A/N: For Soo. I've given a try to a different thought process for this fic. Each part is inspired by one of the songs on the Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge by The Pierces; some fit entirely, some have a line that is just right, and others just set the damn tone. Unbeta'd. Written before 429 happened.

In Thirteen Steps

[better lock it in your pocket, taking this one to the grave]

The sun slips through the window, glaring at the start white hospital room as if it's the culprit for the desolate Konoha above which it must shine today. The patient occupying the room is too busy resting to notice.

Fifteen minutes later, the door to the room slides open, and a medic-nin slips inside. She's efficient, going through the motions as if she knows them by heart now. Chances are, she does. She checks the vitals, adjusts the IV, everything to keep her mind off of what'll happen in a few days. She even waters the plants and refills the vase with peonies before setting it back on the bed table. When she's fluffing the curtains before sliding them shut and locking the sun away from the room, the patient on the bed slips one eye open. She sees that, and jumps at the opportunity to prolong her stay. Anything is better than what's beyond these doors.

"Welcome back, sleepy-head," she says, smiling without the happiness reaching her eyes. It's not wonder, he thinks—who could be happy after a war?

"I'm not dead," are his first words, his fingers twitching as if they're missing something.

"No, you're not," she answers, and she says it like an accusation, or so he thinks. Then she moves and fills him a glass with water before moving to help him sit. Her hand is cold against his clothed back, and he wonders if she is dead, but that's not logical at all. He drinks the water, and gives her only a look which he hopes she'll be able to understand.

Whether she does or not, he'll never know. She helps him lie back again, before pulling a chair. "There is something I have to tell you," she starts, her fumbling betraying her nervousness. Haruno Sakura has only ever behaved like this for one reason, and that was the traitor. So what made her like this was a mystery to him.

"Go ahead," he invites her.

"Chouji," she starts, avoiding his eyes when she sees his face contort in pain. "He's in a coma. We—the medic-nins on his case are not sure if he'll--"

"Of course he'll make it," he shuts her up, glaring at her for even daring to think otherwise. He dares to think that this isn't the worst news he could get. Chouji could be dead. His family-- "What else?" he asks.

"You mean...statistically?" she asks, and they both realise that neither is saying the word 'body-count' or 'victims'. He nods, and she looks down at her hands. His eyes follow and he notices her hands are too red—from blood, he realises. "I lost count," she breathes out, standing up so suddenly that the chair scrapes on the floor too loudly. "Naruto—Naruto came back at the last minute," she says, eyes fixed on the wall behind him. "All the Peins are dead, but..."

"But?" he urges. This is not the time—and he wants to know.

"There are more enemies. Worse than him. More powerful. At least, from what one of the Peins said. It—it seems like Uchiha Madara is still alive. And Sasuke is," she takes a deep breath, "He's joined the Akatsuki."

"What a moron," he whines, turning his head to look out the window. His mind is already spinning with plans and options and who-knows-what, so he barely hears her bitter laughter. It's refreshing, in a way, to discover that Haruno Sakura's not crushing on that bastard. Not because he cares about her or anything, but out of the whole village, she's the most normal girl. The scariest, too.

"Thanks for helping decode the message—without it, many more people would've--"

"Yeah," he interrupts, and they both shudder slightly while trying not to think about it. "Anyone I know?"

She tightens her fists at her side, shoulders shaking once. "Tsunade."

His eyes narrow and he snaps his head around to look at her. So that's why she's like this. "I'm sorry," he says, knowing how it feels to lose a mentor.

"Mm," is her answer, and she gives him a feeble smile before turning around and heading for the door. Talking hurts her now, and she needs to get out before they both start smoking and drinking together. "I'll be back tomorrow," she promises, and leaves him with the silence again.

[nothing thrills us anymore, no-one kills us anymore]

She's drunk. He can tell this the minute she slides the door open suddenly. She usually is quiet and careful not to disturb him, but tonight she does everything possible to wake him up. And that includes slamming a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of sake on his bed table, dragging a chair over, and plopping herself down in it.

