~ by mara

There was something wrong with her.

She could tell.

She loved it, though.

It was the sight of people avoiding her as she walked down the hallway that sent her into a feeling of mirth. They were afraid of her. It was magnificent.


She turned around as her name was spoken with a bark. It was lunch, and she was striding through the gleaming golden halls against the wave of students. She raised an eyebrow nonchalantly, leaning her weight on her hip. "What?" she asked of the teacher who stood in the doorway of a nearby classroom.

"Where are you going?" the teacher asked, but Temari could tell that this wasn't the subject on his mind. "The cafeteria is the other way."

She shrugged, ignoring the tidal wave of her peers as they flooded, buzzing and chattering, in the oposite direction. "I don't really have anywhere to go."

"But it's lunch time."

"I don't eat the food here. It's unhealthy shit."

The teacher winced at the curse, but didn't bother telling her to watch her mouth. He beckoned her to come over, and she obeyed, but slowly, just to bug him. "What?" she asked again, forcing herself to sound impatient as if she had something important to do.

But she only did that to bug him more.

She had nothing to do.

No one to talk to, really.

"Step into my classroom, we need to have a talk about your grades."

Temari frowned. "But it's lunch time…"

The teacher looked sternly down at her. "You said you had nowhere to go, right?"

She cursed herself inwardly, but had to obey, and walked into the classroom. The teacher closed the door behind himself, but she didn't notice, because she saw someone else sitting politely in one of the desks. A pale guy that looked to be a freshman, with hair up in a tall ponytail.

Temari grimaced. Shikamaru was his name, if she could remember correctly. The one with the know-it-all attitude and the lazy eyes. Teachers were always picking on him because his IQ was so high, and with good reason, Temari commented silently as she observed the boy in the desk, who stared nervously back at her. It was bad enough his eyes were so drowsy, but if this guy couldn't even stand up for himself, he was useless.

"Temari, this is—"

"—I know who it is," Temari interrupted the teacher impatiently. "Explain the situation, bald man."

The teacher cleared his throat with indignation, and, patting his thinning hair briefly, said, "This is your new study buddy."

Shikamaru nodded meekly up at her, but Temari didn't pay attention. She was staring at the teacher, wondering if those words had actually come out of the stupid man's mouth.

"…What…?" she asked blandly after he wouldn't break the bewildered silence.

"Your grades in English and History classes are very good, Temari," the teacher explained, adjusting his glasses cautiously. "In fact you'd be at the top of the class if you didn't have a problem with the other two subjects. When it comes to your Science and Math classes, you don't even show up to school to observe them. You're failing in attendance, let alone grades, and the principal and I have also been observing your behavior and have together decided that it's about time you learn how to improve your attitude."

"So…you're sticking me with a stupid kid?"

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, and the teacher sighed. "See, this is exactly the kind of ill-mannered nonsense we've been talking about. Shikamaru, here, has the highest grade point average in the entire school, and he is considerably polite. You could learn a few things from him."

"He's only polite because he's too tired to say what's really on his mind," Temari scoffed.

"Temari, it doesn't matter what you say. You need to stop thinking that everyone here is beneath you. I understand moving down from your position in Suna was hard—"

Temari shook her head. "That's not the point!" She pointed to Shikamaru, who flinched immediately. "This guy doesn't deserve this! You can't force him to teach me things I don't want to know!"

The teacher clasped his hands together. "We didn't force him into anything. We suggested it, and he accepted, because it's earning him extra points in community service credits."

Temari paused, then glared at Shikamaru, who seemed unsure of what to say. "…This has to be a joke."

"I'm afraid not. You're to meet every day in the library after school for an hour, starting tomorrow afternoon." Temari hissed through her teeth, but the teacher went on. "Shikamaru will help you with your Math and Science homework, and hopefully you'll learn how to get some manners by spending time with him."

"You're being ridiculous, I am not going to resort to this," Temari insisted, but the teacher, satisfied and finished, left the room, saying simply over his shoulder, "If you don't, you'll be stuck here another year."

Temari stared after him, then turned to face Shikamaru slowly and dangerously, who blinked back at her. She gave him an expectant look, and he seemed to understand she wanted him to excuse himself before she clobbered him.

"U-Um…" He cleared his throat and stood up. "Yeah, sorry…But I hope that I'll be able to help you—"

"—Oh don't give me that bullshit, you're just in this for the extra credit," Temari growled.

"Yeah, that's…kind of true…"

She sighed and turned her back on Shikamaru. "I'll see you in the library tomorrow, I guess. And if you're late and make me wait, I promise…" She glared over her shoulder, a glare that made Shikamaru shudder visibly, "I will kick your puny ass."

She exited the room, leaving a lonely and slightly paralyzed Shikamaru still in it.

the clouds will always clear ~

"…I don't understand…" Temari said for the thirteenth time the next afternoon.

She could tell Shikamaru was getting mentally exhausted. They'd been going at her Chemistry homework for about half an hour at least now, and so far, to Temari, nothing made sense.

She was only being honest. She just couldn't grasp what Shikamaru was talking about, or what a 'Trigonal Planar', whatever the hell that was, had to do with 'PCL sub 3', whatever the hell that was.

"Listen, you're not even looking at your periodic table of elements," Shikamaru said with a sigh.

"Well how am I supposed to read it? It's been scribbled over with red sharpie."

"Temari…You did that. Five minutes ago. While I was talking."

"Oh cry me a river."

Shikamaru ran a hand along his face. "What a pain in the ass…What did I get myself into…?" he moaned into his palm. Temari rolled her eyes. If there was one thing she'd learned in the half hour she'd spent trapped with this kid, it was that he was disgustingly overdramatic for someone too exhausted to express his emotions.

"What's wrong, genius?"

Shikamaru blinked and raised his head out of his hand. Temari lifted an eyebrow and looked up as well.

A tall, rough-looking boy was standing behind Shikamaru, two more slightly smaller boys behind him. The tall boy cracked a grin. "Not feeling so tough at the moment, are you? What's the matter, your mommy didn't hug you today?"

Shikamaru just glowered down at the table top, desperately trying to ignore these fiends. But the tall boy seemed way too interested in Shikamaru, and frowned when he noticed Temari. "…Oh. Wow. I think I get it now."

