White Day, that year, was rather white -- snow settled gently onto the roofs of Konoha, that night, masking the thick ice that came of the settled and partially melted snow, when it re-froze. Genma -- being Genma -- was quite drunk, but still relatively nimble, as he crossed the roofs to the mountain. This year, he'd had no one to whom to return a gift. Not that chocolates hadn't been offered -- just that he'd simply looked stunned, and turned away. He was, in his mind, a whore with no obligations, except the survival of his village. In his heart, though, he cowered like a burned dog. Hayate had left him for the crazy ANBU girl, last summer, and it was doubtful he'd ever recover. At least Hayate had just been his lover -- it wasn't as though he'd lost his best friend, Raidou. That, he thought, might have sent him missing.
Genma scrabbled up the face of the Second Hokage, like the ninja he was, pausing only at the eye to look out across snow-covered Konoha, and revel in the simple, monochrome beauty of the quiet town. There would be no one out this late, tonight, and least of all at the top of the Hokage Mountain. The village lay still beneath the watchful stone faces, as Genma continued his climb, leaping up to avoid the ice that hung down from the top of Nidaime's head. He slid a bottle of plain sake from under his vest and sipped at it, revelling in the force of the chill night wind atop the mountain.
It wasn't until the genin beside him moved, that he noticed he was not alone and turned to face the other.
"It's a beautiful evening, Shiranui-sensei," said the boy with the long, white hair.
"It's all illusion," Genma replied, with a bitter smile, "Gone at sunrise, but all the better for its brevity and treacherous allure."
"Afraid of falling in the ice?" the boy asked.
"No, but I like to imagine it. It would be a thrilling interlude, if most likely a fatal one."
The boy laughed -- an awkward chuckle. "Don't you find it odd that, in a village of shinobi, only you and I are here to take this in?"
"I find it odd that I am not alone," Genma commented, taking another sip, before offering the bottle. "Those below like to pretend that they're just like anyone else -- that being a monster doesn't mean you can't be a man. I'll tell you something, boy: become a teacher. Become a medic. There is great honor in serving the village on the outside, but the service done is greater from the inside, and it won't make you the kind of flesh-puppet I've become."
The boy took the bottle and sipped it, cocking his head quizzically at the speech. "You don't remember me, do you, Shiranui-sensei?"
Genma looked again, puzzling through the faces in all the exams he'd led. "You're that boy who never passes, aren't you? I see you every time. I know you have talent, but you always become the sacrifice to get your team to the end. That takes balls, and someone should recognise the importance of a man who can buy time." His face coloured slightly as he continued. "My best friend is much that way -- an excellent tokujou, and a fine bodyguard, he is."
"Maybe next time I'll pass. Maybe next time someone else will recognise a talent." The boy smiled wryly, and handed back the bottle. "My name is Yakushi Kabuto."
Genma laughed, nearly spitting sake. "An excellent name for one who stands and takes a beating! This time, I'll remember it."
Kabuto studied Genma, as a young mongoose studies a battle-scarred cobra. "So, if you don't pretend, like the rest of the village, does that mean you haven't bothered to get a girlfriend? Or are you really just hiding from a girl who expects something from you?"
"I'm hiding from everyone who expects something of me. Down there, someone would take pity on me, or some equally asinine thing." Genma swigged the sake again and smacked it back into Kabuto's hand. "I turned down all the chocolate. All of it. I owe nothing. If someone wants something from me, they'll have to be forthcoming, and avoid doing it on a damned national holiday."
He paused, watching Kabuto swallow, and then took a different tack. "I could ask you the same -- unless of course you meant to meet some fool up here, and I'm keeping you from your rendezvous."
"You must be joking. Girls don't -- I mean -- look at me, sensei!" Kabuto shook off the smug and studious look he wore, replacing it easily with a socially inept air. His long hair hung loose, tangled, and ice-tipped, some of it still lifting up in the occasional gust of wind. "I look like part of the snow! Who would -- that's ridiculous!"
Kabuto, of course, was lying through his teeth. He was a stuttering dork with glasses and an easy blush, and the combination brought girls from every village to his bed. He was the consummate chameleon, and this time, he thought, he'd take advantage of one of the test proctors, and possibly blackmail the tokujou for information he'd been missing out on. Shiranui wasn't as misanthropic as he tried to be -- the older man's bitter loneliness leaked from every pore, and Kabuto took it as a sign of an easy target. A man like this might be even easier than girls from Amegakure.