Disclaimer: I own my Jiraiya plushie. Yes, you heard me. He's fifteen inches tall, complete with sexy smirk and his writing scroll. I screeched like a fangirl when I saw him. 8D

Character: Koharu. Definite hints of Niidaime/Koharu, Hiruzen/Koharu and...implications of other certain perverts.

Summary Notes: My first fanfic in quite a while, really. Don't get weirded out by who it is; I blame Loves for her past endeavours with Koharu. So just read and...try to enjoy. Set during the Sandaime's funeral.

They often said that a shinobi who lived beyond the age of forty was either extremely lucky, or extremely cowardly. It wasn't exactly a job that took occupational health and safety into account, and it wasn't the life you usually chose if you were expecting to live a lengthy, fulfilled existence, complete with spouse, X amount of kids and white picket fence.

There was a reason they picked them so young. And even if you did live long enough to develop grey hairs and liver spots, it was nonetheless a lonely existence. By the time you reached that age, it was generally a surefire guarantee that you were alone. The last one left. Any lover - or spouse, if you were that lucky - was usually incapable of understanding the demands on your life, especially if they were a civilian. And if they were shinobi?

At this age, if you lived this long...everyone that had once mattered to you in the shinobi world was dead.

All dead. All alone.

Koharu was no stranger to loneliness. Oh, she wasn't out to gain herself a pity party, either, not her. She was, and always had been, a strong, gritty woman. Even as a child, the only girl on her team in a world that at the time, still balked at the prospect of women serving in the nation's fighting forces, she'd been the first one to sit her team mates on their respective arses. Sensei had learnt very quickly when to intervene and divert, for young Koharu had been, and still was, blessed with a formidable temper. Downright unpleasant at times, stubborn to the point of surly. She'd had something to prove, and she'd damn well gone about proving it. And when she'd finally ascended to chuunin, everything had been worth the effort. The world had been bright, the future endless.

And then Death had introduced itself to her.

A shinobi never shows emotion, no matter the situation.

Her father had been the first to go. She'd never known her mother, the woman who'd walked out without so much as a glance back at her in the arms of her father, who'd stared after the woman he'd loved enough to contemplate giving up his own life as a shinobi with betrayed eyes. But despite it all, it had been good. Child Koharu had learnt from a young age to bear with the loneliness that came when her father left on his missions, but she'd survived on the steadfast belief that he'd always come home. That even when she herself began her own life as a kunoichi, he'd still be there.

And then one day, he just...hadn't been there. She hardly remembered the time that had passed after that dreadful, world-destructive moment; it had been a blur of grief and anger and brutal attempts to control it during the onslaught of war. Never show emotion, no matter the situation. In hindsight, she liked to believe that her own strength had been the catalyst behind her moving through it, but in truth, it had been her team. The boys and their playful bickering, and Sensei's benevolent but firm presence.


Koharu had never quite figured out where exactly her relationship with the Niidaime Hokage had gone from student and sensei to...well, sensei in every sense of the word. She'd been what passed for a woman for some time, she supposed. An angry woman, at that - angry at Hiruzen, the perverted, flirtatious, shallow git. If she'd been perfectly honest, she'd wanted to get back at him...she just hadn't exactly planned on how at the time. She'd been angry, prideful, imperious and defiant, if clouded with her perception of the world for taking her father from her, and leaving her with an idiot for a team mate, who, for some reason or other, she tolerated.

But Sensei...Sensei had revealed a whole new world to her. It hadn't been all that awkward; she hardly saw him during the day by this point in her life, and as a bonus, it had pissed off Hiruzen something chronic when he'd gotten wind of it. He'd been so jealous that his glare alone could have set the trees ablaze, and she, selfish, ignorant, cocky girl, had crowed at it, crowed at giving him a taste of his own medicine. Teach him to call her flat-chested and bitchy, the jerk.

Still, for that infinitely precious time, Koharu had been content enough. Happy, even. She'd even allowed herself to dream of the prospect of growing old with Tobirama-sensei. Youthful fantasies, the desperately human hope of never being alone again.

And then Sensei was gone, too.

This time, time had not passed in a blur. It had been agonisingly slow, from the moment the albino-haired Hokage had fallen, to the moment where he'd been lain in his grave. Not once though, had she shown just how deeply her grief stabbed into her soul. He'd have been so proud; she'd finally learnt the lessons of restraint - a shinobi never shows emotion. It was better to be alone, and she'd closed her heart off to everyone. Not anyone, not a soul was to be allowed in.

