A/N: I would like to dedicate this story to my lovely friend Ashley, who keeps feeding my Neji/Shikamaru addiction. You give me so much inspiration, it's incredible. Thank you for many nights of swapping headcanons, I hope we can do that more often!

To the rest of you, I wish you a very happy reading. Feel free to leave me a review if you liked it.

Disclaimer: Everything "Naruto" related is the property of Masashi Kishimoto. No copyright infringement intended.

In Konoha, it was always said that the Nara clan probably had the most amount of successfully hidden romances. Partly to blame for that was their enormous dark forest, perfect for a rendezvous sheltered from prying eyes. If someone were to look into this forest right in the moment that our story begins, they would indeed find Shikamaru Nara with someone who decidedly did not belong in these woods, but to the untrained eye, they weren't having a romantic encounter.

Neji flew at his opponent again, gracefully blocking every kick and hit that Shikamaru threw at him. In a strange way, it felt like dancing: They knew each other's moves so well by now that their fighting was more of a choreography than serious training. A small smirk played around the edge of Neji's lips when he placed his right hand on the center of Shikamaru's chest, above his heart. He knew that one touch would be enough make it stop beating forever, but Neji would never land that final strike. Not as long as he'd promised himself to keep Shikamaru's heart safe.

"You lose, Nara." Neji said softly, tilting his head. He was thrown off for a moment when Shikamaru smirked back at him. It was only then that he felt the binds of the shadow paralysis jutsu creeping up his legs, keeping him in place. Shikamaru stepped closer to Neji until they were chest to chest.

"Did I lose, Hyuga?" He retorted, tilting Neji's chin down with two fingers. "Looks to me like you're at my mercy now."

Neji leaned into the grip, a challenge in his eyes. "I suppose you want me to beg? Plead for my freedom?"

"That would be interesting, but no. I had something else in mind." Before Neji could come up with a clever response, Shikamaru had already closed the remaining distance between them and kissed him, effectively taking away his ability to think on the whole. It still surprised him how eagerly Neji gave in to the kiss, practically melting into it. His hands were at the back of Shikamaru's neck, pulling him closer. Simultaneously, Neji kneaded a sore spot he knew Shikamaru had at the base of his neck, making the other boy groan into the kiss. Smiling, he pulled away.

"I could take care of that." Neji offered, pointing to Shikamaru's neck. The Nara nodded gratefully and slumped down against a tree. Neji went to join him and soon enough, Shikamaru was sitting between his legs with his back to him, sighing contentedly. Neji's fingers moved gently but precisely, massaging the knot away bit by bit. The pleasant feeling was enough to have Shikamaru's head fall back against his shoulder, eyelids fluttering. Neji pressed a kiss against his temple, smiling against the skin.

"Don't fall asleep now." He mumbled, his fingers continually working on Shikamaru's neck. The other boy yawned in response.

"Staying awake is.. troublesome." Shikamaru muttered, feeling Neji's chuckle more than hearing it. It made the hairs at the back of his head tingle with anticipation. Don't rush into it, he reminded himself, you've only just gotten him to kiss you without running away right after.

Indeed, the story of their relationship was strange, to say the least. What started out as a joint mission and nearly ended in Shikamaru getting himself killed trying to protect Neji's blind spot during an enemy attack had let to the Hyuga visiting him more and more during his recovery. After that, a few more joint missions had followed, nights sleeping back to back and days looking out for each other doing the rest. Neither of them was able to deny the affinity that began to bloom between them and one way or another, love just.. happened. That was not to say that they hadn't struggled with it: Their first kiss prompted Neji to cry for almost half an hour afterwards, terrified of his relatives' reaction. Shikamaru knew that Shikaku most likely wouldn't mind.. too much. After a bit of talking. His father was able to roll with almost anything life threw at him, including his son having a boyfriend. The Hyuga clan however.. They wouldn't be pleased to know that they'd indirectly lost one of their most promising clan members (and therefore the possibility of him passing on the Hyuga name to his children) to another man, however temporary their relationship may or may not be. So both Neji and Shikamaru agreed to lay low for a while, at least until Neji had gathered enough courage to tell his family. The only places they were able to meet like this and be themselves was either in the Nara woods or at Shikamaru's home (Shikaku tactfully looked the other way whenever one of them sneaked a kiss during a shogi game). It wasn't a perfect solution by any means and Shikamaru couldn't wait for the day Neji finally let him hold his hand in public, but for now, both of them were happy.

He's worth the wait, Shikamaru thought drowsily as he grabbed Neji's hand, pressing a kiss to each fingertip. He grinned to himself when Neji flushed up to the roots of his hair. It took him a moment to catch himself, but then, Neji smiled down at him softly and rested his chin on Shikamaru's shoulder, his hair tickling when it brushed Shikamaru's cheek. They glanced at each other, their fingers intertwining more tightly.

"We can stay here for a little longer, can't we?" Neji asked and didn't bother to hide the yearning in his voice. Not from Shikamaru. The Nara brushed his lips against Neji's cheek lazily, nuzzling him until he smiled again. Shikamaru shifted in his arms so he could feel his heartbeat against his back. It was slow and steady, synced to Shikamaru's breathing. They looked up to the sky in unison when the branches above them rustled, a flock of birds passing by. For the first time in his life, Neji didn't envy them. In his arms, he held someone who could give him the same freedom they had. He kissed Shikamaru's temple again, more tenderly this time.

"We can stay for as long as you want to." Shikamaru promised, his hand on top of Neji's. They were almost the same size and fit together perfectly.

He decided to take that as a sign.