Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.

Sorry that I took really, really long to update this. I am going to try to chronicle how they get together, not much of a preview but it's hopefully going to many, many wonderful chapters. I hope. I promise the story is much better than the preview.

But briefly, Kankurou's hurt, and Shikamaru helps out. In his own way.

Shikamaru's Greatest Plan: The Beginning

Shikamaru scratched his ear. The itch was getting worse and he had absolutely no idea why. He glanced around him; Genma was still looking at the scroll with Raidou. He concentrated, trying to listen for what they were discussing about. This wasn't really a position he would have liked to be in, but then again…

He was a Chunin after all. And that meant responsibility.

He hadn't expected to be included with the two older and more experienced Jounins, but they had been quite obliging to him, treating him almost as an equal. That was one of the reasons he wasn't trying to slack off this time. Genma sensed his glance and nodded to him. Shikamaru returned his nod. He wasn't being kept out of the loop, but he was sure they would tell him when they were done.

The three of them were really just a back-up to the earlier group of defenders, who had met the Sound assassins' initial attack. Tsunade-sama had been sure that the assassins had been dispatched but it was always best to be sure. Looking at the both of the, he wondered if he should make some sort of conversation, but decided against it. Too troublesome. Besides it would have made him look like some nervous genin and as much as he would hate to admit it, he wanted to impress the Jounins. Not that he wanted to suck up, or anything, but for some reason, the laziest Konoha shinobi was in fact getting uncomfortably aware that he could no longer be so easy-going.

It was all fine and dandy when he was a genin, or when he just became a Chunin, to be as lazy as he wanted. He always had the genius thing to back him up and lazy was regarded as eccentricity. But now, too many things were happening; things, people were changing, growing even before he even realised it.

Naruto had already been gone for almost a year with Jiraya-sama. Neji had already become a Jounin, (a week ago only) and even Chouji had changed, becoming quite the serious shinobi. Whilst he… He sighed to himself. How ironic it was that the most 'mature' Genin was finding it hard to grow up.

Well at least moving out and getting his own place hadn't been difficult, despite his early age. That had been a decision that was unanimous from all corners of the Nara household.

1. His mum had wanted him to be more independent and responsible.

2. His dad just agreed with everything his mum said.

3. And Shikamaru just wanted to escape his mum.

His new place was on the other side of town from his parents, (a fact that his mother had been extremely suspicious of) though it hadn't kept her from turning up every few days to clean up and re-stock his fridge. He did however, wonder how she got in, considering the fact that he hadn't given her a key. After carefully observing her pattern, he ensured that he was always out of the apartment when she turned up. The prime reason for moving out after all was to escape her nagging. He would spend the time at the park, watching clouds and sleeping the afternoon away.

He didn't really care when Ino had criticised him for still relying on his mum, but he did feel slightly put out when Chouji had not jumped in with any sort of defence, but rather had looked to be agreeing with Ino. Asuma had pulled out of this argument, smirking behind his cigarette and it had left Shikamaru feeling more than just slightly bothered.

He didn't know who been more surprised when he had actually volunteered to assist Anko the Chunin exams. The look on Tsunade's face was good, but the expression on Asuma, not to mention his own dad's, was absolutely classic. But as Shizune had passed the necessary documents they would need to Anko, (actually rather used a wheelbarrow to dump), who in turned dumped them on him, he wondered if it was too late to swallow some sort of poison. Or fake some sort of injury. One that would last a long, long time.

But responsibility was responsibility. So there he was, stuck in tons of paperwork while Anko continuously disappeared. She was, if possible, lazier than him. That was why he hadn't protested much when Tsunade had assigned him to assist Genma.

A sudden movement in front of him brought his attention back to the forest. Raidou moved nearer, and passed him the scroll for him to read. Nodding in appreciation, he opened it up and read Shizune's small but neat handwriting. It seemed that there was an unexpected complication. Some of the Sand shinobi's had been on their way to Konoha for discussions about the exams and it looked like they may have gotten caught in between the defenders and the asssasins. The 3 of them were to keep a lookout for the Sand shinobis and aid them if needed.

Shikamaru re-rolled the scroll and placed it inside his pouch. Genma motioned Raidou and him closer as the two of them huddled to hear his orders.

"Right by now, the sound guys should have already been dealt with, so our job now is to scout for the Sand shinobis and aid them in reaching Konoha. I'll take west, Raidou, you take east and Shikamaru, you take north. If any of us locate them, release a blue smoke bomb to inform the rest. And after an hour if none of us do, return back to this spot. Understood?"

Shikamaru nodded. Next to him, Raidou spoke, "You may however, run into some of the Sound assassins. If they know of your presence, release a red smoke bomb to inform us. If not follow them and if the chance arises, engage them. There should be ANBU nearby to aid you."

