Heyooo. This chapter is a bit shorter and I've had it written up around the time the last chapter was submitted. I just went through yet another writing funk where my mind was too cluttered to even revise it.

I'm immediately working on the next chapter though. :)


Gone with the Wind

It was late.

Temari could tell by how the wind carried nothing but the songs of the cicadas through the trees. The night had fallen silent. The village was asleep.

Shikamaru was passed out next to her. With one arm under his pillow, he was sprawled belly down against the sheets as he draped the other arm around her waist. It was heavy and the direct contact against her burning skin was starting to make her sweat. Still, she did not dare to move.

She had lost track of time in her mission to keep his mouth preoccupied enough so that he wouldn't utter the words that were far too much for her to hear. It was a poor, desperate, and almost sad attempt to avoid confronting her feelings.

Just another problem swept under the rug.

Where was the courage and strong will that she usually carried into battle? Why was this so painfully hard and terrifying?

Regardless of what Sakura or Shikamaru, or anyone for that matter, says, she knew she had to leave.

Now.

While waiting for Shikamaru to fall asleep earlier, she had meticulously planned how she was going to get back to Suna. All she had to do was gather her belongings, march over to Kakashi in the dead of the night, and demand that he let her go home with her guards and to notify her brothers of her arrival. It should be easy.

Yet, as she watched the way he slept next to her, she could no longer find it in her to get up. Her eyes traced the lines of his jaw and the curves of his nose as they studied his face. A quiet, breathy chuckle escaped from her nostrils as she recalls the time she told him he was a 'chronic frowner.' It was as if he was literally angry at 'every waking moment' because he was actually awake. However, that frown always ceased when he was able to fall asleep. He'd stop furrowing his brows and pressing his lips together as he drifted off into his slumber.

She loved the way his face always softened up when he slept. She desperately wanted to trace the curve of his lips with her fingertips, to feel the softness of his cheek against her cheek, to kiss his forehead, and his nose, and his lips.

Her hand was halfway to his face before she flinched and realized what she was doing. She couldn't risk waking him up.

So Temari, in all her stealth, slid out from underneath his arm. Fortunately for her, he had always been a deep sleeper. Her shadows cascaded over his body as she tiptoed around the shogi pieces scattered across the tatami. She gently picked her kimono off the floor and her breath caught when something rolled out from the bundle of fabric. Her hand shot out to catch the item before it could touch the ground. She glanced over at Shikamaru to see if the commotion had disturbed him at all.

Of course, she thought to herself when she saw that he was still fast asleep.

She quietly let out a breath of relief before looking down at the object in her hand. It was the smaller version of her fan that she'd carry around in place of her usual weapon. Her eyes lingered on it for a moment before she continued to pull the kimono over her shoulders.

Once she was dressed, Temari made her way over to the bed and loomed over Shikamaru's sleeping body. His body was still sprawled across the mattress, and the arm that held onto her earlier was still resting over the space that she had occupied earlier.

Another painful farewell.

It was never going to change unless she did something about it. Clearly, they could not handle being in the same space without getting pulled into each other's gravity— physically and emotionally. That's not to say that she hadn't tried her best. No one could have predicted that she'd fall into a coma… and that he just happened to be the only known person in the world with the antidote.

Temari rolled her eyes. The universe had a sick sense of humor.

She sighed. She was determined to make this the last and final time. So, with a heavy heart, she placed the fan on the pillow she was laying on before quietly slipping out of his room.

Her attention was solely focused on the wooden frame between her hands as she closed the door as quietly as she could. She hadn't picked up on the presence that was right behind her and nearly jumped out of her skin when she turned around to come face to face with a familiar redhead.

"Wild night?" He winked at her.

Mitsunari was standing so close that she could smell the sake in his breath. Though she wasn't one to be startled easily, she never had to sneak around someone's home like a troublesome teenager either.

Temari glared at him, still clutching her heart as she desperately tried to steady her breathing. She kept her eyes narrowed at him before spinning on her heel and hastily made her way towards her room. It had been an emotional and physically demanding night for her. Being scared like that left her rather irritated.