"What?" he asks, looking at her like she's being stupid. He thought Sakura didn't drink. Then again, he didn't smoke either, not before Asuma's death.

"You're the only one who'll really understand," she murmurs, giving him a silly smile as she grabs the bottle and takes another drink. "Everyone's mourning a Hokage," she sighs, dropping her head back against the chair. "It's not like that for me."

"Don't get drunk," he tells her, shifting in his hospital bed and pretending it doesn't hurt.

"Don't move," she orders, still a medic deep down. She throws the pack of cigarettes at him, and goes back to drinking silently. He plays with the pack in his hands, conscious enough not to open it and take one out. He's drugged enough on morphine to add to it with cancer-sticks. He wants to laugh at the irony of Sakura bringing him cigarettes, since she was so against him smoking during the time they'd spent together cramming over the coded message. She was also the one to help Shizune hide the sake from Tsunade all the time, too.

After a while, he's playing with an unlit cigarette instead, and she feels the need to fill the silence. "Everyone's lost a Hokage, but I've lost the one person who...saw behind the weakness...who saw the potential," she says, looking at him with drowsy eyes, smiling when he looks back with understanding. "It feels as if beyond her, no-one will understand me. Like no-one'll keep pushing me to be more."

He doesn't say anything, shifting in his bed again, snorting when she orders him to stand still and not missing a lighter with which to light the cigarette. She's cruel in her suffering—selfish. Getting drunk on her mentor's memory but denying him the pleasure. So when she pours him a glass, and slurs "For the Godaime", before finishing the bottle alone, he is silent.

And when she falls asleep in the chair, he doesn't care.

[I am stopping you from falling, 1-2-3 don't you dare go down]

"It's today," she says, slipping inside his room again, dressed in black and carrying a wheelchair in one hand.

He lets her carry him from bed to sit him in the chair, whining all along about how girls shouldn't be the ones carrying guys around. "Should I call Gai-sensei for you?" she asks, half-stern half-joking, so he shuts up and lets her tuck a black blanket over his lap. He watches her attach the IV machine to the chair, and speaks before they exit the room together.

"Why're you always here?" he asks. "Doesn't Naruto need you more?"

She smiles a sad smile, her hand pressing against his shoulder. "Oh, he does. Like he needs everyone else. The whole village is very supportive of their hero," she answers, moving ahead to slam the door open.

"So you're eclipsed," he observes. Logical. So now after all this time, Naruto finally has the love of his people. He wonders who it is that Sakura needs, and hopes it's not him. That's a too complicated story waiting to happen and turn tragic.

"It helps me disconnect," she murmurs, and they're out in the hallways.

Five minutes later, he realises why it does. They've been stopped three-four times by villagers in need of healing or comfort—and Sakura could never deny them that. By the fourth one who tells her how much like Tsunade she is at times, Shikamaru decides to help her out, and fakes a stinging pain to his legs. It makes the crowd disperse quickly, leaving him in the hands of the capable Hokage-copy. She doesn't thank him, but she smiles at him and it's enough for him to get it.

"When did you last sleep?" he asks, when the burrial ground shows up in the distance.

"In your room," she answers, and he doesn't point out that that was four days ago. Shikamaru's brain is fast, and he slides his eyes over her tired form, and draws conclusions.

Her mentor's died in the war, and her team-mate is receiving so much attention that she's turned out to be replaceable. She doesn't sleep because there's always someone coming to her, suffering, asking her to help—and she helps because it's easier than sleeping, no doubt. And she comes to his room, because even though Ino's clued him in on what's happened and how many deaths occurred after he was defeated, he's still not in the eye of the hurricane.

"Next time, bring a shougi table," he tells her when she wheels him to the front of the lines. Because she's not a normal girl after all, he rationalizes. She's not crying like the rest, and she's not collapsing like some. She's unmovable and silent and smart, and when her sadistic streak is subdued, he can actually stand her.

