Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: I had this finished a year ago. Sadly I simply could not upload it. I'm sorry. Hope you still like the story.
Chapter 10: After Reticence
Temari headed for his room passing a servant who bowed in front of her. She didn't mind it anymore by now that nobody was allowed to treat her like a human here. Now she just wanted to deal with him and give him a piece of her mind,
When she reached his room she caught him in the process of packing. A feeling of panic suddenly rushed trough her. "Where are you going?"
Shikamaru turned around obviously surprised to see her. "I have to check something in a village nearby." He continued packing as if she wasn't standing right behind him.
She rolled her eyes when she saw him throwing neatly folded clothes absentmindedly into the bag on the chair. Temari let her gaze leave him and swift around the room. They could have assigned a better room to a representative of Konoha but the people here were skeptical and didn't trust foreigners so they didn't treat them well. She would make sure that he would get a nice room instead of this sparely furnished broom closet.
Her thoughts were interrupted when he closed his bag just to unzip it again. He opened another drawer seemingly ignoring her.
She stood with her hands on her hips. "Well? Care to tell me what exactly you're up to?"
He sighed and threw a hairbrush into the bag. "If you must know I'm doing my duty."
She raised a curious eyebrow. The tone in which he sat that was a little snappy. "Which means?"
He sighed, again placing a bottle into the bag. "A missing shinobi was sighted and now I'm going to look for him. See if I capture him. Then interrogate him."
Temari nodded determined confirming to herself her decision. "I'm coming with you."
He snapped around. "Pardon?"
She had already turned to the door and looked at him over her shoulder. "Are you deaf? I said I'm coming with you."
He shook his head. "I don't think this is appropriate in your position."
She shrugged. "And I don't care."
He snickered. "Isn't your political position otherwise always the most you care about?"
Again he had a snappy tone. She turned towards him and crossed her arms. "Look I am not going to argue about this with you. I'm coming with you and that's it. Face it."
He sighed closing his bag. "Troublesome."
She had just scolded her maids not to reveal her disappearance to her husband if he would wake up when someone knocked at her door. She sent her maids away packing the last bit she needed on her journey. Why she was on her way to go with Shikamaru to find this rouge she couldn't pinpoint. But she just wished for this chance to travel again and be a kunoichi again so that it didn't matter to her with whom she traveled and what reason for.
The door opened with Shikamaru in the frame. He didn't come in.
Temari nodded in his direction while packing a scroll into her bag. "I'm ready to go."
He scratched his neck. "Are you really sure that this is okay? I mean you are the Daimo's wife and he is in coma so aren't you the one in charge."
She blinked somehow stupefied at his statement before she broke out into a short fits of laughter. Amused about his presumption. When she calmed down she smirked in a contrite way at him. "You don't seem to know the role of a wife here in the Land of Wind. In Konoha things are much more different than here. I'm just a wife as in dame or shrew. I just have the function of good looking and smiling the whole time at social events as well as nodding at every single comment of every apple-polisher regardless how stupid and aggravating it is."
He didn't move as if being thunderstruck before a shadow seemed to pass his eyes and he narrowed his head clenching his fists at his side. She thought he would explode before he was able to ignore his personal feelings and deal with the matter at hand. Like he always did. He stayed controlled when it came to personal feelings. She supposed she was one of the few persons he had allowed to sneak a glance at his passionate side that would risk everything for someone he cared for in trouble even if he had low chances. "So who is in charge then?"
She shrugged still wearing that smile filled with bitterness. Who cared about what her personal feelings where? Yes in this hierarchy she was just a trophy symbolizing the power of the Daimo over the shinobis. "Naturally the closest related male controls from somewhere within the country every incident, his brother."
She thought she saw something flash in his eyes. Temari knew he looked like this when he had an idea. "So what happens if..." He stepped inside the room closing the door. "So what happens if the Daimo dies?"
Temari considered his curiosity to be very interesting. Somehow she loved watching him become eager. This change of his lazy attitude to a stern person with confident appearance. "What is this another clue to solve the riddle who might have wanted the Daimo dead?"
