Author Notes: Hello again, everyone! Welcome to my first attempt at a ShikamaruxTemari story. I've only seen the anime up to Shippuden Ep 251, but I think these two are adorable as a couple. Enjoy :)

Setting: Somewhere in the early chapters of Shippuden before the chunin exams.

Warnings: AU. Possible OOCness.

Rating: 'T'

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.

- Story Start -

The sun was just rising over the Hidden Leaf Village when Temari let herself out of the hotel. She had been staying here for the past three days and was eager to go back to the Sand Village with the final plans for the upcoming chunin exams. She missed her home and although she would never admit it out loud, she missed her younger brothers as well.

Being here wasn't all hardship though. The air was cooler, the flowers prettier and the chestnuts sweeter. The fact that she was provided an escort during her stay here was a bonus. Hiding a smile, Temari started strolling down the street, forcing herself to look straight ahead.

On the last day of her previous visit here, a yawning Shikamaru had forced himself to get up early for no other reason than to walk her to the main gates. He had claimed it was part of his mission, but she had found it sweet all the same. She had also thought - hoped, rather - that it wasn't just because of his mission.

Too bad he was nowhere to be seen this morning even though he knew where she was staying and that she was leaving today. Instead of making straight for the gates like she normally would, Temari stopped to have breakfast at a nearby teashop.

Just in case someone had overslept.

She whiled away half an hour with a cup of hot tea and a steamed dumpling with sweet bean filling, teal coloured eyes flicking over the few passers by going to and fro. They were mostly civilian women on their way to the market and an occasional left shinobi... but there was no sight of that lanky figure with the high ponytail.

Forty minutes later, Temari got up in somewhat of a huff, annoyed at herself for even waiting. She paid her bill and left the teashop, walking faster than she had before. It was fine. It wasn't as if she - heaven forbid! - didn't know her way to the main gates or that she needed protection in getting there.

It wasn't until she came within sight of the gates that instinct told her to look to the side. Shikamaru was standing under a tree not far from the guardhouse, back towards her and hands in his trouser pockets.

Temari stopped walking, feeling a mix of exasperation and relief.

"Hey, Shikamaru," she called.

He turned his head at her voice, but only halfway so she saw his profile.

"Lady Temari." He sounded as disinterested as he usually did.

Temari was about to ask if he had overslept this time, but his unexpected use of her title took her aback. The words she had intended to tease him with suddenly sounded childish in her mind. Perhaps if he was facing her instead of just partly... then she scolded herself for being silly.

"I thought you were my escort for as long as I remained here," she said at last.

Shikamaru turned around and stepped out from the shade, his usual irritated expression holding a hint of something else. Was it guilt for not meeting her outside the hotel and escorting her here?

"My apologies. It slipped my mind that you were leaving this morning."

Temari's eyes narrowed.

"That's a lie. You never forget anything."

When Shikamaru just shrugged and looked up at the sky, Temari took a step towards him.

"What's wrong?"

He dropped his gaze and smiled at her. Even from fifteen feet away she could tell it was forced.

"Nothing's wrong."

Temari huffed and walked closer, folding her arms across her chest.

"In that case, I'm going back home," she said.

To her annoyance, Shikamaru only nodded and lifted a hand in farewell. Even though she knew she shouldn't, she walked right up to him. Infuriating boy!

"So I'll see you in two weeks then?" she couldn't help asking.

"If Lady Hokage doesn't assign someone else to take my place," he replied in a bored voice.

"What? She'd better not!" Temari said point blank. Never let is be said that she was a wishy washy kunoichi who didn't know what she wanted. "You of all people should know it's a drag to have to explain everything to another person. I don't want anyone else, but you."

"Why?"

"Because the two of us have been involved in planning the chunin exams from the start!" she exclaimed. Wasn't it obvious?

"Is that the only reaason?"

Temari frowned. There was that flash of something in his eyes again, an edgy tone to his voice.