Five minutes later, he learns why she's like this. When Iruka passes by and offers her his condolences, he sees how she's ten times more tense.

"Sometimes I hate him," she tells him, later, on their way to the hospital. "If he hadn't sent me to the hospital, I could have--"

"Look around you," he orders her, and she looks. The streets of Konoha are full of bandaged people working on rebuilding their houses. "If you hadn't been in the hospital helping out, all these people'd be dead. She would've wanted it this way," he tells her. It's the second time he tells this story, and he hopes she'll understand it as much as Naruto did. "This is what we've been fighting for."

"A dying village?" she snorts, sceptical.

"Is that what you see?" he asks, giving her a reprimanding look. "We've survived because you helped them survived. Tsunade would've rather the village survive than otherwise. Don't insult her memory by regretting it."

She takes him to his room in silence, puts him back in bed in silence, and heads to the door in silence. "I'll still need time," she whispers.

"Yeah," he says, playing with the pack of cigarettes again. "So did I."

[if you could only feel my heart race, and see the light on my face]

"You look like a moron."

He wants to say something hurtful in return, but concentrates in walking the next two steps. He hates therapy, it shows him how close he was to dying and how close he is to not walking again. After all this is over, he decides, he'll ask Kakashi for a transfer to some Strategy department, and start to look for that wife and house with white-picket fence.

"One more step," she says, her hand pressing against his back. Her hands aren't cold anymore, which is a relief.

She's not exactly what he had in mind for the wife, but she's the only female he sees nowadays that isn't Ino. Thinking about Ino makes his head hurt, because it makes him think about Chouji. Chouji, who has yet to wake up from the coma, even though Sakura keeps telling him he will, and he believes her.

"That's a good boy," she murmurs approvingly in his ear when he takes the fourth step. Whoever said he wasn't capable of feeling anything from waist below clearly hadn't counted with Sakura whispering in his ear. The shudder makes him sway slightly, and she straightens him up by bringing a hand around his waist. When she's pressed against his back like that, he lets out a loud sigh.

"The roles are seriously twisted," he complains, and grabs the bars stubbornly, starting to walk again.

"Well maybe things don't always end up as you want them," she answers, walking around to stand in front of him. The smile she gives him makes him think of how it'd be if he was the one grabbing her and whispering things into her ear instead. He shakes his head again, and sways again. One of her hands wraps around his waist again, while the other is pressed against his chest, and he can feel her breath on his neck and just knows she's smirking.

He mutters something about knights in shining armour and she tells him something about not needing to be saved, and they laugh to themselves secretly, looking to the side and pretending they're not blushing as he carries on walking until he's managed to take thirteen steps.

[do I kid myself to think that I am your one and only?]

The days Chouji wakes up, Sakura rushes to his room and slams the door open, a grin on her face. He has no idea what the hell is going on, and she doesn't tell him. Instead she practically throws him in the wheelchair and almost runs over a few nurses as she rushes them to the room in which Chouji is. When his best friends asks for food, twenty minutes later, Shikamaru doesn't know if to laugh or cry so he does both.

She takes him back to his room in the evening, and he thanks her once he's in bed already. "I told you he'd wake up," she answers, and gives him a sad smile as she promises to take him back to Chouji's room the following day.

For the next week, he only sees her during one or two times. She reassigns him another nurse for therapy, and another one to take him to see Chouji. By the third day, though, he doesn't need the wheelchair, as he's back to being able to walk the distance. He misses her reaction to each step he takes towards recovery.

He meets Ino more often in the hospital cafeteria during lunch, and tries to slip in subtle questions about Sakura. Ino tells him that Kakashi's put her in charge of teaching each shinobi how to heal their teammates. She tells him how Sakura's barely seen off the training grounds, and when she is it's during lunch with Naruto and Team Kurenai, or helping Kakashi in the Hokage Tower. "It's not that she doesn't want to come around," the blonde says, knowingly, "It's that she's found other people who need her more than you do."

