Merry Christmas to you all! This is a small gift to Akira-kun.


SHELTER


He wasn't shouting. It was an understatement that a Hyuuga never shouts. But the loud groans Neji was letting out were much better than any scream Shikamaru had ever heard.

The jounin was thrusting strongly into the younger ninja, tensing up with each move. His face was hard and serious; delicious growls fled from his thin parted lips, the sound was vigorous and burning, playing around the firm chords in the deep of his hoarse throat.

Shikamaru breathed deep, closing his eyes to the world and enjoying how his lover worked him so damned good. His skin was steaming with the intensity, the long and strong thrusts making his body arch sexily with pleasure, his breathing speeding up to slow down seconds after, trying to feel every single touch with accuracy.

Neji's marble-white skin was igniting. His light grey eyes were burning with desire and rage. His glorious face was a bit dirty with gunpowder, blood and sweat, but neither of them were really paying attention to this. His discarded blooded robes were thrown aside somewhere in the shattered old house and his hair was a mess.
All that just made his appearance more appealing. Their eyes connected for a brief moment and Shikamaru moaned feeling the older shinobi take him in his assassin hand, jerking him off roughly.

Neji looked down appreciating the tanned skin under his. The back of Shikamaru's knee held in the crook of his strong and pale arm, spreading the chuunin for his own whim, lifting the body as much as he wanted, rocking inside of him as hard as he pleased.

He growled again, the sound vibrating vigorously through the damp cavern of his mouth and sounding like a wild animal. He breathed heavily, his chest spasming with the heat wave that stroke against his whole body, influencing the spasmodic rhythm of his hips.

"Ah" Shikamaru moaned lazily, the voice sounding like a monotone plea.

Neji rocked stronger, looking down to his hand maneuvering the stiff shaft of the Nara in deep appreciation, as if that was the most beautiful vision he'd ever had. How his white strong hand touched the hot tanned length, sparkling pre-cum over the engorged tip that leaked like a goddamn fountain.

His thumb played with the sticky gland, feeling how Shikamaru awoke back to life and thrusted agonized against his fingers, the vision built a burning heat in Neji's loins, all the strings inside pulling at the same time.

Oh, they were so damn close.

Neji hooked his arm, lifting Shikamaru's hips even higher, touching his prostate easily as soon as he got deeper inside and the shadow-nin moaned loudly. One hand grabbing his own spiky ponytail and hiding his eyes in the crook of the other arm.

The Hyuuga bit down on his bottom lip and watched how Shikamaru's body arched perfectly, thrusting back in his hand, his body covered by sweat, the musky scent almost making Neji taste the bitter flavour on his tongue as he parted lips to moan with the strength of a huge spasm that reverberated through his body and drove it into Shikamaru's with a special dry hit against the man's prostate launching him into a crazy orgasm.

Neji savored the moment while Shikamaru came profusely in his fingers and arched, crying out his name and contorting against the Hyuuga's deep buried member.

"Mmmm" the chuunin wailed licking his lips in a lazy motion of his tongue.

God, that was lust.

The Hyuuga felt it starting in the small of his back, strong, potent, breathtaking.

"Oh" he growled, the sound coming from somewhere very deep in his chest, dark and masculine, announcing an immense release "Oh" he moaned again, his fingers playing with the milky cream from Shikamaru's softening member. "Yes" he grunted moving faster against his lover.

And he was gone.

Breathing senseless with his eyes closed, the muscles of his stomach contracting deliciously under snow-like skin, all his body tensed as he ejaculated inside the younger man, the sensation blinding his mind, leading him into sweet oblivion and great quietness.

It was heaven.

He breathed tiredly, opening his eyes and watching Shikamaru's lazy expression. Their eyes locked and both shivered delighted. Neji let go of the Nara's limp length, cleaning his messy hand on the other shinobi's stomach.

"You're gross, Hyuuga" the lazy tones muttered and the jounin thrust flat inside of him in response, a dark smirk hovering in his lips as he teased.

But then Shikamaru kicked his shoulder making him get out of him and off the bed, standing in his beautiful nudity. They looked into each other eyes confidently and Neji's stoic mask almost broke, almost, with a ghost smile on his pretty face as he turned to put his clothes back on again.

The torn and blood stained robe was not white anymore and Shikamaru would bet it would never be the original color ever again. He sat on the bed and cleaned himself with the old dirty sheets.

God, he wanted to go home, he was tired of this mission, this damned fucking mission.

"It's over" he whispered, trying to ignore the disgusting feeling of something warm and liquid leaving his body "Shit..."

"I'm off" the Hyuuga warned, back in his typical robes and walking to the front door, or rather the wood that remained in a frame "You're ok?"

Shikamaru rolled his eyes "I'm not a fucking girl" he muttered dryly, seeing Neji smirk at that and shook his head.

"I'm glad you're not" he said in a dark tone and left while the shadow-nin started cleaning up.

It was a warm day and the sky was bright blue with cotton-candy white clouds. Neji thought that Shikamaru would like to watch them soon, but the nauseating smell of blood brought him to the horrible reality. Dozens of dead bodies were thrown over the ground, the grass was dark red and some houses were still burning.

Neji listened to the screams, cries and pleas far away from him. The small civil village was devastated. They were fast enough to kill the murders, but not fast enough to save every villager; when they arrived and fought the barbarians it was already too late.

He felt his throat tense and dry, his white eyes looking at the mess, trying to register what should be done right now. The mission had taken them two weeks to discover the flaw and keep a track on the barbarians, dealing with many ruined villages until catching up to the fuckers. Neji shivered with the images of his hands killing in cold blood many of the bastards.

His hands drew into fists and his jaw went hard. The satisfaction of killing was something that bothered him the most, the spiteful desire that burned like oil on fire as soon as his hands were close to their throats and bodies; but after he would always need to deal with the regret, the repentance of so many ill-fated souls ripped away by his own fingers.

"Here you are!" the voice sounded harsh "Feeling better now, Taichou?" her friendly smile wasn't there and her eyes looked angry.

Neji looked away; he didn't need to hear her complaints right now. He needed a break, a release, he worked like that and he was not going to report about it to a silly pink-haired chuunin. He saw Shino and Chouji in the horizon, they were moving corpses, calming down the civilians and setting up a campfire.

She sighed.

"We were too late" she muttered, her hair was tied up and stained with blood as her gloves, arms and legs "Couldn't save a lot of them" she confessed and he could hear in her voice that she needed a break as well, she needed to go home "Many men died in combat, some of them by our own squad, anyway we couldn't imagine who were barbarians and who weren't..." she clucked her tongue in despair and continued "A lot of women were raped, kids were killed and all of them sound traumatized."

It was worse than he imagined.

"Almost everybody received medical care" she told him, crossing her arms over her small breasts "Is Shikamaru going to need medical care?"

