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)

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

Hey there. Would you ever write a story where Shikako has to travel to the Land of HotSprings and see the damage she’s caused and the amount of lives she helped took? cause, ya know, I like when Shikako is in despair lol. I love Shikako but it can be argued, she has done more bad than good, for, uh, existing. However, I won’t change anything about Shikako, flaws and all.

@hbkmzk says: Hey! Thanks for the response. I’m anything but a writer but I’ll try. I have to admit, I’m curious with the idea of Shikako being a god. Maybe her shadow contained a God of vengeance and after her first shadow-split, the god has slowly been trying to take over her? I choose god of vengeance because since after her first shadow-split her, Shikako has been more vengeful? Example, Shikamaru’s arm incident or the logistic sealing scroll nightmare. That being said, you are correct. I don’t really see her returning to the land of Hot Springs or having a mission at that area. However, what if her shadow controlled by this God of Vengeance flea to The Land of Hot Springs the next time she shadow-split. This will force Shikako to travel to the land of Hot Springs. The god of vengeance probably went to the land of Hot Springs because it wanted to see the damage done to the monk for what they did to Aoba.
I tried, lol. I don’t know how helpful this is. Hopefully it makes sense to you

~

Imagine a bird, young and not yet able to fly, feathers soft and downy.

Imagine this bird is part of a mighty flock, the youngest and smallest and least of its members, but still part of it nonetheless.

Now imagine that flock is decimated–struck down nearly to its entirety–all for that young, flightless, useless baby bird…

… and the one that killed the rest.

In the wild, the baby bird would do its best to avoid that which had orphaned it. Would fear the beating of wings and the sharp cries of fellow birds.

That baby bird would certainly never devote the rest of its life to growing strong enough to kill that which had destroyed its flock.

Vengeance is such a human concept.

~

Shikako dreams.

In the rare moments she allows herself to sleep–mind too frazzled and paranoid and weighed down to do more than quick dozes–she dreams.

She dreams of the void, that which calls to every Nara. She dreams of the forest, her friends and the village. She dreams of the sun, Naruto so far away and the future drawing ever closer.

Sometimes she dreams of gray skies, razed ground, ash swirling on the wind.

She wakes to the taste of blood on her tongue.

~

Gelel is a young god comprised mainly of starlight, human ingenuity, and sacrifice. But even young gods can make their mark on the earth, life springing where once there was only death.

Imagine, then, what an old god might do.

~

I would kill anyone who hurts you, Shikako thinks, even as the silence stretches long and tense, I have killed those who have hurt you.

But that is not what Shikamaru wants to hear from her.

She doesn’t know how else to express her love.

~

The Cult of Jashin is old–older than the villages, older than the Sage of Six Paths, older even than the Empire of Gelel now ancient history, dust under the feet of the Elemental Nations.

But the cult itself is young, barely an eye blink, compared to the entity they revere, for Jashin is timeless. An elder god, ageless and unknowable.

But not undefeatable.

The blast radius where the Land of Hot Springs once was is a perfectly flat circle, there are no objects for the weakly filtered sunlight to cast shadows. And yet, at the center, where not even the bravest of shinobi have dared to tread, a shadow writhes and grows.

~

She couldn’t save Aoba, but at least she could do one thing for him.

~

Naruto is so forgiving. Too forgiving, she thinks sometimes, his ideals too impractical and too impossible.

But somehow he turns his enemies, those who would harm him, into allies–into friends–and so for him revenge is not only unwanted but also unnecessary.

Meanwhile Kakashi’s pain has always been a part of him, but the convoluted tangle of blame leaves no target for her.

Sasuke, though, is an entirely different story:

She interfered with his life not to stop him–she is more than happy to help him seek revenge–she just wants to make sure he does so carefully, correctly, and completely.

~

Nemesis, the inescapable. Goddess of revenge. She who enacts retribution against those guilty of hubris.

~

Vengeance is a very human concept and humans, in the grand scheme of things, are a new presence in the universe.

But gods transcend time.

Chaos and destruction and suffering may be older, but vengeance is more potent, more powerful…

… and she grows stronger with every victory.

~

jacksgreysays:

Yes… maybe? Well…

My immediate thought was to make it related to this ficlet aka, post-canon Kankurou and Shikako hanging out and trying to be less traumatized together.

