Pairing: Shikaku/Tsunade (comrades)
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and do not stand to make any profit by posting this story.
Summary: Tsunade has been absent from Konoha for quite a while before she returns to the village as its new Hokage. She has some fences to mend with some of the older shinobi.
Tsunade stood outside the door of the bar and studied the establishment. It was rough, or perhaps rustic was a better term. It certainly wasn't as seedy as some places she'd been in but it was far from upscale. Maybe a better description would simply be worn-out. The place had certainly seen better days.
Hadn't they all.
She walked in. The barkeeper was polishing a few glasses, the place nearly empty by now. The man looked up at her. "L-lady Tsunade...what brings you..."
"It's closing time," she said simply.
A few of the small number of remaining patrons looked up and the barkeeper motioned them to the bar where he hurriedly settled their tabs. Three men still remained sitting at their table in the corner. The large red-haired man shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the blond sat very still, studying her with sharp eyes, his thumbs stroking the sides of the rectangular cup he held in his hands while the black-haired man simply continued to nurse his drink.
"You can leave, too," Tsunade told the bartender. "I'll cover their tab," she jerked her chin toward the three. Ringing up the final sales of the other patrons, the man then beat a hasty retreat from his own counter.
Tsunade walked around behind that same counter and selected a bottle of saki and saucer. Then she made her way to the table in the corner. Surveying the trio she addressed herself to the blond and the red-head. "You two. Leave."
Allegiances wavered, they looked at their companion between them who was raising his cup unhurriedly to take another drink. "S'all right, you go on, I'll catch up with you later," he mumbled.
Hesitation again and Tsunade addressed them once more, "I said go." Trained to discipline, without a backward glance, they rose and left the table.
Silently, the man held his hand out, palm upward, offering her the seat opposite him. Tsunade took it. Settling in she poured herself a drink and tossed it back then placed her own two hands palm down on the table and looked directly at him. "Shikaku, I need you."
"You know it's so. I don't know anyone in the village anymore. I don't know who's capable and who's not, who can be trusted and who can't. Jiraiya's filled me in on what he can but he's not sticking around forever. I need somebody I can trust. I need you as my jounin commander."
He grinned and knocked back his own drink. "Thank you, my lady. I'm honored. But not interested."
Seconds ticked by. Tsunade flexed her fingers, feeling her nails dig into the wood of the rough table. Rage was boiling just below the surface, frustration and rage that all this was thrust upon her and one of the few friends she thought she had in the village wouldn't even help her. "So, what are you interested in doing then?"
Shikaku inhaled and exhaled long and deep, fishing around in his pockets for cigarettes and a lighter. He shook one cigarette out of the pack and into his hand and took his own time about lighting it. "Do? I'm pretty comfortable doing what I'm doing right here right now. Chouza and Inoichi and I, we're getting along just fine."
Her nostrils flared in anger. "Don't give me that crap! You mean this is what you want to do, spend your days half drunk in some shitty little hole-in-the-wall?"
He took a long drag on the cigarette, then exhaled the smoke through his nostrils. "You know, seems to me like I had a pretty good teacher in that regard, sensei," he sneered the honorific. "Only difference between us is that I stayed around the old home town."
Enraged, she grabbed the sides of his deerskin vest and yanked him across the table toward her. "I'm the fucking Hokage now, Shikaku. Do you know how many lives depend on me? If I make a mistake do you know how many lives can be lost?"
Nonplussed he held her gaze with his own steely eyed one, "Do you have any idea how many were lost while you were gone, sensei? Would you like me to enumerate them for you? Do you know how many shinobi and villagers died because you couldn't fucking be bothered to come around?"
Disgusted, she shoved him back into his chair but stood leaning over him, chest heaving. "That was then. This is now. I need your help. Now."
"And I told you, I'm not interested."
With a strangled cry, she smashed her fist down, breaking the table in half. Then she grabbed Shikaku's vest again. Kicking his chair out from under him, she yanked him upright and slammed him against the wall, her forearm against his chest. "Tell me, you little prick, have you ever heard the old saying, 'beware the man who has nothing to lose'?"
Keeping his eyes locked with hers, Shikaku made no other motion than to simply nod. She pushed him back harder against the wall, pressing against his airway with her arm. "I. Have nothing. Else. To. Lose. But it occurs to me...you do."
Breath heaving, voice harsh she continued, "I'll reactivate Yoshino, I'll send her on S-ranked missions and she's been out of duty for how long now? Your kid, Shikamaru, I'll make sure he's on the front line of any skirmish or battle that comes up. What's Inoichi's girl's name? Ino, is it? I'll have Jiraiya tell me the name of the skankiest brothel he knows and staff her there on a scut mission gathering intelligence from sweaty sailors for the next two years. Because it seems to me, Shikaku that a man who is lucky enough to have what you have is fucking lucky enough. And should be grateful. And might be interested in protecting it. Now, Nara, can you think of anything that I could offer you that would make the position interesting for you?"
Shikaku's eyes sparked with rage. "I only need one thing..."
"And that is?"
"Information," he scoffed pushing Tsunade's arm away. She relented and stepped back.
"Information. Data. Complete. You can't withhold anything. If you want me to do this, I have to have access to everything. You can't compartmentalize shit."
Puzzled, Tsunade looked at him. "Of course. Everything I know, you'll know it when I know it. But..."
"You can't protect anybody. You can't favor anybody. You can't cover up for..."
"Not even a teammate. If you want me to do this, if you want me as your jounin commander, if you want me to plan strategy for you then I need ..."
"Shikaku what happened?"
There was a long space of silenece between the two of them. Tsunade sank down into a chair and Shikaku leaned back against the wall, studying the ceiling. "Sometimes," he began then paused. "Sometimes I wonder if I could have spotted it. If I could have... prevented some of the deaths if..."
As he struggled to complete his statement, Tsunade regretted every moment she had been away from Konoha, every birth and death and wedding and life event she had missed. And she regretted not being here to help him piece together the puzzle that had been her former teammate.
Shikaku finally found the words to finish his statement. "Sometimes I wonder, if Sarutobi hadn't been denying it to himself and trying to protect him, how many of the deaths that Orochimaru caused could I have prevented?"
A/N: Okay, I was kind of all wobbly-kneed with the latest manga chapter because Tsunade and Shikaku were in it together. And, wow, just wow. But it got me to thinking, how did things really go down between her and the older ninja when she returned? I mean, there had to be some resentment there from some of them because she essentially abandoned the village for so long and now 'ta-da' she's the new Hokage. So just a little missing scene that I imagined occurred between the two of them.