Temari's eyes eased open slowly, the daylight which was gently washing the room finally finding them. She laid there for a moment, reveling in the softness of the sheets, the beauty of the room. For an instant, she felt as if she was back , putting her hand to her face, she encountered the wounds on her face, still closing. The lines of fire traveled across her smooth cheeks, ragged from the unstable cut she had made. Curling into herself, Temari disturbed the rest of the wounds, the brand on her ass, the ache between her legs, the fire on her face, and the bruises all around. Remembering where she was, what she was, Temari's eyes began to water, beginning to cry, but she steeled herself. She was not alone.

Looking beside her, she saw Shikamaru Nara, his hair spread out on the pillow. His eyes were closed, his chest rising and falling slowly, and his mouth twitching. Seeing the man to whom she belonged, a fresh sense of revulsion went over. She'd been softened both literally and metaphorically by the kind treatment of the bath, by Tenten's attitude, and by the alcohol she'd consumed. Painkillers, both intended and unintended, had numbed her to her situation, to her future. Sliding out of the bed quietly, Temari moved to one of the chairs in the room and, since she was sure Nara was asleep,cried silently into her arms, bemoaning her fate for the first time since she'd been captured.

He wasn't asleep. The moment she'd moved, Shikamaru Nara had been completely awake and aware. Becoming unused to sharing a bedfellow these past two years, it seemed, had returned him to what he was before. Hearing the unmistakable sounds of tears, his heart sunk. She was probably damaged beyond repair, wasn't she? IF he wanted to gain her trust, he should just go to her, shouldn't he? Comfort her, wipe her tears, let her cry in his arms? He stopped. Wait...why should he build her trust? She was his, he could do what he wanted to her. Fuck her, forget her? Move on? Images from yesterday, of Temari's body, beautiful even when covered in dirt and cuts, flooded his mind, causing him to shift slightly, uncomfortably full of energy, and hardened both his resolve to remain "asleep", and...other things. Temari raised her head, looking at her owner, who'd shifted "in his sleep". She wiped the tears from her eyes. He could wake up at any time, and if she wanted any hope of getting home, he could not see her vulnerable. She had to be a rock. She had to be emotionless. Slipping back into bed with him, Temari closed her eyes, lying there next to the black-haired man.

After about ten minutes, Shikamaru sat up, "waking". Temari looked up at him, pretending to be groggy. Shaking his head, Shikamaru stood up. "Oh gods, my head...good morning, Temari." As he stood in front of the bed, rubbing his forehead, Temari's eyes were drawn to his hips, and the bulge in between them. The size and apparent hardness made her shiver a bit. Many things had been thrust between her legs in the past month, flesh and blood, as well as wood, metal, and once something of ice. However, Shikamaru's "instrument" appeared to trump them all for size... She shook her head a bit, trying to rid her mind of these thoughts. She wasn't interested in him, for gods' sakes. He owned her, she didn't want to bed him...did she? Standing up, Temari walked to the bathroom, splashing some cold water on her face to clear her head. She hated this man, she told herself. Hated him. With her resolve steeled, she washed briefly.

Shikamaru, enjoying Temari's curves as she walked past him, felt himself swell to his full size, confined in his pants. He struck himself on the forehead. It wasn't the time or the place. Sighing, he pulled on clothes, walking out of the room. He had to leave her, otherwise he might snap. When Temari came back into the room, she found it empty. Shrugging, she pulled her dress from last night on, opening the door. Finding nobody at the door, she stepped out into the hall. Looking back and forth, she chose a direction, and began to walk.

Temari spent almost an hour wandering through the house, marveling. It was a little run-down, to be sure, but it was massive. Almost a hundred rooms, to her closest count, and many maids and menservants. All ages, from children shorter than her waist to the elderly, their hair whiter than snow, were in the house, and all ages, apparently, had been told to stay away from her. Smiles disappeared, conversations choked, and people turned their back. It wasn't disgust or pity, none of those emotions. When she tried to talk to them, if she asked questions or directions, they answered her, perfectly civilly. However, if she tried to start a conversation, they shut up instantly, turning away to their work. Someone had told them not to talk to her, and had inspired a fair amount of fear for them to be so silent. He was isolating her.

After about an hour of walking, Temari found Shikamaru in the atrium, speaking with the lavender eyed man she'd seen him with the other night, Tenten's master. Shikamaru's brow was furrowed, his eyes focused. As she walked towards them, staying close to the wall so as not to be seen, she strained to hear what they were saying even though they were talking in hushed tones.

