Disclaimer: Naruto is the intellectual property of Masashi Kishimoto, Shueisha, VIZ Media, et al. No money is being made from this story and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Last spring, I remixed "Seasons of Cloud and Shadow" by everysecondtuesday. (You can find her story at manicjoy . livejournal . com / 5329 . html) But the remix I posted was not the first one I tried to write. What I ended up writing, in "Seasons of Cloud and Shadow (Like the Deserts Miss the Rain)," is kind of a nonlinear fairy-tale mash-up with biblical quotes and symbolism up the wazoo. What I started writing on my first attempt was a more straightforward third-person Temari POV... still with extra helpings of symbolism, but much more linear and somewhat less pretentious.
It's a fragment, but it's different enough from the final version that I want to post it as well, if only for the (self-indulgent) sake of completeness. So.
PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a second chapter. It is a ROUGH DRAFT FRAGMENT showing my first attempt to remix everysecondtuesday's story.
Summary: Dreams of water in the desert. Temari/Shikamaru, light lime. Unfinished fragment.
Seasons of Cloud and Shadow (In a Dry and Thirsty Land)
Temari never meant to love Shikamaru.
First he was annoying -- the clever bastard who beat her and then quit, as if she didn't matter, as if all her pride and her effort and her years staving off madness and death meant less than nothing -- and he was an enemy besides. She wanted to beat his head in, wanted to scream that she existed, she mattered, she wasn't just a puppet dancing on her father's strings, or a sacrificial victim living only at her brother's whim. She wanted to win. But she had to wait for the signal, wait for the invasion to start. And he wasn't important. He wasn't.
A few months later she took great pleasure in rescuing him, rubbing his face in her skill and power and his own temporary helplessness. For just a few seconds, he looked impressed -- he saw her, saw Temari, not the Kazekage's daughter or Gaara's sister or a trivial obstacle -- and she thought, ha, I win... and then he shrugged and dismissed her. Again. Like she was a grain of sand or a weed, something to step over and forget.
Temari hated losing.
Over the next three years,she decided to make Shikamaru care. Every time she visited Konoha she demanded him as her liaison. She wrote letters to him whenever the whim struck her. She ran into his team on a border patrol and taunted him for six days straight, until Kankuro lost patience and dragged her back home.
Maybe he cared. Maybe he didn't. He was hard to read... but somewhere along the line, her plan backfired and Temari realized that she cared about him. Shikamaru was something familiar in a strange world. He was someone who'd been there -- she was never quite sure whether she meant the exam and the failed invasion, or that crazy attempt to spite Orochimaru by snatching the Uchiha brat away from his thugs, or just someone who'd seen Gaara at his worst and understood how utterly her world had been upended when Suna's council chose him as Kazekage -- but Shikamaru knew enough to catch her thoughts from vague statements, and that was a comfort.
Or maybe he was just clever enough to read her mind, or vague and lazy enough to seem understanding when really he didn't give a damn. Which cycled him right back to annoying -- and oddly, that was a comfort as well.
Shikamaru was a grumbling shadow slouching along beside her. A collection of curt, three-sentence replies to her rambling, stream-of-consciousness letters. A warm, silent presence to lean against when she thought she might go crazy playing diplomat and dragged him out onto the maze-like roofs of Konoha. A reluctant but wily sparring partner. A confidant. A friend. Eventually, a lover.
A constant, like sand and sky and pain.
It wasn't as if it never rained in Suna. They were far enough north and west to escape the monsoons, but they had thunderstorms every month or so -- often with more wind and noise than actual water, but still. She'd seen rain.
It was just that in Konoha, water was a constant. The earth swallowed and swallowed, but the rain overwhelmed the soil, overflowed into streams and lakes and puddles, shot skyward as the thrumming blood of trees and vines, wafted damp and clinging as mist and fog, and bathed Shikamaru's skin to smooth fullness, not like the tough leather of Temari's own arms and face and hands.
She looked at her arm, brown against Shikamaru's pale stomach, and wondered if she could transplant herself, or if a desert weed would drown in all this richness.
"Where are you going?" Shikamaru asked, half-asleep.
"Nowhere," she said, and slid the door open and walked out into the rain, face turned toward the hidden sun, arms raised to touch the sky. Water poured through her hair, wept down her cheeks, slipped through her fingers. Her clothes dampened, soaked, clung to her body. Her toes gripped the earth, sliding on unfamiliar grass and mud.
Water, water everywhere. Temari opened her mouth, let life pour into her, tried to change.
Three hours later she was still herself. Still brown, still empty, still aching with all the things she'd pushed down and shut away over the years, all the pain and longing she kept wordless and hidden.
Shikamaru lay on the tatami where she'd left him, watching her. His eyes were dark and full, like the evening clouds still pouring their endless water into the earth. "Have fun?" he said, but his voice shook, just a little, as Temari peeled out of her clothes.
Sometimes he wasn't so hard to read.
For a time, he filled her. And then he sighed, and slept, and left her awake and wishing she had words to tell him what he meant to her.
Outside the rain drummed on the leaves and the streams and the earth, like tears and loss and broken dreams.
AN: And that's as far as I got.
I'm not quite sure where I was going with this version. It might have worked out; it might not have. But I got stuck at this point and spent a couple days tossing story structure around in my head like a metaphorical game of pick-up sticks, during which the elements of everysecondtuesday's story hit some of my own preoccupations (fairy-tales, oral storytelling, structural experimentation), came down into a notably different configuration, and held my imagination hostage. So I let "In a Dry and Thirsty Land" lie fallow and wrote "Like the Deserts Miss the Rain" instead.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and please review! I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.