And like, it would be sort of… Shikako goes to hang out in Sand ostensibly to research the Gelel phenom (and blow up shit in the desert and make a glass canyon) and Kankurou hangs around and is a Theatre Nerd and then when she finally is more at peace with herself, the two of them go back to Konoha and stop by Land of Hot Springs on the way…

Except then I checked the Naruto world map and that makes no geographic sense for Kankurou and Shikako to stop by Land of Hot Springs on their way back from Sand because it is on the opposite side of Land of Fire so…

I mean, I guess they could just be traveling around together for funsies? Like… she’s also been researching other places and Kankurou probably produced an international hit and there’s some pyrotechnics in his show which he might as well have Sparky do anyway…

But that’s kinda… I mean, don’t get me wrong. A lot of my favorite DoS ficlets are the canon-ish semi-compliant chapter responses / future speculation but I think what I just described above is more about Shikako getting closure from the whole shinobi lifestyle as opposed to specifically the Land of Hot Springs (although that is, in its way, the first unstoppable horror).

So I think for something more Land of Hot Springs centric… OH!

So you brought up how Shikako’s existence has done more harm than good in the world and combined with just the whole celestial back and forth of Jashin vs little god that occurred during that arc and also the whole vibe of this asx box event, especially yesterday’s post about mobius stories, I guess what I’m leading into is:

What if Shikako were Jashin?

Or, maybe, not Jashin specifically, but a god of chaos/destruction/suffering. (Although, the thought of little baby Shikako being born with the mark of Jashin on her forehead and it fading as she grows such that she doesn’t know about it, is pretty fun. Because then there’s the cool opportunity of Shikaku RECOGNIZING the symbol when Tsunade brings him in on the situation and it’s kind of this balance in which Shikaku the father and Shikaku the jounin commander are at odds. I mean, of course his father side is going to win–but still. Internal conflict and outside POV for unknowing literal god Shikako is GREAT)

The main problem with Shikako returning to Land of Hot Springs is that I’m pretty certain that everyone with even the slightest inkling of her mission and the aftermath take great pains to ensure that she NEVER HAS TO GO BACK THERE. So either she’s going behind everyone’s back to do so which… hm… canon Shikako would not want to any time soon, but perhaps literal-god-of-chaos-destruction-and-suffering!Shikako feels compelled to do so (either as a Jashin version, to go with that mobius vibe, in which she returns to the beginning and the end or as a non-Jashin version in which the god within her surveys the place of her victory against an older god and also one of her “greatest” acts) or this is, again, a post-canon future fic where people aren’t guarding her against herself as much.

I… would very much like to write this, hbkmzk, but I think I need. Hm… if you’re interested in this ‘verse, please send in a follow up prompt of maybe three or four other outside POVs or maybe a few details you’d like to add to this ‘verse or even a cool title/quote? Or, like, just ask me a few questions about this ‘verse and me coming up with the answers should be able to do the same. It’s like… this fic is almost there but I just need a few more pieces for that final push.

~

Help me out with this ficlet/check out the Ask Box Would You Ever!

A/N: Not quite what you want, but hopefully I’ve captured the vibe. Thanks for playing along with me 🙂

Check out the Ask Box Would You Ever!

Would you ever write a fic set in the “(They Call It) Soulless” ‘verse? (Caretaker!Shikako in a universe where most people start getting soulmarks as babies, blanks are either killed as babies or monstrously consume spiritual energy/souls from everyone around (including themselves), and she discovers her younger brother Shikamaru is a blank the night their parents die. She feeds him (eventually, recycles) her own spiritual energy and hides the truth of his condition from everyone, including him.

Whoa! O_O Okay! I… did not know this ‘verse existed… let me go check that out real quick. I mean, I know about Caretaker!Shikako, but not about this particular iteration of it so… wow.

To the index page I go~~

Okay dona, I had to do some sleuthing because soulmate/soul mark stuff is no longer on the main index page since it’s become it’s own forum thread, but I thiiiink I’ve found what you’re talking about over on this index post.

Are there only the three installments? If not, uh… then this answer is only based on these three installments:

OH MY GOD. OOOOOOOOHHHHH MYYYYYYY GOOOOOOODDD!!!

DONA! WHAT?!?!!? DONA WHAT?!?!?! DONA WHAT DID YOU MAKE ME READ? WHAT ARE THESE FEELINGS YOU MADE ME FEEL? WHY AM I CRYING?!?! GODDAMNIT, DONA!

The feels! You always know how to get me with them feels, dona.

I’m gonna say yes, because it is an amazing ‘verse, and because I’ve said yes, here is your ficlet:

~

The first time Kako agrees to take a mission that will bring her more than a day away from Konoha (away from Kamaru) she is fourteen years old.

