Because Alternate Universes Have All The Fun
(# 7, 9, 22, 38, 39, 44)
007. Lime – Royals
She was the kind of princess that other princess looked at to make themselves feel better about their own failures. 'At least I'm not like her' was the common utterance amongst the royal females. The princesses and duchesses would sit in front of mirrors and perk and prim their hair, purse their lips, and model one ridiculous pose after the next. Their clothes were always of the latest fashion and as a result always incredibly uncomfortable. Their manners were impeccable and skin smooth and unmarred. Their nails were clean and shiny and their smiles always pulled tight.
She, on the other hand, was a disaster – at least in royal terms.
Her hair was spiky and coarse, lips perpetually pulled into either a scowl or frightening grin, nails bitten to the quick, and clothes that showcased her own likes than that of society's. She was the kind of princess that princes ran from and kings and queens turned their nose up at.
Temari of the kingdom of sand was a sorry excuse for a princess – but that didn't bother her, really. She would rather stay who she was and never marry then to fit the cookie cutter and be forced to pretend her entire life. She said so to any potential suitors who came knocking on the castle door. Usually that was enough to destroy any intentions of asking for her hand. When that didn't work, everything else she did after that did.
Her father had begun to get so desperate he'd dragged her along to visit the king of the leaf kingdom where her father expressly told her to suck up to the prince so that he would take her hand. Temari had no intention of doing any such thing, so upon reaching the castle, she snuck away from her father's side and wandered around instead.
She ended up in a rather expanse, and beautiful, courtyard. It was covered with lush grass, gorgeous roses, and many other beautiful botanical joys that Temari couldn't even begin to name. She wandered through the courtyard taking in the beautiful view.
Then she tripped and hit the floor face first.
"Are you alright?" The voice was cool, lethargic, and slightly concerned.
"I'm fine." She snapped, "You shouldn't go around tripping people." She muttered as she sat up.
"You should watch were you're going." The speaker was dark haired, dark eyed, gangly, and had very thin brows. He looked rather young. He inclined his head at her, "Who are you?"
"Who are you?"
He didn't look very important. His whole appearance didn't exactly scream 'royal'. She wondered if hers did. Other than the slightly expensive dress, she figured it didn't.
The man shrugged at her and lay down on the floor face-up.
It took her a few seconds to figure out that he'd probably been doing that when she tripped over his feet. She looked up. "What are you staring at?"
"Do you work in the castle?"
"As little as I possibly can."
Temari lay down next to him.
He looked at her in slight confusion, but said nothing.
Neither did Temari.
After a while, her eyelids shut and Temari felt herself drift off into a restful nap.
Temari stirred. "What?" She mumbled.
The guy's dark eyes stared warmly at her. "You should probably go inside now."
"I don't want to."
"It's getting cold out."
"What do I have to do to get you inside?"
"Why do you care?"
"You could get sick. A man can let a woman stay out here and make herself ill."
She couldn't help it – she whacked him across the head. "What man? I only see a scrawny kid."
He rubbed his head. "Just follow me inside, will you?"
Temari sat up, "Can you play chess?"
"I'll go inside if you play a game with me." She hadn't played chess in the longest time.
"I'm serious, but if that's what you want, that that's what I'll give you." He stood up, "Come on."
Temari followed after him.
He led her through a different way than the one she'd come – one that went through the kitchen. He maneuvered his way around expertly, not even looking back to see if she was still following him, she noted. He was a bit too trusting, wasn't he?
They finally stopped in a small room – very plain, very base, with a very odd chess board. It was lime. Temari fingered the pieces and board in interest. Who would make a lime-colored chess set?
Thirty minutes later, Temari was sitting, brow furrowed, trying to figure out how she could win the game.
He smirked at her. "You lost."
She scowled, "I guess I did."
"You're pretty good. Better than I'd expected."
"You're not that bad."
Temari rolled her eyes. "Cocky jerk." She arranged the pieces back in their original position. "Play me again."
"I can't, I should be off." He winced. "Not that I particularly want to, but I've put it off for too long already."
She wondered what he was avoiding. It couldn't be worse than what she was avoiding. "Nice meeting you."
