"So that's what happened…?" Gaara finished his briefing while everyone stood in front of his desk.

"What now Kazekage-sama?" Shikamaru asked as he looked at a serious Naruto from the corner of his eye.

Standing up from his desk, Gaara walked up to Naruto and placing his hand on his shoulder, "Well the mission still stands. We're to bring Sasuke to justice and stop him before he causes anymore damage."

With a somber look in his face, Gaara lowered his head and then raised it back and faced Naruto "This is where I'm drawing the line Naruto. From this point on, we're to retrieve Sasuke dead or alive; preferably dead. I'm sorry Naruto but I can't risk anymore lives. Even though Nara isn't a Sand Shinobi…" As he turned his head to face Shikamaru.

"I'm pretty sure he has a family back in Konoha waiting for their son to come home safely…and someone special here waiting for him." Shikamaru blushed at those words, knowing well Gaara meant Temari.

"Naruto…?" Sai approached Naruto as he comforted him.

Naruto nodded his head and responded, "I know and understand…Sasuke is my best friend but Shikamaru is one of my friends whose stuck by even as kids. Even though we don't have that type of bond like he and Chouji, he's still a good friend that I don't want to lose…" Shikamaru looked at Naruto with a not so surprise look on his face. He shrugged his shoulders and placed his hand on Naruto's shoulders as well and replied with a smirk on his face, "As annoying as you are; we're still friends."

Removing his hand from Naruto's shoulder, Shikamaru turned to face Gaara with a serious look on his face, "With every moment, Sasuke seems to be getting smarter and stronger. He has the element of surprise when it comes to combat which makes it hard for us to face him. However, his advantage is also his flaw. He's not very coordinated when it comes to his attacks and that's the one thing I kept noticing."

Gaara leaned against his desk with interest, "So that's how he's able to have the upper hand against us. The hard part is using his flaw against him. Any suggestions Nara?"

Naruto, Chouji, Sai and Kankuro looked up with interest as well. Before Shikamaru could begin, Naruto rose his hand, "It's not like Sasuke to be so sloppy when it comes to attacks. I kinda noticed it too so I'm guessing that he's probably getting desperate. I know he still wants revenge against Konoha but attack Suna and doing a sloppy job seems kinda odd to me."

"Exactly what I was thinking Naruto and I kept asking myself the same thing..." Shikamaru began as he walked forward towards Gaara's desk. "…So I don't mean to pry Kazekage-sama but is there something Sasuke would benefit from attacking Suna? I remember him declaring he would come after you which confuses me because I don't see what he would get from attacking you."

Gaara let out a loud sigh and relaxed a little on his chair. Regaining his composure, he sat up and looked at Shikamaru, "It's not just me he's targeting, he's planning to attack any of the Kages that ally themselves with Konoha."

Shikamaru stood up with a serious look on his face. Naruto jumped in and asked, "Wait, why would he attack the allies of Konoha? I can see why but the other villages won't really do much to help if we were attacked unless he attacked their villages?"

Sai and Chouji both nodded in agreement, "What would he benefit from this anyway? But it still doesn't explain his sloppiness of getting it done." Sai pointed out.

"Simple…" Gaara began as he got up from his seat and stood in front of them, "…we're all in debt to Naruto and the Leaf Shinobi for their contribution to the war and the complete extermination of Akatsuki. Meaning, if anything happens to Konoha, we as your allies won't hesitate to help out."

Naruto closed his eyes, still confused, "Well, it still doesn't make much sense."

"I knew a brainless glutton like you wouldn't get so I'll simplify it for you…" Shikamaru began as he buried his face in his hand in disbelief.

"Think about it you idiot; attacking the allies of Konoha is the same as lowering our moral. That and also, attacking our allies will lower their moral and intimidate them that they'll be too scared to help us when we really need them. We'll be too weak to fight back, giving him the opportunity to apply the element of surprise and attack us when we least expect it."

"Now it makes more sense!" Naruto clamped his fists together with enthusiasm, disappointing Shikamaru even more. "I take back what I just said about us being friends." As he palmed slapped his face and burying it in his hand.

Sakura, Ino and Temari sat back on the roof enjoying the cool breeze of the desert while looking towards the distance.

"It looks like things are getting harder for us and the guys." Ino pointed out as she continued to look straight into the desert.

"I know we were all trained for this kind of situation but this is just becoming too much. Sasuke gets more and more dangerous with every encounter. I don't know how we are going to handle this mission." Sakura pointed out with concern.

"It's even harder because we can't do anything to help out. Gaara won't let us go on the missions at the risk of losing us as medic ninjas." Ino pointed out.

