I do not use suffixes in this story, for I am not a weaboo.

This story started out as a ShikaTema story in my mind. What the hell it ended up as I don't even know. I DON'T. EVEN. KNOW.

BRB, weeping.

(Also, if you actually think for a second that I own these characters, exit this window/tab right this freaking second before your retarded gets all over my page)

Reviews make me smile and giggle like a squishy child. js.

Naruto considered this to be a very satisfying day. Not only had he gotten to the ramen shop before the crowds got there and all the food was still fresh, he had also found a crisp bill on the ground that would allow him to pay a two-year old debt with Sakura. He had a jump in his step as he walked down the main street, smiling at people who smiled in return and ultimately bolstering his already lifted mood. He was halfway home before he spotted a very familiar, very out of place shock of red hair calmly making its way through crowds of people to some unknown destination. Naruto craned his neck and peered over the heads of passerby in order to confirm that yes, that was Gaara, and yes, he seemed to be on some kind of mission based on the determined look in his cold green eyes. The blonde boy dodged and weaved through the crowd in order to catch up with him.

"Gaara!" he cried, waving his arms frantically, "yo, Gaara! Wait up!"

The red hair and the person it was attached to turned to face him and nodded in acknowledgment. He didn't stop walking, but he did slow down enough to allow Naruto to catch up alongside him. Gaara didn't look at him when he finally appeared by his side, but he did grunt lightly from the back of his throat, which was an internationally recognized Gaara sign for "Hello." Once Naruto caught his breath, he decided to try his chances at conversation with him.

"So Gaara," Naruto chirped happily, strolling beside his friend, "what brings you to Konoha? Do you have a mission?" His grin didn't go away, but Gaara's refusal to look anywhere but right in front of him was beginning to weird him out. Vaguely.

"...Of sorts," he replied. He gave no sign of any other answer, so Naruto continued to prod.

"So, what is it?" he asked jubilantly, his good mood still bright and apparent in his speech and step. "A meeting with the Hokage? Some diplomatic thing? Are you getting your eyebrows done?" He joked.

The sarcasm seemed to escape Gaara, as he didn't glare at him or beat him into a bloody mess with the signature ruthlessness he was known for. Instead he continued walking, and his entire face froze over.

"None of the above," he said. "I am here to kill Shikamaru Nara."

Naruto stopped in his tracks. There was something in his ears. He was going crazy and hearing things. Gaara's voice was impossibly soft. He must have misheard him somehow. There was no way he could have said what he just said. There was no way in hell he came all the way to Konoha just to kill- Shikamaru, of all people. He just heard him wrong.

"Uh, C-Come again, Gaara?" Naruto chuckled. In a few moments they were going to laugh at the incident and Naruto would feel his legs again. "You're here to what, exactly?"

"I am here to kill Shikamaru Nara," he repeated calmly. "It won't take but a minute, so don't worry."

Alright, so he hadn't heard him wrong. It was just some huge, horrible, gross misunderstanding.

"B-But why?" Naruto choked, disbelieving. After all, Shikamaru had spent the majority of his life striving to be the kind of guy people would not want to kill. And Gaara- they had only met a few times, and they were all work-related. What on earth could Shikamaru have done to make Gaara angry enough to kill him?

"He betrayed me," Gaara said flatly, searching the streets of Konoha for any sign of his prey, "and for that he must die."

"Betray you?" Naruto shouted loudly without thinking, "But he wouldn't! Shikamaru's not that kind of guy!"

Gaara closed his eyes and collected himself. He had very little cool left to lose, and he couldn't do it here. He had to save all his energy for killing the Nara boy. "I trusted him," he explained, icicles forming in his irises.

"What. The hell. Gaara?" Naruto shouted, his voice escalating with every word. "You're not making any sense, man!"

Finally he stopped, breathing in deeply and striving to keep his voice cool. "I trusted him," he repeated, "with the health and welfare of my older sister."

Naruto was still lost. "And?"

Gaara sighed. "And he had sex with her."



"...You lie," said Naruto finally, as a chip of the pile of bricks that had hit him finally fell off. "Shikamaru... Shikamaru of all people, he would never,"

"I have proof," said Gaara, presenting him with a crisp photo pulled from his chest pocket. Naruto grabbed it and looked it over closely. Alright, yes, that was Shikamaru with his pants down, and yes, that was his hand up Temari's shirt, but the blinds were partially pulled down so you couldn't really—

Oh, who was he kidding. Shikamaru was so dead.

Naruto coughed into his fist and handed Gaara back the photo. Gaara took a quick glance at it before returning it into the folds of his shirt, as if reminding himself of the rage and contempt that brought him here. The blonde still shook his head. "Still Gaara, come on. You can't really blame him. I mean, your sister is—" Naruto faltered under the deathly glare Gaara forced on him and quickly changed the subject, "I mean, you can't blame him for losing his self control just one time."