"Get what…?" Shikamaru asked blatantly, noticing the look on the tall boy's face.

The boy ran a hand through his short, tangled hair. "You like to feel better about yourself, so you hang around foreigners."

Temari only laughed. She was used to people like this, and it was always more fun to play along with them; and get them back after she'd had a good show.

"That's…not it…" Shikamaru said, shaking his head. "I was assigned to help her study. I'll get extra credit points, so we're both benefiting…"

The boy gave a harsh chuckle. "Oh, I see. You're just full of yourself. As usual."

Shikamaru only nodded once glumly. Temari raised an eyebrow as she observed the scene. What was the kid doing, just letting these people bully him like that?

"I think you're trying to make yourself seem even smarter. But just to let you know, you're only doing it because you're worried about how much of a whore your mom is."

Temari narrowed her eyes. "Okay, then."

With a screeching of her seat, which attracted the attention of the entire library, she was up. She grabbed the tall boy's wrist. Everyone stared at them, silent. Shikamaru was gazing at Temari in what almost looked like awe.

"Alright, listen here, you blind example of a Victorian turtle," Temari hissed at the tall boy. The other two boys backed away, and the tall one's eyes widened, shocked at the colorful insult. "I want you to take back what you said about the kid's mom, and I promise I won't feed you to the first large mammal I see cross my path. You can say what you want about him, but don't you dare insult a man's mother, or I will bruise you."

The victim of her clutches blinked and shook his head. "Y-You can't fight in school," he snapped.

Temari shrugged. "You also aren't allowed to bring weapons to school. And let me tell you; every pencil sharpener you see is a wonderful weapon." She tightened her hold on the boy's wrist and murmured:

"Would you like a demonstration?"

In one second the boy had torn himself away from Temari and fled. Temari watched him go, then sat down again with a small giggle.

She nudged Shikamaru, who was staring at her. "Funny, right?" she asked happily. "Isn't he an idiot? I mean, my brother's tried to stick his finger in a pencil sharpener before, and he said it doesn't even hurt that much. For one thing you can't get your finger far enough into the thing in the first place, and…Um, what are you doing …?"

Shikamaru was crying.

The first thing Temari felt was a strong tugging at her heart, something she didn't recognize or understand. So she ignored it, and grimaced. She hated it when people cried around her. It got her angry sometimes, but she always found herself wanting to help.

"Um…Listen…You're not really that much of an asshole," Temari tried.

Shikamaru just kept crying, his face in his crossed arms on the table. They were silent tears, but his shoulders shook. "It's not that, you idiot," he mumbled, voice muffled by his sleeves. "My mom…Everyone keeps calling her a whore because I'm not my dad's son."

Temari tilted her head to the side. "Oh, you were a bastard child?"

Shikamaru fisted a hand on the table. "I hate that term," he grumbled, sniffing. "But yeah. Fuck. Whatever." He lay his head on his arm gloomily. "I can't stand this place" he mumbled. "My real father is the dad of a kid that goes here, that kid always gives me hell. That one guy that just came up, I stood up to him when he tried to pick on Chouji, and he's never forgotten it. Another kid got yelled at by my mom when he was crossing the street at the wrong time, and he blames it on me. I can't get away from all this bullshit." He groaned aloud into his arm. "And I hate hearing them insult my mom like that. It hurts. More than anything..."

Temari listened patiently, then sighed and sat back in her chair when he was finished. The library was still staring, passersby pointed at Shikamaru. This was unbelievably humiliating. "Listen, okay?" Temari demanded. Shikamaru said or did nothing else, but she spoke anyways. "I'm no good with crybabies. But I do know that you're better than this, for goodness sake!"

Shikamaru paused. Temari didn't notice, actually. She kept going. She felt like it. "I'm ridiculous, and I'm stubborn, and it's my fault that I'm getting bad grades in Math and Science, because I don't care about the subjects. We never had to learn them in Suna, and being me I just reject everything I'm not used to. That's me, that's just who I am."

She frowned. "But you're not like me. And you're not some sort of tool either. You need to stop holding back, you have to stand up for yourself. What, are you afraid of being hurt? That's just pathetic."

Shikamaru lifted his head a bit, staring at Temari with a wet face. Temari frowned determinedly back at him. "You really need to grow up," she said seriously. "You need to learn to be yourself."

She gave him a big smile.

"Because you're not changing, are you?"

the moon will always rise ~

"Fuck my life," Temari growled for the fourth time as she slammed through the glass front doors of the school building. It was after hours, and the sky was dark, rumbling with an impending storm and carrying the stench of mud on a strong breeze.

As she stormed down the hallway, she hoped desperately in her mind that it wouldn't start raining before she had to go back outside.

Finding her destination, she stopped short near the classroom door she had been looking for, and groaned aloud. "I can't believe this," she cried. It was locked.

"Hey, you." Temari swiveled around and scowled. Shikamaru was leaning against the wall a ways down the hallway. A week later from the first tutoring session, she still wasn't used to seeing this kid all over the place, let alone recognizing him.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Temari muttered.

"I'm waiting for my friend so he can give me a ride home," Shikamaru said with a shrug. "What about you? What do you need so badly in the work shop?"

"The teacher," Temari said darkly. "My car won't start," she explained when he gave her a confused stare. "I have no idea what happened to it. I thought the teacher could help me but he's not here."

"Why don't you call a tow truck?"

"Why pay the money?"

"Don't you have brothers, though?"

"They're working late tonight."

Shikamaru observed her, almost amused. "Huh. Tragedy."

Temari rolled her eyes. "I suppose it is. And I really don't want to walk home…"

"I could get my friend to give you a ride, if you don't mind waiting a couple minutes," Shikamaru suggested with a shrug.

Temari almost wanted to laugh. "Hah. As if I'd feel the need to lurk around you any more than I already have to, no, thanks, I'd rather walk."

"Through a thunderstorm?"

Shikamaru queried this as soon as Temari had turned around to face the glass doors in front of her; the windows of which were streaked with rain. It poured from the sky in buckets, slamming the ground. A ferocious wind caused the trees to sway and bend.

