Shikamaru paced in the hallway outside the Hokage's office. The sun had set, the ANBU guards were already chasing down Yamada, and he could only hope that they'd succeed. If they didn't then his fate would be in Ino's hands.
He was restless, wishing he was out there with them. He needed to be tracking the bastard down. But in Temari's body his chakra was all screwed up, her wind body trying to mingle with his shadow soul. He could swing a heavy fan around but to properly fight he'd have to learn chakra control from scratch. So here he was again, useless.
Temari was slumped on a chair, silent, waiting. She hadn't really spoken to him since the previous morning.
Shikamaru felt doubly frustrated. He felt like running, from both Yamada and Temari, finding somewhere he could lie on the grass and watch clouds in peace until both of them stopped existing. Two enormous burdens pressed down on him, uncertainty and guilt, and he could do nothing ebout either.
It wasn't the right time, but he had to have a shot at easing at least one of those burdens.
"Temari... I'm sorry."
She seemed startled to hear him speak, breaking her from her reverie. Unfortunately her suprise didn't channel any sympathy. "I don't want to hear it."
"Look, I didn't mean for this," he tried to explain, desperate for her to hear him. He wasn't sure what he wanted to say, he just needed her to understand. Maybe he didn't have a good reason, but he wasn't some creepy pervert who had been waiting for any chance to get his hands on her.
"It's not the kind of thing that happens accidentally." The tone of voice made his insides shrink and clench. That same curt, dead voice she had used the day before, eyes straight ahead. "What's done is done, nothing we can do to change it. For what it's worth, I understand."
"You do?" The acceptance caught him by surprise.
Tired eyes raised to meet his gaze. "A combination of sexual frustration, a foreign body at your disposal and an unresolved crisis on our hands? Yeah, I can see why you'd do something stupid."
"So... you're not mad?" The guilt that was crushing his chest eased slightly, letting him breathe.
"I'm... I'm not mad," she said after a moment's consideration. "I'm disappointed that you didn't have more restraint. For now I just need some time."
Time. He could give her time. Maybe. It seemed like the hardest thing to give her, and not just because they would be very close until Yamada was caught. The real cruelty was that he wanted to examine her from every angle until he caught the root of her disappointment and found a way to redeem himself. That was impossible, until she was ready and maybe afterwards as well. Maybe unassuagable guilt was his punishment.
"Whatever you need." If that was his punishment, he'd accept it. She needed him. Not just now. Always. Their accidental confession the day before had sent him into a tailspin. Yeah, right now he needed her to assure him that he wasn't the idiot he was being treated like. But that was just right now. When they were back in their own bodies she would need him. And he'd need her.
It felt like he had always needed her. Hearing it out loud had been a shock, but after a full day to think about it, since the first time he'd been set up as her escort, she was the highlight of his year. Temari-sama, who didn't give him pointless choices that he had to think through, she just told him what was required of him. Temari who made him want to overthink things, challenging him mentally, more like a game than a troublesome conversation. Tem, who needed him like he needed her.
He'd been an idiot.
The Hokage's door opened, Shizune poking her head out. "You can come in, we have news."
Shikamaru glanced at Temari and followed Shizune. Tsunade was standing by the window, Pakkun sitting next to her. The little pug lowered his head in their direction.
"We've apprehended Yamada Tenchi," Tsunade spoke first. "Unfortunately his extradition must be postponed."
"Postponed?" Temari gasped. "Until when?"
Tsunade's face was grim, she was unusually emotionless and Shikamaru knew that it meant there was real trouble. "Until we figure out how to get him out of my ANBU's body, which he hijacked to escape."
"An ANBU's..." Shikamaru looked at Temari. So that's how he had escaped, switched his soul into one of his guards. Dammit.
"Yamanaka Inoichi currently has Yamada under guard at his clan's halls, and he has requested your presence, since you two are the only ones who have fought him and seen his techniques." Tsunade turned and stared out of the window, pensive. Shikamaru rarely saw her like this, Ymada had probably taken someone important.
"We'll go immediately, Hokage-sama," Temari responded for him, nodding to Shikamaru to follow her.
The Yamanaka clan halls were surrounded by people. Shikamaru counted at least fifteen ANBU immediately. There were several medics and a flock of Ino's relatives. The hall wasn't used a lot, it contained the scrolls for the techniques of the clan and was mainly used as a training ground for the youngsters.
He and Temari had made the decision to transform into themselves so that none of the highly attuned Yamanaka clan would be able to tell they weren't in the correct bodies. If anyone could spot a mind out of place it was these people.
Temari paused before advancing to the onlooking crowd. Her calm demeanor hadn't cracked, although he knew that she was probably all nerves. This was not a situation either of them wanted to be in. Her teal eyes pierced his as he stopped with her.
"Kiss me," she commanded.
The request caught him by surprise, but by now he was used to Temari's surprises. Without hesitation he leaned down and softly kissed her lips, calming his own nerves with hers. Their eyes held each others' for a few seconds before she turned to walk forward, but he stopped her.
"Temari, wait," he didn't know what was possessing him, but he needed to do this. Her stare turned back to him curiously. "Be with me."
"What?" Temari looked almost amused by the request. "Can't this wait until we're feeling more like ourselves?"
"No," he shook his head. "I want to ask you this now. Even if you're me and I'm you forever, I want to be with you."
Temari didn't answer, but a grin pulled at the side of her mouth as she struggled to contain it. Finally she gave him a cheeky smile and pulled him forward.