The Hyuuga looked away, a ghost-smirk floating on his lips, he watched as Hinata helped the kids with the campfire and made sure they were ok.

"No."

"So we're ready for orders" she said, her voice was bitter and he could sense she wasn't ok.

"Haruno-"

"Don't" she shook her head "No need for explanations. Everybody here deals with things differently" her green eyes locked with pearl ones. She was shattering, he could see it "Just give me orders" she asked and he could read in her eyes the plea.

"We'll need Shikamaru's brain to come back to life for it".

"And how long will it take?" she asked looking at the horizon, a raised eyebrow and he noticed she was slightly blushing, a very tiny hint of light pink.

"At any minute now."

She breathed and watched the clouds. Sakura was tired, she was sick of it all; the crying, the bleeding, the fighting, the screaming. Her eyes stung but she held it back.

"I'll help Hinata with the kids" she whispered, her voice sounded wet and he said nothing, watching her walk away limping from her right leg.

Neji took a deep breath and saw how his cousin sat the kids near the bonfire and started talking to them in a very caring way. Calming the small ones with her soft voice. He was terrible with kids, and with women.

He walked back to the ruined house and saw Shikamaru stretching in front of the sink. He was washing his hands and belly in the cold water.

"Is your brain back?" he joked.

"Yeah" the Nara answered lazily "How's it?"

"Bad. Many dead, many raped, many traumatized" he said coldly.

"Hn".

They stayed silent until Shikamaru put his fishnet shirt and the chuunin waistcoat on. They didn't need words after this kind of mission, both would normally stay quiet and it was enough to soothe the pain and sorrow. But today was different, today it was a whole village in panic, and they needed to deal with that and decide what should be done.

"The kids?"

"Hinata-sama is taking care of them."

"Women?"

"All received medical care."

"Shinobi?" tension appeared in Shikamaru's voice.

"We're all alive" he had counted before dragging Shikamaru into that house almost thirty five minutes ago. "I think we will need to stay for a while" he cautioned.

Shikamaru looked at him. His midnight black eyes were unwavering, maybe was that strength, that beautiful steadiness that drew Neji into him after missions. The Nara was always resolute, ready, firm. He didn't need reassurance, he wasthe reassurance himself.

"Needs a second look then" he muttered and they left the ruined house. "Andtea" he said when his eyes touched the terrible image of another destroyed village "Or maybe sake..." he joked though it sounded real.

Shikamaru's posture changed in a heartbeat. His shoulders straightened, his eyes narrowed and his breath grew quieter. Neji could see the slight tremor of his fingers before they closed into a ball and he walked.

This was the fourth village they arrived late, but the smell of ripped flesh and burned bodies made the Nara feel terribly worse. His stomach crumpled and twisted seeing the corpse stacked, the thick grey smoke surrounding the small village made it look wrecked. The kids crying and calling for their parents near the campfire widening their small arms to Hinata or Sakura and even Chouji who passed by.

The large man took one of them in his arms and his big hand wiped the traces of tears away, messing the little girl's hair and trying to make her smile, but the kid was so scared that she just hugged the Akimichi and sobbed desperately. Shikamaru felt it stabbing in his chest when vultures landed near the unburied bodies.

He walked to Chouji and watched the girl fight tiredly against the numbness her body was being driven into with the rocking motion of the large arms around her.

"Chouji" his voice was stern and flat.

"We'll need Ino, Shikamaru" the man said, rocking the child as he was his own father "Too many women were raped, one of them was so traumatized Sakura needed to anesthetize her with chakra, she wouldn't stop screaming" he looked tired.

"I'll contact her and Sai, ask them to leave the last village and help us here" Shikamaru looked around and watched as Neji tried inexperienced to talk with a 12 year old girl with a baby in her arms. "Help to bury the bodies, it's no good for these kids to see all these vultures flying around".

His teammate agreed giving the small girl to other teen and moving to the corpses.

"Sakura call Ino, we'll need back up" he commanded and she complied, reaching for the radio. "Hinata keep up with the kids, who is inside with the women?"

"Shino is" her voice was a soft murmur while she tried to give the same attention to the children and teenagers.

"Neji" he called, his tongue rolling along the letters as they were his home "Choose: women or dead corpse?"

"Dead corpse" he answered fast and Shikamaru crocked a brow.

He nodded and walked to the big construction near them, it used to be a monastery and many people sheltered there though it wasn't big enough. When Shikamaru headed inside, he could see many men lying on their backs, all patched and bandaged, some of them were still bleeding or fainted in their places.

The Nara heard the voices in the end of the corridor and something cold and painful slithered inside him. They were crying, he saw it as he walked through the ajar door, many of them were hugging each other as if they were trying to keep themselves safe.

Shino was near the door, watching some women that weren't shocked try to keep the others calm, but it was difficult.

"They are scared of us. We need to give them some space and time" he whispered for the shadow-nin.

"Ino is coming, she's good dealing with it" and sighing he leant against the doorframe. Looking at their pained and sad expressions, listening to their cries, it all made him think what his mother would do in a moment like this. She was such a tough woman... "I'll keep you company."

He needed to think.

x

It was late in the night when Shikamaru sat on the old bed and watched the small ruined house that was serving them as shelter, one single large room for the kitchen and living room. The owner and his wife were dead and they had no children.

The girls stayed in another house in a large and clean room and the other shinobi in two other houses, they were making shifts to protect the small village. Ino and Sai had arrived before sunset and she had already worked treating some young women. The Yamanaka would talk friendly to them and try to make them accept the reality, other times she would just sneak into their minds and erase some images that were more terrifying.

Shikamaru was glad Ino was there, she was an extremely talented kunoichi and she was very strong, no one could break her anymore. The blonde had trained herself until she could control the sharp emotions and manage them in a way that her mind wouldn't let it bother her focus. Because of this she was the perfect one to deal with tough situations, besides, Sakura was suspended by a thin thread, he couldn't count on her for much longer, she needed to rest.

The Nara looked around, the big moon illuminating the old house; he was alone. He shouldn't be. With a tired sigh he stood up and walked out of the place, lighting a cigarette and looking around. He could sense Chouji doing his shift and Sai on the top of a tree.

Far from them he could feel the gentle chakra; spirals of raw power undulating in oh so gentle energy. He followed it, walking through the village and part of the forest to be head to a small lake. A beautiful frame was training slow movements by the lakeshore, his white trousers were stained but his bare upper body was intact, no dirt and no blood, just healed silvery scars.

He moved so gently and softly that would take a stranger his sanity to learn those pretty hands could kill anyone anytime. Fast moves and he would break necks, close important tenketsu and stop a heart.

Or also, be the best lover one could imagine. The statement made a ghost smirk play in Shikamaru's lips as he got closer.

