A/n: new story! It will be a series of very short anecdotes that are completely unconnected. I also take any requests (I only have like... 6 things planned, but want to end this around 10 chapters or something, so yes please make some requests) you may have. These will be much shorter than my one-shots and are not nearly as in depth or as well-rounded, fyi. Continued thanks to my beta.
Note: This one is in a semi-au verse where Tsunade doesn't wake up after Pein's invasion and Danzou and his crew stage a coup and try to kill all people they think are loyal to Tsunade.
There was a soft thud.
Not quite loud enough for Shikamaru to think that their camp had been spotted, but certainly enough out of place to put him on guard; more so than he was already.
He stiffened, but didn't turn around; instead, he continued circling the path of his sentry duty, albeit much slower and with a careful gait that he hoped would make him appear unaware in case the thud was caused by someone with less-than-amicable intentions.
The forest was thick and dense surround his wayward trail. It was as good a hiding place as Kakashi and the other jonin had been able to come up with in a hurry. Supposedly they were somewhere near Ame, but Shikamaru hadn't been paying much attention to their current geography the past two weeks. But it was somewhere the Anbu following them might hesitate to look, as Konoha wasn't on good terms with most countries in the area.
Unfortunately, never having traveled this way, Shikamaru was unsure whether or not the noises following the thud—the small scratching and what sounded like the latching of a buckle—were part of the forest itself, or an unwanted guest.
Not wanting to risk it—though he was aware that most Anbu, most Root, that is, would already have attacked—he used a sideward shadow to pin a kunai to a trunk in the area the noise had come from.
"Wrong tree, idiot."
His pulse jumped as a figure leapt down from somewhere in the canopy of leaves.
Before his eyes even leveled with hers, Shikamaru was stalking forward with urgency, forcing Temari to walk backwards until she was pinned between himself and a large tree.
It was only a moment before his hand was covering her mouth, his form pressing tightly to her own. Had he been less occupied, Shikamaru would have reveled in the contact. Their proximity had rarely been so intimate, and he could easily feel every inch of her front pressing sharply into his. But Shikamaru wasotherwise occupied, and the thought didn't even occur to him.
Looking past her and into the woods, he narrowed his eyes, scanning for anything out of the ordinary, before coming back to bore his gaze down into hers. "You can't be here, Temari."
She'd rarely heard him sound so...fiercely resolute, even when he was speaking in broken whispers to keep any nearby scouts from locating a position. Without the ability to open her mouth, Temari raised her brows in challenge. Without backing down, Shikamaru slowly removed his hand.
"I am here to help."
"We don't need you." It was clear to her that Shikamaru was probably in little condition to argue, the dark circles under his eyes and the washed-out paleness of his cheeks were enough to justify her claim, but the look in his eyes posed something deadly.
"The average lifespan for a missing-nin in Konoha is three weeks. In Suna, it's two. You have used up both. According to statistics, you have only seven more days at best, Shikamaru."
"We have the top shinobi in the village, give us more credit than that."
"But you also have some of the okay ones. A lot of the okay ones. Our spies say that thirty of the condemned one hundred made it out of the village. Danzou is sending out all of Root after you guys. Ten experts won't cut it. I can help."
Shikamaru felt his chest heat as she repeated what he was already well aware of. "Temari."
"I'm not going to leave."
"So what? We're going to need Gaara's help when the revolution begins. He can't just send his jonin away to join Naruto right now."
"Danzou already had his men search all of Suna. Gaara is playing it safe for now. He doesn't need me."
"Your people need you more than we do. Go home, Temari."
"I'm not leaving," she said again. Sharper this time, though still hushed.
He leaned closer. "We don't need you."
"You need me!"
"I don't need you hurt."
This time, his expression was enough to make her stop. With one last lean, this time stronger and almost painful, against her, Shikamaru took a step away, averting his eyes to the ground.
"I can't have you here, Temari. Don't you understand?"
"Then come with me." His head snapped up. "Come with me, back to Suna. Sneaking you in is easy. Keeping you there is easier."
"I'm not leaving you, Shikamaru." Her voice raised the slightest amount. "Either I stay, or you come with me."
"We can't do that." There was a pause and he sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking behind him to the path he'd been following.
"I can't leave you here, Shikamaru!" Temari took two steps forward and grabbed onto his vest, pulling him back to face her. "You'll die. Don't you understand? You'll die out here."
"Not anytime soon." It was a lie. They both knew it.
She pulled her head into his chest. "I don't know what I'd do with you, Shikamaru. Please. Please."
He looked up at the branches above him, baiting his breath for three long moments before placing his hands on her forearms and pushing her away. "We each have our places, Temari. Yours is with your family, in Suna. Mine is with my family, here." He laced his fingers through the hair had dropped out of its hold to fall against her neck and pulled her head back into his chest. "You know that."
Muffled in his clothing, "Shikamaru—"
"Temari. You need to go."
There was another moment of wait before he kissed the top her head and she pulled away. There was a long look before she turned back to the edge of their small clearing.
"Is she still alive?"
After a beat, Shikamaru gave a sound of affirmation.
With Choji one of the dead on his way out of Konoha, the very unconscious Ino was one of the few Shikamaru had left. "Do you want me to take her?"
Temari slowly exhaled. "That's all then."
She continued with her steps away from him toward the tree she'd descended from not five minutes before. "I'll always come back to you." He said softly. Temari stopped walking. "We will take Konoha back."
She looked over her shoulder, thinking over her words. "When Naruto is ready, we will—Gaara will—be there."
Lots of love and apprecation,