And so, Temari turned around, and walked back to stand next to Shikamaru. She didn't pout, she didn't frown, she didn't show any expression whatsoever, and that was only because she didn't want the satisfied smirk on Shikamaru's victoriously infuriating face to get any wider.

"I'm sure he won't mind giving you a ride," he said pleasantly, then turned away to mind his own business.

She looked at him. He was reading a huge book, and seemed quite absorbed. Temari scoffed when he lifted it a little higher, so she could see how tiny the text was. She knew what he was doing. He was trying to impress her with how dignified a book he was reading. Well, two could play at that game.

Fishing around in her purse, Temari drew out Crime and Punishment. She noticed Shikamaru's lips turning upwards from the corner of her eye as she opened it in as obnoxious a manner she could, and she frowned. Oh, so he wanted a game. He was plotting these reactions, so he wouldn't be so bored. Clever.

And stupid. With a smirk of her own, Temari lifted her book high, so it blocked Shikamaru's light and he couldn't read easily. She always won at these games.

Shikamaru, however, drew himself up. This was the first time Temari noticed he was taller than her. He was usually cowering in fear of her rage, or half asleep listening to her ranting, so when he was suddenly sparking competition between them, he looked a lot more like a man and less like a baby.

Temari glowered, noticing he was blocking her light just by standing up straight and not slouching against the wall. She leaned against the wall and stood on her tiptoes, but Shikamaru just lifted his book even higher.

By now it was completely obvious what they were doing, so Temari spared a little pout his way. He only grinned, and suddenly she found a smirk of her own coming on. They stared at each other for a while, smiles widening, and finally Shikamaru leaned over and tried to snatch the book away from her hands.

Temari let out a laughing shriek and dodged, then tried to grab his book, but he was too tall. Giggling and chuckling together they spent a couple more seconds wrestling fiercely for each other's novels, before a throat-clearing to the side made them stop.

"She's insane," Shikamaru said automatically to two people walking over, as Temari panted and calmed her giggles. There was a wide grin on Shikamaru's face that wouldn't go away, and a bubbliness in Temari's chest that made her feel light.

"Who's she?"

"Oh, yeah, uh, Neji, this is Temari. Could she get a ride home from you today? Her car broke down," Shikamaru introduced her to a tall boy with long dark hair, who nodded stoically.

Behind him a tiny brunette girl peeked out, and she beamed when she saw Temari. "No way. Temari? I know that name! You're the princess, aren't you?" she said ecstatically. "You're the one that was kicked out of your country because of your dad and sent here!"

Temari felt a spark of anger in her chest, and she tried to push it down. "That's me."

"That's cool, man!" the girl said, dancing out from behind Neji.


"Too bad you had to come here, this town's a piece of garbage."

"I noticed."

"Haha, yeah. So, poor little princess is a long way from home, huh?" The girl put on a little fake pout, and that did it.

"Do you have a problem with that?" Temari asked loudly.

The girl blinked and stood up straight. "Whoa, it's okay. I was just joking, bro." She held her hands up defensively as Neji and Shikamaru watched the girls, suddenly a little on edge.

"No, don't call me 'bro'," Temari said, narrowing her eyes sharply.

"Um, okay?" The girl crossed her arms. "Jeez, are you PMS-ing or something?"

"Tenten, leave it," Shikamaru said suddenly, warning in his voice.

"No, you're just not funny," Temari said, both girls ignoring him. "And it's kind of pathetic that you think you are."

Tenten's eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open. "Okay, do you have a problem with me?" She took a step forward. There was a hardness in her gaze, and Temari quite enjoyed seeing it. She rarely got a chance to meet someone she could let her anger out into, and it was so refreshing when she did.

So she smirked and stepped forwards as well. "Isn't it obvious?"

"Yeah, well shit, maybe we should fucking fix it."

"Sounds good."

Temari didn't even have to blink. She just reached forwards, ignored Tenten's fist advancing, and slapped the girl as hard as she could right in the face.

The force of it was so strong Tenten was sent toppling backwards. Temari watched as she caught herself and held onto her face; blood slipped out of a thread-thin scratch from Temari's nail. She looked shocked.

"Temari, cut it out," Shikamaru said suddenly. Temari let him push her backwards firmly, as Neji walked over to Tenten and made sure she was alright. "What's wrong with you?"

"Everyone here's pathetic," she snapped, snatching herself away from him. "That's what's wrong." And with that she walked away briskly, around the corner and out the door into the rain.

your shadow will always be with you ~

"Hey, Temari!"

Temari didn't even have to look over her shoulder at the voice being called from behind in the distance to know who it was. Only one person could be this idiotic, to approach her after she'd just slapped one of his friends, after she'd walked out the door and into the pouring rain without a second thought leaving him with the mystery of her. Only one person would be that stupid, and that intrigued.

"Temari, wait a second!"

His voice echoed over the pounding hiss of the rain. She ignored it and kept walking, even though she heard the splash of his footsteps, running through the puddles and finally up to her.

He ran in front of her and stopped to make her halt. Leaning over to catch his breath he panted, "Wait…I have to ask you something…"

"Go home, kid," Temari said darkly. She pushed past him, but he grabbed her elbow.

"Temari, listen to me!"

"Do you want to get slapped too?" Temari yelled. She twisted around to face him, perfectly ready to punch his stupid face, and then realized something.

He was truly afraid of her. Especially when she was as angry as she was now. But he was not going to leave her. She could see it in his eyes. He just didn't want to.

Temari heaved a sigh. "I'm not in the mood to answer questions," she said, voice a little softer. "And I have to get home so I can figure out what I'm going to do with my car tomorrow. You have a ride waiting for you, just get out of here."

Shikamaru scoffed. "Neji's not going to give me a ride, he already left with Tenten." He laughed a bit. "Tenten thinks you're pretty cool, by the way," he added. "She said that as soon as you left. Said no one's ever been brave enough to hit her like that." He chuckled. "Man, I bet you wouldn't be afraid to hit anyone. Or speak your mind, even."

Temari couldn't tell, the way Shikamaru was talking, if he was trying to insult her or compliment her. She didn't care. But he only went on. "Hey…" He looked at her closely. "Why do you act like that?"

"Go away."

