On a very rare laid-back morning, when neither of them had urgent state matters to attend to, at least till the dreadful meeting in the afternoon, he walked into the kitchen and found her cooking by the stove. Her position on cooking was much like her way in life: amazingly self-efficient, unexpectedly meticulous; and there was always room for some maddening improvisation. She liked to take her time to prepare the ingredients, took pleasure in calculating the precise amount of necessary seasonings and observing the results as strategically expected; she used all the stoves at the same time and managed to tend to all the woks and pots in a particular order that guaranteed all were cooked and cooked well at her own pace. And then she waited for her time to come, her time to sneak in some extra extemporaneous crazy good stuffs; as rare as it was, her cooking always had this special exotic break-through sort of taste, and as to how she managed it, he had no certain clue, except it must have been her capacity of being so irritatingly volatile. But it was not like he minded anyway.
So he too took his time, made his way to that spot behind her, then bent his frame and rested his chin on her shoulder, arms loosely circled around her waist. The smoke from her cooking reminded him of his younger days in the sun, he felt just as dreamy and relaxed and lazy and so very safe. She was stirring something in the pot on the front left stove; he, meanwhile, allowed himself to dive in the sea of creamy skin and rough cotton. His mind wandered somewhere in the smell of food and the subtle fragrant beneath the skin of her neck, wondering why, after all those years and despite all the roughness embedded in the person that she was, her skin was still so soft and felt so nice. Same went for that vexing smile of hers that he was seeing out of the corner of his eyes, there was a certain dash of gentleness to it, and as he felt his mouth curved up into a lop-sided smile which he would not admit to reserving for her only, he felt warm and he felt alive. He might as well have been hallucinating, as rare of the morning and clouded as his vision and his mind already was. But he thought that this could be it, this could be the life that he and she had refused, because their mind was dead set on compulsive fixing of the lives of other people, so they chose to be consumed with this task and they did not regret it at all, except he would have liked to know what the other life could have been for the sake of gauging all possibilities and probabilities in sight. This could be it then: on a rare laid-back morning when neither of them had urgent state matters to attend to, she was cooking and he was leaning on her shoulder, through the hazy veil of smoke and in the delicious smell of food, he felt light and warm as though he could go back to sleep again and it would be okay, because she was there and she was cooking breakfast and did not mind letting him fall asleep on her shoulder.
And then by the time she was done, she turned her head to meet him with a peck on the lips. The peck was not light, it was quick, sharp and slightly stinging; he took the hint and stepped back, but not before digging his nails into the flesh of her waist. She glared at him and he knew there would be retribution later, but for now he helped her bring the food and lay the table, then they both sat down and she wordlessly started by unceremoniously slurping her miso soup. He did the same. They were silent for the most part, better enjoy the food while they lasted, she said. He shared the sentiment, and noted too, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this was it, this was the glimpse into the life that they had deliberately refused, and so they might be married to their own village instead of to each other like it could have been, this was not necessarily an unhappy ending, and given their time and place and the kind of people that they were, living in an occasional glimpse every now and then was good enough for him and for her. In life, after all, they could only afford to have this much to themselves, and to have each other’s company was all they ever asked for. So on a rare laid-back morning when neither of them had urgent state matters to attend to, they had breakfast together and shared a glimpse into a life that could have been but not necessarily a must-have, just him and her, and it was all that could ever matter.
written just because i believe in a reality in which shikamaru and temari give their life to the nasty politics of the five (dumb) nations and choose not to get married because married life for a woman in japan according to all the readings in my family in china and japan 300-level history class is just harsh and consuming and there is no way temari would give up her place in the sand for such an marriage, not when she could do so much more where she originally is to create the new generation with the batshit spectacle that is shikamaru that she is in love with. heavily influenced by DrerrRedClaw’s take on shikatema relationship in the fanfic Examination and the precious bubble of The West Wing where “government, no matter what its failures are in the past, and in times to come, for that matter, the government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind” (god bless Toby Ziegler).