Akin to Love

They were lying on the grass watching the clouds float past. He'd always thought she'd be too restless to lie contentedly and watch the sky, but it turned out she could be pretty calm and carefree. She was an enigma all in her own. Her dark green eyes were relaxed and gazing up at the sky almost lazily. Shikamaru smiled lightly and returned his attention to the sky.

This felt comfortable.

He had a cigarette in his mouth and was watching the soft gray smoke flit up to join the smooth white clouds gliding lazily above him.

"Why do you smoke?" She asked bluntly as she watched the billowing gray puffs drift from the tip of his cigarette.

Shikamaru turned his head to her. She had been the only one who hadn't gone on bothering him about smoking. Everyone who knew him went on a tantrum or concocted some stupid plan to get him to quit. He didn't want to quit. He had believed she, unlike everyone else, could accept that. Could accept that he smoked. She always seemed to be the kind to accept a person's differences, but she had surprised him before.

"Not that I mind you smoke or anything." She continued, looking at him in serenity. "It's your body, your life; you can do what you want with it. I'm just curious as to why, really? It doesn't…seem too appealing."

He watched the languid smoke clouds disappear into the air.

"You don't have to answer." She said calmly. "I just…had to ask, you know?"

"You aren't trying to get me to quit?" He questioned her.

Her eyes crinkled in confusion. "Why should I? You like smoking, for some odd reason, why should I interfere with that? And besides, whether you continue or quit is wholly your choice to make."

His mother always complained about the smell. He wondered fleetingly if that was her problem.

"Besides, like I said before, it doesn't bother me. Even if it did though, what really matters is you – it's your habit. Not mine." Her golden hair was really striking against the green grass.

He couldn't really answer her about the smoking, whether he wanted to or not. It was something he…"I can't really explain it."

She blinked. "Okay." Her eyes still studiously followed the winding spirals of the cigarette smoke.

"Everyone bothers me about the smell. It's troublesome."

She closed her eyes and a small smile spread across her warm face. "I rather like the smell."

She really was the strangest woman he knew. Everyone was troublesome in one annoying way or another, but she was troublesome in an entirely different manner. The kind he liked. The kind he hoped would follow him forever.

"What are you thinking, baka?" She smiled lightly. "You have such a stupid grin on your face."

"Always with the insults, Temari."

"And you never seem to answer my questions." She teased.

"Maybe because it's far more fun to let you come to your own conclusions."

She scoffed.

She was from Suna. An entirely different village. So what if Konoha and Suna were allies? How long could that really last?

How long could the mere friendship they had last?

She was always so brash and impetuous – he lazy and indifferent. Could it really work? He liked the trouble she brought, but when it came down to it, even the friendship they held now was hard to hold on to. Not very many people in Konoha accepted her quite so readily. He suspected it had to with the blunt honesty she always used. Temari hated to lie and hated to tiptoe around things. And then not very many people in Suna accepted him. He knew it was because of his laziness, his lack of motivation. But he didn't change himself and neither did Temari. They both refused to change just to fit a preconception. Their friendship was nice, but it was hard to keep up.

How could he want more?

She sat up, her arms propping her up. She swiftly took the cigarette from his mouth. Supporting herself up with one hand she used the other to twirl the cigarette in and out of her fingers. She examined it with careful scrutiny and then brought it up to her lips.

She took a drag.

Then went into a coughing fit.

The hand holding the cigarette was clutching her chest tightly as the coughing racked from her throat. Her eyes were watery just the slightest bit.

She extended her hand toward him, the cigarette poised between her index and middle fingers. "Here." She rasped delicately.

He took the cigarette from her. She wiped her eyes and chuckled. "Geez, you do the stupidest things. That wasn't at all like I expected." Her eyes shone with mirth. "You make it seem so easy and relaxing and enjoyable." She looked pointedly at him. "But I think it just sucks. I'll leave the smoking to you."

"It takes some getting used to."

She snorted. "As if I'd want to get used to that."

He chuckled and was about to take a drag when he noticed the light pink matte wound around the cigarette. "You're wearing lipstick." He said.

Temari blushed the slightest bit. "It's that kunoichi – Ino. She wouldn't leave me alone until I let her put lipstick on me. I thought I'd picked an unnoticeable hue."

