Of Shadows and Notes

By Hokata Yuy


Morning seemed to come all too quickly for the young lo…er... prisoners. Both of them had managed to sleep through entire night; Tayuya due to lack of sleep the night before, and Shikamaru from the stress of it all. As the first rays of the day pierced the small gap in the curtains, Shikamaru started to awaken.

First thing he did was rub his eyes, since the sun was shining directly in his face. When he brought his hands up and started to rub though, he felt something was tangled around his hand, like fine rope. His mind, still half-asleep, wondered what he could have gotten caught up in. Opening one bleary eye, he saw it was something red… and that was about all he could tell about it for now. Putting his hand back down, he chose to just ignore it and try to sleep a bit longer. Which is what he did until the sun once again made him grumble and try to turn over to escape the blinding rays.

It was then he realized his hand was still bound in that odd fiber, keeping him from turning over. So, with another groan, he slowly opened his eyes against the glare, letting them focus on what was binding him.

After a second he could tell that it was red, yes, but not rope, more like… hair? But that was stupid, his hair was black not red, he didn't even know anyone with red ha….

Sleep was suddenly the last thing on his mind as his eyes followed the hair back to its owner… that was sleeping less than three feet in front of him, sharing the same futon.

Instead of relying on his gut-reaction of yelling and jumping away, which would have not only woken her up, but also yanked all the hair that was in his hand off her head; he just sighed and shook his head. "Why the hell?" he asked under his breath while looking at her. Oddly enough, he didn't feel the signs of an approaching headache like he usually dealing with her. Maybe it was because when she was asleep, she looked almost… pretty? No, it must just be because she wasn't screaming and complaining. Yeah, that must be it.

Even though he still had her hair in his fingers, playing with it a bit.

Propping his head up with his free arm, he kept looking at her curiously, as if this was the first time he'd actually looked at her. Her face was a lot more relaxed than usual, making her appear almost innocent as she slept on her side, one hand just barely under her cheek for support. His eyes naturally followed the curve of her slender neck to her shoulder, which then led to the sagging neck-line of her shirt… that was exposing a great deal of her chest.

Even as he felt his face heat up, he still couldn't look away, his curiosity winning out over caution. He shifted around a little, his gaze flicking up to her face… and into a pair of dark brown eyes. His whole body froze, including the fingers still playing with her hair.

"….Nnn... cut it out… jerk…" she mumbled as her unfocused eyes slowly closed again. The entire time, Shikamaru hadn't moved a single muscle, frozen in place just staring at her with his hand between them curled around her hair. He held this pose for another few seconds before finally breathing out a sigh of relie-

"Wait a second… what... the fuck… are you doing… in my bed..?" Tayuya's voice cut him off, each word growing sharper as she became more aware of her surroundings. Slowly, her eyes opened again, this time fully focused and with the familiar glare narrowing her pupils.

He faltered for only a second, before raising an eyebrow slightly, "'Your bed'? This is my bed, remember? You were supposed to be sleeping up there," he pointed with a finger.

She glanced up at the direction pointed, seeing that, in fact, her futon was still up in the 'loft' area. The memories of last night slowly came back to her; how she was feeling cramped up in the small space, then how she'd snuck down the ladder and fallen asleep on the floor. …Even if that didn't explain how she'd woken up face-to-face with this bastard. "Ok… fine," she conceded, "then just tell me…. What the fuck are you doing with my hair?" she asked with a fierce glare looking at the finger that had pointed at the attic. The finger with her long red hair still lightly wrapped around it.

"…." Shikamaru paused and also looked at his hand as if it had betrayed him, "…sleep petting. I must've had a dream I was tangled in the fur of some wild beast," he smirked a little, his fingers wiggling in her hair to demonstrate.

"I'll give you a beast, you son of a…" she trailed off, settling on just glaring at him, still too groggy to start yelling. After a second though, a yawn forced its way through her hardened expression. Her mouth opened wide and her eyes squeezed shut as she took in a deep breath, her body trying to jump-start itself.

The motion was almost cute in Shikamaru's opinion. Almost. Then, with almost a smirk he said, "That's something I forgot to buy for you: some mouth wash. I knew you were a 'foul mouth' but didn't expect it to be literal too…" Unable to help himself, he also added to his verbal jab with a light physical jab with his finger to her stomach.

"What the fuck'd you say!? You asshole!" she yelled at him as her face turned pink, both reactions more out of shock from the actual touch than the usual insults. "N-not like yours is any better ass-licker!" she shot back, feeling free to jab him back in the chest- about twice as hard.

The small smile still on his face, Shikamaru just chuckled, "Yes dear," he answered sarcastically. Before she had a chance to reply, he actually leaned in closer, halving the distance between them, "So, are we going to lay here all day, or actually do something productive?" he asked with a bit of a smile.

"!!" she tensed up some as he leaned in, but refused to admit defeat by moving away… though her face did turn a number of shades darker. "Fuck you, Nara," she slowly smirked back, determined not to lose at this game at least.

They both held this position for at least a full minute, neither of them backing down from the other, though each of their faces betrayed their nervousness to the other. Shikamaru's gaze kept flicking across her face, from her eyes, to her lips, even to her hair; while Tayuya's was focused on his eyes, though unable to stop herself from gulping a little and licking her lips every few seconds.

"So…" Shikamaru started, unsure what exactly to say in a situation like this. While it'd started as a usual argument between them, it had suddenly turned quite uncomfortable, and neither of them seemed to know how to escape.

"…You're an ass, you know that right?" she smirked some, breaking eye contact just long enough to see his fingers still in her hair, "and a pervert." At that, she snickered some, shaking her head.

Once again, he glanced at his hand and felt surprised to see that he was indeed still playing with the red strands. "I…" he faltered again, his own actions catching him off guard, "I'm just amazed that all that grease and filth actually washed out, and that there's actual nice hair underneath." A bit of a counter-smirk appeared on his features, emphasizing the point by rubbing the hair between his fingers.

"Y-you-!" she growled, "I don't want your grubby, ass-smellin' fingers anywhere near me! How would you like it if I started groping that pineapple you call hair in the middle of the night!?"

"If I didn't think you'd try to strangle me with it, I just might like it-!" he shot back, blinking a little at that last part. In the silence that followed, both of their faces stayed a rosy shade of pink.

Then, with a grumble, Tayuya pushed herself up to a sitting position. "I'm hungry," she stated, slowly pushing herself up to her feet, "…and you're still a pervert," she added with almost a smile as she took a step toward the fridge… at which point the over-sized pants that she'd forgotten about fell to her knees, tripping her to the ground.

Unable to contain it, Shikamaru started to laugh out loud; feeling like this was the funniest thing he'd seen in weeks. It was so funny to him, he didn't even seem to care that she still had no panties, leaving her bare ass facing the world.

With the lightning-speed worthy of her ninja training, Tayuya had already pulled her pants, and what was left of her dignity, back up as high as they would go. "Fucking perverted monkey!" she screamed at him, whipping her head around to glare at him with all the fury her blushing face could muster. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth, "Y-"

"Fine fine, new clothes, got it," he cut her off, waving his hand a bit.

"….Asshole..." she grumbled, not having anything else to say… yet. With her face still burning brightly, she angrily grabbed the bag of snacks from last night and hurled them with all her might towards the spiky-haired brat.

With a crinkling pop, it connected with the back of his head, but since it was filled with air-inflated chips and snacks, it did little more than make him grunt 'bitch' to himself. Which only pissed Tayuya off more as she stormed back to the table and sat back down… making sure to slam her fist into the wood extra hard as she did.

He only glanced at her out the corner of his eye, trying to suppress the smile that kept rising up each time he thought about the difference in her attitude between now and when he'd first been assigned this mission almost a year ago. Back then, she probably would have thrown something sharp, fully intending to kill him.

