Disclaimer: I own not Naruto.
Thanks so much to b-chan1 -- you inspired me with your story "A Working Knot." This one's for you!
And They Say Chivalry Is Dead...
Chapter 1: Blunt Objects and the Back of a Head
Shikamaru was playing chess, not for the first time, with Chouji. Chouji was not a very good player, Shikamaru had to admit, and he had told his friend this, but Chouji refused to stop playing, claiming that playing with someone as smart as Shikamaru helped him improve.
Shikamaru had just made his last move about ten minutes ago, and Chouji was still sitting, hunched over the board, scrutinizing every single piece, every single detail. Shikamaru flopped over on his back and decided to watch the clouds. This would, undoubtedly, take some time.
"Aha!" Chouji declared triumphantly, moving one of his pieces. "Your turn, Shikamaru!"
Oh, all right. Shikamaru reluctantly sat up, glanced at the board, and moved one of his pieces.
"What?!" exclaimed Chouji. He proceeded to mutter many, many things under his breath as he turned his head this way and that, searching for some kind of move.
This wasn't new, not at all. It was Sunday, so it was pretty much the only day they didn't have some kind of training exercise to do with Asuma. Sundays, he reflected, were the only days he could sit around and just hang out with Chouji like this, without having Ino there, bossing them around.
He sighed. Although he had only become a ninja just so his life would become more "interesting," his life had also become more troublesome.
There were many things in his life that were troublesome, he realized. There was being a ninja. There was the training involved with being a ninja. There was the responsibility involved with being a ninja. There was the three-man group involved with being a ninja. There was the girl that was involved in his group which was involved with being a ninja. There was the girl who always bossed him around who was in his group which was involved with being a ninja. There was that girl who --
Oh. It always came back to her, didn't it?
Sheesh. That was certainly troublesome.
"What are you thinking about, Shikamaru?" Chouji blinked curiously at his best friend, who had been a little too quiet lately. He wasn't really much of a talker as it was, but he was oddly sighing every other minute. Shikamaru wasn't much of a sigher, not unless he had a problem.
"Troublesome things," was the reply.
Shikamaru's mind had always been too complex for Chouji, but that didn't stop him from trying to understand, at least. So Shikamaru was being troubled by troublesome things? That didn't exactly narrow things down. Shikamaru found everything troublesome.
"What kind of troublesome things?" Chouji never did comprehend the things that were troublesome to Shikamaru. Right now, the most troublesome thing on his mind was trying not to get beaten by Shikamaru yet again in this latest game of chess, which they'd started playing every Sunday. The score? Shikamaru, sixty-three. Chouji, zero.
Shikamaru sighed. "Chouji, d'you ever feel like things are just too troublesome?"
Chouji blinked. It seemed like Shikamaru was in a depressed kind of mood.
"Well, sometimes," he replied truthfully. "See, I was at Ichiraku yesterday, and I couldn't decide if I wanted pork ramen or beef ramen, and I really wanted both, but I could only have one because I didn't have enough money, and so --"
Shikamaru tuned him out. It wasn't anything rude; there was just a limit to how long you could listen to your best friend's troubles with choosing ramen flavors.
" -- well, in the end, I chose beef." Shikamaru noticed, from the corner of his eye, that Chouji's hand lingered curiously near his knight. He smirked inwardly, and decided to let it pass, just this once.
Times like these, he decided, were really quite nice. Nice, and quiet. And plus, he had a good view of the clouds from where he sat. And, he didn't have to deal with a certain girl --
"Hey, Chouji! Shikamaru!"
That piercing shriek.
That bossy tone.
...without a doubt...
Okay, Shikamaru did not feel like being harassed by Ino right now. He wanted to play chess with Chouji, lie back, relax and look at the clouds, and maybe take a nap later. Oh, and eat something, too. But Ino wasn't part of his daily schedule.
"Crap!" He cursed. "Chouji, hurry. Maybe we can still --"
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Nowhere," he grumbled. "At least, not anymore."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
Ugh! Couldn't she leave him alone on his one day of peace?!
It was no secret that Ino sometimes bothered him. Usually, he found a way to deal with it. Whether it meant tuning her out or humoring her and doing whatever it was she asked him to do, he dealt with it. But today -- well, he didn't know exactly why, but he just didn't feel like dealing with her.
With his shrewd mind, he quickly came up with a plan. He sized up the chess pieces, and decided that his king piece was the largest and heaviest of them all. He took out a kunai which had been blunted with use, a piece of string, and knotted the chess piece tightly to the kunai. The extra weight ought to make it travel further, he decided. Squinting his eyes shut, he threw it backwards with as much strength as he could muster. He heard a hollow thud and then another, louder sound. "Hey, Ino? Could you get that --" He opened his eyes and saw Chouji's astonished expression.
"What?" he asked. Chouji looked like he had seen a laughing Sasuke. Which, he hadn't.
Wordlessly, Chouji pointed.
Shikamaru warily turned around.
The chess piece hadn't landed on the ground.
It had landed on Ino's head.
There was a decidedly nasty bump on the back of Ino's head. Shikamaru untied the chess piece from the kunai, weighing them both in his hands. They weren't... They weren't that heavy...
"Look at the size of that bump!" Chouji whistled. He fingered it gingerly. "Wow. Should we -- I dunno, put something on it? Like ice?"
"I guess," Shikamaru said unsurely. "Do you have any?"
Chouji shook his head.
"Well, I don't have any, either.." Shikamaru frowned. "Do you think you can run down to the store and get some ice?"
