Shikamaru sat in the Yamanakaís kitchen with his eyes shut. He could hear Ino running around, apologizing and handing him towels. He didnít know why she was so agitated. Ino was usually level-headed as girls went, but for some reason she had jumped when he entered the flower shop and splashed water all over both of them from the watering can she had been carrying.
Ino could feel her red face. She had stopped running around, and had pulled a chair and sat in front of Shikamaru. She was a little edgy right then, and Shikamaru had caught her at a bad time. Her mother had just had a talk with her about finding the right boy, and Shikamaruís name had popped up. It was just after that that Ino was given watering duty, and Shikamaru entered the shop just as she approached the front of the shop.
"Shikamaru," Ino started nervously, "are you mad at me?"
The boy opened his eyes, "No...Not really. Whatís wrong?"
"Nothing," Ino replied quickly. Too quickly, she realized too late. Shikamaru was giving her an inquisitive look. Her face was turning red. She stood up, "Iím going to get you some dry clothes." She ran from the room, eager to keep herself from embarrassing herself more.
Shikamaru sighed. ĎWomen are truly troublesome...í he decided as he tried to wipe off his clothes.
Ino rooted through her fatherís drawers until she found what she was looking for. A set of Shikatoís clothes left over from long ago. She wasnít positive why they had them, but it sure was useful now. She grabbed the pants from the set and hurried back downstairs.
Shikamaru was standing in the doorway as Ino came back down to the kitchen. She looked up at him nervously. Since when was he so tall? She studied his face carefully, noticing that he looked more like his father than when they were 12. She gasped and blushed. She hadnít meant to stare at him. She shoved the pants into his chest, "Here, Shikamaru. Wear these while I dry your clothes."
"Oof," Shikamaru caught the bundle and watched Ino carefully. She was acting very strangely. Even for her. "Um...Okay..." He headed towards the bathroom down the hall.
Ino moved into the living room and flopped down on the couch. She covered her face with her hands and groaned. Her stupid mother. Her stupid, stupid mom. Why did it matter anyway? She liked Sasuke. She uncovered her face. "Thatís right," she whispered to herself triumphantly. "Sasuke- kun is the one I love."
Shikamaru came back into the room silently and watched Ino from behind. He had always thought she looked better with short hair, and he was glad that she had kept it short. He watched her for several minutes, wondering why she was so uncomfortable today. Usually she could care less if he came to visit.
Ino leaned her head back over the couch and saw Shikamaru. Surprised, she jumped up from the couch. Both of them were caught in an awkward moment. "Here, Iíll go stick these in the dryer," Ino took the wet jacket and pants from him, noticing how cool he looked in his fatherís pants and the mesh shirt. She blushed again and hurried off to the laundry room.
It was Shikamaruís turn to sit on the couch. How could he get Ino to talk? He was usually pretty good at it, but he wasnít sure what the problem was this time. Most of the time he figured out what the problem was before he tried to talk to her about it. But she wasnít saying anything this time.
He was obligated to come back to her house to return these pants and get his own clothes back, but until then he could try to pull off some sort of plan. But that took effort. And trying wasnít his thing. He was just a lazy bum...So how would that work? He sighed in exasperation.
Ino reentered the room and sat down on a chair opposite the couch. They sat in silence for a few moments before Shikamaru asked, "Ino, what the heck is wrong with you?"
Ino was a little startled. Usually Shikamaru wasnít this brash. "Nothing. I told you that before."
"I know you told me that, but thatís not it. Somethingís bugging you," Shikamaru stretched his arms. "You donít know a person your whole life and then pretend you donít know when somethingís bothering them."
She blushed. "Fine. My mom was talking to me about finding the perfect boy, and what I should look for in him and stuff, and itís really been bugging me."
"Feh..." Shikamaru scoffed. "Youíre just bothered because Sasukeís not yours. You need to get over him. Heís not worth your time if he doesnít even acknowledge your existence."