"Because I find you attractive?" she shot back before she could stop herself.

Oh. That wasn't what she had planned on saying. Besides, it was no use baiting Shikamaru; insults and flattery alike just rolled off him like water off a duck's back. Still, it was gratifying to see those lazy brown eyes widen in surprise. Perhaps he hadn't expected that. He raised a nonchalant eyebrow a moment later, but she could tell he was holding himself very still.

Out of the corner of her eye, Temari could see the two chunin in the guardhouse staring at them, but she paid them no heed.

"So tell me," Shikamaru said and tipped his head to one side. "What's attractive about me?"

Temari tilted her chin up, undaunted.

"Well, I have to say it isn't your face," she stated in a matter of fact voice that belied the sudden pounding of her heart.

Shikamaru huffed out a short laugh.

"Yeah, I could've told you that," he agreed. "So what is it?"

Temari was almost horrified to find her usually clever mind drawing a blank. She couldn't remember a time she had run out of words... unless it was facing Gaara in the past before he had changed for the better. She fisted her hands tightly at her sides, feeling them tremble with unaccustomed nervousness.

"See?" Shikamaru shrugged again. "Knew you couldn't think of anything."

He turned to walk off, shoving his hands deeper inside his pockets.

"I admire your intellect. And your sharp mind," Temari said suddenly. "I admire your ability to size up a situation and come up with a solution each time."

Shikamaru stopped, but he didn't turn around.

"Hah. I couldn't even defeat you when we fought in the chunin exams two years back."

Temari shook her head even though she knew he couldn't see it.

"That was only because you had run out of chakra," she insisted, "not because you couldn't think of a solution. You told me you had already planned the next two hundred steps. I... I was impressed."

"I still lost in the end."

"You forfeited the match, but you were still made a chunin. And you stayed in my mind, something no other opponent managed to do."

Shikamaru turned his head to the side again, the one eye she could see squinting suspiciously at her.

"You could do a lot better than me, you know," he drawled. "I can't believe no other jonin in the Sand Village or even here has caught your eye."

Temari fisted her hands even tighter until she could feel the bite of her nails against her palms.

"You are qualified to be a jonin," she shot back. "I've told you that already!"

"But I'm not," Shikamaru countered, his voice suddenly hard. "I'm only a chunin and contented to stay one."

He shook his head and started walking away again.

"You could do better than me, Lady Temari," he called out without turning around. "A lot better."

Temari clenched her jaw together, fighting the urge to run after him and hit him over the head with her fan. If she were honest with herself, this was why she wasn't going out with any other guy. They were either too enamoured of her or too intimidated by her.

But not Shikamaru. He was different... with that funny face of his, that sharp mind he had inherited from his clan, that exasperating laid back attitude that said 'This is me, take it or leave it', and all of it contrasting with his single minded devotion to his mission and friends.

He was different from anyone else she knew. He had gotten under her skin and she knew he would remain there all her life. Being with him would be exasperating and vexing and likely wrinkle inducing as well since she would probably end up frowning and scolding him half the time... but it would never be boring.

More importantly, she wouldn't have it any other way.

- o -

It hurt to walk away, but it hurt even more to stay.

Shikamaru pressed his lips together. He wanted to say he didn't care one way or another, but he had to admit it stung when Temari couldn't give an immediate reply to what was attractive about him. Of course he had a sharp brain - he was a Nara after all - but what about his other qualities?

Granted he didn't have many, but he liked to think he had some.

Still, it was better to stay realistic. Yes, he liked Temari, he liked her very much if truth be told - she was beautiful, clever, fearless and strong. Too bad she wasn't the kind of girl who would settle for someone like him. She may have teased him and even flirted with him in the past, but if she was truly interested, it was only because she thought she could change him.

Typical of a female.

Shikamaru didn't need that kind of trouble. He had always entertained the idea of settling down with an average girl... one not too pretty nor too domineering nor too smart. One who would be nothing like Temari of course, but would likely leave him in peace.