He shrugged. "Maybe. Just answer the question."
She turned around to look outside the window. The sun would rise again in an hour. They didn't need to hurry until then. "The brother will become the next Daimo if the Daimo passes away and has not begotten a son who is by the time of his passing older than nine years old."
Shikamaru stood there his mouth agape. "Holy shit! Your country really works on old fashioned rules."
Temari raised a delicate eyebrow at his choice of words and snickered at him. "I thought you considered yourself to be old fashioned and conservative."
"Then I'll correct myself and say 'ancient rules'." He chuckled shortly.
She couldn't help but smiled at him. He always tended to behave like in old man but was able to transform into a charming, witty young boy, an character trait he ironically developed as he had grown older. She shook her head trying to focus again on the subject of their talk. Then she shifted her weight from one leg to the other. "So does this information help you?"
He closed his eyes in thought and stroke his chin with one hand. "Maybe. But why should someone send a missing ninja of Konoha to kill the Daimo if he wants the brother to become the next Daimo. Alas -"
She instantly knew what he was thinking. "Alas it wasn't a missing shinobi from Konoha but someone in disguise."
He nodded. "Hm."
Their travel wouldn't take long. There weren't many dunes on their way and the wind was generally calm in this region. Soon they would reached the village where the missing shinobi was sighted. They had to be cautious to find him without being themselves detected, Shikamaru didn't wear his vest and headband so he wouldn't be recognized to be a shinobi from Konoha. He just wore his black shirt. Why for god sakes did she found him so attractive?
He interrupted her thoughts."So this village is directly under the control of the Daimo?"
Temari nodded staring up ahead. "Yeah Oashisu is one of the villages to provide the residence with food. Also it is one of the main suppliants for trades."
He stared at her.
She began to feel uncomfortable. "What?"
Shikamaru looked away smirking. "I'm sorry. It's only that you look funny with the hood and all."
She herself was disguised so that people wouldn't wonder about the Daimo's wife passing their grounds. She wore a frock with a hood under which she had left her hair unbound. "Not everyone can look so careless and casual as you do."
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. A sign that he accepted the challenge. "I do?"
She sweetly smiled at him. "Yeah."
"Well, at least I don't appear so unemotional, strict and uptight as someone else does." He smirked at her.
She had to prevent herself from laughing and controlled her facial expression to show him her I-don't-care-face. "I prefer down-to-earth, keen and confident."
"Yeah you do." He overemphasized the words.
It felt great mocking him. Hell, it even felt great to be mocked by him. They behaved like in old times before she left him. Which she regretted. Now.
Shikamaru groaned. "I think I will get sunburned if the sun continues to burn like this. How troublesome."
Fortunately he interrupted her thoughts again before they drifted to far away. He was right the sun was really harsh today due to the fact that there were almost no clouds shielding the sun. She watched him poorly trying to wave some air with his hand. "Who's laughing now? I'm save from the sun."
"Very funny," He seemed to have given up his efforts to save his skin when she handed him cloak she had hidden in her bag. Putting it on he nodded a thank you. "So you said the town replies the Daimo's residence. How come?"
She noticed his interested stare. "Well, Oashisu speaks for itself. It is an oasis. It is one of the few cities that border at some source of water in the Land of Wind which allows the people to establish agriculture here. So they supply other cities with food."
He nodded. A sign that he understood. "Yeah I've noticed sometime I was in Suna that enough water is pumped from the underground but that there are only few greenhouses to supply the whole city."
Temari's gaze drifted to the sky. The clouds were rare cutting the sky in their length. When would it rain again? "That's correct. We also have to rely on cities like Oashisu. But Gaara negotiated with the Daimo for years to invest more into agriculture. As you cleverly noticed we haven't got enough greenhouses. But we still lack the capital to support building more. Therefore we thought the marriage would help to persuade the Daimo and to establish a better relationship between the state and the cities. However..." That didn't work and it wouldn't. She knew now the Daimo was a man who didn't care for his people as long as their cries for help weren't to loud.
Shikamaru huffed. "So you voluntarily chose to become an instrument for this idea."
