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with friends like these

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Something’s up with Orochimaru.

Tsunade doesn’t have to be a genius to see that much, though knowing him well probably helps. He’s been…quiet. Quieter than normal, and Orochimaru’s reserved but never exactly shy, but he’s still entirely failed to speak up the last few days when Sarutobi calls meetings or assembles the jounin for deployment. Which is just weird, because Orochimaru’s never one to sit on his ideas when they could help with the war effort.

Eyeing him carefully, she leans back against the tree they're sitting under, a few yards from the entrance to one of the training grounds. Jiraiya’s on her other side, talking loudly about something she’ll probably want to hit him for if she pays attention—she knows that tone all too well—but for once Orochimaru isn’t listening to their teammate, either. Usually one of Jiraiya’s rants will include Orochimaru rolling his eyes at least once every three minutes, but Orochimaru hasn’t even glanced over. All of his attention is on the road, and he keeps casting quick-flickering glances back towards the village.

Very suspicious, Tsunade thinks.

“Deploying the bulk of the jounin near the Ame border seems like a risk,” she says.

It’s a mild test, but Orochimaru’s lip immediately curls in disgust. He digs into his egg custard with more force than is strictly required and bites out, “It’s ridiculous. Ame’s geography favors Iwa, given the amount of open land, and we don’t have the numbers to make up for their advantage.”

That’s about what Tsunade was thinking. “Funny you didn’t say that, though,” she says mildly, and Orochimaru goes very, very still. “I've never known you to sit on an opinion before.”

If she isn’t utterly mistaken, there's a flush rising in Orochimaru’s pale cheeks, one she only ever used to see when Jiraiya was being especially handsy during their genin days. It’s been a long time since Orochimaru got over that particular crush, and Tsunade stares at him now, at the averted eyes and rising color and aggrieved slant to his mouth, and feels glee bubbling up inside of her.

Really?” she says, delighted. “Who?”

Because if Orochimaru was too busy staring at the object of his affection to even criticize shoddy tactics, he’s already in deep. Tsunade hasn’t noticed him lingering around anyone, but there has to be someone.

“What?” Jiraiya says, baffled, finally catching up to their conversation. “What are we talking about?”

“Orochimaru has a crush,” Tsunade says, and after all the grief Orochimaru and Jiraiya have given her for Dan, she has no compunction sharing the information.

Jiraiya’s jaw drops. “What? Bastard, no, no no no no.” He waves his hands desperately. “You don’t get to do that. No way. Not an option.”

Orochimaru rolls his eyes and gives Tsunade a look that promises retribution. She just grins back, all teeth, and silently dares him to try it. “What, having human emotions?” he demands testily.

“Yes!” Jiraiya squawks, leveling a finger in his face. Orochimaru eyes it like he’s considering what diseases he’ll get if he tries to bite it off, and whether they're worth it. “And sex! You're not allowed to have sex! And especially not before me, okay?”

Aha, vindication. “I knew you hadn’t slept with Ruri!” Tsunade says triumphantly, rounding on him. “You bastard, you told me you were dating and you’d slept together and you were lying!”

Jiraiya blanches, then flushes crimson all the way down to his fishnets. “I—you—I did not!” he splutters. “Third base, we got to third base, it counts—!”

“You're still a virgin this is so fitting—”

“I should have buried you both in the forest when we were genin,” Orochimaru says with absolute disgust, getting ready to push to his feet. “I hate you both.”

He’s a skinny, scrawny thing, and it’s the work of half a second for Tsunade to pick him up, drag him across her lap, and plop him down squarely between herself and Jiraiya. “Oh no,” she warns, looping an arm around his waist and pinning him there. “You still haven’t told us who it is, don’t even think about escaping.”

Always ready to redirect Tsunade's attention to torturing someone else, Jiraiya agreeably slings an arm over Orochimaru’s shoulders. “Yeah, what she said,” he agrees. “Is it that Hyuuga jounin? With a the scar? Oh, what about the Morino woman? She’s sexy.”

“Yuuhi,” Tsunade chimes in. “He’s handsome, if you like the craggy old-soldier type.”

“Let me go,” Orochimaru protests, twisting between them, but he hasn’t pulled out a weapon or a snake yet, so he clearly isn’t trying that hard to escape. Tsunade smirks at him, and it’s only because she’s looking him in the face that she sees the quick, furtive flicker of his eyes to the road, the way they widen slightly.

Oho, Tsunade thinks gleefully, turning to look for who’s coming. Just one figure, halfway across the bridge and heading for the training ground, and suddenly it’s a lot clearer just why Orochimaru casually suggested they eat in this spot.

“Hatake,” she guesses lazily, and Orochimaru shoot her a look of pure alarm and makes her grin. He casts another vaguely desperate look at the white-haired man approaching, and oh, now everything makes sense. Orochimaru had looked like he was paying attention at the meeting, because Sakumo was at the very front, discussing deployment with Sarutobi. He’d been standing near the Hokage, giving Orochimaru the freedom to stare at him the whole time, and Tsunade hadn’t even noticed.

She’s not about to let it go now, though.

Sakumo?” Jiraiya yelps, and Orochimaru lunges like he’s going to rip out his vocal cords, only for Tsunade to haul him back before any damage can be done. “You have a crush on my friend?”

“Despite his taste in companions,” Orochimaru says bitingly, “he has several redeeming qualities. Tsunade, remove your hand or I will remove it for you­—”

Tsunade leans in, smacks a loud, showy kiss against one pale cheek, and says, “You’ll thank me for this later.”

Orochimaru loses about four shades of color from his face, and opens his mouth to start what will probably be a massively destructive jutsu. Never slow for long, Jiraiya slaps a massive palm across his mouth, and is promptly tackled by a hundred and twenty pounds of furious snake summoner.

Tsunade takes advantage of the distraction without hesitation. “Hatake!” she shouts, and Orochimaru yelps in alarm, trying to fling himself at her, but she just smirks in his face as Jiraiya wrestles him down and calls to the man looking up at them in bemusement, “My friend thinks you're hot!”

She points at Orochimaru just to make sure there's no confusion, and he snarls, kicks Jiraiya in the face, and throws himself at her, tackling her to the ground. She goes down laughing, entirely, absolutely sure that she caught red washing across Sakumo's face to match the color in Orochimaru’s cheeks.