Athrun and Cagalli are both the Hero Types. I don't mean to say that they are better people than Kira and Lacus--in fact Kira and Lacus are probably more stable and less flawed than them--but rather that they feel more compelled to be out there doing things and helping people. Athrun is the one who joins ZAFT of his own will after Bloody Valentine; Cagalli is the one who despite being a princess runs away to help a resistance movement. They need to be out there in the thick of things, changing the world for the better.
Unfortunately, this is also a recipe for loneliness on the romantic front, because most sane people can't put up with that kind of drive, or if they can, don't really match it very well. But when Athrun and Cagalli meet, they connect almost instantly. They start out trying to kill each other, yet by the end of their meeting they're caring for each other instead. (Ugh, I need to rewatch Phase 24~) They recognize that they're kindred spirits, as corny as that sounds.
Because of this recognition, because of this instant rapport, they're able to show each other sides of themselves that they normally keep hidden. They blush at each other. They hug and they kiss. Cagalli, normally so grimly determined to be a badass tomboy and leave all that frilly princess crap behind so that she can Prove To The World how hardcore she is, softens enough to enjoy being Athrun's princess sometimes--and there's nothing wrong with that. Athrun, normally so set on being what others expect of him, so determined to overthink everything he does to make sure he's doing it right, relaxes and just lets himself be with Cagalli.
Their nature, their need to be out there fixing the world, means that they won't ever have the sweetly idyllic lifestyle that Kira and Lacus have. There'll be conflict and struggles, and maybe sometimes they'll separate. But, like the Lovers article says (ugh, at least I think that's what says this), in a sense it's enough for them both to know that the other is out there doing what they can to help people--that they both have the same goal and need in the end. And that's why they'll always come back to each other, no matter how long it takes.
As for Athrun/Meyrin, the funny thing is that by the end of SEED, I didn't even love Athrun/Cagalli all that much. I adored episodes 24 and 31 (best UST evar), but their later development felt too fluffy to me. And yet--to the Athrun/Meyrin fandom, the problem with Athrun/Cagalli was that it wasn't fluffy enough. They want to shoo away what made Athrun/Cagalli interesting (look at how they claim one of the reasons Athrun/Meyrin is better is "they never tried to kill each other") and replace it with another relationship composed of everything that was wrong with Athrun/Cagalli.
Because Athrun shouldn't have to work at a relationship. He shouldn't have to accept that the woman he loves, and who loves him, has other priorities in her life. He shouldn't have to deal with all the problems of a mature relationship with someone who has many beliefs and ideals in common with him.
Why should he do all that, when sweet, perfect, submissive, feminine Meyrin is sitting right there waiting for him to come to her without any effort on his part?
And I guess that's what bothers me about Athrun/Meyrin--it seems that the consensus is that Meyrin is better for Athrun because she's easier. Fluffier. Sweeter. Therefore he'll love her more.
"Because they never tried to kill each other." Translation: because Kira and Lacus's sweet, tension-free relationship isn't just what works for them, it's what should be forced to work for everybody. Whether it suits them or not.
I love the relationships in SEED--not just the romantic ones but all of them. The key thing about them is the way they make the characters grow. Lacus sheds her bubbly airhead mentality when she sees how the war affects Kira. Under Murrue's influence, Mwu goes from a well-intentioned but rather vain and shallow soldier with a smug catchphrase to a man who makes that smug catchphrase actually mean something when he willingly dies to save the woman he loves and her crew. And so on.
But somehow with Dearka and Miriallia this mentality is in its rawest form. There is no fluffy romance masking the way people make each other change and grow. There's just a boy on one side of the war and a girl on the other, and they see each other, and they see more than just enemies--and to be honest they're kind of attracted to each other.
While I don't put much stock in most of GSD (ugh, Neo. Ugh, breaking up Athrun and Cagalli because Morosawa wants Athrun for herself. Ugh, Neo some more) because of the wank that went on behind the scenes, I actually find Miriallia's comment about dumping Dearka rather encouraging. It means that we weren't imagining there being a certain degree of romantic feeling between the two of them when we watched them in SEED. There was something there, it was canon, and so long as the show admits that, there's hope for the future. And for fanfiction, of course.
