When Clouds Laugh
Words tumbled carelessly into her mind. Words she'd heard before. Words from her past. Words she didn't want to hear again. The languid clouds above her laughed. They were laughing at her, the damned things always laughed at her now. They never used to laugh; they never used to do anything. In the past they hadn't mattered, now they were the only things she could see or hear. The only things that even talked to her when she was in Suna.
When she was on a mission the soft white marshmallows floating in the sky would dare her to look up. Then they assaulted her with painful images and worst of all, they laughed at her.
She hated their laughter most of all. She could handle the voices most of the time, but the laughter drove her insane.
And they laughed harder and louder when she was in Konoha. When she was in his presence. Sometimes when she was alone she'd yell at the clouds. They never listened.
Not that she expected anything; they were just clouds after all.
But they still laughed at her.
They were laughing at her now.
"Oi, Temari, are you all right?" Shikamaru inquired.
He wasn't looking at the clouds. She wondered if he could hear their guffaws or if the clouds loved playing with her alone. "Of course I am." She spat, "Now would you hurry? You might not care, but I have a village to get back to," Where the clouds didn't laugh as loud and attempted to drive her insane every minute of every day. Where she could mold back into the lifeless shell, the apathetic excuse for a person she had become. "Let's get to your place already so we can get the damned forms you 'forgot' this morning and fill them out! That way I can leave, already!"
He eyed her curiously and drew his hands up behind his head, "You seem…more irate and anxious than usual. Konoha really isn't that bad…Are you sure you're okay?"
"I said I was fine, didn't I?" She snapped.
"Okay." He paused in front of a house and opened the door. He held it open for her as his eyes were still critically analyzing her. Temari ignored his gaze and walked into the house. She fiddled anxiously with the edge of her gloves and tried desperately to ignore the laughter. "Just for the record," He said lazily, following her in, "I don't believe you when you say you're fine."
"Why should I care what you believe?" She said bitterly. The voices were getting harder and harder to ignore. He motioned her to the table and disappeared into another room.
Temari took a seat carefully and bit her lower lip. The anxiety growing strong and the voices going louder. She pulled off her right glove with a careful look at the doorway Shikamaru had disappeared into. She didn't want him to catch her. That would only be…trouble. Around her wrist was a thick rubber band and soft pink abused skin. Temari began playing with the rubber band and snapped it painfully against her skin. She watched the deep red welt it left behind with slight relief. The pain clamed the voices down usually. She'd changed the hand the rubber band rested on just yesterday. Her left hand was sore and there was a dark red and purple ring around her wrist. There was also a deep cut around her wrist from the numerous times she'd snapped the rubber band in the past three days she'd been in Konoha.
Her eyes glanced involuntarily at a window to the right of her. She felt a blush creep along her cheeks as the clouds laughter grew louder in her head.
They were laughing so cruelly.
The voices followed; as they always did when the laughter became too much. Louder and angrier than usual, she couldn't push them away. She couldn't ignore them.
"Useless little fuck."
"You can't do anything yourself. You need your demon brother to protect you."
She snapped the rubber band against her wrist again. Temari winced slightly and directed her gaze back to her wrist. She willed the voices away. A thin red line had appeared on her right wrist. Crimson blood slowly leaked from the line.
"Okay," Shikamaru muttered as he walked into the room, shifting papers in his hands, "I think I've got all the forms…"
Temari pulled her glove back on quickly hiding the rubber band, hiding the abused skin, hiding the fresh cut. She snatched the papers from his hands the minute he was close enough for her to do so.
The next hour was spent in complete silence.
Temari was diligent and efficient especially when it came to accomplishing simple, beneficial tasks. The sooner she finished the task the sooner she could go home and the sooner she was home, the sooner she could stop feeling and when that happened the voices would drop to a mere murmur and the laughter would sound distant and faraway. So long as Temari could stay focused she could subdue the voices and ignore the laughter, so long as nothing interrupted her, she could do this.
Temari's pen clattered noisily to the floor. She must've loosened her grip. The clatter of the pen hitting the floor echoed in her head and the clouds laughed loudly.
She refused to look out the window, so she couldn't see them laughing, but she knew it was them. It had to be the clouds. Only they laughed like that. So cruelly, so vindictively, so beratingly. She could hear words from her past whisper frantically and urgently in her mind.
"You're not my sister, Temari. When have you ever been a sister!? It's always been just you and that damned fan. Where were you when Gaara tried to kill me?"
"You think you mean something to me? You don't. I don't care about you or Kankuro. You mean nothing."
