The Fight of a Lifetime
A/N: Could be spoilers if you haven't read the most recent manga chapters. Something in the beginning 400s, but only because of the introduction of a new character Shiho. Nothing really extravagant. Done mostly from inspiration due to the response ShikaTema fans have had to the newest character Shiho.
This is the most threat I believe she could EVER pose to ShikaTema, if any at all. I actually like Shiho, just not with Shikamaru. Anyway, read on. (Or don't if you don't want to...)
Her hand held softly in his, palm touching palm, the night stars twinkling above them, Shikamaru imagined it should've been romantic. A lot of things should be certain things, but they never quite were.
"I don't like her, Shikamaru!" Ino snapped crossly. "She's so homely looking and she's quite boring, you realize!"
Shikamaru leaned against the counter, completely ignoring his friend. He'd heard all her complaints a thousand times over. Ino hadn't stopped complaining about her since he first starting dating Shiho.
"She isn't for you, Shikamaru, and you know that." Ino continued self-righteously. "She doesn't make you happy."
He yawned, "How do you know what makes me happy?"
Ino arranged a set of lilacs into a glass jar methodically, "We've been good friends since we were little children. I know you better than you know yourself." She took one of the flowers out with a deft frown. "I don't like her for you."
Shikamaru looked out the window, "Ino, I don't care what you like or don't like."
Ino sighed in frustration and pushed the vase aside, "This fooling yourself, isn't fooling anyone. In fact, I doubt it's even fooling you."
"I'm not trying to fool anyone."
"You don't love Shiho."
"I don't believe in love."
"That's bullcrap from a man who's madly in love with another woman." Ino snapped again.
When his eyes met her eyes, he didn't understand the innate reaction that always bubbled up within him. He didn't get why her emerald eyes made him want to smile. He didn't get why on occasion they also made him blush.
"Do I always have to keep saving your ass, Shikamaru?"
He scoffed. "Troublesome woman."
"So says the man who's blushing. Just admit you owe me."
"I owe you, oh-great-Temari-of-the-sand." He droned sarcastically.
"Glad to see you acknowledge my greatness." She grinned. "I always make extra care to dote upon the little servants that revere me."
He rolled his eyes, careful to avoid her eyes for fear of blushing again.
"Ino, just shut up and drop it."
Ino huffed, "As your friend, I hardly think I should drop anything. I can't let you screw up your life, now can I?"
"I don't hear Chouji complaining."
"You don't see him being happy for you either, do you?" Ino retorted confidently. "Chouji's too nice to tell you you're making the biggest mistake of your life. "I, on the other hand, have no such reservations. I'll tell you when you're being a jackass and demand you fix it."
Shikamaru pushed himself off the counter, "Drop it, Ino."
"Your mother agrees with me Shikamaru!"
"You and my mother are both troublesome women."
"Your father agrees with me!"
He shrugged, "Is this all we're going to talk about? Because if it is, I have to tell you, I have better things to do than hear you whine."
"She'll be here in Konoha for a week, Shikamaru." Ino informed him solemnly.
Shikamaru stared purposefully at the floor, "What do I care?"
"You're in love with her, Shikamaru."
Temari pursed her lips. "He's trying."
"He's trying to kill himself that's what he's doing!" Ino snapped.
"Just because he shows a little motivation is not cause to worry—"
"Telling him to get up off his ass because his mentor is dead and he's not coming back isn't making things better for him!"
"Sugarcoating is stupid! It's denial! It makes you think someone is still there when the cold hard truth is they're not, and you're going to have to fucking acknowledge that. Asuma was important to him, but moping isn't going to fix anything! Let him live and learn!" Temari yelled back.
"You have NO sensitivity!" Ino snapped.
"And you have too much! You're going to smother him!"
Shikamaru grimaced. "Hello, still here."
"Shut up." They both snapped, choosing to cease yelling and settled for glaring furiously at each other. Those two just never got along no matter what the issue was about. Although lately, it seemed he was their favorite issue.
