The Mechanics of Friendship
A/N: I feel like here like my Temari is a bit OOC. So fair warning. I've tried to keep her in character, but I fear I have not kept her so. Shikamaru too, seems a bit off to me. Tell me what you think.
Temari was currently kneeling by the fire roaring in some woman's chimney rubbing her hands together. She ignored the obvious giggles of amusement directed at her by the other Konoha females. Stupid women. It wasn't her fault she was not used to the dratted cold. Temari shivered slightly.
Behind her, sitting comfortably around a coffee table as if the weather was the most normal thing in the world, a nice collection of females were happily chattering away. Temari grumbled a few curses under her breath. This was a sorry excuse for a bachelorette party. Not only was it inhumanly cold, there was nothing even remotely fun at this party. She'd heard somewhere that these types of parties usually consisted of a stripper.
Not that she was keen on seeing a sorry excuse for a man parade around his body and women she was quite used to speaking with professionally hooting annoying catcalls, but at the very least that would have been interesting. All they had done so far at this 'party' was talk, sip tea, talk some more, giggle, gossip, share stories on husbands and boyfriends (or lack thereof), and eat rice cakes. Whoever planned this particular party had to have been trying to make it as boring as possible – there was no other reason for the state of monotony, she decided. They must have been trying to torture the future bride to be. Temari turned her back to the fire and attempted once more to pay attention to the lovely chats of boyfriends and the like.
Although, it seemed she was really the only one bored with the state of things. Well, Ino seemed annoyed, but Ino usually appeared annoyed by a lot of things. Temari let out a heavy sigh. How much longer would she have to stay before she could leave? What would be considered polite?
Fuck, she didn't even see why she should be here. She didn't even talk to the future-bride much. Temari wasn't even sure she had her name right. Sizhou? Sizu? Sisohou?
"Well, I for one wish you the best of luck, Siriana." Sakura said happily.
Oops. Way off; Temari corrected herself mentally.
"It's just so nice when you find the right guy."
Ino coughed lightly and looked off to the side in what Temari pegged as embarrassment. Of course, that made no sense considering it was INO. Ino wasn't the type to – well, be embarrassed about anything.
"Something to say, Ino-pig?"
Ino's fingers curled around her cup tightly. "No. Nothing Sakura."
Temari noted this all down in silent confusion. Something was up with Ino.
"What about you, Temari?" An elder woman teased.
Temari almost jumped in the air. She hadn't really been addressed the whole night long and she wasn't expecting to be addressed NOW when the topic was about boyfriends and husbands. "Wh-What do you mean?" It's not like she had a man anyhow. She didn't have time for them. Well, that, and she didn't really care for them. They were all chauvinistic jerks anyway. Most of them, at least…
"Do you have any words of wisdom for the young bride?"
Sizhou-Sisohou-Si-whatever her name was, blushed. Temari blinked. "Why would I? I'm not married."
"You must have someone close to your heart, Temari-san." Sakura prodded.
"Nope. I'm proud to say my heart is carefully walled off and secured from interference."
"Lies." The elder woman laughed. "The blush on your cheeks tells all."
"I'm not blushing!" At least, she didn't think she was. She didn't have a reason to blush anyhow. Guys sucked. She'd yet to be proven otherwise. "Men are idiots. I'm not going to bother with one so that he'll just act a complete jerk to me. No thank you. In my experience marriages tend to be a sham for political or monetary advantage. You want advice from me? Don't get married." Temari rubbed her hands across her shoulders.
The women in the room looked at her as if she were a foreign species.
"Surely you don't mean that?"
"Every word." Temari affirmed. Even Tenten, the girl most likely to be on her side in this instance, seemed miffed and confused by her answer. Ah, a room full of lovesick fools. What a pity.
Sakura stood up, "I'll be back."
Temari rubbed her hands together again. Cold, oh it was just so cold! Did this house have no heater?
"Temari-san, if you're that cold," the bride-to-be said congenially, "I have a sweater upstairs you could use."
"Ah, no thank you." She smiled, "I think I'll just go get my overcoat."
A few minutes later, Temari was seated back on the floor by the fire, wrapping the tweed overcoat tightly against her frame. It wasn't helping much in all honesty. That, Temari decided, was another problem with this gathering. Who held a bachelorette party in winter? Especially in Konoha. Absurd.
"Excuse me?" Temari looked up to see Sakura standing by the doorway a smile on her lips. "Siriana, you never told me you were pregnant."
Siriana looked about to faint. "I'm n-n-not."
Sakura's smile fell. "You're not?"
"Why would you say that?" Siriana asked in shock.
"I…Well; I found a pregnancy test in your bathroom."
Temari jumped as a rather loud squeal-like sound erupted from the gaggle of women.
Tenten looked mildly uncomfortable with the whole topic; Hinata's head was ducked down and her face red, and Siriana seemed upset by the turn of affairs. Probably because the attention had drifted entirely away from herself.