...hell, that's probably the only reason I'll watch Destiny at all. So I can write fanfiction.
At first, I was baffled by the popularity of this pairing. Would they ever even meet? Besides, Miriallia was already involved with some lovable but forgettable other guy. (I should have seen he was doomed from the start.) But then I got to the later episodes, and I watched the two of them form a strange but intense bond--and that totally got me. I love it when pairings that seem like crack turn canon. Here were two people on opposite sides of a war, and they found themselves undeniably attracted to each other--and Dearka found something to protect in Miriallia. It was raw and touching and funny without being pointlessly fluffy, and I adored it.
Oh, come on. Sure, it has no basis whatsoever in canon, but they are the biggest bitches in the entire series. It would be awesome.
As for Murrue/Andy, I do in fact like it. This is mainly because I hate the idea of Mwu not being dead at the end of SEED, even if I hear that the Neo/Murrue scenes in Destiny were kind of cute. Anyway, Murrue is pretty awesome, and Andy is a cool guy, and the two of them have a sense of reason that few other people in the whole war do. What really does it for me is the sense that their mutual experiences in the war would bind them together in a way. It wouldn't necessarily always be healthy, and it wouldn't be easy (after all, they've both lost someone dear to them), but in the end they'd be able to be there for each other in a way that nobody else could be.
It only really works in a Destiny-less AU, though. But that's fine, becuase ugh Destiny.
Some mentor/mentored pairings are acceptable if done right. I'm quite fond of Kakashi/Sasuke, for instance. This one, though, is Just Plain Wrong. No. Mwu is the straightest major character in the whole series, and even if he wasn't, Kira is the last person he'd be involved with that way. AUGH NO.
As for the pairing, well. The main reason it wasn't in my five-pairings-I-love list was that I'm more into the fandoms of pairings that leave a lot open to the imagination, and Mwu/Murrue did not. It had everything that needed to be said right there in the show, and it was perfect. The way the two of them depended on each other, the way they came together in their moments of need, was incredibly touching, and all of it was so natural and right.
Plus, from my biased perspective as a huge Mwu fan? Murrue does so much to change him. Sure, a great deal of his change also comes from seeing the way Kira and his friends are loyal to each other, but the way I see it, Murrue still accounts for the majority of it. He goes from boastful, attention-whoring ace more concerned with showing off his awesomeness than anything else to a man willing to give up the military he believed in to be with the woman he loves and the people he fought side by side with to a man willing to give up his life to save the woman he loves and the people he fought side by side with. And so much of it is because Murrue touches him in a way nobody else has been able to do. ♥
What really gets me about this pairing is how many people love it because they're so enamored of Kit. They want strong women in comics so badly that when one does show up, they never take a step back and go 'hey, she's taken over a series that's supposed to be about another character. Hey, she can do everything. Hey, she's a goddamn Mary Sue.'
That said: all John's relationships are essentially the same. He finds a girl, he starts falling for her, he knows it won't end well, but he lets himself fall anyway, because if he blocked love out of his life for good, he might as well give up now. His lovers are his pain and his redemption.
Kit is different only because Ennis insists on making her different. He can't possibly find a way to distinguish the relationship other than 'OMG SHE IS THE MOST SPESHUL WOMAN EVAR.' So he just talks about how much John loves her, utterly destroys John when she leaves him, and in general hypes the whole thing up so that no later author of Hellblazer can possibly write a relationship outside of its looming shadow. I wouldn't mind this so much if the relationship were inherently particularly interesting, or if Kit herself had any flaws beyond 'is stubborn and has a beautiful Irish temper.' But...Kit is Garth Ennis's ideal woman. John loves her because She Is The Most Perfectest Woman Evar and no one else can ever compare, plus she can drink him under the table, plus she's a great artist, plus she can fight great, plus she's beautiful. But then, my feelings about Ennis's Hellblazer run in general are deeply mixed.
I did, however, love their brief reunion in Rake at the Gates of Hell. Mmm, that was such a well-written story arc.
