Brothers and Girls

The only person Jiraiya had to say goodbye to before he left was already with him.

"I'm too stupid to stay down." Jiraiya smoothed his thumb over the picture. "Right?" He nodded to himself. "Well, this is the final mission. It doesn't matter anymore. I'm getting out of here. One way or another." He snorted softly and gave the picture a wry smile. "Probably 'another', right? You always said I was stupid." He rose and tucked the photograph into his yukata, against his chest. "Let's see how stupid I am."

Unlike Kakashi, he'd always carried his memorial with him. A single picture of his brother, standing with his arm around his fiance. The woman he'd died for. Not that they both hadn't died in the end.


It hurt, losing the only family he had ever known. Despite the age difference, despite his father's intention that they become godfather and godson, they had been more like brothers.

"I love you." Naruto squeezed his eyes shut, gritting his teeth against the tears. He clenched his hands tightly at his sides. All of the jokes and petty arguments were suddenly bitter. Bile in his throat. "I didn't want you to leave. I didn't want you to ever leave."

He gripped the gravestone, rasping his fingers against the rough stone. "It's all about girls, isn't it? In the end, it's the girls. They tell you to do something, so you do it. There isn't room."

There wasn't room for him to love Jiraiya, room for Jiraiya to love him. Tsunade had broken Jiraiya's heart, trampled him, tossed him aside, given him orders. Allowed him to go. Naruto knew his life wasn't any different. Sakura put him down, dismissed him, used him to get to Sasuke. He was a body shield, the muscle, the determination she lacked to go after Sasuke and bring him home. Sakura was just using him. Like Tsunade used Jiraiya. Someday, he would be Hokage, and Sakura would still reject him.

A bitterer thought crossed Naruto's mind. Or maybe I'll die trying. I'll be like Tsunade's brother. Or Dan.

Maybe I'll never get to be Hokage. Like Jiraiya. Maybe I'll have my chance and lose the confidence.

Or maybe I'll be like my dad. Maybe I'll be Hokage for a few months, a sweet, short while, and then someone will come along and kill me because I'll have to sacrifice myself for the village.

Worst, he might be like Kakashi. Losing everyone around him, over and over again, being offered the position of Hokage and then denied it when someone else comes along, doomed to teach children and watch them die, watch them tear each other apart, watch everyone else go around you like a rock in a stream until their names are all carved on some memorial stone.


The fresh gravestone of his teammate was like a new scar for an old wound.

"You understand why I do it now, don't you?" Kakashi said. He paused, struggling with himself, a hot, tight feeling in his chest. "I blame Rin. She was the girl that came between us. She was…She was the reason –" He turned away and bowed his head. "You wouldn't have gone if it weren't for her. I wouldn't have argued if it weren't for her. We wouldn't be like this."

He whispered, "We were like brothers."