"You don't even like her, Ino."
Ino brushed her bangs back, "Whether I like the woman or not is not the issue. You're in love with her and she's in love with you. I could hate her with every fiber of my being, but if she and you are meant to be, then nothing matters. The heart knows what it wants, stop fighting it."
"You've been reading too many romance novels." Shikamaru grumbled before pushing the door to the shop open. "Just leave it alone."
"You don't love her!" Ino's indignant voice made its way past the door into the busy market streets. A few people turned to look at him, but most went about their business without giving him a passing glance. Shikamaru kicked a stone up and watched as it rolled through the streets. Maybe he didn't love Shiho, but that didn't really matter in the course of things. Love was a stupid emotion anyway; it screwed people up. Shiho was certainly pleasant enough. She was kind, sweet, smart, and loyal. She was the kind of woman Shikamaru had always envisioned as his wife. Not troublesome, not too pretty and not to ugly, not loud…
She was everything he wanted.
Who cared if Ino and the entire world thought otherwise?
He pressed his lips onto hers, surprised to find that she was very shy and docile. It was a normal kiss: tongue, lips, teeth. When he pulled away, Shiho was blushing horribly and smiling widely. "Shi-Shikamaru-kun…"
Shikamaru smiled lightly, brushing his hand through her hair, unsure of what everything meant. Unsure if he really should've done that at all. Shiho looked incredibly happy, but Shikamaru couldn't hide the emptiness curling in the pit of his stomach. Somehow that wasn't what he thought it would be like.
She was a good cook, very efficient, a good kunoichi…She really was a good woman. He could make the longest list on the reasons why Shiho was a good choice and could only count one reason why she wasn't a good choice. And that one reason wasn't good enough at all. It was logical or reasonable, it was pure heart. Heart, tended to lead you away from good choices.
Yoshino smiled politely as Shiho left the house. The smile didn't fade even after she was long gone. Shikamaru looked at his mother surprised at her lack or response. "Mom?"
"She's a nice girl." Yoshino replied quietly.
"That's all you're going to say?"
"What more do you want me to say?" Yoshino questioned as she washed the dishes of the night's meal.
Shikamaru shrugged. "I…I don't know."
Yoshino sighed quietly. "Use that brain of yours, Shikamaru." She scrubbed the dishes, "Not everything that's worth it is going to be simple. Not everything you need is going to be what you think you want."
Shikamaru slumped against a tree somewhere in the middle of the training grounds and looked up at the sky. It was empty today.
Shikamaru turned his head to find the woman who'd been bothering his thoughts too often recently. She stood awkwardly to the side; hand on her hip, lips pulled into a fake smile. "Troublesome woman." He should stop calling her that.
"Mind if I sit down for awhile?" She asked, not bothering for his reply, taking a seat anyway, "I have a few minutes before I have to go to a meeting." Her soft blonde hair had grown a bit too much; her bangs now covered her eyes completely.
"How was your trip?"
"Long as usual." She replied simply, her emerald eyes watching the clouds peacefully.
Shiho didn't enjoy watching clouds. She would go to watch clouds with him, and smile nicely, but he could tell by her posture and expression she didn't get the point of the whole thing. The woman liked spending time with him, but she didn't…She didn't understand.
Temari grinned happily. "This is kind of creepy."
He slid his eyes to her, "Creepy?"
"I've never really taken the time to lay down and just look up, you know?" Temari confessed, the smile never fading. "When you look up there's something very vast and unreal about the sky. She closed her eyes for a small moment; it's also nice. To think like this. I see why you do it."
"My mother thinks I'm wasting time."
"Life is long, I'm sure we can afford to waste a few minutes. Besides, it's not a waste of time if it means something – if it is something."
"Ino tells me you have a girlfriend." Temari uttered coolly.
"Is she a troublesome woman?" Temari asked, the fake smile ever prominent.
