Shikamaru shook his head sorrowfully as he nudged his foot under a charred piece of wood, half-heartedly shuffling the burnt remains of what was once a pharmacy around. All around him stood smoldering remains of what was once a peaceful non-shinobi village, it's empty blackened ruins ugly skeletons of what had once been. A random nin had gone rogue, as early reports theorized, and burnt down the small, defenseless village. Some guessed revenge, others believed it was a warning to Konoha, as the village sat only days away from their borders. Shikamaru personally, didn't care; his only concern being the endless paperwork he was sure he'd have to file later on. "What a drag.."he sighed, stuffing his hands into his pockets and wandering further into the wreckage. Shikamaru heard a disapproving tutting in his ear and then realized he still had his earpiece, and microphone, switched on. Ripping it out of his ear to the howls of the other two members of his team, he ducked his head and shuffled onwards. While passing a particularly large stack of smoking wood and brick, something disturbed it. Shikamaru froze, instantly sliding into a defensive position. A hundred possibilities ran through his head, one of them being that the rogue ninja that'd done this might still be here. Putting his fingers together, Shikamaru readied himself for whatever could come launching out from the debris. The shifting was weak, and Shikamaru suspected it may just be an animal, unfortunately trapped beneath the burnt beams of a collapsed roof. Sighing, Shikamaru shifted the beams out of the way so the animal could escape. What he saw shocked him. "Oh shi-" he started, only for it to be cut off by a loud moan and a pained whimper. Snapped out of his shocked state, Shikamaru fell to his knees and began lifting the charred rubble off the small boy trapped beneath it. His hair was a dark green and his eyes, once the color of emeralds, were foggy and glossed over. There was a dark spot on the side of his head, Shikamaru discovered as he gently dragged the tiny boy out into the open. A large gash had matted his hair with all the blood that had ran out and scabbed over.
"Hey, are you alright?" Shikamaru asked cautiously, checking the rest of his body for signs of more serious injuries. The kid sprang on him with more energy than Shikamaru would think someone so injured could have. He even managed to sock Shikamaru in the jaw hard, making his teeth clack together and his face throb. Mindless of that, Shikamaru gathered the tiny boy into his arms and wrapped them around him tightly as he desperately fought and wriggled to be free. "Hey, I'm not your enemy, I'm trying to help you." he muttered through clenched teeth. A swift kick was delivered to his stomach yet he still held on. "Knock it off kid, you're injured, I don't want to hurt you, alright?" he grunted. The flailing was slowly stopping and Shikamaru felt something warm drip onto his vest. The wound had reopened and was bleeding steadily again. This time, Shikamaru did swear, placing a hand over the gash and applying pressure. He rocked the boy slowly, unconsciously reassuring him. "Hey, you're gonna be alright, okay? You're gonna be just fine…" he repeated over and over again, holding the boy to him as he whistled for another member of his team. The scrawny child's eyes glazed over and he nodded slightly, before going limp abruptly to the sound of approaching feet.
"Holy shit! Nara found a survivor!"
Gaara closed his eyes and sunk back into his chair as he heard loud, and most definitely angry footsteps approaching his door. He could already feel the migraine coming on. The door burst open revealing the two outraged siblings of the young Kage. "Gaara, what's this about you banning us from returning to work?" Kankuro demanded, slamming a first onto his brother's desk. Temari banged the door shut as to prevent any interruptions. "Are you insane? Now?" she asked, placing both hands on the desktop and leaning over it until she was almost nose-to-nose with her brother. "You can't do this Gaara, crime rates are at a high in Suna and I've got that meeting with a representative of another village tomorrow-"
"And my team's got special training!" Kankuro interrupted, "It's the only time all week we'll get the training fields all to ourselves and my team needs me there for strategical planning!" Temari, mindless to Gaara's annoyance insisted further, "And I have a mountain of paperwork to do, so why are you banning us from returning to work?" she demanded. Kankuro nodded furiously, crossing his arms over his chest with a scowl. Gaara sighed. "I'm not just banning you from work, he said, picking up a report on his desk,"I'm banning you from Suna for a month or however long as I see fit," he deadpanned, signing the report and ignoring the new bursts of outrage from his siblings. He raised a hand to silence them, and was much so pleased when they did, unhappily, but obediently. "I know you both think if you leave this village for a minute everything will fall apart." he said, voicing his sibling's unspoken concern. "But you've both worked yourself into the ground. You're awful to look at right now, the amount of unneccessary stress you both put yourselves under-"
"It's not unnecessary!"
"It is in my eyes. And the eyes of the council. Therefore, we've decided you both need a mandatory break from your positions. I've decided to ban you from entering Suna for a month, because I know you'll try to sneak back in and return to work, warranted or not." he said with a knowing glare. Both siblings looked away, their protests and persuasions dying in their throats. Temari finally sighed, crossing her arms. "Fine, if we're banned from Suna, where are we supposed to go?" she questioned, frustrated. The second the question came out of her mouth she knew the answer and immediately did not like it.
"Konoha, of course."