The beautiful blonde clansmen watched the pair advance to the enterance and check in with the ANBU. Yes, they were expected.
Inside the hall was mostly empty, a huge blank space, taken up by a circle of nin conducting some kind of ritual. The figure in the centre was held in complete stasis, not even breathing. Obviously they had somewhat raised the security after Yamada's shenanigans.
Inoichi and Ino were conversing with two ANBU captains, looking serious. They were trying to figure out what to do. Heck, he'd been trying to figure that out for a week and had made zero progress, maybe it was time to talk to the experts.
"Shikamaru," Inoichi greeted. "We'll skip the pleasantries. What did you see this man do?"
Shikamaru thought for a moment, trying to find a way to reveal Yamada's technique without insinuating that he had ended up displaced from his body. "He made a hand signal similar to Ino's mind control sign."
"Did you get caught in it?"
Good question. "At first. He switched my body with a squirrel's."
"So he probably uses one of our clan's forbidden techniques," Inoichi nodded, glancing at the captains before turning back to Shikamaru. "The Yamada clan is closely related to us. So how did you get out of the squirrel's body? Did the technique wear off?"
"No." Shikamaru rubbed the back of his neck, trying not to meet Inoichi's eyes. "He transferred me into an eagle."
"A multiple target technique," the older man nodded. "Maybe the wind swap jutsu. But we need to know if it will wear off. How did you get back to your body? How did you subdue him the first time?"
"Well, uh..." His mind searched desperately for a euphemism. He didn't want to throw off a serious investigation, Inoichi needed accurate information. At the same time, Ino was standing right next to him. Avoidance was probably the best. The second question was easiest to answer. "Temari' was nearby. Her fan knocked him out."
The older Yamanka was obviously aware that they weren't disclosing everything. He rounded on Temari. "How did you manage to get that close without being caught in the jutsu?"
Temari didn't speak, a nervous smile crossing her face. "He wasn't expecting the attack."
"Shikamaru," Inoichi growled at him. "How did you get back to your body?"
He was stuck. There was no way to avoid or euphemise himself out of that. He and Temari exchanged looks, knowing that they were caught. Shikamaru tried to stutter out an explanation but found no words.
Ino's giggle made everyone turn to her with angry glances. The blonde held up an apologetic hand, but her laughter was soon coming in gasps. Shikamaru closed his eyes. Damn.
"You... didn't..." she gasped for air, her face reddening. "You didn't... get back... did you?"
The guilty silence only increased her hysteria until the young kunoichi was doubled over, holding her stomach. The silent group watched as she fell to her knees, tears rolling down her face. Inoichi turned from his incapacitated daughter to the young couple.
"Is that true?"
Shikamaru sighed guiltily. He looked over at Temari, who looked equally chastened. They raised their hands in unison and released the transformation jutsu. Temari glared at the ground. "Turns out it doesn't wear off."
A scream of laughter echoed around the room from Ino. Even the ANBU had started chuckling. Inoichi's face was lit with an amused grin. A bubble of laughter erupted from his lips. He quickly straightened his face, but a grin was still tugging on his lips. "Okay, kids, I know what we're dealing with now, we'll get this straightened out."
Still smiling, Inoichi started flicking through the scrolls at the back of the hall. He seemed to find what he was looking for and consulted the text for several long minutes while his daughter composed herself.
"Okay, got it." Inoichi turned back toward them, his hands forming the Yamanaka seal.
As a sense of relief washed over Shikamaru, Ino leaned toward him and whispered, "Shikamaru, you will never live this down."
The dread that filled him was stilled as Inoichi's hands refocussed on Temari. With a jolt, Shikamaru was seeing the world from a different perspective.
Temari burst from the Yamanaka clan hall, her elation laid bare for all the world to see. Because she was herself again. Her voice, her eyes, her arms and hands and fan. Her body! She was in her own body and it was the best thing she had ever felt.
Sure, Gaara would probably be receiving a letter from Ino shortly. She would be welcomed back to Suna by Kankuro's howling laughter and maybe a party thrown for the occasion. There might be an official document on the matter so that she could be certain never to live it down. But she didn't care.
Shikamaru grabbed her hand, grinning as broadly as she was. She lead him along, all anger at him forgotten. She thought she needed time. What she really needed was this. This and the carefully constructed revenge that would soon be executed. The thought only made her face brighter. Her body, her boyfriend and her whole life ahead of her.
Temari leaned up to him and stole a kiss as she pulled him toward the embassy. They were laughing as they stumbled through the streets, pausing on corners to tangle tongues and press bodies together before one would pull away and drag the other onwards.
By the time they reached the embassy they were bordering on public indecency, and Temari gratefully hauled him upstairs, unceremoniously ignoring her attendants. All their problems could be dealt with at another time.
Shikamaru pressed her her against her bedroom door, lifting her off the ground to get closer. This time she let herself cave in to her pounding heart and boiling blood. He felt so good. Temari clawed at his vest and shirt, his hands squeezed her thighs, she moaned into his lips.
He opened the door and they scrambled into the room, clothes strewn across the floor quickly. Shikamaru slammed the door and tackled her onto the bed. Finally, they were themselves again.
Temari giggled to herself at their reflection in the mirror, this was the best feeling in the entire world and it was about to get even better. Just as soon as he followed her gaze...
"Umm, Temari, why do I have your name tattooed on my ass?"