He stood up, but hesitated, "I asked you this already, but who are you?"
"You tell me first."
"I asked first."
Temari shrugged. "An annoyed girl who was forced here by her father to meet some hoity toity prince."
His eyebrows shot up, "You're Temari, the princess of the sand kingdom?"
"Now, who are you?"
"The hoity-toity prince."
Temari blinked. "Well, I'll be." She sat looking at him awkwardly. He did the same. She frowned, "You were avoiding meeting me?"
"You were doing the same."
"Yeah, because I hate princes."
"And I hate princesses."
They stared at each other. "Why?" They asked simultaneously.
The prince shrugged, "They bore and annoy me. They all seem the same too."
"They annoy and anger me. They're all jerks."
He sat back down, "You don't really look like a princess."
"You don't really look like a prince."
He smiled, "I kind of like you."
"I kind of don't hate you." Temari paused, "Not totally anyway."
009. Black – A Hit
A gunshot lingers throughout the air and his voice can be heard throughout the empty garage. He swears. "How much are they paying you?"
She can't really see through the shadows. Everything looks black. Black cars, black poles, and black whispers of a person who is and isn't really there. "Doesn't matter." She replies and shoots off another bullet.
She was close that time, he thinks, the bullet grazed his shoulder, which thanks to the stupid mercenary was now bleeding profusely. "I'll double it!" He shouts at her.
Another shot. This one hits his hand.
"Bullshit." She's annoyed as hell. The guy is like a snake; he won't stay still and keeps using the shadows to his advantage. If she weren't in a parking garage, she'd have killed him already.
"I'll pay 50,000 bucks to NOT shoot me!"
"Too low." She's got a brother in need of medical attention and another in deep shit. 50,000 bucks isn't gonna cut it.
"250,000 to NOT kill me." He ducks just as she shoots again. He knew he was going to die if he didn't get this girl to stop. "Fuck, I'll pay you 500,000 a day just protect my ass!" He says, getting more worried for his life, and all the while impressed at her skills. Only he could appreciate a mercenaries skills while said mercenary was trying to kill him.
She lowers her gun just a bit, "Make it 800,000 a day, starting today, and we've got a deal. Otherwise, this next shot goes straight to your heart, Shikamaru Nara."
She slides the gun in the back of her pants. "If you fuck with me, I'll be back to not only kill you, but those close to you."
He slinks out from behind a car, brushing his hair out of his sweaty face, "Do I look like the kind of idiot who would double-cross a mercenary?" Especially, he thinks, one as fucking crazy and dangerous as you've proved yourself to be?
"Well, you've got a hit on you, so I'm going to say, 'yes'." She looks him over. He is a gangly, skinny, and rather young male, that is, young compared to most hits. "What the hell did you do, anyway?" She wrinkles her nose; she can't imagine what a guy like that could have done to warrant him as big of a hit as he is. He doesn't look like much.
"What didn't I do?" He responds. "I may look young, but I've done more than you could ever imagine." He'd gotten into the business at a real young age, and had an incredible knack for it – he didn't know when enough was enough. A bodyguard – especially one like her – was probably a good idea.
His dark eyes look at her long and hard. She finds herself believing him.
"Who are you?"
"Sabaku." She inclines her head at him, "But since I'm watching your back, I suppose I can give you a first name – Temari."
"Sabaku?" He was impressed. This woman was the most feared mercenary out there. "Nice. They sent you after me."
She didn't say anything.
He kind of liked her already.
022. Wedgewood – Party Invitation
"Hey, Lazy." She grinned.
Shikamaru yawned. "Yo."
She sat down beside him, "What's going on?"
He shrugged. "Nothing, really." Then he sat up slightly and fished for something in his pocket. He held out a small wedgewood-colored paper to her.
Temari raised an eyebrow, but took the paper. It was nice heavy paper with silver embroidery engraved on the side. It was very pretty and smelled very flowery. It was an invitation for Shikamaru to a party Ino was apparently hosting. "It's a nice invitation." She twirled in her fingers. "Why'd you give it to me?"
"Do you…" He sighed. "Do you want to go with me? I really hate parties and I think, you'd make it slightly less boring."
