This is a little multi-chapter songfic based on Sting's 'Desert Rose'. I always thought it was fitting for a ShikaTema fic, but it has taken me forever to get this posted. Hope you all enjoy it.
Naruto and the Narutoverse belong to Masashi Kishimoto and Viz media. I'm just playing with their possible futures a little.
Kyodai Sensu or tessen -Temari's fan
手まりorテマリ-Temari's name in Japanese letters
I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand
It had been a long and exhausting day. Helping Gaara come up with training goals and academic policy had not been his idea of fun. The Kazekage was the one to thank for that brilliant idea. The lazy genius would have preferred to be in his own village helping with their own academic programs, but apparently, his Hokage had readily approved Gaara's request. Suna was still using Konoha's Academy curriculum as a model for their own, after all. Not only was Shikamaru here to help update Suna's Academy, but he was also part of the teacher exchange program that had been started as a way to exchange ideas and keep up political appearances for the sake of the alliance. He would be teaching the Sunanese children for the next 6 months on the fundamental theories of espionage. There was only one word to describe Shikamaru's current situation, troublesome.
His head was aching from the all the back and forth, arguing about every facet of the core curriculum down to the last detail, including whether or not to keep the ikebana class for kunoichi, and it had been enough to finally wear out everyone involved. Sure, they had a great plan in place for the current school year as well as the years to follow, but his brain was letting him know that it would soon explode if he had to come up with one more idea. He needed a place to escape to from all the stress, but where could he find just such a place in this Kami forsaken country? The idea of cloud watching was starting to sound really good and his pastime addiction finally pulled him up the first stairway he could find toward the rooftop. Unlike Konoha, travel over the village was looked down upon, but he just needed that breathe of fresh air, no matter how dry and sand saturated it was.
Reaching his destination through the opening in the roof that was the entrance to the stairs, he found what looked like a suitable spot to sit on. The local architecture didn't lend itself to readily to become seating, but the spot right in the middle of the roof of the Kazekage's building looked like the best vantage point from which to watch a sunset and it seemed to be calling his name. Shikamaru strode over to it and unceremoniously plopped down, coming into a reclined position with his hands laced behind his head.
The one thing Shikamaru envied the people of Suna was their sunsets. As far as sunsets were concerned, there was absolutely nothing better than the way the hot desert air seemed to catch the rays of the sun as it descended beyond the sand dunes on the horizon. It was still too early for the lightshow, but he was a patient man and didn't mind the long wait so long as no one found him hiding up here. The wind was still hot, but air movement in this village was better than none at all. At least it was spring and not summer. This time of year, he could be outside during the day and not fall victim to heatstroke while he waited for the sun to go down.
Shikamaru started to let his mind wander to what he had left behind in Konoha just a little over a week ago. Spring was his favorite season of the year, mild temperatures in the morning followed by rain showers every afternoon. Perfect weather for cloud watching. His mother had just started to harvest the first early spring crops from the garden, such as snow peas, horsetail, and bamboo shoots, and he had been missing the welcome additions to his meals. He could never quite get use to the prickly pear that seemingly made its way into every single meal here in Suna.
Spring was also the time of year when he had to help his dad take care of all the new fawns. He always grumbled at the work, but he missed watching the spindly-legged little ones play in the meadows when he was on missions. Looking out over the desert, what he really missed today was the smell of the rain that welcomed him when he would wonder the forest on spring afternoons, part of his usual routine back home when he would check on the deer. Of course, his mother always scolded him when he returned home drenched, water dripping from his uniform all over her nice clean floors, leaving a trail all the way up to his room.
The clouds had just begun to change into their fiery colors when he heard someone walking up the stairs, waking him up from his daydreams.
"Nara, you know you're not supposed to be up here without authorization, right?" asked a challenging feminine voice from the stairwell.
She was the one person he always looked forward to seeing on these trips to Suna, but she had been detained by her own duties all day. He had felt a pang of disappointment from not being able to see her since initially escorting him to the office of her brother, the Kazekage. He didn't know why he always looked forward to the presence of the combative blonde, especially since all she ever did was bring him trouble. Shikamaru always thought that it was just a silly crush and one of these days he would find the right woman, one that didn't get under his skin the same way that she seemed to. No matter how much his logical mind had convinced his heart that it was nothing more than just an infatuation during the day, at night she would still manage to slip into his dreams. Shikamaru turned his head just enough to see Temari, out of the corner of his eye, walking up the stairs towards him.
