Sometimes, nothing is more inviting to me than a bed of green grass under a blue sky. I like nothing more than laying down and looking up. Especially on a breezy day.

It was one such day, when I was spread out on the Konoha grass, laying under the edge of a tree's canopy. The sky was purely blue from the breeze having blown the clouds away. I liked the empty blue and the large, peculiar sound of the wind blowing through the park. I liked the peace. I liked not having to be anywhere.

I was about to fall asleep.

I heard the sounds of children then. Children in the park, probably genin on their way to some training exercise. That brought back memories. So I rolled on my side to look. Yeah, genin. Young ones. Still walking in twos and holding hands. I smiled, and stretched, watching the procession pass me. There were a few more people around than before. Somewhere, a dog was barking.

That's when I sat up to look. Maybe it was coincidence then, or maybe it was fate, as that Hyuuga kid always liked to say, but she was there nonetheless, heading right for me. Blonde hair fluttering as she walked, fierce gaze set dead on me. I would say she looked angry if I didn't know her any better. Was she? She was in Konoha, after all.

"Temari." I sat up proper. I didn't want to immediately come off as a jerk to her.

"Shikamaru. Hello."

I could feel my brow rise up. No sarcastic remarks? Wow. I kept that to myself. She was still wearing her long clothing from Suna.

"It's nice out today," I started. "Where's your skirt?"

She laughed at me, or rather, regarded me as she usually did. That's right...

"I just got here," was all she gave me, though. "Get up. Let's go." Fan strapped to her back, she was looking down on me with her arms crossed. Again, I felt my brow rise.

"I just got here too. It's nice out. Don't you want to sit for a minute?" She gave me a hard look, then took off her fan and sat across from me; put her fan beside her leg, but it was so long, it bumped me. I looked at it, then at her. "You're quiet today."

"Just tired." A quick response, but not defensive. She had been waiting for me to comment. I only nodded and decided not to prod.

"What are you back here for?"

She gave me a long sigh, then shrugged her shoulders. "The usual crap. I don't know why I'm being made to play ambassador all the time..."

"I thought you liked this easy stuff."

"I do. I guess. I just don't like the travel," she said with a curl in her lip. She was being very candid with me. I didn't remember a time before like this... but why push her? I let her talk. "And you, lazy bastard, what are you doing here?"

Oh...there she is.

"I'm amazed you would even ask that."

"Why?" she demanded, her sharp eyes focusing. I felt a grin on my face and shrugged, leaning back on my hands.

"You're a smart person, Temari. You must've known to look here first for a reason."

"You don't know I looked here first."

"But I bet you did." A beat passed between us. She smirked. I got up then and offered her my hand, honestly not expecting her to take it. But she did and that surprised me. Maybe something was wrong. She was usually so proud. I wasn't going to worry too much, though. We'd never really spoken about anything in depth before, but she did always manage to come see me when she was in Konoha. I had a feeling.

Cadence flat, she addressed me: "Do you have to be anywhere later?"

"Actually, no. Unless there's an emergency, I am completely free today."

She regarded me with one of her scoffing laughs. "So you spend it in the park, falling asleep?"

"What's wrong with that?"

"It's just so... lazy."

I shot her a look. My hands then decided they'd be better off in my pockets. "Tell me what I would be better off doing, then."

"Something that's useful, maybe?" She grinned.

"Falling asleep is useful to clear my head."

"Oh? I suppose that makes sense," she started off in a sweet tone. "You must need to clear it out often. I'm sure it's full of strategies for shogi and what you're going to eat for breakfast. Oh, and I guess your mission strategies, too. That important stuff has to be tucked away somewhere, I'm sure." I laughed towards her matter of fact tone, a cat's smile settling on my mouth. She and I... We always had to have a banter going between us. We could never just talk like two peers. Well, sometimes we did, but never for long. We never spoke about our problems, never spoke about mundane things. Sometimes she'd go distractedly go on about vague aspects of her personal life to me, but that was it. And I think we were both perfectly fine with how things were.

The breeze started to pick up as we walked through the park and I saw her close her eyes for a moment. It was possible for her to be endearing at times. I found myself smiling again. She exhaled briskly and looked at me then, wrinkling her nose.

"What? Catch a whiff of something bad?"

"No..." she started. "It's so humid here."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"No... Not really. It does a number on my skin whenever I come here, since Suna is so dry. I think that's the only thing that bothers me. Otherwise, it's nice."

"Ahh..." I nodded. It was hard not to keep analyzing her sudden casual air with me. Usually, it was all game, and when she left to go back to Wind Country, I felt well enough exasperated. This was unexpected. But nice. I felt tranquil. We walked through the park in silence. Every now and then, I would look at her. I had to make sure she really was all right, but every time, she looked back at me and perked her eyebrows.

"Is something the matter?" she finally asked.

"Ehh, not really. You're so quiet."

"You're so quiet," she said casually. Funny how she controlled the tone of things.

"Because of you," I said, feeling a little thrown off. We were heading into strange territory. She shrugged at me.

"I guess I just don't feel up to our game today." Our game, she said. I couldn't recall a time when either of us had actually commented on it. This was definitely something to take note of, but—as I felt—nothing to be alarmed by.

"Why not?" Another shrug. She said nothing else. We continued walking in silence.

We walked together for a while, saying nothing. Every few moments, one of us would look at the other, maybe just to double check that everything was okay and that our silence was indeed comfortable. Sometimes we caught glimpses of each other when looking both ways, waiting at intersections. Sometimes, when I looked over at her, she'd make a face at me, but neither of us would say anything, and I had to wonder (again) if things really were all right with her.

