disclaimer: i don't own Naruto. If I did, well, then this chapter wouldn't have written itself.
E n c o r e
There was no body.
But that wasn't really unusual.
When they pronounced a shinobi dead, it was rare for anything else to accompany the news.
The remains of ninja that died in the field were usually either unrecoverable or so abominable that the dead man's teammates didn't have the heart to bring it back to the families.
But although they lacked a corpse, the service was still held.
Even if flesh rotted, memories did not.
The gathering of mourners stood before the communal gravestone (because Konoha would quickly run out of estate if they had to put up a rock for every name on that monument).
Black clothes. Blacker atmosphere. A name freshly carved into the marble.
Far away, Tsunade watched with the dry eyes of just someone who was passing by.
Because she wasn't (didn't want to be) a part of this. It was a waste of time.
She didn't get why they were making such a big deal.
Men were horrible creatures anyways.
Act I. Scene I.
"Hey! Tsunade!" He slammed a bottle of sake on the bar's counter. He was eighteen years old and as stupid as he looked.
She glared sideways at the idiot that was sitting next to her. He returned it with what he thought was his it's-sexy-time face. In reality, it was just a sloppy grin. She snorted and raised the shot glass near her scowling lips. "What?"
"You and me! The two of us should go out!" His hand strayed dangerously near her chest.
For three seconds Jiraiya was airborne. The bar's denizens watched him sail over their heads in drunken awe. It was amazing how such a large mass could soar so effortlessly though the air. The arc of his flight was strangely graceful in it's fluid trajectory.
The roomful of eyes kept watching, following him up, up, up, then—crash—down.
The wood splintered into a million little pieces. It was Instant Implosion; poor table didn't even stand a chance.
His head flopped to one side as he groaned. His arms flailed pathetically as he tried to extricate himself from the wooden wreckage. After a few flap-flaps he gave up and resorted back to just moaning.
From the bar, the blonde cracked her knuckles. She didn't look sorry.
The dark mass was filled with students. Admirers. Fans. Past lovers? Probably.
They were all crying. But she wouldn't join them.
She had been none of those.
She was just a spectator because he had been nothing but an actor.
For him, everything had always been a show.
Only a show.
Act I. Scene II.
"Tsunade! Watch out!" He yelled.
She snapped her head up. Too late. The volley of kunai were already hurtling towards her. It wasn't a matter of whether or not she could avoid them. If she moved,the shinobi who she was healing would definitely be hit.
Tsunade didn't even bother considering her options.
She leaned over the wounded man beneath her and shielded his vitals with her body as she stuck her arm out in front of her face. She squeezed her eyes shut and braced herself.
The clang of steel on steel.
The thud of blades hitting the ground.
She opened her eyes. Someone's broad backside filled her vision. She wondered for a moment who it was, and then spotted the shock of white-hair dangling in that ridiculous pony-tail. He twisted around to look at her, grinning crookedly. "Hey woman, are you stupid? I said watch out, jeez I bet you were just waiting for me to come save your sorry ass." Most of the kunai lay useless at his feet, deflected by his own blade. A few had managed to slip around his guard and into his body, but none had made it past him, "Well, you know what they say. The hero always comes in at the last moment!"
"H-hey! What the hell do you think you're doing?" Tsunade stammered angrily. She didn't know what else to say. She'd just been hero-ed by him.
He winced as he pulled a knife from his upper arm and flung it onto the ground. Then he turned his full attention on her. "You know, a woman should never injure her face." His black eyes lacked their usual humor.
Tsunade stared back, waiting for him to smile wolfishly and tack on a crude remark to the end of that sentence. She waited because his comment was doing weird things to her insides, especially right around where her heart was.
She didn't like it.
"Idiot, stop pretending to be cool." She muttered and looked away and dammit she could hear him grinning.
The sun had sunk into the horizon and a dark blue rim began to creep across the sky, ushering in the stars.
The day had drawn to a close.
It was the final curtain call.
For some reason she didn't feel like clapping just yet.
Act I. Scene III.
They were sitting at the low table in his house, sipping tea. The door had been left opened to let in the night time breeze.
"Hey you know Tsunade…did I ever tell you-"
She cut him off with a snort and slammed the cup back on the table. She knew what he was going to say, or at least, she had a pretty good idea. "Hey, I'm in a good mood tonight," she warned.
He mollified her with a raised hand. "Which, is why I think now's the perfect time to say it, princess." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
She bared her teeth. "Tch- you dirty leech. Way to ruin a moment."
"I haven't even said anything."
"Fine, go ahead and say it," a feral grin pulled up at the corners of her mouth, "but if you do, you have to swear you'll never say it ever again."
The damn perv was always so vulgar. It was always "Tsunade you're so hot" or "Tsunade your so this" or "Tsunade your breasts are so appealing I just want to give them a hard squeeze". Why couldn't he show some decorum for once, damn it?
"That includes saying anything that's even remotely related to it."
"I swear, I won't if that's what you really want."
He cocked his head slightly and smiled that crooked smile that had swept every woman off her feet—every woman but one blonde that had her feet rooted to the ground. He was twenty-seven years old and was still as stupid as he looked. After all, only he would be idiotic enough to still be hanging onto something so hopeless. But then again…that tenacity was his ninpou…the only thing he could really take any pride in.
Tsunade turned her face away from him and consciously folded her arms over her chest, "Just hurry up before you make this even more awkward than it already is—"
"I love you."
Her head whipped around, eyes wide with disbelief. Haaa-?
The moonlight threw a soft glow around his face, the shadows undercutting his strong jaw-line and adding a glint to those hard, black eyes. In that moment, Tsunade realized that all the women that seemed to flock to Jiraiya's didn't do it solely because he was a shameless flirt.
"What...what the hell?" Without even realizing she felt her entire face burn up as she mentally beat herself for thinking of something so...so...stupid.
Jiraiya leaned in closer with a smirk. "Hey now, are you blushing?"
She put a hand to her face. "W-what? No! It must be the damn sake or something." Yeah. That's what it was, the alcohol.
He cocked an eyebrow. "Right."
She quickly grabbed the cup in front of her and put it to her lips, hoping to loose herself even more to the alcohol and hammer out these stupid thoughts into paper-thin sheets of minor-awareness then crumble them up and chuck them into the black cosmic hole in drunken galaxy oblivion.
She chugged the drink and waited for the burn.
And waited for the cosmic-hole-whatever-forgetting.
And then she realized.
They had been drinking tea.
It had been a good show.
A bit stupid.
No, it was really stupid.
Screw it. It was lame.
It was lame, and amateur, and B-rated, and annoying, and made her facepalm so much her wrinkles started to show.
But still, for some reason she had been stupid enough to believe it.
To believe in him.
And she hated him for it.
Hated that he had gone and died that overdone Hero's Tragic Death thing.
She should have seen it coming. They all should have. He had been a terrible actor. No one should have actually believed that he was invincible.
But the fool had them fooled.
She'd have to go and append her medical journals about how idiocy was contagious.
The crowd had dispersed. The show was over. So why was she still here?
What was she waiting for?
And why for fucks sake was she crying?
He had been nothing but an idiotic, flashy, too-loud, too-perverted, shamless, craddle-robbing, scratches-his-privates-in-public -
She could have kept going on her tirade but she wouldn't be able to hide behind it because she knew. She knew why.
The idiot had kept his promise from that night, and she was too late to ask for an encore.
yes another edit.
I just can't seem to leave this story alone.
OH BABY! IMMA KEEP TOUCHIN' YOU TILL I'M SATISFIED.
Okay. I'm done now.