Yoshino opened the door to her home, peering out and felt her face break into a grin.
"Ah, Temari-chan! How are you today?"
The blond haired woman smiled. "Just fine, Yoshino-san, I was actually looking for my lazy guide. Is he in?"
She frowned. "No, I'm afraid I sent him on an errand. He should be back in an hour or so." She saw Temari nod and bit her lip. "Would you like to come in? I was making tea, and my lazy husband is off on a mission. I made far too much."
Temari looked confused for a moment then nodded. She was on good footing with the woman anyway, she could relate to her and she always made her feel welcome. Temari never had a mother, and Yoshino was certainly what she'd imagine a mom to be like. She walked into the home and looked at the brown haired woman's back. Her apron was tied expertly so that it rested at the small of her back, her shoulders looked strong and there was slight muscle beneath the skin of her arms. Temari frowned and set her tessen down against the wall. Now that she thought about it, she never did know why Yoshino took so much command over the place.
Meanwhile, the brown haired woman poured extra water into her kettle and smiled. It was just enough so that the water was warm, not scalding, and plenty to fill up extra cups. She gently prepared the tea with expert hands and folded up a washcloth. Carefully, with practiced ease, she stacked up two plates and two cups onto her arms, along with a tray of sweets, and lifted up the kettle, easily breezing into the living room, where Temari was looking curiously at several photographs on her shelves. She set the goods down and noted with amusement how her muscles stiffened and loosened.
She looked back with an embarrassed sheen on her face. "Ah, I'm sorry Yoshino-san, I was simply interested."
"Oh, it's no problem. In fact, go ahead and bring them over here. And call me Yoshino, none of that san business!" She scolded lightly, with a slight smile on her face. She watched as the blond brought over the pictures to the low table with incredible care. Yoshino chuckled before she looked over Temari a little closer. "You need to trim those bangs young lady, no one can see those pretty eyes of yours!" She proclaimed and watched as the younger actually flushed at the compliment. She turned her attention from the blond to pour two cups of tea.
"Oh, it's fine…I was planning on cutting them when I got back to Suna."
"Nonsense!" Yoshino said after she set the cups and kettle in their respectful places, and stood up, bustling over to a shelf. She gently reached for a large box and moved it to the table. She pulled off the lid and ruffled through the contents. Temari peered in and gasped. Inside were various jewels and heirlooms, pretty rocks and lovely earrings, rings and necklaces. Yoshino looked up and laughed. "Oh! I'm just looking for a pair of scissors. I tossed them in here last time I gave Shikamaru a haircut. It was….why, it was five whole years ago!"
Temari laughed. "That's a very long time to go without a trim."
She smiled. "Indeed. It's why it's so long. I swear, I remember when he had it short. I must admit, with longer hair, he looks far more handsome…but maybe I'm just bias, as I think he looks incredibly like his lazy, good for nothing father." She shook her head, smiling wide.
"My, you speak of Shikaku-san as if he is a bother."
"Of course he's a bother! But he's MY bother, after all. I took on the joy of being his wife when I married him and accepted the fact that it would not be smooth riding the entire time." From the very bottom of the box, the elder pulled out a leaf headband. She smiled fondly down at it. It was in pristine condition, beautiful and clean. She gently stroked her thumb over it.
"Is that Shikaku-san's?"
The woman looked up in surprise. "Shikaku's? Heavens no! It's mine!"
"Mine." The elder said, nodding her head once. "Didn't Shikamaru ever tell you?"
"Well…no. He doesn't really talk about your occupations." Her brow creased in annoyance. "Lazy, good for nothing guide."
"Figures." She chuckled. "I'm a kunoichi, it's true. To this day, I'm still considered a ninja…chunin, though. Not nearly as impressive as Shikaku even though I beat him to the rank of chunin." She threw her head back and laughed outright at that. "Even though he made genin two years ahead of me!"
"My, that's impressive!" Temari said, but couldn't help but remember how Shikamaru beat her to chunin even though she made genin THREE years ahead of him.
"Yes, genius always wins out."
Temari furrowed her brows. "But, Yoshino san…wouldn't that mean that Shikaku would beat you?"
"Of course not! He only has an IQ of 165."
She barked out a laugh. "Temari-chan, I have an IQ of 246, almost 100 points higher than my lazy husband! Who do you think TAUGHT him Shogi in the first place? He would always lose to his father before I came along!"
"You mean…Shikamaru gets his genius from his mother?"
