Title: An Alternate Ending

Fandom: Naruto

Pairing: Jiraiya/Tsunade

Rating: PG.

Word Count: 1,322

Summary/Description: Things don't always turn out the way it's scripted.

Warning/Spoilers: None, I believe. Just some past!stuff, most of which I made up myself. Possible OOC because of my unfamiliarity with these characters. (I always seem to be doing unfamiliar characters for the challenges, don't I, Aki-love? Next time, for my own sanity, I'm doing KuroFai, or NejiTen, or something. XD)

A/N: Written for Aki-omoi's weekly challenge. Prompt: A Lonely Voice, by October Project. Alternative theme: an artist's life. I've never really written Jiraiya before (only mentioned him in passing in a couple of fics). This was the only thing that came to mind. The song doesn't really juxtapose the tone of the fic, but I hope that's mitigated by the fact that I more or less stayed true to theme. :/

Disclaimer: Insert appropriate denial of ownership here.

Jiraiya was adjusting the lens on his binoculars when he felt the weight of another person settle on the branch next to him. The limb creaked in minor protest, and before the white-haired boy could turn and greet the newcomer, he himself was greeted by a smack to the head.

"Itai!" he yelped. Startled, his fingers loosened their grip on the binoculars, and the Frog Master watched in horror as they fell to the stony dirt floor below with an ominous crack. Mouth agape, he turned his eyes back to the horizon, and felt his spirits plummet like a stone. The figures in the onsen were little but dots without the looking glasses! Peeved, he swivelled to glare at the person who had disturbed him and his data collecting.

A flash of white blinded him, and before he could fully comprehend what was going on, he was being smacked again.

"What in the hell is this?!"

A sheaf of white papers was being flapped around in front of his face. Grimacing in annoyance, he stilled the hand that was waving about the papers, and lowered it so that he could see the face behind it.

"Tsunade." Of course. Right. Figured. He leant back against the trunk of the tree, and glared moodily at his team-mate. "You're as cheerful as ever."

The medic clamped her fingers down harder on the stack of papers, and Jiraiya could hear their crinkling protest. There was that look in the amber eyes that said that someone was in dire danger of bearing the full weight of her fist. Jiraiya rubbed the side of his face absently, reminiscing on the unpleasant times when he had been that unfortunate someone. He was tugged back to the present at her next growling words.

"What the shit is this, and what was it doing beneath my bed?"

Her mouth was screwed into an angry scowl. Jiraiya leaned forward, exasperation folding his brow, and was on the verge of telling her to calm down, when he got a closer eyeful of the words on the sheets of paper. That handwriting looked awfully familiar…

In an instant, the manuscript changed hands. One second, an irate Tsunade was trying to brain her team-mate with it once again, and in the next, an overjoyed Jiraiya was clasping it tightly.

"This… this is the first chapter of my novel!" He gazed at the manuscript, penned in his own lazy hand, with open-mouthed wonderment. "I've been looking for this for weeks!"

The blonde had a distasteful look on her face, as if she had just eaten a cockroach.

"What the hell was it doing in my house?"

Jiraiya shrugged as he flipped through the pages excitedly, running his fingers over the words he himself had composed.

"Dunno. I must have left it there a few weeks ago when you were healing me after that mission."

Tsunade privileged her team-mate with an incredulous look, a golden eyebrow arching as she leaned into the wooden embrace of the tree.

"You take that trash with you on missions?"

Indignation contorted the man's face.

"You never know when inspiration is going to crop up!" he defended himself. "And it's not trash," he added a second later when he realised the dreadful insult Tsunade had assigned to his work. "It's a work of art."

"It's trash," she repeated definitively. "You're lucky someone else didn't stumble upon it accidentally," she continued, the undertones in her inflection implying exactly what would have happened to him if a visitor or her boyfriend had indeed discovered the excerpt of his raunchy novel.

Jiraiya was barely listening to her.

"And here I thought that I would have to go data gathering again."

Tsunade snorted derisively.

"Yes, I'm sure I saved you from a very long and arduous process." She glanced towards the onsen, where the shrieks and giggles of the playing girls could just barely be heard, and rolled her eyes. "Pervert."

A carmine mist precipitated on the Frog Master's cheeks, and he too directed his gaze in that direction.

"It's hard work, but somebody has to do it," he said gleefully.

"Huh," the medic snorted, folding her arms over her ample chest. "Hard work my ass. It looks and reads as if you scribbled the whole thing down in under fifteen minutes, and it's got the most clichéd plot in existence."

"Pfft. You're just saying th-" Jiraiya stopped suddenly, and gaped at his friend, looking totally flabbergasted. "Wait a minute… you mean you read it?"

Tsunade grunted, gave him a sidelong glare, and shrugged a little.

"Yeah. I was bored," she gave. "…Insanely, unbelievably bored," she added, just so his ego wouldn't inflate too much.

"Really?" It didn't seem to have worked; she could already see his head expanding to twice its normal size. He turned to face her in full in his excitement. "So? What did you think of it? Tell me!"

The blonde glared at him, letting him know only with her eyes all the different types of stupid she thought he was.

"I just did, you idiot." She ticked off the reasons on her blood-red fingertips. "The plot's cliché, the writing's unsophisticated, and even from the first chapter alone, I can tell how the story's going to end. It's terribly predictable, you know."

Her companion arched a brow in her direction, as if to say, 'Oh yeah? Tell me.'

"Humph." She straightened up a little. "The hero, being unaccountably arrogant, and besides that, a complete blockhead, will never realise the heroine's true feelings towards him. Nor will he discover that he himself has emotions that transcend the platonic towards her. He shall probably end up with some random floozy, the first of many in a line of mistakes. And then, of course, there will be a sequel." She broke off to make a face. "Ugh. Anyway, the heroine will probably end up with the dashing young man who rode in on horseback at the end of the chapter; he seemed like a nice fellow."

Tsunade grinned widely, but it wasn't as much victory as she thought it would have been, staring at Jiraiya's face crumpled into a pout. Hn. That was just about exactly what he had planned for the novel. Before she could make a begrudging attempt at a commiserating comment (she couldn't lie; she hated it when he pouted) his mouth had widened into a smile, and the trademark leer was back full blast. She rolled her eyes, knowing that she should have known better; what in the hell could keep him down?

"Pah, you know nothing of fine literature." She could barely contain her scoff at that. "Besides, don't be so sure about that little outline you made up there. I just might surprise everyone with an alternate ending. Who knows; maybe the hero and the heroine will find love – "

"And lots of bawdy sex," she added dryly.

"Yes, that too," Jiraiya agreed sagely. " – in each other's arms. It all depends on how the muses speak to me." The last part was said with an air that was probably supposed to be wise and sophisticated. It fell short by quite a bit.

"Huh." The look Tsunade gave him was equivalent to a lot of disinterest, a lot of exasperation, ad a bit of disbelief. She got to her feet on the branch; nearby boughs quivered.

"Anyway, I've got to go. I promised Dan I'd meet him at the bridge."

"Okay. See you later then."

"Don't forget we have a mission on Thursday. Reconnaissance in the Hidden Mist."

"Yeah, yeah. Don't worry, I won't forget."

"Okay, bye!"

And then she was gone.

Jiraiya smiled after her slightly before turning back to the bevy of young beauties in the distance. He rubbed his hands together, and chuckled merrily as they started playing, splashing the warm water on each other. Hey, a distorted, fuzzy view was better than none at all.

A/N: You get it, right? Don't you? Don't you?

/keens pitifully/

And it ends that abruptly on purpose, FYI.