Hi my loves, I've got great news! I FOUND MY INSPIRATION! Although I've lost a lot of readers and people who honestly read this story, I feel like it may have been worth it considering I don't want to just throw some crap on a document and submit it. That'll only disappoint you guys in the end. Plus this getting a degree stuff is taking up more time than i would like right now.

I refuse to keep you too much longer just because I know this is the moment you all have been waiting for. Don't forget to tell me what you think my loves. I love you! Review! There will be more soon.


Bittersweet

Chapter 29

Tenten bit her lip, a tad uncertain about Temari's attempt to surprise Shikamaru with a surprise visit. Not only did the Suna Princess not know that the news had already been slipped to him, but Shikamaru was a bit detached from the world.

It had been two days since she had last hung out and spoken with her best friend. She figured it'd be best to leave him to his thoughts, even if it was just for a little while. He had a lot on his plate dealing with his life and she wasn't helping him by being there. She was starting to see her involvement in his life wasn't going to make it any easier.

Temari wasn't in the city, yet but it wouldn't be much longer. She peeked at her clock once again; it was 7:04 in the morning and she was up. She had tossed and turned the whole night before simply because she knew today was the day. The day that they would be reunited after his departure.

Maybe it was wrong of me not to give him any advice of any kind except to tell her, she admitted to herself. She didn't give him anything to go off of except to make sure he does tell her. But that was simply for his sake. If Temari found out later, she'd probably kill him.

The Weapons Mistress sighed and closed her eyes. Today was the day.

Neji shifted and lifted his head, peering over at her. He scoffed and laid back down when he saw that she was awake. She had been so restless that night; he wasn't sure who had gotten any sleep at all. She had kept him up all night with her constant movement as well.

"Tenten, what is wrong with you?" he asked tiredly. He had a mission and he had to meet with Tsunade in a few hours. Now he was dreading it more simply because he didn't have as much sleep as he would have enjoyed. She already knew that he wasn't a morning person, or one who didn't enjoy their sleep being interrupted.

She had heard him move, but she wasn't aware that he was awake. She didn't want to worry him too much, if any at all. She knew how he got about her getting involved with her friend's personal lives. She shook her head before turning around to face him, planting a light kiss on his bare forehead.

"Nothing, love. How was your sleep?" she asked softly.

"I hardly got any at all," he replied tartly. She frowned, realizing that he was shooting one of his infamous icy glares at her, putting the blame of his lack of rest on her. He merely sighed before turning over, trying to get somewhat comfortable again. "If it has to do with Shikamaru, then you need to relax. He should feel relieved if anything."

"No, he shouldn't. It makes me feel sick. Just like I felt the first time it was even mentioned it. He's hurt, Neji," she stated calmly. "Wouldn't you be?"

The Hyuga sighed once more. From what he knew about the situation, it must have been a huge weight off his shoulders, but at the same time, It was extremely stressful and must've felt like a huge loss, a blow to himself as a person. Neji had never experienced anything that the Nara Prodigy was currently experiencing.

"I really don't know. It must be a bittersweet taste in his mouth."


It felt weird whenever Temari was being escorted into the village without Shikamaru as her guide even though everyone knew she didn't need one. They had gotten into a bit of a routine; he'd walk her home to drop off her fan, then they'd always go out for a late breakfast at her favorite shop in Konoha. It didn't feel formal at all like with these other officers. Another huge difference was the fact that Kankuro was still latched onto his sister; his overprotective nature wasn't going to die down any time soon, even though they were safely inside the walls of Konoha.

Temari had tried to veer off into the city, leaving Kankuro to handle the political mission alone, but he wasn't going to let her get off so easily. He knew exactly where she was heading too. Somehow, the Sand Princess's older brother's had started to figure out what had happened between them even though they had hardly any proof. Gaara was one who refused to speak on it until there were facts in his hands. Kankuro on the other hand was rather abrasive and controlling in terms of her since she had revealed that there had been something going on.

Temari tried to be patient to some extent, but his behavior was nothing of the ordinary. She partially blamed the incident that had happened, but even then she felt like the Puppet Master was coming off a tad strong. She would only start to lose patience over time at this point.

Even though she usually got away with putting off her mission priorities, Kankuro was here with her, making sure that that didn't happen. That was another factor that wasn't of the norm. Even though she knew that her brother loved to procrastinate, they both knew he just didn't want her to be going off alone even in a city that she felt she knew fairly well.

