"Daddy! Daddy, please tell me a bedtime story," a young girl requested of her father one calm night.
Her father smiled at her as he held back the covers for her. "Of course, Shikari, what would you like me to read you?"
"No, daddy, I don't want you to read me anything- you've read me all the books in my bookshelf. Can't you make up a story?" Shikari asked eagerly as she climbed into bed and snuggled into the duvet.
"Make up a story? But that's-"
"Don't you dare say 'troublesome', Shikamaru," a quiet voice interrupted from the doorway.
Shikamaru shot a glance at his wife leaning against the doorframe. "Why don't you do it then, Temari?"
"No, daddy, I want you to tell me a story!" the little girl exclaimed before her mother got a chance to answer.
Temari smirked at her husband. "There you have it, Shikamaru, you are requested."
"Please, daddy?" Shikari added.
Shikamaru smiled at the four year old and lay down next to her, and she cuddled into him, using his arm as a pillow. "Okay. Let's see… a story. Ah, I have one. There was once-"
"No, daddy, that's not how it starts," Shikari interrupted.
"And how do you know? I'm the one making it up," Shikamaru asked her.
Shikari rolled her eyes. "Everyone knows that stories start with 'once upon a time'."
Shikamaru chuckled softly. "Ah. Of course. How could I forget? Very well. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a far away land."
"What did she look like?" asked Shikari eagerly.
Shikamaru's eyes flickered towards his wife as he spoke, "She had hair the colour of ripened wheat and the most breathtaking teal eyes. This princess lived with her two brothers, who were princes. In a neighbouring country, there was a knight."
"A genius knight whom everyone underestimated, because the knight himself did not realize his full potential," Temari broke in.
"Mommy, do you also know this story?" Shikari wanted to know.
Temari smiled, her eyes on her husband. "Yes, I do. I know it very well," she replied. He returned her smile.
"Your mother's heard this story before. And I'll have you know that the knight did realize his full potential, he just found it too troublesome to actually work," he informed Temari.
"The knight was an incredibly lazy one who wished for nothing spectacular or extraordinary to happen in his life," Temari told Shikari.
"Hey, who's telling the story here?" Shikamaru demanded of his wife.
"I'm sorry, I'll keep quiet now," Temari acceded.
"Thank you. Now, the knight and the princess had met before, when she had come with her brothers to visit the land in which he lived. At the time, they had just seen each other from a distance and had had little interaction. The knight thought her beautiful, but entirely too troublesome…"
One day, when the knight had been promoted to a… more valued knight, the princess and her brothers came to his country once more. This time, the two princes, one of whom was now king, could not stay long and had to return to their own land. They told the princess to stay behind in the kingdom in which the knight lived and she agreed, because while her own country was sparse and dry, this country was lush and green and full of trees. The queen of this country agreed to let the princess stay, and she assigned the knight to guard the princess.
"Was the princess going to stay there forever, daddy?"
"No, Shikari, only until her brothers came back. They had told her to take a holiday there."
And so the knight and the princess met. At first, they did not like each other. The princess thought the knight lazy and chauvinistic, and the knight thought the princess bossy and annoying, because the princess was not like other princesses, or ladies even. This princess liked to think she could take care of herself and didn't need anyone. She was smart and took orders grudgingly. She was loud and brash and spoke her mind. But because she was smart, a friendship of sorts occurred between the two.
"Daddy, what does chau- chaunavistic mean?"
"Chauvinistic means that he thinks men are stronger than woman."
"But that's not true! Mommy can beat you up!"
But what the princess didn't know was that her brothers had left her there for her own safety, because there was a huge dragon terrorising her country. Her brothers knew that she would want to help them fight the dragon, and they were scared for her her.
"Daddy, they need names."
"Who needs names?"
"The princess. The knight. The brothers. The queen."
"Hmm. Okay. How about… Princess Tessen, Sir Shadow, Prince Puppet and his brother King Sand. And…Queen Sake."
"You're terribly unimaginative."
"Shut up, Temari."
"Daddy, don't tell mommy to shut up, that's rude."
"Sorry, Shikari. Should I carry on?"
So the princess was ignorant of the situation, and she was happy. However, the problem with the dragon wasn't getting better. In fact, it was getting worse. The dragon was strong, and was sending many villages up in flames. King Sand had to send a request to Queen Sake for reinforcements. Somehow, Princess Tessen found out. Now, the princess loved here brothers very much, and when she heard about the danger they were in, she got very worried. She was even more worried when she heard that Prince Puppet was gravely injured. But Queen Sake had been asked by King Sand to not let the Princess leave to help her brothers should she find out about the dragon.
