I know I should be working on Slave, and trust me I am! But I just got back from hols- two guesses where after this story! France, lol. And so I didn't have much time to write! But chapter thirteen is coming soon, I promise!
On this story- one hell of a long one-shot, I know! But I couldn't bring myself to split it up into chapters- I just liked it as one whole. I feel it flows better this way or something such as that!
Either way, this story was inspired by A LOT of things. Firstly Amy Adam's portrayal of Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum 2 (lame, I know!), secondly, Brad Pitt's character in Inglorious Basterds- Temari's character in this story is based on a combination of the two of them. Thirdly, I was reading some Siegfried Sassoon recently and I was inspired! The title of this is actually the name of a poem written by Wilfred Owen. Also, I remember my granddad telling me of how many people he knew who had fallen in love, purely because of the war, so I decided to write this. Finally, I was watching an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth the other day, which featured a group of pilots known as the twenty-minuters for the same reason as below.
The story is dedicated to two people-
1) Sand-Jounin-Temari- who hopefully won't mind my horribly stereotypical portrayal of Irish people- but as Dara O'Briain says, "I'm Irish, so only I'm allowed to make that joke."
2) To Pyromanic Fangirl- for taking my suggestion :D
Hope you all enjoy- oh and if you can't understand some of Temari's slang, or Kiba's language, here's a translation just to help, along with some historical definitions.
I do not own Naruto.
Tommys- British troops in WW1
Fritz/Alleymans- German troops in WW1
Sammys- American troops in WW1
Micks- Irish troops in WW1
Oíche mhaith- Goodnight in Irish
álainn- Beautiful in Irish
Cara- friend in Irish
The Proclamation of the Irish Republic- Independence Proclamation read by the Irish Volunteers during the Easter 1916 Rising.
Woodrow Wilson- President of USA during WW1
Padraig Pearse- one of the main leaders of the Easter 1916 Rising
31st July 1918
Shikamaru glanced at the dowdy calendar that had been gallingly placed at the corner of the desk he was currently sitting at.
Four months- he grimaced at the fact that he didn't even have to count. During the lengthy periods of severe boredom there was little to do in the trenches other than write home, listen to the wireless, or count the number of days that you had been stationed.
It was juvenile- he was well aware of the fact- to be inwardly complaining at the length of time that he had been fighting in France. Shikamaru knew he should be grateful that he was alive. He had tried counting how many had died- he lost count.
However, when one spent most of the time in a bunker stranded in a well dug-out ditch- something, anything even if it were death, would have been a relief.
The bunker itself wasn't much to look at- and was even worse to live in. There was a small wooden desk which took up most of the room littered in papers and maps which Shikamaru had never seen anyone use. Squashed in on top of the desk were six beds, although only five were occupied as of now due to the fact that on their last official offensive against the Germans one boy named Shino hadn't come back. Brown was the pervading impression one came away with when thinking of the bunker. Everything was brown. The colour itself wasn't helpful. It instilled a kind of apathy in the soldiers, who after four months were so sick of looking at the damn colour that the sight of one's own blood would have been a welcome respite from the monotony.
Yawning, he noted the time to be slightly past eleven pm. It was quiet- for once. The alleymans at least had the decency to give over tonight- the past seven had been morbidly different.
Shikamaru wondered at his mental state- when it was raining bombs he was complaining because he couldn't sleep. When it was quiet, he was sitting studying calendars, instead of sleeping.
Being part of the English troops stationed in France was....an experience. Most boys he talked to had a different impression than him. Some were proud. Others were homesick. Most were bored, having been totally misled with representations of getting to see another country when all they saw was the inside of a trench. They all were scared. Although none of them would admit it. But the emotion forced its way out sometimes- during an air raid mostly. Lying underneath the table or the beds sheltering from the bombs, your eyes connected with the boys around you. And you were all thinking the same thing- 'I'm not going to make it out of this alive, am I?'
The Somme had shaken most people up. He knew from the papers back home that most thought that the war would be over in a couple of months- that was four years ago. But whilst it dragged on, the British people were happy enough to hear of their boys doing well overseas. That was until 1916. They had lost over 600,000 men in the battle of the Somme, and combining that figure with the losses on the other side; Shikamaru had heard people say the death toll went over a million.
He must have been mad. Enlisting after the Somme. He supposed that most had signed up out of guilt that they hadn't been there in the first place. Shikamaru wasn't much for guilt. He felt quite fortunate that he had managed to evade the conscription officers.
Shrugging out of his jacket- he had decided that Uncle Charlie wasn't going to be called tonight- Shikamaru ducked out of the bunker and immersed himself in the moonlight.
Surprisingly, it hadn't rained for the past three days so the mud underneath his boots was now dry and cracked. Turning his gaze to the sky, Shikamaru could make out the stars through the legions of trees that bore down on him. He should be grateful for this- the stars. He hadn't seen them for a long time.
It was idiotic, really. The small things one appreciated, when he thought about it. Not once had he took time back in London to gaze at the stars. So really, his separation from them was not due to the war. It was merely his own ignorance. Yet here he was, berating himself for taking them for granted.
He made a mental note to himself to find a good place in London to look at the stars when he went home.
If he went home.
Where the hell were his coffin nails?!
Groaning at himself, he rooted deeper into his pockets. What was he thinking? 'Coffin Nails'. Cigarettes had a name. An English word prescribed to define them. And he was using typical soldier slang. His mother was going to kill him when he came back talking like a Tommy.
If he came back.
Fingering something crumpled at the bottom of khaki trousers, he pulled out a dilapidated cigarette and lit it.
He recognised the irony of the situation alright. When he had arrived at the trenches, his fellow Tommy's berated him for his habit. Any spare cigs that were about came straight to him because he was only one of two in the bunker that smoked.
Then everyone had started lighting up out of sheer boredom. Now, coffin nails were like gold dust.
All of his fellow soldiers were all currently out for the count, having abandoned Crown and Anchor when any rum they had left to gamble with had run out.
Shikamaru didn't like nights like this, he decided. The quiet ones. It gave him too much time to think.
When you were bounding over the trenches, surrounded by panting comrades, all as shit scared as you, as they tried to leap over the dead bodies that littered the ground- well, you didn't have much time to think.
On nights like this you were left with....games? Rum? Cigarettes?
For Shikamaru, he was left with his thoughts. Thoughts of home....how his mother was doing....if London was still in once piece. And if it was, would he ever see it again?
Thinking of the calendar again, Shikamaru sighed. It was just under two months to his birthday. His nineteenth birthday. Would he even reach it?
There were others, who had died younger than him- but when you were stuck here it was hard not to be selfish. You couldn't help but think about the short length of your own life- all the things you had never done. And Shikamaru had not done a lot of things.
He thought he had time.
Coughing slightly, he hit his chest, remembering Choji's comment that if Fritz didn't get him then the cigarettes would.
Yawning again he made his way back into the bunker. The stars weren't going anywhere tonight.
Looking around at the flea bags, he decided that he did feel a large amount of camaraderie with the boys that filled them. He had known none of them back home- they had all been from different parts of Blighty, yet all conscripted at the same time. He supposed there was some form of serendipity in that. Some poet might have a better notion on it than him.
Choji had been closest to him- they were from opposite ends of London, not meeting until the war unceremoniously shoved their lives together.
Neji was from Cambridge, and had apparently had intentions upon attending the University there before the war broke out. That didn't surprise Shikamaru; he could tell he was smart. They used to play chess together before the General confiscated the board. He could also tell he was from the Upper class. If the university aspirations didn't confirm it, the way the boy had acted upon meeting his bunk mates did.
Shikamaru wasn't dirt poor, but he wasn't well off either. Choji's father was a butcher-not poor either but still working class. Either way, both of them were too poor to be entered into Neji's considerations for friends. That didn't bother Shikamaru.
Yet, it did bother him the way the boy treated Naruto and Kiba. Two Irish born soldiers, who had been ousted into the English battalions for outstanding performance. Both had received Wilfred medals already. However it grained upon Neji that two such outstanding fighters had only signed up with the intention of 'making sure you English bastards get the fuck out of our country.'
They had been in France by the time the revolution in Ireland took place and both were so annoyed at having missed it, that they never let anyone in that bunker forget why they were there.
Shikamaru didn't care about all that either. He wasn't here for the King, unlike Neji. He was here because he had been working on and off as a labourer and had little else to do other than sign up. That and he was constantly reminded of the 'shame of his mother' over the fact that her son wasn't helping the war effort; the woman who had then begged him not to go the day he had shipped out.
Shikamaru didn't understand women.
Naruto and Kiba were alright. A bit loud but interesting nonetheless. They had good stories and anecdotes on things like women, priests and Guinness.
He had never tasted Guinness due to the fact that his mother would kill him if she ever smelt alcohol off of his breath; but from the way Kiba and Naruto talked of the stuff, Shikamaru was beginning to feel that he would die unhappy if he didn't taste some soon.
From the way Neji wrinkled his nose at the mention of Guinness, Shikamaru had reckoned that he didn't approve. And he was right. Neji liked whiskey. At least he found that out when the Commanding Officer had called him into his quarters for a sip. That was the way it was.
Neji was somebody.
Shikamaru, Naruto, Kiba and Choji were all just fools sacrificing their lives for a country that cared nothing for them.
It didn't cause fights- but it did cause a rift. Shikamaru wasn't very interested in talking to Neji. He could hack a game of chess with the fellow because Naruto kept trying to play checkers with the pieces; Kiba called him Fanti for even bothering to play and Choji got bored with the game quickly. But Shikamaru didn't want to hear all the things Neji had done in his life- what he had learned, what he was going to learn and who he was going to turn out to be.
