A/N: Challenge from Meagn, which I SO fucked up. Yeaaaah. .;; ShikaChou. Set post-butterfly pills, and if you don't know what the hell that means, then SPOILERS. Suggestions of boy fumbling (coughcoughsmex).

"Please and Thank You"

It's kind of strange, but Shikamaru knows Chouji's body better than he knows his own.

Or at least, he did.

But here and now, sitting in a cheap plastic chair and watching the other's chest rise and fall and rise and fall and . . .

Rise. Please rise.

Thank you.

Chouji's body is thinner now, rougher- he looks like craggy, broken rock where before he was smooth, water-polished stone. But this is a new form, awkward and not yet broken-in.

Shikamaru has heard of the changes induced by puberty, but this is really pushing it.

He wonders, though, as he watches (rise, fall; rise, fall . . .) Chouji lie in his hospital bed, if the other is still the same in certain ways. If his skin feels the same, if his body can move the same, if he will look at him the same when he awakens.

This Chouji is different. Shikamaru doubts that Chouji's mind had changed, but when (not if, not if) he awakens to this body he may not know it- how to use it, to fight in it, to feel it.

Shikamaru remembers . . . Shikamaru remembers a lot of things, but at the moment he is mostly thinking about what Chouji's hands used to feel like on his skin. They have always been comfortable together- touching, talking, whatever- and Shikamaru knows, in his skin where Chouji touched him, that they were not just friends.

He never thought to fully act on that before. Never realized that it mattered. They were together and he knew how they both felt, so he never saw the point in saying it.

Except now he wonders if Chouji knew too.

And if he didn't . . . if he didn't and he dies . . .

Rise. Fall. Rise. Fall.

Shikamaru's hands reach out, because they can, because no one else is here, and touch Chouji. Face and chest and stomach and it all feels unfamiliar, it's like touching an entirely different person. Muscle and sinew and bone and almost no fat at all beneath this skin- an unhealthy lack of it, in fact.

Rise.

Shikamaru's fingers slide over Chouji's neck.

Fall.

Down to his collarbone.

Rise.

And Shikamaru remembers biting down there, remembers the low hiss he himself had made as Chouji's fingers had pushed inside his waistband and wrapped around him. And it should have been stranger, that a hand other than his own was touching him there, but it was Chouji. So it wasn't. But it felt better that way anyway.

But new fingers now, and if Chouji touched him now it might very well BE strange, might be as if it was a stranger next to him.

Even his voice, Shikamaru thinks, must have changed. Different body type. Different echo.

He wants to know. He wants Chouji to wake up so he can touch him and get a response, find out if Chouji is at least himself on the inside. Because he's feeling awfully stupid for a genius and losing his more-than best friend this way would just be stupid.

But instead he is sitting here and can only watch.

Rise.

Fall.

Rise.

Fall.

. . .

Please.

Thank you.

ende

. : up and down and inside of you : .