Our lives had changed immeasurably since the end of the shinobi war. Indeed, looking back upon the times my friend Shikamaru Nara and I shared prior to the conflict, it is almost amusing to see the people we used to be. This is not to say that everything had changed- we were still much the same people as we ever were. I- happy, generally found with food in my hand and likely to attempt to help anyone who asked. Shikamaru- still the same quiet, contemplative soul with an aversion to work but also, a deep seated need to help anyone who came to his door.
But, as I said, things had changed. For myself, I found that in the years after the war, I grew to appreciate other things than the food and friendship that had filled my youth. In my mid-twenties, I became anxious that I would never meet a woman whom I would feel able to approach, to ask on a date or even to form a long term, serious relationship with. It worried me, for my time in the war had taught me how fragile life was and how, when I had returned, the things which I was most grateful for was the safe return of my loved ones with me. Yet, as it most often happens in life, the woman who would become my wife had been known to me all along- I had just not known her as such.
It came to me gradually one day when I began to notice the growing closeness between myself and my team mate. Well, as usual, Shikamaru was the one to notice first, but unfortunately failed to inform me of the fact. I carried on, oblivious as usual, forcing myself to think that any feelings on her part were only in my head because to me, it was impossible that Ino, with her endless list of suitors, could ever find me attractive. Thankfully, whilst he was lazy and not one to usually pry, my good friend pointed out the obvious to so many others other than myself, before Ino took my lack of action for a lack of feeling.
And after a spectacle free relationship, we were married and I found myself in the position of happily married man, all my years of worrying behind me.
The same could not be said for Shikamaru Nara. As a boy who once professed so much faith in the institution of marriage, as a man he showed no such inclinations. Any conversations we ever had about the matter, particularly the ones as my own nuptials grew closer, revealed him to be quite indifferent to the whole ceremony. Indifference bordering on serious apathy. Not that this general lack of emotion was to be attributed to any one heart break. After the war ended, Nara's interactions with women had been as limited as my own. The both of us focussed on our careers- our own progress in each of our fields was impressive and seemed to consume us both up until our mid-twenties. But whilst a yearning for a companion came upon me quite suddenly, if anything the opposite effect manifested itself amongst my friend's feelings. He seemed to grow less interested in socialising, less concerned with how others thought of him and more consumed with his own personal development.
Such development I cannot seriously condemn, as it led him to a place of such mental brilliance that I think most of us in Konohagakure became slightly in awe of him. He surpassed those who at one stage he had been equal with and became known throughout the Shinobi world as a man of supreme intelligence, skill and thought. In that vein, when there was the odd instance which could not be solved by physical skill, Shikamaru was the man called. First, by the Hokage- by this stage Uzumaki Naruto, of course- and then by others who had heard that if there was problem which needed to be solved, then Nara was the person you turned to.
Word spread fast, and soon enough my friend had established a profitable enough business, quite apart from his work as a shinobi. A detective is perhaps the best term for the job he carried out, though not entirely accurate, for he was employed by no one other than himself and most of the time, seemed only to pursue the cases only to stay his own boredom. For, whilst in his youth, Nara had been quite happy to lie about for endless hours, his adult mind seemed to rebel against the idea of continuous inactivity and thus, he was always looking for some mental problem to occupy his thoughts. Happily enough, there was no shortage of those amongst the civilian and occasionally, shinobi population of the Land of Fire who generally came from all four corners to consult Konoha's resident genius.
In the years I spent with Nara watching him solve problem after problem, I never once saw him ask a client for money. However, it became a sort of unspoken knowledge that he didn't mention it; neither did you and if you paid nothing, no action would follow you…but that little desk in the hall just by the door contained a letter holder that could be useful for placing certain envelopes.
And so, when I was moving towards a family life little by little, Shikamaru was establishing himself as a confirmed bachelor with little if any need for female companionship. So singularly isolated was his world that I began to wonder should I not call on him, would he even bother to maintain the friendship? This question did not enter my mind in animosity- I did not believe him to no longer care for me, or even for any of his relatives; I just believed him to be so introspective and committed to nothing other than that which he was compelled to complete that he could easily let personal relationships slide by into the wayside.
Yet all of the above is not to say that there was no one with whom my great friend did not occasionally consort. First and possibly most obviously, there were his female clients- usually women who sought Nara out most typically after they were wronged by a lover who had stolen from them, disappeared or if they were under an unspeakable sort of tyranny from male relatives. My wife more than once suggested to me that our mutual teammate may have been carrying on a short and disreputable form of relationship with these women, but that was only because she did not know the inner workings of his mind as I did. For Shikamaru, the interest these women carried was only brought about by the cases they brought him; as soon as the case was solved, so any interest in the woman was too, which for as long as I knew him was a strictly platonic interest. His kindness and cordiality to those of the opposite sex was often mistaken for a show of affection but on the contrary, it was merely the chivalry with which he treated all females and indeed, had they known it was such, I suspect they would have accused him of a backwards attitude.
I preface my accounts on the Scandal in Kumogakure with such notes merely so it becomes clear that when I say that to Nara Shikamaru there was but one woman, I am stating no lie. There seems little point to me in attempting to make mountains out of molehills with reference to the brief acquaintances he shared with his female clients, when for Shikamaru, the memories of such acquaintances were obscured and buried by his only ever true remembrances of the woman. For that was what she was to him; the woman.
For my part, I remember Sabaku no Temari as a woman who intimidated and embarrassed me- although perhaps that was due to my colleague's apparent and ever-present irreverence and admiration for the lady. Anyone who amounted to such high heights in the opinion of Shikamaru was not a person with whom I would ever feel comfortable. My recollections inform me of a beautiful woman- although here I am quoting my friend- with a quick wit and an even quicker mind; one who was not to be crossed. Not unlike Shikamaru.
And indeed, I believe I am stating no falsehood when I write that she obtained such notoriety in the history of Nara Shikamaru purely for one reason; she escaped.
It was not long after the event of my marriage that I found myself itching to spend a few days with Shikamaru. Company such as his was like no one else's, in that you automatically felt enlightened and perhaps even a little more intelligent yourself for having been with him. And whilst I adored my wife and the bliss that our union brought, I could not deny that my old friend's presence in my days was sorely missed.
And so it was that I found myself calling on him one Sunday afternoon, to find him lying on the rug beside his fireplace, mumbling slightly to himself whilst the cigarette perched precariously between his lips wobbled as a result.
