The heavy thump of the human heart is the most basic diagnosis any person can make. (Tsunade/Shizune)
Now here I go again, I see the crystal vision. I keep my visions to myself.
It's only me who wants to wrap around your dreams, and
Have you any dreams you'd like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness like a heartbeat... drives you mad.
In the stillness of remembering what you had, and what you lost.
Fleetwood Mac ~ Dreams
The heavy tha-thump, tha-thump of the human heart is the most basic diagnosis any person, doctor or nurse or medical trainee, can make. No heartbeat means death; variations in the rhythm can range from fear to excitement to serious physical problems. Shizune has learned all this carefully, heard it from the most famous and talented medic for thousands of miles around, and not forgotten a word. Even amateurs can figure out basic cardiac problems, and those specialised enough to spot even the tiniest changes in the heart's specific tone can mean that things are halted before they deteriorate.
If one can get close enough to hear another's heart, the patient has problems enough to warrant a check-up. Rule number two, and Shizune knows this one to her very bones, feels it from the sting she gets every time she puts one hand on Tsunade's chest to check her after a fight and has it knocked aside. Tsunade, lips quirking angrily, doesn't brook any arguments.
Shizune realises that she will probably never have cause to hear Tsunade's heartbeat, and she contents herself with knowing it would probably be just like her own. Stethoscope pressed to the curve of her own chest, Shizune listens to herself exist and feels that little bit closer to the only person she has ever really needed.
"You want to be a ninja, girl?"
Shizune was small, young, shedding the last sticking rasps of naivetÃ© that clung to her skin like burrs from a forest walk. She blinked at the girl's question, right hand tightening on the fold of her cloak, the cloth slipping between her gentle fingers. Eyes narrowing, Shizune stuck her chin out and leaned closer to the girl crouching a foot or so away.
"Yes," she replied, timidness veiling curiosity. Normally she would have gone on and on -- this little girl could chatter for hours on end about all the techniques she would learn, ones she had seen her father practise -- but her shyness was pillowing any desire to impress for the moment.
A careful look showed that this blonde stranger was well worth the second glance you couldn't quite hold back. One hand was draped across her knee as she smiled at Shizune, slim fingers relaxed and head tilted amicably. But it seemed to the little brunette that the knots of muscle just beneath the girl's skin would always be ready to twist themselves into sudden movements; they were full of purpose, something that seemed tangible to Shizune's wide eyes.
"Lady Tsunade will teach you well," said Shizune's mother, prodding her in the back and stepping away, voice tight. "Let her show you how to be strong. Like your uncle was." She paused, the silence loaded. "Grow up strong, and come home to me when you can."
Tsunade smiled at Shizune, straightening up, and there was something in the weary way she did it that showed the bewildered little girl that this young woman was not quite what she seemed.
Shizune has been with Tsunade for years, and can make a diagnosis on her teacher without any contact at all. The angles of her joints are the first clue; tautness means frustration or distress. The shape of her eyes are next, and if they're any narrower than the thickness of her little finger, Tsunade is too lost in thought to pay any attention to anything at all, importance ignored. Third is the tone of her voice, whether it's wavering or strained or just too slurred to be sincere. Shizune knows all the signs of any ill feeling Tsunade is capable of, and exactly how to react to set her back on track.
Still, Shizune feels let down every time Tsunade slumps, drunk, into bed. Her efforts are never praised, barely even recognised. She had imagined that being Lady Tsunade's attendant would mean honour and careful training, a woman wise and strong to teach her how things went.
Well, Shizune thinks, snorting at the irony there is that. She knows far more now of the way the world works - how to spot weakness in somebody's stance and just where to hit so that they black out; the intricacy of poisons, how they wind about the head or heart or lungs, and how much will do the most effective damage; the cool damp of nights spent pressed against walls, barely breathing as she and Tsunade run from responsibility yet again. Shizune knows exactly how it feels to be pushed away until she punishes herself for mistakes she never made.
Tsunade is wise, and she is strong, but she is barely company for a young woman growing up. If Shizune didn't feel such loyalty to her, she would have said something long ago; but insulting Tsunade would be too far beyond her wildest dreams to be a thought even faintly acknowledged.
