Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. That belongs to Kishimoto.
Warning: Rated T, but the rating will go up. A lot of mindfuckery, language and mature content in later chapters. Not really a romance, though there are hints of it between Temari & Shikamaru, but it's not a Yuri. You've been warned. XD
There it was again.
The village of Sunakagure was asleep, but barely. A heatstroke had stormed the city, bleeding into the normally frigid winter nights, keeping the Sand civilians awake with fevers, prickly heat, rashes. Ice, fans and all manner of cooling methods had been preserved, striving to keep the stifling heat at bay. And for one resident, she was nowhere near the blissful state of unconsciousness.
Temari ground her teeth together as she tossed and turned in her bed, her breathing long and slow as she seemed to sigh with every exhale. A bead of sweat trickled down the back of her neck. Her room was aching hot, even with the window flung wide open, the white cotton curtain undoubtedly flickering and fluttering around in the wind outside. Her sheets were so creased that it looked almost like they had ripples, distorted by the constant tossing and turning of the blonde Suna ninja.
But despite the heat, Temari could feel goosebumps on her arms. She shivered.
If it weren't for the fact that she had tried it before, Temari might have considered clamping her hands over her ears, or pushing her pillow over them, feeling the cool side caress her hot cheeks. Temari's frustrated groan died halfway up her windpipe, and she merely turned over onto her side again, trying to blot out the irrepressible sound.
But it got in all the same, the same music, never tiring from its constant playing. At first, the Suna shinobi had obviously assumed it was somebody in the village and rather grumpily complained about it to a few Suna elders.
The odd thing was, nobody seemed to hear it but her. Gaara had merely looked nonplussed at Temari's tirade of furious mutterings about a non-existent, creepy melody floating through the streets of Suna. Kankurou just smirked and tapped his head significantly, increasing Temari's annoyance.
Temari's forehead creased in frustration. The song, smooth and sweet and oh-so-chilling, seemed to slide into her room, swirling up her skin and wriggling around through her mind, the notes dancing and circling each other, serene in the face of Temari's frustration. Calm at the sight of her fatigue.
Tender when fuelled with her fear.
Yes. As much as Temari hated to admit it, the music frightened her. It's melody...it didn't just disturb her sleep, keep her awake and creep her out.
The scariest thing about the melody was that when Temari finally did sleep, she would hear it in her dreams too. And then, it was far worse. Because without reality there to distract her, Temari's nights were filled with the same, sad notes reciting over and over again. And Temari, for all her attempts, couldn't quite follow the tune. And the further the dream manages to go before Temari jolts awake, the further away she seems to get.
Sometimes, she sees strange images along with the music. Sometimes it was a fat boy, not quite an adult. Other times it was a smirking, grey-haired teenager. Other times it was a dark-skinned boy. And sometimes, it was a little girl with hair the colour of apples. Once or twice, she even sees a boy with hair the colour of bones. Their faces and clothes are always hidden in shadow. They run and play like normal children. But their laughter fills Temari's lungs with dread. The music is what they dance to, but they always vanish before Temari can reach out and touch.
It sounded oddly familiar to her, but it always subtly changed, just when she though she might be working it all out. It was sweetandcoldand-
The wind began to howl.
Temari squinted through bleary, bloodshot teal eyes. Her curtains billowed inwards, like the wings of a huge celestial swan. She frowned, her sleep-deprived mind trying dimly to register this, but something felt wrong. She knew to trust her instinct. Instinct was one of the precious few things that kept a shinobi alive.
Had those curtains not been blowing outside her window?
Temari sat up straighter, trying desperately to cling to this. Tensing, Temari groped in the darkness until her hand found its way to a kunai she had hidden beneath her mattress, keeping her eyes trained on her window, partially obscured by the curtains. A million, paranoid thoughts skittered through Temari's brain like ants.
Assassin, merchant, enemy. Who else would be slinking around like this at night? She stared at the window, her muscles tensing automatically.
If there was somebody there, they were incredibly patient. And still, the song continued. Temari slowly slipped off the bed, her legs trembling a little, due to her lack of energy and fear.
Come on then, fucker. Snarled a voice inside Temari's head, Assassin, are you? Come out and slit my throat...just try it.
Holding the kunai so tightly that her knuckles turned white, Temari raised her arm, shaking so much that her limbs appeared to be moving on their own. The silence seemed to press down, like the darkness was going to close in on her, constricting, choking.
Temari wavered for a fraction of a second. Then she brought across the kunai in one swift motion, a well-practised slash, and the curtain's white fabric tearing as easily as if they had been made from rice paper, white fabric instead of red blood.
