Author's Note: No, I don't usually angst these two. This is the exception.


Shikamaru could have asked her what went wrong, where the alliance broke, but it seemed that he had better things to say than anything about the politics of Leaf and Sand. He just didn't know what they were.
She smiled that knife-edged grin. "I told the guards to watch out for you. Guess nobody listened to me."

He shrugged a little. She mirrored the movement. "Watching out for yourself's your own job."

"And so is watching after you, it seems," she said. "What do you think you're going to do when that kagemane runs out?"

He sighed, but didn't answer. "This mission is a pain in the ass."

"Why'd you take it if you couldn't handle it?" Temari's eyes were narrowed, her expression that strange mix between aggressive and beckoning that she used to--no. He wasn't going to think about that. Still, he wished his jutsu could control facial muscles.

Shikamaru thought instead of the way Ino and Chouji had looked after she'd gotten to them, each with a single elegant slice across their throat to accompany the many smaller ones elsewhere. When that image became too much, he turned his thoughts to the ANBU tattoo on his arm. He was one of the Hokage's personal weapons, and as irritating as that idea would be to him normally, he found it almost comforting now.

"Because I'm the only one who can," he said. He would do this for Konoha, not to avenge his teammates, he told himself.

She smirked, and again he regretted the inadequacy of his jutsu. "I'm going to have to make sure you don't get yourself killed again."

"That's not your job. I'm the enemy."

Temari's expression was unfathomable to him, like so much of her always had been. He wondered, briefly, if that was why he'd always come back to her. "You're one of mine," she said simply. "I don't care about anything else."

He didn't really know what to say, and he never had, around her. That was why she was so troublesome. But some things he did know: he knew the way she fought, fast and savage--

--he knew the way she kissed, hard and with teeth--

--he knew every gesture and movement she'd make when he faced her down--

--he knew every curve of her body--

--he knew where she kept her weapons.

He reached into his belt, and she reached into her sash. He pulled out a kunai, and so did she. He put his kunai to his throat, and she put her kunai to hers.

"You're not going to sacrifice yourself just to take me down," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Mine is blunted," he said, and he pulled it hard across his throat.

As pouring blood ruined the whiteness of the sand at their feet, he ran his fingers across his neck and felt only the faintest of bruises. Which was strange, because he felt like maybe his kunai had been sharp after all.