A/N Shikamaru has shut himself off form life and faded to be just his ANBU mask, hence his refering to himself as 'deer' instead of 'Shikamaru'

Disclaimers - not mine, don't sue

Warnings - rated T for violance, depressing stuff, and language.

Edit 2/20/2008

------------ The best laid plans of deer and men -----------

A quiet man in a deer mask stood guard over the new Hokage. He was nothing but that mask any more, he could go days without anyone saying the name he had been born with. Now he was only his ANBU designator. Deer sighed as he was called into the man's office. The blond had grown up since they were both genin in Iruka-sensei's classroom.

He kneeled, "Yes, Hokage-sama?"

The Hokage frowned, "We're alone in here Shikamaru. You can use my name, you know."

Deer looked up, not removing his mask that had become his identity. He stood up and saw the folder on the Hokage's desk. He was glad he was behind a mask, the look of terror on his face would not have been hidden other wise.

Naruto tapped on the folder, the one with information on shinobi that was meant for Hokage eyes only. If Deer was even in the room, it meant it must be his. "Tsunade-sama has some interesting information in here. I want to hear it from you."

Deer looked down and took off his mask, few things got past his shut off exterior, this was one of them. He reached out to the folder and picked up a picture on top of the pages. It was a picture of a little two-year-old girl with dark hair and green eyes.

Shikamaru smiled at the picture, ignoring the moisture collecting in the corner of his eyes. "Isn't she beautiful?"

Naruto looked serious, "I received a scroll from Gaara."

Shikamaru put down the picture; it had been over a year since he was last in the village hidden in the sand.

Naruto tapped a scroll on his desk before handing it to the other man. As Shikamaru read it, the blond explained, "Gaara's scroll specifically requested you."

Shikamaru read it and smiled, "I gladly accept this, Hokage-sama."

Naruto frowned; the position had definitely matured the man. "Please, be careful. You leave at dawn."

Shikamaru nodded and resumed his watch, waiting for his relief to show up so he could go to his parents hold house and get ready: the place hadn't actually seemed like home for years.

&&&&&&&&&&

Dawn the next day and he was gone from the village. He was one of the fastest members of the ANBU squad; his shadow abilities gave him an innate advantage in running via tree limbs. He let his mind wander to the mission. He had never been so happy to receive an assassination mission. Granted this one was more complicated. He got to kill that man who married Temari. He got to kill the man that tried to kill her spirit. He got to kill the man that threatened to kill her. He knew, even with that man out of the picture, Temari would never be his, but she would be free. Shikamaru would do anything to free Temari. Gaara's plan was perfect. Kill the man, have Temari sustain injuries 'fighting off the assassin' and then Temari and her daughter – no their daughter – would move back to the village in the sand. It was as perfect as anything in Shikamaru's world ever was. He wouldn't be able to be with them, but they would be safe.

He smiled slightly under his mask; he was going to be able to see Temari. He was going to be able to see their daughter. His only glimpse of her had been when she was a few months old from behind an ANBU mask, and he would never be able to repay the fifth for her kindness in allowing him that glimpse.

Now Gaara and Naruto were giving him a chance to see her again. The distance between the village hidden in the leaves and the far portion of wind country where the bastard who had his Temari lived was long, but he covered the distance quickly, never pausing, just going. The chakra he was using to go faster wouldn't catch up with him for a long time. His reserves had grown greatly from when he was younger, these many years in ANBU and he had gotten much stronger. Part of him had wondered at why he bothered to get stronger, now he was putting it to the only use he cared about.

He might have a reputation as lazy, but he wasn't really. He was just efficient. When it was worth doing, he did it efficiently and quickly without wasted effort. It was with that philosophy that he covered the distance separating him from Temari. He rested when he had to, but kept moving as fast as he could and still be at the top of his game when he got there. According to Gaara, the security forces were numerous around the man's manor, but they were mostly hired thugs. In Shikamaru's mind they were just as guilty, they were keeping Temari prisoner in that place just as much as that man was. He hated that man. Since the moment he had first heard of him, he knew he hated him. Temari should belong to no one, not even to him, no matter what vows they had uttered all those years ago.

He reached the manor; it was outside a small town. He waited until an hour before sunset --that would give him the best chances. His technique had improved greatly since he was young, more clan techniques had been learned and he had even perfected one or two of his own, too bad no one would ever benefit from them.

Systematically, he killed the security patrols. The man evidently was paranoid to have this much security. Well, maybe not paranoid since he was about to be killed. Shikamaru lost count of how many men he slaughtered with his shadow. He ran through the manor looking for his target. He killed more security as he kept searching the manor, he had to find the target soon, it had already been thirty minutes, and the sun would be setting soon.

Then he found him. Shikamaru didn't normally physically touch a target. This was not normal though. He grabbed the man and slammed him into the wall. The man looked scared. Shikamaru smiled behind his mask. "Do you know why you are going to die?" He slammed the man harder into the wall, blood from the man's skull splattering. "You hurt Temari." He slammed him into the wall even harder, blood splattering and a sickening crunch coming from the man. "No one hurts Temari."

He kept slamming the man into the wall. His shadow was too impersonal for this man. When he dropped him to the floor, the man was barely recognizable. The man was very dead, and probably had been for a while.

