She never learns.

And she never gets used to the stench of burned flesh. Fifty-six years old with forty-two spent as a field medic. She's seen every way a human can kill another human, but that acrid, sulfuric reek still makes her throat gag.

His heart is laid open in front of her as a melted, shredded mass of scarlet and yellow. Her mind, experience, and gut instinct all tell her he's dead.

But his heart still beats.

Never bet on a sure thing, not where this golden-haired zephyr made flesh is involved. With him, impossible becomes merely improbable. He's not human; she knows this. A human heart wouldn't beat after death and wouldn't respond to her healing chakra like clay to a sculpture's fingertips.

Two chambers restored...

He always responds to her, whether with an angry snarl or a gleeful smile. The Sannin may be Legendary, but her teammates always held more glory. Even their sensei mostly left her to her own devices when she decided to learn medicine. Nobody really looked at her.

Three chambers back...

Except him. Whenever he's around her, she feels his attention like a burning chinook. Nobody ever looked at her like that. Not Dan. Not Jiraiya.

Four chambers...

The Uchiha should have won. Orochimaru had molded the brat into quite the killing machine. The traitor had their fight in the bag.

…Until he mentioned Sakura. The agitated zephyr exploded into a city-leveling maelstrom.

Her ANBU had found a finger and an eye, they think.

Arteries reconnecting...

Sasuke's taunt served well to end that particular battle. But still, she's reminded painfully that she isn't first in his heart. That bites deep, as he's first in hers.

Bones flowing back into place like water…

She loves him. As in, in love with. No one would understand, because no one understands her.

Muscle regrowing...

She's been torn for years. She's watched him turn from a good boy into a better man.

He's nineteen. She's fifty-seven.

Her age defiant jutsu keeps her body soft, taut, and healthy, but her chakra is that of an old, old woman. She's powerful, but every day her chakra is slightly less. If…when it runs out, her true body will die in a matter of hours. Death's scythe presses as firmly to her throat as it does his. Both have learned long ago to savor every day, every second, because soon it will be their last.

His skin's finally closed over. But how oxygen starved is his brain? The Kyuubi could heal a blow from the Chidori, but what about brain damage?

She's slapping his face, shocking him with bursts of electrical jutsu, shaking his shoulders. She bets a fortune he'll never open his eyes.

Never mischievously smile and wink.

Never laugh at her dry barbs.

Never run about like a damn fool.

Never say he loves her.

She bets everything, everything she has against him, because she never learns and he'll never lose.

Bloodshot blue and a tired smile.

"Heya, Tsunade-hime."

Author's Notes:

Reward fic for Preventor Squall, the Runner-Up in my Spring '06 fanfic contest. He requested a NaruTsu fic where she's healing him after a huge battle with Sasuke. To quote: "I leave the teme's fate in your hands..." Well, we all know what I generally think of Sasuke.

Anyways, I went over my work limit of four hundred, but managed to cap it at five. Doubt anyone cares. And yes, this was meant to be a one-shot. Sad, but true. There isn't enough NarutoTsunade out there.

And no, don't bug me about Foxhound.