Sakura was used to panicked Shinobi running into the hospital, hauling their injured comrades along with them, yelling desperately for medical help. However, she wasn't used to someone rushing in and immediately calling out for her. "Sakura!" Shikamaru yelled, bursting through the door with frantic teammates behind him. He scanned the floor. "Sakura!" he repeated even louder, a small boy cradled in his arms and one hand firmly clasping the side of the small boy's head. Thick dark streams of blood slipped through his fingers and Sakura rushed over, thoughtlessly barking orders at nurses lingering around. "Get me a stretcher, now!" she ordered with all the fury one would expect of Tsunade's apprentice. Scared witless, nurses provided her with one and gently removed the boy form Shikamaru's panicky embrace and place him on the stretcher. They immediately began emergency medical treatment while Sakura pulled Shikamaru aside. "Where'd you find him?" was the first question that came out of her mouth, and she felt the first one should've been 'are you okay?'
Shikamaru did not look okay. While he tried to hide his obvious worry, his face was pale and his hands were shaking. Sakura knew that Shikamaru still felt guilty about all of his friends getting injured on his first mission as a Chuunin leader, and was still a little uneasy about injuries occurring on any missions where he was deployed as leader even now. But Sakura was a trained medical professional, and first thing first was attending to the wounded. "I was on a recovery mission with a group out in that burnt down village nearby. He was trapped under some rubble, he attacked me and the wound on the side of his head opened up." he said slowly, as if everything was hitting him all over again. "Will he be okay?" he asked, snapping to attention. Sakura gave a small smile. "From what I saw of that wound, probably. It didn't look too serious. But Tsunade will want you present when she questions him later," she put a hand on his shoulder, "You should rest until then." she suggested gently. Shikamaru nodded slowly. "Rest, yeah. I'm gonna go do that." he sighed, rubbing the hand that wasn't covered in blood over his face tiredly. "Call me when he's awake."
"Of course." Sakura said.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Shikamaru made his way slowly out of the hospital that he had just burst into.
Temari sighed dejectedly, glaring at her poor suitcase, half-packed and messy as it lay on her bed. "Stupid Gaara," she muttered, throwing in another outfit, "stupid council, stupid Suna.." she trailed off, mentally cursing every possible thing she could think of in her head. Glancing in the mirror over her bed, Temari frowned at her reflection. Her eyes look bruised with the dark purple rings that circled them and her shirt had stains litters across it. Her fingertips were dyed black with the ink from all the reports she'd been writing and her hair was matted and falling out of its ponytails. Brow furrowed, Temari grit her teeth and pulled the ponytail holders from her knotted hair and began the task of try to comb out every tangle. Half way done with two ponytails tied up and the third on it's way, there came a soft knock at the door. Temari immediately knew who it was. Kankuro wouldn't even bother with knocking, and since she'd been forbidden to work there was no way it was a messenger for her. Dropping her hair tie and brush on the bed, Temari flopped down across it, sprawling spread-eagle style. "Come in," she called. She wasn't surprised when the door opened just a crack and Gaara slid in, shutting it quietly behind him. She'd known from the quiet knock on her door that it could only be him. They sat in silence for a bit, Gaara staring at his hands and Temari staring at the ceiling, waiting for him to say whatever he had came to say.
"You haven't finished packing," Gaara said quietly, breaking the silence. Temari rolled her eyes. "We have to be out of here by tomorrow, I think I'll take my time," she said, a little more biting than she intended. Gaara didn't react to the stinging comment. He used to be the one to deal them out, and with his childhood, he'd developed a bit of a thick skin. "I'm not doing this to torture you," he said softly, eyes still focused on his hands. "I'm doing it because I care. You guys…look like you've been worked to death recently. You need to relax, regain your strength. Take a break, you guys deserve it more than most."
Temari stared at her brother. Kazekage or tailed demon he was still her younger brother, And he probably wasn't used to seeing her so disheveled and stress outside of battle. He was worried. Temari's eyes softened. "I know that, Gaara," she said with a small smile. She nudged him with her foot. "I just feel like the moment I blink there's gonna be some new great catastrophe for me to handle. It's hard to unwind when you're like that, you know?" she laughed. Gaara gave her a small smile of his own as he stood. "I'm sure you can do it, you can do pretty much anything. Besides, I know there's someone you've wanted to visit for a long time back at the hidden leaf." he said, and Temari was either hallucinating or her brother just smirked and winked at her. Gaara left the room as quietly as he had came in, leaving Temari flopped across her bed with a still half-packed bag and a certain warmth to her cheeks.
"You wanted to see me, lady Hokage?" Shikamaru asked. Immediately, his eyes widened and he ducked as a clipboard went flying over his head. "You were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago!" Tsunade roared, "Where were you?" Shikamaru winced as he saw the very visible dent the clipboard had made in the wall behind him. "I lost track of the time," he lied. Secretly, he'd heard his phone ringing earlier but hadn't bothered to answer it and instead took a nap. A very short one, as his eyes shot open and he remembered that he'd told Sakura to call him when the kid woke up. Shikamaru expected another clipboard to come flying at him with deadly accuracy, but instead open his clenched eyes to a still very mad Tsunade, but a very mad unarmed one. "Honestly," she chided. "Come with me down to the room that the child is staying in for questioning." she ordered, already out the door. Shikamaru followed behind quickly. "Did they find anyone else, at the village?" he asked. Maybe a relative or a familiar face would be soothing for the kid to see after what he'd been through. But Tsunade quickly squashed those dreams. "No, he is the sole survivor of what happened." she said shortly. "Multiple teams were sent out to clear the rubble and no living being was found in the village."