Neji had so many shades inside of him that he looked like a puzzle and it stirred Shikamaru's blood. He could remember the first time he got to see the lost Neji, the one that couldn't handle the rage and the loss at the same time. The man that looked like a wild animal rocking Hanabi's dead body in his arms; claiming his own fault and failure.

After that moment, when Hiashi took her from his arms, he cracked, like a bomb waiting any second to explode and bring the whole world with him. So Shikamaru acted, he ignited him, heard the uncontrollable shouting and felt the punches, and after that they tore their mouths apart and together, clashing bodies, ripping clothes, treading their own path in the darkest moment of the night.
It had happened many years ago.

Shikamaru walked silently until his bare feet were merged into the cold water. The lake was calm and muddy, but he didn't care sinking his toes into the cold mud in the bottom of it, feeling alive and weary.

Life wasn't easy as he would like it to be. War was over but for ninja it never comes to an end. It was a lifetime of sorrow and shadows. He threw the cigarette away and closed his eyes, feeling the breeze against his skin, and the gentle chakra that stopped moving and started leading to him.

The Nara smiled sadly feeling body heat against his back before the skin touched his fishnet t-shirt.

"Are you ok?" the chuunin asked.

He received no word as response but a soft nuzzle against his uncovered nape. He felt he steel of Neji's hitai-ate against the curve of his neck and shoulder, burning cold, and he stilled.

They stayed like that for long minutes.

"I'm losing it" the whisper was so low Shikamaru was only sure he heard it because he felt Neji's breath against his shoulder blade. "Today I just felt the blood, the fight, the battle, and the rage...I couldn't stop, I tried to force myself, I thought about how many souls I was bringing down with me...and I couldn't count them."

"You stopped."

"I'm afraid I won't next time."

They remained quiet, their breaths in sync and so their hearts. Shikamaru turned around, taking Neji's face in his hands, eyes connected.

"I'll be here by your side, and you're going to lean on me, like today. Like always."

The Hyuga closed his eyes. Normally, they would have different missions and he would crave until the day he got back to Konoha and could throw himself onto Shikamaru.

Today when they finished with the barbarians his hands shook so much and his head spun like a pivot, he felt lost, he breathed uneven and he needed the Nara, he needed a moment where and with someone he could forget control, forget life and just trust.

Just believe.

"You need to rest, Neji" the shadow-nin said simply.

"I can't. Every time I close my eyes they are there and I can't- oh god I'm so sorry" he whispered pained, closing his eyes "I'm a murder" he stated.

"You're a ninja" Shikamaru corrected.

"I'm tired."

"I know."

"I don't want this fate anymore."

"I know."

Shikamaru felt the cold steel against his brow and leaned forward. Noses touching and lips searching for each other in a calm kiss. A brush of lips, a lick of tongues and Neji's arms around Shikamaru's neck, pulling them together and deepening the kiss to a roll of wet tongues and suck of swollen lips.

Their mouths parted and their breath merged together.

Those were the moments they achieved peace and calmness.

"Let's sleep" Shikamaru suggested stepping away.

"I will pray for their souls" Neji decided coldly.

"You should pray for ours too" the Nara answered lighting a new cigarette and starting to walk.

x

They had expected a one-week mission, but now they were facing a much larger one. They would stay one more week in the village, helping to reconstruct it and taking care of those people.

Hinata was taking care of the kids, she was always the one to deal with the small ones, not being ashamed or shy with them, treating them on the same level. The Hyuuga heir was good caring about people, Neji asked himself if she remembered her sister while played with the children.

He stepped closer and knelt near her, her long dark blue hair was tied in a loose ponytail in the base of her head and she was telling an ancient tale with her soft voice. It was the third day already and the village was looking a wee better. All the dead bodies were buried, the men were helping reconstructing the houses and buildings, the women were helping with the food and children. Life was starting to go back on track.

Some of them were still healing or recovering or receiving psychological cares. But most of them were trying to restart their lives. Neji could see the beauty in that, in the way they were ruined and started reconstructing themselves at the same time they rebuilt their villages.

The Hyuuga would like to start over again, but he couldn't let the past go. His mistakes during the war, protecting Hinata and Hanabi, his lack of emotional abilities to deal with guilt and loss...

He wanted to go home.

A small boy looked at him in the eyes and got closer, his small fingers grabbing onto Neji's hair and pulling. He made a grimace and took the boy's hand in his.

"Hey" Neji muttered to the kid as he caressed his messy red hair "What's up with you?"

"Girls hair!" he answered smiling and the Hyuuga tensed up. The hell?

"Eh, Akai-kun" Hinata called him, making the boy look at her smiling "This is Neji-niisan, my cousin."

"Niisan?" he whispered and then started crying, his small arms stretched to Neji and the man grabbed the kid in an impulse, bringing him onto his chest and rocking the small boy in an attempt to comfort him.

"It's ok..." he murmured to the child, repeating the words Shikamaru would normally use to calm him "Everything is going to be ok, Akai-kun" he continued "It's ok now..."

Akai hugged him, crying quietly, his hands gripping on the jounin's hair, his small pretty face hid against Neji's neck and small babbling words slipping from his heart shaped baby-lips without much sense.

Hinata smiled to her cousin and blinked, shushing him and indicating with her chin that he should walk a bit with the kid. Neji stood up, his strong arms enveloping the small body and his right hand drawing calming circles over his back.

They passed through some men planning a reconstruction of the village school and Neji felt the kid stop crying, looking around and cocking himself in his arms, he was very curious the jounin perceived and watched as Akai-kun continued to hold on his hair and look to everywhere at the same time.

He couldn't remember the feeling of being a kid. Maybe because in early childhood he stopped being a kid and started being a bitter person. He could remember the Academy though it was just fragmented blurred pieces about little conversation with Tenten, the memories of Iruka-sensei praising him, the daily-spar, the determination and the will to surpass his whole clan, the anger and rage, the envy and jealousy...

The man breathed deep, trying to withdraw the bad feelings and the flashes of himself as a young boy punching the bark of a tree until his flesh started bleeding. The flashes of him crying during the night and trying to endure it at the same time. The flashes of a sad, unhappy and bitter childhood without parents, without relatives whom would take care of him or worry about his welfare.

His breath went out shakily and he caressed the boy's back in an overprotective way. He didn't want for this kid the sadness of being alone and on your own forever. So the reflection made its way inside his mind: how many kids had he made an orphan? How many widows? How many families were torn apart because of his deadly hands?

The thought caught the worst in him, a copper taste in the back of his mouth announced tears that would never fall from his eyes, but would ever be there. The guiltiest. The worst. The least honorable. The adjectives tortured him like poisoned senbons inside his chest, making his fingers shake fiercely. He needed to calm down.

Easy...his mind muttered with Shikamaru's voice, making him let his shoulders relax a bit, feeling the baby-boy tug on his hair and play with the long threads, taking it out of its tie.

