Chapter Nine
The Solution

Temari woke up the next morning almost exactly like she woke the morning before. Her head was resting against Shikamaru's chest and her arm was draped across him. This time, however, she didn't try to get away before he noticed. She embraced the moment, snuggling closer to him.

As she did so, Shikamaru's arm shifted around her, accepting the embrace, and that's when she noticed that he was also awake.

She looked up at him with a dreary smile, which he returned.

"Good morning." He whispered and began brushing his fingers through her tangled morning hair.

"Mm." Temari rested her head against him again and began tracing his chest with her finger. He had quite a few scars from all his years as a shinobi. Most of them were minor though, medic-nins could easily fix scarring. What I wouldn't do to go on normal missions again… This reminded her, "I have to go home today."

The shinobi's hand stopped moving through her hair. "Oh."

Temari could feel his chest rise and fall dramatically as he sighed.

"I almost forgot." He said solemnly.

She stopped tracing his chest, "Me too…" This sucks. She couldn't take it anymore. There must be something I can do…something I can say to fix this. Without another thought she stood up and got dressed.

"Where are you going?" Asked a yawning Shikamaru.

"I am going to talk to Gaara." Temari answered boldly. "I'm going to try to fix this stupid mess. I mean, neither of us wants this to end, right?"

He shook his head, "Not anymore."

"Exactly!" The determined kunoichi sat on the bed and grasped her husband's hand. "So if I can convince Gaara that ending our marriage is a mistake and that we don't even need the treaty…well…maybe it won't have to."

Shikamaru brought Temari's hands to his face and kissed them softly. "You're right." He started to get up, "We can talk to him together."

"No, no. I um…I think it'll be better if I talk to Gaara alone." She responded sheepishly, "I have a lot to say…I'd rather speak to him privately."

Shikamaru smiled and kissed her forehead, "Okay. Now go fix this."

Temari nodded confidently and got off the bed. She hesitated when she got to the door and looked back at Shikamaru who was looking at her curiously. The kunoichi smiled and quickly made her way back to the bed and kissed Shikamaru sweetly on the lips.

Not another word was spoken before she left the room.

Temari walked the streets of Konoha towards the Hokage's tower. Tsunade never told Shikamaru or Temari where Gaara and Kankuro were staying, so she'd have to ask the Hokage herself.

The guards outside of the tower acknowledged Temari with a curt nod and she walked right up the steps to the Hokage's office.

She didn't even wait to get into the office to begin asking where her brothers were, "Tsunade-sama, would you mind telling me where…Oh." Temari stopped short. Gaara and Kankuro were already in Tsunade's office. Naruto was also there.

"Hi there, Temari-san!" Naruto laughed, "Bet you're glad I figured you guys out, right? Now you can go home and get away from that lazy pineapple head Shikamaru!"

Temari thought of the consequences she would receive for punching him. She didn't have time to actually do it though…

Gaara cleared his throat, "Naruto, I think it would be best if you left."

"What?" Naruto turned to face his friend, the Kazekage. "I deserve to be here as much as he does!" He said, pointing to Kankuro.

"Naruto." Tsunade said sternly, "Leave."

Naruto looked around and realized it was pointless. "Fine." He pouted like a child as he turned to leave. Naruto looked at Temari on his way out, "You're welcome."

Temari glared at Naruto's back as he left the office. She turned to face the others in the room; they were all staring at her with curious expression. Right...the mission... "What was that about?" The kunoichi found herself asking a different question than she originally planned.

"Naruto wanted to be here when we signed the official Treaty." Tsunade held up a formally printed paper with signatures scrawled at the bottom.

"Oh." Temari's eyes widened. Am I too late? "Didn't waste any time I see."

Kankuro raised a painted eyebrow at his sister, "It's a long trip back to Suna, and we want to get home."

"But..." Gaara interrupted, "First you need to sign your divorce papers."