As Shikamaru sat besides her, watching her tense body, fake smiles, rigid glances, strained emotions, Shikamaru wanted nothing more than to wrap his hand around hers. He wanted to do what he'd wanted to do so many times before the past. The very thing he'd convinced himself would not be a wise thing to do.
"Sometimes," Temari said slowly, "I think a girl who's in love with an idiot has it easy."
"The idiot either loves her back and lets her know in the loudest most annoying way possible that he loves her, or the idiot loves another and has no idea over her feelings for him in the least. Either way," She explained softly, "the girl either gets her very own love, or she doesn't have to walk around knowing that her love figured out her emotions and never did anything because he didn't want her. It's protection if you're dumped and heaven if you're not." She traced a circle in the grass with her forefinger, "Love sucks." She paused, "But I'm sure you disagree. Happy with you un-troublesome woman and all."
He didn't respond.
Yoshino wrinkled her nose. "Dear, what are you wearing?"
Temari massaged her temples, "Yes, I'm aware I look ridiculous. The washing machine screwed up on me and exploded on all my clothes. I look like a walking rainbow. Get over it."
Yoshino clicked her tongue. "Shikamaru give her something to wear while I fix her outfit."
"Look, Ms.Nara, I don't—"
Shikamaru slumped out of the room, hearing Temari protest loudly and Yoshino silence her. He placed the clothes at the foot of the closed door when he came back and waited in the living room for his mother and Temari to finish. Temari slumped out wearing his wrinkled t-shirt and shorts arguing with his mother. "That has to be the stupidest suggestion I've ever heard. You want me to put vinegar on clothes I'm trying to clean? So I'm dirtying things to remove the dirt? Marvelous suggestion."
"Enough with the sarcasm, such things will get you in trouble!" Yoshino smacked her upside the head.
"Ow! Alright, already." Temari growled, "Are you sure you were never a ninja?"
Yoshino smacked her again. "Shikamaru, come help me. Temari, dear, just rest on the sofa for awhile."
Shikamaru followed after his mother dutifully.
"I like her." Yoshino mentioned abruptly as she dumped Temari's kimono in cold water. "Why haven't I met her before this?"
"I didn't think it was important."
"You didn't think meeting your girlfriend was important? I am your mother, Shikamaru!"
"She's not my girlfriend." Shikamaru grumbled, entertaining thoughts of the possibility as he answered so.
"You two definitely act like you're dating."
Yoshino smiled, "You should be."
"Shikamaru?" Temari prodded.
"Do…Do you love her? The girl, I mean." Her voice was soft and afraid. Nothing like her usual tone. He'd never heard her so soft before this point.
"Are you okay, Temari?"
She stiffened. "I'm fine. Well, as fine as can be." She paused and looked at him, "Shikamaru," her green eyes stared at him in confusion, "I…just be happy." She stood up, "I'll see you around."
Her lips hovered right above his. Just two – two measly centimeters away from his own. All he needed was to move up ever so slightly, so that they touched. Even if it was just barely. He couldn't hear his own thoughts over the mad beating in his heart. He couldn't see anything but her green eyes and plump lips. Just one more centimeter. One…one more.
Shikamaru pulled away immediately, noting the disappointment in her eyes as she did the same. Ino skidded to a stop before the both of them. "Oh…Oh! I'm sorry, did I interrupt something?"
Temari smiled genuinely, "Its fine. What is it?"
"The Hokage wants to see you, Shikamaru." Ino prattled, her blue eyes scrutinizing both of them.
"Troublesome." He grumbled. But maybe it was for the best. Maybe he and Temari shouldn't be doing that. Now that he could think about it, it didn't seem like a logical course of action at all.
A few hours later he made his way to where Shiho worked.
"Hello, Shikamaru-kun." Shiho uttered sweetly, a heavy blush on her cheeks.
Shikamaru managed to force out a half smile. "Hello."
Shiho pecked him lightly on the lips. "Do you want to get lunch?"
Not with you… Shikamaru sighed, "Sure."
