Crying Call

Crying Call: A call that players make expecting to lose, but feel that they must make anyway because of the pot odds…

How typical of her life that the most understanding person in her life was a pig. Shizune ran her hand over Tonton's head, earning a soft oink of commiseration.

"It'll be okay," she whispered, even though her mentor was roaring drunk and gambling with a bunch of shifty-looking thugs.

Sometimes she wondered how she landed in these kind of situations. Shizune had no doubts that she and Tsunade were more than a match for the thugs, but that didn't mean she had to look forward to what was going to happen. She could predict it as sure as though she were reading the words of a script: Tsunade would lose more than she could afford, the bully-boys would get threatening, and Tsunade – with help from Shizune – would decide to put them into their place.

A part of her believed that Tsunade did this to them deliberately, because it was a way she could safely work out her aggression. Tsunade might have feared blood, but that didn't keep her from picking fights.

They'd been on the run for so long that Shizune had lost track of how many villages they had passed through. They'd met so many people that she couldn't keep them straight, and she'd wore out three pairs of shoes annually, keeping the grueling pace Tsunade set.

Tsunade may have claimed to keep moving to avoid the debt collectors that hounded her footsteps; Shizune knew Tsunade was running from her past.

Her uncle had loved Tsunade, but that wasn't why Shizune had chosen to follow the Sannin. Her uncle had died while she was still a child, so she didn't have that kind of family loyalty to him.

Instead, it was Tsunade. She remembered the stories on the ninja war, and knew many whose lives had been saved by Tsunade's skills. Some of her classmates had wanted to become as powerful a kunoichi as Tsunade, since her strength was legendary. Shizune just wanted to be able to heal like she did. She didn't want anyone to suffer.

Tsunade had left when Shizune had been fifteen, and she had gained special permission to follow her. Sandaime had taken her aside before they left, asking her to look after his student.

"I will," she had promised the Hokage. "I'll protect her with my life."

He had looked at her sadly before placing a hand on her shoulder. "She needs protection from herself most of all," he told her, before dismissing her.

It had taken her a while to understand what the man had meant. At first she had been shocked by the gambling and drinking. For a while she'd tried to keep Tsunade company in the bar, but she'd learned in time to drink water as Tsunade pounded the cups of sake down.

She'd been angry at Tsunade the first few times they'd ended up chased by creditors. Eventually even her patience snapped, and she'd found herself screaming at the Sannin, the woman who was supposed to be her mentor. Tsunade had merely listened with a smirk on her face, promising to consider her words.

They'd run out of the next village even more quickly than usual.

It took time, but Shizune eventually reconciled the two highly disparate views of Tsunade in her mind. She was a drunk and a horrible gambler, but Shizune couldn't leave her.

Even though Tsunade's healing abilities were crippled by her hemaphobia, Shizune saw a great woman. Tsunade was strong; she didn't need a man to make her whole. Tsunade had a kind heart, when she allowed herself to show it. On those rare occasions when the woman was being serious and wasn't drunk, she could see the person Tsunade should have been. She would follow Tsunade to the end of the earth, even if it killed her.

There were times she thought it would. Tsunade was careless about many things, and found trouble the same way a team of genin on an A-Ranked mission would.

Like now. Shizune groaned and slap a hand to her forehead as she recognized the expression Tsunade was wearing. "I'll bet it all," the Sannin proclaimed in a confident voice.

From the gloating smiles the men were wearing, Shizune knew what was going to happen. She gently shifted Tonton off her lap and pushed the pig behind her. Then she rolled up her sleeves, getting ready for the fight.