A Remedy for Lassitude

By: firefly

Note (PLEASE READ): This fic was originally supposed to be a oneshot (lol like so many others) and was written as a gift for the wonderful Mausmouse, who's made many beautiful illustrations for my fics over at Deviant Art.

But, uh, I got carried away again, and so this fic will probably be separated into THREE chapters at most. So, before you read, please note:

This fic is blatantly AU and takes place in a real world type setting, so if that's not your thing, don't read it. Secondly, although the characters' ages are pushed up a little in the fic, the difference in years and the rest of the information (like date of birth and horoscope) are accurate. (The 3rd Naruto data book says Hidan is 22 years old, btw.)

I think that's it, except some character relationships (like Chiyo and Temari's) are changed accordingly to fit the fic's needs, hence it being AU.

That's all. :D Hope you guys enjoy, and reviews are always love.

"Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation."

—Oscar Wilde

A Remedy for Lassitude ch.1

Only eighteen and already world-weary. Happy birthday.

Temari smiled slightly at the words, pressing the creases out of the letter before carefully folding it in half once more. She deposited it back into the envelope, securing it to the others with an elastic band before placing them back into the empty shoe box.

Several knick-knacks littered the carpet around her, little mementos of places her grandmother had travelled to and sent along with her letters. There was one vial containing sand from the Sahara desert, one containing water from the Dead Sea, and another holding an ounce of volcanic ash from the base of Mount Vesuvius. Each vial had detailed stories to go along with them, letters reminiscent of diary entries and logbooks.

The letters had been a weekly insight into the world beyond the four walls that had encompassed most of Temari's childhood and teenage years. Chiyo had always been a free spirit, a person of good humour and determination that defied the circumstances of their family; she refused to stop living, persevering whether it was a son who could not stop meandering in criminal affairs, a son-in-law who committed suicide after his sister's death, or a grandson who'd been hauled away to a psychiatric hospital after succumbing to the voices in his head.

She'd spent the last decade of her life traveling the world, intent on accomplishing her dreams and securing the money for the grandchildren she'd left behind.

It had been a habit of hers, teasing Temari with the remark on world-weariness with every letter she'd send on her granddaughter's birthday. The one she'd sent on her eighteenth birthday, two years ago, had been the last before she passed. Her death had been followed closely by Temari's father's, though no grief was expressed for the latter. His death had been more of an act of emancipation.

Temari took the mementos in her hands and it was with a measured reverence she placed them back into the box and under her bed. Shaking her head, she reached for the item she'd originally been looking for—a case of her financial documents and cheque book.

Chiyo had passed away two years ago, but only after tying up the loose ends in her life.

She had amassed enough money to pay off the house's mortgage and ensure at least five years of comfortable living for her grandchildren. Temari was grateful; between pursuing a degree in botany and taking care of a rehabilitating brother, she had no time to work.

Paying the bills was still a relatively new thing for her, too, and so was answering the phone as the head authority in the house. She still didn't know how to respond whenever telemarketers and bankers asked to speak to her parents.

The living room was empty when Temari entered, a testament to the fact that Gaara was still asleep. He'd been started on a new medication for his insomnia, and although it kept him sleeping late into the afternoon and kept his appearances scarce, it was better than seeing him tormented by the figments of a sleep-deprived mind.

He'd been discharged from the hospital after a two-week stay, returning home as soon as her classes ended and summer break began. That had been a month ago, and Temari could easily say she hadn't stepped out for a breath of fresh air more than twice since then. She couldn't trust him to be alone that long, and though the prospect of two more months spent indoors made her cringe, she would not complain.

Out of them all, no one had suffered more than Gaara. He'd been the one to find their uncle's dead body in the blood-soaked bathtub and had never been the same since.

Kankuro took it upon himself to work during the summer, footing the bill for takeout and little extras like movies and books more often than Temari liked. A part of her realized he did it out of guilt for leaving her alone all day with Gaara. Perhaps he held the hope that these little gestures would give her something to dwell on besides the perpetual stress that came with tending to an unstable seventeen-year-old.