"Everyone! Everyone!" The elder commented happily, "There is quite a simple way to solve this."
Temari glanced up at the roof. Was there now? Did it even fucking matter? So someone was pregnant. Big deal. It's not like they wouldn't find out soon enough anyway. Women tended to grow a belly when they were pregnant, after all
"Only five women have left this room since we entered, and Siriana is quite well known for her cleaning habits. Therefore, it must have been one of those women." The elder smirked
Hmm… that meant that it had to be herself, Sakura, Tenten, Hinata, or Ino.
This was the most interesting thing that had happened all day; she might as well pay attention to it. Since Sakura brought up the test it probably wasn't her. Plus, Sakura wasn't much of an actor; if she were pregnant it would be written across her face by now.
"Sakura-san brought up the test so we can rule her out."
Tenten raised her arm, "Before this goes any further, I'd like to point out I know for a fact that I'm not pregnant."
"And why would be believe that?"
"Easy. I haven't had sex. Neji wants to wait. Although, if you tell him I told you that he'll kill me. So for the sake of the argument, let's say I want to wait." Tenten commented.
Hinata obviously wouldn't have sex. Hiashi would disown her for that, plus, the proper little child wouldn't work up the guts to do it if the opportunity ever presented itself. She was embarrassed by a mere kiss, or so it went. Then that meant…
Glad that she had stood up at some point, Temari shuffled over to the platinum blonde haired woman. "Don't tell me, that you're the one." She whispered.
Ino looked like a deer caught in the headlights. "Oh, crap. Oh, crap. Oh, crap!" But every word was uttered so silently that no one had heard. Everyone was too busy watching the elder reveal the pregnant woman anyhow.
"Ino?" Temari wasn't sure what one did to a woman in this case. Maybe she could drag Ino away from the women; that would surely make things easier on her, right? Temari grimaced. Probably not; she'd have to face them at some point anyway.
"Very well. Hinata?"
Hinata blushed a deeper red. "No! I d-don't…I wo-wouldn't! It's not p-p-proper!"
The elder smiled a little, "Then that means…"
"Temari!" Ino uttered loudly.
Temari blinked. "Yes?"
"Dear, why didn't you tell us you were pregnant?" Ino asked.
Temari's mouth dropped open. "Excuse me?!"
"It's alright; we forgive you for not telling us." Ino prattled, "How long have you known?"
"I-but-it-There's nothing to know!"
Ino's fingers curled around her upper shoulder and she leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "Please fucking go with this Temari. Please, I can't let it out right now. Please. Take the fall." Pulling away just a bit, she wrapped her arms around her in what was probably a hug. Temari imagined this was Ino's plan all along – make it seem like a hug rather than a whisper in her ear. "Don't worry! You can share with us!"
"I-but-there's-I…" Temari grimaced. "It's…"
"It's not a product of rape is it?" Siriana asked sympathetically. "If that's it, we'll understand."
"That's not it!" Temari snapped. "I am not—" Temari stopped abruptly upon catching sight of Ino's face. There was absolutely no reason why she should lie to protect Ino. Ino and her weren't very good friends. Temari didn't have girl friends – why should she do this? Ino's supplicating eyes and sad frown were like daggers to her reason. It was being torn down with a fucking glance. Taking the blame for the pregnancy wouldn't exactly be a smart move for her. Was it even fucking believable? Ugh. "I…I am not carrying some rapist's child…" She gritted her teeth, "The child was conceived in an act I wanted to occur." Oh, jeez, how lame did that sound?
Then an avalanche of questions began.
"When did you get a boyfriend?"
"Are you getting married?"
"How far along are you?"
"Is it a boy or a girl?"
"What are you going to name it?"
"Are you excited?"
Temari frowned; well, hell, if she was going to be pregnant, she was going to at least make up a story she liked. "The guy was an idiot. I dated him for awhile. Whiny jerk. Told him to get lost. He wants to help with the kid, but no we're not together anymore. And I'm…" She paused. What would make most sense? "About two months along? Yeah, about that. I'm not sure what gender it is, but I feel like it's a girl." Temari paused again. "Did I answer all the questions, already?"
"Why didn't you want us to know?" Siriana asked softly.
Temari blinked. Good question. "Uh…I'm a private person." Hey, wait, that was a damn good reason. "I mean, it's my fucking business, I don't see why you busybodies gotta get involved in my life. Sheez. So I'm pregnant; get over it." Wow, she was pretty good at this whole acting thing. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm tired; it's time for my nap. Ino, would you mind walking me to my hotel?"
Ino nodded, smile still evident. "I'm so happy for you!"
Temari nodded and smiled for show. They walked away from the small house, their footprints embedding in the slushy snowy substance still chatting about Temari's 'baby girl'. Once Temari was certain they were out of earshot from the house, she turned on Ino. "What. The. Hell. Was. That!?"