She is fourteen when she meets–and fights and kills–her first (real) Soulless.

The gnawing, gaping hunger claws at her even as she fights, even as she burns away at its empty vessel. It is excruciating, her teammates have fallen, screaming, the agony of their souls being torn out of them, breath into the void. She thinks, for the briefest of moments, that she might finally understand why there is a set procedure for babies without soul marks .

But she immediately bats the betrayal away, shreds it before it can take hold. It is because of Kamaru that she can pull through. The thought of Kamaru, figuratively and literally:

She cannot die out here, not when Kamaru still needs her, not when she hasn’t figured out a cure not yet.

But also the way Kamaru needs her, the manipulation of her own spiritual energy to sustain him, recycling it out and through and back in, that she can withstand what the rest of her squad cannot.

Genma-taicho bursts through the treetops, hoping for the best but expecting the worst and gets something in between.

She is fourteen years old when she earns her first service ribbon for surviving (killing) a Soulless.

It is not her last.

Genma keeps a better eye out for Kako Kinokawa after that. Guilt at first, then curiosity, then honest fondness.

Chouza-sensei was friends with her father, which in the convoluted bonds of Konoha teams, makes her something like a cousin.

A better cousin, hopefully, though considering his competition in the Nara clan… it’s not exactly difficult.

The second time goes, arguably, both worse and better.

Worse because she makes the mistake of letting it touch her. She screams.

She cares less about the nails tearing across her face and more about the way her life essence is being peeled away in vicious layers.

She kills it. (She has to)

Nobody (else) dies.

Gai’s specialty is taijutsu.

He is ineffective against Soulless.

But he was as much a student of Chouza-sensei as Genma, and just because he cannot help Kako in this matter does not mean he cannot help her at all.

The third she doesn’t remember so well.

“Severe head trauma,” the medic tells her when she wakes up in Konoha General, that stupidly familiar box with a stupidly familiar service ribbon on the night stand beside her and Kamaru curled up on the visitor’s chair, his hand gripped tight around hers.

“It must have been worse than previously reported,” the medic continues, “It took you much longer to wake up than expected. Your brother visited every day.”

Kako can only remember bits and pieces of the mission, much less the fight with the Soulless.

Spiritual energy contains memories.

The third she remembers mostly as a catalyst: she has to improve her control, it must be perfect–no, beyond perfect–she has to be able to do it unconsciously.

Jiraiya returns to the village a few months ahead of schedule.

It’s hard to follow up on rumors of Konoha’s enemies when all everyone wants to talk about is the shinobi from Konoha who specializes in killing Soulless, so he may as well meet her for himself.

Better now than later.

For one horrific, heart wrenching second, she thinks the Soulless screeching across her senses from the Forest of Death is Kamaru.

It can’t be, she tries to reason with herself, he can last so much longer now, it’s only been a few days.

A few days of exertion. Of high stress situations and jutsu use. He’d eat through the energy she gave him at a much faster rate.

No! It’s not Kamaru. It’s not. She won’t let it be

She enters the Forest of Death, Anko and ANBU on her trail, but until she locks eyes on the Soulless, she’s sickened, doesn’t know if she’ll be able to go through with it.

It’s not Kamaru. She knew it.

But Kamaru is there, too close for her comfort, frozen the way the other kiddies of Konoha are (she forgets, sometimes, that not everyone has built up the same resistance she has.)

It’s wearing the Oto headband, the soulless husks of its former teammates already collapsed around it.

She doesn’t hesitate.

Long ago, Orochimaru was just a little boy, smart and, more importantly, curious about how the world worked.

But then his parents died and instead he turned inward. Surely, there must be a better way to solve the problem of Soulless?

(Does this sound at all familiar?)

She feels bad about dragging TenTen into the fifth.

She hopes TenTen’s first service ribbon is her only service ribbon.

No one else should have to go through what Kako has.

After Tsunade is sworn in, she gets a breakdown of her forces. For genin and chuunin it’s enough to know them as rough figures per department–she’ll familiarize herself with them as needed, she doesn’t have the time to go further than that–but for those ranked higher than that, she needs to know the individuals and their specialties to effectively utilize them. Thankfully, most shinobi only get up to chuunin, and so the list of tokujou and jounin is not too long.

For the most part, the specialties are to be expected: a few medics, a few genjutsu users, some intel, some sensors.

“What is this?” Tsunade asks, finger tapping next to Kinokawa, Kako. She doesn’t recognize the symbol beside it–it might be a new one, it has been a few decades since she’s had to actually do paperwork.

