bLove me, Love me not/b

Warning: Major OOC-ness

Pairing: ShikaIno

Nara Shikamaru lay under a tree, arms folded comfortably behind his head. As he stared up at the sky, he thought about his life, people, events.

His thoughts wandered inadvertently to his teammate and crush, Yamanaka Ino, and in response, his cheeks turned a shy shade of pink. 'How troublesome,' he muttered without much conviction. He thought about her blonde hair, bunned up neatly behind her head and longed to let it run through his fingers.

He ached to touch her soft, fair skin and caress her cheek. He didn't have to worry about having her in his arms; he often had to take care of her body whenever she performed Shintenshin no Jutsu, and her mind was somewhere else.

Shikamaru sat up abruptly as a rather unpleasant thought crossed his mind- Uchiha Sasuke, #1 Rookie and probably the most popular guy with the ladies. Even Ino and the level-headed Sakura couldn't resist his charm and were hopelessly in love with him.

Shikamaru thought about his appearance-small eyes, a downturned mouth, poor fashion sense, earrings, and a stiff bunch of hair tied up at the top of his head. Shaking his head sadly, he knew that he was no match for Sasuke, who was from an advanced bloodline and consequently, possessed the intriguing Sharingan. What Shikamaru did possess, was an incredibly high IQ that was well above 200, according to Asuma-sensei's estimate.

His gift of intelligence from Kami-sama came with a hefty price though, as it made him seem to have a rather cynical and bored air about him. This repelled girls, and Ino too seemed to have a rather profound dislike for him.

Sighing, Shikamaru lay down once more, crossed his legs, and resumed his daydreaming while staring at the sky through the gaps between the leaves.

*****

Yamanaka Ino leaned against the counter of the flower shop business owned by her family. It was currently the low season for business, for Valentine's Day had long passed. Of course, there would be the occasional male who would come in and order a bouquet of roses for his crush, girlfriend or mother. But otherwise, business at the shop was rather slow- moving, so more flowers wilted than they were sold.

Sighing, Ino walked over to the shelf where the red roses were and picked one out. Fingering the silky and delicate petals gingerly, Ino began to wonder what Sasuke-kun thought of her. Did he find her pretty? Smart? Impressive? Or was she just another figure on the street?

However much she liked Sasuke (for his looks and cool attitude), she realised that they could never be together. For one, she had many rivals waiting for the first chance to pounce on the opportunity to impress Sasuke- kun. Secondly, Sakura was on his team, meaning that she could spend more time with him and hence stood a greater chance in winning his heart.

Sighing once more with resignation, Ino undid the cloth that kept her lustrous blonde hair in a bun. Her soft hair rippled like a wave and settled like a fair mist around her shoulders. She stroked her hair absently, pondering her future while staring hard at the red rose she had placed on the counter moments ago.

She picked the rose up, careful not to get pricked by its thorns and began to stroke the petals. Suddenly stricken by a foolish thought, Ino started plucking the petals off the rose, which was in full bloom.

'He loves me. he loves me not. he loves me. he loves me not. he loves me... he loves -'

Ino whirled around in surprise, having sensed a presence behind her.

'Oh, it's you,' she said, almost in disgust, as she found herself face to face with Shikamaru. She then busied herself, clearing the petals that she had plucked off earlier, careful to avoid Shikamaru's eyes.

She found that he was behaving rather queerly in her presence: fidgeting and staring at her as if in a trance. Under normal circumstance, as far as she could remember, he would simply ignore every thing around him and calmly stare at the sky. Or the clouds. Or whatever in the sky that caught his fancy.

Ino felt his gaze bore into the back of her head, and she shivered involuntarily. What was he thinking? She stole a glance at him from the corner of her eye and noted that his face was as unreadable as a mask, though he was watching her every move.

Just as she was wondering what he was doing in a flower shop, he spoke suddenly in his signature drawl,' So-what were you doing just now?'

Embarrassed by the question, Ino spun around to face Shikamaru, her cheeks pink. To him, she looked like an angel from heaven in that very instant-a surprised look gracing her cherubic face, and her fair hair formed a halo that framed her countenance. He barely heard her stammered replies to his question.

Shikamaru felt his cheeks grow hot and knew he was blushing. He cursed himself inwardly for letting his emotions be displayed like an advertisement on his countenance that screamed,' I like Ino!'

Fortunately for him, Ino, dense as ever, failed to comprehend this. She cocked her head to once side and stared at him questioningly. This made Shikamaru blush even more, and without another word, be bolted out of the shop, leaving a very bewildered Ino behind.

Barely minutes later, Shikamaru burst into the shop again, his face red. 'Ino, I'd. I'd like to buy a dozen red roses.'

'Why, yes, of course.' Ino smiled graciously and proceeded to wrap the roses in glossy paper. 'By the way, who's it for?'

Shikamaru did not reply but instead gave Ino a very badly smudged note in worse handwriting. It read:

iIno-chan, Please meet me at the park bench near the beech tree at the edge of the woods at 6 tonight. Love, Your admirer /i

By the time Ino had finished deciphering the note, Shikamaru was gone. But he had left the money on the counter. Ino smiled, although she was a little puzzled. Why would Shikamaru, a messenger, be so nervous?

Nevertheless, Ino forgot this conveniently enough and went about preparing for her meeting with her admirer that night.

Although she did hope that her admirer was Sasuke, but deep within her heart, she had an inkling that it could possibly be the nervous messenger.

