Author's Note: I'm baaaaack. This story is a sequel to my previous story Invitation. To any new readers I would recommend reading the first story before tackling this one, though I will include a short synopsis in case you don't. To all those of you have read my previous story, welcome back! I've decided to make this a trilogy, with this obviously being the middle story. This story will take us through the events of the Chunin exams and immediately after. The last story will cover the events up until the wedding. While Shikamaru and Temari remain the central characters this story will be much more diverse than Invitation was. Many of the other characters will get their share of attention including some original ones. Hopefully this story will be at least as entertaining as the previous one. And hopefully there will be at least a few surprises along the way. As always, please feel free to review and enjoy.
Synopsis: While in the hospital following the failed mission to recover Sasuke Temari gives Shikamaru a comforting hug. He in turn invites her to dinner with his family. Before leaving Temari promises him a kiss if he visits her in Suna. Shikamaru, Chouji, and Ino soon travel there on a mission. While there Shikamaru and Temari begin a romantic relationship as people such as Gaara and Ino watch. Others watch as well including Sulamon, Suna's director of Internal Security. Viewing the relationship as a security risk he orders the assassination of Shikamaru. The attempt fails with the assassin's death and Shikamaru being critically injured. Temari gets him to the hospital in time but blames herself and ends their relationship. With Ino's help Shikamaru decides to see her and convinces her that their love is worth all risks. Before leaving Suna they are secretly engaged and promise to marry on Shikamaru's sixteenth birthday. While in Suna he also learns that Naruto is the Kyuubi's jailer and tells Temari that he believes Naruto will be the next Hokage. Temari convinces him that he needs to become a Jonin and also the future Hokage's Chief Advisor. Returning to Konoha he informs his parents and the Hokage about both the secret engagement and his knowledge about the Kyuubi. He also tells Naruto he knows about Kyuubi. In order to extract a promise that Naruto will name him Chief Advisor Shikamaru makes a bet with him that he can get Naruto a girlfriend in just one day. He then convinces Naruto to ask Hinata out on a date. She says yes thus winning Shikamaru the bet, and making him Naruto's future Chief Advisor. Oh, and it also makes Naruto Shikamaru's personal bitch. (I'm serious, read the first story to see for yourself.) There is much more but that should do for a start. All caught up now? Well then enjoy.
One month after Shikamaru's return from Suna
As Asuma approached the house he could see the two of them standing in the front yard. They were in identical poses, bent over with hands on their knees, sucking in air.
"I don't think I'm ever going to get tired of seeing this."
Shikamaru and his dad both looked up. "What, the sight of two guys panting?" Shikamaru asked.
"No, the sight of you putting out so much effort. Whenever you're not on a mission you're practicing with your dad."
Shikaku laughed. "Don't get too used to it. Shika is absorbing the family jutsus like a sponge absorbs water. Give him just two or three more months and he'll have them all down."
Shikamaru looked at his father in horror. "I have to keep this up for another two or three months?"
Both of the older men laughed. "Son I hate to break this to you, but you do know you're going to have to keep working even after you become Jonin and have all the family jutsus?"
Shikamaru gave his father a flat look. "I notice you and Asuma seem to have a lot of free time."
Shikaku smiled. "Good time management skills."
Asuma laughed. "Come on Shikamaru, it's time to head over to the Tower. Do you want to come with us Shikaku?"
"No," he gave his son a smirk. "I'm going to have lunch and then I think I'll take a nap."
"Try not to overexert yourself." Shikamaru commented as he headed out.
Kurenai stood back and watched the four of them going at it. When it came to training no squad in Konoha could match Guy's. But she thought hers put in a lot more effort than most. They didn't even need her to give them any instructions; as soon as they arrived they always got to work. Kiba and Akamaru were leaping through the trees. Shino was putting his bugs through their paces performing various tasks. Then there was Hinata and her other student. She looked over to where the two of them were sparring. They were going at it full force and as usual lately Hinata was getting the best of it. It amazed her how much and how quickly Hinata had improved since Naruto had joined their practice sessions.
During their second date Naruto had complained that he didn't have any one to train with. Sakura was busy learning medical jutsus and Kakashi would rarely make time for any one on one training. Hinata had come to her and asked if Naruto could train with them. Kurenai had agreed. Surprisingly it had not caused any problems. Shino never complained about anything, Kiba liked Naruto and didn't mind, and Hinata? Hinata would cheerfully set herself on fire if it meant she could spend more time with him. Early on the two of them had gotten into the habit of sparring together. Him using his taijutsu and her using gentle fist. She had held back until Naruto had told her how much he enjoyed a hard fight. After that… Kurenai shook her head. Hinata had always possessed a lot of potential but been handicapped by her lack of confidence. But being with Naruto was changing that. She spoke up more, she had stopped the habit of pressing her fingers together, and when she fought now she didn't hold back.
