Author's Notes: Dedicated to the wonderful Coley Merrin, a fellow ShikaTem shipper and a longtime friend. Enjoy it, Coley!
Note: Lime, but nothing graphic. Also mention of other pairings.
The fic was written while listening to Vienna Teng's songs "Gravity" and "Eric's Song."
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am making no profit from this fan fiction.
Shikamaru suspected that Temari had spent the vast majority of her young life seeking approval from everyone she came into contact with. And that made sense to him. With such talented siblings, both of them male and both of them younger than her, she must have fought hard for recognition; from her father, from her sensei, from even the members of the Sand village who determined the significant ninja. Temari was the only working kunoichi allowed missions outside the boundaries of the Land of Wind.
The result, however, was often infuriating in that she was nine times out of time absolutely perfect.
She had been working with the Nara clan's prodigy for over five years, which told Shikamaru that she had devotion to her duty, at least. In that respect, she had him invariably beat. Temari always finished her share of Chuunin Exam preparations notably earlier than him and – in more cases than he was satisfied remembering – had begrudgingly taken on some of his work as well. He'd imagined she would most likely do the same thing starting tomorrow when she showed up to begin work on next month's exams.
But she never showed any signs of inner turmoil. Shikamaru could recall complaining to (or about) her on what seemed like hundreds of occasions, and to each witty remark or irritated jibe she responded cleverly and without hesitation. She was prompt, punctual, and these days rarely suffered from missions that had gone anything less than outstandingly.
Sometimes he absolutely hated her.
Particularly when she did something unexpected. Like tonight.
A fundraiser for new student equipment at the Academy disguised as a formal party was taking place on the main floor of the Hokage's office building. All shinobi and kunoichi not out on missions had been required to attend by order of the Godaime. Shikamaru pulled at the annoying collar of his dress shirt, wishing he were anywhere but here.
At least dinner was being served. That much he had to be grateful for.
Glancing around, he took note of whom in his class were present; he spied Sakura chatting with Sai over drinks, Naruto probably talking off Hinata's ear while she blushed and nodded, and Kiba and Shino having what appeared to be a staring contest but what was probably just Shino's turn in a discussion and Shikamaru couldn't see his mouth moving. Ino and Chouji, he knew, had been sent on a mission to the Land of Rain with Rock Lee.
Heading toward the bar area with intent to get a drink, Shikamaru's eye was caught by something glinting in the golden lanterns hanging high overhead. He stopped walking.
Black pearls on a silver string shone, the rarity of them attention-grabbing. But it was not the stones that held Shikamaru to his spot. Standing tall, with one hand occupied by a glass of white wine and the other gesturing to the person she was in conversation with, was Temari.
No one had told him she would be here. She had messaged him weeks ago, stating clearly her arrival date, and never in the entire time he had worked with her had she appeared any sooner or later than planned. Shikamaru hardly knew how to react to seeing her so suddenly.
And the person talking to her was Tsunade, no less. He didn't know what the words exchanged were, and he quailed at the thought. Temari's overconfident persona would prove a rather explosive element if combined with the Godaime's underdeveloped work ethic.
Without warning, Temari's eyes flicked over to where he stood half-gaping at her. The result was light blue on black between their gazes, and Shikamaru felt oddly unsettled. He thought her smile widened, the deep rose gloss on her lips shimmering, and he watched as she cleanly excused herself and began to make her way over.
He hadn't exactly missed the way her hips swayed when she walked in her formfitting uniforms, but he hadn't exactly noticed it either. Now it was impossible not to see how the dark red satin, strapless dress gleamed from the swell of her breasts to just above mid-thigh. A lethal-looking pair of heels gave an endlessly long illusion to her shapely legs, but his eyes kept going back to her necklace, the dark pearls shimmering over delicate collarbones.
Twenty-three, quite simply, looked good on her.
"Hey, Shikamaru." The fact that her voice sounded the same as it always did gave him a bit of jolt. He didn't know what he had been expecting her to sound like – more womanly, maybe? Not like a Sand kunoichi, with her tireless focus?
His voice, when it came, was sharper than he intended. "You're early."
"Yeah, it was Gaara's idea, actually." Taking a sip of wine, she continued, "He thought we should get a head start on the Exams. I need to talk to Ibiki and make sure he still wants to—"
"You could have notified me."
Temari blinked at his accusatory tone, and he couldn't help catching the brush of her lashes against her smooth cheeks. "There wasn't time. I found out about this thing when I got here, and I didn't want to be rude, and I went to find a dress to wear…" She trailed and eyed him with suspicion. "Why is it an issue?"
