All You Have To Do (Is Stay), Chapter 1 (2018-02-07)

Chapter 1: Settling In (For The Long Haul)

The first day Shikako wakes up in the Fire Temple dormitories is a Tuesday.

She is, depending on how one counts it, both five years old and twenty years old. If her existence continues the way it has since being reborn (and reborn and reborn and reborn) she’ll be simultaneously twelve and forty eight by the time the events of the story she knows will come to pass. In this lifetime she has said goodbye to Konoha, to her family, and to any culpability for what will happen in the future–she has removed herself from the situation entirely. Or so she hopes.

Still, being free from the fetters of canon does not mean this life will be a vacation. She is serious about learning the ways of the Fire monks, ready to do whatever is needed to prove herself as an initiate. As is, she has her work cut out for her:

She is, it seems, an anomaly amongst the novices. Most of her peers are orphans or from impoverished families who cannot afford to feed them. They are not forced into monasticism–it is a satisfactory, if repetitive way of life–but considering the other option for most them are to live on the streets and starve, well.

In contrast, she had a family who could take care of her. The resources and opportunities to do near anything she pleased, anything else besides become a monk. Not much guessing is needed to see why her choice to join the temple is bewildering. Frustrating, to some.

Of course, that shouldn’t matter–or so says Sister Annai, the monk in charge of guiding novices, “The past is to be learned from,” she says to the group of five year olds facing the first day of the rest of their lives, “not held against each other. Here, we are family. Here, we are the same. It is through unity that we achieve enlightenment.”

Some of her fellow novices seem mesmerized or, at the very least, captivated by the thought of family. Shikako tries not to feel too skeptical about this speech. She is, after all, here to learn, and surely doubting Sister Annai’s words will only make her stand out more.

“At this time you are separate, unconnected; different backgrounds and experiences causing conflict between you and others. But today you all start on the same path, together. And tomorrow and everyday after that you will wake up and continue on that same path, together.”

It’s overall a nice sentiment, though a little concerning in some places. She’s not sure how much the other novices have absorbed, given they are actually children and not whatever she is stuck in a child’s body, but probably it is a message that will be repeated in the future.

That night, after a full day of learning what will eventually become routine, Shikako goes to sleep in the Fire Temple dormitories. It is Tuesday.

The next day she wakes up in Konoha, in her bedroom next to Shikamaru’s. It is Tuesday. (Again.)

So much for waking up tomorrow on the same path as everyone else.

The next three days–all of them Tuesdays. (All of them the same Tuesday)–are practically identical.

She may be able to change what she does–what clothes she wears, what books she reads, what she doodles in the margins of her notes during class–but that does not change what happens around her. Mum will burst into her room at the same exact time, Shikamaru will make the same exact complaining quip about mornings, and Iruka-sensei will give the same exact lesson about the geography of the Elemental Nations.

The first time around is the easiest, everything is honestly new to her, and so she reacts honestly. The first time around she is startled by Mum’s loud entry, wrangling herself into clothes as Mum does the same to Shikamaru next door. The first time around she laughs at Shikamaru’s complaining, responds with a one liner of her own. The first time around she… well, the lesson on geography is boring no matter which lifetime it is–she read about that months (years?) ago–but the first time around she at least tries to pretend she’s paying attention to Iruka-sensei.

The second time around her reactions are different. In bed she’s rolled up into a ball, head under her pillow, muffling Mum’s entry–it’s not her scolding that gets Shikako up but the sudden lack of blanket and pillow, vanished with a no-nonsense tug. On their way to the Academy, she will laugh at Shikamaru’s complaint but offer nothing else in return. In class, she reads a book on medicinal herbs and what regions they can be found and figures it is close enough.

The third time around…

Mum opens the door, reprimand on her tongue, only to find that Shikako is already dressed. Shikamaru’s complaint gets a short sigh in response. Iruka-sensei’s lesson is accompanied by the soft snores of not one but both Nara twins.

This is not fair to anyone. This is not sustainable.

It was easier before. Without the structure of the Academy, the only people she were beholden to were her family and, later, Chouji through Shikamaru. Her parents did not particularly mind if she read one book instead of another. Once she made sure she didn’t interfere with Shikamaru befriending Chouji in all of her lifetimes, they were willing enough to cloudwatch in different spots.