She stared at the way ahead. She wouldn't waver. Not because of him. "If the agriculture is improved a little than we can prevent many people from poverty and economic utilization. Especially towns like Oashisu which are without their own shinobis have low power to defend themselves against the strong will of the state. You'll see what I mean. And you'll understand."
"Maybe you're right." He stopped walking. "Maybe I just don't want to accept why it has to be you." He watched her closely as the wind shoved the hood against her cheek.
She wondered since when he wore his heart on his sleeve."I can't change the fact I'm the fourth Kazekage's daughter and the Fifth's sister."
He nodded staring at the ground.
She began walking again trying to ignore the echo of his words in her heart. "We are nearly there. Lets go."
He stayed in this position staying silent, After a while he followed her. "Why would someone live in the desert anyway? It is too troublesome." He kicked the sand below his feet.
The town was as she remembered. The inner cycle the town itself was surrounded by wide fields, where crops and vegetables were grown. Everybody worked on the field working as a hard as they could to get paid enough. Even children. As they passed the outskirts of the town people stopped working. They watched them nervously, some suspiciously. She knew why. They couldn't afford being robbed. She watched Shikamaru. He was staring back probably lost in thoughts. This wasn't a good point to start an interrogation. Maybe if the people inside the town saw that they didn't steal anything, they would speak.
The ground of the town was dry. Piles of sand were everywhere being a proof that the care for the town itself was neglected to often in favor of the fields that were too big for the number of people working. The smell of soup crossed their way. In the houses the meals were prepared and the streets were almost empty. From an open window one could hear soft humming. Maybe they should eat something to. There was one tavern in town .She motioned for Shikamaru to follow her.
When they crossed the center they passed the marketplace. There the traded goods from other towns were sold. Temari remembered that the tavern was on the right side of a fountain and was glad when she spotted it.
She knew Shikamaru noticed as well as her that someone followed them. She pretended to stop casually to watch a bird and saw that it was a little boy hiding behind a tree. Shikamaru continued walking grabbing her hand to pull her along. Suddenly the boy leaped at him yelling. Shikamaru blocked the boy falling with him into the fountain. When Shikamaru appeared again at the surface he was angry as hell. The boy didn't stand a chance at his attempt to flee. Faster than a human his shadow expanded and grabbed the boy at the collar. "What the hell was that?"
"I'm sorry mister. I thought you are somebody else."
"The heck you thought I was somebody else." He pulled with another sling of shadow the purse out of the boys grab. "And why then did you steal my purse?"
Temari never saw him this angry. But when tears started to pour down the boys face his own softened. He let the boy down and waited for him to calm down. Temari crossed her arms.
Shikamaru loosened his wet ponytail that hung low reminding her of how she had loved to run her fingers through his soft hair.
"I was hungry." The boy sobbed into his sleeve.
Shikamaru rubbed the back of his head. "Where are your parents?"
"I've lost my parents. I have no home"
Temari shifted her weight. "Can't someone take you in?"
The boy shook his head. Then he jerked his head at Shikamaru. "Maybe you can take me in?"
Shikamaru laughed. "I'm sorry. But I can't do that." He cleared his throat when he saw the boy's gaze becoming icy. "How about you come with us to eat something in the tavern first? What is your name by the way?"
Shikamaru grabbed the boys hand. "I'm Shikamaru."
The boy ordered Miso soup and Dango. Temari remembered when her brother Kankuro was his age and used to eat as much as the boy did now. Unknown to her she smiled freely which was watched with a smile from her neighbor.
The boy finished his meal and obviously observed them. "I didn't knew I attacked a shinobi."
Shikamaru sighed. "You shouldn't attack anybody."
The boy shrugged his shoulders. "Easier said than done. I don't want to starve, you know?"
Shikamaru tapped his fingers on the wooden table. "Maybe if I speak to the people?"
Senshou shook his head. "That won't work." He bowed more into Shikamaru's direction. "So why can't you take me in? I can work hard and will not complain. Don't you like children or do you already have enough?"
