Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.
There's only so much a guy can do. He's beginning to realise this now.
He can keep his eyes closed, shut the doors, reject all party offers and sequester himself inside his bedroom keeping his mind on the book in front of him instead of the high pitched squeals coming from outside but there is only so much he can do.
When every single girl in the village in which he lives insists upon dressing like a high class call girl one night of the year there is only so much he can do avoid either having his eyes scratched out by a jealous boyfriend or his belt buckle tugged off by an overly optimistic yet thoroughly under-dressed witch.
It's unfortunate, because for this year's Halloween it means that as well as spending the holiday indoors away from all parties and frivolities- not that he'd be going anyways; dressing up to him is what fasting is to Choji- it also means that he's taken the extra precaution of spending the evening with his parents. Aside from the fact that his mother would kill any scantily clad girl who attempted to put her paws, claws, tacky nails or otherwise on him his father is practically a walking diversion from them. For if there is one thing that the scantily clad animal, ghoul or nurse fears above all it is that of the creepy old man who is guaranteed to try and make a move.
Not that his father is one of said men, but happily, just by being old, he falls into said category- meaning that as long as he, Nara Shikamaru, stays in the house, ignores every pleading call, note and rotund best friend that Ino sends him, he can somehow manage to finally avoid the swarms of moving cleavage and legs.
This year was the year, he told himself. After being both hit on and punched last year through none of his own fault, he was finally going to avoid either unpleasant occurrence and just live out the night as though it was nothing special…perhaps with a few horror movies if he was feeling somewhat festive.
Everything was going exceptionally well…until he answered the door.
Shikamaru could quite comprehend that should he open the door to find small children carrying hollowed out plastic pumpkins already filled with sweets and chocolate then he would have no cause to complain. And such was what he expected he would find upon opening the door. And yes, should there be an older sister who found it necessary to follow her younger brother round dressed in a Snow White costume that would possibly give the young boy nightmares, then he could quite understand that he may have to avert his eyes whilst shoving the plastic bowl his mother had filled with candy into the child's hands and slamming the door.
That was all quite plausible and usual and to be expected. After all 'trick-or-treating' was for children. A well acknowledged past time that they took part in every year.
But as to why a grown adult would trick-or-treat by themselves…?
Shikamaru didn't understand.
Unless the world hated him. Which right now he was pretty sure it did.
"Jeez Nara, take a picture why don't you," she droned, shuffling about on his doorstep, her own small plastic pumpkin moving about as she did so- the candy already in it suggesting that other people had seen her like this; a thought which Shikamaru found to be endlessly annoying.
"I think I might gouge my eyes out," he retorted, still unable to remove his gaze from her body although only because he was loathe to meet her eye to eye.
Scoffing she held out her pumpkin.
"Trick or treat!" Temari continued enthusiastically, repeating the words she first had when he had opened the door.
"You're seventeen!" Shikamaru spat incredulously, refusing to move his hand to the candy bowl.
"So?" she said, shrugging her bare shoulders. "I love Halloween, it's my favourite holiday."
"So rent The Shining," he persisted, finally moving his eyes upwards over her fishnet tights, black velvet bodice complete with tail, cinched in waist and eventually collar to her ear bedecked head. "You have eyeliner on your face," he stated as if to prove his point.
"They're whiskers," came her next bat complete with pout and a shake of her tail.
"Except for the fact that they're not whiskers. In the same way as those ears on your head are actually a hairband and not ears. Much in the way normal cats don't wear corsets, fishnets and high heels, humans don't have ears and whiskers!" Shikamaru ground out definitively, folding his arms and glaring at her as she rolled her eyes.
"Look, I'm not going to stand here and debate my costume with you, cry-baby," she said eventually, shuffling about again, most likely due to the cold, "just give me my candy and I can be on my way."
"The fact that you are willing to let other people see you dressed like this just confirms your insanity," he conceded bleakly, grabbing the bowl and offering it to her.
"You know there are a lot of girls out there who look a lot worse than me," Temari replied begrudgingly, taking a fist full, "have you seen Ino?"
"Thankfully no," he said, grabbing back the bowl, "and yes, you do look somewhat better. You look like the kind of call girl a guy would take to a hotel room instead of the back seat of his car so that's something."
"You know, I may be in heels cry-baby, but I can still kick your ass so watch it," she hissed, narrowing her eyes and placing her hands on her hips.
"I call it like I see it," he murmured discreetly although clearly Temari heard judging by her audible growl.
Luckily for Shikamaru he was saved the dishonour of having to fight against an anthropomorphized cat when his mother appeared. Unluckily for him, she seemed to have forgotten that he did not want to be plagued by skimpily dressed women all night.
"Shikamaru, stop arguing with the trick-or-treaters and shut the door," she called harshly, her voice echoing about his ears until she was close.
"I was just about to…" he began, when his mother caught sight of Temari.
"…and who's this?" she asked, somewhat normally although there was an edge to her voice that he didn't like.
"Temari," the cat replied, introducing herself with a bright smile. "Happy Halloween."
"Shikamaru, you know this girl?" his mother queried, again with the same dangerous undertone.
"She's the ambassador from Sunagakure."
It was a slow moment that his mother took to let her eyes drift over Temari's costume and he didn't even have to look over his shoulder to picture the look of constrained disbelief on her face.
"The Kazekage's sister, yes?"
Temari nodded, still with the same bright face although Shikamaru chose to believe she was ignoring his mother's disapproval.
He had been ready to bid the girl adieu and go back to his movie, when he felt a sharp smack on the back of his head.
"What is wrong with you?" his mother bit out as he swung round in indignation.
"Yes, you!" she continued on, still irate. "Acting as if you were brought up with no manners! A young lady has called at our house and you let her stand on the doorstep freezing!"
"She's trick-or-treating!" Shikamaru said as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. "A crucial part of the plan is that they continue on to other people's houses."
"That is not the issue…" Yoshino gritted and he moved as he felt another smack coming on.
"Really, Nara-san, it's okay," Temari intercepted pleasantly, beaming at them both. "He's right. I have to move on…"
"Temari-san, would you like to come in?" his mother asked congenially, shoving him out of the way of the door frame.
Temari smiled, about to open her mouth clearly in rejection before Yoshino spoke again.
"You must be freezing, dear," she carried on, the dangerous tone back. "Really. Come in."