Shikamaru nodded again, feeling slightly self-conscious. He had been on other missions before with other people than his normal team, but they had been Chunins that he had known. The two of them probably didn't mean anything by it but it did feel a little like they were babysitting him, the way they were briefing him. He wondered who the Sand shinobis were but chances were that he wouldn't know who they were so he held the question back. Besides if Genma knew, he would have told him.

With one final glance, the 3 shinobis dispersed to their respective directions.

Shikamaru concentrated, trying to hear any odd sounds as he moved. So far there was nothing that seemed out of the place. He wondered what he would do if he did meet the assassins. Would he be able to handle them? Come to think of it, he couldn't sense any ANBU nearby. Well no use worrying about it now. If it came down to it, he would find a way to handle it. He was a genius after all, big head and all.

It had hardly been half an hour when he spotted the red smoke coming from the east direction. He groaned to himself, and changed direction. Upon reaching the location, he could see a body lying on the forest ground that looked dead. Straining his ears, he could hear the sound of clashing kunais roughly about 50 meters away. But before he could reach there however; he was nearly thrown off the tree by a familiar sound. Or rather a familiar windstorm.

As he struggled to hold on from getting thrown off the tree, he groaned to himself again. This hurricane could only mean one thing. She must have been one of the Sand shinobis. When the wind died down, he moved cautiously towards the source, checking to see what the situation currently was. It would be completely stupid if they were in an ambush or fight, and he turned up right in the middle.

Carefully he approached, his eyes straining to pick up any movement. As he peered out from behind a large clump of leaves, he noted Raidou on the ground, standing over a body, while Temari stood on another branch, that irritatingly smug smile on her face. She looked very different, gone were the short skirts that had so attracted the male population of Konoha during last year's Chunin tests. Both she and Kankurou had been promoted from what he heard from Kiba, since he had been away on a mission with Asuma and Ino.

He had only seen her when he got back, just as most of the groups were leaving. He hadn't said much to them, only paused to exchange a few barbs and insults as normal whenever they met. She had been quite pleased with herself, no longer having to put up with the fact that he was a Chunin before her, practically trying to goad him into some sort of fight. He, in turn, had tried his best to get as far away from her bossy smirk and the group of fan-shinobis. Girls, and her in particular, were really extremely and completely too troublesome.

She was now wearing a long blue robe that still displayed her … err… well-formed figure. Still a sight for sore eyes. She appeared even more stunning than he remembered. Not that he would have ever said so. But hey… last time he checked, still just a guy after all, genius or not. He was taken aback however when she suddenly gave a laugh.

"Are you so scared of me that you're just going to hide there? Looks like you haven't changed a bit… lazy bastard!" Temari smirked in the direction of Shikamaru. She had sensed someone in the leaves but it was the trademark Nara ponytail, which was peeking, which had told her who it was.

A vein throbbed on Shikamaru's forehead. Less than a minute and already she was weighing in with the insults. His pride already a bit damaged, he stood up slowly, unconcernedly brushing off the leaves. Composure was all he had left for now. He calmly jumped to the branch next to Raidou, who to his irritation, was trying to hide a smile.

"Temari." He acknowledged her, nodding unconcernedly and trying his best, not to check her out. Bright blonde hair, which was still dusty from the travel and brighter blue eyes, stared back at him. And not to mention the fact there wasn't even a scratch on her, despite having to take on 2 assassins. He turned away from her, trying not to show any reactions to her comments. Or to her in general.

"Tsk tsk... don't worry coward… I've already taken care of all the baad guys." She replied, smiling sweetly at him. She didn't know what it was, but she really found it fun to irritate this guy. Compared to most of the other guys out there, who would get flustered and angry, or be too intimidated to even reply, Shikamaru had a way of ignoring her that really riled her up.

Of course, there was the whole duel thing which he had defeated her, no matter what the final result was. And she had to admit, she was slightly disappointed to learn that he wasn't around during the last Chunin exams but she didn't show it or she would have had Kankurou on her back for days. They had met up at the end when she was about to be on her way back to Suna, a newly promoted Chunin, a fact that she had eagerly boasted loudly to him. For some reason she really wanted to show it off to him, trying to goad him to say something.

To her immense irritation, he didn't even acknowledge it, just had exchanged a few words (well insults really) before making a quick exit. She had to make do with cursing Kankurou soundly on the way back, leaving him completely confused.

And now there he stood again, seemingly oblivious to her or her insults. And… her eyes widened and narrowed. He was actually yawning now! She gripped her fan, wondering what the other Jounin would do if she clomped Shikamaru on the head.

Unbeknownst to her, it was taking all his composure to ignore her, something that was beginning to irritate him. True, it had been some time, since he had last seen her, but come on. It wasn't like he was… well like he had anything for her. He had to admit she was certainly good-looking, and in a way, not completely uninteresting. But that still wasn't a good reason to be feeling this way. He tried another yawn, knowing that it was a better way than trading insults to get under her skin. Temari had always seemed like one of those bossy girls who liked attention, and therefore the more you ignored them, the more you irritated them. Besides it was too troublesome to get into an argument with her. He turned away from her, facing Raidou.

