Disclaimer: I own nothing.
"That Shikamaru guy from Konoha is in the hospital here," Kankurou says in passing one afternoon.
"Apparently he was on a mission nearby and managed to get himself poisoned somehow." Kankurou shrugs.
"Poisoned, huh?" Temari says, eyeing her brother. "Must be a trend."
And then, she goes to the hospital to see Shikamaru.
She finds the door to Shikamaru's room slightly ajar, and his teammates sitting around his bed. His jounin team leader keeps tapping his feet and clenching his hands into fists, moving them around restlessly; the perfect picture of a smoker in a non-smoking environment. Ino's back is turned towards the door, but her back and her shoulders seem stiff with tension even from where Temari is standing.
Chouji Temari is not as sure about as she is of the other three people in the room. He seems so solid and so stable that she gets the feeling there has to be something else to him behind that, something that she's not quite seeing.
Chouji is also the one that notices her. He turns and gives her a nod in recognition, so she gives him a curt nod in return.
"They say he should be okay once he gets through tonight," he quietly tells her. Temari shifts her attention to Shikamaru, and feels her stomach clenching in sudden fright. Shikamaru's face looks flushed and feverish, and there's sweat running down his face. He keeps tossing around in his bed, unconscious but restless.
It hasn't hit her until then that this might actually be serious. Kankurou had mentioned it so casually and the medic she talked to while asking for his room said they couldn't be quite sure yet but that they were quite positive he would be all right. But seeing Shikamaru like this reminds her of Kankurou in a similar position not too long ago. It's the way he can't seem to keep still, can't seem to relax, that makes everything seem so wrong. Shikamaru should never, ever not be capable of not relaxing.
She stays a while by the door without actually entering the room, exchanging a few words with Chouji and Asuma while Ino remains silent, before fleeing back to her rooms, feeling like something very fundamental has suddenly gone wrong with the world, and very rattled by feeling like that.
The next time Temari sees Shikamaru, she's already been told he'll definitely be okay, and so a large part of what was wrong with the world should by right have been made right again.
"Hey," she tells him as she pushes the door open.
Shikamaru is sitting up in his bed. "Hey," he says turning to her. He's not tossing and turning anymore, and seems quite capable of keeping still again, which is good. But someone's cut his hair short, presumably for some reason related to the poisoning. Temari tries not to look at it too much, and doesn't ask.
"Sorry I didn't bring any flowers or anything," she tells him, sitting down. "I figured you'd probably just think it's to much effort to change the water anyway."
Shikamaru gives her a slight grin at that, and she feels oddly relieved for it.
"So how are you feeling?" Temari continues.
Shikamaru shrugs a little. "Better. Like something's trying to break my brain from the inside. But better."
"It's your own fault fault for getting yourself poisoned," she tells him severely.
"Well," Shikamaru says. "I'm a ninja. It's the hazards of the job, I guess."
"What did you do to get yourself poisoned anyway? Something stupid?"
Shikamaru goes silent, frowns. "I'm not sure. I don't remember much, it's all a bit hazy." His frown deepens. "Annoying."
Temari nods as the door opens again and his teammates all enter, talking among each other and looking a lot better than they did the last time she saw them.
"I'll just go," Temari quietly tells Shikamaru. "Try not to get yourself killed again, okay?"
Something flickers in Shikamaru's eyes as he looks at her, and she gets up from her chair and leaves.
The window to Shikamaru's room is open, and he's leaning his elbows on the windowsill. Temari, walking by, comes to a halt as she sees him, tilts her head up.
"Come to sing me a ballad?" Shikamaru asks sardonically.
"You wish," she tells him. "How are you?"
Shikamaru shrugs a little. "A bit bored, actually. Ino, Chouji and Asuma left yesterday, and I'm not allowed to get out of bed yet. Possibly because I can't walk properly yet."
"Huh," says Temari, raising an eyebrow. "Want me to kidnap you and carry you off into the sunset?"
Shikamaru snorts. "Thanks, but I think I'll pass." Then he rubs the back of his head, running his hand through his now-short hair. Temari feels something clenching tight inside her, and leaves quickly for her mission for the day.
When she gets back home from it she digs out her old go board and brings it to the hospital.
"Do you need some book or something as well?" she asks him as they're playing, even though she doesn't really own any.
When Shikamaru is well enough to be allowed out of the hospital and outside, she finds him on, of all places, a roof. He's lying down on his back, in the shade of a chimney.
"I needed something resembling fresh air," he tells her, opening his eyes to peer up at her when she pokes him with her foot. "And I thought I'd get some peace and quiet here, too."
"Tough luck, then." Temari sits down next to him. "You going back to Konoha soon?" she asks, noticing how the air feel hot and the wind dry, so unlike Shikamaru's home. She thinks about shade that really feels like shade, and things that are green and growing.
"When they let me go. In a week or so maybe."
Temari lowers herself down to lie on her back next to him, and stares up at the sky. Her skin feels odd, hot and dry like the air, and as if there were tiny grains of sand just above it, prickling it. She feels very aware of the air between her and Shikamaru, just how much space there is. She closes her eyes, and tries shifting position to get rid of the feeling. Draws up her knees, and feels her skirt ride down to bare her thighs.
She's still very aware of Shikamaru, feels him shift next to her suddenly as well.
Before when she first saw him in the hospital, she realised he was someone who mattered enough to upset her completely by being near death and in danger – this is when she has the startling realisation that it's not just in situations like that that he's capable of doing so, but that he can do it by simply him and there, making the air feel different as well.
"Sure you won't need a bodyguard?"
They're standing by the gate, Shikamaru with a small pack slung over his shoulder.
"I think I'll survive. Gai's team is passing by, they've been on a mission close by. I'll be tagging along with them," he explains.
Temari snorts. "Yeah, I heard. Who did you think I meant you'd need a bodyguard from?" Apparently no one's quite trusting him to be well enough to go by himself yet.
Gai's team shows up not much later. "It's such a shame we can't stay longer!" Lee laments, managing somehow to sound enthusiastic, disappointed and apologetic at the same time. "Will you say hi to Gaara-san, please, Temari-san?"
She nods absently, not really listening. Concentrating on how aware she is of Shikamaru next to her again instead. She thinks of pushing him up against the wall and kissing him, getting rid of the damn space between them that is causing all this annoying tension. Thinks about pushing her knee in between his legs, running her hand through his way-too-short-now hair. Something coils tight between her thighs, around her spine, and she closes her eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath.
When they've gone, she goes home and lies down on her bed. She's feeling oddly drained now, and the sand that's been hovering just above her skin ever since she saw Shikamaru tossing around in that hospital bed a few weeks earlier seems to have slowly seeped away. Running her hand up over her stomach and her breasts, she places it behind her head, stares up at the ceiling. She thinks about Shikamaru's hair again, wonders if the next time she sees him, she'll run her hands through it. Wonders if she'll press him down against the green grass in the shade of some tree in Konoha and kiss him until they're both drained and breathless and won't have to worry about distances or spaces between anymore. Wonders if his hair will be longer again then.