"Well for me is because of my injuries…" Temari began as she kept looking towards the desert. "…but also because Sasuke plans to use me as a tool to weaken Shikamaru's and my brothers' moral. So it's better if I stay behind; which kind of makes me mad but I have no choice." She finished as she lowered her head in disappointment.

"That's gotta be frustrating. It's like basically calling you useless but in a nice way." Ino pointed out in an annoyed tone in her voice.

"But you have to look at it this way…" Sakura began "Your brothers and Shikamaru care about you. We all do and it's not to call you useless, they just want to protect you. Also, if Sasuke were to come and attack, you'd be powerless because of your injuries."

"So what does that make us?" Ino asked with a sarcastic tone in her voice.

"It makes us the women…that's all." Temari joked as she gave a weak smile.

"Well, call it what you want…they're still calling us useless." Sakura joked as she winked and pointed at Ino.

"I'd like to see them handle medical ninjutsu like us. They won't last 10 seconds." Ino pouted as she puffed her cheeks.

As both Sakura and Ino continued to giggle and talk amongst themselves, Temari looked out into the desert with concern. Her mind kept returning to the image of an injured Shikamaru at her window covered in cuts and bruises. Remembering also when she and Shikamaru both faced Sasuke together in the forest and how difficult it was. For the first time in her life as a Shinobi, she was never this worried and this confused about a mission. She knew that Sasuke had to be taken down for good but she was worried about the safety of her brothers, her villagers and Shikamaru who has already faced death twice already.

"…what do you think Temari-hime?" Temari snapped back as she caught the ending of Ino's question.

"Sorry, I didn't catch that?" Temari answered, regaining her composure.

"I don't think she was paying attention Ino…" Sakura smirked as she giggled like a little girl.

"I agree with you there…from the look on her face, she was imaging Shikamaru naked on her bed…again…" Ino smirked as she giggled as well.

Temari blushed, remembering every detail of his naked body. Remembering his smooth rough skin on top of her soft pale skin; every detail and texture of his four pack abs. Closing her eyes, she remembered his scent, his breath and how his lips would steal hers. How his kisses rained on her body, making her skin more softer and leaving his love marks on almost every part of her body. Every thrust was imprinted in her mind and she was still sore about it. Finally, she shivered as she remembered his husky voice repeat those magical words to her over and over again, putting her under his spell.

"…and we've lost her." Ino pointed out with a smirk on her face.

Temari, now flushed bright red turned her killer glare towards Ino's direction as if she was trying to blow her head off her neck with her mind.

Ino shivered a bit as she smirked, "Ooh, so I was right. Check out the death glare."

"If looks could kill Ino, you'd be dead." Sakura pointed out as she tried to back away from Ino as if trying to avoid becoming a victim of Temari's glare.

*ahem* "Well anyway, I'm pretty sure that once Gaara is done briefing the guys with future plans, we're also going to be involved in those plans. So we won't be useless anymore." Temari sat up straight as she looked more towards the desert; wondering what kind of plan the guys were thinking of. Most of all, wondering about Sasuke's next move; and how they were all going to fight back.

Once out of the briefing room, Naruto, Sai, Chouji and Shikamaru sat down on the couches in Gaara's living room, each letting out a deep sigh; standing in there and discussing work wasn't exactly a walk in the park and they were exhausted from all the standing and the serious atmosphere in the room.

"Man, that's the one thing I hate about being a Shinobi…all these long briefings and planning. Man, do Gaara and the other Kages hear themselves talk?" Naruto sighed as he collapsed onto the closest couch.

"You complain like you do this for a living. Try doing this almost every single day. Till then, you can't complain Naruto." Shikamaru pointed out as he let out a huge deep sigh and collapsed next to Chouji. Even he had to admit that Naruto had a point there; even though he was lucky to not to have to experience those boring and long briefings.

"You gotta admit Shikamaru, Naruto does have a point for a glutton." Chouji jokefully pointed out as he pulled out his bag of chips and began to eat.

Naruto snickered a little and said with an evil smile, "Says the glutton who always has a bag of chips in his pocket. You keep eating like that and you're going to get even more fa…ow!" before he could even finish, Shikamaru a cup at Naruto with an annoyed look at his face.

"Man, I can't believe you're actually the hero of the Great Shinobi War…" Chouji said as he continued to eat his chips.

"Mendokusai…" Shikamaru sighed as he closed his eyes…this was going to be a long mission that is just going to keep dragging itself. Something he's not looking forward to.

Sorry if there's not much action. Thought I'd give the characters a quick break from fighting and come up with a strategy (that and I kept getting stuck and caught up with school work). Yeah, I've lost it but hopefully I can finish this story on a good note (and hopefully people like it).

Thanks again for your patience and support ^(^ ^);