A/N: This chapter contains a lot of psychology references. Mainly from C.G. Jung and his study of the unconscious.
Break the Silence
Damn the Dark, Damn the Light
"Who am I?"
The question occupied his thoughts as he watched the darkness she'd retreated through. Even though she was gone, the fact didn't register with him and the glazed-over look in his eyes proved he wasn't completely aware of his surroundings. He didn't even notice when two AnBU guards walked over and began messing with his chains. The interrogator took the opportunity to look at him one more time. "That's the question everyone wants to know," he said with a distant look in his own eyes. "People will spend their entire lives searching for the answer and never find it."
"Who am I?" Shikamaru muttered again.
Watching the forlorn look in the young man's eyes, the interrogator offered an encouraging smile despite the fact that he knew his situation was hopeless. There was something about the young man he'd been interrogating. He was more than he appeared to be and if he could figure out an answer to the impossible question, some encouragement would be warranted. Hope was a big motivator in interrogations and he had used it many times before. However, this time all he had was hope. "Until we meet again, Nara-san." Bidding his farewell, he exited the room through the same door Temari had used.
"Who am I?"
Unable to find the answer, he began to search his own self-image but nothing about the way he perceived himself explained his actions. In a fight, he could read his opponent's actions and make strategic guesses to predict future moves but this was a side of himself he did not know he had. He had found that his toughest opponent was himself. Letting the AnBU guards drag him out of the room and down the hall, he made no attempt to struggle with them. To him, it seemed as if his entire world was collapsing and no amount of struggle was going to stop it. Even when they threw him into a cell, he made no attempt to get up and protest, choosing to lie on the ground and let the shock settle in. Slowly, he began to drift away from consciousness and one more time, the words passed across his lips.
"Who am I?"
Understanding oneself is a difficult task to accomplish. To truly understand who you are, you have to isolate yourself from outside stimuli in order to focus deeper into your own psyche. From there, you can begin soul searching to learn the things that lay hidden in the deepest parts of your unconscious. Hidden from your conscious thoughts and discriminating personality lies the greatest and worst parts of humanity. Only then, when you know what you are truly capable of, can you truly understand yourself.
Slipping from reality as his mind struggled to understand its own complexity, Shikamaru found himself in such a state. His body, exhausted from the previous events, gave out on him and his mind, torn by his own decisions, left him to pick up the pieces. A deep sleep, into the realm of the unconscious, where the conscious mind is shut down by the body and it operates solely for survival is the relief he so desperately needed. However, running away from the problems never solves them and they have a way of showing up again.
Tired and irritated, Shikamaru woke up. Rubbing his eyes because the light was much brighter than he remembered it, he took a moment to observe his new surroundings. While it would be difficult to call it surroundings, he knew he wasn't in the same place as before. The only problem was that everywhere he looked was white as a blank canvas. There was no outline or structure of buildings, no identifying marks to reveal his location. Just an emptiness, devoid of everything except for light which he found entirely too strange. Try as he might, he couldn't find a justifiable light source. It was as if the world had disappeared.
The only thing visibly different about the world around him was his shadow that lay cast across the ground. Studying his shadow, he could learn some things about where he was at. His shadow was stretched long as though the sun were on the horizon and even though he couldn't see the light source, his shadow told him what direction it was coming from. If the light source was the sun, then it was either early morning or late evening judging by the length of his shadow and his shadow was dark and focused. It was darker than he'd ever seen it before and focused in one direction which indicated that there was only one light source and it was coming from the direction directly behind him. That meant that if he could find the light source, he might be able to…
"You think too much," a voice said, jarring him from his thoughts. "You know that?" Shikamaru's eyes flashed around trying to find the source of the voice. Spinning around three hundred sixty degrees, his eyes darted to wherever he suspected the voice originated from but found nothing for his efforts. Frustrated, he wondered if it was just a figment of his imagination. Could he have made the voice up inside his head? This place he had awoken in was starting to get to him and he thought he was losing his edge. "That's what I'm talking about," the voice said again. Correcting his earlier thought, this place was maddening.
"Who is it?" he asked somewhat skeptical about calling out to a voice that for all he knew was in his head.
"You can't see me?" the voice asked. This time he was certain he had heard it come from a particular direction and he spun to face it. Again, there was nothing there and he corrected his thoughts. This place was both frustrating and maddening. "Down here," the voice spoke again. The direction was the same and he cast his eyes downward slowly, allowing time to absorb every detail, finding nothing until his eyes fell once again on his shadow. It couldn't be. His mind was playing tricks on him. "You waste entirely too much time thinking and not enough time doing."
