A/N: The last challenge I received for my journal meme (I must
do this again sometime, it was much fun). Request from Jess.
Title: "Second Time Around," couple: Tsunade/Jiraiya, and line
is "A good drinking buddy is a valuable commodity, as long as
s/he doesn't expect you to pick up the tab."
POV style that I haven't used in a while. Forgive the
choppiness; I swear that it writes itself in. And way over the
limit to boot, but DAMN did I love writing it.
"Second Time Around"
You've heard the story, right? Your Sarutobi-sensei told it to
you. He told it to you and you think about it all the time and
pray that it is real.
And the story is this: "everything happens."
Because the universe is infinite, right? So everything, no
matter how improbable it is, has to happen somewhere. Somewhere
your brother didn't die. Somewhere your lover didn't die.
Somewhere your teammate didn't betray you.
Somewhere you were happy.
But you don't really think big enough to understand the story.
He understands it. That one person who knows everything about
you and still smiles at you. Because even Shizune does not know
But Jiraiya does.
He can see it inside you. Because even now, decades later, he
is still your precious teammate. This ability is the one that
Orochimaru forsook when he left you: the right to understand and
be in turn understood, and still be forgiven.
You understand Orochimaru very well. He understands you too.
But you will never forgive him, even if you still love him.
Precious teammate, precious person. Part of your dream, like
they all were.
But only Jiraiya is still here, and only he still thinks of the
Because everything happens somewhere.
Somewhere you healed Orochimaru's arms. Somewhere you and Dan
have a thousand children and you wear your true face. Somewhere
your brother is alive and you never met Dan. Somewhere Kabuto
didn't interfere with your ruse and you killed someone you love.
Somewhere you never left. Jiraiya never left. Orochimaru never
Somewhere you are happy.
Here, though . . .
Here Orochimaru's arms are useless. Here Dan is dead and you
have no children and almost no one knows what you actually look
like. Here your brother is dead and you did meet Dan. Here
Kabuto interfered and Orochimaru is still alive.
Here you left. Jiraiya left. Orochimaru left.
Here you are . . .
Here you are . . .
You are here.
And Naruto is the one who wears your necklaces and holds your
loved ones' dream in his heart, and that Uchiha boy is going
insane while everyone watches with curiosity, wondering when he
will break, and that Haruno girl just sits around and cries
because she can't do anything.
You wonder why she isn't fighting. But you can't blame her.
After all, did you follow Orochimaru? Did you ever try to
reason with him, to get through to him, to stop him?
You knew he was falling, you and Jiraiya both. But you were
selfish and did not care. Did not see what was really
happening. Did not see that he needed you to save him until it
was a thousand lifetimes too late; did not even see how you
COULD have saved him until a thousand lifetimes later.
So now you're old (but you'll never admit that because you're
not done with your life), and you're in a bar with Jiraiya,
missing Orochimaru's darkly sardonic sense of humor and thinking
about all the different ways your life turned out in infinity
and how much you wish you were in any other version but your
So you're drunk, and Jiraiya is looking at you that way he does
sometimes, all teasing aside. It's not a kind look, but it's
not really cruel either.
It is . . . nostalgic? Regretful? Resigned?
No, that is not like Jiraiya.
It is . . .
Somewhere you never really understand this look and you die
alone. Somewhere you DO understand, but are distracted a moment
later and forget. Somewhere you just ignore it.
Only, in THIS somewhere, in this sometime . . . in this place
that you are, you understand and reciprocate.
This look is hopeful. This look says, "I still believe that we
can be happy." It is patient and quiet and not exactly like
Jiraiya but not exactly not either.
A good drinking buddy is a valuable commodity- as long as he
doesn't expect you to pick up the tab. So you leave him with
the bill, and he actually pays it for once.
You also leave your room key and cancel his reservation on the
Somewhere he doesn't come.
Somewhere he does, but leaves before morning.
Somewhere he stays forever.
But somewhere you both die tonight, somewhere you are enemies
tonight, somewhere you are already lovers- and somewhere it is
Orochimaru who you left the key with, and somewhere it is Dan,
and somewhere it is even Shizune.
The only thing that matters, though, is that in this somewhere,
you are ready to try loving someone for the second time in your
life. Broken hearts don't exactly heal, but you kept the pieces
of yours in good repair. You think they could work quite
nicely, given a little patience and a bit of work.
You enter your room and change into a nightgown that would give
any normal man a terminal nosebleed but would at best make
Jiraiya grin that vacant grin of his.
You recognize his footsteps, and then there is a key in your
Somewhere, somehow, sometime, someplace, your life turned out
exactly the way you wanted it to. You never really suffered and
no one ever died on you. Your team stayed together and you and
Dan had children, and they had an aunt on his side and an uncle
Somewhere your life was perfect.
But that doesn't mean that it was any better than this one.
* an ending *
. : somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond any
experience, your eyes have their silence : .