Shikamaru sat on the end of his bed fidgeting with his fingers. Outside his window dead leaves broke free from the branches and swirled around the wind before arriving on the ground. His mind raced with thoughts and images. Internally, emotions fought and swirled in his stomach. Logic, intuition, rationalization, reason, hopes. Each battled to be the predominate feeling. He clenched his stomach and wished the war would be over soon. He tried to think things through, but was unable to keep a solid train of though. He turned to his window. Two leaves were left on the tree he observed. One was brown, and one was bright yellow. The flash backs began.
That winter might have been the coldest on record for Konoha, but he never became chilled. In fact, he felt as though he was rather warm where ever he went. After the festival, the holidays came. Of course he spent them with Temari. His parents weren't home, and well, he considered her good company anyway. They never spoke of the kiss; both waited for the other to speak up about it first, but when they didn't, it was swept under the rug and deduced to nothing more than a funny story. When she had days off they usually spent them playing shogi by a fire or meeting up with friends for a nice dinner. She felt comfortable with everyone. They all accepted her and were eager to spend time with her.
Winter warmed to spring. Shikamaru's parent's returned and had no problem with Temari continuing to be their guest. Shikamaru's mom happily stole her attention most of the time. Having another female in the house was a treat for her. She had someone else to help with the cooking, someone else to swap gossip with, and someone else to scold the men with. Bushels of cherry blossoms exploded on the trees. Their scent and petals drifted across the village whenever a large breeze was conjured. Temari and Shikamaru dozed in the grass. It was no longer just his favorite spot, but rather their favorite spot. There came a time when he had been acting weird for the last few days. Temari continued questioning his health and he, becoming annoyed, stood from the grass to prove her wrong. Upon rising, his head spun and he promptly fainted. Next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital with her hand in his. He only guessed that she had sat beside his bed last night. He slipped his hand from hers and brushed her hair back. He smiled and took her hand again. She woke as he stroked the back of her hand with his thumb and preceded to cheerfully great him from his long sleep. She was so excited she knocked the water and food on his nightstand all over him, but they laughed it off.
They were able to escape the summer heat under the shade. They made it a point to find a new shade tree everyday to enjoy their naps under. Tsunade moved the meetings to earlier hours in hopes of avoiding the heat, so Temari was free come noon. The trips to the lagoon were his favorite that summer. Although he couldn't deny that her body was wonderful, he was more amazed at her smile while they splashed in the water. They took turns dunking and pushing each other into the swimming hole. He was able to see her attacks coming most of the time, but every now and then he would get distracted by her eyes sparkling in the sun. The blue-green color matched the water he fell into. He took her to his old training field during the evenings and they spared. They focused mainly on hand to hand combat. The beginning of the match was taken seriously, and each was able to get one or two good shots in on the other. However, like the sun, it faded with intensity until they were laughing and rough housing. One would pin the other down and the match would be over and all they had left to do was watch the lightning bugs float around them and stare up at the stars. Shikamaru would often sneak glances over at Temari during this time. He admired the curves of her lips and became curious of how they felt and tasted. By summer their conversations had turned from purely business to wanting to know about the other. He found it surprisingly easy to open up to her. While they talked she would play with his hair and lightly brush her fingertips over his forehead; it gave him goose bumps no matter how warm the night was.
The sound of crunching leaves could be heard every ware in Konoha during the fall. Temari loved the fall. The colors of the leaves amazed her. She made Shikamaru stop plenty of times just so she could admire a tree or jump in a leaf pile. They would spend the rest of the day picking leaves out of each other's hair; not that he minded. Fall had only begun when she got the news. She was allowed to leave and spend a few months at home. And now Shikamaru was here, sitting on his bed and fidgeting with his fingers.
"Of course she wouldn't pass up the offer…I wouldn't want her to, it would make her happy." He though as he stared out into space.
He heard footsteps approach his door. His father leaned against the door frame and watched him and smirked.
"It's not like you're never going to see her again." He told his son.
Shikamaru only answered him with a cold glare.
"What are you so worried about Shikamaru?" his father asked as he walked into the room.
