Konoha: Midnight

Orochimaru lay in a fever, tossing back and forth unable to sleep. Every time Jiraiya tried to give him something to drink or put a wet cloth on his forehead the raven haired boy knocked it away and continued to moan.

Jiraiya had found him like this that morning. Their Sensei had waited for twenty minutes before sending Jiraiya to find the missing Genin. When Jiraiya had seen the state Orochimaru was in he'd said was going to get a nurse. As he'd turned to leave Orochimaru had grabbed his arm so tightly he lost feeling in his fingers.

"Itai!" He'd yelled, "What are you doing?"

"I'm not so weak that-" He'd winced in the effort of speaking, "that I need help dealing with a fever."

"You're on fire! I should at least tell Sensei."

"If you tell anyone, you'll need allot more than a nurse." Orochimaru had said through clenched teeth. Any further argument Jiraiya could offer had proved futile. He'd finally gone back to training. He told Sensei that he had looked everywhere but hadn't found Orochimaru.

When Jiraiya came back, at the end of the day, Orochimaru had been even worse. He continued to get worse as the night progressed. Now he was hallucinating, crying out against phantom attackers, lashing out at anything that came too close to him. Jiraiya finally managed to get a hold of his shoulders and shook the younger boy roughly.

"Oro please, don't do this." He cried. "If you won't let me get a doctor, you need to let ME take care of you."

Orochimaru stopped yelling and looked at him. It seemed as if his sanity had returned, but then it was over and his eyes were unseeing again. He screamed and threw Jiraiya across the room. Fed up, Jiraiya headed towards the door, but he looked back. Just once, but still he looked back, and he knew that he would be there all night. He knew that he could never leave the one he lo- his fellow Genin in so much pain. Sighing he went over to Orochimaru's bedside and sat on the floor to wait for the feverish boy to fall asleep.

At three am he was finally able to tend to Orochimaru. Jiraiya carefully moved him onto his back, and put a wet cloth on his forehead. He didn't sleep the whole night in case Orochimaru woke again. When the morning came he found some miso packets and started to make the soup, checking on Orochimaru every five minutes. The miso was almost done and Orochimaru opened his eyes halfway.

"Jiraiya?" Jiraiya could barely make out what he was saying.

"Yeah, I'm here. Are you okay now?"

"Jiraiya," he whispered, "ai shiteru."

Jiraiya stopped, he wasn't doing anything but he stopped.

"Oro…" He whispered, but the boy had already fallen asleep.

'Could he really- No he's still delusional, it's the fever talking.' He thought firmly.

When Orochimaru woke up the soup was almost cold. He propped himself up on his elbows and wearily looked around, settling his gaze on Jiraiya.

"Jiraiya, why are you here?"

"You wouldn't let anyone else take care of you." He said, handing Orochimaru a bowl of the miso. Orochimaru looked from the bowl to Jiraiya.

"You were here all night?" Jiraiya shrugged.

"—Thank you."

Jiraiya looked at the floor, then grabbed his own bowl and sat on the bed. They ate the soup in silence.

Jiraiya never mentioned what Orochimaru had said, and Orochimaru never said it again.

forty years later

He sighs at the memory. From the roof he watches the night sky and dreams of what might have been, while the wind blows through his bushy hair.

Miles away Kabuto tries to give his master a drug to dull the pain. But Orochimaru refuses; no matter how many times the boy tells him his arms will get worse without it. He screams to be left alone, and faints whispering a word so quietly Kabuto cannot make it out.

"Jiraiya." The word dies on his lips, and his tears are not from the pain.