Summary: For his birthday, Shikamaru is drug along by his friends to the city of The Big Easy, but soon things from his past begin to haunt him; and in the city of Voodoo, nothing is ever what it seems. AU fic.
Genre: Crack-Fic, horror, drama, humor, a little romance maybe.
Age: Currently this chapter is rated 13+ for some language and gore.
Pairing: HidanxShikamaru, and a little bit of ChoujixIno.
Italics indicate thoughts
_____________________ indicate time skips
********************** indicate flash backs
Chapter 1: Waking the Fallen
Wake the ones and rise tonight
Fallen souls we shine so bright
Rise now and ever
Leave your memory
Rise now and ever
Leave your memory
No one can touch us
- Avenged Sevenfold, "Waking the Fallen"
Birthdays are supposed to be jovial celebrations, a day where everything is exciting and full of surprises. I, on the other hand, see my birthday as another year I've managed to survive this lack-luster life of mine. It was just another day. I don't ask much of anyone on my birthdays. When asked what I want, I always say, "It's too troublesome to think about." That way every year is the same, no unpleasant, awkward surprises. So far my twenty previous birthdays have lived up to my simple expectations.
"So why in the hell can't this one be exactly the same?" I said in exasperation.
"Because we're both turning twenty-one this year," came the answer from my blond bombshell terror of a friend, "right, Chouji?"
"Right," my best friend agreed instantly.
I leaned forward and grasped driver's seat from behind and growled in Chouji's ear, "You're on her side?"
Ino spoke up from the passenger's seat, "And this year is our ticket to have some real fun, right Chouji?"
No wonder Ino insisted on shotgun. She could easily use her womanly wiles to influence Chouji; he did have a crush on her after all. Then with me in the back seat it afforded me with little control over the situation.
"Okay, all that aside, why are you dragging me all the way to New Orleans? Can't we just have a party at home or visit the local bars?" 'I just wanted to have some cake and sleep for my birthday for God's sake!'
"Because that have been a bore, our town is boring, and Jesus knows you need to get out more. New Orleans is like party central! And you really need some good drinks and a girl, right Chouji?"
"Right." Chouji was really sounding like a coin-operated boy right now.
"Ughh...girls are too damn troublesome, and you're no different Ino."
Ino flashed her beautiful, but deadly smile back at me, then flipped her silky hair over her shoulder. I rolled my eyes and slumped down in the back seat. Ino may have control over this situation, but she couldn't persuade me with her lovely girl poison like other men.
My name is Shikamaru Nara and liked my bland colorless life. If only this birthday had turned out like all the rest.
It took a few days of near none stop driving from our little town of Coldwater, Kansas to New Orleans, Louisiana. Ino and Chouji did their fair share of traveling with and without their families, but to me, this big city was like a culture shock. I very much preferred our quiet, less populated farming town back home.
Ino reserved us a cottage at the Audubon Cottages on the French Quarter. We were assigned cottage four. One hearing the word cottage might assume a simple small and cozy dwelling. Not these cottages.
Audubon Cottages boasted luxury, comfort, and southern hospitality, and from the looks of things, they were right to boast. The receptionist greeted us like we were her own children. Though the southern hospitality was present, the receptionist's accent didn't sound at all as southern as I expected.
Our cottage reservation even afforded us a personal butler to serve us at our beck and call. The butler was a middle aged white man who despite his slim build was able to carry our heaviest suitcases. Chouji offered to help the man carry our stuff, but the butler insisted that he moved all of our belongings into our cottage. Before leaving, the butler announced that the Audubon Cottages offered complimentary breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day.
"This place is amazing!" Ino exclaimed as we entered cottage number four.
She immediately ran through the cottage with a hyperactivity that I've never seen before. Couldn't blame her though, the place was swank, something else I wasn't accustomed to. Ino must have been saving up since before high school to afford a reservation here.
I looked at Chouji and Chouji looked back at me. My stocky friend shrugged his shoulders and half smiled. He joined Ino in investigating our cottage. I remained in the front doorway, somehow unmovable for a few moments, but finally I stepped fully inside.
"This room is mine!" Ino called from somewhere upstairs.
That left Chouji and I with the only other bedroom to share, but it didn't matter. Both rooms were equally nice, but of course Ino's was more girly and fluffy, so it wasn't any skin off my back. Our room lacked a canopy bed, but it was a queen size bed, and it felt like lying on a cloud with a warm quilt on top. There was only one window in the room, but it was nice and big, with a view overlooking our private courtyard outside. I told Chouji that he could have the elegant antique dresser for his clothes, while I put my belongings in the large closet.