Shikamaru tries not to think about what that's supposed to mean. Obviously this means that he knows what it means in two minutes flat. He says goodbye to the white-picket fence that night.

[we'll paint the town pink, cause baby, red is so passe]

She's there when he gets out of the hospital—she's the one to sign the release papers, in fact. She keeps smiling and looking at his legs whenever he takes a step, and by the time they're outside, he's frustrated.

"Will you stop that?" he snaps.

"I'm sorry, it's just that...it's amazing," she says, smiling sheepishly. "I finally realise what you meant," she continues, taking hold of his arm and leading him down the streets to her favourite restaurant. They sit at a table in the corner, with views to the street, and she spends half the time watching the people pass by.

"What did you realise?" he asks, finally. He's surprised at himself for not protesting to lunch with her in a public place, nor with the fact that she's paying. There has to be a reason for them to not stick to the old traditions. The man should be the one to pay.

"We're fighting for this new generation, to honour the old one," she says, digging into her food with a hunger that is very much unlady-like. It makes him smile. "Kurenai gave birth today," she tells him, excited and grinning. "I was there, and helped her through the labour. She told me something...about loving other ninjas, and how it's only reasonable that we do. After all, who else would understand better than another ninja that which we fight for?"

"What are you telling me that for?" he grumbles, swallowing down mug after mug of tea.

"I think...You're made for great stuff, Shikamaru," she answers, reaching over the table to put her hand over his. He suddenly feels small and exposed, and hates her for it. Her smile turns forlorn again, and pulls away. "I'll take you to see her and the baby after we eat," she says, and finishes her meal in silence.

When they're in front of the maternity ward, later, he doesn't feel bad for returning to the hospital so soon already. She stops just outside of Kurenai's door and smiles at him. "I need to go back to training now," she says, and leans up to kiss his cheek.

He's stunned at the gesture, and apparently, so is she. "I'll see you around for shougi," she tells him, hand pressed to her own cheek as she turns around and rushes out of there full speed.

He stares at the dust she leaves behind her before stepping inside Kurenai's room.

[all that I want is for you to come crawling back]

Two months after the war in Konoha, Naruto returns from a mission, carrying Sakura in his arms. Shikamaru, who's on guard at that moment, sees them coming from a distance, and can't help but rush to their help—running with the legs she helped him heal.

"Sasuke," is all Naruto says, and his grim face says everything. Shikamaru takes Sakura from his arms, moving his hand to press it against the gaping hole under her ribs, and instructs Naruto to head to the hospital for a check-out too, before leaping to Shizune's offices.

"Sasuke," is the first thing she says, one day later, when she wakes up. Shikamaru only gives her a solemn look before helping her sit to drink a glass of water.

Two days later, she asks him who turned him into her medic, and he tells her he's returning the favour. "Setting the tables straight," he mumbles, and sets the table for them to play shougi when Sakura starts to ask him about where Naruto is.

He isn't one to butt into the life of anyone. He's let Ino and Chouji rebuild their lives after the wall, standing in the sidelines and smiling knowingly whenever Chouji invited the blonde over for lunch. War has taught many people many things. In between all these things was that one should not wait for their retirement to find someone to hold at night. Most people listen to that advice. Shikamaru's seen couples appear like mushrooms after the rain. But there are a few stubborn people that still refuse.

Like himself.

Like Sakura.

She doesn't tell him what happened with Sasuke, so he does the next best thing, and asks Naruto about it.

"He's gone," the boy says, his jaw tight with tension. "Still alive, but he won't return here. We killed Madara together," he continues. "The three of us, like a team. Bastard almost got Sakura, but...she's fine now." The future Hokage rubs the back of his neck sheepishly, and looks away. "Then I told him about how the elders were all dead and about how I'd be Hokage in a few months and how he should come back to Konoha with us, 'cause I'd absolve him and shit." He pauses, silent for a long time. "He came with us to the entrance into Fire Country. Helped me carry Sakura the fastest possible. Then he just...said he had nothing left here anymore, turned around a bailed. Bastard."

