Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. If I did, obviously, it would be about Tsunade instead, bc she's awesome.

Konoha was entering the Third Shinobi War.

Tsunade crumpled the missive and sank down on her couch. She closed her eyes, fighting the urge to vomit. Those were words she'd prayed she would never read again. Twelve years had passed since the second war, yet every memory of it was as fresh as if it had happened yesterday.

Tsunade opened her eyes before her thoughts overwhelmed her, and gripped her necklace. For twelve years, she had stayed in Konoha, unable to leave, even though every time she stepped out of her home the memories of Nawaki and Dan were nearly too painful to bear.

And she hadn't been on a mission in years. She'd tried, but it had been obvious her crippling fear of blood left her no more than a hindrance to teammates. So, she'd asked Hiruzen to exempt her from missions.

But a war...

Tsunade stood, and walked to the window. Konoha looked peaceful, but she could sense the underlying tension that only war could bring. She clenched her teeth. Her people were at war, and their greatest medical-nin was hiding away.


Tsunade let out an agonized cry, and slammed her fist into the window frame. The wood splintered down the wall to the floor, and the foundation trembled. She sucked in a shaky breath. Along with other medical jutsu, she'd studied hemophobia for months, but hadn't found a way to free herself of it.

Nawaki... Dan... Tsunade slumped against the split window. They would want her to fight, to defend Konoha.

Tsunade straightened. She had to try. She would persevere through her memories, through her fear. She had the Will of Fire, after all. The front lines would need her skills the most, so she would head there first.

Tsunade snatched her mission pack from her closet, still unused since her last mission. She leaped through the window, and ran toward the forest.

Kakashi Hatake leaped from branch to branch easily, letting anger fuel his speed. How could Obito abandon the mission so easily?

Rin's terrified face flashed through his memory, and his foot slipped. Cursing, Kakashi dropped silently to the forest floor, and immediately bent his knees to spring back up into the treetops.

A flicker of white inked with characters. A spark.

He cursed again. Baka.

Kakashi flung himself backward, twisting midair to avoid slamming into a tree trunk. But the explosion from the paper bomb knocked him off course, heat searing his skin. He crashed into another tree, and hit the leaf-strewn ground hard.

Ignoring the pain shooting through his spine and neck, Kakashi rolled to his feet, every muscle tense. This—this—was why the mission always came first. Just a mere brush of worry for his teammates caused him to stumble.

And Kakashi Hatake never stumbled.

"Hai, what do we have here? A foolish genin?" An Iwa-nin stepped out of the shadows, dark eyes gleaming.

Kakashi curled his fingers into a fist, breath hot on his mask. "I am Kakashi Hatake, a jōnin of Konohagakure!"

Low laughter surrounded him, and seven more Iwa-nin drifted out into the open, circling Kakashi. One of them spun a blackened kunai. "A jōnin? It seems we have our work cut out for us."

Eight of them. Kakashi narrowed his eyes. This would be... difficult. He gritted his teeth. If only Obito hadn't deserted him.

He had only one option. Minato-sensei had told him never again—but his sensei wasn't here either. If he was going to die, then he would die a worthy jōnin of Konoha. And unlike his father, he would die a worthy Hatake.

Kakashi focused on the Iwa-nin who'd appeared first. He dropped his right hand between his bent legs, and gripped his wrist. "Chidori!"

Chakra surged through his arm, materializing as chakra-infused lighting in his palm. Then he charged, summoning all his power behind the strike. He thrust forward—but fingers wrapped around his arm, and hurled him to the side.

Kakashi lashed out with his foot, but the kick barely grazed the Iwa-nin's jaw. He grunted, and flung Kakashi down. Kakashi's ribs cracked on impact. He hissed, and pushed off with his palms to spring back before he was hit with another attack.

"Rock fist!" An enlarged fist, flickering with chakra, punched Kakashi below the ribcage, and he slammed into the ground, skidding backward until an unyielding tree stopped his momentum.

Kakashi groaned, pressing a hand to his stomach. Something flashed toward him, and he lurched to the side as a kunai impaled the trunk. Too clo—

A wall of stone slammed into him, crushing him, and this time Kakashi couldn't hold back a scream. The stone rippled around the trunk, completely encasing his body, except for his head and arms. The Iwa shinobi closed his fingers, and the stone shell compressed around Kakashi. His ribs snapped, bones puncturing organs and flesh, and his spine ground into the tree trunk.

Kakashi couldn't breathe; couldn't see past the pain ripping through his body. He focused all of his willpower on his right arm, and lifted his gloved hand. If he reached the kunai... could chip away at the stone shell... he could at least go down fighting. Tears stung his eyes. He was a fool. Obito hadn't abandon him, Kakashi had abandoned him and Rin. They were supposed to be a team. And he, their leader, had abandoned both of them. If only he could get out of this. Then he would...

"Baka. If you move another inch, I'll compressed the stone so fast your bones with turn to dust. You've lost."

Kakashi raised his head just enough to see the Iwa-nin gathered around his tree, their pale faces smug, hands bristling with poison needles and kunai. He snarled, "I won't... go... down... taking orders... from swine."

