I really love the parallels between the sannin and team seven. I feel like it's intriguing in a bittersweet way: it proves that team seven is destined for success, but it also means that they're kind of predestined to inherit the vices of their counterparts. They get the bad with the good. So here's how it all falls into place – Sakura picks up drinking, Sasuke takes to killing, and Naruto directs his attention to meaningless sex. It's a little angsy and real-life, but I'd like to think it's enjoyable anyway. :)

I don't own Naruto – thanks for reading!

Sakura remembered her first sip of sake perfectly. She had been planning it for awhile before it actually happened – she had decided that she didn't want to buy any, but it would be painfully easy to simply throw back a cup of it before she brought the tray out to Tsunade. Of course, her shishou would pitch a royal fit if she found out about it, but she wouldn't find out. Not even Tsunade kept track of her sake-stock to the drop, and Sakura didn't plan to drink enough to make it noticeable in her breath or her actions.

Finally, one long day when everything just kept going wrong, over and over again, a frazzled, irritated Sakura took the plunge. She didn't even bother to put the drink in a cup – that would have required more time and patience than she had on hand. Instead, she simply screwed off the lid and took a long gulp. Sakura actually managed to swallow it all without spitting any out, though she coughed once or twice.

It wasn't delicious, exactly, but she'd heard it was a developed taste, so she wasn't too disappointed. Besides, she was too much overcome by the warmth to care too much about the flavor. The second the acrid drink hit her stomach, a feeling of wholeness and heat began to course through her. She could feel it as it made its way through her arms to her fingertips, and she wiggled them hesitantly.

It was a magical feeling.

She had been out of breath all day, but in that moment, she began to realize, with a giggle, that it was her own fault for not breathing the right way. Everything suddenly seemed easy – her lungs inflated and deflated practically of their own accord, and her pounding heart slowed to a steady beat. Even her formerly ragged, clumsy motions seemed fluid and easy.

The rest of the night seemed to go perfectly – flawlessly. At least in Sakura's eyes. She didn't get worked up when Tsunade started yelling or when Shizune got overloaded and had to send two of her patients to Sakura's wing. Everything seemed fine… and without a pounding heart and anxiety pushing her to the brink of what she could handle, it was fine.

That was the day when sake started to become a habit.

First it was just a quick drink before a shift, to get her thoughts together and conquer pre-shift nerves. Then it was a drink after a shift to calm her down again and make her sleep better. Friday nights, however, were a different story. When those came around, she took advantage of the fact that Saturday was her day off and drank to her heart's content.

It was only on a Saturday afternoon, when she awoke hugging the toilet in her apartment after a particularly wild night, that she began to feel the hurt of what she had been doing to herself. Not only did her head pound so much that she moaned and groaned underneath her curtain of messy hair, she also felt a strange sense of disillusionment.

Because she realized that her only happiness in the world came in a round green bottle with a cork stopper. It always started so smooth and easy… even a little bit sweet.

It was the bitter finish that made her wince.

Even in his own era, Sasuke found that life was quite a bit like a feudal hierarchy: to become the best, one must unseat the best. So really, the way to the top was to kill each and every person between one's current position and the one already there. Orochimaru had proven it himself: once he took care of his own sensei, Sarutobi, there hadn't been anymore debate. He was public enemy number one – the most dangerous man in the ninja world. And he had accomplished it all by killing.

Killing was something that didn't intimidate Sasuke.

It was his inheritance, after all.

He got it first from his parents – powerful shinobi themselves, and proud members of the Uchiha legacy. If something was a threat to their home or their lifestyle, they wouldn't hesitate to stop it by whatever means necessary. Then came Itachi, of course. He had killed his own family in cold blood all in the interest of activating a more powerful manifestation of their shared kekkai genkai.

The third and final influence was Orochimaru himself – the chosen influence.

