A/N: This is my response to a very unofficial challenge set forth by lovesrainscent, to create something fluffy by April Fool's Day. It's also inspired, in a way, by her story, "Spring is in the Air." (After you're done here, go check it out. It's in my faves.) I just wanted some back and forth banter between Shikamaru and Temari, and it took off from there.
(Edited on 5/28/10 for some stylistic nit-noids that have bothered me since I first wrote this.)
Temari stared at the box of letters and sighed. She never got used to the amount of mail that came everyday, and even though eighty percent of it got weeded out by the secretary there still seemed to be a mountain left for her to go through. The problem was that a lot of it was actually pertinent. And ever since Gaara had become Kazekage, the burden of prioritizing his mail had fallen onto her shoulders. It was an honor, in a way, because it demonstrated the fact that there was no one in Suna who had more of Gaara's trust, or that of the council. But it was so boring.
She lifted the first envelope from the box. It was already open, of course, and the secretary had stamped his name onto the inner flap. She removed and unfolded the note, and read:
I think ur wonderfull. Wat kind of girl do u like?
The letter was long, almost three pages, but there was no point in reading any further. She put it back into the envelope and lay it on the table; this would be the Fangirl Pile.
The next three envelopes contained official documents that Gaara had requested from various organizations, and the two after that were pleas for funding. A couple more fangirl notes later, and Temari drew out a letter that piqued her attention. This one had her name on it, and the return address was labeled: The Office of the Hokage, Department of Shinobi Ranking, Konoha.
She took out the letter and flattened it against the table. It was obviously a form letter; her name was the only thing unique about it, and it was printed in a different font, a little darker than the rest of the words.
The Department of Shinobi Ranking is in the process of refreshing its database. Included in this are the dossiers of the currently active chuunin examiners. Please fill out the attached form, have it notarized, and return it to the Department, along with a recent photo of you, within ten business days.
Thank you for your time,
Still inside the envelope was the form that had been mentioned. It was a standard request for information, and it asked for things like her current address, height, weight, and hair color. There was also a second, postage-paid envelope on which a return address already printed:
Attn: Nara Shikamaru
Department of Shinobi Ranking
Bleh. Administrative crap. She really wanted to hurry and fill it out, just to get it over with, but she forced herself to finish sorting Gaara's mail.
Then an hour and a half later she was in her "office", which was a word Gaara used to refer to the closet where she kept her desk and file cabinets, rummaging through a folder that contained her head shots. There were a ton of them left from when she'd had to reapply for her ninja license last year; that was probably recent enough. She clipped one off, then headed downstairs to let the secretary verify that she was, in fact, the blonde kunoichi that looked so pissed off at being forced to have her picture taken.
And in one business day, her notarized document was on its way back to Konoha.
O O O
Two weeks later, Temari was going through the mail again when she discovered another letter with that same return address: The Office of the Hokage, Department of Shinobi Ranking, Konoha.
Oh, what was it now. It had better just be a note thanking her for her cooperation.
She was surprised to discover, however, that this letter was handwritten. And it was sloppy. There was no doubt that it had been penned in a hurry, or by someone with the mental prowess and dexterity of a camel.
This is such a pain in the ass, but the guy who sent out the last letter forgot to mention that the photos are supposed to be full body shots. Don't ask me why...I didn't make the rules. But now I have to hand write this letter to thirteen different people, so that it looks "personal". (And, probably, to make sure it doesn't get screwed up again by some grunt.)
So it was the camel thing, then.
A full body shot. Damn. That would have been nice to know beforehand. She didn't have any of those that were less than three years old, so that meant she'd have to have her picture taken. And since this wasn't for any official Suna business that meant she'd actually have to make an appointment to have her picture professionally taken by some guy in a toupee who kept insisting that she smile...wider...a little wider...more teeth...there we go!
Damn, damn, damn.
Was that really necessary? After all, the photo wasn't going to be on any formal document. It was just so that the people in charge of the chuunin exam knew what she looked like. She could probably get away with taking a picture of herself, here at home.
Yeah. That's what she'd do.
After dinner that night she caught up with Kankuro and forced him to take a picture of her. He looked at her like she was crazy, but he complied.
She had to wait two days for the roll of film to be developed, but when they were ready she stuffed the photo into the new return envelope, tossing the other twenty-three exposures in the trash. It didn't matter; they were all blank, anyway. Then she scribbled a quick note, folded it, and slid it in with the picture:
Who taught you how to write formal letters? You suck at it.
O O O
She had to roll her eyes the next time a letter came, proudly emblazoned with the D.S.R. logo.