The Iwa-nin snarled, and lifted his three kunai. Kakashi's fingers brushed the grip of the kunai impaled in the ground on his right.

A dark shape leaped from the treetops behind the Iwa-nin, blonde hair flying. Kakashi froze. Minato-sensei? No, it was a woman. But who—?

The blonde woman landed between Kakashi and the Iwa-nin, her heel slamming the ground. The impact shuddered through the ground, and it split, sending rocks, chunks of earth, and Iwa-nin flying. Kakashi's hand dropped from the kunai as he stared at the figure standing in front of him. Impossible. No one was that strong. The woman faced him, and he gaped under his mask.

She was the most beautiful person Kakashi had ever seen. Long blonde bangs hung on either side of a heart-shaped face with golden-brown eyes that seemed to glow. He blinked in an attempt to clear his head. Wait...

Incredible strength. Blonde hair. The violet diamond seal on her forehead. This was Tsunade Senju, the legendary Sannin and medical-nin. Kakashi swallowed, unable to tear his gaze from her face. But what was Lady Tsunade doing here? She hadn't been on a mission in over ten years.

Lady Tsunade stared at him. "Sak—Sakumo?" She blinked. "No... no. You're his son, aren't you? Kakashi Hatake." She strode to him, gaze intense. "Hold still. I will break you free."

She struck the stone shell, and it crumbled around Kakashi. Unable to hold himself up, he fell forward into Lady Tsunade's arms. She gently lowered him to the ground, and Kakashi coughed, blood drooling from his mouth and nose. Black fuzzed at the corner of his vison, but he blinked hard, forcing himself to stay conscious.

Lady Tsunade made a strangled noise, and he turned enough to make out her golden-brown eyes staring at him in horror. She clamped her shaking hands tightly. "No... not again."

"Wha...?" Kakashi couldn't get out the rest of his question through the gurgle of blood and saliva.

Lady Tsunade shuddered. "I must... he will die if I—I don't." She shook her head, and a tear trickled down her cheek. "Baka. Why did I try? Why did I think I could do this? I am... no better than useless."

She wanted to heal him, but couldn't? Had she been wounded somehow? Kakashi managed to move his hand enough to touch her knee. "Don't—don't cry. I'll be... fine."

Lady Tsunade's glistening gaze dropped to his hand, and her jaw tightened. He'd heard Lady Tsunade could determine someone's condition just by looking at them, and if that were true, she knew he wasn't going to be fine. Kakashi's eyes drifted closed. If only he could see Obito and Rin one last time... and apologize. If only he could help Obito save Rin. If only he could train with Minato-sensei again.

Warm fingers touched Kakashi's hand, startling his eyes open. Lady Tsunade was still trembling, but she'd slid her hand forward just enough to cover his. Her brow furrowed deep with concentration, and at last her hand flickered with healing chakra. The warmth from her head spread through his body, easing the pain.

After several minutes, the pain had almost faded. But now, even Lady Tsunade's hand on his was shaking badly.

Kakashi removed his hand and pushed to his knees. The pain was nearly gone, and that was all he needed. He didn't know what was wrong with Lady Tsunade, but he wasn't going to let her go through any more. "Thank you, Tsunade-sama. I have to go to my teammates, but I will return for you."

"No." With a great effort, Lady Tsunade looked up at him. Something in her gaze seemed almost... shattered. "I—I have failed. I have nothing for Konoha. Promise me, you won't tell anyone I was here."

What? Kakashi curled his fingers into fists. What could she possibly mean? Clearly, there were things going on he knew nothing about. His chest twisted. She had just saved him. He couldn't leave her like this. "Tsunade-sama—"

"Promise me, Kakashi Hatake!" Tsunade's eyes blazed, like a flame sparking to life.

Kakashi clenched his teeth. Lady Tsunade was a jōnin and one of the Sannin. He couldn't disobey her. "I promise. But I will return to help you."

Lady Tsunade stared at him. Another tear fell, but she only bowed her head, white-knuckled fingers gripping her knees. "Go, Kakashi Hatake. Become a great shinobi."

Kakashi decided that was the best answer he was going to get. He sprang into the treetops, flying back the way Obito had gone. As soon as they had Rin, he would come back to aid Lady Tsunade.

But when Kakashi did return—with Rin, a Sharingan, and his raging grief—Lady Tsunade was long gone. As the years passed, Tsunade Senju faded into the memory of Konoha, remembered only as a legend who had long disappeared.

However, Kakashi never forgot his fateful meeting with the woman who saved his life.

A/N: Hi everyone! First off, I will admit that I am fairly new to Naruto, but I fell in love with the characters and story, especially Tsunade (and Kakashi). I did my best with the politics, jutsus, honorifics, and the like. I welcome feedback, especially if something is in error. A couple of other notes: some of the timeline/events from Naruto are changed slightly to fit my story, and sometimes I have a Japanese word or two in the dialogue, just cause I like it. I also changed names from Hatake Kakashi to Kakashi Hatake, as it's easier for me.