This is a oneshot I somehow got stuck in my head not too long ago. Now that I'm back in my writing frenzy, I figured I'd shoot it out here.
Tsunade frowned. There was an absolute ton of paperwork today, and it made her want to know Orochimaru's secrets. If she could summon the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Hokages, they would ALL be helping her with the paperwork! A bit overkill, perhaps...maybe one of them would do her nails instead.
It wasn't that she disliked being Hokage...but the paperwork had to go. Surely, someone else other than the village head could handle all the details. I mean, I make the rules, but does that mean I have to write them all in triplicate? I need a second in command...someone who isn't a medic nin and can help with this stuff. And yet, she realized immediately that it would take a lot of paperwork for her to appoint a second in command, and that meant the process would never happen.
She heard a knock, and didn't bother to look up. "Enter."
No response. "I said...ENTER."
Another knock. This time, she realized it was coming from behind her. Which meant the window...
Tsunade rose from her seat and walked over to the window, finding a goofy Jiraiya sitting on her window, knocking beneath him. Even though the glass was soundproof, she walked over and spoke to him as if he could hear.
"I'm not letting you in unless you do paperwork."
Jiraiya looked at her funny, and then gave her a thumbs-up and said something...she couldn't read his lips quick enough. As she went to open the window, she gasped as he dropped from the window with a smile and a wave goodbye.
Five minutes later, Jiraiya walked in through the unlocked door. "In case you didn't hear me before, I said 'Like HELL I will.'"
Tsunade frowned. "I'd always wondered where Naruto gained his disrespect for authority from...now I suppose I know."
Jiraiya bristled a bit, playfully tightening up and sounding defensive. "It's not disrespect for authority...it's disrespect for those who run from responsibility and are forever trying to pass it on to someone else."
Tsunade laughed at the obvious sarcasm, and Jiraiya smirked. The description was in effect a microchosm of Jiraiya's twenties, when he'd done everything he could to avoid being placed in the running for Hokage, and had attempted to pass his one student (now known as Yondaime) over to Tsunade or anyone else who would humor him. She composed herself quickly and returned to the paperwork. A month of working this job had taught her that you had to.
Jiraiya smiled and walked over to one of the chairs in front her desk. He almost never sat in the one directly in front of her gaze...but this time he chose to. "Speaking of which, I'm here about the boy..."
Tsunade nodded, but did not look up. "His healing's nearly complete, if that's what you're wondering." Quite impressive, that Kyuubi's chakra was. Naruto was going to be fully recovered before Neji or Chouji considered standing up.
Jiraiya shook his head. "I've already spoken with him."
Tsunade paused and dropped her pen. "What's up, then?"
"He hasn't given up on that Sasuke boy yet."
Tsunade looked up, making eye contract with her old friend. This was a touchy subject...far too familiar. "Did you say something either way?"
Jiraiya nodded, and ran his finger across one of the chair arms, looking away for a moment. "I told him it was hopeless, but he didn't believe me."
Tsunade sighed. Typical Naruto. Spit in the face of common advice...but he had proven right before. He could be right again. But at what cost...
Jiraiya continued. "He's hell-bent on going after him."
Tsunade huffed. "Too risky. And where exactly does he think he'd go to find Orochimaru?"
Jiraiya nodded. "I said that too. But there are leads that we both know."
Tsunade searched Jiraiya's eyes. "I bet you said that too..."
Jiraiya turned back to her and chuckled. "Well, we're skipping a few steps, but yes, I did. Only after I was sure he was blindly hoping, though."
Tsunade looked at him confusedly for a moment, and Jiraiya mused, "Isn't it okay to give a person with blind faith a real hope?"
"Not when it might get him killed." Tsunade didn't find anything amusing about this subject. It was all too familiar. She grabbed her pen and went back to her paperwork.
Jiraiya frowned a bit. It is quite the mess...but he's going to go whether we let him or not. He measured his words carefully, worried about her response to them. "Which is better...locking him away for 20 years so he doesn't go hunting on his own...or giving him to me for a controlled hunt?"
Tsunade dropped her pen in surprise. That was blunt. "So, that's what this is about?"