"What? What the fuck're you smiling about, you jackass?" she growled, catching the half-hidden smile behind his hand.

"Hm?" he feigned innocence, "Oh, just wondering what kind of clothes you'd like." He turned toward her and mockingly sized her up, "Hmm… can't imagine you in anything with pink, frills, or lace. And I'm sure if you wore a skirt, you'd be arrested for disturbing the peace…"

He'd meant it as an insult, but by the look on her face, she'd taken it as quite the compliment. She nervously shifted her legs under the table, as if afraid he'd start staring at them, "F...fuck you…" she added in for good measure, face slightly heating up.

Figuring she'd understood it to be a jab, he just smiled a bit; which made her blush even worse.

"A-anyway! Why the fuck are you thinking about what clothes I'd wear, you fucking pervert? I'll wear whatever I goddamn well please," she stated with a nod, trying to get off the subject of her body, "Besides; I've never seen you wear anything but that damn vest and pants."

"Hm? Didn't you just see me without the vest or the pants last night?" he asked curiously, looking up a bit as if to recall it, "In fact, you seemed to've kept star-"

"Shut the hell up! I did not! Goddamn liar…" she growled, face remaining the same shade of red as before, "Y-you just scared the shit out of me then... Besides, it was, you know, like a fucking train wreck: it's horrible, but you can't look away." She smirked a bit, feeling better now that she was on the attack instead of defense.

"…Hm… Whatever you say," he shrugged, turning to look out the window again while one hand reached inside the almost empty bag of snacks and pulled out his rice crackers again. He paused for a second, then turned his head back to her and held the open bag towards her some, "Hm?"

Tayuya glanced from him to the bag, then smirked, "You know these things taste like ass, no flavor at all," she jeered… while reaching in and grabbing one.

"Whatever you say dear…" he replied boredly, knowing neither of them even actually cared. With his own cracker in his mouth, he turned back to the window, watching the sun slowly rise over the tops of the buildings, and signs of life stirring in the streets below. Neither of them said anything, just the quiet noise of crackers being eaten filled the room.

"Hey, can't we go buy that shit now?" she asked after a few minutes of silence.

"Hm? Stores aren't open yet," he replied without looking, "It'll be another hour or two for most of them…"

"The can we at least get some real food instead of this cheap-ass junk food?" she said while motioning to the bag of crackers, bread, and chips.

Shikamaru glanced over at the bag, then back up at her; she didn't look pissed off, more like… actually asking a favor. "….tch… What a hassle," he groaned and very slowly started to pull himself up to his feet, missing the very quick smile on the red-head's face.

"Good, I never got that bacon, egg, toast, and milk I wanted yesterday," she smirked up at him, propping her head up on a fist triumphantly.

Shikamaru thought for a second then looked back at her with a raised eyebrow, "You didn't want bacon yesterday, you greedy woman…"

"Consider it interest then, after you starved my poor stomach with all this shitty, sugar-coated crap," she said with a shrug.

"You weren't saying that while wolfing it all down…" he grumbled, shaking his head.

"Eating shitty food's better than no food," she snapped back, turning just a bit pink, "Now hurry the hell up with that food, I'm starving." With that, she waved her hand towards the door some, as if dismissing him.

"Hm? Oh no. You're coming with me," he said with a groan, unable to believe he was saying it, "Otherwise, when I come back, no matter what I bring, you're going to do nothing but bitch and moan about it." He crossed his arms over his chest firmly, shaking his head slowly. The idea of actually spending his precious free-time out of this hell with the devil herself was almost physically painful, but it would probably be less than hearing her complain for the entire rest of the day.

"….You're a cocksucker," she glared up at him, though not because he was forcing her to get her own food, but because he seemed like it was torture for him. "Fine, let's just go then!" she banged her hands on the table while pushing herself up to her feet, making sure to keep a grip on the pants this time.


It took them over ten minutes just to get down to the street due to various hold-ups: her refusing to walk through the doors he held open for her, her trouble walking (and refusal of help) down three flights of stairs… while holding up her pants. Finally they exited the building and looked around. For Tayuya, this was the first time she'd seen anything besides the view from the apartment window of this area. It wasn't exactly a high-class neighborhood, but it didn't have abandoned buildings either, just a big of rust and wear here and there.

"Hrm… Couldn't they afford to put us up in a better place than this?" she grumbled to herself.

"Oh sure, because I'm sure the Hyuuga's would love to have an apartment full of convicts living next door," Shikamaru replied boredly, already walking down the street without her.

She thought about it for a second, then smiled a little, "…Hm... Sounds like fun to m- Hey! You tryin' to ditch me, ass licker!?" she yelled loudly when seeing just how far ahead he'd gotten, quickly catching up to him.

"If only it was that easy…" he answered almost sounding sad about it. "So, you want food and clothes, right?" he quickly changed topics, not wanting to deal with the anymore funny stares from the people around them. If he'd been someone else, he would have thought it a very funny sight too: a grumpy looking kid leading around an extremely foul-mouthed and loud woman whose clothes were three sizes too big for her.

"No shit moron," she glared while walking, "I know your perverted ass wants me to keep wearing this shit that keeps falling off… fucking asshole.." she grumbled and trailed off, face burning with shame from the incident just a few minutes ago.

"Well then... that's gonna be a problem…" he groaned and reached in his pocket, pulling out a small wallet… a very flat wallet.

She looked at it for a second before reaching out and snagging it from his finger, confirming her fears: empty.

"…You fucking poor-ass sonofa-!" Tayuya yelled, drawing more stares as she moved in front of him and stopped, "Didn't you give me some big-ass speech on how important your family's medical talents are to this shitty little village!? So, what, you deer-humpers just do this all for free!?"

His eyebrow twitched a bit, "If you'd let me finish… The village hasn't authorized funding of this god-awful little 'experiment' yet, and I haven't been on another mission since I 'accepted' this one."

They both stood there for a minute in silence.

"So what exactly do you propose to do?" Tayuya glared at him, "mooch off your parents?"

"Hey, it's not my fault I haven't been getting paid anything for all my hard work up till now."

"'Hard work'?" she snorted, "All you've been doing is playing board games!"

"Yeah, that's not the hard part, putting up with you is," he grumbled and shook his head.

"!!" she straightened and narrowed her eyes at him, "Why you…! Put yourself in my place! Try coming back from the dead to wake up in prison, unable to walk, and having to put up with the most annoying, know-it-all, arrogant piece of shit in the entire country!" she built up until she was practically screaming at him.

They silently glared at each other for over a minute, oblivious to the crowd of middle-aged housewives they had drawn, which was whispering things about 'kids these days' and 'young love'.

With a sigh, Shikamaru broke the eye contact and shook his head some again. "Fine, fine," he conceded, holding up his hand some, "Look, how about we get some food before continuing? All this complaining is just making my stomach grumble all the more…"

In place of agreeing, Tayuya just huffed some and turned away, "It can't be grumbling any louder than you normally do, or I'd be going deaf," she snickered, turning back to him in a better mood now that she'd had the last word. "So, how do you propose we even get some food, Mr. Poor-ass?" she asked with her hands on her hips, raising a brow curiously.

"The same thing I always do when I don't have enough money for food," he said with a shrug, "just like you said, mooch off the parents..." He trailed off as he realized an important detail in this otherwise ordinary plan. A large, red-headed detail with a very foul disposition when dealing with people. "…Maybe not…" he shook his head, seeing no way that scenario could end without giving him a migraine.