Ino opened her mouth to reply, but shut it again. He was right. Sasuke barely knew her name. There was no way that she could get him. But she was still hung up on him. "Why donít YOU take me out on a date then?" she blurted out impulsively. She gasped at her own words and covered her mouth.
Shikamaru leaned his arms on his knees and stared at her. "What?"
"You heard me," Ino pretended that she had meant to do that. "If you think that Sasukeís so wrong for me, why donít you take me out?"
"Why would I do a troublesome thing like that?" Shikamaru sat up again. He wasnít sure where she was going with this.
"We have another 15 minutes, at least, until your clothes are dry. I have the rest of the afternoon off, and the most you ever do is stare at the clouds," Ino stood up and crossed her arms. "So what do you think?"
Shikamaru bit his tongue. What he had been about to say was, "Why would I waste my time going out somewhere?" But he knew that this wasnít the answer Ino was looking for. He felt a little guilty for pressing her and sighed. "Fine," he finally said. "Where are we going to go?"
Ino smiled at her own craftiness, then remembered that this wasnít supposed to be happening at all. She frowned as he stood up. What had she gotten herself into? She crossed her arms, "Why donít you decide? Youíre the gentleman, after all."
Shikamaru yawned. This was far too troublesome. "All right. Follow me then."
They stopped at a bench on the upper level of a housing district. Ino looked at the bench, and looked back up at Shikamaru. "Here?"
"You said wherever. This is where I like to be," Shikamaru sat down on the bench. This had been his favorite spot to watch clouds since he was a little kid. He looked up and admired the simplicity of the forms.
Ino sat on the ground next to the bench and rested her head on the bench. It was true that the clouds were very pretty. She didnít understand why Shikamaru spent all his time watching clouds, though.
Shikamaru took full advantage of having the bench to himself and lay down and put his hands behind his head. The two of them sat there watching the clouds for a few minutes in silence. "Ino, why did you ask me to take you out?"
Ino sat up straight and blushed a little. "I donít know. I was lonely."
He sighed. "Ino, youíve been acting strangely all day. Whatís wrong with you?"
Something inside Ino was bursting to get out. She wanted to tell Shikamaru the specifics of what her mother had said. But the sensible part of her was trying to overrule it. But she had to tell someone... "Fine!"
Shikamaru looked surprised. He had been about to revert to using Kagemane no jutsu. He sat up a little. "Okay..."
Ino felt her face getting more and more red. "You know what I told you earlier? About how my mom was talking to me about finding the perfect guy?"
"Yeah..." Shikamaru had no idea where this was going. This was why women were so troublesome. It was near impossible to figure out what they were thinking.
"Well, she mentioned you somewhere in there," she didnít want to turn around. She didnít hear anything from him. The boy who thought she was so troublesome. The boy that she thought was so lazy. The boy who was always there for her when she needed him. "And I donít know. Itís been bugging me since this morning."
Shikamaru wasnít sure what to say. He certainly hadnít been expecting that. But he was curious all the same. "What about Sasuke?" he asked, pretending not to care.
"I donít know," Ino said mournfully. "I tried to tell myself that I liked Sasuke-kun earlier today, but I kept staring at you. And seeing how cool you look. And getting more nervous than I ever have been around Sasuke- kun."
He slid off the bench and sat next to her. She was really upset by this. He wasnít sure if he should be insulted or flattered, but he did know that he didnít like to see Ino like this. Ino was usually so strong and determined that he wasnít sure what to do when she was upset. He patted her on the back, just to try to make her feel better.
Ino pulled away and stood up. "We should head back to my house. Your clothes are dry by now." She started walking away from him. Shikamaru sighed and stood up. He followed her silently, wondering why he always went to so much trouble over the most troublesome things.
They didnít talk at all after they returned to Inoís house. She handed him his clothing without looking at him and then went to her room to try to get away from everything.