Jiraiya sighed. "If you've got a third option, it evaded me...you know how that boy is. He's headstrong, and he's loyal. He won't give up on his friends so easily."
Tsunade caught a bit of edge on those words, and knew this "conversation" with Naruto had probably been a lot harder on him than he let on. After all, the situations were eerily similar.
Jiraiya continued on once he was sure she wasn't replying. "Both of us know he won't quit without being in a coma."
"And both of us know the real threat in this situation is the Akatsuki."
That was the truth, Jiraiya knew, but it was a bad time to bring them up. "Naruto needs to be prepared for them. We won't be able to defend him forever, no matter what we do with him."
"So you want to hunt Orochimaru and train now?"
Tsunade laughed lightly, and Jiraiya interrupted her before she could speak again.
"Have you forgotten that this is the boy who learned the Rasengan in a week? Has the bet slipped your mind?" Truthfully, the two steps before the one she witnessed had taken another couple of weeks, but she didn't need to know that.
Tsunade looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"We did that while searching for a certain current Hokage, if I remember right...good training can happen while we look for clues."
That point, Tsunade could not deny. "But, there's no way you can tell me it's safer for him out there."
"No...but it's not really safe for him anywhere. Two Akatsuki snuck into this village before to get him, and no one but Hatake Kakashi noticed. We won't always be so lucky. It's time for Naruto to learn to take care of his own problems."
Tsunade quietly contemplated what Jiraiya had said. While I don't like the idea entirely, he's right about Naruto's stubbornness. If given the option to train, or make effort to find Sasuke, Naruto would inevitably take the latter...in whatever form it was offered. The option to do both would be overpowering.
"I'll allow it," Tsunade said, but quickly added, "but if I hear anything about your amazing escapades while you have him, I'll--"
"Emasculate me, right? I know, I know..." Jiraiya shifted in his seat a bit. Quickly, he labored to change the subject. "How is Shizune doing?"
Small talk continued for another 10 minutes or so, but Tsunade deftly moved the conversation back towards Naruto and Jiraiya's plans for him. Discussion of the Kyuubi, Akatsuki's plans...finding Orochimaru...
Orochimaru. Tsunade found that her mind drifted when she thought of that name, though she could still handle the light musing over old times on the side. The entire situation these children were caught in was effectively a replay of something they'd done 20 years ago. Orochimaru had declared his independence and run away from Konoha. Jiraiya had gone after him, and come back empty-handed and bloody-legged. And Tsunade had been left behind, and did everything in her power to cope.
There were key differences, of course. Sasuke hadn't done anything nearly as cruel as Orochimaru had for a parting gift, and was not hated by anyone in the village, to her knowledge. Naruto, on the other hand, had his own personal hate club...something Jiraiya had never experienced. And Sakura didn't fold like Tsunade once had. That was the biggest difference, Tsunade realized. This team didn't give up...and they gave the whole city hope. Tsunade had to wonder...after the Sannin left, how much hope was there left in Konoha? Had the Fourth single-handedly held the city together? It left bitter feelings in her heart to think about how badly she had once ditched him...heck, ditched everyone. And yet, it had worked out that time. The village had survived.
Maybe that will be the big difference, Tsunade thought.
"Do you ever find yourself hurting?" Tsunade heard herself say distantly, still dealing with the paperwork. Jiraiya perked up in curiosity. "Does it ever pain you to see them walk the path we walked so closely?"
Jiraiya paused. That question was deep, and filled with pain and regret. He answered with all the truth he knew. "All I can say...is Naruto's not walking my path. He let me know that clearly yesterday. These kids are playing out a different story than we did."
Part of Tsunade knew that already, but it was hard to shake the similarities. "Sasuke is walking Orochimaru's path clearly."
"Is Sakura walking yours?"
Tsunade looked up for a moment, unsure as to what exactly he was asking. His look of curiosity didn't help anything. She answered what she thought he meant. "Physically, yes. She'll be a fine medical shinobi. Mentally, no."
Tsunade dipped her head back down, going back to the paperwork again. "She's stronger than I was."
Jiraiya nodded. "She's been through less," he whispered.
Tsunade almost didn't catch that he had said that.
Jiraiya sighed. "Maybe...we should walk their path. Naruto's made a believer of me..."
