Hello there! After much deliberation, I finally have a Naruto piece that I...kind of, sort of like how it turned out. Even though there has been no hint in the manga or anime of this happening, or ever happening (especially given the recent manga chapters...sniff...). But I was just reading through random Naruto manga chapters a few days ago, and realized that we weren't given very much information on Shizune. Yes, we know that she was Dan's niece, and Tsunade's apprentice, and that the two travelled together and all of that...but we don't really know much of her past.

And...well, let it be said that a curious mind can lead to strange one-shots!

I have a few more comments to make, but I'll post them in the note at the end of the one-shot.

Disclaimer: It all belongs to the wonderful Kishimoto Masashi. As awesome as he is, I just wish he'd stop leaving us in suspense, especially when it comes to the fates/conditions of a...well, a few of the characters that we love!

Hope you enjoy this!

Of Conversations, Remembering the Dead, and New Beginnings

She stopped at the monument, her dark eyes downcast as they ran over the names carved on it, her dazed mind not taking any of them in. All that she knew was that there was a visibly larger number of names on the surface of the monument than there had been when she had last seen it.

Of course, she thought to herself somewhat bitterly, and how many years ago was that?

It was only natural that the monument for Konoha's respected dead, those who had died protecting the village, would have more names on it than she had last seen. Just because she had removed herself from the village –albeit not out of any form of hatred or any desire for revenge- didn't mean that the village, or the world it was in, had ceased to function.

It didn't mean that the threats and the dangers hadn't been present. Nor did it mean that people didn't have to risk their lives anymore.

If anything, the village might have been in greater danger than in the past, and the fact that they had lost two of their previous four Hokage in less that fifteen years depicted that clearly.

Being a medic-nin and the apprentice of the Leaf village's greatest medic-nin, she knew what type of casualties wars and surprise attacks –whether from rival villages or demons- brought along with them. While there were a fair amount of non-fatal injuries, there was a grievously high amount of fatal ones as well, and unless peace miraculously came into being in their world, that wouldn't change.

So it made no sense, really, for her to be thinking so much on the matter. Time went on, whether a person was in their home or not, and with it, events took place. People grew up during such times, some more so than others, and while people lived, they also died.

It was natural, for the love of god!

...Knowing all of this, why...why had she been so...surprised when she found out? When she found out about her?

Not only was she a capable kunoichi in her own right, but she was a good medic-nin as well –so good that her team hadn't needed to depend on anyone else but her in time of chaos and bloodshed. And that talent was what made her an intelligent and somewhat easy target for whomever the enemy was at the time, no matter how alert her sensei and two teammates were.

Take out the medic-nin in the team, and the battle would get that much more serious for her teammates, for they would have the extra burden of knowing that they really were on their own, should they injure themselves. That was common sense with a smattering of logic, and she...no, they had all known and kept it in mind, whether they were actively on duty outside the village, or just...lazing about within the borders.

So why, why, why, why, was the news...hard to take? Why was it difficult for her to wrap her head around it? Why did it seem more shocking than the time when Orochimaru-sama (regardless of his actions, he was still a Sannin, and having a fellow Sannin as her sensei made it obligatory for her to attach the suffix to his name) had informed her and Tsunade-sama of the death of Sandaime. And that death affected a whole village, for crying out loud!

And yet this one, this death, was just unreal.

Or perhaps it was the way she had found it out that was unreal?

Better yet, maybe it was the fact that she could have done something about it that made it all the more personal. If she hadn't been following her sensei, seeing the world and learning bits and pieces about it as she did so, perhaps the young woman wouldn't have been sent out on every important mission, what with her being one of the best medic nin's Konoha had had, in the absence of Tsunade-sama and, to a lesser extent, herself.

The burden would have been shared, dammit, and...and...

...and there was every chance that she would have died instead of her.

Would that have made things any better, in all honesty? On the bright side, she didn't have many who would mourn her passing. Tsunade-sama's was the only name she could pull out off the top of her head, as to who would possibly grieve her passing.

