Author's Note: Damn, I was listening to "Breath" by Breaking Benjamin and I was infected with this story idea and I literally could not rest until I got it out. I'm not that great at battles scenes so it is over rather quickly... I almost cried at the end. Poor poor Romeo and Juliet... uh, I mean Shikamaru and Temari. I guess this makes up for all my, "They end up together no problems!" optimistic fics. Read, review, enjoy, thanks!

It didn't matter how or why the war started. The wind daimyo versus the fire daimyo maybe. Something said or misheard, a message that didn't get there in time. What mattered is that all the alliances between Suna and Konoha, all the friendships, the fact that the Hokage and Kazekage were best friends, didn't matter anymore. It didn't matter what links they forged or how they had trained together and fought together for years. Because each of their masters now hated each other, and wanted each other destroyed, they became suddenly aware that, as ninja, they really were nothing more than emotionless tools.

At least, that's how it was supposed to be.

Shikamaru learned long ago it wasn't that easy, at least not for him, though it seemed easy enough for Temari to break it off. Even years later he wondered how her heart could be so cold.

It was for the best, she said, because it couldn't work, not with an entire country between them and their loyalties to different masters. Because he wouldn't leave his village and she couldn't leave hers.

And he had just let her go, when he should have fought. Because she was so hard to argue with and it was easier to buy into her logic. He always secretly hoped she would change her mind. He had dragged his feet and now it was too late.

It seemed like the battle had been going on forever. It had been waged the way Shikamaru always learned shinobi waged battles: in secret, in shadows, in raids and sneak attacks. Naruto sent him on mission after mission until he felt he must know the desert as well as Temari did, though he knew that was impossible. Every time he went on an assassination he prayed it wasn't to the kazekage's mansion. Against his own heart, Shikamaru even suggested it during one of their strategy meetings. It would wound the enemy deeply, to get rid of their leader and their head strategic mind. The hokage refused, saying it would be too difficult and too dangerous to make such an attempt on the likes of Gaara and his sister. But Naruto seemed to be holding back, old ties not quite severed yet.

Ninja didn't fight in lines, on the battlefield, a milling mass like clashing armies. But here they were, on this blasted ground that was half wasteland desert, half ruined forest, charred from exploding tags, dug up by chakra-powered blows. Shikamaru could see Temari at the forefront of the charge. Her eyes swept the line, swept over him without registering.

I see nothing in your eyes, and the more I see the less I like.

He knew he was probably betraying too much, far too much as he looked at her. He wondered why she betrayed so little. Or maybe there was nothing to betray.

Had she found another man? Did she have children at home, waiting for news of their mother's death? It had been so long and now she was a stranger to him.

Shikamaru couldn't stop the replay of the last night they spent together, her softly moaning his name and him thinking of finally asking her to stay with him, forever.

He didn't care who won anymore. He just wanted this battle to end. The battle out here, the battle inside.

Is it over yet, in my head?

"Shikamaru, if you see her, you kill her," Naruto had ordered him. He had no need of asking of whom his hokage spoke.

"Yes, Hokage-sama," he had replied, thinking that he'd never seen Naruto so cold, so hard. The smiling, boisterous boy he had grown up with was gone entirely, finished off by the strain of this war.

Ino interrupted his thoughts. "What do you think she has planned?" she asked, indicating Temari.

"I've been trying to read her for the past few minutes. I've got nothing," he replied. He used to be able to tell her mood, practically her thoughts, and certainly her next move, from the merest muscle twitch or motion of her hands. But they had been apart too long, and had changed so much.

I know nothing of your kind, and I won't reveal your evil mind.

Is it over yet? I can't win.

She had always been the strong one. He had thought about letting her kill him, just giving up, like he did in the chuunin exam. That seemed like a hundred years ago now.

She wouldn't be holding back, he knew. Temari was always the one who could do what was needed no matter how much it sliced her up inside. It would be so easy to just lay himself down at her feet.

But no, there could be no forfeiting this time.

So sacrifice yourself, and let me have what's left.
I know that I can find the fire in your eyes.
I'm going all the way, get away, please.

"Stay away," he breathed, looking right at her, willing her to read his lips, his mind, his heart. "Don't make me do this." But he knew she would make a direct line for him, because she felt she was the only one worthy to kill him, and she would rip the throat out of anyone lesser who dared. He was her unfinished business.

"Just think of it as your revenge," Ino told him.

"For what? Spurning me?" he retorted angrily.

"I've always told you, you have to turn that hurt into hatred or it'll eat you away forever!" she spat back.

You take the breath right out of me.
You left a hole where my heart should be.

He remembered after Temari left, walked out the gates of Konoha for the last time, when he lay on his bed just trying to breathe.

You got to fight just to make it through,
'cause I will be the death of you.

"You better give it all you've got, Desert Flower," he muttered. She turned to him then, as the lines surged forward, as though she had heard him speak.

This will be all over soon.
Pour salt into the open wound.

She was still a long-distance fighter. Her fan displayed three stars. She was going all-out. The wind that followed her swing nearly bowled him over.

Is it over yet? Let me in.

Everything he threw at her was blocked, bounced off. The moon was behind a cloud, but it was full enough, gave enough light. If he could stall until then, if he could find an opening…

He was getting closer, closing the distance. Temari's fan was closed now, she swung it, and he rolled under and past it. Behind her, he jumped to his feet, close enough to hear her gasp. The moon chose that moment to break forth from the cloud.

Last time they were this close, they were lovers, not enemies.

So sacrifice yourself, and let me have what's left.
I know that I can find the fire in your eyes.
I'm going all the way, get away, please.

She still smelled the same, though now under the blood and dirt and reek of days unwashed on the battlefield. He wondered if she felt the same, tasted the same, and almost let his technique drop.

Instead, shadow hands crept up Temari's body and clamped around her neck.

I'm waiting, I'm praying, realize, start hating.

He held it there, shaking, disrupting her breathing but not enough. He could feel his control start to slip, memories flashing through his mind. Temari standing over him, hands on hips, blocking his sunlight; Temari pulling him out of a pile of waist-deep sand; Temari smirking as she slid a shougi piece forward; Temari loosening her obi; Temari giggling into his shoulder as they lay in bed…

Hate her, Ino said.

His eyes stung.

"Temari," he whispered, holding her with shadow arms, "I never stopped loving you. I hated you for leaving me, but I never—" he broke off.

"Just make it quick, Crybaby," she growled.

The hands tightened, twisted. There was a crack and she went limp, falling against him, bringing him low.

Shikamaru screamed. It was a strangled, guttural thing that rent the night.

You take the breath right out of me.
You left a hole where my heart should be.
You got to fight just to make it through,
'cause I will be the death of you.

Why aren't they running here? he thought. Why hasn't someone come to kill me already? He wanted to die!

Her beauty blurred in his vision, the neck at that wrong angle, the moonlit glimmer of a tear in the corner in her eye.

He couldn't believe he could hurt so much and still be alive.

"W-w-w-why," he sobbed out. He should've quit being a shinobi after that first mission. Even then he knew he couldn't handle it, couldn't put his emotions aside. They always knew this was a possibility, but it had always seemed so far away.

The susurrus of shifting sand made him look up. The kazekage himself stood there, green eyes gleaming in the terrible moonlight. Bury us together, Gaara, Shikamaru thought. He nodded as he felt the sand enclose them, as it covered Temari's ruined body, crept up his own, into his nose, into his eyes.

"Desert funeral."