Disclaimer: Don't own any of the Naruto characters.


Coward


He was a coward and he knew it. He knew it from the moment he came back from that failure of a so-called mission and his father never let him forget it. He was a coward and he'd learned to live with that fact. However, out of all the cowardly things he'd done, this had, by far, beaten all the rest out.

Kumogakure and Suna had both been going through rough times, they both neede each-others' help to survive. They'd had tensions in the past but the Raikage and Kazekage both decided that it would be for the best to bury the past and look to the future. So that's how this whole predicament came to be. They'd decided on an arranged marriage to seal the deal.

Temari was to be married to the Raikage's son, Aki, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. When Temari had first told him about it he'd spend hours upon hours just thinking of ways to beat out the system, to find a way to get out of the marriage. He pored over all the books on Suna, Kumogakure, and arranged marriages that he could his hands on. He'd make it a routine to go to the library at least once a day and he'd spend nearly the whole day sitting on his bed, books surrounding him, perched in his infamous "thinking pose".

He'd known that Temari couldn't simply betray her village and run away with him. She'd worked too hard to get to where she was, a world renowned wind mistress. She could never betray her village and she most definitely couldn't betray her brothers. After all that they'd gone through, she couldn't just leave Gaara to sort out the mess that she' left while she was away with Shikamaru. She'd simply worked too hard to develop the Sunans' trust and to advance in her career as a kunochi to leave with a flick of her wrist and a snub of her nose.

He'd also known that he could never leave Konoha. He had an important, albeit troublesome, role in Konoha. His clan was the only clan worldwide that was able to manipulate shadows and Konoha desperately needed an edge over the other nations, after all that had happened. He also was the sole heir to the Nara clan, the only one that knew all the secrets of the deer and their medicinal purposes. He could never leave his friends, who were the world to him.

So, after two weeks' deliberation and having planned out at least three-hundred possible outcomes, he chose the least troublesome for him, Temari, Konoha, Kumogakure, and Suna. He decided to give in, to raise his white flag in surrender. He'd made it official once he'd sent a letter to her brother, the Kazekage, saying that he had basically found another girl while on a mission and that, essentially, the Raikage's son could have her. He knew it was a low-blow and that a war could possibly be forged due to it, but he knew that if the hatchet weren't buried between Suna and Kumogakure both countries would suffer.

Once Ino had heard about his "surrender letter" as she'd put it, she was furious. The first time she'd seen him after the fact, she nearly tackled him. She yelled all sorts of obscenities at him and even went to try to deck him. She'd gone on about how Temari was the best he was gonna get and how his story about his so-called love-at-first-sight girl was was a load of bullshit. She also went on about how he shouldn't have let some "smug pansy-ass" have Temari. He was going to mention that the so-called "pansy-ass" was the Raikage's son and the Raikage could start a war over him interfering in such an important wedding but he decided not to tell her since he'd seen how violent she could get when tempted.

Sakura, on the other hand, was much more violent than her blonde counterpart. Once she spotted him she ran up and decked him, leaving a rather large blackening bruise on his cheek. She'd lunged at him, greeting him with a flurry of kicks and punches. Finally, he managed to get her in his Kagme when she then resorted to verbal abuse. Letting out a string of curses she most definitely wasn't supposed to utter, she ranted and vented, finally just wearing herself out and stomping away.

Tenten managed to do pretty well with balancing out her verbal and physical abuse. He'd been training in his old genin training grounds when she'd appeared, practically out of nowhere since he didn't even hear her. All of her various weapons in hand, she attacked him full head-on. Jumping in the air and sending volley after volley of weapons his way, yelling at him throughout the attack. Not being able to catch her with his Kagme, since she was in mid-air practically the whole time, he just stood there and took it all in. After the first few minutes she'd worn herself out, using all that chakra in such a short amount of time really wasn't good for anyone. However, when she stalked off he knew that this wouldn't be the end of it.