Yet she, she...

...she had so much, so many people who cared for her. Her teammates –for even though one had died, she knew the story behind his death, and knew that he lived on in his quirky teammate- cared, her sensei cared, heck, even her sensei's former sensei cared.

And that was leaving aside the civilian villagers who were simply enchanted by her simple yet kind nature.

But that was all of no use anymore, was it? Reminiscing the past, calling back old regrets, none of it would bring back the dead. And perhaps that was just as well, for she shuddered to think how Orochimaru-sama would take advantage of such a happening.

What got to her was that it wasn't just her death that...well, got to her. There were so many others. And a number in the most recent attack on Konoha, of which the name Gekkou Hayate stood out the most, just after Sandaime.

Hayate, she thought, sadly, as her eyes fell to the ground. The ever-so-determined, witty, yet often times sick Hayate... Hayate who would have had a family, if things had worked out, who would have had an heir to carry on the family name, but perhaps more importantly, who would have had a child to dote on for as long as they would be able to hold his sickness at bay.

All that determination, all that will to protect, all that made up the young man...what had it done for him?

It had only gotten him killed.

Hayate, who was her second-something-cousin-when-twice-removed, not that they had been particularly close, but the family...bond was still there, and it had to mean something. No, it did mean something. It meant something ever since the day her Uncle Dan had...taken her in, and had introduced her to the other family –no matter how distantly related they were, they were still family- and she had met the younger, mischievous child.

And Rin, who had been a fellow medic-nin and a possible contender for the position of Tsunade-sama's apprentice, had the blonde not left the village shortly after the tragic events in her life. It was entirely possible that the once meek yet later passionate girl would have opted to stay with what remained of her former team if she had been offered the apprentice position, but who would know?

But perhaps more importantly, Rin, Rin, who had been the sister she had never had –not after the sister she had had died only three months after being brought into the world.

Rin, Rin, Rin, Rin. Short haired, mild tempered, generous, kind, friendly Rin.

Was her name even on the monument? Had she had a proper burial? One that fit in with her character, and who she was and what she did in her life? Or had it been one of those standard Konoha affairs, since she was willing to bet that Konoha would have mourned her only in passing, what with their other more pressing concerns at the time.

...Which brought her to a somewhat sickly detached realisation.

She didn't even know when it happened.

When. When had the young medic-nin lost her life? Who had been with her? Where had she been? How had it happened? Had she been tortured, or had it been a quick, clean kill?

And what good will these answers do you, idiot, she berated herself, inwardly. The information most certainly wouldn't...well, it wouldn't do anything, would it? Rin was dead. Hayate was dead. Sandaime was dead.

Tsunade-sama was alive. Jiraiya-sama was alive. Konoha was alive, despite the despicable actions of the man Konoha had once called her child, her favoured child, her prodigy.

And it was those who were alive who she should bust brain cells on. Right?

"Staring at it won't give you any answers," said a foreign yet still somewhat familiar voice from behind her. It was only the fact that she had learned to mask her emotions while travelling with Tsunade-sama that kept her from jumping in surprise and whirling around to face the speaker, startled and somewhat annoyed that she had been so far gone in her thoughts to hear him approach. "Believe me, I've tried."

"I am not looking for answers," she answered after a long pause. It may have come across as rudeness towards her companion, but she was not going to take the risk of speaking before she had managed to pull herself together. She may not be Konoha's best kunoichi –far from it, in actual fact- but she did have some dignity.

Feeling somewhat abashed at the curtness in her voice as she spoke, she lowered her head further, so that her chin was almost touching her chest. "But, thank you. For informing me of that."

She heard a soft 'hnn' and felt the man shuffle forward until he was standing alongside her, although he was probably looking at the memorial itself, rather than at the ground by its feet like she was.

"It looks like rain's on the way."