Her eyes darting to Shikamaru, Temari seemed to consider the matter for a moment but his mother decided it when she walked away, leaving the door open in her wake.
"You better come in," he groaned, following her. "I'll be sent to get you if you don't."
Stepping into the house, Temari set her pumpkin down in the hallway and took off her high heels.
"I'll make some tea," Yoshino called as they moved into the kitchen, Shikamaru wondering how his night had gone downhill so quickly. Seeing his father in the living room he was about to update him on the situation when his mother took care of that.
"Shikaku, it would be better for you if you kept your eyes on your newspaper," she said lightly though not without menace- a comment at which Temari coughed slightly.
"I gathered as much," his father replied, ruffling his newspaper and holding it resolutely. "Excuse my rudeness, Temari-san, I'm sure my wife has her reasons."
Bubbling water sounded from the kitchen as his mother bustled back into the living room.
"Temari-san, sit down," she said with the same pleasantness, dusting down a few surfaces. "Can I get you a blanket?"
Laughing quietly, Temari sat and shook her head.
"No thank you, Nara-san," she said politely with a hint of a joke. "Desert nights are much colder than this."
A non-committal noise was his mother's response before she proceeded back to the kitchen.
"So why are you stuck inside like a moron then, cry-baby?" Temari asked lowly, eyeballing him from her seated position.
"Because I have no desire to prop up some insecure girl's ego by being her one night stand," he responded deftly as the Sunan looked displeased.
"It's people like you who ruin Halloween," she said bitterly.
"No," Shikamaru started quickly, "it's those girls and global manufacturers who ruin Halloween. Halloween is supposed to be scary and about ghosts and monsters and bad horror movies. Now it's just another excuse for people to get drunk and regret who they wake up next to."
"So instead of enjoying what it's actually evolved into, you've decided to stage a one man protest and spend the night alone?" she said over his father's quiet chuckles in the background.
"I've decided to avoid any sort of idiocy," he corrected as his mother reappeared.
"Now," Yoshino said brusquely, pouring out the tea and handing Temari a cup. "There you go. That should warm you up."
"Thank you," Temari said, obviously choosing to ignore the next in a series of shots at her outfit.
"So, where are your brothers this evening, Temari-san?"
"Both in Sunagakure," the girl informed. "It's only because I'm in Konohagakure for work that I have to celebrate the holiday here. Usually every year in Suna we have a huge Masquerade Ball."
"Ah," Yoshino acknowledged. "So your brothers have no idea that you're out dressed like this?"
A light blush coated Temari's cheeks.
"No," she said quietly after a swallow. "Although even if they did…"
"And both of your parents are dead, yes?"
A flash went through Temari's eyes and she seemed ready to reply angrily, until the fight appeared to die and she studied the floor instead. She nodded. That did not however satisfy Shikamaru and he was about to reprimand his mother harshly until she spoke again.
"Hmm…what do you think your mother would say if she saw you like this?" Yoshino pressed gently, taking a seat opposite Temari who looked up again, this time with an expression of extreme resignation.
"Is this really necessary, mum?" Shikamaru said uncomfortably, finally unable to stay silent.
"You never say any of this to Ino!"
"Ino has a mother. If Megumi choses to let her little girl out of the house in those clothes, that's her own affair."
"I'm seventeen," Temari answered, interrupting them as they both turned to look at her.
"I'm sorry?" Yoshino asked.
"I'm seventeen," the Sunan repeated resolutely. "That means I get to do this stuff. I don't drink, I don't stay out all night. I'm seventeen but I have a full time job and I never take an evening off. There's no boyfriend, no parents and no prospects of either for the near future. So that means that because I'm good all year I get to celebrate the one holiday I really like."
"By dressing like a prostitute?" Shikamaru queried dryly, narrowly missing a swipe from his mother again.
"Yes," Temari stated confidently. "I know how I look, but I don't care. I look damn good. So I get to dress like this and take pictures with my friends and when I'm fifty and I don't look like this anymore, I can look at the photos and say, 'I may not have partied hard or slept with a tonne of guys or even done everything I wanted to do with my youth, but when I was seventeen, I looked hot.'," she finished slightly breathlessly and red-cheeked.
They all ignored the slight 'hear, hear' from behind the newspaper.
"And at what age would you say this behaviour becomes inappropriate, Temari-san?" the woman asked, sounding somewhat assuaged.
Temari considered again.
"Eighteen," she coughed after a while, although still confident.
Shikamaru and his mother watched her silently.
"…so that means that this is my last proper Halloween," she realised, seeming to talk to herself and quite quickly a downcast look overtook her features.
They all sat there for a few moments, no one really seeming to know what to say.
"Isn't Uzumaki-san having a party tonight?" came a voice from behind the newspaper at which Shikamaru groaned as he watched his mother's eyes light up.
"Shikamaru, get your coat," she ordered.
"Now, Shikamaru. You're taking Temari."
Yoshino regarded the girl kindly as Temari seemed ready to interject on his behalf. "If this is really your last proper Halloween then you should go out in style, dear."
"But I haven't finished trick-or-treating," Temari said, genuinely sounding a little put out.
"Very well, then Shikamaru will escort you while you finish up and then you two can go to the party," Yoshino solved instantly, a humorous tone to her voice.
"I am not being seen in front of the neighbours with her," Shikamaru stalled doggedly, putting his foot down and his arm was half way through his jacket.
"Oh stop acting so put out," Yoshino rubbished. "No neighbour would ever actually believe she's your girlfriend. She's too attractive."
Grumbling whilst his father let out a bark of laughter, Shikamaru glared at Temari who was trying to stifle some of her own giggles.
"Now get going," she concluding, hustling the two to the door.
"I don't even have a costume…"
"Don't worry, your face will do," Temari said lowly as she stepped out into the road. "Thank you, Nara-san."
"Not a problem, Temari-san," his mother called after them, sounding pleased. "And remember, next year; dressed like an angel! Alright?"
"I give you my solemn vow!" the Sunan called back, dragging Shikamaru after her as he moved as slowly and possible and attempted to keep his eyes on the pavement…somewhat successfully.
Flower of this purple dye,
Hit with Cupid's archery,
Sink in apple of his eye.
When his love he doth espy,
Let her shine as gloriously
As the Venus of the sky.