Gaara's eyelid twitched. "It was seven times," he said.

Naruto wondered vaguely if Shikamaru had a will.

"So," Naruto stammered, trying to come up with some way to stall for time, "uh, do you have any idea where Shikamaru is? I mean, Konoha is a pretty big place after all."

Gaara shook his head. "I do not know. But once I do, I assure you, he will be dead. I do not tolerate such-"

"Betrayal, yeah, hey— maybe I could go... look around, you know, check out all his usual hangouts and make sure he's... you know, I'll... I could, um," Naruto tried desperately to stall for time, he needed some way to get Shikamaru out of trouble before he wound up a sandy street pancake.

"...You would help me find him?" Gaara finished, showing as much shock as he was capable of. "That's... that's very... kind of you, Naruto."

Naruto began to protest, but stopped himself. Pretending to help Gaara would give him time to warn Shikamaru and tell him to get out of town. But that would mean he would be betraying Gaara, who was also his friend... then again, Shikamaru didn't want Gaara dead. But wait, wasn't Temari the center of this whole thing? She could come down and talk some sense into Gaara (which she was normally pretty good at... yeah, this was starting to turn into a plan...). Then Gaara would be happy, he wouldn't have betrayed any of his friends, and nobody would kill anybody! It was perfect!

"Yeah, well, you know," Naruto bluffed, pretending as if that had been his intention all along, "Y-Yea— I, I'll go this way, okay?" He stayed around ample time enough to see Gaara nod before bolting off to the first place he thought he would find Shikamaru, and maybe save his life.

"That's not true, Ino," said Chouji certainly, tossing a chip into his open mouth, "squirrels are not capable of destroying paper bombs."

"They are so!" she retorted, "I saw one, just now, tearing one apart with its little squirrely fangs, and it looked at me! It looked at me, like,"

"Like you're a crazy person?" Shikamaru finished, the bridge of his nose placed firmly between his thumb and forefinger. "Squirrels don't have fangs, Ino, they have teeth. And another thing,"

The conversation was interrupted— happily, in Shikamaru's opinion— by a distant voice fervently repeating Shikamaru's name cornering them further and further.

"Huh? Naruto?" Shikamaru said as the figure came into view. He watched interestedly as his friend doubled over, panting for want of breath in front of them, "What are you doing here?"

Naruto grabbed Shikamaru's shoulders harshly and gasped out his warning through short, choppy breaths. "Dude—Gaara's here— Going to kill you—you gotta get out of here. Like, now."

Chouji stifled a small laugh, which probably wouldn't have found life anyway since his airway was mostly blocked by food. Ino looked both bored and annoyed. Shikamaru simply looked like he had no idea what was going on. "Kill me? Why would Gaara want to kill me?"

Naruto was losing patience. "Hmm, good question why would he?" he half-shouted. "There has to be a reason, let's think… oh yeah! It has four pigtails, and you had sex with it!"

The reaction was immediate. Chouji began to sputter and choke on his snack, pounding his chest violently; Ino was no longer bored in any way, shape or form; and Shikamaru leapt out of his seat so fast it may as well have been electrically charged.

"How did he—?" Shikamaru said, still dumbfounded. Naruto was growing more impatient by the minute; they were wasting time talking when they should have been getting him the hell out of there.

"He has fucking pictures, you retard, next time close the damn blinds if you're going to bone the sister of one of the most powerful Kages in the world!" He shouted. Shikamaru still looked half paralyzed, either with fear or embarrassment nobody could be sure. Naruto, realizing Shikamaru was probably quite unlikely to move on his own, grabbed his arm and tugged harshly. "Now come on, you're going to have to lie low for a couple days until I can find Temari and get her to sort this thing out. Can you think of anywhere you can go?"

Shikamaru appeared to be racking his brains, but he wasn't going fast enough for Naruto's comfort. Gaara was an expert in finding people he wanted to kill, and very determined. Shikamaru would need one hell of a hiding place to keep himself alive. He turned to Ino and Chouji for help, but neither of them seemed capable of doing anything at this point. Naruto threw his arms up in the air and sighed. As usual, the job of fixing everything and saving the day would have to rest with him.

Finally, Shikamaru regained his power of speech. "Better idea," he said quietly, his eyes still wide, "I'll go get Temari. You'll have to stay here and keep Gaara distracted until I get back."

Naruto laughed humorlessly. "No. Ooooh no. There's no way you're going to see Temari. If I'm getting this right, that's how this whole thing started in the first place!"