"It always rains when...Konoha mourns," she replied, hoping against hope that he hadn't caught the brief hesitation in her voice as she spoke.

"So Konoha's mourning now?" queried her companion, after a moment's pause. "Interesting."

The query and comment following it surprised her perhaps more than it should have, causing her to raise her head slightly. What was said, along with the tone it was said with, indicated that the man didn't feel as though what she said was right.

...But how could he not think that? That Konoha wasn't mourning? The village was dripping, no, oozing grief. Couldn't he feel it?

Pulling out of the questioning trail her mind was walking along, she focused her gaze on her sandal clad feet.

"She has lost so many..." she started, dully, before she realized she was referring to the distant past, and not just the events that had recently taken place, and quickly corrected herself, "she has lost a beloved leader, and has been betrayed by one she once called her own. It is only natural for her to mourn her loss."

There was another 'hnn' from the man standing alongside her, but it was more of a thoughtful sound this time. Yet he didn't make any move to either agree or disagree with her, and, deciding to follow his lead, she remained quiet herself. Even though the silence that fell over them was somewhat awkward, she withstood it, fighting the thing that clawed at her mind, trying to break down the thick, sturdy walls she had placed between her past and who she was now.

She had spent far too long perfecting the strength of those walls to have a tunnel dug through them in a matter of days.

Her attention was caught when her companion's feet shifted a moment before he crouched down on the ground. Watching him out of the corner of her eye, she saw his hand reaching out towards the flowers placed at the foot of the monument, and unconsciously wondered what he was doing.

Which also made her wonder what she was doing.

How long had she been here, now? Why was she here? For, like her companion had said, she wouldn't get any answers for anything by standing there and staring. Surely she had something else that she could do? Surely there was some other way she could make herself useful?

"Yuugao must have been here earlier," commented her companion, still crouching.

She stared at the back of his head for a moment, wondering, 'who?' before she shook her head mentally. Whoever Yuugao was, she was sure that it was none of her concern. Besides, it wasn't like her to go prying into matters that had nothing to do with her. Even if she was curious. Especially since that was not the first time she had heard the name being mentioned; Aoba had mentioned the name once, and she had also heard it in a discussion between a few of the patients she had been treating in the hospital.

A soft, empty chuckle brought her out of her thoughts. "You're curious, aren't you?" questioned the silver haired Jounin, tilting his head to a side so he could see her out of the corner of his eye. She opened her mouth –to say what, she didn't know- and shut it again. "Uzuki Yuugao," elaborated the skilled Jounin, "ANBU."

"Oh," was all she could say in response, because, really, none of that meant anything to her, did it?

"She had a fiancé," added the silver haired man slowly and with a touch of hesitation in his voice.

Had? His tone gave her no room to misunderstand why the ANBU kunoichi 'had' a fiancé. Her dark eyes lowered to her feet once again, thinking of another life, of another possible family, of another dream –all ruined, all brought down and ruthlessly killed.

"I am sorry," she mumbled, surprising herself when she found that she really did mean it. For while she may not have had such aspirations for a while now, she could only guess how painful it must be to be the one left behind. To the one left behind with all the what could have beens, and the what ifs.

Tsunade-sama was a perfect example of that, even if she hid behind her strength, loud-mouthed personality and drinking and gambling habits.

"Hayate did say that he wanted to marry her one day, but he was afraid of rushing them both into it."

Her heart stopped at the quietly uttered statement, and her shock caused her to raise her head, finding herself ensnared in her companion's one eyed gaze.

Hayate. Hayate.

"...Oh," she managed to whisper, for once grateful of her dark, dark eyes, as they provided her with the blessing of hiding her emotions in their dark depths. (She had always thought that Rin's light, gentle eyes bared her soul to the world too much. And that Tsunade-sama's bright, strong eyes showed how she had seen too much through them)

She fumbled with the long sleeve of her dark blue top, wondering if that thing, that ugly, unwanted thing, had managed to claw through a part of the walls that she had put up years ago.