The Hyuuga looked around making sure no one had seen his breakdown. He was sure that his eyes, in those moments, would always denounce him. Pearly-white immensely sad eyes; they would tell more truths than they were supposed to.

Akai-kun turned around watching the birds and Neji asked himself how beautiful it must be to have a family, a real and happy family. How nice not to feel alone and left back. He smiled sadly at the kid, praying for the boy's fate be better than his.

He saw Shikamaru near the forest with a teenage girl, she had long white hair falling over her slim back. She smirked and kept talking to the chuunin, and every time she would move her hair and try small touches on the ninja's shoulder, tentatively.

Neji smiled at that and his eyes went back to the small one in his arms.

"Akai-kun, do you want to meet a new friend?"

"Hai!" he agreed, his face marked with almost dry-tears, so Neji wiped them away and walked to the couple near the forest edge.

They were five steps away when Shikamaru noticed their presence in his field of view, surely he had had a glimpse of Neji's chakra before, so he just smiled calmly and raised a brow watching the weirdest scene ever: Hyuuga Neji taking care of a child.

Something inside his chest felt wonderful; the beautiful view made his smile broaden and he wanted to take a picture, because something in Neji's eyes was softer, he looked calmer and tender. So he crossed his arms over his chest and folded his neck to one side.

"Akai-kun this is Shikamaru" Neji introduced "You can call him Shika-kun, right?"

"Shika-kun looks funny!" the boy grinned to the pineapple ponytail.

Shikamaru smiled at him and grabbed his small hand playing with his tiny fingers. God, the kid was really young, he must be not even three years old maybe.

"Hello Akai-kun, is Neji taking good care of you?"

The kid laughed at him but nodded positively, then Shikamaru got serious again sensing that the teenager got a bit estranged with the proximity of the other ninja.

"Yuuki-chan was telling me about her school and that they need ninja preparation" he said, pointing at the girl.

"Hn" Neji muttered looking at the girl and back at the boy "Ne, Akai-kun, lets head back to Hinata-neesan?"

"No! Shika-kun!" he said disagreeing and stretching his arms to the chuunin.

The Nara stilled, he was bad with this. He had never taken a baby in his arms without his mother's help, so he felt dizzy as his hands held on the boy's armpits and brought him fast near his body to make sure he was safe.

The Hyuuga held back a grin, but his eyes shone happily, he was terrible with kids too, but Shikamaru's face was the best thing ever.

"Nara-san, I'll help my father, see you!" the girl said, feeling somewhat excluded and running away.

"She was flirting with you" Neji stated, petting the kid's red hair.

"Well, she was trying to" Shikamaru agreed "But who wouldn't? As soon as she discovered I'm one of the leaders of this mission she came to me. She wants to leave the village..."

He snorted, was easy to understand why would someone want to fly away from there. The Nara looked at the kid, who was picking at his ponytail and laughing alone and then back to Neji, who was in deep appreciation of this moment.

"Tell me I'm wrong, but you look a bit fatherly today" he commented, receiving a grimace in return and smiled to the long tressed man "Do you feel better?"

"I wanna leave."

"Me too".

A flock of birds took flight and the noise startled the kid who started crying.

"Oh god" Shikamaru muttered hugging Akai-kun in his arms and rocking him awkwardly "Hey, don't cry don't cry, Shika-kun is here. It's ok..."

Neji smiled heartily with the scene and felt a warm sensation coil inside his chest. He never had felt parental before, but the whole situation was so adorable he imagined how would it be to raise a child. But before the idea made itself too lively in his mind Shikamaru looked at him a bit panicked and he took the baby-boy back in his arms.

The Nara stepped closer and caressed the boy's red-head, cleaning his wet cheeks with the other hand. So the ninjas' eyes met and the gaze was tender and nice, they held it even with the boy's motions between them and Shikamaru's hand hovered to Neji's face, knuckles fondling soft pale skin.

"Shikamaru!" the calling sounded far away but was enough to make both of them part and step back. Ino's voice sounded again as she came running "Shikamaru, Sakura is not ok, I need someone to keep an eye on her while I stay in the ambulatory."

The chuunin rolled his eyes and snorted at that, taking a cigarette from his pocket.

"Shino is helping, but the other boys are building houses or whatever and Hinata is with the kids" she explained "Don't smoke near the boy!" the voice was harsh and he breathed deep.

"Fine. Neji will help with Sakura, I need to talk to their 'major'" he added.

The Hyuuga rolled his eyes and started walking with his new small friend back to Hinata.

Sakura was not the most pleasant person in his point of view.

x

"Is the water hot at least?" the voice sounded terribly lazy from his spot spread over the bed "If we're going to have a midnight shower I would rather appreciate it warm" he completed, keeping his body wrapped in the sheets.

"It's pleasant" the stoic voice answered, his whole bare body under the small cascade of tepid water. He controlled his chakra and started moving it from toes to head, undulating, engorging and getting thinner.

Neji felt his sore shoulders for distress and sensed a strong need for a massage.

"C'mon Nara, or I'll use all the hot water" saying that he turned his back to the bathroom entrance and started washing his long mahogany hair, taking all the dirt away.

"I'm tired" the murmur sounded from the bathroom door and Shikamaru discarded his clothes on the floor "I need to sleep."

"Two more days..." the Hyuuga muttered like a mantra, rinsing the soap from his hair.

The water delineated his strong muscular body, making it look extremely alluring. The muscles retorting under porcelain scarred skin in each tiny movement, contracting and relaxing. The Nara followed the amazing contours of that body, his own responding to the great view, bulking fast at his groin.

The water slipped from dark long tresses to the small of his snow-white back, then traced round buttocks, firm, pale, mouthwatering...Shikamaru swallowed hard and felt arousal awake inside of him, like a monster in deep hunger.

His blood stirred inside his turgid veins and the chuunin couldn't deny himself the will to plunge into the desire that was hitting his loins like a boiling tsunami. Even with the laziness all over his being, the igniting sensation made him wake up completely before he hit the water jet. Shikamaru urgently stepped forward under the shower and got onto his knees in a fast and fluent move.

The motion surprised Neji but he had no time to react against it. Strong calloused hands grabbed his tight buttocks and parted them, the view dragged out a rough and manly howl from the deepest of the Nara's chest and within two seconds his face was pressed against beautiful wet flesh and his tongue was rimming the Hyuuga's entrance to push in a bit after.

Shikamaru moaned putting his tongue in and out of his lover, feeling him spasm under the sensation, acknowledging the shivers that run the pale body and reverberate on his moist tongue. Dammit, Neji's smell was delicious and his taste all over his sensitive palate was inebriating.

He needed it, he needed it all. The long mission was breaking him. The small periods he got some sleep were not enough, the political dealings were completely boring and slow, the reconstruction of the village was tiresome and all he wanted was to lose himself into that gorgeous body with abandoned passion.