Shikamaru went searching for Temari. He found her on the second floor. She was without her fan, but had kunai in her hands. She looked prepared to fight to the death as she stood guard in front of a room. When she saw the Konoha ANBU uniform and a familiar deer mask, she gasped.

He slouched against the wall, knowing she couldn't see the smile behind his mask. He tossed her the mission scroll and she carefully read it. She tossed it back, "I'm ready."

With that, he attacked. She fought back, but not as hard as he knew she could. If there were not defensive wounds, no one would ever believe it. He left her crumpled form in front of the door, not daring to step through. There could only be one thing Temari would defend with her life, and he didn't want his daughter to see him like this.

He fled the manor, leaving an unconscious Temari behind with only a few members of the domestic help staff alive. He never set foot in his daughter's room. The man was dead and his mission a success. He ran through the night, covering wind country as fast as he could, he didn't care if he collapsed, he just had to get away from there. He had to get away from the image of Temari unconscious.

He collapsed in the bathroom when he got back to his parents' house. Frantically, he scrubbed at his body to get the blood off. He didn't remember much until the next morning. Just a haze of scrubbing and vomiting. He woke on the floor of his bedroom, naked, his bloody ANBU uniform in the bathtub.

He forced himself into his standard Jonin uniform and walked to the Hokage's office after scrawling out his mission report. The ANBU guarding the Hokage's office simply let him in. They both new him, and the look on his face was not something familiar to them.

He walked up to Naruto, unmindful of the paperwork sitting on the man's desk. He threw his mission report to him, "I quit."

Naruto looked up as he caught the scroll, "You quit?"

"I can't … I can't do this." He collapsed to his knees. He had thought he would be able to do this without breaking down.

Naruto put a protective arm around his friend, "I'm sorry."

Shikamaru left the office with two months off from all duty and if he still wanted out of ANBU after that, it was granted. Time passed in a blur of cloud watching in the summer sun. Warm grass covered hillsides and clouds floating. He had never told anyone how much the clouds reminded him of Temari. They were wild and free. They were beautiful and powerful. They could go from the gentlest of wisps to the most powerful of storms. No one should ever control either.

One day, Naruto passed information from Gaara on to him. Temari was back in the village hidden in the sand and her daughter was there as well. There was no suspicion that Temari had anything to do with it, or that sand had anything to do with it. His mission had been accomplished perfectly.

His Temari was safe. Even if she wasn't with him, at least she was safe. Their daughter was safe. He stayed in ANBU, but in a training capacity. Every night he still had nightmares of the sight of Temari unconscious and bloody, knowing it was his fault. No, he didn't think it was his fault she ended up like that due to the mission he took. No, it was his fault because he hadn't been able to keep her safe. He didn't know where he had made his wrong move, but somewhere along his life, he had made the mistake that caused their two lives to be separated.

It was winter when he was summoned to see Naruto. The blond had a smile on his face. When Shikamaru left the office, he did too. More than a few people wondered what was going on; it had been a long time since the only remaining Nara had a smile. He had an assignment, and a wonderful assignment it was. Sand was sending an Ambassador; he was assigned to be her personal guard. The moment he had heard Temari's name, he had instantly forgiven Naruto for every troublesome thing the blond had ever done in his life and every tension headache Naruto had given him.

She was beautiful when she reached the front gates and he took over from the guard Sand had sent. Little Shika was adorable, running around with all of the precociousness of a nearly three year old girl. He was expected to stay at the embassy, Sand had requested 24/7 protection even in the village.

It didn't take long for the rumor to spread that the ambassador and her guard were more than a business relationship. While there was some feathers ruffled at the thought, Shikamaru had too many friends in high places for it to be a real issue. The wedding was attended by some of the most powerful shinobi in both villages. The pair had saved and helped too many in their years to be forgotten now that they were finally together. When a year later little Nara Tobikuma was born, the voices of dissent had all been silenced.

Shikamaru was content to live this lie. It didn't matter to him that people thought He and Temari were newlyweds, instead of having been married in actuality for over ten years. He didn't care that they thought he was a loving stepfather to Shika instead of her real father. All he cared about was all that was important. He was with his beautiful wife and his daughter and son. He would never try to tame Temari. He loved her for what she was. Just like the clouds, she was wild and free and loved by him forever.

Epilog

When the truth came out

When the truth of everything came out, Shikamaru didn't care. Their secret had been hidden for a very long time. When he saw that his thirteen-year-old genin daughter in her chuunin match was pushed to the point where she would need to fully unleash her potential, he knew everyone would know she was his. Her shadow bind was flawless. That her shadow jutsus had never been noticed before this was a testament to her abilities. She was incredible.

Her teammates didn't know what the shock was about Shika using Nara clan abilities. She was Nara Shika, daughter of Nara Shikamaru and granddaughter of the late Nara Shikaku. The shinobi her age had always expected it of her. The older ones who had believed the lie that Shikamaru was just a stepfather then knew different.

Later, he watched the clouds float by from his favorite hillside. His beautiful wife at his side. His son had graduated a few weeks ago, and his daughter was a chuunin. Life may not have worked out as he had planned back when he was twelve, but he had come damn close.

----- The End --------

I know a happy ending… Surprise :)

Tobikuma – Flying cloud

Shika - deer