Hinata was one of the most scary of all. She'd come up to him as he was walking home. She didn't yell, didn't try to deck him, and didn't try to cut him up in a million pieces. She glared at him in a way that sent chills down his spine, it rivaled one of a jealous Neji or an extremely pissed of Sasuke, it was easily one of the harshest glares he'd ever received in his nineteen years of life.

His mother was, predictably, the worst of them. "Borrowing" her husbands' kunais she sent them flying at him, at an accuracy that was surprising for someone that hadn't had any training whatsoever. She'd sentenced him to the worst chores, such as cleaning up the deers' shit, and convinced Naruto to give him the absolute worst missions he could find. He'd spend his Sundays getting up at near five o'clock simply to do some C-ranked mission that was meant as chunin, heck even genin, work.

Thankfully, most of the guys sympathized with him. Although he hadn't told them exactly why he did what he did, it would simply take too long and be too troublesome for him, they somehow understood. It was like an agreement between the guys, if one was shunned by the girls they'd simply treat him to a sake and bitch about work, life, their love lives.

When he got the invitation he grimaced. He'd simply stared at the invitation as if it were a foreign object needing disposing of. On fine paper embroidered with a gold border and his name elegantly printed on in beautiful calligraphy, he couldn't help but be disgusted at how...un-Temari-like it was. He opened it begrudgingly and read:

The Raikage and Kazekage are proud to announce

The marriage of Temari of the Sand and Aki of Kumogakure

Located at the Kazekage's palace

On the sixth of June

At five o'clock

Please wear the appropriate attire (strictly suits and dresses)

With Regards,

the Raikage and Kazekage

P.S- Shikamaru, Please remind Naruto this means absolutely nothing with orange in it.

-Gaara

Shikamaru chuckled at Gaara's side-note and silently thanked his lucky stars that Gaara understood the complications of his decision and had remained on somewhat friendly-well as friendly as he ever was-terms with him. Although, he did have to hand it to Gaara, he knew Naruto well. Once Naruto had become Hokage he'd personally had his Hokage robes made orange. Yup, completely orange. Well, except for a black trim his robes were completely orange. Albeit different shades of orange, but still completely orange.

He weighed his options carefully. Either go to the wedding, which was quite the big deal and honor to be invited to such an important wedding, and be miserable and risk the chance of getting beaten up by Temari. Or he could not go, risk Suna and Konoha's relations, get constantly berated by Ino, Sakura, Tenten, his mother, and maybe even Hinata if she were in a particularly bad mood. He found it to be quite the troublesome choice.

Two weeks later and he was stuck in a stuffy carriage with eleven other people. The "Konoha Twelve" were all in dresses and suits, each very uncomfortable since they'd been crammed in a much-too-small twelve by twelve carriage...it was actually more of a wooden box with a thin tarp over it. The fact that it was nearing one-hundred degrees, compared to their usual cool temperature of eighty degrees, didn't exactly help their situation.

"Alright, we're here folks." a gruff voice said from the other side of the tarp. Tenten looked positively ecstatic and hurriedly jumped out of the barely-moving carriage.

"Thank Kami! I was dying in there!" she exclaimed as soon as her feet hit the ground. She faced the "heavens" and started twirling like a lunatic.

"Tenten!" Neji snapped, reprimanding her for such childish behavior.

"Hehe, sorry guys." she apologized, playing with the silk ribbon on the waist of her olive-green strapless dress.

"I-it's okay T-Tenten, Neji nii-san i-is just b-being b-bitter." Hinata reassured Tenten as she held her light blue dress up by the waist to keep it from hitting the concrete as she walked up to her bun-haired friend.

"Yeah, Tenten he's just over-reacting." Ino added as she hopped off the so-called carriage, straightening out her pale pink knee-length dress.

