AN- first Naruto fic! While I wish it was a spoofy, funny fic... I couldn't think of anything to do. Drat. But then I got the idea for this fic and I thought "why not? I'll do it". And thus, this story was born...

If there are inconsistencies, so sorry- I haven't watched this part of the anime in a while, nor have I read the manga recently, so... Yeah. Made the whole thing up, pretty much. Expect OOCness, but hopefully not too much- I did try to keep everyone mostly in-character.

Oh, and I own no one... which is ok, because the ones I'd want to own aren't going to make an appearance in this fic (though I do like Shikamaru immensely too)... sighs at this Ah Kakashi-sensei, one day I shall write a story telling of your greatness.... Or at the very least make an amusing KakaIru story ;;

Eh, rambling, sorry.. Anyway, please enjoy the fic, and leave a review when you're done!

As The Clouds Pass You By...

"I've signed you three up for the Chuunin exams."

Asuma put his cigar back in his mouth and took a long drag, all the while watching his pupils. The three had been finishing up lunch at the 'all-you-can-eat' barbeque restaurant. Choji was still munching on the remains of the meal, but he watched his teacher attentively. Ino stopped her primping to look up at her sensei, while Shikamaru lazily opened an eye. Asuma chewed on the cigar, then switched it to the other side of his mouth. Grinning, he took in the shocked expressions on the team before continuing.

"I know you've only been training under me for a short while, but you've all improved in these past few months. I've complete confidence that you'll all do fine, but" he held a finger to wag it at them, "you've got to train even harder if you want to pass the first time around. So, when we head over to the training grounds, I want you three to be thinking about how you can improve in the time you've got before the exams take place."

Ino sat up, clearly excited at the prospect.

"Asuma-sensei, when will we be tested? Do we have time to learn new techniques? Do you really think we have a chance to pass? Will team 7 be tested too? Oooh, I've got to train harder so I can impress Sasuke-kun with my abilities! Big-forehead won't have a chance after I've shown Sasuke-kun my incredible sex appeal!! " Asuma felt his smile drop as the girl continued ranting about the Uchiha brat and how she was going to beat her rival, the Haruno girl. He looked to the other two, gauging their reactions. Choji, seeing his teacher's attention on him, smiled, pausing in his meal.

"That's fine with me. As long as you treat us to lunch afterwards!" Asuma let out a sigh at this, knowing his wallet would be considerably lighter after such a thing, but if it gave the boy some motivation to train harder... He nodded, and the boy gave a cheer before resuming to inhale his food. Asuma turned his attention to the last member of the group, only to find the other boy asleep again.

"Oi, Shikamaru! What do you have to say?" An eye opened and rolled over in his direction, quickly followed by the boy's familiar scowl.

"Eh, it's troublesome." Asuma closed his eyes, wondering if Shikamaru ever took an immediate liking to an idea not his own. Ino beat him to the punch, however, standing up angrily.

"What do you mean, 'troublesome'?? You've got to do it!! Choji is doing it, and you're going to too! We're a team, and we're going to do this together! Right, sensei?" Asuma scratched the back of his head, the other hand taking out the cigar.

"Well... technically no... you can stay a genin if you really want to, but most people at least take the test once. And while it's best if you go as a team... Well, you're the one who has to make the call on whether or not you want to take the test. In the end, it's an individual's choice."

Ino scowled at her teacher, who went back to nonchalantly smoking his cigar. The blonde turned back to face Shikamaru, but he was already standing, getting ready to go.

"I don't feel like it. You two do it, but count me out." Ino began to shout at him for being such an idiot as the boy began sauntering away, but a hand fell on her shoulder, and she looked up at her sensei. He smiled down at her, then moved his gaze to his other pupil's retreating form.

"Ino, you've got to let him make his own choice. It's important that he does what's best for him in the end. It's his choice whether or not he takes the test." The teacher's smile broadened to a grin, and he took out the cigar once more.

"Of course, he might be open to 'suggestion' as well. You two can do what you want. When you've given up trying to change his mind, meet me at training area 12. We'll go over things you can work on in the next few practices." With that, the teacher paid the bill and left, leaving the two remaining students with a wave of his hand. Ino, still angry with Shikamaru, turned on his best friend, ready to force Choji to join her cause. The boy spoke up before she could protest further.

"You can't make Shikamaru do anything he doesn't want to do, Ino-chan. Don't bother. He'll do what he wants. And before you ask, I'm not going to bug him. I'm with him in whatever his choice is." The boy calmly opened another bag of potato chips, then got up and made a mad dash out the door to avoid the wrath of Ino. Ino stood still, though if she was frozen in surprise at the boy's speed or just too ticked off to move, no one could tell. After waiting a few moments more to collect herself, she stormed off in the direction the lazy member of her team had gone off in.

The blonde's eyes shone with fury, and she muttered under her breath as she swept past the shops along the street. People were quick to get out of her way, wondering what had gotten the girl so livid. Those who knew her had only to listen to her rant to hear and comprehend her ire.

