Disclaimer: Naruto's not mine. (otherwise it'd be completely different)
Spoiler warning: Has references before and after time skip in the manga, though not all of the events that are mentioned are true J
A/N: One shot. Temari and Naruto may be OOC.
"Temari nee-chan? What are you doing here?" Naruto inquired as he walked closer to Team 7's former meeting place. He looked at the red bridge with new eyes, just realizing how much time had passed since his team had last met there. Five years since the death of Sandaime. Five years had passed since his and Sasuke's departure from Konoha. Two years since the defeat of Orochimaru and the return of Uchiha Sasuke. A year since the defeat of the Akatsuki and the death of Uchiha Itachi. Within those five years, the rookie nine had trained harder, matured, and lost more than just their baby fat and naïve dreams. They had followed their respective paths, but hadn't grown out of touch, or out of love. They each had their goals and their inner missions to accomplish. He glanced at the Tsuna kunoichi. It had been a year since her arrival in Konoha to act as a diplomat for Sand. He wondered if she regretted her decision, or was bored; the two countries had long since laid aside grudges and had forged a strong alliance. It seemed almost absurd for there to be diplomats and go-betweens, but so be it.
The sandy haired jounin turned to face him, distant look replaced with a sheepish smile. "Kombonwa Naruto," she replied, hand resting idly on the base of her metal fan, "what are you doing here tonight?" He smiled, raising his hand to rub the nape of his neck sheepishly, "ah, I just had a lot on my mind and came out here to think." He turned his back to the rickety bridge before pulling himself up to sit on the worn rail. She leaned back on her elbows, tilting her head up to look him in the face, "want to talk about it?"
"You know how there's usually an exceptional generation every now and then?" he asked, peering down into her face. Seeing her nod, he continued, "well… maybe we weren't especially special or anything, but we all held such promise. We had talent… the drive… or simply the will. We all accomplished what we wanted." Temari nodded. She had laughed at them when she first met them as Genin. But they had proved her wrong. And they never ceased to fail her. From the Uchiha prodigy to the blonde flower shop kunoichi – she knew she could trust them with her life if need ever arose. "What's the problem then? Shouldn't you be pleased that you guys are doing so well? Konoha's in peace and prospering, your children won't have to grow under the shadow of destruction, and you guys are respected Shinobi, it sounds more than perfect to me," she quipped. He ruffled his hair irritably, "that's the problem! Everything's going so well after all that we've struggled for! And now that everything's settled, I'm left wondering if there's something more – I don't know why I feel so restless and I feel horrible for thinking so, but is this all I amount to? As a man? As a ninja?" His blonde shag fell over his eyes as he hung his head, "what else is there?" he muttered to himself. Temari studied the manling in front of her. She had heard his story, watched as the villagers slowly let go of their grudge against the kyuubi within him and begin to acknowledge him as a person. He had come far from the bratty prankster he used to be, to the loud mouthed trash talking Genin, to the wiser, slightly reserved Jounin in front of her. Seeing her fixed look, Naruto broke into laughter, "sorry, it's nothing really. I'm thinking stupid thoughts." Temari laughed, "no, not at all."
"Naruto," she said. He turned to look at her shadowy profile, face still in thought, "what do you want most?" Naruto smiled "to become Hokage." Temari looked him in the eye, "then your work is far from over." He started at the unusually stern tone in her voice - Temari had softened over the years, becoming more womanly. The bite in her voice reminded him of the girl he had first met as a Genin –cold and unsympathetic to the plight of others. She continued, "being the Hokage means that you're the best ninja in your village, right? You're far more skilled than before, but you still have a long way to go. Just because you're not on the battlefield doesn't mean that you can't practice, hone your skills and strengthen your weaknesses." Naruto turned her words over in his mind, and seeing that she had a valid point, nodded. She smiled at him, "and you must learn leadership." Naruto frowned, "what do you mean? I know how to be a leader! I've been authorized to start as a Jounin sensei in a few years!" Temari shook her head, laughing.
"Do you remember our first Chuunin exam? No one was promoted as a Chuunin except for Shikamaru. He didn't have the best jutsus, nor was he the strongest. But he was elevated because they saw where his priorities lay." Seeing that Naruto was listening carefully, she pressed on, "everyone else just cared about beating their opponent and coming out the strongest, but Naara demonstrated that not only was he a brilliant tactician, but his priority lay in safety, which would make him an ideal leader. What's the good of a successful mission if you're the only survivor? You might be the most powerful ninja, but you're nothing if you don't have a heart for the people you fight for, and those that you fight with." Naruto nodded, "but Shikamaru's a genius, it's easy for him." She couldn't help it – her hand shot out and clipped him on the shoulder. Naruto nearly toppled off, catching the railing with his legs in time. "What was that for?!" he squawked after regaining balance, rubbing his shoulder. "Baka!" she snorted, "have you learned nothing from your years of working with Lee?"
The taijutsu user's face flashed before his eyes. "Gejimayu? How could I not remember all his mantras and crazy training sessions?" he laughed, "what about him?" Temari glowered at him, "I see that your sensei's rubbed off on you, for the worse." Naruto's head snapped up at the harsh words against Kakashi, "what are you getting at?" She frowned at him, "you, Naruto, have become a snob."
His mouth dropped, "nani!?" Temari stepped closer, gritting her teeth. "I hate people that are uppity and think that they're above everyone else just because they have the luxury of relying on talent." She watched as astonishment gave way to sullen anger on the boy's face and cut him off when he opened his mouth. "When people like Kakashi, Uchiha, or the Hyuuga excel, people compliment them and gush over them because they're geniuses. People like Lee, who are not as talented, have to work twice as hard for the level they stand at. And they are ridiculed and mocked and constantly put down." She stepped closer to the blonde, glowering fiercely, "it is the hardworking, talent-less that deserve the praise, not your lazy, arrogant geniuses!"
Naruto fell silent at the kunoichi's words. He suddenly had a flashback of the Chuunin exams; he had been too busy reveling in his victory against Neji and excitement about Sasuke's upcoming match against Gaara to notice Lee. Lee, bandaged and on a crutch, clenching his fist so tightly he bled. Lee, who had begun to cry in defeat, ashamed that he wasn't the one that could defeat Gaara or Neji. Lee who had seriously begun to question if his nindo was still valid anymore. Temari watched his face, satisfied that her words had struck home. "Geniuses are geniuses. But it is the genius of hard work that I admire. For they enjoy life the most, and truly savor victory." She smiled before whacking the now silent Jounin across the back, "I didn't mean to be harsh on your teammates and friends. But if you really want to become Hokage, you're going to have to adopt Lee's work ethic and heart."
He breathed in deeply, letting the cool air rush down his lungs. Gejimayu… so you've been overlooked all these years… I'm sorry – I, myself was called a dropout too. Thank you. He leaned over the red railing, glad that his hair covered his embarrassment and shame. I won't forget again. "Nee-chan…" he called softly. Temari turned to look at him, "yeah?" Naruto looked her full in the face and grinned wickedly, "if you're so anti-genius, why is it that you always try to seduce Shikamaru?" He sprang away from the metal fan that came hurtling through the air towards his face. As he ran away laughing with an angry sand shinobi hot on his heels, he smiled up at the sky, I will be Hokage. For all of us "dropouts." For us all.