The Hokage held up another set of papers. There was a bunch of nonsense written on them and at the bottom there were two blank spaces for signatures. One for the wife. One for the husband...

Wait a second... Temari thought as she looked at the papers more closely, "But there's already a signature there..."

"Shikamaru already signed his about a week ago." Tsunade said, "So now all you have to do is sign, and then you get to go home." The Hokage smiled encouragingly, "Simple as that."

A week ago? Temari's heart sunk. They hadn't been on this mission very long, but all the days seemed to blend together and she couldn't keep track of time. They had practically hated each other in the beginning, but a week ago? Surely they were getting along somewhat by that point. Could he really not stand her so much that he'd sign their divorce papers before they even really got to know each other? Was she really that unbearable? Temari clenched her teeth and pulled herself together. Obviously he didn't care about her as much as he seemed to, so she wasn't going to care about him either. "Well, hand them over." She reached out her hand and took the papers and a pen, signing the first set of papers without a second thought.

When she put her pen to the second paper she felt a sudden reluctance. It'll all be over. It was a bittersweet thought. Going home with her brothers, going on regular missions again. It was what she had been waiting for, what she'd wanted more than almost anything since this stupid mission started. But then again, she'd be leaving all of her new friends behind, her new home, and...No. Her grip on the pen tightened, He wasn't thinking about me when he signed these papers, why should I think about him? She looked up. Three pairs of eyes were looking at her curiously.

"Come on, sis. Does your hand have a cramp or something?" Kankuro asked sarcastically, "Just sign the damn papers and let's get home."

Tsunade was questioning Temari with her eyes, but she simply nodded and smiled with approval.

Gaara didn't say anything, he just stared at her. He was the only one not pressuring her. "Just do what you think is best." He finally said with a solemn nod.

Temari smiled at her youngest brother, and then nodded. She knew what she had to do now.

What could possibly be taking her this long? Shikamaru thought as he made his way across the village to the Hokage Tower.

After Temari left, the shinobi stayed in bed for a little while longer before getting dressed. He'd wanted to go after her, to talk to Tsunade and Gaara with her, but she wanted him to stay home and he didn't want to face the consequences of disobeying her. When half an hour had passed, Shikamaru started to get restless and decided to make some food. When Temari got back they could sit down and enjoy breakfast together, their first breakfast as a happy couple. He made the food, but she still didn't come home though. I bet it's Kankuro giving her a hard time. He had thought. The excuse didn't satisfy is nerves though. After all, even Temari had said that her bother didn't really hate him, he just acted that way. Finally, after the food had gotten cold and he couldn't come up with another excuse, Shikamaru decided to go to the Hokage's Tower himself.

The Tower was in his line of sight now and he quickened his pace. I bet she knew I'd come after her. He rationalized. That must be it. Of course. Temari knew him well enough now. She was probably sitting in Tsunade's office now, waiting for him to get there.

"Shikamaru!" A shrill voice called from behind him. "Shikamaru! Heyyyy!"

The shinobi sighed and turned around. How troublesome. "Hello, Ino."

"Act like a stranger, why don't you?" Ino wrapped her arms around him and giggled. "I haven't seen you in days and that's the greeting I get?"

He patted her on the back and pulled away smoothly, as not to offend her. "Hey, it's good to see you." He grinned, "But I have to go see Tsunade, it's kind of-"

"Oh!" Ino's hands flung to her mouth. "Right. That."

"What do you mean, 'that'?" Shikamaru looked at his blonde friend with sheer confusion, "Did you hear something?"

The kunoichi frowned and looked at her feet guiltily. "Well, you know Naruto..."

Naruto. He put his hand up, stopping her, "I get it."

"I'm so sorry Shikamaru!" Ino put her hand on his shoulder reassuringly. "It sucks that Tsunade forced you to marry her like that!" She shook her head shamefully.