His gestures helped a little. She watched the movies. She read the books. She cleaned till the house retained the sterile air of a hospital. She paced till the varnish on the floorboards wore away. She went so far as to study some of the botany books she got from the library.

These little inconsequential activities worked to stave off her restlessness and boredom for about a month, but there was a distinct sense of discontentment in the house, a look of visible strain on her features each time she looked in the mirror.

Gaara may have been able to endure months indoors at a time, but she found herself succumbing to a subtle, restrained sort of depression. But Temari had never been one for outward, obnoxious displays of emotion and her discontent manifested as nothing more than a stony expression and a chronic state of restlessness.

Her time indoors had also given her time and room to think of things—ideas, philosophies, conclusions about life—things that most people her age didn't even entertain of their own volition. This was an age meant for meeting people, travelling, learning, forming relationships—friendships or otherwise.

But she was incapable of thinking of those things, incapable of seeing herself partaking in the groups and talks and normalcy that dominated her surroundings at college. A part of her realized there was something wrong with her when she couldn't picture herself beyond the reality she knew now. She was practical, shrewd, and logical to an extent that almost made her miserly in regards to entertaining dreams and fantasies.

At one point, while doing the dishes, she found herself planning out what to do for funeral arrangements and her brothers' college funds if she kicked the bucket in the near future.

Kankuro reacted with disbelief and called her morbid when she mentioned it.

In rebuttal, she called herself open-minded.

After all, death seemed to be a trend in her family. First her mother went, then her uncle, then her grandmother, and then her father, all within fifteen years. She was as good as next.

Besides, it never hurt to be prepared.

Despite this, Temari knew there had to be something beyond contemplating morbid thoughts of her own death to keep her mind occupied, at least in a healthy way. She just didn't know what.

She wrote out the cheque for the property tax bill and checked her balance through the bank's website, satisfied with the remaining amount. She checked her e-mail, deleting the spam and reading through the notice sent by her college registrar. She read the news headlines, expression unchanging at the mention of several casualties in the war overseas.

That was one thing she didn't bother thinking about; war was a constant state of affairs in the world and it always would be, and trying to discern the who, what, where, when, and why aspects of a campaign notorious for bending truths and crafting cover-ups was something she didn't have the patience for. It was strange how one's own personal turmoil and sphere of hell could make something like a war seem superfluous.

She left the news site and checked her library account. Two of the botany books she'd placed on hold had finally come in.


She turned in her seat, smiling slightly at Gaara as he blinked drowsily at her from the living room entrance.

"Hey, how'd you sleep?" she asked. "Good?"

He stared at some point on the ground before nodding once, reaching up to rub his forehead.

"Good," she said, inwardly relieved. "Remind me to tell the doctor to renew your prescription. You hungry?"

He nodded again and she gladly stood up and made her way into the kitchen. Making breakfast and serving it was something she'd never done for Kankuro, as she'd always viewed it as a surefire way to spoil him.

But with Gaara, she did it willingly, if only to give herself something to occupy herself with before he disappeared back into his room and left her alone for the rest of the day.

He sat down at the table as she took out bread and eggs, putting the frying pan on the stove.

"When will Kankuro be home?" Gaara asked without looking up.

"Around six," she answered over her shoulder, carefully cracking an egg into the pan. "He asked if you wanted anything."


"You can ask if you want, Gaara. It's no big deal."

He didn't answer her. After a few minutes of silence, she flipped the egg onto a plate and took the bread out of the toaster to butter it.

"Do you have plans today?" Gaara suddenly asked, the question sounding awkward.

Temari raised her head in surprise, pausing before speaking.

"Well, I do have some books waiting for me at the library. But I've still got a week before—"

"Don't," Gaara muttered.

She blinked. "Don't what?"

"I'll…" he paused, fists clenching on his knees. "I'll come with you. Don't stay home because of me."

She stared at him, blank with surprise.

There was another moment of silence, and the turmoil was clear in his expression as he finally spoke.

"I don't…hear it as much anymore. The voice."

"Gaara," she began falteringly, stopping when he raised his head to look at her, words leaving him with obvious difficulty.

"You shouldn't suffer because of me."