"Nara..." the syllables rolled on Neji's tongue deliciously, his whole body was trembling in pleasure and he needed to hold onto the faucet to keep standing.

God, Shikamaru's skilled tongue was like chinese torture. Thrusting in and out, daring to push deeper, his hands moving Neji's hips for his own whim, to lick him senseless, stretching and preparing his entrance for something even better.

Fire burned their skins with pleasure and sin, both men moving according to their needs, wanting more at each stroke. Neji closed his eyes in awe, he secretly loved when Shikamaru tongue-fucked him like this, low-down and unabashed, like a caveman in his primal impulses.

Neji moaned low, the sound vibrating inside the bathroom, while the Nara touched his thighs and ass in despair, as if he was scared to lose him. Their hearts speeded up and hot sweat broke on their skins being washed right away with the warm water.

The Hyuuga shivered with a strong suck against his sensitive flesh. He felt empty as Shikamaru stood up, drawing kisses over his spine, lava-like patterns against his white skin, stimulating each vertebrae, slowly and strongly breaking his defenses, loosening the tensed muscles, massaging bones and flesh until he got onto Neji's neck, sucking lightly on it. Nara's tanned fingers mixing with hair threads, the black mane wrapped over his wrist vigorously.

"God, I want you" Shikamaru whispered against the sinuous curve of Neji's throat, his other hand running naughtily over his broad chest, strong abs, navel, fingers brushing past pubic hair and grabbing his turgid member "I want you now" he managed to mutter hoarsely highlighting it with a jerk of his hand against the beautiful swollen shaft.

Neji sighed, his heartbeat speeding up with the sensations, the whole combination of Shikamaru maneuvering his body, knowing each sensitive spot or scar. He breathed deep with the strong caress and the familiar lips drawing open mouth kisses over nape and throat.

The Nara let go his rock hard length and touched smooth thigh, lifting it at the same time his right foot stepped onto the wall, putting the Hyuuga's right leg to rest above his raised knee. He directed himself into Neji's entrance while hard devil-like sucks and kisses were spread all over the pale and delicious neck.

Shikamaru bit down against a buckle of tensed shoulder muscles as his gland forced inwards the first barrier of resistance in haste, making Neji groan discomforted, leaning his head backwards onto the Nara's shoulder, panting as the man forced even deeper, trying to relax the muscles to make it easier for both of them.

The jounin closed his eyes and breathed deep through his parted lips, feeling Shikamaru slip in like a burning dagger, stretching him with his own member.

"I spent the whole day thinking about you" the Nara murmured hoarsely "About how beautiful you are" he thrust forward till he was fully inside and moaned into Neji's ear, making the man shiver with the hoarse sexy tones. The shadow-nin panted harshly trying to control the floss of sensations "You make me feel lickerish" his tongue licked the pale earlobe into his mouth and sucked it at the same time his hand took the neglected length willingly.

"Oh" the small sound fled out Neji's baritone voice, the smart tongue suckling the sensitive point behind his ear, one hand twitching wickedly on his long mane, washing pain and pleasure over his scalp, asking for submission; the other hand corkscrewing his arousal skillfully. "God..."

Neji's taste was one of his favorite flavors. Shikamaru new it from the first time he licked that tasty body. And he was obviously addicted to it, to the way if felt against his tongue. He had no idea what would happen to them, he didn't like thinking about it, because it scared the shit out of him. The simple forethought of losing Neji was way too terrible to think about, so he didn't.

The Nara knew no one could replace their position for the other, but they were ninja, they would never be completely safe nor completely blind to other temptations. They weren't exclusive even both knowing secretly that they would always come back. No lover could ever do what one did to the other.

Because together they were safe, they were peaceful and almost happy. It was like coming back home. It was stronger than any strategy Shikamaru could forecast or any tenketsu Neji could block, because they couldn't preview or thwart that.

Like finding shelter. Like being loved. One can't just stop feeling it.

Neji moaned, the pleasure starting to wash upside down through everywhere, blinding him as each thrust hit against his prostate strongly, sending white bursts inside his frame. God, how he loved when Shikamaru was feeling this motivated.

Porcelain-white fingers grabbed and messed up with Shikamaru's hair, putting it down, his wet shoulder length mane looking like black veins glued to his neck and face. Neji pressed his hips back, meeting each lunge in a strong demand. One of his hand searched back to grab onto hard tanned buttocks, helping his partner in every thrust to do it harder, to go deeper.

Shikamaru maneuvered Neji's hair, making him look back and their lips brush, open and tongues slid together. They pressed their bodies even closer, rolling and sucking moist tongues in a hurry, as if it was the last time they could touch themselves. The Nara caressed the other's scalp at the same time he sped up the motions of his hips and hand, breathing fast between kisses, feeling Neji spasm under his caresses.

The shadow-nin planted his heel firmer against the tiles wall and massaged his way down Neji's head to his neck and then to his broad shoulders, fingering the tension away with light pushes.

"Mmm, that's good" Neji muttered groggily and smiled against Shikamaru's lips, feeling the hand press down his back and turn, smoothing pained ribs and strong chest; the Nara clasped firmly over it and moved inside his lover impetuously. "Oh, oh-"

"Neji..." Shikamaru whispered on the man's ear, heat taking control of both of them, sinuously, impatiently, fiercely, like a cloud of raw desire and anger and need and their bodies were on fire, edging an explosion.

"Ah" the thick and rich sound fled through Neji's lips as soon as pleasure started building up and coiling insanely. God, the world disappeared in front of him, his fingers grabbed on Shikamaru's hair, steading him in place, his nails clutched against tanned round buttock, cutting the wet flesh carelessly.

"Dammit" the Nara howled in pain and pleasure, feeling how Neji squeezed him senseless once, twice and-

Both bodies jerked strongly at the same time, grunting, groaning, moaning loudly. They arched, limbs feeling limp and heart beating like drums.

Spasming numbly, Neji put his foot back to the floor, feeling the blood start rushing through his leg again and leaned his forehead against the tiles. The water was already cold and they were panting, Shikamaru's body pressed against the Hyuuga's back, kissing his shoulder softly.

Neji smiled tiredly, a tender feeling raising inside of him, the known sensation of release. But the kind of strong and utter release he only gets with Shikamaru.

The chuunin's hands rubbed his warm snow-white flesh, his fingers stroking everywhere he reached, his arms crossed over Neji's stomach, hugging him protectively.

"I'm tired" Shikamaru muttered, his skin noticing the cold water and starting to feel annoyed "What a drag, the water is cold!" he complained, turning off the shower and hugging the man again, looking for some heat.