"Between jobs?" I called cheerily by way of a greeting and was not surprised when he didn't start; I had learnt years ago to accept his unnerving ability to discern who was calling by the weight and timing of their footsteps.
"Something like that," he mumbled sleepily, his eyes still closed as he smoked gently. "I'm awaiting a call from a mysterious gentleman," Nara continued, directing me towards the open letter situated centrally on his desk. "How are you, Choji?"
"Well, as always," I answered truthfully, turning my attention to the script. "This is very peculiar," I added, scanning my eyes over its contents.
My Dear Mr. Nara,
I have been directed to your name and business by my good friend, the current Raikage, who has boasted with great aplomb of your abilities when helping him to restore the fated sword of Samehada to its rightful place within the great hidden village of Kumogakure. It is with some hope that I wish to employ you to assist me in a similar matter, by way of restoring my rightful property to my possession, from which it has been most deplorably taken.
I will write no more here for fear of the note being discovered by those who I would wish it to be kept from. I feel it goes without saying that I will require the upmost confidentiality and secrecy when employing your services for my name is not unknown throughout these lands and any breach in security could do more than a little damage to my personal and public reputation.
But this is all business for our meeting. If convenient, I shall call on you next Sunday at 3.00pm whereby I shall more fully explain the nature of our contract.
Minamoto no Wiriamu
"He says he is to call at 3.00pm," I repeated, glancing at my companion. "That is but a few minutes away."
"Indeed," Shikamaru replied casually, still not opening his eyes.
"Minamoto no Wiriamu," I continued, looking down at the script. "I know that name from somewhere…"
"He is the King of Kumogakure," I was informed, although the knowledge left me no more in the clear.
"I wasn't aware there was a Monarchy in any hidden villages…"
"There isn't," Nara contradicted, sitting up and tossing his cigarette butt into the fireplace. "A long time ago some of the hidden villages made the decision to remove the elders of their villages. Konoha obviously kept ours as did Sunagakure, but others were not so historically minded. Whilst some villages merely got rid of any power their elders held, Kumogakure decided to remove the power but grant their elders a title. So, Wiriamu's ancestors became the Royalty of Kumogakure without actually having any say in the running of the village. They are, however, respected and known throughout the village. He is, as he says, a 'somebody'."
"And that may well be him," I added, hearing the door ring whilst Shikamaru called for the person to enter.
"It would appear so," he confirmed, standing up and making his way over to the chair in which he almost always resided. "He seems to be a tall man, approximately 6ft 2 inches, 174 pounds- so he's in good shape…"
As he trailed off, I spied such a man enter the room. He was dressed elegantly, by which I mean it was clear he was a man of some wealth and I presumed he was what many women, my wife included, would call attractive.
"Minamoto no Wiriamu," Shikamaru greeted, staying seated as the man came forward to shake his hand.
"In person," Wiriamu said boldly, smiling tensely, "you must be Nara Shikamaru."
"I am," Shikamaru confirmed, his eyes as intense as ever. "And how was your time in Sunagakure?"
The man started and a look of shock came upon his distinctive features.
"How did you know I was in Sunagakure? I spoke of no such travelling and in my letters I am sure…" here he trailed off and his eyes narrowed. "Then the news has broken already. I am ruined," he all but cried, throwing himself in an armchair and burying his head.
"If your Highness would relax…" Shikamaru advised calmly, "I was about to explain. I know that you were in Suna from the slight sand grains that still remain on your cloak, the tan brow you now sport which would not result from the weather in Kumogakure and most tellingly of all, your letter is dated from three days ago. A distance to here which is only equalled by Suna."
A look of strained relief broke across our guests face along with a slight hint of shame and he smiled guiltily at me. I, of course, was used to Shikamaru's unsettling form of deductive reasoning by now but the impact it had never lessened when he proceeded to explain how simply he came by his conclusions.
"Ah," Wiriamu breathed, taking out a handkerchief and wiping at the sweat upon his forehead. "I see. I apologise."
"That is quite alright."
"You can see from my reaction how important this business is to me," he continued, still seemingly shaken. "It is paramount that the issues never leave this room…" he warned, glancing at me.
"Choji is one of my oldest and closest friends," Shikamaru reassured the wary client firmly. "Whatever it is you have to say to me, you may say in front of him."
Nodding, although not looking very convinced as he continued to eye me carefully, the King sat tall in his seat.
"Please. Begin your tale. And try not to be boring."
"I am about to married," the King started matter-of-factly, only to be cut off.
"To Kurotsuchi of Iwagakure," Shikamaru supplied normally.
The King once more looked flabbergasted.
"It has not even been announced yet," he protested with no little heat. "How could you possibly know…?"
"Your journey from Kumogakure to Konoha would have been direct and required no deviation to Suna unless you had needed to visit there specifically. However a visit to Suna would need an excuse as there were no diplomatic visits scheduled of which I am aware. Thus, it is easy to conclude that your most common excuse would be to visit your impending bride of whom the only possibility is the current Tsuchikage- the only eligible lady equal to your rank, and a visit to Iwagakure would allow you to pass by Suna before coming on to Konoha."
The King's mouth hung open as even I had to admit that that particular piece of reasoning was beyond the faculties I had presumed by friend to possess.
"Please, continue," Shikamaru urged serenely, striking up another cigarette and sliding down in his chair before closing his eyes.
Swallowing, Wiriamu started again a little gingerly.
"Well, you are right. Kurotsuchi and I are to be married within six months, in a marriage which will be most advantageous to both my country and me personally," he informed us, now turning his gaze to me as Shikamaru had removed his. "As Tsuchikage, you can well imagine what a position marrying her will place me in- and any offspring I may produce. I need hardly say how keen I am for the union to take place. She is in every way the perfect partner for one such as myself- in rank, ability, appearance…"
"I understand," Shikamaru interrupted coolly, and I smiled inwardly to remember his constant hatred of those who boasted their status.
"…and indeed, all going as it should, the marriage will take place. However, there is a lady."
A small smile passed over Shikamaru's lips.
"She is determined to be the ruin the relationship," the King continued, becoming flustered and suddenly sitting up in his chair. "Unfortunately, prior to the engagement becoming a fact, I was involved with her and she is still madly in love with me."
"Had you made any promises to the lady?" I enquired, feeling a great deal less admiration for the King than I had when he first appeared.
"Nothing was settled," he answered cryptically, although his uneasy countenance told me more than I needed to know. "And I would not have you think that I acted dishonourably. I made no concrete statements as to my intentions and the courtship ended as soon as I was sure of my new position."