Temari hesitated. "Ino doesn't really like me." Last year, before she'd graduated from high school, Temari had sort of accidentally-on-purpose dyed her lovely blonde hair green. In Temari's eyes it had totally been called for. The cheerleader had dissed her youngest brother. She couldn't stand for that.
"So, it won't exactly be pretty." She paused. "But if you don't care, I don't mind going with you." She didn't mention that she didn't mind only because she would be going with him. She wondered absently if he considered this a date.
"Okay." His expression was unreadable.
"Is this a date, Shikamaru?"
"Do…do you want it to be?" His voice was slightly hesitant.
Temari smiled. "Dork."
038. Tropical Rain Forest – Interning is Hell
Temari collected her files and grumbled in annoyance. She knew she shouldn't have taken this internship.
"And be quick about it!" The woman snapped.
Temari closed her eyes briefly, willing away the visage of her oh-so kind boss. Unfortunately, when she opened her eyes, the evil woman was still sitting before her. With her wispy brown hair, rimless glasses, and thin pursed lips; she even managed to pull off the evil drama queen look.
"Yes, mam." She shuffled out of the office as quickly as she could manage without making it look like she was running away.
Temari thought it a terrible crime that someone as cruel as that woman could look as devastatingly beautiful as she did. Once out of sight, Temari quickly maneuvered her way to her own little (and incredibly pathetic) cubicle. She brushed the hair out of her eyes and decided to take a few minutes to pity herself before rushing off to do the menial (and embarrassing) tasks the devil woman wanted. She slumped in her own pathetically worn chair and banged her head against her desk a couple times.
Yes, while the others she knew were off having fabulous jobs shadowing expert genii and whatnot , here she was getting coffee and being yelled at for less than half of what the other luckies were paid.
She just had to get an internship with the most evil business mogul in the city.
"Temari, you'd better get the wicked witch her coffee before she fires your ass."
Temari lifted her head up from the desk to look at the warm voiced woman. Tenten was the only decent woman who worked in the office, and she didn't even technically work there. Tenten was a freelance advertisement expert currently working on some ad appeal for the witch's newest popular item.
Even though she hated the woman, Temari had to admit the products produced by her company were really cool and efficient. The only cooler company when it came to technological doohickeys was Konoha Inc. Tenten was leaning comfortably against the shabby cubicle wall, her fingertips brushing the clothlike texture.
"She doesn't want coffee." Temari grumbled, "She wants non-fat, latte, frothy…something, something. Honestly, the order takes up a whole page. I wrote down everything she said in my little notebook," Temari held up her small, violet, striped 7 by 5 inch notebook, "and even with my small handwriting it took up a whole damn page."
Tenten sniggered. "If she wouldn't ruin your reputation because of it, I'd tell you to quit." The brunette inclined her head, "But as it is, nobody ever quits on the wicked witch without having their career go down the toilet."
"I just gotta suck it up for five months." Temari muttered through gritted teeth, "Five months and this internship goes to some other sucker. Five months, I get lots of experience under my belt and I can kiss this place goodbye."
Tenten shrugged, "Or, you know, if some other company offers you a job."
"The company would have to be better than or equal to hers." Temari complained, "That leaves only Konoha Inc. and Akatsuki Co. Neither of which are exactly easy to get into. They only take major genii, even as interns."
"Well, it sucks to be you."
"Thanks." Temari said dryly.
Tenten patted the wall. "Either way, up and at 'em."
Temari pushed away from the desk somewhat bitterly. She pulled her jacket on meanwhile casting Tenten slightly aggravated looks. She snatched the notebook from her desk and stormed off.
"Bring me back a page-long thingy too!" Tenten called.
Temari inhaled sharply as the first gust of wind hit her. Wearing skirts in this city was probably a bad idea, but she just didn't have it in her to wear pants. Thanks, but she liked showing off her legs. Dammit, it was one of the few things she had. She was going to show them and show them proudly! Plus, pants always felt too restricting.