"I don't have anywhere to go," Shikamaru reminded her. "I don't have a car, and I don't have a ride. We're both stuck out here, Temari, we might as well talk. Besides, the teacher's giving me extra points to shape up your life, and if I don't I might risk…well..."

Temari snorted. "Oh, so that's it. You're just worried about your extra credit."

"What are you worried about?" Temari gave him a look, and he shrugged. "I'm curious, okay? If you don't want me to be modest, call it one of the bad things about being a genius."

"Leave me alone."

"Can I walk you home at least?"

Temari stared at him, and he said uncertainly, "I mean, you are a princess. And this city's not exactly the safest place to be when it's dark out."

"Jeez…Fine," she grumbled, and he let her go so she could walk forwards again, and he could follow her, trying his best to keep up and adjusting his backpack.

They continued walking together in silence. Temari listened to their footsteps. For some reason, they were in synch. Shikamaru didn't seem to notice this, but she did. She listened to her heartbeat. It was in time with the footsteps. She relaxed a little, through the chills of being soaked to the bone with freezing cold water. It was nice, this rhythm. It was pleasant. Soothing, like the best kind of music.

She thought back to a reason why she had even smiled today. It was him. This kid. This insistent, weird kid that was walking by her side in a flood of rain. It was fun, having that fight over their novels. Their own little game. The game that neither of them could win.

She felt herself smile. It was her turn to think of a plot.

She started walking faster, so soon she was walking in front of Shikamaru.

It took him a couple seconds to figure it out, but he was as sharp as ever. With a long stride, he'd stepped to the side, and quickened his pace. Soon he was faster than her, and so he slunk around to walk in front of her. And he was adding his own elements to the game; he started walking slow without warning, so she had to jump and halt so as not to run into him.

Frowning playfully Temari jumped around him and jogged a bit, then started walking in front of him again, and then halted, so he had to do the same. And then she started walking backwards.

He laughed aloud at that. And they just kept going.

Temari didn't know when she'd gotten so immature. But she liked it, she had to admit. As the rain started to thin, and the clouds got a little whiter, as they grabbed each other and pushed each other and tripped over each other and laughed, soaking wet and ridiculous, she felt warm, and young.

She felt beautiful, for the first time in a long time.

When finally she was at her house, all she did was say, "Thanks, bye."

He was smiling as he said, "See you, princess," and turned around to walk away.

the wind will always blow ~

"Hey, wait a second Temari."

"What?" she asked exasperatedly. She was on her way to her car in the parking lot. It was bitter cold, and she wasn't in the mood to wait in the snow. Two months later, and they had been studying for a while now. She'd grown a little closer to Shikamaru, but she still didn't like him. Still thought he was pathetic as hell.

Shikamaru finally caught up to her. His cheeks were pink, pinched from the icy wind. He was trying to keep his backpack and schoolbooks in his arms, and glanced up at her sheepishly. "I forgot to tell you… you have an Algebra Concepts quiz tomorrow, so you need to study those pages in the book I assigned you yesterday, yeah?"

"Joy." Temari shifted her purse to her other shoulder. "Can't you do it for me?"

"…What, study…?"

"No, take the test."


"Fine, I know you can't, I was just joking." She glowered as Shikamaru scratched his cheek uncertainly. "What? I can't make a joke now and then?"

"…I didn't know you had a sense of humor."

Temari frowned. "You're such a weirdo."


Temari grinned a bit. Over the months, Shikamaru had grown on her, slightly. And she assumed she'd grown on Shikamaru a bit as well. They'd been studying together every day after school in the library, at the order of Temari's dumbass, balding math teacher, and so far, Temari wasn't exactly advanced, but she had noticed a slight bit of improvement in her skills regarding Math and Science.

For instance, she actually knew what they were doing…

Now she had to figure out how to do it…

"Well, I'm gonna get to work," Temari said with a sigh, running a hand under her bangs. "They might fire me if I'm late again."

Shikamaru was watching her closely. Temari raised an eyebrow. "What? Aren't you going to scurry off, as usual?"

"…I have to ask you something…"

Temari rolled her eyes impatiently. "Again? Okay, fine, just spit it out." Shikamaru said nothing, he just kept watching Temari, who placed her hands on her hips, annoyed. "Crybaby, I said go for it."

Shikamaru cleared his throat. "Um…Why do you…always insist on being so…?" His voice faltered as he tried to find the right word. Temari watched him as he fidgeted with his books, then finally finished with a lame, "…Well…you know…"

"Why am I like this?" Temari translated for him. Shikamaru nodded nervously, and Temari let her weight drop to one hip thoughtfully. Her breath steamed out in front of her as she pondered this.

"Well…You're not really in any place to ask me that, Crybaby, but whatever. I guess…it's because…"

She laughed.

"Because that's the way I like it."

"…What do you mean…?"

"I like life to be interesting, you know?" Temari waved a hand in the air carelessly. "I like to spice things up a bit. So when I see things I don't like, I never hesitate to push them away from me. Math and Science, for example. I don't understand them, so I don't bother with them."

"But…You're ruining your future—"

"I don't have a future, Crybaby," Temari interrupted him. Shikamaru's smoky eyes were as lazy as usual as he stared at her. "I don't have a chance. I've never had one, ever since my father was killed, ever since me and my brothers had to move to this piece of shit town, ever since I was thrown out of my own country, taken down from royalty and only because my father did one thing wrong."

She turned around, to go to her car, and finished easily, "I was the princess. Now, I'm under-average."

"…Yeah, everyone knows that about you…" Shikamaru said slowly. "But why did you choose this town? Why not some government facility? Why are you and your brothers going to a public school? You say you want extravagance and yet you purposefully look for poverty."

"Again, I like life to be interesting."

"…Jeez…You're just…" Temari heard him shift his footing anxiously. "You're too confusing."

"…Too bad for you." She began to walk away to her car. "See you, Crybaby."


Temari kept walking, but then she felt something strange.

It was a queasiness at first, like butterflies in her stomach. But then, it grew stronger, and it made her heart start to flutter. It was like something was tugging at her chest…

It was…painful


This was strange. This was very strange. Temari stopped walking, both in surprise, and in…some sort of unconsciousness. Because…she hadn't expected those words to come out of her mouth instead of Shikamaru's.

