Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, I'm not getting paid, and I doubt most people bother to read this part, anyway.
Notes: This is yet another side story to "White Dog Night," but only a oneshot. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about Naruto and Temari, so I wrote this as a way of preparing readers for the time skip. This takes place shortly before Part 5 of White Dog Night.
Summary: Temari reflects on her bond with Naruto, and his dream of making a name and a family for himself.
Building Clan Uzumaki
Companion to "White Dog Night"
A Naruto Ficlet by
Nate Grey (XMAN0123-at-aol-dot-com)
Temari remembered that very odd day all too clearly, even now.
She had just given a detailed but brief report on her intentions in Konoha to the Godaime Hokage. At first, she had been dead set against the idea of being a liaison between the two villages. It would keep her away from home, and more importantly, away from her brothers. Her official reason, however, had been that Konoha should have been sending a liaison to them, not the other way around.
But Gaara had ended all her complaints with a single sentence.
"I want someone I trust to be with Naruto, in case his curse should ever become like mine."
Temari knew better than to question him on it, since Gaara so rarely spoke about his own curse, even with her. That he would even bother showed how serious he was, and she had agreed without further protest.
She had barely set foot outside of Tsunade's office when Naruto ran up, full of questions about Gaara and what was happening in Suna lately. Temari's answers were short and vague, mostly because she was tired and wanted nothing more than a good night's sleep. Naruto seemed to sense this, because he eventually asked where she was staying while in Konoha. Tsunade had taken care of Temari's lodging arrangements, and she told him as much.
"But you don't really want to stay alone, do you?" Naruto had asked. "Hey, I know! You can stay at my place!"
Temari had brushed off his offer at once, but Naruto kept insisting that it was his duty as Gaara's good friend to make sure she was well taken care of. Ironic, since she was technically here to do the same for him, though she didn't tell him that. Finally, she'd agreed just to shut him up, and because she was curious to see how Naruto lived compared to the way Gaara did.
The answer? Very differently.
Gaara's rooms had always been a step away from being bare, and the one he used now contained only the things necessary to carry out his duties as Kazekage.
Naruto's home was full of more scrolls and books than Temari had ever seen outside of a library. There were manuals on practically everything a ninja might ever need to know.
It was then that she realized something important about Naruto. Being a ninja was incredibly difficult for him, and he'd probably had to study and re-study all of these to even reach his current level of skill. It also meant that Naruto's curse didn't make such things second nature for him as Gaara's did. Naruto had worked hard for every talent he possessed, though you would never know it from just looking at him.
As he lived alone, Naruto had plenty of space for her, and even gave Temari her own room. It was mostly just the basics: bed, desk, and bare walls. Temari knew she'd have to add her own style if she planned on staying there long. And then she realized that she would be there for a long time; looking after Naruto would take years, not a few days. But Naruto hadn't said how long he was willing to let her stay with him, and it was probably better to settle that right away.
"You want to leave already?" was Naruto's response to her question. "It's not that bad, is it?"
It really wasn't, and Temari said so. She got the distinct feeling that he really wanted her to stay, for some reason. Probably he was just lonely, if he'd grown up this way. And she would rather stay with someone amusing who knew Gaara personally, than with a stranger, or by herself.
The only bad thing about Naruto's place was his taste in food, which didn't extend past ramen at all. Temari liked it fine every now and then, but not every single day. She figured if she started doing the shopping for both of them, Naruto would eventually get tired of watching her eat something different every meal and try some of her choices. She was only half-right: Naruto began eating her choices along with his usual ramen bowl. But Temari was just satisfied that she'd influenced him at all, and wasn't stuck with nothing but ramen every night.
Temari had never made all that many efforts to talk to Naruto in the past, and now, she couldn't imagine why. Their conversations came easy, and were even fun. He seemed to know instinctively what topics would interest her, and steered away from the ones that would be too personal, unless she offered first. And, increasingly, Temari found that she could talk to him about things she wouldn't dare to with anyone but her brothers. It wasn't as if Naruto was bad with secrets; he'd been keeping his own for quite a while now. Aside from that, he took his friendship with Gaara very seriously, and the loyalty automatically extended to Temari as well.