Temari made it to the little coffee shop not too far off in a few minutes time. She pushed open the cold door wincing as the icy metal bit her skin. Luckily, there wasn't much of a line. She's already stalled in getting the coffee too long. She dropped the notebook on the counter and flipped to the right page. "How can I help you?" The guy at the counter asked somewhat amiably.
She rubbed her hands together for warmth and paused to take a deep breath. "This is going to be long, alright?"
He nodded. "Okay…"
"I'll have a double grande vanilla mocha latte, split shot, four dashes of cinnamon at the bottom, extra hot, half whole milk and half nonfat milk with one and half inch creamy nonfat foam, use one Splenda and half an Equal pack instead of the raw sugar and nonfat whipped cream – make sure it's double than the usual amount, with a sleeve – not wrinkled or crushed in any way – on the cup. And top it off with a letter "S" spelled out on the top in drizzled chocolate. Oh, but sprinkle some toffee crumbs on top. Not a lot, just a little.
"Ah, and make you sure you write the name "Sura" with a squiggly almost cursivy style, but definitely print on the sleeve in blue pen. The white part of the sleeve, mind you, don't let it get on the colored parts."
He looked at her in confusion.
"I have a sample of the type of writing "Sura" should be in if you need one." Temari said weakly all the while thinking that really wasn't the problem he was having.
"Ma'm, I…I didn't get any of that." He still looked flabbergasted, "All I heard was 'nonfat' and 'little'."
Temari slid the notebook toward him. "Here's the order." She turned the page, "And this is the writing sample. Is that easier?"
He nodded hesitantly. "I'll see what…what I can do…"
"Please get it right, my boss will slit my throat if so much as one sprinkle is missing. Don't ask me how she knows. She does. I tried to give her some crappy excuse yesterday – it wasn't pretty."
"I'll try my best."
Temari smiled weakly. "Thanks."
She shuffled off to the side and sunk into a nearby chair.
"You know," A cool voice uttered, "It kind of defeats the purpose of 'nonfat' if you order a bunch of fatty additions to the coffee." He paused and then added lightly under his breath just loud enough for her to hear, "If you could call that order 'coffee' anyway."
She glared in the direction of the speaker. A gangly dark-eyed guy with dark hair pulled up into a ponytail was staring at her over the rim of his coffee mug. He was wearing a pair of rimless spectacles and his fingers were resting lightly against a white sheet of paper which had been scribbled upon in a neat and cramped up manner.
"Please, like I give a shit. I don't even like coffee."
He stared at her impassively, "So, I would assume you're Suri's new intern?"
"Her name is Sura." Temari said blankly. Suri, she knew, was a familiar term for the name 'Sura', but she highly doubted the woman was close enough to anyone that they would call her 'Suri' by choice.
"I know. Suri and I have history together."
He didn't elaborate.
He straightened up ever so slightly so that instead of the terrible slouch he'd had before he was sitting with an almost decent and normal slouch. He closed the notebook shut. It was an average sized notebook, a color Temari could only think to describe as tropical rain forest. "You don't look like the usual business type."
"Why are you talking to me?" Temari snapped slightly annoyed.
"Does it matter?"
She glared at him. "You look like a stalker."
"I like your phone."
Temari glanced at the Blackberry she was holding in her hand.
"You'd figure you would have a phone from Suri's company rather than one from Konoha Inc."
"Konoha's stuff trumps Sura's every day."
"What makes you say that?" He took a swig of his coffee.
"It's technologically superior, even if its advertising isn't nearly as good as Sura's. It's missing aesthetic appeal, but it's completely functional, faster, and has a lot of added bonuses. It just works better."
"Then why are you not interning at Konoha?"
"It's impossible to get a job there if you're not rich or some genius. Plus, they don't take interns readily." Temari frowned, "Stop talking to me. You're freaking me out."
He smirked. "You're not a people person, are you?"
"I'm ignoring you now."
The lanky guy simply smiled and downed the rest of his coffee. He pushed away from the table a little later, the scraping of his chair perfectly clear to Temari despite the low buzz in the coffee house. He made his way over to the counter where he chatted with the guy for a bit before exiting the coffee house.
Temari had tried the entire time to appear as if she wasn't watching him at all, but she was. He was, for a potential stalker, arguably good-looking. Of course, just the fact that he had 'history' with Sura, dubbed him as 'insane' and 'unfit' in her book.
