Disclaimer: If Naruto were mine, Ino would not exist.

A/N: Big, big, BIG thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter. There was so much positive feedback. Your reviews always make my day. After all, I write for you guys! This chapter practically wrote itself. I sat down Saturday and just pumped out 10 pages. Here's a shout out specifically to LockDown. Your review was especially well crafted and entertaining. And yes, I definitely will finish this story. Also, I received a question in a review about the timeline of the story thus far, but unfortunately, it was from an anonymous reviewer. Please do try to leave a name so I can get back to you in a PM instead of via author's note. Anyway, to answer that reader's question: From the get go, Gaara gave Temari about 2 months, and in the last chapter Gaara said he wanted Shikamaru dead within the next five weeks. So Tem and Shika are in about week 3 transitioning to week 4. It probably seems like longer than that, but I've got the story going at slower pace. Hope that answers your question. This chapter warrants the M rating for this story. Beware of the lemonade youngsters.

Chapter 10

Progress

Shikamaru's head was thick with sleep as he shifted once again. His body, tired and achy, protested and formed a complaint about his current position and made this all known to him in the form of a crippling leg cramp. A muffled groan and a blind grope later, he was doing his best to massage the stiffening pains in his calf. He sat there for a heartbeat or two longer, simply soothing the ache. Sighing inaudibly, he cracked an eye open and used the hand that wasn't on his leg to brush his crown of hair out of his bleary eyes. Shikamaru's eyes wandered around the room briefly before zeroing in on his bed. Beneath the thick duvet cover, he almost couldn't distinguish the motionless figure. Only a shock of gold splayed on the pillows confirmed that Temari was still in the bed. The shadow wielder sat up and did his best to stretch out the kinks in his back. He'd spent his evening curled up with a blanket on the plush beige leather two-seater couch that was in his bedroom. While his couch was indeed comfortable, it was meant for sitting and maybe the occasional nap. It wasn't to be substituted for a bed. Shikamaru longed for his comfortable bed in all of its soft, downy glory; he'd restrained himself from sleeping next to Temari.

Partly because she was injured. Partly because he knew he was risking waking up without a liver or not even waking up at all. He was pretty sure Temari would not take kindly to that type of behavior.

Kicking the blanket away, Shikamaru shuffled over to said woman. It had only been a little over an hour ago that he had woken up to check on Temari and given her the pain medication Tsunade had left for him. In fact, he'd woken up almost once every hour to check Temari's head. Tsunade, the doctor Shikamaru had sent for, had gone out of her way to make a house call for him at such an odd hour. Shikamaru could have almost kissed the medic for coming the previous night.

Tsunade was an extremely talented physician who worked as the private doctor for many of the bosses in the mob world. In a way, she'd created a niche for herself. Many of her patients' injuries, the most common ones being stab and gunshot wounds, were received during questionable and usually illegal activities. In a normal hospital, the patients would be probed and forced to reveal the details about how the wound was received, but Tsunade never pried. She knew full well the types of people she was dealing with and guaranteed the utmost privacy.

In his younger years, Shikamaru had acquired his own fair share of questionable injuries, and Gorou had always requested Tsunade to tend to him. Like Temari, Tsunade was also a fierce, overbearing blonde whirlwind that refused to take crap from anyone. She and her late husband, Dan, had both worked as doctors in their joint practice until Dan had tragically died of illness. It wasn't until after his death that Tsunade realized that her husband had secretly been the private physician of many of the mafia in and beyond Suna. After Dan's death, Tsunade had inherited all her husband's criminal clientele. Any other woman would have shied away from seeing such men, but not Tsunade. She was just as fearsome, if not more, than many of the people she dealt with.

Shikamaru had ordered Asuma to bring Temari over to his apartment as soon as the older man had informed Shikamaru of the situation. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually a disgruntled Asuma arrived with a broken and bloody Temari. Shikamaru had killed enough people to not be disturbed by blood and gore, but the kunai buried in Temari's stomach made him cringe. Seeing Temari so badly injured made Shikamaru's blood boil. It was only the severity of her injuries that kept him from disappearing into the night and ensuring that Orochimaru and his cronies were in the obituary section of the paper the next day.

Tsunade arrived not too long after Asuma. She'd shooed both men out of the room and managed to construct a makeshift operating table on Shikamaru's dinner table. He and Asuma waited patiently in another room while Tsunade took care of Temari. An undistinguishable amount of time later, she called them back in and briefed them on how to take care of the unconscious woman.