When thou wakest, if she be by,
Beg of her for remedy.
It was the second Halloween in a row that he could not believe the situation that he was currently in.
Somehow, despite all his self-assurances that this year he would manage to forego the holiday without any form of interruption, Shikamaru had ended up stuck at another hopeless party where all anybody wanted to do was drink and dance and all he wanted to do was go home and sleep the whole sorry experience off.
Unfortunately, as was well established, life, the universe and everything hated him. And thus, there he was- stuck at Ino's Halloween party, watching her and every other kunoichi gallivant around in some barely there 'costume' whilst every other shinobi present tried to imbibe enough alcohol to work up the Dutch courage to talk to them.
It was a woe begotten sight. And he seemed destined to 'enjoy' it for at least the next four hours. For every time he tried to leave, Ino persisted in forcing him to stay- running back to check on him every half hour or so, pushing another drink into his hand- which he proceeded to pour into the nearest plant pot- and then chastising him for not having a good time.
Thankfully, as somewhat of a consolation, he did have the added humour of watching Choji try to fit every piece of barbeque that Ino had kindly laid out into his body whilst also attempting to guard the table to make sure nobody else got any.
Sighing, Shikamaru let his head loll back on the seat.
He hated Halloween.
"Why so glum, chum?" came a cheery voice, as he turned to the left only to regret doing so immediately.
"…and what's that look for?" Ten Ten proceeded to ask humorously.
"You're dating one of my friends, Ten Ten, and you sitting there, dressed like that makes me feel like he's going to come over here and punch me," Shikamaru clarified uncomfortably, shifting about in his chair.
"Don't be silly, Neji would never do anything like that," she said sweetly, a slight slur to her voice. "Don't you think my faery costume is pretty?"
"There isn't really enough of it to tell."
Giggling, Ten Ten hit him lightly in the arm.
"Cheer up," she said brightly, standing up again as Shikamaru ignored as much leg as he could. "You won't be here forever you know."
Rolling his eyes at the pseudo-philosophy the tipsy girl had just doled out, Shikamaru let his eyes drift over the room.
Seeing a slave girl Ino, ring master Sakura, faery Ten Ten and harlequin Hinata had already been more than enough for one night; as such, he resolved to make a break for the food table- get a drink and fool Ino into thinking he was relaxing and then run straight for the door and hopefully home where he could forget the sight of any of the above as quickly as possible.
Arriving beside Choji, Shikamaru eyed the various punch bowls suspiciously.
"Is there anything here non-alcoholic?" he asked Choji, who paused in his vociferous eating to answer.
"Ino says the love potion hasn't got anything in it," came the response as Choji gestured to a bright pink bowl with little plastic hearts and glitter floating in its content.
Picking up a plastic cup, Shikamaru ladled a large quantity of the thick reddish-pink liquid into his container and sniffed at it reluctantly. When it didn't appear to be masquerading as anything innocent, he took a sip and to his pleasure found it to taste quite nice.
"Good?" Choji asked.
"It's alright," he replied, giving his usual ambivalent response. "Think I'm going to try and make a run for it in a moment," he informed Choji furtively, who nodded. "I'll wait until Ino's distracted."
Draining the cup, Shikamaru was still in the process of drinking when he heard Ino give a loud shriek.
"Temari!" she cried as the boy felt his stomach churn unhappily. "I thought you weren't coming."
Out of the corner of his eye, Shikamaru spotted something white which he chose to ignore as he set down the cup on the table.
"I think that qualifies as my distraction," he murmured to Choji, choosing to make good his escape.
Turning on his heel, the white suddenly became clearer.
The moment in which he finally saw her occurred only for seconds, but in his mind, it lasted an eternity.
Standing stock still, his gaze drifted over her pure white dress, which became lengths of lace cut into leaves and flowers as it reached her knee. Bits of lace were woven into her hair in the shape of a Halo, the blonde strands curly and about her shoulders, longer than he had ever seen it. And attached to her back stood two proud feathered wings.
He dropped the cup.
It was only this which broke him out of his daze, although to be honest, Shikamaru wasn't completely sure he was out of it. Sweat broke out across his shoulders and back, his heart raced faster than he had felt in a non-combat situation before and blood rushed about his body- pulsing as though he were running a sprint.
In a moment he found he couldn't breathe.
Searching around for the cause of his distress, his eyes fell on the bowl.
"Oh good, I'm glad to see you're finally enjoying yourself," he heard Ino say somewhere in the distance as he turned to find her right beside him.
Jumping a little, Shikamaru shook his head.
"The potion-…what did you put in the potion?" he asked shakily.
"The love potion," he clarified irritably, gesturing to the lurid bowl. "What alcohol did you put in the potion? I need to know. It's important."
Her eyes rounding in innocence, Ino shrugged her shoulders.
"None," she replied honestly, eyeing him closely. "It's only red berry smoothie and some edible glitter," she confessed. "Are you sure you're okay, Shikamaru? You don't look too well."
"I need to go home," he said gruffly, rubbing the sweat off his forehead and pushing past Ino as he strode towards the door. Mercifully she didn't try to stop him.
Making his way out into the street, the cool air hit him and Shikamaru felt his heart rate return to normal, although as he walked he still felt ill. Like something was amiss- not merely forgotten but gone- forever. And the fact that he didn't know what it was bothered him even more.
He had just about made it to the end of Ino's street when he heard the clip-clop of high heels.
"Nara!" came the call and his whole person lurched.
He knew better than to try and escape her. Stopping where he was, he stood still and waited like a man waiting for executioner for his to come upon him.
"Hey," she said as she reached him, tapping his shoulder for him to turn around.
As he did so, it occurred to him that perhaps it wasn't the love potion for his heart started a brutal tattoo once more and he suddenly felt the urge to vomit.
"Sorry for keeping you back, I know you must be dying to get home," Temari stated dryly, "I just wanted you to tell your mother that I kept my promise, okay?"
Unable to manage any sort of response, except other than to stare at her unexpectedly impossibly blue eyes like a mad man, Shikamaru gulped.
"What?" she misinterpreted defensively, glaring at him quickly. "Okay," she continued begrudgingly after he still couldn't respond, "I know it's a bit low-cut, but come on! I can't go around dressed like a bloody nun! It's knee length and it covers everything and I know that I do not look like a call girl so you can't say anything, alright?"