"Whatever you say ma'am…" He replied, kneeling down to look the assassin over. He heard her intake of breath. He mentally sighed to himself. Surely it couldn't be that she took insult at that simple comment could she? Troublesome…

"If the two of you are done…" Raidou interrupted, raising an eyebrow, causing the two shinobis in question to blush slightly. "Good. Now, Temari-san who else was with you when you were attacked?"

Temari replied casually, with a wave of her hand, "My brother Kankurou. But we were separated back about 200 meters away, near the gorge. He only had one or two of these creeps so it shouldn't take him too long to deal with them."

Raidou said nothing, which caused Shikamaru to look at him. True, he didn't know Raidou that well, but there was a vibe coming off him right now, though Temari hadn't picked up on it yet. Raidou glanced at him, before replying, "Then we'll leave Genma to accompany him. Let's be on the way back to Konoha first. It's already getting quite dark."

With a shrug, Temari set off with Raidou, leaving Shikamaru following behind them wondering at the feeling he got off Raidou. As they neared Konoha, they were joined by Genma and a medic-nin. Shikamaru nodded to Genma who fell in-step with him. Two of them only. Shit. The medic-nin approached Temari, asking her if she was injured. Instead of replying she looked around them, asking a question that had entered Shikamaru's mind immediately.

"Where's my brother?" She asked, raising her eyebrow at the medic-nin.

The medic-nin didn't reply, instead turning to glance at Genma. Shikamaru knew something was up, and now so did Temari.

She stopped in her tracks, causing the whole group to stop with her. She narrowed her eyes at Genma, "What's going on? Where's Kanakurou?"

Genma, didn't answer immediately, just continued chewing on his toothpick. He glanced around him, as though looking at something. Shikamaru, behind him sensed another presence in the trees. It must have been an ANBU member.

"I asked you a question. Where is my brother?" Temari's voice rose a little this time as she asked again, her hand gripping her huge fan tightly enough to turn her knuckles white.

Genma took the toothpick out before replying, "Unfortunately there's a problem. The ANB-"

Temari cut in, her voice dangerously high, "What do you mean there's a problem? What's going on?"

Shikamaru sensing something stepped back. This looked like it was going to get rough. He looked at Raidou trying to get some idea of what had happened. Raidou's face was like stone however.

"If you'll let me explain," Genma replied patiently. "According to the ANBU, Kankurou took a direct hit off one of the attacks. He fell over the gorge and we believe into the river."

"And?" Temari replied tensely,. "Where is he now?"

Genma paused again, before replying simply, "We can't find him yet."

Shikamaru bit back a groan. This couldn't be happening…

Without another word, Temari turned back in the direction of the gorge and started to move towards it. She had only gone a few branches, when Raidou stepped in front of her.

She raised her fan warningly, "Get out of my way."

Raidou didn't even flinch. "Its getting dark and you don't know the area. Let the ANBU deal with this."

She stepped forward again, a dangerous note in her voice "If they could, they would have found him already. Now move out of my way."

This time Genma replied, "Temari-san, I understand your desire, but you would only hinder them." Shikamaru winced, though true, those were tough words for anyone. Temari would probably take more insult at that. Genma spoke again, "There's nothing that you can do for now. ANBU members are already searching, so the best thing to do is to follow us back to Konoha."

Temari glared at him, a look of real anger in her eyes. She glanced around them, sparing none of them her ire. She stared at Shikamaru, as though expecting him to say something, and this time this was not one of the flirty or smirking looks. Shikamaru held her stare for a few seconds, before looking to the ground. He suddenly found himself unable to even look at her. There was nothing really to say… but somehow he felt as though he was letting her down, which was silly of course. They hardly knew each other besides… it wasn't like he could have made the Jounins change their mind.

In front of him, he was aware of Temari turning back around and heading in the direction of Konoha. Sighing to himself, he followed behind the Jounins. Looking at the sky as he moved, he wondered. How could such an easy mission get so wrong…

It was already past 8 when they reached Konoha. Genma pulled alongside him and told him that he didn't have to go with them to see Tsunade. He nodded, relieved that he wouldn't have to be involved in this troublesome business any longer. He considered saying goodbye to Temari, but she walked away without as much as a look at him. He looked at her back, the slightest bit shame running through him. But there wasn't much that he could do now, again after all they didn't know each other very well… though coming to think of it; he was probably one of the few people that she did know. Not very well but at least a little.

