A/N: Done for the Shikamaru's Birthday contest in the HidaShikaGroup on dA. Let's not even discuss how difficult this was for me, or the fact that it took me 2 hours to format it for dA. Italics refer to reflection, while standard type refers to real time.

The hole is both a literal and figurative place.


The Hole

He saw them arriving from his bedroom window. Guests for his twenty-first birthday party. He was supposed to be donning the ceremonial kimono his mother had laid out for him on the bed. As he watched Kiba and Hinata arrive, he strapped his weapons pouch on over his customary Jounin gear and jerked on his vest. He was brushing his hair up into a high ponytail by the time he heard his mother call for him to come down, and grabbing the satchel he'd packed beforehand as he heard his parents coming up the stairs.

He passed them in the hall.

"Son," Shikaku said when he saw him. "Your guests are waiting. I shouldn't have to come up here looking for you."

He kept right on going, jogging down the stairs with them following close behind.

"You're not dressed! Do you know that Temari of Suna is here?" Yoshino fretted. "Kankurou is with her. I believe they expect a formal request of marriage this visit."

The guests were gathered in the large room at the front of the house, and filled the courtyard. He detoured toward the kitchen and the back of the house.

"How long will you continue to shame your father by refusing to acknowledge the girl's willingness to have you?" Yoshino hissed as she followed her son.

His cake was in the kitchen, holding a place of honor on the table. There was sake by the case, a tribute to his finally being able to drink. He snagged a few bottles and shoved them into his satchel, which gave his father time to come up to him and speak urgently.

"Twenty-one is old enough to choose a wife. Your mother and I approve of the girl, and the Kazekage himself has agreed to the union. Everyone expects a wedding announcement at this gathering, son…and it's time you behaved like the man you are."

He turned and faced them. Saw the worry in his father's eyes, and the hope on his mother's face. He rarely saw them anymore. He knew this party was a last effort to reach him."You don't know what kind of man I am, Dad."

He left.

-oOo-

"Oh God, he's right," Yoshino covered her trembling lips with the fingers of one hand. She watched from the kitchen doorway as Shikamaru vaulted over the wall separating Nara property from their neighbor's. "We don't know him anymore."

It pained Shikaku to admit this truth. While his wife bemoaned the dishonor of telling their guests that there would be no party, he further admitted that they hadn't known their son for a long time. He just wished he knew what had gone wrong, what had happened to change his level-headed son so drastically. He was worried. And he didn't like the man Shikamaru was becoming.


Shikamaru could pinpoint the precise moment when things had started going wrong. It had been that second, the very second, when Asuma-sensei had received his fatal blow. That was his fault. On his head. And nothing, not killing Hidan afterward, or trying to be there for the man's kid, could erase those eternal seconds where he'd been running for what felt like ages in a vain attempt to save his sensei's life.

He'd put on a pretty good face afterward. Bad moment with his dad when they'd been playing shogi, but he'd pulled it together. Gone after Hidan and Kakuzu. Taken Hidan out. Supposedly avenged his sensei and restored his own honor, and all that. After, he'd inserted himself into his old life as he was expected to, and had worn it successfully for quite awhile even though it no longer fit. He'd gone on wearing it through the invasion of Pain, and right on up to the Fourth Shinobi War. He supposed it was then that he stopped kidding himself. Or, put differently, when he'd stopped believing things would be okay if you just told yourself they were. Things were never okay.

Fighting Asuma-sensei had sucked big time.

Madara escaped, of course. Kabuto was as elusive as ever. Seemed like they hadn't even recovered from Pain's invasion yet when they had to begin the massive clean-up after the war. So many dead. No peace. No real peace. Just more pretending that things were fine. Nothing was ever fine. The good died young, while the evil ones lived on. Hidan and Madara had even been graced with immortality.

And so he'd found himself in his clan's forest, screaming in rage at Hidan's burial site, hurling invectives, clawing at the dirt, and completely out of his mind.

People called out to him as he walked, wishing him a happy birthday. Asking him why he wasn't at his party, or when he'd be engaged. He responded with vague smiles for the greetings, and ignored the rest. He never did get why people linked him with Temari so often. He'd never formally courted the woman.


It started innocently enough: given the way Kabuto had so easily resurrected the dead, he'd wanted to know if someone, somewhere, could do the same for Hidan. He wanted that fucker to stay right where he was.