"I don't know, I mean you did look pretty ridiculous." Sakura teased, smoothing out her crimson dress. Tenten stuck her tongue out at her and Sakura laughed as she led them up the stairs and into the lobby of the Kazekage's palace.

"Hey Shikamaru, I wanna see Temari before the wedding, where's her room?" Ino asked once they'd gotten into the lobby, already looking down a hall and trying to guess which door it was.

"Why do you think that I'd know where her room is? Besides, she's probably not even in there." he said.

"You guys haven't...you know, yet?" Kiba asked incredulously, surprised at the thought of having a relationship longer than two months without doing anything further than kissing.

"Well, it's not like he goes to Suna a lot, I mean they probably just do it at his place." Naruto offered.

"As much as I love you guys talking about my love life, I real-" Shikamaru interrupted irately.

"Shikamaru. Temari's room." Ino interrupted him, snapping her finger in front of his face to get his attention. Shikamaru looked at her and, realizing that she wasn't going to let it go, decided the least troublesome thing to do would be to just tell her.

"Go down that hall, turn left, go up the stairs and to the right, third door on the left." he said, Ino looking slightly confused by the instructions. Sakura sighed and dragged Hinata, Tenten, and Ino with her as she began to follow his directions.

"So you have been in her bedroom." Naruto said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

"Yeah." he deadpanned, ignoring the aghast look from Lee (who just could not imagine the fact that a nineteen year-old guy could've done something like that already.

"Y-you've done something so intimate with someone already?" Lee asked, still recovering from his original shock.

"Sorry to break it to you, Lee, but I think you, Chouji, Shino, and Naruto are the only ones that haven't done something so er-"intimate" as you put it with a girl." Kiba said, patting him on the back.

"You have all done that with your special person?" Lee asked incredulously, looking at them expectantly.

"Yeah...Hinata." Kiba said once Lee looked at him in explanation. Neji glared at Kiba threateningly and refused to speak once Lee's eyes averted to him. However, after being stared down rather creepily by Lee, he gave in.

"Tenten." he said, causing Lee's face to twist in horror.

"Not our precious flower!" he exclaimed, his face aghast. He looked to Sasuke.

"Sakura." he said, enjoying Lee's reaction so much more than he should've. Before Lee had the chance to react the priest, or who Shikamaru assumed was the priest, came out and told everyone to find their seats, for the ceremony was about to begin. They sat down and picked up their programs; Matsuri was just two rows in front of them and there were two empty seats to the right of her.

Aki strode down the aisle, his dark brown hair combed back and his dark green eyes full of anticipation. The priest nodded in silent agreement and motioned for the orchestra to begin. They began the traditional "Here Comes the Bride" and when everyone stood up, Shikamaru realized just how many people were there. At least four-hundred people were packed into the main salon of the Kazekage's.

Gaara on her right and Kankurou on her left, her eyes were filled with determination and pride. Wearing a strapless white dress with a black ribbon across her waist, she was breathtaking. Once she spotted him she sent him a look of disgust mixed with pure hatred.

Before Shikamaru had left and gone into the carriage Ino had cornered him threateningly. She'd shoved a small, yet simple, gold wedding ring into his palm and told him that if he didn't "make the right decision" she'd do a hell of a lot more than "yell a few curses" at him. Well, what she'd call a "few curses" however her ranting had lasted nearly an hour. He'd spent the whole carriage ride and nearly the whole ceremony deciding between stopping the wedding and causing a whole riot, having to explain the whole situation in front of hundreds of angry and confused people, and simply letting it continue and getting yelled at by Ino, Sakura, Tenten, his mother, and, if she were in a particularly bad mood, Hinata.

However, he knew he'd decided to do the right thing. He stood by his decision one-hundred percent. Well, that was before she gave him that look. The priest had looked between the two and, without averting his gaze, asked "If anyone disagrees with this sacred union speak now or forever hold your peace." Shikamaru was perfectly comfortable with his decision before she looked at him, actually it was more of a split-second glance. However, now her eyes were no longer filled with anger and determination. They were filled with regret and sadness, having finally realized what she'd committed to. What she'd be bound to do once she said "I do."