Ino's bright eyes dropped to the floor. "Look, Temari, I'm really really sorry, but I couldn't let them – I didn't…I'm sorry."
"Sorry? Sorry? What – why did you do that? To me of all people? We're not that good of friends. I'm hard pressed to say we're not even friends – what made you think I'd cover for you?"
"I hoped." Ino dug her foot in the snow.
Temari sneezed. "What the hell is your problem?"
"I don't have one." Ino snapped acidly. "Thank you, but I don't need you yelling at me."
"I'm fucking pregnant because of you!" Temari yelled.
A few passerbies, among whom were Lee and Neji, unbeknownst to the two women, stopped to stare at them.
"What!?" Temari snapped. "She's a man! Pretends to be a woman."
Ino coughed. "WHAT?!"
Temari growled. "Fine. She's a woman. But I'm still pregnant and it's still her fault!"
"That people know!" Ino told the passerby. "It's my fault people know what she'd been trying to hide."
The passerby sort of sidestepped around them, possibly thinking them insane.
Temari pressed her lips together. "Funny thing about that—"
"Temari, please!" Ino yelled loudly.
Temari stopped again, tongue-tied in the face of Ino's pleading expression. Temari bit her lip.
Temari jumped as Lee's voice interrupted her thought process. "Lee!"
Lee's dark eyes looked at her in a cross between concern and jubilation. "Are you really pregnant?"
"N…" Crap. At this rate everyone was going to know that she was 'pregnant'. "I…" Temari hesitated, then gave in. Ah, hell. Why not keep up the damn lie? "Yes…I'm pregnant." Could she be shot down by the powers that be for lying? Worse yet, could a child magically appear in her womb if she kept saying there was one there?
Neji raised an eyebrow. Before he could think a word, Temari smacked him upside the head. "You even think of using that sorry-ass byakugan to look inside of me and I'll rip your intestines out of your throat with my hand and wrap them around your neck and watch enjoyably as your eyes pop out from the pressure I'll put on your face. Got that?"
He smirked. "Got it."
"I don't want no freaky weirdo looking inside of me." Temari snapped. "No privacy that way, dammit."
"Alright, alright," Neji conceded, "I will not look at ANYTHING inside of you."
Temari nodded. "Good. Now, get lost. I'm talking to this one." She pointed at Ino. "Hormonal cycles and baby care things. We'll discuss the joys of babies tomorrow or something."
Slightly put off and amused both of them continued their walk to wherever they'd been going. Temari trudged forward to her hotel. "So."
"Am I going to get anything else out of you?"
"I don't see how it's any of your business."
"Fair enough." Temari paused, "But next time, give me a warning that I'm going to play a part in some façade of yours. I like to be well-prepared for my roles."
Ino's lip twitched upward. "I see."
Temari stopped at her door. "Tomorrow's going to be a long day."
Temari shrugged. "I'm over it." And she was surprised to find that she was. "The shock's gone. I suppose that's what angered me mostly. Being blindsided like that."
Ino smiled. "Thanks again."
Temari waved away the apology. "You owe me dinner or something." She opened the door, "See you tomorrow."
"Good morning, Tsunade-sama." Temari greeted cheerily, the events of last night completely forgotten. "I was told you wanted to see me?"
Tsunade looked up from her scrolls – or if Temari were to be perfectly honest, she suspected it was something less official she was looking at. "Ah, Temari-san. Good." She slid the scrolls to the side. "You're up rather early. Still having problems?"
Temari frowned. "Problems with what?"
"There's no need for you to play dumb with me, Temari-san. News of your, eh, state have spread throughout Konoha."
She blinked. "My state?"
Tsunade motioned to her stomach.
Temari blinked. "My state!" She clasped her hands over her mouth upon realizing her tone was a tad too angry for a woman who really was pregnant and not just playing one for another person. "I…I'm quite fine. The morning sickness has subsided mostly." Surely that can't have been what Tsunade wanted to talk about. Oh, crap! If Tsunade wanted to do tests on her she would figure out immediately that she wasn't really pregnant and then Ino…Ugh, why did she care about Ino again?
Oh right, she had not a clue.
"Due to this information, I'm afraid I cannot let you on the mission you were assigned yesterday."
"'The hell! I can handle it!"
"We don't want the child being damaged."
"Fuck the—" Temari gritted her teeth. "You're right, Tsunade-sama. I'm just not used to caring for a life inside of me." She was going to kill Ino. Slaughter her pretty little head right on the sidewalk.
Oh, wait, if she did that then the baby would die.
"Is that all?"
"Yes, you may go. I believe you have duties to attend to."
No matter, she would just wait to kill Ino after the baby was born. She was patient enough. She could hold out for nine months.
She turned to see the bubbling blonde ninja greet her. "Hi, Naruto."
