Hey guys! So, writing Sleeper has put me in the Shika/Ino mode, and this story formed itself in my head soon after I finished it. It is another get-together, but I plan on making it a bit longer. ::grins:: I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: The Letter

Shikamaru did not know what possessed him to do it. He'd been lying on his bed one night after returning home from a mission, and he could not fall asleep. His head was full of thoughts about a certain former teammate, one who caused his emotions to start doing things that he had no control over, one who tortured him with her bright eyes, her beautiful smile, her endearing laugh…one who was more trouble than she was worth.

"I need to sleep," Shikamaru told himself. "Asuma's making me train with him tomorrow, so if I don't sleep, I'll regret it."

His logic was quite sound, and, normally, it would be enough to let him turn his brain off and sink into oblivion, but not this night. Another nagging voice overrode his reason.

You need to do something, Shikamaru. These feelings will not go away overnight, you know.

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Shikamaru muttered, irritated. For the past five years, he had attempted to ignore what was happening to him, the way his heart sped up whenever Ino was close, the way his skin tingled when she touched him, even if it was just a friendly pat on the shoulder, the way he remembered all of her little comments, even if they were just in passing. All of these feelings were so…

"Troublesome," he sighed. "I have enough to worry about as it is, and I hardly need another complication on top of everything else!"

Because that was what this love business was: a complication. Shikamaru did not like complicated things. They required more effort on his part than he was comfortable with exerting. And on top of that, he picked the wrong person to become enamored with.

When he was younger, Shikamaru always said that he wanted to marry someone plain and sensible, someone who was not too pretty, but not ugly, have two plain, sensible children (a girl first, and then a boy), retire after the daughter was married and the son was settled, and play Shogi and Go until he died (before his wife, of course).

Now, insert Ino into the picture.

The blonde girl was loud, bossy, and extremely emotional. She would make sure that Shikamaru was kept on his toes every single day of their lives, she would demand things of him like flowers and romantic dinners, she would insist that he have plenty of vacations so that he could cater to her every whim, and then she would accuse him of not loving her when said vacations could not be attained. Their children would be loud, bossy, and emotional, and they too would run Shikamaru dry. He would retire because he was too tired to do anything else, and Shogi and Go would be just a pleasant memory that he recalled every now and then when he wasn't incapacitated by all the activity.

Such a future would be waiting happily for him if he were to be with Yamanaka Ino.


No matter how much he tried to make himself understand the horror that accompanied such a future, he could not stop himself from falling harder.

"Why me?" He implored to the ceiling. "Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I'm not a bad person, I don't take advantage of others, and I do my job even when I don't want to! Is it so much to ask to want to get by in the world?"

Shikamaru sighed. When one must resort to conversing with ceilings, there is a serious problem at hand.

I need to get all of this stuff out in a more constructive way, he thought as he held his chin. Glancing around his room, his eyes locked on his desk.

There was paper on his desk.

Paper is good for writing things on.

Shikamaru put two and two together.

If he were to write the things in his head on the paper, perhaps the problem of his temporary state of insomnia would be solved.


He dragged himself out of bed, went to his desk, and sat down to write. His hand moved of its own accord, and it did not stop for quite some time. When he finished, Shikamaru realized that he had composed a letter of sorts, and he had addressed it to Ino.

Oh bother…I didn't expect that to happen.

He did feel much better having poured out all of the emotions, but he was not sure what to do with the letter. There was no way he would actually give it to the person it was intended for. Shikamaru knew his writing skills, and they were dismal, to say the least. Not only would Ino laugh at his pathetic attempt, but he was sure she would not appreciate affection from someone as boring as himself.

No, the letter would remain where it was, on his desk, never to see the light of day.

Good…maybe I can move on now...

With a contented nod, Shikamaru switched off his lamp, crawled back into bed, and closed his eyes.

He woke the next morning, not to the sound of his alarm clock, as he would have liked, but to the distinct feeling of intense whiplash.

"Shikamaru! Get up! You're going to be late!"

"Mo-om! Come on!" He groaned, his teeth rattling. "Just five more minutes…"

The glare he received could have shattered glass. "Up, NOW."

"Women are a cruel race," Shikamaru stated as he sat up, rubbing vigorously at his eyes. "The most horrid beings on earth…"

"Yes, dear," his mother said, and patted him on the cheek. "Hurry up and get dressed so you can have some breakfast."

Still grumbling, Shikamaru did as he was told, and stumped down the stairs a few minutes later. His father did not say a word when Shikamaru entered the kitchen, though he appeared as if he wanted to.

Shikamaru was glad that he did not.

He ate his breakfast quickly and was about to leave when he remembered his vest, which he had forgotten in his haste. Taking the stairs two at a time, he went to his room, grabbed the vest, and his eyes fell to the letter out on his desk.

Take it, the voice urged. You know that you want to.

"No, I don't think that's a good idea," Shikamaru told the voice.

Yes it is. Take the letter, Shikamaru. Go on.

For the first time in his life, Shikamaru listened to the voices in his head. He picked the letter up and stuffed it in one of the pockets of the vest.

This is stupid, he thought as he walked to the training grounds near the Konoha Borderlands, the place where Asuma had said to meet him. It's not like Ino's going to be there, and even if she is, I'm not giving it to her…

Shikamaru froze. He was close enough to his destination to see two figures circling each other with their weapons at the ready. One of them was his former sensei Asuma: it was easy to make him out by his goatee and the cigarette between his lips. The other had her shoulder-length blonde hair pulled out of her face, and she wore a skirt and shirt in her favorite color, violet.