But when she finally wrestled it out of the huge stack of envelopes she noticed something strange: next to the secretary's stamp was a small, yellow tag. A low level security warning.
I'm writing to inform you of how deeply I regret the offensive nature of my last correspondence with you. I assure you that it was not my intent to be anything less than professional, although I clearly misjudged how my actions would be perceived. Please accept my heart-felt apology, and my gratitude for your cooperation with D.S.R. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that I must make one more request of you. It would be extremely helpful if you would provide me with one additional photo, preferably a back shot. I believe that such a photo would be very constructive in our efforts to create a complete and informative dossier. Feel free to use the enclosed, pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope for said photo.
When Temari had first started reading the letter she hadn't been able to keep herself from laughing out loud. But the giggles turned to chokes by the end. He was joking. The kid had to be joking. There was absolutely no way the D.S.R. would require a picture of her from behind. Was this...could this possibly be this guy's weird, geeky way of flirting?
Not likely. Ridiculous, even. So then why, when she read the note again, did she get chills up her spine, like she was being watched? It was, if anything, professional. And yet decidedly not.
Well, if he wanted a "back shot" he'd get one, and she didn't even need Kankuro for this. She grabbed her camera and held it behind her with one hand, at arm's length. Then, when she was reasonably sure that the lens was pointed in the right direction, she snapped the picture.
When she got them back from the photo lab, she found exactly what she'd been hoping for: a shot of the back of her head, and it was hardly even blurry. Good deal.
Twenty-three blank photos hit the trash, and the envelope hit the mailbox.
O O O
The next letter was succinct, but Temari found herself staring at it so long that she lost track of time, almost missing an important meeting with the council.
You know what I meant.
Did she? After she'd sent the last photo, she'd considered that there really was a possibility that his request had been completely legitimate. It seemed so out of character for an oblivious guy like that to use official correspondence to solicit pictures from a woman he hardly knew. The sarcasm of the writing style, now that was something she expected; there was no doubt about who had written the letters. But not the pictures. So, in that case, the photo she'd sent him would probably be viewed as reluctance to cooperate with all the red tape. And this response fit in perfectly with that scenario.
But what if she was wrong? What if he really just wanted a picture of her ass, and thought he was asking for it in a clever way?
She obsessed about it during the meeting, her mind wandering any time someone wasn't speaking directly to her. Gaara and Kankuro both gave her warning glances, which she only barely noticed. The problem absorbed all of her attention, but not because she couldn't figure out the meaning of the note. That was secondary. What she couldn't stop thinking about was, assuming his motives were less than pure, the fact that she actually wanted, in a small way, to give in. And that shocked the hell out of her. She wasn't the type of girl to take pictures of herself and send them to a guy, especially not a useless one like that, and most especially not at his whim. So then why did she feel this weird little thrill whenever she imagined him looking at a photo of her like...that? Why did find herself inexplicably drawn to the idea of playing a game like this?
After the meeting, she sat up in her room, turning her camera over and over again in her hands. The film chamber was still empty and that made her feel a little better. It kept her from feeling like the camera was undressing her with its eye. It made it less dangerous.
She'd already decided; she was going to do this. She'd send him his back shot, a real one this time. But it wasn't going to be lewd or provocative. She didn't even think she was capable of posing for a picture like that, and there was still a chance that she'd totally misinterpreted his request. But this would clear the matter up once and for all.
Trying to get the right picture was a bitch, because she had to use the time-delay function on her camera, jump into place, and then try to come up with some sort of pose that wasn't too stupid and wasn't too hot. She ran through all twenty-four exposures, then walked down to the photo lab.
Oh, that was something she hadn't considered in her plans. The people at the lab were going to see the pictures she'd taken and wonder what she was on. But maybe not. They probably didn't bother looking through people's photos; Temari figured that after the fifty-seventh roll of dogs and cats sleeping together in a basket the average lab attendant would go back to his copy of Maxim. But it didn't stop her from trying to keep her face low and inconspicuous when she dropped off the film.
Two days later she hurried down to the lab and snatched up the photos. The less time they were in the possession of other people, the better. Then, back in her room, she spread them out over the floor and surveyed them all with a critical eye. Several of them could be easily weeded out, by sheer virtue of the fact that she was out of focus, or not even in the shot at all, having taken too long to get into position after setting the timer. She got rid of over half that way. Then she pulled out a couple in which she'd, despite her best efforts, managed to come off a little too alluring. Those were gone. And in four of them she'd gotten hit dead-on, which made her butt look way too wide. Trashed.