"Is that why you're here? So that you can throw me in prison just for trying to enjoy a Suna sunset, troublesome woman?" he challenged. He silently dared her to try it. At least behind bars they couldn't bother him for his opinion on education or jutsu theory, then maybe he could get rid of this headache of his.
"Nah. I didn't feel like giving Gaara more paperwork and an excuse to hate you. At least, not yet," she replied.
Shikamaru looked at her full on and gave her a quizzical look with one eyebrow raised. 'What did she mean by that?' he asked himself, but decided that he didn't really want to increase his headache by asking her for an explanation. Instead, he was content to watch her walk toward him silently. He could only make out her silhouette as she moved in the direction of his chosen spot, traveling between him and the glow of the setting sun.
"Much better. I haven't had a chance to sit down since this morning," she announced, as she plopped down rather unladylike.
She had a tendency to act like she was just one of the guys, but her short, purple battle dress and the way she crossed her ankles as she stretched her long, slender legs in front of her on the rooftop made her all woman to Shikamaru. Temari removed her tessen, setting it beside her. It was still within reach if she needed it, but it was the first time since he stepped foot in Wind that he had seen her take it off. Due to a mission, the details of which Shikamaru wasn't privileged enough to know, Temari had been on high alert since before his arrival. It was a rare display of trust, as far as Temari was concerned, and Shikamaru didn't know how to categorize this move of hers. All his brain could come up with was, 'Mendokuse.'
"We got a message from Konoha while you were sunbathing up here," Temari began, "You would think you Leaf Shinobi trusted us enough by now not to need to code everything."
She tossed him a scroll, which if his quick reflexes hadn't reacted before his pain infected brain could respond, he would have been smacked right on the nose.
"Oi, woman, watch where you're throwing that thing would ya!" he said. She always seemed to be looking for an opportunity to cause him bodily harm, but he could never figure out why.
Opening the scroll, he translated the coded message finding that it was only information he had requested from the archives before he left. It really wasn't all that important to code, but he knew it was standard protocol to do so. Shikamaru shoved the scroll in one of his empty vest pockets and went back to his cloud watching. He could feel a set of eyes on him, as if she waited for him to share his news from home.
"No," he said, his response to her unasked question finite, leaving no room for argument.
"Fine. Didn't expect you to share top-secret Konoha gossip anyway. Besides, I'm sure your girlfriend back home had some really deep insights that she needed to share with you."
"What are you talking about woman?" Shikamaru asked. He had no idea why Temari had been acting rather strange, bothered might be a better word, ever since he had met her at the border. He had traveled with Ino and her team to the border, but their mission was in River Country. They had only deviated from their course a little bit so that they could accompany him to the edge of the desert, not that he needed or wanted to hear Ino's constant ramblings the entire way.
"Don't tell me you couldn't tell that your little blonde teammate was practically all over you at the border? For a genius, you really are an idiot," she said with a lopsided smirk.
"Ino? You have got to be kidding me. We've been friends and teammates since we were little. She just acts like that to piss me off. She's dating a teammate of Naruto's anyway," he replied. Sure, Sai was a pain in the ass and he didn't know what she saw in that shell of a human, but that was her choice and it wasn't really his place to say. "Wait, don't tell me you're jealous," he stated, wondering if this was the line of conversation he had really wanted to take, but the words had tumbled out of his mouth before he realized he had said them.
"Of Ino?" she said, waiving in defense, which he thought was kinda cute. "Why would I be jealous of her? She doesn't have anything I would even remotely want. I have all I'll ever need, thank you very much."
"Yea, whatever. So, why are you up here? I thought you had more important things to do today than bother me."
"My, my. Aren't we in a bad mood today. Didn't you know that I make it part of my special duty to pick on a certain shadow-nin every time he's in town? It makes my day so much more interesting that way," she said in that feisty tone she always used when they were together. Actually, unlike in Konoha, he didn't need an escort so he had no idea why she was always picking on him. She had two little brothers and at least a couple dozen Genin she could pick on, why bother him?