"Everyone says you're pregnant!"
"Y-yes…Because I am…"
"Last time I spoke with Gaara he said nothing about you being pregnant."
"It's fairly recent." Temari explained. "So recent it's almost like I don't even have a baby at all."
Naruto blinked. "Well, Tsunade-baachan sent a letter to him saying she didn't think it would be wise for you to return to Suna after your duties here. She said you'd be six months along then and traveling as a ninja in that state would be bad."
Temari suddenly found she couldn't breathe. "I'm sorry, Naruto, but did you just say Tsunade plans to send a letter telling Gaara that I'm pregnant and should stay here until I give birth?"
"It's already sent. I took care of it myself."
Nine months was too fucking far away. Ino needed to die.
All throughout the day whispers of pity were murmured behind her back. Temari told a few of them off – really what did they think, pregnancy caused a loss of hearing? Honestly. Worse than that though were the random conversations of congratulations and the necessity of having to repeat her story a few times. She'd gotten it confused once. When telling Chouji the details she'd accidently called the father Gifuu when she'd told everyone else his name was Ifiguu. Luckily, Chouji didn't find anything suspicious about her misstep.
"So are you really hungry now?" Chouji asked through a mouthful of chips.
Temari blinked. Oh, right, pregnant woman were supposed to be ravenous creatures. "Well, it hasn't kicked in just yet…"
"No, thanks." Temari brushed at some stray lint on her skirt. Today had been a brutally exhausting day and it wasn't even half over. Ino had some fucking explaining to do to her.
"Hi, Temari." Ino greeted popping up out of what was seemingly nowhere.
Temari took a few steps back.
"How's the baby?"
"Just fine." Temari muttered. "Just fine."
"Well, I for one—"
"Oy! Troublesome woman."
Temari stiffened immediately.
She could deal with all the crap in the world, but she really wasn't ready for him thinking that she was pregnant. Temari told herself it didn't matter. He was just a dumb Chuunin. A dumb Chuunin younger than her. A dumb Chuunin younger than her who also happened to be incredibly intelligent. A dumb, incredibly intelligent, Chuunin younger than her who's opinion mattered quite a lot to her. No…His opinion didn't matter…
"Shikamaru!" Ino said happily. "You're up early."
Ignoring her, the lay ninja pushed Ino aside gently and placed the back of his hand on her forehead and checked her pupils. Temari stared dumbly at the man in front of her. "Uhm…What are you doing?"
"Checking your temperature."
"Everyone's saying you're pregnant. They say you say you're pregnant."
"And how does that lead to me having a temperature?"
"You can't possibly be pregnant so you must be delusional. Sick somehow."
Temari swallowed. "Uhm. Shikamaru, I…Well, I am pregnant." She winced. She couldn't help wishing he wouldn't react badly.
He blinked. "You're pregnant?"
"As in, 'with child'?"
He blinked. "Give me a minute." He turned around and took a few steps forward. Temari watched as he closed his eyes and drew his fingers into his 'thinking' position. After a minute or two, he turned around and faced her again. "I wasn't really expecting that to be true."
"I'd just thought. What, with what you'd told me…" He paused. "It just didn't occur to me."
That's right. Temari had once preached to him about the stupidity of marriage and pregnancy and how she would never do either. How she planned to stay celibate her entire life, because very guy she'd ever met was not worth her time. How only a guy blithely fantastic could make her change her mind. "What can I say? I was stupid."
Temari stared at him.
He stared back.
It was awkward. He was still assessing her, as if he couldn't quite believe what she'd just said. As if, just maybe, she wasn't Temari anymore, but somebody else. Temari bit her lip. She didn't want to think about that.
"Ino," Temari managed to spit out, "A word?"
Ino nodded. "Alright. Tata, boys. Girl talk."
Temari walked stiffly forward, Ino trailing her humming happily. "I want answers."
"If I'm going to keep up lying, I want answers. Why am I doing this? Why are you doing this?"
"You either tell me or I spill!" Temari threatened. She doubted she would spill even if Ino didn't tell her, but it was a good empty threat.
"You're lying." Ino commented. "You won't tell."
"Ino, I want to if this lying is worth it! If I'm doing it for some crap reason then—"
Temari froze. "Come again."
"The baby's father is Sasuke." Ino said softly.
"Y-You had sex with Sakura's boyfriend?"
Ino's eyes turned sharply on her. It was unsettling and damaging. "Sasuke was not Sakura's boyfriend when I did what I did. I would never do something like that. Sakura was dating Lee." Ino's eyes dropped to the ground. "Not that she cared about him. It was all to get at Sasuke."
"Why, Ino?" Temari had never understood Sasuke's appeal. Sure he was good-looking, but there was only so much broody a person can take. Sasuke was nice to look at, but that's where it ended. He was the kind of guy you looked at and never went any further with.