The concussion Temari received wasn't terribly bad, but it wasn't great either. Tsunade still told Shikamaru to check on her every hour she was asleep and occasionally wake her up in the night. The stomach wound was another issue. Thankfully, the weapon had not plunged as deeply as it looked, and it had just narrowly missed puncturing any of Temari's vital organs, but there was still the issue of healing and the possible risk of an infection. The older blonde woman patiently worked her medical magic while cleaning, suturing and bandaging Temari as best as she could.

She promised to come again within the next 24 hours to do a follow up on her patient.

Shikamaru shuffled off the couch and silently made his way over to the bed. The room was still relatively dark, but through the window Shikamaru could see the last vestiges of the moon's milky rays and the purplish nighttime sky slowly bleeding away. The red neon letters of his alarm clock glowed harshly in the dark. It was only 4:47 AM. Reaching down, Shikamaru gently pulled the duvet cover away from her face and really assessed the bruises on her face. In addition to a purplish marking beginning to bloom from her mid-cheek to the lower side of her jaw, Shikamaru noticed Temari's lower lip was marred with a split that neatly ran down the middle. Had this been there when he was kissing her? He couldn't remember. His was too occupied with trying to keep himself from taking her, right there and the.

Shikamaru crossed and uncrossed his arms in the dark, his calm thoughts processing at express speeds.

Another glance out the window revealed that morning was near, but there was still time. Carefully, he ghosted his fingertips against her face and gently ran his thumb across her wounded lip. A quick check to her pulse and Shikamaru stole out of the room. The pain medication Tsunade had left him would ensure Temari would still be sleeping for a few more hours. He grabbed a shirt, shoes, and his keys, and Shikamaru left the apartment.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Temari couldn't breathe.

Somewhere in the penetrating darkness that blanketed over her, she was struggling desperately. A scream built up in her throat but never made it over the threshold of her lips. Thrashing against the darkness, she realized she wasn't simply choking. Someone was choking her. Her fingers sought out the strong wrist that held her against her will and constricted her throat. She clawed and scratched frantically at the hand of her attacker, but to no avail. Fear, thick and heady, shot through her veins like adrenaline in a panicked desperation.

Temari.

Was she going to die like this? Alone and in the dark being choked by some ungodly strong and unknown hands?

Her hands left the wrists, and she swung blindly and violently. She was searching for a face. Lips, eyes, anything that would make the hands leave her neck.

Temari!

Suddenly, the shadowy darkness lifted and gave way to two crimson orbs staring soullessly at her in the dark. Pinwheels as black as the night spun slowly against their red backdrop and stared her in the face. She tried to look away but couldn't. The eyes lured her in and Temari slipped away before she knew what was happening.

"Temari, Temari wake up!"

Temari's eyes snapped open and she found herself staring into Shikamaru's chocolate ones. He hovered over her, his body pressed against hers as he tried his best to keep her calm. Wide eyed and disoriented, she simply stared at him. Panting heavily, she realized his hands were locked in vice grips around her wrists. The sinewy muscles of his arms were drawn taut as he stood stock still. Her mouth was dry and her throat parched. She longed for water.

It was dream. Just a horribly realistic dream.

Cool drops of something wet slid down her face and chest. Her eyes left Shikamaru's face and glanced down the survey the rest of him. It wasn't until then that she realized that he was only clad in a green towel that clung to his slim waist. The slightly tanned skin of his chest gave way to two prominent pectorals that each housed a dusky nipple. His bare muscled chest was moist and radiated heat from him onto her. She longed to use her fingers to trace each individually raised square of his abs, but Temari banished it until the action could come to fruition. Unconsciously, her eyes followed a seemingly innocent trail of smooth dark hair that started below his navel and continued southward below the border of the towel. She peeked and spared a glance at the delicious shape of the well defined V shape that gave way to his groin. Temari felt her cheeks color and forced her eyes upward before she entered a danger zone.

"Are you alright?" He was almost breathless, as though he'd just finished a ten mile run. His hair, free and slick with water, fell over his eyes and sent droplets of water onto the bed.

"W-Water." Temari croaked, her throat lacking the elasticity to help her correctly form words.

Shikamaru nodded and stood from the bed. The movement caused the towel on his waist to shift and slide downward until it threatened to come undone. Temari bit her lip. She was both disappointed and glad the towel stayed in place.

Glancing out a window on the opposite side of the room, she noted the sun, high and bright in the sky. Sunlight spilt through the blinds and washed the wooden floors in a buttery yellowness. She wasn't sure how long she'd been asleep, but from the looks of things, it was well into the morning.

