Chapter 5 FIRE's WORK

Temari wakes up to a beautiful Christmas mornin. She stands up, does a couple of stretches and goes to the adjoining bathroom to do her other morning rituals.

She notices that upon returning to the bedroom that Shikamaru is still sleeping, she mumbles "Typical". She then leaves him to his slumber. She goes to the kitchen and while waiting for the kettle to boil for her tea, she wanders to the living room to look at the gifts underneath the Christmas tree.

Before leaving for Choji's and Ino's place early last night, Shikamaru deposited her gift underneath the tree to be opened when they returned he said. Since she has no gift for Shikamaru, there are only three gifts underneath the Christmas tree. Temari kneels and then sits on her heels beside the tree and takes the gift from Shikamaru first. She shakes it then she tries to make a guess what it could possibly be. Judging by its weight and size it's probably some sort of jewellery. Temari opens the gift and she's right—it's a necklace with a fan-shaped pendant which has three blue stones embedded to it similar to the position of the dots in her Tessen. Temari admires her gift and while grinning, she puts it around her neck.

Next, she reaches for the two gifts that were hand delivered last night by the man in a red suit. She carries first towards her ear the smaller one. It is of the size of a shoe box. She listens first and when she does not hear any ticking, she carefully shakes the box. She hears something clunk and it is sort of heavy.

She puts the gift down then takes the slightly bigger box up to her ear and does the same inspection.

She goes back to the kitchen and prepares her cup of tea. Carefully juggling her tea and gifts, she goes back to the bedroom. She is about to throw the smaller gift on Shikamaru's sleeping head when she remembers how the gift was packed last night protected inside the crate and how careful 'Santa' was in placing them on the floor.

The gift just might explode. Temari then cautiously sits on her side of the bed and cross her legs underneath her. She places the cup on the bedside table and both gifts in front of her on the bed and stares at them then at Shikamaru—debating whether to open them or not. In the end Temari shrugs and decides not to contain her curiosity anymore. She lifts the smaller of the two gifts from the bed and opens it slowly, painstakingly, carefully— expecting something dangerous. When she is able to remove the wrapper without any untoward happening, Temari becomes more excited. A box that has a lid on top is exposed; she lifts the cover and gasps. Temari then slowly extract from the box the most exquisite looking vase she has ever seen. She has only seen this kind of intricate design in Suna since it's made from the finest sand particles that are only available in Suna. Temari's sudden intake of breath made a whoosh sound when she realizes something. She now knows who the secret Santa is.

Temari returns the vase carefully on its box and immediately lifts the other box. Gone is her worry that the gift might post any threat. She hastily unwraps the second larger gift and a porcelain doll with movable joints just like a marionette is uncovered. Temari stares first at the doll then at the vase. Now, she has two guesses who could Santa be and she's sure one of them would be the correct one. But someone also played the role of 'Rudolf'. What was it that Shikamaru said about Rudolf 'He sort of guides Santa so Santa could distribute his gifts to good kids all over the world. So in essence he's actually someone that spreads good cheer together with Santa Clause on Christmas day' That he is. Temari, now have a suspicion who played Santa and who played Rudolf.

-o0o-

"Yes, I wrote to your brothers but no they didn't write back. That's why I didn't tell you anyway. I don't want you to expect anything" Shikamaru admits. He looks like he's expecting the worst reaction to come from Temari and is already trying to make light of the matter.

"What did you tell them?" Temari asks slowly.

Shikamaru observes that Temari so far doesn't look like she's gonna erupt or ...something far worst such as to cry which is unlikely but still possible if her brothers are involved. Sometimes women react in a very unpredictable manner and Temari is a good example. Troublesome, why the hell did I start this thing anyway? Shikamaru inwardly sighs; outwardly he shows an I-don't-care-so-you-shouldn't-too facade "I told them I'm willing to share you, so long as they don't force you to return to Suna and that they should prove that they have accepted our marriage vows"

"You asked for a proof?" Temari elaborates "What?"

"Tch, I didn't tell them how exactly. I just told them that Christmas seemed like an ordinary day to you and that I hope they could help me change your mind. I said that if they succeed, I'll let you visit Suna at least twice a year"

"Let me? " Temari raises an eyebrow at Shikamaru's choice of words.

"I know you really don't need permission from me to go back to Suna" Shikamaru sighs "I was hoping your brothers didn't know that though or if they did, they wouldn't call my bluff. I guess they see right through my scheme and I probably made them hate me more" Shikamaru winces at the thought.