Walking back to his apartment, he wondered if he was doing something wrong. But he didn't want to get involved right? After all… these things were too troublesome and it wasn't his style at all… right? This line of reasoning that had worked so well in the past suddenly seemed completely and utterly shallow. But anyway, it wasn't like he owed her anything. Ok well she did help him out with Tayuya that time but that was just about duty. It wasn't like she…

He stopped in his tracks and groaned. How could he have forgotten what happened after that? She had accompanied him to the hospital and had even waited outside the operation room with him. And he couldn't even repay the favour. He looked in front of him; his apartment building was just a few meters away.

A warm bed and what ever meal his mother left behind awaited him.


Genma looked up when Shikamaru entered the Hokage's office. Slightly surprised, he said nothing however as the Chunin came to stand next to him. Shikamaru studied Temari from behind. She seemed to be so engrossed into staring into space, standing in front of Tsunade-sama's desk that she wasn't aware of his presence yet.

Tsunade spoke, "We've already sent a message to Suna to inform your younger brother." Temari didn't respond to the words, still looking out the window. Tsunade looked at her with a certain amount of pity. Her eyes glanced over to Shikamaru at the back, smiling at him slightly.

Shizune entered the room then, holding a message scroll probably from ANBU, and moved to pass it to Tsunade. Temari finally seemed to return to the room as she stared at Tsunade and the scroll. Shikamaru, closed his eyes when he heard a sigh pass through Tsunade-sama's lips. It was bad news.

"Temari… I think you better take a seat." Tsunade said, putting down the scroll, her eyes unreadable. Temari, now pale, dropped onto a chair that Shizune pulled out behind her. Tsunade sighed again, "We haven't found him yet. But the ANBU found Karasu roughly 100 meters, by the river. It was damaged slightly."

Temari didn't reply. She sat still, staring at Tsunade-sama's desk. There wasn't anything much to be said. Kankurou would never have allowed Karasu to be separated from him. Unless… unless he was too badly injured to do anything about it.

Seeing that there would be no response, Tsunade continued, "But there's no real reason to panic just yet. It's quite dark, so the ANBU might have a little trouble locating him clearly. But we should be able to find him by tonight." That sounded false even to Shikamaru. ANBU was trained to deal with such things, dark or not. For them to take to so long to find him… It didn't bode very well. However there was still no response from Temari.

"Temari…" Tsunade asked gently. "Did you hear me?"

She suddenly looked up, as though waking up from a dream. "Ah… Yes. I heard you."

Tsunade, studying Temari's face, said in a gentle voice, "The best thing for you to do now is probably get some rest… all right? I'll let you know the minute we find him."

Temari swallowed, and stood up slowly. Tsunade continued, "Shizune will find you a hotel to rest for the night… Ok?" Temari straightened, and seemed to regain her composure. She took a breath and raised a hand to rub her neck, before nodding to Tsunade and slowly pushed back her chair.

Shikamaru watched the whole exchange silently, frustrated that there wasn't anything that he could possibly do. She would go to the hotel and wait… all alone in the village. Unknowing, and waiting unbearably alone… A sudden idea popped into his head.


Temari looked around in surprise. She thought she had seen Shikamaru go off when they reached the village entrance. When did he enter the room?

"What is it Shikamaru?" asked Tsunade-sama, with one eyebrow raised.

"Well… my parents are out of town. And if… Temari-san is ok with it; she could stay over at their place for the night." Shikamaru said, looking more than just slightly uncomfortable, putting his hands into his pocket.

Genma and Shizune looked in surprise at Shikamaru. Of all the things, they would not have expected Shikamaru to put up such an offer. Even Temari was astonished, her mouth hanging slightly open. Shikamaru rolled his eyes, and added, "I mean after all it would save Shizune-san some trouble. And since it's only for the night, my parents wouldn't mind."

Tsunade hid her smile behind her hands. Shikamaru really was surprising sometimes… and this offer of his. She had no doubt it was a spur of the moment decision, but Temari didn't know, it was probably a hard one for him to make. Getting himself involved in something that could be troublesome. And giving such a silly excuse too. It would have been no trouble to Shizune as they had already prepared rooms for both the siblings as Suna's messengers.

An image of him, outside the hospital room that day when Akimichi Chouji was dying, flashed into her head. And also… she remembered, with a smile, Temari had been there as well. She hoped Shikamaru knew what he was doing, or rather, she hoped that he wouldn't do anything to make things worse. But still…it was a very nice thing to do. Temari shouldn't have to be alone tonight.

"Very well. Temari is that alright with you?" Tsunade asked Temari. Temari, still looking at Shikamaru with some surprise, replied hesitantly, "Ah… all right. That should be …ah… fine."

Ignoring the smirk from Tsunade, Shikamaru shrugged and motioned for Temari to follow him, as he walked out the office. As he was about to walk down the steps, he stopped suddenly causing Temari to bump into him. Turning to face her, he reddened slightly, looking away before asking, "Ah… do you need help with your luggage?"