At first he'd done his research locally in the Konoha library. Nothing. By accepting missions, he was able to use those as excuses to travel to libraries in other parts of Fire Country. He actually made a list of all libraries in all the known countries, and carried it with him everywhere. He was never home anymore; some of those missions lasted months. He couldn't explain his obsession if asked why he took mission after mission, but the line he fed his swiftly dwindling voice of reason was that he was making sure Hidan stayed incapacitated.

The few times he wasn't on a mission were when he was out in the forest, sitting at Hidan's burial site. At first he was content to stare at the mound of earth and experience his bitter sense of triumph. But then he dug up a handful of the dirt, then another, and then before he knew it he was pulling up dirt hand over fist, performing a great big excavation that split his nails to the quick and bloodied his hands. Rikumaru had watched from a distance.

Shikamaru stopped at the edge of the forest now, remembering that those long hours wherein he'd been digging were essentially blank for him. He couldn't remember most of it. Only the end. He'd thrown aside a last heap of dirt and Hidan's face had been there, exposed and wan and filthy. Like something you'd find under a rock.

He hadn't expected that. He'd expected to hear Hidan's vituperation the moment air hit his face. He remembered gazing down at the open mouth in anti-climactic shock. Then he'd stretched out, and before he'd known it he was in a deep sleep of exhaustion right there in his enemy's grave.

He'd woken up face to face with Hidan's head. The sunken eyes were open and staring at him and the mouth had been moving, trying to speak. He'd backed away in fright, and the eyes had followed him. "Mother…fucker…" the head had croaked on a wheeze.

He had jumped out of that hole and run hard, terrified of what he'd done.

-oOo-

He'd gone back after a few days spent locked in his room. His parents had been concerned over the condition he'd come home in, but he'd ignored them. Back at the hole, he'd stared down at Hidan's face, and he could tell that one purple eye was gazing back up at him as well. He'd sat down at the edge of the hole, thinking.

He didn't know when he'd begun talking. He just remembered staring blindly across the mouth of the hole and letting go a stream of consciousness rant that he'd kept bottled up inside him for longer than he'd cared to consider. Like he was emptying himself into that hole. His disillusions. How he couldn't be expected to be the well-adjusted person everyone seemed to think he was. It was the rare ninja who was mentally and emotionally sound, he remembered observing. Given their close associations with death, psychosis was a lot more common in ninja than people thought. Ino herself had corroborated this to him. For a wonder, Hidan never commented. Perhaps he'd been too weak to. Then. As time wore on, that changed.

He still took missions, now to every far corner of the known world that he could manage. He searched and researched. When he was home, he was in the forest, now accustomed to holding long one-sided conversations with Hidan's head. Eventually, Hidan began commenting. The first thing Shikamaru remembered him saying was, "If I wasn't immortal, I would swear I'm in Hell. Listening to your whining drivel is torture of divine proportions. WILL YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP?"

He hadn't. And he'd spent all his hate-filled words long ago. Now he just came to vent, and the venting felt good. Was cathartic. It seemed the two years Hidan had been in the hole had rotted away much of his caustic outlook on life as well. Time didn't heal for him or Shikamaru, but it dulled some things so that whenever the latter found himself at the hole, he'd talk quietly for hours and the other would listen. Sometimes Hidan spoke, sometimes not. Sometimes Shikamaru asked him things, and Hidan answered.


Three years after he'd begun looking, he came across an obscure reference to a class of Kinjutsu practitioners. So abominable were these individuals that they were forbidden all interactions with society. Apparently there were only a handful of them, seeing as they were often put to death for their practices. It took him months of digging through records and asking every elderly person he came across before he finally received a drunken whisper in a bar one evening.

Which was how, on a bitterly cold night in his nineteenth year, Shikamaru found himself in the northern reaches of Earth Country, staring at a single, bare-branched tree that stood apart in a small woods of dead trees.

The symbol carved into the trunk of the solitary tree was the one he'd been told to look for. He walked up to the tree, walked around it in search of he knew not what, and found a small, cloaked figure standing on the other side. Shikamaru hadn't been afraid, not really; he'd secretly had the figure surrounded by Kageyose no Jutsu. The figure had beckoned with a wrinkled hand.

He remembered watching the ground simply part where the figure stood. Orange light beamed up from this opening, revealing a set of stairs fashioned naturally from the roots of the dead tree that curved and twisted out of sight. He'd been scared then, but had followed the cloaked figure into this opening. He'd looked back once, and seen the ground close behind him.

