I do not own Naruto. Naruto is by Masashi Kishimoto.
Sentences in "italics" are character's thoughts.
Just a Kiss Goodnight
It was the dawn they all waited for so long – the dawn that will herald the end. For if for once they all wanted something to end, it is this time – this war. Despite being the only moment the whole of the shinobi world united to fight together, it is still war. And for all the good things this can bring forth the cost is still lives and blood and deaths that will be the pain of many and horror of others.
Temari stood alone watching the sun slowly creep up against the bluish-black sky of the twilight. The entire camp was still quiet. She revelled on the difference of this silence and the silence of many past dawns where she stood to watch, wary of any unwanted sound. The rush of emotions she felt was eclipsed by relief and it made her feel happy as much as tired. It was the longest time of her life.
Her silent contemplation was broken by a call of her name.
She glanced over her shoulder and saw her brother. Kankurou was standing a few meters from her. She saw he had changed his face paint now. "Is Gaara up too?"
He nodded, "He wants you to come with him later. The Kages will have a short official talk before departure."
She turned her back to the sunrise and faced her brother, taking steady steps towards him, "And you?"
"I am to gather our forces." He stepped aside as she stood next to him and with a small smile said, "We're heading home Temari."
It made her smile too.
The meeting was lighter, if to be compared to the first Kage Summit in preparation for the war that just ended. There were a couple of new faces in the circle, temporary representatives. They lost two Kages in the war. Despite the lost, the atmosphere was definitely better. Temari stood behind Gaara's chair. Arrangements were being made. She was surprised that treaties were being proposed. But the surprise was pleasant. On the course of the meeting, she noted, again, how much Shikamaru looked like his father, who was behind the Hokage – the same thoughtful eyes and ridiculous hairstyle. An unconscious sigh left her as she realized how plausible it was for Shikamaru to also stand behind the next Hokage.
"You're thinking of something else." Gaara noted to her as they filed out of the tent after the meeting. It was past noon.
"I wasn't distracted."
"You were thinking."
"Is that a crime? I have a brain."
Gaara gave a sound that seemed like a snort. It made Temari raise a brow at him. He looked at her thoughtfully and she was forced to heave a heavy sigh.
"Gaara stop analyzing me."
"Actually you are quite transparent Temari."
"What do you mean?"
"You looked deep in thought earlier. Any reason for it?"
"Where are you getting at?"
"Any particular person in your head?"
"Gaara." Her voice was dangerously threatening. It was only recently that she and Kankurou had the slightest authority over Gaara because they were older, ironically about the same time he became the Kazekage.
Gaara shrugged but by the small smirk playing in his lips, she knew she's in a bad position, especially if Gaara gets to talk to Kankurou. She only learned of late how it was to be bullied by two too cunning brothers. She started to walk ahead of him.
"Temari." Gaara called out casually. When Temari turned, he went on pointing towards a cluster of camp to their left, ignoring the hostile glare of his sister, "Konoha's camp is over there."
Temari stomped out to the other direction.
It was almost eight in the evening when Kankurou and Gaara exited one of the tents of Konoha. Gaara wanted to have a word with Naruto and Sakura, and Kankurou volunteered to accompany him. On the way out, Gaara caught a glimpse of a familiar figure. He nudged at his brother.
"What?" Kankurou asked as he tried to follow his brother's point of view. A smirk grew in his face as he saw what he wanted to show him. "They haven't spoken?"
"I don't think so."
"Well you instructed Temari with a lot of things."
"There were a lot of things to be attended to." Gaara retorted as he started towards Shikamaru.
Kankurou reserved his retort for later as he followed his brother.
He saw her where her brothers said she was in. There was a pause in his steps as he approached her, that feeble realization of what this meant and what it will mean. And yet there was something peaceful about her gazing up at the sky seating alone in the grasses, against the background of the night. There was something about the way her tied hair ruffled against the breeze that draws him forward, towards her. He caught himself smiling, for as much as Temari is ruthless and merciless as a kunoichi he had to admit how too fortunate he was to know the woman beneath that. He could try his eternity trying to repel her and fight the inevitable attraction between them but that will be difficult and futile because she is the spirit that calms and pushes him, eventually. When he resumed walking, he could feel the sluggishness of his movements, prolonging the steps towards her but he revelled in the moment.
