Disclaimer: I don't own the Naruto series.

A/N: If you haven't read RRR yet, I suggest you do that first. Although you can read this without reading RRR, why would you deprive yourself of understanding?


Shikamaru looked back fondly at the front gate of Konoha. He knew it would be several months before he could return to his home. Then, without any further sadness or sentimentality, Shikamaru set off in the direction of Suna.

The road was long and tedious. And dusty. More than once Shikamaru held his hand to his mouth and nose in an attempt to keep the dust out of his system. As Shikamaru traveled the dusty road, nightfall approached. Shikamaru unraveled his sleeping pack and laid it out on the ground. Once he had eaten and prepared himself for sleep, he laid on his sleeping mat. He gazed at the stars, noticing how they were all clear. That meant no clouds.

He had done some research on Suna before heading out. He knew that it was simply too hot in Suna for their to be any clouds their. This small detail might not have meant much for anyone else, but for Shikamaru, it carried some importance.

What am I going to entertain myself with now? Shikamaru wondered to himself.


The next day, Shikamaru could see the subtle signs of the desert beginning. There was less and less foliage and trees, and the remaining plants started to turn into more desert-oriented plant life, such as cacti and weeds.

By the second night Shikamaru had reached the desert. He took shelter under a lone, dead tree and drifted to sleep.


When Shikamaru awoke, the sight he did not expect to see was a shinobi standing over him. And when one shinobi sees another shinobi standing over him, shinobi A gets nervous and starts reaching for a weapon. Shikamaru was at this point when the shinobi said, "Hold your weapon, Shikamaru-san. I'm here to esort you to the Suna village."

Shikamaru continued to draw his kunai, but laid it at rest beside himself. "Suna didn't tell me anything about an escort." he stated. He took a moment to study the shinobi. He had dark, loose hair, and very tan skin. His face was handsome, and Shikamaru was sure the man was a ladies' man at parties. The shinobi's voice was very smooth-sounding.

"An unfortunate oversight," the shinobi said. "But it would have been foolish to let you walk into the desert by yourself. There is a reason Suna chose a desert as their home. If offers a natural defense against intruders."

Shikamaru nodded, seeing the man's logic. He only wished that Suna had warned him of this little detail.

The shinobi introduced himself. "My name is Koji. I have been instructed to take you to Temari-chan's home. You will be staying with her and Gaara-sama during your time in Suna."

Shikamaru nodded again as he packed his sparse traveling gear. When Tsunade first told him that he would stay with Gaara and Temari, he had been more than a little nervous. After all, Temari wanted to kill him most of the time anyway. And he'd never been that close to Gaara. Not that he'd wanted to get to know Gaara in their younger days.

Shikamaru finished packing and said, "Let's go then. I don't want to spend anymore time in this desert."

Koji nodded and they started sprinting through the desert.

Shikamaru took the opportunity to begin his assignment. After all, he wasn't on vacation here.

"So tell me," Shikamaru asked, getting Koji's attention. "what's Suna like? I've never been here before."

"It's my home. My family has live here for generations." Koji answered.

Shikamaru could tell. Koji's skin was very tan and dark.

"I'm probably not the best person to ask," Koji admitted. "I'll be more than a little biased."

"Well, let's talk about something else then. Temari, for instance. I take it you know her?" Shikamaru asked.

"Yes," Koji affirmed. "Temari and I have been friends for many years."

"So I've heard." Shikamaru said. "Temari talks about you when she comes to Konoha. You're the first person she buys presents for."

Koji smiled. "She talks about you as well. Although, the way she talks, I don't think you'll be getting any presents."

"What does she say?" Shikamaru asked. "I'm curious to know how bad she stretches the truth."

"She says a lot of...unflattering things about you." Koji said with a grin. "Very unflattering things. And she'll almost always mention how she saved you from that Sound ninja. But, of course, when she returned recently she told me of how greatly you helped her. Of how, without you, her stalker would still be alive right now."

Shikamaru shrugged. "I only did what was right. My friend was in trouble and I helped her. What other 'unflattering' things does she say?"

Koji shrugged. "A lot of things. I couldn't tell you how much is true. I think she makes up some of it to try and make me jealous."

"Jealous?" Shikamaru asked.

Koji nodded. "No matter what Temari says, we are growing closer than just friends. We were meant for each other. I know it."

"I uh… wouldn't know what that's like." Shikamaru said.

They continued the rest of the way in silence.


When they reached Suna, Shikamaru spent a good five minutes looking at al of the architecture. He was fascinated by all of the buildings made of sand. It was a wonder to him how the buildings came to be in the first place, but he supposed he would find out later.

Koji led him down several streets and avenues until they reached Gaara and Temari's home, the Kazekage's mansion. It was considerably larger than most of the other buildings around it, and looked as though it held several rooms. Koji said his farewells and left Shikamaru at the door. Shikamaru tentavaly knocked on the door. When no one anwered, Shikamaru cracked the door slightly and said, "Hello?"