Chouji snorted. Shikamaru scowled. "It's the best way. If I stay in any one place for too long, I'll be sure to end up a blood smear on the desert floor," he said. "And if you stay here, you can pretend to be helping Gaara find me. I can't very well do that, can I?"

Naruto huffed. He was right, of course. "Alright, fine," he said. "Just try and keep it in your pants this time, okay?"

Shikamaru shot him a glare that could rival Gaara's and sped off into the forest in the direction of the Desert.

Naruto marched down the main street again, this time with a purpose. He couldn't distract Gaara and save Shikamaru all on his own. He needed to enlist some help, someone who would go along without asking too many questions and be devoted enough to the cause to do what it took. Kakashi and Sakura had left on a mission days ago; Ino and Chouji were no help as he was pretty sure they were still glued to that bench; and Kurenai couldn't even stand up she was so goddamn pregnant. That left Naruto with only one person he knew would lend a hand him without thought, and was loyal enough to their friends that they wouldn't hesitate to help.

He pulled into the elaborate walkway of the biggest house in Konoha—more of a palace than any house Naruto had ever seen. He knocked on the door loudly as he could, hoping that someone could hear him in the enormous fortress that was the—

The door opened in front of him and proved that while the Hyuugas did have exceptional hearing, it wasn't the one he wanted that opened the door. Neji glared down at him with however much bemusement he was capable of showing. "What are you doing here?" He asked flatly.

Naruto faltered for a moment. He wasn't expecting to run into Neji here (which was pretty stupid in hindsight). He still had a job to do though, and he wasn't about to be deterred.

"Hey, Neji. Hinata around?" The Hyuuga raised one eyebrow. He stood there silently, contemplating him for a few moments before stepping aside to let him in and telling him that Hinata was in the kitchen, making lunch.

Naruto managed to find the kitchen through the maze that was the Hyuuga compound, despite running into almost a dozen maids and servants who refused to acknowledge him, let alone give him directions. He smelled something delicious walking in, but he had to remind himself that he was here to recruit Hinata to save Shikamaru, not eat what smelled like the most delicious dumplings he'd ever encountered. He cleared his throat while Hinata was tossing some dough in flour. She turned around and her surprise was just as evident as ever. "Naruto! W-What are you doing here?"

Naruto attempted to close his nostrils. "Uh, hey Hinata. I was hoping I could ask you for your help with something. It's really, super important," he said. Hinata immediately abandoned her dough and rushed over with two chairs for them.

"Oh my goodness! Is everything alright? Is someone hurt?" She asked worriedly as they sat down. Her pale eyes were so wide they resembled tiny moons. Naruto tried to keep calmer than he was when he assured her that everything was fine, for the moment.

"But there's a pretty big problem. It's Shikamaru. He's in kind of… some trouble. Pretty big trouble, actually," said Naruto. "I was hoping you would help me—"

"Of course!" she blurted out, her cheeks blooming red from the exclamation, "I-I mean, of course I'll help, if Shikamaru's in trouble! W-What did he do?"

Naruto suddenly coughed. He felt pretty uncomfortable talking about this sort of thing with Hinata, who would probably turn so rose red that she wouldn't have any blood in her brain. "Uh, well, he sort of pissed off Gaara. Bad." He tried to avoid explaining too much, but he made sure to tell her the important details. "He's here, looking for him. Shikamaru left town, but we need to distract Gaara long enough for him to sort things out. Can you help?"

Hinata of course nodded fervently, strands of dark hair flying in every direction. "Of course, you know I will, Naruto, but I'm not quite sure what I can do," she said. "I mean, I'm a horrible liar and I don't even know Gaara that well so I don't know how much help I'll really be," she finished, her head hanging.

Naruto waved her off dismissively. "Sure you can. All you have to do is keep him occupied; however you can for as long as you can. You're better at convincing people than you think. Just—flash him that mopey, deer in the headlights thing you do, where your eyes go all big and your mouth hangs open and you look all dejected and stuff—just like that, yeah!" he said. "He can't turn you down when you look like that. No one can, if they have a soul. You'll be fine," he assured her, "just do whatever you can to take his mind off Shikamaru. You can do that, can't you?"

Hinata nodded with some semblance of confidence.

Gaara looked over another crowd for what seemed like the thousandth time today. He had been here 36 hours, which was 35 and a half more than he had planned for. He had left Suna in the somewhat capable hands of Kankuro and Baki, but he was still irked by how long it took him to find and kill a simple Chuunin, genius or no.

To his surprise, he noticed that one of the floating heads had separated itself from the crowd and approached him directly. He didn't recognize the girl, but she appeared to know him.

