Shikamaru wasn't kidding - her room is huge, practically a suite. There's a kitchenette and a sitting room and more than enough space for two people. A picture window looks out on the faces of the five Hokages carved into the cliff, and the late afternoon sunlight streams in. In an hour or so there'll be an incredible view of the sunset. It's nicest room in the inn. The bathroom is enormous. The little soaps smell like roses. There's a tub, for god's sake. It's ridiculous.

He really did his best for her. Because she's an important political figure, obviously, and whoever she brought with her would deserve equal respect. He's still so relieved that it's Kankuro; meeting new people is annoying. Remembering names and stuff. Handshakes. It's all too much trouble.

They've already dropped Kankuro's bag in his (normal-size, unimpressive) room and now Temari is putting her fan away as Shikamaru leans against the doorframe. He feels a little awkward, but she hasn't said anything that would indicate she wants him to leave. He's hoping she's hungry. It'd be nice to grab an early dinner, especially if the Hokage's footing the bill. (Technically it would come out of the International Relations department's budget, but it all comes down to Tsunade in the end.) Maybe she'll want to go back to their restaurant. Maybe she's not hungry and she wants him to leave and is too polite to ask him. She's not usually polite but there's always a first time, and maybe he's making her uncomfortable. Maybe she thinks he's being weird and stupid. Maybe he is being weird and stupid. Maybe she forgot he was there. She'll probably ask him why he's still here, and then it'll be embarrassing for both of them. Maybe he's suddenly turned into what's his face. That one guy who worries about everything. Omoi.

He clears his throat.

"Calm down, I'll be ready in a minute, then we can go. I want to wash my hands first." She disappears into the bathroom and he can hear water running. She comes back out shaking off her hands and looks a little apprehensive. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to assume, I just figured since it's what we always do . . . "

"No, I'm getting kind of hungry. What do you feel like?"

"The usual?"

"Great. I was worried you'd want to try something new." He pauses. "We're so boring."

"No way." She reaches up and flicks him in the center of the forehead. "Hasn't anyone ever told you that exciting is overrated?"

His forehead stings a little and he smirks down at her. "My god, you're hilarious. I can't believe I ever doubted that you were the funny one. I concede."

"Shut your mouth or I'll shut it for you." She's grinning. "Come on, slowpoke."

He holds the door open for her and she struts ahead of him. She's so full of herself it's almost endearing.


At the restaurant, disaster strikes. The menu has changed. Their usual dishes are nowhere to be seen.

Temari leans in close. "What do we do?" she whispers in a mock-panicky voice.

"I don't know. I'm freaking out a little."

"Well think! You're supposed to be the genius!"

"I didn't plan for this! How was I supposed to know they'd change things! They've never changed things before!"

She scans the menu and looks skeptical. "There's something here called mango salsa. I don't know what that is. I don't like it."

"How do you know you don't like it if you don't know what it is?"

"I know I don't like it because it's called mango salsa, and I don't know what that is, and I don't want it, and the only fish they have on the menu has fucking mango salsa and it's called catfish and I don't know what a catfish is but I don't like it either. I don't want to eat a cat, I just want to eat a fish."

Shikamaru sighs. "Well they definitely have salmon, they've got it on one of the appetizers. Do you want to just get that?"

"It's salmon kebabs. I can get kebabs whenever I want in Suna. I don't want to eat Suna food in Konoha, you idiots are just going to fuck it up."

"You're being dramatic."

"Don't try and tell me you aren't thinking the same thing."

She's right. There's nothing familiar on the menu. What's a demi-glace? How does it differ from a regular glace? What's a glace, for that matter?

"Have you ever heard of beef medallions?" he asks despairingly. "Or balsamic reduction? How do they shrink vinegar?"

Frowning, Temari folds her menu and puts it aside. "I'm going to leave it up to you. I don't know what any of this stuff is. Figure something out and order it for me."

"I don't know what any of it is either. It's fancy. I don't do fancy, I just do regular." He thinks it over. "What if we just split that salmon thing, and you ate the salmon and I ate the rest?"

"That could work," she says thoughtfully. "I'm going to get a drink, though. I need to drown my sorrows."

"Yeah. I'm going to join you, I think." He doesn't drink often, and when he does he's always miserable the next day, but one couldn't hurt. Even a couple, as long as he paces himself.

An hour and a half later, they're both five drinks deep. Shikamaru sticks to beer, but Temari keeps ordering tiny glasses of something poisonous-looking. It smells like something you'd pour down the drain when your sink backs up. Every time she takes a sip she shuts her eyes and leans her head back, looking like she's just tasted the most delicious thing in the world. It's kind of funny. He likes that face, she should make it more often.

He's thinking some more about how much he likes that face when she leans across the table. "Who's that girl behind you? The one with the glasses? Don't look too fast, be casual."

He looks real slow, all casual. Smooth.

"Oh, that's Shiho."

"Did I ever fight her or something? Or one of her family members?"

His mind's working a little slower than usual, so it takes a second for him to remember. "Not that I know of. No, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure you've never met."

"Well she keeps looking at me like I gutted her puppy, and I have no idea why."

"Oh." This is a little awkward. "I think she used to have, uh . . . " Why is this so nerve-wracking? "Kind of a thing. For me. Romantically."