"What is it that she has on you then?" Shikamaru asked quietly, still puffing away.
"A photograph," was the guilty response, as the man studied his cape. "We are both in it," he added, before Shikamaru had time to reason his way out of the proof such an item might offer. "And the date matters not. For my betrothed is of such a high moral character that were any such picture to appear in public she would immediately call off our engagement. Not to mention the offence it may cause to her pride."
"I should imagine so," Shikamaru agreed, his brow furrowing. "Do you know where the picture is?"
"I do not," the King confessed unhappily. "My men have raided her apartment twice to no avail and she will not under any circumstances release it to me. I am at my wits end. It is to you that I turn. For if you cannot retrieve it, I do not know what I will do."
A slight humming noise echoed from my companion's throat, before he abruptly sat up and opened his eyes.
"I will undertake what you ask," he pronounced, to Wiriamu's great delight. "The photograph will be retrieved. I would ask that you call again in approximately a week's time."
Shikamaru nodded briefly.
"Wonderful," Wiriamu stated with a flush of disbelief. "I have, in my possession, a photo of the woman you are looking for," he added, producing a piece of paper from within his jacket and handing it to Shikamaru who studied the card deeply before handing it back. "I will call again next Sunday as you have instructed."
Turning on his heel, the man swept to the door and I thought I had seen the last of him until I found him addressing me over his shoulder.
"The lady in question was very likely aware of the nature of my affections," he said cautiously, his eyes almost reaching mine. "But she deluded herself into thinking otherwise. It is a pity she was not of my rank," he concluded, sounding somewhat sorry. "She has the mind and the face of a Queen. Well, you will soon find all that out anyhow. Good day."
"Well," Shikamaru sighed bleakly, still watching the photograph in his hand. "That was all very interesting."
"Yes," I agreed, still running the case over in my mind. "You're sure you can retrieve the photo?"
"Oh yes, quite easily," my friend assured me, stretching out in his chair. "Do me a favour and bring me the file on my desk, would you?"
Moving to the place where I had previously found the King's letter, I was surprised to find that there had been a file lying underneath the note that I had not noticed beforehand. Picking it up, I studied the front and found it emblazoned with the name 'Sabaku no Temari'. Exceedingly puzzled, I handed Shikamaru the file only to find the photo he had been given was a picture of the lady in question.
"You knew it was her before he even told you the problem?" I asked incredulously.
"I had an inkling," he replied knowingly, taking the papers. "It was a distinct possibility after I knew the dates of the letter and why he would have been able to visit Iwagakure. When his letter advised of the privacy of the matter only one thing came to mind- woman trouble."
Smiling, I picked up the photo the King had left.
"How long has it been since you've seen Temari?"
"Not since the end of the war," Shikamaru answered distractedly, turning over the pages. "So over ten years. My files don't indicate very much…"
"You've been keeping track of her?" I asked in surprise, despite the fact that I knew he kept files on everyone.
"Just of the significant periods in her life and the incidents that have appeared in the newspapers," he murmured, pouring into a newspaper article headlined 'Kazekage's Sister in Shocking New Relationship', "from what I can tell, she may be a completely different person from the one I knew."
"It does seem unlike her to indulge in so many liaisons," I remarked, noting inwardly that her picture painted her a beautiful as I remembered. "How do you propose to regain the King's photograph? If she is as headstrong as she used to be it is unlikely she'll hand it over willingly."
"It will be simple enough," Shikamaru reassured me, closing the file and shaking out his legs as he stood. "Do you think Ino could spare you for a couple of days?"
Taking the usual three day route to Sunagakure, Shikamaru and I managed to cover the salient period of Temari's life whilst we travelled and from what I could discern, either he had been keeping a very close eye on her the past few years or he had done a startling amount of research since I had left him the previous evening.
"So a full decade since you have laid eyes on each other?" I observed casually as we moved ever closer to the desert village's gates.
"Almost precisely," Shikamaru replied.
"It's hard to believe it's been that long since the war ended."
"That's because your life has been marked by happy events since then," he reminded me pragmatically, "had you lived a life that had been filled with nothing but tragedy then the years would have dragged on."
"I am in a happier place than I was back then, I admit," I remarked somewhat bashfully, for I knew from good experience that emotional encounters had long since made my friend uncomfortable. "I still can't believe she agreed to marry me…"
"I believe we are revisiting the conversation we had before your wedding day," Shikamaru stated wryly, gently reminding me that he had no desire to talk over such topics.
We travelled in silence for a little while further before I was reminded of the fact that Shikamaru had not yet suggested to me his working hypothesis, as was his practice to establish in his work.
"Have you established a plan yet?" I queried gently, our pace now slowing as we could see the tall city gates in the near distance.
"Quite a simple one," Shikamaru informed me, "but it will work as well as any other and with the added effect that we can be in and out of the village as quickly as possible. It is quite well known that in the case of an emergency, a person will run to protect the thing they care about the most; in the case of a mother- it will be her child, and so on. If we are granted an audience with Temari- which we will be; as shinobi of a friendly ally village she cannot refuse to meet us- and then fake an emergency, she will undoubtedly run to the place where she has stashed the photograph."
"You think it is in her apartment then?"
"Of course," he replied easily. "If a thing is precious to a person, they will keep it as near to them as possible, so that they may check on it frequently. The fact that the King's men could not find the photograph merely means that Temari is smarter than them- an idea I have no trouble accepting."
"You said a mother will run to protect her child," I pressed, trying to fully acquaint myself of all our goals, as I had found in the past that if I was as well prepared as possible, I was of much greater help to my friend. "She is unmarried then?"
"I have no documents to suggest otherwise. Besides, had she married, we would have heard of the wedding," Shikamaru answered; his voice free of any discernable emotion. "Stop it," he said all of a sudden.
"What you are thinking," he continued cryptically, although there was an edge to his voice now that made me realise he had been able to discern the questions I had not been asking. "You have been living with Ino too long."
I remained silent with the hope that he would continue on, as I was not yet absolutely certain of what he was accusing me.
"Ten years ago it was your wife trying to force me into a relationship that I did not want," he went on bluntly, his gaze directed forward. "Now, you are making the presumption that I either regret the action I did not take or that I'm continuing to suppress my feelings, both of which are completely wrong. I am acting on behalf of the King because the woman is unwittingly on the verge of causing a diplomatic catastrophe and I view it my duty as a shinobi to make sure that the worst does not occur. This is my motivation for acting and this alone."