"Troublesome woman. Go away and leave me alone," he grumbled. He didn't really want her to go away in particular, it was just his headache was putting him in this bad mood.
"Can't. You can't be up here without someone from Suna accompanying you. No Temari, no cloud watching," she said in triumph.
Shikamaru let out a groan in surrender. He always hated it when she won. Losing to a woman was something that drove him crazy and she was becoming better at that every time he saw her. "Troublesome woman," he mumbled, to which she just laughed in response.
They sat in comfortable silence once more as the sun started to sink below the horizon. The long thin clouds that were typical for the desert caught the orange and red hue that the sun cast, giving the sky an almost fiery look. They sat there a full fifteen minutes before Shikamaru decided to break the silence again.
"So, I don't get it. You're on high alert, yet how come you never wear a flak jacket?" Shikamaru said, asking the first random thing that popped into his head.
"Probably because I can't stand those things. They restrict my movements too much and I don't want anything to get in the way of my tessen. Besides, when my father made me wear one I just kept getting this awful neck cramp. I must shrug my shoulders or something when I wear them. They are just too troublesome as far as I'm concerned."
"That sounds like something I would say," he replied with a smirk. Temari only responded with a sideways glare. 'Makes sense though. Temari is too much of a free spirit to want any restrictions, clothing included.'
"Actually, come to think of it, both of my brothers are completely opposite from me as far as that goes. Gaara has always worn clothing that makes him feel more secure and protected. Even when he was little, he liked those high collar shirts that I could never stand. It got even worse…after Naruto was here that last time," Temari said, reminiscing about things that Shikamaru had never considered before.
'I never really paid attention to Gaara's attire, but when she puts it like that, I think I would be paranoid too if I had something removed that had always been a part of me,' Shikamaru thought to himself. He knew that her little brother's death and retrieval was still a touchy subject and since they were getting along, he didn't want to ruin it. She began to pull out her lowest two ponytails from their restraints and commenced with running her hands through her hair to release the knots as well as the stress she had built up from her day. The way she moved was like something he had seen in a dream and he had never realized before just how good she looked with her hair down and somewhat disheveled. She didn't seem to notice the way he was studying her out of the corner of his eye, but in this light she radiated beauty, enough to rival the sunset that had been his whole point in coming up here.
"Kankuro wears a collarless version of one," she continued, interrupting his thoughts, "but it's hidden under that hideous outfit he wears. I think he really just wears that black getup so that he can hide in the shadows better. I'm sure you know how that goes," she commented, getting a "humph" and an annoyed reaction from her companion. "I think he delights in being able to scare the crap out of me whenever he feels like it. I swear, the next time he jumps out of the shadows like that I'm going to kill him!"
Shikamaru had to chuckle at the way she played the older sister so well, even though they were all fully grown. He never had the joys of experiencing sibling rivalry, but he had had the chance to watch several sets of siblings pass through his classes in the Academy, which had given him a little insight into typical sibling behavior. The Suna trio could never be called your typical siblings considering their father had been the Yondaime Kazekage. Temari had grown up with one brother that had homicidal tendencies do to the demon that was once inside him and the other one had a mean streak almost as bad.
Taking the time to formulate a reply, he said, "Says a lot about your personalities I guess. Personally, I've always just worn what my mom or the Hokage told me to, but only if it was comfortable. I don't like wearing the jacket either, but its part of the uniform and it has its uses. It's not like I'm someone like Naruto who just gets away with not wearing one. I've always just followed the rules there," he replied with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Figures. I never really thought of you as the type to put up much of a fight there. Actually, the uniform looks much better on you now that you're not that scrawny little brat that I fought in the Chuunin exams," she said tauntingly to which he replied with a scoff.