It was a clear night, save for the thin spread of clouds presently veiling the full moon, but the night was pleasant, and such is rare.
His strides were lighter and effortless, for in the end he will always be drawn to her anyway, regardless.
He sat next to her, far enough so they were not touching but close enough that they were just separated by a centimeter. He was unceremonious and asked no permission, as if Temari was expecting him anytime. She did not flinch nor move or acknowledged his presence at all. She must have, indeed, expecting him.
For a long moment neither of them spoke. They merely existed, next to each other, but it was enough, enough for them to communicate in the language spoken in a long time ago and once upon a time, the language learned only by hearts and souls, never to be learned alone for only with someone can the words be understood. It was in this long silence that they admitted to their selves what they had long known.
They had understood what thinkers and philosophers of many universes said logic cannot understand.
It was inevitable that he looked up in the skies and marvelled yet again at the easy way the clouds floated in the sky.
She watched the lake, the shimmer of the water and the reflection of the sky, but she felt him. "You're watching the clouds again."
He kept his eyes on his sky as well but he did smile, "I always envied them. I wish I'm a cloud, just floating along, waiting for the wind to blow on them and take them where ever."
"Always lazy just like that."
She snorted but let it go. As she shifted, her hand fell to the folded smaller fan she carried with her. "The wind is powerful isn't it?" she said, carefully stroking the surface of the fan she only carried around in place of her tessen* she stored in a scroll instead.
He felt the weight in her words and his eyes, though kept focused on the sky, gleamed knowingly. "Silent and gentle then furious and wild." He hasn't had the chance to watch the clouds for months in war. "The wind," he said after awhile, "is tricky and moody, impossible to understand."
She almost felt a smirk grow in her face. It felt like they're playing, trying to outwit the other to admission. She shifted her gaze from the lake to him and asked, "Just like women?" Her question was less of a question and more of a dare.
"Good analogy." He glanced over her briefly, "The cloud sits in the sky peacefully and the winds just have to push it away and everywhere."
"Genius." Her voice dripped in similar cynical tone, "Just shows that without the wind, the cloud would not get anywhere."
"More of, without the wind the cloud would exist quietly in its serene place."
"It could not be helped." she turned her attention back to the lake but Shikamaru sensed the smirk playing in her lips, "It was not the wind's fault that the cloud is a pushover."
"The cloud is a peaceful being."
"Can't you be peaceful and not a pushover?"
"Can't the wind just leave the cloud alone?"
They both knew the answer to that, to both of the questions and to what both of them are really referring to.
"What would the cloud be without the wind?"
"What would the wind be without the cloud?"
"So it is for the cloud."
She clicked her tongue, sure of her victory. "What about the thing you loved of watching clouds if they don't move? Isn't that the reason you are fascinated with it? Because it simply floats away with the wind?"
He already has a ready retort for it but just as how he let her win on that fateful Chuunin Exams, he let it go and just snorted, in makeshift disgust, then stayed silent.
Temari glanced over at him and frowned when she saw he was already too lazy to keep up the banter. "Nara." She growled the name.
"What?" he asked nonchalantly. He pretended to watch the skies again.
She glared, half-heartedly at him, and then shifted her attention to the reflection of the night on the lake.
It was a still night and they were well away from the camp that the sounds of movements were barely louder than whispers to them. The gentle swept of the wind surrounded them and the easy sound of the occasional stirring of the water from the wind.
Hearing his quiet breathing next to her, she voiced out the relief she was feeling, "I'm glad we made it through this war alive."
When he turned to her, his eyes focused on the long scar running on the length of her arm straight away. It was him who almost lost her.
Temari watched his movements in the corner of her eyes. She knew without asking for explanation. "I am alive Nara. That should be enough." There was a hint of reproach in her tone.
"We almost lost you woman." The weight of his words was emphasized by his tone.