"I don't know. Childish fantasy. I'd wanted him when I was little and now, I just…It was there and I took it okay? That's all there is to it."
"Are you two…?" Temari didn't even want to say it out loud. Sneaking around was a bad thing, after all.
"No. It was a onetime thing. He made that clear."
"Does he know?" Temari motioned to Ino's belly. "About the kid, I mean."
Temari paused. "And?"
"What did he tell you?"
"That it wasn't his responsibility. He said if I was smart I'd get rid of it."
Temari pressed her lips together. "I hate men."
"Not all guys are bad."
"They're all bad when it comes to matters like this."
Ino didn't respond.
"That doesn't explain why you won't say anything."
"Do you think I want to be the idiot?" She paused. "Moreso, Sakura's dating Sasuke now. I can't…I just…" She sighed. "I'll be the slut."
Temari rubbed her hands together trying to warm herself up. Today was better than yesterday. At least it wasn't snowing. "They wouldn't know it was Sasuke's."
"They would once the tests were performed on me. The sharingan is highly detectible."
"Oh." Temari walked on in silence with Ino.
"Aren't you going to judge me?"
"Why would I?"
"You know, I thought I was the pregnant one."
"Temari, please." Ino pleaded.
"Look, you made a mistake, and you know you made a mistake. You want to fix it but you don't know how and right now you're scared. There's nothing to judge there. In your situation I don't know if I could fare better." Temari paused. "Well, I would have come clean rather than point the finger at someone else, although that's probably because I don't have friends to keep my lies."
"You don't consider us friends, Temari?"
Temari mulled the word over in her mouth. "Are we?"
"I would think so."
"I'm not too sure on the semantics of friendship. So, I am not quite sure if that's what we have or not. I mean, I have friends, but they're all guy friends – and really if you count my brothers in that mix I only have four friends. Well, people that I would really bother to call friends." She tasted the words in her mouth. "The rest are really just acquaintances. So, being friends with a girl is something completely foreign to me."
"Well, you're keeping my secret. I'm sharing truths with you. I like talking with you and I enjoy your company. So, I would think I could call you a friend." Ino commented.
"I haven't shared anything secret with you."
"You don't have to to be friends." Ino replied. "You just have to know that if you ever do want to say something, they'll be there for you. If you give them the chance." Ino smiled. "That's all there is to it."
Temari frowned. "A bit of a tricky thing, isn't it? I never could quite grasp the concept. Shikamaru is really the only person I can really call a friend and sometimes I feel like I'm doing things wrong. Like I'm annoying him more than anything else."
"You don't annoy him." Ino commented. "Quite the contrary."
Ino grinned. "Nothing at all, dear."
Temari sighed. "I'm not some loner. I talk to people. I just don't call very many of them friends. It seems like they are there out of convenience." She paused. "You're here out of convenience."
"Maybe." Ino conceded. "But, maybe, you're wrong. Maybe I'm here because I want to be here."
"Maybe." Temari said. "But I don't put much faith in that."
Ino rolled her eyes. "Pessimist."
Temari pushed open the door of her hotel room with her left foot trying her best to balance the rather large box of pampers in her arms. She dropped it unceremoniously on the floor and glared at the package. "Why a box of pampers? Why now? Can't they wait until I give birth to the stupid thing?"
"Wouldn't that take years?" A light voice giggled in her ear.
Temari glared at the blonde woman. "My room is filled with baby products. Apparently, everyone thinks that on top of being pregnant I don't have enough money to buy things for the kid. I'm stupid and poor."
"Oh, come now! They're gifts."
"They want to give me a gift they can buy me fan polish. Or a big TV. Or chocolate. Chocolate's always good."
"It's for the kid!"
"The kid won't appreciate the gifts. I, on the other hand, will." Temari rebutted.
Ino kicked the box idly. "You know it's rather rude to make a pregnant woman carry such a big box. Even if it only pampers."
Temari kicked the box hard trying to shove it past the doorway. It seemed to make it and the door slammed shut after the box leaving Temari and Ino outside the room.
"You know," Ino mused, "It's going to be hell to get back inside that room."
"Oh, yeah." Temari agreed. "Hell."
"Hey, look, Shikamaru."
Temari turned. "Oh…Yay…" How could she be pleased and depressed at the same time?
"Hi, Shikamaru!" Ino chirped.
"Hey, Ino. Hey, Temari."
Temari stared at him blankly trying to figure out if she was blushing. Why she would be blushing was beyond her, but she might have been blushing for some reason or another…
"Can I talk to you, Temari?"
"Sure." She blinked. "Yeah, why not?"
Ino grinned, "I'll be…uh…over by that bush." The thin blond shimmied away and sat right before the bush, staring at the sky. Well, supposedly staring at the sky – Temari caught her sneaking glances here and there.
