A/N1: So… I only discovered the existence of the Gaara Hiden novel after I’d already written half of this and I waffled for a while about whether or not to ignore it? But I tried to pick and choose enough from the story to make this “canon-based” and I know I have the timeline wrong but… uh. Enjoy anyway? (the second Author’s Notes were also written before I discovered the Gaara Hiden so…)
For most hidden villages, the line of succession for Kages is not explicitly a matter of bloodline. Kages are usually the strongest of the village, the one who can bolster the reputation of their village with their own. It is one way in Konoha–passed down between teachers and students and the students of students; another in Kiri–whoever can grab power and keep it long enough to claim the title Mizukage; with Kumo and Iwa being somewhere in between.
But the Kazekage? Has always been from the same bloodline, a family so strong and so ingrained in the very structure of Sunagakure that they don’t use a clan name. They have no need for one. Instead, they are merely “of the desert,” a description so brazen that only the most powerful can claim it.
Except, with the recent birth of Shikadai Nara, that is no longer is the case.
While the councilors of Sunagakure were not exactly supportive of Temari’s choice in husband, no one would–or even really could–stand between a scion of the desert and what they want. For the most part, they stayed silent as she–the eldest child of the Yondaime Kazekage, the eldest sibling of the Godaime Kazekage, technical head of the bloodline–married into a Konoha clan.
If something unfortunate should happen to Gaara–a thought not so unbelievable after the absolute chaos of Akatsuki and Kaguya–and that something happened to Kankurou as well, then that would leave Shikadai Nara as the only viable candidate for Rokudaime Kazekage.
A Leaf nin. As Kazekage.
Such a thing cannot be allowed.
Shikako has not been the official Suna ambassador for years–it’s a role below her rank and skills and, frankly? As Konoha’s undisputed expert in fuinjutsu, her time can be better spent on other matters.
But that doesn’t mean she can’t visit occasionally. Suna and Konoha are allies, after all, and it is good that their shinobi maintain close ties.
Of course, not as close as Temari and Shikamaru, but unlike her brother she never dreamed about settling down with a family. Never wanted marriage–that single moment’s vow shackling her to a lifelong commitment.
People change, she knows that more than most. It doesn’t matter how or even how much they feel now, that doesn’t mean a relationship will stay strong. And forcing a promise won’t make it better, won’t make it longer.
But still, she goes to Suna, because she wants to enjoy it while it lasts.
Kankurou meets her at the gates, something he hasn’t done in years–not since her first official arrival to Suna–and he can feel his makeup cracking around a grimace.
“What’s wrong?” Sparky asks, and god what isn’t? He hates that he’s the bearer of bad news, but Gaara won’t do it and Kankurou owes her this much at least.
“Is it the council again?” she guesses, not knowing how on the nose she is. He’d laugh if it weren’t so horrible.
“It’s Gaara,” he says instead, watches her face turn pale even in the desert heat, eyes widening with panic and worry. Shit, he didn’t mean it like that, “He’s not hurt or anything like that,” he amends, hurriedly.
“Oh,” she exhales, relieved.
“He’s engaged,” Kankurou says, watching her expression turn confused.
“… in combat?” she asks, hesitantly, the truth failing to sink in.
This is the worst, “To be married,” he says. Then, just to make sure she understands he adds, “His betrothed is Hakuto of the Houki family.”
For the first time ever, Ebizo-jiisama offers to pay for the night’s drinks. Shikako takes him up on it. Kankurou tries to as well, but the old man smacks him upside the head and makes him pay for his own. Just as well, it’s not like he’s expecting to drink much–definitely not as much as Shikako.
It’s a miserable echo of their previous nights out, no Chiyo-baasama to lift their spirits, and Shikako still shocked and sullen from the news. The bartender doesn’t even have to summon the bouncer, or more help on top of that.
Not that Gaara would even come.
“He’s probably too busy with his fiancee,” Shikako grumbles into her sake. Kankurou and Ebizo-jiisama, lifelong bachelors, glance at each other nervously, unsure how to proceed.
The bartender snorts and rolls his eyes. Unruly shinobi? No thank you. But someone trying to drink their heartbreak away? That he can handle.
The problem isn’t that she’s jealous or angry. She understands, really. This thing between them has never been more important than their duties to their respective villages.