Temari's lips lift at the corners to form a knowing smile in response to Shikamaru's obvious discomfort. "What?" Shikamaru asks a bit nervously. He starts to raise his hands to cover his head to protect it against Temari's big folding fan.

"I'm not going to hit you Crybaby" Temari laughs then proceeds to surprise Shikamaru farther when she suddenly kisses him on the lips.

In shock, Shikamaru stands rigidly while Temari takes a bite of his lips. Women are troublesome and this particular one is the worst. She reacts in the weirdest manner but what the hell I might as well enjoy it Shikamaru then returns the kiss and brings his hands around Temari's waist.

-o0o-

"Temari, what the hell are we doing here?" Shikamaru complains for the second time since entering the embassy building.

"Shh" Temari places her index finger besides her lips "They'll hear us"

"Who the hell will hear us?" Shikamaru lowers his voice but his exasperation is still obvious with his tone.

Temari glares at Shikamaru then slowly opens the door of the room she and her brothers usually use during their stay in Konoha. Temari takes a look around and notices that the room is the same as always—clean and has an unlived-in look. Temari sighs her disappointment.

"Ass! This is your entire fault!" Temari does not like the feeling of having all your hopes up just to be deflated in the end. Temari is actually mad at herself but then who was it that planted the idea in her head to believe in the magic of Christmas—Shikamaru. Hence, it's all the lazyass' fault.

Shikamaru frowns. He has an idea what Temari was hoping to find when they entered the embassy a while back. But he already told her; her brothers didn't write back. They probably hate his guts but it was a long shot he was hoping would work. It didn't and worst Temari knew about it. Now, it's all turning to be a drag. "Tch, they probably didn't receive my letter..." Shikamaru prevaricates.

Temari gives Shikamaru a pissed off look, then she turns around towards the door to exit the room. Temari clutches the door knob to open it wider than before. She passes through it and closes it with a bang. Shikamaru is still inside the room. He turns the knob and closes the door quietly and starts to follow his wife.

Temari has an angry frown on her forehead and her lips at a straight line. Anyone who crosses her path on her way to the apartment gives her a wide berth. Shikamaru follows behind her letting her simmer and boil.

Shikamaru heaves off a sigh. Christmas eve last night—the later part anyway, was one of the best nights of his life. Tonight would probably be his worst. Shikamaru gives off another audible sigh.

When Temari arrives at the door of their apartment, she seems to be contemplating if she should open the door or not. Shikamaru hears her say "Gah!" before she turns around and retraces her steps out of the apartment complex.

"Where do you think you're going?" Shikamaru asks "Don't tell me you are going to Suna to confront your brothers"

Temari doesn't reply. She ignores Shikamaru and also Tenten who she meets along the passageway down the apartment and who greets her "Merry Christmas, Temari!"

Shikamaru gives a bewildered Tenten an apologetic nod then hastens his walk to follow Temari "Oi woman, you can't go to Suna. Your brothers must accept first our relationship before you can venture there. Oi do you hear me?" Shikamaru is trying to have a conversation with Temari while tailing her to God knows where. Temari has remained silent. The brisk pace of her walk and the stiffness of her shoulders are clear indications that she is mad. Shikamaru does not try to overtake or be alongside her when she's in that type of mood.

Shikamaru sighs again but this time in relief when he observes that Temari is actually walking towards the head of the Nara Clan household.

Temari stops suddenly at the gate and Shikamaru almost careens into her back. Shikamaru immediately takes an evasive action and jumps backward.

"Ass!" Temari says furiously at Shikamaru without looking at him. Temari just stands outside the gate of the Nara residence, again debating whether to enter or not. After a long pause Temari suddenly asks "Do you think Yoshino planned all this?"

"What do you mean my mother?" Shikamaru enquires, amazed. Who could come up with that kind of conclusion? Obviously Temari. Women!

"I think it was Yoshino who pretended to be Santa and gave me those gifts last night" Temari admits tonelessly. That's why she asked me what was it I wanted for Christmas after she got me drunk. I simply told her my brother's approval. Temari feels like she was betrayed. She wants to confront her mother-in-law but at the same time understands why her mother-in-law could have done it. Yoshino probably just wants her to be happy this Christmas.

Temari looks at the ground then silent tears starts to fall.