The man's lair was surprisingly warm and welcoming. The walls were earthen. Exposed tree roots twisting along the walls acted as shelves for a wide assortment of jars and vials. Smooth, flat stones were closely inlaid as makeshift tiles for the floor. He could see no light source for the warm, amber illumination in the room, nor a source for the heat he felt. He likewise didn't see a bed, or a place where food was prepared. The small cloaked man (or woman. To this day he had no clue to the person's gender) stood waiting for him to finish his perusal, before asking in a voice nearly too deep to be human, "You seek something. Yes?"

"Y-yes." He'd gotten over his fear enough to get down to his reason for coming. The sooner he could leave, the better. He outlined his question as succinctly as possible.

The cloaked figure had been quiet for a long time. When he spoke, it was in that same deep voice that seemed to vibrate against the bones in Shikamaru's head. "What you describe can be achieved with Fuuinjutsu. There is a way…and a price."

"So someone could bring him back then? Is there a way to prevent that from happening?"

The cloaked figure either did not hear, or chose to ignore the question. He shuffled around the small room, selecting jars. He took a blank scroll from a small pile of scrolls and brought all these to where Shikamaru was sitting. "I know all Kinjutsu related to the Earth. There are those of my brethren who deal with fire and wind, and so on. You will need the soil your specimen died on-"

"What? No…I just want to know how to counter this jutsu if someone-"

"The seals are as follows-"

"Did you hear me?" he'd shouted as a short series of hand seals was outlined on the scroll. "Just give me the counter jutsu and-"

"This jutsu can only be performed once. At the beginning of the lunar cycle, when the moon is black. You will need a great deal of chakra."

Shikamaru looked at the scroll of instructions that was pushed across the floor at him. He stared at it for a long time, before picking it up. "This can bring back the dead? No matter the condition of their body?"

"Life will be restored no matter the wound received."

"For how long?"

"A day and a night. As for the price," the cloaked figure intoned. "The performer of this jutsu shall be bound to that life for all eternity."

There'd been something in the voice at that moment, something that suggested amusement. He'd felt an overwhelming need to be gone and had stood up upon taking the small sack of vials. The cloaked figure didn't ask for money, and ignored the wad of cash Shikamaru held out to him. Spooked, he'd nearly run up the knobby stairs, relieved to see the opening in the earth above him. He'd glanced back only once.

The cloaked figure stood at the foot of the stairs, face lifted to watch him go. Beneath the shadow of his hood, Shikamaru caught sight of bulbous, gleaming eyes, and an abnormally wide mouth full of wickedly sharp teeth. He'd gotten the hell out of there.


Of course he hadn't performed that jutsu. Not right away.

He'd gone home and fended off his parents' angry demands to know where he'd been. He'd taken a look at his life and wondered who he was. He'd tried to don the discarded skin of his old life, hang with friends, some of whom were getting married. Temari had visited the village a few times and somehow always managed to run into him. He tried. He really did. Some days he'd spend talking to Chouji, and those were the times he tried the hardest.

But most nights found him out in the forest, using the little room under the tree in Earth Country as inspiration for the structure he was building. It was deep in the ground, actually below the hole Hidan's head sat in. It took a lot of lumber and stone to support the weight of all that dirt, to fashion four walls, to construct a shaft with a ladder leading down to the room. He could never stay out in the forest for too long, or his family would look for him. It took him nearly a year. Time in which he did not examine what he was doing or why too closely. The sack and scroll were buried nearby. He passed it every time he came or went. While he worked, he talked to Hidan.

The room was complete 9 months later. The following week was the new moon.

-oOo-

He spent that week in full awareness of his break from sanity. He no longer volunteered for missions. Hadn't since he'd gotten the scroll. His parents worried about him, yelled at him. Chouji tried to speak to him. Ino. His other friends. Once the Hokage herself had summoned him, no doubt on behalf of his parents. He'd faced her across her desk and said clearly, "Nothing's wrong with me. I just don't feel like talking to anyone."

"Shikamaru, I think you're suffering a decidedly prolonged form of post-traumatic stress. I'd like to recommend you to-"

"I'm fine."

"Your parents tell me you spend a lot of time alone. You avoid-"

"I'm fine, Hokage-sama. May I be excused?"

Those golden eyes had held his firmly for all of five seconds before a reluctant nod had been given.