Temari couldn't think of a response, gazing at him wordlessly as she gripped the butter knife. Though it wasn't evident in his voice, the guilt was obviously there, and the thought of him blaming himself for something beyond his control elicited a displaced sense of anger at herself.

She forced a smile, lowering her eyes to the bread.

"I'm not suffering," she finally replied with a faint chuckle.

The knife eventually stilled when she felt him staring at her intently. Disregarding the unsettled feeling, she filled a glass with milk and put the breakfast in front of him. When he didn't move, she met his gaze.

"Yes, you are," he said quietly.

"…we'll leave in half an hour," she said after a moment's silence. When he nodded, she turned and left the kitchen, grateful he couldn't see the lump rising in her throat.

The sunlight was disorienting when she stepped out of the house and even more so for Gaara as he tugged a hood over his head, lowering his eyes from the bright glare. It was almost obscene in its brightness against his pale skin, and she quickly let him into the car before he decided to change his mind.

They rode in silence, Temari taking the time to enjoy the breeze coming in through the window.

Gaara had sunk low in his seat, peering through the window at the passing scenery until they pulled into the parking lot, at which point Temari paused to look at him.

"You can grab some books, too, if you want. I'll put it on my card."

He merely nodded and got out of the car, trailing after her as she entered the building and made a beeline for the holds section.

They spent the first good half of an hour browsing the shelves, spending the other half seated in one of the reading rooms looking through magazines. Temari glanced up every now and then to make sure Gaara was comfortable, pleased to see him absorbed in one of the books he'd chosen.

"Wanna go home now?" she asked after a while, cracking her neck with a satisfied wince. "I better get dinner started."

He merely stood up and collected his books, following her to the checkout station. The librarian sitting there gave her a smile, scanning the books through as Temari let her gaze wander. Pamphlets were arranged on the counter along with recommended reading lists. Next to the counter was a bulletin board, tacked with various announcements and program advertisements.

She read them for the sake of reading them, never one to participate in community programs and the like. But a yellow sheet of paper obscured by a schedule of kids' shows caught her attention. She reached forward and brushed the foremost paper out of the way, reading the bold text.

Support Our Troops. Write A Soldier.

She didn't realize that she'd read it out loud till the librarian spoke.

"There aren't enough people doing that," she commented offhandedly, setting the receipt on top of the books. "Writing letters, I mean. Especially since e-mail's taken over."

Temari was sure that Chiyo would still be writing her if she was alive, but nodded to show she was listening.

"There's nothing wrong with that, of course," the woman continued, pushing up her glasses. "But it makes you sorry for those soldiers. Not many computers over there, I'd imagine."

"Do you write to one?" Temari inquired, not without some genuine curiosity.

"I do," she replied, smiling. "It's one of the best feelings in the world, when you get a reply and know you've made someone feel less alone."

"Hm," Temari offered noncommittally, handing off half the books to Gaara. "Sounds nice."

The librarian paused, eyeing her for a moment before reaching into her drawer and withdrawing the same sheet of paper attached to the board, putting it on the pile of books.

"Give it a shot," she added when Temari raised an eyebrow. "Or at least, look into it. It really does make a difference to the soldier, whether you support the war or not."

Temari slowly took the pile of books, looking down at the yellow paper. The librarian was watching her expectantly, and Temari glanced askance at her before turning to leave.

"I'll think about it."

Dinner came and went without incidence. Kankuro arrived just as she was serving it, visibly pleased to see Gaara out of his room and taking the time to eat with them at the table.

It was one of the rare moments of the day where she would cease to think and simply enjoy time with her family for as long as it lasted, snickering into her food at the stories Kankuro related about his job at the video rental store.

All too soon it would be over, with Gaara heading back to his room and Kankuro retiring to the living room to watch TV, too tired to carry a conversation.

Temari left him there, heading back to her room with the intent to start one of the novels she'd grabbed from the library. As she passed Gaara's room, she paused outside it long enough to look through the crack in the door and see him sitting up against his headboard, engrossed in what he was reading.

Smiling faintly, she continued on to her room, taking her hair out of her pigtails and changing into her pajamas. She grabbed the pile of books and sank down against the pillows, taking the topmost novel.