This time, he was pretty sure it was his shadow that was talking to him but he resigned himself to disbelief and the fact that he must be dreaming. The shadow began to flex and wiggle until it detached from him and began to pool like water in front of him. With cautious interest, he stared as an image slowly began to rise from the shadowy pool and involuntarily took a step backwards to place some distance between them. As the image formed, the darkness began to fall away revealing a human looking form and at this point, Shikamaru was more curious than cautious, eyeing the form with interest. Surprisingly, the image began to look very familiar and he almost did a double-take when he realized who the image was.
"Yo!" said the image that looked eerily similar to Shikamaru. If he was forced to describe what he saw, Shikamaru would say that it was like looking in a mirror through tinted glass but that description would be inadequate to even his standards. This sadistically dark looking doppelganger held a lopsided smirk on his face suggesting that he was somewhat amused by Shikamaru's reaction and Shikamaru could not blame him. He was dumbfounded.
"Who are you?" he asked. As if the answer were entirely too obvious, the other look-a-like sighed as the smirk fell from his face. While he held a similar appearance to the young ambassador, he was far from being a copy. His skin was paler and his hair was lighter. Even his posture was extremely rigid compared to Shikamaru's lazy slouch. His beady eyes carried with it hate and animosity towards the person he was looking at. One might even say it was bordering on jealousy.
"I'd have figured someone as smart as you would have figured that out by now," said the image with sarcasm dripping off his tongue. His distaste for the young man was clearly evident and Shikamaru was feeling a bit defensive. "Then again, you don't think you're as smart as everyone thinks you are." Shocked, Shikamaru wondered how this guy knew he doubted his own intelligence. Shikamaru abhorred the idea of living up to people's expectations but this one he had never shared with anyone. Who is this guy? How did this guy know? The image seemed to read his mind. "I'm your shadow," he spat. "And you call everyone else troublesome."
His jaw dropped as he tried to put it together. His shadow has never done anything without him controlling it and there was no way it was capable of something like this. Even if it was possible, he would have some way of manipulating it but it seemed to be acting on its own. His shadow looked amused at the whole thought process and even let out a hearty laugh. "Have a seat?" His shadow gestured to the ground and it took a few seconds for Shikamaru to follow his gaze with his eyes. "I know you want to," the shadow said.
Shikamaru's eyes fell on a Shougi-ban already set up. Complying with the request, he sat down but that was not to say that he was still more than a little confused. "Who are you?" he asked his shadow out loud, apparently unable to comprehend the idea. His shadow sat down across from him and looked peeved. Ignoring the question, he eyed the Shougi-ban and then picked up a piece and made the first move waiting for Shikamaru to follow suit.
Shikamaru just stared at him trying to discern an answer to the question from his actions. Completely ignoring the Shougi-ban, he just stared at his shadow dumbfounded, much to his agitation. "Bakarashi," the shadow said. "I absolutely hate repeating myself. Are you going to move or what?" The shadow seemed frustrated as Shikamaru just continued to stare at him. "You're not going to move unless I say something, are you?" The shadow grumbled curses in frustration. "I am your shadow," he said slowly as if he were speaking with a retard. "I am you."
"You're me?" Shikamaru asked but as he did, he realized that it did answer the question. If he was him, than he would know his secrets. Even so, this was all still a little strange.
"Or part of you, anyway," the shadow said once again gesturing to the board. Looking at him for a second before looking down to the board, Shikamaru figured he would get more information out of him if he played along. Finally analyzing the board, he determined that he was in fact the reigning king and his shadow was the challenging king. His shadow had moved his seventh pawn forward. Shikamaru figured it was an attempt to free his bishop. His shadow was attacking early so Shikamaru made preparations for defense moving his first pawn forward.
"Which part of me are you?" he asked as he clicked the piece down. His shadow smiled at the fact that he was now playing the game and he seemed to be getting some sick sort of enjoyment out of the whole thing. He picked up his second knight and jumped it into the spot left by the seventh pawn, a strategy which confused Shikamaru a bit but held with his prediction of an attack. His shadow looked at him for a moment before responding.
"Damn it! Are we going to do this the whole time?" He gazed exasperatedly at Shikamaru. To his credit, Shikamaru held his own against himself. The whole situation seemed odd really. His shadow realized the fact that they weren't going to get anywhere unless he played along with Shikamaru's game so he relented with a sigh. "Alright, I'm the part of you that your conscious mind rejects. Your move," he said agitated again. It seemed Shikamaru really knew how to push his own buttons.