He wasn't one for serious training, but he had liked to think that some of that training had paid off with a few well defined muscles here and there. It must have done some good, because Shioh at the cryptology department was seriously starting to have a hard time talking in his presence. Actually, he hated to think back to how awkward he had looked back then. He hadn't really given it much thought until his mom just had to break out the old photo album of him not that long ago when he passed the Jounin exams with flying colors after years of Temari nagging him to take it. He had glanced over his mom's shoulder as he walked passed, while she showed his progress off to one of her friends, and he realized just how scrawny he had really looked like back then, complete with ears that stuck out too far and a neck that didn't look like it could hold up his head. It had been too troublesome to think about how he had ever managed to go from stick boy to now fending off more females than he cared to deal with.
His concentration shifted between the horizon and his companion as she had fallen back into silence. It was unusual for her to talk about sand sibling early years and he knew that much of what must have happened had made her who she was, but every single one of them had some sort of strong defense mechanism. Temari just wore hers on the inside.
He continued to study her as the sun was now almost completely hidden behind the horizon; letting his eyes wonder over her figure. For some reason she looked more tired and vulnerable than he had ever seen her before. He wasn't sure if that was because he had come to know her so well and could read her better than he use to, or that she was letting down her defenses enough to let him see. Temari had a strange look on her face that he had never seen before, one that looked like she was sifting through the memories, trying to find something safe enough to share with him. She had opened her mouth to say something, closing it a couple of times before she seemingly worked up the nerve to say what it was on her mind.
"Shika, is there something you want to tell me?" she asked, eyes still focused on the horizon.
"What do you mean? I told you that you don't need to know what's in the scroll, so stop," he said. Her tone was different when she had asked her question. She almost sounded hopeful, but nervous at the same time. It was nothing like the tone that Ino used when she flirted, but it was making him just as uncomfortable. 'Something's out of place. Why am I suddenly nervous? Even my hands are beginning to sweat. What is she getting at and why the sudden change in nicknames? She usually only calls me "Nara",' he thought.
"Come on Shikamaru. Don't you think I haven't notice? You haven't been able to keep your eyes off me all evening. Don't think I can't tell a love sick puppy when I see one," she said, practically challenging him to try something as she turned around into a cross-legged sitting position so that she was leaning over him. Her fragrance took over his senses. She smelled of dessert spice and wind, if you could call wind a scent, the scent of the desert after a sandstorm. She was now close enough to touch, but not too close.
'Oh, Kami…,' Shikamaru started, his brain stuck on the thought that could put into words what he saw above his head. She was glaring down on him, her features becoming less distinguishable in the twilight, but it only made kissing her even more tempting. How the hell did she do this to him? The genius of his village and he was turned into one big pile of mush by this…this woman! How was he supposed to formulate a comeback to her challenge? For crying out loud, he was the same age as her youngest brother! He felt like the proverbial 'deer in the headlights' as she continued to wait for his answer, her mouth beckoning to him as the seconds passed like hours.
"I can see it in your eyes, Nara, you want to kiss me don't you?" she said with a taunting smirk. "Try it. I dare you."
The idea of accepting her challenge was strangely enticing. He was about to reach up and puller her down into a kiss, when they heard an explosion in the distance. It was coming not far from the west entrance, which was not much more than a narrow passageway that ran under the wall.
There wasn't much they could do to increase the watch on that side and it was one of the things that Shikamaru had always wondered about. The eastern entrance was the main entrance, but this little hole in the wall was a last resort if they ever had to escape the village. A mass exodus through there would be single file and slow, but losing that would also mean that being under siege was unavoidable. Shikamaru usually didn't offer unsolicited advice, but it was just a flaw in their defenses that had troubled him every time he came to Suna. He had suggested a while ago that Gaara consider looking into constructing several more underground passageways, but they hadn't had a chance to even begin the project as they were still finding suitable locations through bedrock in order to make them as secure and safe as possible.
Temari grabbed her fan and shot off across the rooftops as fast as she could go with fan in hand. She could only take the suspense so long before she finally gave into her urge to open the fan and catch an updraft that sent her toward the billowing smoke rising from the site of the explosion. Shikamaru barely had time to get up from his prone position to follow the retreating form of his rival, her challenge soon forgotten, as the air current she was on took her far enough away that her shape blended in to the gray smoke rising in the distance. Mumbling to himself, he followed her across the rooftops as fast as his legs could carry him.