"I've never considered you my daughter, Temari. Neither did your mother. We didn't want a girl. We didn't want you."
"Don't talk to her, don't even look at her. She could kill you."
"She has no heart."
Temari gripped the edge of the table firmly. Go away, she pleaded silently. Go away.
"Your brother? Who cares? I am the new Kazekage. I call the shots. You are my servant."
"Why hold a funeral for those monsters? A demon and a psychotic puppeteer? Where they lie is what they deserve. It's a fitting end for them."
"They say she didn't cry when her brothers died. She's cold and heartless. They say she doesn't care."
"Now she's just the new Kazekage's plaything."
Temari released her hold on the table and brought her hand up to the side of her head. She gripped her head and tried to will the voices away. But they weren't leaving. Her voice was soft and vehement at first. "Shut up…Shut up… Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!" She screamed at last. She pulled at her hair.
The clouds were laughing louder than they'd ever had.
"Shut the hell up!" She screeched hysterically. A sob escaped her throat. "Just…leave me alone…" She whispered. "I can't take it anymore…Shut up, please." A hand touched her shoulder tentatively. Temari swatted it away instinctively.
"Don't touch me!" She screeched.
"Temari," He said softly, almost timidly. He wasn't sure what to say to her. Temari took a deep breath and tried to calm down, tried to make the voices go away. She never yelled when someone else was there. She'd never lost her control in someone else's presence. This was unknown territory for her. She could understand his hesitation.
She wouldn't know what to say to herself.
Temari straightened and took another breath. She let her hand drop to the table.
They were shaking.
"I…" She muttered shakily, "I'm going to go. You can…finish, right?" She said softly, refusing to look him in the eye.
She stood up, still refusing to look at him, "I just…need…to go, okay? I need…I need it."
Shikamaru grabbed her left wrist before she got too far. Temari winced slightly. His eyes were trained on hers.
He carefully loosened his grip but moved his hold to her lower arm so she wouldn't run off.
Temari pulled on her arm lightly, "Shikamaru, please…" She whispered.
He pulled her glove off gently, his sharp eyes watching her wrist with worry. He inhaled sharply as he saw what the glove had covered. The red abused skin. The dry blood. The cut. "Let me see your other hand." He demanded.
Temari pulled on her arm again, "Let me go."
"Your other hand, Temari." He said firmly.
"I'm older than you and – You can't boss me around. I'm a Jounin."
"I'm a Jounin too, now, remember?" He stated calmly, but his eyes betrayed him. They were angry, dark, maybe even concerned. "Temari, show me your other hand."
Temari shook nervously, "If I do that, will you let me go?"
"Show me your hand."
Temari stretched her right hand to him. He pulled off the other glove revealing a fresh cut, even redder skin, and a blood tinged rubber band.
"What is wrong, Temari? Tell me."
"You can't – You can't tell me what to do." She stuttered as the voices started coming back and the laughter echoed menacingly in her mind.
"Please." He whispered, "Please tell me what's wrong."
Tears fell from her eyes. "Everything." She knew what he saw: what everyone else saw when they looked at her now. They saw a girl who used to be strong, used to be tough, used to be happy, used to be a capable woman. He saw a weak, feeble, shell of that girl she had been. He saw a broken, hollow, pathetic being. What he saw was a waste. "It's not like you care anyway!" she cried. "We don't belong in the same village! We aren't even friends! The only time we talk is when we're working on some stupid order from the Kages! Just leave me alone, Shikamaru." She closed her eyes. "You don't have to do anything. You have no obligations to me. Just leave me alone."
His grip loosened and Temari tore out of the room. Out of the house. Away from him. Away from it all.
She stopped running after she came to some alley and fell to the floor. She leaned against the wall and just let herself cry.
The clouds laughed.
"Shut up." Temari cried weakly, cradling her head in her hands. "Just shut the hell up."
"The new Kazekage thinks she's in love with some ninja in Konoha. He purposefully sends her there to tease her with what she can't have, because he won't let her. The Kazekage's very possessive of his toys."
"She'll be his whore until she grows old, then she'll just be some crazy old maid. Who wants used goods?"
"They say she pleads him to leave her alone every time. But he's the Kazekage and he's stronger than her. She has no one to protect her anymore, what with Gaara and Kankuro dead. She's at the Kazekage's mercy."
"Everyone says she's insane. Absolutely mad. Driven weak and crazy by the Kazekage's twisted games."
"SHUT UP!" Temari's voice cracked. "I … can't." She muttered almost lifelessly. "I can't do it anymore. I can't. It's too much…" Tears stained her cheeks gluing her hair to her flushed skin. "I just can't…"
"Then let me help you." A soft voice muttered.