Smirking at that though, he moved his third pawn forward extending his line of defense in anticipation of an attack from the right side. His shadow was playing very aggressively which was against his very nature so Shikamaru pondered the answer to his question. It left him a little bit puzzled. "If you're part of me and my conscious mind has rejected you, then how do I know you exist? That I'm not just conjuring you in a dream?" Trying to exert control in this situation, he sat straight up and looked his shadow in the eye.
Smiling brightly at the question, his shadow gave a small chuckle before answering the question. "Dreams?" he asked rhetorically. "Dreams are my domain. When you sleep, your conscious mind shuts down and I take over. Ha!" Laughing loudly, his shadow moved his fourth pawn forward without any hesitation. "To think that I would come up with something as drab as this," he said gesturing to the area around them and the Shougi-ban. "No, my friend," Pointing a finger at Shikamaru, he smiled wryly. "This is your doing."
"My doing?" Shikamaru asked but his shadow cut him off waving a hand in the air. Pointing to the board, he insinuated that he had to make a move before asking a question. Shikamaru looked puzzled at the board. His shadow's attack didn't make any sense but he found he was pondering the next question more than his next move. Not that it mattered, anyway; he was setting up a solid defense. Moving an adjoining pawn, he clicked it down as he asked the next question. "If this," he gestured to the surroundings, "is my creation and you are part of me and not my imagination, then how are we having this conversation."
"Ah, the most important question," his shadow made a dramatic show with his hands. The smile fell from his face and he looked to the board with deliberation. Sliding his rook over three spaces to the middle of the board, he let out a deflated sigh. "I really don't know the answer to that question. Most people aren't even aware that they have an unconscious, much less converse with it." He scratched his head as Shikamaru looked at him confused. "It probably has to do with the events of the last few days. You know, with all the trauma and shock."
This guy was a horrible source of information. Shikamaru would have come up with that information himself. As he thought about it, he realized that he did. Sighing, Shikamaru looked down at the Shougi-ban contemplating his next question. This game was pointless. It only served to distract him and it wasn't like his opponent was playing seriously either. Bumping his first lance forward a space, he didn't care about strategy anymore. He just wanted to ask a question. "If you're my unconscious, than what purpose do you serve?"
Smiling at the question, his shadow seemed to like the attention. "Well, some might say that I'm your instinct," he said. "Or inherited memories passed down through hundreds of generations but I like to think of myself as your better half. Being suppressed and all." Shikamaru just stared at him quizzically. This guy was nothing like him. No wonder he suppressed him. "I'm what's left over of your total consciousness when your personality developed." His shadow pouted at the rather meager description of himself. Reaching down, the shadow jumped the knight forward into the attacking half of the board.
Shikamaru didn't even bat an eye. "You didn't really answer my question." Raising an eyebrow, he questioned his shadow who played innocent. "What purpose do you serve?" His shadow sighed, looking as if he were disappointed in the whole thing. For being part of him, Shikamaru found his shadow to be entirely too troublesome and he was glad that his conscious mind had suppressed him. There was no way he could imagine himself acting like that.
"Do you know," his shadow started, staring him right in the eyes, "when people say they don't know why they did something? That they just did it?" Shikamaru nodded in understanding. "That's when they're acting with their unconscious." Shikamaru quirked an inquisitive eyebrow. "They did not think about it or make a conscious decision. They just acted without process. A product of their unconscious mind. Often times, they themselves can not believe they did it."
Looking down at the board, Shikamaru understood what his shadow was saying. As shinobi, they were taught to eliminate all irrational thought and emotion but he'd observed what his shadow was talking about in other people. People just called it love, or hate or envy but Shikamaru understood how these things could get confused. The people he observed never felt like they were harboring these emotions. They just acted irrationally and illogically but as it appeared, these were inescapable parts of being human.
Haphazardly, Shikamaru clicked his sixth pawn forward. Although he was thoroughly uninterested in the game, he had a very important and difficult question to ask. Letting his hand linger on the piece, he looked his shadow in the eye, debating whether or not he really wanted to ask that question. Swallowing his doubt and his pride, he looked his shadow in the eye. "Have you…" He paused but became overwhelmed with curiosity. "Have you ever acted out for me?"
His shadow gave him a huge grin and Shikamaru looked down in disappointment. Slowly drawing his hand back, he began trying to recall an incident in which he couldn't remember being himself and he realized that the situation he was currently in was a prime example. "It's not like you weren't a willing participant," his shadow said breaking him out of his revelation. "And it's not like I actually controlled you either. The entire blame for this rests on you. I just influenced your decision."