That's what was best about Chouji and mine's friendship; we could always make compromises, even make sacrifices for each other. We've been best friends since we were knee high to a grasshopper, and we'd probably be friends as old men, sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs.
"Look, Shikamaru, we even have a nice bathroom connected to our bedroom."
"Hm?" I murmured as I stepped out of the closet and through the extra door Chouji had opened.
Indeed it was a lovely bathroom, with a large, sleek walk in shower. The sink and commode were equally streamlined and shiny.
"I guess the troublesome road trip wasn't too bad if this is where we're staying here," I said with a subdued smile.
"That's the spirit Shikamaru," Chouji chuckled.
"Though I still don't know about this city...it's too big."
I didn't want to admit it, but this place scared me. I mean in Coldwater, things were simple and everyone knew each other in some way. In New Orleans, everything was more ancient, unfamiliar. The sights, the smells, the sounds, all of it were overloading my senses, and I've only been here for less than an hour. But I was good at keeping my internal mental turmoil locked inside me. I didn't want to worry my friends, and this was supposed to be a fun occasion. I didn't want to ruin it for my friends.
"You'll, get used to it," Chouji reassured, "I think you'll find this trip enriching too. You might even like it here."
"Yeah...you're probably right," I gave a weak smile, hoping it was enough to satisfy my friend that I was all right.
"Guys check out the living room!" Ino cried out from downstairs.
'Didn't we pass that on the way in?' I thought, but followed Chouji downstairs to see what our ecstatic friend had to show us that we didn't already see.
Ino was pointing at an eighty-something inch flat screen TV with a huge smile on her face. I wondered how in the hell I walked through the room without seeing it before. It took up nearly one whole damn wall.
"Sweet," Chouji said, taking out his trusty bag of potato chips.
The large couch sitting in front of the humongous TV looked comfortable. This was the perfect place to watch something while sharing snacks with Chouji until I passed out. Yes, maybe this trip wasn't so bad at all.
"Oh no you don't," Ino scolded me, bringing me out of my reverie of relaxation.
"What? What are you talking about?"
"You and Chouji are not going to just sit and lounge around, and you're definitely not going to sleep all the time. There is a pool here and we're going to go swimming in a few minutes."
"What?" I all but yelled, "You never said anything about us having to swim!"
I was pissed. It was enough that Ino dragged me across a few states, and that she wanted me to engage in bar hopping, now she wanted me to strip down to swim trunks to go swimming? To many that wouldn't seem like much of a big deal, and it wasn't the swimming part that bothered me. Back home, Chouji and our friends would swim in the old Lake Coldwater. Ino was demanding that I swim in a public pool with people I didn't know, in a place I never been to before. This was kind of an awkward situation for a shut in like me.
"Yeah, Ino, we didn't even bring our swim trunks because you didn't say a word about a swimming pool," Chouji agreed with me for once since we started on this trip.
Ino smiled like a Cheshire cat, and I didn't like it. "Don't worry about that. I've taken it upon myself ask your mothers for both of your swim trunks. Now lets go swimming, I want to try out my new bathing suit!" She then ran back upstairs to her room to change.
I slapped my palm to my forehead and sighed, "Damn troublesome woman."
"C'mon Shikamaru," Chouji encouraged, "It won't be that bad."
"Sure it won't" I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm.
The large, exotic looking salt water pool would have been relaxing for me, if every other tourist staying at the Audubon had not decided to also jump in for a swim. There were wealthy retired businessmen taking a dip with their younger trophy wives. Picture perfect families that would live in houses with pretty picket fences and three kids, two boys and a girl. Lastly there were young playboys with supermodels hanging off each arm. Just the people a small town boy like me wants to be around. Thanks Ino.
Speaking of Ino, she was fitting in well with the scene, and why shouldn't she? She had the nice figure, pretty blue eyes, and hair a celebrity would kill for. Her new swimsuit was a little audacious for my tastes, but at least it covered her enough to tease the playboys about what may lay underneath. Of course she noticed them eyeing her like a piece of fresh meat, and instead of turning the other way, she swam over to them and started to mingle.
That left Chouji and I to ourselves, with most of the time I tended to prefer. But as I looked over at my best friend, I grew worried over his troubled expression.
"What's wrong, Chouji?"
"Huh?" Chouji blinked and looked at me as if surprised I could read his feelings. He then looked down, his lower lip sticking out. "It's Ino...why does she always go for guys like that?" he looked up towards the playboys, Ino was fraternizing with.
