It's been a while since I wrote Shika/Ino, and I wanted to get back into the groove, don't 'y know. They are my favorite couple, after all I hope you guys enjoy this!


Sleeper


Shikamaru lazed on the grass, the sun beating down on him as he stared up into the sky and watched the white, puffy clouds coast along. Usually, this activity helped him to clear his mind of annoying thoughts, but it wasn't working today. Nothing was working today.

"How troublesome," Shikamaru muttered, feeling a trifle surly. "I'm sore, my head hurts, and I have a mission tomorrow." He sighed. "This Chuunin business is too much work."

Of course, the clouds did not bother to answer him, and carried on with whatever it was that clouds do in their free time between rains. Shikamaru sighed again. It had been five years since he became a Chuunin, and he was receiving more attention now than ever before. The reputation of being a skilled tactician followed him around like a faithful dog would its master, erasing any chance he had of fading into the background and living a normal, ordinary life. Instead, he was thrust into the world of busy people, moving here and there without so much as a spare minute to breathe.

Naturally, Shikamaru was not taking it very well.

His mother teased him every day without fail when he stumped down the stairs to grab a quick bite before leaving, and his father often added his own sly remarks, which made things worse. The elder Nara was living the way Shikamaru wanted to, and he spared no expense to exploit that fact whenever possible in his son's presence.

The most irritating thing of all, however, was that today, the first day he'd had in weeks to loaf, his brain was being assaulted by thoughts of her: the blonde hair that would feel like silk if he were to touch it...the blue eyes that could mirror so many emotions at one time...the voice that could travel between painfully loud and ridiculously soft in a matter of seconds...

Ino had always been such a nuisance, even when she wasn't trying.

"Which explains why, out of all people, it just had to be you," Shikamaru stated, his grumpiness increasing. "All I wanted was to settle for a plain, sensible girl, and you're neither. You're loud, and bossy, and extremely high maintenance, and you'd only give me trouble."

The clouds still had nothing to say.

"Of course I can't get you out of my head," Shikamaru continued, trying to rationalize with himself. "You make it difficult for anyone to ignore you, the way you always carry on, acting like you know everything."

No response, yet again.

Though it required quite a bit of effort, Shikamaru sat up and crossed his arms over his chest. If the clouds were going to ignore him, then he would do the same.

"Oh bother. I don't have the energy to continue with this line of thinking. Ino's a menace. An attractive menace, yes, but still a menace, and that's all there is to it."

The thoughts did not go away, and Shikamaru was more than just a little annoyed. Once his head was in that place, however, even more thoughts tumbled in, and it was impossible to hold them off, at least, not until something else came along to distract him.

Shikamaru heard singing. It was faint at first, becoming gradually louder as he tuned his ears to it. The song was archaic, the language it was written in used long ago in some distant land; Shikamaru did not understand a word, but it only added to the beauty of the haunting melody. The singer was female, her voice clear and definite, a voice that could have easily belonged to an angel. As if some other force were commanding him, Shikamaru rose to his feet and followed the voice, coming to a dead stop when he reached a riverbed not far from the cluster of trees where he had been earlier.

Ino sat with her back to him on the banks of the river, her legs dangling over the side and her feet in the water. A basket of fresh picked lilies was at her side, and she held one of them in her hands as the song poured from her lips.

Shikamaru could do nothing but stand and stare at her, not quite believing that such beautiful sounds could come out of Ino's mouth. He felt a stirring in his heart then, a peculiar feeling that he had never experienced before, and it disturbed him. But, for whatever reason, he could not bring himself to leave. The song had weaved an intricate spell over him, and he was riveted to the spot.

A minute or two later, it was over, the notes fading out like a dying flame. Shikamaru remained where he was, reeling from what he had just experienced. Ino finally realized that she'd had an audience, and she glanced over her shoulder, a rosy blush on her cheeks.

"Shikamaru!" She exclaimed in surprise. "How long have you been there?"

His voice did not seem to want to work.

"Long enough," he managed to croak.

"Well you should have said something!" Ino snapped. "It's rude to just stand and stare at people!"

Oh my lord, she thought to herself, wanting to crawl under a rock and die. He must have heard the whole thing...

The only time that Ino ever sang was when she was alone, and judging from the look on Shikamaru's face, for good reason.

"Was I that bad?" She asked quietly, her eyes on the ground.

"Huh?" Shikamaru recovered enough to be confused. "What are you talking about?"

"I didn't think that anyone else was listening," Ino explained, still not looking up. "I wouldn't have opened my mouth if I knew you were there..."

When Shikamaru made the connection, he couldn't help himself: he started to laugh.

"Why are you laughing?" Ino demanded, miffed. "It's not funny!"

Shikamaru made his way over to the bank and sat next to her, wiping at the tears that streamed from his eyes. Ino glared at him and waited for an apology.

The dark haired Chuunin decided it would be beneficial to his health to give her one, so he did. "I'm sorry, Ino, really. I'm not laughing at you, I just..."

He received another glare. "It didn't seem that way to me."

"That was the most beautiful song I have ever heard in my life," Shikamaru said, cutting right to the chase. "And I mean it."

Whatever she had been expecting, that was certainly not it. Ino was rendered speechless for a few moments. She knew Shikamaru well enough to understand that he did not bestow compliments all that often, which only made it resonate louder in her ears.

