54) things you always meant to say but never got the chance for the Nara twins?

Heart and Soul, 54) things you always meant to say but never got the chance

The transition happens too fast. One moment Shikamaru is dying, his heart destroyed, pain beyond imagining sparking along his neurons, blood clogging his throat in his death throes. The next, he wakes up, gasping, impossibly, his sister’s crying face the first thing he sees out of the void.

The next, her eyes go dark, expression flat. Her grief and relief erased, replaced by apathy.

Shikako dies instead of him, and Shikabane takes her place.

Shikabane plays the part, dutiful Konoha shinobi, dutiful Nara daughter, dutiful twin sister. It is a lie. Shikamaru knows this, but he still plays along because surely it’s better to have this fake than nothing at all?

But even in her new existence, the creature that was once his sister puts him first.

“You should say goodbye,” says Shikabane, tugging at his hand. His shadow hand, specifically. There’s some sensation in it, enough to tell there is contact, but not much in the way of detail. It can’t differentiate sensations: Shikamaru wouldn’t know if Shikabane’s hand is soft and warm like his sister’s would be, or if it’s as cold and hard as stone. As a demon’s lack of a heart.

“I,” Shikamaru hesitates. The face staring impassively back at him is still his sister’s. “I don’t think I can.”

It’s not as if Shikamaru wants to die. He very much enjoys living, thanks, he’s not that lazy.

He doesn’t want to die. He just doesn’t want his sister to hurt herself for him even more than he wants not to die.

But he cannot change the past.

He’s grateful to still be alive, he just wishes it hadn’t had such a high cost.

He’ll tell his sister thank you only when he manages to get her back.

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You know, if you look at it slant-wise, Shikamaru now has the soul of a god (in addition or in replacement of his normal soul)?

OOoooh! I hadn’t thought of it that way!

I don’t know if Shikako’s godhood goes along with her soul, though. Then again, I don’t quite know why it wouldn’t. I guess in my head existence is slightly different from soul, so the devil that is Shikabane is the god’s existence minus Shikako’s soul. And even though I’ve been conflating heart and soul, maybe they’re different?

Like… the heart is more a physical anchor/battery for the soul?

Shikamaru has Shikako’s original heart so that his soul could stay in the world of the living. Shikako tore out her heart and so her soul kind of split then left–some of it latched onto Shikamaru, but not all of it–and when she grew her new heart (out of her shadow powers) it wasn’t enough to entice her soul back?

I HAVE NO IDEA. I still don’t quite understand how Kingdom Hearts’ hearts vs bodies vs soul stuff works and that’s the closest equivalent I can think of

oh mmyyyyyyy gooooodddddddneeeesssss. that latest shikako snippet? whoa! just whoa!! i’m a mess????

donapoetrypassion:

jacksgreysays:

😀 Yay! That’s what I was going for, anon.

it was an idea that snowballed–I went literal with the heart matter, then @donapoetrypassion added some spirituality to it (along with prompting the They Call It (Soulless) ficlet), so then I figured since we were escalating I might as well raise to divinity (or, rather, lower to devilry?)

One night -many years and many midnight bargains later- the man at the crossroads is Shikamaru Nara.

“You have a child,” what’s left of his sister says, frowning. “Why are you doing this?” Her voice is too flat. Her face is too young. It’s been that way for quite awhile.

He still loves her. Even the her she is without a heart.

And he does have a child. A little boy, Shikadai. Baby-powder sweet and gummy-smiled.

But this is about responsibility as much as love. Shikamaru’s little boy will grow up in this world. Shikamaru can’t let it be a worse one than his was, growing up.

(It’s about love, too. He’d looked in the photo albums, and found what he thought was Shikadai, giving another gummy smile while holding the hand of someone just out of the picture. But the picture was too old, and Shikamaru had never smiled like that as an infant. He’d looked at the picture of his sister, his baby boy’s aunt who shared his smile, and realized what he lost. What they all had.)

It was Temari, really, who gave him the idea. The notion that a siblings’ heart was something he could get back. It was Kankuro who gave him the stories of puppeteers losing too much of thrmselves, or just enough.