Tsunade smiled, and considered what it would mean to walk Sakura's path...she looked up when Jiraiya cleared his throat.
"Well, if you're okay with us leaving to train, then that's that. I'll walk his path with him...but he's impatient, so we're going to go get started walking..."
A wild-eyed gaze met his as Tsunade slowly registered what he'd just said. She put the paperwork to the side. "You mean, now?"
"Soon as possible. Before he gets ideas and sneaks out on his own."
This was moving much quicker than Tsunade liked. But, both Jiraiya and Naruto were impulsive. She should have expected this. "So be it," she said, and grabbed her paperwork back.
Jiraiya smiled and got adventurous. "Off we go, to find adventure and women, and live the life of true men! Exploration! Character building! And of course, experimentation..."
Tsunade wouldn't dignify that farce with a response, and he probably knew that. It irked her nonetheless. She didn't look up from her paperwork, but she did say one last thing. "Let me know how things are going. Send a letter or something."
Jiraiya's brow wrinkled as he considered her words. Was that a request as Hokage, or as Tsunade? He wouldn't ask, of course...he'd ponder that on his own time. And yet, his brain was already pondering it at light speed, and came up with a quick answer. It was a request as Tsunade. She's bored.
Tsunade noticed that Jiraiya wasn't being very quick to move, but she continued with her paperwork. Whatever he was trying to do to distract her would have no effect.
Jiraiya looked at her for a bit. Her twenty-year-old image that she put up never got older, but even it looked weary. Tsunade was always a free spirit..this job must be killing her. She looks tired...not to mention I'm taking away the most loud-mouthed, spirited person around. Even as he said it to himself, he knew that wasn't the whole of it. She's lonely, too. He replied nonchalantly. "Sure. I can do that."
Tsunade glanced away from her paperwork and toward Jiraiya just as he got up and walked toward the door to let himself out. Immediately she pulled her eyes away and back to the paperwork.
Jiraiya suddenly paused near the door. "One more thing."
Tsunade looked up from her paperwork...normally Jiraiya was gone before she noticed...he didn't hang around a lot. This was certainly an anomaly, so it had to be fairly important.
Jiraiya turned back around with an odd smile on his face and looked Tsunade directly in the eyes. Tsunade looked back, curious. Jiraiya was never this direct with anything...
"You probably know this already, but I figure I'll say it. I don't believe I've ever told you before."
This was getting weird. Jiraiya's building up something? Tsunade was at a loss for words as the anxiety built up in her, and she just looked into his eyes. Suddenly, she recognized the look in his eyes...it was the one she'd seen in the eyes of Dan...and Nawaki before him. It was a smile of love.
"In a different world, Tsunade...I really would have loved to grow old with you."
Tsunade didn't really respond...she was too far in shock. They'd danced around the subject jokingly when she was younger. Or actually, Jiraiya'd danced around it and she'd ignored him...or worse...
An 18-year-old Tsunade and Jiraiya were walking the streets of Konoha casually, talking loudly as they walked through the crowded streets. Suddenly, Tsunade broke into a brisk walk, distancing herself from Jiraiya.
"Ugh! I'm so sick of your perverted bull-headed...if I stay here I'll crush your face."
"Tsunade!" Jiraiya sped up, and power walked with her. "Tsunade, if you really want me to stop peeping at women all the time, then marry me!"
Tsunade looked him in the eyes, and couldn't get a read on him. He must have been joking, and it was a horrible joke. Tsunade raised her voice in anger. "That wouldn't stop you at all!"
Jiraiya chuckled. "Sure it would...I peep because I have nothing to look at..."
It took a moment for Tsunade to realize what he'd just said, and notice where his gaze was drifting.
As soon as she did, he bid a hasty retreat...but she gave chase...
On another occassion when they were 21, they'd talked more seriously about his peeping. Tsunade couldn't remember what led up to it, but she remembered his words clearly.
Jiraiya clasped his hands in front of his face and considered how best to address her snide comments. Eventually, he replied, "A stray dog shouldn't be held to the standards of one that is owned. Don't question my loyalty...I have nothing to be loyal to at the moment."