Shikamaru, now in a pair of well-fitting jeans, reappeared with a tall glass. He stood next to the bed and handed it to Temari. She willingly accepted it and drank like she'd been deprived of water for days. The chilly water tasted better than the best ambrosia as she swallowed greedily and allowed the water to rush down her throat and relieve the its former dryness. She made no move to speak until the glass was empty.

"More?" Shikamaru reached for her cup.

"No. I'm fine."

"How do you feel?"

"Like a truck hit me, but I'm too medicated to feel it entirely."

"Sounds about right."

"What time is it now?"

Shikamaru tossed a carless glance at the clock. The round silver edges contrasted the black face and metallic raised numbering that were different pieces of warped metal that had been shaped to form numbers. It was one of those modern abstract-ish pieces that were supposed to be decorative and function.

"A little past noon."

A pregnant pause settled between the pair. Neither knew what to do or say. Temari was about to open her mouth when the hybrid child between a groan and a gurgle escaped her stomach. Immediately, her hands flew to the spot to contain the noise. She immediately winced loudly when she realized she'd accidentally pressed too hard and aggravated her stomach injury.

"I'll be pretty annoyed if you open that wound up. I can suture people up, but Tsunade will be pissed to see that I've tampered with her handy work."

Her fiery retort died on her lips when she realized he was serious. She paused. Too many thoughts and questions were jostling in her mind.

"Why was Asuma where I was last night? It's all a little too convenient."

"What? You think I'm tailing you now?"

"Oh come on Shikamaru." Temari said in a chastising tone. "You seem to think you can tell me what I can and can't do and who I can and can't see. So, I won't buy any bull about being morally opposed or some shit like that."

Shikamaru chuckled. "You know, I wish I were tailing you. It would have kept you out of trouble."

"I can keep myself out of trouble, thanks."

"Yeah. You were doing a great job last night."

Temari sent him a milk-curdling glare. She touched her head and felt the bandage that rimmed the circumference. Slender legs slipped out from under the duvet as she scooted to the bed's edge.

"Bathroom?" Shikamaru's voice made the word sound like a bored statement with the rising intonation of a question.

"I'm leaving."

He sighed. A pause followed before he sighed again. He almost let a third sigh happen, but that would have been too much. "You really want to get yourself in trouble, don't you?"

Temari's teal orbs scintillated.

"Listen Shikamaru," Temari ground out between her teeth, "let's get something straight. Just because we have a deal going doesn't mean that we can be friends now. I don't trust you. And, at no point, did I ask for you or anyone to save me. If you're under the asinine notion that I'm now somehow indebted to you for helping me, get your head fixed. I don't know what you're thinking, but remember that what we are is strictly business."

"You really think so?" Now it was Shikamaru's turn. His eyes flashed dangerously at her. "Who do you think you're fooling?" He slid toward her, his body now inches away from hers. Gently but firmly, he grabbed her chin and tilted it toward his face. The warmth his eyes usually held had bled away. The irises were dark and cold, murky and intoxicated with some emotion Temari couldn't exactly place.

Wavy, golden tresses shimmered as Temari laughed. Her laugh was rich, sultry and deep like a good wine. The young boss could not contain the shiver that caressed and kissed up his spine as the sound of her laugh washed over him. It was gorgeous and god awfully frightening at the same time. Shikamaru wanted more. He was once again the moth being drawn into Temari's fatal flames.

"You're only fooling yourself Shikamaru." She countered. "What? Are you going to hurt me?" She challenged as she stared defiantly at him through her fringe of flaxen lashes.

"Do you want me to?" Shikamaru husked out. He could feel his pulse quickening. God, the woman was bringing out the worst in him. With each passing second, Shikamaru could feel the darker side of him warring for dominance.

"Kiss me again…." She said, kneeling on her knees and barely tracing the shell of his ear with her lips. Her voice was a throaty whisper that was ever so slightly pushing the man next to her over the edge and into a chasm he would never climb out of. Shikamaru shifted closer to her, ready to oblige. His lips were centimeters away from hers when she deftly pulled away again, her lips once again near his ear.

"Kiss me again," Her hand trailed the sinewy chest, "and I'll make sure you're sleeping at the bottom of a bay and wake up somewhere that makes hell look like paradise." Temari's playful hand tightened and forced Shikamaru into the bed with a powerful thrust.

She hovered over him, triumphant at the upset she had just pulled.

"Don't mess with me Shikamaru. You'll regret it." She spared him one last glare before she pushed away and slid off the bed. Her head wound wasn't too painful, but the pain in her stomach radiated throughout her midsection. She was halfway to the door when she froze. Temari frowned. She moved to take a step but her legs refused to obey her.