Neji chuckled amused. Shikamaru was definitely a big puzzle, his brain could work in different tunes and change in a mere second. He felt the chuunin leave his body with a wet noise and both the younger's arms left his abs to lean on each side of the Hyuuga's body, hands spread open against the old tiles.

The jounin turned slowly, his long hair looking like a mess of black veins all over his broad shoulders and neck, sticking on his ghost-like skin temptingly. His moonstone eyes studied midnight ones, trying to understand what those black stones were saying under that tiresome fa├žade.

Reading Shikamaru was a difficult task. You need to go underneath the underneath and keep trying to dive deeper...

But before he could analyze it properly, Shikamaru's mouth was covering his, demanding a war-like kiss, tongue clashing against the barrier of his teeth and going further, attacking Neji's tongue with a delicious roll. The Hyuuga pulled the man closer, his deadly hands caressing hips and tan flesh, drawing circles in the small of his back and fastening the embrace.

Shikamaru's arms flew from the wall to Neji's neck, surrounding him in despair, as if he was afraid of losing the man.

Housed in each other's arms, they kissed furiously, hugged tight, rocked their bodies as in a combat, just because they wanted to make sure they were still capable of feeling it.

Because they wanted to make sure it was real, that they could still feel the warmness inside their chests and smell home in each other's skin, other than blood and gunpowder.

Teeth bit down against soft skin, suckling bottom lip and soothing the pain away with light licks. Muscular limbs pulled and pushed, bringing together, closer, trying to be one for just a second. Raw feelings boiled in their veins, feelings they did not learn how to deal with.

Fear, need, love. Loneliness.

They couldn't say who broke the kiss, but Neji let the back of his head rest against the tile wall and Shikamaru's face ducked on the curve of his neck and shoulder, their breaths shook like bamboo, muscles contracted by itself, fingers gripped flesh and caressed hair.

Their bodies were trying to say what their mouths were taught not to pronounce. Feelings could lead them to weakness. But together they could stand still. Holding on.

x

It was late in the night and Shikamaru was watching the fire dance over the woods.

They were sat at the campfire, drinking sake, some villagers were talking about the village, they were still concerned, but the state of the buildings was much better. People were healing, kids were stopping crying, many of them were being adopted by aunts and uncles or family friends.

As for Akai-kun.

He had lost his whole family - his niisan even died in front of him - Hinata told him the full story this morning while they watched the kid look around and fix his eyes at Neji, following him everywhere, hugging his legs every time he came closer, smiling as bright as the sun.

Now his uncle was going to take care of him, Shikamaru had talked with the man and made him promise he was going to take good care of the boy and if he ever needed any help, anything he could think, he should go find him in Konoha.

The Nara had no idea why he had done that. Maybe it was because he lost his father during the war, he knew how bad it felt.

They were leaving next morning; people were eating and distributing farewells to the shinobi, thanking them, asking them to come back someday. So most of the villagers went to their rebuilt houses, some of the ninja went to take the first shift - just in case - and others were feeling a bit lost, drunk or sleepy.

It had been a very long mission. Many villages, many dead, loads of work.

Shikamaru's brain was frying, he wanted to lay flat on his bed and go comatose for days. His mother would be worry sick and she would make him tell her about the whole mission. He knew she would ask why Neji didn't come home with him for a heavy meal and look at him knowingly, as if he was the one very wrong about everything; but Shikamaru would only roll his eyes, say Neji had his own home and tell her againhe was just his comrade.

Yoshino would laugh at him and curse the ninja's fate. Just like a Hyuuga.

"Hey" a sad voice drove him out of his thoughts and Shikamaru watched Sakura sit by his side "Ready to leave?"

"More than ready" he smiled bitterly and she nodded, her green eyes following the movements of his hands as he lit a cigarette. "It's about time..." He muttered and the girl agreed again.

She had a bottle of sake in hands. In an easy motion she opened it and took a sip passing the liquor to him without looking, eyes lost onto the bonfire. The fire danced orange and yellow and he knew what she was thinking about, she sure was imagining what the Hokage was doing right now, her eyes shone sadly and nostalgic, so they looked at each other with a knowing barely-there smile.

Voices sounded closer and they turned their heads to see Ino and Neji arriving, they sat by their sides and Ino held out a small cup, asking for some sake.

"Do you think they are going to be ok?" Shikamaru asked looking at the blonde.

"Hn" she swallowed her drink and grimaced "We're talking about wounds that will never completely heal" her hand touched her friends thin knee, as if she wanted to comfort Sakura and be comforted back, the pink kunoichi caressed Ino's fingers and almost smiled.

"What happened?" the Nara looked at them and felt Neji's body get tenser beside him.

"The woman that was not getting over the rape...she committed suicide" Sakura was the one to answer, her eyes back to the fire as if asking for strength, for warmness. "There was blood everywhere...when we arrived she was already dead" she looked at him.

Shikamaru had never thought Sakura was a beautiful woman, but in that moment she looked as sad as a goddess and it was painfully appealing. He imagined how bad this should be to a doctor: to see your patient not getting through it.

Ino took the girl's hair in her hands and started braiding it. The pink-haired ninja drank a bit more of sake and offered to Neji, who declined stoically.

"What are you going to do after?" she asked, maybe she was feeling the same as them, like if they wanted to retire, or maybe she just needed to change the subject.

Ino snorted at the thought and finished the braid. Her hands covering her eyes wearily.

"I just want to keep going" she was a jounin after all, Shikamaru smiled and sipped at the rice liquor "Maybe apply to ANBU...I just...I can't stop, or I will ruin everything" her voice sounded rough, she wanted to keep things together, because it was hard since she lost Inoichi. If she stopped the world would crumble under her feet.

He looked at Neji, his long hair tied in the small of his back, bangs hovering over white beautiful mooneyes. His expression was hard, the Hyuuga normally didn't like to talk about the future like that, mainly because he believed fate was already written and he never knew when he was going to die in a mission.

Shikamaru sighed. He hated Neji's fatalistic way of seeing life; it always made them argue about future, all was more difficult when fate comes to the equation.

"You are not going to ruin anything, Pig" Sakura muttered "You're the strongest..." her voice was low but everybody could hear the obvious praise about her friend "I'm tired, I don't want to see people dying in front of my eyes anymore. Tsunade-sama, Shizune-san, Kakashi-sensei...Sasuke-kun...I have no strength for it anymore, I feel like an old lady" she laughed bitterly "I'm going to quit missions and run the hospital, Naruto already asked me to..."

"Naruto is giving people a lot of possibilities to quit missions. I'm thinking about his proposal to be part of the council and the strategist head" Shikamaru said, his shoulder brushing against Neji, like if he wanted to know what he thought about the possibility, but the long haired Hyuuga said nothing, he just skimmed their thighs together.

The idea of having Shikamaru safe in Konoha was warm, and at the same time not having him at missions ever again was a bit discomforting, although he would like Shikamaru having a calm life, without body harms, just his mind puzzles and paperwork to do.

