Temari often looked back on her past mistakes and wondered if there was another way, another choice she could have made that would have averted all the sorrows in her life.

She used to think she was a fairly intelligent tactician as an adolescent, and that she understood the motives behind her village's intrigue. She tried to reconcile the feeling in the pit of her stomach telling her the betrayal of Konoha was wrong with all the intellectual reasons why it could possibly be the right choice.

A weakened former ally in trade of a new one. A way to gain prestige at the cost of only a little bloodshed. What other choices could they make that would not cost them their own strength?

There were reasons why her father did what he did. Reasons that didn't always make sense when she looked at it through human eyes, but strategy. As a sister she could not stand what they did to Gaara, but as a tactician she had no choice.

Until she fought a boy--a boy in all means but his mind--who proved to her there were always choices to be had. You just had to be patient enough to look for them.

He beat her. Badly. For every three moves she calculated he predicted and estimated a countless number of permutations to counter hers.

It didn't matter that she won. Or that he technically gave up because he said he had exhausted all of his choices and just figured surrender was the best course of action. She could see it in her eyes, the same way she looked at herself in the mirror each morning, he was simply sick of fighting.

She walked away triumphant. It was a strategic victory, but a moral loss. Temari had gotten used to experiencing those.

Then the betrayal took place, killing many of the boy's countrymen in an attack so brutal she believed he could have never imagined that possibility. She couldn't believe it herself.

The war waged on for many more years, many long hard arduous mistake- riddled years. Each time she miscalculated, each time she failed at any little thing, she thought of him. At first this recollection angered her. It made her blood boil and for a while she used her hatred of that lazy eyed boy to fuel her determination. But the mistakes came to her regardless of her choices.

When Kankuro died she used the memory of the boy to comfort her in her grief, because she felt a measure of peace in his familiar presence in her mind. Somehow over the course of her years he had transformed into a consolation when she failed and an aspiration when she succeeded.

So one day, almost impulsively and without any real consideration to the consequences, she fled back to Konoha. A place she had not set foot near since that fateful day. There were many instances where she wondered if she made another grievous error. One that might cost her life this time. But strangely, she didn't seem to care anymore. The alternatives suddenly became unimportant.

So she didn't put up much of a fight when a scouting parting captured her. Not like she could, with their leader holding her tightly bound with his shadow copying jutsu. She would have stood still of her own accord anyway, she was so shocked that their reunion would happen this way.

When they met face to face it made her laugh at the sight. Somehow she always knew he would become a Chuunin after the performance he gave that one day, but responsibility didn't suit him at all.

Temari's feelings weren't hurt when he only vaguely recalled her as "that troublesome fan-girl." Somehow it seemed very appropriate given his personality, and she welcomed the feeling of simply knowing something without having to calculate it or mull it over. Just instinctively knowing. No justifications.

His careless ease was enough for her to let her guard down. It gave her a kind of solace, untroubled sleep, which she had not had for many long years. In a way it was almost comforting, despite being in the middle of a war-torn village that considered her their enemy. He didn't care about that, and so she let her concern over it go.

Then they brought her to their Hokage.

The new one, she knew. Because she had seen the old one die (Ohgodtheblood,it'snothumanwhathaveIdone?). The new Hokage was all too lenient for the rogue sand warrior. Too human and didn't she know what havoc she could bring upon them if she was a spy? Didn't he tell her all the things wrong with this?

Temari looked to his figure, still languishing on the side of the building even in the presence of his honorable and revered leader and a former enemy. That's when the Hokage, in her infinite wisdom, said to him, "Shikamaru, I place her in your care."

Temari braced herself for the curses, for the denial and the eventual bitter hate she expected to hear. She was a murderer and a betrayer and he knew all the things she'd done because he predicted them. He would know the sins she had committed because of her poor choice of living.

"How troublesome," he said and leisurely took her arm in his.

That was it. There was...nothing more.

She lived in his house. She ate at his table. She stayed under his roof in the dark of night with her eyes wide open listening to his soft snores and wondered why he didn't suspect she would kill him in his sleep.

When she did sleep, she dreamed of him.

Things happened almost routine. Sometimes, after much complaining, he would go on reconnaissance missions and she would wait for him, staring idly at whatever shougi game he had left in the heat of his departure. She would spend hours staring at all the possibilities, and then he would come home and put his fingers together for a moment or so, then beat her.

It was almost idyllic, living with him. She did not mind that Shikamaru was essentially an old man trapped in a young man's body. She did not mind that he was set in his ways. She simply became part of his ways and he accepted that as he did almost everything.

So the one cloudless night she struck up enough courage to crawl to his cot he simply smiled lazily and said, "I've been expecting you."

Then she kissed him. Temari knew in his eyes and the way his arm trailed alongside her that he had expected her. Shikamaru had probably been expecting her for a long time. He just had to wait until she caught up. But he was patient like that.

That's why Temari loved him.