"Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura waved enthusiastically at the man halfway across the crowded room.
The Copy-nin tore his eyes away from his book, glanced up at Sakura and gave her a smile. Tsunade supposed it was a smile; hard to tell with that mask on.
Tsunade favoured his book with a stern look. Yes, this official party was pretty damn boring, but if Tsunade was going to put up with it, then Kakashi should at least pretend to- wait a sec.
"Sakura...what is that man reading?" Tsunade asked in a dangerous voice.
Sakura's gaze twitched away from her ex-teacher to her new - and temperamental - mentor. "Erm...a book...written by a...well-respected member of the community...about...romance?"
Tsunade noted with passing approval that Sakura was demonstrating both loyalty and quite a lot of imagination in defending her one-time team leader (who was now trying to edge around a pillar to get away from Tsunade's venomous glare).
"Really? It looks like the trash Jiraiya writes. I can recognize the cover from here."
Sakura sighed, visibly giving up. "Yes, I'm afraid he reads that all the time."
All the time?
Tsunade frowned. Strange. She'd seen Kakashi reading before, though she'd never paid that much attention to it. He was reading porn all that time? How bizarre. Not the 'reading porn' bit; after growing up with Jiraiya, Tsunade had no more faith left in the male half of the human race. What was strange was that his attitude; Tsunade had seen people read rules and regulation with more passion and involvement than that. Either Kakashi was the best undercover op in the entire village by far...or he was the only man on the planet who actually did read stuff like that for the stories.
"He needs a girlfriend," Tsunade muttered, glaring at the tuft of white hair which was now the only thing visible of Kakashi behind the decorative pillar. "I take it he doesn't have one."
Sakura choked on her punch; Tsunade had some as well, though hers was, shall we say, spiced up from the contents of a discreetly hidden bottle. She was determined to survive this dull official function somehow.
"Ah, no. No girlfriend," Sakura wheezed, looking as if the very idea was a bizarre and mind-bending concept.
"No wonder. Although...maybe he bats for the other team, hm?"
Sakura looked confused. "What? What other team? He's still officially our team leader, once Naruto gets back."
Maybe Tsunade should cut down on the punch-spicing. She'd forgotten she was talking to a thirteen-year-old Sakura, not Shizune. She'd insisted Sakura come with her to the party to 'broaden her horizons', but maybe that was a bit too much broadening.
"Just wondering who he was talking to," she muttered, trying to distract a puzzled Sakura by nodding towards the pillar and the person who'd approached it.
"Oh, that's Iruka-sensei." Sakura waved with enthusiasm again. Iruka - one of their teachers, Tsunade remembered - noticed the gesture and waved back, smiling.
Iruka had placed himself so that Kakashi had to come out from behind the pillar to talk to him, though the Jounin had had the good idea of losing the book before he emerged. Tsunade watched the two men with interest.
"So, does Iruka-sensei have a girlfriend?" she purred, trying not to snicker. She was ready to bet not, since he'd zoomed in across the whole room towards Kakashi, eyes extremely intent and oblivious to all others, including a rather pretty redhead who'd nearly collided with him breasts-first.
"Er, no, he doesn't." Sakura appeared mildly appalled at the idea. Apparently teachers weren't supposed to have a sex life.
Tsunade watched the two Shinobi interact. She read Iruka's lips as he asked Kakashi...
...about a report the latter had forgotten to file.
Hmm, playing it cool in public? Tsunade stopped watching the lips and started to observe body language.
Iruka's body language firmly declared: 'I'm very irritated to have to hunt you down at a goddamn party to recuperate a report that you should have given me ages ago.'
Kakashi's body language announced: 'Please stop breaking my balls about that bloody report and go have a drink, maybe you'll learn to relax.'
Tsunade let out a disappointed sigh. No secret academy romance to jazz up the evening. She discreetly slipped a bit more 'spice' into her punch.
"How about those two? Are they dating?" she added, nodding towards Asuma and Kurenai.
Sakura was starting to look at her in a mildly scandalized way. "Erm, no. Kakashi-sensei teases them about it from time to time, and so do their teams, but I don't think they're, erm, seeing each other. The few times they're together, it's always business-related."
"...okay." Their body-language confirmed this. "How about..."
Tsunade's gaze passed over Gai, Ibiki and Anko, huddled together and talking about interrogation techniques. No, not even going there.
"Is there anybody dating anybody in this village?" Tsunade groused.
"Erm, nobody I know. Is this a test?" Sakura was looking at her suspiciously. Tsunade should probably ease up on those ?pop-quiz', do-or-die lessons she gave the kid; they were apparently starting to play with Sakura's head. Then again, they were about the only fun she had as Hokage...
Tsunade's eyes drifted over the assembly. There weren't many people dancing. And all of them were council members, civilians and spouses. There were a couple of nin out on the dance floor; Ebisu was nearby, dancing with a pulpous blonde, his eyes fastened on her cleavage; he did the same with Tsunade. If he thought you couldn't tell just because he wore dark glasses...
But mostly, Tsunade saw Shinobi standing around and talking shop, or just standing around, waiting for the right amount of time to elapse before they could eclipse themselves without being too rude.