"Hai! Of course he does! Well…Shikaku helped, of course. We knew our child would be a genius in his own right, but we didn't know where he'd fall. We didn't expect him to pass me with an IQ of 253…but he did. That boy has so much potential, it isn't even funny. So unfortunate that he didn't inherit my determination."
Temari frowned. "I can't imagine him determined."
"I'm sure you can imagine him several other ways though." The woman said cheerfully as she took a deep gulp of tea.
Temari, for her part, only widened her eyes. "E-excuse me?"
The elder slyly grinned at her. "Oh, I see how you look at my son. Thank goodness. Honestly, he enjoyed Ino's company for a while, but it takes a special woman to be a Nara. After all, they're never born into the family."
"And…you don't believe Ino is Nara potential?" Temari asked, her eyebrow raised.
"Of course not! I love the girl, but there is a reason why the Nara and Yamanaka clan never intermingled! The Yamanaka's have had daughters before while the Nara's had sons. It really never ended up working in the favor of either party. Nara men need strong women, and the Yamanaka women are those who plant flowers, those who wear creamy dresses and tend to their long locks. Us Nara women, we're tacticians. Strong willed women who can keep their own genius in line. Of course," Yoshino giggled. "it will take a particularly strong woman to deal with Shikamaru. The more intelligence a Nara boy has, the harder it is to keep him in line."
"With all respect intended, Yoshino-san, I am not interested in your son."
"It's Yoshino." The woman replied smoothly. "And what a shame, as he has a severe interest in you." She reached for a picture and picked it up, gently looking at a young Shikamaru, his annoyed expression reflecting back in her eyes.
"He has no interest in ANYTHING." She said, muttering under her breath. "Lazybones crybaby."
She laughed. "Normally, I would agree. But…those men, they may not always come when you call…but they're somehow always on time…" She said, fingering her necklace with a free hand. The ring on the end of the chain, a simple golden band with a small diamond on it, gleamed in the light and she looked over a table to see a photograph of Shikaku, without scars and a slight smile.
"How did you meet him?" Temari asked, lifting up the picture.
"Oh, it was a long time ago…he was so cocky. A newly found chunin and he was high off of his accomplishment. I used to waitress to help out my friends with their financing, and he came around, all cockiness and chauvinist attitude. I punched him across his face when he pinched my butt."
Temari looked beyond amused.
"Well, we had our scuffle and I ended up, curse my luck, on several missions with him as a punishment for our disturbance. After a while, we got more comfortable when I was with him. On one particular mission, I ended up plunging under the water, rushing for a waterfall, and he jumped in after me, shielding me from the crash. His face never did recover…."
"That's why he has those scars?" Temari asked, quietly.
"Hai…he told me, "Not such a pretty boy anymore, now am I?" still joking even then, but then I kissed him, and the rest is history…I will always remember that day." She said, gently tucking her necklace back into her shirt.
"Why not wear your ring on your finger?"
She looked surprised for a moment. "Oh, my ring. It's not my wedding ring! My wedding ring was an heirloom passed down through the Nara clan for ages. It was silver, with a single large diamond in the center, framed by several stones of onyx. A symbolism of the wife being the crown jewel among the shadows."
"Why not wear it? It sounds beautiful."
At that, Yoshino's eyes actually gleamed. "We gave it to Shikamaru, he asked for it. Said he had a hope that a special girl would "come along". I don't need to be his mother to know he's interested in someone." Finally, she grinned and brought her teacup to her face. "My lazy son, finally motivated. The letters he keeps tucked away from you in his bedside drawers under that ring certainly spark suspicion, Temari-chan." She took a deep gulp. "Oh, what a shame it would be to tell him you are not interested." She said, curtly and stood to grab the empty plates and cups. Temari reached out and grasped her wrist.
"Y-Yoshino…there's no need to tell Shikamaru something like that…I mean...I might as well give it a chance…for the ring, of course." She said, nervously.
Yoshino smiled. "Of course, those were my reasons for being with Shikaku at first as well. Just between you and me, his favorite grassy knoll is approximately half a mile from this house, in the direction of the clan's river."
Temari nodded, slightly embarrassed at her nervousness and walked out of the house with her tessen after telling Yoshino "Thank you".
When she left, Yoshino looked fondly at the pictures and ran her thumb over the one with her and Shikaku posing side by side. She then reached into her box and pulled out a gleaming, beautiful ring. Standing, she made her way to Shikamaru's room.
He'd thank her one day.