Well, thank God you said not necessarily in the romantic sense, because akfjdslk NO EYEBROW SEX EVER. Platonically, though, they are the most endearing non-blood-related father-son duo ever. So cracked and so perfect and so adorably insane.
Well. That one has potential, although sadly, neither of them gets enough attention in the manga. There's fun in the reversal of expectations, though--Ino is all OMG I am teh_popular_pretty_girl (although she's rather nicer than most of that type, seeing as she uses her power with the other girls to help those less popular and confident than she is) and 'I must have the handsome Sasuke-kun!' She figures she ought to wind up with the beautiful popular ice prince
Ino/Chouji! *_* Okay, for one thing, it's just plain adorable. Chouji is the cutest ever (except for Hinata and Lee, of course, who are Even Cuter), and it'd be great to see him wind up with the prettiest girl around.
Of course, it only works if Ino loves Chouji, too. As a matter of fact, I tend to like the idea of Ino developing a crush on him first. It'd really force her to reexamine her vanity and her priorities about love and friendship.
In the end, I like the idea of the pretty, popular girl who was once all about appearances falling for the fat kid who was once a laughingstock but has now learned to love who he is. It's a neat irony, and one that ends well for both parties involved, because Chouji will always be there for Ino, and Ino will always fiercely defend her loved ones.
Also, post-timeskip Chouji and Ino? Hot.
InoSaku was never an absolute favorite pairing of mine; for the most part I'm content to keep their relationship platonic. It simply never clicked for me the way TemaShika or SasuSaku or even InoChou did. On the other hand, I definitely enjoy reading the pairing (especially lynnxlady's take on them), and I can certainly see it having a sexual element. It's one of the more tolerable/interesting Sakura pairings, to me.
Jiraiya/Tsunade is a quiet sort of love. It's based more on the appropriateness of the two characters together than their actual chemistry (if that makes any sense), so I'm not as excited about it as I am about some, but I love it anyway. The sense is that these two have been through so much, and they're both still there, and it could still work.
It's prettiest if it lies there as an unspoken truth, because it really asks a lot of the characters: that Tsunade somehow allow herself to love again, that Jiraiya allow himself to see love as more than sex. They could do it, though. I suspect he's always been a little in love with her, somewhere at the back of his mind, even as he seeks out the nearest pair of (less impressive) breasts.
I still love Jiraiya. I still think he and Tsunade are each other's best chance for a lasting romance as things stand. My love for the pairing has just kind of fallen by the wayside. I don't even know why.
The sheer pointlessness of this pairing bothers me. The only reason it's so popular is because Kakashi and Iruka were the first attractive male adults introduced for some time--and people wanted them to start having cute, fluffy sex. Never mind that fluff ruins the whole point of Kakashi's character. But I've come to admit that there's nothing really inherently squicky about the pairing--they're both adults and they're not in a preexisting platonic relationship--and a good author can make it interesting.
Pairings involving Naruto and an adult always squick me, and KakaNaru is the worst of the popular ones (although IruNaru is pretty bad too). Kakashi is the closest thing Naruto has to a firm father figure, and Naruto is the least romantic character on Team 7. Sexualizing his relationship with his teacher squicks me in the worst ways.
Kakashi/Naruto vs. Iruka/Naruto [03/16/06]
My gut reaction is that Kakashi/Naruto is worse, because I actually give a damn about Kakashi, whereas eh...I don't really care about Iruka. But whereas Naruto didn't even know Kakashi prior to being put on Team 7, he'd actually developed a bond with Iruka and started to see him as a father figure. So IruNaru has extra father/son squick to it.
But that's just from the viewpoint of Naruto's mental health. From the side of the adults...actually, no, while I suppose there could be some ways to make KakaNaru work, there really is no way to make IruNaru work without raping their existing relationship. No matter how far into the future you get with those two, there'll always be that parental vibe from Iruka.
Both pairings still suck ass, though.
I just don't see it. Before, I was particularly repulsed by it--there's just no reason for Kakashi to wind up in a creepy pedophilic relationship with Sakura, thanks. But these days I can handle it if it's done right, although it rarely is. It generally needs to have Sakura being older and Naruto and Sasuke both being dead, though.
