There's a war going on, but all they want to do is drink and reminisce. Set before events of Shippuden. Written for naruto_flashfic at LJ.
You're about to bet everything on a single hand, maybe lose it all (a prime possibility, considering your 'winning streak'). Your hand, reaching out to place your killer card hand down, finds itself momentarily paused by another's touch, and the sudden warmth of contact breaks your focus. You look up to see gray hair framing a face flushed from drinking too damn hard. /'Jiraiya'/, your brain is able to register before he's pulling you off the ground and to the bar, leaving a very agitated circle of players in the drunken wake of the Great Sannin.
You're somewhat angry that Jiraiya ruined your killer hand, but the feeling fades the longer your cup is filled with the sweet liquid of your homeland. All the while, the white-haired man is half-watching you, half-watching the crowd milling about in their best robes and jackets. Tonight is the Third Hokage's birthday, and where there once were tears are now smiles and drunken revelry. You are both part of it and leading the pack, and its your cup that heads every toast and every impromptu karaoke session.
Someone hands Jiraiya the mike, and a hush falls on the crowd surrounding him and you. Did you know he could sing? Not very well, but his enthusiasm and knowledge of the lyrics make up for his poor ability. It's a song from when you two were children, a song about star-crossed sweethearts and lost love never to be found. Nostalgia takes you back to the days of learning under the Hokage alongside the frog and the snake - and you excuse yourself from the crowded room even as Jiraiya is singing the last warbling bars of the song. You say you need air (you do need air, and space) and the moisture on your face is spilled sake (your tears burn like alcohol, so it must be true).
The smattering of scattered stars across the sky has never looked more beautiful than tonight. You wipe the sake from your lips and the tears from your face; no one is watching you here, but a sense of dignity must still be maintained, if only for your sake. For a moment, all you can sense is the cooling of the night air, and the combined smells of fish broiling and alcoholic fumes tempt you into a false sense of security. Then there, in your peripheral, appears that familiar tone of gray, speaking with that familiar tone of voice, and the illusion is lost.
"Oh, it's you, Jiraiya." You say this as if you didn't know that he'd eventual come after you, like a dog in heat---no, stop that. You're wrong, and you know it and he probably knows it too, and would just laugh it off casually if he suspected. That is, if he doesn't already.
"Oh, Tsunade-/hime/!" Jiraiya hiccups and looks around red-faced, surprised. "I didn't see you there, hiding in the shadows." A smile tugs at his lips like it belongs there. "Wait long?"
"I wasn't waiting for you," and you both know that's a lie. "You should work on your pick-up lines some more - no wonder you're a bachelor."
The white-haired man just laughs. "I'm too much of a prime choice for the fairer sex of Konoha to handle . . . but I'll find myself that perfect maiden one day. You'll see!"
"She'll need the stomach to get as shit-faced as you on a daily basis, then," you say. The two of you both end up laughing as if it was funnier than it really was. Your ribs ache with the pressure.
From a pouch on his belt, he pulls out a white ceramic bottle and two cups. You two quietly drink sake and watch the sky deepen from blue to black. The silence disturbs you; you have never known Jiraiya to be so silent, especially while alcohol is being passed around. There is only the sound of thoughts being collected, and others being stored away for safe keeping.
You're the first to speak. "You're leaving tomorrow." It's a statement, not a question, even if you want it to be, or you want Jiraiya to rethink his decision for just a fraction of a second.
"Yup," Jiraiya answers and takes a direct swig from the bottle (a disgusting habit he has yet to shake off, although a little endearing). "I'm taking him to see the world, after all. The forests, the deserts, the oceans and mountains - we're going to cross every one of them!"
You give a low chuckle. "All of them, Toad-/san/? Or are you just being the typical artist again?" You wonder, off-hand, if Jiraiya will be doing more research for his book on the side. As a matter of fact, he hasn't told you the plot (ha!) of the latest one, not even the working title.
Jiraiya grins and waves one hand as if to blow away your words. "My words are precious, like the cherry blossoms, Tsunade-/san/." He's showing the typical signs of a sloshed nin as he begins to slur and waver in place while clumsily trying to right himself. "Gotta keep the good ones to myself, yeah?" His last words comes out as "yeash".
"Bring him back in one piece, okay?" you ask, and Jiraiya knows it's not young Uzumaki you're talking about. The air is static with spent drink and unspoken words. His drinking binge ends here.
You guide the drunken man back to his room, weaving through alleys so less people know of the state he's in, despite his reputation preceding himself. He takes a step forward, takes a couple weaving steps back, and steps almost into a wall until your steady arms lead him back onto the path and eventually onto the futon in his ramshackle excuse of a bedroom.
He runs a slow hand through your hair and whispers that you're a beautiful woman before passing out and fills the room with his nasal snores. You finish off the bottle you stole from Jiraiya's pouch, silently, so the cicadas outside the door cannot hear the tears forming on your face.