Temari looked up. Shikamaru walked to her, all traces of his lazy demeanor gone. He squatted right in front of her. "Let me help you, Temari. Tell me what's wrong."
"I thought I told you to leave me alone." She said coldly, "I've already told you don't owe me anything. Just go away."
He watched her silently, "I can't do that."
"Why not?!" She screamed hysterically. "You wouldn't be able to do anything anyway and I don't want you to try! You'll make it worse! You'll make them laugh harder! They always do when I'm even a little bit happy! Why can't you just go away?
He tentatively reached out to touch her face. His fingertips brushed her wet cheek softly. He brushed the sticky, wet, matted hair from her face. "I can't just…go, because…I'm…" He sighed. "I'm in love with you, Temari."
Her heart hammered wildly in her chest. "DON'T SAY THAT!"
"It's the truth." He whispered. His fingertips lingered at the edges of her chin.
She could feel the tingly sensation his touch induced in her. She could feel his warmth contacting with her frigid skin. She could feel so much that she wanted, so much, but giving in to it would only cause her more pain.
Feeling caused her pain.
She trembled, "You still shouldn't say it."
"It hurts, Shikamaru. You have no idea how much it hurts. I only get by because I've learned to stop feeling. When I feel it becomes real again and I can feel the pain stronger than ever. I can hear the voices; I can hear their laughter, stronger than ever. It hurts," She cried. "It hurts so much. I just want to stop hurting. It gets harder and harder the longer it goes on and … I can't…" Fresh tears rolled down her face. "I can't keep living this way. I can't keep not feeling." She looked into his eyes, his dark eyes "I only feel when I'm with you, Shikamaru. Sometimes I hate it, because it makes the pain come anew, come stronger, but sometimes I think it's worth it, just for the way you make me feel. I feel happy. I never feel happy anymore!" She felt all the strength leave her body and she began to collapse but Shikamaru held her, keeping her from falling to the floor. "It – it just hurts…"
Shikamaru held her tightly and just let her cry. He said nothing but held her closely.
Temari pulled away after a while, the tears dry, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have— we should finish the forms. They're important—"
"Temari," Shikamaru said seriously, "Don't pretend everything's fine now."
The blonde woman cast her eyes down. "It's easier that way."
"Easier isn't always better."
"You don't understand."
"You're giving up. That much I understand. The woman who used to constantly preach about fighting for her dreams, about never quitting is giving up."
She glared at him angrily, "Well, what do you expect me to do!? I can't do anything. I tried."
"Ask for help."
"I don't need—"
He grasped her chin gently and directed her face in his direction. "Don't be stupid, Temari. Of course you need help and there are many who would be more than willing to help you."
"No one would—"
"Shikamaru, it's not that simple."
"Dammit, Temari, that doesn't fucking matter! You are dying. I don't care about how much damn trouble it could be! I love you. I can't see you live like this…" He leaned forward, his lips almost brushing hers.
Temari leaned into him so that her lips touched his. It was shocking at first: to feel his lips against hers, to have been the one to create the contact, to like the feeling.
The rest of it didn't make much sense to her. Because she stopped thinking, she stopped hearing laughter, she just felt. And it was good feeling.
His lips moved against her and he murmured her name in her mouth his warm breath sending chills up her spine. His tongue scraped across hers and she pressed her body against his own.
It was warm and kind and soft and gentle. Something she most definitely was not accustomed to. Something she wanted to get accustomed to.
She pulled away slowly, her breathing ragged and cheeks flushed with a genuine smile on her face. "I…"
"Temari…" He whispered his fingers tracing the edges of her face.
"I…I love you, too. I always have."
He kissed her softly again. "Let me help you."
"Okay." She nodded. "Okay." She rested her head on his shoulder as the voices in her head became louder. But they were different this time.
"Why are you so damned violent?! Better question, why do I keep talking to you?!"
"I smile, neechan, because you are pretty stupid sometimes. For the smart sibling, you act ridiculous. Kankuro agrees."
"I love you, neechan."
"You're so much trouble! You know I'm going to help you anyway, so you make it even more trouble. Do you know how much trouble that is!?"
"Because I'm in love with you, woman."
"Thank you, Temari. You helped me…because of you…I'm…Kage…"
Temari's eyes fluttered open as she smacked into the floor. She was tangled up in white soft sheets, one leg hanging from what Temari thought was a rather high bed and the other leg rested on the floor. Her head was throbbing from where it had contacted with the floor and her entire body felt sore and bruised. Her brain was racing trying to figure what exactly was going on.
