Tsunade was conscious that she was no longer alone long before she picked out his chakra and realized who her visitor was. She shrugged herself out of her self-induced haze and looked up, at the door.
Jiraiya stood there.
Tsunade knew better to ask why he was here. She'd just get a joke, or an evasion, or both rolled into one. She let her frustration slide. "Late night?"
Jiraiya shrugged. "Maybe not."
Depends on when you go to bed, I suppose. Never mind that it's eleven o'clock and I've been up since seven. Her second day as Hokage, and she was already exhausted. Stupid of her. She needed to pace herself. Otherwise she'd never get any work done. But there was so much to get done. It felt like an eternal paradox: to get work done she had to work hard, and the harder she worked, the less she'd be able to work the next day. She didn't know how Hiruzen had done it.
"How's it feel, Hokage-sama?" Jiraiya asked.
Tsunade raised an eyebrow. That title addressed to her felt strange coming from his lips. She almost said that. Then she pulled herself back, reminding herself that his question could mean anything. "What?"
"To be back," Jiraiya said.
She was almost disappointed that his question was so innocent. She shrugged. Conflicted. Lost. Like I don't belong here. After all, I left. I betrayed this place I called home.
Jiraiya gave her a look.
Tsunade looked out the window. She surveyed the evening landscape. "How often do you think he sat here?"
Jiraiya hung back by the door for a moment, then crossed the office quietly and stood by the desk. "All the time."
"Just looking out at the village…" Tsunade felt guilty for spilling her thoughts to this man. She hadn't seen him for years. Wasn't close to him anymore. "Thinking about the people asleep in their beds. How vulnerable they are. How much their dreams depend on the person up here, in this office, so they can sleep the whole night through…and never worry about waking up in the morning."
"All the time," Jiraiya said, resting his hand on her shoulder. "All the time."
Tsunade wouldn't admit how good his hand felt, squeezing her shoulder. Warm, and familiar. She shrugged it off with a sigh and turned to face him. "Jiraiya, what are you doing here?"
"Want a drink?" Jiraiya held up the bottle of sake he'd smuggled in. Somehow. With his other hand, he dangled two shot glasses in front of her.
Tsunade snorted, and smiled. "Shizune would kill me."
Jiraiya grinned cheerfully. "I take it that's a yes, then."
Tsunade shook his head. "You really shouldn't be encouraging me to drink."
Jiraiya set the shot glasses on her desk and poured them both a couple shots, then set the sake bottle down and picked up a glass.
Tsunade stared at the shot glass he left for her and sake bottle without really seeing them. My desk. How strange is that?
Jiraiya raised his glass to her.
Tsunade took up her glass and raised it to him in return.
Jiraiya didn't say anything, just drank.
Tsunade followed suit. It burned all the way down. She'd missed it. The comforting glow lit in her chest, making her feel less empty. "Are you staying here?"
"What do you mean?" Jiraiya asked.
"In the village. Like me." Tsunade examined the empty shot glass.
Jiraiya promptly filled it.
"Don't do that," she informed him.
"It's polite," Jiraiya said.
"I don't care about being polite."
Jiraiya smiled wryly. "You aren't."
Tsunade laughed and knocked back her second shot of sake. "You're staying, then. You just hate saying it."
Jiraiya nodded. "Too many memories around this old place."
Tsunade looked around the office, at the lengthening shadows. "I know." She'd stood here once. On the other side of the desk. And her sensei had been here, with his big hat and his pipe and his snowy robes, giving her a mission.
She shook her head, tears clinging to her eyelashes, and held her glass out for another drink.
Jiraiya shook his head in return and took the bottle away. "When you start crying, I stop serving."
"You can't tell me that!" Tsunade snarled, but then she stopped, stricken.
Jiraiya looked taken aback, and then swept around to her side of the desk, folding her in a hug.
She sobbed, clinging to him. "Why did it have to turn out this way? He was supposed to live forever!"
"Tell Orochimaru that," Jiraiya said. "Stupid bastard. What'd he have to kill Sensei for?"
Tsunade realized she smelled sake on his breath. A lot more than he'd drank with her. She glanced at the sake bottle dangling from his hand. It was almost empty. That explains why he came looking for me. Old fool hates drinking alone. He always did. And the stupid questions… She shook her head. Then she realized Jiraiya had stopped her crying. Her anger had swept it all away. Anger was better than sadness.
She patted his back awkwardly. "Jiraiya-kun…"
Jiraiya shook his head and let go, straightening. "You're right."
"What?" She looked up at him, confused.
Jiraiya smiled at her half-heartedly. "You're always going to call me that, aren't you? And you're always going to be Tsunade-hime." He bowed unsteadily, almost losing his balance. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have intruded, Hime."