Shikamaru lowered his head respectfully in remembrance but then raised it again. "What about the kid? Where'll he go?" he wondered aloud. Tsunade turned the corner to the private infirmaries. "We'll know where after we get his story." she said firmly. As they turned another corner to nurses walked past, grumbling and rubbing their arms and shoulders. One had the purplish beginnings of a black eye. Exchanging curious looks, both Tsunade and Shikamaru looked up just in time to see Sakura come barreling down the hallway at full tilt, fist raised and ready. "Shikamaru! Where were you, I called you almost half an hour ago!" she yelled, poised to deliver a blow that Shikamaru was sure wouldn't heal for a lifetime. Tsunade stepped in. "Sakura, our main concern right now that Shikamaru is here and present for the questioning of the child. Where is he?" she asked. Sakura's fist dropped and she looked a little embarrassed. "We had to move him to a different room because he trashed the one he was in when he woke up. He went totally berserk, and two nurses were injured in the fray…" she explaining, glancing away. "He's got a lot of fighting power, we couldn't restrain him long enough to sedate him, so we've just locked him in his room and barred any access to him until he calms down." a thump rang through the hallway, making all three jump. "Yeah, that should be him," Sakura said awkwardly.
Tsunade put her hands on her hips. "I couldn't care less if he's pitching a fit or not. What he saw could unlock the mystery to who did this. We're continuing with our questioning anyways. Sakura, give me the key," Tsunade commanded, holding out her hand. The look on her face told Sakura that no bargains, pleas, or suggestions would be heard so she resignedly handed over they key to the room. "Let's get this over already, I have a poker tournament at four," Tsunade said in the same steely serious voice. Both Shikamaru and Sakura traded incredulous looks. Tsunade waked a few doors down, to the one with the constant thumping happening behind it. Unlocking the door and pushing it open, she soon had to duck as a tray, containing medical equipment, flew overhead. "Hey!" she barked, pushing into the room. Shikamaru followed after quickly and Sakura hovered anxiously in the doorway. "That medical equipment is extremely expensive, don't just throw it around so disrespectfully. That's the same as dishonoring our medical staff and Shinobi, will you willingly shame them?" she asked, eyes sharp as she stared at the malnourished and crazed child poised on the hospital bed, needle gripped in his tiny hand. Slowly, the shaking arm dropped and the needle fell onto the bedsheets. The little boy sagged forward, long tangled hair falling across his face. "Sorry," he said quietly. His voice was hoarse, like he hadn't had a drop of water in days, and his lips were chapped as well. He looked abused, and the tiny scars that looked like the end of a cigarette just reenforced it. Shikamaru felt bad, and felt an oddly protective feeling stirring in his chest. This wasn't the first victim of abuse he'd seen, but this was the first one to ever touch him so deeply.
Tsunade sighed and relaxed, realizing that her entire form had gone tense. She waved Sakura in, who quickly gathered the scattered medical supplies and tidied the room as Tsunade lowered herself onto the edge of the boy's bed. "Thank you. I'm Tsunade, the fifth Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village. This is Shikamaru, he's the one who brought you here," she introduced, pointing at Shikamaru. The small boy's head snapped up and he stared at Shikamaru with large eyes. "You're the one that saved me?" he asked slowly. Shikamaru scratched the back of his neck, glancing away. "I guess you could say that," he said. The little one's eyes widened even further and his bottom lip trembled. With sudden speed that startled both Shikamaru and Tsunade, he wrapped his arms around Shikamaru's neck in a surprise hug. Shikamaru just barely caught him in time to keep him from falling. "Thank you…" the boy whispered into Shikamaru's ear, and he felt something wet soaking into his vest. "Whoa, hey. Don't cry," he said soothingly, adjusting his hold of the boy. "It's fine. You're safe now." he reassured. Shikamaru then had to sit on the bed, for many minutes, repeating these words while rubbing small circles on the boy's back as he cried, before falling asleep on Shikamaru's shoulder, arms still wrapped around his savior's neck. Shikamaru carefully untangled himself and tucked the boy beneath the sheets of the hospital bed. Standing up, he turned to find both Tsunade and Sakura standing with small smiles in the doorway. "What?" he sighed. "Nothing, we should talk," Tsunade said, turning in the doorway. Sakura followed her out and Shikamaru followed, but turned back one more time to observe the small child, resting peacefully.
He smiled too.
A/N: IT'S FINALLY HERE! I'm so sorry I've kept you all waiting for so long, but it's finally come!And isn't this much better than the first one? I'm so sorry that you've waited for a ridiculously long while, but it's new and improved, bright and shiny!
So, tell me what you think in the reviews!