"So the princess
"The princess couldn't go."
Naturally, the princess was not happy about this. She got quite frantic, and insisted she go, but Queen Sake said no. Eventually, Princess Tessen composed herself and said that she understood and respected her brothers' actions and would not cause any more trouble. Then she excused herself from all engagements for the day and retired to her room.
Everyone thought this was good, as she was being reasonable, and gave it not another thought. But as Sir Shadow was going about his business that day, he had a niggling feeling something was not right. And later that afternoon he realised what she was going to do. She was going to run away, back to her country. So, to check if he was right, he made his way to where she was staying as fast as he could. He knocked frantically on her door, and when there was no reply, he threw open her door- and lo and behold, he was right. She was gone. For reasons he couldn't fathom, fear gripped his throat at the thought that she might be in danger. Almost blind in panic, he rushed home and grabbed some food and clothes, throwing them haphazardly in a bag. Then he ran out the house, gasping out a hasty explanation to his mother as he passed her. His mother was highly surprised, as she had never seen her son move that fast in his entire life- especially for something he was not ordered to do. And she realised something- her son, although he did not think of the possibility, had fallen in love with the princess.
As Sir Shadow ran out of the village-
"Why didn't he just take a horse?"
"All knights have horses."
"Hmm. I suppose you're right."
As Sir Shadow rode out the village on his horse, he desperately tried to think of where she might be and what way she might have taken. He rode into the night, not thinking of anything but finding Princess Tessen and making sure she was safe.
When the pink and orange tendrils of dawn started making their appearance in the sky of pale blue, he still hadn't found her and was about to collapse from exhaustion. He didn't want to stop, but he knew he must. He knew, but he didn't. Eventually, his horse stopped and refused to go any further. Now he couldn't go on, even though he desperately wanted to. He slid off his horse, the world blurring in front of his weary eyes. His body gave out on him, and he collapsed.
When he came to, the face of the princess swam into focus in front of him. Relief swept over him and he sleepily murmured something: te oro atque obsecro ut domum veniet.
"What does that mean?"
"The princess didn't know either, and asked him that exact same question. It means 'I beg and beseech you to come home'."
The princess smiled sadly and replied that she was going home, she was going to help save her own home. As he struggled to sit up, he realised something, and asked her why she was there, and how she had found him.
With what looked like a pale pink tint to her skin, although that might have simply been a trick of the light, she avoided his gaze and admitted she had seen him fly past her a few hours earlier, and curious as to why he was in such a hurry, she decided to follow him- seeing as she was heading in that direction in any case. When she saw him collapse, she couldn't just leave him there, it wouldn't be right.
Sir Shadow didn't quite register that this last bit wasn't quite in keeping with her character because he was too busy berating himself in his mind for not noticing he had passed her. As he took in his surroundings, he noticed a second horse tethered next to his one, and he was even more annoyed with himself for missing her than before- horses were not easy to hide, even in a forest, he must have been riding with his eyes closed!
He asked her to come back with him, to keep herself out of danger. She got angry with him, saying that she was perfectly capable of looking after herself, and that if that was why he had come, he could go straight back. Realising he was not going to get her to return with him, he asked if he could then go with her. She told him scornfully that if the reason he wanted to come with her was that he had some crazy idea that he would have to protect her, then she didn't want him with her, because she wasn't a damsel in distress and didn't need to be coddled. Not really understanding why he felt like he did, he said that no, that wasn't the reason- he was perfectly aware she could look after herself, but if on the off chance anything did happen to her, he would never forgive himself for leaving her alone.
Eventually, she gave in and said that he could come with her- adding firmly that they were not going anywhere until they were properly rested. He laughed and told her he was fine with that- now that he had found her, the urgency that had gripped him had dissipated.
When she deemed both of them to be 'properly rested', they set off again, this time at a more leisurely pace. As they got nearer to her country, she got more agitated and they sped up a little at time, not fully noticing until they were almost at full gallop.
They stopped in front of the palace and Princess Tessen leapt off her horse and into the palace as fast as anyone's business, leaving Sir Shadow to follow behind. When he eventually found her again, she was in a room with Prince Puppet, who was gravely injured.
"You already said that, daddy."
"I said it again, just in case you didn't remember."