"Now, wait a minute," Tsunade protested. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Jiraiya withdrew, headed for the door. He took backward steps, as if unable to take his eyes off of her. "I shouldn't have…come." His voice dropped to a whisper on the last word. The shadows falling across his face made him seem frightened. "I'm sorry."
Tsunade planted her hands on the armrests of her chair and hauled herself to her feet. "Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute…you're not going anywhere." She was dismayed at having chased him away. Hadn't he come to comfort her? He had, hadn't he? And she – somehow, all too easily – had brushed him away. Somehow she didn't even understand.
Jiraiya paused, his hand on the doorframe. "Why not?"
Tsunade sauntered over to him and stood in front of him, right in his face, raising her head to look him in the eye. "Because I told you not to."
"There's our Tsunade-hime," Jiraiya murmured. "Ordering me around as much as ever."
"Well, you have to, don't you?" Tsunade retorted, tilting her head. "Do what I say."
Jiraiya licked his lips, looking at her warily. He was frozen. "Maybe I do."
"So stay here," Tsunade said, pointing at him. Her finger came dangerously close to poking his cheek.
Jiraiya tensed, his eyes wide and his brow furrowed.
Tsunade liked that look, somehow. He was paying her full attention, not joking and turning away. She grabbed a lock of his hair, one of those long, snowy locks that framed his face, and pulled on it, yanking his lips down in reach. She kissed him, mouthing his lips, demanding a response.
Jiraiya planted his hands on her shoulders, not quite pushing her away. Maintaining their distance. Keeping their bodies from touching. His mouth didn't fight hers. It gave in, grudgingly cooperating.
Tsunade pulled away, just enough to breathe. She dared him to say anything with her eyes, panting, her chest heaving.
"I don't want you to –" Jiraiya began, his eyes flashing.
Tsunade silenced him with a kiss, gripping his jaw and letting go of his hair. She reached up with her other hand, cupping his face. His hands slipped off of her shoulders, and she pressed him against the closed door. He made a small noise against her mouth. She grabbed two handfuls of his haori, pulling him tight, trapping him between her body and the door.
When she opened her eyes and looked up at him through her eyelashes, she saw that his eyes were wide. She gently ended the kiss. "I'm not leaving here," she said, conscious of how she swayed. "Without you," she finished after a moment, realizing she'd left off the last part, left it in her head.
"What –" Jiraiya tried to scoot away from her.
Tsunade opened the door with one hand, her other hand still firmly fisted in his haori. She pushed him through the door first and then dragged him down the hallway. He stumbled over his own feet but didn't fall, keeping up with her lead, a half-step behind.
"You're – " Jiraiya glanced at the stairs with alarm. "You're going to kill us."
"Don't be stupid," Tsunade said.
"We're drunk," Jiraiya protested. "The stairs are a death trap."
Tsunade glared at him, then at the stairs. They did look kind of dangerous. She sniffed. "Fine, then." She teleported them to her living room with a flash of hand seals.
Jiraiya stumbled and tripped over her coffee table, flying backwards and landing flat on his back, dislodging one of his geta in the process. He looked up at her, startled, and scrambled to his feet, kicking off his other geta and gathering them up. "I – You – You didn't have to do that."
"I did have to," Tsunade said. "We weren't going to get home." Not that this place was home yet, exactly. It was just more comfortable than a hotel.
"This is home?" Jiraiya asked. He looked around the pastel colored living room, as if trying to see her in it and failing. His assessment was uncomfortably accurate.
"Now it is." She crossed over to him and grabbed his haori again, pulling him down the hallway and through the doorway to her bedroom.
Jiraiya froze, looking from her to the bed in apparent panic, but she pushed him towards the bed. Maybe a little harder than she meant to, because he flew at it and sat down hard. The mattress gave with a bounce and let out an injured squeak of coiled springs. "Tsunade, you don't want to do it this way, trust me, you don't want to do something you'll regret, I mean we've never even done this before, not like this, on a night like this, and you just –"
Tsunade stormed after him and climbed onto her bed, pulling him down with her. "Shut up, will you?" She lay on her back, wrapping an arm around his side and resting his head against her bosom. "Just shut up." She stroked his hair, running her fingers through it. "You're so…loud."
Jiraiya rested against her like a mouse, afraid to move and afraid to speak. She saw that as a provisional improvement.
"You're so loud," she said softly. "Why do you do that? Don't you want this? Didn't you always want to do this sometime? I don't understand you."
"Not while you're drunk," he said carefully, enunciating each word as if he thought she didn't hear the words.
"So?" Tsunade snorted.