Jiraiya turned and looked Tsunade in the eyes, his normally joking smile not visible at all. "Do you really think I wouldn't be loyal to you?" It was probably the most serious she'd ever seen him without a dead body around.
Tsunade felt awkward under his intense gaze, and sought to lighten the mood in any way she could. After a moment, she changed her mind, and sought to turn the tables. She chose the meanest way, folding her arms and looking him square in the eyes. "I'm disgusted by the fact that you even have to ask that question..." And despite the real reason she said it, she meant it. A woman shouldn't have to think about the loyalty of her husband, just as the man shouldn't have to consider the woman's loyalty. Both should be implicitly known. It didn't lighten the mood, however, to mention that.
Jiraiya looked at her a bit longer before turning away. "I see. Then I'll never be good enough."
Tsunade remained quiet. Jiraiya got up and walked out of the room.
That was the last time they'd talked about any such thing. She'd ignored every attempted prod since then. But this was just too much...too direct to ignore.
Jiraiya continued on. "I still would if you'd let me. But I know how it is. You've been through enough with losing the people you care about already."
Tsunade looked wide-eyed at him for a moment, trying to figure out what he was saying. Suddenly, everything just sort of clicked into place, and she looked away. He'd caught on to the real reason she wouldn't give him the time of day, and she felt ashamed of it.
It certainly wasn't that she didn't love him...he was her best friend, and he had helped her through the loss of many of her other friends. He had helped her overcome her fear of blood once, if only for a little while...he'd done everything he could to help her. But, she'd pushed him away countless times...because she was scared. The necklace and kiss that she gave to Nawaki and Dan...it was her ultimate expression of love. But almost immediately after giving her true love to someone else, she was cursed to see them taken away...and always in brutal manners. She had vowed...that she would never let that happen to Jiraiya. But subconsciously, that had meant that she could not love Jiraiya. Fear designated that distance was neccessary.
She hadn't realized just how hard Jiraiya had tried to close the gap until now...and the fact that he'd stopped trying suggested he'd figured out why she kept running. Tsunade looked back to him with a deeper respect for his character than she'd ever felt.
Jiraiya saw it, and smiled. He'd waited a long time to bring this up again...because he knew the old fear was probably still there. But, she had worked up the courage to give that necklace to Naruto, so there was hope for her loving once more. And a time was coming when death would no longer be something to fear...both of them were already in their fifties. Jiraiya spoke once more. "Maybe when Naruto is the Rokudaime, and I've got nothing left to teach him...we can both retire and grow really old together."
The skin at the bridge of Tsunade's nose tensed just a bit at the words "really old", but she found herself smiling all the same. For the first time in a long time, she felt a twinge of a very old crush come up. Tsunade felt her cheeks warm and her smile grew brighter as she looked back into his eyes. Tsunade parted her lips slightly and spoke softly. "I'd like that."
Romance was in the air, and Jiraiya felt a sudden urge to walk back to Tsunade, lift her from her chair, and kiss her. But that would be entirely too fast. Jiraiya liked his shady women fast, but this love had been brewing for decades, and it could stand a little more simmering time with ease. Besides, he didn't want to start something and then leave for years.
There were things he hadn't told Tsunade. He knew what Naruto's training would entail. It would be time to get to know Kyuubi better...whether that meant testing the limits of the Fourth's seal or not, it would still prove dangerous. And Jiraiya would never risk starting something with Tsunade...only to die at the hands of Naruto and leave her widowed.
But, how can I leave the room without being awkward?
Jiraiya covered his mouth and wiped away his smile, coughed, and continued, straight-faced. "I mean, sure...we're too old to have little Jinade's bouncing around anymore...but that doesn't mean we couldn't make spectacular love..."
That crossed the line. "Jiraiya!" Tsunade leaped to her feet and slammed her hands on the desk, ignoring the papers that went flying everywhere. "I won't--"
And just like that he was gone.
Tsunade frowned and slid back into her seat, still a bit cross. "Can he ever be serious?" Where does he get off doing things like that? She gnawed on the pen top she was using...trying to get back to the paperwork that was slowly landing back on the desk and floor, but her mind went a bit further.
What kind of a name is Jinade? Everyone knows our first child would have to be named Tsuraiya...