There were five left, and they were all pretty similar. In the end she chose one in which she was at more of a forty-five degree angle, one hand on her hip, looking in the direction of the camera. She picked it because her face was completely blank, and it made it look like the photo had been taken of her unawares, instead of like she'd been posing. Plus, her butt was smokin'.
The right photo had been selected, but that wasn't all there was to it. There was still the little matter of a note that kept this correspondence in the realm of plausibility. She needed insurance, just in case she was being set up for some kind of retarded prank.
What the hell is wrong with your village? Are you expecting to have to identify me from the back? I hope the photo I'm sending is acceptable. Please make sure it gets filed in the appropriate place. And if something happens the next time I'm in Konoha and my face gets blown off, I'm holding you responsible.
O O O
Each of the letters from D.S.R. had come separated by about a two week time span. So when the next one showed up in just over a week, Temari was surprised. And, strangely, nervous. It must have been sent out immediately after Shikamaru received her last photo in order for it to have arrived so quickly. What's the hurry, Nara?
The secretary's stamp was on the inner flap of the pre-opened envelope just like always. But this time there was another security warning. Orange. Medium risk.
Yeah, I'd say that last photo was acceptable. The point you made about being able to identify you from behind was a good one. I mean what would happen if, god forbid, your face should be severely disfigured while proctoring a chuunin exam? It's possible.
It also made me wonder what would happen if you were injured worse than that? Maybe decapitated? It's not like you'd be wearing the same clothes that you have on in the pictures. We'd never know whose corpse we had found, and that would be tragic. It would probably be useful to have pictures of several different parts of your body, just in case some of them are damaged beyond recognition.
Just a thought.
Anyway, thanks again for the picture. And don't worry about where it's been filed; I've made sure that it will only be accessible to those who really need it.
Inside was another postage-paid envelope.
Why, that little...
The corner of her mouth quirked.
She bit her lip to keep from smiling.
Who did he think he was?
A grin broke out across her face against her will. How completely transparent. DNA, molars, those were what you turned to when you needed to identify a corpse.
What a dork. Medium security risk indeed.
She couldn't. There was no way she could keep giving in to him like this. But each time she read through his letter her stomach flipped, then flipped again, then her heart skipped a couple of times, her chest tightening in an unfamiliar but pleasant way. She was crazy, to even be deliberating over it. He was crazy. He could lose his job over this! But none of those thoughts could keep her from running through a list of possible shots that she could send him, and what his reaction would be over each one. She knew what he was asking for, but there way no way she could send him that. Not that she even wanted to. But this would be a good chance to tease the kid. Make him squirm. And that sounded like a lot of fun.
It was like she didn't know herself anymore.
Temari spent some quality time with the camera that evening, alone in her room. She went through three rolls of film, and she mused about the fact that she'd had more pictures taken of her in the last month than she'd had in her entire life. Even if she was the one who'd taken most of them.
Dropping off the film didn't embarrass her this time. She figured that the photos would be too abstract to anyone else to garner any attention. And, just as she'd suspected, the attendant didn't give her a second glance when she picked them up. But she still felt herself flush a little when she opened the envelopes and began to rifle through their contents. She couldn't deny that some of the pictures were fairly erotic, even though they were totally obscure. Just the colors, the lights and shades, and the gentle curves made them a little more suggestive than she'd intended. She'd have to be very careful about which pictures she decided to send. She was trying to tease, not titillate.
But at least it gave her an indication that the photo lab attendants really didn't bother looking at the photos they developed. Or, maybe they did, but stuff like this was old hat, because the dude at the lab hadn't even blinked. So that was a relief.
There were a few pictures that made into the "chosen" pile quickly, just because they were silly. She included a shot of her elbow, her arm bent so that it was nice and pointy. Not sexy at all. Then she added one of her knee cap for good measure. There was a close up of her ear, then one of the inside of her wrist and the heel of her hand that was pretty hard to decipher.
After that, the task became more difficult. There were so many parts of the female body that were worshiped by men that it was hard to find any more that were neutral. So she began venturing further and further into questionable territory.
There was a good one of her calf and the underside of her knee, her leg bent in such a way as to make the muscle stand out. She wasn't sure why she liked it; she just did. It was kind of artistic. Then she chose a shot of the toes of one foot. It was strange; she'd never considered the sexual aspect of toes before, and yet, there was something about the lines between each toe, and the shape of the way they joined her foot...well, she didn't think a guy would appreciate it the way that she did, so it was probably okay.