Shikamaru fiddled with something in his pocket. "Uhm. I…You're not married are you? I've heard that you dumped the father but, uh…Rumors could be…"
"No?" He looked upset.
"No! I mean," Temari grimaced. "No I'm not married or getting married. Yes, I did dump him. It's just going to be me and the baby." Oh, why did this conversation sound so stupid!
"In that case…" Shikamaru pulled something out of his pocket. "Will you marry me?"
She looked at his hands. There extended toward her was a silver band with the Nara name engraved on the outside and a beautiful diamond right in the middle. Temari stared blankly at him. "Come again?"
Man of few words wasn't he? She contemplated what would be the best course of action. If she were to follow Sunan customs she should probably titter a bit and coyly suggest that one had to go through the father, and in her case her brothers, before such a union could be allowed. Konohan etiquette most likely required her to swoon and accept the quasi-demand. Of course, neither option seemed interesting, "You want to marry me?"
"And this is because…why, exactly?" If she were a smart girl she'd take what she'd just gotten and never look back. All little girls want to marry. All little girls want their prince charming. Temari wasn't going to have any of it unless it was the most damn perfect thing in the entire world – and this smelled awfully ill.
"Does it matter?"
"Yes, it matters, thank you very much." She snapped. "And get off your knees. Really, it's a bit of an annoying sight."
From the bush, Temari could hear Ino mutter something sardonic under her breath. Temari imagined it had something to do with how this was entirely unromantic. From both perspectives.
"So?" She snapped. "You've yet to tell me why."
"Look," He sighed, "I've always really liked you. I might even say that I love you. You're going through something really tough right now, and it's scary, and not something anyone should go alone. I want to--"
"Let me get this perfectly clear, Nara Shikamaru." Temari snarled. "You got down on your knees, with a pretty little crystal ring, and asked me to marry you because you think I'm pregnant?" Oh, yeah. She was right to question it. This seemed like a pity marriage.
"That's not wh--"
"Were I not," Temari suppressed the urge to grimace, "pregnant, you would not be standing before me proposing such a ludicrous arrangement. This, Shikamaru, is-is, well it's damn near offensive for one. It's also sickening and degrading and certainly an insult to me. I can damn well take care of this child myself. I don't need a man, especially one like you!" As soon as she finished her tirade, she punched him just a bit too firmly in the gut and stalked off. Then she changed her mind and kicked him very firmly in the ribs. "Jerk."
She was halfway down the street before she remembered who was responsible for what had just transpired. Without casting the shadow-nin another glance she stalked to the thin blonde by the bush, clamped her fingers around the creature's upper arms firmly, and dragged the blonde Konoha kunoichi out of the shop behind her.
"Oww! Temari, please, you're being unnecessarily forceful." She complained lightly.
Temari released her scissoring grip. "Ino, I swear on all my skills as a kunoichi, if I could suppress my moral and ethical compass right now, I would smack you right into next week."
"Well, I'm rather glad you can't do that then. Not that I think you ever could have 'smacked me into next week'," she chortled, "but it's nice that you think you could." Ino paused, "Why did Shikamaru propose to you anyway?"
"Didn't you hear him?" Temari snapped. She wondered perhaps, if ripping all of Ino's platinum blonde hair from its healthy little roots would be an ill thing to do a pregnant woman. It's not like the baby needed the hair on her head to survive right? Even if Ino's hair was naturally shiny from what was probably the over-production of protein. Wait; in that case, she'd be doing the baby a favor. The protein would go to it, instead of the hair. Before Temari could fully comprehend the new thought, Ino continued prattling.
"Well, yes, but, it opens the eye to what is very interesting realization. I highly doubt Shikamaru would propose just for the fact that you're pregnant. No offense, but unless the baby is his, I don't see him being such a martyr."
"I have not had sex!" Temari protested.
"Oh, relax, I wasn't suggesting that." Ino smiled in amusement. "Rather, I was thinking that maybe he proposed, not because you were pregnant and thought you needed protection of some sort. But because you were pregnant, and maybe he'd rather snatch you up before the daddy does."
"He's trying to beat the man to the punch."
Do not hit the pregnant woman. Do not hit the pregnant woman. "You are so lucky you're carrying a little kid right now. Otherwise you'd be face-down your mouth filled with dirt."
Ino chuckled. "You know what else is funny? Why this particular event has pissed you off more than other events that have transpired since knowledge of your pregnancy was discovered. It almost makes me think you wanted him to propose for real and feel like he's doing it just for—"
"I DON'T WANT HIM TO PROPOSE TO ME!!"
"I don't want him to propose."
"Then why are you so mad that he did?"
"Because he proposed because he thinks I need a guy to take care of this kid!"
"Because you want him to propose to you because of whom you are and not what's going on with you, you mean?"
"Ino, just…shut up." Temari muttered. "Just…"
"That is it, isn't it?"
"Yes, okay! I love him and I want him to love me! But that's not going to happen! Not now, not ever." She pressed her lips together. "Especially not now."