Swallowing dryly, I tried to dispel my confusion at the fact that he had read my thoughts so clearly and banished the memories I had of Ino yelling vociferously because in her opinion, Temari was stubborn and Shikamaru was stupid.
"I would have thought the fact that I had not seen the woman for ten years would have informed you of this fact without my having to," he added quietly, dropping down onto the ground as I followed swiftly.
"Ino can be very persistent," I said guiltily, knowing that my face had reddened.
"I am aware," Shikamaru said, giving me a small smile as the guards at the gate stood on full attention upon sight of us. "But do not let her cloud your judgment."
Nodding, I prepared my travel visas and pushed the nagging doubt that sounded suspiciously like my wife to the back of my head.
Entering the village had been simple enough- Konoha and Suna had continued to be on ever-growing friendly terms since the end of the war, so much so that a mere check of our documents was enough to secure our entrance.
After booking ourselves into a small but homely hotel- the like that Shikamaru had always preferred to the larger chain hotels- we decided to dine out, although my intuition told me there was more behind my usually unsociable friend's desire to visit a restaurant; particularly since he informed me that I should attire myself in a more formal outfit than I had arrived in.
The restaurant itself proved to be large, filled with people and more expensive than I had known a restaurant could be, however I presumed that the King would be covering our expenses.
It wasn't too long before I managed to piece together my friend's reasoning when I observed the clientele that were dining alongside us. From my memory, I recognised several foreign dignitaries, at least one elder and a woman who I was almost very sure was related to the Hyuuga's.
I had almost wished Shikamaru had actually informed of the reason for our visit as it might have prepared me properly for her appearance. As it was I was left dumbstruck. Although, it seemed that my companion fared little better.
"You know, this didn't strike me as your type of place at all, Nara Shikamaru," said a sultry voice that made us both stop eating whilst I looked up to observe a figure wrapped in a dark red dress; it took me several moments to close my mouth. Despite the fact that her hair was pinned up, the same deep blue-green eyes told me that it was Sabaku no Temari.
"Occasionally, I don't mind something different," Shikamaru replied easily, not even looking up as she cast her shadow over him, one hand balanced on the back of a spare chair at our table.
"Now we both know that's a lie," she purred good-humouredly, her eyes meeting mine with a twinkle of laughter.
Sighing, he set down his utensils, folded his arms and finally looked up.
"I suppose we do," he answered quietly, and all of a sudden all three of us were grinning. Temari had started it at his reply, after which I observed the fact that my friend was so unable to prevent himself catching her smile that he was forced to look down again. My own glee came from watching their interactions and inwardly, I was more convinced than ever that Ino had been right all those year ago.
"Why don't you join us?" I offered, caught up in my own happiness although Shikamaru didn't not look displeased at the notion.
Watching us both intently, the woman finally sat down, settling herself with grace and ease as I noted that even if it was my friend's settled wish to never marry, he could be forgiven for forgetting it in the presence of such a creature.
"Almost ten years," she said out of nowhere, causing Shikamaru to frown before he quickly began eating again. "How have you been?" she asked him, before she turned to me. "I hear congratulations are in order."
Smiling, I began to eat again as well as a waiter brought Temari a menu.
"Yes, thank you," I said, now noting the lack of wedding ring on her finger. "I had thought Ino had invited you to the wedding…"
"She did," Temari informed me, "but I was on diplomatic leave to Iwagakure at the time. I did send my apologies. I'm sure it was quite the service."
"I did not know you became the diplomatic liaison for Iwa," I thought aloud, searching my memory for such news.
"I thought Shikamaru would have told you…"
"It was common knowledge at the time," Shikamaru justified plainly.
It came to attention in the brief interval that arose whilst the waiter took Temari's order that Shikamaru did not know quite where to put his eyes. His gaze, usually so intense and staid, had become shifty, almost what I might have called nervous had I not thought that he just looked uncomfortable.
"I must say Temari, you don't seem to have aged a day in ten years," I began, hoping to steer my friend's eyes to what it would surely have been impossible to miss.
"Likewise, Choji," she said coyly, tucking a curl behind her ear. "I would say it is my work that manages to keep me young but really I think it's just all the sun cream I'm forced to wear."
I was about to reply when Temari let out a loud sigh.
"Why are you always so suspicious?" she said pointedly, staring at Shikamaru who I had only just noticed was fidgeting quite obviously. Stopping in his movement, he gave her a look in reply.
"History is a harsh teacher," he answered, with equal meaning.
"May I have my handbag?"
"Of course," he acquiesced, pulling a burgundy bag out from under the table and passing it back to her over the table.
"You know I could have you arrested for searching my bag," Temari added, taking the item calmly and placing it by her side as I eyed my friend with shock.
"I would be very surprised if you did," Shikamaru murmured, giving her a small smile, "but yes. I suppose you could."
"Did you find what you were looking for?"
"Happily, yes," Shikamaru went on, holding up his other hand to reveal a well concealed cigarette.
Letting out another sigh, I met Temari's gaze with a dry look.
"He lets his bad habits rule his life," I tried to justify in a joke which she seemed to appreciate.
"Hmm…he has a few which he doesn't seem to want to give up," she continued, now looking at my friend again with the same intensity which I was used to seeing in his eyes.
"There are some I seem to be unable to break at all," he stated outright, looking at the cigarette although all three of us knew he was talking about something quite different.
The mood of the table seeming to have changed I was about to excuse myself and then make good my exit to the hotel, when a man approached and stood behind Temari.
"Would I be remiss in requesting a dance?" he asked in a deep voice, as Temari looked amused and turned to view her guest.
"I suppose I could grant you one," she said with a smile, standing up and dusting down her dress, however as we both stood to bid her goodbye, she made her way over to Shikamaru.
Plucking a lighter out of her bag, he pre-empted her and placed the stick into his mouth, allowing her to light it for him.
"Come and call on me tomorrow," Temari suggested quietly, standing exceptionally close to Shikamaru and I noticed that my friend's free hand had clenched into a fist. "Enjoy the rest of your dinner," she called to me as she moved away, her hand now taken by her friends'.
Swallowing deeply, Shikamaru took a long time to sit down again as he watched her leave, but instead stood there smoking quietly before I broke him out of his daze.
"Searching her bag? Really?" I questioned somewhat indignantly, unable to help myself.
"She knew we were coming," he said oddly, sitting back down- his eyes still directed to the dance floor.
"She did? How can you tell?"