It was a crime thriller, supposedly un-put-down-able if the laudatory remarks on the back cover were anything to go by. She read for half an hour, making it to the third chapter when she realized she was starting to read the same sentence repeatedly.

The periods of restlessness and disgruntlement crept in at odd intervals, eliciting detachment and an irritated feeling she couldn't place, as if she was forgetting something important. It was happening now, and she could tell no amount of tossing and turning and fluffing of pillows would stem her discomfort.

Annoyed, she sat up and shoved the book in a drawer, dropping the rest on the floor and feeling her irritation grow when they toppled over the carpet.

As she reached down to gather them, the yellow sheet of paper the librarian had given her slipped out from between two of the books. Without thinking, she grabbed it and sat up, re-reading the bold text on it. Beneath that was more sentimental spiel she couldn't bother herself with, and at the very bottom, a P.O. Box address to a country overseas.

She bit her lip and was still in the process of deciding what to do when she withdrew a loose sheaf of line paper and a clipboard from her desk drawer, plucking a pen from her school bag.

Before she knew it, she was sitting up with the clipboard poised in her lap, pen uncapped and hovering over the first line of the sheet.

The tip pressed onto the paper, and as the black ink bled into the surrounding whiteness, she mechanically moved the pen.

To Whom It May Concern,

She paused again, pen skipping over a line to start next to the margin. The words came to her uninhibitedly, scrolling through her mind as though she was writing the letter to herself.

I don't exactly know why I'm writing this letter. I don't have any real reason to. I don't watch the news. I don't know anyone in the army. I'm doing it on a whim because someone recommended it and it's just something to do. Along with giving me something to occupy my time with, I guess this letter might also serve its purpose and make you feel less alone.

I don't know what I'm supposed to say, considering I don't know you from Adam. So I guess that means I should start with the basics.

My name is Temari. I'm twenty years old. I major in botany at the local university and my goal is to teach a particular branch of it some day. I have two younger siblings, Kankuro and Gaara (19 and 17), and I've been raising them ever since my grandmother passed away two years ago.

She paused and stared expressionlessly down at the paper, hardly aware of what she was writing and letting the words spill out, oblivious to their growing candidness.

I suppose you could call us orphans, what with my mother dying when I was three and my father getting killed after my grandmother died. Shot in the head, if you were wondering. He owed the mob some money, but you know how criminals are—they aren't exactly renowned for being on time with payments and the like.

This leaves me with a legacy I'd rather not have, but I've never been a complainer. I put up with it. My brothers, however, are decent people. The youngest, Gaara, has some psychological problems, but besides that, we're a relatively normal family and I'm a relatively normal person.

My hobbies coincide with my major. I enjoy studying plants and cultivating my own vegetables. I have a garden I keep in the backyard. My favourite food is vegetable soup, but that shouldn't be a surprise. I also like roasted chestnuts. I hate squid and octopus. I'm not known for my cooking skills, but I make do with what I have and at least I can say my food is edible. As far as my other hobbies go, I don't have many more. I enjoy reading, usually mystery and crime novels. I can't look at harlequin romance novels without laughing.

If I were to delve deeper, I guess you could say I'm a family person and the type to like a bad movie if there's someone there with me to make fun of it. I am not a flighty, dreamy, illogical sort of person. The opposite, in fact, although my musical tastes don't reflect my personality. I have a thing for 60's love songs. Why I like them, I have no idea. Considering how I just said I'm not a flighty, dreamy person, your guess is as good as mine.

I like the types of conversations that make you think and have little patience for meaningless spiel and gossip. I don't like conformity, either. Not to say I'm one of those people who dye my hair ridiculous colours or wear outrageous clothes, but I am independent in everything I do and say. I'm outspoken. I like being challenged.

You should know, before I continue any further, that I know nothing about this war you're in and why it's being fought. No offence, but there are enough complexities in my life without taking on the stress that comes with worrying about something beyond my control. On that note, don't expect me to discuss the state of affairs regarding that or politics. Not to belittle your predicament, but the news as a whole, besides being annoying, is depressing. And I don't need that.