Shiho slid her hand in his and they walked out the building. Palm touching palm, slender soft fingers pressing against his own. It was how it should be…
"C'mon, crybaby." Temari teased pulling his arm along, "I really want to go eat some barbeque."
"Don't be a jackass," Temari scolded, "Come with me."
"Why can't you go with someone else?" He grumbled. "Sakura's free."
Temari pouted, her hand sliding down his arm lightly brushing his hand. He noted how her fingers never quite left his skin, her pinky finger hooking into his own. He wondered if she'd noticed just yet. "Oh, alright. Be lazy. I was just hoping we could talk since we hadn't seen each other in so long." She smiled sadly, "I guess I'll just see you next time I'm in Konoha, if you're not on a mission that is."
She pulled away but Shikamaru tightened his hold on her pinky. Temari turned back, an almost pink hue on her cheeks. "Alright, let's go eat." He muttered looking pointedly away from her. He walked on with her, pinky touching pinky. When they entered the crowd, almost by silent agreement, they let go of the hold on each other, each staring pointedly at the ground. Shikamaru rubbed his head awkwardly. Things shouldn't feel that way, should they?
"What do you want to eat, Shiho-chan?"
"Oh, I don't really care. Whatever you like."
"You must want something?"
She shrugged smiling.
Shikamaru dug his foot into the ground, "Dango?"
"If you want, but I'm not really in the mood for it."
"I suppose that's fine."
Temari never told him that she'd eat anything and then pick apart every suggestion he made…Temari always told him straight out.
Ino said Temari loved him, but Temari had never said such a thing. Not that it would matter if she had; Temari was everything he'd wanted to avoid in a woman. Temari was…
Temari giggled, "Okay, okay. How about this? If you beat me this time, I will…clean your entire apartment."
Shikamaru scoffed. "You? Clean? You're the most un-domestic person I've ever met."
"I'm domestic enough!" She protested. "I just can't wash clothes."
"Or cook," Shikamaru ticked off the domestic attributes Temari lacked on his fingers, "Or iron, or sew, or change a baby's diapers, or feed a baby for that matter, or—"
Temari smacked him upside the head, "First of all, those are all learnable attributes. Second, I said I would clean not iron or cook. Third, I can so sew clothes!"
He rolled his eyes, "Alright fine. And if you win? Which, really is pretty much impossible."
Temari scoffed indignantly, "I'll have you know I'm one of the best shougi players in Suna."
"I'll have you know you're one of the worst shougi players in Konoha."
Temari smirked, "I put up a good game though, don't I?"
He rolled his eyes. "You tell yourself that." Even though she really did. She was incredibly fun to play with. She couldn't beat him, but she posed a challenge nonetheless.
"If I win," Temari said slowly, "Then…you…kiss me."
Shikamaru stared blankly at her. "K-k-kiss you?"
Temari smirked. "Scared you'll lose?"
"I don't…l-lose…" He swallowed. Kiss her? Kiss her? What exactly would be considered losing in this scenario?
Shiho was everything he should want. She was everything he'd always planned for. Her smile fell. "Shikamaru, are you quite alright? Is there something the matter?"
He sighed and drew his eyes up to the sky. If he ever needed his mentor, he needed him now. Why was it that something like this was harder than…than a mission?
"Shiho, would you like to eat dinner together?" Shikamaru asked, a little surprised those words had found his way out of his mouth.
"Really?" Shiho asked happily, "Like a date?"
Shikamaru recalled the way Temari brushed him off earlier. The way she laughed off the moment they'd almost kissed. She said it hadn't mattered and she'd proposed that as her winnings just because she thought she'd never win. Because she thought it would be funny to see his reaction. A part of him thought she was lying. But a bigger part of him wanted to forget that moment. They'd parted ways a little awkwardly – a little differently. He wanted to keep things that way. "Yeah, like a date."
He looked back at the shy woman before him. "I…Sort of."
"Oh, is that something you want to tell me?"
