Dear god! It's done! Gave me a writers headache like you would not believe in the process. Hope you like it!
Shikamaru raised his head slowly, blinking away his drowsiness to see his wife staring off into space.
"Temari. Are you all right? How do you feel?"
"Not so good."
"Do you want me to call a nurse?"
He was halfway to his feet before her hand went out and pulled him back down.
"I…need to talk to you about something."
He tentatively took her hand in his, stoking it carefully. He raised it to his lips and kissed the back of it softly. Temari squeezed her eyes shut and pulled her hand away, crossing it over her chest protectively.
"That thing. Where you make me want to like you."
"Why? Worried you'll start to like me for real?"
He tried to make it sound like a joke, but his smile died when Temari finally turned to face him. If he didn't know any better, Temari looked…nervous. The look quickly turned hard, and her voice harsh.
"I don't love you! This is just a mission! I'll be happy to go home to Suna! I…I won't care if you're not…"
Temari looked away, and Shikamaru leaned over her.
"Not there when I wake up."
"Oh. You're sure?"
"Really really rea-"
She smacked him with her good hand before grabbing him by the hair and yanking him down to eye level. She held his gaze a moment before kissing him as hard as she possibly could. Once they separated, out of breath, Temari's face softened into the familiar tilted grin that Shikamaru loved so much.
"Bastard. What did I tell you?"
"Don't do that thing…or you might start to like me for real..."
Shikamaru leaned in for another kiss.
The two looked up to see Kankuro smirking at them from the doorway.
Temari gasped in pain as she tried to sit up, falling back down and pointing at her brother.
"Shikamaru, bring him over here, would you?"
"I said I was sorry! Hey!"
"Sorry, wife's orders."
"Just a little closer, Shikamaru…that's it…"
"HEY! Gaara, help!"
Subaka no Gaara stepped into the room, gourd strapped to his back. He was followed by the Hokage, who had an eyebrow raised at the sight of Kankuro being dragged towards Temari, who seemed to be testing a bedpan for it's heft.
"Sister. How are your injuries?"
Temari began to lace her fingers together for a genjutsu kai, but gave up and decided to go with it.
"Everybody, I have good news. The negotiations are complete, and the caravan is on it's way back to the Earth country. Also, Motoyoshi was arrested for his attempt on your lives. I've heard his family has officially disowned him for the trouble he's caused. Consider the mission complete, and congratulations."
"Temari, as soon as you're well enough to travel, we'll return to Suna."
Tsunade didn't miss the sullen look Shikamaru and Temari shared.
"Alright now, everybody out and let Temari get her rest."
Tsunade stood to the side and the sand brothers filed out. Shikamaru tried to leave as well, but she shoved him back into the room and closed the door behind her. It was silent for several minutes until Shikamaru took a deep breath and turned to the source of his troubles.
"I like you."
"How do you feel about me?"
"…Why? What does it matter? By tomorrow, we'll be going our separate ways."
"I just…when I wake up tomorrow, I want you to be there. And the day after that, and the day after that…I want-"
"Don't say it."
"I don't want you to leave."
"I TOLD YOU NOT T-"
Temari began coughing, ugly rasping sounds coming from her throat, small spots of red appearing on her sheets. When she looked up, Shikamaru was next to her, a glass of water held out towards her. She drained it and handed it back to him meekly.
"I don't understand."
"I don't either. Yeah, I like you. Yeah, I wouldn't mind waking up next to you tomorrow. A part of me wants to stay…but another part of me wants to get as far away from you as possible. I just…need to think about this, alright?"
He leaned forward, and not sensing any resistance, kissed her softly on the cheek before heading for the door.
"If you need me…I'll be with your brothers. It's always the little details that are important in these things, after all."
He ducked the thrown bedpan and made his escape.
The house that they lived in together. The meals they had shared. The bed they had slept in. All the time they had spent with each other. It all ran through his mind over and over again as Shikamaru walked home, the home the two had shared. He could not-would not believe that it would all just end. He wanted Temari to stay with him. He didn't care how troublesome she could be at times. She was worth it.
She liked living with Shikamaru. He infuriated her sometimes, made her want to scream, to throw him out the nearest window. But he also made her happy, could soothe her with a touch, melt her stress away with a single kiss, make her feel like she was wanted, like she really belonged, could give her the happy home and loving family she never had. Stay and be happy. Leave and regret it for the rest of her life. So why was it so difficult to decide?
Both went to sleep alone, feeling the empty space next to them. Sleep was light and restless, both waking alone, covers wrapped impossibly tight and feeling cold regardless. Both rose slowly, dreading to repeat the experience.
Shikamaru moved listlessly through his morning routine, the house not a house anymore, just an empty space.
Temari lay confined to her bed, alone, the room silent, an uncomfortable reminder of days past.
Both felt the emptiness inside and out, and moved to fill it the only way they knew how.
