No one in Konoha ever wants to admit that the first storm of summer is what it inevitably is: the beginning of rainy season. When that monsoon hits, denial is the order of the day. Maybe it will pass, the shinobi say to each other as they squeeze water from their drenched hitae-ites. Maybe tomorrow there'll be sun.
Even the Hokage plays along. When Shizune squelches into Tsunade's office with the morning's reports and a fresh cup of tea—her sodden sandals are leaving little puddles on the floor—Tsunade says, "It's just a minor squall. Nothing serious. You'll see."
"I'm not so sure about that, Tsunade-sama. I better go buy a new umbrella."
"Don't waste your money. It will dry up by dinner. I have a hunch. In fact, I'll even wager on it."
Tsunade fetches her own tea until the rain stops.
Kurenai meets Asuma outside the sweet shop. He's huddling beneath the narrow awning, trying to smoke his cigarette before the rain extinguishes it. The half-finished cigarettes scattered on the ground around his sandals suggest that his previous attempts haven't been very successful.
"You should have waited inside," she says as she wrestles with her umbrella in the wind. She manages to close it at last, but splatters both of them in the process; Asuma quickly shelters his cigarette with his hand.
"They kicked me out. Owner doesn't like the smell."
"That's why you should quit. Anyway, those things will kill you."
"If I live long enough for that to happen, I'll consider myself a lucky man."
She leans against the wall beside him, waiting for him to be done. He notices that her umbrella hasn't done a particularly good job of keeping her dry; her sleeve is plastered to her slim wrist.
"You could wait inside," Asuma says after a while.
"No thanks." She breathes deep. "I like the air better out here."
Anko doesn't remember Orochimaru when rainy season settles upon Konoha. She doesn't think of the Uchiha brat, either. She doesn't imagine pain radiating from her curse seal, and she certainly doesn't dream of snakes and mist. If she broods until the heat replaces the rain, it's for no particular reason, and beware to anyone who dares to suggest otherwise.
(Orochimaru cast her aside during a thunderstorm. He abandoned her on the streets of Konoha like a piece of unwanted baggage; she huddled in the gutter after he was gone, a pathetic bundle of rags and blood and pain. She didn't know whether to rage or rejoice, so she did both, mystifying and frightening all passersby until Sandaime himself came, took her hand, and told her to stand up.)
When she volunteers for a mission that will take her far away from Konoha for a good long while, Ibiki convinces Tsunade to give it to her.
The official representative of Suna stretches out her arms and lets the rain soak through her clothing and chill her skin.
"Don't you have some diplomatic dignity to maintain?" Shikamaru asks from the doorway of his family home, his tone caught between amusement and disdain.
Temari ignores him.
"It's going to be a pain to dry everything later."
She snorts. "What's my best jutsu, baka?"
"Okay, maybe it won't be a pain for you." The downpour's flattening her fluffy hair against her scalp. "But you won't think the rain's so amazing after four weeks of this."
She raises her face to the clouds; she drinks in the storm. "Oh, I think I will."
The skirmish with the missing-nin is over, but Shizune's hands still shake as she fastens a brace around Genma's sprained knee. The tremors make her movements clumsy, and Genma's fingers clench around damp weeds as he waits for her to finish.
She fumbles with another strap. "Stop that," he growls.
"I'm sorry." She bites her lip, but a giggle escapes. "It's just—"
Behind her, Raidou and Iwashi aren't even trying to stifle their laughter; they've been making faces at him behind her back the whole time. Genma spits his senbon at them, which they dodge easily.
"Don't worry," Raidou calls from the relative safety of the far side of the clearing, "we won't tell anyone that the enemy who took down the great jounin Shiranui Genma was actually a patch of mud." Shizune sits back on her haunches and pushes her wet bangs off her forehead. Her grin stretches from ear to ear.
"When this knee is better," Genma mutters, "you are all so dead."
Rock Lee doesn't understand why his teammates are grumbling so much about the precipitation. Every year he welcomes it. Training's twice as exciting with the added challenge of the storms. Can he complete his pushups while his hands are sinking into the mire? Can he finish his laps without slipping on the rain-slicked streets?
Of course, he hasn't been dry or warm in many days, and there's the small matter of the hacking cough that he's developed. Tenten considers him with some concern over lunch. "Lee, maybe you should let a medic-nin check you out."
He finishes coughing, reaches for his water glass, and knocks it over when he begins to sneeze.
Rock Lee spends the remainder of rainy season confined to his bed.
Tempers fray as the monsoons linger.