Meanwhile, Tayuya saw his mental gears turning and decided to pounce on the chance. "No no no. We're going and that's final," she smirked and jabbed him in the chest with her finger, "You're too fucking poor to even buy yourself food, much less a poor, delicate girl like me… who you've also been ordered to take care of." She finished with a playful batting of her eyelashes, a very unsettling gesture from the woman he'd gotten so used to being a hard-ass.

"Yeah… right... The only time you'll ever call yourself 'delicate' is when it's to your advantage…" he shook his head with just a hint of a smile.

"Hey fuck you," she replied… though without much hostility, "I can be sweet and nice and shit when I want to be…"

"You/I just don't want to be," they both finished the line, actually smiling some at each other.

"Yeah yeah, whatever you say…" he smirked and waved his hand dismissively.

"C'mon, I'm fucking starving," she said while giving his arm a light shove.

With a sigh like that of a man who sees the train coming for him, yet can't move away, he slowly starts walking down the street towards his house.


Inside the spacious, well-used kitchen, Yoshino Nara stood over the sink slicing up a few vegetables to use for her and her husband's lunch today. A pot of rice sat on the stove boiling itself into a foamy white cloud, filling the otherwise silent kitchen with quiet sound of bubbling water.

She wondered idly how Shikamaru was doing. Yes it'd only been one day, but it was the first time he'd actually lived away from home. She may not express it well on the outside, but inside, she was a mother after all, and she worried about how her only child was doing on his own.

Well, not on his own. Maybe she'd feel better if he was on his own, instead of living with a high-ranking enemy nin from Sound. And a girl at that…

"…Nah," she said with a smirk after a minute's thought, "girls are still too much of a 'hassle' for him." She smiled a bit and went back to slicing up the vegetables.

A knock at the door made her look up from the sink curiously. She wasn't expecting any neighbors to stop by, nor was it as if she'd invited anyone over. 'Must be another one of those damn salesmen that started hanging around, hawking all this 'Sound protection' stuff… Bunch of vultures…' she thought with a scowl. In any times of conflict, there would always be a few deplorable people there to make a profit from the people's fear, and that really pissed Yoshino off.

With those thoughts in mind, she quickly stormed to the door and flung it open, "Yeah!? What the hell do you want, you parasite!?" she yelled angrily, glaring at the low-life here to weasel some money out of her.



This particular scum happened to look a lot like her son, but obviously it couldn't be since he had a woman leaning against him with his arm around her shoulder.

The two of them looked at the fearsome housewife for a minute silently before the red haired girl turned to the boy and said with a snicker, "Now I see where your shitty attitude comes from…"

Ignoring her, he looked up at Yoshino with the Nara-family's distinctive 'look' (a mix of bored, annoyed, and disinterested), "'Hello' to you too."

"Oh, Shikamaru!" his mother blinked, slowly letting herself relax out of her fighting stance, "What're you doing here? It's only been a little over a day since you left…" At this point, Yoshino connected the fact that it was her son holding the girl with red hair. "And… you brought company…"

The two young ninja both glared at her angrily, followed by a bit of a struggle as one tried to move away from the other, but neither of them let go of the other either, which was then followed by awkward silence.

"There's a reason for all this…" Shikamaru sighed and shook his head, "And we'll tell you all about it… once we're sitting down." He narrowed his eyes tiredly at his mother, standing in the doorway, imploring her to move.

With a groan and tossing her hands up to the heavens she muttered, "What a helpless kid I've got…" while moving out of the way.

The two kids entered the house and Shikamaru led them straight for the living room. Seeing the two of them walk, they didn't seem at all like lovers, like their closeness first suggested, but more like a soldier carrying a wounded comrade.

Well, 'comrade' seemed a bit much as she listened to the two of them as they walked along. "I can walk this far you asshole" she'd grumble.

"You said that back by that elementary school, and remember what happened then?" he replied evenly.

"S-shut up… that was cuz I haven't eaten today!" she shot back.

….Well, maybe not so far off after all; even as they sniped at each other back and forth, they did it in hushed voices, as if they didn't want to share the conversation.

Once they'd gotten to the living room, Shikamaru helped put the girl down on the floor next to the table before sitting off to the side, while Yoshino sat opposite the new girl.

"So… What brings you back so soon Shikamaru? I thought you were ordered off on a mission?" his mother asked, in a tone that made Shikamaru think she already knew the answers to all the coming questions.

With a groan he shook his head some and started with the first ques-

"Because he's a poor-ass piece of crap and I'm the 'mission'," Tayuya interrupted, pointing at him, then herself as she spoke, both her voice and her stomach growling.

"Hey! I thought we agreed-" he started, blinking some as he looked back at her.

"I didn't agree to shit! You're the one that said 'be polite', I never said I would," she crossed her arms and looked away defiantly.

"…You're such a pain in the-"

"Ahem…" Yoshino piped up with a little cough into her fist, then looked over at the red-head with a pleasant face she reserved for guests, "So you must be the 'Tayayu' I've heard so mu-"

"It's Tayuya," the girl cut her off, turning back look at the older woman, "And I'd just love to have a girl-to-girl 'chit-chat' or whatever, but we're here for food. Food and money, that's all," she said, brutally cutting through all tact and manners to get to the point.


Shikamaru could swear the room dropped a few degrees, feeling noticeably colder.

"Um… well, the Hokage's office hasn't approved the line of credit for this mission yet," Shikamaru started, trying to do some damage-control before his mother got really angry and simply threw them both out, making all this effort of just getting here a waste. "So I was wondering if we can have some breakfast… and um... a loan..? Just till the office reimburses it…" he trailed off. He'd never been in a situation like this before: actually having to depend on the generosity of his parents, until now, it'd just been a given.

It didn't appear either woman even heard him anyway, both still in a stare-off with the other.

"So, you still didn't tell me why you came over her arm-in-arm like lovers…" Yoshino said with a slightly raised brow.

"And it's none of your damn business what we do or why," Tayuya curly replied.

"Oh no, you shouldn't say that to the mother of a boy that's suddenly living with such a… unique woman… It just makes my imagination run wild with silly things like walking around each other with nothing but a towel on, or even waking up in each other's arms…" his mother trailed off, her eyes seeming to size up Tayuya as a woman.

Instantly, the two younger people's faces lit up as they both realized both of his mother's 'lover's scenarios' had already happened.

Whether through a report from the ANBU guards, intuition, or just plain luck, Tayuya felt the fact that she'd said exactly what they did earned her a bit of respect. "Stop saying stupid shit like that," she grumbled, waving her hand in front of her face dismissively, and while her language was crude, her voice was lacking much of the hostility from moments ago. "It's a fucking long walk from there to here. My legs got tired and I didn't feel like stopping, so I had this guy," she jerked her thumb at the male Nara child, "support me so we could make it here before lunch time," she summarized quickly, blowing through not just most, but all of the details.

After they'd been walking down the streets for a few minutes, Tayuya had stumbled over an electrical cord to a signpost and nearly fell face first in the dirt. But as she was tumbling to the ground, Shikamaru had reached out and caught her around the waist, pulling her against himself for balance. The sense of déjà vu only lasted a second for them until Tayuya started screaming and throwing cusses at the shop that owned the sign. He'd had to actually keep holding onto her as he pulled her away from the offending store. And after two blocks, and her grumbling complains ran silent… neither of them really said anything about moving apart.

Although there was that time they passed a school with kids playing out in the yard. One of them giggled and made 'oooh' noises at the 'lovers', which made all the other kids join in chorus. Both of them blushed darkly and Tayuya had demanded to be let go… until he did and her legs nearly gave out on her… again.

After she slowly walked and wobbled out of sight of the school, she leaned back against him as before, with an added grumble about it being out of necessity. He'd just nodded boredly and resumed supporting her weight as they walked along.

