Motivation

by Original Blue

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

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M is for Mothers, or lack thereof.

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The only way to describe Konoha's sky was 'thick.' Frigid air hung heavy with clouds, dark and menacing rain following the spikes of lightning. The hidden village's residents, long used to the abrupt winter weather, sat warm in front of heaters nursing bowls of steaming soup and mugs of tea.

It came as a surprise to Temari that rain could be as dangerous as sand in its own way. Her freckle-kissed skin turning blue in the bone-chilling temperatures, she hugged her arms to her chest, trying to ignore the steady trickle of raindrops seeping down her back. She'd endured worse weather, but the blonde kunoichi knew that she would resort to force, preferably beating some deserving idiot over the head with her fan,if she didn't find someplace hot and dry to stay.

"Temari?"

She silently thanked the Kami individually and by name.

"Temari! It's me, Nara Yoshino! Are you okay?"

Struggling to keep the relentless downpour from blinding her already irritated eyes, Temari turned to look. The brunette mistress of the Nara clan was exiting a grocery store, doubtless just finished shopping for lunch. Temari winced suddenly as her stomach reminded her that she'd last eaten nearly a day ago, on the outskirts of Fire Country.

Yoshino noticed her pained look and smiled inwardly. This was a Mother's Job. And only a certified Mother could do it.

Yoshino, wide green umbrella in tow, crossed the street to where the soaked Suna girl was standing. "Come on. We can go to lunch right now, young lady. This is no way for a proud kunoichi to treat herself." The slight scold went unnoticed as she was steered out of the rain.

Temari wanted to argue, but the formidable woman left no room for comment and the blonde gave a feeble nod of consent. She was then steered towards the Nara Compound, where her mind overflowed with visions of green fluffy blankets and comforting heat that permeated her skin. She didn't even have a chance to say thank you before darkness – actual sleep, not just catnaps in a dimly lit forest –overcame her.

...

She woke in the certainty (mainly since she was dry and warm and she definitely wasn't dead) that everything would be fine.

And as she struggled out from beneath the crisp white sheets and dark green bedspread, she wondered where exactly that intruding thought had come from.

She was a ninja, faster than most could see even with bloodline limits.

She was a jounin, the first of her siblings to achieve that status, since Gaara's earlykazekagehood didn't really count.

She was one of the elite, the first to volunteer for rescue missions and ready to fight atany moment.

Personal safety had never been her primary concern, especially growing up with Gaara.

So where, from the long neglected depths of her pre-genin childhood, had that thought emerged? Temari had little time to ponder the inner workings of her mind; belatedly, she realized that she was sleeping in someone else's bed.

Her shriek cut the still air of the Nara household.

She tripped in her haste to get away from the bed, trying to remember where-

Oh.

Yoshino.

Relief flooded her senses as she took a deep breath. For a split second she'd been terrified that last night, in her disoriented state, she'd taken up someone's offer of a warm bed and walked into a trap.

Footsteps on the stairs reminded her that she might have just roused all of Fire Country with that unintended battle cry. She smoothed her fingers over the huge shirt and drawstring shorts Yoshino had put her in, understanding that she didn't like overly restrictive clothing,before composing herself.

Someone knocked. Instead of calling to whoever stood on the landing, she padded over to the door and ignored the creak as she eased it open. Her teal eyes widened as she stared up into charcoal irises – their blatant intelligence making her feel like she was drowning – which were definitely not Yoshino's.

...

Bored with playing against himself and unwilling to bother his busy teammates, who'd been unusually quiet, even if it was pouring rain outside, Nara Shikamaru had gone in search of a decent opponent. Of course the only one in Konoha was his father Nara Shikaku. And that meant his mother would expect him to stay for dinner. Bemoaning his fate and cursing whenever stray drops of rain slid into his eyes, Shikamaru made his way towards his parents' home.

He was the picture of controlled lassitude: hands stuck in his pockets, sloe-like eyes downcast, lips set in a classic sarcastic expression. A cigarette would have completed the picture, but since his teacher's death seven years ago, he'd limited his smoking. That, and several information seminars about the effects of smoking, had almost completely erased the desire. Although he didn't want to end up with charred lungs, as some of the more graphic pamphlets had displayed, he was more worried about the people around him whose lives would be shortened because he couldn't stop lighting up.

The occasional smoke was all he allowed himself, but he was feeling good even without the nicotine buzz.

The walk to and through the Nara compound took longer than he'd thought it would, and he was drenched by the time he reached the back porch. Ignoring the 'Rabid Deer Warning' sign – Kami save the world from his mother's sense of humor – he opened the screen door and let himself into the kitchen.

"Shikamaru!"

He sighed, a beaten man.

"Are you here for dinner? Let me get you a towel, you're completely soaked!" His mother practically dove into the hall closet, muttering about young people who didn't have any sense and couldn't be bothered to check the weather.

Shikaku met his son's gaze with a weary but happy grin. "Here for shougi, I presume?" The younger man nodded with an accompanying sigh. He found the board, setting it up as his mother gave him dry clothes and brought out dinner. Although Yoshino shot her son and husband a glare when they made no attempt to end the game for dinner, she stayed silent, thoughts locked on the kunoichi upstairs.

...

Shikamaru was suspicious. His mother was clearly preoccupied, and not just because there was a lot of laundry that needed doing, and it took a lot to make Yoshino forget to make wild rice with dinner.

He followed her glances at the stairs and glimpsed an unfamiliar color in the hall. He decided to save his questions for later, when they would do more good.

When the game was won – by Shikaku, to his son's consternation –Shikamaru stretched and stood up, deciding to spend the night in his old room. But as he approached the stairs, he saw it again.

The color and the object were familiar. Familiar, but glaringly out of place.

"Mom?"

She looked up from her book and saw the unspoken question. "Oh, the fan? It belongs to Sabaku no Temari. You know, your friend from Suna."

Shikamaru's brows rose further from their already lofty heights. "How do you know Temari?"

His mother looked equally proud and abashed. "I make it a point to know all the beautiful, eligible kunoichi my son meets."

"Mom, she's someone I know from working on the Chunin Exams. Just because I can hold an intelligent conversation with her does not mean we are in the throes of passion." His eyes narrowed at her obvious diversionary tactics. "And you still haven't told me why this is here."

By 'this' he was referring to the five-foot polished black fan that stood in his hall.

"Well, I met her near the Hokage Tower earlier; she'd just delivered her message and was standing alone in the rain. She isn't familiar with our weather, you know, and she'd exhausted herself running from Suna, so I took her back here and got her dried off."

Shikamaru ran a weary hand through his loose, damp hair. "Where did she go?"

And why had she left her fan there? Was she planning to come back for it or something? How did she even know his mother?

A sudden, panicked shout came from upstairs, making Yoshino smile. "I just let her sleep in your old room." She went back to reading, a grin tugging at her lips.

Shikamaru tore up the stairs.

Why had she screamed? What had she found in his room that was that horrifying? He would have sworn on his first born child that he'd trashed all his old Icha Icha Paradise books...

He reached his door, knocked impatiently, and was about to pull it open when he heard faint footsteps, making him hesitate. A moment later, the door was pulled open by a sleep-mussed Temari.

He swallowed as her surprised eyes met his. She was wearing an old loose t-shirt and a pair of his boxers – looking surprisingly subdued for such a rowdy kunoichi –which revealed even more skin than her usual outfits.

Great. One up for meddling Mothers.

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M is for Mothers, or lack thereof.

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