Shikamaru notices Temari's shoulders are slightly trembling. He turns her around and embraces her tightly. Shikamaru wants to comfort her but knows his words wouldn't be enough in this instance.

After a while, Temari lifts her head from Shikamaru's chest. Then with her fisted right hand, she rubs the remaining tears from her eyes "I'm alright now" Temari hiccups.

"Tch, you need a glass of water" and Shikamaru pulls at Temari's hand to drag her inside the Nara compound.

"No!" Temari shouts facing Shikamaru and digging her foot in.

"Temari, I don't think mom would pretend to be Santa"

Temari suddenly becomes still. She appears to be looking at something behind Shikamaru. Then "I think I saw Santa again" Temari's voice becomes excited. She starts to run towards the figure behind Shikamaru. With their hands still linked, it is Shikamaru's turn to be dragged.

Shikamaru has now the same perspective as Temari considering that he is being towed by her with her fingers intertwined with his own. He too notices the man wearing a Santa suit running away from them.

Temari is shouting "Hey, wait up!" She seems to have forgotten she was down just moments ago.

Shikamaru tightens his hold on Temari's hand and runs along side her to catch 'Santa'. When they we're close enough, Shikamaru realizes that the Santa hat isn't able to hide the white hair that is tied at the back and flows past Santa's butt. Shikamaru stops to a halt and shouts "Oi! Jiraiya aren't you supposed to be dead"

The man wearing the red Santa suit; stops too and turns around to face the couple. The man has white bangs that frame his face but instead of a similar coloured beard, he has two red lines that run down from the centre of the lower lid of his eyes. 'Santa' grins and then suddenly puffs out.

"What the! He's gone!" Temari sounds angry...again. She pulls her hand from Shikamaru's grasp to retrieve her large folding fan from her back.

Shikamaru then walks backward while Temari is in the process of getting her fan from her back. When Temari has the fan on her hand, Shilkamaru turns on his heels and run. Temari runs after him, waving her fan in threat.

"Get back here, you Lazy ass!"

"Get rid of your fan first!"

"I'll never get rid of my fan. But I'll get rid of you!"

Shikamaru recognizes that he's approaching his previous residence. He sees it as his haven from Temari's wrath. He jumps up the fence and does not bother to enter through the gate.

Temari is in hot pursuit "Your mommy can't save your ass!...She'll probably help me when she hears I was this" Temari with her right hand still holding her tessen and her left hand, she makes a gesture of them being close together that only about 3 inches separates them "close to uncovering who the hell is Santa and you made him disappear!"

"Tch, woman! It wasn't my fault! You saw it yourself it was Jiraiya!"

"It can't be Jiraiya!"

"Maybe Jiraiya became Santa" Shikamaru is now panting. First he was the hunter, now he is the prey. He has already reached the house passageway and is now on his way to enter the Nara's living room. He doesn't expect his mom to stop the fight. But what he expects is that Temari would refrain from using her fan since she probably would not intentionally ruin the compound hence saving him from harm and a lot of pain after.

"Don't be stupid!" Temari shouts. She has now almost reached Shikamaru. She raises her fan in the act of bashing Shikamaru's head when Shikamaru turns to look at her. He hoists his arms to cover his head. The impact of the fan hitting Shikamaru is a bit a little too strong. Shikamaru fells backwards towards the wall which luckily is made of paper over wooden grid-frames. The wall which functions to separate the aisle from the living room area has with his weight collapses on impact.

The people inside the living room don't bother to stand from their position on the seat cushions thrown on the floor. They watch the man sputtering, whose ass is still on top of the now ruined paper wall and the woman who has a wide smirk on her face for having strike the man with her big fan.

"I see you are well, Temari" remarks a voice from one of the four people seated on the living room floor. His tone is dry and no hint of humour present.

Temari slowly as in very slowly lifts her head from Shikamaru's direction and looks at the owner of the voice "Oh" when she sees Gaara.

"Is that all you could say, sis?" Another voice sniggers. It's obvious that the owner of this one is very near to laughing his head off "I see you are treating your husband very well"

"Tch" Shikamaru now tries to stand but changes his mind and just continues lounging on the floor pretending to be at ease. He glares towards the older guy wearing make –up on his face. It is easier to focus on that face than to look at the other occupants in the room. Even so, Shikamaru still feels blood rushing towards his face.