Finishing his thoughts on the memory, Shikamaru shook his head a bit. He was amazed such a simple trip could become such a production, and fearing the power of his mother once again. If she could make the red-headed demon calm down this much with just one sentence, imagine what she'd be like a few years.

…Wait. Did he just assume he'd be spending years together with this woman? That thought sobered him up from the issue of how they came here, and more towards the why. "So, anyway," he raised his voice some to bring them back to the actual point, "I haven't been getting paid anything lately, so I'm out of money for even breakfast. So –"

"You want me to feed you two and give you an allowance like when you were just a little kid?" his mother finished, crossing her arms under her chest and a look of thought on her face.

"He's still a little brat…" Tayuya grumbled, mimicking the pose, but looking more tired than thoughtful.

'Hmm, I think that every day," Yoshino echoed with a nod to herself.

"Ugh… Women are such a pain in the ass…" he groaned, "Yes, if that's how you want to phrase it, then yes."

"Hmm… Well, I guess I can at least get you two some food…" the older woman finally conceded as she pushed herself up and slowly walked towards the kitchen.

As soon as she she'd turned the corner, Shikamaru looked over to his red-headed pain in the ass, "Would it kill you to at least pretend to be a decent human? She is, after all, the person we're trying to get both food and money from…"

"Oh bite me," said pain responded, putting her cheek on a fist and looking the opposite direction, "She started it with all her-"

"You started it!" he countered, "There are times when being blunt isn't a smart thing," he sighed and shook his head. "…Then again, you're pretty blunt in all aspects…" he added with a helpless shrug.

"Fuck you," Tayuya turned her head on her hand and looked at him with a glare, "You weren't being 'subtle' or 'persuasive'; you're just too chicken-shit to talk to your own fuckin' mother."

"Hey, it's not my fault she's one scary bitch when she gets mad- wait, look who I'm talking to," he reminded himself, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"Damn straight," she smirked, rather liking the fact he thought of her as a scary person.

"Well, well, I'm just so glad to see the two of you getting along so well…" his mother's voice drifted around the corner as her body slowly turned into view.

She'd obviously been listening to the whole thing.

"So, I hope you can enjoy this scary bitch's cooking," she said in a voice with a hint of malice as she walked back into the room. She nearly dropped each of the plates she'd been carrying in front of each of them. The heavy ceramic banged loudly on the table, enough to make even the 'breakfast-worn' Shikamaru jump.

Each plate had a few different kinds of vegetables (the very ones she'd been cutting up before her 'guests' arrived), with a large serving of rice in the center. The two younger ones silently picked at the food, both avoiding looking at each other, and especially at Yoshino.

After a few minutes of silent eating, and his mother watching them both from behind steepled fingers, she finally broke the quiet. "So, Shika," she said pleasantly to her son, "You've mooched a free breakfast off your mother, again, what else do you need?"

Feeling a chill down his spine, Shikamaru managed not to grumble and mutter like usual. Instead he put down his chopsticks and looked up at his mother, "Well, like I said… I don't really have any money right now, since the Hokage hasn't gotten this mission funding yet… So, I need to borrow a bit of money, just until I get paid." He said this last part almost in one breath, afraid to give the woman a chance to start complaining before he could finish. Pressing the moment's silence, he continued, "I mean, I spent the last of my money on cheap convenience store food last night, and some clothes for her," he emphasized with a jerk of his head towards his red-headed roommate.

"Yeah, thanks a lot…prick," Tayuya grumbled, snagging a piece of his unguarded food in response.

"huh… and here I thought that was just a very… modern fashion," Yoshino said almost to herself, looking at the massively oversized clothing on the young girl.

"No, this asshole's just an immature brat that thought it'd be funny," she growled, reaching out and actually poking his cheek with one of her chopsticks.

"Hey, how am I supposed to know that women use some pain in the ass size scale? I got a '16' because that's biggest they had," he grumbled, ignoring the constant poking to his face, "Stupid me, I thought women would use something logical for a size-guide. …Then again, it would explain those size zero's I saw…" He looked up at the ceiling some, deciding it was better to pretend to be occupied with this train of thought than actually have to deal with either of the annoying people here.

With a sigh, both women shook their heads, wondering how dense the boy genius could really be…

"Anyway," Tayuya said, "Like Nara-ass here was saying, money. Now. Give," she spoke like a child, holding out her hand demandingly.

Looking from the outstretched hand, to the girl's determined face, then to her son's conveniently looking away face, she smiled. "…Well, I'm sorry you two, but I just don't have any money to spare," she simply shrugged a little.

"Wha-!?" both of them started, looking at the older woman in wide-eyed surprise.

"What do you mean? You've never said anything about having no money before," Shikamaru blinked a few times, wondering if his household had been in some kind of debt he'd never even noticed

"You bitch! You're trying to hold out on me!" Tayuya overlapped his voice, "I don't wanna be stuck in these damn clothes forever!"

"Hey! Be quiet you two!" Yoshino barked, silencing the pair, "I can't give you a loan, but I can let you borrow a few things until you get your budget squared away," she explained patiently.

Shikamaru and Tayuya looked from her, to each other, then shrugged a bit before turning back to her.

"Ok, finally, some cooperation," she smiled to herself, glad they finally stopped asking questions and demanding things. "Now," she looked up at her son, "You're going to go over to the Hokage's office and sort this out right now."

Shikamaru's face soured and he leaned towards the table, resting his elbows on it, "'tch but I just got h-"

"Right. Now." she emphasized while leveling a glare at him.

"…But, what about her?" he blinked and looked over at the redheaded, his last excuse for not having to do anything.

"I'll take care of her, you just get your lazy ass in gear," she said sternly, not letting up on her glare.

"…." Shikamaru matched his mother's glare… for a few seconds, then his expression turned more into a wince and he pushed himself away from the table, "Fine, fine, I got it..."

"I knew you were a smart boy," Yoshino beamed happily.

Tayuya, for her part, just watched the two of them and snickered… until the 'scary bitch' looked her way.

"W-what the hell do you mean 'take care of'? I'm not some fucking baby you know," she growled, crossing her arms tightly over herself.

"Oh no, I didn't mean that," the older woman said with a smile, "But I just have to make sure you know how to do the basic things, seeing as how you two are living together now. I wouldn't want a daughter that can't even take care of my son…" she grinned.

"W-w-what the fuck!? I'm not your daughter, and I'm not 'living' with that ass! It's a prison sentence! Do-Don't get weird ideas like that!" Tayuya shouted, pushing herself a few feet away from the woman, her face beet red.

"Just ignore her," Shikamaru called from the hallway with a sigh, "She does this to any girl that comes here." He sighed and shook his head again, remembering just how persistent she'd been when Ino first started coming over. She'd gone so far as to force them on a few dates together… which wouldn't have been fun now, nor were they back when he was ten.

Hearing Shikamaru's words, Tayuya did calm down some, her fluttered face returning to its more regular scowl. "You're whole family's a bunch of assholes…" she grumbled to herself.

"Welcome to it, Tayuya," the elder Nara woman smirked evilly, "Now, help me clean these dishes," she said while standing up and collecting the plates off the table.

"What?" she blinked and looked up at the woman waiting for her, "You're gonna make a poor handicapped girl do housewor-"

"You bet your ass I am," Yoshino smirked and kept waiting, "C'mon, the long you wait, the harder this stuff is to get off the dishes."

She glared up at the woman… for a few seconds before letting out a defeated sigh. She had always been the most feared woman in all of Sound, everyone eventually bowing to her will. She'd only known this woman for less than an hour, but she could tell she was a hundred times worse. That and she just didn't have the patience to play the waiting game. With a groan, she carefully pushed herself up to her feet and followed the elder woman into the kitchen.