He touched the ring inside his pant-pocket and sighed, muttering about how troublesome the whole situation was.

"I disagree." he said, watching as Temari let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding and as the Raikage sent him a look of pure fury. The priest, broken out of his peaceful bliss looked at him, shellshocked. Shikamaru felt all four-hundred some eyes bore into the back of his head and a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, after-all.

"E-excuse me, young man. What did you say?" the priest asked, disbelieving of the way this supposed "perfect" wedding had taken a turn for the worst.

"You heard me, sir. I disagree." Shikamaru repeated, causing quite a few of the four-hundred some peoples' jaws to drop.

"Erm...please explain yourself." the priest continued, obviously having never dealt with such a situation. Shikamaru looked to Temari, silently asking permission to reveal their now not-so-secret secret. She nodded stiffly and watched as he began recounting their tale.

"You see, I met Temari first at the chuunin exams. I think that a few of you actually know Temari so those of you that do probably have heard loads of crap about me. See, she was the first actually challenging opponent I'd had and then I'd considered her probably the most troublesome girl in the world, well second only to my mother. Although I'm sure that most of you have heard of, or seen, that years' exam then you might know how it ended. I was about to win and then I'd run out of chakra and given up..." he began. He continued on, telling of the Sasuke-retrival mission, the mission to save her brother, preparing for the upcoming chunin exams with her, and, eventually, their secret relationship...well secret to every village except the Hidden Leaf and Gaara and Kankurou.

"...and that's how I've ended up in this troublesome situation." he concluded, having cleared up quite a few things yet also confusing quite a few people. Temari, all the while biting her nails, looked to her brothers apologetically. The Raikage was red in the face and about to blow a gasket when a voice spoke up.

"Temari-san..." Aki began, turning Temari to face him.

"I-I'm sorry, Aki-san but I-" she began, only to be cut off by him.

"Temari-san, do you want to get married today...to me?" he asked.

"I-I'm sorry, Aki-san." she replied, tears brimming her eyes.

"Father, I believe that our business here is done." he said, turning to face his father.

"W-what?!" the Raikage exclaimed, his face still as red as a tomato.

"Well, it seems that both parties are unwilling to participate in the marriage union and, according to the third paragraph in the fourth revision of the terms for arranged marriages-" he began explaining, only to be interrupted.

"If both parties are unwilling and one of the countries backs out of the agreement then the marriage isn't to take place." Shikamaru finished for Aki, surprised at the thought that he had put into the arranged marriage. He'd read that line once over, however he'd paid no mind to it. He'd figured that Aki had to have wanted to marry Temari and that neither the Raikage nor the Kazekage would ever back out of such an important alliance.

Temari looked pleadingly at Gaara but his face remained unreadable. Matsuri tugged at Gaara's sleeve and whispered something in his ear. He looked at the Raikage, Shikamaru, Temari, and Aki.

"I am sorry, Aki of Kumogakure. However, I think that you won't have the chance to marry my sister." he said, smiling softly as Temari smiled brilliantly and a brown-haired woman came running from the third row and jumped into Aki's arms. The Raikage, looking positively furious and confused, simply blubbered abut how it was "impossible to call off such a wedding" and how it was "utterly disrespectful to deny such a right to my son".

Shikamaru smiled as Temari came ambling to him. Tears spilling down her face, her mascara was running and her eyes tinged with the slightest hint of pink. He pulled her into a hug and felt the ring in his pocket. Maybe another day, today was filled with enough drama to last a lifetime.


Author's Note: I'd love it if you guys would take the time to go onto my deviantart account http:// phoenixtears95 . deviantart . com/

(Only without the spaces in between) to see what envisioned the dresses to look like on the girls. I updated Sakura's and am in-progress with Hinata.