"Firstly, she didn't kill me for checking her bag," he replied as I admired the fact that he'd learnt to keep his frustration at my slowness on the inside, "then there was the fact that she was waiting for me to do it. She purposely left the bag where I could reach it. When you think about it, it's all quite simple," Shikamaru added thoughtfully, his eyes still directed to her dancing figure in the near distance, "she knows he wants the photo. She knows I'm in this line of business. Why wouldn't the King send me to come get it?"
"You really think she would have been able to work that all out?" I wondered, knowing that although even our old sensei had pronounced her a quick thinker, perhaps my friend was overestimating her prowess.
"Undoubtedly," Shikamaru asserted blankly. "Even if she had not deduced that he had already been to see me, she would have been on her lookout for my presence in Suna. If the guards at the gate didn't already alert her that is."
"So what's why we came here?"
"To make sure my observations were correct," he informed me. "Now that I know they are, the plan becomes a lot more complicated…"
Here, he trailed off and at times like these I knew better than to disturb him- his glazed over expression told me that he was lost deep in thought and that I should leave him to his deliberations. For my part, I was left to finish eating and given a chance to contemplate the situation I currently found myself in.
By the time we had made it back to the hotel it was late in the evening and my companion had still not spoken his mind but it had entered mine that perhaps I was providing more of an obstacle to this journey than I had previously realised.
"So, what's the new plan?" I asked gingerly, hoping to communicate my news feelings, as we settled ourselves in the room.
"There isn't one."
Unable to understand Shikamaru's decision to remain steadfast to his original strategy, I balked visibly.
"We don't need one," he reassured me, seeing my discomfort. "I've been going over her possible courses of actions after she realised I was here and she won't move the photo."
"Why on earth wouldn't she?" I asked incredulously, now completely lost. "Surely it would only make sense to find an alternate place to hide the item?"
"To a completely rational and utterly normal person it would make sense," Shikamaru submitted, moving to seat himself whilst lighting a cigarette. "But fortunately for our little expedition, Temari is neither of those things. If she had been annoyed at my appearance in Suna, she wouldn't have been able to conceal it. As it was, she seemed pleased- no doubt because hiring me was what she expected her old lover to do. Nothing pleases a woman so much as being right, Choji," he concluded, puffing away, his eyes starting to glaze again.
"But how does Temari being pleased to see you…?" I began as Shikamaru let out a loud sigh, his exasperation quite obviously activating.
"Because had she been displeased to see me it would have been because she felt compelled to move the photo- a source of great annoyance for her. Additionally, knowing my reputation she could not have failed to conclude that the likelihood of me securing the photo was very high- making the task of finding an ingenious hiding place all the more necessary," Shikamaru explained seamlessly.
"Yes, I follow that…I think," I interjected.
"The fact that she was pleased allows me to deduce the following; that she expected me to arrive in Suna and has therefore factored in my interventions, thus giving her no reason to move the photograph to a different location, as she would have already placed it in the most secure place," he reasoned, his eyes suddenly becoming alive and alert and he stood almost immediately. "Secondly, and much more useful for our purposes, she is enjoying this as much as I am."
"Indeed," Shikamaru confirmed with a wry smile. "After all, what has she got to lose whether I succeed or not? Whether the photograph becomes public knowledge or not? This is all about the game for her. And she is visibly so happy because I am here to play it with her."
As my colleague began to move to the window with a lazy swagger, I observed a contented look coming across his features and it occurred to me that he had not thought to conceal it, as he might usually have done. He was blowing the streams of smoke out into the open air now, leaning against the frame, again quite lost in thought although this time it seemed to be thoughts of quite a different nature, and one more- as before in the restaurant- I began to feel out of place.
Moving to the small desk in the room, I found the hotel brochure and began to browse the prices of other single rooms, thinking that should the woman in question choose to call tonight- as I had a hunch she might- it might be awkward if I was still in the room.
"Choji, you will never learn, will you?" I heard Shikamaru lament from the window and spun round to find him standing in the exact same position as I had left him in.
Tossing the cigarette butt out of the window and turning on his heel, Shikamaru strode his way over to his bed and began to turn down the covers.
"There is no need for you to find an alternate room," he went on, climbing into the bed and shutting his eyes promptly.
My stunned silence was enough to prompt him into continuance.
"I saw you make to leave at the table earlier and then again, a few moments ago the same uncomfortable expression appeared on your face. Then you went to check the room prices on the hotel brochure. And then there is your…general thoughts regarding myself and Temari," Shikamaru said, reading my mind exactly, and even though he had done it many times before, the whole experience still left me baffled. "There is no need for you to find another room," he repeated firmly, stifling a yawn. "I am expecting no visitors tonight."
My own shock subsiding, I began to prepare for sleep myself, thinking that my friend was usually right in such matters and had he been expecting Temari to call, he would have said so.
Unfortunately, sometimes, Shikamaru was wrong.
It didn't happen often. But sometimes…it did.
That night, he was wrong.
I awoke peacefully but groggily to find that the room was still dark, the only light streaming in from the night sky outside. A slight glance to my left and the clock told me it was just after three in the morning. I was just about to turn over and attempt sleep again when I noticed that Shikamaru was out of bed. His shadow stretched long and thin across the room as he stood quite patiently staring at the door.
I was about to ask him what he was doing when I observed that he was fully dressed. The few seconds that it took me to comprehend this was enough time for Shikamaru to spring into action and quite suddenly he moved towards the door to the room and pulled it open.
"It always makes me happy that we are creatures of habit," I heard a quiet voice muse and I narrowed my eyes as Temari stepped into the room with a graceful measure and Shikamaru shut the door quietly. "A joint room," she observed lightly, "so, you were expecting me…"
"I was expecting that hotels in Suna were expensive," Shikamaru corrected abruptly, standing far away from her as I finally decided to feign sleep, lest they realise I was listening. "And I was right."
She laughed quietly.
"Always so stubborn," she sighed.
"Is there a reason you're here?" Shikamaru asked brusquely, and hearing a shuffle and a number of footsteps I presumed she had moved towards him.
"I just wanted to tell you that you're not going to win," Temari answered, still keeping her voice hushed though I could hear the challenge and the taunt levelled in the statement.
"And you couldn't have waited until morning to tell me that?"
"You never used to mind me visiting at this hour before…" she added meaningfully, and I felt my brow leap up of its own accord.
"What do you want Temari?" Shikamaru cut in firmly, sounding as hassled as I had heard him sound in as many months.
"Do I really rile you that much?" she poised as her voice dropped to a whisper and I strained to hear her speak. "After all, you come here to purposely thwart and undermine me and you're the one who's annoyed?"