"Here you go," Yoshino handed the set of dishes to the redhead, standing off to the side of the sink.

"What the fuck?" she blinked and crooked an eyebrow, "You want me to wash these stupid things?" She looked down again at the dishes… and nearly tossed them into the sink, then turned the water on full blast for a few seconds. After seeing the water touched each dish, she turned around and headed back to the living room. "There, done."

"Hey! What the hell is that?" Yoshino snapped, reaching out and actually catching her by the back of her collar.

"Hn?" Tayuya turned her head with a genuinely innocent look, "I washed 'em, what's your problem?"

"…" the Nara woman shook her head in awe, trying not to think how horrifying the kitchens in Sound must be. "No, that's not washing, that's not even a proper rinse!" she scolded.

"Ehhh?" the 'student' groaned, "That's too much fucking work... Just leave 'em there, someone else always takes care of it." She waved her hand in an unconcerned motion.

"Oh no, that 'someone' is you, and you're going to do it now!" the 'teacher' snapped, pulling her back to the sink and thrust a sponge into her hand. After another short stare-off, Tayuya began to grudgingly scrub the dishes.

By the end, almost half an hour later, both women had their sleeves and front of their shirts covered in soapy water. Trying to not groan too loudly, Yoshino shook her head and started walking out of the kitchen, "C'mon, let's get you some dry clothes… one that actually fit."

Tayuya eagerly followed behind.


In the middle of the village, at the Hokage's office, Shikamaru's walk-in appointment was finally called. He entered into the Hokage's office, though it took him a few seconds to actually see her past the mountain of paperwork she was furiously stamping, while Shizune handed her a new stack every few seconds.

"Yes? What is it Shikamaru?" Tsunade snapped, not looking up from the papers, "I'm still not canceling this experiment just because you had a bad night."

"Um... no, that's not it…" he trailed off, finding it a bit of a pain to talk to someone that he felt was barely listening to his problems, "I'm here about… Well, I need money." The mention of cash was enough to make the Hokage's stamping hand twitch a little, and her pace slowed just barely. Seeing this, he quickly finished, "I haven't been getting any other missions since this one started, and I've burned through my reserves. So I'd like to request either my current pay for this mission up till now, or some form of an expense account to keep ourselves clothed and fed," he finished in the most formal, business-like tone he could muster.

Halfway through his request, she'd stopped stamping papers and looked up at the young chuunin, "So, you want the village to give you money to live together with a girl?"

Shikamaru winced, 'that's definitely a troublesome way of putting it…'

"That's easy enough," Tsunade shrugged, stamping another paper without looking.

"Really?" he blinked, "T-thank you ver-"

"Yeah, I'm sure I can find you some work to give you a steady income," she nodded boredly before looking back down at the pages yet to be approved. "Shizune, help find Shikamaru a job," she added in a tone as if asking for more coffee.

"N-no! That's not what I meant!" Shikamaru tried to interject, his eyes widening at the realization of how annoying things were becoming with each passing second.

Unfortunately, Tsunade wasn't listening anymore, her full attention on a stray bill she'd nearly stamped, "Huh!? 'Increased funding for Root's 'medical' facilities'!?" she roared, crumbling the paper with superhuman strength.

If that show of brute force wasn't enough to make Shikamaru leave, then Shizune practically dragging him out of the office before that strength was directed at either of them was. "C'mon, let's find you some good paying work," her voice was insistent, silencing any of his final complaints as the door to the Hokage's office quickly shut behind them.


Dusk had turned the sky a deep orange, setting the clouds afire in shades of pink before Shikamaru finally stepped foot back on his family's property. His shoulders sagged and his feet dragged more than usual. His mind was wandering freely, yet putting an actual effort into not thinking about the entirely new wave of trouble he'd found himself in. When he stopped zoning out, he realized his hand was already on the front door to his house.

"I'm home," he grumbled under his breath as he walked in, a habit ingrained in him over the years. And the reaction he got was also what he was used to: nothing. Silence filled the house... except for the quiet, timed, knocks coming from the kitchen. He followed the noise, led by his stomach, which had been running on empty for over two hours now. He turned the corner and stopped.

Standing with her back to him was not his mother, but another woman. Her shoulders were hunched over in deep focus on the task before her: a daikon radish on the cutting board. One hand held a long knife, while the other gripped the vegetable as if it were going to fly away. Her long red hair had been pulled back into a simple ponytail, and the lack of hair in her face adding to her look of determination. Another change was she now wore a set of clothes that actually fit: a worn, faded pair of jeans and a black long sleeve shirt that was rolled up to her elbows. It took him a second to recognize that this was Tayuya.

She looked…. domestic.

That thought scared him.

She looked… good.

That thought scared him more because he couldn't find an argument against it.

So he just mentally shook it off and walked over to her with his hands in his pockets, "Since when do you cook?" he asked in a mildly surprised tone.

"Since your hard-ass mom made me," she snarled back, not looking up from the vegetable, "Either I attempt dinner or I give back all the clothes she gave me… And I am not going back to that damn circus tent of a wardrobe you bought."

"Hmm... Glad to see she's as manipulative as ever…" he sighed and shook his head a bit, leaning his back against the counter some, watching her progress. "So how's your 'attempt' going?"

"Fuck you," she growled, still not looking up, but he could tell her aggression wasn't towards him, but the daikon, thus answering his question.

He glanced up at her face and couldn't help but smile, seeing the arrogant, loud-mouthed girl he'd come to know become so focused and frustrated with something like this was almost… cute? He shook his head with a scowl, trying to derail that train of thought before it could go anywhere.

He looked around the kitchen, noticing the alpha bitch was nowhere to be seen. "So where'd she go?" he glanced over, watching the bitch-in-training try to finely dice the large radish.

"Hm?" Tayuya made a noise, not looking up, "Said something about the store… I dunno, don't give a crap either. Damnit!" She glared and lifted up the latest slice… and the last 3 in a connected chain.

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow some, "You were one of the 'elite 4' in Sound, yet you can't even cut up dinner?"

"Fuck you!" she snapped, flipping the failed slice at him, "I told you, I don't like using knives, my music is my weapon," she wags the tip of the knife towards him with a smile, sounding proud of herself.

"And look where that landed you..." he shook his head a bit.

"…" Tayuya's expression darkened and she turned back to the cutting board, the sound of chopping filling the now silent room.

This wasn't the reaction he was expecting, and for some reason, it made him feel bad. "…Sorry," he sighed, closing his eyes and leaning against the counter more.

"Yeah, whatever…" she replied hollowly.

The silence grew thicker between them, Tayuya not wanting to talk about it, and Shikamaru not sure what to say.

"…You need some help with that?" he slowly asked, seeing her make another strangely shaped slice.

"No," she replied simply, "I'm gonna prove to that bitch I can take care of myself."

Shikamaru let out a sigh and reached over, taking the knife from her hands lightly, "Fine fine, but at least let me show you how to cut this stuff…" Despite his attitude, he'd spent most of his childhood years in the kitchen… even if it was sitting at the table teaching himself to read the newspaper. His mother had taught him a few things too… until she became too frustrated by his bored attitude and quit.

He slid in front of the cutting board and started to quickly chop away at the daikon, and while his slices weren't perfect, they were more uniform than Tayuya's.

"Hmm, so the genius-ass can do it all huh?" she smirked, having to refused to simply be pushed to the side; she was pressed against him at the hip, standing her ground.

They continued to stay together like that for a few minutes. He passed her the knife and watched her improved slicing skills. She really didn't like having him be better at anything than her, but if it at least meant they wouldn't starve or have to constantly eat junk food, she was willing to forgive him for it.