That night, he'd waited until his house was asleep and the village completely still. He'd gathered the scrolls he'd been storing chakra in, and slipped out to the forest. He brought a flashlight with him. There was no moon light; it was the new moon.

Later, he'd stared at the supplies he'd laid out according to the directions in the scroll, and thought, "I'm not doing this. No way." But then he'd performed the simple hand seals, and released the chakra he'd stored.

Nothing had happened except a gust of wind from nowhere had knocked over the flashlight and made it go out. He'd sat in the dark, feeling stupid, and listening to his heart hammer in his ears.

He'd become aware of a presence in the room shortly afterward. A scraping sound met his ears, and then the flashlight had been flicked on. He'd looked up at Hidan's head where it was illuminated, and felt not one iota of surprise.

Hidan said nothing. Shikamaru had taken the flashlight and panned it over the taller man's naked body. Nearly every inch of skin was covered in the intricate markings of the Fuuinjutsu he'd used. Otherwise, the skin was unblemished. Whole and healthy and alive. He'd looked up at Hidan's face again.

"Why'd you do this?" Hidan asked.

"I don't know."

"How long will it last?"

"Twenty-four hours." He'd been on his guard against an attack, but he'd also been very aware of feeling Hidan's physical state as an extension of his own.

Apparently Hidan felt it too. "You're nervous. Relax. I can't kill you."

"Oh?" That had been a relief to hear.

"No. Whatever this is, it prevents me from harming you. Believe me, I've been trying for the past five minutes to rip your throat out."

"Oh."

"Well, we have twenty-four precious hours, genius. Now what?"

"I-" he hadn't been surprised when the jutsu worked, but he hadn't exactly considered what he was doing either. Abruptly he realized that he'd just brought an Akatsuki member back to life, and that he'd be bound to this night's events forever.

He'd turned and fled.


September was a nice, mellow month in Fire Country. Crisp breezes, a hint of autumn. He sauntered through the forest on his way to the room and remembered his panicked flight back to the village that first night. He'd gone home and nearly closed himself in his room. He wasn't quite sure what had prompted him to go back to the forest less than two hours later, but when he had, he'd brought food with him.

Hidan had eaten ravenously. Restored to life, he'd still been unable to leave Nara property. He'd eaten until he was full, then snatched the flashlight from Shikamaru and set about inspecting himself. "If you plan on taking off again, you better leave this damn light behind. Had all I can take of the dark," he'd warned. "How long since our fight?"

"Four years."

Hidan snorted. "Seemed longer." He pointed the flashlight at Shikamaru. "You, it seems, went just as crazy as I did. Looks like we both fell into a hole after our fight, neh?"

"I'm not-"

"Spare me," Hidan had scoffed. "I can recall each and every one of your puling episodes of disclosure. And after all…I'm here, aren't I? You resurrected the man you spent no small amount of energy killing. Sort of like spitting on your sensei's grave, undoing your vengeance on his behalf, wouldn't you say? Insane behavior, even without your raging case of Lima Syndrome."

Shikamaru had taken the flashlight back. "I don't know what you're talking about, but this was a mistake. You'll be dead again in less than twenty hours, and good riddance."

"Why'd you bring me back?"

But he'd turned to leave. He'd paused, watching Hidan try to stop him. Then he'd smirked. "You're bound to me. If I want you to stay in this room, you can't leave."

"Don't leave me here in the dark again, damn you. Shikamaru!"

It was the first time he'd heard his name from Hidan. And not the last.


That was six months ago. As always, Shikamaru took a moment to scan the area. Hidan was still more or less exactly in the place he'd been in at the moment of the explosion all those years ago, so no one in his family had been alerted to any changes. His parents no longer bothered to inquire into his whereabouts. His activities were still hidden. He nodded to the distant figure of Rikumaru, before lifting the grass-covered hatch that topped the shaft.

Hidan was waiting. As usual. That first time, when Shikamaru had left him in the dark again, he'd gone back to the room four days later expecting to see and smell a rotting corpse. He hadn't expected the wild-eyed, frantic, and crazed bundle of fury that screamed at him when he entered the room. Every muscle in Hidan's body had been tensed as he tried to attack. It was a long while before Shikamaru had gotten over his shock enough to understand that he'd left Hidan with no food for those four days, and that the man was currently starving. Oh, and that it had been dark.

He'd left and come back with food, clothing, and an old-fashioned chamber pot. It was all he could carry without suspicion. He'd been silent while Hidan fell on the food, but afterward he'd asked how the man was still alive.