"Stupid no good lazy bum... 'Too troublesome', eh? I'll give you troublesome, you stupid lethargic rotten excuse of a ninja... Ohh, just you wait, you... I'll show you what's troublesome, I'll show you what's tiring! I'll show you.... "

Shikamaru, well on the other side of town (and thus safe- at the moment-from the wrath of Ino), sneezed.

Lazily, he brought up a finger to scrub at his nose, then resumed his lounging on the hill. Around him, the flowers gently swayed in the warm breeze, the pollen tickling his nose. Ignoring it, he inhaled deeply, then let out his breath as he closed his eyes and smiled. This was the life. Nice warm day, plenty of clouds to watch, nothing to get done-


...Ino, whining at him.... Sighing, he opened an eye as the sun's rays were blocked by the irate blonde standing above him. He squinted up at her as she scowled down, and he let out a small snort before closing his eye again.

"How troublesome..." he muttered under his breath. Unfortunately for him, Ino had better hearing then he gave her credit for, and she caught his statement. He shivered as the air suddenly grew several degrees colder.

"Shikamaru..." He flinched, and scooted several inches to the side to avoid any physical damage she might wish to inflict. However, Ino was rational enough to know that it would probably be more productive to remain calm and try to talk Shikamaru into joining the team in the exam. He liked logic, right? Well, she'd speak sensibly and argue her point eloquently, and then he'd have to see how stupid he was and then agree to take the exam. And if reason didn't work, well, taking control of his body and making him take a walk off a cliff was always a good second plan of action. Smiling at this, she sat down, much more composed. And Shikamaru, being the smart kid that he was, sensed the change in her demeanor and grew even more afraid.

"Ino, before you start, don't bother harassing me into changing my mind. I don't feel like taking the test. It's too troublesome. Besides, why do you care if I take it or not? It's not like it matters for you if I take the test or not. Go with Choji, and leave me alone." Ino shook her head, frowning in disgust at the boy laying beside her.

"Don't you have any ambition, Shikamaru? Why bother becoming a ninja at all if you're not going to try to get the highest rank you can? Don't tell me its too troublesome, or I might have to hurt you." He took her threat seriously, sighing in disgust as he raised himself to his elbows.

"The only reason I became a ninja in the first place was because I couldn't think of anything else to do. I mean, we do live in a ninja village, so my job opportunities were kinda limited. So, I don't really care if I become a great ninja or not, it's juts something I'll do because I have to do something. If I had my way, I'd stay outside and watch clouds all day." He smiled up at the cumuli billowing and expanding up above, losing interest in their conversation and laying back down. Ino, for her part, frowned harder, looking up to see what he was smiling about.

Clouds. That was all she saw, and there wasn't anything all that exciting about them. They were fluffy and white and tall, but they were just clouds. She'd seen others like them dozens of time before, and she couldn't imagine skipping practice for something as important as the Chuunin exam to come and watch a bunch of dumb clouds roll by. However, she needed something to try to understand what Shikamaru found so riveting in the heavens, so she plopped down beside him, resting her head in her arms.

Several moments of companionable silence passed, and Ino began to relax. While it wasn't a hobby she would pick up in the near future, laying around doing nothing would be a nice thing to do every so often. She smiled to herself as a particularly large and fluffy cloud passed by overhead, and pointed to it.

"Look, do you see that one?" Shikamaru made a sound of acknowledgment. She traced a path along the dips and shadows that outlined the cloud against the sky.

"It's a duck, see? There's the head, and there're the wings, and its feet over there." She looked over to see Shikamaru giving her a look that clearly said 'you're crazy'. She frowned at this, trying to figure out what his problem was. Maybe he thought it was more of a horse? If you looked at it the other way, it could kinda be seen as a camel or something four-legged, she guessed, but-

"It's a cloud, Ino. Water vapor. There's not a duck." She sat up in indignation, the calm that had settled over her broken.

"Why do you watch the clouds then, if you don't bother trying to see things in them? It's stupid, all you do is waste time doing absolutely nothing, and then you get cranky when people ask you to do something useful! Why are you so lazy? The clouds do more than you– at least they're going somewhere, doing something. You just lay there like a lump and expect things to happen for you! You're one of the smartest people in the village, but you're the biggest bum I've ever met! One day, you're going to wake up and wonder where your life has gone, and you'll realize that your stupid clouds have passed you by, along with everything else, because you were too lazy to try to make something of yourself!"

She got up to give him the full impact of her glare, although she was surprised when it was returned by the boy. Shikamaru had sat up again, crossing his arms and scowling up at her. It wasn't his usual scowl, she noticed. He seemed almost... hurt. She blinked, wondering why she suddenly felt so guilty. He deserved it for being such a lazy bum, and she was just trying to make him realize the error of his ways. He should be thanking her for caring so much! So caught up in her thoughts, she was startled by his answering question.

"Why do you care about becoming a Chuunin so much?"

She shot back her reply without thinking, so ingrained was the response in her mind:

"When I become a Chuunin, Sasuke-kun will notice my great sex appeal and then Ugly-Forehead will be defeated! Sasuke-kun will be mine, and then-"

"Don't be stupid." She looked down at him, livid that he'd dared interrupt her rant about what she was going to do after showing Sakura who was better. He propped himself up on his elbows, looking down the hill at the town below with a frown.