When no one answered yet again, Shikamaru stepped inside, hoping he wasn't breaking some sort of rule or tradition by letting himself in. He stepped inside, looking around. He spotted a note sitting on an end table. It had his name on it. He picked it up, curiosity killing his cat. It read:

Dear Baka,

Neither Gaara or I could be here when you arrive. We'll be back in a few hours. There's some food in the fridge, so feel free to help yourself. Go ahead and unpack in the guest room, and feel free to make yourself at home. However, if you so much as gaze in the direction of my room, I'll make sure you never invade another woman's privacy so long as you li–

The letter went on in that vein for several more sentences and ended with:

rip your hands off. Oh, and you know what'll happen if you mess with Gaara's stuff. He should be back before I am. One of the perks of being Kazekage is leaving work early. See you in a few hours.

I'll kill you if you touch my stuff,

Temari

Shikamaru shook his head at Temari's antics. As he read the last bit of the letter, he grew nervous. Gaara and him? In the house alone? Where no one would be able to hear his screams? This didn't bode well.

Shikamaru stuffed away his nervousness. There would be plenty of time to freak out once Gaara was actually here. As for now, Shikamaru climbed the stairs to the guest room and started to unpack.

After he was unpacked, Shikamaru walked to the kitchen and raided the fridge, looking for anything appetizing.

While he was fridge raiding, he heard the subtle sound of a door opening. The front door specifically. A few foot steps heading Shikamaru's way. Closer. Closer. They stopped once they were just a few feet away.. The next thing he heard was, "…We also have instant ramen." from Gaara's cold voice.

Shikamaru nearly bumped his head as he ducked out of the fridge holding a bowl of leftovers. "Uh, that's fine…I can just eat whatever is left over from last night."

Gaara smirked. Or at least, made a movement with his mouth that Shikamaru took for smirking. "Save me some. We had my favorite last night."

"Ah, sure." Shikamaru said as he popped the large bowl in the microwave, while Gaara, still in his Kazekage garb, reached for two smaller bowls and two pairs of chopsticks.

The microwave beeped, and Shikamaru divided the noodle dish between him and Gaara. Shikamaru sat at the table, while Gaara sat across from him.

They ate in silence for a few moments, then Gaara opened up in conversation, to Shikamaru's surprise.

"How was your trip?" Gaara asked.

"It was fine." Shikamaru answered. "Although I didn't expect to meet Koji so quickly. I thought I might see him, but not so soon."

Gaara looked as though he had a bad taste in his mouth. "Temari talks about him, I see."

"He's the first one she buys presents for." Shikamaru said. "She seems to really like him. But I didn't think they were so serious."

Gaara's eyes narrowed. "Serious?"

Shikamaru nodded while eating his noodles. "Yeah. Koji and I had a chance to talk on the way here. He seems…very uh…serious about being more than…just friends with Temari."

Gaara's eyes narrowed even farther. He was clenching his chopsticks tightly. "Really?"

Shikamaru nodded, studying Gaara. "You don't like him, huh?"

Gaara gave him a curious expression. Shikamaru explained. "I was trained in profiling. Trained to look for and understand little expressions and such. Though they weren't that little in your case. Why don't you like him?"

Gaara shook his head. "I can't attach a logical reason to it. I get a bad feeling around him."

Shikamaru nodded. "Some people just don't like other people."

Gaara nodded, finishing his meal and putting his bowl in the sink. "Feel free to make yourself at home, Shikamaru-san. I'll be in my office, working on some papers."

Shikamaru put his own bowl in the sink, heading towards the living room. "You have to take work home? That must be annoying."

Gaara shrugged. "It comes with being Kazekage. Which I wouldn't trade for anything else in the world."

Shikamaru leaned against a wall and asked, "You really love this job, don't you? You love this village too."

Gaara nodded and looked out a window. "This village used to think of me as a monster. I used to be one. If I can make it up to them somehow, I will. If I can change their minds about me, I will. If I can do anything to help them, I will."

Shikamaru stared at Gaara for a moment before saying, "You really have changed."

Gaara headed for his office and said, "I'll take that as a compliment."


Shikamaru lied down on the flat roof of the Kazekage mansion, gazing upwards at the stars. He knew about two constellations in total, both of which he'd already spotted. Regretfully, he thought, this isn't as good as watching the clouds. But it comes in a close second.

He took a drag of his lit cigarette, thinking about where he should start his assignment tomorrow. That is, he was thinking about it until a hand reached out and grabbed his cigarette.

"No smoking in my house." Temari said, putting out the cigarette.

"I'm not in your house. I'm on top of it." Shikamaru deadpanned.

"I'm not taking any chances. You aren't going to make my place smell like smoke." Temari said.

"You realize smoke rises? There's virtually no chance of the smoke getting in the house. Precisely the reason I chose to smoke up here." Shikamaru countered.

"I don't care," Temari said. "If you want to smoke, do it down the street."

Shikamaru sighed. "Troublesome woman."

"It's good to see you too." Temari said with a smirk.


A/N: Sorry this took a little longer than I hoped to get out. But I've been having trouble with various things, including trying to get out of my AP Calculus class. I was successful, but high school has now officially challenged my personal sense of freedom. Also, as I understand it, it's good to have a plot before you start writing, so be thankful I waited.

Anyway, if you liked LLL, please leave me a review or even a PM. Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated.