Summary: Shikamaru had never liked butting into other people's business. He thought it troublesome. But not all endeavors are fruitless, and some may even result in something very sweet.
Warnings: kissing, adult language, fluff and a little angst. Shounen-ai. Which is boy x boy and if you don't like it then reading this would probably not be a good idea. Don't flame me later if you decide to continue anyway. Choice was yours.
Timing: 13 or 14.
Author's notes: Thanks to all my reviewers and those who have been reading all my fics. Your support is very helpful to me, since I'm a new writer. I got very positive feedback on my fic 'Warming the Cold'. Readers of my multi-chapter fic 'Tangled Affairs': err…I haven't really written anything for the next chapter, because I'm debating whether to let Sasuke join the foray or not. Many reviewers want to let him in, and I, myself, am not opposed to it, but I don't really know. I would like a little input from you guys.
Regarding this fic, I always wanted there to be more ShikaNaru fics. It's such a cute pairing and, among all others, I always thought ShikaNaru, like SasuNaru and GaaraNaru, was quite believable.
If you guys are interested in seeing any good ShikaNaru, ShinoNaru and KibaNaru pictures, I posted some on my yahoo group, shinobifantasy. Yahoo doesn't allow any non-members to view them but you are invited to join if you like. You can access the site by clicking the homepage link on my profile. I also put up cool ShinoNaru and ShikaNaru links on my Links page. Go check them out if you want.
Anyway, lets get on with the fic before I continue to ramble on and please don't forget to review.
Price of Butting In
- By DarkPhoenix484
"But Shikamaru, please!"
If anyone would ever bother to ask Shikamaru, he would say that the color blue should be banned from existence. He hated it. It was the root of all evil in his life; the bane of his very existence. He was vulnerable against its power. Every time he encountered the color, it had led him to some sort of disaster, and almost always of the embarrassing kind. Be it Ino's light blue gaze (always demanding him to do things without complaint), or the one being directed at him right now, becoming harder and harder to ignore. No matter which, it was always him that ended up in trouble, just because he could not stop himself from looking at the color.
"No Naruto. No can do."
"But why?" Naruto whined.
Shikamaru sighed and looked up from his position. The clouds were floating peacefully up in the wide sky. He enjoyed watching them. They had no fear of the calm blue around them. Their only job was to float all day. He wished he was a cloud. At least then he would be able to get away from the annoying person that had been persistently trying to involve him in something that he just knew would lead him to trouble.
"Because." He said looking over to his companion.
"Because what?" Naruto questioned, loudly.
"It's too troublesome."
"Everything is too troublesome for you, Shikamaru." Naruto said, exasperated at his comrade.
"Yeah, so why bother even coming to me?" Shikamaru drawled, leaning back against the grass he had been resting on when the annoying blonde had shown up.
Che, He's even more annoying than Ino. Shikamaru couldn't help but think as he stared up at the clouds again.
Nice peaceful white fluff balls moved seamlessly in an ocean of wind. Shikamaru closed his eyes and relaxed the tension in his body. He inhaled the sweet scent of the field in the air around him and slowly opened his eyes. The wide sky above him was really blue, the color almost impossible to replicate, decorated around a black vortex – Wait! What?
Shikamaru blinked and looked back up again, right into Naruto's eyes, hovering above his own, almost too close to be decent. He had been staring into them without realizing and yet, he did not feel the urge to move. He just kept looking back into those sparkling blue eyes. They were very wide and they were looking into his dark ones without blinking. Had they always been that blue? He had never seen Naruto's eyes from this close up before. They look …nice. He could feel himself drowning into their unexplored depths.
And Naruto just had to open his mouth and ruin the moment.
"Oh come on, Shikamaru. Who else but you?" Naruto said, staring down into Shikamaru's now wide eyes. "You are the smartest guy I know. I mean, who else could help me in this matter?" Naruto said. Then he looked thoughtful for a second, as if he just had a brainstorm and backed up from his position of hovering over the other boy.
Shikamaru breathed out loud, only now realizing that he had been holding his breath for some reason that escaped him presently. So he just catalogued it in the back of his mind to be analyzed later and focused back on Naruto. He looks like he's thinking hard. Must be tough.
"Well what about Kiba?" Shikamaru asked, sitting back up and slouching forward, recovering slightly from his earlier experience.