"Sasuke won't ever recognize you for being a great ninja. He won't recognize someone who's below him in both social status and skill, it's too troublesome for him. He's got more important things to think about than worrying about which girl who throws herself at him looks the best. Besides, he's not the type to notice a girl for looks, so you should give up primping just to impress someone who's not looking anyway."

She opened her mouth to retort something biting, but paused, then bit her lower lip, moving her gaze down to her shoes. Shikamaru had a point: Sasuke wasn't the type to watch a girl for her looks, and the Uchiha survivor was trying to get stronger so he could have his revenge, therefore he wouldn't be looking at something so frivolous as the newest dress she was wearing. She knew that the girls of the village dressed up for Sasuke hoping he would notice them, but half of the act was concerned with how a girl looked compared to the others. When you worked it all out, Sasuke wasn't the one they were dressing to impress, they were just trying to outdo each other on yet another level. This both angered and saddened her. Angered her in that she realized she'd been wasting her time, and saddened her because not only had it been a frivolous waste, it made her seem petty in hindsight.

She blushed, thinking about how she had just lectured Shikamaru on being stupid for doing something that did nothing productive. She wasn't any better than him, and the knowledge burned. She wanted to apologize, but her pride wouldn't let her admit that she was in the wrong. Besides, it was Shikamaru. He wouldn't care one way or the other if she did or not. It'd all be troublesome.

She sat brooding for several moments, however, Shikamaru had apparently sensed her change of mood. He snorted, leaning back to gaze up at the sky again.

"This is why people are so troublesome. They don't even realize the simplest things..." She frowned a little at that, however, he apparently hadn't finished speaking yet. He kept his gaze up to heaven, but his cheeks flushed a little as he continued.

"The kind of girl Sasuke would be into wouldn't be just about looks. He'd want her to be smart and witty, someone who could hold her own in a fight, but also sensible enough to know when to retreat. She'd need to be intelligent and able to think things through while keeping her head in a bad situation. She'd need to be kind and sweet, someone who could keep him company and take the good with the bad. Someone who would recognize him for who he was, and not who everyone believe him to be. Someone he could rely on and love, knowing that she needed him just as much as he needed her." He paused, and smirked. "Of course, it certainly wouldn't hurt her chances if she were pretty..."

He turned his head then, looking at a thunderhead building in the opposite direction of Ino. She mulled over his words, then crossed her arms, frowning. She didn't know what to say in response to that; when she spoke, it was low and to herself.

"But I'm ALL those things... So why doesn't he notice me?"

"Because he's an idiot", came the muttered reply.

Ino looked up, stunned to see Shikamaru holding out a hand to help her up. She stared at him, not sure if she'd heard him right. His face was slightly pink, but that might've been from the sun he'd gotten while laying around. She opened her mouth to ask him to repeat what he'd said, but he sniffed irritably, pulling back his hand and stuffing both into his back pockets in his usual comfortable slouch.

"Keh, you're so troublesome. I don't care if you angst or not, but you're going to get wet if you stay here." She blinked up at him, still not sure if she'd heard him right the first time, and not sure of how he'd changed subjects so quickly without her noticing.

"...What?" He gave a big sigh and hauled her to her feet, then released her and started walking.

"You don't watch the clouds for hours on end and learn nothing from them. It's going to start raining in about ten minutes, then it'll start thundering in about fifteen. Feh, it's so troublesome, explaining all this to you..." She glared, her voice regaining some of its usual forcefulness as she ran to catch up to him.

"Where do you think you're going? Shikamaru!" He looked at her over his shoulder, his usual scowl in place.

"Asuma-sensei said to meet him at training area 12." She stopped, not believing what she was hearing.

"What? Why? I thought you said..." He rolled his eyes at her and turned his gaze back to the path he was walking.

"We have to train if we don't want to make complete fools of ourselves at the exam. Besides, I don't feel like watching the clouds anymore. All the good ones to see have gotten swallowed up by rain clouds, so there's no point in hanging around here. It's too troublesome getting wet, because then I have to dry off and then change, then make sure I don't get sick..." He trailed off, quickening his pace as he felt the ire of Ino rising with each comment.

"One of these days, Shikamaru..." He smirked as she caught up to him, and they quickly made their way to the training building where their teacher and other fellow student awaited their arrival. Above, the clouds rumbled, then broke. A gentle rain began to fall, and Konohagure's citizens went indoors, going about their business inside, waiting for the clouds to pass by.


That was.... Completely not what I had intended to write. Where on earth did THAT come from? shrugs Ah well. I know the 'because he's an idiot' thing is overused, but it works here, right?

Let me know what you guys think! Please leave a review, if it's not too troublesome! And stay tuned for the spoofy KakaIru I mentioned before. I came up with something that's so wrong, it'll make you break a rib laughing. Or weep in the agony of the ideas the fic will create... Anyway, review please!!! SLS 5-30-04