Temari would have demanded he tell her, and if he refused she would've knocked his teeth out until he did so. Or in alternative, she would've used her words and her concern and her damned personality to get him to tell her without even trying. Shikamaru would tell her anything if she so much as asked him to tell her. He would tell her things even when she didn't ask. "I don't think we should…"
Shiho blinked dimly. "Should?"
"I think we should break up." Shikamaru said softly.
"Oh." Shiho muttered softly. "Oh."
"I'm sorry, but I don't…I don't love you."
She looked up. "It's the kunoichi from the sand isn't it?"
"I always noticed it; I just hoped I was imagining things." Shiho heaved out a heavy sigh. "Things never turn out right, do they?"
"No, I suppose they don't."
Shiho nodded and looked off in the distance. "I heard she was leaving today. You should go find her."
"Today? Ino said—"
"She was supposed to stay longer, but she told the Hokage at her meeting that she had to leave soon."
Shikamaru hesitated. "Are you…?"
"I'm fine. Fine enough." Shiho replied softly. "Fighting fate is hard after awhile. Why would I keep fighting it when it spells the truth right in front of my eyes and ears?"
Temari blinked dimly, staring at the shougi bored in pure shock. "I won?"
Shikamaru stared at the board in the same state of shock. "You won…?"
"I won." She repeated, "I actually won."
Did I lose? He looked up at her, fear building in his chest. But it was a fear unlike any other. It was a raw fear, a concentrated fear, a fear that started in his heart and spread to the tips of his fingers, a fear he liked and hated at the same time. He swallowed, "I guess I…" He leaned forward, moving closely to her. He felt his heavy blush spreading, and watched a similar blush spread across her face.
Five minutes later, Shikamaru slipped in through her hotel window. As soon as his feet hit the ground, he turned to make his way out. He should take the door. He stopped his hand on the window edge and looked up at the quickly darkening sky.
"It didn't mean anything." Temari protested.
Shikamaru didn't mention how she blushed as she said that. He didn't mention how she was a horrible liar. He didn't mention anything. He just watched as she turned away. Shikamaru wanted to grab her, turn her around, and demand she tell him the truth.
"You don't lie."
"Which is exactly why you should believe me now."
If you don't lie, then why are you lying to me now? But Shikamaru didn't ask her anything. He just let her walk away. Walk away. Cowardice was easy. She didn't fit his life plans anyway.
He turned back around, and made his way around the dark room. Was she even here? He walked through the hallway, up to where he knew the shower and bedroom were.
Suddenly, he felt a kunai pressed up against his neck. Without thinking, he twisted his way easily out of the grip and used his shadows to hold the assailant forcefully up against the wall. He wheeled around.
"Temari?" He breathed.
"Shikamaru?" She choked out. "What are you doing here!?"
"I…looking for you."
"You couldn't use the door?" she snapped, "Hey! Let me down!"
Shikamaru released his shadows. "What do you want, Shikamaru?" She grumbled, massaging her shoulders. "Fuck that hurt. When did you get so good at things?"
"Turn around." Temari complied still grimacing. Shikamaru pressed his fingers into the skin around her shoulders. Through the outline of the setting sun, he saw her visibly tense and then relax.
"That feels good." She murmured. "Really good."
"Sorry for attacking you."
"I attacked first." Temari mumbled. "Ooh. Ah…Right…"
Shikamaru dug further into her skin, loving the noises she made.
"Wait—wait! Shikamaru, stop!" Temari wheeled around. "What are you doing?"
"I told you. I wanted to talk to you."
"I don't think your girlfriend would appreciate you touching me." She snapped. "Now what do you want?"
"Why didn't you ever tell me how you felt?" Shikamaru asked softly. "That would've made a difference."
She looked stubbornly off to the side, "Drop it, Shikamaru. It doesn't matter anymore."
"Why don't you tell me now?"
"Because it doesn't matter!"
"It matters to me."
"You have a girlfriend. I don't matter anymore."
"It doesn't matter, dammit! Leave it be!"
"I love you."