She flopped onto her bed and just lay there for a few minutes. "What do I think of Shikamaru?" she asked herself aloud.
"I dunno. What do you think of me?" Shikamaru was standing in her door, holding the old and worn pair of pants. Ino felt her face burn.
"I donít want to talk to you," she turned away from him and heard him sigh.
"Fine. Iíll just put these on your bed, and you can deal with them," Shikamaru crossed the room and placed the pants on her bed. He was almost out of her room when he stopped. "You know, Ino, itís not the worst thing in the world if you realize that Sasuke will never love you. Itís no big deal at all. It just means youíre finally growing up a little."
He left and Ino was alone with her thoughts. Shikamaruís words were still echoing through her mind. She couldnít let them go. And she didnít want to, either.
Shikamaru returned to his bench and stared at the sky. Dealing with Ino was one of the most troublesome things he had ever had to deal with. He wasnít entirely sure of how he felt though. Which was a problem. Heíd been told before that he thought too much. Maybe this was one of those times. Maybe he was accidentally analyzing this too much. He shut his eyes and tried to clear his mind.
He tried to think without thinking. What was bothering him? Ino. Why was she bothering him? Because he didnít understand her. Did he WANT to understand her?
He opened his eyes. ĎNo,í he thought. ĎI donít...í He sat up. He really didnít want to understand Ino. That was part of the fun about Ino. She was unpredictable. She was troublesome, yeah. She was the most irritating person he knew. But she was also the person he knew the best.
He sat up and felt a little chilly. He reached around for his jacket, and found that it wasnít there. "Damn..." he was thoroughly annoyed with himself. He had left it at Inoís house.
Ino was looking through old photo albums. There were pictures of Shikamaru and herself on every other page. She smiled fondly at the memories they brought back. She couldnít remember a time when Shikamaru hadnít been there. She heard the back door open, and wondered if it was her mother. She looked up to see Shikamaru standing there, looking very irritated. "Whatíre you doing here?"
He rolled his eyes. "I left my jacket here." Curiosity overcame his usual attitude and he sat down next to Ino. "Whatíre you looking at?"
She shut the album. "Just pictures of you and me and Chouji." She smiled teasingly. "You guys were so cute back then. What the hell happened?"
"Like you can talk," Shikamaru retorted. He opened to a section in the middle, which happened to be their first team picture together. He smirked. "That seems so long ago."
"Yeah..." she sighed and leaned back. "Shikamaru, Iím sorry."
"For what?" he shut the album too and watched her carefully.
"Iíve been mean to you all day. And I donít know why," she moved a piece of hair out of her face. "But youíre right. Sasuke will never love me. Itís something Iím going to have to get over." She looked a little sad.
He had never really thought of it before, but Ino was very pretty. He shook his head slightly. He didnít want that. Then he sighed softly. He was doing it again. He was thinking too much. "Oi. Ino."
"Yeah?" she looked at him closely. He was getting a little uncomfortable.
He looked away from her. "Ino, was there any real reason why you freaked out when your mom mentioned me?"
"No," she replied immediately. "I mean yes. I mean...probably. Iím not totally sure."
"Well, what might the problem be?" he asked cautiously.
"Shikamaru, are you asking if Iím in love with you?" Ino asked incredulously.
There was a pause. Then, "Yes."
"Oh..." Ino was surprised. For one thing, Shikamaru was always sure of himself. For another, she wasnít entirely sure of what that answer would be. She thought about everything that she had said that day and everything that she had done. "Iím not sure," she answered quietly. "Are you in love with me?"
Shikamaru looked up at the ceiling. He sighed again, "I donít know either." There was one more thing he wanted to ask her, though. "Ino, have you ever been kissed?"
"No," she replied simply. "Iíve been delusional all these years and I was waiting for Sasuke-kun. So Iíve never given another boy a chance."
"Hm..." he stared at the wall. There was another long silence between them as both of them thought about how they felt.
