Tsunade gazed blearily into her sake cup

Sake and Tears

by Iamakunoichi

A/N: Tsunade is broken…….mother/son Tsunade/Naruto, slight JirTsu WARNING: major angst and character death; no major spoilers

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto

Tsunade gazed blearily into her sake cup.

Why did she take this freaking job again? Oh yeah. Because Naruto asked her to.

Tsunade shuddered, tears falling unnoticed on her desk.

Naruto. The very sound of his name made her want to bawl. The little brat with big dreams. Future Hokage of Konoha, jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi no Kitsune, ramen-obsessed idiot. Her idiot. The one that, although she wouldn't admit it anyone, she considered family. The one who revived her hope and became almost a son to her. And now he was dead.

Her fingers clenched the necklace in her hand as sobs shook her frame.

They didn't know that, of course. Nothing was certain. Naruto had left six weeks ago on an S-class mission and had yet to return. Normally Tsunade wasn't a worrier, but Naruto had become over ten days late returning from his mission. She sent out a search party. Tsunade still wasn't worried. They'd find him, bring him home, she'd yell at him for being late, and everything would be fine again. But when they returned, Naruto wasn't with them. Instead they carried the cursed necklace of the Shodaime, stained with blood. Their faces were sad and sympathetic. This was all they'd been able to find of his body, they'd explained. They discovered it in an ash-blackened crater, along with tatters of an Akatsuki cloak. They urged her to hope – they hadn't found his body, right? But she knew their words were fake, in their minds they'd already proclaimed him dead.

Her eyes slipped shut, fighting to hold back the bitter tears.

Tsunade tried to hope at first. But as more and more of Naruto's friends gave up, her faith began to falter. The others murmured that she was insane with grief, poor thing, to keep believing for so long. They began to gently suggest that the loss was affecting her mind, hadn't she better take a vacation to straighten things out? And yet Tsunade hung onto her belief with grim determination. After all, Naruto had promised. He had promised her he would come home safe. And everyone knew Naruto never broke a promise. Any minute he would burst through her door, calling her Obaa-chan and telling her all about how awesome he was and how he'd kicked the other guys' butts. Yet as the fourth week slipped by, Tsunade stopped believing, stopped hoping for her ray of sunshine to return to her. She gave up on Naruto and cried agonizing tears as she realized that yet another of her loved ones had been claimed by the cursed necklace.

She angrily chucked the necklace across the room, tears spilling down her cheeks.

That damn necklace. It had claimed yet another of her precious people. First Nawaki, then Dan, and now Naruto. And she had given it to him! Because of that stupid bet. Why did she have to be Hokage? To be the one to send everyone off on their missions, the ones they didn't return from? It was her fault they were dead. Her fault Naruto was dead. All her fault.

She lost the battle to hold back the tears and wept openly.

His friends had taken the news hard. Sakura and Kakashi went numb and drew into a state of isolation – Sakura kept looking about her as if wondering why Naruto wasn't there. Hinata had refused to believe the news at first, going pale and demanding to see Naruto. When Tsunade gently laid a hand on her shoulder, tears welling up in her own eyes, Hinata realized it was real. She went to her room and locked herself in, refusing to eat for a week – Kurenai finally snapped her out of it. The girls of the Rookie Nine wept for days – the boys' reactions had varied from quiet grief to shouts of anger and disbelief. Even the senseis were affected, a somber mood settling over them. Gai's team was much the same, and the old man and daughter who ran Ichiraku's were absolutely inconsolable. It was Iruka's reaction that was the worst, however. He had come to her, face white and drawn, demanding to know if it was true, if Naruto was really dead. When she told him that it was, he went mad. He threw himself at her, frenzied with rage. Two ANBU quickly seized him and held him back. He shouted at her, furious "Why did you send him out there?! Why didn't you protect him?!" And he broke down in the ANBUs' grip, collapsing into angry sobs. But Tsunade still heard Iruka's words, echoing over and over within her mind. "Why didn't you protect him?!"

Tsunade cried even harder, screaming her grief.

The truth was, she couldn't protect him. She had promised to, hadn't she? But she couldn't do it. And her incompetence meant that an innocent boy, once so vibrant with life, was now dead. Because of her weakness, she would never see Naruto again. Not his beautiful azure eyes, or that warm, fox-like smile he reserved just for her. She would never hear him call her Obaa-chan again…

Tsunade's screams died – now she simply laid her head in her arms and sobbed.

She had contemplated taking her life more than once, of joining him in death. But in her heart she knew Naruto wouldn't want that, and so she shouldered on, grimly vowing to become the best Hokage possible – because Naruto would have wanted her to.

Warm arms encircled her, rocking her back and forth, shushing her gently.

Jiraiya had come to comfort her. He had become her rock, her foundation. Forced to stay strong in front of others, to stand tall for so long without weeping, Jiraiya became her confidante, the one she poured her soul out to. He held her close as she cried brokenly, the sobs wracking her body, so frail in his arms. He wiped away her tears and wept along with her as they remembered the boy who was Uzumaki Naruto.

After a time the arms drew back, leaving her alone and so very cold.

Jiraiya did the best he could, but invariably he had to leave, before he crossed that unbroken boundary and one or the other of them broke down completely. He had loved Naruto too, and he loved her. The pain of the loss of them both threatened to tear him apart every time he stayed, and yet stay he did, because she needed him. Every tear she shed ripped his heart to pieces a little more; still he stayed, and she was grateful, although she wondered why he bothered, loving an empty shell like her, one that kept going only out of duty and wretched anger.

And she stood there shivering, as the world fell to pieces.

Nothing mattered anymore. She would do her duty and live, she would continue as Hokage and destroy any threat to Konoha. But she would not smile again. Naruto's death had broken her utterly.

A/N: Please review! It's my first fanfic.