"We're going to see Tsunade to handle business first. This isn't a pleasure trip, Temari. You know that more than I do," Kankuro reminded her in an agitated tone.

"I know this! I just..." she sucked her teeth before folding her arms across her chest. There was no talking to her younger brother at this point. He was being an asshole in terms of business. That's how she felt at least. "Whatever, Kankuro. Let's go."

They continued on the path to the Hokage Mansion, Temari in a pouting state as if she was a child. She had felt like she could breathe again, and all she wanted to do was take it all in, explore, go to her favorite places. And there she was like a caged bird, unable to fly and stretch her wings. It wasn't until she saw Shikaku and a woman with long black hair in the market together that her mind shifted her attention to them instead. The woman seemed to have been scolding him about the produce she was trying to buy.

Although this woman seemed stern in discussing the food, she had a loving demeanor to her body language and how she talked to Shikaku. They both smiled even though she had been speaking to him in a rather negative tone. He seemed to be trying to downplay whatever they were discussing, something only a part of Shikaku's nature.

Before Temari help herself and Kankuro could stop her, she called his name and waved to him, catching his attention. The woman looked as well and gave him a look of suspicious questioning for an explanation of who this woman was who was calling him. She didn't look like someone who lived in Konohagakure; in fact she didn't look familiar to her at all. Her attire alone wasn't even suited for the climate of the area. It wasn't until she saw her headband that she realized she wasn't from the Leaf.

"Who is that girl?"

Shikaku smiled uncontrollably when he saw the Sand Princess approaching him with her escort and her brother. It warmed his heart to see that she looked a lot better. She seemed to have been recovering pretty well even without his son. The color in her cheeks was present and her smile said a thousand words. He was rather relieved to see her well.

He could sense his wife's suspicion in her voice about why a woman more than half his age was trying to get his attention. He kissed his wife's forehead briefly, a gesture that even shocked her for once. Public affection was rare even for her loving husband.

"Shikaku, wha-"

Offering his hand out to Temari to shake her hand, he greeted her in the most respectful way he knew, as well Kankuro. Yoshino was mildly bothered that he still hadn't answered her question; the kiss wasn't going to distract her. She hated when he dodged them like that.

"Temari, how are you? Kankuro," He nodded to her younger brother. He nodded respectfully back before Shikaku turned to his wife and pushed her forward a bit, leaving her at a loss for words for a moment.

"Hello," she said sweetly with the warmest smile she had to offer as soon as she found her voice.

"This is my lovely wife, Yoshino. Yoshino, this is Temari, Shikamaru's friend. Kankuro is Temari's younger brother," he introduced. Temari's eyes lit up; she somehow kept her cheeks from flaring of from excitement. She was meeting the infamous woman that she had been told that she resembled. Temari offered her own hand to shake the mother of the man she loved.

Yoshino knew instantly who this girl was by the way Shikaku said 'friend'. This was the girl that had her son torn to bits about his wrongdoings. This was the same woman he left in the middle of the night to go aid in her recovery. This was the woman that her son was in love with.

Yoshino took her hand, shaking it as well. Temari was nothing like Ino, the girl that she thought her son was interested, the one he grew up right beside his whole life. This girl was a bit tougher and definitely older. From what she could tell, she was a kunoichi, but there was no denying that she was a beauty, a natural beauty at that.

"How are you? Are you just now getting into town?" Yoshino asked politely. Temari nodded briefly.

"Yes, we'll be in town only for a week but it's a nice little break from Suna," she said with a lighthearted laugh. Kankuro gave his sister the hardest side eye. Since when did she laugh like that with people she hardly even knew? This was only aiding in his overprotective nature of how buddy buddy she was getting.

"Well, we'd love to have you over for dinner tonight. What do you say?" Yoshino offered. Shikaku's jaw dropped at his wife's offer to the young girl as well as Temari's.

"Uh, Yoshino, I don't think-"

"Hush, Shikaku," she cut off abruptly. Temari giggled and Kankuro mildly stared at how whooped this guy was. His wife ran him into the ground despite who brought home the bacon. Suddenly his expectation for his son being a controlling kind of man was lowered. Temari was more likely to run him if they were involved.