"Shikamaru," Ino broke the silence. "Do you think Iím pretty?"
He was a little taken aback by the question. "Of course youíre pretty."
She smiled, "Really? Or are you just saying that to make me feel better?"
"Ino, when have I ever lied to you?" Shikamaru asked skeptically.
"You lie to me all the time!" she laughed. "What about when we were seven, and you told me that if I wished on a bottle my wish would come true?"
"We were seven!" he exclaimed. He stood up. "You were the one dumb enough to believe me!"
"Hey!" Ino jumped up and glared up at him. "Just because we were seven doesnít mean that it doesnít count. Itís proof that you lied to me!"
"What did you wish for when I handed you that bottle?" Shikamaru smirked.
She smiled sheepishly, "For Sasuke-kun to like me." He rolled his eyes. "Donít look at me like that! Like you said, we were seven years old!"
"Whatís the big deal about Sasuke anyway?" Shikamaru had always wondered about that.
Ino snorted. "Why do you care?"
He was getting flustered, "I donít know! Can you just tell me why?"
She grinned evilly, "Okay. Itís because heís really, really, really cute. And very cool. Heís just a very mysterious guy, and that attracts girls."
"Does it bother you at all that he tried to betray the village four years ago?" he almost couldnít believe what he was hearing.
"Yeah. But for some reason that never stopped me from liking him. Itís stupid," Ino smiled sadly. Then she gazed up at him. "So why do you care?"
"I already said I donít know," Shikamaru blushed a little, but kept eye contact. She was pretty tall for a girl, he had to admit. But it was unnerving to have her standing inches from him, just staring at him. "Dammit....Ino!"
She grinned, "What? Whatíd I do?"
He gave up at stared at the ceiling. "I donít know! I donít care! I just...I donít know!"
"Shikamaru, calm down. You donít need to get so upset," she touched his arm gently. "Iím sorry for making you so angry."
"Arg..." he really didnít know what was bothering him about Ino. This was so troublesome. Why did he get involved in the first place? He took a deep breath and took Inoís hand off him arm. After looking into her light blue eyes for a moment, he pulled her towards him and hugged her, resting his head on her pale blond hair.
Ino stiffened a little. She hadnít been expecting that. Then again, she was never sure what to expect from Shikamaru. "Um...Shikamaru...what are you doing?"
"I donít know. Iím trying to figure that out myself..." he replied. He sighed and released her from the hug. He was still holding her hand. He let go hastily. "Sorry." He sat down, his face bright red.
Ino sat down next to him and smiled a little. "Itís okay. Iím just wondering whatís going on in that head of yours. But I can never tell."
The next thing Shikamaru did was completely on impulse. He turned and kissed her full on the mouth. When he broke apart from her, both of them blushed. Shikamaru stood up and grabbed his jacket. He started heading towards the door. Ino was still sitting in shock, blinking. ĎThat was nice...í she thought. ĎUnexpected...But nice...í
Shikamaru was already in the kitchen. What the heck was wrong with him? Why had he kissed Ino? Unless...He was in love with Ino...He slowed down.
"Nara Shikamaru!" Ino yelled. "You get your ass back here right now!" She was standing in the kitchen doorway, glaring at him.
ĎSoooo troublesome...í he thought before sighing and turning around.
"Why did you kiss me?" she asked outright.
"Because I do love you. And I think I have for a very long time," he smirked. "And I couldnít bear to think that you had never been kissed." He opened the door and left, leaving Ino standing in her kitchen, completely flabbergasted.
When he got home his mother yelled at him for being so late. That was completely ordinary. His dad was away on a mission, so it was just the two of them at home that night. Shikamaru tended to tune his mother out when she was yelling at him, and today that was particularly easy to do. There were too many things distracting him in his head. Like what he had said to Ino.