"No, Ino, you don't understand. It's not really like that..." Shikamaru scratched the back of his neck, "Well, I guess it is, but it really wasn't so bad." He smirked, "You see-"

Ino interrupted him with a fit of laughter, "Wow Shikamaru, I never realized you were such a good actor." She nodded in approval, "But you don't have to pretend anymore. Naruto told us that you couldn't stand each other and that you were both miserable. Like I can blame you. I mean I wouldn't be able to stand someone if I were forced to marry them either. I can't believe the Kages would do that to you two." She rolled her eyes, "Well, good riddance right?"

The shinobi just shook his head, she wasn't going to understand how complicated this whole situation was. "Wait a second..." Shikamaru gave her a curious look, "Good riddance? Has the Kazekage left already?"

She raised her eyebrows, as if surprised by the question. "Well I saw Temari go into the Hokage Tower a little over an hour ago. I just assumed that she was going to meet her brothers and then they were going to leave." She shrugged, "But I didn't actually see them leave. So I suppose I could be wrong." She smirked, "You know what they say about assume..."

"Yeah, I get it." Shikamaru cut her off and started walking away, "It was really good to see you Ino, but I really have to get to Tsunade's office." He called over his shoulder.

Ino yelled something at him as he purposefully made his way to the Hokage Tower, but he didn't hear what it was. Ino never saw them leave... Shikamaru smirked, That means I was right, and she's still waiting for me. He couldn't help but feel smug, he really was a genius.

The guards nodded at Shikamaru as he walked up the steps, "Good to see you, Shikamaru." One of them greeted, but Shikamaru couldn't remember his name so he just nodded and walked past. He reached the door to Tsunade's office in what must have been record time. Without knocking he entered, "Sorry it took me so long to get here, Ino caught me on the way."

"Shikamaru?" Tsunade was sitting at her desk filling out paper work. "I wasn't expecting you. Is there something I can do for you? Did you want another mission already?"

Shikamaru stood stiff by the door, which slammed shut behind him. Tsunade was alone in her office. No Gaara. No Kankuro. No... She can't be gone. "I wasn't aware that my current mission was over, actually." He finally managed to speak.

The Hokage gave a short laugh, "Of course it is. Temari was here earlier to sign the divorce papers. Then she and her brothers left for Suna." Tsunade smiled at him, "It's official Shikamaru, you're single again."

Divorce papers? It was a blur, but Shikamaru remembered them. It had been one of the days that Temari was out with the other kunoichis of Konoha and he had some time to himself. He'd come here, to Tsunade's office, to complain.

"I don't care how much she scares you Shikamaru."

"She doesn't scare me, she just-"

"Shut it, Nara." The Hokage gave him a pointed look, she wasn't in the mood. "While I can't do anything about how much you can't stand each other, or how much she intimidates you," She held up her hand as he was about to interrupt her again, "I can let you sign these." She held up two sheets of paper with a lot of nonsense written on them.

"What are they?" He dared to open his mouth.

"Divorce papers." Tsunade placed them forcefully on the desk, "Gaara and I had them printed just in case..." She let the sentence hang in midair.

Shikamaru shrugged picked up a pen and signed the papers without hesitation.

Tsunade looked them over and then locked them into a drawer in her desk. "Very good. Now if the circumstances require it, Temari just has to sign the papers and you, Shikamaru, will be free."

"Thank you, Tsunade-sama." Shikamaru said gratefully before walking out of the office.

That felt like a whole lifetime ago. Things were different now, but Tsunade couldn't possibly understand how different. And Temari... Oh crap. What had she thought when she saw that his signature was already on the papers? Obviously she wasn't very happy, considering her signature was on them too. She must hate his guts now. But that was a week ago... Did Temari not understand how quickly their relationship had changed? Or did she care about him since the beginning? In that case, seeing his signature on the divorce papers must have been like a punch in the gut. This is so troublesome. So many thoughts were weaving their way through Shikamaru's head. He couldn't concentrate and was starting to get dizzy.

"Shikamaru?" Tsunade cut in to his thoughts. "Are you alright?"