When she felt she had waited long enough while composing herself –leaving behind a rather wrinkled sleeve too- she swallowed. "Was he..." She swallowed again. "When did they...?"

"A few months back," he answered, seeming to understand her query despite its incoherence. "After he spent ages trying to work up the courage to ask her." There was another soft chuckle. "We never did find out why he thought she might turn him down. She loved him almost as much as he was infatuated with her."

The short haired woman was quiet as she continued to simply stare at her companion, her mind reeling with missed opportunities, regrets, questions, and bits and pieces of his words.

Infatuation... Courage... fiancé...

Uzuki, did he say...? Uzuki Yuugao. Gekkou Yuugao...no, it will never get that far now, will it?


The prickling sensation in the corner of her eye alerted her to the possible occurrence of the one thing she had told herself she wouldn't do, simply because there wasn't enough of her old, caring self left in the hardened young woman she was now.

Tears, she had discovered years ago, were for the weak. They were for those who were stuck in limbo, unable to decide if they wanted to move forward, or remain in the past. Tears were most certainly not for apprentices of the legendary Sannin, no matter which Sannin was the master.

'But don't Hayate and Rin deserve these tears?' a voice in her head asked her. 'Do they not deserve to know that they will be missed, and loved, and that oh god, you're sorry that there was nothing that you could do, that you were so sorry for leaving without saying a word, that you weren't anywhere near them, that you just didn't know until now?'

She blinked furiously, trying to keep her eyes from welling up with the liquid she abhorred –abhorred for the simple reason that it showed her that no matter how hard she tried, she would never be strong enough to truly deserve the title of a Konoha kunoichi.

And she hated them even more because they fuelled the dark doubt she had in her mind, the one she had had, ever since she had left the village. The self-destructive doubt that the only reason Tsunade-sama chose her as her apprentice over the talented, evidently talented Rin, was because she so happened to be the beloved niece of her then late beloved.

Oh Rin, I am so, so sorry...

"Doubting yourself and decisions made in the past will only hinder your progress forward," intoned the Jounin, his voice and words startling her out of her thoughts just enough so that she registered that he was on his feet again, and was looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

She steeled herself and nodded.

"I know," she said, wondering if that hoarse, almost defeated voice was hers because...she had not heard it before, and she most certainly didn't like it.

Her companion scoffed lightly.

"Knowing it and acting on it are two different things," he said, his voice tight.


"-She was not apprentice material. That was why she wasn't chosen. You know how she...was. Especially after what happened to him. She blamed herself for it all, his death and his...unrequited feelings."

Him. Yes, she had heard what had happened to him. A young, promising life, an Uchiha life...gone in the blink of an eye simply because he wanted to protect those he loved. And she knew of the incident with his eye too.

"I'm sorry."

"What for?"

She thought that was a good question, even if it took more than half a moment for her to realize it. What was she sorry for? For being chosen? For dreaming? For leaving? For their...deaths?

What was she sorry for?

"For them not being able to achieve their dreams," she said at last, her voice so quiet she could barely hear it herself. "All three of them..." She felt it would be rude to not include the cheerful young Uchiha in her thoughts as well, especially given who was standing beside her at that moment.

She felt the air around them thicken and wondered if she had said something she shouldn't have.

"All they ever wanted was to serve their village. And protect their friends." The strain in his voice was noticeable once more, "and that is what they achieved. I do not think they should be pitied for that, simply because they are not with us any longer."

Dark eyes widened.

"Oh no, I didn't mean –I was not... I had not meant to imply that..." her voice soon trailed off when she realized how weak her protests sounded, especially to one as experienced in the art of deception as her companion was. How many times must he have heard people tell him the same thing, albeit possibly wording it differently?

She swallowed. "I just...I just can't help but wonder what it would be like if things had been...different," she finished quietly.

"Really?" If she had been in a different mood, and perhaps in a different situation, she would have frowned at the Jounin. "Is that really what you're doing here?"