It was almost as though she were paralyzed.

"What? You decided you want to stay?" Shikamaru's voice teased darkly from somewhere behind her.

She couldn't move, but Temari turned her head just enough to see Shikamaru standing in a position similar to hers. A pitch black shadowy void stretched out between them. His hands were folded in a position similar to one that someone praying would assume.

"What did you do to me?" Her vocal cords were straining to keep the scream from surfacing. She wanted to keep calm, but the overwhelming urge to claw Shikamaru's face off was polluting her every coherent thought.

Shikamaru did not speak, but merely took a step toward her. Similarly, Temari's body jerked and moved toward him.

"Do you want me to bind you like this until you stop being stubborn and stupid?"

Temari bristled. Of course, she knew she was stubborn. But stupid? She was anything but stupid.

"Why won't you let me leave?"

"Do you have suicidal tendencies Temari?"

Temari was ready with one of her famous all-purpose caustic comebacks, but his question took her by surprise.

"Excuse me?"

"Do you want to kill yourself? Is that your problem?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"You're wounded. You have a concussion. There was a fucking kunai stuck in your stomach. You're a smart person Temari. But really, what part of moving around with those injuries is a sensible to you?"

"Listen, I can han-"

"No. You can't handle yourself. Shut your mouth and give yourself time to heal."

"Do you think I can just decide to disappear? I have work. I need to report ba-"

"Are they going to come looking for you?" Shikamaru interrupted her.

"Orochimaru and his men?"

"No, not him. He's not a problem." Shikamaru said. "Gaara and Kankurou I mean. Are they going to come looking for you?"

Alarm shot up through Temari's veins. Shikamaru knew of her brothers. She'd never mentioned having any siblings, but he knew. How much information had he been harboring about her that he'd yet to reveal?

Shikamaru crossed his arms. Against her will, Temari's arms mimicked the motion. Concentration painted his features, his brows knitting together in deep thought.

"Your brothers shouldn't worry unless they have a reason to. You'll be fine to stay here until you're suitably healed."

"I want to leave!" She screamed. Temari's fury was unbridled and fearsome thing.

"Go ahead and leave." Shikamaru taunted. "I'm not stopping you."

"You son of a bitch."

"I'm doing you a favor you ungrateful, troublesome woman." He spat back. Slowly, he forced her to walk away from the door and back to the bed.

The woman was pushing him. Only Temari knew how to push him in all the best and worst ways. Shikamaru knew three sure-fire ways to push back against someone opposing him. First, he reasoned with them. A good negotiation could change things. He'd tried reasoning with Temari. He'd explained himself, but it just wasn't working. Next, there was violence. But really, was he going to use violence against an injured, albeit dangerous, but still injured woman? Definitely not. There was one last option, but he hesitated to use it. It had worked before with Temari, but still...

Raking a hand through his thick locks, he sat on the edge of the bed with her. His eyes were closed, his fists clenched in tight balls.

Temari was still. Unbeknownst to Shikamaru, she was scheming. She didn't quite understand how his power worked, but she felt it; the steady flow of energy between him and her. The strength of the flow ranged from between a rushing river to a trickling stream, all depending on how Shikamaru was feeling. Slowly seconds passed, and she felt the power begin to calm. Now, all she needed was a disruption or a weakening in the flow, and she was golden.

"Don't fight me Temari." He was saying this for her good and his. Temari had been settled for long enough that Shikamaru lessened the strength of his hold on her. For a split second, his concentration of his power faltered ever so slightly, and Temari felt it. It was what she had been waiting for. She seized the opportunity and mustered up what strength she had and slowly tore out from under his shadow paralysis.

Like a flash of lightning, Shikamaru reached out and grabbed her wrist.

The man chuckled darkly.

"You never cease to amaze me Temari." He turned to her and smirked. "No one has ever done that before. I'll give you points for figuring out how the Kagemane no Jutsu works, but thinking you could overcome it so quickly was a miscalculation on your part."

Gently, he pushed her back against the soft bedding before straddling her.

"Stay. I want you to heal. You don't seem to have a problem with fighting dirty to get what you want, and neither do I. And if I need to fight dirty to keep you here, I will." The teasing tone from before was gone. His voice was low and serious.

"Why?" She questioned, her eyes flashing dangerously.

"Because," he said, his eyes dark and deep with hunger, "I want you." He released her wrists and kissed her before she had anytime to argue. If he was going to fight dirty, he might as well enjoy it.

