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The open books of death

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 “But the faith of men that ha' brothered men

 By more than easy breath,

And the eyes o' men that ha' read wi' men

 In the open books of death.” (kipling)

In the end it always came down to the two of them. To the uneasy familiarity of friendship, and the easy familiarity of distrust, and the sheer weight of the history they shared. They couldn’t call themselves lovers or friends, not with the thousand lies, and secrets, and betrayals that lie unspoken between them. Not with the silent war they wage over the soul of Konoha, the petty betrayals, the manipulations, the fundamental differences in philosophy that lie at the heart of it all.

Nor were they truly enemies, for in the end they both love Konoha, and everything they have ever done is rooted in that love. And beyond that when Hiruzen cares to admit it to himself, Danzo was his peer, his equal, his agemate. Hiruzen was lonely, surrounded by children, by ninja that would likely never reach half the age he has, and there were so few others who could understand the burden of the years, the way time changes everything and nothing. Danzo understands what so very few others do and Hiruzen depends on that understanding far too much to truly call Danzo his enemy.

But if not lovers or enemies, what are they? Hiruzen doesn’t know, he doubts Danzo does either. Coworkers perhaps? It’s true as far as it goes but coworkers can’t begin to describe the depth of what lay between them. Teammates came closer, especially in Konoha where “team” is held close as “kin” in the hearts of ninja. But still that’s not quite right. Utatane and Koharu are teammates too and neither of them have ever come close to what Danzo is to him. No-one has.

It wasn’t often that they did this, that they gave voice to the dark and twisted bond between them. Danzo never did quite get a handle on what triggered it. A certain look in one of their eyes, a subtle shift in body language, an unspoken demand or request, or need. He still wasn’t sure if he craved it or resented it, that closeness, that inescapable connection. They needed each other, he knew it, and Hiruzen knew it too. They’ve been all things to each other, friend, brother, enemy, lover, conscience, and part of Danzo knows those chains will bind him until the day he dies.

So when the mood in the Sandaime’s office shifted, when suddenly he was faced with the heat of Hiruzen’s anger, instead of the Hokage’s cold disapproval, Danzo didn’t step back. When Hiruzen looked at him with fire in his eyes, Danzo met his gaze with defiance, with desire, with a challenge no-one else could offer. Not since Biwako died, Biwako and so many others. Their generation is dead, all but the two of them, and Utatane and Koharu of course. But even when they were genin Utatane and Koharu always deferred to them, they were followers, not leaders, and they could never challenge Hiruzen this way. He was the only equal Hiruzen had left, just as Hiruzen was the only equal he had, and maybe that was the root of their connection after all. Certainly it was part of the attraction between the two of them, desire and challenge so tangled up in both their minds that they never could separate them. Danzo wanted as badly as Hiruzen did.

It took only a moment, a subtle handsign to free them from their watchers. Anbu don’t question the Hokage, when he demands privacy. He had the slight suspicion that Danzo’s pets were still watching but that didn’t matter so much. They were discreet even if it killed them, they wouldn’t tell anyone what they saw, and there was a dark part of Hiruzen that loved the idea of letting Danzo’s pets watch as he fucked him, that wanted to show them that even their mighty leader was human, with human desires. He allowed himself to smile, hard, and fierce, and hungry. Danzo matched his expression, just as Danzo always matched him, and Hiruzen allowed himself to move with the shinobi’s grace he usually hid, as he closed in. No need to try and convince Danzo he was a harmless old grandfather, no chance of succeeding if he tried, Danzo knew all too well what Hiruzen was capable of and Hiruzen loved that about him.

When they kissed it was all teeth, and bite, and fierceness, and if the arms they wrapped around each other spoke more of desperate loneliness then neither of them was likely to point it out. It was all the frustration, and anger, and twisted co-dependence that had grown in them over the years, so slowly that they hadn’t even realised it was happening. It was nothing like kissing Biwako had been, and Hiruzen was grateful for that. That wouldn’t have been fair to any of them, and with anyone else it would have been hard to avoid comparisons. At least Danzo had only ever been Danzo to him, he loomed too large in Hiruzen’s life to ever be a shadow of someone else.

The Hokage’s robes always came off surprisingly easily. Danzo supposed they must have been designed so that they could be easily shed in combat. Certainly the things must have been impossible to fight in, so it would only make sense for them to be easy to escape. Hiruzen wore standard shinobi gear under the robes, which was a little harder to remove, if Danzo were more given to sympathy he might have winced at the thought of how hot all those layers must be in summer. As he wasn’t he just stripped away Hiruzen’s clothes with an ease that came of decades of practice.

He’d aged well, Danzo noted, as he always did. Scarred, and weathered like an old tree, but still powerful, lean muscle still evident under worn brown skin, and the sight of it drove Danzo to impulsively tilt his head and demand another kiss. Somewhere in the flurry of tongues and hands and teeth that followed, Danzo found himself divested of his clothes. Naked, except for the bandages on his arm and face he pressed himself tight against Hiruzen’s back, dug his nails in just a little, and kissed harder.