And as the curtain fell away, like feathers shed from a great, celestial bird, there was indeed somebody sitting on Temari's windowsill.
She did not look at Temari, though undoubtedly she must have heard her ripping away her cloth shield. Her pose is infuriatingly casual, but then of course, what does she have to be afraid of?
Because she was unmistakably dead.
Dead, yet here.
But as Temari let out a choked gasp, her teal eyes widened with horror, mouth open soundlessly, wordlessly, she turned her head, a sadistic smile already fixed onto her face.
And then she were gone, the only evidence she was there in the first place is Temari's own eyes.
And, of course, the last few notes, lingering in the darkness.
"Temari, you look like crap."
"Thanks." Temari growled, but this is a reflex, automatic response and she has no heart in it at all.
Kankurou's hand waved in Temari's line of vision, causing the blonde Suna ninja to jump backwards. She looked up, annoyed, but her scorching gaze was met with a raised eyebrow from her younger brother.
"What's wrong with you, anyway? By now, you would have punched me in the face or something."
Temari somehow managed to work her features into a smile, but it felt like her face might crack if she kept it up for too long. Like a mask of paint.
"Rough night." she shrugged, hoping that Kankurou would leave it at that. He shrugged back, and Temari let out a slow exhale of relief. But...her thoughts trailed back to last night. To the figure, sitting in her windowsill.
So why can I hear her still?
Temari's eyes flicked to the clock for about the fourteenth time that night. And it still remained slow as ever.
12:04Temari glowered, but apart from that she did nothing. She knew that sitting there, trying to mentally urge time forward was simply making things more difficult. But being patient had never been her strongpoint, and Temari knew that if she fell asleep now...
Temari shuddered. If she had another nightmare, she had a curious feeling that she would just want to be sick and never stop. Purge away the badness that had lodged inside her. Keep going until there was nothing left. Raw. Empty.
Shadows crept along the walls like great clawed hands, moving along slowly as the moon lazily drifted across the black-bleached sky. Temari tried not to pay them any attention, but her eyes kept flicking to every dark corner. Waiting. Wary.
Temari froze, like a deer that has heard a careless predator snap a twig underfoot. The song, as dangerous and beautiful as smoke, drifts in once more, the way a cat might wind its way around your legs if it wanted something.
"Come on..." Temari muttered, her voice sounding hoarse and deep against the subtle flute. "Come on...hurry..."
What Temari was waiting for, she didn't know.
Waiting for something she never hoped would come.
But she knew that now that the ghost, spectre, phantom, whatever it was, knew that she knew it was there, it made it even more fun for it to see her like this. With cold sweat soaking her sheets, keeping her close to being an insomniac with the twisted nightmares. And so she must face her, again.
Unable to stand the suspense further, the Suna ninja leapt up from her seat. She rushed over to the window, flinging it open even wider and peering out. She was greeted with the stinging desert winds, and the peaceful silence of the night. Exhaling hard, Temari felt a wave of relief wash over her. Satisfied, she turned around.
And was greeted with the sight of her. The red-haired, see-through girl who Temari saw die with her own eyes.
Sitting on Temari's bed.
"Hey, bitch. Remember me?"
Temari's pupils dilated, like black olives, her posture stiff with shock. Tayuya's lip twitched, as she sat cross-legged on Temari's bed, making no dents on the rumpled sheets. No dents, because there is nothing. Temari can place the girl's face. But her name is as distant as the ocean, and for a few moments the blonde can only stare.
So it's you. It's you, it's you. You've been the one messing me up, but how why, where did you come from, why, how did you.So many questions beg to pour from Temari's mouth, but it has dried up, and she can only stare, her eyes widened. Tayuya cocked her head to the side. She is not in the cursed form. But then, she isn't really a form at all.
"It's been a while." remarked Tayuya, rising up from the bed like hateful vapour, like steam. "Three years. But it looks like you remember me, huh?"
Temari's voice comes out a hoarse whisper, but at least it's returned. Clearing her throat, Temari began again, her fists clenched so hard against her palms that they left small, white shapes of her nails in her skin. She fought for control.
"What the fuck are you...How can you be...?"
"You killed me." Tayuya hissed, "Remember?"
Hate fills those words, and for a second it looked like Tayuya would choke on her own contempt, on the bitterness and shame of death. But of course, she cannot choke.
Temari remembered, but only vaguely. Tayuya is right, it has been three years. Three long years, and she was by no means Temari's last victim since. While the blonde Suna kunoichi had opted for a more peaceful outlook on like since Konoha's alliance, but it did not stop blood appearing on her hands.