Too bad Sarutobi Hiruzen had chosen that moment to show the heart he had. Buried deep under the bravado and perversion, it had taken the time out of preparing for it's new role as the village's protector to be by her side at every opportunity, often infuriatingly so, gently pulling bottles of sake away and holding her hair tenderly when she vomitted up the contents of her stomach into the Tower's gardens. It had even stood there, staunch and unmoved, when she'd finally thrown herself at him in a rage long suppressed, fists flying and ripping at his Hokage robes, voice shrill with grief and blame and 'how DARE you move Tobirama-sensei's stuff out of the office?'

Time had moved on, though, and she had moved on with it. The role of Advisor to the Hokage had taken up a relentless amount of her time, leaving her no room to dwell or lament. Even the prospect of flings had taken a backseat - though she'd wait for the day where somehow, someway, Hiruzen would discover just who exactly had taught Jiraiya and Orochimaru what they knew - and she'd thrown herself into the work, barely noticing the quiet moments where her perverted excuse for a Hokage would watch her with that disconcerting softness, that distinct gleam of tenderness that was so obvious it hurt.

She didn't notice it, refused to notice it, for fear of what might happen if she did so. It was easier to pretend it wasn't there, treat him with the same playful disdain she'd always treated him with, even when her insides burnt to a crisp with jealousy when he found a girlfriend he seemed somewhat happy with, if a bit shallowly so. And then the idiot had gotten her pregnant, and Koharu had been left to keep the pervert somewhat sane during the intervening years, putting aside her own jealousy in favour of supporting Hokage-sama.

Even that had paled in significance, though, when the next war rolled around. In it's own way, the Third Shinobi War had been a steeling of the heart in itself. They'd aged centuries in those few years, every death of those under them a shattering of the soul, every night spent wide awake another line in the skin. It had been the betrayal and eventual split of Hiruzen's former students that had done the staunch resolve of the Sandaime Hokage in, and in quieter moments, the gritty banshee that had become Advisor Koharu-sama gave a little to the passionate child she'd once been, shoulder to shoulder companiably with the man who'd gotten under her skin when all had been cold, the man she both loved and hated with fierce passion.

She'd often watched their shadows during those moments. It was a bittersweet dance to play witness to, the intimate embrace taunting and teasing, sake and tobacco scented breath mingling but never quite touching. And no matter how close it had come, it never had. Never once, in all those years. Not even when he'd retired for the genius Namikaze; it had just...been. A presence. Intangible yet solid, too frightening to broach and yet too sure to contemplate breaking from.

And now...there was nothing.

Nothing. All of them...gone. Her father, Tobirama-sensei...Hiruzen. Hiruzen.

The children who now lay flowers before his coffin had not known him. They'd known a figure, an immortal, kindly, unstoppable protector. The elder shinobi had known a man who'd walked with the weight of their world on his shoulders, their own weary experiences of the world shaping an understanding of sorts of the man who'd led them. But none of them had known him. Not Hiruzen, the gangly kid at heart with a love for good tobacco and a dislike for oysters of all things, the playful pervert who'd hidden a collection of bells in his drawers, souvenirs from his infuriating little primate summons, the man who'd been ill-equipped when it came to displaying his love and worse still at choosing the people to love, but who'd loved them nonetheless.

Koharu gripped the hitaite tightly within the folds of her robes, the red material worn pink with years gone by. If she tried hard enough, she could still smell the conditioner she'd used as a teenager amidst the unmisteakable scent of tobacco and sandalwood that had always permeated his presence, right down to the smallest of things. Like a hidden compartment in the back of the Hokage's drawer.

She'd learnt a long time ago that to fall prey to emotion was to fail as a shinobi. The brand of a coward, a weakness...and she was no coward. She'd lived long enough to prove that above and beyond the call of duty.

She'd lost more than anyone around her would ever know.

But in this one moment, as the rain drizzled away and those around her rejoiced in the coming of the sun, her hands shook against her old hitaite, found hidden away in his work drawer, and pain ripped through her embittered heart so fiercely that her hard features crumpled, black eyes shutting tight even as tears burnt at them angrily, freezing on her lashes.

She'd never been alone, not truly. Not so long as he'd been around. Not so long as he'd been there to squabble and share sake with, never touching even as their shadows mingled. Never broaching the self-imposed line she'd drawn around herself. Even with age, the loss of all that was dear around her, she'd never been on her own.

Her proud, perverted, self-righteous, stubborn, loving idiot.

Now...now, she was truly alone.

A/N: Don't hate me, Loves, Sammyquill! Rejoice more in the fun of figuring out what "vibes" and "themes" I put into this! As for the rest of you...if I actually made you feel sympathetic for surly, snarly old Koharu...my work is done. 8D