There are many other random things I could say, so I'll just list them because it's just easier that way: my favourite colour is purple. My favourite animal is the ferret. My favourite season is autumn. I was born on August 23rd. This makes me a Virgo, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm allergic to dogs. I hate it when it rains. I like scented candles. I was arrested for battery when I was sixteen (for beating one of my brother's bullies—got away with it in the end. I suppose having a criminal for a father had its perks). I've been told I have a temper. I've worked in a bookstore, supermarket, and car wash throughout my life. I've been bored out of my mind for the last 30 days. I don't take well to confinement. I would like to travel one day. I have a fear of snakes. I love pineapples. I don't like jewelry. My worst subjects in high school were art and drama. I enjoy watching documentaries on almost any topic. I plan ahead. I like receiving letters.

The latter I like because I had a ten-year correspondence going with my grandmother. I think it would have been easier to just type this out and print it, but I admit—and this is pretty much the only sentimental thing I'm guilty of—a letter written in a person's own hand is a lot more personable and meaningful than something typed out on a computer.

Anyway, I think I've said everything I can at the moment. Depending on if this actually works out and I mail it and you respond, we can both get something out of it. You'll feel less alone if that's your problem, I don't know, and I'll have something to occupy myself with.

So yeah. I'm done.

- Temari

The pen lingered on the paper, leaving a dark blot before she blinked herself out of her reverie and lifted her head to look at how much she'd written. It far exceeded what she'd expected when she'd first taken the pen to it, but reading it over, she realized she'd said more than she'd anticipated herself saying to a complete stranger.

For some reason, that didn't bother her at all. She felt…lighter, for lack of a better term, slightly invigorated after venting out her restlessness on the paper.

She opened her drawer again, fishing out a box of envelopes. She folded the letter in half and tucked it inside one, sealing it and labeling the front with the address and her return address in the top left corner. Once she'd done that, she pulled back and looked at it, holding it in both hands critically.

The envelope was plain, rectangular, and non-descript. It would easily get lost in the slew of mail, and a pessimistic part of her envisioned it being left at the bottom of the pile, or being discarded after being mistaken for a bill.

The way she'd written the address, in her small, neat, mechanical script, gave it a colder, more formal feel than she liked. After a moment of hesitation, she uncapped the pen again, pressing the tip above the address. It slowly scratched across the surface of the paper.


She bit her lip, then let the pen follow a flow of words that seemed to stream from her mind of their own accord.

Whoever No One Else Writes To.

Temari eyed it for a little while longer, fingertips pressing into the envelope and feeling the bulk of the paper and the words tucked inside. A part of her was vaguely alarmed at the thought of sending this brief, candid autobiography to a complete stranger on the other side of the world, yet another part of her felt relieved. Satisfied, even.

The clock read 10:12 PM when she glanced at it, and suddenly realizing how much her eyes itched with tiredness, she dumped the letter and writing utensils onto her table, turning off the light and sagging into bed.

She fell asleep before she could contemplate what she'd done, and the next morning, gave the letter to Kankuro to post via express mail without a second thought. It went out on June 13th.

A reply wasn't guaranteed. In fact, it was unlikely.

But still, for the next week, she'd spend a good part of her mornings reprimanding herself for the anticipation she felt every time the mailman crossed the lawn.

June 17th. P.O Box 1134.



The first lieutenant stood on the centre of his bed, still decked out in his dust and mud-covered uniform, and reached into the sack like some decrepit version of Santa Claus before tossing a package to the man reclining on his bed a few feet away.



Another package was tossed to the other side of the room.

Most of the men sat upright in their beds, just returned from the field and still dressed in army fatigue. They were dirty and weary but still watched the soldier distributing the mail attentively, hoping their eagerness didn't show on their faces as they waited for their names to be called.



Chuckles broke out around the room as the joyful soldier leapt up for his care package.

It continued on in that manner until the sack was virtually empty. Some of the soldiers sagged back onto their beds in disappointment, averting envious gazes from the ones who sorted through the items and letters they'd received.

A moment later, raucous laughter broke out.

"Hey, hey, there's one here that says To: Whoever No One Else Writes To."

"You're shitting me."

