Hey all!

It's time for another one-shot from me, once again starring our favourite redhead and her pineapple-haired companion/punching ball. This time, the theme of the story is a bit different and, perhaps, a bit more important.

A few days ago, I watched a program about war veterans who have lost limbs or otherwise suffered debilitating injuries in theatres of war. What I really admire in these people is their amazingly positive outlook on life, despite their limiting injuries. I think it's something that we, who are healthy and able to do anything we want, can't really understand.

So this one-shot is dedicated to everyone who have had their lives limited by the circumstances, and keep fighting to live their lives to the fullest. You are an inspiration to me, and probably many others :-)

And once again, a big thank you to my girlfriend Natasja for her proof-reading and suggestions during the writing of this story!

Disclaimer: I do not own Tayuya or Shikamaru

Never a Burden, a Naruto Fanfic

"Hey Shikamaru, are you sure we got everything we needed from the store?"

I smiled at her question, and watched as she turned her head halfway towards me, watching me from the corner of her chestnut eye. She was smiling that happy, sarcastic smirk of hers, the one that always made me think she had some clever and amusing idea, and which was also filled with a lot of love and affection. I knew she was enjoying herself. The evening was beautiful; hardly a cloud was on the darkening sky, and the temperature was still warm despite how late it was. Tayuya really loved being outside in the nice summer weather, especially when we could walk through the gates of Konoha a quiet evening like this one. Of course, I was the only one who was walking.

After the disastrous mission to get Sasuke back, Tayuya, as the only surviving member of the Sound Five, had ended up with her legs almost completely crushed by the heavy tree trunks that Temari had scattered on top of her during her final attack. As a prisoner of war, she had been left in my care seeing as I had the most experience in dealing with her, and slowly she had chosen to join Konoha, rather than remain a captive for the rest of her life. In little over a year, we had gone from being enemies, to tolerating each other, to becoming friends. And four months ago, we became a couple.

Tsunade, The Hokage of Konoha, had tried her best to heal Tayuya's legs in the days after our return to Konoha, but we both knew in our hearts from the very beginning that it would be a difficult and most likely impossible struggle. For several months, Tayuya had been able to walk by her own power, albeit with a somewhat limping gait, the fragmented remains of the bones in her legs bound tightly together by chakra. Despite the small success, the steadily increasing pain she had felt in time had been a warning that it would not last. Then, a couple of weeks before we became something more than just friends, the chakra bindings that held her bones together had collapsed like a house of playing cards, leaving Tayuya unable to walk on her own two feet for the rest of her life.

I looked down at the handle of the wheelchair; the one Tayuya would be confined to as long as she lived. A white plastic bag hung over the dark leather of the handle, containing enough food for the rest of the week. Tayuya always insisted on accompanying me to the grocery store, under the guise that she wanted to ensure that I "didn't fuck something up or forget some shit". I suspected that it was rather that she wanted to continue doing as many as possible of the things she had been able to do before she became handicapped. I understood that wish very well.

"Don't worry Tayuya, we got everything that was on the list," I said, and I could see her smirk widen slightly in response. "I see, that's good," she answered me, as she turned to face forward again. "Then you won't have to drag my lazy ass all the way to the store another time today." As she said this, she giggled heartily, making me smile and chuckle slightly with amusement. But I knew my face also contained a trace of sadness, which she didn't see.

What I admired about my red-haired girlfriend was how quickly she had accepted her new, limited lifestyle. She was capable of joking about her own situation like she did just now, and she never complained about what fate had done to her life. She didn't even blame Temari for what she had done, accepting it as a necessary action seeing as they had been enemies at the time. The two of them had in fact become rather good friends in time, after they had learned that they had quite a lot of things in common. However, I suspected that Temari was troubled by guilt for what she had done to the redhead who was always so kind to her now. Actually, the fact that Tayuya didn't blame her for what she had done probably made Temari feel even worse about her own actions.

Someone might say that I pitied Tayuya, but I knew that she would definitely get angry at me, if I told her I thought about her like that. It would make her feel like she was inferior because of her handicap, and I didn't want that. Still, I felt sad somehow when I thought about her situation, because as far as I was concerned, she didn't deserve something like this. But, of course, one thing I've learned from being a shinobi is that life is rarely fair, and Tayuya knew that as well.