She found a gem near the bottom of the last pile: the side of her neck and one shoulder, including the top of her collar bone. She'd taken it with her yukata on, it had just been shifted slightly to get a better shot. But no clothes had made it into the picture, somehow. Even her bra strap seemed to have been pushed out of the way. Then, after some hesitation, she chose a picture of her legs, close together because they'd been crossed at the ankle. The actual photo had been taken of her thighs, but all the way down near her knees, and the picture was very close up so that all you could see was skin and the line where her legs met. It made her laugh, and gave her goosebumps, because the picture was so ambiguous. It could easily have been several different places where two parts of her body came together.
She needed one more, and she wanted it to be a doozy. She needed a broad expanse of skin. Nothing that wouldn't be easily visible on a girl in a bikini, and nothing too slutty, like her cleavage or her navel. After sweating about it for half an hour, then going downstairs to have a snack and try desperately to think about something else, then bolting up the stairs again because she'd realized she'd left the pictures all over the floor where anyone could see them if they walked in, she finally chose one: a shot of her lower back, from a bit of an angle, arched slightly at the waist. That wasn't too sexy, right? It was just a back. She couldn't remember a time that she'd seen a picture of a back in a porno. But her face burned just to think of it. She'd actually had to get somewhat naked to take that picture, and she done it near the end of the photo shoot when she'd been tired and a good deal less inhibited. But here it was, now, the results of that lapse in judgment, and she loved it. It was sort of pretty.
She put that one last, and the goofy ones first. There was a good chance he'd just end up thinking she was a nut for sending pictures like this, but that was all he was getting. She wrapped them in two pieces of paper, paranoid that someone would be able to see them through the envelope somehow. On the outside of the last piece of paper, she wrote:
I ran across these photos and have been unable to identify them. I have reason to believe that they belong to a chuunin examiner. Since that is your area of expertise, I was hoping that you'd be able to determine who that might be, and add them to the proper file. I leave them in your capable hands.
She tried to muster up some nervousness when she slid the envelope containing the photos into the outgoing mail slot, but she just couldn't manage it. She was anxious, yes, but it was a good anxious. She couldn't wait to see how he would react.
O O O
It was only a week again when the next letter arrived. Someone was antsy.
I'm having trouble pinpointing the identity of your Jane Doe. Are you sure you don't have any further information on her? A few more pieces of the puzzle might help me get a clearer picture.
P.S. Good god, woman.
And, once again, she found herself grinning like an idiot after reading his note. Who would have guessed it? Just the thought of him, writing these words at his desk, her pictures undoubtedly lying there next to his stationary, was incredibly and unexpectedly stimulating. She had to wonder, would she have gone this far for anyone else? It's not like she had any kind of relationship with Shikamaru to speak of. He was just a guy she worked with a couple of weeks twice a year, and even then they hardly had time to interact.
She tried to imagine sending photos to some other Konoha lackey and it gave her the shivers. Not the good kind. No, it was just...him. Maybe it was the way he seemed so disinterested in everyone and everything, and yet he was putting forth the effort to extract as much of this "material" from her as possible. Or maybe it was the intellectual level of most of their exchanges. There was definitely something hot about the way he formally and professionally expressed his desire for her to provide him with erotica.
Or maybe it was the return envelope. She should probably view it as demanding, but she didn't. Instead, it seemed desperate. Adorably so.
She should have more sense than this. But, no. She'd thought that her lower back was the most intimate place she'd been willing to show him. But, now...now she was picturing the look on his face when he got more than he was expecting. The shock complete with several long seconds of staring, eyes growing wider and wider in disbelief. The jaw dropping. Then his face would slowly change, eyes narrowing, mouth curling into a smirk. And when she let herself think about what it would do to his body...
Who had she become? It was like this fiend had been living inside of her all along, and now, with the right stimulation, it was taking over her personality and making her cater to its strange, perverted whims. And she liked it. She wanted to be that girl, and that scared her a little.
She kept her hands off of the camera for a couple of days while she mulled it over. But it didn't take long for her to realize that she wasn't trying to decide whether or not to send more pictures, just where she would take them and how many she would take and what kind they would be. She'd passed the point of no return; she'd made her decision, and no one was more stubborn than Temari. Not even Temari.
The photo shoot lasted three days, and she used up eleven rolls of film. She didn't want a ton of pictures, she just wanted the perfect pictures. She wanted tasteful, beautiful, and totally, undeniably hot. Then it took her another two days to get up the guts to turn in the film for developing, then two more for it to be developed, and while she was waiting for them to be ready she was busy convincing herself that she was a bold, modern woman who could pose for her own porn whenever she wanted, thank you very much. It was an attitude she would need when she went back to pick them up, because this time the lab attendant's eyes popped out of his head when she walked in, his mouth gaping like a fish. Hope you kept a copy, mister, because you won't see that again. Next time I'll use a different lab.