He flinched back to reality. Am I alright? A hysterical laugh threatened to escape his lips, "Speechless." He managed to say without slipping up.

His response satisfied Tsunade. "I suppose that's good to hear." She smiled and gestured for him to get out, "Go enjoy your freedom."

Shikamaru grinned and started making his way out of the office, "Thank you Tsunade-sama. I will."

After he left Tsunade's office, Shikamaru didn't know where to go. Going home would be pointless now that it was so…empty. And he couldn't go to his parents' house. He couldn't face them right now. They had probably heard everything and he knew they'd be disappointed in him.

What were Tsunade and Gaara thinking when they put us on this mission? Shikamaru shoved his hands in his pockets. Didn't they realize how this would affect us if everyone found out? But of course they hadn't. No one was supposed to find out.

Temari was lucky. At least her family already knew what she was getting in to. He didn't think she had too many friends in Suna either, so she really didn't have anyone back home to judge her.

Without even realizing where he had gone, Shikamaru found himself in front of Choji's house. I wonder if he knows by now. With a shrug, Shikamaru knocked on his best friend's door.

It took a few minutes but the door finally opened, "Hey Shikamaru!" Choji greeted cheerfully, "Want to come in?"

Shikamaru half-smiled, if Choji was inviting him in that meant Ino wasn't there. Thank goodness. "Sure."

"Great!" Choji chuckled and closed the door behind Shikamaru. He led him to the kitchen, of course. "I was just about to make some lunch, do you want anything?"

"Uh, sure. Thanks." He remembered that he hadn't eaten breakfast this morning and the sudden reminder made his stomach growl.

As Choji started making food, Shikamaru sat down at the table without saying another word. He had missed his best friend and usually would have started joking around or something, but considering the circumstances, he just wasn't in the mood.

"Here you go." Choji had finished making some kind of meat, and placed a plate in front of Shikamaru. It looked delicious, and Shikamaru started eating right away.

"Is there something wrong, Shikamaru?" Choji asked midway through his meal food splattered all over his pudgy face.

"What do you mean?" He asked with a mouth full of food.

"Well, you don't seem like yourself." Choji seemed to be struggling with his words, like there was something else he wanted to say.

Shikamaru sighed, "I thought you already knew. Ino does."

His best friend took a big bite of food before responding. "I had heard, but I was wondering if there was more to it."

"More to it?" He almost laughed, "No." He lied, "There really isn't much to it at all."

Choji looked at Shikamaru, he clearly didn't believe anything he'd just said. "Look, Shikamaru, you know you can tell me anything. So if there is anything you want to get off your chest…just let me know."

Shikamaru blinked at Choji a few times, and then he broke. "I just got a divorce from a fake marriage. No one was supposed to know it was a fake, but now thanks to that troublesome Naruto the whole village is talking about it behind my back! I'm going to be forever known as the shinobi who screwed up a fake marriage." He looked down at his hands. "Not to mention, my father is going to be ashamed of me…" His eyes grew wide suddenly and he slammed his face onto the table, "And my mother!" He covered his head with his hands, "Do you have any idea what she's going to do to me?"

Choji could only laugh, "Don't you think you're overreacting? I'm sure your mother won't react too harshly."

He sat up and glared, "Don't you underestimate her. That woman is a monster."

"Shikamaru," Choji said pointedly. "I think what you really need right now is a drink."

Shikamaru stopped glaring and nodded, "I think you're right."

It turns out that a drink was exactly what Shikamaru had needed. He'd only had a few shots and already he was feeling warm and fuzzy all over. "Keep 'em coming." He slurred to the bartender.

"Don't overdo it, Shikamaru." Choji warned, he wasn't much of a drinker.

"Hn." Shikamaru rolled his eyes and downed another shot, "Don't be troublesome." He slurred the last word, "I can handle my alcohol."

"I know." Choji laughed, "But you know how you get when you're drunk."

