A/N: A repost - no changes except to the Author's Note. A couple of years ago someone got this story deleted - not sure why - and I didn't post it up, but every now and then some readers who remember it ask me where the heck it is. So it's back up. If it's deleted again... well, I'll decide what to do again.
Disclaimer: the usual - Naruto belongs to someone else, not me. Gosh darn it.
"'Why would I go out with such a...?' Thanks, Temari, that was very nice of you," fumed Shikamaru as they turned the corner.
Temari walked sedately beside him. "What's wrong?" She stole a peep at his foul expression and grinned to herself. "What, a genius like you can't figure it out?"
"My brain stops working when I'm around you," Shikamaru groused. They paused at the usual junction. He nodded to the left, and they made for the shaved ice shop.
Temari walked a little ahead and turned about to face him, walking backwards. "That's strange... you look and sound exactly like Nara Shikamaru, but I heard a compliment coming from this direction. Who are you and what did you do with Shikamaru?"
As they settled down to enjoy their favorite dessert, Temari leaned forward conspiratorially. "It's a trick, Shikamaru,"she said. "You gotta answer questions with questions."
The dark haired chuunin leaned back against his seat. "Really."
"Trust me, Nara," Temari teased before attacking her lemon-flavored ice.
The next day started brightly enough. Weather was a liar.
"A six-hour meeting, and then a working proposal by tomorrow evening." Shikamaru and Temari stared at the mountainous pile of paperwork before them. They shared a glassy-eyed look. Temari threw her head back and stretched. Shikamaru groaned as he sorted the papers. "What the hell was that troublesome old woman thinking of?"
"Keeping us busy?" Temari opened one eye. "I can't do this now, I'm beyond hungry. My stomach is digesting itself."
"Dinner at my place again?" Shikamaru offered with a lazy smile.
Temari returned it fully. "You just want me to help carry this load to your apartment."
They managed to balance the tottering pile of paperwork through the door. Along the way other chuunin and jounin avoided them. Shikamaru grimaced with annoyance.
S'not like they'd be asked to chip in and help, he grumbled inwardly. Alright, so Ilied, I'd have grabbed any jounin or chuunin with experience to assist.
Temari installed herself in the study, rearranging his other piles of books and scrolls so that they'd have space to work in later. Shikamaru worked the kinks from his neck and went to the kitchen, where he promptly began cooking.
"That was pretty darn good, Shikamaru," said Temari an hour later. She stacked the dishes in the sink and pulled on an apron.
Shikamaru sat on the couch digesting. He watched her shadow dance from the floor to the wall as she pulled on gloves and began washing up. It was strange, he mused as he turned his head to observe the real thing, strange that she fitted perfectly into his bachelor's pad. She didn't disrupt his living arrangements like Ino or his mother did, insisting there was a better way; Temari realized instinctively Shikamaru had his own reasons to arrange everything the way he did. The five dishes stacked on a shelf at eye level because he used them everyday; the large pots and pans his mother saddled him with in the tallest cabinet because he needed only a saucepan to cook dinner for one; the bookstand near the washbasin because he read compulsively; the little raised platform on the table for an unfinished shogi game to ponder over. She just knew, without him having to explain. It was a comfortable feeling to have someone understand.
It also didn't hurt that she looked very sexy yet domesticated with an apron around her.
Temari must've felt his gaze lingering on her, because she turned to regard him with a quizzical half-smile. Shikamaru pretended to yawn and walked into his study.
"So if we link the study of historical antecedents in Suna to similar incidents in Konoha..." Shikamaru recorded the corresponding file numbers, "the history syllabus would then encompass enough breadth and depth to satisfy the purists. What d'you think, Temari?"
"Hmm? I'm awake, I'm awake," Temari shook herself out of her reverie.
Shikamaru closed the notebook. "You need to freshen up." He left the study. In five minutes he returned with an armful of fabric. "Here: clean towel, freshly laundered tee-shirt, drawstring bermudas. Toss your kimono into the basket, I might as well do my laundry now."
Temari blinked and then stood up resignedly. "You're right, I need a shower to wake up."
"I'll keep working."
It was strange being in his bathroom, using his shampoo and soap. Strange to be drying herself with a towel she knew he had used before, and to put on clothes that belonged to him, that had been in contact with his skin. As she used the metal hairbrush to detangle her hair she realized her fingers were tingling.
She shook herself mentally. "You're just tired, Temari, that's why your mind is running wild. Get back to business, 'kay?"
"You always talk to yourself in the bathroom?"
"Gyaaahh!" The hairbrush Temari was using flew into the air and smacked into Shikamaru's head. He dropped the laundry basket he was holding and clothes spilled out.
"Ow?" the chuunin complained. "What did I do that you had to attack me with my own hairbrush?"
"You scared me!" accused Temari. She bent down and assisted Shikamaru with picking up the clothes.
Shikamaru paused, his hand reaching for something on the floor. "Last time I saw you, you flattened a frikkin' forest. You telling me about scared?"
"Well I didn't expect you to barge in before I got out!" she said, yanking at whatever Shikamaru was holding. The blond jounin snarled. "I thought you'd be a gentleman and wait for me to exit before you came in!"
"The water stopped running ten minutes ago, FYI, and you'd probably shrink into a human prune if you'd stayed in the water any longer!" Shikamaru pulled the fabric back towards himself.
Then they both looked at what they were fighting over.
"Um, maybe you'd like to load the washing machine instead," Shikamaru said, letting go of the lacy black thong, his face bright red. He picked the basket up, noticed the matching bra within and averted his eyes. "I'll just, uh, lug this basket over."
"Sure, whatever," replied Temari, equally crimson.
They sat together in the cramped study again, neither looking at each other.
"Then there's the study of traditional weaponry," said Temari, pushing the relevant book over to him.
Shikamaru grunted. "We can also consider different styles of combat as part of the theory syllabus."
"Sounds good," answered Temari. She picked out a scroll from the few dozen in the holder and opened it. The light from his table lamp caught deep golden glints in her sandy blond hair. Shikamaru watched the play of light and shadow across her features: eyes, focused on the paper, her lips given the perfect definition through contrast, the pert nose, her smooth cheeks...
"What?" He was caught off-guard. What did she ask him?
"I asked for your input on students learning about body armor."
"Sure, whatever you say."
Temari put down her pen. She faced Shikamaru. "Okay, this isn't working out. We're both worn out and we keep... losing focus. Once my kimono's tumbled dry I'll head back to the hotel."
Shikamaru pressed his lips together and nodded. "Yeah, that's a good idea."
A/N: don't worry people, smut in the next chapter. Temari fulfils her promise.