"I'm pregnant." Ino corrected. "You're just covering for me. He'll know the truth soon enough."
"Why am I even covering for you?" Temari snapped. "Why don't I just go tell the whole world that the one who's really carrying a little munchkin is you?"
"Because you're kind."
"They'll notice when you start to get fat." Temari grumbled under her breath.
"No, they won't."
"There's a fine line between optimism and downright denial, Ino. And right now, you're crossing it."
Ino clicked her fingers mechanically against the iron fan strapped against Temari's back. "Now, dear, you just let me worry about my own problems."
"Then who the hell worries about my problems?" Temari grumbled.
"What problems exactly?" Ino cluttered blissfully. "You have a happy normal life."
"I have a happy normal life, in which the entire village of Konoha believes me to be pregnant. A normal life in which people pity, congratulate, and propose to me. A happy normal life which will come crashing down immediately as soon as Gaara reaches the knowledge that I'm with child. That means no missions, no alcohol, no raw fish, no extraneous activity, no leaving Suna, and non-stop arguments with Kankurou over my stupidity at
letting some guy be with me. A happy normal life, you have virtually fucked up by telling everyone I'm the pregnant one!"
"It will all fix itself once I tell them I lied."
"Which will be when exactly?"
"Some point in the next three months?"
"You'll be showing in the next three months."
"Which is why they'll obviously have to know by then."
"You are NOT keeping me pregnant for three months."
"Temari, you wouldn't spill on me, would you?"
Ino's eyes were so soft and big and pleading, Temari had trouble remembering why she had a problem with that. "Ino…"
"Please, as my friend."
"Ino…" Temari sighed wistfully. "This is really too much to ask."
"Which is why I will be eternally grateful and will make it up to you entirely."
"I don't know. I'll think of something."
Temari grimaced. "Three months?"
"At most." Ino assured. "Don't worry about it, how bad could it be?"
Temari didn't want to answer that question. She knew just how bad it could be. She was in for hell. Pure and unequivocal hell.
"I've found a way to make it up to you." Ino announced a month later.
Temari was sitting underneath a tree watching the clouds by herself wondering how on earth she managed to change her life so drastically. She and Shikamaru didn't talk anymore. She was constantly barraged with incessant questions about her health and her baby. Plus, she was also continually praised for gaining weight – weight that, if her scale was correct, was entirely non-existent. She'd managed to avoid checkups with Tsunade for the entire month, claiming that Ino was giving her the necessary medical procedures.
Despite how annoying the whole thing was, she liked it – a little bit. She liked parts of it anyway. It was almost enough to make her wish she really was pregnant.
"I'm sorry it's taken so long, but really I had to plan this just right or your stupid stubbornness would get in the way of everything. I'll have you know you have too much pride."
"Yes." Ino pulled her up. "Now come with me."
Temari yawned. "Why?"
"It's not like I have a choice with you pulling me along."
Ino didn't reply. Temari let herself be dragged along. After a bit she started to figure out where they were headed. "Why here?"
"We're visiting Hinata."
"Because, now shut up." Ino snapped.
Temari rolled her eyes. "Shutting."
Ino knocked on the door. Hinata opened the door, her cheeks flushed and smile timid. "H-H-Hello, Ino. Hel-Hello T-T-Temari…"
Temari meandered inside not understanding what it was that was going on. "Ino—"
"Oh, would you wait!"
Hinata led them quietly down a few winding hallways until they came to a dark empty room.
Temari sighed, "Ino, wh—"
"SURPRISE!" A large group of shinobi jumped out from behind the couches.
Temari blinked. "Let me get this straight," she murmured quietly, "you're making it up to me by throwing me a surprise baby shower?"
"You've got to be kidding me. Ino, I'm not even—"
"Before we let the festivities begin," Ino announced loudly, "There are two announcements that need to be made. First, Shikamaru."
Temari was sure she was blushing this time. "Ino! I swear to you—"
Shikamaru pushed his way from the crowd. "Come on, troublesome woman, at least hear me out. Just once."
Temari pressed her lips together. "Fine."
"Look, when I asked you to marry me—"
"He asked her to marry him?"
"When did that happen?"
"Oh, how romantic!"
Shikamaru sighed. "It wasn't because you're pregnant—"
"Don't fucking lie to me. You and I both know that that's the only reason. If I weren't pregnant you wouldn't bother."
"That's not true."
"It is so true."
"Is that the only reason you said no? Is that why you've been avoiding me this past month?"
"I have not been avoiding you." Temari snapped in indignation.
"Yes, that explains why you ran away every time I so much as uttered your name!"
"I don't want to play this game!"
"Dammit, Temari. I love you. That's why I want to marry you, I just never expected you to be pregnant before I got to tell you that!"