There’s risk in this. Maybe too much. But he did at least have the sense to talk this decision over with his wife, and she approved of him trying. (He’s glad he married Temari. He can’t imagine anyone else really… understanding. What it means to love someone who might not be in a place to return that. What it means to hope.)

Shikamaru Nara has to give up something. He has to give up something real, to even have a chance at his sister back.

But he won’t make his sister’s mistake. He won’t give up too much.

…This will work.

“I’m not giving up my heart, or my soul, or my life,” Shikamaru Nara says calmly. “I’m giving up my other arm.”

(Shikako cries. When she gets back. When they stagger home. When her parents hug her. When a wide-eyed teenage Kino treats her gently. She hates crying, but does it like she’s pouring out all the things she didn’t get to feel for years.

She is.

As for the grief, and self blame- and shameful gratitude- of Shikamaru getting her soul back (at the cost of his other arm, his last one, no, please, no)… she feels so much she doesn’t know what to do with it.

She comes back to a world where the war is over. Where her friends are figuring out how to be not just adults but parents, and she’s figuring out how not to be the Shikabane-hime.

No one says much, about her having a soul now. It’s not exactly public knowledge that she didn’t.

They notice that she ages properly now, for a given value of properly. Growing taller, face growing thinner, and one day, nearly a year later, Shikako notices a white streak in her hair. Tsunade tells her that her strange stop-start aging was likely a side-effect of losing all that life energy as a child. Her life span might be a decade shorter. Not more. (It won’t be longer. Not as long as she had feared. Shikako goes home and cries in relief, in her bed where no one else can see her. Then she gets up and goes back to her life).

AHHHHHHH! SHIKAMARU TAKING ON A DEVIL TO GET HIS SISTER BACK! And, like, why wouldn’t he? He already took on a god. (Never mind they were both sort of his sister also)

oh mmyyyyyyy gooooodddddddneeeesssss. that latest shikako snippet? whoa! just whoa!! i’m a mess????

😀 Yay! That’s what I was going for, anon.

it was an idea that snowballed–I went literal with the heart matter, then @donapoetrypassion added some spirituality to it (along with prompting the They Call It (Soulless) ficlet), so then I figured since we were escalating I might as well raise to divinity (or, rather, lower to devilry?)

Heart and Soul (the crossroads remix), (2018-03-14)

A human without a heart–without a soul–is no longer human. Without that integral piece they are, at best, empty husks.

(At worst, they are monsters.)

But she stopped being human before she gave away her heart:

What do you call a god without a soul?

After, Shikako is different.

That is not so surprising. Inoichi was expecting a much more drastic change in Shikamaru, after all, and so having one twin be more noticeably affected by the… incident… only makes sense.

Shikako is different, After. Inoichi keeps an eye out for the twins, both personally–they are nearly as dear to him as Ino–and professionally.

She is harsher, more ruthless. On missions, it is not so easy to tell: it could be attributed to the rising international tensions, or the stress of her undeniably eventful career catching up, or even just growing up. The name Shikabane-hime spreads–it is no longer a silly joke, even inside the village.

She hardly smiles anymore.

Inoichi notices something in Shikako, but he doesn’t know enough for the truth.

The Shinigami works in trade: a life given as payment, a life taken in exchange.

Phrased that way, it almost seems balanced.

But it is not death for life; death only begets more death.

Be careful what you wish for: even if you get what you want to the letter, you might not get what you need in spirit. And even then, beware your intentions; strength of will is not just an expression.

There is power in determination, in desperation. But there is also weakness.

In that battle that nearly destroyed them, Shikako wished for two things. She made the mistake of intrinsically linking them together: she wanted to save her brother, and so she needed to be stronger.

She gave her heart as payment.

What was taken in exchange?

There were thousands of people in Land of Hot Springs.

They did not go to Jashin.

Death only begets more death.

Shikabane has some catching up to do.

There is a man kneeling at an intersection, hands pushing dirt into a hole in the ground that contains a box. The box contains several items which physically have little worth–a picture, more dirt, a small bone, a small cluster of flowers soon to die–but they have value combined, intangibly, unnaturally.