"Beats me. It's your forbidden jutsu, not mine. Probably only supposed to be used on mortals."

Of course. Hidan was immortal. All Shikamaru had done was put him back together.

"And since we're all nice and joined," Hidan added, "looks like as long as I'm around, so are you." He polished off a rice ball.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Means you're probably immortal now too, genius. Got a look at the scroll you left behind when you left the flashlight just now. Bound for all eternity? If the jutsu had worked as you'd planned and I'd keeled over when the twenty-four hours were up, you'd have died right along with me. Since I'm immortal, and not dying anytime soon, neither are you. Brilliant, really." His sarcasm was thick enough to cut.

Shikamaru hadn't thought it brilliant in the slightest. Nor had he believed it until he'd left a week's worth of food and flashlight batteries in the hole and trekked back to that tree in Earth Country. He'd posed his question while standing outside this time and received the same answer. The little hooded creature had gone on to say that there was no counter jutsu.

For better or for worse, he was stuck with Hidan.


"What's this?" Hidan looked in the satchel Shikamaru set on the floor. "Sake? Since when?"

"Since I'm old enough to drink. Today."

"Well, well. Your birthday." Hidan uncorked a bottle and sniffed with his eyes closed in appreciation. He sipped slowly and leisurely, savoring the taste on his tongue. "Damn, that's good. Plans?"

"Same as always." Shikamaru dropped to one of the two comfortable chairs in the room. Sunlight filtered down from the shaft and let in welcome air. He'd built a series of ventilation tubes leading from the room to the ground above over the past six months, but the open shaft let in a nice influx of air the tubes didn't.

"Don't get me wrong, Talking to you is still preferable to the oblivion of being buried alive, but that's it? You only turn twenty-one once."

"I think my parents expected me to propose." He reached for a sake bottle, but only held it.

"The Suna chic?"

"Yeah."

"How goes that?"

"It doesn't."

"You at least got a hooker lined up for this evening, right? Speaking of, I could use a good fuck. Haven't fucked in years. Literally. And I'm well aware of your virgin status."

Shikamaru looked at him blandly. "No hooker."

Hidan drank in silence for a time, looking at the sunlight emanating from the shaft. When he'd emptied the small bottle he held, he carefully set it aside, and sat down in the chair opposite Shikamaru's. The things were a sickeningly bright shade of pink, with nauseating yellow flowers all over them. Shikamaru had salvaged them from someone's trash.

"Twenty-one's a big one," he said to the pensive young man across from him. "I spent my twenty-first slaughtering twenty-one men, women, and children in the most spectacular fashion imaginable. It's the one birthday, in my opinion, that should be special above all others. It's the day one becomes a man. So. Here's my gift to you: Advice."

"Advice?" Shikamaru's voice was devoid of inflection.

"Yes. Things you won't hear from anyone else. Things you need to hear."

"I don't think so."

"Shut up and listen." Hidan reached for a second bottle of sake. "I don't know why you dug me up that first time, and I don't care. I'm just glad you did. Being in that hole was the worst shit I could imagine, and I can imagine some pretty scary shit. When I opened my eyes and saw sunlight again…sky…trees… I thought I'd finally died at last and that I was in heaven. I remember the first thing I did when I opened my eyes was renounce Jashinism. Then I saw you, and reality came crashing back. I realized I was still fucked, but now I was awake to my fucked state instead of oblivious, and that was worse.

"But you know what? It's like I said the night you resurrected me. You're in a hole too. It's called madness. You need help. It's not a crime either, to lose your head, or be insane. Not in this business of ninja class systems. Personally, I don't know anyone who's sane, so I'm cool with you being cuckoo for cocoa puffs. But I see what it's doing to you."

Shikamaru looked away from the steady gaze. "You don't know anything."

"Says the man who's spent the last three and a half years pouring his soul out to me. That's a trauma I won't soon recover from, let me tell you. I know every detail of your life and what goes on in that pineapple head of yours. I know that you've isolated everyone in your life. I know you're ashamed of yourself for coming out here day in and day out. I know you're hurting and scared and lonely. I know you can't stop thinking of your sensei, the one I murdered. I know you don't go near his kid for fear of 'tainting him with your own disgrace and shame', your words. I know I'm the only one you can stand to be around, and that you're aware of how royally fucked up that makes you. And I know how that just about pisses all over whatever remaining sanity you have left. You hate me, Shikamaru. And I'm the person you're closest to. Your hole is so deep you think you'll never climb out again. Now tell me I don't know anything."