"I'm doing my job," Shikamaru replied, his voice still sounding the same to my ears.
"And it's just a happy coincidence that your job happens to involve working against me?"
"It's not my fault that you've gotten yourself into this position, Temari," he batted back wisely, "this is what comes of you meddling with…"
"That's not the word you used last time…" she interjected dryly.
"…other…" here my friend seemed to lose his intent and he sighed deeply. I heard footsteps again.
"I'm not mad, cry baby," she seemed to console teasingly. "I suppose I would be if I thought you had any chance at succeeding, but that's not a possibility so I can't be too upset."
"It's useless me rising to that in any way," Shikamaru responded drearily and I recognised the tell-tale sounds of him beginning to smoke, "only to say that I will win. It stands to reason that as the only person not personally invested in this business, I will be the one that leaves it unharmed."
Now it was Temari's turn to sigh.
"Did it annoy you when he came to you?" she asked eventually, still taunting Shikamaru quite obviously. "I would have enjoyed seeing your face when you received the letter I must admit."
"You say that as if it is something I wouldn't have expected of you," Shikamaru said, now seeming to respond to her taunts with his own vigour. "And you seem to be exceptionally calm, given the King's assurances as to how you fe-….."
I peeked open an eye to find that Shikamaru had trailed off mid-sentence and was standing at the window, facing Temari with that light in his eyes again and a picture of intense concentration on his face.
After a few moments, he broke out into a reluctant smile.
"Ah," he said calmly, leaning against the wall and shaking his head as I observed Temari to be smiling also, "I should have known. Who is he?"
"Who?" she asked, with a knowing laugh.
"The man you were dancing with at dinner," Shikamaru went on, keeping his eyes on her. "It's amusing that I missed it before. New boyfriend, Temari?"
"Let me guess," she began contemplatively, moving closer to him- a move which Shikamaru was clearly very aware of, "he placed his hand on my shoulder, an action to which my usual response would be a resounding physical punishment. However, I didn't react violently; I smiled, I didn't even look at his hand, therefore I knew the hand- I was expecting it, even. Then there was the fact that I danced with him. And I hardly ever dance. Conclusion; I am involved with the man asking me to dance."
"You're learning," he said, sounding impressed although it wasn't phrased as a compliment. "You don't dance."
She laughed again.
"You never asked."
"So, who is he?" Shikamaru continued, moving swiftly on and straightening from the wall. They were now standing so close together that I had lost most of my sight of Shikamaru's face.
"Why are you so keen to know?" she diverted again. "Jealous?"
Shikamaru snorted but to me it didn't sound wholly convincing.
"You must like him," he proceeded, dodging her question as well as she had dodged his. "So much so that it's caused you to stop caring about this whole photo business."
"Ah, who says I don't care about the photo?"
"You're not even mildly threatened by the thought of me looking for it…"
"Again, who says…"
"In fact, you're quite happy I'm here…"
"Well, aren't we…"
"…now you have someone to play your little game with."
"You're making an awful lot of presumptions, Nara," Temari breathed, not sounding serious at all.
"And they're all right, Temari," he answered within a split second, conversely sounding deeply severe.
It was obviously an unfortunate result of his own investment in their verbal argument that Shikamaru was left completely off guard for Temari moved in as close as she could possibly get to his face and it was only by virtue of the fact that I could see the remaining moonlight between their faces that I knew they were not kissing.
"It was always a pity that I made you so nervous," she whispered and I saw her hands running up and down his lapels as Shikamaru's deep breaths echoed about the room and his eyes closed. "Think about where we could be now if we trusted each…"
He cut her off as his hands grasped her wrists and pushed them backwards.
"Nice try. Clever trick," he granted briskly, as she seemed to relent. "Good attempt at a diversion too. But I think I'll be holding onto this letter," he continued, plucking the letter that the King had sent him and moving away from her as his face looked a little flushed. "Now if you don't mind, it's late. I'm up early and I'd like to get some sleep, so…"
Temari's smiling face was the last I saw of her that night as I shut my eyes quickly to make sure she did not see me on her way to the door.
"I'm sure I'll be seeing you soon enough, Shikamaru," she said as she walked, "we don't ever seem to be able to get away from one another for very long."
Shikamaru said nothing but merely coughed.
"Enjoy your day tomorrow. And good luck; you'll need it."
I heard the door close definitively and a number of footsteps before the bed squeaked.
"Say one word and you're sleeping in the hall, Choji."
I took his advice and remained quiet.
The next morning I was awakened by my friend who seemed raring to go despite his lack of sleep the previous night.
As we moved towards the woman's apartment, his moroseness overtook both of us and we walked in brisk silence, Shikamaru's ever-growing determination becoming more and more apparent to me as we neared the place.
Bypassing the door altogether, he instead leaped to the ajar window, his feet falling easily onto the windowsill and he entered the place skilfully although it took me a little more effort to ensure I managed the same feat. When I eventually got into the apartment I found Shikamaru standing still in the middle of the living room, his eyes drifting quickly but intensely over all the surfaces- so much so that I stood completely still lest I disturb him.
Finally, when he seemed to have looked the place over completely, he sank into his usual thoughtful position, balancing on his haunches as I decided to eye the place up myself. Finding nothing untoward, I merely waited until Shikamaru stood, which he did after a few moments.
"Do you know where to begin?" I asked quietly.
"I know better than that," he said, beginning to move towards the second room, "I know where it is." As he entered the next room, his foot caught off the corner of a potted plant which fell over, scattering soil all over the floor. I did the best I could to clear the mess away but after hearing Shikamaru bang about in the next room for a few minutes my curiosity got the better of me and I left the debris to move after him.
Entering the room which I now saw to be Temari's bedroom, I found him tossing about blankets and opening drawers and leaving the most spectacular mess.
"What are you doing?" I asked in my bafflement although he was prevented from answering when a scratching sound hissed out from the front door. Recognising it to be the sound of a key my eyes widened and fell upon Shikamaru's, although he seemed far from disturbed. Moving with a speed I'd long forgotten he possessed, he opened the bedroom window and grabbing me by the hand, he manoeuvred me out. Hanging onto the ledge I only hoped that there were no guards about to see me hanging out of the Kazekage's sister's apartment.
Moving over to make space for my friend I was surprised when he didn't follow me. Hanging there for a few moments, I eventually decided to leap down and await his descent.
It was only another five minutes or so before he joined me, looking calm and composed as his feet hit the ground.
"Well?" I queried pensively.