Staring at him closely as he stared at her, Temari finally clicked that all was not as it should be.
"Are you okay?" she asked, managing a form of concern as she folded her arms.
He swallowed and gave a half sort of nod.
"You really don't look okay."
Sniffing, Shikamaru felt his being finally kick into living mode again and he managed to speak.
"I'm fine," he said moronically and after a few moments, Temari looked sort of satisfied and turned on her heel to leave. "It's just…" he began, stalling her- for what reason he was stalling her Shikamaru didn't have a clue. He knew what 'it just' was as much as she did.
"Yes?" she pressed hurriedly when he didn't speak, rubbing her arms- the cold seeming to get to her.
"…Any time before sunrise, Nara…"
"If you say anything about sex for money I swear to God I will destroy you."
"…really good," he finally managed to finish both pathetically and quietly.
Temari's whole expression changed from annoyance, to shock, to puzzlement to finally some sort of disbelieving pride.
"Do I?" she said eventually, now smirking as Shikamaru studied the ground, feeling his whole face flame. "Well how about that."
A little victorious laugh was all she gave as she ultimately turned and walked back down the street.
Confused, ashamed and extremely out-of-control, Shikamaru called after her.
"Is that it?" he asked, stopping her in her tracks a few paces away from him.
Turning back to face him, she regarded him with a sad smile.
"You're fifteen," she informed him. "That's all there is to it."
"It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade… it was a gay and magnificent revel…There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm-much of what has been since seen in "Hernani". There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams."
No one could chatter like Ino. Not even the most overexcited chipmunk could manage to chatter his jaws as much as the blonde whenever she had a bee in her bonnet.
The thought occurred to Shikamaru as he was being pelted by sand, wind and some odd form of freezing cold air whilst their foursome tripped through the streets of Suna. It was a small consolation that the wind managed to drown out the sounds she made, even a little.
"Oh, and I heard there'll be ballroom dancing!" she squealed, grabbing Choji's elbow and jumping up and down like a child on Christmas. "I am just soooo excited!"
"Really?" Shikamaru questioned with feigned confusion. "I thought you hated parties."
"Oh shut up, you!" Ino spat, glaring at him through sand particles. "I practically had to promise to clean Lady Tsunade's house for the next month to make sure she gave us the tickets and not Sakura! So you will not ruin this evening for me, okay?"
Grumbling in acquiescence, Shikamaru stayed quiet until he felt Shiho slip her hand into his.
"Don't worry," she said quietly, her shoulders bumping off of his, "we won't stay too long if you don't want to."
Smiling at her congenial nature, Shikamaru pressed a kiss to her temple.
"It'll be fine," he advised her, somewhat appeased. "It's worth it to see you looking like this," he added, trying his best to be pleasant as his eyes scanned over his girlfriend's dimmed gold ball gown, complete with a crinoline so heavy and wide that he had no idea how she or Ino- who was attired in a similar yet purple gown- were managing to walk through the streets. It had however been a while since he had seen Shiho's hair down so that was something. Thankfully, he and Choji had been let off easy with men's dress wear.
"My first masquerade ball," Ino said dreamily as they walked, gazing up at the sky which Shikamaru had to admit was pretty spectacular. "This is going to be the best Halloween ever, I just know it. These Sunan balls are legendary, you know."
"My mum told me I should stay away from any of the alcohol," Choji commented nervously, looking at the group. "She said there were some pretty bad stories…"
"Will you two stop being such depressing dates!" Ino hissed, slapping Choji on the shoulder. "This is going to be a great night; no one is going to get kidnapped or drugged," she continued, glaring at Choji pointedly, "…and no one is going to get punched or hit on," was the next rebuttal, directed to Shikamaru, "so just keep quiet and enjoy yourselves, okay?"
Swallowing his objections as they reached the door of the exceptionally large Sunan Palace that they had been walking towards for about twenty minutes, he watched quietly as Ino handed the security their tickets.
"Masques on please, folks," the guard said authoritatively, as Ino gave another squeal and slipped on her purple masque complete with roses around the edges. The rest of the three did the same, the boy's masques black and free from embellishments, although unfortunately, Shikamaru found that he had to let his hair down to wear it properly.
"See you on the other side," Ino said giddily, stepping into the entrance.
Shikamaru had once been told that Sunagakure was a frugal economy with reference to everything…except its parties.
Now, Shikamaru knew why this was.
Stepping inside to the hall was like entering a different world; aside from the sheer size of the place, the opulence with which it was decorated stopped him directly in his tracks, forcing him to do nothing other than stare, open mouthed at the high ceilings and walls coated in all manner of gold and silver. Around the palace, swarmed crowds of people- all dressed in wide skirts, elbow length gloves, dinner jackets and bow ties along with their own masques.
Whilst Ino squealed beside him, Choji seemed to be having a similar experience to himself and Shiho gripped his hand tighter, obviously intimidated. From what he could make out, parts of the palace had been closed off to the visitors; the main party to be held in one long corridor of seven large rooms all of which were emitting a faint glow.
"I still can't make out the theme," Ino whispered to their group, as they were ushered further into the melee.
"From what I can see I'd say it's the seven deadly sins," Shiho informed them all quietly. "At least that's what I'm guessing- seven rooms all a different colour which would seem to suggest a sin; green for envy I presume, gold for gluttony, silver for greed, possibly the darkened blue for sloth, the black may be wrath…"
"…and red for lust with the purple for pride," Shikamaru finished, his eyes drifting over the room. "Well done," he added as Shiho blushed.
"That is so brilliant!" Ino exulted in hushed tones, looking as though she was possibly breaking Choji's arm and leading them all towards the first room on their left. "Look, Shiho!" she yelped, "The greed room is the ballroom!"
Sure enough Shikamaru let his eyes move to the left and saw that the room painted silver at the top was panelled lengthways with mirrors as couples swirled back and forth to a lively orchestra. Laughing to himself as the room seemed indeed to be working- most of the people dancing were too busy watching the other couples and their finery in the mirror to concentrate on movement- Shikamaru involuntarily let go of Shiho's arm, letting her know that dancing was not an option.
Yet that did not stop Ino who was running off before any of them could stop her.
"Aren't you going to go after her?" Shikamaru asked helplessly, hoping Choji would do the gallant thing.