"Shikamaru, you lazy bastard…"
Temari limped through the streets after making her escape from the hospital, using her fan as a crutch, heading for their home.
"You should be helping out your wife…"
"Still babbling on about that man and woman crap, I see."
Temari turned at the voice, and Shikamaru walked to her side, smirking.
"Have you…figured things out?"
"Not really. I just wanted out of the hospital is all. The food, the décor…"
"I see…so, where are you headed?"
Temari broke off, and Shikamaru grinned.
"Don't. Just…give me a hand already."
Shikamaru carefully supported her, and the two slowly made their way home.
A warm meal later, Temari sat in Shikamaru's arms in the livingroom, holding her carefully so he wouldn't aggravate her injuries when someone began pounding on the door. The two groaned in unison and Shikamaru sent his shadow to unlock the door, two familiar people hurrying into the room
"Gaara? What is it?"
"You were missing from the hospital. We were searching for you for hours."
"You two do know the mission is over, right?"
She looked up to glare at Kankuro before her face turned bright red. She realized she was still nuzzling in Shikamaru's arms, in clothes that covered only slightly more than a hospital gown, and in full view of her brothers.
"Kazekage-sama, if I wished to formally court your sister, would you have any objections?"
Temari and Kankuro stared wide-eyed at Shikamaru in surprise, but Gaara didn't even blink.
The stares switched to Gaara, and Shikamaru bowed his head as deeply as his position allowed. Gaara gave a nod in reply before turning and walking out.
"What's wrong with Shikamaru?"
Recognizing the look on Temari's face as one of impending violence, Kankuro quickly backed away.
"Nothing! No, he's a nice guy, very…nice, yeah. I'm sure you'll be very happy together, have lots of babies…ewww…"
He turned and ran as Temari reached for her fan. She could feel Shikamaru shaking from restrained laughter, and she buried her good elbow in his ribs.
The rest of the day progressed with a degree of normalcy for the two. Shikamaru took care of the housework while Temari spent the time resting, and thinking. Sakura gave her a lecture on taking care of herself while checking her condition. Chouji and Ino stopped by for a few minutes, and Temari openly grilled the two on what Shikamaru was really like. Both said flat-out they should stay together, and Temari was hard-pressed to offer a reason why they couldn't.
Shikamaru would wager good money that Temari was cute when she blushed. He imagined she was blushing madly right now, with an adorable expression like the one Hinata wore when talking to Naruto. Of course, he know if he opened his eyes as he helped Temari change into her pajamas, injuries or no, Temari would beat him to within an inch of his life.
He couldn't wrap himself around her injured ribs, as much as he might want to. So they lay side-by-side, staring at the ceiling.
"Why…did you ask my brother if you could court me?"
"Just checking. I don't know what's been bothering you, but I'd figured it'd be one less thing for you to worry about."
"Thanks. It's just...a big, life-altering decision, that's all."
"So…you basically just need to decide whether or not you want to stay with me, right?"
"Well, supposing you decide to stay…we have a house of our own, but even with both of us doing missions, money would be a little tight, though I imagine our families would insist on helping out…"
"And if you decide to leave, we'll have to agree on how much contact we have."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, say you don't want to stay, maybe because circumstances prevent it. Will we try to see each other when possible? Are we 'just friends' or do we decide never to…never to see each other again?"
"I guess if I couldn't stay...I'd still want to see you again. Is that…all right?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I think I can live with that."
"I know you don't want to hear his…but can I say something?"
"Temari, I love you."
"Err…there's more, but I figure that's overdoing it already."
"I love you too."
"Do you…really mean that?"
"Yeah. And not just this once."
"Ass. Why do I put up with you?"
"Because I'm the only man alive who'll put up with you."
Silence reigned, followed quickly by soft laughter, which was quickly muffled as Temari tried to smother her loving husband with a pillow.
"So, technically, we're still married, right?"
Temari raised her right hand, the gold band shining in the sunlight. She stood with her brothers in front of the huge gates of Konoha. Shikamaru took the hand in his and kissed it, gaining a smile and a blush from Temari. They had enjoyed two more mornings together, waking up in each other's arms, exchanging kisses and promises.
"Yeah. For as long as we both can stand each other."
One last kiss, deep and almost desperate, not knowing when the next would come. The hand that wore the ring returned to her hip, and with a tilted grin tossed over her shoulder, she joined her brothers on the long road back to Suna.
It hurt, watching her go. But Shikamaru knew she'd be back. And so, he shoved his hands in his pockets and looked skyward, watching the clouds drift lazily by before turning to wander aimlessly through the streets of Konoha. Wander, and wait.
In truth, as much as i'd wanted the two to live together and happily ever after together, I still wanted to fit the story in and avoid mangling the canon storyline too much in the process. I'm like that sometimes, sorry sorry.