Shikamaru's third and final negotiating tool was seduction. When reasoning and violence had failed or just wouldn't have been the right tactic to employ, he could easily seduce information out of women. Shikamaru probably could have had a few men at his mercy, but he didn't swing that way, and he wasn't ready to start meandering down that alley anytime soon.

He rarely ever had to resort to it, but Temari was a special case. It wasn't as though he was seducing her for the sole purpose of leading the woman on. They'd been playing a coy, teasing game of cat and mouse ever since their paths had crossed, but now he was tired of playing. He genuinely wanted this woman. All of her.

The pair tumbled across the bed, Shikamaru not heeding anything but ravishing the woman beneath him.

Unlike the first two times when Shikamaru had kissed her, this time, Temari did not freeze. It was almost as though her mind had created a special file for kissing Shikamaru. Her lips automatically moved against his like they had rehearsed this bit beforehand.

Temari knew what she was doing was wrong. Very, very, wrong.

Whatever pain medication she was on had worn off since she'd been awake, so she couldn't exactly blame her current situation on a medicated lapse of judgment. She knew he would stop if she made a big enough fuss. She could bite his lip until it bled, punch him in the stomach, something, anything.

But she did none of those things.

In fact, she only moved closer and kissed him back. Apparently, in the two previous times she had kissed him, it had been long enough for her mind to form a conditioned response to his mouth. The moment they started kissing, pleasure coursed through her like a hot liquid. His mouth meant his lips and his lips, of course, automatically meant bliss. A dangerous, forbidden bliss.

Her fingers threaded through his mass of chocolate hair as she gently nibbled the edge of his lip. His tongue, imploring for entrance, nudged against the seam between her lips. Slowly, the skilled muscle slipped in and began exploring her mouth with a painstaking thoroughness. His tongue painted her teeth with grace and skill. She only broke the kiss when the need for air was unbearable. Shikamaru did not stop, but merely shifted down to her neck.

Alternating between bites hard enough to definitely leave marks and soft teasing nips, Shikamaru took his time in melting the woman beneath him. His tongue visited the valley between her breasts, and he even dared to suckle the nipples through her shirt. A breathy moan Temari didn't even knew she had produced slipped over the threshold of her lips when Shikamaru's hand caressed her sides. His fingers gripped the edge of her shirt and moved to slip it over her head. Surprisingly, Temari obliged. The fabric rustled over her skin and hair before her chest was bare. She assumed the bra she had been wearing the previous night was discarded when she had been she'd been changed out of her clothes.

Her fingers left his hair and moved to his neck and she strove to pull him closer to her. Shikamaru hadn't bothered to put a shirt on after his shower, and the raw feeling of skin against skin was delicious. Neither Temari nor Shikamaru could get enough. Leaning forward, Temari bit savagely at his shoulder as her fingers raked down his back. The man groaned loudly, his toes curling at the feeling that washed over him. He'd always been told that pain and pleasure were not that far apart from each other, but Temari had just proved that to him as she successfully married the different sensations.

Shikamaru's eyes traveled leisurely over the two full breasts that innocently stared at him. The dusky nipples stood perky and alert, probably from all the attention he'd given them earlier. He leaned down and kissed each one tenderly before moving down to the taut, lean muscles of the unwounded portion of her abdomen. His tongue mapped warm, wet trails against the unmarked skin and even dared to dip in her navel. Temari squirmed. It wasn't an uncomfortable feeling, just different.

As he continued to concentrate on stomach, she could feel the warmth searing through her veins and gathering in her loins. It was a luscious; the heavy, heady lust clouding her thoughts yet heightening her sensitivity.

Shikamaru wasn't doing much better himself. His breathing had gone from a fixed in and exhale to a steady pant. The tightness in his pants was nearly unbearable. His thoughts were chaotic, his desire quickly stealing away his reason. A glance upward revealed a Temari awash in sensation, her full lips plumped and reddened from their kisses. Her blonde hair splayed wildly against the pillow, her fingers gripping the sheets with a needy desperation.

He leaned in to kiss her, but stopped a few inches from her face. His hair was disheveled, his eyes dark with need and something else she couldn't place. The warm bistre of his irises had deepened to rich ebony making it impossible to distinguish pupil from iris.

"Temari." Her name left his lips in a deep, gravelly moan. Shikamaru's restraint was altogether lost as he felt the darker side of himself welling up and dominating what control he had left. Want, lust, and a deep frustration rose to the surface and pricked his skin. For a split second, Sasuke flashed through his mind. He bit back a growl. His hatred for the man exploded through him before he crushed his lips against Temari's in an attempt to soothe the frenzy of emotions he was feeling.