"That's why I was laughing," he added.

"Oh," Ino mumbled, feeling rather silly.

"Where did you learn it?" Shikamaru asked after a few moments had passed. "I'm not familiar with that dialect."

"My grandfather used to sing it to me when I was little," Ino said, smiling at the memory. "It's been passed down through the generations. I'm still not sure what all the words mean, but I know that main idea is love transcending time." Her smile became sad. "It was Grandpa's favorite song."

Tentatively, Shikamaru reached out and covered Ino's tiny hand with his. He did not think that there were words for this situation.

Ino broke the silence. "I haven't seen you around in a while. Being a Chuunin is pretty hectic, huh?" She was teasing him, and he knew it.

"It's annoying," Shikamaru said. "I hardly have any time to myself anymore. And Asuma's already started bugging me about trying for Jounin, which I'd really rather not. That'd be even more work."

Ino giggled. "You're too lazy, you bum. Work is good for you. It builds character."

"Yeah, like you have a lot of room to talk, Ino," Shikamaru said sarcastically. "All you do is putter around in the shop with your flowers all day. That hardly constitutes as work."

"Why don't you sit in there and run the place? Then you can tell me what is and isn't work."

Shikamaru sighed. He didn't feel like arguing, so he allowed Ino to think that she'd won. "Whatever you say."

The blonde girl was much smarter than she appeared, and she knew what Shikamaru was doing, having played this game with him more than once in the past, though she did not mention that. Her attention was focused more on the warmth that was radiating from the hand still covering hers, and her heart started to beat a little faster. She'd had quite a bit of time to think about her feelings with Shikamaru away so often, and what she discovered baffled her.

My heart is changing.

"I missed you, Shika," she said, using the childhood nickname she'd given him long ago. "I've had no one to boss around but the flowers, and they're boring."

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. "So that's all I am, eh? An object you can take your ego out on? How wonderful."

"Of course," Ino replied impishly. "And you've never made any move to stop me, so it's your fault."

She had a fair point there.

When they were still Genins on the same team, Ino had appointed herself the leader, and Shikamaru and Choji basically allowed her to do whatever she wanted out of fear for their behinds. Ino could be more frightening than an army of rabid berserkers when she was angry, and her punishments were often painful and lasting. Still, if he had really wanted, Shikamaru could have told her to cool it, but he didn't feel like wasting the energy. So, in the end, it was his fault.

"Fine, fine, I'll let you have that one."

Ino grinned triumphantly. "I really did miss you, though," she said in a more serious tone.

Twice now, she's said that, Shikamaru thought, the strange feeling in his chest returning with more force. She missed me...

I missed her, too.

"Yeah, well, I've been able to bear the separation just fine," he retorted, a hint of a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. "My ears needed a break from your screaming into them."

"Shut up!" Ino laughed, and smacked him on the arm, but made no move to defend herself. "I have to admit, I love getting a rise out of you. Your reactions are too priceless."

Shikamaru shook his head. "See? I knew it. All females are evil creatures who love to torment people."

"It's our favorite pastime," Ino agreed, and then lifted her face to the sky. The sun was beginning to set, blue mixing with purple and red and orange.

"Look at that," she breathed. "Isn't it gorgeous?"

"Yeah," Shikamaru said absently, pretending to look, though his eyes were fixed on Ino.

But I know something that's prettier.

In this light, under this sky, Ino resembled a goddess who had decided to walk the earth, and Shikamaru was never more aware of it than now. He started a bit when he felt a pressure against his side, and he saw that Ino had rested her head on his shoulder.

"When do you have to leave again?" She asked softly.

"Tomorrow morning," Shikamaru said, a hint of irritation in his voice. "I got a nice, one day vacation. Joy."

Ino smiled. "Would you stay out here and watch this with me, then? I'd really like that."

Shikamaru blinked. "Sure," he said, trying to sound casual. "I've got nothing better to do."

How long they sat together under the changing sky Shikamaru did not know. Ino ended up lying on her back in the grass to get a better look at one point, and she was now fast asleep, her mouth slightly open.

Shikamaru watched over her, trying to decide whether or not to wake her up. After some consideration, he decided to let her sleep a bit longer. He felt a peace out here, being with her, that he'd never felt before, and he didn't want it to end. Crickets began their symphony in the brush, other insects and wildlife adding accompaniment. Fireflies winked in and out, one of them landing on Shikamaru's outstretched hand, where it loitered for a moment before zooming off again.

His thoughts were back.

I feel like I'm seeing her for the first time, and it's...strange. Something's...different.

Shikamaru's eyes fell to Ino's face, a face that appeared so innocent in sleep, though he knew better. His hand went to brush aside a few pieces of her hair, and it came to rest on one cool cheek. Ino mumbled something, and Shikamaru froze, but he realized with relief that she was still out cold. For some reason, that put a crazy idea into his head, and before he could stop himself, he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers ever so gently.

"I missed you, too," he whispered when he pulled away.

Ino's form was still.

Just as well, Shikamaru thought, taking a deep breath of the night air.

He did not notice when Ino's eyes opened for a brief second, because she shut them just as quickly when he made to wake her.

She had not been asleep.


Well, there's the first chapter...I don't plan on making this too long, so we'll see how that goes. Please tell me what you think!