"Em…" was all the reply Choji gave, his eyes seemingly fixated on something else.
Following his gaze, Shikamaru saw the reason for Choji's paralysis.
Staring into the gold room, all three watched legions of people attempt to devour enough food for several lifetimes. The banquet was immense and opulent but the gusto with which the people were eating made Shikamaru feel ill and he looked away, only to find that they were now a group of two.
"You couldn't really expect him to wait, now could you?" Shiho joked lightly, smiling up at him.
"I suppose not," Shikamaru sighed, walking her a little more around the hall until they stopped at the next room.
"Nightcap, sir?" a butler at the door asked, holding up both the nightwear and small glass of amber liquid as Shikamaru peered into the navy coloured room, spotting to his delight at least fifty beds, all covered in lush bedclothes as dreamy music played in the background and an image of the starry sky above was projected onto the ceiling.
Unsurprisingly, the room was the least occupied of the ones they had seen so far, but Shikamaru would have been lying if he had said that he hadn't felt a strong tug in his gut to enter the room.
"We can go in if you want," Shiho said simply, waiting for his signal to move.
Literally tearing himself away, Shikamaru groaned.
"I have to go and thank the Kazekage for the invitations," he bemoaned, "but wait here, I'll be back as soon as possible."
"I think I might go and get something to eat first," Shiho countered happily, "but I'll see you back here in twenty minutes."
Happy in their plan, Shikamaru went his own way towards the rest of the rooms as Shiho turned back.
Coming across the room decorated a royal purple; Shikamaru was surprised to find the Kazekage standing by himself in the middle of the room, dressed in his own black suit and masque. A small smile decorated Gaara's mouth as he spied his guest.
"It'll be shougi then," he said calmly, gesturing to a man who was previously unseen by Shikamaru. Jumping at once, the man hurried towards the back of the room and opened a hidden door to reveal a small closet stuffed with a myriad of items.
"Happy Halloween, Nara Shikamaru," Gaara greeted with a hint of wryness to his voice, although for what reason, Shikamaru could not deduce. "Here to have your pride dashed?"
Smirking at the now jovial tone of the Sunan leader, Shikamaru moved towards the centre of the room.
"So this is pride?" he said aloud, coming to stand directly in front of Gaara.
"I will beat whoever at their best game or achievement," he informed simply, as the man from before came hurrying back, carrying two chairs, a table and a shougi set.
"How many takers have you had this evening?" Shikamaru queried, taking a seat, unable to back away from the challenge.
"A fair few," Gaara replied easily, taking his own seat. "None worthy of mention though."
"I am supposed to be thanking you for the invitations on behalf of the four of us and Lady Tsunade," Shikamaru stated distractedly, his mind already focused on the upcoming game.
"I assumed as much and accept, of course," his host answered. "But there are more important matters at hand. Make your first move."
Doing as he was instructed, Shikamaru felt his brain kick into gear, no longer thinking of the blue room or of finding his girlfriend.
"Have you been to any other rooms yet?"
"None, but I've seen at least three," Shikamaru said, sitting back and awaiting the Kazekage's turn. "Any you would recommend?"
"I would suggest gluttony at the earliest time possible before the table becomes too dirty with debris," Gaara advised sagely, "…I ate before I came. Greed will not hold any interest for you unless you want to see the latest Sunan fashions paraded around a room endlessly, and it might be wise to avoid envy."
Sliding another piece forward, Shikamaru regarded the boy expectantly.
"It is Kankuro and a group of girls," Gaara continued, somewhat despairingly. "He is the most eligible bachelor in Suna apparently and as such, envy is watching him seduce every woman without any hope of doing so yourself."
A slight snort of derision escaped Shikamaru. "Thanks for the tip."
"And I might add that although sloth may hold its strongest pull, do not enter too early, for you will miss most of the party."
"It is some affair," Shikamaru murmured, feeling his stomach leap as he spotted his opening and waited for Gaara to make his next move so that he might finish the game for good. "And what is wrath?"
"A room for old foes to meet again," he said with concentration. "Basically a fighting arena. You can guess who dreamt up that room…"
Smiling again as he thought of Temari dominating the space, Shikamaru flicked his fingers and plucked a piece between them, sliding the piece definitively into checkmate.
"Tsumi," he said with satisfaction, looking up to see Gaara watching him.
"Well done," the Kazekage congratulated with resignation. "I believe I am a little out of practice."
"I have to go find my girlfriend," Shikamaru said, standing up and deciding not to console his foe. He was in pride after all.
"Hopefully we will see each other at some stage this evening…if you are not asleep," Gaara joked lightly at which Shikamaru smiled.
Nodding in agreement as his made his way out of the room and some poor, unsuspecting human wandered into it, he looked across the hall to see the black room, filled with people all cheering amidst battle cries whilst the green room merely contained Kankuro, a plush looking couch, several containers of champagne and six or seven young ladies.
He was about to make his way down to sloth when he caught out of the corner of his eye the red room at the top of the hall. It occurred to him that he hadn't asked Gaara was lust contained, although he was fairly sure it was nothing he would be interested in. Nonetheless, his curiosity was piqued and knowing that Shiho would wait for him, he made his way to the double doors.
The oval room was several shades of red and pink at once- somehow fuchsia and scarlet at the same time and placed around the room at various intervals were white columns that just about reached his shoulders. Perched on every one of these columns were some of the most aesthetically perfect people Shikamaru had ever seen in his life- each one of them completely without clothes.
Feeling his cheeks colour, he was about to bolt and chastise himself for even bothering to enter the room, when he noticed the one solitary person in the place. Others were there with partners, allowing themselves to be touched in ways Shikamaru only considered appropriate for the privacy of the home. Yet stood in the middle of the room, gazing up at a naked woman was Shiho.
Entirely caught off guard, he considered the scene. There was his girlfriend…indulging in this erotica. She was not blushing, nor flinching as he would have presumed her to be. None of that.
Instead she was unabashedly eyeing the woman with an intensity Shikamaru considered to be both out of character…and somewhat intriguing. Something in him clicked. And all of a sudden he wanted nothing more to be back in his hotel room with the blonde beauty in front of him.