There was a sharp feeling in the pit of his stomach. Last time he'd gotten really drunk was before the wedding. Shikamaru frowned and took another drink to make the sharp feeling go away. "Last time I was drunk, I saw a beautiful angel."

His best friend smirked, "An angel, huh? You must have been wasted. You really should be careful."

"But she was real!" He replied, a little too loudly. His frown returned, "But now she's gone."

"Why don't you tell me about this angel?" Choji asked with genuine curiosity.

He tilted his head to the side, "But you've already met her."

Choji raised his eyebrows at his friend. "Shikamaru, is there something you didn't tell me earlier?"

"Yes, Choji." By this point Shikamaru had realized that no amount of alcohol was going to make him feel better, but he took another drink anyway and then slammed his cup onto the counter. "I fell in love with my wife."

"Shikamaru!" Choji said excitedly, "That's wonderful! Now you just have to-"

"I'm not doing anything." Shikamaru slurred, "We both signed the divorce papers. It's soo over. She's gone."

Choji scratched his head, "But if you love her then why did you..."

"Long story." Shikamaru mumbled.

"Whatever the story is, that's not the point. The point is, you still care about her, and you can't just let the woman you love get away like that." Choji frowned, "It's so…"

"Pointless!" He threw his hands up in frustration, "It's all pointless, Choji. She didn't even say goodbye. Chasing her would just be troublesome." He picked up the glass again and gulped its contents.

His friend rolled his eyes and was about to argue with him some more but he heard someone coming towards them and sighed, "Speaking of troublesome…"

It was Naruto.

"Hey guys!" He waved excitedly as he approached. "Celebrating the divorce, huh buddy?" The oblivious shinobi asked and patted Shikamaru on the back. "I knew something was fishy about that marriage, right from the beginning." He grinned triumphantly and took a seat next to Shikamaru.

"I," Shikamaru hiccupped, "hate you."

Naruto flinched and looked at Choji, "What's his deal?"

Choji's eyes were wide, "Uh, nothing. He's just really, really drunk." He laughed nervously and patted Shikamaru on the back, "I think you've had enough to drink for one day."

Shikamaru squinted at Choji as if he were far away, "I am not 'really, really drunk." He was clearly lying, since he slurred every word. He turned to look at Naruto again, "You're a tattle-tail." He giggled, "Times nine."

"Hey, that was pretty good," Naruto laughed. "Yeah, thanks to me you don't have to be married anymore. Great, isn't it?"

"Great? Oh I'll show you something great…" Shikamaru leaned back, clearly about to throw a punch at Naruto.

Choji grabbed hold of him first though, "Alright! That's enough, buddy." He smiled at Naruto, "Sorry, I don't know what's with him. Guess he's had more to drink than I thought."

"I can see that." Naruto crossed his arms, looking un-amused.

"Yep. Well, guess I'll just take him home now. See you later Naruto!" Choji tried to sound cheerful as he dragged Shikamaru out of the bar. "I think you should stay at my house tonight." He said once they got outside.

Shikamaru laughed, "So we can have a slumber party?"

Choji shook his head, "So I can keep an eye on you."

"Hn." He stumbled and almost fell over and started laughing. "Man, I am sooo wasted."

Choji sighed, "My point exactly."

When he woke up the next morning, Shikamaru had a pounding head ache. Ugh. He sat up slowly, which only made his head hurt more. This isn't my bed… He realized when he looked around the room. Oh…right. The blurred memories from the night before came back to him.

"You're awake?" Came a voice from the doorway, it was Ino.

Shikamaru closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, "Unfortunately," he grunted.

Ino giggled, "Choji told me about last night. Of course, when I got here you were passed out and drooling on the couch."

"Lovely." He mumbled. Wait a second… "Choji told you everything about last night?"

"Well, yeah…" The blonde shrugged, "He said that you were all depressed because everyone found out about your marriage being a fake and that you got totally wasted." She rubbed her chin, "Oh yeah, and then you almost beat up Naruto."

