Four months later...
He dreamed of clear skies. The clouds that floated overhead were white and fluffy, carrying no rain, and the breeze that blew through the sky was cool against the hot sun.
Shikamaru looked around at the forest that had grown. The trees stretched out as far as he could see, overflowing with flowers and fruit. The grass beneath his feet was long and thick, a carpet that showed none of the sand that had once been the landscape's singular feature. He smiled, relaxing against a tree to look at the clouds.
His eyes were caught by something other than the clouds. She sat on a low branch, dress blowing in the breeze. A smile lit her face and his heart skipped a beat.
"Temari-chan," he held out his hand toward her.
Shikamaru shot awake as he felt something smack him in the forehead. He looked around, still disoriented. Shikaku sat across from him, flinging children's wooden shuriken. He must have fallen asleep on the couch.
"You're lucky it was me who caught you sleeping. Your mother would have used a real shuriken," Shikaku intoned lazily.
Shikamaru looked around, regaining his bearings. His memory returned to him slowly, and he remembered why he had fallen asleep sitting up. He had been waiting. "What time is it?"
"Time for you to be awake," Shikaku said with a sly smirk. "Judging by the pretty young lady heading toward our house."
Shikamaru's heart jumped into his throat. He hadn't expected to be so nervous. "She's here? What a pain."
With a sigh he staggered to his feet, brushing off his rumpled hakama. Yoshino would have a fit if he didn't look at least half presentable. He looked over at his father. At least he wasn't the only one who looked completely uncomfortable in formalwear.
But for a man's engagement, he had to try.
It was traditional for his parents to meet the party that were heading toward his house, but Shikamaru hadn't seen Temari in three months, and wasn't as blessed with restraint as some men his age were. He walked to the front door casually, letting himself savour the anticipation but wanting to end his nerves.
She walked along the dusty roads of Konoha, barely recognisable against the glare of the sun. Kankurou was talking with her, they were most likely bickering about something. Gaara's arm linked through Temari's, acting as her guardian although everyone knew that even the Kazekage would never dare refer to himself as such. Lastly, Neji walked beside Kankurou, their stone-faced Nakodo.
It was amazing to see her walking down the streets. He had stayed in Suna for a month, taking her out every day, holding her hand as she shook with fear until she could go out without him being there. Now she walked in a foreign place, the skies stretching out around her.
Shikamaru felt his heart thump hard as he realised that she was wearing the junihitoe that he had seen pinned against her wall. She wore his clan colours proudly, and she looked so good in them. The wind tossed her loose hair, playing an image of blonde and tan and brown. She somehow turned the colours of the forest into those of the desert.
He had never wanted this. An ordinary wife, one that didn't make his heart pound and his palms sweat, that was what he wanted. Someone who let him think clearly and stay rational. The woman who strode toward the Nara compound was none of those things. Temari always defied his logic, tore apart his dreams. Somehow she always wrecked his plans. Now he was going to have a wife who was too pretty, too sexy, as powerful as himself if not moreso, and definitely a pain. And he had the feeling that she'd done it just to spite him.
"Shikamaru!" Kankurou called to him from down the street. "Looking sharp!"
Shikamaru felt his cheeks go pink. Temari elbowed her brother in the chest and quickened her walking pace, yanking Gaara along with her. He noticed that she wasn't carrying her tessen. He hadn't seen her without it for a long time.
He stepped out of the doorway, his hands twitching as he fought the urge to grab Temari and haul her up to his room. She broke out of Gaara's grasp, stepping forward quickly so that they were face to face. He paused, unused to greeting her in front of her brothers, with his mother surely watching through the window. He settled for wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. His whole body sighed with relief to feel her body against his. Temari buried her face in his neck, her eyes closing. They didn't need to say that they had missed each other.
"Shikamaru!" Yoshino's shrill voice filled the air. He was yanked away from Temari by his collar and glared down at his mother. She glared back. "You two shouldn't even be seeing each other until the engagement is final."
"Ah, troublesome woman," Shikamaru grumbled, grudgingly stepping away from Temari.
"Yoshino," Temari stepped forward obligingly, taking the older woman by the hand. He had been right about them, they liked each other more than enough to cause him trouble. "It's lovely to see you again."
Shikamaru blocked out the womanly chatter that followed as his mother led her into the house. Those two were going to be the death of him. A hand clapped down on his shoulder and he turned to see Kankurou grinning at him. "Your woman troubles have just begun."
"Tell me about it," he grouched, rubbing the back of his neck.
"And now you're part of the family, you have to answer to me."
Shikamaru saw out the corner of his eye his father greeting the other two men and allowed Kankurou to lead him inside. "I thought I already did."
"Too right." The puppeteer sauntered through the Nara house as if he owned the place. "Today's the big day. You nervous?"
"No," he lied. "Temari should be, she's going to be related to my mother."