"Are you sure, Neji? A change in leadership for Otogakure could change every." Neji nodded and sighed.

"The information is verified. I've received the same message from three of my most trusted men: The king snake is death, Otogakure is ruled by the hawk." Shaking his head slightly, Neji rubbed his head. "You do realize this will accelerate our plans for Sunagakure? I need you to carry out your jobs on a modified schedule. If you were to go into the field yourself, our problems might be mitigated..." He trailed off at a hand signal from Shikamaru. As the black-haired Minister turned, his eyes confirmed what his other senses had detected, Temari, hiding alongside the wall, believing she was unseen. He turned back and flicked his eyes towards the figure sitting by Neji's side, hidden from Temari by Shikamaru's body. Neji rested his hand on Tenten's and whispered something in her ear. She smiled, kissed him on the lips tenderly, and as the two men walked off down another hall, she approached Temari. When she saw Temari, she jumped slightly.

"Oh! Dear, it's you. I was just coming to find you." She smiled. "How are you this morning?" Temari, who'd stepped out from behind the wall, noted the simple elegance of Tenten's garb and posture. She smiled back.

"Fine. Why are you here, exactly?" Tenten's smile wavered slightly, but she kept a clam composure.

"Oh, Neji had to meet with Shikamaru and he took me along. He does that every now and then, so that I can keep him company. Shall we go to your room?" Tenten took Temari's hand and slowly lead her back to Shikamaru's room, skillfully navigating the twisted and occasionally crowded hallways. While they walked, Temari's mouth remained closed, her resolve to hate everything of Shikamaru extending to Tenten, the friend who was obviously orchestrated by those two terrible me. She answered Tenten's every attempt at conversation with shrugs, As Tenten's hand took the door handle to open the door, Temari said:

"So he brings along a toy?" Tenten's hand clenched, the door squeaking as she opened it and stalked in, letting go of Temari's hand. Temari followed her, drawn by her anger, by her obvious refusal to reply in front of the people standing in the hall. She wasn't afraid of this woman, shorter than her by a few inches, petite and dressed prettily, and yet there was a strength and an anger emanating from Tenten that Temari couldn't help but be entranced, and slightly terrified by. Tenten, hearing the click of the door, whirled around, her eyes blazing.

"Are you serious? A toy? A TOY? That's what you think I am to Neji? That's what you think I am? A TOY?" Tenten shook her head. "Temari, you have NO IDEA what you're talking about." Temari's stared directly into Tenten's eyes, a small fire burning behind hers as well.

"Okay, then what AM I talking about? Because, you see, I thought I was talking to a woman like me, a woman bought for a few thousand lire off the block, brought home as a trophy, bedded and left alone. I thought I was talking to someone else who understood the fact that they see us as toys, but I guess I was wrong. I guess you've given into them, haven't you? You've been too long in the pretty cage, you've forgotten what it is to be free!" As her voice rose, Temari found herself saying things she hadn't known she could, things she hadn't even been aware of thinking, but now found had been pent up inside her for the past few days. She couldn't STAND it, not the pretty clothes, not the soft sheets, not the fancy party. They were all just reminders that she wasn't free, that she'd never be her own again. Tears began to gather to the corners of her eyes and she brushed them away angrily, roughly. She would not cry in front of that...caged bird. That collared bitch.

"Could you just...leave? Please." Tenten's face fell. Walking past Temari, she sighed.

"I just want you to know, Temari. I'm not Neji's toy. He bought me, yes. But he loves me, he trusts me...and I'm sure that's what Shikamaru wants, too." Temari snorted, looking away from Tenten. As the door shut behind her, she burst into tears again, falling onto the bed. Though the tears died down, Temari remained listless for many hours, the shadows of the room slowly drifting across her prone form. She sunk into a state of half sleep, and was only roused, in the first hours of the night, by a hand, resting on her ass. First resting, then caressing, massaging slow circles...

She was waking up, but the nightmare had just begun.

So, this is considerably less than the other chapters. I figured I'd post the amount I have to keep this story alive while I handle school shit. Sorry about that. Fairly soon, I hope to be able to do some more serious writing, but right now I've got a lot on my plate. Hope you guys understand, and I hope you're enjoying it so far.