Smiling briefly, he plucked a plastic square out of his jacket and held it up to me. And there was the fated photo of Temari, draped across the shoulder and lap of Minamoto no Wiriamu who looked as pleased as any one man could look.
"How did you manage it?" I went on, clapping him on the back in congratulations.
"She showed it to me…"
"What?" I interrogated, growing more confused as the minutes went by.
"She showed it to me as I said she would," Shikamaru explained with maddening simplicity. "Once she saw that the place had been raided, she went straight to the place where she had it hidden to check it had not been stolen. I hid myself with the help of my shadows and when she was satisfied that the photo was still there and left the room, I picked it out myself and left."
"As easy as that," I marvelled happily as we strode to the city gates. "So, where had she hidden it?"
"There was a hidden wall panel behind one corner of her bed," he said.
"And all over one little photo," I added, still eyeing the artwork and thinking that even though it wasn't particularly salacious, I could see how it could be easily misinterpreted. "You don't seem too pleased with your success…"
His brow furrowing, Shikamaru took the photo from me and watched it closely as we made it to the gates.
"It seems too easy," he said oddly, pausing in his footsteps. "Something doesn't seem right. But I don't know what…"
Despite my companion's uneasiness we left the city that day and arrived home just a little time before the King was due to meet us. Telling me that he was going to go for a nap, I agreed to meet him back at his apartment at 3.00pm, knowing that whilst he may say he was going to sleep, he was really going back to think over any lose ends to the case that he may have missed.
However due to our long trip I myself had fallen asleep and as such arrived around to his apartment a little later than I would have hoped, at 3.05pm. Expecting to walk into the scenes of a jubilant client and smug Shikamaru as I was well used to by now, I was instead surprised when I pushed back the door to find the intelligent detective by himself, situated in his usual chair beside the open fire with a cigarette perched between his lips and the butts of at least four more scattered on the floor around him.
Not looking up when I entered, I watched him carefully for there were the signs that everything had gone wrong. The usual intense gaze was now ablaze with constrained energy, the quantity of cigarettes said that he was stressed and looking for relief whilst his refusal to acknowledge my presence indicated a mind that was working hard to solve a problem to which he was committed.
Nearing the opposite chair so that I might sit and wait for him to conclude thinking, I was stopped when he swiftly plucked an open piece of parchment from his lap, swung it around in my direction and held it out for my perusal.
Still silent and I took the letter and ran my eyes over the contents. Half way through reading, I sat down.
My Dear Mr Shikamaru Nara,
No doubt you are finding this letter expecting to see the King of Kumogakure instead. Unfortunately, as instructed, he will have left you this letter. I suppose I should begin by unravelling the finer points of my little scheme, as I am told you are fond of doing whenever you manage to solve whatever mystery it is that is plaguing the poor hearts of the Land of Fire. But then, I have an inkling that as soon as you saw this letter on your desk you figured out my plan. However for posterity's sake, and of course, for my own personal pleasure, I will elaborate on what I feel you must know.
The King of Kumogakure and I met four years ago at a dinner party thrown by the Raikage and for the two years that followed that day, I was relentlessly pursued, pestered and frankly harassed by him in the hunt for my affections. I do genuinely believe that my brothers would have killed him, would it not have started a war, given the extreme manner in which he chased me. Yet, happily for myself, a year ago, The King suddenly ceased all communications between us without a word of why and it was only six months ago that I found out the reason for his silence.
Having experienced what could only be described as some sort of mental epiphany, it appears that the King realised the error of his ways and the continuous unhappiness that he had caused me and had decided to take a period of serious personal reflection. The result of such a period was that he now wished to apologise for his actions and indeed, wished to make it up to me in whatever way he could. He asked if there was anything he could do for me.
I'm sure you realise now that I was quite happy he asked that question, for there was indeed something I needed help with, for which I could turn to no one that I knew in Suna.
As you will have so astutely deduced from our meeting at the restaurant in Suna, I am now partnered with a new man, although I will have made sure to have kept my distance from him and I will be very surprised if you have figured out that I am in love with him. Or that I plan to marry him. And herein lay my problem.
You see, Shikamaru, the person with the genuinely high moral character in this little story is not Kurotsuchi as I have instructed the King to tell you, but I believe you may have gotten there before him given the journey I instructed him to take, but rather, it is my future husband. Who, whilst knowing something of my past, knows nothing of the true extent of it. Indeed, there are few who do.
But there was one who did. And one who felt a need to document the extent of this past in a file which he kept amongst all his others, labelled with my name on it.
It will now be clear to you why I had to get you out of Konoha and your apartment, long enough for the King to destroy the file. I apologise for tricking you but I hope you will find some humour in the situation in years to come, when you think of quite how brilliantly I did it.
If this letter reaches you on the Sunday as I have suggested it should then it will be two days before my wedding although is it likely that I will be smiling thinking of you reading this instead of smiling because of the occasion, which I most likely should be.
I remain, dear Mr Shikamaru Nara,
Very truly yours,
Sabaku no Temari.
Letting the letter fall into my own lap, I looked up flabbergasted, my mouth hanging open. Observing my expression briefly, Shikamaru smiled tightly, his own jaw set, his eyes shining.
We both sat in silence for a few moments before he decided to speak.
"She did it brilliantly," he confirmed quietly, a little of what I might call admiration, or a salute in his tone.
I could only nod, seeing as how she had once again managed to stun me into silence.
"She knew my methods and how I would work, seeing of course the King's brow and the state of his clothes. She must have coached him relentlessly," he added wryly, although I felt no humour in the statement.
"Why didn't she just come and destroy the thing herself?" I queried finally, still shocked beyond belief.
"Because then I would have been immediately suspicious of her presence," he replied, closing his eyes and I saw the strain which tempered his admiration.
"But she could have," a new voice said quietly and we both looked around to observe the King of Kumogakure standing in the doorway.
I, had I had greater presence of mind, might have remonstrated at him for daring to appear in my friend's house. However, as it was, I remained seated, curious as to what this new development was with Shikamaru doing the same.
"She could have come here and asked you to destroy the file and you would have done it, wouldn't you?" the King continued drearily, stepping more fully into the room with a weary look upon his face. "Because you would not want her to be unhappy…"
Shikamaru said nothing, choosing only to continue studying the King.
"I was on my way home when I decided that I needed to come back and apologise," he went on sheepishly. "I am sorry for being her pawn and allowing her to use me against you like that but…"
"…but you love her," Shikamaru finished dryly, turning his downturned brow away from our visitor and towards the fire once more. "The mental epiphany was all just an excuse to get close to her."