"That's all?" Shikamaru asked drowsily.

"That's all. Can you really not remember?" She laughed, "Wow, I can't believe you actually got that drunk."

"Yeah." He forced a laugh, "Me either." But he did remember last night. Especially the part when he told Choji that he loved Temari. At least he didn't tell Ino.

Just then, Choji walked into the room. "Good morning, sleepyhead." He joked, "I made breakfast if you want anything."

Shikamaru shuddered. The thought of eating right now made him queasy. "No thanks." He stood up and stretched, "Actually, I think I'm going to head home. Thanks for letting me stay the night."

"Anytime." Choji smiled.

"Next time wait until after I get home to pass out." Ino added, "You being drunk has got to be the funniest thing I've ever heard of."

Shikamaru rolled his eyes, "I'll be sure to think of you the next time I'm about to get really drunk."

"Yeah, you better!" She called after him as he walked out the door.

He barely made it off the front steps before walking into someone. "Sorry, I wasn't…Oh. Hi Dad."

Shikaku smiled half-heartedly at his son, "I went to your house, but no one was home. I figured you might be here."

"Oh." Shikamaru put his hands in his pockets, "Last night was kind of…Choji asked me to stay the night."

"I understand." His father nodded, "Let's go for a walk."

"Okay." He didn't argue, he knew they needed to talk. After a few minutes of walking in silence Shikamaru looked at his father and decided to start talking. "Look, dad…"

"Shikamaru." Shikaku interrupted, "I don't need you to explain your marriage to me, everyone else already has." He sighed and put his hands in his pockets, "What I want you to explain is your divorce."

"My divorce?" Shikamaru was confused, "There was a treaty. There was no reason for us to stay married."

"Professionally," The older man started, "There was no reason to stay married. But it was more than just a mission, Shikamaru."

"Dad…" Shikamaru sighed.

"Don't lie to me." Shikaku spat, "You can tell me you couldn't stand her as much as you like, and that may have been true in the beginning, but the whole marriage wasn't a lie." He looked knowingly at Shikamaru, "Son, it was obvious when Temari first came to Konoha that you two didn't really love each other. I don't know how you managed to fool everyone else. Maybe they just didn't want to assume the worst. But that's not what matters now. What does matter is that you love her now."

"How did you…" Shikamaru questioned his father with his eyes.

"I'm your father, Shikamaru." He smirked, "I know you better than anyone. And I know that if you don't go after her, you are going to regret it for the rest of your life."

"That's kind of cliché, dad." His son laughed.

"I'm serious, son. You can't just sit around, like the lazy bum you are, and wait for someone like her to come around again." Shikaku gave his son a sideways glance. "It's not going to happen."

He let out a long sigh, "I know."

Shikaku smirked, "So are you going to go after her?"

Shikamaru stopped walking. They'd reached the village's gates. He nodded, "Thanks, dad. I'll be back as soon as I can." He had started to walk out of the village when he felt his Shikaku's hand on his shoulder, "What is it?"

"I didn't mean you should leave right now, baka." His father chuckled, "You're clearly still hung over and I bet you haven't eaten yet."

"Oh, right." Shikamaru laughed and rubbed the back of his neck, "I should probably have some breakfast first."

"Don't worry about it." Shikaku put his arm around his son's shoulders and started walking further in to the village, "I'm sure your mother would love to cook something up for you."

Shikamaru's eyes widened a little at the thought of seeing his mother right now. "Yeah," He laughed nervously, "Good old mom."

A/N: Hey everyone!

So, um…yeah. I'm not even going to apologize for being so late on this one. I would love to update faster but unfortunately I just don't have time to write that often. :(

I will finish this story though, I promise! So stick with me!

Anyways, I really hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please review!

If you want me to update faster spam my inbox! Seriously, send me messages, emails, whatever you can think of! This is probably the only time someone is ever going to encourage you to do something like this, so have fun with it! :D