"Well, what do you say? Tonight? At six? I'm sure you'll see Shikamaru by then, just be sure to tell him," Yoshino offered once again with a grin. "I know you would love a homecooked meal after a long travel like the one you've just finished. Kankuro, that goes for you too."

He blushed at the mild acknowledgement of his presence. He hadn't even tried to make himself seem noticed in the current situation simply because he knew he had no connection to these people besides his sister. He didn't even care for the scrawny shinobi that was this woman's son. And now he was being invited over for dinner; It didn't feel right.

"N-no, ma'am, I couldn't invade-"

"No, it's fine! I love serving guests. I don't get them quite as often as I'd like. The only frequent guest I always have is Choji and we all know he'll eat us out of house and home," she noted with another laugh. Both the Sand Siblings felt a sweat drop on their head. Both considered it surprising that the woman could cook enough to feed that one boy alone.

"I'd love to, Mrs. Nara. Only if you'll have me," Temari said gladly, only feeling her mild excitement increase. She hadn't had a homecooked meal since her mother died. Memories of her cooking and sending the chefs home for the weekend was a faint memory that she missed. Even though the cooking wasn't bad back home, there was no better thing than a mother's touch.

"Yes ma'am, I'll go as well," Kankuro answered quickly when Yoshino's eyes flew to him to hear his response. The woman clapped her hands in delight, excited to cook for a household filled with guests.

"Lovely! Well, I'll be seeing you all tonight at six! I have some shopping to do, it seems!" she said with an even wider grin that spread upon her lips. "Come, Shikaku, we have to go. It was nice meeting you all! Don't forget!"

The woman pulled her husband down the street, waving goodbye to them as she started to turn the corner to head to the nearest bakery. She was already trying to concoct what she was going to serve tonight; everything needed to be perfect. Shikaku finally managed to release himself and stop his wife from proceeding any farther. The head of the Nara Clan could only run his fingers through his hair.

"Yoshino! Why would you do that?" he asked in a rather peeved tone. She blinked twice, especially at the tone her husband had clearly been displaying.

"What? I can't have company over when I want? You said it was Shikamaru's girlfriend," Yoshino said in a snippy tone before sticking her nose up. "I want to get to know the woman who's having my grandchildren."

"You weren't so quick to contact Ino over for dinner," Shikaku muttered under his breath. She shot him a glare before looking away. That was a low blow, even for her husband.

"Well, we all know why I'm not going to be inviting her over for that," she sneered. Shikaku groaned before face-palming himself. Shikaku tried to breathe as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

"That's the main reason why you shouldn't have invited them, Yoshino. I don't think she knows about anything," Shikaku explained. The Queen wasn't moved at all by her patriarch's words. "You're putting a lot in Shikamaru's lap right now and it's not fair to him at all."

She shook her head before waving it off nonchalantly.

"I know my boy. And he'll be fine." He scoffed. She was something else, that wife of his.

"That's all you have to say? That's all?" he said in disbelief. She chuckled lightly to herself, as if she were laughing at an inside joke.

"There's a method to my madness, Love."


Shikamaru sighed, flicking Asuma's cigarette lighter. He felt an immense cast of déjà vu over himself, over his entire body. The feeling of an immense loss was sucking him dry from all he had. He never thought he would have cared as much as he did, but he did.

He was lying in the middle of his bed, staring at the wall in the middle of the darkness. The sun hadn't peered into his room over that oak tree by his window just yet. That was usually his alarm, but he didn't need one on a day like this.

Ever since he had moved out, he couldn't sleep long. It was like his body knew that it was in a foreign place and that it needed to stay alert. He still wasn't used to being in a home alone, his own apartment, especially not for long periods of time. It was quiet and being so close to home was like a comfort zone.

He had made the decision to move out before he had even returned to Konoha, but all he needed was a when. As soon as Ino revealed her pregnancy to be true, he knew a lot of things were going to have to change, especially with his living arrangements. Now…

His phone beeped, a simple text message from Tenten asking if he was okay. It was early, even for him. It was almost nine-thirty, and that was only early whenever he didn't have to work. Regardless, even he knew by heart what time Temari would be arriving at Konoha.