"No, he's too annoying." Naruto said, scowling.
"And you're not?" Shikamaru murmured under his breadth. Naruto sneezed.
"Did you say something, Shikamaru?" Naruto said rubbing his nose.
"How about Shino?" Shikamaru asked, quickly. Better to keep him calm rather than at my throat.
"Man Naruto, you're too picky." Shikamaru sighed. "Why don't you ask Chouji, then?"
"Why can't I?" Shikamaru almost whined. Almost.
"Really Shikamaru, aren't you my friend?" There were those cursed blue eyes again, even wider and more innocent than before. They shined at him, pleading. They were wet, huge and dammit, he was going to kill Naruto if he didn't stop using his puppy dog eyes to get favors from him.
"Alright already, just stop with those infernal eyes." Shikamaru said gruffly, rubbing his forehead.
Naruto cheered, "Thanks Shikamaru, you're a real pal."
"Arguing with you is too troublesome anyway." Shikamaru sighed.
He just knew he was going to regret his decision later. He just knew it.
I knew it. I never should have let Naruto coerce me into this stupid little plan of his. Damn him and his blue eyes. I hate that color.
Shikamaru was regretting his decision already. He had been dragged all over Konoha by Naruto, who was intent in collecting all the necessary things for his 'plan'.
They had been to stores he had never even stepped into. Some, he thought, he would never step into ever again. Naruto had been an uncontrollable hyperactive ball of energy all morning, efficiently managing to tire out Shikamaru just by his enthusiasm.
What I would give for a nice hot bath and some peace and quite. The dark haired boy had been having this thought constantly since Naruto pulled him out of his clearing this morning. He didn't know which was more annoying, Ino's constant chatter, or Naruto's endless bouncing. The shorter boy had been skipping all morning from store to store, market to market, with Shikamaru sluggishly following behind as if he was on a leash.
Don't get him wrong, he liked Naruto. The guy was nice, strong, and bright, not in the intelligent way admittedly, but in a way that made him shine amongst his peers. Shikamaru had seen him be kind to random people and animals. Once, he had seen Naruto sleeping under a tree, with his jacket off and held over his lap. It had been raining and he had thought that Naruto was really very stupid to be out like that. He was going to go over to the dolt and wake him up, when Naruto's jacket had begun to move. Shikamaru had gone on instant alert for anything suspicious but he had been very startled when a small black head popped out of the jacket.
It was a kitten. A little, black kitten. It was dry and it had started licking at Naruto's wet hand; licking away the raindrops that had soaked Naruto through as he slept under the tree keeping the kitten dry.
Shikamaru had left them. He did not think Naruto wanted anyone to see him like that. He left them, but he had also left his umbrella next to the duo, slanted and leaning against the tree such that it kept most of the rain away from the occupants underneath.
Yes, Shikamaru liked hanging with Naruto, but really, sometimes the shorter, blond haired boy can be so infuriatingly annoying that Shikamaru swore even Shino, the ever cool one, would lose his composure.
"So, when are you going to do it, Naruto?" Shikamaru questioned when they came out of yet another store.
"Tonight." Naruto answered distractedly as he tried to juggle all the bags and things he had in his hands.
"Why is all this necessary anyways? She never liked you before, you know that." Shikamaru asked, stretching his arms over his head and watching Naruto struggle with his luggage.
"But that doesn't mean she never will." Naruto replied cheerfully, a bounce in his step as he juggled his luggage.
Shikamaru refrained from comment and walked on slowly. He did not want to destroy the smaller boy's hopes. He did not particularly wish to have an angry Naruto at his throat. Or, god forbid, a teary one.
"I know this would work." Naruto stated happily, trying to hold onto several items at once, "Sakura-chan would fall hea– ARGH." Crash. Bump. Thump.
"Oww." A pained voice could be heard from underneath a mountain of items. Shikamaru had his eyes closed as he gently stepped over the mess and continued to move on.
"Well, we should hurry if we want this to work, ne?" He smirked back at his dazed companion.
"Wha? Shikamaru, help. Please." Naruto yelled from underneath the heap.
Shikamaru chuckled and doubled back to his partner-in-crime-to-be. "Alright, alright, you dumbass. Here." He extended his hand to help his companion up when the said hand was yanked upon and with a yelp, Shikamaru fell beside Naruto.