If Shikamaru has turned red, Temari becomes pale "Gaara, Kankuro, what are you doing here?" Temari demands softly.

Then Shikamaru comprehends something from what Kankuro just said, admittedly he mentioned it snidely but still he said 'your husband' to Temari. Shikamaru smiles at the thought. So that's alright now.

Gaara points toward Shikamaru who until now still sits on the thrashed wall screen "Your husband, invited us" A pause "I think"

Shikamaru tries to hide a smile and made his face as bland as he could. It is hard though since he did not miss it—Gaara has also said 'your husband'. But its obvious Temari have missed both of her brothers' implication. It's has to be realized by her otherwise it's not worth as much.

Shikamaru lazily raises his body from the debris while taking a more detailed look around. Seated around the low lying rectangular table are Gaara and Kankuro on one side and his parents on the other side. His father looks bored but on closer inspection he seems to be laughing at his son's predicament. His mom has a smug look on her face. Now, Shikamaru wonders why and wonders more still that Yoshino isn't furious regarding the ruined wall screen Tch Now I guess I have to fix that. Troublesome.

Temari glances towards Yoshino and observes the smug look on the older woman. Temari addresses her mother-in-law "Gomen about the wall divider"

Yoshino just nods her head and smiles reassuringly at Temari . She turns towards her husband "Get up Shikaku! We must go feed the deers or something"

The older couple get up with Yoshino dragging her husband. She makes him walk faster towards the opening made by the fallen wall screen. When Yoshino has reached her son's side, she raises her voice and demands "Make sure you are here tomorrow to fix that!" referring to screen.

"Hai hai" Shikamaru agrees half heartedly and then a faint smile crosses his lips that if Yoshino has blinked her eyes she would have missed it. Good thing she has not "Thanks mom"

Yoshino's smug look returns and then finally drags Shikaku out of the room.

Silence pervades the room after the older Naras' departure. Shikamaru gazes at his stunned wife who has not moved since she realized her brothers are present on the same room as her then he glances at the two males, one lounging, and one sitting straight.

Shikamaru shrugs and walks towards his father's vacated seat. When Temari still hasn't moved, he hollers "Oi, Temari come sit here"

That obviously pulls Temari from her trance "Lazyss!" She stalks towards the table then takes the seat vacated by Yoshino in front of Gaara.

Gaara stares at his sister. Temari stares back.

Kankuro wants in on the staring contest but the two obviously are very much into it. Kankuro gives off a growl and looks at the other person in the room.

"Have you been treating my sister right?" Kankuro uses an intimidating tone on Shikamaru.

Shikamaru looks nonchalant and unthreatened "You can ask your sister that"

"Temari has a family in Suna who would gladly welcome her back if you don't" Kankuro warns Shikamaru.

"Tch, I know that. But I think she doesn't" Shikamaru nods his head towards Temari.

"What the hell is that suppose to mean?" Kankuro demands.

"Shut up!" Temari breaks eye contact with Gaara to glance sideways towards Shikamaru.

"Temari is worried that her brothers would see her action as a betrayal of Suna. Another concern is that people of Suna might look at her desertion as a family flaw. In order to protect you guys, she has chosen to distance herself. I have asked her time and again for us to visit Suna but she continues to refuse. In the end I decided that the first contact should be made by you" Shikamaru's offhand answer makes Kankuro's face swinging towards Temari's direction.

Temari glowers towards Shikamaru and crosses her arms on her chest.

"Man! And here I thought you hated me for almost killing that idiot you married!" Kankuro says exasperated.

"My husband is a genius, Kankuro!" Temari shouts back at Kankuro, a smile forming on her lips when she realized how true her statement is.

"Did you like your gifts, Temari?" Gaara quietly inquires.

"Yeah, but you should have stayed. Lazyass didn't believe me when I mentioned I saw Santa on our living room"

"Yoshino warned me that I could be seen but shouldn't be caught or the magical belief that there is Santa is lost. Afterall, I wanted to make sure I fulfil my part of the bargain to change your mind regarding Christmas" Gaara announces solemnly.

"Don't worry Gaara. You succeeded. Christmas is now my second favourite holiday" Temari smirks.

"Now what woman is your favourite?" Shikamaru grumbles.

"New Year's Day of course"

The End

A/N: Let's all have a better New Year! And mine and hopefully Bella's would start with a bang if people could post reviews!...Thanks.

12/25-26, 28/10