I sighed. Not because of Chouji, but because of Ino. She was a smart, capable woman, but when it came to choosing men, Ino was the definition of a dumb blond. Sometimes even I wondered why she couldn't see what was right in front of her in Chouji.
"She goes for them because she doesn't know what's really good for her," I replied.
"Or it could be because I'm-"
"Don't even say that, Chouji, you're just fine the way you are. It's your character that's important, not how you look. Have you even told her how you feel about her?"
Chouji sulked again. "No."
"Tell her, maybe sparks could fly between you two if she knew how you really feel about her."
"But...what if she turns me down? What if I can't get any woman to like me?"
I thought for a moment, trying to pluck the right words from my mind, as I was no expert in relationships either. Relationships seemed like a drag to me since I was a kid, and that part of me never changed. But I needed to help my best friend, and perhaps help save my other friend from another failed relationship or hookup.
"Tell her. If she turns you down that's not your loss, it's hers, 'cause you're probably the kindest, most considerate person I know. If she can't see that or is too shallow to look past how you look to see the true beauty in you, then she doesn't deserve you. As for other women, I'm sure there is a sensible one in this world who will love you for you, who wouldn't change you for anything."
"Y-You really think so, Shikamaru?" Chouji asked in almost a whisper.
I smiled fully for the first time since the trip started, hoping to reassure him. "I know so."
Chouji's worried pout slowly turned into a nervous smile. At least he was showing a little more confidence after my speech. Sometimes an ounce of courage could bloom into unmovable boldness.
"Tell her while we're on this vacation. You'll be having a lot of time with her so that would be the perfect time to confess," I advised.
"I...ok," my best friend nodded slowly.
I smiled again for extra reassurance before turning to check in on Ino. As much of a pain she was, she was still my friend too, and I wanted to keep an eye on her as well.
Ino was sweet talking one of those playboys from the looks of it, and he was intimately pressing her body against his with one arm. My hand at my side tightened into a fist under the water. I didn't like how this guy was all over her while she seemed unaffected, and perhaps it wasn't my business who Ino chased, but she was hurting herself and Chouji. It was time for some strategy, and I knew just the solution to the problem.
"Hey, Ino!" I called out since she was almost on the other side of the pool.
My blond friend's head perked upon hearing my voice call her by name and she looked over. I quickly and efficiently feigned a look of concern over my face bordering on horror.
"What is it?" she called back. She looked a little annoyed, but there was a hint of worry there. Good.
"You're hair!" I cried, "The chlorine in the water is turning your hair green!"
There was a high-pitched shriek and a flurry of splashing, signaling Ino's departure back to our cottage. I winked at Chouji and got out of the pool as well.
"I'll handle our little princess, you just worry about telling her how you feel."
Chouji smiled ear to ear. "Thanks Shikamaru!"
"How could you Shikamaru!" Ino yelled at me, "I was just starting to get to know Evan!"
We were both back in our cottage and I had just admitted that I lied to her about her hair. Ino was furious.
She needed to know this was for her own good though. "First of all, that was a little pay back for dragging me somewhere I don't know without giving me at least a week's notice." I all but hissed, "Besides, to that douche bag, you were just the flavor of the day...do you really think something would have came of you hooking up with Mr. Rich boy? He could give you the clap or knock you up for all you know. Then what?"
Ino continued to scowl at me. "I'm a big girl you know, and this isn't my first rodeo with men. I know how to take care of myself. And how do you know what type of man he was? You've never even been in a relationship whatsoever."
I pierced her gaze with mine and held it firm.
"I know because I've seen you with those types of guys before, and where did they get you? Nowhere," I saw Ino look down bitterly when I threw the truth in her face, so I went on, "You know, it might benefit you to start looking outside the box when it comes to men? I'm tired of seeing you hook up with sex-crazed bone heads only for you to end up hurt when everything falls apart."
Ino sniffed and quickly wiped at the corner of her eye, trying to hide that she was starting to feel a little emotional. I shifted and enveloped her in a hug.
"Then what should I do...to look outside the box?" she sniffled.
First I smoothed her hair to help calm her down, then I gave her my answer, "Stop going for the same types. Date men that might not look like prince charming, but have enough respect for you to treat you right. And don't jump in bed with them until you've dated them for a month. And don't go for bad boys either," I ended strictly.
"But what if even after trying all that, it still doesn't work?"
"I don't think you should worry much about that," I assured her, "I believe Mr. Right is right under your nose so to speak. So keep you eyes and your mind open to the possibilities, ok?"
"O-Ok," she agreed and pulled me into another embrace.