And yet, it was more than that, she knew. When she had first moved in with him, Temari only considered Naruto a friend of Gaara's, and little else. But as the days turned into weeks and then months, she started to think of Naruto as her friend, and used Gaara to define that friendship less and less. And when that simple label no longer seemed to do him justice, Temari came to think of Naruto as another one of her brothers. He was enough like them in ways that she was all too familiar with, but different enough to be refreshing. Like Gaara, Naruto had his brooding moments, and like Kankurou, he was also proud and impulsive. Completely unlike them, however, he was in a cheerful mood almost twenty hours out of every day.
Naruto seemed to share her feelings, because he often spoke to her in a tone that suggested familiarity, and at the same time, respect, as if saying the wrong thing would earn him a quick swat from his big sister (it had on occasion, but still). The fact that she was slightly taller than him probably had something to do with it, as did the fact that Temari was physically stronger. She had asked Naruto to bring her fan to her once, and each time she even hinted at doing so again, he suddenly developed a bad back. She couldn't really blame him, as she'd carried that fan for most of her life, and the strength necessary to wield it easily had come eventually. But Naruto didn't depend on any one weapon all the time, and certainly nothing as heavy and draining as her fan, so he lacked the stamina (or more precisely, the will) needed to handle it properly.
But this wasn't to say that Naruto was weak by any means. Like Gaara, he had an abundance of chakra to draw from, and tended to put that fact to good use in a fight. He was the only other genin Temari had met capable of performing a summoning. Of course, even a successful summoning didn't always guarantee an obedient creature, and Temari had to resist the urge to snicker whenever she saw Naruto trying to reach a compromise with Gamabunta. It really was like a fly trying to bargain with a giant frog, but she kept that image to herself. She'd never had such problems with Kamatari, but then she approached summoning with a much more mature and respectful attitude than Naruto did, and liked to think Kamatari's loyalty was her reward.
But as much as Temari enjoyed living with Naruto, even that adventure had come with some obstacles.
"Hey, Temari, am I ugly?" Naruto asked quietly.
She blinked, having just been roused from a rather comfortable nap. "What?" she sighed, rolling over to gaze blearily up at his anxious face.
"Do you think I'm ugly?"
Temari stared at him for a few seconds. "Yeah, you're hideous," she muttered, closing her eyes and burying her face in the pillow.
"I'm serious!" he insisted, shaking her shoulder.
"Well, I'm not. And you don't want me to be. Because if I were, you'd be dead already. Now go away and let me sleep."
"Temari, please! This is important!"
"No, it isn't," she muttered. "Nothing is ever important enough to wake me up. If you enjoy the use of both your arms, you'll accept that quickly. Like now, for instance."
"Please, neechan?" he whined in his best kiddy voice.
"What do you care if you're ugly?" she said at last, glaring at him. "Just wear a mask like Kakashi, and no one would ever need to know. Girls like that mysterious crap."
"But do you think I'm ugly?" Naruto pressed.
"Does it matter? I'm not going to date you."
"Yes, it matters! Because I know you won't lie to me."
"Come back in an hour. Then I'll be awake, rested, and less likely to want to rip your face off."
"I can't wait that long," Naruto replied. "In an hour I have to be somewhere, and there'll be a girl I like there..."
"The pinkhead?" Temari groaned. "Again, Naruto?"
"What?" he asked defensively. "What's wrong with Sakura-chan?"
"I'd rather not get into it." Temari reached out and grabbed his arm. "Do you trust me?"
Naruto nodded. "You know I do."
"Do you believe I want what's best for you? That I'd try to save you from pain if I could?"
"Give up on her, Naruto. It would never work. You wanted my opinion, and that's it. I'd feel different if Sakura actually felt the same as you do. I still wouldn't like her, but if she made you happy, that wouldn't matter. But that's not the case here, and you know it."