"I always pretended I didn't notice. I mean, she's nice and all, but she's just . . . I don't know . . . she's just really nice. Like really nice."

"What a terrible quality. I can see why things wouldn't work out. "

"No, I mean," and how can he put this? "If you were to ask me when I was thirteen, I'd have said she'd be the perfect girlfriend."

Temari frowns, so he tries to explain.

"I used to have this thing about women, like, that they were too bossy and too domineering and kind of scary, and I don't know. Just, too much in general. Overwhelming. Because of my mom, you know? I don't know if you've met her but she's terrifying."

She looks a little sympathetic. "Cruel?"

"No! Not like that. More like, she was in charge. If Yoshino Nara tells you to do something, you do it, or else it's three days grounded, no trial. Ino's kind of the same way. So I grew up with these women who would push me around and tell me what to do and stupid little genin me was fed up with it." He takes a sip of his beer. "So I decided I wanted to marry some sweet quiet girl who would be nice to me but mostly leave me the fuck alone to dick around playing shogi and taking naps."


"And I grew up. Mom and Ino get on my case a lot because they love me and they expect a lot from me. I'd rather be with someone who'll kick my ass when I'm being lazy. Someone who wants me to live up to whatever potential they see in me."

"I see."

He drinks half his beer in one go. Feelings are spilling out of his mouth like blubber from gash in a poached whale. Ugh, now he's made himself hungry. This whole dinner is a disaster. He's starving, and tipsy, and talking about feelings and all that shit. Also the waiter is glaring at them. They probably should leave. He doesn't want to stop hanging out, though, because going home drunk and hungry is going to be boring and it's only just gotten dark out.

"So where are we going to actually eat?" Oh, god bless Temari. She's so great.

"Uh . . . do you like ramen?"

"I like anything that I can eat within the next ten minutes."

"All right, let's go. I know a place."

He chugs the rest of his beer and she gulps the last of her liquor and the check magically appears on their table and they leave and Shikamaru is feeling good, actually really good, actually fantastic. Life is awesome. He's so hungry he might die. Temari's shoulder bumps into his bicep once, then again, and suddenly she's body-checking him so of course he slams back into her and they start to run, shoving each other back and forth, all the way to Ichiraku.


When they arrive he elbows his way in front of her and gets to claim the non-wobbly chair. They both get curry ramen which is not the most expensive but not the least, and it's so good. Oh god, it's really good.


Someone is grabbing him. There are hands on his shoulders. What is happening.

"Are you on a date?!"

Oh, it's just Naruto.

"Shut the fuck up."

Temari snorts and then starts to choke on her soup. Somehow she manages to still look dignified.

"You're an idiot. How're you doing? Learn any new tricks?"

"Ahhh, nothing much. I did a lot of sit-ups." Naruto pulls his shirt up. "Check out my abs, aren't they awesome?"

"Yeah, they're great." They are, it's pretty amazing. Shikamaru is briefly jealous, and then he remembers that he doesn't really want to work that hard. But damn.

Temari doesn't seem interested in anything but her ramen.

"You can touch them if you want, they're pretty incredible."

"I don't want to touch your abs. I'm not an abtoucher. An adament anti-abtoucher." Hah, that was a good one.

"An avowed anti-abtoucher." Temari is still focused on eating, but she might be smirking a little bit.

"Absolutely." This is really funny. He's having a hard time not laughing.

"What the hell are you guys talking about?" Naruto leans in really close and peers into Shikamaru's face. "Hang on. Wait." He grabs Shikamaru's chin and moves his head back and forth, which makes the room spin a little bit. It's a surprisingly pleasant feeling. "Are you drunk?"

"I am absolutely not drunk. I have had almost literally zero beers. The number is so miniscule that it might be uncountable. I've had practically negative beers tonight."

"You're drunk." Naruto speaks in a shocked, pleased way, like he's cured the common cold. "This is so great, this is going to be so fun. Hurry up and finish, we're going to the bar. I want everyone to see this."

"We're so not drunk it's not even funny. It's so serious. We're incredibly seriously sober and that's the truth."


Temari nods solemnly.

"You guys are both drunk. This is amazing. Come on, hurry up, let's go." Naruto's practically jumping up and down. "You guyyyyyyys. Come onnnn."

Shikamaru casts a sidelong glance at Temari. She shrugs. It looks like they're going to a bar with Naruto Uzumaki, and they're going to drink more drinks together. That's ok, right? She's technically not in Konoha in any offical capacity, her ambassadorial - is that a word? ambassadoral, ambassadorish? ambassadory? what the fuck ever, who gives a shit - her ambassador duties don't start for another few days, so she's basically a tourist, right? Basically a friend visiting from Suna so it's fine that they go out and get drunk together. Not drunk. Have a few drinks. Just be, like, casual and friendly-style. Wow, this room-spinning feeling is really extremely nice.

"Ok, I guess, if you're all right with it? We can go? If you want?"

"Let's go. I'll bet you anything Kankuro'll already be there."

Oh yeah, Kankuro.

They pay and leave and even though they're not shoving each other this time Temari's shoulder brushes up against his arm every so often. It's nice, for reasons he doesn't fully understand.

Life's real good, right now. Really really good.