"Ma'm?" The guy called, "Your order is ready."
Temari pushed away from the table and walked over to the counter. "Thanks." She handled the cup carefully. If the "S" smeared Sura would have her head.
"Oh, and," The guy fumbled giving her back the notebook, inside the pages was a small white card. "The ponytail guy told me to give that card to you."
Temari frowned. "Does he seriously think he's getting a date out of this? Freak."
She fished out the card and skimmed through it.
And dropped the coffee cup.
Systems Analyst & Senior Coordinator
Phone: (432) 555-0983
Fax: (432) 555-3231
Scribbled underneath the immaculate print text in long slanted and bunched up writing was a small note to her.
If you want to get out of Sura's company, Konoha will be willing to offer you a job Temari Sabaku. The company has been interested in you for a while. Call and ask for either me or for Sarutobi.
That would explain the 'history' comment.
The guy at the counter grimaced, "Am I going to have to fill out that order again?"
"I…uhm…" Temari blinked. "Fuck, I have no idea."
039. Aqua – Opportunities
She flexed her fingers and fiddled with the bracelet around her wrist. The aqua stones blinked up at her.
He was late.
That man was always late.
She should leave.
She should just fucking leave.
Temari took a deep breath and reached for glass of wine. She noticed how badly her hands were shaking when she picked it up. The liquid inside it sloshed around. She tried to sip it, but it came out as more of a slurp.
She should leave.
The chair before her scraped.
Temari jumped, almost dropping the glass.
A tall man with dark eyes was now sitting in the chair before her. He inclined his head at her.
"Who are you?"
His expression didn't change. Carefully and slowly, he pulled out a small white card from his jacket pocket. He scribbled something neatly on the card and then slid it to the center of the table. "Shikamaru Nara." He lifted his hands off the card and slid the pen back inside his jacket pocket. "Call me, if you want the opportunity. I'm sure you're sick of this anyway."
Temari set the glass back down. "What…what are you talking about?"
He tapped the card. "Read." Then he pushed the chair away from the table and stood up. "By the way, the man? He isn't worth it."
Temari waited a few seconds after she watched the odd figure leave the building before picking up the card.
He…He worked for the CIA.
Holy freaking shit.
She was being offered a legitimate job.
And with the CIA to boot.
Which meant…she wasn't being arrested at any rate.
Maybe this was a joke.
Maybe she could get the jerk arrested if she worked for them.
Maybe she could leave.
044. Apricot – Footsteps of Anger
"You didn't show up."
"I know, Tem; it's just—"
"Drop it, okay?" Temari spit out, her voice coming out crooked and warbled. "Just drop it. I don't want to get into it and I don't want to get angry."
He looked at her hesitantly, "Alright, if you're sure."
She was angry of course. But it was a different kind of angry than she was used to feeling. This was more disappointment and anger at herself.
Just tell me you're sorry.
"I hear it was good."
Just tell me you're sorry. "From whom?" She winced, that sounded more bitter than it was supposed to.
"Nara. He told me about it."
Temari froze in her steps. "Nara?"
She pursed her lips. "So he could show? He who had a fucking important interview that day? He who isn't my own fucking brother? He who doesn't even care a damn cent for what I do or even how I do it? He could show, but you couldn't tear yourself away from your fucking gambling to come see me!?"
Kankurou looked down at her in slight irritation. "Don't make a fucking scene, Temari." He brushed a speck of dust from his apricot coat. "So I didn't go see your show. Get the hell over it."
"It was important to me, Kankurou!" Temari was losing her cool and fast. "I told you it was important to me! I told you day in and day out that this one show meant a lot to me."
"Don't get pissed off at me. It's one show – you've had billions. How important could this one be?"
Just say you're sorry.
Kankurou looked off to the distance. "I was busy, Tem."
Temari bit her lip and swallowed the disappointment. "Yeah, busy. Ballet doesn't rank high up there, does it?" It wasn't working. "Maybe Shikamaru is just a better man than you'll ever be. Maybe he actually cares."
It stung more than it should have.