"Were you out there the entire time?" She hissed at him in a hushed tone once she felt far enough from Shikamaru's room to comfortably speak. She didn't turn to face him, but the shifting breeze on her back told her that he was right on her tail.

"Blech, no," he stuck his tongue out and pretended to be nauseous, "I came to find you earlier because I have some news from Yukimura. Then I saw you with Pretty Boy so I gave you some privacy. I returned right as you were coming out of his room."

Temari remained silent, uncomfortable with the fact that someone had witnessed her business with Shikamaru.

"Good thing I did because I guess I was right to leave you two alone from the way that you're blushing."

She could hear the sheepish grin in his voice.

"Shut up," she snapped at him and immediately changed the topic, "What did you find out from Yukimura?"

Mitsunari's demeanor shifted with hers without as much as a protest. Temari appreciated that.

"We're pretending that this was our plan to earn your trust," he began to explain. "I am to report to Tojuro that your body would have been recovered by one of the many Suna shinobi so I decided it was best that I did. My 'plan' was to ensure that we still have our grasp on you and your siblings."

Temari came to an immediate halt, causing Mitsunari to almost crash into her back.

"Hey!" He hissed at her through his teeth.

"How do I know that's not what you're really doing?" She narrowed her eyes at him.

"Yes," he rolled his eyes as he spoke, "my sensei sacrificed himself just so I could pretend to heal you and get close to you."

Temari ignored the sarcasm dripping in his voice as she searched the golden eyes that were glaring back at her. The way they hardened told her that he was still bitter about his sensei's willingness to sacrifice him.

"That must have been hard," she mumbled before continuing down the hall.

Mitsunari's armor rustled as he shrugged, "In the end, we're all disposable pawns."

"I know what that's like," she replied. "Gaara's existence was to be a human weapon and the man behind that was our own father."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"You're not," she told him. "You don't know us so you don't have to pretend that you care. It doesn't bother me what you think. I'm just letting you know that we were able to move on from that. My brother is soft-hearted. Sensitive, even. He loves our village and wants nothing more but to ensure that our people thrive despite the fact that they treated him as if he was an abomination," she added as they arrived at her room. She brought her hand up to open the door but not before turning to him to ask, "Now, will you be standing with him or will you be in his way?"

"Neither," he answered her.

Temari shot him a curious look.

"I will help undo the mess we've caused and then I'll be on my way. Swearing my allegiance to people has brought me nothing but trouble."

She was amused by his honesty, assuming he was being honest with her. Her eyes lingered on him for a moment longer before sliding open the door. "Good," was all she said as she began to walk into her room.

"Princess Temari, you're back," a guard called out to her from the courtyard, causing her to stop in her tracks.

"Grab your belongings, we're leaving," she instructed without turning around.

"Right now? But it's the middle of the night," another voice protested.

Shikamaru's voice suddenly echoed in her head.

I don't want my last memory of you to be one of you leaving.

"Are you questioning my orders?" She demanded coldly.

"No, Princess."

"Then go," she commanded before disappearing into her room.

Once she was done packing her things, she sat down to write a quick note to Shikamaru's mother to thank her for the hospitality. She grappled between addressing just Yoshino or to both her and Shikamaru before settling on the former. After all, leaving a platonic and vague note addressed to him and his mother would have been too weird considering she had just snuck out of his bed.

Her guards greeted her once she finally emerged from the room. Mitsunari was comfortably resting on a tree branch above them. His feet casually dangling next to a packed satchel. She closed her eyes and sighed as she mentally prepared herself for the awkward conversation with the Hokage that was going to come next.

The air before her moved. She opened her eyes to find two gold orbs staring back at her.

"Ready?" Mitsunari asked her.

"Yes," she replied.

One by one, her guards vanished as they leaped into the night sky. Temari crouched down, preparing her own momentum to follow behind them. She looked in the direction of Shikamaru's room right before she took off.

"Now falling asleep next to me will be your last memory of us. I hope that's good enough for you, cry-baby," she whispered in the wind before letting it carry her away.


Yay. I'm done. Hope you enjoyed it. :)