As she watched Hinata caught him with a perfect three hit combo that sent him flying to the ground. She immediately put her hands to her mouth and apologized. Naruto laughed and told her what a great move that was and what a great opponent she was. Hinata gave him a happy smile and helped him to his feet. Kurenai was very glad to see Hinata so happy; the poor girl certainly deserved it. She had become Hinata's confidante and the one she related all her adventures to. So Kurenai was well aware of just how much time the two of them were spending together. Many people in the village did not approve, but she knew Naruto was a good kid and that the two of them were good for each other.
She took a look at her watch. "All right! That's enough for today. We have to be at the Hokage Tower at noon. Let's go." As she watched Naruto excitedly grabbed Hinata's hand and began to lead the way. There was a slight blush to her face, but there was also a smile. Kurenai smiled herself and began to follow the happy couple.
Chouji had come to her home to walk her over to the Tower. "So what do you think all this is about?" Ino asked him.
Chouji shook his head. "I don't know. Asuma just said all Genin squads and their senseis were to be at the Hokage Tower by noon today for a special announcement."
"Chouji, did you get one of these?" She showed him an invitation with her name on it.
"No, what is it?"
"It's an invitation to meet with the Hokage after the announcement. An ANBU delivered it this morning."
"It doesn't say." She said nervously. She looked around to make sure no one could hear as she whispered. "You don't think it has anything to do with what happened in Suna do you?"
To her relief Chouji shook his head. "If it did I'm sure Shikamaru and I would have gotten them too."
She nodded. "That's true."
They continued walking. Chouji looked over at the girl as she rambled on and on about shopping and other trivial matters. He had gone a long distance out of his way just to walk with her. Of course she hadn't noticed or thanked him. He let out a long breath. Well, what was I expecting?
Ino noted his glum expression. "Is something wrong Chouji?"
He shook his head. "Oh nothing, just thinking how long it will be before we eat."
She looked over and began to chide him. "You know Chouji you really ought to go on a diet, or you're never going to get any girl to notice you."
He gave her a sharp look. "I'll tell you what Ino. The day you learn to stop talking about yourself I'll go on a diet." She stared at him in shock. "Sorry." He mumbled. They walked the rest of the way in an awkward silence.
"There is quite a crowd out there." Shizune mentioned.
"Well I did want every Genin squad to be here for this." Tsunade carefully adjusted her robes. "Have all the invitations for the meeting afterwards been delivered?"
Shizune nodded hesitantly. "I beg your pardon Lady Tsunade, but are you sure of all the candidates?"
Tsunade shook her head. "I know who you're referring to. Can you give me one single piece of evidence why he should not be invited?"
"Only his choice of friends."
Tsunade gave her a sharp look. "I once called Orochimaru friend and teammate. By that logic I shouldn't be trusted either." Shizune looked embarrassed. "Don't worry about it, but as Hokage I must give everyone justice until they are proven guilty."
"Now let's go, it's almost noon."
"Are you two all right?" Shikamaru asked his teammates. They both nodded, but avoided looking at each other.
"Hey Shikamaru," Chouji spoke. "Remember that thing we talked about last week? The one where I said I wasn't sure?"
"Well I've changed my mind. If it's not too late I'd like to give it a try."
Well, I wonder what brought this on. "All right Chouji, if you're sure." Chouji simply nodded.
Ino looked between her two boys. "What are you two talking about?"
Shikamaru shrugged lazily. "Oh, nothing important."
"Uh-huh." She didn't buy it. Something was going on between her two boys. She would find out, she always did. "So what do you think all this is about?" She looked around at the large crowd.
"I'm guessing this is to let us know we won't be needing to book hotel rooms in Hidden Mist." Shikamaru answered. Asuma nodded. Chouji and Ino just looked at him. He was about to explain himself when the Hokage stepped out onto a balcony overlooking the plaza below.
The crowd quickly quieted down. When they saw her in her formal red robes they knew it had to be important.
"I thank you all for coming." Tsunade spoke in a loud crisp voice. "As I am sure you all know, the Chunin exams are being held in two weeks time in the village hidden in the mist. I have sent the host village and all the participating villages a formal notice that Konoha will be boycotting these exams. Following the tragic events of the previous exams I feel the risks to our participants would not be justified." She halted as a murmur ran through the crowd. Most of them were clearly unhappy at the news. Tsunade just smiled. "However, this does not mean we will forgo adding worthy candidates to our ranks! As Hokage I am announcing a special Leaf Chunin exams which will be exclusive to the Genin of this village and will commence in precisely two weeks. I invite all senseis who believe their teams to be ready for this competition to return here tomorrow morning to nominate their teams."
Another excited murmur ran through the crowd. But this time a single voice could be heard above the general noise.
"Yosh! Guy-sensei I will definitely become Chunin and I promise you will be able to just sit back and enjoy the show!"
Then came another voice.
"Lee! Your fires of youth burn brightly for all to see! Seeing such youth fills me with pride!"
The four of them all shuddered at the disturbing words. Shikamaru summed it up best.
"Geez, so troublesome."