To be fair, Neji never tried to tell him any of those things but with the way his idle mind was going, Shikamaru knew he was very close to asking.
But even through all of their differences; circumstances and experiences- Shikamaru still felt as though he could rely on any one of those boys to save his skin. They were the closest things he had to brothers.
After yawning for a third time, Shikamaru decided to put his brain to bed for the night. Trudging over to his bunk, he sat down wearily and started to unlace his boots.
'Oi! Tommy," he heard Kiba whisper loudly, "Shut the fuck up. Some of us are trying to sleep here."
He could tell from the soldier's tone that he was being flippant and chuckled a little.
"Listen, Mick, you need to mind your manners or we'll kick your arse back to County Tipperary faster than you can swallow a pint," Chouji's mirthful whisper echoed from above Shikamaru's bunk, who now couldn't stop himself from grinning.
"Oh ho ho ho!" Kiba cackled, turning over to face them, "so they didn't shoot your balls off two weeks ago, you English fuck!" he jeered at Choji. Shikamaru was sure the boy was two seconds away from sticking his tongue out at them. "Naruto!" he bellowed, sitting up,"get out the proclamation, boy! We have to remind you two Brits what happens when you fuck with the Irish!"
Shikamaru was now lying on his bed, laughing quietly and he could hear the bed above his shaking as Choji shook with laughter himself. Neither of them had any rebuttal. It was impossible to argue with Kiba when he got like this.
Naruto had now stood up, placed his right hand on his heart and was beginning to speak. "Irishmen and Irishwomen (particularly the women)," he added, winking at Kiba who grinned back, "In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom," he said passionately.
Shikamaru groaned, as he practically recited the letter with Naruto himself. They had read out the thing so many times in the past four months that Shikamaru was almost positive he knew it off by heart.
"AHEM," came a loud cough from Neji's bunk, cutting Naruto off in the middle of his speech, upon which a tense silence reigned, as the four boys all stared at each other.
"WE DECLARE THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND TO THE OWNERSHIP OF IRELAND, AND TO THE UNFETTERED CONTROL OF IRISH DESTINIES, TO BE SOVEREIGN AND INDEFEASIBLE," Naruto bellowed out, much to Kiba's mirth who started to bellow along with him.
When silence met their declaration, Naruto and Kiba both grinned at Shikamaru and Chouji, before Naruto climbed back into his bunk and Kiba lay down again.
"Oíche mhaith, ye English bastards," Kiba said sleepily as he snuggled down in his flea bag, whilst Naruto groaned appreciatively.
"Night," Shikamaru replied, finally out of his boots and starting to feel tired. Lying down, he supposed it could be worse. He was alive now and it would be wise to appreciate his life as it was rather than continuously imagining himself walking the endless plank.
Listening to the light snores of the boys around him, Shikamaru desperately hoped that they all made it out of here alive.
"Well, ain't this just dandy! Did y'all spend last night at a gin mill? Fine morning like this and you bunch of piker's are lying around as if y'all ain't never been spifflicated before!"
Shikamaru groaned as the light from the sun hit his eyes.
Whoever was making that noise deserved to be court marshalled.
Squinting, he could see a figure standing in the doorway; hands on hips and head held high.
Shikamaru turned over to face the wall hoping that if they ignored the loud American, he would go away. However Kiba, who was now jumping to their defence, clearly had different ideas. At least Shikamaru didn't have to spend the morning defending their honour if Kiba took it upon himself to do so.
"Listen, Sammy!" he heard the solider say loudly, "I don't know what they teach you over there in...."
Shikamaru's ears pricked up as he heard Kiba trail off. He was now failing miserably at defending their honour.
Kiba gave a loud whistle.
"Christ, Kiba!" he heard Choji exclaim from above him, obviously annoyed at the noise, "you wouldn't mind keeping it down would you! After your little show last night..."
Shikamaru ears lurched again as he heard Choji trail off as well.
"Put your eyes back in your head, boy-o," came Kiba's cheeky voice, as Shikamaru figured out he was addressing Choji, "this one's definitely for me," he finished in a low voice that Shikamaru didn't like.
Feeling slightly torn between his desire to know what the hell his bunk mates were talking about and his wish to continue lying comfortably in his flea bag, Shikamaru gave into the inevitable and turned over and was heinously surprised to see.....
The trenches were supposed to be the one place that you could escape women. He should have known they inhabited everywhere.
As his eyes adjusted Shikamaru could see why Kiba was reacting the way he was. He supposed she was rather attractive. Her blonde hair was in a bob that he knew the fashionable women back home wore and her face was quite pretty. She was well made up too. He could see her red lipstick from here. Her blue eyes were nice to look at too, he supposed females were rather nice to admire; a bit of something different to look at when all you saw was brown- but she was nothing to get out of bed for.
He chuckled a little bit as he eyed the rest of the soldiers in the bunk all looking quite awake now.
Shikamaru had heard that sometimes the American Generals brought in some women to keep their troops occupied and 'motivated'. Unfortunately, well for Kiba and Naruto, the British Army took no such initiative. Kiba must have thought that all his birthdays had come at once.
The sunlight backlighting her body wasn't doing her any favours either. Shikamaru supposed she was what the Sammy's called a 'Sheba' or some other strange phrase such as that. She looked like she belonged in one of those picture cards they showed him of barely clad women.
Again, nothing to get out of bed for.
Something about her puzzled him though....she was completely dressed in a full pilots uniform; her aviation helmet swinging by her side, brown leather jacket pulled tightly around her with light brown trousers tucked into black lace up boots.
"Listen, blue eyes," he heard Kiba start in what the boy probably assumed was a seductive manner, "whatever poor pilot you stole that uniform from probably wants it back; so why don't you take it off and I'll help you get it back to him," he finished cheekily. Shikamaru could tell without looking that he was grinning.
The blonde chuckled lightly, before stopping abruptly.
"Listen, sap," she said sharply, her American accent lilting throughout the room cutting through her previously light laughter, "I ain't no doll and I'm not your blue eyes," she continued, walking forward- her boots clicking harshly on the floor. "I'm the Real McCoy and I could probably fly circles around your tiny little brain. So buckle up cowboy and put your eyes back in your head ," the woman hooted, "cause I'm here to stay," she finished dangerously, throwing her belongings up on the spare bunk above Neji's bed, who was now looking quite alarmed.
Hopping up lightly onto the top bunk she surveyed the five soldiers with interest; even going as far as to bend her head between her legs to get a good look at Neji.
"There must be some mistake," Neji said after coughing lightly, "Pardon me, ma'am but this is a bunker for male soldiers. It would be extremely inappropriate for you to reside here, as I'm sure you understand. I will go and inform the General of the mix-up and we can have you relocated back to the medical tent," he finished, after having put on his khaki's quite promptly, seemingly alarmed at the idea of a woman seeing him with his trousers off.
"Hell no!" the woman exclaimed, as Neji began to look mortified at the fact she had swore, "I'm not a nurse, Mister!" she continued, jumping down off the bunk and squaring up to Neji, before poking him in the chest. "I am a proud soldier of the U.S Air Service, member of the 27th Fighter squadron and I have been drafted in to make sure you twenty minuters don't die before you've killed off enough Fritz's to paper all of France with!" she finished elaborately, putting her hands back on her hips and staring Neji straight in the face.
Shikamaru had by now realised that the American troops had their own style of slang and was, like everyone else in the bunker, now trying to decipher what on earth this woman was talking about.
Choji seemed to understand her first.
"Excuse me, Miss, but we are all ground soldiers here. None of us are trained pilots," he finished politely, as Shikamaru wondered if he was blushing. She was just a woman- creating too much noise as usual and interrupting his sleep. What was everyone getting so worked up about?
"I know that!" the girl answered, turning to face Choji in his bunk, "there ain't no room left in the British Air Forces bunkers, so I'm staying here instead. Golly! You would think I'd just tried to climb into bed with one of you!" she huffed, before climbing back up to the top bunker and lying down.
"I'd be much obliged," Kiba cut in, winking at her from across the room.
She chuckled a little.
"At ease, solider," she replied in a low voice, smiling at them all from her bunk.
Shikamaru groaned and turned back in his bunk to face the wall. She was already causing too much trouble; if he was lucky he might be able to sleep through most of it. But he had forgotten that Naruto was in the room.
"So, how did you manage to work your way into the Army?" Naruto questioned loudly, as Shikamaru contemplated throwing his boot at him. He decided against it. Too much work.
"Sheesh! You boys are a lotta high hats!" the woman exclaimed, equally as loudly as Naruto. "Work my way in! Didn't I tell you I'm the bees' knees when it comes to the air! I'm the number one fly boy in the United States Air Force. I did not work my way in, as you suggest! I was asked to enlist!" she finished haughtily, glaring a little at Naruto.
"How can you be the number one pilot in the Air Force if you're a woman?" Choji questioned.
A tense silence fell over the bunker as Shikamaru and his fellow soliders all instantly bonded together in their one quest to tape Choji's mouth closed and make sure that he never uttered a single word again.
"I outta bump you off right here, Mister and then we'll see how hard boiled you are!" the blonde said dangerously. "I may be a Jane but I ain't no Dumb Dora. I have twenty-six confirmed victories on the field, Tommy! How many do you have?" she questioned roughly, looking at Choji like she was ready to kill him.
