Title: Shelter

Characters: Nara Shikamaru, Tenten

Song artist: Ray LaMontagne

Summary: He was a genius, and he could predict two hundred different outcomes to a single scenario, and every outcome he could think of leads to only one thing—his heart getting broken.

Shikamaru was about to do the most troublesome thing he has ever done in his entire life.

At least, that was what his younger self would say, before tching silently and muttering something about how he'd rather watch clouds than be here. But he was years older now, physically and emotionally, just a tad bit too old for immaturity to be decent excuse anymore.

So here he was, standing at the edge of Team Gai's old training grounds, and finally, he was ready.


The bun-haired kunoichi looked up from the weapon she was holding, a katana that failed to glisten under the afternoon sun, half-rusty from disuse. Shikamaru never thought he'd see the day when Tenten would allow one of her precious swords to rust, but a lot has changed ever since the last war ended, and Tenten was not exempted from it.

"Oh, hey, Shikamaru."

Case in point. The Nara heir could not even remember when was the last time the kunoichi had called him "pineapple head." He guessed he missed it, although it was such a stupid nickname to begin with.

"What brings you all the way out here?"

Shikamaru glanced once more at the defective weapon, wondering why Tenten would allow it to get broken like that.

"Oh," the weapons mistress exclaimed, following Shikamaru's line of vision. "This is Neji's," she said by way of explanation, as if she and the shadow manipulator were merely talking about the weather. "Hinata found it yesterday, while looking for something in their compound's stock room." She flashed the genius a grin that did not quite reach her eyes. The fire that had burned in them quietly, fiercely, over the years had died, the same day Hyuuga Neji did.

"Who would have thought, right? I thought this got lost during the war. One of the clansmen must have picked it up and randomly stored it, not even bothering to check whom it belongs to."

If Shikamaru noticed that Tenten was now rambling, he said nothing of it. Besides, it had been far too long since he heard her talk so freely. "I'm just glad Hinata found it by accident, you know," the kunoichi continued, caressing the dull blade the way she would a long lost friend—or love, maybe. "This was my gift to him. For making it to jounin."

There was a sudden hitch in her voice, and then she was clutching her chest once more, the same way she did the day Shikamaru found her in front of Neji's grave. Two years past and she still was not over the Hyuuga, and Shikamaru realized then that Tenten probably never would.

"So, what brought you here?"

Shikamaru sighed, no longer sure how he was going to approach the topic. Because was there really a point to any of this? Just that morning he has decided that he was going to talk to Tenten, to try once again—or for the first time, probably—to tell how he felt for her, how it never really faded away, not even when he had tried with Temari for almost a year, and then with Shiho for a few months, and then with a string of other girls, until he finally lost count.

But now, listening to her, the doubts began to flood in, because he was a genius, and he could predict two hundred different outcomes to a single scenario, and every outcome he could think of leads to only one thing—his heart getting broken.

Then again, Shikamaru was years older, and maybe that equated to emotional maturity after all. And although he usually found confrontations—or confessions—troublesome, perhaps, just perhaps, he was going to try this, at least once—and then another, and another, if the first and second tries failed.

And as his hand reached out gently, hesitantly, toward Tenten, unsure if she would return the gesture, his resolve only grew all the more.

I'm here. I'm ready. I will shelter you.

There we go, people. The most open-ended conclusion to anything I've ever written. I'm happy with how it ended though. I just hope you guys are too?

Did any of you actually notice that I started each chapter with the line "Shikamaru was . . ." No? Yes? Err, I get weird like that sometimes. But oh well.

Thank you so much to everyone who stuck with me until the bitter end. This series started out so happy, and ended rather depressing, but I think it's actually the most faithful to the canon timeline that Kishimoto did. So hooray for that, at least.

Reviews for the last time, dearies?

As mentioned in my profile, I'm planning one last multi-chaptered series for this fandom before going into indefinite hiatus, so I hope you guys support that one as well.

And as a thank you to you lovely readers and supporters, I hereby present to you guys the teaser/synopsis/two-liner for that series, just to get you kids psyched up:

"The story of a social recluse, the ghost from his past, and his bishounen doctor that may or may not steal the girl of his dreams away. How does a hikikomori survive the outside world with his sanity (or whatever is left of it) intact?"

Start guessing away XD

To my mysterious Guest who dropped a line in my Scars and Stitches story, just in case you find yourself lurking here, I am still interested in that illustration offer, but your link did not appear in the reviews page (eep). Maybe try it with spaces, so that this site won't censor it?