Even with the Fire Temple being her source of novelty in her quadrupled existence–ironic the thought may be, considering every day at the Fire Temple is designed to be the same–three times a lifetime of more and more people doing the same exact thing is unbearable.

She needs to make another, bigger change.

The opportunity, horrifyingly enough, presents itself on Friday, three days (almost two weeks) after she both did and did not become a Fire Temple monk:

Itachi Uchiha picks up his little brother from the Academy.

Well, she did want to make a big change; Shikako walks up to the most lethal and stressed out preteen ever and introduces herself.

She has less than two years (eight years?) to stop the Uchiha Massacre.

~

A/N: … my spite is dwindling which is now both a good and bad thing? I mean, being spiteful isn’t exactly ideal, but it was such a good motivator! Aaaaah, we’ll see what happens… I’m sure I’ll probably get frustrated again soon enough. It is that time of year so…

edit: I realize now that this naming/numbering system might be confusing. This is Chapter 1, yes, but there is a Prologue before this that should hopefully make things clearer!

All You Have To Do (Is Stay), Prologue (2018-02-06)

Prologue: Waking Up (Is Hard To Do)

All humans in the final moments of their lives are united by a single thought: I want to live.

This is not always actually true. Sometimes it is just the body hijacking the brain, a visceral desire to survive; a last ditch effort to spur a person into moving, into healing, anything for a few moments more. Other times it is fear of the unknown. What happens after death is a mystery, after all, and surely better the suffering we know than one we do not. And other times still it is just a person’s earthly attachments that make them cling in that final way–who will feed my cat, my best friend’s birthday is this weekend, my family will be devastated–but those slip away easily.

However, sometimes it is true. Sometimes a person will want to live. Sometimes a person dies before they think it is their time and they will want, wholeheartedly, to remain in the world of the living as terrible and wretched as it may be.

Some people are lucky and they get what they want: an ambulance with sirens screaming, EMTs surrounding them lifting them up, telling them it will be okay. Gurney wheeled down a hallway with lights so bright it sears their eyes, doctors and nurses yelling across to each other incomprehensible acronyms and numbers, the codes for a miracle.

Despite all this, it could be for naught. Monitors flatlined, a single resounding tone in a bubble of silence.

Some people are lucky and they get what they want, if only for a few moments.

Some people are unlucky and get what they want for lifetimes after that.

Shikako wakes up after dying and it is one of the worst experiences of her life.

She will not realize the irony of this thought for some time.

Of course, she does not yet know that her name is Shikako, either, only knows of who she was before she died and those awful moments during her death. Waking up after that is much like it, blind and bewildered, uncomfortable to the point of screaming and, seemingly, endless.

It will take her a while to figure out that she has been reborn–reincarnated to be more accurate–it will take her a little while longer to figure out she has been reborn four times.

Infancy is monotonous and drags on for a small eternity. Quadruple it? It is no surprise that when the opportunity came to make changes to her life, she took it.

She knows where and when she is–how could she not with Shikamaru right there, the biggest and most important piece of the puzzle–and sure it is fine to make little changes to her days, different clothes and drawings and books to read, but it is not enough. She is reliving a lie four times over and she just wants something for herself.

She has four lives, surely she’s allowed to be selfish in one of them. Selfish and afraid for she knows what is coming, what dangers await in the lifestyle of her family.

But she loves chakra too much to give it up, and that is its own kind of selfishness.

And so when the time comes, it is not a choice between Shogakkou and the Academy.

No, Shogakkou was never an option.

When the time comes, she makes the same choice three times. And a different choice entirely just once:

For once in Shikako Nara’s bizarrely quadrupled existence, she wakes up in a place entirely new. In one of Shikako Nara’s four lifetimes, she decides to become a monk of the Fire Temple.

She made one selfish, safe choice and when she wakes up the next day back in Konoha she immediately feels guilty. She knows what is coming and isn’t it her moral responsibility to do what she can to alleviate the suffering of those around her? How could she just run away like that?

But that decision has been made. Doesn’t mean she can’t make more–and, for all that this new quadrupled existence is its own kind of hell, there is a upside to it. She can make a very different choice and still stick to her previous one without any conflicts.

In this lifetime she chooses to do everything in her power to fix what she can.

It’ll be two years, a graduation, and arguably the worst genin team placement ever before she regrets this.