"It's not." The issue was that he wanted to reach out and break the ties holding up her light, wavy hair to see how it looked against the satin and the pearls, untamed. Shikamaru deliberately stuck his hands in his pockets to refrain from doing so. "Well, if you're here to work, let's go to work." He started for the exit, making sure he looked more bored than he was feeling.
She looked at him as though he had suggested she beat herself in the head with her giant fan. "I'm not even unpacked! And don't you have to be here?"
"Not if I'm doing Konoha-related business." So there was a bonus to working after all, if he could get out of an affair that probably involved watching Naruto get himself wasted and doing irresponsible things with his Kage Bunshin.
"We have three weeks," Temari protested further.
Turning, he saw with some smugness that she had followed him anyway. "I thought you were all about getting things taken care of." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hyuuga Neji and teammate Tenten suddenly appear out of nowhere, and Shikamaru thought that Neji looked a bit disheveled.
Temari frowned at his statement then swept past him out the door into the night. He caught a fleeting scent of some flower he couldn't name and proceeded after her.
"I've been wondering if we should take the big snake out of the Forest of Death."
Shikamaru glanced up from the file containing last year's Chuunin Exam records and sent her a bland stare. "Why?" he question dully.
They had gone to her hotel room where she had most of the information they required perfectly organized in individual portfolios according to tests and examiner profiles. There were little signs about the single-bed room that spoke of fresh arrival; her backpack, for one, and her shed uniform tossed over the back of the chair he wasn't sitting in at the small table beside the bathroom.
Temari had opted to sprawl on the bed, papers arranged around her. Shikamaru had done as little glancing in her direction as possible. The dim light of the single desk lamp at his wrist threw shadows over her, various slim beams of illumination highlighting the slant of her cheekbone, the curve of the knee she'd tucked against her stomach, and the string of black pearls that had nestled in the dip between her breasts.
Stop looking! he ordered himself angrily. It was just Temari, probably the only woman in the world who actually enjoyed pissing him off. And now, it seemed, she had gotten good enough at it that she no longer had to try.
"The kids taking the exams this year were really young when Orochimaru attacked this village," Temari replied to his question without taking any notice of his discomfort. "I think a huge serpent would bring back stories their parents told them and scare them too much. If they pass out in the middle of the Forest, we'll have to send in too much manpower to save them before they get eaten."
After a moment's consideration, Shikamaru nodded. "Fine. I'll ask Shizune-san to see to it first thing tomorrow." Propping a leg on the opposite knee, he firmly returned his eyes to the document. Silence reigned for several minutes before Temari tossed her file down on the mattress and rested her head on one of the two pillows. "I can't believe you took me out of the party," she informed him. "I was looking forward to a good time. I think that's the real reason Gaara sent me here early. It was a hard mission Kankurou and I had last week, and this is the first real down time I've had since I left here sixth months ago."
Had it only been six months? Shikamaru felt as though it had been at least a year since last spending this kind of time with Temari. "What mission?"
"An S-rank escort thing. I killed three Cloud-nin." She said it as though it wasn't a concern, and maybe it wasn't. Temari always hid so much behind those sky-colored eyes that Shikmaru was never truly certain of what she was feeling. "It was just long, really."
He didn't know what she wanted him to say. Challenge her to a rousing game of Go to ease the tension? Doubtful. He looked up in time to see her throw an arm over her eyes, startling him. She looked exhausted, and he didn't know how to handle it. The Temari he worked with was a woman of constant energy, ready for anything – especially if it involved besting him in something since she couldn't seem to do it in battle.
Feeling awkward, Shikamaru stood up and started to gather files from her mattress. If she was going to bed, he would help clean up but then get the hell out in hopes that she would be more normal tomorrow. Not before, however, he took advantage of her shielded sight to do another, irresistible sweep of her appearance.
She was carefree enough not to pay attention to the lay of her dress, and so the hemline was clutching at her thighs unevenly while the arm she'd crossed over her middle made it seem that she was perilously close to revealing every inch of her to him.
Five years, he thought absently while his gaze traced the lean curve of her calf down to her ankle. He could see scars, of course, but the advanced herbs found in the desert had left her with only thin, white lines that didn't detract from the otherwise near flawlessness of her skin. Regarding that damnably attractive necklace again, he wondered which would be smoother to the touch – the pearls or her.
His name on her lips initiated a mean game of tug-of-war on his need; the sound urged his reawakened desire to touch her and at the same time beat that desire down to nothingness. It was that unexpectedness he hated about her catching him off-guard again.