The kiss was slow at first, their lips merely sliding and slanting against each other out of habit. His hands wandered even as they kissed. Her lips, her hair, her skin, he touched it as thought he couldn't get enough.

Temari's thoughts were fuzzy around the edges. Hadn't she promised Shikamaru a death sentence if he'd kissed her again? Those words seemed eons ago now. Her back arched violently off the bed when she felt Shikamaru's fingers slip beneath the waistband of the pants she was wearing. Neither of them paid attention to Temari's now reddened bandages. His deft fingers stroked her inner thigh, sending shivers that surged directly up her spine and raced back down to her sex.

Shikamaru was moving to slide her pants down her leg. He left her lips and rained soft kisses and nips down both sides of her inner thighs. Something in the back of her mind nagged. It told her to make the man stop his wonderful kisses, the caresses that were slowly melting her brain, and the bites that made her unable to control her vocal functions. Temari acknowledged the nagging, but did nothing to act on it.

The shadow wielder left the sensitive area between her legs and moved back to her neck. His teases were merciless, but he was past the point of being nice. His tongue had just finished searching hollow behind her ear when the doorknob turned and the door to the room opened.

Shikamaru stopped and allowed a few seconds of silence to pass before slowly turning his head and facing the intruder. His gaze must have been particular fearsome because the look that shot across Asuma's face was one he'd never seen before.

"What," Shikamaru's voice held the low quality that only emerged when his more dangerous side had taken over, "do you want?"

Before Asuma could answer, a blonde woman slid out from behind him and marched in the room.

"Really Shikamaru," the voice sounded exasperated, "you really couldn't wait until she was healed? You really want me to kill you? You really want me to?"

"Leave." Shikamaru ground out through clenched teeth. "Leave and come back later Tsunade."

The woman remained un-phased. Long legs carried her to the bed and equally long arms grabbed Shikamaru's arm and forced him off only to expose the more than half naked woman beneath him. The dark haired man stumbled but managed to catch his balance before crashing on the unforgiving wooden floors.

"See what you've done!" Tsunade pointed to the crimson that dyed the brown bandages. "I swear to god, you should be thankful that I don't wring your neck." She sent him a glare that would have sent most grown men crying. "Ripped open my perfect stitches." Tsunade mumbled to herself.

"Asuma, take him out of the room while I fix what he's broken." Tsunade did not ask. She ordered.

"I'm staying." Shikamaru bit back.

"You want to die?" Tsunade threatened.

Shikamaru sent her a dark look.

"Asuma," Tsunade growled dangerously, "make him leave the room or I leave. And I won't come back Shikamaru." Tsunade had thrown down the gauntlet.

Shikamaru was altogether ready to duke it out with the medic before Asuma gave him a deep, searching look.

"Use your head kid." Asuma's tone was chastising. "The one on your shoulders, not the one in your pants." He added as an afterthought.

Shikamaru had planned to give Asuma a scalding look, but he knew the older man was right. He sighed and turned around to leave.

"Bring my bag in here too." Tsunade said.

Shikamaru gave Tsunade a blank look. She'd interrupted him and Temari, and now she was ordering him around? He would have broken something if he could have, but unfortunately, there was nothing breakable within reaching distance.

"What? Am I going to produce gauze out of my ass?" The medic demanded.

Asuma pushed the man along before there would be more than one person with injuries in the room. As far as he knew, only he and Tsunade could talk to Shikamaru like that without the fear of losing something important. Like their tongue. Or an appendage. And Tsunade only got away with it because she was a good doctor, a damn good one at that.

Shikamaru sat on the couch in his living room while Asuma couriered the bag back to its owner. He picked up a folded red and white box on the table and handed it to Shikamaru before sitting on the sofa directly across from the man.

The intoxicating scent of savory meat and vegetables wafted up through the container.

"Food?" Shikamaru questioned.

"I figured you'd need something to feed her and yourself with."

"Her?"

"Temari." Asuma declared.

"How'd you know she'd still be here?"

"Let's call it a hunch."

"You know me too well."

Asuma grunted in agreement.

"You didn't knock before you came into the apartment." Shikamaru stated through a mouthful of noodles.

"I did. I knocked for a couple minutes. I figured you were sleeping. Or just too lazy to get up and answer the door."

Silence reigned as Shikamaru ate his food. It was times like this that he loved and hated the fact that Asuma had a key to his apartment. It might have seemed strange, a mob boss giving out the key to his apartment, but Shikamaru never feared that Asuma would stab him in the back. Even if Asuma did betray him, there were very few things that were much scarier than Shikamaru out there. Plus, Asuma had saved his ass enough times when Shikamaru had locked himself out of his apartment.