He was staring out the window as she was lecturing, and he noticed that it was starting to rain. That was a shame. He had been planning on watching the clouds. ĎOh well...í he thought. ĎThereíll be other days.í Vaguely, he heard a knock at the door. His mother had gone to answer the door.
"Shikamaru," his mother called. "You have a visitor."
Reluctantly, he rose from his seat and went over to the door. His mother left the entrance hall and left Shikamaru staring at Ino. "Whatíre you doing here?" he asked.
"Iíve been thinking about what you said," Ino said simply. "You wanna go for a walk?"
"In the rain?" he asked.
"Itís not raining very hard. Come on," Ino pulled on his arm, urging him to go with her. "Itís my turn to take you somewhere."
"Mom, Iíll be back in a while," Shikamaru allowed Ino to pull him out the door.
"Itís kind of funny," Ino laughed as they walked down the street in the rain. "All this stuff started because of some water..."
"I thought it started because your mom was talking to you," Shikamaru replied. He was staring up into the gray, overcast sky.
"Oh shut up. You know what I mean," Ino rolled her eyes.
"So what is it you want to talk about?" Shikamaru wasnít really wondering. But he wanted her to bring it up. It was a little cold walking in the rain.
"What you said to me," Ino looked up into Shikamaruís green-gray eyes. "Did you really mean that?"
His shoulders slumped. This was really hard for him. He wasnít used to talking about his feelings. "Of course I did," he said hoarsely.
The rain started to fall harder and Shikamaru grabbed Inoís hand and ran to the first place that provided protection from the rain, which was Ichiraku Ramen stand, where it was not only dry, but also warm. Ino was laughing. Shikamaru couldnít help smiling a little. Their clothes were soaked, and Inoís hair was plastered to her head. Even Shikamaruís unruly hair was flattened by the rain.
"Youíre a chicken!" Ino cried, and laughed as she ran out of the ramen stand. Shikamaru, left with no real choice, ran after her back into the pelting rain.
He followed her all through the village, back up to his bench. She was standing under the small roof over it. She stuck her tongue out at him as he joined her and sat down. "You are the most troublesome woman in the world."
"Yeah, I know," she smiled. "But really I just didnít want to talk in front of the ramen people. That would have been kind of awkward. Here is much better."
"To talk about what? How many times are you going to make me say that I love you?" Shikamaru was thoroughly annoyed.
"I donít know," Ino shut her eyes and wiped some of the water off her face. "But I wanted to tell you that I love you too." She cocked her head to the side and looked at him, smiling. "Thatís what I wanted to tell you."
Shikamaru smirked. "I guess thatís that, right?"
"Not quite," Ino sat down and kissed him. She leaned her head on Shikamaruís chest. "We still need to get Sakura away from Sasuke."
"Ugh..." Shikamaru rolled his eyes. He wrapped an arm around Inoís shoulders and kissed the top of her head. "Why? That would be so troublesome."
"Oh I know," Ino sat up straight again and smiled. "But I want Sakura to be as happy as I am right now. And the only way to do that is to hook her up with Naruto!"
Shikamaru groaned, "Why are you such a meddler?"
"Because I love to drive you crazy," she retorted. "You need to learn how to meddle anyway. Youíre already pretty good at it."
"What do you mean?" he let her go and looked at her in disbelief.
She grinned again, "Well, you did just spend an entire day meddling with my life. And I, for one, am happy with the results of your meddling."
"Yeah, but thatís us," Shikamaru was still not convinced. "Why mess with other peopleís lives?"
"Because you love me," she pouted. She gave him a tiny peck on the nose.
Shikamaru gave up. If there was one thing he had learned about Ino, it was that she never gave up on her stupid ideas. "Whatever," he muttered, wrapping his arms around her again. He started to kissing her, but stopped. "Youíre still the most troublesome woman in the world."
"Of course," Ino smiled. "And I know that you wouldnít have me any other way."
"Exactly," then he leaned over and kissed her