"Eight eleven," he said to himself with a light chuckle. He put his phone back down, not even bothering to reply to Tenten's question. No point in it. He wasn't okay, but it didn't matter if he was. There was just too much on his mind for him to be "okay". He reached over into his nightstand and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

All he could think of was the day he and Asuma were actually training alone and his mentor had a cigarette in his mouth, even when exercising. "It keeps me level, my stress down. Clears my mind. May not be the best thing in the world to make it happen, but it does the job for me."

Shikamaru lit yet another cigarette as the memory raced through his mind like a constant record, Asuma's voice speaking like a skipping record. He inhaled the cigarette, the tip of it lightening that fiery orange, before holding it in for a moment, exhaling it out. He recollected to when he had been smoking that evening after Asuma's funeral. It was a painfully soothing method. The worst part of it to him was the bad taste it seemed to leave in his mouth.

Once the cigarette diminished into nothing, he put it out into an ashtray that had come with his new abode. He sighed, feeling a natural, yet foreign desire to start smoking another one. He smirked to himself before sitting up and stretching. That's how they get you hooked…

He figured he would have to get up, get dressed, and start going to search for Temari. He hadn't informed her that he was living in an apartment. That would leave to many questions he wasn't ready to answer. Not to mention she never went to his house because of the fact it was his parents' home. She'd probably have tried to call me by now but…nothing. Probably handling some political business with Tsunade at the Hokage Mansion.

He felt the urge to get a sense of panic. What if she had gotten attacked again? What if she was in trouble? What if…?

He tried to calm himself but he quickly got up now and washed his face, brushed his teeth, all the usual morning things he does to get ready for the day. He found himself rushing for some reason now. His whole mentality from when he first woke up went from zero to ten in an instant. He stopped himself, trying to make himself relax a little bit. Never had he felt so high strung.

"How bothersome," he groaned to himself.

When he finally managed to bring himself down and level his mental state, he found himself ready to go find his girl. He pulled on his Chunin vest and shoved his phone down his pocket, preparing to make his exit. He made sure he had his house keys and separated the one that required him to lock his door. As soon as he pulled the door opened, he dropped his keys.

"Hey there," she said with a mild smirk on her face. Shikamaru was at a loss of words. He stammered unable to speak any of the rushing thoughts that were clouding his mind. Temari's smirk spread even farther across her face when she realized how surprised he was. Even though she knew he hated surprises, she loved how shocked he managed to be when she got him good enough.

She walked into the door, looking around as if she was inspecting his new home. She pulled her fan off her back and leaned it against a wall in a corner.

"Not bad, not bad… Small, but homey. A nice place for one person to live alone, comfortably," she critiqued. She walked over to the refrigerator and opened the door, frowning for the first time. "But how unsurprising, you have no food in this place you call a home." As she turned her heel and headed to his bedroom area to critique next, Shikamaru finally found movement in his body to finally move and follow her."

"Temari! How did you-"

"Find out where you lived? I'm a ninja, I can find out anything I need to find out if I really want to find it out," she said with a calm tone. She headed to inspect the bathroom next.

That only gave Shikamaru goose bumps. She had a point. He wasn't expecting her to be in front of him so fast. He was having a hard time processing it. Not to mention, Temari did have a good way with finding out things that she wanted to find out.

"Uhhh, Temari? How's everything been though?"

"Ugh, you can tell this bathroom is a man's bathroom. Do you not know how to clean for yourself? Or has living up under your mother for so long made you incapable of doing so?" she remarked rather crudely. Shikamaru's face frowned almost immediately.

"I usually clean it on the weekends, Temari, it's Thursday for Kami's sake," he barked defensively. "You've got some nerve; don't you live with maids and people who take care of your household cleaning? You probably can't clean worth a shit."

"Not so, I live on the opposite side of Suna, away from my brothers and their maids and chefs and butlers, thank you!" she corrected before turning around, seeing Shikamaru's face not so pleased anymore with her arrival.

"That's the Maru I know," she said, grinning, "Not at a loss for words anymore I see. I love your witty comebacks." She walked over to him and folded her arms, giving him a rather enticing look. "Are you just gonna sit there and look at me or are you gonna kiss me like you know we want you to?"

Shikamaru's frown struggled to stay strong; he knew her comment had pissed him off a little, but it couldn't overwhelm his feeling of joy when he was rejoined with this woman that he felt so many things for. He opened his arms and pulled her into an embrace, kissing her on the forehead.

