Title: Mochi

Author: The Kitty-kitty

Summary: The sand siblings are stranded in Konoha during the New Year. Sometimes, gestures can be taken up the wrong way. ShikaTema.

Author notes: A very late New Year fic for the uke-chan, oops.


"How troublesome," announced Temari, blowing a loose strand of curly blonde hair out of her eyes and tucking it back up into her wooly hat with one gloved hand.

During their lengthy stay in Konoha, the Sand three had discovered a broad range of new weathers they all loathed. Cloudy weather set Temari, whose eyesight was already the worst of the three, on edge, Kankuro got to discover just how afraid he was of thunderstorms and Gaara's reactions to some of the stranger aspects of the climate quite frankly terrified his older siblings.

The first snow had been a shock - torrents of tiny little flakes, like salt, drifting down from the sky. She'd half-expected them to be cold but each one burnt her tanned skin before numbing the tiny pinprick of pain it had caused. With Kankuro sticking close and Gaara ahead, Temari crunched through the thin layer of snow forming with sandalled feet.

"It's coming from the sky," she told Kankuro, gently but purposefully bumping against his shoulder and inching away from him. Oblivious, Kankuro continued to keep close.

"It's weird," he mumbled, looking apprehensively at the cloud of condensation that billowed out of his mouth at each breath.

"It's just frozen rain," said Temari.

"And rain's normal?" growled Kankuro. "It's creepy."

Gaara turned abruptly, holding out an almost luminescent pale hand full of snow he'd scooped from the ground. Both siblings looked from his emotionless green eyes to the tiny clump of melting white slush oozing through his fingers, and flinched when his fist suddenly snapped closed, splattering their faces with drops of half-melted snow.

"Just pretend it's blood, Kankuro," he said, and turned to walk on.

"... did he just make a joke?" Kankuro asked in an urgent undertone, nearly clinging to his sister.

"You'd better hope so," Temari replied grimly.

Having borrowed clothes from Sakura (all depressingly pink wooly gloves, hats, and a heavy purple winter jacket - Temari liked girly colours, she just didn't think they were practical in a completely white landscape) and wandered through the silent village of Konoha, smothered under a blanket of pure, flawness white snow that stretched across the miles and miles of surrounding flat land outside the forest, she felt... at home. She could almost believe the downy little flakes swirling in sudden gusts of wind were bleached-out grains of sand and if she closed her eyes, she could picture herself in the middle of the desert on a cloudless night.

They were just trudging toward the Hokage's office through another fresh snow shower when Gaara stopped in the middle of the deserted street, head tilted to one side.

"I don't hear anything..." mumbled Kankuro, though his hand was already inching toward the heavy bundle that was Karasu on his back.

"Shhh," hissed Temari.

"Temari..." said Gaara softly. "That boy is following you again."

"Who follows me?" asked Temari grumpily.

Both Gaara and Kankuro turned in unison to the boy in the distance, who looked as though he was making great effort not to look like he was jogging, even though he obviously was. Temari groaned.

"Oi," panted Nara Shikamaru. "What are you doing out here so early?"

"... Why wouldn't we be?" asked Temari, one hand on her hip.

"It's New Year's Day. Everyone gets a holiday, even the Hokage... you didn't know... how troublesome."

"Then what are you doing out?" snapped Temari. No-one had told them.

"..." Shikamaru's bored gaze was focused suddenly and intensely on the ground. "Well..."

"AND WHERE THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING, KANKURO!" said Temari, grabbing a tight hold on her brother's collar as he and Gaara slowly began to back away from her brewing temper.

Shikamaru shuffled. "... because you're guests in our village my mother figured you might be lonely... away from your... uh... family... during the new year so... she asked me to bring you this."

Temari looked from his down-cast gaze to a tightly-sealed bento box outstretched in his hand. Through the transparent lid she could see some round white discs tied up with ribbon, like decorated snowballs.

"You brought me snow," she said quietly. "I can see why. It's not like it's not completely surrounding us at the moment."

"It's mochi. Rice cakes. The families of Konoha make it at the start of the new year," said Shikamaru uncomfortably, watching the tell-tale pink flush rise in her tanned cheeks and the corners of her mouth curving as her lips pressed into a thin line. He tentatively loosened the collar of his flack jacket and squirmed.

"... so we're to be pitied, is that it?"

"What?" asked Shikamaru and Kankuro together, both equally bewildered.

"You're giving us this... mochi... a symbol of family and togetherness, presumably because we are in this strange town, we're strangers, and we have no parents to make us mochi? You're giving us charity?"

Kankuro and Shikamaru exchanged identical looks of exasperation.

"Temari," said Kankuro.

"Shut up," snapped Temari. "How dare you?"

"I wasn't!" said Shikamaru. "My mother just -"

"Your mother just thought she would take pity on us. So she sent you out with this, is that it? We are not sob-stories, okay?"

"I never said you were-"

"Don't you think we know what people say about us?"

"I didn't-"

"Don't try and back out of it now!"

"HEY!" Shikamaru shouted suddenly, before lowering his voice to its usual bored tone. "Women are so bothersome. There's no implication behind it, it's just a rice cake. It's not even a very good-tasting rice cake."

"What the hell! Shut up, would you?"

"You're making a scene."

"There's no-one around to SEE!"


"WHAT D'YOU MEA-" Temari stopped mid-rant, deflating as she realized that Shikamaru hadn't spoken. In fact, he wasn't even paying any attention to her anymore. Suitably stunned, she followed his glance sideways to Gaara, who was munching on a rice cake with something close to contentment on his face. Carelessly flicking a few stray grains of rice from his mouth, Gaara broke the rice cake he'd taken in half and held half out to Temari.

"It's good," he said emotionlessly.

Temari continued to stare at it.

"Nara-san," said Gaara. "Your mother must love you very much to put effort into making this mochi."

Shikamaru knew better than to shrug. Slowly, he nodded.

"Thank you for sharing them with us. I am... happy that I got to learn more of the Konoha culture. Please thank your mother on our behalf. Next time you are in Sunagakure I hope we can show you the same hospitality."

Gaara glanced at Kankuro and wordlessly began to make his slow but steady way through the slush-sodden road. Both siblings moved to follow him with equal expressions of pure surprisedness.

"Temari," said Gaara quietly, without turning. "I would like you to go with Nara-san and offer our gratitude to his mother on our behalf."

"…" Temari looked blankly at her younger brother, carefully taking the rice ball out of his hand. "… sorry?"

"Nara-san's mother has gone to great trouble to make us feel welcome in Konohagakure. It would only be appropriate to show our gratitude, don't you think?" asked Gaara.

Temari felt her hands balling into fists. Shikamaru took a subtle step backwards, leaning against Kankuro with a bored expression that hid some anxiety.

"Yes," she said finally, through her teeth. "I'll catch up with you soon."

"Take the rest of the day. It's a public holiday in Konoha," said Gaara. Temari thought she could even detect a smug air in his voice. As she turned and took a rock-hard grip on Shikamaru's wrist to drag him back toward his house, she just caught the end of the sentence on the winter breeze.

"After all," Gaara finished, "Nara-san is your precious person."

As Shikamaru was being forcibly pulled back to his house, he twisted his wrist out of Temari's grip and took her hand in his with a soft grumble of 'how troublesome."

Temari looked at the rice ball in her other hand and took a grudging bite.

"It's not that bad," she admitted.

"Most things that look horrible at first can turn out to be good," said Shikamaru.

Temari shoved him into a snowdrift.