He didn't say anything as she let go of his arm.
"You're not ugly, little bro. But it wouldn't matter if you were, because Sakura wouldn't even notice. Do yourself a favor and take the advice of someone you know would never hurt you. She's no good for you. And I know you're pissed at me now, so go on. I'll be here when you're ready to talk to me again."
Naruto left without saying a word, and Temari sighed into her pillow. She didn't like being so rough with him, but she knew a heartbreak with Sakura would be even worse. There was also the added danger that Naruto's curse might react badly to Sakura rejecting him.
But most importantly, Temari suspected that Naruto didn't really love Sakura, if he ever even had to begin with. He was far more sensitive whenever the subject of Hinata came up. Temari remembered the shy girl with large, pale eyes only vaguely, but everyone she'd talked to was of the opinion that Hinata had always been rather obvious in her feelings for Naruto. She wasn't sure what had happened between them, because it was one of the few things Naruto refused to discuss with her.
Temari wasn't so easy to fool. If Hinata hadn't meant anything to Naruto, there would be nothing to hide. The only real problem that she could see was that Hinata was a missing-nin, and Naruto seemed unwilling to find her himself. Sakura, on the other hand, was a kunoichi in good standing, and therefore relatively safe by comparison. But Temari had a feeling that if Hinata ever showed up again, Sakura would be the last thing on Naruto's mind. The trick was getting him to see that.
She was convinced it was possible, for her, at least. Naruto put up a good front, but Temari knew that he always listened to her, even when he didn't like what he heard. They had become too close for her not to realize how much her opinion meant to him. But Temari had never given her approval to anyone so easily, and she had known from the moment she laid eyes on Sakura that the pink-haired girl wasn't going to get it.
Even though Temari hadn't known Naruto then, it had probably been the way Sakura treated him that left a bad taste in her mouth. Anyone who treated a teammate the way Sakura had, well... it just wasn't a good idea to rough up the people who had to watch your back without a good reason. And since Sakura didn't have a demon buried inside her, there was simply no excuse for the way she'd reacted to Naruto.
Naruto could never see that, blinded by puppy love as he was. He was so anxious to win Sakura's heart that Temari often had to give him a cold but healthy dose of reality. In her opinion, Naruto was better off staying single than ending up with Sakura. She had even mentioned this to him once, but the fearful look on his face afterwards had made Temari take it back. He'd spent so much of his life alone, and would do anything to keep from going back to that cold, dark existence... including marrying someone he only had a childhood crush on.
Naruto still hadn't said a word to her the next morning, but Temari knew he wouldn't stay quiet for much longer.
Sure enough, he finally spoke to her a few hours later.
"I want my own clan. But I'm never going to get one if I don't do something. Sakura-chan would make a great-"
"Why does it have to be her?" Temari interrupted. "If you're so desperate for a family, why put all your hopes on one girl, Naruto? You should be chasing down any girl that will look at you for more than five seconds."
"I guess... it doesn't have to be Sakura-chan," Naruto admitted reluctantly. "But she's so-"
"Are you telling me you've never met a girl that was more into you than Sakura is?" She could practically see the way Naruto's face started to close up, but managed to stop it, for the first time, by placing her hand over his and squeezing lightly.
"There was one," Naruto sighed. "But... she left Konoha a long time ago."
"So you just gave up on her?" Temari demanded. "This from the person who still believes he can bring Sasuke back? What's the difference, Naruto?"
"Sasuke was drawn away by evil. I have to save him. But she... she left to escape evil. I don't have any right to bring her back."
"You damn well do, if she's willing to be the mother of your children!"
Naruto's face grew pale. "You mean... kids? With... Hinata?" He honestly looked as if he'd never even considered the idea, and yet... he seemed shocked, not repulsed. Perhaps there was hope for this unlikely union even now.
Temari was about to congratulate herself on a job well done when Naruto said something that brought her celebration to a screeching halt.
"Hey... you're a girl, neechan."
"And what of it?" Temari snapped, drawing her hand back rather quickly. She hadn't thought Naruto would be that desperate, but...
