Notes: So… yeah. My first multi-chaptered fic in a long time… special thanks goes to wolvknight for his help in helping me organize my ideas. He's been a huge help and a constant encouragement! Go on, go check him out! And yes, for those who are wondering, you read the summary right.
WARNINGS: Boy/boy love (shounen-ai) often offends people. You who are like that can just hit the back button. Don't like, don't read.
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Love is nothing like in stories. If anything, that's something Jiraiya knew from experience— he's written enough about it.
It isn't flowers and dates and walks in the moonlight, or butterflies in the stomach, or sweet phone calls late at night, or bright anticipation. Never, in all the times he's observed it, has love ever been anything like that. Not serious love. Silly, frivolous things like that was just simple infatuation as far as he was concerned. A fleeting thing designed for the minds of readers, pretty words twisted into some form of poetic romance. A dream. Nothing more. Nothing less.
No, if anything, it hurt.
Full of fights and twists and times where you just want to throw up. The absolute ache in the chest just feels like someone had gone and ripped your heart out right out of your chest, tossed it to the ground, then stomped on it for good measure. Worse than when the flu nails you in time for work on Monday right after a crappy vacation. That's what love was like. Painful. Messy. Delirious.
And somehow still good.
Jiraiya had long ago conceived the idea that people in love were masochists.
In a sense, that had been what made him leave in the first place. He thought he'd been in love, and it'd done nothing but cause grief.Chapter One Home
Jiraiya stood in the new apartment, frowning at the boxes sprawled across the floor, arms crossed over his chest. For a long moment, he continued to stare at them before turning away to help Tsunade sift through what little the owned of kitchenware.
"Remind me again why I even bothered with this in the first place?" she muttered as she rolled the sleeves of her green coat up to her elbows.
He gave her a flat look. "Because I'm the one paying your 'I-owe-yous'."
Tsunade rolled her eyes, and that had been the end of that.
In all actuality, Jiraiya knew that wasn't the reason. But he chose not to think about it. Instead, he turned his attention to the box full of cups. Combined, they didn't own much. Enough to support two people just fine, but mostly because neither liked having extravagant things just lying around. A good-sized two-bedroom apartment was enough. No need to complicate things. So the two unpacked in silence, putting away belongings, sitting back onto the carpeted floor with a bottle of sake between them, the quiet dragging on with nothing but the sound of the winter wind rattling the windows a little. Night had nearly fallen.
"It's strange… being back…"
Jiraiya looked up from his cup of sake, blinking. He'd hardly touched it. Tsunade was lying on her back and staring at the ceiling.
"I thought," she said in a simple tone, waving a hand as if to wash the matter off, "that maybe things would have changed. Nothing really has."
He didn't say anything.
She was right. Nothing in the lace had changed. The streets were almost exactly the same, the people were the same. Even the way the houses had sat huddled together against the ongoing winter weather when they'd first arrive earlier that day had been exactly as they he remembered it all being. Almost nothing had changed. Not even in over twenty years.
"Going to go see Shizune?" Jiraiya when Tsunade sat up and put her empty cup down on the floor.
"Sure. Why the hell not?" she muttered back.
Tsunade was gone, even before the sun finally dipped down below the empty sky, darkening it, clouds rolling in.
Part of Jiraiya wondered if it was out of celebration or grief. Maybe a little of both, all things considered. After all, neither he nor Tsunade had managed to find him.
It was just easier to give up on certain things, he supposed, and took another long drink.
That night, Jiraiya spent his first night back home trying to sleep instead of going out like he'd planned. Old friends could wait for a little while longer.
In all actuality, he had been making a good living. Most people didn't believe that being a novelist could be so lucrative. It had seemed like a silly idea at the time, but he'd needed money, and it'd sounded like fun.
Jiraiya supposed it was his way of grieving. Tsunade gambled and drank and generally made a lot of commotion; mostly because she's afraid of uncomfortable silence. She's not a bad woman— he's known her far too long to think too badly of her now. And Jiraiya… well, Jiraiya wrote. He'd spent the better part of his life dabbling in it, and had finally come to perfect it.
