A/N: And off the back burner you go! I'm a horrible updater but I plan to complete everything I'm working on. Please R&R!
Shikaku wearily stood in front of a large map of all the nations that was cluttered with notes and an assortment of markings. For almost two months his office has been the forefront of the never ending search for his son, Shikamaru. He wanted to be out there searching badly with the trackers but knew he would be most useful here, organizing the search. The Hokage has been very generous in allowing him to use some of the best tracker ninjas for his personal reasons but the search was taking too long and everyone's hope is starting to run thin. He rubbed his eyes and turned to leave his office toward the kitchen. He needed another drink.
He slowly made his way toward the kitchen, taking a slight detour past his brdroom. He opened the door and took note of the figure that was still in bed. It was well into the afternoon and he hasn't seen his wife get up once. She took Shikamaru's kidnapping especially hard, but that was to be expected. It was to the point where most days Yoshino is managing the pain and even attends the trackers when they're reporting in and offering her advice on the search. She was obviously sad, but managing. She had her good days and her bad days. This was a bad day.
Days like this she just lies in her dark room- motionless and quiet. Not knowing if her only son was dead or alive was slowly killing her- teetering between the hope of him turning up and the pain of the thought of him being lost forever. She blamed him, he knew. They haven't shared the same room since Ino and Chouji returned with the grave news. Though she should blame him because it was all his fault and he couldn't deny it. The biggest mistake he ever made in his life because he was sentimental all those years ago and let that woman go.
"Yoshino, Sweetheart," he questioned into the dark room, opening the door slightly more. "I'm going down to the kitchen. Do you want anything?"
Yoshino laid there motionless, turned away on her side.
"You didn't eat anything yesterday or today. I can bring you up something if you want. Or I can go out and pick something up if that sounds better."
After moments of silence Shikaku sighed and closed the door before heading downstairs into the kitchen. He walked into the kitchen and opened the cabinets that held the cups. He scanned the empty cabinets before looking at the neglected and overflowing sink filled with dirty dishes. He sighed and settled for a clean jam jar. He mixed himself a drink of orange juice and liquor, heavy on the later, and began to head back upstairs. He didn't get too far before he heard a knock on his front door. Shikaku opened the door to see both the of his old teammates family standing on his porch.
"Wow, I can smell that drink from here. A little early to be drinking like that Shikaku," Inoichi said as he worked his ways inside, grabbing Shikaku's drink as he passed by, followed by his wife, daughter, and Akimichi clan.
"Don't think that you're drinking it either," Inoichi's wife chimed in behind him.
"We brought lunch," Chouza said as he carried in large sacks of food.
"Hey guys, come on in," Shikaku said as he closed the door behind them.
"I grabbed your mail for you," Choji said as he handed Shikaku a stack of letters.
"Thank you Choji."
"Choji," yelled his mother from the kitchen. "Come take out the trash for me please."
"Okay," he said as he followed his mother's voice to the kitchen where Shikaku could hear the wives busy taking care of the kitchen mess while Chouza and Inoichi where stood near Shikaku and began to aimlessly joke around trying to lighten up the atmosphere.
Shikaku sifted through his mail, looking for anything that deemed momentarily important. A couple of quick updates from those on the field stating they haven't heard anything hinting toward Shikamaru's whereabouts and not much else. Toward the end of the stack he found a letter mailed from Suna- Temari. Opening the letter he found a quick update from her.
"I still have my feelers keeping tabs throughout Suna. Followed one false lead but I'll keep searching.
Temari opened the door to Gaara's office and stepped in. He wasn't sitting at his desk but she was able to see him standing out on the balcony overlooking the village. Sighing, Temari joined him and both stood in silence for a few minutes.
"Aren't you going to reprimand me," Temari suddenly asked.
Gaara glanced in her direction motionlessly and looked back over the city. "I don't see the point. It wouldn't stop you from doing the exact same thing in the future."
Temari paused a moment before responding. "You're right. It wouldn't… Are you angry with me though?"
Gaara shook his head. "No, I'm not angry. Not even disappointed, just worried."
"This is the third time you've abandoned your mission to follow some lead about him that never goes anywhere."
"I didn't abandon my mission Gaara. I completed it and only went after it was finished and sent my teammates back."
"You're leaving far too many loose strings on your missions and are cutting too many corners. You don't cut corners Temari. You never have."
"I just can't afford for any lead to go cold."
"And so you risk your live and the lives of your teammates to assure that?"
"You know, you say you're not angry but-"
"I'm not angry Temari. I just… need you to understand why I'm about to do this."
Temari raised an eyebrow suspiciously, "Do what?"
Gaara sighed and propped his elbows on the railing sullenly. "I'm relieving you from active duty."
"What! Gaara, no. You can't."
"This isn't permanent Temari. We're receiving too many complaints about you from our clients. I think a few months; sooner if you prove you're back up to the job, will be good for you."
"And what am I supposed to do in the meantime," she asked flabbergasted. "Paperwork?"
Gaara turned and placed a hand on her shoulder and looked her gently in the eyes. "Whatever you need to do."
Temari stared at her younger brother wide eyed before dropping her shoulders and leaning in to wrap her arms around him in a hug. "Thank you Gaara."