Oh good lord.

At that point, Shikamaru considered turning around and leaving, but Ino made that option a dead end.

"Shikamaru!" She called, waving her hands.

No, stop, Ino! Don't…

Asuma turned his head, and grinned. "Oi! I was wondering if you'd died in your sleep or something!"

Damn it.

"No," Shikamaru called back. "Just had a late start, you know."

Asuma slung an arm over his shoulders when Shikamaru reached them, and grinned. "Are you ready for some pain?"

"Can't wait," the dark haired Chuunin replied, the sarcasm evident in his voice. Turning to Ino, he asked, "What are you doing here?"

"My weapons skills are crap," She said bluntly. "And since Asuma was going to be working with you on weapons, he said that I could come by, too." She smiled. "You don't mind all that much, do you?"

"No, of course not!" Shikamaru said quickly. "Why would I mind?"

I'm such a bad liar…

Ino raised an eyebrow. "Oh, I don't know. You just had a strange look on your face, that's all."

I did? "It's fine, Ino, really."

"What do you say we get started then?" Asuma suggested, and his two students nodded.

Shikamaru wanted to be a million miles away.

His skill with weapons was laughable, at best, which was the reason Asuma insisted that he come out here, but Shikamaru never imagined that Ino would be in the picture, as well. Her presence just made him more aware of the piece of paper near his chest, and he found himself making many more mistakes than he normally would. About halfway through the session, Ino stood off to the side and began a complex exercise with a sword, and Shikamaru became so engrossed in watching her that he did not block Asuma's strike in time, resulting in him getting knocked off his feet.

"Shikamaru!" Asuma exclaimed, startled. "Why didn't you block it? Are you all right?"

More embarrassed than in pain, Shikamaru's face turned red. Ino stopped in the middle of her exercise and ran to him.

"What happened?" She asked, worry in her voice. Her hands ran over his body, feeling for injuries, which only made things worse. Shikamaru felt as if electricity was shooting though his spine at her touch, and his heart pounded.

"Er…I…wasn't paying attention," he mumbled, and decided that dropping off the face of the earth would be favorable.

"Idiot!" Ino scolded. "That's dangerous! Asuma really could've hurt you!"

Why do you care so much? "I know," he hung his head. "Look, I already feel stupid, so could you not rub it in, please?"

Ino's eyes narrowed, though she kept her mouth closed, and settled for helping him up instead. "You go practice with the sword now, and I'll stay here with Asuma."

The blond girl had come up with a very good idea.

Shikamaru liked it when Ino came up with good ideas, because they were few and far between when she did.

"Okay," he said dumbly, and took Ino's old position, intent on the sword in his hand. That was his focal point, and he kept his eyes glued to it.

It's much safer this way, he said to himself, nodding.

The rest of the afternoon seemed to snail by, and when it finally ended, Shikamaru was more than ready to leave. Asuma insisted that Ino and Shikamaru meet with him again within the week, and he would not let them go until they promised that they would.

"My arms feel all rubbery," Ino said when she and Shikamaru were alone. "I guess I needed more work than I thought." She eyed her companion. "Are you sure you're okay?"

I'd be much better if you weren't in my head. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little banged up, but nothing horrible."

Ino smiled, and bent over to undo the bindings that were on her legs. She caught sight of something on the grass.

What is that? She reached over and swiped the folded paper, recognizing Shikamaru's scrawl. Her eyes moved to her friend, who was staring off into the clouds, as usual.

He must've dropped it when he was fighting.

She was about to hand the paper over when she noticed the name printed on the top fold, and her eyes went wide for a moment.

The name was hers.

Well that's odd. Why would he write something to me?

Though she knew that it was wrong, and that she should probably give the paper back, Ino could not bring herself to do it.

Obviously he meant to give it to me, because he wouldn't have been carrying it otherwise, right?

Before he could notice, she stuck the paper down the top of her sandal and vowed that she would read it as soon as she got home.

She went to Shikamaru and tapped him. "Walk back with me?"

"Huh? Oh, sure."

All the way home, Shikamaru could not erase the feeling that something was wrong, though he could not figure out what. When he left Ino at her doorstep, the feeling was still there, even though his nerves were fizzling pleasantly from the touch of Ino's hand on his arm. At his house, his mother pulled the sweat-soaked vest off of him, clucking her tongue at the state her son was in, and Shikamaru thought of something then.

"Can I see that, Mom?" He held out his hands for the vest, and his mother, her eyebrow raised, relinquished it.

After going through every pocket and pouch in the vest at least three times over, Shikamaru had to resist the urge to scream. The letter was gone.

Ino settled herself in a comfortable chair in her bedroom, and pulled off her sandal. The letter fell out into her hand, and she examined it a bit closer. There was no mistaking that the handwriting was indeed Shikamaru's, and her curiosity returned with full force. However, when she went to open it, she hesitated.

"This isn't right," she said to herself. "I should've given it back."

She looked down at the paper.

Her name jumped out at her, and her mind was made up.

"It's addressed to me, so I have every right to open it," she rationalized.

Unfolding the letter, she smoothed it out on her lap and began to read.

What's in the letter??? ::grins:: It looks like another cliffhanger… Let me know what you think, ne?