There was a warming tension hiding in the silence between us. My tranquility shifted dimension. Every time I looked at her, I felt like I had to say something. Swaths of color and pressure got in the way. I could not articulate. I began to embrace this palpable silence. It made my body hot.

And then it occurred to me that we had long since passed by the center of town and were heading to the more residential areas. I stopped when we came to the next intersection, even though nobody was going the other way.

"Where are we going?" I offered.

"Oh, I don't know. I thought you were going home or something."

I thought about that for a second. "No, we already passed the way to my house a while ago."

"Oh..." Was she mulling over something to say? Thinking about something else?

"Oh," I mimicked, wondering if I could start up our game again. But she only nodded.

"Yeah. Oh." All right, she was starting to really throw me off. Or starting a different kind of game, I realized.

"Well, did you want to go anywhere in particular?"

"I was thinking of going back to the consulate."

That dampened my spirits. She wanted to go home. I nodded anyway. "You're tired, then, huh?" She looked at me, nodding, a smirk forming on her lips. She must've known what I was up to.

"You'd be tired too after a three day journey, leaf boy. I don't even know if you'd be able to make it." I looked at her and tried to stifle a grin that was forming. "See, Shikamaru, you sure can smile a lot when you're out on a stroll. When it comes to real work, though, you act like it's the end of the world."

"Temari, you're a nice person," I started. She threw her head back with a laugh. "But you really should mind your own business," I continued. "I don't know how things are out there in Wind Country, but here in Fire, ninja don't make wild accusations like that. They respect their fellows."

This time she laughed, good and hard, not bothering to keep a straight face or toss out a witty come-back. I licked away a hard grin. She definitely had something on her mind.

"I'll try to keep that in mind next time, Shikamaru," she finally said, her blond eyebrows up in a sarcastic twist.

"Good," I said, giving her my best serious face. "Now are you really going back to the consulate?"

"Yeah. I want to get off my feet."

I could get you off your feet, I thought suddenly. Whoa, calm down. She noticed my balked expression.


"Just thinking," I said. She quirked a brow at me, but didn't push it.

"I imagine you're debating on whether you walk all the way back to the park now, or just go find a field out there to nap in." Funny, she offered just those two scenarios.

"Something like that."

"Well, would you mind walking back with me to the consulate at least? Something of a middle ground? Then you can decide where to go from there, yes?"

"Yeah, sure." Wanting me to walk back with her? That was a first. Usually, she said she was going and that was that. Left me standing, waving, leaving with a smile to go my own way. But never asked me to come with her. I could think a dozen different things about that request.

We turned around on the corner and started walking again when she tapped me on the arm and started to cross the street. I crossed at my own pace, watching her expression turn impatient as I did.

"That sidewalk wasn't good enough for you?" I called.

"No. We already came up that side, so why ignore this side on the way back?"

"I didn't know walking on the sidewalk could be so personal. Must be a Suna thing. Do you even have sidewalks there?"

She scoffed and shook her head. "Yes, we have sidewalks. Better than these, I'll say. And sidewalks aren't personal. I just prefer to walk on both sides of a street that I travel on." She looked at me for a moment, eyes narrowing in scrutiny. "I keep forgetting, though. The only things that interest you are clouds and game pieces."

"Not game pieces, Temari. Games themselves," I corrected.

"Oh. An important distinction."

"Yes. I'm glad you understand."

No doubts anymore. We were having an unspoken dialogue with our silences between banter. Each glance. Each little laugh or smile. Walking with such a small distance between us, bumping into me here and there and saying nothing. Was this her orchestration, or was this something that had happened on its own? I couldn't tell. I actually didn't care.

The rest of the walk back to the Suna consulate (I still had a time wrapping my mind around the fact it existed) was only more of our new game. She was walking so close to me at some points that the butt of her fan would bump my hand. I looked over to her at one point.

"How many times to you intend to hit me with your fan, warrior? Is this some sort of cultural Suna thing you haven't told me about?"

"Yeah, it's the thing where you watch where you're going."

"What?" I laughed out. "You're the one bumping into me."

"If you had any spatial awareness or consideration thereof, that wouldn't be the case."

"What are you talking about?"

"What am I talking about? Shikamaru, you're walking right in the center of the sidewalk, leaving me on the edges to fend for myself here against the careless hordes of Konoha."

I laughed at her and took two exaggerated steps to the right. "How's that, princess?"

"Wonderful. But don't call me that."

"Why not? It's your title, isn't it?"

"It's unnecessary. Temari is my preference, with you."

"Oh, okay," I nodded. "I'll keep that in mind for next time."

She laughed at me. "Yeah...**keep it in mind."

"Hey. What did I tell you about how you speak to your fellows here, Temari?"

"Oh, you're ridiculous!" she exclaimed. I grinned full out. She shook her head at me. Feeling a little energetic in that moment, I screwed my elbow against the exposed skin of her forearm. She glanced down at it with a perked brow, then stopped and looked to me with a serious face. "Don't ever do that again."

"What, I can't be friendly with you?" I asked, nudging her further. She kept walking.

"Nope. It's very unchaste for a Suna woman to receive such contact."

"I see..." I said, considering the repercussions of a joke based on my cultural interpretation of her chastity. The kinds of outfits I would watch her in—the short skirts and the nothing that she wore underneath her tops? I kept it to myself. This new game was slow, and I liked that.

I was beginning to feel myself coming down from the playful mood she always put me in as the rest of our walk returned to that emanating silence. The consulate was only another minute's walk away. When we got there, I waited for her to say goodnight and walk inside. Instead, she glanced up at the small building and turned to face me, pulling one arm across her chest.

"Something the matter?"

"No. I just don't feel like going inside yet."

Surprise. I looked surprised. I didn't care that she saw it.

"What do you feel like doing then? I thought you were tired?"