"H-Hello, Gaara!" said the girl, tucking her hands behind her back. "I-I didn't know you were here. How are you?"

Gaara looked down at the girl with a stony expression, not showing how puzzled he was until he spoke. "I'm sorry, but do I know you?" He said coldly.

Hinata forced a slight giggle that despite all her efforts still came out sounding nervous. "Oh, it's q-quite alright. I'm not surprised you don't remember me. We only met once, years ago at the Chuunin Exams. I'm Hinata, Naruto's friend." She extended her hand with a warm smile, trying to conceal her anxiety. He may have been the same age as her, but he was far more imposing than anyone else she knew.

Gaara's expression did not change. He took her hand for only a moment to be polite to a friend of Naruto's and immediately returned to his search. He could not be distracted, by this girl or anything.

The Hyuuga girl noticed and searched her brains for something else to talk about. She was scared beyond what was probably reasonable, but she had to do this. For her friends.

"S-So, um, how long have you been in town, Gaara?" She asked. She was dancing back and forth on the balls of her feet, smiling bigger than before. Small conversation was better than no conversation at all, and as long as she could keep him occupied he was less likely to hurt Shikamaru before he could fix everything. Gaara fixed his jaw harshly, trying to concentrate on his task through the girl's gentle chattering. Even for his standards, she needed to speak up.

"A little more than a day," he answered without moving his head. He was still keeping his eyes peeled for a large spiked ponytail extending out from the throng of people passing by. Hinata's fingers skipped frantically behind her back. Just as she feared, she was failing her friends. She had to try harder.

"Oh my, that long? H-Have you eaten anywhere yet?" she said, hoping that at the very least, her question would get him to move his head.

It did not. "No. I've been preoccupied." He was beginning to feel the pangs of irritation in his chest. Hopefully his answer would be satisfying enough to make her go away.

It was not. Hinata blew an errant strand of hair from her face and thought. "Well, that's no good at all, is it?" she blurted out, an idea striking her. "Y-You have to eat, don't you? Actually, I know a lovely place just a few streets over that has the most wonderful—"

"I'm sorry girl, but I'm very busy and have little times for trivial—" but Gaara's interruption was halted when he looked down at the girl, who was making a face that Gaara did not recognize. Hinata, on the other hand, was doing what came very naturally to her. An expression she had displayed countless times before this. Her face fell, lips parted; her eyes grew to twice their natural size and her arms stood helplessly at her sides, looking more like a small orphaned animal than anyone could possibly be. Gaara recognized the dancing sparkles in her eyes that only meant the impending threat of tears. For reasons he could not understand, her dewed snow-colored eyes and her crestfallen pout struck him in a way that made him feel obliged to fulfill her request, and for some reason he found himself telling her to show him the way.

Hinata turned to lead him and smiled. Maybe she was better at this than she thought. But she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep it up.

Shikamaru had better hurry, she thought.

Shikamaru was hurrying very much, in fact. He was running faster and harder than he ever had in his life, but the strain was nothing compared to the fear of what awaited him in Konoha.

The boy scowled. He was sure he hadn't done anything to deserve this. It wasn't like any part of this situation was his doing. He wasn't the one who stripped down and lay naked on the bed of her apartment, waiting for her to get home. He wasn't the one who pulled her into broom closets and empty rooms and deserted hallways. He never curled up to her in bed and ran his long, calloused fingers through her hair, teasing her in ways that made her heart stop. He wasn't the one who had a smile or a laugh that made her dizzy.

Shikamaru was, in fact, completely innocent.

None of that would be seen through Gaara's eyes, though. To him, he was the enemy that corrupted his sister, and was deserving of death. Painful, horrible death that would probably be more gruesome than anything he had ever—

But there was no point in dwelling on it. He had his own mission to concentrate on, which was returning to Konoha as quickly as possible with Temari in tow, and calming Gaara down. The first thing he had to do was tell her what Gaara was doing; obviously if Temari had known his real intentions for leaving she never would have let him go. But it wasn't only the fear of imminent death that gave him pause. The last time he and Temari met, it hadn't been on the most wonderful of terms. In fact, it had gotten pretty heated, and not in the way it normally did.

"A note, a postcard, anything would have been nice!" he snapped at her. "Anything but sneaking out and leaving the city without saying a damn word!"

"Well excuse me if my world isn't centered around telling you where I am at every hour of the day," she retorted. "I had things to do, they were important. Why do you even care?"

Shikamaru glared at her, angry in some way he couldn't understand, seething. "Fine. From now on, I don't care. Happy?"

"Yes," she said, "very."