Shikamaru ignores the young man's tears, and turns to look at the hospital behind them. "Did Sakura hear it?"

"Yeah," he answers. "She tried to call him back. Struggled. The wound opened again, and I had no choice but to—I had no other choice." Naruto presses his forehead to the table. "She hates me."

"She doesn't hate you," Shikamaru tells him.

"Then why won't she look me in the eye when I visit?" the other complains.

"Because you always visit with Hinata trailing behind you. How do you think she feels when everyone's got someone to love and the one she loved told her she's not enough to keep him grounded?"

Naruto thinks this through, then hits his head against the table. "I'm such a moron!"


"Say," he grumbles, pointing at Shikamaru accusingly. "How come you know what she thinks so well?"

Shikamaru gives him a look, then pays for the bill. He stands up, and promises Naruto he'll fix Sakura up, before leaving.

He finds her in front of the open window, in a wheelchair. "Planning to jump?" he jokes, sliding the door behind him shut and approaching her.

She doesn't answer, just looks at him with sad eyes that say everything now that he knows. Shikamaru crouches in front of her chair, placing his hands on her knees. "If I were him, and I'd have had someone like you, I'd have never even left."

Sakura looks at him for five seconds before tears burst out and she falls forward, pressing her forehead against his shoulder. It's the first time he doesn't complain about crying girls and the pain in the ass they are.

[if we built an army full of tender bodies, could we love each other, would we stop to feel ]

"Noticed how we only see each other in the hospital?" she asks him one night after he's won against her at shougi for the fourth time.

"That's not true. We went to lunch once," he tells her, re-arranging the table again. He's learned one thing during shougi with Sakura. She never gives up, even if she knows she can't win. He likes that about her, because she plays with her head not with her pride. It's one game she's adept at.

"I think we should definitely see each other more than just in the hospital," she continues, as if she didn't hear him.

"Fine, I'll drop by when you're helping Kakashi."

"No," she cuts him off, moving a piece before looking at him. "It's been two weeks, and I'm not bed-ridden anymore. Why are you here?"

He shrugs, uncomfortably looking away. "I heard night-shifts are boring and I couldn't sleep."

"Ask me out," she interrupts, moving one of her pieces into checking him.

Shikamaru stares at her, for five long seconds. Then he lowers his eyes and moves himself out of the check. "What about the Uchiha?"

"He's not coming back. I don't need him," she says, her tone sharp and convincing to anyone but herself. "Ask me out."

He doesn't speak, moving to checkmate her. "That's enough for tonight, I'm going to bed," he says, standing and stretching out.

She stands up, toe-to-toe with him, almost menacing in her determination. "Ask me out."

He sighs, and mumbles something about troublesome bossy women, before cupping her face with both hands and leaning in. "Maybe," he answers, and smiles when her breath hitches in his throat. "Later," he whispers, brushing his lips against her as softly as a feather, before rushing out of there.

She throws her shoe at his head and shouts angrily about how he's not that hot, and he chuckles to himself. Checkmate.

[and it was the final straw, though I never knew just what he saw]

He returns from mission on a Sunday to find her at the gate. She's nibbling on a piece of dango and has her arms crossed in front of her chest as she leans against the gate. He passes her with a smirk and stops to talk to the guards. Behind him, he hears Ino muttering some orders to Sakura and he suddenly finds himself pushed forward as Sakura is pushed into his back.

"Sorry," she mutters, looking at the spilled dango on the ground before turning red with anger and ready to shout at Ino for it.

"Come on," Shikamaru says, grabbing her arm and leading her towards the village. "I'll buy you a new bag."

He hopes Ino realises she owes him one. Dealing with an angry Sakura is never nice. He doesn't really want to get punched or anything, and since he got paid already, he can afford to buy her a bag of dango.