It's funny--the reason I'm drawn to KakaSasu is because they don't interact like normal teachers and students. Kakashi sees too much of himself in Sasuke, and Sasuke refuses to let anyone else take on a fatherly role in his life after his family's death. What draws me to the pairing is the sense of equality they have--and the fact that it's a lie. Kakashi is much stabler and better-grounded than Sasuke (which is saying something, since Kakashi is fucked the hell up), much more experienced, smarter, and more powerful. He's the teacher and always will be on some level, even though Sasuke denies it. But they do deny this imbalance, both of them--Sasuke because he doesn't want to let another parent figure into his life, Kakashi because treating Sasuke as an equal is the best way he has of reaching out to him. And that's what makes it so fascinating to me.
Well, besides the fact that they look good together...I do have a silly reason for liking this pairing. I like the idea of pairings rising out of the Sand Sibling Rescue Effort--TemaShika OTP, Gaara+Lee Platonic OTP, and KankuKiba Crack OTP.
Lee has feelings for Sakura, but they're not the kind that lead to the happy fluffy perfect relationship that LeeSaku fans are convinced the two are destined for. She's his goddess, his idol, his goal--and that's the way he wants it. Much of the reason he adores her so is that she won't ever return his feelings romantically. They are, however, good friends--the respect that's grown between the two of them is heartwarming. Trying to make it into romance ruins it, especially when no effort is made to develop Lee's feelings--which is the case in every single LeeSaku fic I've read. It is always about how perfect and true Lee's love is, and how Sakura grows to appreciate and return it. There are no words for how I hate this rape of both their characters.
NaruHina is pure concentrated cute. Hinata adores Naruto for being everything she's afraid to be: loud, outrageous, confident, strong in the face of adversity. He provides both crush and role model for her.
That's pretty in keeping with the running theme of Naruto improving people just by being himself, of course. But Hinata could help Naruto, too. He's a great guy, but he doesn't really understand people, and he hasn't really had the chance to be loved much. Hinata is quieter, more sensitive, and just in general Good For Naruto.
Eventually, they will play off each other so much, each helping the other become better and better, that they will blow up the world in a great flaming ball of cute.
I don't have particularly strong feelings about this one, not the way I do about SasuSaku or YoruSoi. It just hasn't been developed much in canon. So far it's just "Hinata crushes on Naruto, Naruto inspires Hinata, Hinata does better, Naruto is friendly to Hinata." Still, there are worse bases to build a relationship on. I've seen it said that there are only three people who Naruto didn't need to prove himself to in order to be taken seriously: Haku, Lee, and Hinata. Haku is dead and Lee
The fandom is my real problem with this one, I admit it. But putting that aside, my issues with the pairing itself are twofold:
1) They just seem so adorable and platonic these days. Naruto, unlike Sakura, does not seem to put an enormous amount of stock in his love interests. He loves Sakura, yes, but indications that he loves her as more than a hot sister-figure have lately been few and far between. He's not about romance; he's about friendship and family and protecting his loved ones. Forcing romance back into the relationship he has now with Sakura would spoil it.
2) At this point in the series, I find the idea that Sakura would wake up one morning and go, "Oh, I don't love Sasuke after all," repugnant. So much of her character relies on her feelings for Sasuke. Having her turn around and decide she'd be better off with Naruto makes Team 7 feel so very lopsided.
Pretty much everything else I could say involves the fandom, so I'll STFU now.
Not one of my absolute favorite pairings, but I'm definitely interested. Their relationship as it is in canon is one of my favorite parts of the series--actually on par with Sasuke and Sakura's canon relationship in terms of how interested I am. It's also messy and undefined enough that it's fairly easy to introduce sex. Mostly, though, I just love the way they are in canon, the intensity of the emotions involved, the confusion of their rivalry and their love for each other, and how lonely and messed up both boys are.