He still bit his tongue at the memory. If he were honest with himself, he wasn't angry at her for leaving. He was angry with himself for caring that she left. He wasn't supposed to be invested. He wasn't programmed to care this much about anything. Thinking of Temari, seeing her face made his heart hurt from expanding to make room for her.

What if she refused to help him? If he knew anything about Temari, it was that she was stubborn, and she was proud. It well may be that she hadn't yet forgiven him, and she would be perfectly comfortable condemning him to death at the hands of her little brother. But no, he thought, she was a logical person. Even if she was angry, it wouldn't be enough for her to want him dead. Even if it was only for the sake of Gaara not killing someone, she would stop it.

"Well thank you," he snapped as he pulled the door open, "for that bit of enlightening wisdom."

"Here's another one," she said, "fuck you."


Naruto drummed his fingers nervously against the counter. Even the smell of ramen couldn't soothe him at this point. It had been three days; three days of Gaara not finding Shikamaru and three days of him growing more and more suspicious. Hinata had been trying her hardest sidetracking him, and as far as he could tell it had been working for the most part. Any time he had seen Gaara in the past few days he was toting a chattering Hinata behind him. He could tell she was filling the air with as much meaningless chatter as possible to prevent any chances of him interrupting her. Naruto was surprised at how she had risen to the occasion. He hadn't heard her talk this much in the last five years as she had in the past two days. He felt a twinge of pride.

The streak was broken, however, when Gaara sat down beside him, alone. He tried not to jump, and instead greeted him with all the joviality of someone who was trying to help get one of his best friends murdered.

"I have a question," Gaara greeted him with. "About one of your friends."

Naruto smiled innocently and pretended with all his might that he wasn't thinking "crap." Feigning ignorance, he asked "Really? Which one?"

Gaara turned to him. "The one with the dark hair. Hinata. I've noticed I seem to be running into her quite frequently."

Of course he freaking noticed, thought Naruto. Running into someone eleven times in forty-eight hours was bound to invoke suspicion. "Oh, yeah, Hinata," he said, covering, "she's great, you know. Really, uh, really nice and stuff."

"So I noticed," replied Gaara. "She seems quite… sociable."

Naruto disguised a snort as a cough. Hinata and sociable were two words he had never expected to hear together, ever. "Oh yeah, well, that's Hinata. Really uh, friendly," he lied.

Gaara made a suspicious noise. "Indeed," he said. "While I'm perfectly… flattered, that she's decided to spend so much attention on me, I'm afraid her constant presence is a distraction from my ultimate goal here. I would appreciate it if you told her to give me some space."

Naruto knitted his eyebrows. "Well why can't you do it?" he asked. He thought he heard Gaara grumble something in reply, but it was so unintelligible he had to ask him to repeat it.

"I can't," said Gaara. He looked close to being uncomfortable. "Every time I attempt to say no to her, she begins to cry. It's… unpleasant."

After a moment, Naruto smiled inwardly. After all these years, finally, Naruto had discovered Gaara's weakness. The Achilles' Heel of the great Kazekage, known to kill people with a look.

The almighty and powerful Gaara of the Sand couldn't stand to see little girls cry.

Naruto stifled laughter. "Uh, yeah. Sure, Gaara. Me and Hinata, we're real good friends. I'll make sure she knows."

Oh, was he going to abuse the hell out of this when this whole thing was over.

"Do you just not care? That's it, isn't it? You don't care about any of this!"

"Any of what, Shikamaru," she shouted, throwing her arms in the air. "Tell me, what is this thing that you say I don't care about? I'm all ears."

"How the hell am I supposed to know?" he retorted, "You're the one who started it!"

Shikamaru was tired. He was probably more tired than he had ever been. Two days without any sleep, and here he was, able to rest for less than an hour before he had to make that final stretch to the Sand. He gingerly touched the bleeding wound on his face that appeared after he took a misstep on a tree branch and fell far enough to question why he was still alive. Like everything else that had happened in the past few days, the accident was not his fault. If he hadn't been busy thinking about what he would do when he saw Temari, he would have been paying attention to where he was going and he would never have fallen in the first place. Yet another way the woman had found to fuck up his life completely.

But as troublesome as she was, as much suffering and misery she had caused him in the past six months, that woman was also responsible for some of the best nights of his life. Incredible, awesome things he never thought he'd experience. Irritating, infuriating, blissful… the best thing that had ever happened to him.

And he had thrown it all away. Because he cared too much.

Or maybe she just didn't care enough.

Shikamaru lay his head down to try and get some rest, and ended up hitting the crown of his head with a rather hard log.

"Ow," he said.

Parties were annoying, thought Temari. Useless, wretched events for no other reason for rich and powerful diplomats to gather together and kiss each other's asses for fun and profit. She wasn't a diplomat. She wasn't an authority figure.