She twisted around, not really knowing what she was doing, to face Shikamaru, who had turned to look at her inquiringly.

"Do you…want a ride home…?"

Shikamaru stared at her. He stared at her for a long time. Then, he smirked.

the snow will always fall ~

"Well, I guess you come through for me after all, don't you, Crybaby?" Temari pondered. "I'm actually feeling pretty confident in Math and Science."

"Well, I am your tutor," Shikamaru said sternly. "You should learn to understand these things, they're important."

"Oh cut it out, you sound like you're supposed to be my grandfather." They were in Temari's silver Saturn. Ever since that day twelve weeks ago, Temari had been giving Shikamaru a ride home through the snow. She insisted it was 'payback for shagging ass every day in the library', but she was sure Shikamaru knew better.

Temari just couldn't stand the thought of the stupid twat walking home every day through the snow, his cheeks all pink, his fingers all cold…It…It just annoyed the hell out of her! So, she settled - for her own benefit she tried to remind herself - with giving the little idiot a ride. Hey, it also gave her an excuse to be late to her job every Wednesday and Thursday.

"Here you are," Temari said as they pulled up to Shikamaru's house. It was a large flat, very nice and clean-looking. Temari knew it was a lot better than her shabby apartment, where her brothers ripped the carpet and spilled beer on the sofa. She was trying not to get evicted from the place, but she was sure that the land-owner wouldn't give her mercy just because she was 'till last year royalty.

Shikamaru opened the car door. "Huh. Smell that? I think mom made brownies today."

Temari's ears perked at that. Shikamaru had mentioned his mom a few times. But Temari was more interested in the brownies. She hadn't had brownies before. They weren't made in Suna, and here she could barely afford the expensive gourmet food she was accustomed to and insisted she still eat. But she had enjoyed chocolate the few times she'd tried it, and Kankerou said that he'd consumed a brownie for the birthday of a kid at school, and it was the best thing he'd ever had.

Shikamaru seemed to notice Temari's subtle desire, for he stared thoughtfully at her for a while. Temari glared back at him. "What are you waiting for, Crybaby? Get going."

"Temari, do you want to come inside?"

Temari blinked, and for once, she didn't really know what to say.

She hadn't heard that in a long time...

"U…Um…" Temari cleared her throat, trying not to get caught looking stupid. "I, uh…"

Shikamaru was standing there with this goofy, annoying-as-fuck smile on his face. Temari felt herself heat up with a blush. "Wh…What, are you joking? Aren't you…afraid of getting mud on your…carpet or whatever…?" But she knew, that she had never heard anything more tempting in her entire life.

Shikamaru was grinning, now, this…this stupid grin. "Come on, I insist."

Temari gulped. Why was her heart racing? "No…I…"

"Come on."

Temari glowered. "…Fine, whatever." She opened the door to her car, turned it off, and got out grouchily, pretending that the whole thing was stupid and unnecessary. Shikamaru led her up the sidewalk, over the porch, and finally to the front door.

Trying to be as moody as possible, Temari stuffed her hands in her coat pockets and watched Shikamaru discreetly from over her shoulder as he unlocked the house and stepped in, stomping his feet on a mat just inside the door. "Mom, I'm home," she called, gesturing to Temari to come inside.

Temari did so, walking in slowly. As Shikamaru closed the door behind them, a woman's honey-sweet voice called sharply from somewhere indoors, "Well it's about time!"

Temari looked around interestedly, stomping her feet slowly on the mat as she did so to mimic Shikamaru's behavior. She was enveloped by smoky warm heat, a sweet aroma of cherries and bread floating within it. They were in a carpeted living room, with a soft sofa, and two large, fluffy arm chairs facing a small silver television. The room also opened up to what seemed to be a kitchen, which curved around a corner.

Temari could see a dainty wooden dining table in said room, before a woman came rounding the corner, blocking it from view, and paused at the sight of Temari. Shikamaru coughed and pointed to Temari casually. "Uh, mom, this is Temari. She's the girl that I tutor after school."

Temari said nothing, just stared back at the woman. She was very pretty, and her hands were on her hips. "Temari, hm?" The lady gave Temari a terrifying smile. "Well! It's nice to finally meet you! I've heard a lot about you, Temari!"

"…You…have…?" She glanced to Shikamaru, whose whole face turned bright red. "I-I told her a bit about you, but…the good things!" he stuttered, suddenly frightened. But Temari made no move to hit him; she was busy being somewhat impressed, and somewhat horrified, by his mother.

Yoshino had this presence about her, one that Temari could not recognize. It was warm, and loving, and stern, and even had a hint of the dopey Shikamaru about it. Temari felt like she should, and could, be comfortable around this lady, but she was too afraid to be.

"Oh, you're that Temari then?"

Temari whipped around, surprised at a voice behind them. A man sat in the corner in a chair, and he had been so still Temari hadn't even noticed him. She blinked. "Uh…yeah."

The man startled her. It was his appearance that sparked something inside of her…

"Well, it's my brownie day," Yoshino said, distracting Temari again. "If you'd like some, come on into the kitchen."

"Smells great, mom," Shikamaru commented idly.

Temari, as she followed behind Shikamaru uncertainly, could not help but admit to herself that she could not agree more, but she was further intent on asking Shikamaru a question. She prodded his arm and he turned over his shoulder to look down at her. She said quietly, "That was your dad?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah." Shikamaru rubbed his neck. "Not my real dad, though."

"But Shikamaru," Temari shook her head, grinning a bit. "He looks just like you."

Shikamaru stopped walking. He blinked down at her as she said, scolding him, "Jeez, why would you say that? Of course he's your real dad. You're his real son."

the sun will always set ~

"Seriously, Temari, you need to remember your book more often."

"Give it a rest, Crybaby, you don't have to act like such a know-it-all."

Many months later, winter was quickly fading, and spring was on its way. Shikamaru and Temari spent almost every day together. His parents had taken a gigantic liking to her. Yoshino always made her brownies since after the first day she'd tried them she proclaimed they were indeed the best thing she'd ever tasted, and Shikamaru's father was going things over with her to try and help her out with her finances after he heard she was in a bit of trouble.

Shikamaru himself had become more than a tutor, to Temari. More than an acquaintance, she could actually think of him as a friend.