Her Jounin Commander, a Nara of course, scans where she points. A furrow between his eyebrows appears then disappears, quick as a flash.

“Slayer,” Nara says, because why use a full sentence when a single word is much less troublesome? “Five Soulless,” he elaborates.

Tsunade blinks in surprise. With that context in mind, she takes a closer look. She remembers the tales her grandmother used to tell her as a child.

Not a new symbol, no.

An old one.

Konoha deals with the problem of infants-born-Soulless in the traditional, practical manner as it always has.

But there were Soulless before that.

If Kako is successful, there won’t be any after.

~

A/N: I kinda jumped about in places, so it’s not as coherent or cohesive a ficlet as I would like. I had a lot of different ideas tugging at me for this ‘verse and I also wasn’t sure which iteration of Caretaker!Shikako this was (like her teammates, for example, if this Kako would push so hard and graduation early with Itachi or would she hold back since she has to be able to take care of Kamaru?)

Anyway, I hope you liked it 🙂

Check out the Ask Box Would You Ever!

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

Check out the Ask Box Advent Calendar!

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

Best Thing That’s Ever Been Mine. Rockstar or Royalty au

I had to look through my entire Sabaku no Gaara tag because I foolishly didn’t tag either AUs with a specific tag, mostly because I was probably hoping I’d make a title to attach to them and just never bothered…

Anyway…

Definitely Royalty!AU. I’m getting a vaguely Princess Bride vibe? But, like… also Titanic vibe. In the sense that it’s an older Gaara telling the story of his first love to, probably, the NGSS and the plot twist is that hey, what up, there’s no sad ending. Everyone lives, everything worked out, hooray, Gaara’s first love aka Shikako is in fact their adoptive mom so it’s all good.

Like a less bullshit/skeezy version of How I Met Your Mother, basically. But because Gaara is very solemn and surprisingly poetic it’d sound like an epic in the literal sense and not just a creepy guy complaining about his failed relationships.

I guess this would be a good title for the more action-filled version of Royalty!AU where, along with the sweeping fairy tale romance tabloid drama, there is also a sub-plot of the Akatsuki being an anti-monarchy terrorist group and feeling of betrayal when Shikako is believed to be involved in an assassination attempt against Temari.

But that’d basically be cheating on my part, so let’s see…

I guess this could just straight up be a bad ending!version of the Royalty!AU? Not ~dead~ bad ending, but a “it just couldn’t work out” bad ending… but that’s dissatisfying.

Hm… I don’t know, anon…

This actually feels more like a TemarixShikamaru B-sides of Royalty!AU than the A-sides that is Shikaara. And, like, in this AU Temari can’t abdicate her role so it is a “bad ending” for them…

OH! So it’d be more like the ClarissexJoe subplot from Princess Diaries 2–in that they never allowed themselves to be together because of ~duty and propriety~ until after her heir was established.

Which means it would still be a story to the NGSS (one of whom is taking up the throne) decades after the initial meeting and falling in love, but it’s not entirely cliche “this is how it happened” because their story isn’t done yet! 😀

Like. Everyone’s eyes were on the fairy tale romance of the century that was Shikaara, unbeknownst to nearly everyone else there was this drama of firstborns resisting love because of their duties. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

“No Shadows (Without something to cast them)” … I swear I had a pithier title when I thought the concept up (it’s spiraling from the musing on eeveelutions, but you don’t need to keep it to that universe). The idea that … you know, shadows don’t exist unless something else does? I swear I had a, like, three-word title for it right up until I started typing it out.

No worries, anon, I get you. Like, yes, shadows require light, but JUST light alone won’t lead to a shadow. There needs to be an object for the light to be blocked by…

Unfortunately… I’m not sure what else you’re looking for with this prompt? Obviously it’s a Nara focused story, but not necessarily in the Arm in Arm ‘verse?

… this title very much reminds me of “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Or, rather, the DoS Switch variant of it “Family is like a tree and life is like a shadow.”

So along with your title suggestion, that would mean no family, no shadows?

Which would be a story about… how a lone Nara dies, but the pack survives kind of vibe? Or maybe extended further out–the Nara clan alone would die without the Akimichi and Yamanaka as allies? Or EVEN further out in which the Nara are in every department of Konoha’s administration contributing to the village as a whole because the strength of the village means the strength of the clan?

… I think that’s too far out.