Loud laughter filled the afternoon air, making people turn towards the two boys lying on the ground, and watch as the young blonde laughed hysterically while the annoyed brunette groaned out his admonishments. Nobody could miss the amused smile dancing on the dark-haired boy's lips, or the carefree happiness in the blonde's laughs.
"How about this?" Naruto came out his bathroom once again to stand before an extremely bored Shikamaru.
The dark-haired boy sighed and glanced lazily over to Naruto. The other boy was wearing an atrocious combination of an orange suit with a yellow shirt inside. His hair was a mess from trying on and removing different articles of clothing in search for the perfect one for tonight, but his blue eyes were sparkling like jeweled crystals. His mouth was stretched in a wide grin; he was fully enjoying this.
Shikamaru, however, was not. After buying all the items Naruto needed for his plan, the blonde had dragged Shikamaru to his house in order to try on something suitable for tonight's confession. But apparently, all that the blonde seemed to own were either too bright or too idiotic. They would most likely make people think that he was lunatic rather than a handsome 14 year old boy asking a girl out.
"You look stupid, stupid." Shikamaru said tiredly. He turned his gaze back to looking out Naruto's bedroom window. The view was not very spectacular. All he could see were the brownish red walls of the building next to the apartment. He closed his eyes and leaned back on the bed where he had sat himself on, trying to ignore, no matter how unlikely, the blonde's loud complaints on his assessment of the clothing as he attempted to blast his ears off.
"I am not stupid. What's wrong with this outfit anyway? I like it." Naruto said turning and looking into his mirror.
"It's too loud. The color doesn't suit you at all. Does everything you own has to be always orange?" Shikamaru was truly amazed that anyone could even like that color, let alone wear it everyday, like the blonde in front of him did.
"What? As if you can do better." Naruto bristled at the denunciation of his favorite color.
"That's what you conned me into helping you with, baka." Shikamaru said and got up from his seat. He started roaming the small cupboard looking for an appropriate suit to help his blonde friend in his, most likely, hopeless endeavor.
There were not many clothes decorating the insides of the cupboard. There were two sets of Naruto's standard jumpsuits, some black and dark blue shirts, a stray white t-shirt with red spirals decorating the back and front. There was even a green body suit, although how Rock Lee's look alike suit came to be in Naruto's cupboard, Shikamaru didn't want to know. He sighed, and was about to search within the drawers, when he came across a tightly sealed bamboo chest lying on the floor of the cupboard, covered by Naruto's sandals and old towels.
Shikamaru crouched low and removed the articles covering the box. He looked at the cover of the chest carefully, determining whether it was safe to open it or not. The chest was of a light brown one with dark shadows painted across the top and sides. There was a huge spiral symbol covering the lid of the chest. Shikamaru slowly opened the lid, being careful not to make a lot of noise. For some reason, he did not feel like destroying the sudden silence of the room. Naruto had gone back into the bathroom and the room was now devoid of his presence, which was likely the cause of the quite.
Shikamaru lifted the cover all the way and had to reel back a little to avoid the dust that came out of the lid. He waved his hands about trying to clear it before it reached his lungs and set him off hacking his throats out. Dust really did not agree with him.
Once the dust had settled, Shikamaru leaned forward and looked back into the box. His eyes lit up with amazement when he glanced at the piles of scrolls and papers littering the inside. There must have been a small collection inside if the dimensions of the box were any indication. He opened one scroll and read the contents only to find they were filled with scorched words. It seemed that the scroll had suffered a lot of damage a long time ago and was unable to be read. He set the scroll down and picked up another only to find it in the same condition. It was true for nearly all of the papers lying inside the chest, except for one in which only the heading had survived the damage. Shikamaru spread the scroll over the others carefully and slowly made out the barely readable words:
"Uzumaki Clan: The -"
"-Tornado clash." A quite voice intoned the finish from behind him.
Shikamaru did not jump. He was a trained chunnin no matter how lazy he seemed, and it was not easy to startle him. However, Naruto did surprise him by coming out of his bathroom unexpectedly and quietly. He would have never credited Naruto to be skilled in stealth, but things change over the years and Naruto was ninja skilled in surprising people, whether they were friends or foes.