"I swear to God—hey, I think I know who it's for."

There was more laughter, this time interspersed with whispering and snickers.

"Hey, Hidan!"

A hush fell over the room almost instantly, the others falling silent to glance amusedly, and some scathingly, over to the man sprawled over his bed near the back with his bible raised in front of his face. Unlike the others, he looked perfectly clean and was clad in a simple white beater and cargo pants. He was also the only one in the room with a full head of hair. Had it not been for the two dog tags draped around his neck, one could have easily mistaken him for being in the wrong place.

He lowered his book, looking unperturbed by the stares and glancing apathetically over at the front of the room.

"What the hell do you want?"

"You've got mail."

Hidan lowered his bible completely, expression unchanging as they broke into laughter again.

"For real," Kubo added, grabbing the letter and strolling up to his bed. "Can't belong to anybody else here."

Hidan gave him a blithe look. "You either get out of my face or I'm shoving my foot up your ass."

"But I'm serious. You've got a letter."

"Piss off."

"Okay, come on," Kubo said cajolingly, looking a bit miffed. "Just take it. Better than nothing—we all know your own mother wouldn't even write to you."

"My ma's dead, you fuckwit."

"Tch, fine."

Annoyed that he hadn't taken the bait, the soldier tossed the letter onto the bed and walked back to the other side of the room. The disappointment at the lack of a reaction was palpable, but eventually, the room returned to its bustle of noise and conversation and soon they were ignoring him again.

Once he felt the eyes fall away from him, Hidan lowered his bible once more, narrowing his eyes at the letter next to his leg. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he reached for it, bringing it closer to read.

The writing was small and neat. Definitely a girl's. And it was addressed to:

Whoever No One Else Writes To.

Hidan rolled his eyes, casting a black look across the room at Kubo before tearing the envelope open, withdrawing two folded sheets of paper filled with more of that small, neat writing.

He glanced around once more before settling back against the wall, raising the letter to read.

The noise in the room gradually faded into a mere hum in the back of his mind once he got past the first paragraph, the furrow in his brow gradually receding as he sunk lower against his pillow.

My favourite food is vegetable soup…I hate squid and octopus.

His expression contorted into one torn between faint amusement and bewilderment, a smirk twitching at the corners of his lips as he read on.

I was arrested for battery when I was sixteen.

He stopped for a moment, read the sentence again, and felt the smirk widen into a grin.

Depending on if this actually works out and I mail it and you respond, we can both get something out of it. You'll feel less alone if that's your problem, I don't know, and I'll have something to occupy myself with.

So yeah. I'm done.

- Temari

Without realizing it, he picked up the first page and read the letter again. Then he read it once more, the words sinking deeper with each subsequent read.

Eventually, shaking his head in amusement and perplexity at the sheer oddness and wry tone of the letter, Hidan stuffed it back into the envelope, shoving it under his mattress. He picked up his bible again, arm coming to rest behind his head as he neared the end of the verse.

A few minutes passed and he found it confusing as to why it was so difficult to keep the small, lazy grin off his face as he accidentally kept re-reading the same line about demons disemboweling sinners. Weird, especially since this was his favourite verse in the whole bible.

After a while, he gave up, lowering the book and pressing his lips to the cover before putting it back in his bag. The noise of conversation continued on without him as he laid back and observed the ceiling of the room through half-lidded eyes.

The noise would continue for at least an hour more, with lights-out scheduled for 9:00 PM.

He drummed his fingers against the metal bed frame, mind drifting back to the bizarre letter he'd just read. Inwardly, he wondered what the hell had compelled this girl, Temari, to write overseas to a soldier she didn't know and for a reason as dull as keeping herself busy.

She sure as hell didn't sound like she gave a shit about what he was doing or how he was faring, and ironically, the letter was supposed to help him feel better. Pfft.

He continued drumming his fingers. At five past eight, he stopped and abruptly sat up, glancing over in Kubo's direction.

"Hey, douchebag."

Hidan had to grin at the fact that the idiot actually looked up.

"Pass me a pen."

June 25th. 32 Suna Ave.

"If we won the lottery, what's the first thing you'd buy?"