Naturally, Tayuya couldn't continue being a shinobi after she became chained to her wheelchair, and I knew it was something that weighed heavily upon her, since being a shinobi was the only thing she knew. Suddenly, she had nothing to fill up her time, and in the beginning it had been difficult for her to deal with it. Thankfully, Tsunade had once again stepped in and offered Tayuya a job at her office, dealing with paperwork and reports. It was not much, but Tayuya was eternally grateful for the job that was given to her. It made her feel useful, and less like a burden, and I knew that it made her happy.

"We're here," I said, kind of needlessly as we rolled up to our apartment, and her red hair bobbed softly as she nodded her head. Previously, I had lived in an apartment on the third floor, in a hab block on the outskirts of the village, but to make things easier for Tayuya, and by extension myself, we had exchanged it for a ground-floor apartment, located in a building closer to the Hokage Tower. Not only did that make it possible for Tayuya to get out of the house without help, but it also gave her shorter distance to her work.

I unlocked the front door to the apartment and opened it, before I pushed Tayuya's wheelchair inside. Once inside, I closed the door and took off my shoes and jacket, while Tayuya made her way into the living room by her own power. Nearly five months in the wheelchair had made her quite proficient with its uses, and I could only smile slightly as I watched her roll over to the kitchen area of the apartment. Once there, she proceeded to reach her hand back and lift the bag of groceries off the handle.

I walked over to join her, and together we placed the groceries in the refrigerator; I placed the milk and juice cartons on the top shelf, while Tayuya put the fruit, vegetables and meat in the drawers at the bottom of the fridge. She smiled at me as we finished, and I leaned down. She understood my intention at once, and she lifted her lips to meet mine.

Our kiss was deep and passionate. Her velvety lips pressed hard against mine, and her tongue coerced me to open my mouth, letting the tip of her tongue play with mine. Her hands wrapped tightly around my neck, and her fingers found purchase in my black hair, sharp fingernails gently massaging my scalp. Our eyes were closed, our minds indulging in the taste and scent of each other. Her tongue probed deeper, pushing into the cavity of my mouth, licking hungrily over my tongue, tasting me more. I smiled. She was always very passionate when it came to our intimate moments.

At last, her lips let go of my mouth, but her arms did not relinquish their grip around my neck. Our lips parted, and she looked up at me with her chestnut eyes, a sly smile on her lips, her cheeks painted with a slight pink hue. I understand what she meant immediately. Reaching down, I scooped her gently from the wheelchair, taking extra care with the hand I placed under her knees. Even though I was very gentle, I could see her wince slightly as I lifted her up in my arms. She made a good effort of hiding her discomfort, though, and if it had been anyone but me it would probably have gone unnoticed. But I knew my girlfriend too well to be unaware of her pain. I also knew that she would never want to appear weak in front of anyone, not even me.

As I carried her across the living room to our bedroom, she put up a brave smirk as she stared up at me with those beautiful chestnut eyes. "Am I getting too heavy for you, you weakling?" she teased me playfully, and I smiled at her remark. "Not at all, Tayuya," I assured her sincerely, as I nudged the door to the bedroom open with my foot and stepped in sideways, taking care not to bump her legs into the door or the wall.

Tayuya gave me a warm, thankful smile as I lowered her slowly down on the bed sheet, her arms lingering around my neck for a few seconds before she let go, allowing me to stand up. Tayuya removed her black shirt with a little effort and I did the same thing, simply tossing mine on the floor once I had taken it off, too lazy to put it away properly at the moment. Tayuya gave me a condescending smirk at my laziness, but then she too tossed the garment to the floor, quickly followed by her cream-coloured bra.

Her pants were more difficult, and I had to give her a helping hand with removing them. Gently and carefully, I pulled her jeans down her legs, taking care to not pull too much on her legs. Tayuya stared down at me as I helped her, expertly masking her discomfort every time the pants pulled a bit too much on her damaged limbs. As her jeans ended up on the floor with her other clothes, I removed her crème panties and her socks too, leaving her completely naked before my eyes.

Her brown eyes met mine, a loving smile resting within them as she stared up at me. She knew I was checking out her body, and she enjoyed the perverted attention I gave her. Her skin was fair and slightly tanned after the long and warm summer, with almost invisible tan lines where the sun had not reached her skin. Her perky breasts were slightly bigger than before, and her normally flat stomach had a small curve to it, a sign of what was to come. It was nearly three months since she had missed her period, and I knew that she was as excited as I was about going from being a couple to being a family of three.