Temari looked at the small bag that she was carrying, and looked back at Shikamaru. Getting the message, he turned back and continued his way down the stairs. She had to smile a little at his antics. She wondered why it was that he had made such an offer, and also why she accepted for that matter. Well it was true that he was one of the few people she knew in the village. And she guessed … she didn't want to really be alone tonight. Kankurou… you idiot

The rest of the journey back to his place was silent. Temari, because she was too caught up in thoughts of her brother, and Shikamaru because he had absolutely no idea what to say. Or do for that matter. Damn his mouth, for reacting before he could think this through. What was I thinking? And what are mom and dad going to say about this? Why did they have to be out of town today of all days? If they had just stayed home, I wouldn't have made any offer, and I wouldn't be stuck in this troublesome situation now! Those two… He grumbled silently to himself, mentally noting to be even more grumpy then normal to his parents when they returned.

He opened the door for her to go through, motioning for her to turn on the light switch by the wall. As light flooded the room, he stood uncertainly, watching her look around the house. She was a far cry from the person who he had seen earlier in the day. Her face was pale, and her shoulders were drooping slightly. She must have been exhausted, after the long journey, and now this problem.

She turned back to him and said in a voice so unlike her, "You have a nice house. By the way, where did your parents go?"

He looked at her, wondering what was up with the voice. He had never heard her so polite to him. "They went to see my grandmother. They'll be back in a few days. Don't worry they wont mind you staying over." Temari gave him slight smile, though he could sense it was rather forced. "Ah this way. You can sleep in my old room tonight."

She paused on the stairwell behind him, "You don't stay here anymore?"

Lifting a hand to scratch the back of his head, he replied, "Nope I moved out some time ago. But don't worry I'll be around." he added quickly, seeing the question in her eyes. "I'll sleep on the sofa and keep you safe tonight." He said it as a joke, almost as an afterthought, hoping she would respond and make fun of him or something, anything to get that look of her face. He groaned to himself, when he realised what that must have sounded like, especially with Kankurou in this situation.

However it seemed to work, as now, a real smile appeared on her lips. She replied, "As though I would ever need you to protect me." She pushed past him, and continued up the stairway. He released a breath he didn't know he was holding. That could have turned out very bad. He followed her to his old room, and pushed opened the door.

Thankfully his mother was a freak for cleaning, for that meant the room was clean, despite not being occupied for some time. It looked pretty much like he left it. Plain and simple. He moved to get a futon from the back and set it up for her. Looking at her, he said, "You already passed the toilet earlier back there. And I'll be down below, alright?"

She didn't respond, just nodded her head. He paused, before asking, "And Temari… are you o-"

"I'm fine." She cut in immediately. "I just need some sleep." He nodded, and walked out the door before turning back to her. "And if you want something or you're hungry…"he said, causing her to roll her eyes. "I know i know. I'll ask you." she replied impatiently.

He raised an eyebrow at her, "No….when did I say that? What I was going to say was that you can get it yourself. Try not to bother me got that?" he said, with just the slightest hint of a smile. The look of surprise on the face turned into a full-blown smile as she shook her head.

Shikamaru walked off, pleased with himself. Now to get some rest…

He scratched his ear again. Goddamit! Why was this itch back? He groaned to himself. How troublesome this was. He adjusted himself on the couch. He had hoped it would be cooler but it was still like he was in an oven. And now this itch…

He suddenly remembered some cream that his dad had mentioned a few days back. Where was it? Ah yes… in the upstairs bathroom. He sat up, trying to hear any sounds from the room above. The last thing he had heard was her wishing him good night (surprisingly) roughly about half an hour ago. Since then nothing, but he would still have to be quiet when he went up. He wasn't sure why, but he felt it would be better that way.

He got up and went up the stairs, as quietly as he had been taught. Hmmm… she didn't close the door fully. He could see the moonlight that was shining through the window. Shrugging, he walked to the toilet thankful that it was before the room. He went in and searched the cabinet for the cream. While searching, he suddenly became aware of a soft noise.

He stopped, wondering if it was the pipes. Checking them carefully, he found nothing to be wrong, no leaks or anything. Scratching his head, he went down to the kitchen, and looked at the tap. Nothing, in fact he couldn't even hear the noise now. He went back up, and there it was again. Faint but now he was sure it wasn't his imagination. He stepped outside the toilet wondering where it was coming from. He walked down the hall, trying to discern when he realised it was coming from his old room.

Temari was crying.

He cursed and backtracked, hoping she hadn't heard him. He was such an idiot! He went back inside the toilet, wondering why he was such a fool. What was he going to do now? Well the logical thing was to go back down and try to sleep right? He looked at himself in the mirror. No… nope… after hearing that, it wouldn't be so easy to fall asleep, tired or not. And now that he had identified it, it seemed much louder, loud enough to make him wonder why he hadn't heard it in the first place. Well done Shikamaru, sensitivity absolute ZERO.