Everything he remembered, everything he missed about her had returned almost in an instant. The smell of her hair, the feel of her skin, the sound of her voice; the feeling of being complete was there for him and it was a unique feeling he had never felt before with anyone else.

"You didn't answer me earlier. How have you been? Are you feeling alright?" he asked sincerely. She sighed as how she felt in her arms. It was moments like these she knew she would live for even though they would more than likely always be apart. It made it feel worthwhile.

"I've been good, actually. Gaara's required me to start going to therapy again. The therapist is also doing a procedure on me whenever I go with my consent; it's a bit of hypnosis," she said nonchalantly. Shikamaru pulled away from her to make eye-contact.

"What exactly do you mean, 'a bit of hypnosis'?" he asked slowly. She pulled him to the bed to sit down on as she held his hands.

"We talk about what happened, but with my consent, I've been having a little hypnosis put in to help me cope a little better," she explained. "It helps me forget."

"Wait, what? Helps you forget what?" he said in a bit of a uneasy tone.

"It's not as bad as it sounds. It's something that helps lock away the most painful occurrences that happened with the attack. The actually feelings of terror, fear, things like that. I know what happened, but I don't recognize the feelings with the memory," she said calmly. "I know it sounds terrible, but I'm the one who suggested it. I need to get to back to what I did best, being a kunoichi. I needed to be productive. I needed-"

"Temari, I don't feel like this is how you should deal with what happened… You're not facing it at all," he said in a disapproving tone. Temari scoffed. "I'm not saying that-"

"You're basically calling me a coward," she snapped. "Because instead of sitting in a house all day, loathing and hating myself, reliving the most terrible event in my life, I decided to lock those feelings away and actually be worth something in this world?"

Shikamaru groaned slightly. This is Temari we're dealing with, he had to remind himself.

"No, I'm not, I'm just saying what if these things come back out and you have to face them again?" he asked hypothetically.

"They won't," she replied shortly. A sigh escape the Shadow Possessor again. He should have thought about what he had said before he said it like he normally did. "Do you have any idea how much better I feel right now? I feel like a human being again. I feel like I can actually focus and not feel like those thoughts invade every moment I want think about something else. It's-"

Shikamaru reached over and grabbed her hand, clutching it in his own. Temari froze in mid-sentence and looked down at where their hands met.

"As long as you feel better, I feel better. I just don't want you to backtrack from it later on. Those feelings that you're talking about, I don't want those coming back twenty years from now because a bolt or some shit is knocked loose in your head and all of it comes back to you like it just happened yesterday," he stated with a shrug. She sighed before laying back on the bed, a feeling of relief and exhaustion falling over her. She did just travel for three days.

"You that tired huh? No breakfast at Yakiniku Q today huh?" Shikamaru asked her before leaning over to see her eyes resting, her entire body relaxed.

"Why would I want barbeque for breakfast? What the hell have you been smoking Shikamaru?" she drawled softly. Shikamaru chuckled to himself as the memories of the barbeque shop started to flow back to him. Temari shot straight up in an instant and begun to sniff the air almost immediately. Smoke…

"Temari, what's-?"

His collar was yanked by her fist and suddenly her anger was spiking as seconds continued to pass. He was confused as to what had gotten her so worked up so quickly. She pointed to his nightstand where the ashtray and a recently smoked cigarette butt laid.

"What the hell is that?" she asked tightly, her grip on his vest only getting tighter. He rolled his eyes and sighed. He didn't even know that Temari didn't like smoking, how the hell would he know that it would bother her if she's never voiced that? Then again, it's never been something that he participated in either, so…

"Fine I admit it, I smoked one," he owned. "It was only one, it's not a big deal." Temari loosened her grip before chuckling, then starting to laugh even harder as if she was in on some kind of joke. "What, what happened? What'd I do now?"

"Oh nothing, nothing. It'd just be interesting when we go for dinner tonight at your place to inform your mother that you've taken up smoking," she said with a sadistic grin.

Shikamaru's entire face turned white despite all the confusion of where dinner at his parent's house came up. All of the blood in it drained almost instantly.

"You wouldn't."

"I met your mother today at the market when I first got here. She invited Kankuro and me to a family dinner at six tonight. I'm beyond excited to tell her about your new habit."

Suddenly Shikamaru's mind flashed to the thought of him being beaten to death with a frying pan. It was far worse than Temari's fan sitting in his living room despite the skills she had developed with it.