Shikamaru looked up from his inspection of the scroll to find Naruto standing a little behind him. He was back in his original clothes, minus the orange jacket. He was looking out the same window Shikamaru had been surveying before, although Naruto's gaze seemed to be more directed. What he found so interesting on the blank wall of his neighbor's house, Shikamaru did not know, but felt it was more likely that he was trying to avoid Shikamaru's eyes.
"…They are the jutsu scrolls of the Uzumaki clan." Naruto said quietly. "Or what's left of them, anyway." He turned his gaze to look down at the open chest in front of Shikamaru. "That was all the belongings of my parents that they could give me." He continued; his voice unnaturally quite. It did not suit Naruto at all. "I don't even know their names. Nobody would tell them. All I had from them was that chest and whatever was inside."
Shikamaru looked at the blonde, really looked at him. The Naruto in front of him right now did not seem a bit like the one that had been cheerfully dragging him around all day, with smiles so wide that it seemed he would split his face if they stretched any further. That Naruto seemed carefree, and happy. That Naruto's yellow hair had shone brightly under the burning sun, deep blue eyes hidden by happily closed eyes. That Naruto was the epitome of happiness.
But the uniform never reflects the scars within. That Naruto had something much sadder hidden behind the cheerful smile. The eyes were closed to hide the sorrow of loss and something much worse. The bright sunshine hid the dull sadness. That Naruto hid this one, and this one seemed somehow beautiful in his sorrow - more real.
But Shikamaru didn't know what to say. He was not the comforting type. His life never had such scars implemented on them. He had a family - a dad who was scared of his wife, and a nagging mom. They may have been the most irritating parents ever to him, but they were his and he was happy. He had never known the pain Naruto must have felt looking at the chest and never being able to know more about what it held.
Maybe that's why he just nodded at Naruto and closed the scroll with its long lost knowledge. He set it back securely within the chest, meant to be opened again by small hands and ignite queries about relations long gone on dark nights. He did not think anything he might say would help the blonde and it did not matter. He knew Naruto enough to realize that his silence was all the comfort Naruto needed and appreciated. He could hear the thanks reverberating within the sigh the smaller shinobi released and knew that it was enough.
"Did you give the message to Sakura yet?"
They had finally been able to fit Naruto into something that would not make him stick out like a sore thumb. Shikamaru admitted that Naruto did look slightly better in blue than he did in orange. No, a tiny voice coming from somewhere within his ordered brain corrected him, as he stood watching Naruto, clad in a long-sleeved shirt the color of his eyes and dark pants, he looks way better. Shikamaru decided to ignore the voice for now and went back to setting up the lanterns on the sakura tree following the instructions being hollered out by a frantic Naruto.
"Yeah, I did." Naruto answered, at the edge of his limited patience and panicking. He continued, chewing at his nails, "And she would be coming here any minute. We should finish quickly and you should get out of here before she sees you."
Being annoyed didn't work well with Shikamaru. He usually avoided situations where somebody was annoyed with him or vice-versa. But it had never been the case with Naruto. He did not even know why he was so annoyed; after all, the blonde was correct that Sakura should not see him. Scoffing, Shikamaru walked towards the worried blonde and bumped him upside the head.
"Ow, what did you do that for, bastard?!" Naruto yelled, clutching the back of his head.
"You should not chew your nails, it's a bad habit." Shikamaru said, unable to come up with a reason, excuse, for his sudden irritation with the blonde. When he saw Naruto still clutching his head in pain, he sighed and gently removed Naruto's hands from his hair and smoothed it down.
"Whatever, lets just get this over with." He went back to the tree, and jumped up landing on the tallest branch and resumed his work.
When the sun finally began dropping below the forest tips, Shikamaru dropped from his perch and approached Naruto again.
"Finally over. You owe me one, Naruto." Shikamaru said rotating his shoulders to remove all the kinks from working for nearly an hour. Honestly, he didn't know why he bothered. He didn't think Naruto will be repaying this anytime soon.
"Thanks Shikamaru. You're a pal." Then again, seeing those damn blue eyes sparkling up at him could be considered enough of a payment, Shikamaru was not a picky person.
"Err…Yeah. One last thing." He said, reaching over to the shorter ninja and removing his forhead protector from his brow to tie it around his neck. That done, he reached up and ruffled Naruto's hair a little to let it fall in front of his eyes, "You look better this way."