He leaned on the door, wondering what he was going to do now. Come on genius, think! But that didn't seem to work as even more nothing came to his mind. He leaned out the door, hoping she might have actually been finishing, but no. It was still going strong, and… it was still heart-wrenching. He hung his head low and sighed. He looked at the door, realising that a part of him wanted to go and console her.

But… but it would be embarrassing if he went to the room to console her. Not for him, but for her he meant. Temari had always been so strong and proud. If he walked in there now, she would definitely be embarrassed. And pissed off. Besides, what did he know about consoling someone, especially a girl at that? He sucked at it. Just ask Ino. He wished then that Naruto was here, Naruto who always seemed to know how to cheer people up. Or Ino… or any girl for that matter. They would know what to do. They would know how to stop that painful crying….

He groaned, this was getting him nowhere. And he was getting more, and more bothered hearing her. Maybe he should just go back down. He should. Back down the stairs and into that uncomfortable couch, and leave her to cry her eyes out. Closing his eyes, he stepped out and found that his feet were taking him the other way.

He stopped outside the room, wondering if he should go in. Deciding not to, he carefully sat himself down against the wall. She must have sensed him by now. Should he say something? He lifted a hand to his mouth, but deciding against that for now. She still didn't seem to be stopping anyway and he had nothing really to say. Her sobs were not as loud, but still plenty painful. He snuck a quick glance into the room. She had let her hair down, and it was lying over the pillows. And he could see the moonlight shining over her face, glinting on her very wet cheeks.

Her cries were like a gnawing in his stomach, stopping occasionally only as she got the breath caught in her throat. He wondered if he should ask her to stop crying. After all that was what people seemed to do in this situation. But back when he had cried for Chouji, and the other guys, no one had asked him to stop. Not his father, Temari or the Hokage. His dad had told him later that, tears for someone he loved was never embarrassing. And who more important, than your own brother?

He had never really seen them act like brother and sister so much, but they did argue like that. If Chouji had died, (knock on wood!), he figured he would be worse. He thought about it then, not just about Chouji but Neji and the other guys as well. They were never that close, but still… There was something now, after that time. And if any of them had suffered any lasting damages… Would he be able to take it?

There were still no messages from the Hokage, but he hoped it was just that Kankurou had taken refuge somewhere hard to find. It was hard to believe anything happening to the puppet-user… he really was quite strong. But the more time passed, the more grim things looked. He wondered how Gaara was feeling, if he did feeling anything.

He glanced at Temari again. It was slightly unnerving seeing her so… defenceless. He realised that he didn't like her looking so vulnerable. But it did make her look more… like…well a girl wasn't it? Much more like a girl. Ok, admittedly he was a little chauvinistic, (a sudden image of chibi-Ino jumping and screaming "A little!" popped into his head). Shikamaru thought back to what his dad said. It was true…even the strong ones were vulnerable sometimes. He folded his legs, thinking about the situation.

For the strangest reason, he felt it was right for him to be here. When she had been around that time, he had wondered in the back of his mind what she was doing there; but he had felt a weird sort of comfort, seeing her there. His dad had been worse than him at such things, but she… Well even if she did rag on him a little at the end, she had still sat there with him. And it only seemed right, that he in turn, was here as well.

He didn't know if she felt the same, but he hoped she did. He couldn't go in, or say anything… but he could at least do this. In his own way. Well he might as well get comfortable. He leaned back and stretched his legs. The sobbing had stopped, but he could still see her wet cheeks. He yawned to himself, suddenly aware how tired he was. This had been a long day and it was beginning to catch up with him. As he stared in front of him, he found himself drifting off to sleep. He yawned again, wondering if Temari was asleep. Well he would take a little rest before going back down, after all he didn't want her to catch him here in the morning. He couldn't hear anything anymore from the room. But as he drifted out to sleep, he wondered about that stupid itch that had seemed to disappear.

The sunlight streaming on his face woke him up. He yawned, adjusting his pillow, before realising he had none. He moved his neck, groaning as he felt the cricks. Brilliant idea, sleeping out here, just to accompa-. He suddenly became aware that a shadow was looming over him. Damn!

It must be Temari. He sat, frozen, wondering how she was going to react, and how he was going to get out of this. She stood over him, not saying anything. Damn the girl! Why couldn't she just say something and be done with it? He wondered if he could sneak a look at her face. Nope… better not. If she didn't want to say something, well then he would play the same game. Why did he always seem to be in these situations…

They must have stayed in the same position for a few minutes, though it felt like a few hours to Shikamaru, His legs were aching and his mouth was dry. Thank god he hadn't been drooling or something! He wondered how much longer they would have to stay like this, when he heard her voice.

"Shikamaru." She said in a soft voice. Wow. She sounded so…so… sweet. Like Hinata almost. And that was freaky. Well he was wondering if the Hokage had sent a messenger over while he slept, but it seemed like his question was already answered. He raised an eyebrow, but didn't open his eyes. "Yeah?"