Only it turns into a full-blown dinner, and two ice-creams as he walks her home. He talks about politics with her, and she glares at him the whole time like there's something he's doing wrong. When they're two blocks away from her house, she lets out a frustrated scream and slams him against a wall. "Are you an idiot? What else do I have to do, write it on my forehead?" she snaps at him.

He can't keep a serious face for the life of him, but he'd rather die than let an angry Sakura see him laugh at her anger. So he does the next best thin: grabs the back of her head and crashes his mouth against her.

She kisses him like the world is ending the next minute, and he likes every second of this apocalypse.

[you insist on teaching me what I already know, absence makes the heart grow fonder]

He must've been stupid when he decided to take up to his favourite hill. Sakura is far too rational to spend a whole day cloud-watching, he learns. After the second hour, it shows.

"Trust me, that is not a rabbit. I mean, I've worked with rabbits enough to know that the skull is shaped differently—it must be some sort of mutant rabbit, maybe," she says, her hands making wild gestures in front of her.

He wants to strap them to the ground. "We're not supposed to guess the shapes," he whines. "It's just cloud-watching."

"You mean there's no purpose?" she sounds almost insulted by this. Her genius...whatever he is to her right now just stares at clouds. Like a moron. "What a useless hobby. I mean, what's the point of sitting and just staring a the sky--"

"It's relaxing," he says. "When people're quiet, at least."

She ignores the last remark. "It's not healthy to stare at the sun for long amounts of time without protection—you'll end up wearing glasses, and do you have any idea how horrible that would be?"

"I bet you'll tell me."

"You'd be demoted! Transferred to some other department underground where you'd have to work on paperwork—or maybe as a janitor."

"Well if it keeps you away," he quips, turning his head to give her a smirk.

"Oh," she bristles. "I totally would. Glasses would lower your level of attractiveness by...three hundred percent."

"That's not mathematically possible," he sighs, turning to sit and look down at her.

"It is in my book of hotness," she retorts, sitting up as well to give him a defiant look.

"And who's first in that book?" he asks, tilting his head. "Is it the Uchiha?"

She narrows her eyes at him and crosses her arms. "What brought this on?"

"Are you over him?" he blurts out, because he doesn't want more trouble in this troublesome friendship-with-benefits.

"You know I am," she growls, launching herself forward with a well-aimed blow at his jaw. "What the fuck, Nara! Are you breaking up with me or something?"

"We never really went out," he points, and ducks the second blow, rationalizing that it's turned into a fight. Or a spar. Troublesome.

"I thought you asked me out!"

"I said I'd replace your dango."

"You kissed me!"

"Because I didn't want you to punch me."


He pauses there, lost. "Why what?"

Suddenly, Sakura stops attacking him like a mad housewife on a craze, and plops down on the ground, avoiding his eyes. "...am I not enough?"

Shikamaru can only stare. "The hell?"

"Ino told me you dreamt of marrying a village girl and having kids and growing old, and I though maybe I could show you that kunoichi can be a perfect partner too, but I guess I was wrong, because I'm obviously not enough..."

He rolls his eyes, and stalks closer, still weary of her fists. He sits down behind her and wraps his arms around her, bringing her closer to his chest. "You are," he says. "Troublesome. But you're more than enough."

"What then?" she grits out, eyes fixed on the ground.

"I don't want to share you with him."

She looks up at him, then laughs a bitter laugh. "Shikamaru...we need to not be stupid and insecure if this is going to work." He can't agree more. Even in regards to the 'this' part being a relationship. "I've been over him for a year now," she whispers. "But he's still my teammate. I'm still allowed to remember him and be sad about his absence."

That much, he understands. He brushes his hand down her shoulder, down her arm, covering her hand with his. "We should go out," he finally says, burying his nose into her hair.

Sakura lets out a frustrated sigh, and laughs. "You're such a moron."

[some people say that I want you for your money, but I really want you for your body]

Shikamaru has never hated his life more than when Kakashi assigns him the job of teaching the academy students about sex. Not because the little buggers are giggling and asking stupid questions, but because she is there, in the doorway, watching him with an amused smirk. And he holds a condom to the class, and wants to die of embarrassment.