The differences between the remaining two lifetimes come about not out of any deliberate decisions on her part. It just makes sense to use her quadrupled existence efficiently, is all.

In one lifetime she is learning the ways of a Fire Temple monk, complete with their own unique techniques and traditions. In another she is already graduated, just the newest in Konoha’s long history of prodigies, completing D-ranks alongside Kabuto Yakushi of all people and trying not to give up any of her many secrets.

In the remaining two, she gets bored easily. Self-study helps with that. And it just makes sense to split up subjects: medicine and genjutsu in one lifetime, ninjutsu and sealing in the another. It also doesn’t hurt that, in the first, she actually pays attention to lessons; awake and, if not eager, then interested to learn what she had passed up for the Fire Temple and early graduation. In the second, those lectures are redundant, but she is much better during taijutsu spars–knowing what her opponent will do before they do makes it so easy, even if it does seem like cheating.

The Academy, despite all their faults, does actually try to make genin teams based on what they think would be best for their students.

It is only somewhat of a surprise when, in one lifetime, Shikako is put on Team One with a Nohara and one of the few boys in the class to show potential in genjutsu.

It’s a much more substantial surprise when, the next day and a lifetime over, she’s put on Team Seven instead.

All humans at the end of their lives think: I want to live.

Nobody suspects it might be granted like this.

~

A/N: Apparently spite-writing is a thing, because I’m still a little angry from yesterday and I’m just like… well… you don’t like this thing I worked hard on? I’M GONNA WRITE STUFF THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR SHOW!

So… here you go. 

I was narcissistically reading through some of my older brainstorms and happened upon the All You Have To Do (Is Stay) post and since the Guide series is also about a dimension-hopping Shikako (though in an entirely different way) I guess my brain was in the right state to tackle it.

I wrote it on google docs first before transferring it here (as opposed to my usual method of writing on a Sticky and transferring) and I guess there’s something to be said about using a different medium because there’s a slight difference in style.

Maybe I’ll experiment with this?

I know the DoS forums has a lot of “DoS meets canon by switching places” (they’re super fun to read), but I’m really curious to see the switch happens and they end up in an AU where Shikako tries her best to avoid ever being close to the plot. Yes, she’s still a Nara, but maybe she goes to a regular school, skips a few grades, and ended up in some boarding school for high school early? And then the DoS cast tried to meet up with her and ruins everything, woops.

This kinda harkens to this fake fic summary in which Shikako simultaneously lives four distinct lives and only her choices are what make them different. So in All You Have to Do (Is Stay), there is a reality which is DoS(ish), one which is her getting overly involved from the beginning (probably ending up with her on a very stressful genin team with Kabuto), one which she takes a half step back and doesn’t want to mess with canon so she gets a team with “extras” (Team Medic!AU!AU), and one in which she goes AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE and joins the Fire Temple monks.

Monk!Shikako is maybe most like what you’re describing, I think. Except in your version, instead of Shikako knowing about the different AUs (because she lives them all) they are all discrete realities and it’s other people who travel across and find her. Which would be pretty appealing as a story, anon.

I feel like, though, that even if she tries to avoid the plot it still finds her somehow. Like, I mean, at the Fire Temple, maybe she and Sora (who is basically a Naruto-Sasuke fusion) become reluctant friends and together they do extracurricular training in trying to control his pseudo-jinchuuriki status, which may or may not help out when Akatsuki comes around? I don’t know.

And I’m also not sure much attachment Fire Temple monks are allowed to have. They’re obviously not the “enlightenment comes from total isolation” but I’m also not sure if, for example, by joining the temple Shikako had to forfeit her Nara status. Most likely she did have to forfeit any claim to heiress (and maybe some cruel and politically inclined rumors suspect that Shikaku deliberately sent his chakra hypersensitive child to the temple so that would be the case) but perhaps she does get to keep some attachment to her family. Even then, she’s probably not the first Nara to join the temple (maybe full time, yes, but Chiriku didn’t seem at all confused by her request for the month-long sabbatical).

What I’m saying is, I wonder if she’s allowed to visit Konoha and accidentally get involved with the plot despite her efforts. Like… since Chiriku used to be part of the Twelve Guardian Ninja–even though that particular organization did not end well–maybe he’s training Shikako to be his successor?