Shizune doesn't dream of the day when she is honest with Tsunade about herself -- she dreams of the day when the past few years just won't matter anymore. When Tsunade will look deeper than she ever has, and see just how hard Shizune takes being pushed away.
Not quite right, Shizune found herself thinking. This wasn't right, not in any of the little ways she knew it would be like if the time ever came; her smile widened at this thought, and Shizune let herself go, senses absorbing every facet of what she knew was an exceptionally vivid dream. This happened almost every night. Shizune knew what to expect by now.
Tsunade was straddling her knees a few inches away, head bowed as she traced widening spirals on the younger girl's left thigh. She breathed in waves that Shizune could see, exhaled breath writhing away and up into the air, to dissipate just where her lazy eyes were resting. Somewhere in the sky. Somewhere too far away to see properly, much less care about.
Another quick breath, and Tsunade began to lift the material of Shizune's kimono, knotting it between a handful of fingers. How had they come to this point? Shizune tried to recall exactly how it had started, but found that all the energy she had left was focussed exactly where Tsunade was touching her. The air was cooling quickly in the wan evening sun; goosebumps dotted themselves about Shizune's bare skin, then smoothed away under the touch of her teacher's spare fingertips.
Shizune could feel the tiny callouses on Tsunade's fingers, souvenirs of hands that were used to work. They rasped against Shizune's skin, sending a million tiny shocks skittering up her spine to gather in touches of heat along her cheeks. Tsunade still held Shizune's kimono, lifted it loose around the base of her stomach and sent draughts of chilled air around her navel. Shizune shivered, half with cold and half with unthinkable delight, and waited for what she knew would come next.
All at once, Tsunade had freed her fingers and hooked two of them around the edges of Shizune's underwear, tugging carefully downward and in towards her own body. This sudden change of speed made Shizune freeze, lips parted as she tried and failed to repress another shiver. Her spine was pressed painfully against the grass; but Tsunade's fingers brushed against her hip, and it suddenly felt for all the world like she was numb, Shizune couldn't feel any discomfort at all.
"Oh... I should--"
Tsunade curled her fingers where they lay, dug her fingertips into the sparse flesh of Shizune's hip. She made a soft sound, gentler than either could hear, more a feeling than a noise. Where her other hand rested, her fingers trembled too; Shizune arched upwards, reaching for the little cloud of Tsunade's breath she could almost see ghosting from her lips. The hand on her hip pressed her back to the earth, and it was a stronger resistance than she could match.
"I--" Shizune began again, the rush of words in her throat pushing up and out. "You have to see that," she took a deep breath, "that I--"
She couldn't see any further than the hand on her hip, but Shizune could feel every movement that Tsunade made like a blow to the head. More dizzying than anything she had ever felt, could ever imagine. Two fingers pressed inside her, and the words that Shizune had wanted to say were swallowed without a thought.
That I don't want it quite like this.
Breath coming ragged, Shizune curled her toes into the grass beneath her feet with all the desperation in her body. Tsunade scissored her fingers, and one leg lifted and fell, shaking and taut. Tsunade pressed further forward, and Shizune felt herself stiffening. Every part of her body was waiting for this, contracted and ready to feel exactly what it was she knew was coming--
Shizune woke up.
These dreams keep Shizune awake at night, trembling against the bathroom wall. She closes her eyes, false memories pressing at her eyelids until she feels close to fainting; colours are painted on the arches of her eyes, situations and fairytale endings that would make any girl blush. The pink of Shizune's cheeks stands out against the white of the rest of her face, and the pale deathly dank of the bathroom stall. "And maybe if I was another girl..." she murmurs, eyelashes dancing dark against her cheeks. Maybe she wouldn't be here now, getting herself off on something so impossible.
Shizune thinks of Tsunade, simple things like watching Tsunade laugh, smelling the sake on her breath, the silent power in Tsunade's body as she flicks from age to age, child to girl to teenager, older and inbetween, and then to her real age...
Heartbeat screaming against the cold wall, hand fisting in her underwear, Shizune listens to herself, her erratic heart, and feels that little bit closer to the only person she has never been able to touch.