"Pardon me, ma'am" came Neji's voice from his position at the desk, "but twenty-six confirmed victories aren't that many. Britain's top aerial ace has at least seventy upon my last count," he stated with an arrogance that Shikamaru found to be quite annoying.
"Well, we ain't been in the war as long have we now?" she shot back ruthlessly. "But just you boys wait! Give me another couple a' years and I'll have you at least a hundred victories! I promise you that!" she finished confidently, winking down at them all.
"I wouldn't doubt it, ma'am," came a sturdy voice. Shikamaru groaned as he recognised it to be that of the Major-General and began scurrying around like the rest of his bunk-mates, trying to make himself presentable.
Major-General Asuma Sarutobi, on the whole, wasn't that bad. He wasn't as strict as the General; however rumour did have it that they were related. He usually carried plenty of cigarettes and wasn't above joining the lower officers in a drink or two when all the work was done. The other officers usually found him to be somewhat humorous and different from the rest of the Generals- he wasn't clean shaven and, as he often misplaced his khaki jacket, could be found running around the bunkers trying to find it. He was in charge of the bunk in which Shikamaru resided in and two others on top of that, which essentially meant that he spent most of his time trying to refill the positions that had been emptied by too many soliders having their heads blown off. However, Shikamaru had known him to take down at least fifteen German soliders in one sitting making him one of the best shots he had ever seen.
All five of them promptly stood in a straight line, saluting the Major. Shikamaru noted Neji's annoyance when the woman continued to occupy her position on the bed.
Jumping down off of the bunk, the female saluted the Major quickly before attempting to shake his hand.
"Captain Temari of the 27th fighter squadron, Major," she said confidently as the Major returned her hand shake. "Reporting for instruction," she continued cheekily, a bright smile on her face.
"My pleasure, ma'am," the Major replied heartily, as Shikamaru and the rest of his soldiers came to terms with the fact that she outranked them all. "The General informed me of your arrival. Might I add on behalf of the British Air Force, how grateful we are to have you here," he continued, smiling back at Temari widely. "I hope our boys have been making you feel welcome?" he asked, surveying the delighted looks on Naruto and Kiba's face and the disgruntled one that Neji was now displaying.
"Oh yes," Temari answered, "very welcome, Major, thank you. Indeed all of the lieutenants have expressed severe unhappiness at the fact that I had not arrived sooner," she said, smiling wickedly at them all.
Chuckling, the Major stepped aside from the door. "You must be hungry, no doubt Captain, after your long trip. You have my permission to go the kitchen and ask them to provide you with an early lunch."
"Thank you, Major. You must have read my mind," Temari said, saluting him once again. "See you boys later," she said, winking at them as she exited the bunker.
Once she had left the Major took the seat at the desk that Neji had vacated.
"Remove that disdainful look from your face, Lieutenant Hyuuga," the Major said sharply, scribbling a few notes on the map that was on the desk.
"With all due respect Major," Neji began before being cut off swiftly as Asuma turned around to face them.
"With all due respect nothing, Lieutenant. I don't want to hear it," Asuma pressed harshly.
"Major, she is a woman," Neji continued forcefully, clearly intent on having his opinion heard.
"I am well aware that she is a woman, Lieutenant. I'm sure Lieutenant's Uzumaki and Inuzuka will be more than happy to illustrate to you the obviousness of what you just stated. I assure you, having been surrounded for the majority of the war by men, I am most definitely aware of what a female looks like," the Major stated somewhat flippantly, glancing slightly at the grinning pair of Irishmen.
"Sir, my remark was not intended as a question upon the Major's observational skills, but rather as a method of raising scrutiny upon whether or not it is appropriate for a lady to be residing in this bunker with us. Indeed, whether it is appropriate that she should fight at all," Neji finished promptly, looking at Shikamaru as if for some form of support.
Shikamaru was staying out of it. If she stayed and heard that he did not want her there, he'd never hear the end of it.
"You are aware, are you not Lieutenants, of the group of pilots that are known as the twenty minuters?" the Major asked, somewhat wearily.
All five of the boys nodded.
"Are you aware of why they are referred to by that particular title?" he questioned, glancing at all five of them expectantly.
In all honesty Shikamaru had no idea. The army had so many nicknames for its battalions that the title could have meant anything.
It was Kiba that spoke up.
"They call them that because they are all rookie pilots. And the average life expectancy of a rookie pilot once he enters the air is twenty minutes," Kiba stated, looking somewhat too happy for having imparted this piece of morbid information.
"Indeed," the Major affirmed. "Twenty minutes, boys. Goldfish live longer than that. The RAF has decided, quite wisely too, that they are sick of their rookie pilots dying off before they even manage one kill on the field."
Shikamaru could understand that sentiment himself. It had only been last night that he had been complaining about his too short life span.
It really was a shocking figure to behold.
"Uncle Sam has no such problem," Asuma continued. "Do you know why boys?" he queried aggressively.
All five shook their heads at him.
"Because of that woman, chaps. She's the best there is. The majority of rookie American pilots that follow her onto the battlefield come back alive. And that's what we need," the Major said passionately. "Well, it is what the RAF needs. It is a great honour that the American Air Force has seen fit to grant her leave to help our pilots. It speaks great amounts for Anglo-American relations and the common wish that we all have to end this war promptly. Now, should she return to her General and tell him that the Tommy's were acting ungratefully towards her- well, I can tell you that our General would not be pleased to hear that," Asuma said pointedly to the whole room.
They all nodded in agreement.
British and American relations in the trenches were already strained enough without stoking the fire by adding a peeved female pilot into the mix.
Appeasement was the way to go. Regardless of whatever Neji's personal opinions may have been.
"And by ungratefully boys," the Major continued, "I mean not just acting towards her in what could be considered a sexist manner," he said looking at Neji in particular, "but also in what one might deem as inappropriate, you understand Lieutenants? She is here to fight- not to please your eyes, yes?" Asuma finished, now looking at Kiba and Naruto meaningfully.
"Of course, Major," Neji replied on behalf of them all.
"Excellent," the Major said. "I'll call back in later on this evening to see how she's settling in," he said happily. "Pleasant day, boys," Asuma said as he exited the room, ignoring their salutes.
They all stood there, almost shell shocked for a few moments before Naruto began to move.
"Where's the rope?" he asked, rooting through his belongings.
"No idea," Shikamaru replied wearily, making his way back to his bunk, "why?"
"We're going to have to tie Kiba to his bed at night," he said cheerfully, laughing a little as Choji nodded affirmatively.
"Shut the hell up, you Northern piece of shite!" came Kiba's reply, as he chucked a pillow at Naruto's head.
Shikamaru noted the time to be just after four o'clock. They had spent the day lying around, gambling with socks and polishing their rifles.
The boredom was driving him insane.
And Temari still wasn't back.
"Yes please," he heard Choji call, as the tea lady wheeled the trolley into the room. Well, she was actually a nurse, but since she brought them tea, they called her the tea lady.
"And how is everyone today?" Ino asked cheerfully, beginning to fill the metal cups with steaming hot tea.
"BORED!" Kiba yelled loudly from his bunk. "Where are you, ye German bastards? I NEED SOMEONE TO SHOOT!"
"Is he drunk?" she asked Choji, giggling.
"I wish," Kiba mumbled, as Ino continued to laugh.
"Give it three hours," Choji replied taking the cup gratefully, and thanking Ino.
"I hear there's a female pilot bunking in with you boys now?" she asked the room, continuing to pass out the tea.
"Ino! You're a genius!" Kiba exclaimed, sitting up. "It's not a German, I need. It's her. She'll entertain me alright! Where is she?" he asked excitedly, grinning wickedly at Naruto.
"We haven't seen her since this morning," Shikamaru explained to Ino, as she handed him a cup. Could this tea be any weaker? They probably used one teabag to satisfy five bunkers.
Ino giggled conspiratorially.
"She's down with the Scottish troops," she answered happily, "I hear they've bonded over their mutual love of whiskey," she continued raising her eyebrows suggestively.
"WHAT?!" Kiba and Naruto both yelled simultaneously.
"Mm hmm," Ino said, "Apparently she's been drinking them all under the table too. They've sent a few boys down our way that won't stop throwing up!" she finished, smiling.
"Naruto get the rum!" Kiba ordered.
"You drank it all," Shikamaru reminded them dryly.
"Damn!" Kiba exclaimed. "Well, we're going anyways. She may be able to out drink a Scot, but she'll never put us off of our feet, will she, Naruto?" he continued loudly and grabbing his jacket.
"I'd like to see her try, Cara!" Naruto replied happily, pulling on his jacket as well and following his comrade out the door.
"Make that two hours, Ino," Choji said, shaking his head exasperatedly.
Another day had passed without any action.
Shikamaru was trying to remember the last time he had been on the battlefield. It was a hard task as the days seemed to meld into one long endless time period punctuated briefly by sleep.
Yet the lack of action was making him nervous. His optimistic self said that it was purely due to the fact that the Germans hadn't attacked recently.
His rational self was telling him that the Allied Forces were gearing up for an all out offensive.
He had been lying in his bunk for the past two hours, drifting in and out of sleep. Kiba and Naruto had still not returned from their escapade and Shikamaru had run out of cigarettes to smoke ever since they left.
Letting his eyes glaze over, he let his mind drift again. Surprisingly it landed on Temari. He supposed it was because it was the only subject he hadn't exhausted in his head.
She was shaking things up, that was for sure. Typical Yank.