"Temae," Shikamaru growled in frustration. He didn't know this part of him would be so bold. "You're trying to put the blame for all of this on me when you just said that you influenced me to do it."
"Hey," his shadow countered. "You do realize that when you put the blame on me that you're only putting it on yourself. I am you, remember?" His shadow looked at him angrily. A face he'd seen too many times on other individuals, mostly troublesome women. "It's not like you ever complained before."
"Before? How many times have you done this to me?" asked Shikamaru.
"Well, I don't keep track of how many times but let's start with something more recent." Shifting to get comfortable, his shadow began to speak. "I was the one who told you it wouldn't be enough to let Hidan go. I was the one who willed you to hunt him down and kill him. I was the one who whispered in your ear to finish him and you didn't complain about any of it." Shikamaru nodded in understanding. A killer he wasn't and maybe that's why everyone was so surprised he had done it on his own. "That was a brilliant plan by the way," his shadow complimented. "I couldn't have thought of a better one myself."
Shikamaru smirked at the comment. Talking with yourself led to very interesting conversations. "How do you know you didn't?" Shikamaru retorted.
"Touché," his shadow said back. "But let's move forward to where this whole thing started." His shadow readjusted his face to look more serious. "Every time you look at her and see something that looks familiar but you just can't put a finger on it. That's me. You recognize the irrational, aggressive and brash side of your unconscious. Your conscious mind doesn't attribute it to yourself but it recognizes it in her, breeding a sense of familiarity." His shadow couldn't have been more confusing and Shikamaru was struggling to grasp the idea. "In essence," his shadow explained. "I made you fall in love with her."
"But I…" Shikamaru was cut off by his shadow.
"I know what you feel when you're near her. I know what it does to your body so don't deny it. I'm sure she feels the same way, too but that's beside the point." His shadow looked somewhat angry with him but at the same time looked at him with pity. "I'm also the one who made you lie to her." Shikamaru shook his head. No, he was the one who lied. It was entirely his fault and no one else was to blame. He just couldn't understand why he did it.
"You really need to stop that," his shadow said. "You were confused between your mission and your woman and it's completely understandable. I told you to lie and to hide the truth from her in order to protect what you had." His shadow was having a hard time convincing him. Even the shadow could see that Shikamaru was blaming himself for all this. "Then we got caught but there's nothing we can do about it right now."
Face falling into his hands, Shikamaru began to sulk. There had to be something he could do about it. He had to correct his mistake but he couldn't think of any reasonable way how to go about it. Pleading his case seemed like a good option but as far as that was concerned, his fate rested entirely in the hands of others. Not being able to control his fate is what scared him the most. Faintly, he heard the click of a Shougi piece and his shadow saying something. "Check."
"What am I going to do?" Shikamaru mumbled to himself. He wasn't really paying attention to the game to even care. Besides, he was more worried about the fucked up situation he had gotten himself into.
"If you're talking about the game," his shadow interrupted his pity party. "I assure you that you've got quite a few ways to get out of this." Shikamaru looked up at his shadow wondering how he could still be going on about the game. "But if you're talking about this fucked up situation we find ourselves in, I'm afraid I'm at a loss for good advice." His shadow seemed to give it a thought for a second.
"Before you met me here," he told Shikamaru. "You had a lingering question on your mind. Have you answered it yet?" Shikamaru looked away thinking about what had happened before he had found himself in this strange situation.
"Who am I?" he asked out loud.
"Yes," his shadow said. "And do you know who you are?" Mulling it over, Shikamaru began to put it together. All of the things that had happened and all of the things that had been said were catalogued into his memory. "You are Nara Shikamaru. A shinobi. A man. You have strengths and weaknesses just like any other man but you are a man capable of anything. Whether you like it or not."
"But what about Temari?" Shikamaru asked.
"Awe, man. You've got it bad," his shadow said. "Here we are up shit creek without a paddle and all you can think about is her." Shikamaru swallowed. He couldn't help it. "The only thing you can hope for is that she will forgive us." When Shikamaru looked at him strange, he corrected himself. "And by us, I mean you."
Groaning in frustration, Shikamaru lay back from the Shougi-ban and closed his eyes. Maybe, if he could get some sleep, this headache would go away and allow him to think more clearly. Drifting slowly to sleep, he ignored any protest that his shadow might have to the unfinished game. Shikamaru just wanted all of this to be over with and maybe, just maybe, watch some clouds.
A/N: Sorry to those of you who were awaiting this update. My own life story has grown pretty interesting making it difficult for me to write about imaginary characters but I finally managed this chapter.
One more chapter. Aren't you excited!