Temari smirked at Kankuro's question, removing the dishes from the dishwasher with deliberate slowness, as if contemplating her answer.

"Well," she said thoughtfully. "First, I'd probably put away some money for yours and Gaara's college funds. Then pay off my loans. Invest the rest."

Kankuro shot her a disgusted look.

"Invest it? You're like…a freakin' 45-year-old miser in a girl's body. Live a little, damn it. What would you really get?"

Temari laughed, shutting the dishwasher door before turning to look at him.

"Honestly? A new car. I'm sick of that piece of junk in the driveway."

Kankuro grinned, obviously pleased by her answer.

"What kind of car?"

"Something small and fuel-efficient, probably. Like one of those Mini Coopers."

She laughed again when he slapped his forehead in exasperation before getting up, striding past her.

"You're hopeless."

"And you're delusional."

He made a noise halfway between amusement and contempt from somewhere in the living room. A moment later, she heard him open the front door. There was the rattle of his knuckles against the metal interior of the mailbox.

"Anything?" Temari called back over her shoulder.

"Bill, bill, charity, flyer, letter for you, bill—"

"What?" Temari straightened, turning to look at him as he strode back into the kitchen, still shuffling through the mail as he held a plain white envelope out to her.

She took it from him, a calm sort of disbelief growing inside of her despite her nonchalant expression as she took in the address. If the stamp denoting the letter as international mail still left any room for doubt, the P.O. Box in the top left corner erased it. She'd gotten a reply.

"I'll be in my room," she reminded Kankuro, brushing past him and heading down the hall.

A part of her vehemently tried to deny that the odd, unsettling feeling she got as she sat down on her bed was anticipation, even as she forced herself to slit the side of the envelope with measured slowness. She withdrew two sheets of paper, noticing that both had been torn out of a notebook.

Hardly aware that she was holding her breath, she unfolded them to read.

The first thing that stood out to her was the jagged, almost haphazard writing; the letters sloped right and left at odd intervals, as if the writer couldn't decide which direction he liked better. There were intermittent breaks in the paragraphs—random jumps to new lines that seemed to indicate him starting on a new tangent or picking up the writing at a different time. The paper was littered with scribbled-out words and lines, full of arrows leading from sentences into the side margins to add little subsidiary comments. Halfway through the letter, the ink changed from blue to red.

Temari stared at the letter for nearly a minute, blinking and wondering what she'd gotten herself into before finally settling back against the headboard to read. The writing, though resembling the serrated edge of a knife, was perfectly legible.


I haven't written a letter since I was in fourth grade, and that was to myself as punishment, FYI, because my bitch of a teacher made me do it after I pushed some kid off the jungle gym. But anyway, just thought I'd say before I seriously got into writing this thing, in case I'm doing it wrong.

My name's Hidan. I'm a second lieutenant, which pretty much translates to the guy who's worth jack shit. That envelope you sent your letter in amused the hell out of the faggots in my platoon, I'll give you that. Handed it off to me cuz I guess I fit the bill when it comes to whoever no one else writes to. Not like I'm "offended" or anything. It's true. Don't have any family, and I sorta didn't mention I was enrolling in the army before I left.

Temari paused, eyes following the trail of tiny words that ran off into the margin.

We're from the same city, by the way. How fucking uncanny is that?

A faint smile flitted across her face without her noticing. She lowered her gaze to the next paragraph.

Seriously, there are two reasons why I left, and neither have anything to do with the reason why the rest of these guys are here. You said you didn't give a shit about the war, and that's fucking SWELL because I don't give a shit about the war, either (I only know half the national anthem, if that says anything). I was kinda in bad form financially before I left, and I heard the army was getting antsy and offering benefits and debt forgiveness because there weren't enough people willing to go get themselves blown up for them. So that's the first reason—I ditched cuz I needed the creditors to get off my back.

Second reason's more personal and it's the real reason I'm here. You wouldn't know it from looking at me, but I'm a really religious guy (Church of Jashinism—look it up). I only bothered replying to your letter because you and me are in the same boat about this whole war thing. I'm not into the whole poetic, flowery, honourary crap that comes with being in the military and in no fucking shape or form am I a patriot. So your letter kinda gave me the incentive to think you're not a judgmental bitch that'll rail on me like the rest of these bastards do for the real reason I'm even in this war.