The man wants something–power or time or wealth or knowledge–it matters not. He’ll get it, the box he’s just buried guarantees it, but he’ll regret it.

He looks up, dirt under his fingernails, still on his knees, to see a figure that had not been present just moments ago.

It is small, in the shape of a young girl with mostly nondescript features. It has dark eyes–not the way a human might–like ink and shadow and the utter absence of that which is human.

For a moment, he considers backing down: there is a fate in those eyes that he is not sure he wants to meet. But then the figure speaks, offers him that which drove him out here in the middle of the night, blinks away the ink and shadow.

He makes the deal; his heart’s desire for his soul.

(Just as well, it was already too late for him)

A human without a heart–without a soul–is no longer human.

A would-have-been-god without a soul? You know what they’re called.

~

A/N: A sort of… remix fic response to @donapoetrypassion’s follow-up fic for this ficlet that I wrote as a response to dona’s prompt… so… yeah…

~tiny and vague demon!Shikako concept~

Heart and Soul

donapoetrypassion:

A few months ago, Jacksgreyson wrote a really awesome ficlet
in response to a prompt of mine. 

This is the follow-up thank-you fic I‘ve been meaning to write
for ages.

Heart and Soul

“Put your heart, mind, and soul, into even your smallest
acts. This is the secret of success.” -Swami Sivanada

“This is just one of
me, but in different places.”-
Shikako Nara to her father. Dreaming of
Sunshine, Chapter 88

“I wouldn’t recommend
using it. But that’s a decision you’ll have to make in the field, based on the
information you have at the time.” –
Shikaku Nara to his daughter. Dreaming
of Sunshine, Chapter 89.

___________________________________________________________________________

When the twins came back from the front, Shikako had a
perfect circle of scarred skin and healed fractures tracing itself across her
lungs, her spine, her ribs. Her recently regrown heart fit exactly in the
center.

Shikamaru had his sister’s heart.

The Konoha transplant program is very advanced.

They’ve done kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and
thymus. They’ve done bones, tendons, corneae, skin, nerves and veins. They’ve
done hands, arms, legs, and feet.

They don’t transplant hearts. (Sasori had, after all, been able to function as a puppet with only his
heart remaining
.) Commonly held wisdom is that a heart transplant would be
about as useless to the transplant recipient as transplanting a brain.

Common wisdom is wrong.

At least, in the case of the Nara twins.

Tsunade was cursing her most unpredictable special jounin
even as she stabilized both twins.

The boy’s case was especially difficult. But since his
chakra system wasn’t being poisoned or overwritten by his new eighth gate -and his
new eighth gate wasn’t destabilizing into oblivion- Tsunade counted her
blessings.

Both brats even managed to briefly wake up and answer basic
questions about missions she had assigned Team Ten or Team Seven, which Tsunade
considered a flat-out miracle.

Still. Best to confirm things
before sharing the good news with her Jounin Commander.

Inoichi did not despair when he was briefed on the
circumstances surrounding the upcoming mindscan on his teammate’s son, because
he was an optimist with some experience in the success rate of desperate Nara.

He was confident that Shikako would have been able to save
(at least something of) her brother.

Even so, at best
he had expected Shikamaru Nara to be as confused and shaken and fundamentally changed as Ino had been, at her most
vulnerable. (At best.)

Inoichi had been prepared to
offer Shikaku platitudes of his son finding a new normal, support for Shikako
as she adjusted to her changed sibling.

He was not prepared to find an
only slightly shaken (and only from the memories of his injury), only slightly
confused (and only from slipping in and out of consciousness), and otherwise completely
unchanged Shikamaru Nara.

He was not prepared to find no
trace of Shikako Nara in her brother’s mind.

(He’d have to look more closely
next time.)

“Shadow Split,” Shikaku cursed, when he was briefed. A heart
was not a soulless thing, to be traded away like any other organ.

Once you’ve accepted the necessity of trading away (a piece
of) your soul, what choices are left? Giving away as little as possible. Or as
little-missed as possible. And protecting that which was precious enough to
trade (a piece of) your soul for.