A stupid, helpless little friend, but a friend nonetheless. Temari stood up for the idiotic, lazy boy more than she did for anyone else. Over time, Shikamaru had started to gain more confidence, and began to actually stick up for himself. Especially towards Temari, whom he no longer feared as much.

At the moment, Temari was returning to the library with Shikamaru to retrieve her book, which she'd forgotten. They had been on their way back to Shikamaru's house when Temari had realized it, and they'd had to turn back.

"I'm not trying to be a know-it-all, Temari, I'm trying to help you."

"Making me feel stupid isn't helping me."

They turned a corner, and were suddenly met with a surprising sight.

"What, you can't speak up for yourself?"

There they were. The same three boys that had picked on Shikamaru the first day of tutoring, crowding around someone in the hallway.

Shikamaru paused. "Oh…"

"Come on, Crybaby, who cares if someone's getting in trouble?" Temari asked carelessly, tugging on the sleeve of Shikamaru's jacket. "It's none of our concern."

"No, this is definitely my concern…" Shikamaru said, not moving. Temari turned to watch as well.

"You gonna talk or what?" one of the boys asked tauntingly. "Come on. You're big and tough, aren't you? You've got muscles. Why can't you say anything for yourself?"

Temari raised an eyebrow. "They're making fun of him because he's fat, right…?" she gathered under her breath.

"As usual," Shikamaru said grimly. "They're talking to Chouji Akimichi. He's my best friend."

Temari gasped in understanding. "Is he the one you were standing up for, that you told me about? Is he the reason those guys pick on you so much?"

"Yeah," Shikamaru said. "And it's bullshit that I needed to. He's helpless, and he's the nicest guy I've ever met. I can't think of a single reason anyone would want to be that cruel to him."

Temari frowned. "You're right, it's ridiculous" she agreed, observing the three popular kids chuckling over the boy in the corner, whom she couldn't yet see. She sighed. "Oh Well. Come on, Shikamaru, we should—"


Temari froze. "…Shikamaru…" she started, but it was too late. The three boys turned around slowly, all sharing the same curiously amused expression. "What?" one of the boys asked rudely as Shikamaru advanced.

"Leave him alone, yeah?" Shikamaru demanded, frowning. "He hasn't done anything wrong, stop acting like you're so goddamn awesome."

Temari's eyes widened.

"Don't talk to us like that," the boy snapped. "This guy here is such a freak! We're just trying to set him straight."

"Yeah, why don't you just go away and curl up in a corner of something?" another one said with a sneer. "Ask your whorish mommy to read you a bedtime story."

Temari felt a fury boiling up inside of her. She fisted a hand, ready to pounce on the boy that had said it, but something odd happened;

Shikamaru did instead.

He was over there in three seconds, and he punched the boy that had spoken last so hard he fell to the ground, nose bleeding. Another boy shrieked, "What is wrong with you?" and the other shouted, "Hey!" and moved to hit Shikamaru back, mostly in self defense. But Shikamaru kicked him easily in the groin, and he fell to the ground with a yelp.

Temari decided that was a good place to end it. "Hold it, Crybaby!" she insisted, running over, but Shikamaru just stood crossing his arms comfortably as the three scurried away. "Did you see that?" he asked Temari, who stood there trying not to laugh with the glee of seeing him fight. "Now do you wanna call me pathetic?"

Temari couldn't hide her grin. "Haha! You idiot, you can't just start fights like that in the middle of the hallway!" She shook her head, bewildered and amazed. "But when…When did you…?"

She paused when her eyes caught on the boy in the corner. Shikamaru followed her gaze.

Shikamaru's friend Chouji was definitely large, but Temari had to admit he wasn't bad-looking. He had a sweet expression. Feeling their stares, he stood to face them. He was shaking, Temari could see, and his face was contorted with grief.

"…Why…? Why do you keep doing that for me, Shikamaru…?" he asked mournfully.

Shikamaru smiled a bit. "Because you're my friend, dumbass." He shrugged. "And because you didn't kill that butterfly in fourth grade."

As Chouji gave a nervous laugh, Temari felt a grin come to her lips. That same old feeling was back, tugging at her heart and making her feel like she was floating. When Chouji turned to look at her, she gave him the most sparkling grin she could muster. "I know how you feel," she let him know.

"Oh stop it, Temari, you're gonna scare him, looking like that," Shikamaru snapped, and Temari gave him a friendly slap on the arm. He turned and smirked invitingly at Chouji.

"Hey, it's brownie day at my house. Wanna join us?"

the stars will always fade ~

"What bullshit," Temari muttered.

She'd been walking along the sidewalk, kicking through the slush of the snow that was too stubborn to melt with the gathering spring. And one of her favorite rings had rolled away into a sewer. Temari grimaced, hearing the plop as it finally landed somewhere deep and disgusting. There was no going back after it.

She walked on, sparing only a longing glance over her shoulder before deciding what was lost was lost, no matter how much it could have sold for.

It had been exactly one month since she'd witnessed Shikamaru rescuing Chouji from the wrath of the three idiot students, and by now, Chouji was like the angel Temari had never had.

He'd come to Temari and Shikamaru the next day with a tray full of cookies, saying it was his way of expressing the most gratitude he could possibly show. Shikamaru had groaned at that and insisted for the last time that this was unnecessary for Chouji to do every time he came to save his ass, but Temari had been gleeful as if she'd acquired a new slave. The more chocolate treats she collected, the happier she was.

And Chouji wouldn't be the only friend Temari got to meet.

For now, of course, she was content with knowing at least one. Knowing the people closest to Shikamaru made her a lot happier. Temari knew that she had a little bit of mercy left in her heart after everything she'd been through. She knew that she was saving her tenderness and care for at least something in life. And that something was most definitely Shikamaru.

While she took care of her brothers in a way that they were people she could share her life with and take example from, she cared for Shikamaru in a way that forced her to feel she would do anything for him. He was calm, and generous, and he'd given her more than she could ever repay him for. She could never do anything to hurt him, ever. In fact, anything that did hurt him, Temari made sure to get rid of, whether it be an object or a person.

In short, Shikamaru was part of her life, now. She didn't know why. She didn't care. It was an exciting, new feeling, something she was by now accustomed to, something that, by now, she adored.