Icha Icha was created mostly out of grief.
It's started when he'd met Hatake Sakumo. A gangly younger man with a stern air about him. They hadn't liked each other— Sakumo and Orochimaru. Not at the time. But it'd been Sakumo who had encouraged him to go after the guy when he just up and left, leaving him and Tsunade behind for what seemed like no reason at all.
Jiraiya spent years looking, drifting.
But he never found him.
It seemed pointless, now, and he honestly couldn't sleep with the faces of memory staring down at him from his dreams and head. Not at first. But, now, that his art is slowly starting to come to its panicle, he found that there were a lot of things he didn't notice but should have.
Story telling is an art. And it is ever rarely wonderful, ever rarely complete. It's something Jiraiya has come to understand and accept— it's his own way of grieving over the things that seemed unimportant back when he only saw the world in black and white.
The morning came with grey light filtering in from the bare bedroom window, snow flurrying outside and the whole apartment generally very cold.
Jiraiya pulled himself up from his bed with a groan, scratching at his hair and looking around for a moment, unable to recognize it all for a moment. Boxes were still stacked up in one corner of the room and the dresser was, for a reason he couldn't really remember, on its side, a pathetic heap of aged wood. Empty.
Jiraiya placed it back upright; scratched; yawned; walked out of the small room.
He poked his head in the bedroom across the hall. Tsunade was sleeping, most likely not getting up until late afternoon. With a sigh, the man retrieved some headache medicine from a box and placed the bottle down on the box lying next to her bed before shuffling off to the kitchen, bones aching.
But it was already too late. His daily routine was off. He knew it would have been anyways, and when he glanced into the cabinets to find it was a big pain in the ass to figure out that, damn it all, he'd forgotten to get groceries. Great. That meant he'd have to brave the weather to go get breakfast.
"I'm too old for this," he muttered to himself.
Ten minutes later found him going down the steps, pouring salt as he went. He'd slipped once, and didn't need it to happen again, with a bruise forming rapidly against one creaking knee.
Jiraiya should have suspected it. Today was going to be a bad day. He should have checked with Tsunade— she a good indicator of fortune and the first day the man realized it, it was almost to late. The guilt had just been waiting for him, standing right outside his door like some lost puppy. She had it slightly easier. Tsunade wasn't a woman who regretted much, and it wasn't like she had much to return to anyways (she'll grieve, Jiraiya knows, and will move on). It was part of why they stayed near each other: a silent agreement…
She'd won a good sum, it seemed, and that meant bad things.
He didn't have it so easy.
Jiraiya had a great deal to regret.
At first, he didn't see her in the slightest, huddled up in his thick coat and scarf, hands tucked into his warm pockets, grumbling as he walked down the block to the small, local grocery store, feeling too much like an old man for his own taste as he pushed through people and apologized half-heartedly if he jostled someone. The snow was light enough not to worry about and probably wouldn't last long with how easily it melted when reaching the streets, cars slowly slushing through it. But the wind was still there. Freezing. Making the man's joints ache as he eventually reached the automatic doors. Jiraiya didn't even realize it until it was too late, the cold wind gusting around the doors as they glided open.
His shoulder crashed against hers as she rushed out to beat the traffic of the people along the sidewalk and her bags went everywhere. His arm shot out to steady her from hitting the ground, words on his lips—
"What are you— Mom! Hey, hey, don't crush the lettuce!"
The woman was a redhead, with slight laugh lines around her eyes and mouth, and Jiraiya felt a sudden pang of a monster called Familiarity in the back of his head, and a blonde kid was sweeping up cans and groceries from the ground. But he brushed it aside. The city hasn't changed much, at least not out of the obvious ways cities change (growing up and around, a twisting metal jungle, the artist in Jiraiya thinks).
Grunting, he scowled and bent to pick up a can that had rolled near him, only for pale fingers to close over it before he could grasp it.
"Excuse me," the owner to that hand said.
