Chapter 9

Asuma decided to make his morning rounds and check on the teams. They were to meet back at the old training grounds that afternoon, but he felt like stopping by to see how everyone was getting along. He headed West and in good time he saw a small tent in a clearing. That must be their camp.

He sat perched in a tree, surveying the scene. It was nine o'clock. The fire was out and he couldn't hear any sounds of life from any direction. Two pairs of sandals lay askew on the ground in front of...One tent?

"Hmmm...."

Asuma hopped down and quietly walked over to the tent. He found the zipper and unzipped a small hole to peek inside.

Two bodies lay asleep on their sides. Ino was curled into Shikamaru's chest under a sheet with his arm draped over her waist. Their breathing was in unison. A look of contentment rested upon their faces.

Way to stay focused, Shikamaru....but he had to smile. He had a feeling that these two would eventually get together. So what if I helped the process along a little by making them teammates. It was about time the teens experienced some of the finer things in life. He shook his head remembering his own youth and closed up the tent.

"Chouji...toss me a bag of chips will ya?"

"Really???"

"Yeah I was too lazy to make breakfast this morning."

Sakura and Chouji were the first to arrive at the training grounds. The five days went faster than they expected. I'm actually kinda glad I was paired up with Chouji, Sakura thought. I mean I feel like I actually improved from the training and Chouji's a lot smarter than he looks. She glanced over at the pig-eyed boy as she munched on some chips. He might turn out to be kinda cute if he sticks to that diet we talked about.

"Sakura..."

"Hmmm??"

"Umm...thanks for your help...I mean the uhh...makeover thing." He was referring to the long conversation they had last night. Sakura had given him advice on how to approach girls and gave him tips on things they like. This led to her giving him a makeover: new clothing combinations, new hairstyle, a new way to wear his forehead protector. She promised to take him shopping when they got back to the village. She helped him work out a training routine and meal plan. He was so excited to start that he couldn't wait to get back home.

"You're welcome, Chouji."

"Tck...when are Shikamaru and Ino going to get here???" He looked at his watch.

Just then the two appeared over the hill. From a distance one could see that they were holding hands.

"WHAA??!!" Sakura and Chouji cried.

Ino and.....Shikamaru???? This sure is a shock, Sakura thought.

Asuma appeared beside the gawking pair.

"Just as I thought..." he said, lighting a cigarette, watching the young couple approach.

"Sensei...you mean you knew that they would get together?...I mean you paired them up....for five days...UNSUPERVISED...WITH ONE TENT??" Sakura choked.

"I'm sure they behaved themselves," he said with a smile.

"Yeah..I'll bet they did," Sakura mumbled under her breath, knowing the ways of her sly friend Ino. Not that I'm jealous, but she better tell all the details.

"Well, how was the training?" Asuma boomed to all of them when Shikamaru and Ino finally arrived.

"I had a good time," Chouji remarked. "Sakura is a good teammate."

"I had fun too, as well as learning how to withstand the blow of a huge rolling mass," Sakura winked at Chouji.

"Good, good...and how about the two of you?" he directed the question to the smug couple.

Ino began, "It was...." she searched for an appropriate word to describe the memorable days: Stimulating? Passionate? Surreal? "Uhh...it was—"

"—interesting ," Shikamaru rescued her. "Not only did Ino train hard, but we got to know a little more about ourselves in the process. She caught me off guard with a new technique her dad taught her, and all I can say is BEWARE THE BINDS!" He smiled at her. "And I have to admit that a little romance did blossom between us over these past few days, but," he placed a hand on her shoulder, "I was very pleased with her effort to stay with the training and I am proud of her improvement."

Chouji choked on a chip at his words as Sakura raised her eyebrows in surprise.

"Whoa...it's not often you hear Shikamaru-sensei sing such high praises of another," Asuma chuckled. "I see you have improved too."

Shikamaru blushed, "Whatever..."

"Well, I will see for myself your improvement tomorrow when I test each of you individually. Anyways, enough for today, who's hungry?!!?"

"YEAH!!!" All four chimed together grabbing their stuff.

Ino and Shikamaru walked alongside each other, their hands seeking the other's comforting touch.

Suddenly two bigger hands clasped down on their shoulders. Startled they both turned to see Asuma's face between them.

"So.....you two...had a little romantic rendezvous...did you?" He had a stern face.

Shikamaru swallowed hard. A bead of sweat appeared on his forehead. Did I break some kind of rule or something? "Hehehh....we didn't do anything....inappropriate," he said nervously. His mind raced through all of his inappropriate actions: his lustful gazes, his attempt to undress Ino, him squeezing her butt as she laid on top of him, their steamy make out session in the tent!! He could have seen us doing any of those things, he's a Jounin, a master at sneaking up on people. A sick look began to grow on his face.

"Ino, you run along ahead...I need to have a talk with Shikamaru."

Ino glanced at Shikamaru with a worried look. He reassured her with a nervous smile before she trotted ahead to catch up with Sakura and Chouji.

"WELL....what do have to say for yourself...SENSEI??" The older man echoed in Shikamaru's ears. SENSEI... SENSEI... SENSEI... SENSEI...

"But we're the same age..." he croaked.

"HMMMM???"

Shikamaru took a deep breath. "I'm prepared to face the consequences of my actions," he said seriously.

Asuma raised his eyebrows, "WELL...in that case..." he slapped the young man on the back, "Congratulations...you got yourself a babe."

A sigh of relief escaped through Shikamaru's lips. He rolled his eyes as his teacher exploded in laughter at his interrogation.

Mendoukusai na.

A/N: Well...there you have it, the first of hopefully more entertaining Naruto stories to come. I was asked how old Shikamaru and Ino are and I'm picturing them to be like 15 or 16, although that probably doesn't match up with the time line, but I feel better if they're older :D And another question was: WHAT WENT ON IN THAT TENT!?!? Well, Shikamaru behaved himself that night, but feel free to imagine what you wish. ;P

joryuu