The sound of running footsteps broke through his self deprecating thoughts. Before he could turn around, a body slammed into him from the back, two arms locking around his waist. He stumbled forward a couple of steps before he regained his balance and stared down at the two arms keeping him in place.

"Don't go." Temari's voice was half muffled as if she had her mouth pressed against the back of his collar.

Shikamaru stayed very still. "Why not?"

"I don't care if you choose to stay a chunin all your life. I don't care if you say everything is a drag every single day. Just... don't leave my side."

Shikamaru sighed.

"You can't mean that," he said and gently tried to pry her arms loose. She tightened her hold even more, enough to make him wince in discomfort.

"I do!" Her words weren't muffled now so Shikamaru suspected she had turned her face to the side.

Pursing his lips, he looked up at the sky and noted the clouds drifting by, his mind painting an instant picture of what their domestic life would be like a year, five, ten, twenty years from now. It wasn't that difficult, he only had to look at his parents.

"So what's attractive about me?" he couldn't resist asking again.

Temari squeezed him even tighter, enough to force a grunt from him.

"You're funny and you're loyal. You might be lazy and try your best to avoid responsibility, but once it's entrusted to you, you take it very seriously. I like that, Shikamaru. And... I like you."

"Look, I know you," Shikamaru began.

"And I know you," she interrupted.

"Yeah, I suppose you do," he agreed.

They stayed like that for a minute, neither of them giving an inch, both of them ignoring the gawking chunin in the guardhouse. Shikamaru watched another cloud drift by before he exhaled and dipped his head.

"Let me go, Temari," he requested. "Don't hug me from the back like this."

As he had expected, her arms tightened again. He winced again and tried not to think how bruised his ribs were going to end up.

"Why not?"

Shikamaru smirked, resigned now to a future very different from the one he had envisioned for himself.

"Because I can't hug you in return."

A gasp sounded and Temari's arms fell away. Slowly, Shikamaru turned around on his heel, his smirk growing at the sight of Temari's wide eyed confusion. It was... cute. A sight he would treasure for sure; he didn't think she would wear that look very often.

Tipping his head to the side, he raised his eyebrows at her. "Well? Cat got your tongue?"

Temari blinked at him a couple of times.

"Are you saying-" she broke off and swallowed when her voice wobbled, glaring at him as if it was his fault she had displayed a weakness.

Shikamaru decided it wasn't gentlemanly to force a lady to say it out loud.

"Yeah, I am," he said. He took a step forward and wrapped his arms around her, drawing her close to him. He wasn't surprised when she resisted a bit before her body went pliant and soft, fitting perfectly against his.

"I'm saying you can have me," he clarified. "If I'm really, really what you want."

"Shika-" Temari shook her head and buried her face in his shoulder. Her arms went around his waist again, not as tight as before.

"Shh." Shikamaru pressed his lips to her hair and rocked her a bit.

For the next few minutes, there was peace and silence except for the muffled sounds Temari was desperately trying to hide. When she finally pushed at his chest, he released her. She took a step back and looked at him, teal eyes bright.

"I still think you should be jonin. Your grasp of strategy is unparalleled and you know it," she insisted. "If only you'd stop complaining about what a drag everything is!"

Shikamaru blinked at her before laughing out loud. He put his hands on her shoulders and smiled at her cross face.

"What happened to you not caring about me staying a chunin all my life?" he teased.

Tipping her chin up, she thumbed away the moisture from her eyes.

"I lied."

Shikamaru's smile widened.

"Yeah, I knew that too."

Ignoring her disdainful sniff - and the still gawking Izumo and Kotetsu; didn't they have anything better to do? - he slid one hand to her chin and tipped it up.

"Whatever you like, Temari. I'm all yours," he promised and kissed her.

- Story End -

A/N: Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed it, please do let me know :)