Neji may have retreated but Shikamaru could tell that he still wasn't entirely happy with her presence- even though she hadn't entered the bunk since the early morning.
Shikamaru himself didn't know how to feel about it. He didn't have a problem with women fighting in the war, and if this particular woman meant less death then it could only be a good thing.
He could just tell that she was....loud and outspoken. And with the bunk already stuffed to the gills with that particular personality trait thanks to Naruto and Kiba, Shikamaru wasn't sure how much more he could take.
He was broken out of his reverie by a loud thump.
"Whoops-a-daisy," came Temari's airy accent as she stumbled in the door, holding Kiba and Naruto up by her shoulders.
"Hehe," Kiba laughed drunkenly, "daisy. Daisy. You," he continued, wobbling and shoving his head into Temari's neck, "smell like a daisy."
"Easy there, Tommy," Temari chuckled, swaying a little herself- under the boy's combined weight or alcohol, Shikamaru couldn't tell, "stop sniffing me!" she finished, exasperatedly, before hiccupping lightly.
"KIBA!" Naruto yelled, as Choji jumped in surprise, making the bunk above Shikamaru shake, whilst Neji groaned loudly.
"Kiba, Kiba, Kiba! Do you remember the time I got soooooooooo drunk, that I slept with that woman! That woman! Who was like......fifty?!" Naruto blurted out, letting go of Temari's waist and stumbling onto his bunk.
"No," Kiba replied, sounding slightly sad, whilst continuing to grab Temari's waist in a manner that gave Shikamaru the idea that had she not been inebriated herself, she would have shot him for.
"Oh yeah....." Naruto hiccupped distantly, "you weren't there were you? That....that was.....m', my brother," he said, as he began to sob. "My brother," he said, softly.
"YOUR BROTHER!!!!" Kiba roared, as Chouji jumped again, having obviously fell back to sleep. "Your brother," he repeated, letting go of Temari and stumbling over to Naruto, "was a GREAT man! He fought, Naruto. He really fought! He fought for Ireland, boy! That's the only type of fighting worth doing. Not this pansy shite, we're doing now. The Germans!," he spat, falling down to sit beside Naruto, "The Fritz aren't the real enemy, boys! It's the Brits, Naruto, the Brits!"
"I miss Ireland, Kiba. I miss...I miss my mother. And I miss Guinness, and I miss....I miss...I miss that woman, Kiba! She wasn't so bad. She didn't look fifty," Naruto moaned quietly, before lying down to pass out- or so Shikamaru presumed.
"I sat within a valley green, I sat me with my true love. My sad heart strove to choose between the old love and the new love. The old for her, the new that made me think on Ireland dearly. While soft the wind blew down the glade and shook the golden barley," Kiba sang sadly, before lying down beside Naruto, sniffling to himself.
Temari stood there, swaying slightly as her eyes surveyed the room.
Her eyes caught on Shikamaru and some form of recognition came into them, as she realised he was staring at her.
"Sorry," she whispered, hiccupping again. "For...for the whoopee, Tommy."
Shikamaru said nothing, but rolled over on his side to face the wall. He had no desire to talk to a woman, much less a drunken one.
"Awh, come on!" Temari moaned quietly, "don't be sore, Tommy!"
Shikamaru groaned slightly as he heard her stumble over to his bunk.
She poked him in the back.
"What?" he hissed unhappily, still not turning to face her.
"Got any cigs, Tommy?" she asked forcefully, beginning to pull at his hair.
"No," he replied curtly, inching further in to the bunk to get away from her.
Shikamaru would have been happy to let her stand there and laugh except for the fact that two minutes later she was still doing it.
"What's so funny, troublesome woman?" he asked unhappily, hoping that he might be able to coerce her to go to sleep if he paid her some attention.
"I do!" she said gleefully.
"You do what?"
"I do have cigs Tommy! Do you want one?" she asked, as he heard her searching around her clothes for what he presumed were cigarettes.
"No," he said bluntly, and made a big show of snuggling down into his blankets hoping that she would get the message sooner rather than later.
"Suit yourself, high hat!" she said indifferently, as he heard her stumble out of the bunk.
There were a few minutes of blissful peace before he heard her stumble back in again.
"Help!" she said, as Shikamaru realised she was talking to him because she had started poking him in the back again.
"What?" he groaned, wondering what he had done to deserve this attention?
"I ain't got no light, Tommy! Do you?" she questioned, poking him harder until he finally gave up and turned over to start rooting through his trouser pockets for matches.
"Here!" he said finally, thrusting the matches and box into her awaiting hand and turning over in his bunk again.
She laughed happily as she made her way out of the bunk.
"You're real swell, you know that Tommy? Real swell."
Shikamaru started awake, as he struggled to make out his surroundings.
He had been dreaming that he was in London listening to his mother yell at him. Oddly enough dreams used to be the place where he escaped from his mother's nagging.
Shikamaru sighed. He really did miss home.
He noted the time to be shortly after two in the morning. Yawning he turned on his side, trying to will his body back to sleep. Sporadic sleep patterns were becoming a habit now, yet he couldn't figure out why he kept jumping awake every few hours. Perhaps he was trying to remind himself that he was still alive.
Shikamaru sleepily surveyed the room, eyes slightly glazed over.
That was odd. The troublesome woman wasn't in her bunk.
As the information processed in his head, he became slightly more awake- now a little worried.
If she had gone missing, it would be their fault obviously. She was in British troops care and it was their responsibility to make sure that she was well looked after.
Groaning, he stretched a little before shuffling his legs out of the flea bag.
Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes sleepily whilst trudging out of the bunker.
He winced a little when he realised how bright the moon was tonight. It was bathing the trenches in a beautiful glow, happily making Shikamaru feel a little sleepier.
After a short search, which lasted all of two seconds, Shikamaru chuckled slightly when he discovered Temari fast asleep on the ground; burnt out cigarette in hand with matches scattered all over the ground around her.
However, his laughter stopped when he realised that he was going to have to carry her back to her bunk. Troublesome.
Always trying to make him do work.
Shaking himself awake, he bent down and scooped her up in his arms. She felt warm in his arms. She was breathing lightly; fast asleep. He noted that her eyelashes were flickering prettily across her cheek. She must have been dreaming too.
He briefly wondered what her home was like. Probably some place bright and noisy. A lot like her, he shouldn't wonder.
Shuffling back into the bunker as noiselessly as possible, he heard her whimper slightly in her sleep.
Troublesome woman. Trying to trick him into thinking she was vulnerable when she was the exact opposite.
He didn't know exactly why, but looking down at her, he was suddenly struck with the terrible wish to kiss her, if for no other reason than to feel what it was like.
Shaking the notion out of his head, he lifted her into her bunk with ease. One of the principal requirements for joining the army was that each applicant had to be at least five foot, nine inches. Shikamaru exceeded that height by about five inches himself so it was no strain to reach the top bunk.
Deciding that she wouldn't be cold without her blankets, he left her as she was in the bunk and made his way back to his own bed.
As he drifted off to sleep, Shikamaru's prevailing thoughts were of whiskey, leather, red lips and daisies.
Shikamaru awoke with a groan as the loud voices that insisted upon his consciousness continued to rage on.
"....completely inappropriate. There could have been an air raid last night. A full call to arms. And two of our soliders would have been completely inebriated whilst I doubt you would have been in any fit state to fly, yourself ma'am. I don't know how they do things over the American troop bases, but I can assure you that the British do not fight drunk."
Shikamaru recognised Neji's cool, sharp voice to be cutting through the air around them and pitied the fact that if it wasn't Naruto or Kiba keeping him awake at night, it was Neji in the morning.
"Well it's a good thing that I'm not British then, eh Tommy?" came Kiba's voice meaningfully. "Lay off the lass, Neji. We woulda drank whether she was here or not," he finished as Neji coughed delicately.
"I do not attempt to account for your actions, Lieutenant Inuzuka, but I do feel the need to illustrate the improper conduct of the Captain, in that her high rank should ensure her attention to duty whilst her actions last night clearly demonstrated otherwise," Neji replied curtly as Shikamaru rolled over to see Neji and Temari effectively having a face off whilst Kiba remained in his bunk.
So this was it, Shikamaru mused. Neji could deal with two Irishmen who hated the King and happily inebriated themselves every night. But an American female pilot who behaved in a manner quite opposite to 'lady-like' pushed him over the edge.
This was going to make the bunker easier to inhabit, he bemoaned, wondering if he could request a transfer.
"How old are you, Lieutenant?" Temari asked abruptly, her accent once again a startling contrast to those that had spoken before- Shikamaru was still adjusting his ears to it.
"I fail to see how this is relevant, but I am nineteen since you inquire, ma'am," he replied briskly. Shikamaru could almost feel him drawing himself up to his full height from here.
"And the rest of you boys? Nineteen or thereabouts as well, I presume?" Temari continued, questioning the room at large. Shikamaru couldn't see Choji but presumed that he had woken up as well to watch the morning's entertainment.
They all nodded in response.
"I do not mean to be pessimistic, boys, but I have to tell you something. We are going to die, boys," she stated matter-of-factly.
A heavy silence followed her declaration. The silence continued not because they were shocked by her words or outraged by her presumption, but because somewhere within them, they all knew what she said to be true. She was just the only one brave enough to say it aloud.
"We are going to die here in France, right in these very woods, boys. All at the hands of some son-of-a-bitch German, who got lucky and got a hit over on us," she went on passionately as she looked around the room. Shikamaru noted her posture to be rigid, hands still on hips, head still held high.