Last May, the shitheads in the village I'm at right now decided it'd be a good idea to bomb the shit out of a government building and with it, took out the only Jashinist church in the fucking country. Do I give a shit that the prime minister almost got his ass blown in half? No. But my church getting blown up? Like hell I'd let that slide.

Temari paused, noticing that the writing had become even more bold and jagged, the weight used on the pen evident through the indentations she could feel against her fingertips.

So I guess you can tell why I'm here. After all, the law sorta interferes with my right to exercise righteous fury on their asses. They'd call it murder and I hear prison sucks, so that option was out. But it's funny, isn't it, when it stops being murder once you put on the uniform. It's okay once you pretend you're doing it for the homeland. But whatever, that's fine with me so long as I get my revenge.

Still, they gave me a hard time about getting in. Those bastards wanted to cut my hair. Like hell I let that happen—they let me keep it after I volunteered to go kamikaze. And that's the real reason they let me in, and the only reason I'm still around. I'm the one-man berserker unit. Nobody else volunteered and the rest of them are dead, so I guess I'm indispensable or something if they wind up in deep shit and need me. Kinda alienating, not doing anything and being the only one around for that reason in a room full of bald fucks.

But hey, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. My religion is just that important to me, seriously. And really, it's like killing two birds with one stone—being dead will get me a one-way ticket to heaven and get those creditors off my back. HA HA HA.

Temari stared at the ha ha's incredulously before turning to the next sheet of paper.

Anyway, now you know why I'm here. I guess this is the part where I'm supposed to talk about myself. Writing it the way you did looks like a pain in the ass, though, so I did it my own way. (Deal with it.)

- 24 years old

- DOB: April 2nd

- Aries (even though that's pagan bullshit)

- Only child, no family

- If I'm still alive after this war, I'm gonna be minister of a new Jashinist church

- I like sweet stuff (the food here seriously sucks)

- I hate bitter stuff

- Eggplant is nasty

- I don't even remember what music sounds like

- I pray three times a day (sometimes at 4:00 AM just to piss the commander off)

- I'm not allergic to anything

- I don't get sick. Ever.

- I collect matchbooks (so maybe that makes me a pyromaniac, hell if I know)

- But that doesn't mean I smoke (cuz I don't)

- I've been in seven car accidents, one ferry accident, and a train accident

- That means I have really shitty luck with transportation

- which means I'm just waiting for the next plane I get on to fly into a fucking mountain

- I was dead for two minutes on an operating table when I was 19

- shirts bug me, so I don't wear them

- I can relate on the battery charges

- beat the shit out of some punks who thought defacing a church was funny

- court sent me to a shrink

- that didn't work out

- hair care is important to me

- actually, hygiene as a whole is pretty damn important

- pessimists annoy the hell out of me

- I like pomegranates

- I don't read much besides legit religious stuff, but that John Donne guy knew his shit

Can't think of anything else to say. It's almost lights out. Keep writing those weird letters, huh? I need the entertainment, seriously.

- Hidan

When Temari finished reading, she found her face tense, realizing a moment later that she'd been smiling in a disbelieving, incredulous fashion throughout the entirety of the letter. Several minutes went by as she re-read the letter a few more times, a part of her tremendously amused at the blatant eccentricity of her new pen pal and another part slightly disconcerted. She felt the latter for obvious reasons, raising an eyebrow at the fact that he'd been arrested, sent to a psychiatrist, almost died, and was quite obviously a religious fanatic if he was willing to kill himself for his faith.

All these things would have raised a red flag at any other time or circumstance, but where was the harm in corresponding with someone thousands of miles away overseas? Besides, he seemed interesting, and if anything else, she could use the entertainment, too.

Mind made up, she put the letter aside, grabbing some loose paper and her pen again. There was no hesitation this time as she leaned forward to write.


I generally reserve judgments about a person's character until I get to know them, but I think it's safe to say you'll be keeping the boredom at bay for a while…