Temari wasn't sure if she should believe him. But she was sure she wanted to cry. She felt tears prickle behind her eyelids and her heart was thudding painfully.
"NOW," Ino interjected, "For the second announcement! Even though the first one technically isn't finished yet…" Oddly enough, Ino had situated herself on top of a table to give the announcement. Ino smiled brightly. "No matter. The second example is thus: Temari is not pregnant."
The partygoers which had been gossiping about the turn of events in Temari and Shikamaru's relationship, but at this news shut up entirely.
"You see, Temari has been covering for someone. She's not pregnant, but she was lying to protect this one individual. And really that individual's been rather selfish and she's only realized as of late. So, she's coming clean. Temari is not pregnant. I am. Thank you very much for coming to my baby shower. I hope you were sufficiently surprised."
Every stared at Ino in complete shock.
"Well," Temari cleared her throat, "that certainly brings a new meaning to a surprise baby shower."
Ino hopped down from the table. "Why does everyone look like I killed somebody?"
Sakura approached her. "You're pregnant?"
"Temari's not?" Sakura asked.
Sakura pursed her lips. "Who's the father?"
Ino hesitated. "I'd rather not say."
"Uhm, Ino?" Temari interrupted. "I realize you'd rather not say, but there's something I've been wanting to do since you told me the truth. Of course, if I were to do it everyone would find out who that father is. Can I do it?"
Ino looked at the floor. "Ah, what the hell. I do owe you something. Go ahead."
Temari cracked her knuckles. Gently pushing her way past four people she stopped right before Sasuke. "I really fucking hate you." Then she punched him.
He went down like a sack of rocks.
Then all hell broke loose. People started yelling at her, at Ino, at Sasuke – hell, people started yelling and hitting everybody. Temari snuck out of the Hyuuga compound hoping Ino had the same foresight to do the same. Temari took a deep breath once outside and collapsed onto the floor. "Well, that's over with."
"So you were lying all this time?"
Temari looked at the voice that was speaking. "Yeah. If you wanna phrase it that way."
She shrugged. "I don't know. Magnetism. Friendship. Stupidity." She looked at his warm brown eyes. "I asked myself the same thing over and over again."
Shikamaru sat down beside her. "So."
"You're not pregnant."
"Never even had sex."
"Oh?" Temari wondered if she was right. If he really didn't mean his proposals. "You know, you can take back your proposal. I know you want to."
He looked wistfully at the clouds. "I don't think I will."
He looked at her and smiled. "I wasn't lying, Temari. I love you and I want to marry you. What do I care if you're pregnant or not?"
"Then why'd you only ask when you found out I was pregnant?" She grimaced, "Even if I was just pretending to be pregnant."
"I felt like my chance was slipping away. I was afraid you'd…you know, get married to the dad."
He's trying to beat the man to the punch.
Temari linked her fingers with his. "I don't think I want to accept your proposal just yet. But I won't mind some dating and stuff."
"Stuff is good."
Temari jumped as a loud yell erupted through the air. A yell that was unmistakably Ino's. Although, it sounded somewhat happy. Temari pushed herself up from the ground and headed toward the noise, Shikamaru in tow. Peering around a tree she found Ino lip-locked with Chouji. Temari looked away blushing.
Shikamaru smiled. "Well, well."
"T-Temari." Ino stuttered. "What are you doing?"
"Well, I was talking to Shikamaru and then a yell sort of distracted me."
"Oh…That…I…Yeah…" Ino trailed off.
"So what's going on?" Temari asked happily.
"Chouji asked me to marry him."
"No fucking way." Temari blinked. "This isn't—"
Shikamaru covered her mouth with his hand and leaned to whisper in her ear. "This isn't what you think it is. It's not what you thought I was doing. Chouji's been in love with Ino for forever. He just never got the guts to tell her."
Temari moved his hand aside. "Marriage is overrated."
Ino rolled her eyes. "You are aggravating, you know that."
Temari shrugged; so she was.
"Be my maid of honor."
It was more a demand than request.
"I thought Sakura was your best friend."
"She's a good friend." Ino corrected, "I don't like using terms like best friend."
"The ones you call best friends, hardly ever turn out to be real best friends."
"I see." Temari muttered.
"But for you, I could make an exception. I wouldn't pick anyone else but a best friend to be my maid of honor. If I didn't have one, I wouldn't have a maid of honor."
"Are you getting married to Shikamaru?"
"Marriage is overrated."
"So you say now, but you had said all men were jerks and would never date one and here you are holding Shikamaru's hand."
Temari looked down to see that her hand was in fact linked with Shikamaru's. She absently wondered when that had occurred. "What can I say? I'm a liar."
A/N: This part was inspired by an episode on Friends. The one where Rachel is pregnant and they find the test and everyone thinks it's Monica, but when it's figured out that it's not Monica, Phoebe - knowing it's Rachel - pretends to be the pregnant one for her.