Turning Team 7 into a threesome neatly removes the second point of my objection to NaruSaku, which is actually the biggest one for me. While I don't normally 'ship threesomes, I will readily admit that Team 7 needs to be together, no matter what happens. It's just The Way Things Should Be.
My initial reaction to this pairing was OMG THEY'RE LIKE FAMILY EW. And I remain firm in my belief that they are like family to each other--their relationship is more like that of estranged siblings than that of cousins. Also, canon? Because he said she was cute when they were both little kids? Don't make me laugh. But it is technically feasible--while there is no explicit canon evidence that the Hyuuga inbreed, it is a reasonable conclusion to draw for the sake of fics, and Neji and Hinata's relationship is potentially quite complex and interesting even if it's not canonically romantic.
My God, it's full of angst!
...right. I like SasuSaku even though I know it's fucked up, because I like the relationship dynamic where one lover represents the humanity and redemption of the other, and that's how a Sasuke/Sakura relationship would fall into place. He certainly wouldn't turn around and start <3ing at her any time before he dealt with the Itachi Issue, one way or another. He's just far too driven (similar to Ed, his goal of restoring Al, and Winry). Afterwards, though, afterwards might be interesting. Because then his Itachibrain, the thing in him that displaces everything else in the world to pursue power, would be broken, and he'd have only his Sasukebrain to fall back on--and that's in pieces. He'd have to relearn human relationships--platonic and romantic alike--essentially from the bottom up, and Sakura is the only one who loves him enough to be there for him through all of that. (Not that Naruto and Kakashi don't love him too, but uh, not in that way, kthx.)
Would it work out, in the end? I doubt it. Sasuke's just too damaged. But they could have something, for a little while. And it would be all the more precious for how hard they'd have to work to keep it.
This pairing...took some time to grow on me. At first it seemed doomed to me. Sure, the angst was nice, but Sakura would probably wind up with Lee or something. But then I started getting into Sasuke, and I noticed how Sakura touched him. Then I started getting into Sakura, and I noticed how much of her character revolved around her love for Sasuke, and how much he'd made her grow, and how intense her feelings for him were. I didn't want to like this pairing--it seemed cliched and stupid in theory. But in practice, Kishimoto makes it work so beautifully that I can't help but love it and, more importantly, see how vital it is to the characters involved.
Team 7 and variations [03/16/06]
Team 7, these days, is why I read Naruto. I love the three of them and how they've made each other grow. Ultimately I prefer them as I see them in canon:
Naru+Sasu (mostly platonic) rivalry-friendship with a lot of fanservicey NaruSasu (not so platonic) hints
Naru+Saku (platonic) having evolved into a strong, reliable friendship from Naru->Saku (not so platonic)
SasuSaku (romantic) having evolved into an almost unfathomably deep connection from what was once shallow Saku->Sasu
When I'm reading the manga, that's what I expect to see (and in fact what I do see), and when I'm writing something set in an 'ideal ending' continuity, that's what I write.
But that's the canon, and Team 7 is just so intense and complex that they beg for unusual treatment in fanfiction. More than any single pairing among them I love the interaction of the team as a whole. I'd much rather see a fic where all of them were fucking than one where the three of them had nothing but neat, orderly platonic feelings for each other. Ugh, purely platonic Team 7. No thanks.
As for the individual pairings:
NaruSasu: I like this one. Sure, the fandom (especially the SasuNaru side) gets wanky at times, and the Sakura-bashing is annoying, and the insisting that the series will end with NaruSasu being a Canon Couple, but the pairing itself is hard to deny. It is the single most intense and driving relationship in the whole series. Kishimoto loves writing about these two, and it really shows. That said, fluff for these two is virtually impossible to make work except as part of the threesome. Give me violent sex instead any day.