He couldn't. And he couldn't fix the mess he was in. Not now. Probably not ever. He'd tried killing himself dozens of times, sure that Hidan and the hooded guy from Earth Country were wrong. He'd bled, then healed, and had been none the worse for wear.

"What scares you the most," Hidan went on, "isn't the big secret you're hiding out here in the forest. Or the possibility of someone finding out what you've done. It's not the total dishonor your family would experience if anyone did find out. What scares you is the fact that you're miserable, and now have the rest of Time to wallow in your misery. People could discover this room, discover me, and put you to death for it….but you won't die. You could be exiled to the farthest corner of the planet, and I'd be right behind you. What scares you is the fact that you know there's no climbing out of the hole you're in."

"If that's the case, then how does your birthday present of advice become applicable? If my situation is as hopeless as you say-"

"Ever logical. Right. Let me re-phrase the advice. Stop fighting the situation."

"I'm not."

"You are. Not in the way you think, but you're resisting. What can't be changed has to be accepted. Look at me, I've changed. Do you think I would have if I hadn't decided to just accept the fact that I was stuck in a hole with no way out?"

"You had no choice."

"And neither do you. This sitch is what it is, man. There's no turning back. And without the option of killing yourself, the only thing that will happen is that you'll go more and more crazy. Forever. Do you really want that?"

Shikamaru faced the real truth of his life at last. His eyes became glassy. Then his face crumpled apart. He hung his head, leaning his elbows on his knees. "No. More than anything, I wish I could just go back in time. I don't know what to do."

"Just accept it," Hidan said. The tears were making him uncomfortable. He'd rarely been around anyone who displayed him. His victims had frequently been in too much pain to cry.

"How? How can I accept this, can you tell me that?" Shikamaru shouted. "Everyone I know will grow old and die. I'll eventually be run out of the village when my agelessness is discovered. I've sold my soul to resurrect my sensei's murderer, and now he's the only one who knows or understands me, and that's all I have to look forward to for the rest of existence as we know it. How can I possibly accept that?"

Hidan eyed the heavy breathing and hysteria warily. "You just do. It would mean the difference between facing eternity insane or not. There's always a choice."

Shikamaru deflated at once, dropping his head into his hands. He was too emotionally dead to sustain any sentiment for long these days. "You have no idea how much I hate you," he said weakly.

"On the contrary."

"Or how much I need you. My time out here is the only thing keeping me going."

"So your daily visits would suggest."

Shikamaru lowered his hands from his face enough to peer at Hidan with wet eyes. "Help me."

"I believe I've just-"

"Help me."

Hidan set the bottle he'd brought to his lips on one knee. "I'm not sure I understand."

Neither did Shikamaru. He looked down at where he'd set his own bottle of sake on the floor at some point and took it up. He downed it in three swallows. Then he stood up and got another.

Hidan came over to him and grabbed his wrist, halting the bottle on its way to the younger man's lips. "Easy. First time should be savored."

Shikamaru stared at the hand holding his wrist. Unsure still of what he meant, or maybe just as unwilling to face reality about this as he was about everything else, he turned toward Hidan and twisted his hand free. "Help me forget. For a little while."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me."

"And…this is how you want to celebrate your birthday?"

"Birthdays are meaningless; I'll never die."

"But-"

"I've got no one else."

Both could honestly say they'd never thought of men sexually. Faced with eternity, though, things like orientation, stigma, and embarrassment became obsolete. What mattered was human contact, and the deep psychological and emotional connection Shikamaru felt around Hidan. It was rooted in trauma, and nourished on his consistent break with reality, but no less powerful because of that. Nor did it matter that the majority of his emotional connection was hatred. It was an emotion. He felt nothing for most of his waking hours, slept almost none, so feeling anything at all anymore was welcome. He was terrified of becoming completely dead inside and feeling nothing whatsoever in the coming years of his life. He'd take hate over that any day.

And when Hidan touched his face with an uncertain hand, it didn't feel like hate. It just felt good. It was touching. Sharing. A person. Maybe it was hope. It could be, if he wanted it to be, he supposed. He had a choice, as Hidan had stated. He could accept.


The kiss was good. Shikamaru quickly realized it was his first, before stepping closer to the large, hard body. Tingles spread across his face, and on through the rest of his body, and then the hate flipped over to something else. Suddenly the kiss was the best thing he'd experienced since Asuma's death.