"I am twenty-one boys, just about to turn twenty-two," the pilot stated, waiting for them all to take in that piece of information.
She had begun to pace the room purposefully.
"Nineteen and twenty-one. The grand ages of our lives, Tommy's," she said chuckling a little. At what, Shikamaru couldn't understand. He found the idea of be nauseating. "Are any of you boys hitched?" she asked.
They all shook their heads.
Again, they replied no.
Shikamaru ignored Neji's mortification at the idea that any of them would have kids when they weren't married and shook his head.
"Yeah?" the blonde replied. "Well me neither," she said with finality. "Now I don't know about you boys, but it seems to me that those things are all things that a person should do within their lifetime and none of us have done any of them," she harrumphed loudly, as she continued her pacing.
She was right, it was a little pathetic.
What did all of them have to show for their lives- nothing. Kiba and Naruto would be remembered for their medals, and Neji because of who he was. And Shikamaru and Choji? Well their parents would remember them. That was about it.
They would die, and the world would go on.
"And I don't know how you feel about that- you know- dying before you've even had a chance to fall in love, or get hitched or have lil 'uns, but I sure as hell know how I feel about it," she continued rampantly. "Depressed as shit, boys," she said with finality.
Silence again took over the room.
Shikamaru surveyed the faces of the boys around him. Granted, they all felt the same way she did. They just didn't want to talk about it.
"I think it's all wet that we gotta die before we even get the chance to live," she said, wringing her leather gloved hands together with vigour. "But you know? I figure it's no way to live life- sitting around all unhappy and waiting to die. And I don't intend my last memories of this here earth to be ones of being bored," Temari continued, her voice gaining in volume before she stopped right in front of Neji.
"So, no, Lieutenant, I do not think it was inappropriate at all that me n' these here boys had a lil fun before we go to meet our maker," the Captain went on, looking Neji straight in the eye. "I think it was the right n' proper thing to do. The only thing that I find inappropriate in this here bunk is that you and these two other goons are just sitting around, wasting what's left of your life, waiting to die, Lieutenant."
Her statement echoed around the room and Shikamaru saw Neji shift on his feet looking distinctly uncomfortable, whilst Choji was looking down at Shikamaru as if asking him to tell him otherwise.
"But," she resumed confidently, "if that's how you boys intend to go out, then I don't got no say in it, and I would appreciate it, Lieutenant, if you would show me the same courtesy, okey-dokey?" she finished smartly, straightening out her jacket.
Neji coughed a little, not meeting her eyes before nodding slightly and making his way over to his bunk to sit down.
"Thank you," Temari said briskly, before hopping up on to her own bed.
She took out a sheet of paper, turned over onto her stomach and began to scribble on the paper.
For a while the only sounds that could be heard in the bunker were Temari's ministrations and the breathing of five very frightened boys.
The day passed again without purpose.
Temari had spent the day writing, talking a little to Naruto who couldn't remember much of last night's events and then made all the soldier's very happy by managing to convince the General to give them all a good tog of Gin before bedtime.
So there they all sat- sipping quietly on their Gin and trying to pretend that the conversation that had taken place this morning didn't actually mean anything.
Shikamaru noted the time to be a little after eight-thirty in the evening.
The more he thought about it, the more Shikamaru reasoned that the Generals were planning an out and out attack upon the alleymans. It was the only thing that made sense. The only idea that explained the reason they were all sitting around like ducks.
The higher-ups probably thought they were being kind- giving the boys a few more days to live. That was baloney, as Temari would say. By this stage, Shikamaru was so frightened out of his wits that any time he heard the slightest of noises he was ready to jump under his bunk and hide. Last time- it had been Choji dropping his tea cup.
"M-ma-ma'am," came Choji's timid voice, cutting through Shikamaru's reverie.
"Yes, sir?" Temari responded brightly from her top bunk, swivelling round to face him.
"Do- do you really think...are we actually going to die?" he asked quietly.
His question hung heavy in the air.
Temari's smile faded a little.
"I didn't mean to frighten you boys earlier," she said softly, her voice taking on a quality that made Shikamaru want to slumber. "I was just a bit riled up, is all, Tommy. You should pay no heed to a woman when she's riled up, didn't your mamma never teach you that?" she asked Choji kindly, now smiling again.
"No," Kiba replied vigorously, "mine was too busy beating the life out 'ta me," he said happily, as Temari laughed a little.
"But..."Choji started, as Shikamaru rapidly gained the impression that he wasn't going to let this go. He wished he would. "...is that...what you said this morning....is that what you really think, Captain?" he furthered gently, sounding more scared than Shikamaru would like to admit.
"God's honour, boys?" she asked them all. They all replied by nodding, now already knowing what her answer was going to be.
She nodded slightly.
"Yes," she said after a while, still as kindly as before. "Yes, I do, boys. Maybe some of you will be lucky, most probably won't. But I do know one thing for sure boys and that is that I'm not coming back from this war," she continued looking around at them all with her big blue eyes. "What is it they say in the Navy? Captain goes down with his ship, or some such thing? Well, I'm like that Captain boys, 'cept I'm going down with my 'Bessie," Temari finished, almost wistfully, as Shikamaru wondered what was wrong with her.
"And....and you're not afraid?" Shikamaru asked her, almost inaudibly, but some part of him wanted to know how this woman could be so certain of her own fate and still have laughter left in her.
"Of what?" she questioned, her eyes flickering to him, an almost incredulous look in them.
"Of death," Choji replied for him, eyes glued to the pilot.
She chuckled a little.
"Ain't no need to be scared of death, boys," she returned with ease, eyes bright upon them all. "My brother's the scariest thing there is and he's living up on a farm somewhere Kansas, so as long as you don't go there, you ain't got no reason to fear dying," she finished simply, sipping some more of her gin.
They all tittered a little at that remark. She was being flippant, Shikamaru could tell. If there was no real reason for them to fear death, then she wasn't sharing it with them. At least not tonight anyways.
"Is that who you were writing to?" Choji asked, now looking a little happier, his mind obviously distracted.
"Mm hmm," she replied, as she swallowed her gin cheerfully. "Boy needs to know how much I'm suffering out here in this ditch, whilst he sits at home chewing grass," she said happily, as they all laughed again.
"He didn't enlist?" Naruto ventured sleepily from his bunk.
"He tried to," she said briskly, "failed the psychological test."
Silence followed this.
Shikamaru wasn't certain of how the mental institutions functioned in America, but he was sure that over in England, the ones who failed the psychological tests for the army, were all certifiably insane. And he knew that each and every one of the boys in that bunker were thinking the exact same thing.
"How?" Naruto pressed cautiously.
"Awh, they reckoned he looked too excited by the prospect of killing Germans," she replied disdainfully. "All the biggest pile of baloney, if you ask me," she continued. "Had they let Gaara in the army, this war woulda been over 'long time ago, boys," Temari said, knowingly.
They all nodded, silently.
"Other than that, I was writing in my diary," the Captain went on, as if nothing had happened.
"Typical woman," Kiba said, rolling his eyes cheekily at her.
She chuckled again.
"Watch out, Lieutenant," she said, dangerously but with laughter lilting her tones, "I may not be a ground soldier, but I reckon I could out-draw each of you boys quicker than blondie over there can finish his Gin."
Naruto banged his empty cup against the edge of the bunker.
"So, why are you writing a diary if we are all going to die, may I enquire?" Neji asked, his brisk tones cutting through the previously happy air of the room.
"I'm posting it back to my brother, so he can have it on record, for your information, Tommy," she replied hotly. "May not be worth much now, but some day it'll be worth something to read," Temari continued deliberately.
"Are we in it?" Naruto asked excitedly, now sitting up.
"Why do you care?" Neji cut in, as Temari began to answer.
"If she's writing history up there, I want to make sure I'm in it!" he said rapidly, turning his head again to look to Temari for an answer.
"Yes, boys, you are all in it," she replied, as Naruto smiled with glee.
"Can you take out the bits about us getting slaughtered?" Kiba asked pleadingly. "I don't want me ma reading that," he said worriedly.
"Sorry, but I can't tamper with the historical accuracy of the diary," Temari replied authoritatively. "I do not wish for it to become compromised."
"Please, álainn, please!" Kiba said, shaking his hands at Temari. "If I don't die in the war, then she'll kill me for that! I'll give you the rest of me Gin to take it out," he went on shaking the half full cup at the pilot wantonly.
"You know it means a lot to him, lass, if he's offering you his Gin," Naruto said knowingly, before winking at Choji and Shikamaru.
"Oh, fine then," Temari replied unhappily, "but y'all are taking an oath, y'hear?" she said, bearing down on them all from her bunk. "I did not, nor would I ever tamper with the historical accuracy of this here diary," she said, waving the pages at them.
"I'll swear it on top of the Confederacy flag!" Kiba said passionately, as he trudged his way over to Temari to hand her his cup, as the rest of them in the bunker nodded quietly.
"Good," she said happily, taking the cup off Kiba, "consider it done!"
"You're a real good girl, álainn," Kiba replied, before jumping up on the bunk to kiss Temari full on the mouth.
Choji and Naruto chuckled, whilst Neji looked scandalized. Shikamaru wondered what it would be like to kiss her. He measured it would a pleasant experience but one followed by instant death.
As Kiba pulled back, Temari slapped him full on the face, cheeks tinged slightly.
Stumbling on his way back to his bunk, Kiba rubbed his sore cheek.