"Run?" Chouji wrinkled his nose.
Shikamaru amusedly told him, "When Sleeping Beauty here wakes up, she's going to be pretty darned pissed off. You sure you wanna deal with something as troublesome as that?"
"Ah." Chouji nodded and got up. "Good call."
Shikamaru watched as his friend jogged slowly to the main part of town, munching on some of his chips. They had moved Ino to a more comfortable position against a tree trunk underneath the shade of leaves, and he sat next to her now, wincing at the size of the lump on her head. It was on the back of her head, too. And she was leaning against the trunk, applying more pressure to it. That wouldn't be good, he knew. So he shifted her position a little bit so that from the shoulder and below, she was leaning on him, and her head was free.
She smells good..
Shikamaru blinked. Girls all smelled the same, another part of him covered up. Like -- Like flowers -- and, and vanilla, and...and..
This train of thought was going somewhere extremely dangerous. He shook himself and put every single thought out of his head.
When Chouji returned with a pack of ice [after fifteen minutes], Ino still hadn't awakened, giving Shikamaru more cause to be worried. She slumbered peacefully, still leaning against him, a fact that Chouji did not let go so easily.
"Will you cut it out," grumbled Shikamaru, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'd shove her off, but -- but she might hit her head more. And I bet I'm in a lot of trouble already as it is."
"Uh-huh," said Chouji, smiling widely all the same.
"Stop it," Shikamaru warned, "or I'm taking your chips from you."
Chouji couldn't resist: "But you know, you two look really cute together."
Shikamaru gagged. Yes, he was thirteen now, meaning that he was well past the age of "girls have cooties" and "girls are icky" but him and Ino? No, no, nooo, he'd rather do -- do homework, and -- and take all his tests -- and go through all the troublesome things in life.
"Girls are the most troublesome things in the world," Shikamaru announced, "and this girl --" he nudged Ino with his shoulder, "is the most troublesome one ever made."
"So," Chouji said slowly, watching as Shikamaru growled and muttered things under his breath as he rearranged the ice pack so that it would stay on the bump of Ino's head, "you're saying that all girls are troublesome?"
"Yep." Shikamaru nodded, as if that settled everything.
"Then why do you let Ino walk all over you?" Chouji questioned.
"If I try to fight back," explained Shikamaru, "it would be much too troublesome. I figure I'll let her do what she wants, which is to be the boss, and humor her, and soon it'll be all over."
Chouji knew better, but he dropped the subject.
"How long has she been out?" he asked. The atmosphere had suddenly gotten tense. "Do you think she's all right?"
"An hour, I think." Shikamaru frowned. "I dunno. There's no blood. Besides, that kunai's the oldest one I have. It couldn't kill a butterfly. I don't know if it hit anything vital, though."
"That's a large bump," Chouji stated.
"I know," Shikamaru replied.
"Even if she wakes up," Chouji continued, "I don't think that bump's going to go away for a long time."
"...what's your point?"
"My point -- hey, is she coming to?"
Shikamaru looked down. The head of blonde hair was stirring, lifting itself blearily from his shoulder. He scoffed, rubbing at his shoulder which had gotten numb.
"You okay?" he finally asked. He figured he ought to show some compassion. He was, after all, the one responsible for this whole mess. How troublesome.
"Ooooh," she groaned in reply, rubbing at the lump. The ice pack had fallen to the grass. Shikamaru picked it up.
"Seriously," he said, "are you okay?"
"I -- I think so," she answered slowly, still blinking herself awake. "What happened?"
"Well," Shikamaru said, hoping that she wouldn't react too violently, "I kind of hit you. With my kunai. And my king," he added as an afterthought.
"Your king?" Finally, she turned around to face him, and Shikamaru almost fell back. This wasn't Ino. This wasn't Ino, at least, not the Ino that he personally knew. He'd heard that she'd had a nicer personality with some of the other people, but the only personality he saw was her bossy one. Her eyes were glazed and confused, and she wasn't scowling or glaring --
In fact, she looked almost nice.
"....yeah," he answered after a long stretch of silence.
"Wait!" She said suddenly, her eyes fully conscious. She took in her surroundings. She took in Chouji, who smiled nervously to the side. She took in Shikamaru, who watched her in bewilderment.
"Who are you people?!"
"Amnesia, I think," Shikamaru stated bluntly. "Hopefully it's only temporary."
"Yeah..." Chouji peered over at the girl who was still sitting under the tree, staring at the sky. "I think you should take her home."
"Are you kidding?!" Shikamaru grabbed his friend's scarf. "I'm not going there by myself!"
Chouji grinned sheepishly. "I have to do some extra chores," he told him. "And -- well, it was more or less your fault."
"I know that!" hissed Shikamaru. "But -- okay, I think, the biggest problem we have right now, is getting her memory back. Can't you help me, just for an hour? Maybe we'll get her memory back by then. Ugh, this is too troublesome."
"You think getting her memory back will be troublesome?" Chouji looked thoroughly amused. "I think you have an even bigger problem than that."
"Oh? What's that?"
Chouji's grin fell, and he shook his head, indicating for Shikamaru to come closer.
"Ino's dad," he whispered.
Shikamaru, quite literally, hit the floor. Although, in this case, it wasn't the floor -- it was the grass. He'd only met Ino's dad once, but...well, the experience was quite unforgettable.
Oh, boy. Could this day get any more troublesome?
-- tsuzuku: to be continued --
Hey, this story is turning out nicely, I think! At any rate, I'm pleased.