Aug 302007
Title: A Flag in the Wasteland
Authors: Ywain
Characters: Shiranui Genma, Shiranui Riza
Rating: T
Warnings: Expletives.
Notes: I promised that I'd get off my ass and work out Genma's mom. Here's my first attempt.

Disclaimer: Naruto is not my toy, although sometimes I wish it was. Almost everyone you meet here belongs to Masashi Kishimoto, I just borrow them, occasionally. Shiranui Riza the property of Ywain Penbrydd.

Author's Note: Sweetbriar and I have been stuck at chapter thirty-something of Corybantic Dance, pending my characterisation of Genma's mother. Here's my first attempt at resolving that problem. This is a few days before Genma's seventeenth birthday, setting it just before the start of the year in which Corybantic Dance takes place.

Warnings: Expletives.

"Mom?" The door flew open and Genma kicked it shut behind him as he dashed through the apartment. "Mom? Are you really home?"

A middle-aged woman stepped out of the bathroom in a cloud of steam, wearing a towel."Genma, stop shouting. I've heard enough shouting today." She lifted a corner of the towel to dry out her ear. "And you've been hit in the face again. Isn't Raidou taking care of you?"

Genma stopped in his tracks as though he'd hit a glass wall, and the excited smile slid dejectedly from his face. "Yes, mom. It was… well, I was wrong. Raidou hit me."

"Better go apologise, don't you think?"

"I already did." Genma crossed his arms over his waist and studied the carpet. "Did you eat already? I mean, you probably did, but…"

Shiranui Riza stepped out of the doorway and wrapped her arms around her son. "No, Genma, I haven't eaten. I was waiting for you to come home. What would I eat without you? You know I can't cook."

"Finish washing up. I'll make something. I know there has to be something good left in the cabinets, somewhere." He gave her a quick hug and stepped back, full of questions he wouldn't ask because she would be too tired to answer them. There was one, though. "You're home. Does this mean…? It's only a few days…"

"I'm sorry. I leave again on Wednesday." She stepped back into the bathroom. "I was going to wait until after dinner to tell you."

"It's okay, mom. I'm just glad you're home at all." It wasn't enough, though, he reflected as he walked into the kitchen and put up a pot of rice. His mother had missed his birthday every year since he was twelve — four years, now, and this would be the fifth. He didn't resent her, though — he couldn't. She was out earning the money that paid for the apartment, leaving him to spend his money and his charms on food and frivolities. He thought she might suspect how he came by his extravagant food and clothes, but she never said a word about it, and he wasn't about to start talking. Just another year or two and he'd be able to tell her to stop taking every job she was offered, and just to take the ones she wanted — he'd be able to support them both on the power of his smile — and the power of his many other unspeakable talents.

Dinner came together easily under his talented hands. Fruit and tea and rice wine went into the rice, and he steamed turnip greens as the sticky main dish speed-chilled in the freezer.His mother quietly entered the kitchen and looked over his shoulder as he finished cooking and began to serve the food.

"You should go to school for this, you know." She poked him and reached around his shoulder to steal a slice of pear.

He batted at her hand with the spoon he used to serve the rice. "I don't need to go to school for it. You wait and see. Another couple of years, and you'll be at home doing the art you've always wanted to do, and I'll be making all the money we need entertaining wealthy fools who wouldn't know a ladle if they were beat with one." Of course, he neglected to mention how he intended to entertain them, or that he rather expected to be the one getting beaten with kitchen implements. Such things were not suitable discussion topics for dinner with one's mother. He pushed a plate into her hands and shooed her toward the table. "Go eat. I'll be there as soon as I lay up dessert."

"I get dessert, too? You must think I'm pretty special, or something," Riza teased.

Genma pulled a day-old pan of raspberry cake from the fridge and set it on the counter. "You are something special, dork. You're my mom." He kissed the top of her head as he passed, heading to his room for the bottle of Jameson's.

She shook her head and smiled, taking a spoonful of the rice. "This is really good!"