Temari felt like hitting him in the head, if only she was not aware that would it have been him, or her brothers, injured severely as she was, she would have reacted the same way. "So I say I'm alive, let it go. We are shinobi Nara. Death is our second name."
Shikamaru looked away. The sight of a gruesome amount of blood pooled on her side as he found her remained fresh in his mind. He still stared in the stillness of the night, days after, hearing her laboured breathing. The horror of knowing the deep cut on her arm was with poison and he could do nothing but scoop her in his arms and bring her to the medics. Or that long night when he slept none as he waited in silence, praying to whatever divine presence who could hear him beg. Despite being a shinobi, he remains human who is afraid to lose what he holds dear. "That's why," he thought, "I wanted to marry a simple, plain girl, not some kunoichi of jounin level." But it was too late to lament on that, he had lost his shot of that life when he met her.
Temari was silent after that. Shikamaru followed a mental beat, trying to find the right time to ask. Then when she kept silent, he dragged out his breath and asked, "Temari, will you ever consider moving out of Suna? Say you marry someone outside your village?" He kept his eyes on the sky. The clouds have moved and the moon was in full view.
"No." The answer was automatic. "I will not leave my village. At least not yet." She knew that one day he will ask her that but the answer would have been different if things did not go the way it did. Yet it did, and she knew, knowing him, that he already recognized that.
He let the words settle in the air first, before turning to her. "You will not leave your brothers." His eyes told her as he let out a long breath. She and her brothers are the same. Hard and brutal on the outside but filled with so much care unexpressed through the years, yet never faded. He did not miss the shade of worry and anxiety in her brothers' eyes when they asked him how she was, one time when they found one another in the battlefield. They had time to pause on their attacks just to check on her. The same way Temari was deeply troubled when she almost lost them both, the day Gaara was captured.
Sensing he had turned his attention to her, she threw a quick glance at him. The expression on his face kept her gaze on him. His eyes caught the silver light of the moon, reflecting the knowledge and understanding beneath, and her lips thinned to a line, giving in her eyes the explanation he did not demand, "I was never a sister to neither Kankurou nor Gaara. If they need me now, I'm not leaving them for my selfish reasons." She sighed. "Gaara's the Kazekage Nara."
"You're his adviser." He nodded in understanding, because he understood. "You are his sister. They are your family."
There was a long silence as both of them reflected on the weight of the exchange. The board had been set. The first move was made.
It was her turn now. "Will you…" she started, "Will you ever consider moving out of Konoha? It's not always the woman who needs to move right?"
Both of them remained still for a moment, realizing how their questions and their answers are revealing the true nature of their conversation, and the status of their connection.
It was his turn to be thoughtful. "Who do you think will be the next Hokage?" he asked, instead of answering her question.
Temari considered it for a moment. She knew most of the prominent shinobi of Konoha. She was tempted to answer his name but she, most of all, knew how lazy he is to take up such a demanding post. He'd rather play behind the scenes, which she guessed is the essence of his question. She recounted names, and then replied, "I'll bet Hatake Kakashi."
He nodded, "Except that Kakashi is not really inclined on the position. He'll take it for the sake of the village but if there's another befitting candidate, he will opt out of it. Now, who is your second bet?"
Temari knew the answer.
"I'll bet Naruto." He answered for her.
She knew what it meant. For all the great things that Naruto is, being smart is not exactly his strong point. On the contrary, Shikamaru is the smartest person of his generation in Fire Country.
"I will not leave my village," he said, the same tone of finality as Temari had used, "…either. My village needs me."
She understood his reasons as much as he understood hers, and respected it as he respected hers. Their loyalties are to their villages first, not even the fact that they feel something for each other that that can be changed. "Would you mind not actually getting married?" she asked, each word spoken carefully.
Shikamaru felt his breath hold then turned to her harshly, "Do you think Gaara will let you not get married?" His face screwed up in disbelief, "You are the Kazekage's sister Temari. Your brothers will slaughter m- …your lover if he does not marry you." He felt a shiver at it, both at the thought of her brothers going for his head and the fact that he just referred to himself as her lover. He turned his face away from her for awhile, willing down his embarrassment.