"Your parents are going to get grilled by Gaara."
Shikamaru smirked. Gaara was committed to not killing anyone, his parents had made no such oath. Five years ago he would have agreed that Gaara was the scariest man alive, but now he wasn't so sure. Yoshino and Shikaku would have torn the young Kazekage apart if they didn't like Temari so much.
The back room was set up for the meeting. Shikamaru and his father were not fans of tradition, but Yoshino had insisted, and both Sabaku brothers had stuck to their guns. Temari had to do this right. Not that they were really doing it right. Doing it right would involve Temari playing the part of the blushing bride, and Yoshino the demure wife. Neji would have to take the lead in negotiations, Gaara and Shikaku making arrangements for the couple's married lifestyle and Kankurou would remain silent. No one was kidding themselves that much.
Still, they had made an effort. The nine engagement gifts had been prepared for the clan, they at least had a Nakodo, and much to Shikamaru's chagrin he and Temari had to be seperated during the discussions. He kneeled on the floor next to a privacy screen, which divided him from his princess. The long sleeves of her junihitoe were the only thing he could see other than her silhouette.
People moved around him, but he didn't see them, his eyes glued to the shadows that danced beside him. She was watching her brothers, her face a perfect profile for him to ogle, his mind tracing the arch of her nose and pout of her lips. She smiled, watching Kankurou flop down onto the floor with all the grace of a burly man. The others in the room were all taking their places, and Shikamaru vaguely recognised that a bowl of sake had been placed in front of him, but never shifted his gaze from the beautiful image before him.
Their families had started talking, just murmurs to him. Gaara would say something, then Shikaku, then Yoshino would correct them both. Temari was watching intently. He couldn't hear a word. He wanted to talk to her. The last time they had seen each other he had been nursing her back to health and repairing Suna, giving them barely a minute to themselves. Now that he had her here he wanted to hear every second of the last three months over a game of shougi, get to eat her amazing cooking, then spread her on his bed and make love until sunrise. The thought sent a shiver of anticipation down his spine and he found himself itching to end the conversation that the others were now well into.
With a smile he subtly formed a hand sign and latched his shadow onto Temari's. She let out a gasp and the family fell silent, all eyes turning to them. Shikamaru gave them a questioning look, hoping that Temari was doing the same. "What?"
With a few suspicious glances the conversation continued and Shikamaru pulled his sake closer, forcing Temari to do the same. He dipped a finger in the bowl, then traced it across the floor, leaving glistening streaks that evaporated almost instantly, remaining just long enough for her to read as he wrote on the floorboards.
You look great in that dress.
He couldn't look at her without making her look the other way, but he could feel the smile on her face. She let out a barely audible sigh, it sounded happy. Shikamaru dipped his finger into the drink again.
I love you.
The chatter around them was in full swing now. Neji was arbitrating what sounded like a debate between his father and Kankurou over the academy structure in Suna. Great, it hadn't taken them long to get distracted and start dragging the afternoon out.
Temari laughed softly, then sort of hummed an mmm sound, giving him his answer. He smiled. Usually he would have taken the opportunity to catch a nap, but having Temari around made him want to cause trouble.
Shikamaru suddenly froze up, letting out a cough as his father's shadow caught him. He covered up his cough with another and watched his hands trace out a message in front of him.
Your mother's onto you.
Shikaku's shadow retreated and Shikamaru glanced at Yoshino, who was eyeing him disapprovingly. Damn, caught out. His fingers twitched and he stilled them by rubbing the back of his neck. Three months had gone past, and now Temari was sitting just a few inches from him, but untouchable. He wasn't even allowed to see her smile. This was a pain.
So he was stuck staring at her shadow again, letting the words tumble by him, refusing to touch his sake. He wanted to be 100% present when he could finally talk to her. His eyelids felt heavy with boredom as Gaara and Shikaku discussed the relevant immigration details. They could take days to talk about everything.
With a frown, Shikamaru reached out again and slid his shadow around his father. Shikaku instantly scowled, but didn't give him away.
Can we hurry this up?
He released the jutsu and gave his father a pleading look. Shikaku nodded, turning back to the conversation. He waited patiently until Yoshino finished speaking.
"We have a lot of details to work through," Shikaku rasped, his face taking on its usual hardness. "But I think the real question is, do we want these two getting married?"
The was a pause in the room, no one wanting to break the silence until Gaara looked directly at Shikaku, his face impassive. "Yes."
The older Nara shrugged. "Then with the permission of our Nakodo, we'll let the lovebirds catch up while we sort out the finer details."
Shikamaru had never appreciated his father as much as he did at that moment. A smile quirked on Gaara's lips and Neji nodded solemnly. Shikamaru felt Temari's fingers tangle with his and he was yanked to his feet.
Temari dragged him out of the room and he didn't look back.