|12-27-2008, 01:24 PM||#1|
tale of galant jiraiya
Join Date: Oct 2008
Thanked 107 Times in 62 Posts
Winter Has A Past
It was winter and people were celebrating. For some, they called it Christmas. Others called it the Winter Festival. Some even claimed to celebrate the equinox. No matter their beliefs or even personal reasons, people were celebrating. For Tsunade, she was just grateful to have gotten through the year. The accomplishments that the village had achieved were great despite whatever adverse conditions had befallen on it. It was reason to be proud, and reason to be joyous.
The entire festive spirit had prompted her to throw a small party. So Shizune, Naruto, Jiraiya, and her found themselves sitting in a small bar, not unlike the first time she had met Naruto. They ate dinner and played cards, her desire for gambling never quite sated. Then Jiraiya and her drank while Naruto ate some more. Shizune watched everything, content to sit there and smile. Perhaps Tsunade's assistant summed up the entire atmosphere in her actions. The intimacy of four friends, who were essentially family, celebrating the fact that they were together gave the feeling of happiness. It was a feeling that she hadn't felt in far too long. She didn't think anything could make it better.
Then Naruto spoke up. He held out a small white flower towards her. "It's not much" he began, "but I wanted to give this to you." That simple statement sparked something.
"It's not much, but I wanted to give this to you." Tsunade looked up from her view of the river. She had been leaning upon the rail, staring at the ice flows as they crept downstream. She shouldn't have been surprised to see the Yondaime Hokage. If anyone could discover that she was currently in Konoha, he would.
He walked towards her, his feet crushing minute ice crystals as he held out a small scroll towards her. At first she ignored him, turning back to the river below. It was childish, she realized, but part of her could but feel resentment towards the man who had accomplished the very thing that both her lover, and her brother desired. She hoped that he would leave whatever it was and leave her alone.
Instead, he said nothing and joined her by leaning against the rail next to her. Still she ignored him. "You know Tsunade, I love to feel the winter wind. There's something about the bitter chill of it that reminds me just how alive I am, and how much I love life." He played a bit with the scroll in his hands. "Perhaps it is because the wind is so inhospitable that the contrast reminds me of everything I have, and everything that I've lost..." He let his words trail off, baiting her a bit to speak.
She knew what he was doing, but he was becoming too hard to ignore. "Who I may have or may not have lost is none of your business." The words were cold as the weather, void of as much emotion as she could manage, but it was in that attempt to make her voice untainted that she gave away her grief. Anger stole its way from her throat, and a tear slid from her eye.
The Yondaime in turn reached out and grabbed her chin, turning her to look him. With his other hand, he put the scroll down and then brushed away the tear, holding her face in both hands. He had a smile on his face, and despite how much younger he was than her, she felt as if an older, gentler parent was beaming a look at her that told her that everything was going to be okay. Then taking up the scroll again, he pressed it to her hands.
"Take it." She looked down to the case, then back at him.
"What is it?" He turned back to the river before he answered.
"Something stupid." She didn't think he was going to say anything else, but he continued. "Basically it's a thank you from the village for your service. I don't know. It seemed kind of inappropriate, when compared to the weight of what you've given up, but sometimes we give what we can instead of what we want."
A village thanks? She almost spat on it. This place had taken too much from her. She didn't want the thanks of the village. She wanted her family back. She swung her arm back to pitch the scroll into the river, but a hand stopped her.
"Don't. I realize that you can't appreciate it now, but at least read it. Maybe one day the grief will let you alone long enough to be happy once again." Only when she seemed to calm a little did he let her hand go. Oddly, it was her that spoke next.
"I came back because as much as I try to run from the memories, sometimes I have to see the places that spawned them." She didn't know why she told him that. She hadn't planned on telling anyone why she was back.
He placed a hand behind her, rubbing her back to comfort her. "Running away isn't always the best thing to do. You'll never heal like that." She tried to shrug the hand away, but he returned it.
"So what? What if I don't want to heal? This life has taken everything away from me. I can't let it take my memories too." Instead of saying anything else to counteract her, he stayed there, massaging her back muscles until she finally began to cry. She let the sobs out, no longer trying to hold back the tears. She had come here to cry, but even after standing in some of the very spots that caused her anguish she had refused to cry.
She didn't know how long she cried unrestrained, but eventually her tears came to a halt and she could weep no longer. She returned to her view of the river. Winter was nice in Konoha. The wind blew, the ice melted and flowed, and in the process she felt a bit more alive. The Yondaime was right about that. Perhaps the barren winter helped you remember the better parts of life you missed. So together they stood and enjoyed the December silence, allowing the crisp air tinge their faces in pink.
"Why?" she asked. He let his arm drop to in between them.
"Perhaps because there is no one in this village that needed my help right now more than you. Perhaps because you who has lost so much, deserved a comforting voice. Or maybe it was just because I've always found you beautiful and I couldn't sit by and watch you in pain." Her cheeks were already red from the cold, but her ears suddenly heated up.
"Hokage... I don't know if that's really something appropriate to say." In response, he laughed.
"If I can't say that, then I don't know who could. After all, I don't think anyone else is going to tell me what I can or cannot do."
"Still, it's inappropriate. Besides, I'm much older than you."
He took a moment to brush his hand across her face. "You know, when I first met you after Jiraiya started training me, I thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I knew I wanted to be with you."
She let the implications of what he had said set in. She thought about what he was proposing, and she struck the thought down. Tsunade shook her head. Not another person who was that devoted to the village. "No. I can't. I can't go down that road again. It's too painful."
"I know. But I didn't know if you would ever return again. I had to tell you."
With that he kissed her. It was a chaste kiss, and even with the conflicting emotion within her, it was still a wonderful experience. "I know you will probably never come back, or even want to, but I want you to try to remember what your family died for. Why they were willing to do what they did. Perhaps if you do, someone will someday be able to get you to come back. I'll be waiting for you when you decide to take that chance again." Then he turned and began to walk away.
He almost made it to the end of the bridge before he turned back and yelled over his shoulder. "Do me a favor and always stay that beautiful. The world is a much better place with your pretty face." And with that, he was gone.
Tsunade clutched the scroll he had given to her. She didn't really care what it said, but she would hold onto it.
The memory over, Tsunade could only smile as she reached out to take the proffered gift from Naruto. How had he found such a beautiful thing in the middle of winter?
"Thank you Naruto. It means a lot to me." A strand of tears eked their way onto her cheek. Not much? It was better than anything he could have given her. So as she cradled the white petaled gift between her fingers, she could only wonder how odd it was that a flower could bring back memories of a winter long past.
What if she had come back sooner? Would she have been the one to cry as he sacrificed himself to seal the Kyubi? It hadn't mattered for when she heard that he was dead, she had still cried for him. Then she had done what he had asked and remained beautiful. She would do it for him.
No, though she had never come back while he was still alive, whatever else he had been right when he said someone would eventually show her the correct path. Naruto had proven the Yondaime's words beyond doubt. And because of that, his gift to her had been perfect.
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