AN: I love TemaShika, possibly because I have a newfound fanthing for Shikamaru. He is just too cool now; it's probably the smoking. He embodys 'bad boy' now, don't you think? Ah, yes- very villainous, with his man earrings. And you don't mess with Temari, period- but she's got a lot of fodder for character study, so forgive me. And I don't want any fanboys spamming me with reviews about her preference for candy. One word about it, and a kitten dies.

Ringing bells, singing songs- it's all merry, very merry. But Temari won't have any of it.

It's never been a time for rejoicing; the waters have never sung, and the hills have never been alive. There is no music in the desert; there is no empathy, no heart, and no love in the sands that stretch before her.

She gathers a little bit of it, familiar and bothersome, between her hands; she lets it scatter to the wind, and wonders if there will be sand everywhere she goes.

She's happy for them. She loves the way Kankurou flutters around, treating that new girl like she's made of sugar frosting; she's so glad to see him bright and awake, messing with his brother and no longer locking himself behind the blockade of their past.

She's happy for Gaara because he finally is; her heart soars when she sees him gaze out over the grainy remains of a wind and strife-torn land, knowing that he finally has something to treasure and protect. He is the greatest Kazekage, and the greatest one there will be, because Gaara loves this place in spite of all it's done to him. His soul is here, buffeted by the wind and still waiting to be nurtured into healthy and beautiful flower. She wants to kiss him on the head, muss his hair and watch him giggle pink with little-boy joy; he is her brother, and no longer the horrifying image she had painted him to be.

She's happy for her brothers, but Temari is not happy for herself. Not here.




"No," she says with a note of finality.

Shikamaru sighs loudly, resting his head against the print-speckled front window of the sweets shop; all goodness and pleasant sweetness wafts from within, but she cannot bring herself to walk inside.

"Well, what do you want me to get you, then?" he asks in a bray, ended with a drawn out yawn.

Temari stares through the frosted glass; in at the families, the little children filling their greedy and weightless fists with candies, and begins to cry right there on the street.

When they've walked off all they can and danced around the questions until the chairs have been put up and the floor sweepers have come out, they climb up the stairwell and out his window, to perch upon the rickety little sitting-balcony he built outside his room as a Genin; the wood is rotten, but Temari fails to be struck by the thought that it could break and send her flying into the dark.

Which is a first.

Shikamaru is lighting up again, and she wants to snatch the cigarette from his mouth and grind it to ashes against his vest; she wants to lean close, perhaps even rest her poor heavy head upon someone else, and listen to the song in the sweet smoke, in the smell of his shirt and the spice of the endless night. She wants to tell somebody that she never wanted this life, and that being closer to Gaara and Kankurou only makes her despise even more the path their childhoods took this path; that she hates her father even though it's pointless, how she just sometimes, even though she's a Jounin, wants her mother. She wants to shout out to the gaping, lecherous desert that it can no longer own her, but the guilt and what-ifs and shiftlessness just won't go away.

"It's fine." he says suddenly, exhaling.

"You can't change stuff. You can only evolve."

He reaches over, pokes her in the nose; before she can respond, he had pulled a bag of her favorite candies from the pocket of his vest. "I got 'em while you were freaking out. Girls are so finicky..."

She accepts this, accepts what has occurred; chewing a melon-flavored trinket slowly, Temari finally decides that there is a place she might be perfectly fitted, safe and content in. Shikamaru is just going to have to help her build it.

Review, review, review, review. If you have time to stare at this, you have time to help me improve as a writer.