So why the hell did she have to go to this thing?

Oh, right. Because she was "representing the family" or some bullshit. She found it all too convenient that Gaara was called away on business just as the announcement was made that Suna was hosting a very important Wind Country gathering.

She mentally reminded herself to kill him.

At least she didn't look too bad though, as she evaluated herself in the mirror. Temari could fill out a dress like nobody's business, but the heels and jewelry were what got her. Why should she kill herself, tripping over three-inch heels and getting her hair caught in gaudy necklaces just so she could impress a few old geezers? Fuck that, she thought. She was wearing flats.

She opened a dusty jewelry box and pulled out a string of pearls. She never wore them, and would have sold them years before if they weren't an old possession of her mother's. She had loved to dress up, and she loved those pearls. They also looked pretty damn good on Temari.

She struggled with the clasp around her neck as she left the bathroom in search of her shoes. She, however, stopped dead in her tracks when she saw a tall, lanky figure standing uninvited in her living room.

"You look great," said Shikamaru softly.

Temari's arms fell dead at her side. The pearls clattered on the floor. "What are you doing here," she demanded. "How did you even get in?"

Shikamaru shrugged and pulled a key out of his pocket in response. "Fake flower pot. Left of the porch. You're so predictable," he said. "You also don't garden."

Temari stomped forward and snatched the key from his hand. "Get out," she hissed.

"Can't," he said simply. "I need your help."

The blonde scoffed as she turned on her heel and retrieved her necklace off the ground. "With what? Being a jackass? You've already got a handle on that, genius."

Shikamaru chose to ignore the jab. "You wouldn't happen to know where your brother is right now, would you? You know, the one who's the Kazekage."

Temari rolled her eyes. "Supposedly he's in a meeting with the Sound. But the more likely answer is that he's stuck up in some hotel a hundred miles away, waiting until this stupid party is over."

He sighed. "Wrong on both counts. At the moment, Gaara is in Konoha, trying his very best to track me down and kill me."

Temari turned around and shot him a look of highly amused disbelief. "Bullshit," she said. "Why would Gaara want to kill you? He doesn't even know you."

"True," replied Shikamaru. "But he does know about—" the word "us" got caught in his mouth and burrowed its way back down his throat "—about what we've been doing."

This time, Temari had to try very hard to keep hold of her pearls. After quite a while, she managed to force out the word "Seriously?"

"Yeah," was all he said in reply. "So, I was wondering, you know if you're not too busy, if you could come down to Konoha and stop your brother from murdering me."

Temari chewed on her red-stained lips. There was very little that could be done when Gaara got as angry as this, but she could damn well try. "Just a minute," she said as she retreated into her bedroom.

This was just the perfect excuse to skip that stupid party.

"I'm so sorry, Naruto," Hinata said. "I didn't know I was being so obvious…"

"Hey, don't worry," said Naruto, placing a hand on Hinata's shoulder. "It's not your fault. He was bound to notice sooner or later. You did great. But," he sighed, "Now we have to find another way to buy Shikamaru some time."

Hinata bit demurely at her thumbnail. It was a habit her father detested; then again her father wasn't here. The pair of them sat cross-legged on the floor of Hinata's room, the only place in the palace where they could be assured of privacy. While Naruto eagerly attacked a plate of cookies beside them, Hinata thought. She couldn't approach Gaara anymore. Naruto had used up the majority of the excuses they had come up with (Shikamaru's on a mission, Shikamaru's sick, Shikamaru wandered into the forest and got lost). It had been three days. By now, Shikamaru had probably already made contact with Temari and they were on their way back. But even with the two of them going as fast as they could, it would take at least another two days for them to return. For forty-eight hours she and Naruto had to find a way to distract Gaara… without going anywhere near him.

"Hmm… we could tell them Shikamaru's visiting family," Naruto said with half his mouth. "Family that lives far, far far, far away."

Hinata furrowed her brow and leaned back against her bed. "Why don't we just tell Gaara the truth? Shikamaru's not here, and,"

"—and he's off visiting his sister, which is the entire reason he wants him dead in the first place," Naruto finished for her. "Not a great idea, Hinata."

She nodded in agreement. "Maybe we could get some other people to help?" she said. "What about that nice girl from the library? She likes Shikamaru."

Naruto wrinkled his nose in distaste. "But she's creepy," he protested. Hinata sighed.

"So what are we going to do?"

Naruto shrugged and sighed. "We wait, I guess."

Within seconds, Temari had ripped open a small black rucksack and started shoving things into it. Behind her, Shikamaru leaned against the doorframe.

"So," he said. "Can we talk about—"

"No," Temari interrupted flatly.

