A/N: Hope you enjoyed a meaningful Christmas with your loved ones. Wishing all of you a fruitful 2009!

Chapter 12: Beyond the Shadows

'I'm glad you came today, Temari.' he revealed, at the door of her inn.

'So am I, Shikamaru.'

She leant over and whispered, 'Stay and chat?'

He accepted, and made it a point to conduct a through check of the place for possible threats or intruders that could be lurking.

'I can take care of myself, Nara!' she burst out, though she let his shadows continue searching the crannies of the inn.

He actually looked zealous, she thought. Wearing his hair down must make him look more alluring.

She'd probably missed him much more than she'd be willing to admit.

Convinced that the coast was clear, Shikamaru spread himself out on the tatami flooring beside the little table, where the vase of flowers he'd placed earlier stood tall. She pulled open a second set of shoji doors to her bedroom and disappeared from sight.

O-O X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X O-O


Temari emerged with two pillows from her bedroom in a nightgown. (A decent, practical, comfortable, un-lacey, plain silk nightgown.) Their conversation would probably last until one of them dozed off.

She sat herself next to Shikamaru, wondering how he'd react to seeing her in her nightgown. He might blush, she thought, and she bent over him to see how he'd react.

At first she thought he was pretending to sleep, but as his chest rose lightly in regular intervals, with his loose hair spread around his head, she realised he had already fallen asleep. Watching him slumber with that serene look on his face made her concede a smile. If Gaara got to see this, perhaps he'd be less apprehensive about sleep; he still found it difficult to get used to sleeping normally since Shukaku's removal.

The man. The shinobi. The thinker. The deer herder. The Nara. The leader. The comrade. The ally. The protector. The complainer. The worker. The lover.

There were so many sides to Shikamaru, and though she'd already witnessed quite a diverse range of his personality, she was sure there was a lot more to him then he let on. She'd find out in time.

She was willing to see him for who he really was – somebody reliable, whom she'd known, for a while now, that she couldn't bear to lose. Not as everybody else perceived him, nor as he perceived himself, but from her perspective.

She guessed she'd really fallen for him after all.

Shadows are, more often than not, neglected and unnoticed; just something that people take for granted. Yet who could deny that without shadows, there wouldn't be shade or shelter from enemy eyes? As unappreciated as they are, shadows served their purpose well, and Temari realised, shadows never really lived for themselves. Wind had the satisfaction of manipulating other elements of nature. Shadow served as a mimic for its master. Shadows served to protect and to remain unacknowledged. Yet they remained loyal, willing to be bended to suit the larger purpose of creating harmony in nature.

What took her so long to see this?

This was yet another side of Shikamaru she'd never considered. He never boasted, never talked about himself; yet he'd always be the willing listener. Shikamaru was many things, many wonderful things. As she smiled at his beautiful sleeping face, her shadow embraced his. Shikamaru was more of a gem than the one she thought she'd already found.

Now she wanted to uncover every dimension to him…

She'd be sure to put aside her pride to tell him this first thing in the morning when they went to greet Kumo, and Kaze. Her first oath to him; it was fitting that it should be made in their presence.

'I love you, Shikamaru.' she whispered in his ear to his sleeping form before tenderly planting her lips to his forehead. Now she knew for sure. And she never went back on her word.

From now on, she'd look beyond the shadows to see him for who he truly was. They had a symphony to perfect.

O-O X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X O-O


The wind whistled a lullaby to the towering trees, which waved their branches to her will, as the silent shadows sang softly, blending, complimenting, in tune.


-The End-


Now, how was that?

For this chapter, I've a special request. Please let me know:
(1) your opinion on this chapter (Chapter 12),
(2) what you thought of the story on a whole
(3) which chapters of the story you liked best / disliked most, and what you liked / disliked about them. (e.g. ideas you found unique, etc),
(4) what you think of my writing style,
(5) suggestions for improvement (i.e. constructive criticism).

Naturally, if you'd prefer reviewing chapter by chapter, you'd be most welcome to; I'd like to thank you, and the rest of you who will be reviewing in advance now ;)

I am truly grateful to all my supportive reviewers who've spared me their precious time to read and review at least once (special thanks to those who read and reviewed every single chapter; you know who you are, wonderful dears!), and shared their opinions and suggestions with me. Thank you all so much, for the encouragement, and for reading till the end! (My dear darlings, I love y'all loads :D)

Many thanks to Sand-Jounin-Temari, PGNarutoFan, .Temari. .Killer. .Kunoichi., hydroknight01, NGT-chan, hikari107, Tsutsu-sama, myhiddenlove08, Midnight Memories, roxas-kh and Lynn Acissej for reviewing Chapter 11, to Erendhyl and xmarachanx for reviewing 'Shadows of the Night', to Lynn Acissej and xmarachanx for their reviews to 'Back to Back', and once again to xmarachanx for reviewing Chapter 1 of 'Wind Shadows'!

I had every intention to post this chapter during the weekend, but I figured it'd be nice to wish all of you, my dear readers, well for the New Year, so up went this post! ;)

As of now, 'Beyond the Shadows' is officially complete; please feel free to remove it from your Story Alert lists; thanks to those of you who added it! I'd appreciate reviews of any length, so if there was a tiny portion of the story that you liked (especially if you've already favourited it), please spare me a review to let me know and make my day. Thanks a lot!

The one shot I mentioned in Chapter 11 with regards to the 'Konoha-Suna Collaboration Scheme' will be posted in about two weeks from now.