Striding towards her with purpose, his stomach jumped as he entered her personal space. With no hesitation, Shikamaru slid his arm around her waist roughly and pulled her to him. His hand gripping her pinned up hair, he drew her lips to his, and kissing her heavily, pleasantly surprised when she responded with vigour he had never felt before.
It was only as she opened her mouth to him and pressed herself tightly to his body, that Shikamaru felt a noise sound in the back of his head. The orchids and desert heat that surrounded his face were wrong. The wider hips and fuller chest that pressed against him were wrong too and somewhere in his mind's eye, a pair of impossibly blue orbs glinted.
Around ten seconds into the kiss, Shikamaru realised that he was not currently kissing his girlfriend.
Yet he did not stop. In fact, he pulled his partner closer to him. His hand gravitated to her neck and he thrilled at the feel of the silk skin he found there. The girl responded with equal heat, now grasping his hair tightly with both hands and pulling him backwards towards what he could only presume was some form of bedded area.
Falling, he managed to hold onto her waist as she landed underneath him, a soft 'oh' sound leaking from her lips switching on every damn thing in his body. Wedging himself in between her legs, he went for her neck with his teeth as she struggled to remove his jacket between tearing at the buttons on his shirt.
She had almost been successful…when he heard his name called sharply from the back of the room.
Jerking up immediately, through his crooked masque he could make out Ino at the bottom of the room, staring at him in complete shock. Unable to think what to do, he looked down to find his partner grinning up at him, her hair now in complete disarray.
"Someone's grown up," she asserted throatily, sitting up to meet him and fix his masque.
Hearing Ino's impending and loud footsteps coming towards them, Shikamaru stood shakily, unable to think what in the hell had come over him.
"What are you doing?" Ino yelled, tearing off her own masque and staring at him with incredulous eyes. "You have a girlfriend!" she added, smacking him on the arm.
"What?" came a harsh sound from beside him as Temari stood up, watching the pair of them carefully.
"I…I…" he struggled, not wanting to meet either's eye. "I…thought this was her," he said lamely, swallowing and beginning to button his shirt up.
There was silence as he heard the disbelieving breaths of each woman echo about him, not to mention the surrounding sniggers of a few naked statues.
"You what?" Ino gritted.
"I thought Temari was Shiho," Shikamaru repeated as though it were the simplest thing in the world.
Looking up he met Ino's narrowed eyes- he refused to look over his left shoulder.
"What?" he continued defensively, knowing he hadn't a leg to stand on. "She's wearing the exact same dress and masque."
An 'oh really?' look came over Ino's face as Shikamaru turned to study Temari's dress.
Except that now that he looked at her, it seemed like the most ridiculous thing in the world that he had ever thought them to be the same person. For one thing Temari's dress had no sleeves and a square instead of a round neck. Her hair was up and her masque, instead of being gold was actually a turquoise blue completed with feathers, not roses.
And then there was the fact that her hair was a completely different colour to Shiho's as was her skin tone.
In fact, the girl standing to the left of him was so obviously not Shiho that it was almost humorous. Unfortunately, no one was laughing.
"You're a jerk, you know that?" Ino bit out, folding her arms as Shikamaru felt a stabbing pain in his stomach that confirmed, that yes, he was indeed a complete bastard.
"I'm getting Shiho," he muttered, his mind producing a complete blank as to what to do and he turned on his heel to go. "We need to go home."
Walking away from the pair of them, Shikamaru continued to fix his clothes and tried to force his mind away from the fact that as they had talked, Temari had merely stood there.
She hadn't yelled, blushed, cried, threw a tantrum or even seemed embarrassed. She wasn't even looking at him when he had been looking at her.
He tried not to think about this all the way to the door, even as Ino followed him, still screeching- yet somehow, it wasn't a good enough distraction.
If you decide someday to stop this little game that you are playing,
I'm gonna tell you all the things my heart's been dying to be saying.
Just like a ghost you've been haunting my dreams,
But now I know, you're not what you seem.
Love is kind of crazy with a spooky little boy like you.
"…and then, she opened her eyes to find that the exploding kunai had been coming from inside the house all along!"
"Worst ghost story ever," Kankuro droned from his position in front of the log fire, his purple face let up by the dancing flames.
"Oh yeah?" Kiba said defensively, "well let's hear you do better!"
"My puppet could do better," Kankuro retorted blandly as Kiba gasped in indignation, his gasp echoing about the forest. "This is the worst Halloween ever," the puppeteer continued in a huff, throwing his head up to the sky, "trust Gaara to send us on a mission on Halloween. This year's ball was going to be so good too."
"Enough moaning," Temari cut in sharply, elbowing her brother as her eyes continued to avoid Shikamaru from his position across from her- a thing she had been doing all night. "Someone tell another story."
"I am not listening to more rubbish," Kankuro returned heatedly, glaring at his sister. "Somebody do something instead. First one to stick their hand in the flames wins."
"You are such an idiot," the blonde spat, rolling her eyes. "No one is going to burn themselves alive just for your entertainment."
"Fine- anyone have any good normal stories?"
Looking around the group, no one seemed ready to comply; the three from Konoha- Neji included, although the boy had gone to bed, and the three from Suna- their team completed by a quiet, tall man with dark hair who didn't speak at all- all looked at each other hopelessly.
"Maybe we should just go to bed," Shikamaru conceded eventually, staring at them all in resignation.
"Actually I have a good ghost story," Temari said all of a sudden, her voice oddly sharp and pointed.
"Well, go ahead," Kankuro urged.
"Once upon a time there was this girl stood in the middle of a blood red room," she began with a hushed voice and abruptly, her eyes were upon him almost making him jump. "As she stood there, she felt a cold arm around her waist, holding her and refusing to let go. Suddenly a slobbering cold tongue was stuck down her throat and all she could taste was horrible cigarette smoke and all she could know was that this person had never kissed anyone before in his life. Struggling to get free she tried to move, but the monster held on, slobbering all over her neck and…"
"I'm not sure if I'm aroused or going to be sick," Kiba cut in, sounding weird as Shikamaru held in a growl as he felt a fire flare in his stomach.
"I have a better ghost story," he added before Temari could continue, "it's about a young boy who is practically tortured and molested by a call girl dressed as a cat…
"That sounds terrible," Kankuro said obliviously. "Where are you going?" he called to Temari who had stood up and was storming further into the forest.
"I have to wash up," she called, the anger in her voice barely masked as she moved.