After dumping the last of the chopped vegetables into the pot, they both looked at each other with a hint of a smile and a nod of satisfaction. Then Tayuya turned away first to sit down for a bit- and jumped when seeing both Shikato and Yoshino standing in the doorway.

"See? I told you they reminded me of some people I knew a while back…" Yoshino, with her fingertips touching each other, grinned like a fox.

"Hmm… I don't really see what you're talking about... You were the one scolding me about how to cook," his father responded with a half-serious tone, making both the younger people's faces flush.

Tayuya recovered first, shaking off the embarrassed expression, "Y-you little bastards! How long've you been standing there, you fucking voyeurs!?" She shook her fist in front of her menacingly.

"Oh! Now I see what you mean," Shikato nodded with his hand on his chin, "The resemblance is striking!"

"I'll show you 'striking', you jackass…" Yoshino growled under her breath, but forced herself to let it go and turning back to the children. "Now then, let's have dinner," she cheerfully concluded, clapping her hands once before forcefully shoving her husband and son out of the kitchen and into the dinning room.

Once they were out of range, Yoshino walked over to the pot where to soup had been boiling away the whole time she'd been gone. "Hm, looks fine to me," she stated with a nod.

"Hrmp," the redhead responded with a proud smirk, "Of course, who do you think made it?"

"You put chopped ingredients into a pot of boiling water and some seasonings. …But at least you're skilled enough not to burn it," the elder woman said with just enough praise to keep Tayuya's urge of slugging her to become realized.

Lifting the pot up, the woman carried it into the dinning room, with a slightly sulky Tayuya in tow. The pot was placed on a small burner to keep it warm in the middle of the table before the women took their seats.

Shikato leaned in and looked into the pot with an approving look, "Hmm, so this is my future daughter in-law's cookIN-" He was cut short as a loud thump came from under the table and he leaned down a bit to grab his knee for a minute.

They all sat there for a minute silently. Shikamaru and Tayuya on one side, each looking annoyed to even be here, and the parents on the other, both looking happy to be so annoying.

"Well then," Shikato broke the silence as he grabbed his bowl and the serving spoon, "bon appetite." They all watched him as he took a spoonful from his bowl and put it in his mouth, each holding their breath. Tayuya wondered if it tasted ok, Shikamaru wondered if she'd poisoned it, and Yoshino wondered if her cooking tasted like poison.

They all waited as the eldest Nara chewed and then swallowed, silently putting down his bowl. "It's a bit bland... but not bad for a first try," he smirked some at the redhead.

Tayuya nearly let out a sigh of relief, but didn't. She did however let her shoulders sag as the tension flowed out of her, a move that didn't go unnoticed. She mentally kicked herself, why should she care one tiny fucking bit what these jackasses think of her cooking? As long as she could eat it, it was fine. And if Shikamaru could eat it, it was killing two birds with one… 'Why the fuck do I care if he likes it!? He's the least concern of them all!' she mentally screamed.

She was broken out of her mental torture as a bowl of soup was put under her. Blinking in surprise, she looked up and found that Shikamaru of all people had given it to her. She stared at him in amazement, wondering when the little bastard learned manners all the sudden. She was about to rub his nose in it, then stopped. For some reason, she just didn't feel like picking a fight right now, better to savor it for ammo to use later. For now, she just wanted to enjoy a… family meal. She'd never had one of those before.

Shikamaru had watched her let out a silent look of relief when his dad didn't die after the first bite, and then when she looked like she'd zoned out and stared off into space. With a sigh he looked at his bowl, then to her, then back to his bowl, "What a pain in the ass…" he grumbled as he filled his bowl with the soup, getting more meat and veggies than soup... and then swapped it with her empty bowl.

"See? You used to do that for me!" Yoshino grumbled and swatted her husband's arm lightly.

"Ouch, what's the point serving you the meal you just cooked?" he sighed back, eating another spoonful.

When Tayuya blinked herself back into focus, she looked at him curiously. And Shikamaru found he held her gaze much longer than he really needed to before looking away to fill his own bowl.

With a sigh, they both watched his parents bicker and argue about pointless things he'd grown up his whole life hearing. The couple times he'd looked over at his 'roommate', he noticed she was looking almost envious. And once, just once, he thought he saw something he'd never seen on her before.

A tear streak down one cheek.

But it was wiped away by her napkin before he could actually tell what it was. He didn't say anything, only raising an eyebrow slightly before turning back to the 'entertainment'.

After the dishes were cleared and the 'house warming gifts' were packed away into a pair of old duffle bags, Shikamaru put his shoes back on at the front door with Tayuya already waiting outside. The sun had gone down long ago and there was almost nobody on the streets anymore. The only sounds being her impatient feet crunching the gravel as she waited for him.

"Hmm... I like her," his father said with an admiring look over his son's shoulder while rubbing his chin a bit, "She's loud, foul-mouthed, and obnoxious, kind of like someone I kn-"

"Finish that thought and you'll be joining them tonight dear," Yoshino reminded him with an evil tone before turning back to her son. "Now, remember what I told you: you're welcome any time, just let us know before you're coming," she said in a voice loud enough for both of the younger people to hear, "But just don't make it a daily thing," she added with almost a pleading tone.

"Yeah yeah, I know," Shikamaru grumbled as he turned and walked towards the gate, waving lazily over his head, "Goodnight."

Tayuya's watched him approach then looked back at his parents, "It's been… something. Let's not do it again," she smirked and turned quickly, her long hair fluttering out behind her. A second later, the front door shut behind them, cutting off the illumination it provided.

They walked down the dark streets, the only light coming from sparse street lamps, and the crescent moon above. Neither of them said anything for a few blocks, seeming to enjoy the silence after a day of constant noise. Then-

"You're family… are pretty interesting… for a bunch of deer-herding assholes," Tayuya smirked, not looking at him as she said it, instead looking up slightly at the stars.

"Oh? I'm so glad you approve," he replied from a few paces back, carrying a full duffel in each hand, "I wouldn't want my family to be the reason you don't like me." His tone held just a hint of amusement, which surprised her.

"No no no," she nearly laughed, turning around and walking backwards, "I don't like you because you're a grumpy, lazy, pineapple-headed, little fag." She grinned, putting her hands behind her head, still walking backwards to watch his reaction.

"Hey, I resent those last three…" he just barely smirked, "Besides, I'm taller than you remember, you loud, picky, pain in the ass woman?" As if to prove it, he stood a bit straighter and walked towards her, closing the gap between them as they walked.

Tayuya glared at him as he counterattacked her, and also stood up taller, determined to prove him wrong here. …Unfortunately, the closer he got, the more she realized he was right. Her eye-level was going to be at about his mouth, and that was something she did not want a close-up of. She tried to keep their distance by speeding up her pace without looking like she was running away. Turning around would be like admitting defeat, so she kept her proud smirk on her face as she carefully stepped one foot behind the other.

Too bad her body wasn't ready for something as complicated as backwards jogging, forcing her to stay at a certain speed or risk tripping over her own feet. Mentally kicking herself, she thought of something to do instead. Something much more evil.

She stopped.

It was so sudden, Shikamaru, who was only about a yard away, just barely stopped himself before bowling into her.

Too bad the twin duffels in his hands weren't so easy to stop.

His arms were yanked along by the heavy bags, dragging his upper body forward and down. Both of their eyes widened as they knew they were about to crash and neither could stop it. They connected in a head-to-head impact… or, more specifically, face-to-face. The momentum of the bags pulled Shikamaru into his redheaded roommate just hard enough for their lips to meet for a second.

And for another second, they stood there like that.

One second.

And then, as suddenly as it happened, they both took a step back, the humor instantly sobered out of them. They took a step back and waited.

There, under the moonlight where details were hard to see, they could each see the other's face becoming redder the longer the silence stretched on.