"Your still not over that?" sneered Temari, her facade back up faster then you could throw a kunai. "I would have thought three years-"
The word resounds throughout the room, and all of a sudden Tayuya's image rippled. Temari frowned in confusion, but Tayuya's gazed remained fixed and piercing. Temari looked down and she screamed.
Snakes filled the room, writhing over each other, bellies fat and twisting, fangs bared. The sound of hissing filled the room, and Temari crawls backwards, falling back onto the bed as a fat, poisonous black snake slithered up her leg. Temari sat upright, furious, when a fat python coiled around her neck, legs and arms. She gagged.
The snakes vanished. Tayuya smirked as Temari panted, shaking, her face a pale as the curtains she had torn away. For a moment, the wild impulse for Temari to seize her fan and send a gale of wind blasting through the room, ripping away this ghost, this imprint. But she restrained herself, because Temari knows that it won't work. She was powerless.
"How long are you going to keep doing this?" Temari snarled, trying unsuccessfully to mask her own desperation. it's like Temari is speaking in code. She's talking about the music, about the visions, about everything. But Tayuya crushes this into one thing.
"As long as it takes!" retorted Tayuya, sounding almost as angry as Temari. Temari stared at her, incredulous.
"As long as what takes?!"
Tayuya through up her translucent hands in frustration, her expression furious. Wild, almost, and Temari suddenly felt frightened by the intensity of it. Because Tayuya can't hurt her, she knows that, but somebody who isn't really there should not be able to make that noise, a desperate and harsh wail that made the hairs on the back of Temari's neck stand up.
"It! Me, leaving this shitty place! Do you have any fucking idea what it must be like, tramping around this miserable freakin' desert with no body? I can't go anywhere besides here and that stupid Leaf village!"
Tayuya turned away from Temari from a moment, clutching at her hair, even though she can't possibly be really grabbing it.
"So why come to me?" challenged Temari, her eyebrows raised, voice challenging and impassive. "Why haunt me-?"
"He didn't kill me." Tayuya reminded Temari with a sneer. "You did, bitch."
Temari smirked at this. They both knew who they were talking about.
"So what are you going to do?" she jeered, her voice growing steadily more triumphant as she spoke, "You're a poor loser, aren't you? Going to dress up in a sheet? Play more pretty songs? That might have freaked me out before, but that's all you can do, isn't it? You can't hurt me!"
Tayuya's expression contorted with rage, and she came toward Temari slowly, the temperature dropping down a few more degrees.
"No. But I can do this..."
And ice flooded through her intestines. Ice pooled in her brain. Ice flew to her heart, speeding along her veins and arteries. Ice, ice, ice. Temari opened her mouth to scream, but it just fills up with cold water, trickling down her slackened jaw, gushing down her neck and sliding down her torso. Her fingers grasp at the bed, nails ripping at the fabric. She is so, so cold. Pleaseplease make it stop-
And then she's back.
Tayuya sat on the edge of Temari's bed. She looks mollified, but not satisfied. Her expression is sour, and she barely glanced over at Temari as the Suna kunoichi retched.
"Don't you..." choked Temari, hand going to her own throat as she shivered violently. "Don't you ever do that again."
"Or what, whore? You can't hurt me, remember?"
Temari felt a stab. A hateful surge. But shock and fear seemed to stitch her mouth shut, a thread that Temari could not break. Tayuya smiled sweetly as Temari opened her mouth and closed it.
"Think that's all I got?" Tayuya asked, in a light, innocent voice that did not suit her malicious leer. "Well you're in for a treat, you miserable little bitch. I've had three fucking years to practise. Three fucking years to think about it. So don't think I won't be back, Suna whore."
"If you've had three years, why now?" Temari burst out before she could stop herself. Tayuya floated upwards, eerily pale non-body seeming to swallow the darkness. Her tone glowed as much as her skin, filled with scorn.
"I'll leave you to work it out, shall I?" she sneered. "Oh. And don't worry about your boyfriend. I'll take care of him."
"Don't come back, bitch." Temari snarled, but Tayuya simply raised her chin slightly, a cold and defiant smirk plastered on her translucent, milky skin. Lifting up a thin, metal instrument, Tayuya slowly vanished, leaving a chill of icy air in her place. Temari snorted, sinking back down on the bed, willing for this to all have just been a bad dream.
But upon hearing those last few, taunting little notes, Temari knows that this is a promise that has been sealed.