Gaara is Kazekage, he has to put Suna first, certainly above a single Leaf kunoichi’s feelings–and a Nara at that. The Nara have already lay claim to one of the Kazekage bloodline, that’s what instigated this whole arrangement.
She’s just a little disappointed he didn’t even try to fight it. She’s definitely upset that he didn’t tell her himself.
But why bother taking five minutes out of your day to break up with your scarred and dusty ex when you can spend hours talking to your beautiful and elegant fiancee?
Okay, maybe she’s a little bit jealous… And a lot angry; but not at Gaara, and not at Hakuto, either. No, she’s angry at herself).
And then there’s an attack. And then Hakuto is kidnapped. And then Gaara tries to rescue her himself.
But just because Shikako is upset with him, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have his back. So of course she goes, too.
That’s when things get… weird.
Except it turns out all of this was some stupid scheming by Councilor Tojuro, trying to enact a coup and she has an entirely deserving target for her anger. She lived through Danzo’s bullshit, she’s not going to suffer through this rank amateur.
But Kankurou, Baki, and, oddly enough, Councilor Odo of all people have the matter settled quickly enough–just as well, it wouldn’t do to have a mere Leaf kunoichi butting in on Suna matters.
Gaara and Shikako return to the village: the former sans fiancee, and the latter, bewilderingly, with two new adopted clan members.
Outside of battle they are once more uneasy with each other. Even though Hakuto has been removed from the equation, doesn’t mean the problem has been solved. The council will still want Gaara to get married and have children, and Gaara will still have to prioritize Sunagakure above her–above them.
Shikako understands, has always understood. But she doesn’t think she can handle this a second time, can’t rekindle their relationship only for it to be snuffed out as soon as another betrothal is announced.
“So,” she supposes, uncertain in the face of Gaara’s reticence, “This is it then,” she says.
He doesn’t respond except for a steady stare. She wants to scream at him to say something, anything, but that’s not who they are. The silence is damning.
She turns to go, shaking off the hesitant tendril of sand trying to loop around her wrist. He had his chance.
Bizarrely, it’s Ebizo-jiisama–who normally couldn’t care less about her and Gaara’s relationship–that gets her to reconsider.
“The engagement really was meant to be a recompense for turning him into a jinchuuriki,” Ebizo-jiisama says, not quite remorseful, but nowhere near as jocular as he usual.
Shikako says nothing.
“Damn short sighted of them,” he continues, “You, too,” he adds, which is pointed enough for her to bite back.
“What are you talking about?”
“There’s more than just two options,” he lectures, as if this were just another game of Igo, “Don’t need a wife for kids, don’t need a marriage to be happy.”
Shikako turns back.
“I won’t stay,” she says, because she won’t make promises she can’t keep.
“I will,” he says, which is more than enough.
A/N2: For anonymous who wanted some “actual arranged marriage” with Shikako/Gaara. I never said the arranged marriage would be between the two of them. 😀 Well, it all worked out in the end, I guess.
I tried really hard not to end with some cheesy rom-com running through the airport type of ending… Although a lot of the feelings regarding marriage came from our conversation, @book14reader
Some ranting under the cut!
Also, apparently (according to Shikadai’s Naruto wiki page) Kazekage succession is within the bloodline? Because Shikadai (who is Temari and Shikamaru’s son) is in line to be the next Kazekage which the Suna council/elders hate because he’s a Konoha shinobi. This does imply: a) Gaara is not involved with anyone/has never shown any inclination to be with anyone who can bear his children. b) same for Kankurou. c) Kankurou’s theoretical children might not even matter in the line of succession since Temari is older than him and her child would still be in front of Kankurou’s if Gaara doesn’t have a direct descendant. d) artificial insemination is not a thing that exists in this weird future that has laptops. e) even though Shikadai is possibly the only heir to the Kazekage, Suna never demanded he be raised as a Suna shinobi instead of a Konoha shinobi meaning either his role as Nara clan heir is somehow more important than the role Kazekage or the father’s clan has precedence over the mother’s? Which is just… what.
I dunno, there’s just a lot of stuff implied in the idea of Shikadai being the heir to the Kazekage thing that seemed strange to me. Because on the one hand, I love political ramifications to romantic relationships! But on the other hand… this seems like a really arbitrary ramification?