"I am," she said plainly, canting on her hip to one side. "I want to take a shower and change, but I just don't feel like going anywhere."

"Well... Then I should leave you to it."

"No..." she offered, shaking her head. "Stay for a little. If you want, I mean." I regarded her for a moment, repeating those last words in my head. Thought about making a snappy comment to them, but it would be a poor move. She wanted me to stick around. I didn't know what to make of it. I'd never walked all the way back to the consulate with her like this. She was usually frank with her boundaries, always pushed me away, never suggested openings.

Her new game was amazing.

"I guess I can stay for a little," I finally managed. What a shitty response. She smiled at me and walked over to what I had to assume was her personal entrance. Really, the Suna "consulate" was more like their own personal house in the village. It was situated ideally close to the Hokage's tower, which I supposed was key, but aside from that, it was extraordinarily unimportant looking, not even marked with a sign. And here I was about to go inside.

By the time I closed the door behind me and did walk in, she was walking down the hall of the sparsely decorated interior to what I could only assume was the bathroom. Her impressive fan had been laid out on a decidedly Suna-style table, low and broad like a stone. The surroundings impressed in me a restful stillness.

"I'll only be a few minutes. I just want to wash the dirt off," I heard her muffled voice call out to me. All right, then. I suppose I should just wait around. Hopefully, she wasn't one of those ninja that took those extremely long coping showers. I kept to the center of the main room, hands in my pockets, studying the interior before I moved around, as if something would happen to me otherwise. Ochre arches and curves, highlighted in washes of diffuse light, replaced usual bright Konoha angles, evoking an arid nest-like coziness. It was something to be appreciated.

There was no television. A few shelves, carved out from the walls, displayed lustrous, transculent glass work, a searing ethereal green characteristic of Suna-made vessels. I saw an amber apothecary bottle sitting by itself on the small table in front of the couch. There was nothing else to see, so I walked over and unscrewed the cap. An oil-based infusion, by the consistency. It smelled far too... sensual for any ninja. The little vessel was filled to half. Had I ever smelled it on her? Why not? Was it even her's? Maybe she just hadn't worn it around me in particular. But then, on what occasion would she? I put the cap back on and set the bottle down on the table, deciding it was in my best interest to preoccupy myself with something other than fragrant oils.

Aside from that bottle, there was nothing else of interest, which was good. I felt empty and light. I found myself wandering into the small kitchen, which led into the hallway she was now at the end of, showering. In that hall, there were two other doors, one of which was open. I assumed the closed one was that of another occupant (who I also assumed was not present). The open door was the first one to my left, around the corner from the kitchen. I glanced to the closed bathroom door. The water was going strong.

I peeked my head inside the open room, then stepped inside. There was a chair next to the door with some clothing hastily thrown on it, Temari's fishnets on top. The shades were drawn. The bed was made. I thought about taking another step in and maybe looking around, doing something crass like finding her undergarments (if she even had any), but the quiet presence in the room was enough for me. Hands at home in my pockets.

Eventually, I'd had my fill and turned to go back to the front room, but in the hallway, I felt suddenly the silence. My eyes shot to the door at the end of the hall. It was opening. She was stepping out. Well, it looked like I had no excuse. Rather than trying to run back into the main room like an ass, I figured it was better to stay where I was.

"What are you doing?" Of course, she looked displeased. I glanced over at her. She was only wearing a towel (of course), her shoulders bare, her hair in a wild mess from having been towel-dried. My eyes wandered before I thought to stop them. "What are you doing?" she repeated.

My hand shot up to rub the back of my neck, an embarrassing gesture I still had trouble controlling. "I got bored." Smirking expression.

"So you decided to go through my things?"

"Eh? I was only standing in your doorway."

"Doing what?" she demanded.


"At what?"

I rolled my eyes and held up my hands. "I have no excuses, Temari." She cast a discerning look upon me, and then shoved me out of her way, went into her room, and closed the door. I wondered if this meant I was supposed to leave, but she hadn't told me to go. Not yet. I made my way back into the main room and decided that this time I had better sit my ass down on the couch.

A while later, I think about the same time she'd spent in the shower, I heard the door open. I opened one eye and looked to see if she was actually coming out, which she was, and before I could sit up, I heard her caustic voice.

"Thirty minutes and you're already falling asleep on the couch, Shikamaru? How pathetic," she started, smirking at me with her hands on her hips. I decided against sitting up and only looked at her from my slouched position on her couch, brow raised. She'd put on one of her skirts, one of the short ones. In her bare feet and with her hair still down, too. She shook her head at me with that sardonic smile on her face and moved into the kitchen. I closed my eyes again, listening to her shuffle about.

When I heard her moving closer, I didn't bother. When she flopped down on the couch next to me, I finally opened my eyes. She looked at me as though we did this all the time, and set down the drink she now had (none for me?), picking up the little dark bottle from before.

"What is that?" I asked. She had opened it already and was patting together a small amount in the palms of her hands.

"My perfume oil."

"I mean what kind?"

She looked at me as she leaned over and massaged it into her legs. "My personal blend," she offered, a small tug in the corner of her lips as she sat up and dabbed more onto her arms and neck. "Why? Do you like it?"

"I don't know yet."

"What do you mean you don't know yet?" she asked, giving me a look. I laughed at her, still slouched down in her couch, fingers clasped across my belly.

"I haven't smelled it on you yet, Temari."

"You can't smell it right now, with me sitting next to you?"

"No, not really. It takes a little while for a scent to mix with a person's skin, right?" She rolled her eyes at me. "Well? Am I right or not, ninja?"

"What did I tell you about that?"

"Tell me about what?"

"Calling me ninja like I'm an amateur!"

I laughed at her again. "You didn't say anything about that, ninja. Nothing at all. Now can you answer me?"