*****

Ino ran a comb through her lustrous hair, and thought about recent events. Her thoughts wandered back to what happened that afternoon-Shikamaru's uncharacteristic nervousness, and his unusual behaviour.

Somehow, Ino felt that his behaviour had something to do with the note. iPerhaps he's more than a messenger. It sure seems that he likes me, judging from his behaviour. /i

Ino then went on to ponder what Shikamaru meant to her. Was he just a teammate, a friend, or was he more than that?

Sure, he was always afraid of getting sucked into a 'troublesome whirlpool', but he was a decent guy, always there for his teammates. Ino giggled, as she thought of Shikamaru's somewhat ridiculous life plan: Marry an average looking woman, have two kids, the elder a girl, and the younger a boy. When his daughter had gotten herself married off, and his son was able to make a living, he would retire from the job of being a ninja.

Ino stared at herself in the mirror, and decided that she wasn't quite the gorgeous beauty, but was at least pleasant-looking with a body to flaunt. As she stared at the modest collection of clothes in her wardrobe, Ino wondered why Shikamaru liked her. She wasn't really an outstanding ninja, and she wasn't as smart as Sakura. In fact, there were many other girls out there who were smarter, prettier and better at her. Why her?

She thought about Shikamaru again, about his character, since he hadn't much looks to flaunt. He usually had a rather bored air about him, since he was so smart anyway. From the experiences she had with him during their missions, she decided that he was a brave and trustworthy person who would risk his life to save his teammates.

She remembered the examination Asuma-sensei set for them after they had graduated from the Ninja Academy. Three people had to work as a team in order to obtain two bells from him, and as a team, they succeeded. They relied heavily on Shikamaru's brilliant strategy, which Asuma was no match for.

Ino blushed as she remembered the time during the exam when she nearly fell into the river, and Shikamaru saved her just in time because he knew she couldn't swim.

Of course, Ino knew that perhaps that he saved her as an act of goodwill and not because he liked or anything. But something told her that perhaps being together with Shikamaru could be quite possible and even enjoyable.

She recalled all the times when they had argued with one another about trivialities, and realised that she had actually enjoyed doing so. In fact, a day without arguing with Shikamaru seemed incomplete to her, and it was only then that he had become an integral part of her life.

Ino was still rather confused as to how she felt about Shikamaru. True, she did care about him, but was her concern for him from the point of view of a teammate or was it more than just that?

*****

Shikamaru went to the agreed spot nearly an hour before time. He was dressed immaculately, by his standards, in smart casual attire. Beside him on the bench was the bouquet of flowers he had purchased earlier.

He smacked his forehead hard, disgusted at his own stupidity. How could he buy flowers from a girl and then give them back to her as a present? How dumb of him! And here he was trying to impress the girl of his dreams.

He was just about to give up waiting at half past six when he caught a whiff of a rather distinctive scent that he'd know anywhere. iIno-chan! She has come! /i

He was just about to stand up to offer his greetings to Ino when his breath stopped. She was dressed rather provocatively in a skintight turtleneck that bared her belly button playfully, and a pair of white shorts that hugged her shapely thighs.

Shikamaru felt his face heat up again, and Ino winked at him cheekily. She walked up to him and plonked herself comfortably on the bench. 'Hi,' she whispered.

'Uh. uh. hello.' Shikamaru stammered nervously, his cheeks a shy shade of pink. He felt well, a little confined in the crotch area of his Bermudas as he let his eyes run up and down her slender legs. Ino giggled girlishly as she noticed Shikamaru's discomfort. iHow unlike him! He's usually so calm and nonchalant./i

She noted that he was twiddling his thumbs nervously.

Then almost as if he had been reminded to do so, Shikamaru whipped the red blossoms out from behind him. As he handed them to her, she squealed in delight.

Shikamaru stared at her oddly. She seemed rather different from that afternoon, somehow. Normally, she would probably have snatched the flowers from him and then thrown a caustic remark at him. However, now, she was utterly delighted to see the flowers although she knew all too well that they were from her own backyard.

Something wasn't quite the same as before, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Still, he decided to go ahead with his confession.

Ino was gushing about how beautiful the sunset was when Shikamaru interrupted her softly,' Ino-chan.'

Surprised, she stopped and listened, completely taken in by the sincerity in his voice.

Mustering all his courage, Shikamaru managed to get the confession past his lips. 'I. I. actually. I really like you.'

Much to his surprise, Ino blushed. A pregnant pause ensued before she spoke quietly in almost a whisper,' Actually, I think you're cute. And. I realised this afternoon. that I like you too.'

Shikamaru was caught completely off guard by her startling confession. But he was too happy to care.

He inched towards Ino carefully until they were sitting together, shoulders touching. Ino rested her head on Shikamaru's shoulder and sighed contentedly as they both watched the sun set, staining the sky a beautiful vermillion.

Meanwhile, Uchiha Sasuke peered out from behind a tree in the distance, and felt a small pang of pain at the loss of yet another one of his fangirls.

-End

A/n: Hi. This is my first Naruto fic. ^^ Hope you all enjoyed reading it. (Sorry for the lame title XD) I know Shikamaru and Ino are rather OOC, but I hope you didn't find it totally uncharacteristic of them. ^^ Oh yes, this fic will have no sequel. Hehheh. Ja for now (and I hope to write more ASAP) ^^