NaruSaku: This one bothers me. Part of it is the fandom--much more so than the NaruSasu fandom, the NaruSaku fandom is dead set on calling their pairing canon and almost always bashing Sasuke (and sometimes poor Hinata) along the way. They leap on the stupidest evidence (omg, a guy who knew Sakura for a week tried to comfort her, but Naruto cut him off! OBVIOUSLY HE WAS GOING TO TELL HER THAT SHE IS IN LOVE WITH NARUTO! HE KNOWS HER BETTER THAN SHE KNOWS HERSELF!) and dismiss everything about Sakura's feelings for Sasuke. The pairing itself doesn't really bother me--as a part of the threesome it's fine, and as a result of Sasuke dying or going permanently evil (not that he would), it's almost inevitable, although then it's angsty. But I like them just fine as they are: friends who trust and rely on each other deeply. Naruto has what he wants from Sakura--her friendship. The relationship doesn't need to progress into romance.
SasuSaku: This is my favorite of the three separate pairings, but that's less because OMG SQUEE TEEHEE KAWAII ROMANCE and more because it just seems like it's become such a part of their characters. Honestly, at first I wasn't really interested. "Oh," I thought, "nice angst, I could do some dramatic tragic fic on that, I guess." Then I got into Sasuke as a character and became more interested in his relationship with Sakura. Then, after the timeskip, I finally really saw how complex Sakura's character was and how much she'd grown and changed, and then I started to look at how important her feelings for Sasuke were to her development, and I saw how well Kishimoto had built them. It really shouldn't be such a well-written pairing; it's a terrible concept. But there's something incredibly touching about the understated way she brings out the humanity in him, how the way he acts around her is closer to gentleness than the way he acts around anyone else. While Naruto and Sasuke have an amazing connection in violence and bitter need for each other, Sasuke and Sakura have a bond that's almost eerie in its silent understanding.
But there's also the point of how each pairing figures into Team 7 as a whole. I've thought about this a lot.
With NaruSasu, the intensity of the connection between the two of them grows almost unbearable (not necessarily in a bad way where fic is concerned, mind) when romance is introduced into the equation--and Sakura is often pushed aside and forgotten on the edges of that bright light. It's a problem she has in canon, too--the NaruSasu bond and rivalry overwhelms the boys sometimes. Think back to the rooftop fight before the bucket arc. It's not really healthy for the boys, either--they need to remember Sakura. So while NaruSasu works just fine for me as a temporary affair, for the health of the team as a whole it must eventually either break up or include Sakura and become a full-blown threesome.
NaruSaku as romance does not work within the confines of Team 7, period, unless it is part of a threesome. If it isn't part of a threesome, then that means that Sakura has broken off her romantic bond with Sasuke. This leaves her with no relationship with Sasuke at all except a vague, inconclusive "oh she cares for him as a teammate." But that's the problem--her love for him as a teammate is defined by her love for him as a future lover, just as her love for Naruto as a teammate is defined by her love for him as a friend, and Naruto and Sasuke's love for each other as teammates (and friends) is defined by their need for each other as rivals. If Sakura bounces off to have sex with Naruto and suddenly becomes platonic in her feelings for Sasuke, there's a broken link in the team, and I hate seeing that. Sasuke, after all that Naruto and Sakura have meant to him, after all they've done for him...is left without the connection he'd formed with one of his teammates.
SasuSaku, on the other hand, preserves the existing bonds: Naruto and Sasuke as rivals/best friends, Naruto and Sakura as friends, and Sasuke and Sakura as potential lovers. The fandom may suck with people who toss Naruto aside in favor of OOC sap, but if SasuSaku is written correctly, it is part of Team 7 as a whole. SasuSaku simply take their tentative, quasi-romantic bond to the next step, while Naruto remains Sakura's most trusted and reliable friend (maybe even a brother-figure) as well as Sasuke's best friend/rival/brother figure. And Team 7 is still the greatest thing ever.
As far as the threesome goes--while I believe in canon, since this is a Shounen Jump series for young teenagers, the only concrete pairing will be SasuSaku (and Kishimoto may well leave room to maneuver even with that), in fandom, where we enjoy sexualizing everything...well, something as complex and intense as Team 7 pretty much demands to be a threesome at least on occasion.
