Well, here it is...the final chapter. Thanks so much for the reviews! They've been encouraging! I'm glad that I've finally got some closure on this...normally I have a really bad habit of not being able to finish stories...but not this time! I'm working on a story about Kakashi's past right now called Lionheart, so check it out:grins: I love you guys!

Chapter 8: Welcome Passengers, to the Hangover Express

The next day dawned as bright and sunny as the last, with the leaves falling, the birds twittering. From the looks of things, it was shaping up to be a beautiful day...well...for some people, at least. Ino in particular appreciated nature today more than usual, as she had the urge to fling open the curtains covering her bedroom window and let the sun shine in. That would bring the other occupant of her bed into wakefulness for sure. She grinned, remembering how she, along with Asuma and Kurenai, had had to support an intoxicated Shikamaru all the way home, since his motor skills were virtually out of service. Once there, he fell into bed and was asleep by the time his head hit the pillow, leaving Ino to get his costume off of him. Now, it was nearly eleven o'clock, and he still showed no signs of waking. She looked over at him, a lump underneath a mass of blankets and the comforter, and decided that the window did indeed need to be opened. Shika loves sunshine, Ino thought wickedly, he'd be crushed if he missed it by sleeping all day. Padding across the carpeted floor on bare feet, she went to the window and parted the curtains, the beam of light that greeted her seeming to target Shikamaru, who groaned.

"Time to wake up, sleepyhead!" Ino said, her voice far too cheerful than was necessary. She plopped herself on the bed, right on top of Shikamaru, and started prying the covers away from his face. "Look at how pretty it is outside!"

Shikamaru groaned again. He couldn't give a whit what the weather was outside, only that the incessant beam of light was too bright for comfort. He already wanted to blow his head off as it was, to be rid of the dizziness that made the room spin even while lying down, and the splitting pain that accompanied it whenever he opened his eyes. The light was not helping matters, and neither was Ino's demonic insistence that he get up. She was doing it on purpose, there was no denying that.

"Ino," he croaked, "please go away. I'm trying to die."

Ino giggled. "Oh, I don't think you'll die. You might wish you could, but a hangover isn't going to kill you." She got the covers off, and grinned at him as his face became visible. His eyes cracked open a bit, and pain assaulted him. He grimaced.

"I'll pretend then," he said, slapping his hand over his eyes.

Ino was not relenting. "You delighted everyone with your singing last night," she complemented him brightly. "I didn't think that some of the notes you hit even existed."

Shikamaru's face paled. He could vaguely remember running to the front of the Hall with Gaara, but everything beyond that point was a fuzzy haze. "Oh good lord," he muttered, his hand still covering his eyes. He didn't even want to think about the abuse he was going to receive from his fellow shinobi. That was the plan, he realized as he thought to himself, to get me drunk. And I fell for it. All because of that Sand idiot.

"I'm sure you'll be the talk of the village for weeks," Ino said, still not budging from her current position atop him. She was enjoying this little torture session more than she probably should, but at that rate, she didn't really care. He brought it on himself, after all.

"No more," Shikamaru begged, miserable. "Please, Ino. I know what I did was stupid. I admit it, okay? You can make fun of me all you want some other time, just not now."

That seemed to do the trick. He looked so pathetic that Ino didn't have the heart to keep going. Instead she smoothed his hair away from his forehead and kissed it, smiling. "Fair enough. You'll get more than your share of teasing from everyone else, anyway."

He moaned. "Don't remind me."

"You should probably get up and move around a bit later on," Ino said as she moved off of him, heading to the bathroom, but she paused before she reached the door. "Why don't you take a shower with me? The water will make you feel better." Shikamaru stared. There had to be a catch somewhere. He knew Ino. She was being far too nice all of a sudden. "I'll even wash you myself," she added.

"Who are you, and what have you done with my wife?"

Ino laughed and came back over to the bed, kneeling on the floor beside him. "You went to the party with me. I know that was an ordeal all on its own." Her fingers strayed to his face, and she smiled, all of the love that she felt for him reflected in her eyes. "I figure it's about time I do something nice for you, since you do so much for me as it is. I'm a very lucky girl to have you."