"You could have a kid with some guy!" Naruto exclaimed happily. "And I'd be an uncle!"
Temari almost mentally kicked herself for thinking ill of Naruto. Almost. But the idea that he was trying to marry her off to the first random guy that came along wasn't exactly winning him any points in her book. "I'm not just going to-"
"Shikamaru! I bet even he'd get off his lazy butt if you-"
"Hold it! Look, I don't mind helping you out with this clan business, but I was thinking more of an advisory role, not actually popping out babies."
"But if things don't work out for me," Naruto pleaded, "I'll need someone to carry on the Uzumaki name!"
Temari only stared at him. He had joked, several times in the past, that people assumed the worst about them living together, and that she could always take his name to add to the scandal. But recently, it had been less a joke and more a plea, as a way of ensuring that Naruto wouldn't be the last of his clan. Truthfully, Temari didn't actually mind the idea so much (the look on Gaara's face alone would be worth it), assuming she found herself a husband open-minded enough to be associated with Naruto by name, anyway. Probably it would have to be someone lazy who didn't care what his family name was... and she quickly forced that idea out of her head.
"Why don't we just try your luck first and see where that gets us, okay?" Temari suggested firmly.
Temari had known her extended stay in Konoha wasn't a permanent one, though she hadn't considered how hard it would be when she finally did have to leave. And when Suna's fastest, most reliable message bird, Takamaru, landed in front of Naruto's apartment one day, she knew her time was up.
Sure enough, Takamaru was carrying a scroll with the Kazekage's seal on it, and the message within directed her to leave the village the very next day. Despite how much she didn't want to go, Temari took the bird inside, fed him, and proceeded to pack everything she would need. She had no idea what she would say to Naruto, or how he would react to her suddenly leaving him all alone. But it wasn't as if she could ignore instructions from Gaara, either.
As it turned out, Naruto completely surprised her. He came home, saw she was all packed, and immediately asked if there was anything she needed from him before she left. She must have looked thunderstruck, because he gave her one of his easy grins and a big hug.
"I'll miss you, neechan," he whispered in her ear. "But I can't ask you to stay. Whatever Gaara wants, he's asking as the Kazekage, not just your brother, and he's depending on you. Just like I'll depend on you one day, when I become the next Hokage."
Temari swallowed hard, blinking back tears. "Great. And I guess you'll expect me to do everything you say, too?"
"Don't worry, I won't ask for much," Naruto promised. "Maybe just a niece and a nephew..."
"Oh, you're real funny," she grumbled, giving him a playful swat on the ear.
"So does that mean you won't be stopping by Shikamaru's place to say goodbye?" he teased.
Temari glared at him, her cheeks glowing red. "Shut up."
"So you're headed out, huh?" Shikamaru asked casually. "Must be a real bother to have to do everything your younger brother says."
Temari shrugged slightly. "It's not so bad. He's Kazekage for a reason, you know. And even if he demands more of me than I'm willing to give, it's never more than I actually can give. Gaara knows me well enough to tell the difference."
"You trust him, then?"
"Well, someone has to," she replied with a smirk. "You obviously don't."
"I'm not supposed to," Shikamaru pointed out. "Don't you know? Brothers and boyfriends are natural enemies."
Temari grinned wickedly. "Oh yeah? I didn't know you and Kankurou were so close."
He made a sound that was half-snort, half-grunt. "It's cracks like that that make me wonder if you're worth the trouble."
"Hmm. I know I'm a better kisser than him," she offered airily.
"No argument here. But you could prove it more often."
"You wouldn't like me nearly as much if I just gave in every time you asked. You have to work for something this good, Shika-kun."
Shikamaru sighed and closed his eyes. "Damn, you're a troublesome woman."
"True," Temari agreed as she tapped his lips lightly with a finger. "But for now, I'm your troublesome woman, and you're my brilliant bum. And so long as you keep me happy, that's the way it'll stay."
His only response was a muttered, noncommittal noise, but she could see the way his eyes shone with pleasure as he stared at her.
