Sheesh..I must have been bitten by the ShikaIno bug, because the ideas are coming faster than I can write them! I was walking my dog when the idea for this little story came to mind, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would only work in chaper form...in case you couldn't tell, I am a big fan of oneshots, but hell, I figure I need to expand my horizons a bit, eh? Please let me know what you think...pwease pwease? Okay, enough babble...on with the fic!
Chapter 1: Seeing Green
The days were growing colder now that fall was here, leaves on the trees changing brilliant shades of red and orange and yellow before falling one by one to the ground. Rosy-faced children ran through the streets, laughing and jumping in the piles of leaves, scattering them to and fro. Shikamaru loved to take lazy strolls outside during the fall, admiring the subtle beauty as the brisk wind whipped at his face. Before he and Ino had married he usually walked alone, but now that they were happily settled, she had taken to accompanying him on these little excursions, which drastically changed his outlook. Everything seemed so much more alive with her tiny hand laced through his, all the sights, sounds, and smells magnified tenfold.
Married life, he decided, suited him. The fits of grumpiness that he was prone to started appearing at less frequent intervals, and, in recent months, he found that his temperament was actually becoming...cheerful. It was hard not to be, having Ino as his wife. A voice in the back of his head told him the reason for his immaculate attitude adjustment was that he was growing as soft as his father, but Shikamaru deliberately tuned it out. Dwelling on such a fact would only cause unneeded stress.
On this particular day, the sun was shining, the leaves falling, and the children playing, but there was definitely something ominous in the air. Ino had declined his invitation to walk with him yet again, claiming that she had something she needed to get done. She had been acting very mysterious the past few weeks, closing herself up in the study next to their bedroom and not emerging again for hours. Come to think of it, whenever he asked her about what she was doing, she always brushed his inquiries aside and deftly changed the subject. Shikamaru's brow furrowed. His curiosity was positively brimming, and he found that he couldn't enjoy the walk any longer because of it. Doubling back in the direction of his house, Shikamaru decided that it was time to get to the bottom of all this secrecy.
He felt very much like a snoop when he walked through his front door, taking extra care to be sure that his footsteps barely whispered across the floor. If Ino even had the vaguest hint that he was there, then this self- appointed 'mission' would be over before it even began. Poking his head around the corner where the stairs met the hallway, he scanned the area. It was clear. On tiptoe, he proceeded to make his way slowly but steadily down the hall. He decided to try the lower level of the house first before checking the study, in case she had decided upon a change of scenery. There was no sign of her, so returned to the stairs, taking them two at a time. As he had suspected, the door to the study was closed. Pressing his ear against the door, he heard a faint humming noise that would most likely be produced by a sewing machine.
The sewing machine was a recent addition to their household appliances, Ino having convinced Shikamaru that it was practical to have one, since his profession left his clothing in a constant state of disrepair. She delighted in mending things for him; whenever her eyes took on a dreamy cast, he knew that as an indication that she was about to rifle through his dresser in search of anything that needed fixing. However, he did not have so large a wardrobe that Ino would need to spend countless hours laboring over it, and so he tossed the idea that that was what she was doing. No, she was up to something far more complicated, he was sure. Before he could ponder the subject further, the door opened, and he found his support was no longer there. Ino stepped gracefully out of the way when Shikamaru tumbled headfirst into the room, her perfectly arched eyebrows raised.
"Playing detective, eh?" Ino said, suppressed mirth evident in her face. "You're not very good at it, I'm afraid." Truth be told, Ino had no idea that he had been standing there, opening the door by chance to go and get something to eat, but there was no reason for him to know that.
"Oof," was all he could reply, to the sound of Ino's vibrant laughter. Instead of helping him up like a good wife would have, she stepped over him and returned to her seat by a folding-table that she'd set up to hold the sewing machine, smiling sweetly as she did so. "Did you have a nice walk?" She asked, turning the machine on and feeding a piece of hunter green material through it, her foot on the pedal that controlled the speed of the needle.
Shikamaru, now more than a little irritated, peeled himself off of the ground and sat cross-legged, staring moodily up at her. She could have at least made some show of scolding him for prying into her secret, but instead she was the picture of contentment. I probably could have come in here at any time, and she wouldn't have made a fuss, he thought, making him feel all the more surly about the whole thing. She had just taken all the fun out of it. "No. As a matter of fact, I didn't."
"Be nice," she chided absently, biting her lip in concentration as the needle weaved in and out of the fabric.
For some reason, that made him even more infuriated. "That's all the reaction I get? Be nice?"
"You were bound to find out sooner or later," she replied, and a piece of hair fell in her face, which she blew aside. "Now shoo. You'll only distract me."
Shoo? He was most definitely not going to shoo! "What is that?" He asked, motioning to the shapeless green mass she was working with.
"Your costume, of course," she said, looking down at him with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
Shikamaru felt the weight of impending doom settle on his chest. He did not like the sound of that. At all.
"Well, yes, silly. You can't go to the masquerade without a costume."
At the word masquerade all the color drained from Shikamaru's face. In other words, they were going to a fancy party. In public. Which meant that there would be dancing, and socializing, and ample opportunities for Shikamaru to make a complete idiot out of himself. "And when, exactly, were you planning on telling me about this?" He said very calmly, and was proud of himself for that.
"Oh, I would have gotten around to it eventually, dear."
Shikamaru blinked, shuddering to think of what her definition of eventually was. That still left this business of the green nightmare that was supposed to be a costume.
"It's a tunic, Shika. It'll look much better when I'm finished with it, I promise."
That was all very well and good, but it still didn't answer the real question. He had no idea what he was supposed to be going as.
"You mean, I never told you? How careless of me," she said, eyes large, trying very hard to keep the laugher from her voice. "I am going to be a princess, which means that you are going to be—"
"A prince," he finished dejectedly, having correctly interpreted the direction she was going.
"Why the long face?" Ino turned off the machine and knelt in front of him. "A princess has to have her prince, after all." She grinned, patted his head as if he were a dog, and produced a roll of measuring tape seemingly out of thin air. "Now that you're here, you may as well let me measure you. I think I have the basics down, but it can't hurt to be sure."
Shikamaru sighed one of his characteristic sighs, utterly defeated. He was trapped in a corner, and even his cleverness couldn't get him out of it.