"You didn't have…" she paused before continuing, "you didn't have to do th–," was all she said before he interrupted her. "

Do what?" She didn't reply, only stood silently. She was about to repeat when he cut in again. "By the way… you're bothering me ok… this is my favourite spot to sleep."

She stared at him in astonishment, before feeling herself break into a reluctant smile. That Shikamaru…She carefully moved over him, and went to the toilet. Shikamaru, waited for her to close the door, before he stood up. Man, was he aching! He went downstairs slowly, groaning with each step. (He really is a cry-baby). Temari was probably taking a bath, hearing the running water. He went into the kitchen to get a glass of water when he heard a loud knock.

His parents? No they wouldn't be back so fast. Besides why would they knock on their own door? It had to be… He dropped the cup into the sink and quickly went to open the door. He opened it to a Chunin who he had seen before, though he wasn't quite sure of her name. She smiled at him, glancing past him to Temari who had run down from the second floor, her hair wet and dressed hastily. The Chunin smiled at Temari, "Your brother is at the hospital. The Hokage has already personally treated his injury. You can come and see him now."

Shikamaru breathed a sigh of relief, glancing at Temari's face, which right now was a picture of confusion and joy. She thanked the Chunin before Shikamaru closed the door. Temari gave him a bright smile as he turned to look at her. He smirked in reply, "Why don't you get dressed properly and go?"

She turned red, realising how she must have looked. Turning back, she went back up the stairs. Shikamaru watched her go, sniffing the slightest scent of roses lingering behind. She must have been washing her hair when she heard the knock. He wondered what would have happened if it had been his parents at the door, and she appearing half-dressed like that.

No… that would have been too scary to imagine! His mum would have probably tried to kill him right there thinking he had done something wrong, while his dad would have just been smirking in the background. He decided to let her go by herself to the hospital, while he took a shower first. It wasn't like he had to be there immediately anyway. He sat back down on the couch, thinking about the smile she had just given him. Not one of the flirty ones, or a forced one. Just a real genuine smile, without any agenda… as bright as the sun. He blushed slightly, slapping his head, thanking god there was no one around. Imagine, him feeling like that about Temari. But he did realise he no longer ached so much after all.

"So he isn't too badly hurt?" Shikamaru asked Sakura who was taking down notes from a patient's chart. "Nope." She replied. "And they would have found him sooner, but he somehow got sucked by a current to an underground cavern."

"An underground cavern…" mused Shikamaru. "What are the chances of that…"

Sakura turned to him and said, "If you want, you can go and see him, though I wouldn't recommend going in now." Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. "Why?" She smiled at him and replied, "Go and see for yourself."

After getting the room number, he asked her how to go there. Following Sakura's directions, he stopped in front of an empty ward, wondering if he took a wrong turn, when he understood what Sakura was talking about. Going down a level, he stopped outside the ward, where he could hear Temari practically screaming at Kankurou. And he didn't seem to be holding back either. Shikamaru wondered if he should come back later, but he had been supposed to report to Anko. If he didn't go now, he might not have a chance later.

Taking the risk he pushed open the door and went in. Stopped a few meters in front of the two siblings, who had also stopped upon seeing him. He looked at Temari and then Kankurou, who looked really funny. Wow, he had no idea how similar they looked under the paint. They really did look like siblings now, complete with red faces from shouting. Temari glared at Kankurou, before turning her head to face the other way. Kankurou looked more furious than ever as he too turned the other way. Shikamaru examined them carefully. He could guess what they were fighting about, or actually what they were really angry about.

Kankurou was probably angry at himself, angry and most assuredly embarrassed for getting injured by those assassins and being separated from Karasu and giving everyone a problem. And it wasn't being helped by Temari being so concerned. And Temari was probably embarrassed at the strength of her feelings for her brother. She was always acting so strong, mocking him and making fun of him, but last night she had been a pale shadow of herself because of worry. And people had seen that, and that was compounded by the fact that the object of her worry wasn't even sorry for making her worried.

He smiled inwardly to himself. Both were too embarrassed to say what they really meant. He could relate actually. All three turned when Sakura entered the room, asking for Temari to see the Hokage. As Temari left, she gave Kankurou one final glare, causing him to grip his sheets tighter.

Shikamaru stood, watching him on the bed. Hmmm… only an abdomen injury which didn't look too bad. Probably his pride was more damaged. Kankurou turned to him suddenly, as he was looking.

"What! What do you want!" He snapped. Shikamaru looked at him calmly, folding his arms before shrugging. Kankurou gave a snort and turned away.

"Ano…" Kankurou didn't respond, so Shikamaru continued. "You do owe me… a pillow however." At that weird statement however, he turned around, astonishment on his face. "What?"