"Anybody seeing anybody else among your sempais?" Tsunade questioned Sakura. I must be bored, she told herself, to deliberately go and dig through the morass of relationships of a bunch of hormonal fifteen year olds. But in fact, it wasn't only curiosity and boredom that had prompted the question; a faint prickle of undefined alarm had just brushed her skin.
Sakura was shaking her head firmly. "They're all busy training, Hokage-sama. The attack by Sand showed us that we all have to-"
"Yeah, yeah," Tsunade muttered.
She found herself scrutinizing Saruka carefully.
"And how about you, Sakura? I mean, I know you're still hung up on Sasuke, but-"
"I'm not...hung up on him," Sakura answered in an unsteady voice, her gaze dropping but her lips firm. "I...he's my teammate. And I really like him. But mainly- I want him back with us, where he belongs, with Naruto and Kakashi-sensei and me. I want us to be a team again..."
"Er, but that's all?" Normally Tsunade would respect the flash of pain in her student's eyes and not press, but that prickle of alarm was growing.
"Yes. Oh, at first I had this stupid crush on him. But...I don't know, since I've been doing more missions, and your field survival tests, I've been seeing what the life of a Shinobi is like...I guess I've come to realize that there's more to life than romance."
"Really?" Tsunade croaked.
...Missions? Come to think of it, Ebisu and the few nin who were dancing or chatting people up were purely academics, they didn't go on missions, whereas all the other Shinobi standing around like armed and dangerous wallflowers were field agents, or part-time field agents like Iruka.
Iruka...he'd volunteered to go back to active duty after their loss of manpower a year ago...the school board said they could spare him and a few other teachers, because there weren't that many young children in the academy these days...
"Sakura...your parents are both Shinobi, right?"
"You're an only child, right?"
"...any of your parent's friends have any kids of less than, say, six years of age?"
"No, not that I know of."
"Huh-huh.? A suspicion suddenly crystallized in Tsunade's mind. Between her fingers, her punch glass started to crack.
"Sakura, there's something I need to check. Hold this - but don't drink it! It's-...er, my glass. Right. I don't like people drinking out of my glass. Not hygienic." Though there should be enough ?spice' in there now to instantly slaughter any bacteria imprudent enough to wander in.
"But, ma'am, you can't leave-"
"I'll be right back!"
Heedless of conventions, politics and politeness, Tsunade ported out of the room.
She hunted around the administrative building, startling a few late workers, as well as some couples who'd left the party for a bit of, ah, solitude. The latter were permanently scarred by, first off, being interrupted in the middle of some intense making out; secondly, being interrupted in their making out by their Hokage, no less; and thirdly, finding themselves scrutinized by said Hokage and asked if they had gone on any missions in the past few years. Some of them were actually quacking when she was done; Tsunade felt slightly guilty. But so far, all the couples she'd seen confirmed her suspicions; none of them field agents.
Finally she spotted the person she needed to talk to in the medical lab. Tsunade galloped over.
"Shizune, you know those water purification tablets we give to all Shinobi on field missions?"
Shizune nodded after a moment.
"The ones that stop them from picking up all sorts of dreadful diseases when they're living off the land and getting their water from streams? Yes," she said patiently.
"Right. Do we still add...that compound to those tablets?"
It took a few seconds for Shizune to gather what compound she meant.
"Oh...that one. The libido suppressor. Yes, of course; it's become a tradition these past few decades, though I guess it's not really as necessary now as when we were constantly at war. Still, don't want them distracted while on a mission. Or inclined to get a bit wild with enemy prisoners, not that I think our men would ever-"
"What do we use?!"
"Oh, the head chemist actually told me he's very proud of this new compound he developed a few years ago, very effective and totally without side-effects-"
"Huh-huh. Shizune, I have a very important mission for you."
"What, now?" Shizune looked down pointedly at her lab station where waited an open book, a beaker full of red liquid and a very scared rat in a cage.
"Yes! The entire future of Konoha rests in your hands. And I mean that very seriously."
Shizune jumped up, eyes wide and alarmed.
Tsunade's words were tightly controlled, at least to start with. "I need you to go and tell the head chemist to cut down on the goddamn dosage! No, actually, tell him to remove that compound all together. Damn 'traditional', we shouldn't be doing that to our guys to start with, and more importantly, I think it's a bit too strong! Go, talk to him! I think that little prick is robbing me of an entire new generation of Shinobi and blood limit abilities!"
Shizune scurried off.
Tsunade stomped back towards the party, though there wasn't much point. It had already been about as dull as a morgue when she'd left, and she was sure her departure had prompted an exodus of bored Shinobi who would take it as implicit permission to leave. The party would now be moribund, if not officially DOA. But Tsunade needed to drin- think. That's right, she needed to think.
The head chemist would have quite some explaining to do...If the effect of that compound was what was causing this total lack of interest around the opposite sex- if the effects were irreversible, then, in the name of all past Hokage's, Tsunade would have that bastard's nuts!
Tsunade paused at the door to the big hall where a few Shinobi were still hanging around, visibly bored. By the look of things, they'd be heading home soon, and alone, poor bastards. An idea suddenly crossed her mind, one that made her smirk.
If the effect was reversible...and the whole contingent of active Shinobi went off of it from one day to the next...
Then the coming months would be very, very interesting, Tsunade concluded with a sly grin. She'd have to throw another party soon; it was bound to be a lot more exciting than this one.
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