The look on her face was great in that moment. Incredulous. Like she didn't know whether she should ignore my shitty jokes, or hit me. I put on my best disarming smile. She massaged the rest of her oil in and sat back, sipping her drink. I moved into the corner of the plush couch, angling myself more towards her. She watched me with a suspicious eye. I said nothing and looked at her legs. Short skirt. Bare legs. A light sheen on her skin from the oil, the light picking up on the soft hairs on her knees. She had nicely shaped ankles. I'd never seen them before. She'd always had her shoes on.

Temari was very nice to look at when you weren't scared of being ruthlessly admonished for doing so. She let me sit there and look at her, pretending not to mind, even though I could see her growing self-conscious, crossing her legs once or twice while shooting glances at me. I couldn't keep the grin to myself.

"What?" she finally said. I shook my head at her and only shrugged.

"You look good." That threw her off.


"I mean, you look refreshed after your shower."

"Refreshed, huh..." She leaned back into the deep couch, crossing her legs for the umpteenth time, a distant expression on her face. I wasn't familiar with this behavior from her. I was looking at her, but she wasn't really looking at me. I thought, maybe if I found something interesting for us to focus on and banter about... but I was already so focused on her.

I finally got out of my slouch and sat up to the edge of the couch, taking the apothecary bottle in my hands, pretending it had just then caught my interest. To be honest, it did warrant a second look; the calligraphy on its label was highly decorative and hand-written, and something to be appreciated. But the real point of this gesture was to see something. From the corner of my eye, I saw her watching me.

Though I found myself smirking, shooting my gaze as far to the left of me as I could (Hyuuga must have this spying crap easy), her eyes were burning into my shoulders, my neck. I unscrewed the lid from the bottle again and brought it a few inches beneath my nose, inhaling the slightly spicy, musky-sweet scent that wafted out. I sniffed again, noticing her eyes still boring holes in my back, and this time turned around to look at her. How it had become so awkward that our eyes should dare meet each other, I don't know. I'd decided, though, that this was all her doing, coming and acting like this with me (as I paced myself to play along). But I didn't dwell on that too long. Instead, I held out my hand.

"Let me smell it?" My gaze moved over to the arm she was leaning on the couch.

"You have the bottle right there," she said, tipping her head towards it. I glanced at it, smelling it one more time before putting the cap back on. Held it in my hand a moment longer.

"Yeah, but it must smell different on you. In the bottle, it's amazing," I admitted, not bothering to hide my curiosity. She was cynical. Her pursed lips said she wasn't in the mood for cheap jokes.

"You're insinuating something, Shikamaru?"

I took in a breath and shifted towards her on the edge of the couch. I was tired of straining my neck, looking over my shoulder at her. We were sitting at opposite ends, but now the movement had brought my knee unreasonably (perhaps) close to her legs, stretched out on the cushion between us. I glanced at the minute space between us before grinning at her. "You're afraid I'll say it smells bad on you?"

"I know for a fact it smells good on me, Shikamaru," she quietly retorted.

"Then let me smell it." I gestured for her hand.

"Let me smell you, do you mean?"

"If that's how you want to put it," I replied, shrugging. She rolled her eyes then, as if this would be a very troublesome task, and offered me the arm she'd been resting her head on, wrist out. I cupped the back of her hand and shifted again, turning all the way towards her, one knee on the cushion. I brought her wrist under my nose, lips slightly open. Inhaled quietly. I could feel the heat of her skin. Her pulse, I thought. Slightly faster. I looked up at her. She was attempting to mask her tension with an exasperated expression. I pressed my lips shut and inhaled again. She clicked her tongue at this, but let me carry out the motion anyway.


"Well what?" I asked nonchalantly, letting go of her wrist. She shot me another one of those incredulous looks. "Oh. Yeah," I said, a slow grin tugging at my lips again. "It really suits you. You should wear that more often."

"Tch. Why? I really don't want you asking to sniff me all the time like a creep."

"What? I wouldn't do that. I'm just saying, it smells good on you. I like it. That's a compliment."

"Sure it is," she said, leaning away from me on the couch, drawing her legs underneath herself.

"I don't know. Why did you put it on in the first place?"

"For my pleasure. Because I like the way it smells. Why else?"

"Jeez, I don't know. I was just asking."

"Just asking... Hah!"

So I worked her up with that. Facing her felt too forward now. I slouched back into her couch, clasping my hands across my stomach. Now here we were leaning on opposite ends of the sofa. She shot me a look as I settled back. She was always shooting me looks. And I always grinned back, stupidly, as if doing that would agitate her into doing something foolish. Most of the time, all of the time, she kept a hold of herself. She wasn't a stupid person, not at all.

Our game was shameless, and although she was unpredictable to a certain degree, I usually managed to push the buttons I wanted to push. This time I shook my head at her. She made a snooty face at me, like I was acting stupid, and I suppose it was justified. I smiled.

"I really don't feel like moving, Shikamaru. But you're really making me want to hit you."

"Always so violent," I complained.

"Now, now, crybaby. I won't hurt you that bad."

I regarded her with a raised eyebrow. A familiar response. "Won't? Or won't be able to?"

"Oh please. How many times have I saved your life? At least five."

I laughed and angled myself toward her corner of the couch. Arms folded, left knee pulled up on the cushion once more. "Twice, Temari. Once with that genjutsu specialist from Sound—"

"What a stupid bitch," she interjected with a snort.

"—and the second time," I continued, giving her a look, "was when I'd gotten ambushed during that mission in Rain."

"Both of which were pathetic situations. But really, you're a pathetic ninja, so none of that is surprising."

"I'm not a pathetic ninja. I'm a thinking ninja."