There were three of them total, Jiraiya noted, despite the fact that his whole damn morning was now ruined more than he'd thought it'd be. The redhead, a blonde, the pale-haired man tugging the grocery bags from the redhead's arms and…
Jiraiya's thoughts stopped just short.
If there was anything Hatake Kakashi hated more, it was getting up in the morning. He'd always forget exactly where he was, staring at the ceiling blearily, blinking several times. One minute he was asleep and the next awake. There wasn't much of an in between. Well, usually, anyways. This time there were hands gently shaking him awake, and one of the dogs squirmed out from under his arm, him blinking rapidly.
Kushina smile at him. "About time you got up. Come on, you're going to end up sleeping all day if you don't get up." Her warm hands reached into the covers and pulled Pakkun from him, the pug squirming at the cold air. "Come on. Naruto is going to help you walk the dogs this morning— Iruka had to work early."
Uzumaki Kushina, in Kakashi's opinion, was too nice of a woman. She looked far younger than she was, save for the laugh and slight worry lines around the corners of her eyes and lips. Always nice enough to wake him up if he didn't get up. Her auburn eyes regarded him as the man pulled himself up tiredly, her red hair a complete mess and her pajamas still on. Poor woman, he thinks sometimes, she does too much.
He'd been living with her for a long time. It was just the way she was.
"PT take it out of you yesterday?" she asked softly, cuddling Pakkun to her and patting one of the other four dogs crowded on the bed.
Kakashi nodded as he rubbed at his eyes tiredly.
"Well, hurry up. Breakfast is ready."
Kushina was gone in a flurry of red hair, carrying Pakkun off and out of the room, shutting the door behind her. He shook his head, taking a breath. The weather was going to be bad— his joints were aching more than they usually did. And when the man finally did manage to get out of bed, out into the morning chill despite the light of the sun coming in, Kakashi knew it was just going to be one of those days.
He padded over to the dresser, pulling clothes from drawers. For a split second, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror attached to the back of the door, paused, ran a hand over the scars marring his torso… Resolutely ignoring it, Kakashi made a note to take the mirror down.
He probably wouldn't. He never did.
It took a little bit of a struggle to get into his pants, but he managed like he always did, making sure not to get his head stuck in his turtleneck. Breakfast sounded pretty good. It was better than being stuck inside all the time.
"Hey, hey, come on!"
Every bit of Naruto reminded him of the boy's father almost. They looked… similar. But the kid's attitude was every bit Kushina's. He was grinning and latching leashes onto the collars of some of the dogs, humming to himself.
Kakashi raised a brow as he finished wrapping his scarf around his neck and picking up a few leashes himself. "You're in a good mood, Naruto."
"You bet I am!" the boy responded, grin full of teeth. "Hinata-chan finally agreed to go out on a date with me!"
"Really?" Kakashi responded as he pulled open the door, with one hand, leashes wrapped securely around the other.
"Yeah! Oh, wait, should you be walking Bull? Can your arm handle that today?"
He waved the boy off with a lazy movement of his hand as he stepped out into the cold. "I'm perfectly fine, thank you."
No one except Naruto brought it up, really. Kakashi wasn't sure whether he should be grateful for that or not. It wasn't that the accident bothered him now —it'd been nearly two decade since— or that he was helpless with the matter. It was just that people didn't like talking about it. Kakashi didn't really like talking about it, either. He just preferred that he avoid trains and anything to do with them as much as humanly possible.
Unfortunately, ten minutes and snow started to flurry in, small bits, melting before they hit the ground, and they were turning back in companionable silence.
Kakashi leaned on the door when it was closed, slightly out of breath, sighing as he searched his pocket for his inhaler. The damn thing hurt his throat to use but it was either that or another trip to the hospital. Everyone in that place knew him by name, if not by word of mouth, and Kakashi found that he disliked that a lot of the time.
Breath relaxing, the man leaned for a moment longer before easing up, wincing slightly at his aching ribs. The fits usually didn't last long given time. Sometimes it was just the fact that he couldn't breathe and other times that his muscles couldn't handle the strain breathing caused.
Life sucked sometimes.