He ran his hands through his hair and sighed. Looking her over in the light, she really was beautiful. An emerald green dress that hugged her perfectly, cut just high enough to be sexy but just low enough to have something left to the imagination. Her hair was curled, her lips were red and he was really fucking sick of this.

"No," he said. "We are talking. Before we go anywhere, you, Temari, are going to stand there and talk to me." Shikamaru had never heard his own voice so commanding.

Temari set her jaw and wheeled around to meet him. "You," she began, before she become aware of the red stain on his face. In the darkness of her living room she hadn't noticed, but in the light of the hallway she saw a cut the length of her hand running across his cheek. "You're bleeding."

Shikamaru started a bit and touched his cheek. He had completely forgotten about his tree-and-Temari induced injury. Hadn't even felt it.

"Come here," Temari growled, grabbing him by the arm and tossing him into her bathroom. "Sit," she said, pointing to the edge of the tub.

Shikamaru sat.

Temari pulled open the cabinet under the sink and pulled out a white plastic box. From it she pulled cotton balls, bandages, and a bottle of strong-smelling clear liquid he was sure would be painful.

She soaked a cotton ball with the liquid and bent over Shikamaru's cheek. "Sit up straight," she ordered. He did. She gently ran the cotton over his cheek and ignored his breathing through gritted teeth. His only small comfort was that her breasts were at complete eye level with his face. At least he had something nice to look at while her soft, firm fingers made their way across his wound.

"So," he said, realizing she couldn't escape him now, "like we were saying earlier,"

Temari drew back from him as quickly as if his face were on fire. "Do you want your damn face cleaned or not?" She snapped, resting her hands on her hips. Shikamaru looked up at her, an unbridled amount of something in his eyes.

"I just want to know," he said. "I just want to know why you're so against caring about anything!"

"I'm against it?" she cried, "just because you came all the way out here to save your own ass, doesn't mean you care one bit about anything we have here!"

Shikamaru just stared. "What the hell are you talking about, woman? Why are you so damn mad?"

Temari shook her finger at him warningly. "You," she said, her voice shaking, "you, you damn bastard, had the goddamn nerve to come into my house, to come here and accuse me of not caring about—" she stopped there and brought her hand to her mouth. "You want to know why I'm mad? I'm mad because someone I care about, someone I actually sort of like got in my face and told me I don't care about a relationship that I've actually tried in— and for some reason that pisses me the hell off!" She threw her arms in the air. "Jesus Christ Shikamaru, do you think I go around doing this for just any guy? Do you think that I spend nights in their beds, or actually put effort into making them happy? Not freaking likely! Do you think I look at them and actually think that maybe, maybe that guy might be alright? No. I do it with you, and I miss you, and… dammit you suck, Shikamaru, you freaking suck!"

She finished her tirade by angrily hurling the bottle of rubbing alcohol clear across the room and watching it hit the wall of her hallway and spilling everywhere like bitter-smelling fireworks. Shikamaru watched her stand there, chest heaving, looking angry and beautiful and crazy and perfect. Without thinking, he gently tugged at her hand and stroked her wrist with his thumb. Trancelike, she shuffled harshly to the tub and sat gracelessly by his side. She wouldn't look anywhere but her hands and didn't say anything, but she did allow her head to fall to the side onto his shoulder.

Shikamaru grinned lopsidedly and pressed a kiss into her hair. "You know," he muttered to her bangs, "as much as I'd love to sit here and tell you what an idiot you are for ever believing anything I say," he thought he saw her smile for a second, "we're kind of in a hurry."

Gaara was ill-mannered to say the very least when he threw open the door to Naruto's apartment. He found him and Hinata sitting there on the floor, seemingly plotting.

"So," Gaara said menacingly as his eyes darted between the two of them, "I was right. You two are covering for him, aren't you?"

Any excuses Naruto could come up with were frozen in his head by the death glare Gaara was serving him. Hinata almost bit her thumbnail clean off. Her face was redder than cherries.

"G-Gaara…" she began apprehensively, "I-I'm sorry. W-We didn't mean to, i-it's just,"

"Shikamaru's our friend," Naruto chimed in, noticing that uttering another word would probably cause Hinata to pass out. "We couldn't just, you know… let him die."

"So you plotted against me," said Gaara, "in order to save that worthless little—"

"Oh, come off it, Gaara!" Naruto shouted. Five days, five days of hearing the same betrayal crap from Gaara without cease and he was just a little freaking bit pissed off. "Alright, Shikamaru had sex with your sister," Hinata gave a jumbled squeak, "but she's like, nineteen or whatever. She can take care of her freaking self, alright? And in Shikamaru's defense, Temari is kind of hot. That is all," he finished. Naruto then closed his eyes and prepared for death.