"Well, I did."
King Sand was also there and when Sir Shadow entered the room, he had the slight feeling that he was intruding on the family. But Prince Puppet and King Sand just looked at him with gratitude, Princess Tessen barely sparing him a glance before going back to interrogating the doctors that were looking after her brother.
King Sand, noticing Princess Tessen was preoccupied, drew Sir Shadow aside and told him quietly that the princess had told him and his brother that the knight had refused to leave her to make the journey alone, and they were grateful for that, because the princess was known to be slightly impetuous and often rushed into rather dangerous situations. King Sand then asked why the princess was allowed to leave, and the knight replied honestly that she wasn't, she had snuck away without anybody noticing. Sir Shadow also said that he had figured something was up when the princess had stopped fighting and had guessed what she was about to do and had searched for her.
He noticed King Sand had a rather thoughtful look on his face at that, but thought that the king was merely thinking of battle strategies in order to defeat the dragon, as that's what the knight would have been doing were he in the king's position. As it was, he offered his services as a strategist to the king, seeing as he was there already- and if he was strategist he would have the added advantage of being able to work his strategy in such a way that he could keep Princess Tessen- whom he was sure would want to join in the fight- out of harms way as much as possible. Although he would have to do it subtly, else she would kill him- and then go up against the dragon solo. And that was something he was desperate to avoid at all costs.
The king gracefully declined his services, saying that he greatly appreciated his offer, but right now the plan was to go at the dragon with brute force, as that is all that seemed would work. The king then said that, could he not tell Princess Tessen, but King Sand and Prince Puppet would like him to just stay with the princess as an unofficial guard. They would like Sir Shadow to try and prevent the princess going out on the battle field, and if she should, to try keep her away from the thick of the action, if at all possible. Sir Shadow replied that it would be his honour and that he had her best interests at heart. The king assumed that thoughtful expression again and made some remark about how he was sure he did, which confused the knight immensely.
But when Princess Tessen turned to him and announced she wanted to play shougi with him to distract herself, he dismissed the thought from his mind and henceforth did not think about it again until quite a while later, when it was pulled up from the dregs of his memories because of things his friends mentioned to him.
In the next week, with the dragon situation worsening and tensions everywhere heightening, it took the combined efforts of Prince Puppet and Sir Shadow to keep Princess Tessen in the palace, King Sand being continually in and out. They tried everything, but it was useless. They both knew that the princess would eventually get her way and go join the fight against the dragon.
But when the day came that Princess Tessen announced she was going to go fight, Prince Puppet declared that the only way he would allow that was if Sir Shadow was to go with her and would not leave her side in the battle field for a single second. King Sand backed his brother up, and Princess Tessen begrudgingly agreed when she saw that she wasn't going to be able to go should she not agree to this condition. The knight didn't get a choice in the matter, not that he really minded. He wanted to make sure she was safe just as much as her brothers did- if not more.
So the next day they set out with King Sand to the village they deduced the dragon was going to terrorise next. Indeed, within a day of them laying wait, the dragon showed up. It truly was a fearsome beast, a black scaly monster the size of two or three houses. It dwarfed everything in sight, and soon all the troops that were assembled were attacking the monster with everything they had. The dragon didn't seem to weaken no matter what they hit him with, and soon they were fighting in the dark. But it wasn't dark. The fires the dragon had started roared high, shedding a flickering orange light on the chaos that was rife around them. Sir Shadow kept as close as he could to the princess, his heart in his throat every time she lunged forward.
And then, after a particularly vicious fireball was hurled in their direction, his worst fears were realised: he couldn't see the princess anywhere. He whirled around in a panic, trying to look everywhere, the heat from the mini infernos warding him from coming too close. Her name was ripped from his throat, raw from the smoke, with him barely recognizing his own voice. Luckily, soon he caught sight of a coughing heap and he pushed his way towards it. It was Princess Tessen. He almost collapsed with worry as he knelt by her. She was fine- a little sooty and bruised, her hair slightly singed, and almost asphyxiated from the smoke, but alive. When Sir Shadow realised that she wasn't going to die on him, he practically forgot about the battle raging around them: about the dragon that could kill them at any given moment, about the fires blazing next to them, about the knights yelling themselves hoarse as they attacked the dragon. All of this faded to the back of his mind as relief swept over him like a tidal wave, and not thinking of the consequences- barely thinking at all, actually, he kissed her. When they broke apart a few seconds later, they avoided each others' gaze, their faces as hot as the flames leaping up to the stars around them. Before they could scramble to their feet and rejoin the battle- it was over. It was all over, and they were safe.
