Jiraiya’s at the hotel bar–and, yeah, maybe it’s a little early in the day for a drink or three, but who’s checking?–when he sees it: the briefest glimpse of all too familiar blonde hair.
He shakes his head, mutters to himself, “Don’t get your hopes up,” and goes back to his drink. It’s impossible, what he’s thinking, and besides, there’s a pair of beautiful young ladies who look like they might appreciate some excellent company.
He signals for the bartender to send over some complimentary drinks (mimosas, apparently, not like the princess who would appreciate harder liquor) and gets ready to put on some moves.
Fifteen minutes and a double dousing of socially acceptable daytime drinks in his face later, he spots it again: bright and messy, even through the champagne and orange juice in his eyes. This is a sign, no doubt, destiny telling him to follow–why else would those lovely ladies reject his advances?
The bartender, unimpressed but dutiful, passes Jiraiya a towel to wipe his face. Taking the opportunity, he asks, “What’s going on in the ballroom?”
The bartender shrugs, “Some kind of science convention. Not too sure. I’m hoping it’s medical–doctors really know how to drink.”
Jiraiya rolls his eyes, “You’re telling me.” But that’s a sob story for a different bartender, maybe, and he’s got an entirely different blonde to chase down.
According to the signs, it is indeed ‘some kind of science convention’. More specifically, one for cybernetic augmentations and enhancements. It is, unfortunately, hauntingly familiar stomping grounds for him.
Most of the names listed for panels are old or uninteresting–one of the main reasons he’s stopped coming to these things, even if they do offer all expenses paid. How this is supposed to be about innovations when it’s the same people rehashing the same tech is beyond him–except one of the smaller rooms, practically in fine print at the bottom of the itinerary, has a name he’s never seen before.
Not new to him entirely (Nara is common enough, almost a household name given the reach of their pharmaceuticals and the fact that practically everyone is medicated these days) but definitely new to this particular arena. Cautious branching out, maybe? That would explain why they have a small room instead of space in the main ballroom.
Except when Jiraiya gets to the room listed, it’s packed. Overflowing, practically. If he weren’t who he was, and the staff at the door hadn’t recognized him, he might not have gotten in–as is, it’s a tight squeeze. Which he wouldn’t mind if it were a crowd of buxom beauties, but, alas, he is surrounded by sweaty nerds. But why is such a popular panel in such a tiny room?
Or, maybe, he should be wondering: why is this Nara panel so popular?
Except once he gets to the front–“it’s such an honor that you’re here, sir, and also a surprise. We weren’t told you’d be here, but of course you’re more than welcome. Such an honor, please, there’s VIP seating,”–even that question flees from his mind.
Because sitting just next to that (surprisingly young and pretty, nothing like that stony-faced punk Shikaku) newcomer Nara is Minato…
… but not.
That’s definitely Minato’s god-awful hair, and damned too blue eyes, but it’s in a face more like Kushina’s. That’s definitely her smile on that brat’s face, aimed with laser accuracy at the Nara girl beside him.
“What the hell is going on?”
You know, I was sure, despite being the one to submit the prompt, and knowing it would include Naruto and Jiraiya, that the blonde hair Jiraiya had seen was Tsunade’s.
The fact that it was a scientific/medical conference only made that impression stronger, and I was hooked. I was like, “Where’s Naruto coming in? Is this a ‘get Tsunade to become Hokage’ equivalent?” Edge of my seat.
Which made the reveal of the Nara room a surprise, even though it really shouldn’t have been, given the information I had available to me, lol
And now I’m wondering why was the panel so popular? I don’t remember any relevant details from the original line of fics … better re-read, lol! ^_^
I headcanon that Jiraiya is almost always thinking about Tsunade in one way or another 😀
There’s nothing really specific in previous installments that would explain why the panel is so popular, but timeline-wise I made this so that it’s after the incident which resulted in Shikamaru getting a cybernetic arm. Like, Shikako’s already had her debut in the industry, and then she got a little popular, and then she was attacked but Shikamaru got in the way such that he’s the one who got hurt instead. Then Shikako went full hermit for a while–from the community and from her family–and probably would continued doing so if it weren’t for meeting Naruto. But she’s still paranoid, so she requested one of the smaller rooms and the event coordinators were just like “whatever gets you to our convention, yes, you can have this stranger sit next to you.”
So Jiraiya is actually witnessing her comeback, but since HE’S also been out of the loop for a while (probably not long after Minato and Kushina died), he thinks she’s a complete newcomer.