It would be easier to sleep every night. Neji had thought about future, he didn't tell his lover because as the other would say, it was troublesome. Sometimes he would think while meditating, when the sun was starting to rise and he was feeling too lonely to stop his mind of formulating an idea of future.

Many times Shikamaru would be in his forecasts, others he would just think about his ninja career. He didn't want to become ANBU as Ino just said, though he would like to keep having missions, so lately he had had a very good idea.

"I think you should accept" Neji said, his voice deep and smooth, his pale eyes focusing on black lanterns, he was so used to them it felt like home and the corners of his mouth turned slightly "You're all lazy bones anyway, better keep the brain working than this indolent body of yours..." he bit his bottom lip to keep from grinning at the chuunin.

"Mah..." the Nara shook his head and looked intently at Neji "Indolent?" he sighed and took a drag on his cigarette "I was getting used to the nice adjectives..." he said smiling, and the smoke fled from his lips like a snake serpenting onto the dark sky. The Hyuuga wanted to kiss those smoked lips, make them swollen, reddish and wet.

"It would be good for you. Besides, Naruto needs people he can trust" the Hyuuga said in a warm voice that didn't go unnoticed to the shadow-nin's ears.

Sakura agreed with him and smiled at Shikamaru's possibility of a better life.

"And you Neji?" Ino asked, her voice damp and molten because of the alcohol. Damn, she was such a light drinker.

"I'm going to take a genin group to train" he said decisive and Shikamaru choked on his sake.

"You...really?"

Neji smiled.

It was a real smile. Small, a bit sad, but full of true feelings. It made Shikamaru's heart melt, it'd been a long time since Neji smiled like that. Damn, he looked so beautiful when he was happy. The chuunin put his hand on the other's knee and squeezed tightly, Sakura and Ino would need to deal with this, he was not containing his happiness for the man he shared his bed with for years.

"That's great, Neji" he said, smiling brightly at him. He heard Ino chuckling and he could imagine Sakura's blush getting stronger "Team Neji, eh? Sounds powerful" he said laughing, and after a light punch on his shoulder the long haired Hyuuga touched Nara's hand on his leg and squeezed.

They all laughed. It felt for a while that life could be better, and they clung to the idea.

"Maybe you should do the same Ino, your father and Asuma would feel very proud" Neji said and Ino nodded.

"I'll think about it" she smiled and took a last sip, standing up "Who knew: Neji-sensei" she laughed "Oh! Asuma-sensei is going to churn in his tomb, can you imagine that Shikamaru: Ino-sensei, oh for god's sake!"

Ino laughed so high that her voice echoed around the village, ricocheting against the walls, sounding as a happy ghost, making the whole ambience feel easier, happier, softer.

"I think I like the idea" she stated and looked at them "Thank you" her grin was one of those she used to give when she was a genin, the ones that felt like lollipop and cotton candy.

The insides of Shikamaru turned weirdly, he felt nostalgic and smiled at her, her long beautiful blond hair tied up in a large ponytail like one of those ancient legends about long hair and it's meanings; she was bound to do great things.

Who knew Ino-pig was going to get so far. He was proud of her.

"Time for bed!" Sakura said, standing up dizzily and smiling tenderly "You're going to be a very good team leader, Pig-sensei" she joked and started running "The last to get into bed is going to marry Ichiraku-san!"

"The hell? That's gross Forehead!" she shouted running drunkenly after the pink haired med-nin.

"They look happy" Shikamaru muttered.

"They look drunk."

"They are."

"Are you?"

"I'm not" they looked into each other eyes quietly "I'm happy for your decision, Neji-sensei."

"Argh, stop that!" he snorted shily.

"Mah, but sounds sexy."

Neji flushed, a very difficult thing to be seen. He looked up at Shikamaru and tangled their fingers above his knee.

"I'm happy too. But I'm afraid of losing it in front of the genin..."

"You're not, the kids are going to be your equilibrium from now on, you'll see that" Shikamaru stood up and stretched "Oh, wait until Gai-sensei gets to know the news, he is going to flip!"

Neji's eyes opened wide like plates. Fuck, he hadn't thought about it!

"Oh no..."

x

Neji couldn't sleep. He didn't know exactly why, but at 4:37 AM he woke up and after not getting back into Morpheus embrace, even trying hard, he started watching Shikamaru sleep.

His lazy breathing, the low sound of air coming out slowly, the way his loosened hair spread onto the pillow, how his chest rose and fell quietly, when the hollow of his neck would contract and he would swallow thickly and hum a second after.

So the Hyuuga made tea and sat on a chair near the window. The sun was starting to rise and it was drawing beautiful shades against Shikamaru's tan skin, creating shadowy patterns over his bare flesh.

Breathing was an easy task, a stupid simple task that made Neji feel calm and relaxed. You need to be alive to breathe. And Shikamaru was breathing, unlike the souls for whom the Hyuuga prayed every night.

He watched the sunrise, thinking about the kids he was about to accept as students. Maybe the Nara was right and they were going to become his new reason. But even geniuses make mistakes. He could lose it in front of them, he could be damned and not recognize his pupils...

Sun light touched his slender and pale fingers, warm, gentle, like a caress. It made him think about his lover's touches, the way they were always warm, even boiling sometimes.

It's going to be ok.

He could hear the Nara's voice already, trying to keep him sane, bringing him back to Earth and away from his fears and nightmares.

I'm here. Shh...It's ok.

The same words he had said to the little boy. Shikamaru's words.

Neji stood up and got dressed, it was time to leave; he was tired and wanted to go home, to smell Konoha's scent and look at Naruto's face sculpted on the rocks. It always give him strength enough to breath and keep going, it had the same effect of his lover's rough and steady voice.

The jounin sat on the bed and leaned closer, his hair touching Shikamaru's bare chest and neck, his breath hovering over the sleepy face.

"Wake up" he commanded, receiving just a lazy snort in response "Is time to leave" he said, his lips skimming a high cheekbone. "Don't you want to go home?" his lips drew a straight line to an earlobe, kissing it gently, his tones sounding appealing, almost sexy "To lay flat on your bed...naked...to sleep for long days..." he smirked and pressed another kiss against the jugular, feeling the blood ran under skin and vein "To rest..."

"You win" the raucous voice whispered, his throat contorting under Neji's lips "Let's go home."

A tanned hand grabbed on long hair and pulled the Hyuuga into a hard kiss on the lips, superficial but intense. His short nails scraped the scalp lazily and massaged it, messing the long mane before pulling him aside and standing up slowly.

Neji went out of the old ruined house and watched the villagers and comrades start getting up. The day was clear but chilly and some of the women came to give him some food and wish a safe journey.