With both of them naked Hiruzen slowed down a little, touched and stroked, and ran his fingers over all the places he knew were sensitive. Danzo was clawing desperately at his back, but Danzo always had been a little impatient, a little hasty. Hiruzen knew there was a power in moving slowly. He could feel Danzo’s nails in his back, and Danzo’s slowly hardening cock pressed up against his hip. They were both older now than the first time they fucked, back then it had taken no more than a whisper of desire to get either of them going. It took longer these days, they no longer had the energy of youth, but neither of them was dead yet. It took a little longer but they always got there in the end, and age had its own payoff, they were well past the adolescent fumbling that they had faced that first time when fifteen year old Hiruzen had looked at Danzo and found himself wanting a different kind of spar. Hiruzen knew his own body now, knew Danzo’s body, and knew just how to fit them together to set their blood on fire. It was perhaps the only endeavour he and Danzo could work together on without it ending in bitter words. They’ve always complemented each other in all the worst ways, Danzo is what Hiruzen cannot bring himself to be, while Hiruzen is what Danzo doesn’t dare to be, but at least they’ve always been ridiculously compatible in bed.

He pressed slick fingers inside his enemy/friend/lover/rival, twisted them inside him in a way that made Danzo hiss in thwarted desire. Sucked at Danzo’s neck as he stretched him, and it was really a good thing shinobi clothes covered so much skin because the marks he was leaving would be more than a little hard to explain. Danzo bit into his shoulder as he added another finger, Hiruzen barely registered the pain, just continued with his patient work.

It was an old and familiar dance, and they both knew the steps by heart, so Danzo wasn’t surprised when Hiruzen abruptly left off his slow exploration of Danzo’s body, to turn him around and shove him up against the Hokage desk. Papers scattered but neither of them really cared, fallen papers could be picked up later. The edge of the desk dug into his thighs and he braced himself as Hiruzen eased his way in, slow and overpowering, one arm wrapped around Danzo’s neck, the other across his chest, and his legs positioned so that every inch of them were in contact with Danzo’s skin. Clinging to him like a monkey. It occurred to Danzo, with a kind of wry humour that it was true what they said, shinobi were affected by their summons contracts, especially in the bedroom.

He pushed back against his Hokage, encouraging him to move, and finally Hiruzen did. He moved with slow confidence, with purpose, with hands and arms and legs everywhere, and Danzo luxuriated in the human contact he allowed from no-one else. Although maybe allowed was the wrong word. He needed it from no-one else, wanted it from no-one else, Hiruzen made him feel like a human being, crave human connection in a way that no-one else could these days. All the frozen stone defences he built to keep himself apart from his comrades were irrelevant when Hiruzen had got to him long before they’d ever been built. He should have resented it really, should have seen it as a weakness, but he didn’t. Hiruzen was not a weakness, he was Hiruzen, was everything, and was chained to him, by a life, and a history, and a purpose shared. Their connection was both a defeat and a victory, he needed Hiruzen, but Hiruzen needed him just as much, and for that reason Hiruzen was no weakness.

Hiruzen pushed slowly into the warmth of Danzo’s body, his arms still wrapped tightly around his chest, it always surprised him how easily Danzo submitted when it came to this, letting Hiruzen position him, set the pace, touch however he wanted. He started slowly, neither of them was young enough to go again anytime soon so he needed to make this time count, but after a while instinct and emotion took over. All the angers and frustrations of the day to expressing themselves in a violent rhythm that rattled the desk as Danzo braced himself. He lost himself to sensation, to heat, and movement, and skin on skin, and he may have been violent, but Danzo of all people wouldn’t break from it. With Danzo he could afford to lose himself a little.

Danzo could feel the moment Hiruzen lost control, could feel his own control fray in response, the pleasure, and adrenaline threatening to override everything but instinct and desire. Then Hiruzen dug fingers and blunted nails into the skin of Danzo’s chest, and he was lost. When he came it was like Hiruzen was the only real thing in the world. Or maybe he was always the only real thing, and it just became clearer to see in that moment.

Hiruzen followed just a few moments after Danzo tightened around him. He shuddered, overwhelmed by the rippling sensation of muscles tensing, the low growl Danzo gave, by the scent of sweat and sex that filled the air, and the intoxicating knowledge that he had that effect on Danzo. He held Danzo a moment more before pulling out, running his fingers gently over old scars, he might not know what to call the bond that stood between them, but there was affection in it even if neither of them would ever speak of it.

Danzo suppressed a pang of regret as Hiruzen pulled away. They would clean up and dress, and the closeness they shared in moments of need, and desire, and loneliness would vanish like the grey light of pre-dawn in the face of full sunrise. It would vanish and he and Hiruzen would argue, would manipulate, would lie and lie and lie to each other, and there was no point in wishing it could be otherwise. He wiped himself clean with a tissue and refused to look Hiruzen in the face as he straightened his clothes. There was no compromise to be made between them, at least none that could last, they couldn’t help but find themselves at odds, and it was dangerous to forget that the conflict was as much a part of their bond as the closeness. If there was a part of Danzo, locked away under years of blood and brutal necessity that longed for something more, longed to lie there awhile with Hiruzen wrapped around him like a lethal orang-utan, well he had more than enough self-discipline to stamp down on it hard. What he and Hiruzen had, was all they could have, they were both far too old and nasty to change.

By the time they were fully dressed and the papers were arranged back on the desk, Danzo’s face was entirely professional again, no hint of what they’d just done. There were days Hiruzen envied him his composure. Danzo had always had the better poker face out of the two of them. He didn’t know if Danzo wondered the way he did, about possibilities, and choices, and paths not taken, about whether there was a world where the love between them was simple, where love was all that was between them, he wondered if Danzo wished. Probably not, Danzo never was one for sentiment. He schooled his own face back into his Hokage mask before he dismissed Danzo. He didn’t watch him leave.