And so she is tasked with “lower risk” guard duty of the Fire Daimyo’s family members–I mean, the Fire Lady canonically hires Konoha genin to catch Tora frequently enough that everyone hates it–or brought along as Chiriku’s apprentice to protect the royal retinue during the Konoha Chuunin Exams. And look how that ended up.

So… um.

This probably isn’t what you wanted, anon, is it?

“ALL YOU HAVE TO DO (IS STAY)” WHAT THE FFCCKKCK. WHAT THE HECK. I FEEL VERY MENTALLY STRESSED OUT AND EXHAUSTED JUST THINKING ABOUT THAT SUMMARY. (The things we do to Shikako. :( Jfc it tripped me THe fuck up. This precious child. (I actually would lOVE to read this verse because it sounds like so much SUFFERING. (I swear I love Shikako.)))

😀

Riiiiiiiiiight?!?!?!

Like. It’s stressful but it’s also kind of fun?

I would really recommend reading Watches ‘verse (unless BBC Sherlock is not your thing, understandable, given the way it’s gone downhill, though this fic was written before said swan dive), because it has the same sort of mental gymnastics that really good time travel fic does but… without time travel.

I think I’d put her fourth reality as a Fire Temple monk, though. Just for that well of calm and serenity because four lives in the possible vicinity of Danzo is TOO MUCH, and I also like the idea of the monks figuring out something’s going on with her but not saying anything until it becomes a danger to her. Because monks, or at least the Fire Temple versions (not those awful Jashin monks), are great. And being able to explore the world of Naruto and ninjutsu and militaristic societies from a culture of pacifism might be a fun exercise in world building/analysis.

“all you have to do is stay” – dos shikako-centric team 7 please?

… mrgh…

I can’t just do a wanderlust!Team Seven, or a wanderlust!Shikako with the rest of Team Seven kind of waiting patiently for her, because I already wrote those and it’s a little too on the nose, isn’t it? So a more abstract interpretation of the title…

I’ve also already done time travel (to different eras, and for different characters and AUs)…

You know for some reason this title reminds me of Watches ‘verse by bendingsignpost. (It’s a BBC Sherlock fic in which John Watson revolves through four different realities whenever he falls asleep. It makes more sense in the fic, and because it was written/finished before season 3 it’s great)

Because what’s better than Shikako stressed out by the oncoming dangerous future? Shikako stressed out by FOUR oncoming dangerous futures. 😀 (My heart’s beginning to beat faster just thinking of it because I’m so horrified by the thought but also, perversely, delighted).

So I guess I’d borrow a little from Reshuffle the Deck for alternative realities mostly because the only thing I can think of that would be Shikako’s most immediate/visible difference would be her genin team.

So one is canon DoS, in which Shikako is on Team Seven with Naruto and Sasuke. One is probably Team Medic!AU!AU, where she is on Team One with Youbirin Nohara and Jiro Watanabe (because this would be a good outsider/baseline/boring reality, I think).

One would probably be the “I’m going to interfere in everything early on” reality–the Cloud v Hyuuga issue, Danzo and the Uchiha massacre, going full on prodigy–to various degrees of success and would thus lead to the most nerve-wracking reality of being on a team with Kabuto.

And the last one would… well, in Watches ‘verse, John has two “calm” realities to offset the more exciting ones and one of them he doesn’t join the army, so I guess I can mirror that in which she doesn’t become a shinobi. Whether that means she goes to the civilian school or the Fire Temple is kind of up in the air. Hm… probably civilian school because that way she’d stay in Konoha? Then again, having the monks of the Fire Temple basically act as her therapists in an alternate reality (and also a surprisingly strong ally against Akatsuki with the heads up) is very satisfying, too. Danzo can’t touch her here. She’s safe.

So on top of being reincarnated from a different world, Shikako’s got another secret of rotating through different realities. On the one hand, quadruple the amount of things to keep track of, but on the other hand she can use the different realities to plan ahead. Ironically, I now realize that one of the repeated phrases in Watches ‘verse is that John “no longer dreams” and DoS is titled… well… Dreaming of Sunshine… so… O_O

Anyway, here’s the summary:

All You Have To Do (Is Stay)

She wakes up in a different reality, in a different body, in a different life. She goes to sleep thinking she is dreaming–or tries to, anyway.

She wakes up, and wakes up, and wakes up, and realizes she will never dream again.