The was a sharp smack and a heavy tension in the air. Shikamaru figured by the light stinging on the side of his face that she must've slapped him. He figured this, but he didn't understand it.
"You don't believe in love, Shikamaru." She accused.
"I think it's cute." She laughed. "Konoha seems to be full of morons."
"You think it's cute that Tenten likes Neji, but won't tell him?"
She rolled her eyes, "I think it's cute how much they are in love with each other, but won't admit it to each other." She grinned, "It's that stubborn love."
Shikamaru scoffed, "Love isn't real."
"Love is real." Temari defended. "You just won't admit it because you're one of those idiots who pretends to be a cynic but really just wants a girl all his own."
"Yeah, that has to be it." He uttered sarcastically.
"I'm just a cynic, remember?" He replied, "All I want is a girl all my own."
"You have one."
"She won't tell me how she feels. She says it doesn't matter."
She pushed him firmly, "Stop playing with me, Shikamaru!" She breathed heavily, "I don't want to do this."
"I'm not playing anything, Temari."
She squeezed her eyes shut, "I really hate you, Shikamaru. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! I hate you because when I make up my mind to let you go, you pull this shit on me. I hate you because you're the only one who's ever made me want to cry. I hate you because you're the only who's ever made me feel the stupid way you make me feel." She opened her eyes, "But it doesn't matter because your dating this other girl, and I don't care if you love me or if you're really just playing a game with me, I'm not the girl who steps in and breaks a couple up because she couldn't keep her hormones in check. Shikamaru, just leave."
"We broke up."
"Oh, and when would that be?" She snapped.
"This afternoon." He replied, "Right after I saw you. It was never…it was never real."
She closed her eyes, "You don't love me."
Shikamaru couldn't help himself anymore; he pressed his lips against hers like he'd wanted to that first time. Like he'd wanted to all his life. Like he almost had last time she was in Konoha. "I kept telling myself the same thing," He murmured against her lips, "but the thing about lying to yourself is that eventually, you hit a wall and realize you can't keep lying because if you do, everything you really want is going to slip through your fingers."
She shivered against him.
The kiss was everything a kiss shouldn't be. It was awkward, it was fumbling, it was unsure, it was—was something. It left him trembling and anxious. It left him shivering in anticipation. It made him wanting so much more. It erased the emptiness he'd long grown accustomed to.
"What…what…" Temari mumbled.
"I never gave you your winnings for that shougi game."
"Jackass." She breathed.
"Marry me, Temari." He asked suddenly.
"I…" She stuttered, "This is…well spontaneous isn't it?"
"It's been a long time coming."
"Shouldn't you be giving me a ring if you're asking me to marry me?" She said suddenly, "And do this on one knee? And have this being done in a fancy restaurant? And possibly this should be happening a few years after we've been dating?"
"Well, to be technically fair, with all the talking and half flirting we've been doing together for years, it's almost like we have been dating, and even if we had been dating for years, I probably wouldn't propose on one knee. You wouldn't want me to do it in public either. And as for the ring, well, I'll admit I'm at fault there." He replied instantly.
Temari smiled. "Okay, I'll marry you." She kissed him, "I love you too. I always have."
Shikamaru struggled to keep going. To keep fighting. All this battling that ninja did was hard on a man, was hard to always keep up. And if he were honest, he might die here today. Like he should've done thousand times over if it weren't for all those people who kept saving him. He closed his eyes and waited for the enemy to strike the final blow.
Instead he felt a rush of wind and heard the fall of two purposeful footsteps. "Losing again, are we?" He opened his eyes to find Temari standing right before him, smirking widely. "You never learn do you, Shikamaru?"
He slumped to the floor and let her handle the enemy on her own. He looked at her up through half closed eyes and smiled. Even when he was about to fall, she never really let him fall. It seemed like she was always there for him. He smiled. "Thanks." She didn't hear him, and he probably wouldn't repeat it when she could hear him, but they both knew what the other felt, if they would let themselves accept it.