"What happened to the dragon, daddy?"
"King Sand and some of his more trusted knights rushed forward at once and killed it in one foul swoop, which was made up of many little not so foul swoops."
"And Prince Puppet?"
"Prince Puppet was healed by an excellent doctor, and was back in full health in no time whatsoever."
"I liked this story, daddy. I didn't know what some of the words meant, but I liked it."
"Oh, it's not finished."
"No. Would you like me to continue, or should I tell you the rest some other night?"
"No, no, tell me now."
After they had put out all the fires and tended to the injured, Sir Shadow reluctantly said that he should return to his country, now that the princess was in no trouble of getting herself killed. To this, Princess Tessen said that she would go with him: she had left in such a hurry last time she hadn't had time to say goodbye to everyone, and thank them for their kindness and hospitality.
So the two set off. The entire way there, they did not mention the kiss they had shared. They both seemed to have decided to pretend the kiss never happened. Once in his country, Princess Tessen and Sir Shadow spent quite a lot of time together, as they quite enjoyed each others' company. All of the knight's friends noticed the way they acted around each other, even though the two in question didn't really notice anything. When it was time for the princess to return, Sir Shadow was secretly very disappointed that she hadn't stayed longer. He really didn't want her to go. Although he didn't know why he felt so strongly about her, he just did, and he didn't want to lose her company- even though he still always called her troublesome.
When she was gone, Sir Shadow couldn't get her out of his mind. Eventually his close friend, Sir...uh... Butterfly told him why he was feeling and acting the way he was: he was in love with Princess Tessen. Sir Shadow denied it. He said it couldn't be possible- it wasn't love. It was indigestion or something, that was the cause of the butterflies that appeared in his stomach every time he saw her. But he couldn't be in love with her, he just couldn't. But his other friends told him the same thing, as did his parents. Even Queen Sake said something to him that sounded like she thought he was in love with the princess.
Sir Shadow started doubting himself. Did he love her? Was he really in love with that troublesome woman, or were his friends just imagining things? These were questions he started asking himself on a regular basis, and he never came up with an answer.
Then one day, Princess Tessen came back to his country with her brothers. When Sir Shadow heard she was back, he felt a rush of exhilaration and he went to go seek her out immediately.
When he found her, she was ordering some people around. He saw her and thought, I can't be in love with this troublesome, bossy woman. She is everything I hate in a person, I simply can't be in love with her. And then she turned and saw him- and smiled. And in that moment, he realised that he could live with all the bossiness and everything, he could live with how troublesome she was, just for that smile. That beautiful smile which lit up her face and the whole room. He could live with everything, because he couldn't live without her. He loved her.
With cautious moves, he courted her, and found she was quite partial towards him too. Eventually, they got married, and she moved to his country. A few years later, they were blessed with a beautiful baby girl who they loved very much- just as much as they loved each other.
"And they lived happily ever after," Shikamaru finished softly, looking down at his daughter.
But Shikari was already asleep. He smiled at her, and gently eased his arm out from under her head and got off the bed, kissing her lightly on her forehead. Temari smiled at the gesture of affection and held out her hand to her husband.
"My knight in shining armour," she murmured as he laced his fingers through hers. He smirked.
"When'd she fall asleep?" he asked quietly, indicating Shikari with his head.
"Around about the part you realised you were in love with me," Temari replied. "You know, I don't remember the story going quite like that."
He shrugged. "I may have changed a few details." They left the room, leaving their daughter to sleep in peace. Temari turned and slid her arms around his waist, hugging him tightly.
"I may not have known what that whole beg and beseech thing meant, but I do know some Latin," she murmured.
"And what's that?"
She reached up to whisper in his ear. "ubi tu Gaius ego Gaia."
He kissed her briefly. "I love you," he told her.
And there it was; that smile he could not live without.
A/N: ubi tu Gaius ego Gaia is what Roman brides said when they got married. It means 'when you are Gaius I am Gaia'. It could also be taken to mean pretty much 'I am your other half'. I just found it really cute- we mentioned it in Latin today. Okay, so this was one of my most fluffy pieces ever. I'm usually pretty averse to fluff. But... yeah. I was in a fluffy mood. Shikamaru sucks at making up names. The title is also a name of a Jack Johnson album.
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