He passed her again, looking exasperated, with a bottle of whisky in one hand and a bag of chocolate in the other. "Of course it's good. I cooked it, didn't I?" He rolled his eyes and grinned at his mother as he melted the chocolate and slowly mixed the whisky into it. If he got the balance just right, the chocolate would almost harden when it cooled. Other ingredients went into the pot, absently added as he stirred with one hand and ate his own dinner with the other. Finally, he cut a few thin slices of the cake, laid them on a plate, and poured the chocolate sauce over them before putting everything away and sitting down at the table with the rest of his meal.

"Did they pay you this time, or is this going to be another case of the municipal government passing it to the state and the state passing it back?" Genma sounded slightly bitter as he smirked knowingly across the table. The problem with doing city jobs was that they were almost inevitably terrible about actually paying for anything.

"After that time in Cincinnati, I don't think anyone's going to try that again, soon." Riza smiled maliciously between bites, and Genma laughed. His mother had, after three months of fighting with the city, invested in several gallons of acetone and destroyed her own work. It was, after all, still hers until it was paid for.

"Never underestimate the greed of a city's politicians. Someone will try again, and you'll just have to teach them they're not that special." He grinned lazily. "After all, they're not me."

She wadded up her napkin and threw it at his head. "Oh, you. One of these days, someone's going to bust down that giant ego, and don't you come crying to me when it happens."

There was a tense moment as he remembered the incident with the hockey team, just a few months back. That had been pretty bad, but he'd managed to keep Raidou from calling his mother in whatever foreign city it was that time by letting Rai move in with him for three weeks, to take care of him. Raidou was the only other person who knew what had happened, and he intended to keep it that way. That was what best friends were for, after all — to keep you alive and your secrets secret.

"Yeah, sure. One of these days." Genma snorted and picked the napkin off his rice, tossing it onto the table. "Probably the day before I die. I am, in Raidou's immortal words, the incorrigible bastard, after all. What good would I be if I got all corr — um … corrugated?" He laughed. 'Incorrigible' was one of those words that he was never quite certain of the appropriate opposite for.

"You'd be a good, cheap roofing material!" His mother jabbed her spoon at him, amusedly, setting off a volley of jests that lasted the rest of the meal.

Genma stood to clear the table, but his mother caught his wrist. "No. Sit down."

He protested, but sank back into his chair. "But, if I don't —"

"I'm going to miss your birthday, again. Don't think I don't know that." She looked sternly at him. "Now just sit your ass in that chair. I'm not going to forget to give you your present before I leave."

"Holy shit." Genma blinked across the table, and then stared open mouthed. "They paid you that much?" His mother usually just painted something for him and left it propped against his door with a note, when she left. He couldn't remember the last time she actually bought him a present — or actually handed one to him. He wasn't sure how many of the Christmas presents supposedly from her were actually from Raidou's parents — he never asked and never thanked her for any of them, just in case. It was safer that way.

"They paid me enough." She stood and ruffled his hair as she left to fetch the package from her luggage. Returning with a moderately sized package, Riza smirked amusedly and handed it to her son. "For you and Raidou. So you can have a proper birthday, even without me."

He looked faintly disturbed, at first, eyeing her sideways and wondering exactly what she thought was going on between him and Rai, but his mother wasn't quite that tasteless. At least he didn't think she was… He unwrapped the box cautiously, preserving the paper perfectly as he peeled the tape off. He'd stick it under his bed and wrap Rai's birthday present in it, later. He finally turned the box over and laughed hysterically. "You — I can't believe you — Are those engraved? Are you insane?"

The box contained a pair of silver-rimmed martini glasses, one etched with his name, the other with Raidou's. As an added bonus, there was a fifth of Grey Goose and a jar of jalapeΓ±o-stuffed olives. It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best present he'd ever received from his mother. "Holy shit, mom. Holy fucking shit." He stood up and set the box on the table before grabbing his mother and giving her a crushing hug. He'd begun to wonder if his mother knew him at all after all these years of only seeing him a few days at a time, but this answered that question easily and thoroughly. He squeezed his eyes shut as they started to water, determined not to cry like a child over a simple (but absolutely perfect) birthday gift.

"Happy birthday, Genma." Riza croaked. "Are you going to let go while I still have ribs?"

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