Dark eyes flickered with unvoiced questions before she quickly glanced at her sandals.

Was she? Was that what she was doing? Was that why she was standing in front of the monument, not knowing why she was doing it, or if the names of those she had once known were carved on it?

"No," she said with a sound similar to that of a half gasp and half chuckle. "No, it's not." She raised her head and looked into the one visible eye of her grim faced companion. "You are quite free to harbour your own opinions on the matter, Hatake-san," she said, wondering why, why, why her voice sounded to her ears as though it was quivering, "but remembering the dead, remembering those we were once...close to, is not a form of pity. Nor does it disrespect them and everything that accomplished while they lived. I'd like it if you wouldn't...judge me."

There, she said it. He may have been closer to Rin –in some ways- than she was, and given the fact that he was a Jounin as well, he would possibly have associated with Hayate more than she ever had. But that did not give him the right to comment on her possible thoughts, or to judge her.

He had already had years to mourn, dammit. And he had...he had been there. Maybe he hadn't been present at the time of their deaths but he had still been there. Whereas she... she had been effectively babysitting the Sannin with a penchant for alcohol and gambling.

"That's a bit hypocritical of you, I must say," commented the silver haired male, lightly, his voice showing no sign that he was affected by her words.

"Excuse me?" she asked politely.

There was a short pause.

"You ask me not to judge you, when I'm not...and yet you are a very hard judge on yourself."

Slender, dark brows pulled together as her face twisted into a frown.

"You know nothing about me," she said, her voice neutral because she was, in her opinion, stating a fact. He knew nothing about her, just as she knew very little about him –and she doubted that his medical file contained everything there was to know about the masked Jounin.

"If we are to take that train of thought, then you know nothing about me either..." Her companion snorted lightly. "So your assumption of my attempts at judging you would be implausible."

Why that...!

Balling her hands into fists at her sides, she resisted the urge to grit her teeth, partly because she was surprised at herself and partly because she was surprised at him. What was wrong with her? She was getting all angry and riled up over a...a conversation that...that was --- she was Godaime-sama's apprentice, for the love of god, she was the cool, calm and collected one...

She shouldn't be getting riled up by the man's words. Especially when he didn't know what he was talking about. Because he didn't. "Don't give in to despair and regrets, Shizune-san. It will do you no good. Trust me, I speak through experience," continued the silver haired man, his voice soft as he spoke. "It is not worth it, and we must remember that they would not want us to regret or to live in the past..."

"I am not living in the past!" She bit her lip immediately afterwards, appalled at her outburst. Get a hold of yourself, you silly woman! "I just-" She stopped abruptly, suddenly finding that she had to swallow past a large lump in her throat. "...I just wish I could have explained myself. To them. I...I suppose you could say that I...miss them. As strange as it may sound." And it probably did sound strange; if she had missed them, why hadn't she written to them? Why hadn't she kept in touch?

Oh, she could say that it was because she didn't want to risk the chance of her letter's being traced, and thereby Tsunade-sama's whereabouts being found out. She could repeat it to herself for as long as she wanted, but she knew that it wasn't true.

She wanted to be something. Something useful, something...valuable, and seeing how it was unlikely that she would ever become a proper kunoichi, the only thing left for her was the position of a medic-nin, which she had some skill in. It was her desire to be of some use, to someone, anyone, that was a reason for her departure. She had wanted to forget the weak, insignificant little girl that she was, and writing back to those she had left behind...that would only remember her of who she once was, and that was unacceptable.

She found herself swallowing against the lump in her throat again, wincing at the unpleasant sensation and as warm liquid prickled at the corners of her eyes once more.

No, she thought almost desperately, I can't. Not...not here. Not when I –not...n-not...

"It isn't a sign of weakness –it's a show of strength...the ability to shed tears for the departed..."

She swallowed again.

"But shedding...tears won't bring them back," she whispered.