After consoling Ino, the three of us got all dried off and had some New Orleans cuisine served to us by our butler, I was allowed to go up to my room and take a nap. I sure as hell deserved it after the long trip and the long day of helping both of my friends. Leaving Ino and Chouji alone together could help move things along with the two of them.
As I said before, the bed was like a fluffy cloud, so falling dead asleep wasn't too hard for me
Just like everyone else, I dream, I just probably never have as many nightmares as most other people my age. I haven't had a nightmare since I was a little kid. My early childhood, however, held more than enough nightmares to make up for it. Dad told me that even as an toddler, I'd have spastic nightmares where I'd cry nearly all night, no matter what my parents tried in soothing me.
As I grew old enough to talk and my cognitive abilities improved, I recanted my dreams to my parents. Many of my nightmares were filled with people, but not just any normal people. None of the people from my dream involved anyone I knew, and all of them either looked sickly or fatally injured. They were always trying to tell me something, but I could never understand them, as if their lips were moving, but no sound was coming out.
My parents began to get concerned, especially when I started falling asleep in the middle of my first grade lessons due to lack of sleep at night. First they took me to my pediatrician for a thorough check up. My physical health checked out, except for my sleep deprivation of course. So my parents we're referred to a psychotherapist who tested my mental health. I also checked out there after a few sessions the psychotherapist said that I had no outwardly noticeable issues of the mind. However, she suggested that my brain should be scanned for any kind of underlying conditions. My next appointment was for a CT scan. The experience of being placed inside that capsule like machine, ordered to keep completely still and close my eyes while the machine vibrated; it was almost as frightening as my nightmares.
Again it was a dead end, and all the visits to the different physicians were costing a lot from my parents.
The next morning, without much warning, my parents scooped me up after I got dressed and ate breakfast, and put me in the family car. It was a Saturday morning, so at first I thought we were going to the park. Then I saw us pass the Coldwater sign.
"Where are we going, daddy" I remember asking.
"Somewhere that will help you get better, make your bad dreams go away." He said without glancing back, "It'll be a long drive, so sleep as long as you want, son."
And I did sleep for a long time.
When I awoke again, the sky was black with night. I was pressed against my father's chest, my chin resting over his shoulder. Mom was beside dad as they both walked along a strange path. I looked around and noticed that we were in a strange neighborhood, and that my parents were taking me towards a lodge-like building.
Inside the lodge were several elderly tanned-skinned men I had never seen before. The men all sat cross-legged in a row against the far lodge wall. I remember being scared of them. They were looking back at me as if they were studying me, looking inside of me. Their eyes were all an intensely dark color and their faces stoic. The lights inside the lodge were subdued which casted harsh shadows everywhere, and smoldering bundles held on posts blanketed the room with smoke. The smell of the smoke was earthy, not harsh like when food or wood was burning.
Dad handed me over to mom, and he bowed his head towards the elders. He then began to tell them about my nightmares of strange people, how I couldn't sleep hardly at all at night. He told them he and mom had tried everything else, and this was their last resort to help me. Mom sat quietly off to the side, me in her lap. I was still nervous about this new place and people, so I stayed silent as well, hiding my face against mom's shirt.
Then a deep, blunt voice said, "Let us see the boy, Shukaku."
My nervousness instantly jumped and I clung to mom as best I could, but my strong father was able to pry me away from her. Although I clung to dad as well, I still ended up sitting directly in front of the most authoritative of the men. I shivered, but something in the man's eyes kept my bottom rooted to the ground.
The man said nothing, only leaned in closer and looked me deep in the eyes. I felt something suddenly surge inside my body, like an invisible hand had struck me through the chest and was reaching around, searching. When I first looked down at my chest I saw nothing, but the more the force probed me, I looked down again and saw a pale, feminine hand pressing against my chest. I looked again, seeing a deathly looking young woman.
My lips quivered from the chill she gave me, as her hand seemed to push deeper into my chest into my soul. Flashes of images then appeared before my eyes, a wealthy family, a scheming man, a marriage, then blood and screams. I saw the woman being killed by the man, and in hoping to inherit the wealth of her family, he slaughtered them all.
"A-Anna Brown," I whispered.
The woman then smiled kindly despite her grotesque appearance, and pulled away from me. She then faded away, again revealing the older man from before. His eyes were wide in surprise as he continued to stare at me.
It was then that I fell backwards and passed out.
When I next awoke, I was in my own bed at home, and it was morning. I felt more rested than I had ever experienced since my nightmares began plaguing me. Sitting up, my mind wandered to what had transpired inside the lodge. It seemed so surreal that I wondered if I had dreamt that all up.