"If things go really well, I could be back in a few months. So don't go too far, okay? I'll be mad if I have to track you down."
"Hmmph. It'd be no more than you deserve for being such a tease," he grunted.
"Careful, Shika-kun. You don't want me to tell Gaara that you broke my heart."
"As if any part of you could ever break," Shikamaru murmured, tracing a path along her jaw with his finger. "Oh. There's something I've been wondering about. You said Gaara sent you here to keep Naruto out of trouble?"
"Pretty much," Temari said softly, closing her eyes and leaning into his touch. "What about it?"
"I don't think that's the reason at all. I think he sent you so Naruto wouldn't be alone."
Her eyes snapped open. "Really?"
"Yeah. I don't think it's even possible to keep Naruto out of trouble. I'm surprised you didn't find that excuse suspicious when you heard it." A thoughtful frown appeared on his face. "Haven't you ever noticed the way some people around here look at Naruto?"
"I assumed they were looking at me," Temari admitted. "I'm the one that nearly helped destroy the village."
"Except they've always looked at him like that, even before you showed up. It never really seemed to bother him, but I bet he was faking it. But after you came, I think it really didn't bother him, because he at least had you to look at him differently."
"And how do you look at him?" she asked.
He shrugged. "There were times when I thought he was a real moron. But he didn't have a family like the rest of us. It's not right to blame him for his own misfortunes that we didn't have to suffer through ourselves. So I guess... for the way he wasn't raised, he turned out as well as could be expected."
Smiling softly, Temari leaned in and kissed the corner of his mouth.
"What was that for?" Shikamaru asked in surprise, his face turning red.
"For being the perfect guy for me," she replied, giving him a little wave as she ran off.
I should point out what I mean when I say Temari is physically stronger than Naruto. And note that these points refer to Naruto in his normal, non-Kyuubi powered state. Basically, two images come to mind.
1) Temari would have an easier time bench-pressing Naruto's weight than he would hers, but this is again due to the fact that Temari handles a great weight practically every moment of every day of her life (her fan).
2) Temari more than likely has more muscle mass than Naruto. Naruto's muscles are more obvious, but we know how deceptively strong ninja can be.
To me, Sakura never fully seems to grasp that Sasuke and Naruto's backgrounds are very similar: both ended up virtually raising themselves because they had no clan. In Sasuke's case, his clan was taken from him, and if Naruto ever had one, he doesn't remember it at all. Yet Sakura doesn't change her treatment of Naruto all that much, even after she figures out how he must feel to be an outcast. Admittedly, she does talk to him more, but she's still just as quick to hit him, while she would never raise a hand to Sasuke. Maybe this is because she sees Naruto as being more mischievous and childlike (and therefore in need of a good swat from time to time). But somehow I think it has more to do with maintaining her popularity early on: everyone else likes Sasuke and dislikes Naruto, so she does, too. Sakura grows out of this, thankfully, and even then it might only be because Naruto had been out of her life for two years, and Sasuke is no longer around.
There were only three reasons why Yamanaka Ino might run as if her life depended on it.
1) If her life actually did depend on it.
2) If Sakura had challenged her to yet another footrace.
3) If Ino had the juiciest gossip in town.
Currently, she was running like mad for the third reason. Ino was practically drooling as she finally reached Ichiraki Ramen, the news was so juicy. Immediately spotting the familiar pink hair of Sakura among the customers, Ino shoved her way through the crowd, only to find her friend seated next to Tenten of all people.
Well, some friendships had to be sacrificed in the name of gossip.
"Sakura! You'll never guess what I just heard!" Ino gasped, all but shoving them apart so she could sit between them.
Sakura just barely managed to not spill her ramen bowl at Ino's rather rough shoulder bump. "What is it, Ino?" she sighed.
"It's that perv, Naruto! I heard he asked Temari to move in with him!"