[speaking to askerian]
I think the difference here is that while I agree with you, for the most part, where you see nothing going from Sasuke to Sakura, I see potential. In current canon (and pretty much throughout the manga), Sasuke is simply not capable of romance. He doesn't love Sakura back. Hell, he doesn't even love Naruto, although he's much closer, because he's more capable of understanding that kind of angry, rivalry-filled love than he is Sakura's more gentle, romantic love. As it is, his relationships, in order of importance, stand as such:
Itachi <-- way above everyone else. Not in that everyone else isn't important to him, but in that his entire psyche revolves so intensely and so horribly around Itachi that nothing short of a personal cataclysm can change it.
Naruto <-- the only one currently capable of challenging Itachi's position of supremacy, albeit temporarily, because it is Naruto and Naruto can make people feel amazing, intense things
Sakura <-- Sasuke cares about her, but her love is not the kind that can challenge his obsession with Itachi. He doesn't really understand her, but all the same she manages to touch him. Yeah, Naruto could have brought him out of the curse seal too, but he would have done it with violence, which would have spurred the curse seal to get worse before it got better. Sasuke thanks Sakura and goes out of his way to avoid causing her physical pain--he is gentle with her. He doesn't do that with anybody else. I see...not romantic love there, but the capacity for it at some distant future time. And while he might never be able to say "Oh Sakura-chan, I loooo~~oove you" (ew), Sakura has developed a sort of quiet bond with him that lets her see that he cares even if he can't say it. If Naruto reaches out and draws out Sasuke's goodness, Sakura reaches out and draws out his humanity.
Kakashi <-- He probably understands Sasuke better than anyone. They connect very well. Unfortunately, he has less ability to actually touch and change Sasuke than any of Sasuke's other precious people--probably partly because Sasuke doesn't want to listen to someone with so much in common with him and partly because Sasuke refuses to allow another parental figure to have influence over him.
Everybody Else <-- They can go fuck themselves.
So, to sum up all that rambling: I see both Naruto/Sasuke and Sakura/Sasuke as relationships with some degree of mutual feeling; in both cases there is a bond there that goes both ways. It's just that they are very different bonds, and the NaruSasu one is, at the moment, stronger (and I have no doubt that it will always be at least equally as strong as the SasuSaku bond, even when/if the latter progresses into mutual romance).
[again to askerian]
I think this is the main point where we differ on Team 7 dynamics--you see Team-7-with-SasuSaku as broken up into a-couple-and-an-outsider, and I see it as simply a natural progression that remains as essentially "a trio of close friends where two of them happen to be in a romantic relationship." Normally this sort of thing doesn't work very well, but somehow Kishimoto makes it work for me.
A key point is that I don't think SasuSaku being the more romantic relationship of the three makes it the more important one. Naruto will always be profoundly important to both Sasuke and Sakura. When/if Sasuke and Sakura become romantically involved, that won't suddenly make them into the sole most important person in each other's lives, and I'm confident in Kishimoto's ability to pull this off.
For me, regardless of what Sasuke and Sakura are doing with each other and whether or not Naruto joins the fun in bed, Team 7 OT3 is always Team 7 OT3.
I have no excuse for this, but it's two strong female characters who are both really hot. Plus they look pretty together. That is all.
b) far too amusing
c) so very hot.
In case you haven't noticed with Shikamaru's father, Nara men tend to fall for deeply scary women. Temari's pretty scary. She's also pretty hot, but I digress.
Snarky, bickering relationships with just a hint of rivalry rarely pop up in most of my fandoms (whatever the Roy/Ed fangirls might say), but when they do, they are very awesome. The exchanges between Temari and Shikamaru--well, I didn't really see it until she showed up during the fight with Tayuya, but then damn, did I ever. They play off each other very well.
Shikamaru may bitch that he doesn't want anything to do with women, they're too troublesome, but in the end he could use some love as much as anyone--but he needs someone snarky and assertive to get him off his ass first. Like Temari. Also, fanspanking.
This is one of those few pairings that completely clicked for me in a single instant. I actually didn't ship them from their fight--I just didn't see any romantic connection there. But when she rescued him from Tayuya, there was one moment where it all fell into place, and everything in the series since then has only supported that. They connect in a weird and wonderful way, even though they might like to deny it.