"I like children and no, actually I don't have any children and probably won't."
Temari had watched the conversation silently. Trying not to reveal to much of her identity she wanted to engage herself into the conversation when it was important. Now she saw the boys critical gaze shift onto her. "Why? Can't your wife become pregnant?"
Shikamaru winced. "Actually she's -"
Temari placed a hand on his shoulder intervening in his negation. Pretending to look softly at him to show him that this can be used as camouflage.
Shikamaru cleared his throat. His gaze placed on her he looked deeply into her eyes. "Actually it is my fault it didn't work."
The boy grinned showing his teeth. "I''m sure it will work someday."
Temari raised an eyebrow. Ignoring the possible interpretation of the boy's sentence. If he knew... She heard Shikamaru cough beside her and moved a little more towards the boy. "Say I wanted to ask you something." She pulled the picture of the missing nin out of her pocket to hold it under his nose. "Have you seen this man?"
The boy's eyes widened. He snapped his head aside and negated the question. "No, I've never seen this man."
Temari shifted closer to him. Piercing him with her eyes. Smelling that he probably hasn't had a shower for days. She need to seem intimidating. "I know you are lying. Where is that person?"
Senshou nodded towards the bar where a while ago stood the bartender and tavern's owner.
Before Temari could react she saw Shikamaru rush through the still swinging door.
She didn't find him and she couldn't find the bartender. She waited for him with Senshou at her side. He told her how he had seen one evening the man perform a jutsu before he transformed into the person on the picture. He tried to follow him but wasn't fast enough. Senshou thought he wasn't seen and only on the very next day he saw the bartender again. He didn't tell anybody. When the news spread that the Daimo had been attacked by a missing shinobi from Konohagakure he tried to tell people but they didn't believe him. After all he was an abandoned child without parents who would do anything for a slice of bread.
Temari sighed. This land wasn't as golden as its sand. Beneath the shiny surface was a rotten core where children couldn't live as happily as they deserved. She had believed that giving herself to the man who pulled all the strings would give her the strength to assist Gaara and to help this country. But she could do nothing. Now she was a shallow figure with no rights as a woman and no rights as a kunoichi. No more.
It was late in the afternoon. She smiled as Senshou told her stories about his daily life. Finally Shikamaru came back into the tavern. "I think I lost him. Lets go back to the residence."
Startled Temari stood up. "Wait. What do you mean? You lost him?"
"I thought I had found his trait and followed it but he was gone." He turned around ready to leave the tavern.
She somehow sensed that something was odd with the way he avoided her gaze. She could only wonder where he had been the last hour. "What about Senshou?"
Shikamaru looked over his shoulder at the boy that watched him hopefully. "I talked to someone. Senshou you have to wait here. Someone will come and take you home. Goodbye."With that he went outside leaving a stupefied Temari.
She turned to the boy feeling sorry for him to be disappointed again. "He doesn't mean to be so hard. I don't know what happened but I'm sure he arranged something good for you." With that she ruffled his hair. "I have to go now to. But believe me everything will work out fine."
When he smiled like sunshine she wondered why he was left to live on the street while her husband abused his power to become only more powerful. "Goodbye."
By the time she caught up to Shikamaru they were out of town. He didn't speak much and gave her only few information. "What if he was it? Wouldn't it be wise to stalk him down?"
He just continued heading towards the residence. "I have a plan. Don't worry."
With a smirk she tried to bait him. "Don't you care to share?"
Being totally out of character Shikamaru turned his angry self towards her. "I'm investigating. You are the Daimo's wife. I'm acting and you are being. So know let me handle this while you stay quiet, okay?" Without waiting for her answer he continued his way.
Temari stopped walking. "You are an asshole."
He stopped also a little in front of her with his back turned towards her. Head hang low, fist clenched and sighing he seemed like a wreck. "I'm sorry. I'm just trying to protect you. I know you hate it when someone tries to but just once try to accept it. You are a better aid if you don't know."
They stayed quiet for the rest of the way.
Distrust is able to hurt more than hate.
A/N: What do you think? Is this story still working?