Standing her ran after her, not bothering to answer the questioning looks as he went.
"Turn back, Nara," she advised from the distance, still striding as she went, "now is not the time."
"I want to talk to you," Shikamaru said bleakly, following her until he heard her exhale heavily.
"I don't want to talk to you, cry baby, so unless you want to be beaten into the ground tonight…"
Whilst she was talking he picked up the pace and managed to reach her before she disappeared completely into the blackness. Placing a hand on her shoulder, he was startled when she whirled around with a violence that made him take a couple of steps back.
"I said no, Shikamaru- now go back to the group," she pressed bitterly, her eyes pouring into his own.
She was about to begin walking again when he took a chance.
"I know I was a jerk…" he said somewhat uselessly, managing to stop her in her trajectory.
There was silence as he heard her heavy breathing.
"…I'm sorry," he added bleakly, hoping to get her to turn around.
Her head drooped.
"I get you're mad I cheated with you," Shikamaru tried pathetically, until she cut him off by finally turning around and staring at him fixedly.
"I'm not mad you cheated with me," she clarified bluntly, the intensity of her gaze making him feel uncomfortable.
"…I know that sounds terrible and immoral but I really don't care," she went on oddly, stopping after a moment, now seemingly unsure of where to go next.
It was a few moments as they looked at each other and Shikamaru let the guilt that he should have been feeling over this seep into his conscience for the first time in twelve months.
"You thought I was someone else?"- said with all the hurt that he never wanted her to feel…Her eyes were wide with the need for an explanation and he found he was unable to meet her gaze.
And there it was. The pricking, stabbing feeling back in his gut- the intense annoyance and claustrophobia that he felt as he stood between Ino and her a year ago- because he was about to admit something that would mean she would know, for definite this time.
Now he sighed.
"…I didn't," he said quietly, staring at the forest floor.
"I didn't think you were someone else," he said a little louder, though still not looking up. "…I knew it was you," came the next remark, dragged with all the reluctance of someone who has given in.
Silence fell again and after a while, Shikamaru allowed himself a brief glimpse at her; she was studying him with the same fierce intensity as before- no doubt trying to make out whether he was lying or not.
"I…somewhere in my head I convinced myself that it was Shiho, but I was lying. My head tricked me because I wanted to trick myself…" he explained without prompt, still resisting the urge to attempt to salvage his pride. "I knew it was you the minute I opened that door. I guess if I pretended to myself you were Shiho, it meant I could kiss you without having permission."
Another sigh came from Temari as she let her head drop and he knew she knew he was referring to her refusal of his advances- pathetic as they were- from two years ago.
"Maybe next Halloween we'll get it right," she grumbled, scuffing her shoes against the mud.
"Why not this year?" he asked with a heavy weight on his shoulders, his head already knowing what the meaningful look she was giving him said.
"We're keeping it from Kankuro," she informed him, obviously referring to the dark haired shinobi back at their campsite. "He'd go mad if he knew."
Nodding, Shikamaru breathed deeply, inwardly noting that his instincts about the man had been very good. He'd disliked him from the moment he saw him even though he and Temari hadn't said a word to each other all night.
"To be clear," Temari said oddly, stopping him as he was about to go back to the site, "when I said no two years ago, I didn't mean never," she informed him, slightly bashfully as Shikamaru looked puzzled, "…I just meant I'd wait for you to get a bit older."
Feeling the guilt begin to seep in again- although this time tinged with warmth, Shikamaru looked on helplessly as she walked back to the group and to her boyfriend- and he started to wonder if it was just a curse between him, Halloween and Temari.
Who knew? Maybe next year they would finally get it right.
Now is the time for you and I to cuddle close together.
All through the night I'll save you from the terror on the screen,
I'll make you see;
That this is thriller, thriller night.
'Cause I can thrill you more than any ghost would ever dare try.
Thriller, thriller night,
So let me hold you tight and share a
Killer thriller, chiller thriller here tonight.
Unfortunately for him it was another two years before he saw her on Halloween again- in that she was in Suna for the previous one and no such invitation came to attend their ball again. Not that he could have really expected it to really.
But in the month after his nineteenth birthday, Shikamaru found himself in the lucky situation of knowing that not only would she be in Konoha this Halloween, but he would also have a perfectly good excuse for visiting her.
He'd done a lot of growing in the past two years; finding things out about himself that he just assumed were always going to be that way. For one thing, he had come to realise that the more he denied himself what he truly wanted, the more he only managed to hurt himself and other people.
He had never told Shiho what had happened at the masquerade ball- he had naturally ended the relationship as soon as they all arrived home in Konoha and like someone with no moral scruples; he merely told her it was because his feelings had changed. Which was partly true. But then it wasn't the whole story- which she deserved to know.
And he would tell her.
But although his head reasoned that he had to tell her as soon as possible, a smaller more urgent part of his conscience argued that there was someone else who he had to put things right with first- and he would have been lying had he said that he didn't want to rectify this mishap more than the other.
Whatever it was Ino had put in the love potion, whether it was smoothie, alcohol or actually some concoction that had changed his feelings forever, it didn't really matter in the end. Because the other thing he had realised during all this growing was that Temari was it. And as much as he had tried to deny it, reason himself out of it, ignore it and joke about it, she was always there, in the pit of his stomach, like some bad Halloween candy that refused to be digested.
She was the horror film that wasn't ending any time soon, the ghost story that you didn't realise was scary until you were vomiting into the toilet three hours later from shock.
She had come up behind him, spooked him into stun and then floated away like an apparition; leaving behind a mark that he wasn't sure anybody else could see, but holy hell could he feel it. And so he was stuck in the ninth circle of hell until he did something about it- and tonight, he was going to.
Thankfully for him, Aiko Sarutobi was adorable. And being two years old she was just about ready to go on her first trick-or-treat.
So with a beautiful child dressed as a pumpkin tucked under his arm, Shikamaru headed for her apartment, hoping that he was early enough that she would still be in.
A few knocks on the door produced the familiar face that had been haunting him since the age of fifteen.
"You're not dressed up," he observed, managing a coherent sentence after being hit with the full blown realisation that she had grown up too- she was actually a woman now, and it looked damn good on her.
Smiling slightly, she leaned against the door frame, observing the bundle he held in his arms.