I have a thing for UST. And Kishimoto is definitely piling it on whenever those two come in. Plus, I have a huge kink for pairings with intense, unexpected moments of connection, and Temari and Shikamaru delivered that so hard when she rescued him.
That's just the surface, though. Deeper than that, the two appeal to my love of equals-who-don't-seem-to-be-equals. It seems like Temari pwns Shikamaru lolololol hahaha, but actually he's smarter and much more stable than her. It seems like Shikamaru is smarter and much more stable than Temari, but her very unpredictability and fierceness makes her one of the few enigmas in his life.
It's also pretty clear that most people don't really challenge Shikamaru, don't bring him out of his usual lazy funk. While it's okay for him to be that way most of the time--he doesn't need to be on his toes emotionally every second of every day--he does need someone to be there who will inspire him to do more sometimes, someone he isn't comfortable enough to be lazy around, someone exotic and different. Temari fits the bill pretty nicely (although I'm not saying she's the only one who ever could, just that she's the one who does it most in canon). Mind you I don't think romance is the only way this can happen (I mean, he could have a romance with comfortable Chouji and get this jolt of unpredictability by going on missions with Gai and Lee, hahaha), but in the case of Temari it seems to be set up to be romantic.
As for what Temari gets from him, I admit I don't think about this as much, but remember she's always been The Older Sister. It's good for her to have someone she doesn't have to feel all conflicted and protective about. We also don't necessarily know that Shikamaru would be completely lacking in affection--he's already shown a certain willingness to be more openly emotional around Temari than usual (see: him crying in front of her at the end of Part I). And remember the conversations with his father? Shikaku obviously loves Yoshino very much, and the way he tells Shikamaru about it strikes me as foreshadowing that Shikamaru will someday love some woman very much and be capable of being tender and loving to her at times. It doesn't have to be Temari, but I like to think it is. *_*
That said, I don't think it'd be an easy relationship, and the way fandom characterizes it drives me fucking nuts. Either they're being all cute and fluffy and domestic (gag), or Temari is randomly pwning Shikamaru. lol no. :( They both connect best when it comes to their work, so that's how a relationship would start, not through random fluffy meetings. :| Also, most importantly, I can't see either one of them happily leaving their home village to be with the other. In fact some kind of connection that keeps them working together, like being co-liaisons between Leaf and Sand or something, is the only way I really see their relationship being long-term and stable. I hate the idea that Temari would hop on over from Sand and become Shikamaru's happy wife in Leaf.
While I've explained above why I think their relationship could work out long-term, I wouldn't be upset if it was a first love deal, or an on-and-off thing, because I love them and their chemistry no matter what happens. Whether or not they'd make ideal long-term romantic mates for each other, they have a really interesting relationship that appeals to a lot of my mental kinks for romantic pairings.
To sum up:
Reasons I Find TemaShika Enjoyable
1) The UST.
2) The moments of connection.
3) The contrast between power imbalance and ultimate equality.
What They Have To Offer Each Other
1) Temari challenges Shikamaru in ways most people can't.
2) Shikamaru is an equal to Temari, who is used to having to be the protector.
3) Shikamaru seems willing to show Temari sides of himself that most people don't get to see.
4) Shikaku's conversations with his son seem to hint, in terms of foreshadowing, that Shikamaru may find himself learning to show more affection than one would expect from him to a romantic partner.
How It Could Work Long-Term
1) They could have a long-distance on-and-off affair.
2) They could wind up working together for the long haul, giving them a chance to be together romantically without giving up their separate homes.
Hmm, this one's kind of interesting. I don't really get a slashy vibe off them in canon, but I can definitely see where the idea would come from. Shizune's tired but unwavering devotion to Tsunade is endearing indeed--and the fact that she's Dan's niece makes the idea of pairing these two up extra cool in a twisted way. There's also the fact that for all the years Tsunade has been roaming, these two have pretty much been the only constants in each other's lives. It is definitely an interesting pairing to play around with, and one of the few mentor/student relationships I can see turning sexual in Naruto.
That's all I could find for now. If you remember seeing me ramble about specific pairings elsewhere, point me at it and I'll add it to the lot.