"Well your sister stayed over at my parents place last night." Shikamaru said, putting his hands into his pockets. "So?" replied Kankurou, looking testily at Shikamaru. "So… she practically destroyed my favourite pillow… and kept me up all night." continued Shikamaru as he walked over to look out the window.

"Heh, don't tell me what you guys do in your private time. I don't need that image." snorted Kankurou. Shikamaru didn't turn away from the window, letting the joke pass before he spoke again.

"Crying…crying….crying all night long." He said breezily, pausing to see if Kankurou was going to say something. No reply, so he continued, "Soaked my pillow through. I couldn't even get a wink of sleep also…So troublesome…."

Silence descended upon the room. Shikamaru glanced around at Kankurou who was now staring very hard at the sheets. Shikamaru turned back to the window, smiling to himself. That should do the trick. They stayed in the silence a bit longer, till Temari returned to the room. She bit her tongue, when she realised Shikamaru was still there.

She glared at Kankurou again, "Lie back. The Hokage said you should be resting if you want to travel later." clearly not expecting him to listen. This must have been what they were arguing about earlier. She was, to say the least, surprised when he actually did so, without a complaint. He still refused to look at her though. She moved to his side, wondering what was wrong when he said softly, but clearly, "Sorry."

She nearly bit her tongue, when she heard it. She stared at him, but he had his eyes closed. What the hell had happened? She dropped into the chair by the bed, almost undone by his apology. Kankurou …apologising! Without a death threat! Had the world gone absolutely mad? What happened when she wasn't here? She turned to look at Shikamaru, who was leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets. He too had his eyes closed. She bit her tongue, though her curiosity was killing her. He must have had something to do about this. But the idiot would never tell her.

Whether Shikamaru heard her or not, he suddenly came alive and walked to the exit. Leaving without saying a word. How typical, she thought. She looked at his back, shaking her head a little at him.

"Shikamaru." Temari turned and looked at Kankurou. His eyes were still closed, but he had called him. Strange, she had never heard him address Shikamaru by his name, preffering to call him the shadow-punk. Shikamaru had stopped before the door, but didn't turn around.

"What?" came the reply.

Another pregnant pause before, "Thank you for taking care of my sister last night."

Temari's mouth dropped open again, in astonishment. She couldn't believe what she was hearing or seeing. Shikamaru didn't respond, only shrugging his shoulders before walking out. She looked at Kankurou again; completely dumbfounded at everything that had just happened. The two hadn't even looked at each other during the whole exchange. Men… She would never understand them.

Shikamaru cursed Anko heartily. She had left him to do all the reports, even though he needed to rest. He had only finished in the late afternoon, and was now on the way back to his apartment, cursing all women. He had entertained the idea of visiting the Sand siblings again, but decided he had seen enough of them for now.

As he walked back, the itch in his ear started again. Now irritated beyond belief, he turned to the direction of his parents' home, with a vehement oath, to get the cream he had forgotten earlier. Now he would have to walk all the way over there.

He was passing by the gates to Konoha, when he heard a familiar voice. Groaning, he realised it was Temari. Not her again… He wasn't in the mood to deal with her right now. She was at the gate with Kankurou, probably preparing to go off. She was wearing a dark green robe now, and her hair was back perfectly as normal. He replied testily, "What is it now?"

Temari looked taken back a bit at the tone in his voice, but he couldn't care less. He was sore, tired and itchy. She said nothing, coming to stand in front of him studying his face. Shikamaru was getting more tired, as the same vein popped on his forehead. Raising an eyebrow, he said again, "What?"

She still didn't respond, instead just looking at him. He rolled his eyes and was about to turn away, when she suddenly put her hands on his shoulders, and kissed him firmly on the cheek.

He looked at her in amazement, hoping that his mouth wasn't hanging open. He clenched his fist inside his pocket, trying to make sure it wasn't going to come out and touch the spot she just kissed. He could still feel the wetness of her lips, and it was driving him crazy. She didn't say anything after that, no blush whatsoever. Just stood there studying his face again.

He was pretty sure, he was blushing though, and he was trying hard to say something and not stand there like an idiot. She suddenly turned around and said, "Nothing." As she walked back to the smirking Kankurou, she said, "I'll see you around Shikamaru."

There just like that, getting the last word again after stunning him like that. That stung him into action. He waited till they crossed the gates and turned around slightly, before saying clearly, "Whatever you say cry-baby…"

He turned quickly, not missing the smile on her face. He continued on his way, forcing himself not to turn back and watch her walk away. That girl was … dangerous! And that kiss… well he hoped no one had seen it or there would be plenty of gossip. He couldn't however, get rid of the smile on his face. She was still troublesome but now… not so much. Yes… he was looking forward to the next time they would meet.

Man I really love long chapters don't I? Lol. Also I've come to realise, Shikamaru loves to groan. A lot. Now how do you pple find it? Good, Bad, Out Of Character? Let me Know Thanks!