"I'm having a low key Halloween this year," she said thickly, her voice echoing about him, sending shivers down his spine, "…renting The Shining," she added, causing him to laugh aloud. "And who is this?"
"This is my supervisor for the evening," Shikamaru stated proudly, hoisting the child upwards as she giggled and reached for Temari's hair. "We come looking for treats."
Grinning, Temari reached behind her for the sweet bowl, producing it much to Aiko's delight.
"And I see you've made an effort this year…"
Shrugging his shoulders, Shikamaru nodded steadily. "Decided I wanted to do Halloween properly this year- you know, get it right."
Pleased when Temari couldn't stifle another smile, Shikamaru pulled Aiko back before she claimed the whole bowl.
"Do you want to come in?" she asked, sounding happy but not really meeting his eye.
Not needing to be asked twice, Shikamaru followed her back into the apartment.
"So, let me guess, Sherlock Holmes?" she called over her shoulder.
"Ino's idea," he explained.
"Oh yes, and I'm sure you had many qualms about dressing up as the world's most genius detective," Temari said slyly, pressing pause on the television and turning the face them.
Holding in a grin, Shikamaru walked towards her as Aiko toddled after him.
"She likes you," Temari observed gently, peering down at the child with something akin to affection. "Guess she doesn't know any better yet."
Shaking his head, Shikamaru feigned annoyance, before coming to stand face to face with the girl who was the current source of all his troubles.
"So…" Temari murmured, tilting her head forward so their noses were almost touching, "…Halloween," she breathed, granting him another shiver, "…doing it right this year?"
Nodding, Shikamaru swallowed thickly, feeling his hand gravitate upwards towards her waist, their lips now within millimetres of one another.
"Fancy staying here a little bit longer?" she asked quietly, smiling against him prettily.
"I think we'd like that."
Two hours later, he felt like he was fifteen again, lying on top of Temari on the sofa, not watching the movie that was playing as the two of them 'reacquainted', whilst Aiko dozed in the background.
You've got me in your spell.
You know your craft so well.
Before I knew what I was doing
I looked in your eyes
That brand of woo you've been brewin'
Took me by surprise.
"No, no, absolutely not," he all but yelled, striding about the floor, his arms folded- brow furrowed.
"But why not?" the young girl whined, stamping her foot. "All my friends are dressed like this."
"I don't care," Shikamaru gritted, bearing down on her as her cheeks coloured and her eyes filled with tears. "I don't give damn how all your friends dress- when you're staying in my house, you live under my rules and that means that you're going to turn on your heel, march upstairs and not come back down there is no sight of a thigh, abdomen or chest, understand?"
Letting out an almighty roar, the black haired beauty hissed and huffed before stomping towards the staircase and up to the guest room as loudly as she could possibly manage.
"You're very hard on her, you know," he heard Temari comment wryly from the corner, as he sighed and rubbed his forehead.
"It used to be so much easier," Shikamaru groaned, traipsing his way towards the kitchen and sitting down across from his wife at the table. "Remember when we used to take her trick-or-treating as a pumpkin?"
"Ah…our first date," Temari said knowingly, smirking at him and he found he wasn't able to stifle one in return.
"Kurenai trusts me with her on Halloween so I'm not going to let her run around like…"
"…like every other girl in this village."
"Still bucking the trend after all these years," she sighed kindly, placing her hand on top of his. "But Aiko isn't three anymore Shikamaru- she's a teenager and she needs her own life."
He was about to comment as to his determination to keep her young as long as possible, whenever an almighty roar sounded from the landing.
"I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!"
Sighing, Temari tried to stand.
"Here," he said in the usual manner, now used to helping his heavily pregnant wife stand.
"I'll go help," she said with resignation, waddling towards the stairs and he couldn't help smile as he watched her go.
Twenty minutes later, Temari reappeared.
"Any better?" she asked meaningfully, as he looked up to see a shy Aiko dressed in a very familiar looking white dress complete with wings and a halo made of lace.
"Much better," he confirmed with gratitude, his heart warming as he looked over the girl who he would always see as a precocious three year old looking as angelic as he'd wanted her to from the start of the evening.
"And we like this outfit, right?" Temari asked Aiko, touching the girl maternally on the shoulders.
Nodding, Aiko gave somewhat of a smile before regarding Shikamaru reservedly. "Sorry I threw a tantrum."
"It's alright," he conceded, "now go enjoy yourself. But be home by eleven," he called as he heard the door slam. "Nice touch," he said to Temari, standing up to wrap his arms around her and revelling in her little victory laugh.
"I thought it might work."
"You know, the moment I saw you in that dress, I was a goner," he confessed easily, cradling both her and the bump in his arms.
"Yeah…you didn't really play fair that night, troublesome woman," Shikamaru joked, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
"Are we really going to go into 'fairness'? In that case, let me begin to recall a certain Masquerade Ball…"
"Alright, alright," he intercepted quickly, rubbing her back in the way he knew she liked. "So…what movie?"
"Do you even have to ask?" she replied joyfully, practically skipping off to their living room.
"Probably not. It's been The Shining every year for the past twelve years so why this Halloween should be any different…"
"It's not," Temari confirmed pleasantly, situating herself on the couch, picking up the remote and the giant bowl of candy that was meant to be for the trick-or-treaters.
"And how come you didn't dress up this year?" he queried, sitting beside her and wrapping his arms around her waist as much as he could.
"As what?" he asked in confusion, looking down at her completely plain clothing.
Smirking, she picked up the edge of her tee-shirt and rolled it upwards to the top of her bump- the main portion of which was painted in the style of a pumpkin.
"You have not changed a bit since that night you rocked up on my doorstep as a cat, woman," he said through laughter, helping her to roll down her top.
"I'll have you know I was dressed as a call girl, you were just too stupid to know."
You witch, you witch,
One thing is for sure.
That stuff you pitch
Just hasn't got a cure.
My heart was under lock and key,
But somehow it got unhitched.
I never thought that I could be had
But now I'm caught and I'm kinda glad
To be Bewitched.
Hi guys, this was just something I threw together for Halloween because I wanted to put something out so I'm sorry if its' not up to much. It's more of a series of anecdotes strung together but I hope you all enjoy anyways!
Have a great Halloween!
And as always...
P.S. There's a clue in here for my next story ;)