Temari's smile was full. She waited until he turned back to her before she spoke, "Neither Gaara nor Kankurou cares about tradition. And I don't too."
"What about the complications of you not married?" he mumbled then without waiting for her reply, he added, "My child will have to carry my name. He will be heir to the Nara clan."
"I never said my children will have to carry my name" she replied simply, "though you also realize that my children will be princes and princesses in Suna. They are born of the first family."
"Troublesome." he said, contemplation heavy in his voice.
Temari shrugged at him. All things considered, it was good.
After a long pause, he shifted and moved deliberately such that his hand covered half of hers. Both of them did not move for a full minute, instead they both focused on the moon shining full above them, in silence.
A couple of coughs woke them up in their silent reverie. When they turned to look, Gaara and Kankurou were standing behind them.
"We need you over the camp in awhile Temari." Gaara said. He nodded to Shikamaru then turned his back on them. Kankurou followed suit, wearing a playful smile obvious even with his painted face.
Shikamaru still find it disturbing how Gaara can act so formal but be more threatening than when he is actually threatening someone. He stood up and brushed off what little pieces of grass that got stuck in his uniform, all the while he followed her movements in the corner of his eyes.
A short stride and she was facing him, waiting for him to finish his senseless brushing off. When he did, she quickly realized, again, that Shikamaru is taller than her, and so she had to rise in her toes to kiss him.
The kiss was a surprise and was surprisingly chaste as well.
Shikamaru's arms moved quickly, one circling her waist, pulling her closer while the other moved to her nape, keeping her there.
Then the kiss grew in greater passion yet remained simple. His lips moulded against hers just as her body melted against his'.
"Goodnight Nara." She breathed when they parted, with just a thin sheet of air between them.
His lips tingled against hers as she spoke. He leaned closer that they are almost kissing, only that they didn't, "I'll see you soon Temari."
She smiled at him and before she could, he was already kissing her again – soft and gentle.
"I'll be off." she murmured as they broke off and in all the quickness and grace of a cat, she moved away.
He watched her, and for awhile thought that she'll dissolve into the night, but she looked back. She was waiting. He walked forward as well and then they set out on an invisible road that forked apart to their respective families, to their villages.
He threw her another glance as she approached her brothers.
Shikamaru remained watching until he felt a heavy thump on his shoulder.
"Got a word with her?" Chouji was smiling brighter than Shikamaru had seen him in a long while now.
"Most likely." Ino's grin was wide that Shikamaru knew he was destined never to be away from troublesome women his entire life.
Chouji returned the grin.
"See he's blushing."
"I'm not blushing!"
"Yes you are."
Ino laughed loudly, before pushing both boys forward, "Alright. Enough of that. We're going home."
Shikamaru glanced over his shoulder towards her direction again. She must have felt it for she turned to his direction just then and nodded at him.
It will be crazy, troublesome and difficult but they aren't their villages' best strategists for nothing. There is yet a game to be developed that can beat Temari or him, so what more if them put together.
Shikamaru placed both of his hands in his pants' pockets and walked on.
Just A Kiss Goodnight
– Lady Antebellum
Lyin' here with you so close to me
It's hard to fight these feelings when it feels so hard to breathe
Caught up in this moment
I've never opened up to anyone
So hard to hold back when I'm holding you in my arms
We don't need to rush this, let's just take this slow
Just a kiss on your lips in the moonlight
Just a touch in the fire burning so bright
And I don't want to mess this thing up
I don't want to push too far
Just a shot in the dark that you just might
Be the one I've been waiting for my whole life
So baby I'm alright, with just a kiss goodnight
I know that if we give this a little time
It will only bring us closer to the love we wanna find
It's never felt so real, no it's never felt so right
I know it's time to leave, but you'll be in my dreams
Tessen (Jp) – iron fan (Temari's main weapon. The giant fan she always carried around in Part I and in the earlier parts of Shippuuden.)
Inspirations for the fic:
"The heart has reasons which reason knows nothing of." ~ Blaise Pascal
"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." ~ Lao Tzu
Merry Christmas everyone!