As I shifted to get out of bed to use the restroom, something strapped around my shoulder shifted with me. I looked down at myself to see a leather pouch resting at my side, attached to a then leather strap. I lifted the pouch and examined it. Beads and leather throngs hung from the bottom of the pouch and a crudely stitched deer adorned the front of the pouch. Of course I was curious about what the pouch contained, but as I tried to open it, I found that it was tightly sewn shut.
My father caught me trying to find a way into the pouch and promptly stopped me.
"Don't mess with it Shikamaru, just leave it be as you wear it."
"What is it dad?" I asked, dropping the pouch so it hung back at my side.
Dad knelt in front of me so I didn't have to strain my neck looking up at his tall form. He then smiled and patted my head.
"It's a talisman, like a good luck charm, but this one keeps away your nightmares so you can sleep at night."
"I didn't have a nightmare last night?"
"No," he said, "And it's been 3 days since you passed out and were given the talisman. You've slept all that time and you had not one single nightmare. Now be a good boy and don't mess with the pouch, or you will have the nightmares again. And be sure to where it with you wherever you go."
Later I learned that my grandfather was a native of the Osage Reservation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. He taught my father everything of their ancestors. But dad didn't stay on the reservation, he wanted to branch out and explore.
Finally he settled in Coldwater and met my mother. He built a deer farm to harvest their antlers for medicinal purposes and made just enough money to get by in selling them to all-natural shops.
Dad never told me of his Native American roots until I was a teenager, but by then I already gathered that the lodge I was taken to that one fateful night was that of an ancient, oppressed bloodline of people. A bloodline that flowed through my veins, although it was diluted quite a bit. Dad told me that he didn't want to press his heritage upon me, that only if I chose to learn it, would he teach it to me.
While I felt a minute connection between these distant ancestors and relatives of mine, I didn't feel the need in me to delve into this unfamiliar culture when I was raised as a standard American. My mind found familiarity in things that were logical, not supernatural.
Looking back on my talisman, I saw it more a teddy bear or a security blanket parents give their kids so they feel safe at night. It was just the placebo affect.
Still, wearing that pouch became a habit for me, so I never gave it up. I continued to carry it with me. I was especially sure I had it on my person before I went to bed.
Perhaps I held a little bit of superstition, but anyone would should they consider the horrible nightmares I used to endure.
A tugging on the bed sheets alerted me to the conscious world, but I wasn't ready to get out of bed yet. So I grabbed the covers and tugged them nearly up to my head with no resistance.
Sleep was just starting to overcome me again when slowly, the covers descended down my body. This time, I forcefully pulled on the covers, and this time I was met with resistance.
"Damnit Ino," I moaned, not bothering to open my eyes.
The only answer I received was a harsh tug that ripped the blankets completely off me. Now I was wide-awake and pissed.
"Goddammit woman!" I roared, but then I realized I was yelling at nothing but air.
That's when I felt it. An indescribable chill creeping up my spin as if someone was behind me. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing straight on end and I could feel a strange energy electrify the air.
I knew something was behind me, but I was terrified and didn't want to face it. Suddenly I felt like I was 5 years old and 3 feet tall again.
'No, I'm not a little kid anymore! Whatever this thing is, I can deal with it!'
Yeah easier said than done.
I noticed my breath was coming out in pants, so I decided I would slow down my breathing before I looked. Inhale through the nose; exhale through the mouth.
Satisfied that I had calmed down enough, I slowly turned my head to look over my shoulder. I didn't even get a look before two ice-cold hands grabbed me by the shoulders and physically whipped me around.
I was forced to stare up in shock into two dead blue-white eyes. It was a man, wearing a 19th century hairstyle and beard, and what appeared to be a confederate uniform. The man would have looked handsome, but his skin was pale and a quarter of his head seemed to have been blasted away.
The fear returned to me tenfold. Out of instinct, I reached for my leather pouch, but couldn't find its comforting presence.
'Oh God....no, please no.'
The man said nothing, but removed one hand from my shoulder. He placed it over my chest and I felt a feeling I've only experienced once before; the time at the lodge, with the murdered Indian girl.
Rifle fire flashed before my mind's eye. Men were lined up in vast untamed fields, firing at each other. Men fell in droves, only for another line of men to take their place to hold off the enemies, becoming the new targets. I saw the man who was standing before me; he was reloading his rifle when a Union bullet struck him in the head. He fell dead nearly instantly, his dying blue eyes still open and staring up at the dreary sky.
An overwhelming pain welled up inside of me, as if it were me that had taken the bullet. The pain worked its way up my throat and I screamed.