Shikamaru made a show of being the stoic, unemotional male on the outside, but on the inside, he was melting. Ino had the ability to turn him into a pile of mush just by looking at him a certain way, and that, coupled with her words, made him fall in love with her all over again. I really am my father, he thought as he allowed her to help him up and out of bed. It wasn't pleasant to stand, since his dizziness set the room spinning, but Ino held him up.

"You're so cute," she said in a babying voice, and giggled. Shikamaru shot her a sideways glance, eyebrow raised, but said nothing for fear of throwing up. He was positive that she wouldn't think he was cute if he ended up emptying his stomach on her. The shower did help ease the nausea, Ino's rhythmic caresses doing wonders. It was a wasted situation, however, since he wasn't feeling well enough to make the most of their close contact, a fact that made him more than a little irritated. And while Ino had given up on verbal torture, physical torment was still fair game. Her lithe, soapy hands lingered on the more sensitive parts of his body, sending waves of sensation shuddering through his frame. He nearly jumped when she moved lower, his eyes going wide.

"Ino! That...isn't...fair," he rallied enough to say through clenched teeth. On top of fighting off the urge to be sick, he had to combat his desire to spin around and pin his little blonde vixen of a wife against the wall and make her sorry for what she was doing to him. Of course, Ino continued her ministrations as if she hadn't heard his protests, knowing full well that her husband was not in any condition to retaliate.

"You won't be getting drunk again any time soon, now will you?" She whispered devilishly in his ear as her hand closed around the more prominent portion of his anatomy, Shikamaru reacting by drawing in a sharp breath.

"No," he gasped. "Definitley..." Ino's hand tightened, "not."

"That's what I thought," Ino replied, and released him, grinning. This time Shikamaru did turn around.

"You can't just leave it like that!" He protested, pointing to himself. "Do you have any idea how cruel that is?"

Ino stared at him innocently. "I thought that you were sick," she said, trying very hard not to laugh.

"It'll hurt more than my head if I just let it go," he burst out, exasperated. "Finish what you started!"

The battle lost, Ino laughed, closing the scant distance between them and wrapping her wet little arms around Shikamaru's neck. "Fine," she said, and kissed his pouting lips. "If you think you can handle it."

By the sounds that issued from the shower, it was obvious that Shikamaru could in fact handle it, and much more besides.

A few days later when the new missions began, Shikamaru was unable to escape the barrage of teasing that seemed to follow him around wherever he went. He endured it almost happily, however, grateful that he was not in Gaara's shoes. The red-haired Sand-nin received the most abuse out of any of them, especially from his spies. The rest of the gang was also subject to teasing, but none of them seemed particularly upset about it.

"It was worth it," Naruto claimed when asked. "I had a great time, even if I did make a fool of myself. I'm used to doing that, anyway."

Gai, however, was still a bit sore about his loss, fixing his rival with scathing looks while the two served Border duty with the Genins assigned to them. Kakashi, as usual, lounged on the grass with his book and paid no attention, glancing up every now and then to scan the surrounding area and make sure that nothing was happening. Finally Gai couldn't take any more of the silence.

"Just say it. I know that you want to." He spat.

Kakashi, his face still in his book, was unphased. "Say what, exactly?"

Gai's eyebrow twitched. Even now, Kakashi wasn't taking him seriously. "That you're better than me!"

"Come on, Gai. You know that isn't my style." Kakashi replied, turning the page. "We already established that I won, so why should I rub it in?"

It was true. Kakashi never bragged about his victories, preferring to keep his emotions to himself. Gai did not know what to say, and felt foolish for even bringing it up to begin with. "We're still rivals, Hatake," he said, diverting the subject away from his folly. "That'll never change, so don't go thinking that you can let your guard down."

Kakashi smiled beneath his mask. "Not until I'm six feet under," he said, looking over at Gai briefly before returning to his book. Gai could not hold back his own smile, and crossed his arms over his chest.

"That's the way it should be."

FINISHED! WAHOOOO:dancing like a monkey: YAY! Again, thank you guys so much for reading! You all rock!