My eyes wandered down to her legs, to see the small, scar-like marks on her thighs and upper calves. Tayuya was not happy with the dark crimson blemishes on her skin, and as she noticed where I was looking, her hands instinctively moved down, half-heartedly trying to obscure my view. She was ashamed of it, I knew that, but I didn't mind. To me, the marks were just another part of the woman I loved, and I wouldn't want to change a single thing about her.

After I too removed the rest of my clothes, I lay down next to her, and pulled the blanket over our naked bodies. I moved close to her, my arm embracing her tightly, and she snuggled against me, her warm, naked skin pressed tightly against mine. I smiled warmly, and gave her a peck on the cheek. "I love you, Tayuya." I whispered to her, as I closed my eyes.

"Hey, Shika?" Something in her voice made me open my eyes and look at her. She was no longer smiling. She seemed sad; her gaze was downcast and her demeanor defensive, avoiding my gaze. I looked at her, wondering what she was thinking about. Just a few moments ago, she had been happy and playful, and now she seemed distressed about something.

"Am I… a burden to you?" The moment she asked me that question, I understood immediately what was troubling her. She had voiced that particular concern a few times before, and I had assured her that she was not in any way a burden to me, but it seemed that she was not fully convinced. Smiling, I placed two fingers underneath her chin. As my fingers gently lifted her face up to meet mine, I leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her pink lips.

"Why are you asking that, Tayu?" I asked her as our lips parted, using the more intimate pet-name I had given her. I already had an idea as to why she felt that she was being a burden to me, but I wanted to hear the reason from her lips. She gave me a small glare, probably suspecting that I already knew what she felt. Yet, she still relented to my inquiry.

"I know I'm lucky to be alive and all, and I'm pretty damn thankful that it was just my fucking legs that went to shit," she said, her tone dismissive, as if her handicap wasn't a very big deal to her. Again, I was amazed with how easily she had learned to accept that her legs would be all but useless to her for the rest of her life. "But every day, I see how much trouble I cause you," she continued, and now her brown eyes were looking straight at me, her chestnut orbs brimming with barely-restrained sadness. "You always have to look after me, and take care of me, and I can hardly do anything at all to help!" As Tayuya spoke the last words, the frustration and helplessness was clearly evident in her tone, and she looked close to breaking down in tears.

I sat up slightly on the bed, looking down at her. I lifted my hand, and cupped her cheek in my warm palm, my thumb reaching out to caress the area just below her eye. She lifted her gaze to me, brown pupils regarding me with a mix of desperation and bewilderment. I smiled slightly, and opened my mouth to speak as I caressed her warm cheek. "Tayuya, you're not a burden to me, and you never have been." I assured her.

"Every day I get to see you defy your situation and prevail, and it inspires me to be strong for you," I told her, thinking about the determination in her eyes when she found a problem she wanted to overcome despite her handicap. It made me so proud of her, every time she was able to do something she had done when she was still capable of walking. "I'm so proud to be your boyfriend, Tayuya, and taking care of you, and being happy together with you, is everything I want in my life." As I said these words, I moved my other hand to her naked stomach, my fingers gently caressing a zigzag trail across the slight curve of her fair skin.

"I want nothing more than having a family together with you, Tayuya, and raising this child with you," I said, smiling warmly as I looked deep into her chestnut eyes. "And it doesn't matter whether you are in a wheelchair or not, because I know you will be a fantastic mother." It was true. For all her foul language and at times perilously short temper, Tayuya had all the qualities needed to become a great parent, and I would have wanted none other to have my child with.

Tayuya just stared at me, almost stupefied, and I saw tears beginning to form in her eyes. Quickly, she lowered her gaze, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, doing her best to hide the tears, that were most likely trickling down her cheeks, from my sight. "Idiot," she mumbled half-heartedly, and I could see a clearly visible blush on her cheeks past her hand. "Who told you to say so much crap? A simple no would have been enough."

"No, it wouldn't," I said with a smile, as I lay down next to her again, my arms pulling her close to me, into a warm, comforting embrace. I felt her stiffen momentarily, but then she relaxed and snuggled comfortably against me, her face pressed against my naked chest. I looked down, and I could see that her chestnut eyes were now closed, a small, satisfied smile on her lips. "Because, Tayuya," I whispered, as I too closed my eyes, feeling the warmth of her naked body next to mine. I held her close, never wanting to let her go. No matter what. "I really want you to know that you are never a burden to me."

The End

Well, that's it I guess. Now it's time for me to get back to working on the next chapter of New Life of the Sound Demon. I'm quite a bit behind on it due to working a lot and also writing on other fanfics, but hopefully I will have it up by the beginning of August :-)

Until then!