The King nodded helplessly.
"I seem to have lost all self-respect when it comes to that woman," he pleaded bitterly. "But when I heard she was to be married I knew I had to do something…"
"I wonder how you knew she was going to be married and we didn't…" I asked harshly, regaining some semblance of rationality.
"His Majesty has been intercepting the woman's mail, haven't you?" Shikamaru answered quickly, still gazing at the flames.
Here, the guest nodded again.
"No self-respect indeed," Shikamaru gritted out quietly, as the King blanched.
"If there is anything I can do to make up for the inconvenience I've caused…" the King attempted, gesturing aimlessly. "Here," he suggested, plucking an emerald snake ring from his finger and holding it out.
"There is something I should like more," Shikamaru said contemplatively, turning to view the King.
"Anything at all…"
Here, both myself and the King watched the detective with confusion.
"Yes," he confirmed plainly. "The one you showed me three days ago to suggest to me who she was."
Realisation came across the King's face before a brief period of hesitance, but that disappeared quickly.
"Of course," he conceded, reaching into his lapel and pulling the photograph from within. Rising when he received it, Shikamaru strode to the mantelpiece and placed it centre, balancing it upon an ornament.
Swallowing as he did this the King spoke again.
"What will you do with the one I asked you to retrieve?"
"Destroy it," Shikamaru replied blandly. "For the sake of her prudish husband," he added, this time with a little more heat, although it was barely noticeable.
He then proceeded to remove the fated photograph from his pocket and toss it into the fire, clearly taking some pleasure in the King's pain as he watched the paper burn.
Seeing that my friend desired to be alone from the way his eyes were burning once more, I offered to see the King out though only because I had some questions of my own.
"Why did you come back?" I asked curiously as we stood outside the door, the King still downtrodden.
"Because…" here he looked around nervously, "I did not destroy the whole file," he revealed quietly.
"I couldn't bring myself to destroy her letters," he went on and when I regarded him oddly, he immediately stuffed his hand into his coat pocket and withdrew a large bundle of crinkled papers. "I had thought he might have liked to have them…"
Here he held the papers out to me and I took them with the same look of puzzlement as before.
"I hope their being saved might make up for his annoyance at being tricked," he finished ultimately, smiling a small smile before bidding me adieu.
As he walked away I felt I was watching a man who had been wholly broken, and my sympathy for him might have been greater, had he not so cruelly deceived my friend.
Standing in the doorway I knew I should go upstairs and leave Shikamaru's letters to his own private eyes, but curiosity compelled me to do what was morally wrong along with the thought that when the great man finally met his end, there would be something in those letters to deduce about the inner workings of his mind. I had thought them to be purely letters of a functional nature between Shikamaru and Temari. However they were not and I reproduce them here so that the reader may share in the notes I discovered that day. All were dated from within the last ten years, only a line long and signed with a neat 'T' at the bottom.
I'll be in town in the next two weeks. Have dinner with me?
I hear you're solving crimes now. How very public service of you.
The mission three weeks ago- broke my leg.
I'm fine since you didn't ask.
Give my congratulations to Choji and Ino. Dinner?
Happy New Year Mr Nara.
Why did you give up smoking? It was sexy.
It's my birthday today. I'm awaiting my present.
I'm not hungry. Let's have dinner.
I'm in Kumogakure talking to an idiot. Get here and have dinner with me.
There were at least twenty more letters all in the same vein and more often than not she asked him to dinner. Before I left I posted the letters quietly through his letterbox although he never once asked me about them. I don't know if he ever replied or ever even said yes to her dinner invitations.
But one thing I am sure he must have figured out; that through all the years I spent with him I had grown to understand his methods and learnt even to apply them, though not as effectively. And it often gives me great pleasure to apply them to the case of the Scandal in Kumogakure and to contemplate my results.
For if it had been Shikamaru looking at the case objectively, he would have wondered at the layer of disturbed dust sitting atop the file he kept on the woman, suggesting that it was laid out and looked over often. He would have directed me to the fact that Diplomatic appointments were not common knowledge for security reasons and most importantly, he would have noted that given the address on the letters, ten years ago the Kazekage's sister was living in a different apartment than the one we visited, which he knew the way to swiftly and entered with ease on a foothold on the windowsill which had been apparently well marked and used.
I never raised my deductions with him for I felt that had he wanted me to know any of these things, he would have told me himself. But that is how the great Scandal of Kumogakure turned out to be a hoax and how the best and most honest working intents of Shikamaru Nara were beaten by the wit, intelligence and wiles of a woman. I used to hear him make fun when Ino spoke of woman's intuitions or got annoyed at him for referring to them as 'troublesome', but I have not heard him do it of late. However, it is with pride that I note that, despite her best attempts to make him dislike her, whenever it is that he refers to Sabaku no Temari, it is always under the honourable title of 'The Woman.'
So for as long as I can remember I have been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan- I started reading the stories when I was around 12 years old and A Scandal in Bohemia has always been my favourite one without a doubt. The relationship between Irene Adler and Holmes intrigues me no end and they were probably my very first OTP, although I didn't realise it at the time!
That said, Shikamaru has always been my favourite Naruto character because there was something Holmesian about him- although he is probably more like Mycroft, Sherlock's smarter, older brother, but it never occurred to me to write a fanfic based on Conan-Doyle's writings until the Robert Downey Jr films and the Moffat/Gatiss BBC TV series with the delectable Benedict Cumberbatch. So this fic is a heavy mixture of both of those medias as well as the original text, obviously. I'm going to put a link to A Scandal in Bohemia on my profile page so you can read it if you want- it's short enough but a beautifully written story and I honestly think the most romantic thing I've ever read. The line "she was a lovely woman with a face that a man might die for" will stick with me forever.
And if you haven't seen the BBC's Sherlock yet then you need to get on that! It is a modern version of the stories- so set in 2011 London but it is bloody brilliant and A Scandal in Belgravia is the best adaptation of any Holmes' story I have ever seen. If you are in a different country and can't find it them PM me and I might be able to help you do something about that ;)
Anyhow, I hope you are all well and enjoying the New Year and apologies for the long hiatus- Uni life has been mad as always but the best part about London is definitely getting to stroll down to Baker Street and attempt to live them permanently! ;) This has the possibility to become a 3 part episode- not unlike a 3 pipe problem ;), so if you enjoyed it and want more let me know in the reviews!
Thanks for reading!