"….W-well!?" Tayuya demanded after another few seconds, her face flushed as she attempted a glare at him.

"Well what?" Shikamaru responded with a raised eyebrow, his voice masking the confusion he felt as his brain tried to sort it all out.

"Aren't you gonna fucking apologize!?" she stamped a foot on the ground.

"For what? You're the one that suddenly stopped like that," he reasoned.

"!! Y-you just- I mean," she sputtered a bit before a flash of anger resharpened her tongue, "You dick-sucker! You just kissed me and now you say it's my fault!?"

"T-that wasn't a kiss," this time it was Shikamaru's turn to stutter and look away, "That was… an accident." He nodded a bit, more to himself than her before facing her again.

"…" Tayuya thought this over for a minute, truly wondering what to do before she looked up at him and returned a tiny nod.

Without saying another word, the two of them started walking again. They were now walking almost side-by-side now, though still with a good amount of space between them.

As they walked on, Shikamaru wondered why he'd called it an 'accident'. Yes, he'd had no intention of doing that today, or ever. But… when he'd been falling forward, he could have moved his head to the side or something… Maybe he did it on purpo-

He expelled that idea with a violent shake of his head.

Tayuya didn't even notice such a display, too wrapped up in her own wheel of thoughts. Why did she suddenly stop like that? What did she honestly expect to happen after seeing their height difference? And why the hell was she still blushing like an elementary school girl?

Desperate for a change of subject, Shikamaru asked the first thing that he thought of. "Hey… at dinner, were you… crying?" Even as the words came out, he wished he hasn't asked. Or at least not so bluntly.

"W-what!?" Tayuya blinked and snapped her head to him, "What the fuck are you talking about!?"

Ignoring her sudden anger, "When my dad was talking about the politics of clan meetings and how much of a pain they were… I thought I saw a tear." He paused, not looking at her, only straight ahead as they kept moving forward, "But I don't understand why."

"I nev- You little…." Tayuya started… and never finished, her anger simmering silently.

They kept walking along quietly the rest of the way home, neither saying a thing.

Up the stairs of the big, blue building, down the hall, and unlocking the door.

"Are all the families in this place… 'good'?" she suddenly asked in a quiet voice, standing outside the open door, refusing to come in.

"'Good'?" he repeated, turning back to her after putting down the bags inside.

"Do you all get along, eat together, have small talk, shit like that?" she tried to clarify, her voice still keeping quiet.

"Hmm…" he stopped and thought about it. His family was a bit off, but he supposed it would fit under her definition of 'good'. Chouji's family basically thrived around family meals. Kiba and his family probably growled at each other during dinner, but got along fine. The Hyuuga's… well… theirs seemed complicated to say the least. He thought of each of his friends and classmates, he either didn't know much about their family lives, or didn't think of anything of interest. Only Sasuke and Naruto had true family issues, but not in the way she asked. He turned back to her and nodded slightly, "From what I know, yeah, most of the people in Konoha are like that: average, decent people."

Tayuya looked down for a second, letting out a sigh, "Then there's no way you'd ever understand…" She shook her head just a bit and walked into the apartment, tossing her shoes off in the entrance before sitting with her back to the wall in the living room.

"…" Shikamaru blinked slowly as she pushed past him, taking his time following her, stopping to get his jug of green tea out of the old refrigerator and a pair of glasses. Quietly he walked into the room and sat down next to her against the wall. He poured her a glass and one for himself, both remained untouched on the floor next to them.

He didn't ask her to explain it, knowing it was obvious he wanted to know from his actions. He didn't even look at her, instead just staring at the opposite wall, letting his mind wander a bit.

Finally, after fifteen minutes of silence, she reached out and took a drink of the tea. Holding it in her lap with both hands she looked out the window at the starry sky, "I don't remember much of my life before Orochimaru recruited me…" she started quietly, "but I do have some scattered images…

"My parents, I think, were both drunks. And not the happy, laughing kind I'm sure you know, but the short-tempered, violent kind… We probably didn't have much money that wasn't spent on fucking booze. I don't remember much about either of them, except they always yelled to 'get the fuck out of their face and go play Hide and Go Fuck Yourself somewhere'… The only good memories I have from then is sitting in a closet with a recorder I'd found in the garbage. I taught myself how to play… and how to summon things. I'd learned that when I put myself whole-heartedly into my music, friends would appear." She smirked weakly and shook her head a little before taking a sip of the tea, "Turns out I'm one of those kinds of people that just has a natural talent for summoning beings from the other dimensions. But since I was just a little brat that didn't know a damned thing, I could only summon lesser spirits; ones that were blind, smaller than my hand, and powerless. I never made a formal contract before I started summoning either, so I never gained the power to summon the truly sentient beings…

"And then: the fire came. I remember watching my house burn to the ground, hearing the cries of those around me. And you know what? I was happy…" She continued to stare into the distance as she talked, a weak smile on her face as her eyes slowly started to blur with tears she pretended not to notice, "Happy that my parents were dying a painful death along with everyone else that never cared about me…"

"He came to them then. Held out a hand with promises of great things for me, he was the first person to praise my talents instead of calling me an abomination like everyone else had when I'd shown them my powers. Years later, I found out he was the one that burned my village to the ground. And… I became all the more devoted to him for it," she gulped down a breath as her voice started to shake.

Shikamaru, for his part, sat and listened to the whole thing without interruption or even reaction, not wanting a question to make her seal up again, or maybe because he'd never guessed she had such a terrible life. He'd lived a life of ease and luxury, where the only complaints he had was not being able to sleep until noon.

Her tremors spread from her voice to her shoulders, making her cup shake in her hands until it finally tipped over and rolled away in a small puddle. Her knees came up and she tightly wrapped her arms around her legs, pulling them close and burying her face tightly into her knees. The whole time, only a single choked sob escaped her lips.

In a move that surprised himself looking back on it, he slowly reached an arm over and wrapped it around her shoulder. Seeing her not jerk or even react, he gently pulled her against himself until her head was just below his. He knew all the words he'd learned over the years, all the plans and tactics were useless. So he sat there with her silently, rubbing her shoulder and arm slowly while keeping her body close.

Eventually her tremors stopped, and her breathing became slow and steady again. He kept his arm around her though, resting on her shoulder. The odd part was, neither of them minded, almost taking a small bit of comfort in it.

Their silent moment was broken only after Shikamaru let out a yawn he could no longer hold back.

"So, how long are you going to cling to me, you pervert?" Tayuya asked with a smile in her tone.

"About as long as you keep cuddling up to me, you loudmouth," he replied as he slowly let go of her, pulling his arm back to himself while she straightened back up.

She smirked as he got to his feet with the usual groan of effort, "Jesus, you sound older than those geezers we passed this morning doing yoga."

"Yeah yeah, stuff it," he muttered as he climbed the ladder to the attic-space, pulling their futons and pillows down. He paused and looked down to her curiously, "Are you going to sleep up here again tonight?"

The redheaded girl chewed on the inside of her cheek in thought for a second. She'd been up there last night... but it was way too much like sleeping in a cave again for her to find comfortable. Looking up at him, she jerked her head towards the floor, "Down here, it smelled like ass up there. …Kinda reminded me of your house," she grinned, unable to help getting a jab in.

"Har har," he replied while tossing a pillow at her. Grabbing the rest of his stuff, he headed back down and started cleaning up the table and other things to make space for two futons.

"Hey hey hey, aren't you going to sleep up there?" she asked, pointing up at the attic as she started laying out her own futon. When he only answered by giving her a blank, slightly confused look, she sighed and shook her head, "Do you really want to wake up like this morning? I know I sure don't want some pineapple-headed monkey messing with my hair first thing in the morning"

He smirked and unrolled his futon next to her's, only a gap of a few feet between them. "Then make sure to stay in your own bed this time," he replied simply before going to the bathroom for a shower, making sure to bring a change of clothes with him this time.