"Worth it," he mumbled to Naruto, who grinned back at him defiantly, as Shikamaru couldn't help but feel a little jealous.
Shikamaru jumped as he heard a yell coming from outside of the bunker.
Squinting as the sun streamed in on his bed, he groaned wearily before looking around to find that he was the only one occupying the space.
Pulling on his khakis and boots without bothering to lace them up, he stumbled outside into the sun to find Naruto crouching and holding his leg, whilst Temari and Kiba were attempting to keep him upright.
"What happened?" Shikamaru asked, jogging over to him.
"The bastard," Naruto breathed heavily, "the bastard shot me!" he groaned, as Shikamaru looked down in disgust to see blood pouring from Naruto's leg.
"Not on purpose!" Kiba yelped, looking to Temari for some sort of help. "I'd never shoot you on purpose, boy-o, you know that! You're my comrade, Naruto! I'd be more likely to shoot one of these English arseholes than you, Naruto!" he moaned, trying to grab his victim's eye contact.
"We have to get him to the medical tent," Shikamaru told Temari, as he picked up Naruto's legs and the three of them started moving towards the nurses' station.
Naruto moaned and groaned all the way there.
Shikamaru had half a mind to tell him to shut-up, but decided against it.
"You- you have to tell them he did it," Naruto said faintly, as they arrived in front of the tent, "or they'll think I was trying to get sent home," he said, before passing out altogether.
"He's right," Shikamaru reasoned, "He'd be court marshalled if they came to that conclusion," he said to Kiba, who was now looking as pale as Naruto.
"But-but-but they'll punish me for that!" Kiba moaned unhappily.
Shikamaru was given no time to reply as they pushed their way into the tent.
Two women came running towards them, both dressed in nurse's uniforms, as Shikamaru recognised one to be the tea lady.
"Where's he hurt?" she asked, as Shikamaru managed to move his body to show them Naruto's wounded leg.
"Put him over here," the other nurse said- a girl with light red hair- patting a bed beside her.
Laying Naruto down on the bed, Kiba knelt down beside the bed.
"Naruto," he said shakily, taking the boys hand. "Naruto, don't die. You can't die! Who's going to lead the second uprising with me Naruto?"
Kiba continued talking to Naruto's unconscious figure desperately, as Shikamaru and Temari turned to face the nurse.
"Will he be alright?" Temari questioned Ino, looking decidedly confident for someone who had just watched their fellow soldier get shot.
"We'll see what we can do," Ino replied cheerily, bustling out of the way to tend over Naruto as the other nurse ran around gathering medical supplies.
"Well," Temari said briskly, turning to Shikamaru, "ain't no point sticking around here. Won't make a blind bit 'a difference," she said meaningfully, before marching out of the tent.
Deciding that she was right, Shikamaru followed her out into the sun.
"What happened?" he asked, as he fell into step beside her.
"Boys were bored so they started shooting their guns off," she replied matter-of-factly. "Stray bullet got him," she finished, marching ahead through the trenches.
Shikamaru said nothing for the rest of their walk pondering on the truth to the phrase that the boredom was 'killing them', as Naruto had said.
"So," she said happily, as they reached the bunker, "what's your name, Tommy? I ain't heard it yet," she continued, rooting around her jacket pockets.
"Shikamaru," he replied wearily, lying down on his bunk as he happily discovered that his body warmth hadn't drained from the flea bag yet.
"Hmmmmmmm......" she said in a tone that Shikamaru couldn't make out, before hopping up onto the bunker and pulling out the paper she had been writing on the night before. She finally found her pen in her jacket, and started to scribble.
"Shikamaru," she said, rolling it about on her tongue, "Shi-ka-ma-ru, is that with a 'k' or a 'c'?" Temari asked him, looking down at him interestedly like he was some form of insect and she was a magnifying glass.
"A 'k'," he mumbled in response, wondering whether or not he wanted to be part of history. It felt odd to be called history when you weren't even dead yet. "What were you calling me before that?" he asked, distractedly.
"Oh, I just called you the one who didn't say much, do much, eat much, or laugh much. You just like to sleep a lot," she finished confidently, still writing happily.
Shikamaru expelled a breath of air. She knew him so well already?
"You got me in one," he said sleepily, turning over to face the wall and preparing his brain for sleep.
"I was hoping I had," she said quietly, as Shikamaru's eyes shot open.
Was she.....flirting with him?
He was infinitely confused. He didn't like people who didn't say things directly. Implications were all very well, but when your days were numbered you didn't really have time for them.
He couldn't think of anything to say or do other than turn over to face her after a long pause.
She was smiling at him, eyes bright.
Shikamaru swallowed as he started to flick through the files in his head to do with how to handle women.
"All women are whores, Shikamaru who only want to sleep with you so you'll get them pregnant and have to marry them. You mustn't do that!"
That was his mother's own particular take.
"They're nice when they smile."
His father's. Very, definitely true when it came to Temari, but still not helpful.
"I can't believe I'm going to die a virgin."
Choji's, yet it bore little relevance to the current situation.
"Nothing like a good roll around in the hay."
Kiba's, and somehow- still not helpful.
He realised that he had now been staring at her opening for a number of minutes and had yet to say a thing.
She saved him the trouble as she gracefully hopped down off the bunk, chuckling at him all the while.
"Have a nice sleep, Shikamaru," she said gently, blowing him a kiss before making her way out of the bunker, hips swaying slightly.
Troublesome woman. There was no chance of him getting any sleep after that encounter.
At some point in the afternoon Temari had waltzed back into the bunker, not saying a word, and continued to write when she settled herself on her bunk.
It didn't escape Shikamaru's notice that they were the only people in the bunker. He supposed Kiba was still with Naruto- or in other words flirting with the nurses, Neji was probably out courting the General's favour and well, he didn't really know where Choji was.
He had fell in and out of sleep, before finally giving up any attempt at a peaceful slumber and deciding to write to his mother.
Shikamaru told her he missed her and his father- because it was true and because it was what she would want to hear. He told her of the lack of action and lied about how grateful he was for it. He decided against mentioning Temari, as it would only lead to more questions that needed answering in a reply letter.
Family had always been scarce for him, Shikamaru mused. Yet he had always taken it for granted. Now, pondering upon Temari's declaration of how they were dying with half lived lives, he realised how badly he wanted children. How badly he wanted to have someone to come home to, the way his father came home to his mother.
Any woman- no matter how troublesome- could be kind when they wanted to be.
He stifled a yawn as he looked up at Temari's bunk from the desk. He noticed she was dozing lightly, paper and pen still in hand.
Truth be told, Shikamaru was a little jealous. He wished he could sleep as peacefully as that.
Lying very still with her cheeks and lips reddened from her slumber, he noted that she really was very pretty. If he was honest with himself, she was getting prettier every time he regarded her.
Shikamaru wondered if was actually attracted to her or whether all these thoughts of home and family were making him lonely.
No, he decided. He had been lonely before and had ran a mile anytime a nurse had approached him in a friendly manner. A combination of his desire to escape women and his general lack of experience when it came to their species.
Shikamaru definitely felt something for her. He wasn't sure what. But somehow between the drinking, and the sleeping and the general defiance for Neji and his thoughts on women, she had managed to leave quite an impression on Shikamaru. He wondered if he would ever even get the chance to tell her how he felt about her- not that he knew- but it would be nice to have the chance to tell her all the same.
She really did have beautiful eyes.
Shikamaru jumped slightly when he realised that whilst he was staring at her she had awoken and was now staring back at him.
Essentially, he had just been caught gandering at her.
He looked away quickly as he felt a blush rise to his cheeks, and tried to think of something to pretend to do.
He was thankfully provided with a distraction as Choji and a notably subdued Kiba came into the room.
"Well?" Temari asked, finally taking her eyes off of Shikamaru and sitting up, "how is he?"
"He'll live," Choji said cheerfully, "and he should be back tomorrow!"
Shikamaru nodded, satisfied. As much as he wouldn't call them brothers, he was definitely glad that Naruto was okay.
"Álainn," Kiba said quietly to Temari, "what did you do?"
"What I thought was best, Kiba," she replied briskly, busying herself with the blankets in her bunk.
Kiba started to stutter to reply, but apparently found he couldn't. Shikamaru was curious- he had never seen Kiba rendered speechless before.
"What happened?" Shikamaru asked Choji quietly, as his bunk mate made his way over to the desk.
"Temari told the General that she shot Naruto," Choji replied quietly, giving Shikamaru a meaningful look.
"What?" he whispered, shocked and filled with admiration in equal proportions.
"Yeah," Choji went on, leaning against the desk, "she said they were trying to teach her how to fire a rifle and she shot him accidentally," he said pausing as he noticed Shikamaru's eyes widening. "She said she wouldn't be as likely to get in trouble for it or something like that," Choji finished, sounding slightly weary.
"You shouldn't have done that," Kiba said to the pilot, leaning on the edge of her bunk. "I don't deserve it," he finished wearily, looking at the ground.
"Hush up," Temari scolded, bringing her hand down to grasp Kiba's arm. "I heard about you two boys and what you done for the effort. If one of you's is outta action, I can't very well let the other one fly away too! Be a waste of a good shot at ending this here war," she finished, smiling down at him kindly.
Pulling a very startled Temari down off of her bunk in one fluid motion, Kiba swept her into his arms and hugged her tightly.
"Go raibh maith agat, álainn," he whispered emotionally, "go raibh maith agat."