"No, but it will show them that they are remembered." She felt his gaze turn to her. "Remembered even by those who left years ago, without any explanation." He held up his hand as she looked up, still not looking at him although her mouth was open to no doubt defend herself. "No, I don't want to know –well, I do, but I'm not the one who deserves an explanation..." He waited for her to look at him, her glassy dark eyes making him somewhat uncomfortable. "You know who I'm talking about."

No matter how much she wanted to shake her head and say 'no, I don't', she couldn't. "He missed you, you know. They all did. They deserved an explanation, even if it turned out to be an illogical and selfish one."

Her heart fell at his words, and the only thought that ran through her mind was that he knew. He knew, he had guessed, her reasons for leaving.

So he undoubtedly knew that the Godaime's assistant was a coward...that she was someone that just wanted, needed, to feel useful...to feel wanted...

"Where... how is he?" she murmured, through her painfully tightening throat. The fact that he had referred to him in the past tense wasn't very comforting, although she had a sinking feeling that he would have phrased his words better if he really was...gone.

Please, not Genma too.

The tall male shrugged.

"Probably running errands of some sort for Godaime-sama." He sensed her questioning gaze on him and shrugged again. "I haven't seen him these last few days, but I know he's still alive."

The relief she felt at that left her feeling so weak, she thought for a moment that she would drop to her knees, because he was still alive. Even though he may hate her for the rest of her life –or for the rest of her stay in Konoha, because who knew when they'd have to leave again, even if she doubted Tsunade-sama would leave while bearing the title of Hokage- he was still alive, and, really, that was all that mattered at that point in time.

"That's...that's good," she said sincerely, wondering if it was just her, of if her voice sounded a bit more controlled than it had before. She didn't notice the sideways glance her companion sent her as she immersed herself in her thoughts once more, attempting to calm them down and set them straight, nor did she notice the way he relaxed his posture before digging into the pockets of his vest as though he was looking for something.

She didn't notice any of that, because she had come to another realisation.

So what if she had not been in Konoha when...their deaths had taken place? Chances were that she would not have been able to save them anyway. What mattered was the fact that she mourned them, that if it wasn't for her pride, she would be shedding tears for them then and there –rivers of tears, given the pent up emotions inside her.

What mattered was that the old Shizune, the weak, slow, open and caring Shizune...was still somewhere inside her. Even if she thought she had become someone else entirely, she wasn't; she was still her, and she would always have those qualities, with the exception that she would display them as openly and as often as she used to when she was younger.

That thought heartened her more than she thought it would, because the person she was when she was younger was innocent, and it pleased her to know that, while she wasn't exactly innocent anymore, she still retained some part of that innocence...

Her eyes rose to the monument, and fell onto the bouquet of flowers her companion had spoken about a short while ago, ignoring the pang inside her as she remembered who they were for.

"One day," she murmured aloud, wondering if her companion would offer to help her out, "I'd like to meet Uzuki Yuugao-san..." She tilted her head so that she could see him without straining her eyes, only then noticing that he wasn't standing beside her like he had been a moment or two ago. She didn't panic, however, as she could still sense him nearby; he was behind her.

Sure enough, as she turned around she saw that he was standing a few feet behind her, his shoulders relaxed. "Do you think that it would be poss...ib...le..." her voice trailed off as she saw the item he held in his hands; the item he seemed to be intently focusing on. From what she could see, it was relatively small, rectangular and...orange...?

A book, she realised somewhat startled as her eyes drifted to what she could see of its cover, but what would he be doing reading a --- wait a minute. I know that book... T-That's-! "P-Porn, Hatake-san?" she questioned, her eyes wide as she stared at the Jounin.

"Porn?" she wondered if it was just her, or if he actually sounded mildly offended. "This, Shizune-san, is most certainly not porn. It's good literature."

Her eyes widened some more.

"It's Icha Icha Paradise," she commented, dryly, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Which just so happens to be good literature," he said, firmly, quirking his one visible eyebrow at her.