Though Sasuke called him 'sensei,' he respected him as a teacher about the same amount Manda respected him as a summoner. There was no love lost from either party, because Sasuke had inherited a little bit too much. He, like his mentor, knew how the world worked. They both knew that power was the only thing worth having. And they knew that Sasuke's only means of acquiring it was killing Orochimaru.

So there wasn't any disillusioned expectation of loyalty.

Sasuke couldn't have said whether or not the vice that ruled his life was disloyalty or killing. They seemed to go hand-in-hand, at the end of the day, and neither of them came straight from Orochimaru. They were part of a long line of predecessors, each one more driven than the last. They all had power, but he would have more.

Because he was the next in line.

Naruto would never forget the first time he slept with a girl out of misery and self-pity. He wanted, even at the time, to blame Jiraiya for it, but it was hardly the Toad Sage's fault. He hadn't even been around to see it happen.

Which was actually the origin of the problem.

It was the day of the funeral, and the one that Naruto would always remember as the worst one of his life. The Third's funeral, Asuma's funeral… those had both been plenty heartbreaking in their own ways. He had cried at both of them. Cried for Konoha at the old man's, and cried for Kurenai and Konohamaru and Team 9 at Asuma-sensei's.

But at Jiraiya's funeral, Naruto cried selfish tears.

That time, it was his sensei that had been taken away. The man who not only taught him how to concentrate chakra enough to perform rasengan, but the man who had taught him how to be a man at all. The one he had followed – first like a puppy dog, later like a loyal disciple. The one who had witnessed his first lame attempts at summoning jutsu and passed down the wisdom of the toads of Mount Myoboku and the sheer power of Gamabunta.

Naruto left the funeral and went straight to the place he knew he could always find his mentor. If there was a place on earth where Jiraiya's spirit would rest, it would be there. In that nasty old tavern on the corner of town.

It had started out with noble intent, of course. Most everything Naruto did had at least that much to be said for it. When he threw open the slimy doors and hit the dance floor, it was with the highest of hopes. He just knew that as soon as his feet began to move through this most familiar of rooms, his sensei's presence would surround him again. There was no way he could be gone for real.

However, Naruto was dismayed after a little while to find that it was only him, the music flowing through the stratosphere of the room above his head, and the pounding floor beneath his feet.

Jiraiya wasn't on the dance floor.

The next place Naruto looked was the bar. He ordered a couple of Sapporo beers – his sensei's favorite, at least when they were on the road. They were cheap but just the way Naruto remembered: tall and filled about half with actual beer, half with foamy stuff that was mostly air and a clever way to rip off a drinker.

But not only was there no buzz, there was no Jiraiya. The warm and confident presence of his sensei didn't come back with the drinks anymore than it had with the dancing.

Naruto was beginning to get angry when he felt the hand on his arm. However, he instead just turned around to dubiously – to be met with the face of a beautiful girl. She didn't look familiar at all, but that didn't matter. Her eyes were wide with sweeping lashes, and her dark hair was pulled back to reveal delicate shoulders.

"Hey, I'm Miko," she said softly. "You look familiar. Have I ever talked to you before?"

It struck Naruto, in that moment, that this girl was exactly Jiraiya's type: delicate and feminine, with a chest that was big but not too big. She wore attractive clothes, but didn't dress like a prostitute.

Willing to take one last chance to connect with his lost teacher, Naruto cleared his throat.

"No, but it's not too late. Want to dance?"

Naruto returned to the dance floor with Miko by his side, but it wasn't destined to last very long. After a few more drinks and a little bit of cajoling on her part, the two of them ended their night together in the inn next door to the tavern, in a bed with musty sheets and understuffed pillows. She had been an experienced lover – clearly far more than Naruto himself. She had probably learned from the best.

Naruto continued to lie awake long after her breathing had evened out and she stole all the covers to curl up near the head of the bed. He lay on his side, facing away from her, his head on the lone pillow she hadn't claimed. He could feel it dampen beneath him as a warm tear rolled down and hit the surface.

Jiraiya's spirit wasn't in Miko, either.

But there were plenty more girls out there, and Naruto wasn't ready to give up yet.