"Dammit, woman." An irate voice sighed. "Do you have to keep falling?" Shikamaru's dark eyes appeared above her. Her heart fluttered dangerously hard. His spiky ponytail seemed messier than usual. She wondered fleetingly what really was going on. She clearly wasn't in Suna. His mouth gaped open in shock. "Oh. You're awake."
"I just fell from an inhumanly tall bed onto the hardest floor ever, of course I'm awake. What do you mean 'keep falling', anyway?"
Memories flitted back in her mind.
A chain of pleasant tingly shivers spread through her body at the last image. Then deep grief and regret settled in her stomach.
It couldn't be true right?
She had to have been dreaming right?
Then why was it that Shikamaru was watching her and not her brothers…?
Fear rose deep in her chest.
Temari carefully disentangled herself from the sheets and crawled back onto the bed, terrifying images playing in her head.
Shikamaru shrugged, "This is the sixth time you've fallen off the bed. Very first time you've awaken. Gaara says you keep falling because you aren't used to high bed."
Temari's eyes widened and she sat up abruptly, "Gaara?" The blonde girl's hands were clenching the sheets tightly in hopeful desperation. "He's here?"
Shikamaru frowned, "Of course he is. You three were together remember?"
"You mean Kankuro's here too?!"
"Are you okay, Temari?" He looked at her carefully in concern, "I think you hit your head a little too hard…"
"They're alive, right?!" She demanded authoritatively.
"Nara," A new voice muttered walking into the room. "I couldn't find what you asked me to get. Can't you just give her some pills or something? Do you really need to make medicinal tea?"
"Ah!" Temari squeaked happily, jumping up in the bed. "Ah! Red hair! Gourd! Chubby cheeks! Raccoon eyes!" Temari scrambled off the bed and practically tackled her little brother. Gaara fell backwards onto the floor and watched the blonde fearfully. Temari was sitting on his chest – crying. "You're alive! You're alive! Thank kami, you're alive!" Her eyes opened fearfully for a second. "You're still the Kazekage right?" Gaara nodded slightly. The next five seconds were spent with Temari kissing his cheek and forehead. The blonde then abruptly pulled up and began pounding his chest rather painfully. Gaara couldn't help but wince. "Don't do that again, you dolt. Don't ever! I have to die before you! No more dying! That one time was enough. NO more, you hear me!?"
Gaara looked at Shikamaru in absolute confusion. "What did you do to her?"
Shikamaru appeared just as shocked and confused as Gaara was. "Having the flu shouldn't make her act…She just woke up like that…"
"Temari, what the hell are you doing?" Kankuro asked incredulous as she stood in the doorway, a bottle in his hand.
"Puppet boy!" Temari screamed happily. "Purple makeup! Stupid kitty hat!" Temari scrambled off of Gaara and jumped at Kankuro. The puppeteer stumbled, but managed not to fall. Temari's arms were wrapped around his neck tightly.
"Dammit, Tem." He choked as Temari squeezed rather firmly. "You're going to kill me."
At that Temari released her grip and shoved him roughly against the wall. "You too, you jackass!' She yelled at him angrily and hysterically. "Don't ever say that! And don't ever do that again." She punched him painfully. "I am the oldest, baka, I die first, understand?! If you ever do that again I'll – I'll — DON'T DO IT AGAIN!!"
"Temari," Kankuro said slowly, "I've never died. And I've no intention of dying anytime soon."
"DAMN STRAIGHT!" She yelled with all her force. She then grimaced and brought her hands up to her head. "Oww…Damn that – oww…" Temari's knees buckled and she felt her weight collapse on her. She closed her eyes and braced herself for the fall but two hands held her firmly in place. Said hands wrapped around her waist and picked her up. Temari opened her eyes to peek at the person who was carrying her. It didn't feel like Kankuro. He wasn't really that gentle.
Shikamaru watched her exasperatedly in his arms. "Dammit, woman." Shikamaru muttered. "You are ill. You shouldn't be moving and yelling like that." He laid her carefully on the bed.
"Are you a Jounin?" She asked quickly
His eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Of course not. Chuunin." "Are you sure?"
He sighed. "And apparently you're delusional too."
"I am not delusional!" She snapped.
"You're under the impression that those two have died recently and I'm a Jounin. You're clearly delusional."
She scowled, "I'm just warning them that they don't deserve the luxury of dying before me, even if I am dreaming!" She sat up and glared at her brothers. "Do you understand!?!"