Not everybody had woken up to say goodbye, but some kids were running all over the place, one of them was playing with Chouji near the extinguished bonfire. A girl was giving Hinata a flower diadem and wishing her good luck. Many people were thanking and bidding farewells.

He took a deep breath, watching the white-haired teenage girl approach Shikamaru at the door of their former shelter. She looked sad but decisive at the same time, as if she was decided to try once again. Neji wanted to have an idea to help her, but he hoped she would never become a kunoichi even if she wanted to protect her village.

Sometimes the costs are too high.

Hinata wiped the tears, messing the hair of one of the kids and he distinguished a red-head between all of them, surrounding his cousin with loud voices and cries.

"Mission accomplished" he muttered, as a mantra, closing his eyes and breathing deep "We're going home now".

He started walking, he talked to Shino and Sai and asked them to rush the others. Sakura and Ino were talking to the women, and giving advices about how to take care of the ones who were still wounded or healing.

They looked somewhat relieved that it was over and the blonde smiled brightly at Chouji when the ninja petted her hair affectionately. The view made Neji feel sick, he should had payed more attention to Tenten when they were still a team, he should had spoiled her and told her how good kunoichi she was.

Maybe he should pay her grave a visit, Lee would take a day off at ninja's Academy to accompany him, he was sure about that.

"Troublesome" the voice made the corners of his lips rise a tiny bit "Teenagers suck" Shikamaru said and looked at him "Are you ok?"

"Yeah. Lets go."

The Nara nodded and waved to the others to come closer.

"Ino, Chouji and Hinata with me" he said boredly "Shino, Sai and Sakura with Neji. Ready to go?"

"Hai!"

He nodded and gave Neji a knowing glance. They should leave now. All shinobi started walking towards the forest in one big group. The journey would take at least two days if they were fast, and taking into account that all of them wanted to be back soon it would be easy to even make it faster.

"Niisan!"

The voice was loud and acute, most of the shinobi kept the pace, jumping onto some tree or running through the path. But Neji stopped and the action made Shikamaru stop too.

"Neji-niisan!"

The Hyuuga felt something bad inside, he couldn't describe into words, nor name it. Shikamaru watched his comrade's impasse. He saw the lines of his face get tense like a stone, his features looked slightly pained and his jaw went hard.

"Neji" he whispered, feeling that the other had no strength to move.

The Hyuuga's breath was uneasy, his chest ached and his eyes burned. The Nara had told him that the boy was an orphan last night. He had told him that he made the uncle promise to raise well the kid, and somewhat it pained him, it made him think about his own destiny, the fate he was bound to since he was born.

And right now he wanted to defeat the fate of that child and change his future.

He gasped when the voice called out again, crying desperately. His own eyes wanted to cry but he had lost the ability years ago. Neji looked at his hands and wondered how deadly they were, he wondered if those hands were able to do kindness instead of malice.

"Do you want to take the kid?"

The question was direct and Neji's eyes turned quickly to look inside Shikamaru's ones. He felt his hands shaking slightly and the drum of his heart pound insanely hard.

Do I want?

He looked for answers in those black stones stabbing him, but he couldn't read it. As usual Shikamaru looked as serious as he used to be about important decisions.

"He does not deserve a father that can die in a mission anytime and leave him alone" he muttered, but his voice sounded weaker than he expected.

"As you wish" the Nara said and looked over Neji's shoulder.

The Hyuuga turned and walked straight to the kid in one of the woman's arms. He felt like he would faint and it made him think how human he still was.

"Akai-kun" he muttered, seeing the boy cry and spread his small arms in his direction, but he just patted his red hair and smiled tenderly "Promise me you will grow up and become a good man" he said, his voice damp and his heart shattered.

Another kid alone in the world, just as him, into the fate's evil arms.

"Don't go!" the kid cried and he trembled, knuckles wiping thick tears away from his pink cheeks.

"I need to. But you'll be fine" his voice almost failed "I'm going to pray for you" he whispered, his lips touching the boy's forehead, feeling his little fingers grab onto his hair.

So he stepped back and smiled again, trying to see the good part: the life without bonds, the life without regrets, the life without a real family to come back to. No difficulties.

"Take care, little one" he said and looked sadly at the woman, she just nodded while he caressed the red hair again and waved to the crying kid.

He turned back and walked, his eyes on fire and his heart crumbling inside his ribcage, he wanted to throw up, he wanted to die. Why was he that weak?

"Are you sure of it?" Shikamaru asked when he brushed past him.

"I am" he muttered roughly.

The Nara nodded. A kid would change everything, both their lives and their careers as ninja. It would make them accept things they were not ready to accept, nor to let people know about.

Shikamaru watched Neji's back while he walked. He asked himself how different life could be, how scary and beautiful and full of new feelings. Maybe they were not capable of building this kind of life anymore, maybe they would need to try harder next life.

Maybe their fates were bound to sadness, roughness, malice...

Or maybe they were too weak and scared to change their lives.

He saw Neji's shoulder tremble, his hands grip into tight balls and his head leaned down. He stopped walking for a while and then he looked back, his eyes finding Shikamaru's ones and what the Nara saw there made him die a little bit.

Shikamaru walked fast to him and joined their foreheads to remind Neji that together they were strong. They could carry on and keep going. Even when the Hyuuga was too scared to defy fate or when Shikamaru was too afraid of making decisions.

"It's going to be ok, Neji" he muttered soothingly, his voice caressing the Hyuuga's cold and scarred heart "He's going to grow up into a beautiful strong man and we will pray for him together, every day if you want" Shikamaru leaned backwards and looked inside shattered moonstones "Akai is not going to live a damned life as we, he is going to be free of ninja's fate, he is going to be happy and have a family, and we will make sure no harm will approach his village."

Neji bit his lips, feeling his throat dry and tight. He nodded.

"I'm going to take care of you" Shikamaru said "And you're going to take care of me. That's how it's going to work."

The Hyuuga nodded again.

"He will be happy" Neji whispered as a mantra, his white eyes closed lazily and opened again, sad and thoughtful "That's how fate should be."

Shikamaru smiled sadly and caressed Neji's long hair. It was time to leave, their teams were far ahead and they were far too unhappy to look back, but both raised their arms and waved silently to a kid that would not remember their faces in the future.

Neji's hand looked blindly for Shikamaru's and grabbed at it firmly as they started walking. Tangled fingers generated new strength inside their chests. The strong grip broke as soon as they separated paths, knowing they would be back together soon.

Because together they felt like home. Together they found shelter.

fim.


N/A: well I wrote this to Halloween in fact, but it took me longer than I planned to write it and then I took me even more to get it beta-ed. Thanks to Kuroda Miharu who worked her magic on my bad grammar. I hate the new canon, it's very hard right now to accept it, so I'm ignoring it ^_^

Have a nice X-Mas and New Year! Let me know if you like it!

love, Tai xxx