"And who ever heard of that?" she laughed. She was really good at making me question myself sometimes. I shook my head, exhaling with a slow, frustrated breath. This apparently struck her as hilarious, and she threw her head back in a loud cackle, reaching over suddenly to shove my leg off the couch. The gesture annoyed me, in a funny, small way, but I couldn't be sore when she was laughing so freely. Even if it was at my expense.

"Hey..." I started, leaning over to retaliate with a light push on her knee. Still laughing, she slowly looked down at it before looking back at me. Maybe I had started something.

"What did I tell you about that, Shikamaru?"

"What? You didn't tell me anything!"

"Excuses, crybaby. I warned you once already," she said, getting a serious look in her eye.

"Whatever..." My voice came out in a low grumble. Then she hit me. Well, more like a slap. More like a friendly punch your buddy gives you, except this one was kind of hard. What the hell? She laughed in my face.

"Shikamaru! You are such a child! What? Did I hurt you?" She threw her head back with another fit of laughter. I felt annoyed. For no real reason. Just some times, some things got under my skin. Like what she had to say to me after my first chuunin mission, even though it was entirely justified. I continued to sulk, and this, god damn her, only made her laugh more.

"Come on! What's the matter? Did I hurt your feelings?" Eyes lit up, mouth wide with smile. I looked at her before glancing away again. "Wow. Shikamaru really is a poor crybaby..."

"Anyone would be reduced to a crybaby if they had to deal a harpy like with you..."

Another reaching slap on the arm, her face all but a thoroughly amused grin. She shifted on the couch to face me, sitting on one leg while putting her other foot on the floor. I regarded her like a surly feline might (an image my mother made up) as Temari's grin managed to grow. Another shove. I frowned further. So she wanted to provoke me. I said nothing. She leaned forward, only a little bit, and began to push my arm repeatedly, shoving a little harder for every interval she deemed necessary.

I was hoping she'd stop after a minute, hoping she would get bored fast, because that's what she seemed to be like mostly to do, but she just kept going. Kept on shoving, harder and harder till it was almost impossible to sit there like a normal person any more. What the hell was the point of this?

She shoved me again and I looked over sharply and grabbed her wrist (hell, take a chance). I yanked her over by the arms so she couldn't get away. She yelped in surprise and gave me an initial shake-off. But only the one.

"Why is it you're always bothering me like this, Temari? What did I ever do to you? Do I really look so sad you think you can pick on me whenever you want?" I held her wrists at opposite sides of her body, arms pullled tightly across her chest, her back flush against my chest. It wasn't a technically good pin by any means. She could've gotten out of it immediately. When she laughed, the hair from her ponytails tickled my cheek, and moreso when she looked over her shoulder at me, some look in her eye I'd seen before on the eyes of an ANBU mask. She regarded me for only a moment before turning back with a shrug of her shoulders. Hair tickled my jaw again. I could smell the spice of her perfume in it.

"You're easy to pick on. That's all." Another little fluttering laugh. "You didn't really do anything." She glanced back at me. I must've been scowling because she grinned; moved her arm enough so I didn't forget I had it in my hand. I leaned over her shoulder to look, and she turned her head to me again. This time her hair didn't tickles, it was too close. I was a little more nervous now than I had been all afternoon. I had to lean back so my eyes could focus. Her eyes were incredibly blue. Her nose was a perfectly straight bridge—no—there was a little bump near the top, where it met her face. Very slight. And her lips...

"I stopped struggling a few minutes ago, Shikamaru."

"Oh..." Grip loosened. No, you didn't struggle at all. My eyes shifted from her shoulder to her eyes. I suddenly felt wildly uneasy being this close to her for no real 'reason.' My nervousness shot up another two notches when I saw her gaze shift from my eyes to my lips. I could take that in a number of ways, I supposed, but really only one thing jumped out to me. My eyes fell to her lips.

"Ah..." I started to let go of her entirely.

"No." Quick. I felt her muscles tense for a moment. "No, you're fine where you are." She turned her head back.

"Are you sure?" Damn, what's my next move? (Quit panicking. Just go with it.)

"I'm sure. You're fine," she said matter-of-factly. And with that she leaned back against me as though we were two good, long-standing friends. So here I was, leaning back into the corner of this plush couch, my arms draped around her. Against her. Her face too close to mine for me to feel nearly as comfortable as she seemed. She sighed.

"Is something wrong?" I asked, peeking forward a little. She turned her head, forcing me to back up again (idiot, quit doing that), and shook a no at me.

"Why? Are you okay?"

"Ehhyeah. Just—" She looked at my lips again. "Just you seem nervous."

"I am."

Now, I wouldn't say my heart was pounding, but I was very much aware of it in my chest. I had been this-close to other people before on missions, hell I'd even kissed a few people in my adolescent angst, but I was doing something different here. A deliberate indulgence. And I could safely say I'd never done this before.

She was warm. She was soft. She was looking at me and I knew what she wanted then. I had known. When you're so close to someone and you realize you're thinking the same thing, it feels like your pulses are resonating. There's a physical heat, and you have to get closer to confirm the feeling.

I surprised myself when my hand cupped her cheek and brought her lips that much closer to mine. I realized they were already parted in anticipation, both of us. I realized how shallow my breathing had become. She gave me no resistance. She was all sultry eyes and receptive body. For a long beat, we hung in anticipation.

And it was slow. The build up, the action itself. The feeling of my lips meeting hers and pressing against them. Still full of baited breath and muscles tensed. It was a slow release. The next moment began. I began to feel her. Pulse. I felt flush. She was a slow kisser. She was a warm push of wet, slick lips, and when I wanted more, she gave it to me freely.