"Did you call Tsunade to come?" Shikamaru asked.

"No. Met up with her on the way here."

"Convenient."

"So…" Asuma's voice trailed. "How much trouble am I in?" He joked.

"A lifetime and an afterlife's worth." Shikamaru rose and walked into the open kitchen before tossing the empty takeout carton in the trash.

"Was she that good?"

"I wouldn't know. Someone interrupted before I could find out."

"Touché." Asuma stifled a smirk. "What should we do about Orochimaru?"

"Already taken care of."

Asuma's eyes widened. "Already?"

"Well, not Orochimaru. I'm saving him for later. He should be expecting some presents soon though."

The older man studied Shikamaru's face. It held no sign of anything that would give him away, but he knew. Shikamaru never made large announcements about anything big he did. For Shikamaru, there was an inverse correlation between how gruesome something was and how much he spoke about it. The less detail, the more awful it was. Asuma had learned a long time ago not to take Shikamaru's easygoing persona lightly.

"You wasted Kabuto and the other guy didn't you?" The sentence came out of Asuma's mouth more like a statement and less like the question it was supposed to be.

"Everyone." A corner of Shikamaru's mouth turned up slightly. He'd gone out and did what needed to be done all before Temari had woken that morning.

Asuma barely caught the brief smile that danced across Shikamaru's face and disappeared as soon as it had appeared. "All of them? You don't think that was a bit much?"

Shikamaru set his eyes on the older man "Don't act like you aren't aware of how things work Asuma. That's what happens when your boss messes up. Everyone pays." Orochimaru would realize just how much he was paying when Kabuto's severed arms and legs arrived at his doorstep that day.

"Why didn't you just take care of Orochimaru while you were at it?"

The fleeting smile from before returned, but this time it wasn't as short lived.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you to save what's best for last?" He wanted Orochimaru thoroughly remorseful and scared shitless before he even physically harmed him. The man would be unable to function with the threat of Shikamaru looming over him. It was horrible knowing one was going to die, but not knowing when or how would drive Orochimaru into a slow delirium.

"All for one woman? This woman?" Asuma crossed his arms and stared dubiously Shikamaru's bedroom door. "Tell me Shikamaru, what has she done to warrant your protection? Your strength?"

"Stay out of this Asuma."

"She'll be the death of you. I don't trust her."

"I need her."

"You can want her, but don't need her. Sleep with her as much as you want. Get it out of your system, but let it end there."

"She's not some whore to be casually dealt with Asuma."

"Why is she different from any other woman? What makes her worth risking everything you have? Open your eyes Shikamaru. She killed Gorou! She seduced him and killed him. Have you forgotten that she's an assassin?"

"Gorou was a stupid pig. He had it coming."

"Yeah, the same dumb fuck that picked you up off the streets. You are what you are today because of Gorou. Realize that." Asuma spat the words back that the younger man.

Shikamaru grabbed Asuma's shoulder and stared at the older man.

"No Asuma." His voice was low. "I made myself what I am today. What Gorou did would not have meant shit if I were weak. I did his dirty work. I let him use me. But who lucked out in the end? Without me, Gorou was nothing. Don't you think I could have killed him? Don't you think I could have gotten rid of him and made myself boss years ago? I could have, but I didn't. I let him think he was in charge. We both had things we wanted. I wanted his power, and he needed my strength. I could have all the strength in the world, but that won't be enough to lure Sasuke. Now that Gorou is dead, I have all the power I need. I've succeeded him and everyone acknowledges me as the new head. I've lived the last few years of my life like a chess game Asuma. Each move affects the next one. I don't make reckless decisions Asuma. Trust me."

"But where does she come into all this Shikamaru? Why does it have to be her?"

"She's what I want. She has what I need. I need her Asuma. I need her for my revenge. I need her for myself."

"So you contacted her and initiated the deal with her under false pretenses?"

"Not entirely. From the get go I knew she was powerful, but all the things I said about her extracting information from other bosses for me? That was a lie. I could care less about petty politics. If anyone really wanted to kill me, they would have made their move by now."

"I hope you don't regret this Shikamaru. I really hope you don't."

"Regret is a troublesome thing Asuma."

The door to Shikamaru's bedroom swung open and Tsunade walked out. Temari, now fully clothed again, followed behind her.

"Open the stitches again," The blonde medic paused, "and I will kill you." She said the last three words very slowly. Her gaze settled on Shikamaru.

