A/N: This is the alternate CH.14 FLUFF. It's not canon in my story; I wrote a lot of possibilities for this chapter, and this was one of two that I completely completed. There have been requests for it, and so here I give it you you.

"Sakura, please… come home?"

"Shikamaru," I gasped, taking in his full appearance. His ponytail, normally spiked high, was hanging limply behind his head. His jaw had become more pronounced since his 17th birthday, and the green vest coupled with an incredibly amazing looking black shirt showed off muscles that I don't think I could ever have imagined in my wildest dreams.

I just stood there, staring, feeling quite inadequate next to this god-like man standing before me.

"Sakura?" he asked, his voice bringing me an inch closer to the situation. "I've had a lot of time to think when I was… Well, you probably don't know, so I won't bother. God, never mind, this is much too troublesome. I'm sorry, Sakura," he said, turning away from me to head back out in the dark cold world without me. He looked so nervous, so disappointed.

I thought about letting him walk away from me. I thought about letting him go back out, and do whatever he had been doing for these last two weeks, worrying Ino and Chouji and heck, worrying me to the bone. I thought about letting him go, like Tsuande had done with Dan all those times.

So instead, I reached out for him, grabbing his arm, shivers running all up and down my spine. He stopped, and his entire body tensed at my touch. Suddenly deciding that that impulse probably should have been buried instead of acted out, seeing as how he reacted, I pulled my hand back. Maybe this whole admitting this wasn't as easy as I had thought it was going to be. Maybe it was actually really, really hard.

"What do you want?" he asked simply, still facing that dark outside world.

"I…I…" I stumbled, trying to find something to say other than, 'I'm sorry, my bad,' and 'it's raining.'

Nevertheless, he didn't start walking away when I stumbled, so I figured that something must be keeping him here. He must be curious to hear what I had to say.

"N-n-nevermind…" I said, backing up into the house.

An image of Tsunade, looking at a soulless Dan (whom I couldn't imagine very well at all, to tell you the truth… He looked a lot like Shikamaru. But that's very much besides the point.) flashed through my mind, and I stopped dead in my tracks. I took the two steps required, wrapping my arms around his waist.

He was freezing.

I didn't care.

I leaned into him, pressing my cheek into his back, and I closed my eyes. I could feel the muscles of his back move as he shifted his glance to the sky.

"Don't leave me," I pleaded. "Please don't play the part of the stupid teenage girl who leaves her best friend and goes away. Please." I could feel his body tense once more at the 'best friend' speak, but I could tell that he was still listening to me.

"Nyah, troublesome girl," he said, still staring at the sky.

Then, he pulled my hands away from his waist, and I thought he was going to leave. He didn't want me. That is what he had come here to tell me. No no no no no. No, this isn't happening. My eyes filled up with tears again, and my heart panged painfully as he took a step forward. He was leaving me. He still hated me. I was weak, pitiful.

I wasn't worth it for him. He took another step forward, and it looked like he was struggling with something. Maybe he was trying to decide whether to take pity on me or just leave, like I knew he would.

But then, he turned around, and wrapped his arms around my own waist.

The next thing I knew, my face had been pushed against his very solid feeling chest, and I smiled. I hooked my arms underneath his, and placed my hands on his shoulders.

I could feel the fabric of my shirt soaking up some of the water of his own, and his hair dripped all over the top of my body. None of it bothered me, though. He was here.

Alive.

I could hear his heart thudding quickly, and my own beating right in sync with his. We were both nervous. Nervous, but content.

We stayed like this for ages, and I felt like hugging him for this long was what I was supposed to be doing. I loved it. I wanted to keep it going and going and going.

He made me so happy. I wondered why I had even looked at another guy like Sasuke when I had someone like Shikamaru by my side the whole time.

"Sakura, you're going to catch a cold if we keep going like this too much longer," he mumbled, his chin resting on my hair.

"I don't care."

"Well, I do. I'm going to take you inside."

"No," I said, pushing my head off his chest just a little bit to look up at him. God, I loved looking up at him so much. His eyes were the same warm brown ones I had always seen, the ones that I dreamed of every night. They were basically the only part of him that had stayed the same.

"Sakura, what do you mean-" And then, he saw the puffy eyes, the tear tracts, and remembered the sadness that had been in my eyes a second ago, when I opened the door. His eyes widened, and I just stared back up at him. "Sakura, what were you crying about?" he asked.

I just turned my head to the side, laughing a bit. "Nothing. It's nothing. Everything's fine." The Shikamaru-in-my-head, who still looked the same as he had when I had left all those months ago, smiled.

Told ya so.

"Hey, kiddo. Look at me. What's up?" He placed his hand under my chin, and moved it to face him again. He was worried. Even after all this time, he was so worried about me crying.

I leaned my head into his chest again, closing my apple green eyes. "I was so worried."

"About?" he asked, still completely oblivious to what I was talking about now. For a genius, he could sure be stupid sometimes.