There was a loud shattering sound, and both girls turned to see that Tenten, despite having no trouble saving her bowl from spilling at Ino's interruption, had somehow managed to pierce straight through it, and the counter below it, with her chopsticks. The look on her face was one of absolute rage, so neither of them thought to mention that her lap was getting soaked with ramen.
"Well," Sakura said slowly, getting Ino's attention, "it's not like she would ever agree to something like that." She picked up her glass of water to take a drink.
"But that's just it!" Ino continued in a scandalized tone. "She said yes!"
Instantly, the glass in Sakura's hand shattered, sending water and glass shards flying in all directions.
"WHAT!" Sakura screeched, grabbing Ino and shaking her.
"It's true!" Ino insisted. "I saw them leaving Naruto's house today! They were laughing and touching each other!"
"Touching?" Sakura cried. "They can't do that! When I get my hands on that Naruto, I'll-"
"Don't bother," Tenten interrupted, frowning. "It's not his fault."
Sakura stared at her in complete disbelief. "How could it not be his fault? It's… it's Naruto!"
"You obviously don't know Temari like I do," Tenten sighed, shaking her head. "I'd bet anything she tricked him into begging her to stay with him."
Ino and Sakura traded confused looks.
"Why would she even bother?" Ino asked at last. "I mean... it's Naruto!"
"It's also free room and board," Tenten pointed out. "And I bet all it's going to cost her is something she's all too willing to give away: her body."
Ino and Sakura gasped loudly.
"You mean she's actually going to... with HIM?" Ino murmured, still shocked. "But... but it's... it's..."
"It's NARUTO!" Sakura finished for her.
"And do you really think she cares who it is?" Tenten snapped. "A girl like that will do anything to get what she wants. She probably only picked him because-"
"He's an idiot?" Ino supplied.
"Well, I still say Naruto needs a good pounding for this," Sakura muttered darkly, cracking her knuckles. "I'll teach him to sleep around with the first tramp that-"
"Wait a minute." Tenten gazed intently at Sakura. "You don't hate Temari?"
Sakura blinked. "Um... not really. What does that matter?"
"But... if you're not mad at her, and you know Naruto's stupid, then why do you even care at all?"
The pink-haired girl stared blankly at her. "Um... well... see, it's not... I mean..."
"Hey..." Ino said slowly. "Sakura, you don't... like Naruto or anything, do you?"
"Of course not!" Sakura shouted at once. "Don't be stupid, Ino-pig!"
"Back off, forehead girl! You're the one that went nuts when you found out that Naruto was taken!" Ino then whipped around to face Tenten. "Anyway, I bet I know why you hate Temari. You're just sore because she beat you in the chuunin exam."
Tenten opened her mouth, but Sakura cut her off. "Who cares about that? I'm going to get those two away from each other!" She jumped up, fully intending to carry out her threat.
"I don't think you'll have to do much," Tenten said quietly. "Look."
At that moment, Temari was walking past the ramen stand, but Naruto was nowhere in sight. This was probably a good thing, since Shikamaru was in sight, and Temari had her arm wound through his, though he seemed slightly annoyed by that fact.
"Ino," Sakura said slowly, "when you said you saw Temari and Naruto touching each other, exactly how were they touching?"
"She had her arm around his neck," Ino replied firmly.
"Like they were about to kiss?" Tenten guessed.
"No... more like they were buddies or something."
Sakura and Tenten glared at her.
"What? They were touching! Guys and girls don't touch each other without a good reason behind it!"
"Well, I'm about to touch you," Sakura growled, sticking her fist in Ino's face. "Let's see how fast you figure out the reason behind it!"
"You just try it! I can take you easy, Sakura," Ino laughed, more than willing to fight... that is, until a hand came down on her shoulder.
"Oh, she won't be alone," Tenten remarked, a smug grin on her face.
"Hey, wait!" Ino protested as they started to drag her away. "This isn't fair! It's two on one!"
Tenten jabbed her roughly in the ribs. "All's fair in love and war."
"And this is most definitely war," Sakura added nastily.
"Fine! See if I ever try to keep you two in the loop again!" Ino wailed as she increased her struggles.