Hidan staggered at the way Shikamaru's muscular arms snaked around his neck. He sat down in the chair hard, but that was it. He had one hand snarled in the dark ponytail and the other arm wrapped tightly around the younger man's torso, kissing back with a hunger he hadn't experienced for anything but murder. The simple open vest he wore was whisked off by Shikamaru, same as he was stripping Shikamaru of his Jounin gear. The long-sleeved T was ripped and thrown aside, and then Shikamaru had a hand down the front of Hidan's pants. He closed a strong hand around the steely width of the erection he found and squeezed hard.

There was a mattress in the corner. Hidan just had strength enough to lurch up and fall on it with Shikamaru beneath him. That hand refused to let him go even as they continued to kiss and grunt like wild animals.

-oOo-

It was startling to both men to feel their mutually stoic sense of fatalism regarding their entwined fates transform into towering sexual need. To feel anything at all aside from the numbing weight of infinite years ahead of them was inexpressibly delicious. A banquet of sensations to starving men. They partook of it greedily, wildly, and with great abandon.

There was some awkwardness as the mechanics were sorted out. Hidan's hair had grown long in the five years since his 'death'. Shikamaru leaned on it by mistake, making Hidan yelp. A couple of times Hidan leaned his knee on a tender spot and made Shikamaru hiss. There was a moment of wry, shared laughter, some fumbling, and few seconds of held breath…but then it happened. And when it did, their eyes were open, staring into each other's very souls it seemed.

Hidan pressed past the dry sphincter slowly. He had one forearm braced on the mattress near Shikamaru's head. He used his other hand to hold down Shikamaru's wrist; the younger man had dug his nails into his face at the moment of penetration.

It hurt. But this, too, was welcomed. They bathed themselves in the pain, a reminder of mortality lost. Hidan sustained the penetration for as long as possible, sawing back and forth along the dry passage to heighten the pain to a stinging pitch, before sliding in as deeply as he could. Shikamaru had trembled at the penetration in profound enjoyment, and now he sighed. The feeling of stretching and fullness made his mouth water in pleasure. He squeezed his inner muscles around the intrusion and they both shuddered.

Hidan lowered himself to the heaving chest beneath him.

Movement was slow at first. The pain and pleasure were both sublime, and neither wanted to hurry it along. The simple motion of thrust and release was all they knew for many long hours. The supernatural connection they now had with each other only served to augment each man's experience; just as they'd fed off the sudden sexual arousal each one had toward the other when they'd kissed, so too did their pleasure now spike and surge in time with each man's singular interpretation of this new intimacy. And whenever one or the other was close to coming they would stop. Breathe. Stroke and kiss, and murmur in awed delight. And then they would begin again. Forever might be theirs, but they made this first time last.

Toward evening, when the sun was setting and nothing but the dimmest light remained in the room, their languid enjoyment of each other's bodies abruptly switched to a sizzling demand for more. The thrusts became harder, punctuating an exquisite pleasure unfolding between them. The sound of their bodies slapping together was drowned out by the panting and cries of 'Faster! Harder! Don't stop!' Shikamaru raked bloody scratches down Hidan's back, and then Hidan sat up abruptly, dragging Shikamaru with him. The younger man's hair had come undone sometimes during their long, steamy lovemaking and it flew free now as he was yanked up, slinging sweat in the dying light. This new position afforded Hidan the deepest reach yet into Shikamaru's body and they both wilted against each other, nearly too weak to go on. They rocked together for a time, struggling to breathe.

The thrusts picked up again slowly. Shikamaru rode erratically, then with better coordination, and then Hidan lifted him enough to walk on his knees to the nearest wall and lean Shikamaru there at a forty-five degree angle. He was able to hold the sweaty hips firmly and pound, pound, pound away until they finally came, one right behind the other, in a wild flurry of movement as the room went dark.


Later, still sweaty from the consequent second and third rounds, Shikamaru had run his hands over the firm musculature in the dark until he found Hidan's face. He used this as a guide to bring his lips to the older man's in a long, quiet kiss. "I've made my choice," he said when they finally broke apart.

Hidan's voice was a sleepy murmur. "Yeah?"

"I think so."

They shifted, spooning as they drifted toward sleep. "Good birthday?" Hidan yawned.

"Good birthday."

Maybe the first of many good days.