He watched her lips.

Her soft pink lips.

They were always pink, but he could see the slight difference in color. It was barely noticeable. "I hadn't really noticed." He said, opting for honesty. "I can barely see it now when I'm looking for it. I just saw the markings around the cigarette."

Temari's soft blush had abated. "Sorry about that, by the way."

He brought the cigarette to his mouth matching his lips with the pink markings and inhaled. "I don't mind." He said clearly exhaling out the gray smoke.

After a short silence, Temari spoke. "Did I apologize to you for leaving markings on your cigarette?" She asked in shock.

"Yeah." He replied lazily

"I'm insane."

"I've noticed."

She smacked him on the chest with the back of her hand. "Rude."

He smiled. "Just like you, eh?"

Temari stuck out her tongue childishly.

"Oh, real mature."

She giggled.

Strange didn't even begin to describe their relationship. He was comfortable with her at a level he didn't think could be possible with a female.

She was different.

That was how he explained Temari to everyone.

'Why do you hang out with her?'

'Why do you talk to her?'

'What is her problem!?'

'She is so rude!'

'That girl is crazy and cruel!'

She's different. He would say. Because really, he didn't know how else to explain it.

She took a look at the smoke curling up alongside her and lay back down.

But instead of resting her head on the grass beside him, she lay her head comfortably on his chest. "I can smell it better from here." She said stubbornly, her lips pursed in determination.

She felt warm against his chest and he could feel her head rise and fall with each breath he took.

She could never truly comfort or speak kindly. She was blunt, rude, and violent. She was also playful, pensive, and caring. She was impossible.

Hopelessly impossible.

Everyone would say she was nothing special, but he could see it; she was different.

You only had to look and she'd let you see.

Her eyes closed once more.

She wasn't sleeping, but she looked so peaceful and at ease.

The more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that what they had and what he wanted to have couldn't last.

Things like this never lasted.



"Is this really how you want to spend your birthday? Wouldn't you rather be with your friends?" She mumbled softly, her eyes still closed.

"I don't want to be anywhere else."

"…Am I pestering you? Would you rather be alone?"

"No." said Shikamaru. "You aren't bothering me. You never do."

Nara Shikamaru was supposed to be a genius, and in many aspects he was. But there were always the things he couldn't explain.

He couldn't explain what he was about to say. He couldn't even explain why he was going to say it. The mechanics of it didn't add up in his mind.

He couldn't explain how it happened; it just did.

But he could explain one thing.

He could explain how it was. "I think I love you, Temari."

Her eyes flickered open and she tilted her head up to look at him. "You think?" It was accusatory. She sighed. "You either do or you don't, Nara."

"I love you." He rephrased.

Her head tilted up to the sky. "I don't." She closed her eyes. "Love is just deep lust that last about three and a half years, replaced by the ability to tolerate someone just to procreate. Love is moronic. I don't love you." She opened her eyes and tilted her head in his direction. Her green eyes focused on his. "I very much enjoy spending time with you. I know there's no one else out there like you and that scares me, because if I lose what we have, I lose you. And I'd die for you. I feel lots of things for you, Shikamaru, but I refuse to call any of those feelings love."

He smiled. "What would you call it then?"

"I don't know. But it's akin to what people think is love."

Oh, yes. She was most definitely different.

And he most definitely loved her.

Or something akin to it.

"Well I guarantee you I'm not talking about biological love." He said to her.

She returned her attention back to the sky. "But something close, right?"

"Most definitely."

"Good. I hate when I wake up some mornings and find out I wasted my time on something that was never mine."

He blew out a puff of smoke. "Same here."

Whether or not it would work out in the end didn't matter.

What mattered was now.

And they were obviously on the right foot.

They weren't in love, but something akin to it.

As he felt her hair tickle his chest and her head slowly rise and fall with each breath he took, he smiled. The way her eyes were closed and her lips twisted into a placated smile made the day in itself better. He closed his eyes and made his birthday wish.

He wished for them to spend many more days just lying on the grass together. He wished for her.

A/N: What do you think? I'm not sure what I think about this fic. I half like it, half dislike it.