But what piece, exactly, had his daughter given away?

“Is this even a mind-scan?” Shikamaru asked, on the fifth
session. He slouched in his (probably imaginary) body, picking at the (probably
imaginary) grass, looking at the (not imaginary but definitely not physically
present) figure of his honorary uncle.

Inoichi gave him a reassuring smile. “Not a traditional one.
But some of the …lighter variants of mental contact can be more useful for certain
check-ups.”

Shikamaru didn’t have a problem with Inochi-oiji’s visits.
He practiced with Ino often enough that he wasn’t uncomfortable with mental
techniques. And he knew Inochi was trying to help- even if he was being
frustratingly close-lipped about how
he was helping. But this was the fifth session in almost four weeks, and it was
getting annoying.

“Have you found what you’re looking for yet?” Shikamaru
grumped.

“I think I have a
lead, now,” Inoichi said calmly, with another annoyingly reassuring smile.
“Would you mind showing me to the village? I’d like to check the Hokage Tower
first.”

Shikamaru showed him to the (probably imaginary) village,
which was creepily empty of both people and animals. Then he gestured at the
(probably imaginary) Hokage Tower. “Is that where we’re heading?”

But Inoichi wasn’t looking at the Hokage Tower. He was
looking at the swing by the Academy.

It was empty, of course.

It was also moving.

“That’s… odd.” Shikamaru managed.

Inoichi glanced at him. “It’s a lead. And it’s something we
have to look into, because I suspect this is something you need to know. But
it’s also nothing to be afraid of, Shikamaru.”

Shikamaru nodded.

Shikamaru followed Inoichi past the empty swing, into the
empty hallways of the Tower, into the classroom. The same classroom
Iruka-sensei had taught them all, for years.

Inoichi sighed when he entered it.

“Why are we here?” Shikamaru asked.

“The human mind is a place that demands honesty,” Inoichi
said, but he didn’t seem to be speaking to Shikamaru. “I was always going to
find this place eventually.”

Inoichi was looking at the far wall as he spoke, and he
walked straight toward the back. Where Shikamaru had used to sit, beside
Shikako and Chouji.

“Come up, please,” Inoichi asked, looking at something just
past one of the last desks. His tone was gentle. But also tired, exasperated.
Not expecting his order to be followed.

Inoichi tried again. “Nara techniques require self-knowledge.
If you keep hiding, Shikamaru is never going to be able to safely use any kind
of Shadow technique again.”

A little crumped up ball of paper hit Inoichi’s face.
Another almost got caught in his blonde hair before falling to the floor.

Shikamaru slowly made his own way to the back of the room.

Inoichi sighed at the thing Shikamaru still couldn’t yet
see. He reached down underneath the desk and pulled up a seven-year-old
Shikako. She was glaring with her most sullen expression.

But this was Shikamaru’s mind. Why would- what was-

Shikamaru sat down and tried to
breathe.

It was imaginary air, it wasn’t
real- nothing here was real except him and Inoichi and his too-small-sister-
but the breaths helped calm him. Steady him.

Shikamaru came out of his panic attack to find that he was
still sitting on top of one of the desks, looking at his sister’s soul. Or a
piece of it, anyway.

“Shikamaru needed a new heart. And a new eighth chakra gate.
But you knew a human heart without a soul attached wouldn’t have a working eighth gate. So you found
another solution.” There was no judgement in Inoichi’s voice. Neither
condemnation or approval. He seemed to be examining Shikako’s face carefully.

Inoichi’s voice gentled. “Do you understand what happened?
Where you are?”

Shikako rolled her eyes. “Yes. Obviously. I was trying
not to interfere.” She crossed her
arms defiantly. Her mulish expression flickered into uncertainty as she glanced
at Shikamaru. Just for an instant.

“Why are you seven?” Shikamaru asked.

Shikako stilled. When she answered, she seemed to be
choosing her words carefully. “I’m seven because… because this is the age I was
when I made an important decision. I made another important decision when you
needed a new heart. The decisions …in some ways were similar.”

“And did you make the right choice?” Inoichi asked.