She couldn't imagine how she'd been living up to this point.

At the moment she was taking a shortcut through the park on her way to meet her brothers to get some lunch. It was a sunny weekend morning, and Temari had expected it to be pleasant enough to leave a jacket behind. She was wrong. It was freezing cold. Her breath steamed in front of her, and she crossed her arms in front of herself.

Her jacket was useless anyways, it wouldn't have made a difference if she had worn it. Shikamaru had been getting upset with her for going out in the cold so unprotected the entire winter long, but each time he brought it up she insisted she'd rather not pay the money for a new coat. But Temari knew now why she should have taken his advice and gotten one; She was ill.

Temari coughed, and wiped her runny nose miserably. It was terrible. She had an awful head-cold, and a migraine to go with it. She was even dizzy. She hadn't wanted to go out today, but Gaara and Kankerou insisted she go.

"Ino, you're gonna cut off Chouji's circulation."

Temari blinked. That was Shikamaru's voice, wasn't it? Was Chouji with him? Temari looked around the corner, and saw the two walking down the trail in the park. And in between them was a tiny blonde girl who was clutching Chouji's arm tightly. Shikamaru had, tucked under his elbow, a sweater, a pleasent candy-apple red and very warm-looking. All of them were wearing their winter coats, however. Temari wondered why Shikamaru was carrying it, but didn't bother asking.

"Temari, behind you."

She turned around and nodded at her brothers, both bundled up in scarves. She always forced her little brothers to dress warm. She hated it when they got sick.

"Right on time," she commented.

"Temari?" She turned around again. Shikamaru had heard Kankerou call her name, and was now walking over with a beaming Chouji and their curious blonde companion. "Hey, what're you up to?"

"Hey, Temari, we have a present for you," Chouji said happily, and Shikamaru fiddled with the sweater. He glanced at Kankerou and Gaara, who both watched him curiously.

"Um, these are my brothers," Temari said, gesturing to them lamely.

"Nice to meet you guys," Shikamaru said politely, but then paused and looked firmly at Temari. "Hey…Temari…" he said slowly.

Gaara also looked a little concerned, and he said, "Are you feeling alright?"

"Hm?" Temari blinked her eyes; her vision was getting a little blurry. "Um, I'm fine."

Kankerou scoffed. "You look terrible," he said. The blonde girl and Chouji were both giving her an odd look.

"Shut up," Temari snapped to her brother. "I feel fine."

"You don't look it…" Gaara said warily. "Temari…stop doing that…"

"Doing…what…?" Temari asked. She stopped talking in confusion. For some reason she couldn't see. Then she realized her eyes were closed, and she wasn't opening them. She couldn't open them.

"…Why can't I…?" she whispered, and then she fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, hearing someone, probably Shikamaru, snapping, "You idiot, what are you doing?"

Yup. Definitely Shikamaru.

"…Shut…up…" she mumbled clumsily between frozen lips, before she decided that this was a good moment to go to sleep.

the ice will always melt ~

Temari could smell brownies.

It was the same old warm, cherry-and-bread, chocolatey, smoky odor that pleasantly hugged her in her sleep. Everything was a light black that enveloped her senses gently, before she finally opened her eyes, and blinked.

It was dark. She had a slight headache, and still felt a little dizzy, as if she was dreaming. But she sat up anyways, and rubbed her eyes, trying to clear her fogged mind. When she opened her eyes again, she saw she was in her bedroom. The lights were off, and outside the window the moon sailed high in the black sky, but there was a small sliver of gold slipping from under the wooden door to flow in along the carpet.

Temari watched the crack under the door curiously. There were shadows moving about, and she could hear the comforting clatter of a wooden spoon, a sink running, and voices talking in hushed undertones, all gentle to her ears.

It was like art. It was like music.

Temari stood up, and walked carefully towards the door, and as she did so, she felt her hair tumbling over her shoulders; someone had let it down. She looked at herself in the mirror. Over her violet tee-shirt she'd been dressed in a long-sleeved red sweater. It wasn't hers, but it was warm, and soft, and she hugged it to herself briefly, pausing just in front of the door. She could smell Shikamaru's scent on it, like peppermint mochas and freshly grown strawberries. She could remember him holding it.

She wanted to laugh. She wanted to cry. Why had he gotten this for her? Not really knowing or caring what she was doing she pressed her lips into the sleeve of the sweater.

Then she cracked the door open and peered into the kitchen. Shikamaru was the first to notice her, and smiled. "Hey, you're up just in time, sicko." Temari tilted her head to the side, and inhaled slightly. Shikamaru noticed this and nodded. "Yup. We just finished the brownies."

Kankerou whipped around from his position facing the sink and gasped. "Temari! Shit, we were so worried! I thought you were really sick, I-I thought you were in need of, like, a hospital! What were you doing, walking around like that without a coat on? Dipshit!"

By now, the blonde girl from before had come over quickly and handed Temari a glass of water. She took it, blinking at her. The blonde smiled. "I'm Ino, Chouji's girlfriend."

"…Nice to meet you…" Temari said slowly, accepting the water. "That was probably an awkward first impression on my part…"

Ino giggled shyly. "First impressions are bullshit anyway." Temari automatically liked her. "Shikamaru wouldn't shut up about how cold you always looked, though," Ino continued, "so I figured I'd help him buy you something, since he has no fashion sense whatsoever. Looks like I wasn't exactly on time, but I wasn't too late."

Shikamaru glowered, blushing at the mention of what he'd done for her. Temari looked down at the sweater. "Um…Thanks," she said quietly. She sipped the water, and to calm her spinning head she then fixed her eyes on the tiles of the kitchen floor beneath her.

"You always did pass out easy," Gaara was saying softly from across the room, a relieved smile to his voice. "You have a small cold, so you'll need to take it easy for a while."

"Well that's nonsense," Ino's voice cut in. Temari looked up at her. She was grinning, and shrugging on a coat. "She's a strong girl, Temari is. She'll be just fine." She patted Chouji on the arm. "I have to go to work, will you drive me sweetie?"

"Sure." Chouji grinned at Temari. "Feel better, Temari, okay? And enjoy the brownies. I'm not as good as Shikamaru's mom, but I'm still good!"