After a rough day of training, Akamaru trots inside the Inuzuka home and shakes the water off his fur—and toward the dry set of clothes Kiba is about to change into. "Hey!" Kiba scoots sideways to avoid the spray and manages to trip over a chair. "Fuck!"
Across the room, his mother's Kuromaru lifts his head and barks. It sounds suspiciously like a laugh.
A couple days later, the Godaime Hokage sneaks away from her attendants and responsibilities and talks her way into a card game. When Izumo and Kotetsu finally track her down, she's already lost all her money and is complaining in a slurred voice that no one ever brings her tea anymore.
The gambling hall has been turned topsy-turvy.
It's threatening to fall down on their heads by the time they finally coax Tsunade to leave.
Kakashi, being Kakashi, is not easily drawn into humdrum conversations about the weather. Complain about the incessant storms in his presence and he's liable to say, "Oh, I hadn't noticed the deluge," before returning to his book.
His air of detachment doesn't fool anyone but Gai.
What no one realizes, however, is that he's remembering more than Obito these days. Kakashi's also recalling the day he followed Pakkun to the Valley of the End. When he saw Naruto lying so still, oblivious to the water pooling around him, Kakashi was momentarily sure that his hyperactive student was dead.
In Kakashi's dreams during rainy season, that Naruto never opens his eyes.
Sakura's lost two patients in as many days, and she hasn't left the hospital in nearly a week. Stumbling from room to room, stealing catnaps between rounds, she wonders if there will ever be enough medics to heal all of Konoha's hurts. She has to be ordered to go home and rest in earnest.
When she steps outside the hospital, she's blinded. The season's granted Konoha one of its rare, precious respites from the rain. The sunlight's warm on her skin, consoling, caressing.
At her parents' house, Sakura drops into bed without bothering to take off her shoes and proceeds to sleep the clock around.
The drumming of the returning storm on the roof is what rouses her in the end.
During the fourth week of rain, Team Asuma goes missing.
The last shinobi to see them is Aburame Shibi, as he tells Tsunade when she visits him at the hospital. (The wound in his chest is nasty but healing quickly; as usual, the bugs help.) "The counterattack split our two groups. The children appeared unharmed when I last saw them—Asuma was limping—but the team never showed up at the rendezvous."
He doesn't explain why his team didn't wait longer; Tsunade doesn't ask. They both know what needed to be done, however much it hurts to think of losing such young ones. "They would gone to ground, if they were too injured to move quickly."
"They would," Shibi agrees.
The nurses have taken away his dark glasses. Tsunade turns away so she doesn't have to see that the concern in his eyes matches her own.
In the privacy of their homes, the first generation of Ino-Shika-Chou counts the hours and waits.
When the rain tapers off, Temari's already back in Suna, where she's telling her skeptical brothers all about the summer showers. She punches Kankurou after he mocks her excitement with one of his puppets. Back in Konoha, Raidou's sporting a bizarre new haircut and Iwashi's disappeared entirely. It's generally assumed that Genma knows more about both situations than he's saying.
When the puddles start to shrink, Anko swoops through Ibiki's office at lunchtime with a cry of "Arriving!" and snatches a skewer of dango out of his hands. She doesn't see his crooked smile as he watches her flee.
When the last clouds drift away, Rock Lee jogs out to the practice fields and resumes his training where he left off. The field's still ankle-deep in mud; he hasn't missed out on all the fun. At noon, he takes a break to swallow his medicine. As he replaces the bottle in his pack, he hears barking in the forest and knows he's not the only chuunin training hard now that fine weather's returned.
And when the sun's dried all the streets, Team Asuma stumbles though the village gates. They're bedraggled and hungry, and at least two of them smell faintly of mildew. The happy news spreads quickly. Later that day, Kurenai smuggles cigarettes into Asuma's hospital room right under the nurses' watchful eyes. Genjutsu has many uses.
In her office, Tsunade fans herself while she tackles her backlog of paperwork. The summer heat's followed fast upon the rains; soon everyone will be remembering those cool, damp nights with longing. Outside her window, the greenery of Konoha is more lush than ever, and raucous cheers echo in the streets: Gai and Kakashi are facing off in a watermelon eating contest, and many of the jounin have assembled to watch and place bets. From what Tsunade can see, Kakashi's going to disappoint his supporters, since he hasn't removed his mask.
She's starting on her second stack of papers when she hears Gai's victory cry.
Her chop stamps the form before her with a little extra relish. She looks up at her predecessors' portraits with some amusement. "This great tree entrusted to me," she tells them, "how it does endure and grow!"