman in Asuma's life. She knows this, and the rest of the village knows it, as well. But, like all well-kept secrets, no one ever talks about it, least of all Kurenai.
Sometimes Hana and Kurenai run into each other, but they never say a word. Hana looks away, because she can always smell Asuma, thick and heavy, on Kurenai, and Kurenai smiles tightly. They are rivals, and sometimes Hana wonders what she's trying to win.
At twenty-five, Hana's beginning to feel her mortality, and when she sees Kurenai, she feels it creep in a little closer, a little tighter. Kurenai's half-past thirty now, and the years have not been kind. There are deep lines in her face, light strands in her hair. She is losing, bit by bit, and when Hana looks at her, Hana sees what she will be like, in ten years, or twenty, or thirty, because Asuma is not a kind man. Asuma takes what he wants, when he wants. He lives a fast life of excess, and he'll never learn the word 'no' or 'stop.' And so, Kurenai and Hana dance around each other, not saying hello, and always saying goodbye, because they can't leave Asuma. Asuma, for some reason or another, is everything to them, and they need him, just like they need a quick fix.
Kurenai's eyes, when Hana looks, are very red.
At thirty, Hana still hasn't won the game. She's not the other woman anymore, because Kurenai floated away, face down in the river, a year and a half ago. Now, Hana's the first person in Asuma's life, but there are secrets in Konoha that no one talks about, about another woman, a girl half Asuma's age, who's on the cusp of jounin.
Hana sees the girl sometimes, because in a village this size, that seems to grow smaller and more restrictive with every year, it's impossible not to see her. The girl is beautiful, young and clean and fresh, and Hana can see why Asuma would be so smitten with her. Hana never says hello, and the girl never looks Hana in the eye, and for Hana, it's like watching her life on repeat, the same scene flashing by again and again on grainy film, with different actors playing different roles every time. All different, except Asuma.
Asuma still stands over Hana, and she still turns her face up towards his, because he's still intoxicating. Sometimes he kisses her, slow and gentle, like he did when they were in the river, years ago, when Hana was still more girl than woman. He brushes her hair back from her face, tilts her chin up, and rumbles meaningless words into her ear, because Asuma will never say anything important to her. That, Hana tells herself, is how he shows his love. He's like an animal, relying on touches to display his affection. But Hana's like an animal, too, relying on the smell of cigarette smoke to assure herself that he's still there, that he's not leaving. They're animals, the lot of them; they don't know the difference between right and wrong, and so, Hana tells herself, they can't be held responsible for their mistakes.
Asuma lights another cigarette, holds it between his fingers carelessly, and Hana wraps an arm around his waist because the wind is threatening to carry her away.
His fingers, when she looks down, are very yellow.
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