"It was nice to meet you," Ino added over her shoulder as Kankerou let them out of the apartment door.

Temari watched them go, then walked over to the small kitchen table and sat down. She felt strange. She didn't really get it. Why was everyone so obsessed with her? What had she done for them?

"Temari? Do you need to lie down again?" Shikamaru's voice said. Temari looked up at him. He was different, she could tell, watching the idiot striding over to feel her face for a fever. The feeling of his hand was calming, and at the same time electrifying. He wasn't afraid to touch her. He wasn't afraid to talk to her. He wasn't really afraid at all, anymore.

"…Eh, you'll live." He sat down at the chair next to her, giving her a little smile. "Maybe you should eat." He lent an inviting gesture to the tray of brownies on the table in front of her.

Temari looked at him. Her brothers watched on in the background. She smiled back at Shikamaru. "Yeah…"

the fire will always burn ~


She turned around and scowled at Shikamaru, who came running up to her, flushed and panting. "What do you want? I'm late to work."

"I…I need a ride home!" He said immediately when he came to a breathless stop in front of her.

Temari raised an eyebrow. "Seriously? I thought Kankerou was gonna give you a ride home today, you both know I'm working overtime tonight."

"…He…didn't tell you…?" Shikamaru stuttered between breaths. "He has to make up a test today."

Temari rolled her eyes. "He just can't get his ass organized…Fine, get in," she said. He smiled gratefully at her, and did so, clambering into the passenger seat as Temari slid into the driver's seat. As she started the car and turned up the heat, she glanced at him. He was adjusting his bags and books distractedly, pulling his hair out of his eyes.

He caught Temari's gaze as she started the car, so she looked away and pulled out of the parking lot. But it was too late. "What's up?" Shikamaru asked.

"Nothing…" Temari drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, turning into the street and pulling in front of a red light. "It's just…You're not wearing your seatbelt."

He laughed sheepishly. "Oh. Yeah. I don't really like wearing seatbelts. It makes me feel constrained."

Temari thinned her lips. "Huh…"

It was silent as Shikamaru watched her, and finally he said awkwardly, "Uh…Do you want me to…?"

"No, no, I couldn't give a shit," Temari said, shaking her head. "But you just seem like the kind of person who would be really paranoid about wearing seatbelts."

"Well…I don't mind cars," Shikamaru said with a shrug. He chuckled. "I guess that's one of those stupid things no one knows about me."

Temari nodded slowly, but she was smiling a bit. For some reason, she felt good. She felt really good…

Because…she knew something about him that probably no one else did. She knew something about him…

Only her…

So…what did that make her…to him…?

It was the first time she'd questioned this. Her feelings for this boy.

The way he made her heart stretch so painfully. The way he made her like it.

It was the first time she'd said it to herself, quietly, in her mind, while he rifled through his backpack next to her: She loved him.

i will always love you ~

Temari walked out of her Math class, confused. She felt like she was floating. What had just happened? Her math teacher, her fat, sweaty math teacher she'd quite numerously called "bald man" just told her that she had passed a math exam. With an A plus.

What in hell's name was this? And why couldn't she stop thinking about Shikamaru?

She fisted a hand in her skirt in frustration as she pushed against the students that walked to lunch. She had no where to go, but she was still walking forwards. Why did she want to see him? Why did she want to tell him about her fucking A plus? It wasn't like she didn't get straight A's in every other class. It wasn't that big of a deal. He'd already predicted this anyways. He wouldn't care.

But for some reason, she wanted to see his smile…

She wanted to hear him say, "Well it's because of me, dumbass, so don't go getting all full of it."

She wanted his mother to go over a recipe to one of her famous cakes, she wanted his father to clap her on the shoulder and congratulate her, she wanted Chouji's cookies, Ino's laugh, Kankerou's eyes rolling exasperatedly, Gaara's tiny shrug of acknowledgement.

It was…it was just an A plus…But Shikamaru…And everyone else...They'd notice…And she'd see their art, hear their music, and taste their love…

Temari felt something tugging on her heart. Something she hadn't felt in a long time. Something that made her smile, something she hadn't done in a long time. A really long time…

She turned a corner, and stopped.

Shikamaru stood there in the empty hall. He was adjusting his backpack, trying to keep all his books intact. A teacher was talking to him from the doorway of a classroom. But Temari didn't care what the teacher was saying. Because seeing him, it was like a gift to her eyes.


He looked over at her and smiled at the sight of her. Temari loved that smile. So much. He looked so happy, and just to see her. "Temari, hey. You wanna get some lunch?" He walked over and stopped just in front of her, slinging his bag over his shoulder. She had to bend her neck to look up at him. He was tall. Like a man, instead of a baby.

"Tell me."

He blinked, confused. "Tell you…what?"

She glowered and grabbed his collar. She pulled him down so she could press her lips to his. He stumbled a bit, surprised. But as the kiss advanced, she felt his hands tentatively start to touch her face, her hair, the back of her neck, and finally he wrapped his arms around her entirely, pulling her closer, tighter, as if he needed more of her every second.

But she wouldn't let him get everything, not yet. She pulled back, and they both gasped as they parted. He blinked back down at her, bewildered, and she growled, "You know what, Shikamaru. I want to hear you say it."

She wasn't going to take bullshit from this guy. Because she was not living with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

She was there for him.

She was there for Shikamaru Nara. She was there to protect him, to stand up for him, to love him with all her heart. Because he had given her a reason to live. He'd given her an A plus, a brownie, a sweater, a family, a friend, and so much more than that.

And Temari was going to repay him. She was going to kill whoever hurt him. She was going to hand him a pencil when he needed it. She was going to tell him that he could pass that Advanced Biology exam tomorrow. She was going to help carry his books. She was going to wipe all his tears away.

And they were going to eat brownies together. They were going to stay warm together. They were going to drive to school and back home again, together, in Temari's car, every day.

"...Temari, I…I love you."

"You too, Crybaby."

And they weren't going to wear any seatbelts.

~ open your eyes and dream with me,
and if you find more than what you see,
if i'm the only thing you're thinking of,
then hold on tight because this is love ~

Seatbelts © Mara, 2010