Maybe a nice “behind the scenes” Nara members, supporting the main family as best they can (even when they cause irritation headaches that Kofuku-oba would have sworn she stopped having after Shikaku settled down).

But would anything ever be as sweet and heartening as Silver Queen’s own Sunshine Sidestory Chapter 21?

Eh, the clan is big enough, I can do other members and their tales. Tails? Heeeeeey deer herders. Or how the Nara clan changed over time?

Like, I don’t know if this is fanon or my own headcanon, but I claim that the ANY alliance was originally the Akimichi as landowners/nobles and the Nara and Yamanaka as their servants which then became allies then friends. So that journey of clan politics?

I’m floundering, anon, sorry.

Re dating in FttLP: ALSO consider the hilarity of Tsume teasing Shikako about Kiba making a good boyfriend and Shikamaru hearing. (Though I do think that as they age they would be able to shield their thoughts when they want to be separate, otherwise it would be functionally no different to a hive mind situation. Also, not all missions would need a twin at home for updated orders, so if nothing was going on, twins could still get assigned the same missions, surely).

Yeah, they can’t be hive mind otherwise that’d be no fun. I quite like the idea that even though the twins both “hear” the same thing, they react differently. So Tsume telling Shikako that Kiba would make a good boyfriend would cause confusion in ever-oblivious Shikako, whereas Shikamaru would hold a heretofore unseen grudge against Kiba for a while.

I suppose for the short term “find the ferret” mission, both twins being sent would make sense–they can cover a larger area faster and with instantaneous communication–and would be a good first command mission for new chuunin!Shikamaru and Naruto (although, given the bond, would that have pushed Shikako’s almost promotion due to strategizing into an actual promotion?) So that covers the Gelel arc.

But I don’t see why they would both be assigned to the longer-term semi-diplomatic mission to Land of Moon… Or, rather, that they would both be assigned, but only one of them would physically go while the other stays behind to act as Intel handler.

Three Way Street, Tenten & Shikamaru (& Shikako), Flip to the Last Page AU

… aaaAAAAAHHHH! I hadn’t considered this before because like… HOW DOES PRIVACY WORK WITH TWINS IN THIS WORLD?

Privacy is a thing of the past.

Literally.

Shikako only vaguely remembers what it was like not to have someone else in her head, listening in on her every thought and responding with their own.

Shikamaru has never known any different.

And, like, in theory that’s a compelling thought–BUT DATING?! PUBERTY?! HORMONES?! LIVING THEIR OWN SEPARATE LIVES?!

Uuuummm…

To be clear, though, they are definitely separate people. It’s not some kind of hive mind situation going on. It’s a two person wireless network, different distinct servers but connected.

So TenTen dating Shikamaru is definitely TenTen dating Shikamaru. She’s not dating both of them, even if Shikako is basically unwillingly eavesdropping on their dates.

… there has to be some way to shield thoughts to some extent.

Or maybe I’m overestimating the connection. Maybe they only share thoughts deliberately or while dreaming and experiencing extreme emotions/adrenaline?

Like a mental immune system of sorts? So when they’re younger it blends together a lot–to the point where they switch bodies accidentally–but as they grow older they get better at filtering out “unimportant” thoughts.

Which does kind of mirror the twins’ relationship in canon!DoS–that they are in sync when they’re younger and struggle to understand each other as they get older.

I’m getting away from the topic, I think.

Three Way Street would probably be from TenTen’s POV, just to differentiate how she witnesses the twins’ relationship versus from canon!DoS. And, like. It’s probably just small, somewhat bizarre things.

Like, while she and Shikako are working on their sealing lessons, Shikako looks up and is like “Oh, Shikamaru wants to know if you’re free tomorrow night for dinner? They’re coming back from their mission early.” And like… okay, convenient, but weird.

And then while she’s out with Shikamaru they’re in the middle of sparring date and he pauses and goes, “Shikako would like your opinion on X seal.” And, well, she does like collaborating with Shikako. She doesn’t really appreciate the spar being interrupted, but the seal idea is compelling enough that she doesn’t mind so much.

But then, well, does it get unnerving at some point? Like, while she’s with both of them there’s just complete silence and then they both react to something she can’t hear?

Or when they come back from the Land of the Moon it’s just so much bleed through of their strained relationship that whenever she hangs out with either of them it emanates out…

And now I have to get off topic again because, well, would the twins EVER be sent out on the same mission? That seems like the dumbest thing for mission’s desk to do. In which case, would the Gelel and Land of Moon missions even happen the same way?

AAAAAAAAGH, I did not think this through…