"You. Ino said you were gone, and that no one could talk to you but your parents. They were all so worried. I was worried. Everyone was worried."

"But my parents knew where I was the entire time," he pointed out, still missing the point that I cared about him so much that I was still worried, even if we hadn't spoken in so long. "They knew I was safe. Why be worried about me, Sakura?"

I nuzzled my face into his chest, still grinning like an idiot. "You could have been dead,' I pointed out. For some reason, he tightened the muscles in his chest, and then, he laughed.

And I loved hearing the laugh from his chest, listening to it as it began and loving every moment of it.

"You don't have to laugh, Shikamaru. It's possible." But I was smiling, so happy with myself and with him and with the entire world.

"So you were scared, huh?"

"Terrified. Petrified. Horrified. All for you," I said, poking him in the chest. I felt his grip around me tighten. I couldn't even feel the chill the rain water was providing; the warmth in my own body just from embracing Shikamaru like this for so long was enough to keep me warm for ages.

"And to think, the only thing I was worried about was that you were falling in love with another jerk."

"Oh, so now you're saying that you wouldn't care if I died, huh?" My tone was light, but I was getting worried from what he had just said. Did he only like me as a friend? I mean, he wasn't worried that I was falling for another guy, just another jerk. What if I told him, and he didn't feel the same way?

Maybe this whole hugging for eternity thing wasn't the best idea. Maybe I should just go inside.

But then a voice rang in my head that sounded suspiciously like Jiraiya's.

You'll regret it. Don't find excuses.

I felt Shikamaru lean close to my ear, and my breathing stopped for seconds at a time. My heart raced, and I was glad he was looking into the house and not at my scarlet red face.

"Now you know that's not true," he said, his voice becoming huskier and deeper, and his breath playing along the side of my face.

My whole body burned with a desire to kiss him. I wanted to kiss him so, so, so badly. I wanted to feel my lips crash into his. I wanted to find passion. I longed for it. I yearned for it. Every fiber of my being needed to kiss him.

However, I bottled the urge, and just stated content with holding onto him for dear life.

"Oh? And how do I know? You were so mad at me that day… You hated me…" Quietly, I trailed off into nothingness, staring blankly at his shirt. My mind rushed back to him, hatred in his every feature. Hatred for me.

His face had moved from my ear back to my head, and he sighed. "I didn't hate you, Sakura. I never… I mean all those emotions you saw? I was mad at myself for not being able to stop you. I hated myself for not being able to keep you there, to protect you, to stop you from having to go. I hated myself for being weak."

I stood on my toes, and placed my head on his shoulder. "You aren't weak. You've never, ever been weak." It was a fact. For me, he had always been the strong one. The tower.

"You think so?"

"Yeah, I re-" My words were cut short by the sudden feeling that I wasn't touching the ground anymore. My eyes widened as I realized that I was face level with Shikamaru, and a pair of incredibly strong arms were supporting me.

I remembered Naruto talking about how strong and smart Shikamaru was, and how he could take care of himself. I couldn't agree more.

"Oh, haha. You really are the strong one now," I said quietly, grinning.

And a very, very small part of me thought that not only could he take care of himself, oh no. But he could also take care of me.

All thoughts of that were swept away when I realized he was looking into my eyes with an incredible desire that I had never seen in his eyes before. And they were so soft, just staring at me like I was the only thing in the world worth looking at.

For a second, I thought he was going to kiss me, and I became completely occupied with the thought. I itched to know the exact taste of his lips and the feeling, the rush, I would get from kissing him.

But instead, he kissed my forehead. The area his lips touched burned with passion, on my end, and Shikamaru's arms moved from my waist.

One arm went under my knees, and the other was holding onto my back, wrapping its way to my torso. Out of pure instinct, I wrapped my arms around his neck, and cuddled up to him. Shikamaru carried me, bridal style, into the house, and set me down on the couch.

"I didn't want to risk you getting sick, kiddo. It was too cold out there," he said sweetly.

Apparently, either Jiraiya or Naruto had been watching this whole exchange between us, because as soon as Shikamaru sat down, a maid came running in with blankets and the cook came walking in with a warm drink. We both gratefully accepted both offers, and to my non-surprise, I spotted a white haired man at the junction where the right wing and the living room met.

The tall Nara boy made sure that I had a blanket surrounding me before he even bothered trying to get one situated for himself. Before he could lift up the warm quilt, I had grabbed his arm and wormed my way into his lap.

"This way, you can give me some of that really good looking drink without dumping it all over me, since I know you won't let my hands out of here to grab it," I rationalized.

Shikamaru snorted. "It's troublesome doing all of this for you," he said. I sensed a 'But I wouldn't have it any other way,' echoing unsaid from his mind.

"Yeah, well, it's troublesome not being able to do it for myself because you're refusing to let me, you know?" I mumbled, and then cuddled up onto his shoulder. I made sure to wrap the blanket around him, letting our still wet fronts touch.