It didn't come, however. Instead Naruto heard the sound of footsteps roaring up the stairs to his apartment and slowing down at his room, somebody panting in his doorway.

"Hey, Narut—oooooooh," said Shikamaru. Once he saw Gaara standing there, furious already even before his arrival, he felt an extremely powerful and convincing voice in his head telling him to fucking run.

He didn't have the time, though. Before he could turn Gaara had set free his sand and pinned him to the wall adjacent, glowering over him with a contempt so fierce Shikamaru thought he saw actual daggers protruding from his eyes.

"Gaara, don't!" Hinata exclaimed as she jumped from the floor. Naruto grabbed her arm and held her back though, fearing for her life and that of everyone else's in the room.

Shikamaru wasn't struggling for breath, but he didn't look all too comfortable, either. He was low enough to the ground that he could support himself on his toes, but he was being flattened by a barrage of sand against Naruto's already unstable apartment walls. If the crushing of his bones didn't kill him, the collapse of the wall on top of him would.

If Naruto and Hinata were protesting, Gaara couldn't hear. He was deafened by rage; for this man who stole Temari, who stole Naruto and (to a lesser extent) Hinata, who was able to smile at him for months before turning around and taking everything. Things that were his. His sister. His friends. His solace. No, this boy would pay for taking what he had no right to have. Sense wasn't that important to him at the moment. What was important was seeing him die.

Shikamaru felt himself slowly rise up off the ground. He felt air fleeing from his lungs. Then he felt the ground beneath his feet, and took a few moments to breathe before looking up and seeing a very strange argument between two siblings.

"—Can't believe you would behave this way!" he heard Temari say. "Are you the Kazekage, or are you five years old?"

Gaara looked back and forth between his sister and his prey, He had two options: he could make his sister happy, or he could kill the bastard in front of him with as much vehemence as he could muster. Both options were quite attractive to him. But Temari wasn't allowing him to choose.

"You're not being sensible, Gaara," said Temari firmly. She was standing close enough to him so that his gaze couldn't wander. "Shikamaru hasn't done anything wrong."

Gaara tried to look at him, but Temari was having none of it. She stood between them, her eyes a stormy green with flecks of pure blue anger. Her arms crossed over her chest, she stood over her little brother with all the authority a big sister could have. Gaara was trapped. "But," he protested quietly, "He… I mean you,"

"Are a big girl, and your older sister. Both of those things entitle me to have sex with whomever I choose, whenever I want, without the threat of you going out and murdering them," said Temari. "And if you plan to hunt down and kill every guy I've ever slept with, you are going to be very busy for a very long time."

"Pretending I didn't hear that," called Shikamaru with difficulty.

What followed after that was one of the most epic staring matches any of them had ever witnessed. Each sibling stared the other down without mercy. Gaara's icy green eyes stood fixatedly until they melted into Temari's sea-green ones. She was winning, indefinitely.

Eventually the sand recoiled into the gourd on Gaara's back and he walked out the door. Temari waited a few moments before stepping over to Shikamaru and checking him for injuries. Aside from some bruising and what looked like a sprained wrist, he was completely fine. "Get him a splint or something, would you?" she called to Hinata, who nodded and dashed off. After leaving Shikamaru in the care of his friends, Temari left to find her baby brother.

Fortunately, Gaara hadn't gone more than two blocks before he settled on a bench and stared blankly in front of him. He lost. In every way, he lost.

Temari found him just like that, sitting and staring. She didn't want to appear too worried, so she ran as slow as she could. She sat down next to him before asking what on earth had gone through his head when he came here. Gaara was silent.

"…I thought he was taking you," he said finally. "I thought you were going to leave."

Temari looked closely at her younger brother for a long time.

Then she laughed. She laughed hard.

Gaara looked at her with what may have been embarrassment. "Why are you laughing at me?" he asked.

Temari was shaking now. "Because you're an idiot," she chuckled. "Seriously Gaara? You think my dating some guy is going to, what? Make me not your sister anymore? Do you really think that's how it works?"

She continued to smile even as her laughter declined. "You're not my brother because I spend all hours of the day with you. You're my brother because I care about you and protect you. None of that is going to change, no matter who I sleep with." Despite Gaara's noticeable twitch at her words, she grabbed a handful of his hair and pushed his head around. "Face it," she told him, "you, good sir, are stuck with me forever. Deal."

So know you know what I meant by I Don't Know What the Crap This is. Probably because the beginning of this story is old. Really old. Three years kind of old. I started it in my Google Docs waaay back and it fell into my endless void of Google Docs stories that I never finish. It's a curse. I have a whole account full of stories that you will never ever see. So sorry about that.