Jiraiya tried to get up. Tsunade pressed him back down again, one hand on his chest. It was a muscular chest, underneath all the clothing. It was impossible to tell visually. To the touch, it was hard, toned. She could feel his heart beating against her hand.
"Forgive me," Tsunade said, conscious of how tired she was suddenly. Her eyelids were heavy. She shook her head slightly. "For being so…bad." She meant many things by that. Her drinking, her gambling, her penchant for smoky places and seedy places and ducking responsibility. Her coarse language and her super strength. Her way of hiding her emotions behind actions. Her way of using him.
Always, in the end, using him.
She nuzzled the top of his head, feathery white hair tickling her nose, and sighed. She let her breath go out, and out, and her eyes close, and her mind drift away. She felt the heaviness steal over her and welcomed it. Sleep. Yes. That would be nice.
Tsunade shifted against a hard, immovable object and became annoyed. There should not be immovable objects in her bed. She stopped pushing when someone said, "Ow. Stop that. You're like – pushing me out of bed, Hime."
She knew that someone.
Tsunade rubbed her eyes. "Jiraiya? What the hell are you doing in my bed?"
"You seduced me," Jiraiya said. He was lying on his side, looking at her reproachfully still from all the shoving. "I think."
"You think?" Tsunade asked. She didn't know whether or not to be offended.
"Well, I'm glad that ended when it did," Jiraiya said. He propped himself up on one arm. "And your breath stinks."
"Thanks," Tsunade mumbled, scratching her head and trying to blink the fuzziness out of her vision. "Who asked you to stay here, anyway?"
"You did," Jiraiya retorted. He sat up and waved his hands. "You were all –" He unfocused his eyes and imitated her 'drunk face', which he knew she hated. "I'm not leaving." He put just the right amount of emphasis in the words, too. Mimicking her manner of speaking, even if he didn't bother with the falsetto. "Without you."
Tsunade ground her teeth together and forced himself upright. "Well, you're the one that got me drunk."
"You're the one that started crying," Jiraiya said.
"You're the one who looked so sexy when he was confused," Tsunade hissed, narrowing her eyes at him. She immediately wished she could take it back.
Jiraiya's jaw dropped. "I – w-what?" It was almost as if he didn't hear her. Didn't she just say not to look confused and sexy? When he wasn't making some stupid joke, wasn't smirking about something at her expense, when his eyes took on that look of boyish surprise –
"Shut up," Tsunade snapped, sliding off of the bed and getting to her feet with as much dignity as she could muster.
"Anyway, why are we arguing about this?" he protested. He looked around and seemed to realize he was lounging on her bed all by himself. He scrambled up and tried to smooth out the wrinkles in his haori. It wasn't working. "Nothing happened!"
Tsunade wrinkled her nose. "Nothing, except that you ended up in my bed for the night." She pointed at him. "And your breath stinks, too."
"At least our clothes don't smell like pipe smoke," Jiraiya said. "We'd smell even worse if we went on our drinking binge with Sensei."
Tsunade sobered, her eyes aching with unshed tears. She glanced at the door to the master bathroom. "I wish we did."
Jiraiya dropped the argument in a heartbeat and came up behind her, gently folding his arms around her shoulders and leaning against her. "I know. I'm sorry."
"What're you sorry for?" She glared at him over his shoulder.
"I should've been there," Jiraiya said. "If I had gotten there in time, Sensei wouldn't be dead." His head dropped, resting against the crook of her neck and shoulder. "But you know me. I'm always late."
He said that without an ounce of humor, mumbling the words with such regret that she was tempted to turn around and pull him into her arms.
She was sober, so she didn't. "You need a shower," she said instead. "Guests first. Get inside my bathroom and shower off. Use some mouthwash while you're at it. Maybe then I can stand to be within three feet of you."
"Yes, Tsunade-hime," Jiraiya said. He trudged past her to the bathroom and closed the door behind him.
She half-expected to hear him singing in the shower, like he did every time they'd all shared a room during missions that took them away from home. Loud, bombastic, imitation opera singing.
But she didn't hear anything. Not a sound except the rushing water. She wondered if she'd stolen the music from his mouth with her harshness. It wouldn't be the first time. She seemed doomed to pummel him until he stopped ticking. She wondered for the first time how things always ended up this way: Jiraiya hurt, her feeling guilty – not too much guilty, just a little sliding edge of guilt like the tip of a kunai gliding underneath her skin. Just enough to sting and make her wonder.
Did she really want to crush him? Or was it all part of some game she didn't understand? Could she really be so clumsy, with all of her strength?
Maybe she was. Maybe she had a lot of things to make up for now that she was back in town.