But she wasn't watching him as though he had been caught looking. There was no usual catlike grin or spouting of wit. Rather, Temari held herself with an unprecedented quiet, something Shikamaru hadn't seen coming. She kept him hypnotized with the aquamarine of her eyes glittering from beneath drooping lids, and Shikamaru just stood there.
She wet her lips with a quick flick of her tongue, torturing the more basic side of him, and then asked, very softly, "Have I passed your test yet?"
His eyes narrowed as the confusion roiled in his brain like a building thunderstorm. "Test? What are you—"
"Ever since we fought seven years ago. It was like…" She shifted on the bed, bringing her arms down to her sides and allowing him a view of her gleaming shoulders. "It was like a hardness test, almost. You know, where you rub at a mineral with another mineral, and what leaves a scratch is harder." Her eyes trained on the lamp he had been sitting before, a corner of her lip quirked up. "You were always diamond, and I was talc."
"You're tougher than that," he objected, not knowing why he was falling so easily into her absurd idea. She was a strong woman and that was all there was to it.
"Everyone seems to think so," she murmured in pseudo-agreement. "Everyone back home. You, though. I always have to work for it with you."
The atmosphere was suddenly constricting, and Shikamaru struggled to find some sort of middle ground between his discomfort and her depression. "Temari." She didn't look at him. "Temari." Setting a knee onto the bed in an attempt to gain her attention, he reached out…only to slip off balance when a paper left on the mattress sent him pitching forward.
Files went flying.
She reacted, but only enough to press a hand flat against his chest, his own hands falling on either side of her to instinctively hold himself up and not crush her. A shocked exhale from each of them had their breath mingling between them. Shikamaru's senses were thrown off balance by that blossom scent again, by the shimmer of her lips and the glow of the black pearls.
Her fingers curled into the fabric of his shirt, gripping. And he gave in, simply gave in. Shikamaru kissed her because he frankly wanted to kiss her and didn't try to pretend that there was any other reason. If he went through the proper mental analyzation and recalled enough incidences that had brought him into this kind of proximity with Temari, then the truth would be that he had wanted to kiss her for years.
She breathed deeply, her chest rising to press against his, and he carefully lowered himself down to her – positioning a knee between her thighs to maintain balance while he tucked his arms beneath her back with frustrating slowness. The thumb on his right hand brushed the skin of her bare shoulder, then her neck, coming into contact with the pearl necklace, and at that point any place their bodies met flared into a burn.
Eyes closed, Shikamaru felt his breath quicken as Temari's did when she kissed him back, her arms coming up to wrap around his shoulders. With difficulty, he broke apart from her for air but immediately pressed his lips to the spot between her collar bones, feeling the coolness of her necklace graze his cheek. She arched in response, the faintest of whispers reaching his ears.
So this was it, he thought. For years it had been a mystery to him what her camouflaged thoughts could possibly be, and here it was. She'd sought his approval just the same as she did with everyone, and perhaps more so. She wasn't absolutely perfect. The way she had looked at him. Looks like that would be enough to drive him crazy whenever he tried to sleep after this.
Reaching out, Shikamaru succumbed to an earlier urge and efficiently snapped the binds holding back her hair. At once feet of thick golden strands spilled into his hands, and he ran his fingers through it, pulling her head back so he could get better access to her neck for his mouth.
Unsatisfied, Temari presently took hold of him and pulled herself up to rake her teeth over his left earlobe around the earring. He shuddered with the unfamiliar sensation and tightly gripped her wrists to keep her in place. He'd lose control if she kept doing that.
"Temari," he gasped, pleased by her but shocked at himself.
This time, Temari was smiling. "I thought you wanted to work?" she asked archly.
Mirth forced his own lips to spread. He determined right then and there that he didn't hate her when she did something unexpected. "We have three weeks."
Holding out her arms, she cradled him against her. Part of him wondered when she was going to notice the total mess they had made of her neatly organized files. The rest of him wondered all sorts of things. Viewing her critically, he took in the loose hair and the criminally sexy way she was eyeing him. "Did you want to go back to the party?"
Her eyebrows lifted. "No," she replied calmly. Sitting up, she effectively traded place with him so that she was the one looking down at him. "I have better ideas." Pressing short, closed-mouth kisses to the side of his throat, she added, "And so, I think, do you."
It was, Shikamaru decided, as though that inner glow, that hidden sheen had risen to the surface to light her up on the outside. And minutes later, when she was nipping at his ear again, he did away with every inconvenient article of clothing she wore.
Except for that string of black pearls.