'There's nothing so bad for a woman as a man who thinks he's good'
-Rodger's & Hammerstein
Theirs was a strange relationship.
There was an energy present and she didn't know how it began. Temari didn't encourage it; she didn't flirt with Shikamaru, she didn't make unduly long amounts of eye contact with him nor did she ever think much about them together…but still, there it was, just the same.
She didn't know when it began either. If it had been there from the moment they'd met or something that developed over time like a habit or a compulsion.
She didn't even know if he felt it.
That was the infuriating thing; if she were ever to confront him about it, would he admit it? Or would he say she had made the whole thing up in her head?
Temari couldn't tell. That thought festered inside her more than the rest. Because even if she didn't want to call him her boyfriend, she didn't want to think that she had invented these thoughts in her head because she was lonely.
When she came back to Konoha after a time away the energy had still been there. It always presented itself between them; this awkward clench would appear in her stomach and she'd be hesitant to meet his eye in case it got any stronger.
But she did meet it, eventually; when he brought up his girlfriend with an odd kind of difficulty, like he had been trying to work it into the conversation ever since she'd arrived.
Temari had been expecting something like this to happen. Shikamaru was a popular boy and given enough time and enough women, eventually he would find someone who fit his 'un-troublesome' criteria.
Shiho was her name.
Temari had heard of the girl but never met her. She had heard she was smart. At least she fit him well, she thought. Better than she did.
After that the energy became tenser, more awkward but again she wondered if it was all on her part; if she was imagining the whole thing.
"She suits you," she had said, after seeing Shiho walking around Konoha with him one morning. It felt odd to watch him around her whenever she was so used to the two of them taking a morning walk.
Shikamaru gave her a look which she couldn't make out. One that almost suggested he didn't think she was sincere.
He nodded and they kept walking towards the Hokage's offices.
She had meant it genuinely. Shiho did suit him.
Things always became more awkward when they were out in public together, with other people. Friday night was 'after work drinks' night in Konoha and that meant that she had to stand in a bar with him whilst he only ever talked to her.
This night, however, Kiba was also talking to her.
She had to admit it, he was a funny boy. With Kiba, she usually laughed so hard that her throat began to close up. She didn't know if it was his humour or his stupidity but at any rate, when he started to speak, she began to crack up.
She also noticed that Kiba was buying her drinks and she was drinking them.
Temari didn't know what was happening; guys didn't chat her up. She was not that girl. She was the girl that every boy was terrified of; too opinionated, too strong and too independent to ever conform to what they wanted in a girlfriend. To be blunt, she was the exact opposite of Shiho.
But Kiba was buying her drinks and making her laugh…and she was flirting with him.
How much of it she was doing because out of the corner of her eye she could see Shikamaru watching them, Temari wasn't sure.
But when Kiba kissed her, she didn't stop him. It had been a while since she had kissed anyone and even if it was to annoy Shikamaru, she definitely enjoyed kissing him. He was good at it. He held her in all the right ways, pulled her close in a way that made her feel wanted and desirable. To be blunt, he was the exact opposite of Shikamaru. After Kiba had finished kissing her, Temari had no doubt in how he felt about her.
He pulled back, red cheeked and grinning.
"I didn't ever see that happening," he joked lightly, his arm still around her waist.
"Me neither," she breathed honestly, not removing her arms from around his neck.
"Reckon it could happen again?"
She laughed for the fortieth time that evening as she leant in. It was only three hours later that she had noticed Shikamaru had left.
The next morning when she was supposed to journey back to Suna, Temari's head was sore but her self-esteem felt higher than it had in a few months.
She couldn't admit it before now but it was exhausting liking a boy who didn't like you.
Having someone else actually take an interest was like a refreshing tonic after so many months.
She felt like an idiot schoolgirl for grinning as much as she was when she got ready that morning but she allowed herself to bask in the feeling, not knowing when it might appear again.
She walked outside to find Shikamaru at her door.
Their eyes met and Temari felt the biggest surge of awkwardness yet.
"Why did you kiss him?"
Shikamaru spoke quietly; so quietly that she wondered if he had really meant to speak at all.
"He kissed me," Temari retorted calmly, to which he replied in look only. He was not impressed. "I wanted him to," she added after his expression changed.
Shikamaru gave a small nod.
"What's more, its none of your business," she went on, feeling her anger rise and knowing that she was in danger of yelling at him all the thoughts she had been bundling inside all these years.
"I'm aware," he conceded, not looking at her. "Trust me."
She felt a stab of pain in that moment. His last words told her what she had always suspected but feared; Shikamaru wanted her but not in the right way. He wanted to bring her to bed but not home to his mother. And above all, not only did she know it; he knew it too.
That hurt horrendously.
She must have looked the way she felt because she heard him sigh deeply.
"Do you really need me to say it?"
Her eyes snapped to his.