With rigid posture, Temari awkwardly patted Kiba's back in what Shikamaru supposed was her attempt to be soothing.
When Kiba had finally released the flustered Temari, he went over to his bunk and pulled out a small bottle of rum followed by Choji. How Kiba kept managing to procure liquor- Shikamaru had absolutely no idea- but he held a very small amount of admiration for the boy's resourcefulness. Particularly when it extended to him.
"So, what did the General say?" Shikamaru asked Temari uncomfortably, still not completely easy with meeting her eyes.
"Oh, there's nothing much he can say," Temari replied, now leaning against her own bunk and examining her nails. "I'm here doing y'all a favour, so even if I accidentally shot the lotta ya, I doubt he'd be able to say much," she finished cheekily, now looking at Shikamaru, smiling charmingly.
Shikamaru nodded slowly and turned away to look at his half finished letter to home. He decided he would tell his mother about some of the boys in the bunker. It would make her happy to hear that he was making friends of some sort. He should try to make her feel happy about his life, he thought. This might be the last letter she ever received from him.
"You writing to your lady back home?" came Temari's voice, just as Shikamaru had picked up the pen. He looked around to see her perched on her bunk, legs swinging off and studying him like that magnifying glass again.
"Mother," he muttered in response, turning away again. Sensing her next question he gave a pre-emptive response, "I already told you I wasn't in love or married," he said shortly, feeling slightly distracted by her presence.
"Just cause you ain't in love doesn't mean you ain't got a doll," Temari replied, her legs continuing to swing. "Shoot, my brother used to have five dolls at once and he didn't love none of them," she said reminiscently.
"I thought everyone was scared of your brother," he said disinterestedly, pretending to write.
She chuckled a little. "That was my youngest brother. My other brother was the lounge lizard," she went on, sounding happy.
"Is he stationed?" Shikamaru questioned, finally giving up his pretence and turning to talk to her.
"He was," the pilot said sadly, as Shikamaru berated himself for asking. He should have learnt by now that most people's relatives had died due to some result of the war. "He made it up until about six months ago, now" she continued, peering down at the calendar. "Kankuro joined up right away when the war call came," Temari furthered, with a small smile on her face. "He lasted a lot longer than I expected him to," she finished chuckling.
"I'm sorry," he replied clumsily, not really knowing what else to say. There was little to say to that.
"Awh, don't be," she said quickly. "He went the way he woulda wanted to."
Shikamaru couldn't help being guilty as he noticed the sad tones in her voice. Why did he have to ask?
"Was he a pilot as well?" he furthered, for something...anything else to say.
She shook her head.
"Marine," Temari answered. "He was a tough one too," she said proudly. "Told me it took six bullets to take him down."
Shikamaru nodded in some form of admiration he supposed. The British troops tended to regard the U.S. Marines as somewhat uncivilised. Barbaric fighters - unacquainted their form of 'clean killing'. Again, Shikamaru thought this was all overblown national pride on behalf of the Tommy's who didn't like the fact that they couldn't win the war without the Sammy's help.
"I hope they didn't inform your mother of that fact," he said a little wryly, thinking that had his own mother been told that news she would have probably pulled a pistol on them.
Temari laughed again.
"They didn't have to," she responded dryly. "My mother died when I was ten and my father followed her when I was sixteen. Weren't nobody else to tell 'cept Gaara and me," she finished as Shikamaru felt like pulling a gun on himself. "And don't you dare apologise for it!" she hooted, obviously noticing the grimace on Shikamaru's face.
Now there was definitely nothing he could say.
He sat there awkwardly until Temari decided to fill the silence.
"My mother taught me to fly, y'know?" the Captain said evocatively. "She was the best damn flyer there was. I used to sit in my back yard and watch her sail around the skies, thinking that someday it was gonna be me. I wouldn't no nothing 'bout flying if it weren't for her," Temari finished, smiling in her memories.
"Then maybe you'll be alright," Shikamaru said to her, with an optimism that he didn't know he had in him. "If your mother taught you to fly, and she was the best, then you're probably pretty good too," he continued, looking up at her honestly.
"Probably?!" she asked, incredulously. "I'm the best goddamn flyer in this here war!" she said loudly, eliciting laughter from Shikamaru in response who could tell she was being light-hearted. "But no, Tommy," she went on, her own smile dying down. "It's my fate to die in my plane. My mother died in hers. My father died during a collapse in the mines, and Kankuro died fighting. My whole family died doing their jobs, so likelihood is, I will too."
"Your family picks dangerous occupations," he replied, thinking that if she was so determined to go down with her plane, she probably would.
"Is there any other way to live?" Temari rebutted grinning, her legs now swinging happily again.
Shikamaru, now grinning himself, was about to reply, when he was cut off by a sharp tap at the open door.
Looking around he saw the Major-General enter briskly, as all four of them jumped to attention, although Temari saluted him whilst still in her bunk.
"Gentlemen," the Major nodded, "and Lady," he said to Temari, smiling at her. "How are you all today?"
"Excellent Major," came the unanimous response from all three soliders.
"Swell, thank you Major," Temari replied originally.
"Good, good," Asuma acknowledged, taking a seat on Shikamaru's bunk, in turn making Shikamaru's heart sink. So this was it. They were finally going to find out how they were going to die.
"Lieutenants," he began, not bothering to address Temari directly, "the Germans are on the retreat. You are aware of this fact, yes?" he asked, as they all nodded in response.
"There is a general feeling held," Asuma stopped to cough before continuing, "by the Entente and others, that it would be wise to strike whilst we have them on the run, so to speak," he finished delicately before pausing, as if waiting for them to object.
"Therefore," the Major went on, "we intend to attack, on the eight of this month, just north of the Somme in Amiens," he said solemnly. "We- that is to say the British and French forces- will have assistance from the Australians and the Canadians. With this final offensive, we intend to change the pace of the war, if one could say that. We must put the German forces on the defensive and thus bring about the end of this war," he finished dramatically, hands clasped together and eyes boring into them all.
The Major paused again, but all he was met with was silence.
"We all knew this day would come, boys," he said quietly. "I will see you on the battlefield," Asuma continued, before rising, nodding to them all and leaving the bunker as quietly as he had entered it.
None of them had bothered to salute him.
The next two days went by uneventfully, disrupted only by Kiba's youthfully optimistic assertions that they hadn't died yet so why should this battle be any different.
Naruto, as Choji said he would, arrived back with them the day after the battle was announced, upon which Kiba informed him of the news. Shikamaru gained new respect for him, as Naruto was then told that due to his leg he didn't have to fight if he did not want to. Naruto insisted upon entering battle with them, stating that if they were all dying out there, then he was dying with them.
At some points during the nights that passed, Shikamaru could hear Choji crying to himself quietly. He had thought of comforting the boy but decided against it. If Choji was making an effort to mask his fear, then Shikamaru uncovering it would only embarrass him.
The mail carrier came around again, and Shikamaru shipped off his last letter home telling his mother that he loved her but not of the upcoming battle. It would do little good to worry her. Choji, Kiba, Naruto and Neji all also sent letters home whilst Temari posted off the latest instalment of her diary.
To fill the silences, Temari told them stories of America, Kiba and Naruto talked of Ireland and even Neji joined in, telling them of India- where he had travelled to as a young boy.
The funny thing was that all of their relationships with Neji had changed dramatically in the last two days. After the announcement was made, Temari seemed almost determined to bring the boy out of his shell by offering him rum, cigarettes and even offering to bring him up in her plane. Surprisingly, it worked although Shikamaru doubted it was because of Temari's efforts, but because Neji was every bit as scared as the rest of them. He, like the rest of them, had realised that these might be his last days on earth.
It had an odd effect on all of them.
Temari seemed unable to sit still for more than a minute unless she was writing.
Choji now talked rarely, but always looked as if his mind was on higher thoughts.
Neji talked more, suggesting to Shikamaru that he was trying to block out the very thoughts that Choji was immersing himself in.
Kiba and Naruto starting drawing up plans for a second revolution in Ireland once they got home, and if possible managed to drink more than they had ever done. Although, that last trait was not a rarity anymore. Everyone was drinking more.
Shikamaru spent most of him trying to feel nothing. It was unsuccessful most of the time and he found himself helping Kiba and Naruto in their plans, playing drinking games with Choji and just plain talking to Temari. It was interesting to listen to her just rambling on. It didn't really matter what about - he just found her voice to be soothing.
They had developed an odd habit of holding hands whilst they smoked. It didn't happen often, but now and then she would reach out and clasp his fingers in hers, never meeting his eyes. When she didn't reach for him, he found himself initiating the habit. At moments like those, they just stood and smoked quietly, not bothering to talk.
She showed him her plane, a SPAD . It was a beautiful, bright red creature that made Shikamaru happy just to look at it. Apparently, the American forces had presented Temari with the plane upon her agreement to help the war effort. She had named it Bessie, after her mother's plane. It was Temari's pride and joy, and- she had told him- had made up for her lack of family. This plane was the only family Temari needed.
She had also managed to coerce Choji, Naruto, Neji, Kiba and himself into washing the machine with her. The Captain had informed them that she wanted the Germans to be able to see her coming from the skies. Shikamaru had no doubt she would be successful- that red plane was hard to miss. It had been a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, with Naruto and Kiba throwing soapy water all over each other and managing to somehow hit Neji with a bucket of the stuff. And then Neji laughed, actually laughed, and flung his own sponge at Naruto.