Yes,” Shikako
hissed. But she glanced uncertainly at Shikamaru again.

“My body can regenerate,” she rallied. “And I’m not a part
of Shikako that- well. Shikako doesn’t like to remember being me, so it’s not
like being here is going to make a big difference personality-wise. Giving you
my heart was definitely the right
decision.”

Something sad flickered across her face. “And I can’t say I
regret making the other one. It’s not like the result was unexpected.” There
was something flat about her voice, like she was suppressing some strong
emotion.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before opening
them again. “I don’t know why you came,” she told Inoichi, and there was real
pain underneath the hostility in her voice. “I just want Shikamaru to be okay.
I want him to be himself.”

“Do you think I can just leave
you here?” Shikamaru rasped. “Do you think I can let you be alone?” He reached out a hand-

Inoichi caught it with a warning glance. Shikamaru resisted
the urge to dodge, to continue forward until Shikako was tucked up against his
chest.

She was small and
she was hurting and she was- she
would never have an existence besides the space inside of his mind. The rest of
his sister might, but not this part.  

“I can teach you two how to interact safely, though that
might take a little time,” Inoichi said to both of them. Then he turned to
Shikako. “I understand that you don’t want to hurt him accidentally. It’s good
that you’re careful. But this isn’t an answer, either.”

Shikako swallowed. “Okay.”

“I hope it’s all right with both of you if we start
tomorrow,” Inoichi said. It wasn’t really a question.

Still. “Why tomorrow?” Shikamaru managed to get out. It was
difficult to keep his tone from edging towards tense impatience.

“Believe it or not, this meeting has been a pretty big
strain on both of you. I’ve eased things, somewhat. But two sets of spiritual
energies interacting within the same body is something best carefully monitored
until the two of you reach a balance. Giving Shikamaru all sensory input from
and the control over the body is still a type of balance, Shikako,” Inoichi added,
in response to Shikako’s scowl.

He stood up.

He hesitated a moment. “If you can- is there anything you
can tell me about the Shikako outside that might be different now?”

For a moment, Shikako looked terrible insecure. And then the
moment was gone as if it had never been. “She still loves Shikamaru. A lot. She wouldn’t like, let a bunch of
Konoha babies die if just sitting there doing nothing meant Shikamaru was going
to be safer. But- Shikamaru wouldn’t want that anyway. And the Shikako outside
would still do- almost anything for him. Just not absolutely everything.” She looked away from Inoichi. Towards Shikamaru.
“You know we both- we both-“ Her eyes were wet and so, so wide.

“I know,” Shikamaru said softly. He wished this was a real
place. He wished- he wished he could hold her.
That he didn’t have to wait until Inoichi ‘taught them how to interact
safely.’ His sister had torn out her heart and ripped apart her soul to keep
him alive, and she was trying to tell him both parts loved him. As if he didn’t
know. “I’ve always known”

“How are you feeling?” Dad asked, as Shikamaru blinked into
awareness.

Like my heart is breaking, Shikamaru didn’t answer.

As much as the discovery had been painful, Shikamaru was now
well on the path to recovery. But the success didn’t ease Inoichi’s mind much
at all, and he was quiet as he walked home.

Inside-Shikako had so easily Split from the rest of herself
because she had remained unacknowledged and hidden even within Shikako, likely
for quite some time. What had she said? That the rest of Shikako didn’t like to
remember being her.

And she’d distinguished the other Shikako from herself by
implying that Shikako would do less for Shikamaru. That Shikako would not let
Konoha babies die, even if doing nothing made Shikamaru safer. Implying that
inside-Shikako might.

…That was not the kind of self-knowledge that came in
advance of action.

Worst of all, inside-Shikako looked …seven, at most. And she
acted like a seven-year-old Shikako,
albeit a terrified and angry version. Almost as if that piece of Shikako Nara
had had never been accepted or understood or integrated into the whole.

Inside-Shikako was clearly an aspect of personality that had
crystalized in some single, terrible moment. And aspect Shikako hated and
feared- but needed. Because the moment might happen again. Because that moment
had so marked her that it had frozen a piece of her forever, and plunged the
rest into desperate denial.

