Another day has gone by and nothing has changed. Only that the lines on his face have grown deeper and longer, the calluses on his hands rougher and older, the shadows hungrier, the world more damned than the day before. Aside from that, nothing else has changed, and he wonders if it ever will.

Today is a sunny day. Yesterday was a sunny day. Maybe tomorrow there will be a giant hail storm; he doubts it, though. At the desk sits the woman who holds the whole village's fate in the papers spilled about her elbows, painted in the red of her glossy nail polish. She sits and stares at him with tired authority. No longer is the authority a privilege, an honor, but a burden and nothing more. It never was anything more; pretenses fool all.

"So?" she asks, the exact same lilt in her voice, the exact same feigned boredom, with the exact same fear underlying (clever, but not clever enough for him not to see it). It could be a week ago and it wouldn't matter; he'd memorized every mouth twitch, every particle of dust, every strand of hair that fell silently to the carpet.

He yawns just because that is the thing he always does at this time. He must preserve the sameness; it is his obligation, a ritual he has no right to break.

"Nothing new," he says, rolling his head. She nods absentmindedly, shuffles the papers in front of her but does not dare read them. They take lives, those papers, with vicious fangs of ink and bright red stamps. She shifts them in a pile to the side, touching them gingerly, as little as possible. The guilt may rub off on her if she handles them too much.

"Alright then. No use standing there. Go do something useful," she says, waves him off. He knows that deep down she really doesn't want him to leave, to close the big oaken door and leave her behind, alone, drowning in the great swamp of lives she's taken, with those papers that swallow with rough tongues, lick out the life, the gristle of bones.

Stay, pleads the lazy flick of her hand, the hard glint of her golden eye that is afraid of itself.

He feels a bit guilty that he cannot help, a little sad; but knows that it would hurt her more if he disobeyed. Her pride is larger than life, and that is another thing added to the list of things that will never change. So he takes this into consideration and quietly creeps out the door, hands jammed into his pockets.

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Also posted on fanfiction. Anyways...just as Shikamaru drabble, with Tsunade. Yeah. It's sort of pointless, but satisfies my spammage cravings. :D