"Do you really need me to tell you what you already know?"
They looked at each other quietly; the longest they had managed since she had arrived. His eyes seemed to sink into hers and she felt her stomach contract painfully.
She was on the brink of asking him to whenever Kiba appeared over his shoulder.
"I was wondering if you fancied some breakfast?"
Never as grateful to see anyone in her life, Temari pushed past Shikamaru and greeted Kiba with the biggest smile she could manage.
"You know I always thought Shikamaru was many things but not a coward."
Kiba brought him up suddenly, just as their tea had arrived causing her to spill some of it onto the table.
Temari didn't know what to say to that. She didn't think he was coward. She thought he was a jerk.
"He's a choirboy," Kiba went on drolly, shuffling the utensils around on the table and watching her carefully.
"Mmmmm….won't go after what he wants," he said meaningfully, still watching her.
"In these circumstances some people would call that honour," Temari replied, not even bothering to pretend and disappointed that she wasn't being given a proper opportunity to forget about him for a while.
"I think it most people would call him a fool," Kiba bartered back, a slight smile on his lips. "I definitely would."
"Glad to hear it," she answered, now smiling a little herself.
"There are a lot of girls," Kiba started off delicately, "particularly in this village, who seem to be happy with indecisive men messing them about."
"I am not one of them," Temari stated with brutal intent.
"Glad to hear it," Kiba mimicked. "Be the smart girl. Be the one who picks the guy that actually wants you."
She was still considering his words as they walked towards the gates of Konoha.
Temari wanted to be the smart girl. She wanted to focus on the guy who actually wanted her. There was no doubt Kiba was in every way her kind of guy.
She generally went for the funny types. The loud, cocky ones who were the life of the party. She believed whole-heartedly in the technique of laughing someone into bed. It had worked on her a few times and she had no doubt that a few more evenings with Kiba and he would employ it with relative success.
But Shikamaru confused her. She couldn't be sure if she really liked Kiba or if she only liked him because it gave her a chance to annoy the other boy in her life whom she had no other way of provoking. She wanted time apart from Shikamaru and alone with Kiba to truly understand her feelings but she also had a need for him to know what was happening between her and Kiba.
She wanted to make him jealous. Temari couldn't deny it. She hated the thought that he had rejected her and chosen another girl. She hated the thought that even after all but admitting that he desired her, he was still choosing Shiho. And more than anything, she hated that she could only sit around and let him do it all of his own accord.
Temari felt powerless and her own anger was slipping slowly out of her grasp.
They reached the gates as Kiba continued to talk about everyday things until slowly he came to break.
"I'd like to write to you."
It was so simple, but more than anything it proved how different he was from Shikamaru. So clean, so simple and so direct. He wanted to feel what he was feeling for her. He wanted to stoke it and grow his feelings in tandem with her own.
He did not feel ashamed of his feelings for her. He did not think they were wrong.
"Go ahead," she invited, thinking that no matter what, it was always nice to receive a letter from someone who made you laugh.
"Thanks," Kiba replied cheerfully, stepping a little closer to her as she knew what was coming.
He kissed her somewhat bashfully and with a little less heat than the night before.
"Write back?" he asked, his lips still dusting against hers.
With that Kiba walked backwards away from her and with a cheery wave he was gone from her sight.
Still with an unknowingly heavy heart, Temari turned and stepped outside the gates.
She had no sooner stepped over the border than from the tree branches above Shikamaru landed in front of her. Starting she lurched backwards towards the gates but he followed her. Their eyes met again but this time there was no awkwardness although she saw her own shock reflected in his eyes.
He didn't speak, but pressed against her with an unspoken desperation; her body slammed into the wooden gates yet somehow into his as well as he connected their lips. With a rush of breath, he kissed her harder and more passionately than she had ever felt. His hands journeyed from her hair to her face to her hips and then to her back, as he kept trying to pull her closer though there was no more distance to close.
Temari couldn't breathe. She couldn't do anything other than respond to his lips which were so insistent against hers they were almost violent.
She whispered his name in an attempt to pull some lucidity from him but that only allowed for their tongues to meet and another onslaught to begin.
In what she assumed was due his own lack of air, Shikamaru suddenly pulled away from her. He was breathless; his chest was heaving, his cheeks were a vicious shade of red and his eyes seemed to have turned black.
He watched her as she panted against the gates, her own face burning and lips pulsating with heat.
She imagined that they came back to reality at the same time when she realised that her hair ties were completely undone and he saw the state of her clothes.
Shikamaru didn't say anything. He broke the connection between their eyes as his fell to the ground. Slowly he walked past her, leaving her standing there, back towards the city.
Eventually, Temari managed to pick herself up and leave the gates as well.
She heard from Kiba within two weeks.
She didn't hear from Shikamaru.
Unfortunately, I can't write life as prettily as I can write Shika/Tema :)