No, Inoichi would not be sleeping well tonight.

AHHHH!!! Follow up fic from dona! (✿ ♥‿♥)

(I love your Inoichi voice so much!)

Outside POVs and consequences for this fic

ShikaPOV: Shikamaru didn’t want to take his sister’s arm when his got destroyed. Shikako listened (even though she could maybe grow a new one). Shikamaru probably didn’t want to take his sister’s heart when his got destroyed. But there wasn’t time to ask. (Shikako put up a barrier dome on the battlefield and listened to no one. She’s fine. She grew a new one.) Everyone understands why Shikamaru is benched- his chest is still so fragile. (Shikako still thinks her leave is to help her brother).

Shikamaru sits across from his sister, pushing the food on his plate round and round, sick of eating the same healthy food, sick of always recuperating, sick of this situation.

I have your heart in my chest, he thinks, staring at Shikako and silently, desperately willing her to make sense.

How do I still not understand how you feel?

What he’s most sick of is the way that no one will tell him what happened.

Given the way Ino’s breath hitches slightly, Chouji’s blankly guilty expression, and even Asuma-sensei looking away whenever he asks, he can make a solid guess–there aren’t many routes for one person’s heart to be made available to donate.

But he needs to know how his sister died.

They are playing shougi, practice for his Shadow Hand as much as it is a way to kill time, when a thought makes Shikamaru laughs–if such a dark sound can be considered such.

Shikako looks up, bewildered.

It takes five minutes for him to stop laughing and by the end of it he has tears in his eyes: he is missing so many pieces of himself it’s amazing he still counts as a person

“I was a brother, once,” Dad says, and Shikamaru tries not to flinch away.

It’s either that, or scream.

But Dad hardly ever talks about his younger brother, nor is he one to make such comments without a reason, and so Shikamaru waits.

“If I could have done something for Ikoma, I would have.”

It doesn’t make things better, but at least now there’s some perspective.

Shikamaru can tell his sister is getting restless, strained and more irritable the longer she’s stuck in the village.

But Shikako wouldn’t abandon him during what she thinks is his time of need: she thinks her leave is to help him recover.

She hasn’t even considered the alternative.

Mum presses shaking hands to his face every time he’s near enough. Shikamaru indulges her in this–he can tell how much restraint she is showing, how she redirects her worry by holding Kinokawa ever closer.

She’s different with Shikako, not in words or actions: her eyes are conflicted, but her hands do not shake.

He doesn’t know what that means, though.

If Shikako stays in denial, willfully oblivious to the reason behind her mandated leave, she will grow to resent him.

If he tells her truth, breaking that fragile bubble of peace, she will hate him for making her face it.

There is no way for Shikamaru to win.

He doesn’t interact with Team Seven often–mostly through his sister, but Naruto and Sasuke at least are peers if not friends. The same cannot be said of Kakashi Hatake.

Did she learn this from you? Shikamaru wonders as the man known equally for his tragedies and combat prowess slowly lifts up his headband.

What the Sharingan sees is forever imprinted in the user’s memory.

Maybe somewhere in there is the answer he needs.

(The maximum time for heart transplant viability after the donor’s death is about six hours. This is assuming the heart is removed without any damage and is kept at ideal conditions after extraction throughout the journey to the operating room.

Maybe with seals that window of time is longer, fuinjutsu far more reliable at storage and transportation of organs than the coolers of chemicals she remembers from before.

Which only leaves the removal.

And the donor’s death, of course.

She just hopes she doesn’t get stabbed through the chest again. It might damage Shikamaru’s new heart and that would defeat the purpose entirely.)

There is no winning. This is something Shikamaru must learn the hard way: there is no secret set of moves, no strategy that can undo all that has been done.

There is no winning; only survival and acceptance.

Shikako hasn’t learned this lesson yet, either.

~

A/N: Oh dona, you know just how to get me in the feels. I only hope that I’ve managed to do a fraction of the same back at you ೭੧(❛▿❛✿)੭೨

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edit: @donapoetrypassion wrote a follow up fic! check it out here