This started out with just a brush of lips, a gentle push against skin. We didn't dare move any further than we had to. We were both still reserved with that. Her hands hadn't moved and mine stayed on her cheek. And for now that was fine.

She was willing, I daresay, eager for this moment, for me. Temari was never like this. Never so unguarded. Never this warm, vulnerable body before me. I had to think that this, this trust she was risking with me, was what Dad had been trying to tell me for so long.

My lips pressed against hers each time she moved closer, a gentle motion at first. Then she would open up to me and I'd take her lip in mine. A gentle tug, a pressure; sometimes the light sloppy noise of me sucking. All I could focus on was the sound of her breathing and the urgency of this hot, throbbing feeling.

She gave me her tongue, ran it along my bottom lip, and then canted her head just enough to close the small distance we'd been keeping between us. I burned. She kept a rhythm with me that seemed too perfect. But perfect is the wrong word. It's too tender. I thought she would be more feral.

I found my hand wandering. I wanted to feel more of her (as if her tongue in my mouth wasn't intimate enough). My fingertips started to drift away from the smooth skin of her cheek, thumb slipping out from the groove behind her ear and the loose wisps of her blond hair; hand danced down along her jaw and the curve of her neck. She made a small breathless noise against me, and bittersweetly, pulled away from me for a moment, laying her head down on her own shoulder. I couldn't fully see her face, maybe on purpose. It looked like she was smiling to herself.

I opened my mouth to talk, when she pulled herself out of my embrace (chest suddenly felt cold without her against it) and sat gripping the edge of the couch, looking forward. I wondered what was wrong, about to sit up myself to ask. She must've sensed movement, though, because she turned towards me at that moment.

Her face was a picture of subdued intent, still the foreign Temari. I could smell her desert perfume scent all over me, and as I looked at her now, I didn't see her. I saw her lips, her eyes, the wisps of hair I'd tugged loose curling against the nape of her neck. I saw her smooth shoulder and wrist and thigh; I saw something I wanted.

"What is it?" I managed to ask. She shrugged her shoulders like I had just asked her what she felt like doing today, and only gave me a smile. She had a thing for making me nervous.

"Is something wrong?"

"Mmm, no," she shrugged.

"Then what is it?"

She smirked, eyes laughing at me.

"I like seeing you squirm."

"You sure are confident..." I grumbled, appalled. Was I so predictable? Was she that familiar with my character? Or was she just that sure of herself?

"Come here..."


"Because you're a nice guy..." Cute. I sat up enough till both feet were on the ground, bringing our bodies back to their former position, now closer to the sofa's edge. She hadn't bothered to move at all, and having any part of her resting against the insides of my thighs felt a little risky. I put my hands on my legs for some stability. Of course, she saw.

For all the possible outcomes of the situation we were in, I could only focus on one. She put her hands on my knees and stupidly, I slid my own forward. Unspoken. Unprovoked. This silent communication had a raw anticipation to it I'd only ever felt on the battlefield. She put her hands on mine and pulled them around her, and that was my 'go' signal, the space between us gone again.

Temari put me in an interesting spot, strategically speaking, and she had always struck me as a tricky person. Now here we were, all of her within my short reach. I suspected this was entirely on purpose. I looked over her shoulder, brushing my cheek with hers. Her legs were prudently kept together, knees touching, back straight. She had my hands wrapped on opposite sides of her body, on the curve of her waist. Dad was always going on to me, calling her a thick girl for a ninja. I never quite understood it then. But when I slid my hands down and gripped her by the hips, it all came together.

For all her muscle and attitude, this part of her remained soft, firm. I couldn't help a small squeeze; at first perhaps an experiment in touch, and when she didn't protest, my light, hesitant tugs turned into more thorough presses and pulls. She backed up against me, if only marginally, and stayed her place, her sand-roughened hands slinking up to grip her shoulders.

Impulsively I kissed her fingertips. Then I ran my tongue across her knuckles. Her head canted the other way, another cue I was sure. Except I wasn't really thinking anymore. Just acting.

My left hand slid across the swell of her belly, my right down her side to her thigh. For all the short, suggestive things this Sand princess wore, I had, for the longest time, wondered if I ever had a chance with her. Call me a leg person. Sakura had really nice legs, and Ino's weren't too bad. Tenten always left me wondering, since the girl never wore anything but long pants. Temari, she had always been a tease to me. And praise to the shinobi gods to have put her in my arms right now.

At first I kept some sort of control in where I let my hands go—some boundaries if you will. One hand firmly pressed against her belly, maybe to keep from wandering, held her closer to me. The other was midway between her hip and the thick of her thigh. Stay on the outside for now, I told myself. She likes it more. She likes how I'm touching her. I like it.

My hand on her belly started to drift upward, despite my self-imposed rules, up along the firm warm length of her torso, between the narrow valley of her breasts. Her breathing grew shallow. I was hard-pressed to still my own trembling. I took her jaw and turned her face towards me. Luminous eyes. I felt my breath catch for a moment as she swept her gaze across me. Drew in. Kissed her without planning to, and caught the corner of my mouth with hers. Maybe there are more nerve endings at the corners. It was wetter, slipperier, kissing her over her shoulder like this. My skin was on fire.

Time seemed to evaporate as we kissed. Slow, hot draws from one another. My right hand was tracing light patterns along her collarbone; forearm snaked between her breasts, nearly flat against her breastbone. She wanted to turn more towards me, but I wouldn't let her. I heard her draw in a breath to say something in protest, and stopped sucking on the corner of her lip to look at her. She was still throwing me off with that foreign, sultry expression.

"You always have something to say," I whispered. And to my amazement, she said nothing, only giving me a look, which I suppose was enough. "Now let me try something..." Impulsive.

"Try something?"


