La Différence

He came here chasing a woman, though not this one, her little purple dress stretched tight, hiding nothing. The one he chased had shouted at him when he had finally found her, called him a pig and a coward, worthless as a man and as a shinobi. This one makes soft, breathy sighs that tickle his neck, and her hands flutter idly across his chest. He wandered and wandered, and even after he had found his quarry he couldn't shake the habit, couldn't go back. Konoha would not have been the same place without either of them, anyway.

The sex doesn't come easy like in the old days, when the panties would drop with the name of the Legendary Sannin. This girl was paid for time and pleasurable company, but not for the act—he had done that only once, and would never forget how dirty and pathetic he had felt afterward.

No. He stretches desire and rejection to a razor sharp edge and uses it to create the women of other men's dreams, while the only woman who still matters to him runs and throws her life away inch by inch.

Much as he is doing.

She offered him one final curse as she turned her back on him last: "I bet you'll find some other big-tittied blonde and forget all about me."

He looks at the girl in his arms. She fits the description.

He hasn't.

Luck Be A Lady

She watches the pictures roll. Seven… seven… bar. She jams another coin in the slot, pulls the lever. She can almost hear Shizune grinding her teeth behind her.

Her father warned her, when she was young, that gambling houses let you win the first few times, to suck you in, to keep you coming back. But he must have been wrong, because she never won, not even then. Yet still she came back.

She would waste the entirety of the Senju fortune, every last ryo that wasn't spent on food and sake and lodging, and if God, or Fate, or the Will of Fire gave a damn, they would stop her, let her win just once when it didn't mean paying back in blood.

Shizune begs her "Please, Lady Tsunade, why do you keep doing this? You know how your luck is. You never win."

She ignores her and makes her way to the card tables. Shizune, despite all her misguided loyalty, has never understood. The thrill isn't in winning; it's in throwing it all away.

Drunken Snake

He prides himself on this, while others have made their vice the defining aspect of their personality, he has kept his to himself. He lifts the cup to his lips, pours another, and repeats until he can allow himself his true thoughts.

It is their fault, this habit, originating with some idiotic bet. Jiraiya had won, of course, in guessing he'd be an angry drunk. Jiraiya paid for his win by having his friend set one of his snakes on him, which promptly fell from the table in its master's stupor. The serpent tried again at Jiraiya's leg, missed by several inches and knocked itself out on the stone floor. After a moment's drunken indignation, he joined in the laughter at his expense. It was one of the few times he had allowed himself to be happy, free to laugh and act like a fool.

In the wake of all the blood and loss that came after, the happy moments seem so fragile, so stupid and insignificant. Death conquers all, and they seem already dead to him. He runs from frailty and death at all times. Except for now.

He allows himself just this, the vice, the splitting headache and the small shame of Kabuto mopping him up after a night of hitting the bottle particularly hard, but only on the floor, in the middle of the night, and after several too many can he allow himself this truth: it's not the drink he craves, it's the company.