They had those typical conversations that people have whenever they grow close to the end. 'Name one thing you would do if you had the time to' and 'if you could meet any person in the world, who would it be?' Silly, innocuous conversations that had no real purpose other than to fill each of them with certain wistfulness for the life they might have had. All of them except Temari talked of their mothers without fail, saying how they would tell them they loved them if they could see them one more time.
And then before they knew it, it was the night of the seventh of August
7th August 1918
Shikamaru, Choji and Naruto had just finished a game of Crown and Anchor when the Major-General walked in, followed by Temari, who- to Shikamaru's knowledge had been out checking and double-checking the mechanics of her plane. Kiba was out seeing the resident Priest, whilst Neji had been on the bed reading War and Peace.
"Boys," he nodded, acknowledging their salute. "How are we all feeling tonight then?"
None of them bothered with a verbal answer, but merely nodded back, smiling slightly.
Obviously noticing their hesitance the Major decided against prodding further.
"I have every confidence that tomorrow will go well, boys," Asuma said authoritatively, addressing the room at large. "But, just in case there are a few pre-battle 'jitters', as our American friends would say," he added nodding to Temari, "the General has asked me to present every bunker with this," he finished, pulling out a large bottle of whiskey from behind his back.
Shikamaru was sure that had Kiba been there, he would have fainted on the spot.
After a few choruses of thank-yous, the Major wished them all luck tomorrow, and told them he would see them in the morning.
After he had left, Choji, Neji, Temari and Naruto all simultaneously lunged at the whiskey. Neji got there first.
"I don't think it would be very polite to open this before our comrade has returned," the soldier said to them all, holding the bottle close to his chest.
Both Naruto and Choji grumbled acceptance, whilst Temari turned to Shikamaru and gave him a large grin suggesting that she had been responsible for Neji's personality overhaul. She sat down on his bunk beside him and took his hand in hers, rubbing it gently with her palm. Choji gave Shikamaru a look, but other than that, no one said anything.
By the time Kiba had returned, his face tear streaked, Naruto was foaming at the mouth.
"Kiba!" Naruto yelled. "Look what the Major gave us!" he said, practically tackling Neji for the whiskey bottle.
Seeing the bottle, Kiba smiled sensitively. "Good man," he said quietly, "a very good man."
Naruto poured them all full cups as they sat on the edge of their bunks and they drank to the end of the war, good whiskey, Padraig Pearse, Woodrow Wilson, King George V (at Neji's insistence, although Naruto and Kiba refused to drink) and their own good health.
"I lied before," Neji said suddenly, as the toasting had died down.
"What about?" Choji questioned eagerly, still sipping at his whiskey.
"When I said that I wasn't in love," he replied, slightly forlornly. He now had the full group's attention. "I was," Neji continued quietly, "I am."
"Oh," was all Choji could apparently think to say back.
"I was going to ask her to marry me before I left, but I never did it," he said unprompted, "I can't think why now," he finished sadly, before emptying his cup of its contents. Shikamaru felt sorry for him. He should have had the chance to get married before they died. They all should have.
"Does the doll know?" Temari ventured, making Shikamaru feel somewhat comforted as she continued to massage his free hand in hers. She was now sending tingles up and down his spine.
"She didn't," Neji answered softly. "I wrote to her yesterday and told her."
There was a long silence.
"You can tell her when you get back, boy-o," Kiba said confidently, from his bunk and smiling a little at Neji.
Neji said nothing, but nodded shortly.
After the silence had lasted a little longer, Temari hopped down noiselessly from her bunk and went outside, leaving her cup behind. Assuming that she was going for a cigarette, Shikamaru followed her outside.
As he arrived outside under the night's sky, he would have noticed that the stars were pretty again tonight, but he was too busy looking at Temari in the moons glow.
He found her waiting for him, cigarette poised in her mouth. She never had any matches, he had noticed.
Lighting it for her, he then proceeded to light his own.
They stood there silently for a few moments, before she took his hand.
Grasping her hand tightly with his own, he jumped a little when he felt her pull him up and out of the trenches.
He followed her willingly, discarding his cigarette onto the ground, and walked after her into the woods that surrounded them.
It was darker in here, he noticed. The stars weren't as noticeable and the moon was partly shaded by the tall trees. But he could still see her. He could still feel her, pulling him lazily through the trees.
They walked slowly, never saying a word, their feet making lush sounds against the green ground.
Shikamaru was caught up in the pleasantness of it all; the moonlight, the silence, the smell of the trees and Temari's warm hand moving cosily against his own.
When they had asked him before, what he would do if he could do one more thing before he died, his answer had not been to take a walk with Temari in the moonlight, but now that he was here, he couldn't think of any better way to spend his last possible night on earth.
Their walking had reached a lulling pace, Shikamaru now having reached Temari's level.
Shikamaru closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of the wood around him. He opened his eyes to find Temari standing in front of him, gazing at him with her beautiful eyes. He started slightly when he felt Temari's lips press softly against his own but decided on the spot that he wanted to do nothing more than kiss her back and wrapped his arms around her lithe body and pulled her close as he felt her bring her warms hands up to clasp his face, her supple lips moving gently against his own.
Temari tasted pleasantly of cigarettes and whiskey and smelt of leather and daisies. She was pressing herself flush against him when Shikamaru realised that he had never felt more alive than this. He couldn't hear anything other than Temari's breathing and the wind reverberating off of the trees as it blew past them, yet he could feel his heart thumping rapidly against his chest.
After everything they had all been through together, it had all culminated down to this. This last night before their fate was decided. Shikamaru felt his heart lurch emotionally, as he hugged Temari tighter. He didn't know if it was the whiskey, or the emotions or just her altogether but he was suddenly filled with an urge to do everything that he hadn't done. To live life to its fullest. He was filled with a rapid determination to know all of her- to know Temari perfectly, even if he only had one night left to explore her in.
As he felt her fingers tangle softly in his hair, and the smell of daisies surround him, Shikamaru knew that to know Temari perfectly, on his last night on earth, would be nirvana itself.
They made love in the woods that evening, before returning to the bunker to find all of their fellow soliders asleep.
Temari slipped into his bunk beside him, warming his flea bag instantly as he pulled her in close and buried his head in her hair.
He fell asleep to the feeling of her chest moving gracefully against his yet awoke hours later to find her sitting at the desk, writing quietly.
Walking over to her, and wrapping his arms around her waist, he asked jokingly if she was writing their escapes into her diary. She chuckled lightly, before turning to kiss him.
"I'm just writing down that I fell in love before I died," she responded gently, looking him in the eyes.
"I love you too," he replied, meaning every word of it, and feeling a sharp pain in his chest and tears sting his eyes when he realised what tomorrow would bring and how much he now loved this woman.
It was almost ironic, he mused. That he would fall in love in the trenches. And how quickly it had happened. He supposed that the war did that to people. Death did that to people.
As he pulled her back to bed with him, he made several bargains with God to guarantee her safety, before kissing her soundly and holding her tightly, to make sure she didn't slip away again.
At 2.00am, they had received the call to arms.
By 4.20am, they were in battle.
Shikamaru did not glimpse Temari before the battle begun, seeing her last when she slipped out of his bunk, whispering that she loved him before running off into the night's sky.
He had heard later that she lead her comrades valiantly, recording at least ten confirmed victories before her plane was machine gunned down just above Albert.
Kiba, Naruto, Neji and Choji were all taken down in a bomb explosion on the 9th of August, as they had been passing over Broy. The same explosion did not kill Shikamaru, but wounded him seriously. The troops had managed to get him back to the nurses' station safely, where he was tended to and sent home on the 23rd of August.
The Battle of Amiens cost the Allied Forces 22,200 lives, four of which Shikamaru would have called his brothers and one of which he had fallen in love with. It was the beginning of what became known as the Hundred Day Offensive and was essentially responsible for the end of the Great War through the signing of the Armistice Treaty on the 11th November 1918.
The explosion left Shikamaru permanently damaged- in that his left leg was never the same again. He limped everywhere.
After the war was over, Shikamaru limped over to Kansas, where he met Temari's brother and was scared of him. He gave the boy the last of Temari's diary notes and requested permission to write out five copies of the document during his stay in America. His request was granted.
Shikamaru then dragged himself over to Limerick, where he met Kiba's mother and was promptly hit over the head when he told her he was in the British army. After making sure that Temari had kept true to her word about removing Kiba's drinking habits from the document, he gave a copy to Mrs. Inuzuka, who welcomed him into her home, let him sleep in Kiba's old room and provided him with legions of tea.
He then travelled northwards to Derry, where he met an attractive fifty year old woman with a large chest and blonde hair and handed her a copy of Temari's diary.
At last, back on his homeland, he went to Cambridgeshire and found a pretty girl with long brown hair and dark brown eyes. He told her of Neji's confession and of his want to marry her. After talking to her for several hours and learning of Neji's compassion and care for all of his family, he gave her a copy of Temari's diary and received a letter from her four days later, saying that he had healed her heart. In 1920, Shikamaru enrolled in Cambridge University, where he studied Mathematics.
When in London, he tracked down the Akimichi family butchers, and nearly cried himself when he saw a picture of Choji in his army uniform gracing the walls. He gave a plump man and woman a copy of the diary, and told them how Choji treated him like a brother and had made his experience in the trenches one that had been worth living through. They all cried after that.
Finally, in his parent's house, he gave his father a copy of the diary, who laughed the whole way through reading it and when he finished it, looked at Shikamaru through sharpened eyes and asked, 'and this was you she loved?'
"And I loved her too."