Reluctantly, I relinquished my left hand's hold on her body, letting it drift down to her thigh as my other hand released the awkward hold on her jaw (which had more than likely grown uncomfortable since we started) and fell down to her shoulder. A moment's thought. I was amazed at my own capacity for patience. There was an sudden desire to flip her over onto my knee, and another to tie her to the chair across the room with her legs open. She'd never let something like that fly, though. Would she?

So I reached down and scooped a hand under her knee and pulled it over my own. She shifted slightly to adjust her weight, and I turned another small angle towards her. I looked at her again, eyes drawn immediately down to her now spread legs, and told myself this was more than adequate.

"Temari..." I began. But she took my hand and put it on her thigh, and my mind cleared of all its lengthy thoughts. This time she threw her arm around my neck and pulled me down to kiss her. I obliged.

She liked to bite my lower lip, mostly when she pulled back. And when she kissed me she liked to taste my lips in these generous, wet caresses. They were patient, and reserved, but hungry. The skin on her leg was smooth; I was only rubbing my thumb across it before, too caught up with the notion of 'taking it slow' to realize that was a stupid idea. I slid my hand higher, more inward, and to hell with this patient crap.

The paced, wet kisses she gave me became more intense, more feverish. I ran my hand in slow strokes from the very underside of her thigh, up. A light squeeze when she bit down on my lip and tugged hard on it. Temari had the satisfaction of hearing me suck in a tight breath. Another stroke, and when my hand fell back to the underside of her thigh, I pushed higher and grabbed her. Her low, shuddering voice in my ear caught the breath in my chest. My mouth pushed against hers then, and our tongues met all at once.

She kept rubbing the back of my neck and tugging on my earlobe, and now that we were kissing like this (maybe I'd call it 'more her style'), she was pausing to suck on just my tongue. I almost couldn't take it. She pressed herself back deliberately against my crotch. I felt myself throb against her. I gripped the inside of her thighs hard then. She gasped against my mouth, shuddering.

"Do you like that," I whispered to her, pressing my fingertips against the softer inside skin of her leg. She only breathed against me and nodded, eyes closed. I quickly moved my hand back to her hip. A small torture. I wanted to get on top of her in the worst way. But no, not yet.

Sometimes, in the dramas, there'll be these scenes where the two actors are suddenly so hot for each other, the motion of them kissing is like some fantastic collision where it's nothing but frenzied, smothered throbbing against each other, and all you hear are the grotesque sounds of them sucking in and shoving out breath from their nostrils. This was nothing like that. This was deliberate, thorough. I had all intentions of taking my time with her.

Which is why I wasn't peeling her clothes away as the impulses came. Being a patient guy in nature, I was hoping to have the will-power and good sense to save that for later. For now, what I had was just enough, my right hand creeping back to its former spot on her belly. There was something I loved about the thin layer of cloth between us, here on her stomach, and lower, my thumb now idly playing with the hem of her underwear.

Her legs were so smooth. I wondered if she put he desert perfume down there. I squeezed her thigh just to feel the warmth of her muscles, and felt her utter another shuddering breath against the skin of my neck; then her lips, wet from mine. The skin on my collarbone was sensitive, and she discovered this quickly, lapping her tongue across it like a kitten.

Most people I'd been with before never even bothered with me like Temari was. I pulled her left leg further back over mine as my other hand slinked up her body, cupping her breast. Light touches, that's what I liked. When my fingertips drifted over her nipple she gave me that shudder again. I grinned inwardly, and squeezed the inside of her thigh, gentler this time. Whispered.

"Are you comfortable?"

She moved her lips up to my earlobe and bit it with a slow pressure before responding.

"Will you let me turn around now?"

Lips brushed against the skin of my neck; grazing teeth and the soft flutter of eyelashes. I let out a slow sigh, fingertips hovering over her breast. Drifting, I felt the hardening rise of her nipple. (There was that rush of adrenaline again.) I cupped her breast from underneath and brought my forefinger and thumb together against her. First a gentle pressure, other fingers joining as I slowly tugged outward.

"Do you want to turn around?" Another long... pull. She whimpered against me. Another rush. My hips pressed against her ass. My hand on her thigh stopped, fallen dormant with my thumb hooked inside the hem of her underwear. I pulled again, harder. Her hand, the right one, fell back and grabbed the outside of my thigh.

"Turn me around," she whispered against me.

"Not yet..."

My hand left her thigh and moved to her jaw, still slowly drawing on her nipples. Our tongues touched first when we kissed again, hers running across my teeth as our lips pressed over each other. Every time my fingers left her, they only fell back, closing on her hard nipples, pulling her out a little further, a little harder. My sadistic massage. And she loved it. She started to pause and stop kissing me, leaving her lips still caught up in mine. Temari, too caught up in the sensation... Her brow knit up and I could feel her body tensing against me. I watched intently, but I couldn't see enough of her face.

My hands on her legs, on her thigh; I ran my thumb across the tender skin where her leg met her hip, ran it under the hem of her underwear again, squeezing the inside of her thigh, this place on her that I couldn't stop touching. My hand slid down to her knee and cupped it, bringing her legs back together as she broke our kiss. Temari pulled her arm from around my neck and rested her head back on my shoulder. Some people whimpered and sighed in high voices when they were touched. Temari's low shuddering escapes of breath made me feel hot and anxious.

I crossed my hand over her body and let it rest on her thigh, still administering my 'massage,' adding a subtle twist before I let go of her now. I gripped Temari and pulled her back hard against me, suddenly. She cried out in surprise. Smirking, I nipped her earlobe.

"Do you still want me to let you turn around," I whispered, pinching hard on her nipple.

"Yes..." she breathed.

"Why," I asked, fingers kneading into the soft warm weight of her breast.

