Author disclaimer: I do not own any of the Naruto characters below,
and stand to make no profit on this story.
Tsunade sat alone at her desk, filling the ochoko with sake from the tokkuri. She shook her head for no particular reason. There was no one in the room to see the gesture.
She sighed. Drinking sake alone. It really shouldn’t be done.
Holding the ochoko up, pausing, and looking bleary-eyed across its rim the blonde woman surveyed her office.
The Hokage’s office.
She was Hokage.
She should be proud that she occupied that position, served her village, represented them, protected them. She was upholding a responsibility and tradition that her family, her grandfather had established. It was a privilege and tradition that had allowed her…to send her best friend off to die.
And now she was drinking sake alone.
Bringing the ochoko a little closer to her lips allowed just the tiniest drop to pass and rest on her tongue. A bit of warmth in her mouth mellowed and evaporated almost before she could swallow. Just a sip.
She tipped the cup up, draining it and swallowing hard, feeling heat spread down her throat, through her body.
No. One should not drink sake alone. It was meant to be shared, a drink between companions, partners. She set the cup back down a little too hard on the desk, hearing it rattle, steadying its wobble with one hand while she poured from the tokkuri with the other.
You weren’t even supposed to pour it one-handed. She should use both hands.
Draining the cup, she tried to set it down a little more steadily this time. Lifting the tokkuri and cradling it in both hands she gently filled the ochoko again.
She set the flask down and sighed. That wasn’t much better.
You were supposed to pour for a friend. You were supposed to offer the tokkuri with both hands, while your friend accepted, holding his ochoko in one, steadying its bottom with the other.
No. You should never drink sake alone.
She raised the ochoko to her mouth one more time, again pausing to look over the rim But this time her gaze did not take in the office, rather her memories took her back to other times, seeing him looking back at her across their cups as they drank together.
Hesitating, she pressed the cup to her lips, feeling the smooth rim of the pottery against her own mouth. She knew now why she hadn’t bothered to savor the sake, to fully appreciate the aroma and the complexities of the taste.
If she had taken the time to contemplate it she would have remembered the taste of the last sake she had shared with him, the scent of it on his breath and the sound of his laughter as he’d roared out loud at some bawdy joke she’d told.
Instead of appreciating the craftsmanship of the ochoko currently in her hand, she would have felt the shape and the finish of the ones they had used last time. Sake should always be paired with pottery produced in the same region. Form and function, they were meant to be…together.
And instead of the heat from the sake she would have remembered the heat from his eyes as he looked into hers, daring her, as he had done for as long as she could remember.
There was no use appreciating the sake or the earthenware or the ritual if you were drinking it alone.
She tipped the ochoko back demanding the heat fill her mouth, fill her throat, fill her head as she swallowed hard. Holding the empty cup in front of her she gripped it tightly, hating that there were things in this world you just could not hold on to. She applied a breath more pressure around the cup, wincing as it broke into pieces, one fragment catching in the heel of her hand as the rest fell with a clatter to the ground.
Holding her hand in front of her face she stared at the bit that had broken her skin. Blood welled up there. Oddly, she didn’t feel the cut itself, but the sting as the drops of sake that had been remaining in the cup seeped into the tiny gash to mingle with her blood.
She looked at the rest of the pottery shards on the floor. Fragments. Her life was a path littered with fragments of broken things and false starts.
Taking in the tokkuri standing on her desk, the broken ochoko on the floor she remembered that the serving set had been his gift to her, a simple flask and two cups.
But now there was only one.