Another sigh left him as he made his way around the dogs, pausing in the doorway to the kitchen. Kushina was busy gathering up the grocery list from the fridge, smiling and ruffling her son's hair.
Kakashi glanced away.
Today was just one of those days.
Very few people knew that Kushina had a slight case of road rage. And, as a result, if Naruto needed going anywhere with friends, Kakashi was usually goaded into taking him. But, seeing as the car door had decided it wanted to slam right on his bad leg, he was stuck sitting in the back seat, good hand gripping the 'oh-shit' handle attached to the door as Kushina cursed and sputtered obscenities at the driver in front of them that had stolen her parking spot. Driving with her was also where, rather unfortunately and to Iruka's horror, where Naruto had also learned many of the awful words children just shouldn't know. If he wasn't afraid Kushina would scream at him, Kakashi would have laughed at the situation.
Sometimes he thinks he lives with a bunch of nuts.
The better part of several minutes were spent finding a parking spot— Kakashi hobbled out at soon as he could, rubbing at his calf for a moment.
"Sorry about that," Kushina said with a smile, brushing hair from her face.
Kakashi gave her a neutral look and just nodded. This was not how he'd wanted to spend his day off. At least the store wasn't crowded, he half thought, grabbing a basket for Naruto to push, the boy persisting that ramen would be good for lunch. He wondered down to the canned food isle, one of the clerks looking up at him and grinning.
"Well, haven't seen you around in a while," Genma said with a grin from around the toothpick in his mouth, pulling the usual bulk of canned dog food. "How's the physical therapy going? I heard from Rin you're getting a new liver soon."
Kakashi shrugged, taking the box. "I think the nurse is out to kill me. Complained about me being late again."
"Hey, what do you expect?"
"How has Obito been doing?"
Genma frowned and sighed, stalking more cans onto the shelves in front of him. "I dunno," he said. "Seems kinda distant these days. He was doing fine for a while, then had to go in 'cause he had some heart problems the other day."
Kakashi internally flinched.
"But he's okay now," the other man continued. He lifted his eyes, frowning. "You guys still not on speaking terms?"
"Geez. I leave for a few years and you guys are still at each other's throats." An exasperated sigh, more clanking of cans onto the shelves. "You guys both… y'know… yeah. Anyways, I'll tell Rin you said hi."
"Sure," Kakashi answered. He gave a smile and tucked his cans under and arm, shuffling off to go find the rest of his dysfunctional family.
And turned, tilting his head slightly to regard Genma. The brunette smiled a little, the action falling slightly as he shrugged, a can in one hand.
"Sorry. I mean… I didn't get to say it, but I am. I'm sorry about the accident. I shouldn't have run off like that when it happened. Raidou was just," He stopped mid-sentence with a slight expression that Kakashi didn't think he could name. "He was important to me. But we're back, and I'm sorry."
Kakashi gave him another quick smile. "Sure. No harm done."
Genma's expression changed slightly. Still the same, unreadable one but somehow different. "So…" he began, fumbling with the can in his hand. "We should all get together again. Like old times, have dinner or something— I'll cook. What do you think, Kakashi?"
"I only have half of my internal organs, Genma. I don't think the rest of me could handle that."
"Alright, I'll make Asuma cook."
Kakashi waved at him slightly, just a hand lifting in to the air.
And walked along the isles for a while, until Kushina found him somewhere between the magazines and the cereal isles, dragging him back out the door. He had a thing about sensing bad days. He knew when they were going to come, and almost exactly when they were going to start. The minute they passed the automatic doors and Kushina bumped into someone in her hurry to go to the post office before too many people got there, and Kakashi knew this was when the whole day was going to end up worse than it had already started.
The guy didn't look old, but his expression and grumbling was, and Kakashi, not really know what to expect from someone he'd never seen before who had suddenly looked at him like he knew something… well, Kakashi was at a lost.
"Sakumo?" the man had asked.
The day was officially ruined.
End: Chapter One
Notes: (ugh!) Some of this was a bit forced, and I'm not happy with the first chapter at all. I'll get better at it though.