by Landlady of the Universe

Summary: Though he can't remember, he will never forget. ~Jiraiya

Genre: Musing.  Boardness.  Can't sleep.

Spoilers: Erk.  Jiraiya on, I guess.

Rating: PG.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: Bleh.  Sleep now.

I remember the first time I met you.

You always were a smug SOB, even at that age.  So young, and yet, I don't think you'd ever been a kid.

I hated you from that first moment.  Tsunade, on the other hand, fell for you like a rock.  And when I decided to tear out your throat – because she was mine, dammit! – you didn't hesitate to beat my punk ass back into it's place.

I knew you were a genius then.

As did the rest of the damn village.

But I was as sure as hell that you weren't the only one.  And I was going to prove it.

When I finally wiped the floor with that smug smirk of yours, you laughed.  And I laughed too, finally convinced that you were nothing short of insane.

Tsunade melted.

Then she kicked both our butts.

We had some good times back then.  The old man wasn't so old; granted, he wasn't Hokage at the time either.  And I never really believed it, you know.  That you were insane; though I joked about it all the time.

Did you believe me?  Is that what happened to you?

It was an easy hop to Jounin; I barely even remember being a Chuunin at all.  And you were right there with me.  Tsunade too.  The three of us, together, passed the test to become Jounin, and made a promise that night.

It rained.  Actually, rain would be a misnomer.  I still swear a giant decided to turn his water hose on our ant bed of a village.  And the three of us were huddled in the hall of the empty Academy, feeling delinquent with our stolen jug of sake and celebrating despite the gloomy weather.  Half drunk, we made our promise; to get as strong as we possibly could and always stick together.

It's funny, but for the life of me I can't remember if you promised that last bit.

But you were the first one to leave.

And suddenly, it was like there was no reason to be a ninja anymore.  I was already stronger than most of the people in the village, but that wasn't the point.  As long as you were there, as long as you were getting stronger, there was a reason for me to get stronger too.  After you left, there was nothing.

So I left too.  Then Tsunade, some time after that.

Maybe you didn't realize this, you bastard, but we were a team.  We were supposed to stick together.  Not go crazy and run off on our own creating our own country.

You always were a jackass.

Orochimaru.  I can forget that time we got caught leafing through those magazines together.  Or that mission where you saved my life.  I can forget the crush you had on Tsunade, and made me promise not to tell.  I did anyway.  But somehow, I can't forget that laugh, when I finally beat you that first time.  It wasn't the archvillian laugh.  It wasn't cruel or cold or evil.  It was happy; happy that I'd finally beat you, happy that we were teammates.  Happy and innocent and carefree.

So what happened?

Did you forget?