Kankuro held up his hands in surrender. "We swear. If either of us are at risk of dying we'll make you sure you go first."
"Good." Temari said stubbornly and winced again as a throbbing pain bloomed in her head.
Shikamaru growled in irritation. "Lay down." He ordered. "I'm sure you can continue scolding them while you're lying down."
She pouted, "It's not as effective that way."
"I don't particularly care. Now, lay down, woman!"
Temari obliged, only momentarily, until another part of the dream resurfaced clearly.
'I'm in love with you, Temari.'
Temari grinned recalling that particular part of the dream. There had been that kiss. Dream or not, that was a very good kiss. She owed it to herself to find out if he was as good a kisser in real life as he was in dreams, she reasoned. Hell, after that nightmare she deserved more than a damn kiss.
She sat up. "Shikamaru."
"Woman, I told you to lay—"
"Down. Yeah, yeah, I got it." She paused and her voice dropped its obnoxious tone, "Come here."
"Temari," he sighed, "You—"
"I will." She said. "I swear I will lie down if you just come here. After I do this, I'll do exactly as you say, doctor."
He rolled his eyes, "This is troublesome." He muttered, but complied and walked to the side of the bed. Temari grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him toward her. Shikamaru fell quite clumsily onto the empty space of the bed in front of her. "Oi, woman, what are you—"
His next words were lost in her mouth. The shadow nin was immobile for the first few seconds, probably lost in shock and then he moved his lips experimentally with hers. It wasn't much of a kiss at first. Temari wasn't intending to run him off, so she didn't use any tongue. But it seemed Shikamaru had no intention of going anywhere. His tongue reached out and licked her lip uncertainly and then ventured into her mouth.
"Still troublesome?" She murmured into his mouth as his lips pressed harder and more urgently against her own. Shikamaru didn't respond but his hand drifted to rest lazily on her hip. Temari was still clenching the front of his shirt firmly and somehow her free had had moved to the back of his head, pulling at the hairs falling free from his ponytail. Shikamaru's other hand lay on the bed, supporting him, he didn't put much weight on her hip. His thumb instead was caressing a bare patch of skin that had been revealed by pushing up her shirt a little. Temari released her grip from his shirt and moved her hand inside his shirt, feeling his chest.
"FUCK, TEMARI! WHAT THE HELL?!" Kankuro yelled, angrily. "Oi! Moron! Get the HELL off my sister!!"
Shikamaru pulled away slowly, Kankuro's words probably reminding him they weren't alone. Temari was less willing to part her hand still fingered the hem of his shirt. Shikamaru looked curiously at Temari. "What…" he breathed, "was that…?"
"I'd figure you'd be smart enough to know what it was." She smirked a little, "I intend to do that to you quite often." Temari told him seriously. She smiled slightly then, "Just so you know."
Shikamaru blinked. "…Good." He responded. "So long as you do it with me alone."
Temari laughed and lay back down. "Naturally." She smiled. "I expect the same of you, Shikamaru."
"Enough, flirting! And enough, doing… other things!!" Kankuro exclaimed. "She's delusional. Clearly she didn't mean any of that which means you took advantage of our sister and I'll have to kill you for that."
Gaara, who'd picked himself up off the floor sometime between the kiss looked from Temari to Shikamaru and then back again for a good while. He then quite abruptly began to walk away.
"Oi, Gaara! Where do you think you're going?!" Kankuro called, "We have to kill the shadow brat!"
"Not…necessary." Gaara muttered. "If he's willing to be in a relationship with Temari he'll be as good as dead in just day. Temari practically kills everyone she loves with that fan of hers."
"Love?!" Kankuro exclaimed dramatically following his younger brother. "What the hell are you talking about? No love!" Kankuro glared at Shikamaru, "No, love." His tone had been very reminiscent of a school teacher. As if he had been scolding a small rowdy child. It almost made Temari grin. He then continued after Gaara, still yelling, his voice fading.
Temari smiled. He kissed better than in the dream. Shikamaru peered at her, "You should hit your head more often."
Temari smacked him upside the head, still smiling. "Baka."
Temari could hear laughter. Just like in her dream. But it was happy laughter. She could almost hear voices.
"Finally, you twit!"
"Are you telling me all it took was to give you a dream to make your realize being with him would be a good idea? If we'd known that, we would've done it ages ago."
"About, damn time."
More laughter. She kind of liked the laughter, though.
A/N: I'm not really sure if I like this fic, but it was stuck inside my head begging to come out and well, this is the result. Tell me what you think.