When the class is dismissed, he crashes into his chair and hits his head against the desk repeatedly.

"Not what you were looking for in a job?" she asks, sliding the door shut behind her. He hears a lock sliding into place and only wonders why the hell classrooms have locks.

"I hate kids," he mumbles.

"Mm, Kakashi said that too, and now he's a Hokage," she teases, coming to stand behind his chair. "I thought you were good," she says, putting her hands on his shoulders. When she starts to rub his back, a light-bulb lights up in Shikamaru's head. "Maybe lacking a bit of...field-experience, though," she murmurs in his ear, biting it.

"Demon woman," he breathes out, grabbing her hands and bringing her around. He traps her between him and the table.

"Practice makes perfect, you know?" she grins, hopping on the table and pulling him between her legs. "I read this chapter in Icha Icha..." she says as she wraps her legs around his waist and he knows he's a doomed, doomed man.

[I'd love to put our love into motion, but I'd have to ask myself why]

"Give in?" he murmurs against the skin above her navel, smiling when she laughs at being tickled by only his breath.

"Only when I'm not right—which by the way, I am!" she snaps, slapping his hands away from her sides.

"You give me no choice," he sighs, acting out to be so bothered by this predicament. But really, he's not an idiot. And no-one would be bothered by a naked, flushed Sakura. She rolls her eyes above him at his cliché reply, and he counts his lucky stars on her left hipbone.

"I forgot what we were arguing about," she breathes out, slipping her hands into his loose hair. She arches when he presses his mouth to the inside of her right knee, and tugs him up until he's pressed flush against her.

"Yeah," he says, licking the side of her neck with practised slowness. "I forgot too. Lost count after the third time."

She chuckles low in her throat, and he feels it under his lips—it makes him grind against her hard, makes her pant out a moan and spread her legs for him. "Must've not been important," she says, sliding one hand between them to tease him like she knows best.

"Definitely not important," he acquiesces, and shifts until he's inside his favourite place in the world. She arches, and he grins against her breast. "But obviously, I was right," he says, knowing it will only spur her some more.

"God, I hate you!" she groans, digging her heels into his ass, arching and moving with him in a frantic dance. "Stubborn ass."

Shikamaru laughs against her skin, and teases her again because he loves playing it risky.

[hold me until all the prayers that go to heaven get an answer]

Things don't always end up the way you plan them. Shikamaru is always stunned to realise this, as his plans always end up exactly as he plans them. But life is twisted and Shikamaru is apparently her bitch, but in the good way.

Sakura is loud, impulsive, stubborn. She's full of fire and passion, and he didn't think he'd have the motivation to keep up with her, but he learns as years pass, that she knows him well enough to convince him that she's worth it each night.

He changes his plans, and decides that spending the rest of his life as a ninja would be just as fine, as long as he had her to wake up to each morning. He doesn't even need the picket fence, or the dozen children, because those are just misconceptions he got as a child of how grown-up life should've been. But when his father looks at him, there's a smile on his lips; when he visits Asuma's grave with her, he feels him there, accepting and happy. So maybe he finds one thing he shouldn't plan on. Sakura teaches him that the best things in life always come unexpectedly, and he listens and learns even if he should know this, as a genius.

When it comes down to it, wars and blood are just the large clouds of storms. But Konoha's strength in recovering, in healing, in learning, in growing—that is the real silver linning. He knows this, because it takes him all that time to realise that even though things don't always end up as planned, he's not bothered by the way things have ended up like at all. Long ago, he would have been perfectly happy with Chouji at his side and cloud-watching forever. Nowadays, he still is a man of basic needs: his friends, his quiet time, the wide open sky above him. And a very dangerous and troublesome woman.

Any changes that come to turn the tables and twist their lives around, he will face. He will fight. He will adapt to. As long as he can keep to these basic needs forever, he doesn't care what else arrives.