"It's part of a series of erotic works, Hatake-san..."

"No, it's part of a series of romantic stories, Shizune-san."

The dark haired medic-nin gaped at the man standing a few feet before her, not seeming the least bit bothered about the fact that...well, that he was looking at porn in front of the monument.

She told him that, too, to which he sighed. "How many times must I tell you Shizune-san, that this is not porn? It's interesting, and very well written." He paused for a moment, observing her over the top of the orange monstrosity when she gave a start and looked up at the sky, wiping something off her face as she did so. "It's very popular you know," he added. "It wouldn't be sold out at every bookstore if it was porn, would it, Shizune-san?"

Ignoring the light drizzle that started to pour down around them, the dark eyed woman shook her head.

"It's written by Jiraiya-sama, Hatake-san. And we all know where his...interests lie," she said, as politely as she could, before she walked towards him. If it was going to start raining soon, she certainly didn't want to be caught up in it, so it was probably best to get a move on. She spared another glance at the monument, at the slightly fuzzy names carved onto it.

I'm sorry for everything, she thought, as she pictured those she mourned, but I will try and stop regretting my actions. There can be no future if your mind is stuck in the past after all...

She smiled sadly as her eyes once more landed on the flowers.

And thank you. I won't...I won't forget you.

When she turned back around, she saw that her silver haired companion had turned around too, although it seemed as though he was waiting for her to finish paying her respects.

Grateful both for the fact that he had just...been there with her, and that he was waiting, she quickened her pace slightly until she was walking beside him.

"Wherever his interests may lie, what he writes happens to be nice, normal love stories for anyone to enjoy," commented the Copy-nin as they headed away from the monument and the spirits and memories linked to it through the carved names.

Shizune snorted before she could stop herself, and quickly tried to cover it up with a deep cough.

"Love stories that just so happen to have page after page of one sexual act after the other," she mused, hoping he didn't catch the snort because she really hadn't mean to snort at the white haired Sannin –she did respect the man, despite his...ah...actions.

She didn't see her companion raise an eyebrow at her once more.

"Have you read any of them?" he questioned slowly as the drizzle around them increased.

"Of course not!" exclaimed the dark eyed woman, shaking her head vehemently.

"That's too bad," mumbled the Copy-nin, glad of the mask that covered the lower half of his face. "It's really very interesting. And it's very good to curl up with on a rainy day not unlike this one."

Shizune shook her head again.

"To each their own, I suppose," she said with a shrug, sighing inaudibly as a cool breeze blew around them, ruffling her short dark locks. She wished she had pockets in her outfit, not unlike the pocket that her companion had one of his hands in. Shaking her head, she turned her attention back ahead of them.

"You don't know what you're missing, Shizune-san," said the Jounin, before his face and eye brightened. "I know, why don't I lend you a copy? I have quite a few of them back at home, so I wouldn't miss this one here..."

"Oh! Um, no, there's no need for you to do that Hatake-san, really," said the dark haired woman, laughing uneasily. "I mean...um, I probably have a lot of work to do back at the office, and...ah...thank you, but...no..."

She wondered at the twinkle in his eye.

"It really is your loss then," he said, as he glanced back at the book. "You would have liked one of the characters in this one. Why, she's somewhat like you, Shizune-san. Dark haired, dark eyed...kunoichi... and from the experiences of Kuro-kun here, on page fifteen, it seems that she's also very good in..."


He wondered if the woman's face could turn a darker shade of red; she looked positively mortified. "Ha—Hatake-san that's –I..."

"You want to read it...?"

"No! No, I...I don't want to...read it..."

"Oh, okay then."

They walked in silence after that, although Shizune could tell from the amused air around her taller companion that her face was still red. Or at least a noticeable shade of pink.

She really wondered if the man had some kind of...split personality, to go from thoughtful, to serious, and then to...well...playful in quick succession.