After a few minutes of sitting there, in complete silence and stillness that was only interrupted by him forcing me to drink some of (admittedly delicious) hot chocolate, I began to feel my eyelids droop.

It wasn't that late at night, but I was spent. I had used up the entire day reading a book I hated, crying over someone that hated me, and then having him show up in person and feeling my heart explode in pure, unadulterated joy.

I nuzzled closer to his shoulder, and felt his arms wrap around my body.

"Sakura?" Shikamaru whispered lightly in my ear, still holding onto me.

"Yeah?" I said sleepily, cracking open a green eye to look up at him.

"I… See, I've just…" His words were getting lost in his mouth as he looked away from me to the door. I closed my eyes again, preparing to go back to sleep on his surprisingly comfortable body, when he stopped me once more. "Sakura?"

This time, both of my eyes opened. I felt him push me up, closer to his face, and suddenly, I wasn't very tired anymore. I looked at him, waiting, wanting.

"Yeah, Shikamaru?"

But he didn't respond; instead, he leaned into me, and his lips crashed onto my own. I felt my entire body explode in a million sensations, and my heart began to race once more. The passion in his kiss was enough to make any girl fall head over heels in love with him, but since I already was, all it did was exemplify my yearning for him.

The rush was incredible.

It ended all too quickly for me, and he pulled back, looking ashamed and embarrassed.

"Don't hate me, Sakura… I just…" he mumbled again, and I could tell that he thought I didn't enjoy it. Like I still saw him as a friend and only a friend.

That, coupled with the incredible urge to kiss him once more, forced me to press my body against his own, and kiss him again. I could almost feel the surprise in his kiss when it happened, but I didn't care. I slid my hand into his dark hair, and his thumb traced my jaw line. His other hand was on my lower back, keeping me in place, and my hand was reaching around his back. His strong, muscled back.

After what felt like two seconds, we had to pull back for air. My mouth was tingling, and my heart was still beating at 1000 miles per hour, but I didn't care. The kiss itself was phenomenal.

Sasuke in no way, shape or form, could ever beat out Shikamaru. Ever.

I cuddled up against Shikamaru's shoulder once more, smiling like a fool. I felt his arms around me, and his hand was stroking my hair.

I don't know how long we sat in the perfect silence, but I didn't care. Being here with him was a dream come true.

"Sakura… I really missed you. Nothing was the same without you there."

"Yeah, yeah," I said, eyes closed, but a smile still on my face. "I really missed you, too. You don't know how many times I thought of you since the last time we saw each other."

"I'm just that important to you, huh?"

"You're the most important thing to me," I said sleepily, trying to stay awake for our conversation. I felt him kiss the top of my head again, and my face turned slightly red.

"Really? Because that's kind of how I feel about you, as troublesome as it seems," he admitted, hugging me tighter once more.

"Even more important than Chouji or Ino?"

"Yes, and in a completely different way."

I knew exactly what he was talking about. With that, my mind slowly faded away into the dark abyss of sleep.

In my stage of twilight sleep, I felt a strong pair of arms that I could tell weren't Shikamaru's lift me up. The person whom I had just been sleeping on awoke with a confused start, and then I heard a loud gulp. I wondered what was going on.

"Look, sir, it's not my fault that she fell asleep on me…"

I heard the crack of knuckles, and I got worried.

"Naruto, take the girl to her room. I want to make sure that this boy doesn't get a wrong idea about my niece."

Naruto's shoulder, which he apparently had slung me over, was not very comfortable. Not very comfortable at all.

I tried to protest, telling Jiraiya that it was alright, but I was too tired. So it all came out to be just mumbled words, mashing up together in a confusing manner. "OoncleRaiya dun do nothing shimaru…" I mumbled, head leaning against Naruto's shoulder blade.

"Shh, be quiet, Sakura. I want to hear Shikamaru get 'The Talk' from Jiraiya. This ought to be good." But I reached up a hand and hit him in the shoulder, making him give off a dejected 'ow.'

"Itsa priviiite cunvorstation," I mumbled sleepily, enjoying the feeling of being carried to me room. Well, minus the bony shoulder and all. "Dun listun."

"Geeze, fine, you little drunkard," he said, chuckling over his own joke of calling me a drunkard even when I wasn't drunk.

But I was too tired to even care what he had called me, and too happy to even bother trying to figure it out.

Shikamaru had come to see me! He didn't hate me. He was alive. We were friends. Everything was falling into place once more.

"Night, night, Sakura-chan!" Naruto exclaimed, sitting me down on the bed and trying to wrestle the blanket that had covered Shikamaru and I a second ago from my grasp. But I didn't let go, and he gave up, leaving me to my sleep.

"Goodnight, Naruto," I mumbled, watching him leave the room.

Shikamaru was in every one of my dreams that night, but this time, I never woke up crying.

A/N: And it is done. Sorry for any major or minor errors. It's still pretty rough, but I thought I'd share.