"Because you're a nice—guy..."

"What gave you that impression?" My free hand went to her other breast and began cruelly pulling on her tender, hard nipple again. She sucked in a breath through her teeth, and I hesitated a moment to think through my options. Playing with her nipples alone was making me hard, but my need to see her face was becoming distracting. So was the urge to bend her over something (my knee, the chair) and pet her down.

So I put my hands on her hips and moved back a little, shifting our positions till she was reclining with her back against the inside of couch and I was sitting outside on the edge, turned towards her. Still, my mind wouldn't stop returning to the fact that she was letting me put her in these positions, letting me 'do all the talking.' Maybe she was just saving her aggressive side for later. Would she look at me with the same eyes then? Beckoned back to her by my own roving hands, already my thumb and fingertips were closing down on her nipple.

I edged forward and leaned down, and she reached out with her mouth to kiss me before I had gotten close enough. She licked my lips because she couldn't touch them with hers; I kept the space between us in that moment. Our tongues lapped against each other for I don't know how long then. Sometimes she'd come close enough for a second or two, enough just to lick; sometimes she'd give in for a second more so our lips could touch and our tongues could push in each other's mouths. She started to moan against me.

I climbed on top, straddling her, and sat back on my heels, her hips. I wasn't prepared for how blatantly sexual it felt. If we were practicing our grappling skills, would it be so bad, I wondered. My fingertips moved under her shirt, hand sliding over her smooth belly, up to the softer skin nearer to her breasts.

"I pet you," I breathed out. Impulsive words. I felt instantly embarrassed. Temari exhaled amazingly and pulled my hand to her breast in one shameless motion.

"You like to play with me already," she smirked, somehow retaining a look of innocence.

"Is that what you think..." I slipped my thumbs under her shirt and tugged it up, just enough, and kept my fingers over top the fabric. Ran my thumbs across her nipples, wonderfully hard little things I couldn't take myself away from.

"Well you used to be scared of me... I wonder when it changed to this," she replied in a breath, her eyes fluttering. Too much skin touching skin now, maybe. Something in her words made me feel annoyed, cocky. I laughed and yanked her shirt up in a rude gesture, revealing her bare breasts (of course she didn't but on a bra after her shower). I looked down at them for a lingering moment. Full (ripe) and downward pointing, and her nipples, a darker mauve than I anticipated for her blond hair.

My eyes moved to her belly. She was trembling. Was it because she was so exposed? Or was she anxious? I slid my hand underneath her body and pulled her close, brought myself down lower, and put my mouth over her nipples, hard against my tongue, my teeth. She started to squirm. When I looked up, teeth bearing down cruelly on her, she met my gaze with an open-mouthed lusciousness. Shinobi gods, how long had she been wanting me to do this to her?

My body shifted to the side slightly, giving enough space to slip my free hand between us. The sounds of her low breathy moans were filling my head. I had resolved not to immediately put my hand down her skirt at this point, annoyed with myself for even having to set that standard. I apparently was a lot more excited than I kept telling myself.

Over top her underwear, I pressed my thumb down, palm cupping the hot space between her legs. Her back arched and she pressed more against me. Against her, was a hardness she had to feel. I pushed myself against her. This was starting to ache. I could feel her thigh trembling against my forearm as my thumb worked against her, my fingers trying to press into her despite the lightly damp fabric. I looked up at her again, fixated, watching the twists of her brow and the parting of her lips, and how she would look at me with half-closed eyes.

"Shikamaru..." she breathed. My name on her lips was intoxicating. I pushed against her again, when I felt her hands rising to my chest, pushing me away. Suddenly, an urgency in her voice. "Shikamaru, stop, stop. Get up." My brow shot up. My heart was pounding in my chest. I got off her in a heartbeat.

"What...?" I remembered then, this wasn't her place to stay alone. She had others from Sand with her. I looked at Temari, girl trying to regain her composure, reaching between her legs to adjust her underwear and pull her skirt right again. She glanced to me with knowing, worried eyes and let out a quick breath, pulling her hair away from her face. Her eyes shot down to my hands, unconsciously in their thinking formation between my legs, covering myself till I could calm down. What the hell...

Then I heard the footsteps. The perfume was gone from the table. I looked over at her, already lounging comfortably, starting to talk about inter-clan politics. I tugged the collar of my vest up. Heartbeat. Heart. Beat.

"Temarisama!" Two shinobi, both cheerful and glad to be back, one older, one younger. They caught sight of me with a faintly surprised look. I met their gazes with a polite nod.


Temari smiled at her subordinates, greeting them by name, before standing. I got up with her and we walked effortlessly past. She'd tell them what I was doing here later, after she saw me to the door. And she did so without a second thought, her smiling face falling back slightly to its half lidded gaze once she felt she had a private moment with me in the foyer. I remembered then, she hadn't been wearing a bra, and hoped that wouldn't get her in any sort of trouble if her countrymen noticed.

"I'll see you later, Shikamaru."

"Yeah... I'd like that."

"So get going," she grinned.

"Yeah." Temari...

"Oh, and, you might wanna keep your collar up," she added, gaze shooting down to a particular spot on my neck.

"Thanks." I turned to leave.

"Sure thing, crybaby..."

She had a thing for getting the last word. I looked over my shoulder at her as I made my way back home. Shinobi lords, what had just happened? I felt out of breath. Did that crap really just go on? My mind was lost in a haze the whole way back home, the whole time it took my to remove my sandals in the foyer, the whole...

"Hey boy, what is that?"

My head shot up.

"What's what, dad?" But I already knew what it was. Goddammit, I didn't consider this angle... My father, who I expected to say something scolding, instead carried a deep grin. I rolled my eyes.

"Don't tell mom."

"Course not, son. Course not."