"Hatake-san?" She saw him nod to show he was listening –even though his eyes were still on the...book. "Do you know...do you know where I'd be able to find him?"

There was a pause before he answered her.

"He lives in the same place as he did before," he said simply. "I trust you know where that is?"

Her brows furrowed for a moment before she recalled the place.

"Yes, I do," she said, as they came to an intersection and paused there. It was nice, she decided, to see the hustle and bustle of the village again. "I think I'll...go and see him then. And try and explain the reasons behind my disappearance." He nodded again. "There's a chance he won't believe me, or even...forgive me, but...it doesn't matter..."

"That's the spirit," he said, cheerfully, his one visible eye curving cheerily.

She found herself smiling faintly at him.

"Thank you, Hatake-san. For...just, thank you."

He nodded.

"Kakashi," he corrected, glancing up at the rapidly darkening skies and predicting the downpour that was on its way. "And you were wrong when you said that it rains when Konoha is in mourning."

The medic-nin stared at him in silence, watching him watch the skies, his silver hair contrasting strongly with the dark mask he wore on his face. "It rains to signal a new beginning," he said after a while, finally looking back at her. "A new beginning for everyone."

Despite herself, the medic-nin found her smile strengthening as she pondered on his words. It made sense if she were to think about it. "Well, we should both get going before it starts pouring down. You to Genma's and me back to the hospital... Godaime-sama just might murder me if she finds me missing..."

Her shoulders feeling lighter than before, she nodded at him before she took off to her left, hoping that her former teammate was at home. She had taken a dozen steps away down the road when he called out to her, causing her to pause. "If he doesn't seem to want to listen to you, there's a somewhat similar situation in the book, and the kunoichi I was telling you about decides to use her-"

"Go back before Tsunade-sama really does kill you, Hata –Kakashi-san!" exclaimed Shizune, as she picked up her pace and all but ran away from the thoroughly amused Jounin.

She could hear the soft chuckles until she turned the corner, not noticing the upward curve of her lips as she continued on to her destination.


I know, I know, that wasn't very...believable. And I'm not even sure if I got the characters right. All I know is that I sort of wanted to show a more serious Kakashi –especially where his friends/teammates are concerned- and I wanted to show a different side of Shizune. I mean, we all know why Tsunade left Konoha, and we kind of know how she feels about coming back...but what about Shizune? Would she have left people behind? Would anyone have cared?

Now, as for the idea of Shizune being related to Gekkou Hayate –yeah, it's completely made up...but when I first saw them, I thought 'whoa, they sure look alike!' I mean, if Hayate were to lose the bandana-thing over his head...well...don't the two of them look a bit alike? Okay, maybe that was just me, but...I wanted to use that here, for him to be one of the people that Shizune had 'left behind' as it were.

About Rin; we don't know how she died, how old she was, or where it happened, heck we don't even know if she is dead, but from what Kakashi said about everyone important to him being dead...well, I'm just guessing that she is dead. She has to have been skilled to actually transplant Obito's eye in place of Kakashi's ruined one, and I kind of pictured her and Shizune as knowing each other. Not as best friends or anything, but the sort of companions who run into each other frequently, and who sort of get used to each other. (And then the idea of possible competition came up in my head) Yeah, I don't know where all of that came from, but...there you go!

Then there's Genma being Shizune's former teammate –again, we have no idea if that's actually true...but I sort of think the two of them look kinda cute together, so I sort of tossed him in there too. Completely random, I know. And while I'm on the topic of possible love interests for Shizune (in the world of fan-fiction, no matter how much I wish it actually happened) I thought she and Kakashi would go well together too, even if there's no evidence whatsoever to suggest any of these pairings. (Yeah, I would love for Shizune/Kakashi to actually happen in the manga. Guess there's no chance of that now...)

Um, that's about it, I think. I know a lot of the things in this piece are just made up/assumed, but that's a result of all these thoughts in my head. Hope it didn't disappoint anyone!

That's it from me here!