"…I'm not worried…I just…I'm not looking forward to adjusting to a new routine when she leaves." He said making room for his father to sit beside him. "I don't like change."
His father smirked again, "I can understand that." He said half believing his reasoning. "Aren't you supposed to be sending her off soon?"
"I'm not sure if I'm going." Shikamaru responded.
"Why not?" his father asked baffled by this.
Shikamaru didn't respond. He didn't want to expose all that was on his mind.
"Well it would be rude to toy with her emotions like that if you don't go." He explained to his son. "That is unless you really don't care."
Shikamaru perked up, "What are you talking about?" he questioned.
"I'm talking about taking notice of the hole you've dug yourself in with your denial, manning up, and climbing out to see what you're missing." He shot back in a stern tone.
"Look, no offence, but I highly doubt you know what the hell is going on in my head right now." Shikamaru countered.
"I'm not worried about that…I'm trying to figure out why you're too scared to show just what is going on." He said with a concerned tone, "It's really not as hard as you think."
Shikamaru paused for a moment, "…That's the problem," he started, "Something like this…if this is what I think this is, shouldn't be easy. When things are this easy, bad stuff usually follows. So…excuse me if I'm trying to figure out the outcome."
His father shook his head and smiled to himself, "Well I have a solution for you. What you two have is simple…and the simplest of things are often the truest." He said placing his hand on Shikamaru's shoulder. "Don't over think it this time."
He took his hand from Shikamaru's shoulder and exited the room. Shikamaru sighed and looked back out his window at the leaves. A strong wind blew against them, but they refused to let go of the branch.
Temari leaned against the front gates of Konoha. She watched the slowly drift by in the soft fall breeze. She crunched the leaves under her feet as she impatiently waited for her host to arrive.
She stared out at the village and thoughts filled her mind. "He's never been late before. I hope he's ok. Man…he has been acting a bit strange since he found out about my leaving. Shikamaru you never size to amaze me…"
A familiar voice came from behind her, "Temari!"
She turned to see her brother appearing out of the branches. "Kankuro."
"So you ready to go or what?" he asked anxiously.
She hesitated, "Yeah I guess." She said quietly.
Kankuro looked around, "So…where's your host?" he asked annoyed.
"Shikamaru." She said annoyed, "His name is Shikamaru…and I don't know." She responded.
"Humph…jerk won't even see you off." He countered.
"Hey give him a break. He's been nothing but great to me since I got here. I know you're only trying to protect me…he helped me see that, and he respects you for that so I'd appreciate it if you'd respect him a little more." She said angered.
She wasn't really mad at her brother, but angry at the absence of a certain person.
Kankuro smirked. Her words fed his ego, "Well then…for your sake I guess I could."
Temari was surprised, "Ok…good." She said.
"Let's go." Her brother said as he turned his back to the gates.
Temari did the same only until she was stopped by that low husky voice she had come to love.
"Wait." He said hoping to stop her.
"So he shows up after all." Kankuro stated.
"You're late." Temari said.
She wanted to be mad at him, but just seeing him made her happy enough to forget everything. She noticed him panting.
"He must have run here." She thought.
"I know, I know." He said catching his breath. "Look. I know you're looking forward to visiting home and the last thing I want to do is keep you from it so I'll make this quick. I just wanted to say bye. I'm looking forward to when you come back. I can assure you I'll be waiting here…overnight if I have to." He told her as he scratched his neck nervously.
She had caught on to that mannerism of his now and knew he wasn't letting everything out.
"Is that…all?" she asked.
"That and…I know we haven't always gotten along in the past, and although still quarrel now, I'll miss it while you're gone." He said blushing.
"And…" she said hoping he'd go on.
He laughed nervously to himself, "I-I Uhhh…." He couldn't look her in the eye, "I just…want you to have a safe trip back."
Temari's eyes saddened. She put on her fake smile and waved goodbye.
Kankuro crossed his arms, "Idiot…just missed your opportunity." He muttered under his breath. He turned and headed into the forest with Temari.
Shikamaru watched they as they moved further into the distance, he called out once more, "Have a safe trip!" his voice softened now "….and I sort of kind of love you."