A/N: Inspired partially by Eavan Boland's poem "It's a Woman's World," oddly enough. ShikaAsuma one-sidedness and though it's not exactly a Greek tragedy, it sure as hell ain't no happily- ever-after fairy tale either.



"Zero At the Bone"



It was snowing. It was snowing, and Shikamaru was colder than he'd been in years.

Not physically speaking- Asuma's coat was wrapped around him, and he could still feel the teacher's body heat in it and smell the smoke- but in the bones of his soul. In that place, he was freezing.

He was in the junkyard, and everything was white. The rust, the sharp edges: all of it hidden. It was beautiful, but more dangerous that way. Shikamaru grimaced as he drew the obvious parallel.

Brilliant "super-genius with over 200 IQ"? If he was so smart, why had Asuma-sensei managed to trick him into taking that stupid IQ test to begin with?

But he'd always gotten stupid around Asuma-sensei then. Still did, sometimes. All that practice being around the man, though, and he'd hardly gotten any better about it. Still missed the obvious, still made childish mistakes, and then Asuma-sensei would just LOOK at him, his eyes tired. Look at him like he was thinking, "I know you're better than this."

Shikamaru had not asked to be a genius. He was no Lee, no Naruto, no one who worked very much or trained very hard. His ability was simply there, and improved itself without need for any training beyond doing things that he liked to do. He had no greater purpose to use it for like Neji or Sasuke, no dream to fulfill or responsibilities to take care of. It was just . . . there.

What do you do when you are brilliant but have no reason to BE so?

The sky was black and cloudless. Stars everywhere.

They weren't as nice as clouds, but they were mind-numbing in their own way. And mind-numbing was something he needed right now. All the time, really, because his brain would just not shut up.

When he was really focused, it was okay, because it all went in one straight, perfect line to the best solution. A thousand other lines would flicker over and through and above and beneath, but in the end, there would be only the one, braided together from the best parts of all the others.

Those moments were the ones where he didn't mind being a genius. Didn't mind being able to outthink every person he had ever met.

As much, anyway.

But in the back of his mind, he always hated it. Hated being able to pick apart other people's lives at a glance. To prove them wrong with one word.

Why didn't anyone ever do that to him? He secretly felt that he'd have been a hell of a lot better off if someone had done so years ago. Naruto did it for people all the time- for Neji, for Gaara. Would it have been so hard to say something that broke Shikamaru the same way somewhere in there?

He needed to be broken so he could make something better out of the pieces.

Only, no one had done that yet. So he was here in Asuma- sensei's coat that reeked of cigarettes and watching the stars like he knew the truth about them, his mouth smoky from the cold.

In that moment, Shikamaru knew that he looked like a stargazer, like a fire-eater- like someone who thought deep thoughts or did dangerous things- but really, what was he?

What was he?

He wasn't a real ninja. Not like the others. Not like Naruto who never broke his word or Lee who had something to prove. Not like any of them. Even Ten Ten had a reason to fight, something that she wanted to become. And Sakura had people that she wanted to protect, and Ino trained so she could be stronger than Sakura- and maybe that was a selfish thing or a stupid goal to outsiders, but that's only what a person who'd never lost a friend would say.

Sometimes you have to make them hate you, or you'll lose them completely.

Shikamaru really hated being outdone by girls. But really, who did he have to protect that couldn't protect themselves? He only stood in the background. Maybe his plans helped, but it was the other's abilities that usually carried them out. By himself, what use was he?

He needed them behind him, but he couldn't do anything to save them most of the time. He was a one-trick pony with a better- than-average mind and not much else going for him. Why would anyone believe in him? Why would anyone even WANT him?

You've really hit rock-bottom when you can't think of a single possible answer to that question.

Being clever is really not all that great. Shikamaru would rather be stupid and never know how terrible the world is. Stupid and close-minded and not in love with anyone.

Because if he were "normal" and couldn't see through everything, wouldn't he be happier? If he couldn't see where people hid their grief or the trick to making them happy. Because what is happiness worth if he tricks it out of someone?

Shikamaru pulls the coat tighter across his shoulders and recognizes the sharp scent of a freshly lit cigarette. Asuma- sensei is behind him.

"There you are."

"Imagine that," Shikamaru says dryly. Like Asuma-sensei could not have tracked him down a busy city street at rush hour.

Asuma-sensei is in love with Kurenai. Asuma-sensei is in love with Kurenai, and even if he weren't . . . even if he weren't, he would never be in love with . . .

Shikamaru hates being smart. Hates being above everyone else, especially people his own age.

Though right now he just hates being alive.



* ende *



. : i believe that i am the only person alive who feels this way : .