Next time. There would be a next time? Yes, most assuredly, there would be. She'd played his game, and, technically, he'd won. But she didn't feel like the loser, not at all. And there were sure to be more advanced levels in the future. She shivered to think about it, and this time it was in the good way.
At first, it was very difficult to look at her pictures. It was one thing to pose for them, one thing to plan on showing them to a guy. But to actually have to look at herself was a lot harder than she'd expected. But after the first envelope of photos she got inured to images. And eventually she began to be somewhat objective about them. There were countless pictures that just wouldn't work for one reason or another, but she was able to view some of the remaining photos as sexy. Even though they were her, and that was a good starting point. Several of the shower shots had turned out really well, possibly because of the effect of water and soap on skin. And she had to admit that her thighs looked damned good in garters and stockings. Eat your heart out, Ino. My legs might be a little shorter than yours, but at least they aren't scrawny.
Where had that come from?
She spent the rest of the day building a very small, very sensual portfolio for only one viewer. Then she spent the evening shredding the leftover pictures. And the next morning she slid the photos into the envelope, complete with a one-line note.
Careful what you wish for.
She put them in the mail before she could over-think it. She wasn't sure she would have managed it if she'd waited.
O O O
She was right. The minute the pictures went out she started kicking herself. What had she done? She was the sister of the Kazekage, for god's sake, and a respectable kunoichi in her own right. A jounin. She wasn't going to get away with this. She would be held to a much higher standard, and probably receive much harsher discipline. What had she been playing at?
Of course, also weighing on her mind was the way Shikamaru would respond when he got the pictures, but that worry was easily overshadowed by the greater and more imminent threat to her honor and that of her family. It was good, in a way; it kept her from freaking out about the idea of a guy looking at pictures of her naked body, but it also kept her from enjoying it. She was an idiot, and if she got caught she deserved whatever they threw at her.
She found herself tearing through the mail each day, desperate for another letter with D.S.R. in the return address. She didn't care what the letter said, she just needed to be sure that Shikamaru had gotten her pictures, and not someone else in the department. What if...what if Shikamaru got sick, and someone was assigned to deal with his incoming mail in the mean time? What if it got sent to the wrong address, and the person who received it wasn't honorable enough to return it to the D.S.R.? Her name was plastered right on the letter; it wouldn't take any detective work at all to find out that there was a chuunin examiner named Temari.
A week passed with no response. Then two. Temari was frantic; she was completely unable to focus on any duties except for the most menial ones. Gaara ordered her to be checked out by a med-nin, and her blood pressure was sky-high. She started biting her nails again, something she hadn't done since she was twelve. She was losing it.
Then, after three weeks, something came. A box, this time. Large, and fairly heavy, and on the flap of the box was a red tag that indicated a high-level security warning. What the hell?
When she saw what was inside, she almost screamed. From relief, from shock, from amusement, from utter disbelief.
A video camera.
There was also a VHS tape, and a large bubble mailer. Postage paid, of course. This one didn't have D.S.R. in the return address; instead it simply said Nara Shikamaru, followed by what appeared to be a normal, residential address. There was a note, which read:
I know it must be inconvenient for you to continue to contact me at work. Despite the official nature of our relationship, I'd like to offer you a more direct way to get in touch with me. And, once again, please accept my most sincere feelings of gratitude for your cooperation with the D.S.R.
P.S. I'd write a longer letter, but, for some reason, my hand hurts.
She laughed aloud. What a nerd. Then she held up the video camera and smirked to herself. Get in touch with him, eh? Oh, she'd get in touch with him.
O O O
Temari's bag was packed, and the bubble mailer was sealed. The video inside was lascivious, even from her subjective point of view. She pushed it into the mail slot on her way out the front door, and she gave a cheery wave to the secretary. He glowered.
She wasn't in a hurry. She had to travel slower than the postman, and that was a challenge in and of itself. By her estimation, it would take three days for the package to reach Konoha. Shikamaru wouldn't lay eyes on it until after six o'clock, and it would be in the VCR by 6:05. That meant that she needed to have arrived and be in position before 6:07.
She laughed and swung her camera around her wrist by the strap, catching it in her hand. She was going to get in touch with Shikamaru. But, first, she'd have some pictures of her own to take.