As the door clicked shut and the sound of water started to flow, Tayuya was left alone in the room. She sighed a bit, moving over to the large bags his mother had stuffed full of old clothes and other stuff. She pulled out a large t-shirt with the Nara family's signature mark on the chest and looked at it. "Bunch of lazy jackasses, couldn't even think of something more creative…" she smirked and shook her head. Looking around the room, she confirmed that the bathroom door was firmly shut and the curtains drawn over the window before she pulled off the shirt she was wearing and donned the 'new' one. After one more check of the room, she reached her arms inside the shirt and pulled her bra off, quickly shoving it into the hidden depths of the clothing before the pervert could find it.

Only when she had taken her pants off from under the safety of the covers did she realize that she hadn't given it a second thought to being almost naked while sleeping just feet away from a guy. She started to mull this over and was just reaching for her clothes when the bathroom door unlocked and Shikamaru stepped out.

He wore pants this time, but once again, he had no shirt on. In fact, the only fabric above his waist was the towel draped behind his neck, catching the water still dripping from his limp hair. They each looked at each other for a minute; Tayuya sitting up in her bed with the sheet wrapped around her waist tightly, and Shikamaru standing there half naked.

"…Why do you have my shirt on?" he asked with a raised brow.

"Y-yours!?" Tayuya stammered, looking down at it. Sure it fit pretty loose, but She thought Yoshino had only packed some of her old clothes into the bags.

"Oh well," he shrugged, not waiting for a response, "It… looks good on you," he added with a bit of a grumble while digging his hand through a bag for another.

Tayuya's face lit up in embarrassment, not sure if he'd meant the shirt… or the Nara family emblem. She turned to say something to him, only to see he was digging through the same bag she'd shoved her clothes in seconds ago.

Her reaction came too late as his face scrunched up in confusion and his hand pulled back with the black bra looped around his fingers, still warm to the touch…

"…" they both were silent and glanced at each other. With a reddened face, Shikamaru tossed the piece of clothing to her, "This one is mine," he explained, "That one is yours" He pointed at the other bag next to it, opening the top just enough to show her the women's clothing inside.

Both of their faces burned in silence as he put on a different shirt, a green tank-top with 'Lazy Daze' on it. Tayuya took one look at it and opened her mouth to point out the obvious-

"So why aren't you wearing underwear?" he beat her to the punch. After seeing her close her mouth mutter a 'fuck off', he turned off the light and crawled into his bed, lying back with a content sigh.

They lay there in the dark, each teenager's mind full from the events of just today. Shikamaru was still trying to figure out how this bitch of a prisoner had not only become his 'roommate' but also a favorite of sorts to both his parents. Tayuya was busy racking her brain trying to reason why she'd told this brat about her past… and even more so why he hadn't laughed at her like everyone else in Sound had. It felt… good.

With just a hint of a smile on her face, she pulled the covers up to her face and closed her eyes.



Then she opened her eyes again and glanced over at Shikamaru, sleeping on his side with his back to her. "Hey… you never said if you got that issue with our money taken care of," she reminded him, not noticing the use of 'our'.

Without moving, the lump under the sheet gave an indeterminable grunt, "Yeah... The Hokage decided to give a steady paycheck…."

"Hnn? You don't sound very excited about getting money just for sitting around, I mean, that sounds like a dream come true for your lazy-ass," she grinned.

"Because I'm not," he groaned, "I've got to take on a regular job and help out the village."

"Oh? They're finally going to put your ass to work huh?" she smirked, unable to help enjoying this, "So what're you supposed to do? Rock lifting? Paper pusher? Hmm, maybe even a floor buffer?" She couldn't stop herself from picturing all of these in her head: Shikamaru struggling to lift rocks the side of his head, being literally buried under stacks of papers that all needed to be carefully read, or dressed in a head scarf on his knees buffing the floors with a toothbrush.

With a sigh that cut through her 'happy' thoughts, he turned and looked at her in the dark, "No, worse." Knowing he now had her undivided attention, he sighed again and shook his head, "School teacher at the academy."

"…You!? A teacher!?" her eyes widened and she tried her best not to laugh.

No, seriously. She really did try… but could only hold it back a few seconds before it broke through with a snort, turning into a full flood of loud laughter.

Shikamaru weathered it all silently, knowing she'd run out of steam sooner or later. It took a while, but finally, the redhead lay there quietly, trying to catch her breath. "I'm supposed to teach them about tactics and the art of predicting your opponent's moves," he continued, as if she'd never laughed, "but the worst part is: I have to work on the program for the coming chuunin exams this year." He groaned in frustration, putting his hands over his eyes and rubbing slowly. Trying to explain how he did what he did best was one thing, but to come up with an entire test for the coming waves of immature gennin was a whole other kind of hassle.

Tayuya actually suppressed her laughter this time, only letting out a small snicker, "I'm sure you'll do fine," she said, surprising them both with words of encouragement, "the future of our food budget depends on it!" she quickly added, making them both a bit more relaxed.

"Yeah yeah, thanks a lot," he grumbled and turned back over… deciding not to think about how he actually did feel a bit better….

A quiet pair of 'goodnight's was the last thing said between them as they both slowly drifted off, exhausted from the long day.


Miles away, on the border of Fire country's territory, a single figure sailed through the trees with expert precision. Their course was a direct line for Konoha. The only noise they made was the rhythmic thump of a sandal bouncing off a branch, propelling the person to the next massive tree. Stopping suddenly, the figure decided to take a break for the night. Dressed in all black, it was hard to distinguish anything about them. The only noticeable thing was a very unique hairstyle and the large, flat iron object attached to their back.

Making camp, the person grumbled under their breath about a lack of wind in the forest and how that would make this a three day trek instead of a day and a half like in their home country, where wind was one of the only two things there.

She hated sleeping out in the wilderness. At least when that wilderness had trees and green all around, it unsettled her, too much difference from her home country she supposed.

With an aggravated sigh, the person laid against a thick tree and rested up, determined to finish the second half of the journey by tomorrow night.



Ta-da! And you all thought I was dead didn't you? Heh. No no, I'm jut really slow, you know this by now. ….Sorry. But to make up for it, once again, this chapter is longer than any of the others ' And you even got the long awaited kiss… of sorts. I wanted to personally thank people like Flametongue, Langobalt, and Lord Esquire for their long, well thought-out, and question asking reviews. I personally love to get those kind of reviews, that's what inspire me the most when I'm in a writing slump… but even the one line words of praise are nice too :D


More Author's notes! Yay.

Ok, some of you have mentioned about the ages, Shika being 14-15 and Tayu around 15-16 at the time of this fic, and how they wouldn't give a mission like this to a kid so young. To that, all I can say is: if you wanted to get information out of a young girl, without torturing her, and she doesn't like any adults, you'd probably use someone younger, or that she'd think of as 'inferior'. Besides, Tsunade assigned those ANBU and obviously kept Shika's parents informed the whole time haha.

And I've seen it in a number of the anonymous reviews, but I'll tell you all this here and now: you will probably not see me write a lemon or NC-17 chapter of this fic. First, their relationship isn't moving fast enough for that… probably. And second, I'm very uncomfortable writing those because I worry my own perversions would steer others away. I guess I could write one when I feel it's time to, and if I get enough people that want that (without going "hehehehehehehehehehe" -- ).

Finally, to those of you that said 'write more Shika/Tayu stories!', I challenge you to write them too. Make this pairing grow and flourish! But... I do actually have another story in the works with this pair, look for it in the not-too distant future. Lol

Till we meet again