"No more extracurricular activities." She eyed both Shikamaru and Temari. "Nothing strenuous. Nothing you know you shouldn't be doing. I've warned you Temari. If you decide to disregard what I'm saying and end up bleeding out because of it, I won't give a damn regardless of how much Shikamaru threatens me. So stay here and heal."

Shikamaru smirked.

"I left something for her pain on your nightstand. One every 8 hours. I'll be back in another couple of days to check on her."

"Anything else?" Shikamaru asked.

"Feed her." Was Tsunade's offhanded comment as she picked up her bag and waved a goodbye.

Temari rolled her eyes.

A somewhat uncomfortable silence settled in the room once Tsunade left. Temari couldn't look Shikamaru in the eye without coloring up. Asuma was staring at her through narrowed eyes, and Shikamaru's stare kept flickering between Temari and Asuma.

"I'm leaving." The older, dark haired man finally declared. His presence wasn't exactly needed at the moment. He paused and murmured something in Shikamaru's ear before he turned and left. Shikamaru sighed and shook his head before giving the floor a tired look.

And then, there were two.

The pair stood in the middle of Shikamaru's living room, not talking, barely breathing, and occasionally meeting each other's gazes. In that moment, there was enough awkward to last both of them a lifetime.

Shikamaru finally broke the silence.

"Asuma…brought food. Eat something." Shikamaru motioned to the white box innocently sitting on the bar in the kitchen.

Temari nodded and wandered over. Perched on a barstool, she sat and opened the box. She didn't realize how hungry she actually was until the first bite. Her stomach gurgled angrily at being empty for so long. She couldn't get the food down fast enough. In her haste, she nearly choked on the rice she was eating.

Out of nowhere, a glass of water was shoved her way.

"The food isn't going anywhere. Take it easy." Shikamaru had left where he was earlier and was now standing on the side of the bar opposite from Temari.

Temari gulped the water and cleared her throat.

"Your medic." Temari's voice trailed. "I like her."

Shikamaru laughed. "You two are similar."

Temari eyed him.

"Blonde. Overbearing. Ready to kick my ass." Shikamaru ticked off their similarities on his fingers. "Yeah, you two are nearly sisters."

Temari chuckled quietly.

Another silence settled in while she finished her food.

"So, you're going to stay here?" Shikamaru suddenly asked.

The blonde sighed. "I don't have a choice, apparently. And she sewed up the wound again without any anesthetic just to prove a point."

"Sounds painful."

She shrugged.

"Typical Tsunade." Shikamaru commented. "Maybe I should kiss it and make it better?" He looked up at her, his sly expression suggesting that things would certainly not end at a kiss.

"I'll pass." Temari managed to keep a blush from creeping up her face.

"Oh? Why's that? You seem to enjoy kissing me. Or, at least you did before we were interrupted."

"Because Shikamaru," Temari began, "that wasn't supposed to happen."

"It's happened two-no, three times now. What's to stop it from happening again?" The dark haired men gazed thoughtfully at her.

"You're you. I'm me. We don't mess around. Meaning, we don't and shouldn't kiss or anything beyond that."

"But we do." Shikamaru countered. "We do, we have, and we will."

"I don't mix business with pleasure."

"Bull. You like it. You like kissing me."

Temari opened to disagree, but she knew her lie would be feeble.

Shikamaru sighed. "Let's be honest. I like kissing you. I'm attracted to you. You, also, are attracted to me and enjoy kissing me, but you tell yourself you shouldn't. You're under some asinine notion that kissing me is bad, and therefore, you try to find a reason for us not to kiss, despite how much you enjoy it. You find it easier to justify us not getting close and deny yourself than to give in and let yourself have what you want. You think pushing me away will close all doors and soothe your conscience."

"I'm not a masochist."

"Keep telling yourself that. But you know what? You can rationalize and justify until you're blue in the face, but that won't erase what's going on here. Maybe you can soothe your conscience for awhile, but your body will betray you."

"There's something going on here?" Temari parroted.

"Of course. What we have between us is an excellent, complex thing. I don't know what it is, but you have something that sets me off and vice versa. Not to mention that we were just a skip and a hop away from doing the horizontal tango a couple of minutes ago. People with nothing between them don't have that kind of chemistry. "

"Almost sleeping together is not a basis for anything. Lust is a primitive instinct. We don't have chemistry. We have frustration. Anger. Violence. Annoyance. Dislike…"

A smirk turned the corner of Shikamaru's mouth up. "I won't bother arguing with you, but mark my words Temari. You're fighting a losing battle, and by the time you realize it, you'll already be in my bed and calling out my name."