He stepped back and looked at the stunned and a slightly pink Naruto standing before him, his eyes wide and his mouth open a little. The fading light from the sun illuminated the blonde hair and the strands falling in front of his eyes made the blue look even deeper.
Much better. That annoying voice was back again and Shikamaru realized that he was staring. Naruto had yet to snap out of his stupor, so Shikamaru decided that now was a good time to leave.
He turned a hundred-eighty degrees and started walking back towards the village, calling out a 'good luck' behind his shoulder. He increased his pace and left without really hearing a reply from Naruto, feeling somewhat confused as to why he did not really mean what he said to his friend.
It was already past nine now, easily enough time for Naruto to have confessed his love to Sakura and dazzled her with the light of the lanterns hung from the cherry blossom tree on the village outskirts and the huge bouquet of flowers they had taken quite some time deciding on. Sakura must have smiled at Naruto and finally realized how caring he was to have gone through so much trouble for her. She must have taken his hand and kissed him on his cheek and Naruto must have blushed more than he had when Shikamaru had shifted his hitae-ate to his neck. He must have been shy or perhaps he was loud as usual. Then he must have taken her to out of the clearing or they might have just sat there talking under the white glow of the stars and a moonless night. He did not know, and he had no idea why he was even thinking on it.
"Atari." Asuma's low voice, crowing cheerfully over the spread go board, startled Shikamaru from his thoughts. "What's the matter Shikamaru? This is not how you usually play."
Shikamaru surveyed the pieces tiredly and looked up at his sensei's smiling face. "Che. I can't concentrate today." Shikamaru let out. He dropped his gaze back to the goban and released a sigh. "…I concede."
"What?! Shikamaru, it's too early to concede." Asuma was frankly very startled at his student's behavior. Shikamaru was known for his laziness and lack of motivation but it had never reflected within his games of go and shougi. It was rare for Shikamaru to give up too, especially so early.
"Ara Sensei, I don't want to play anymore right now. Can we do this tomorrow?" Shikamaru said, starting to clear the board of his pieces.
Asuma was too surprised to stop him. The bearded man just stared at his apprentice for a while and then calmly proceeded to clear his side of the game as well. He knew by observing Shikamaru's face that whatever was eating him must have been very serious and it would most likely not get any better with his input. It was something that Shikamaru needed to solve on his own.
"Sure. We can start playing again when whatever's been bothering you had settled down." Asuma replied with a solemn face, resisting the urge to crack a smile when Shikamaru's head snapped up in surprise. But the other did not say anything and Asuma did not feel it prudent to continue a conversation that was not wanted. It would most likely turn out confused and full of teenage hormonal issues anyway.
Ah, to be young. Thank god, I don't have to go through that hell again.
Shikamaru was of two minds. He wanted to go home, have nice hot green tea, a warm bath and a restful sleep.
But on the other hand, he didn't want to. He wanted to stay out here, enjoying the cold air blowing against his face and the clear cloudless sky filled with stars free of the overpowering moon.
He usually did not watch the night skies, too content with the white clouds and the blue expanse of day. But he had to admit that tonight was good.
He walked along the road, not paying attention to anything - the road, the passersby, the store lights. He kept looking up and tracing the constellations in his mind. When he finally came to a stop he realized that he was just steps away from the clearing he and Naruto had decorated just this afternoon. The dull glow of the dying lanterns was illuminating the sky, attracting insects and scaring the animals.
He turned to go back, not wanting to know if Naruto and Sakura were still there, but unfamiliar curiosity took over him and he took those final few steps into the clearing only to find what he had least expected.
Naruto was curled up against the trunk of the tree directly opposite him, his knees drawn close to his chest. He was gazing up at the stars, much in the same manner as Shikamaru had done a few minutes prior. But unlike Shikamaru's pondering gaze, Naruto's was sad. His hair swayed with the wind and ruffled with the gentle breeze. The full bouquet that Naruto had so carefully constructed this morning lay forgotten beside him.
Shikamaru sighed and moved further into the clearing. Yet, Naruto did not turn his eyes away from the stars. The dark-haired boy sat down heavily beside the blonde, moving the bouquet aside a little and, looked up at the sky again. They remained quite for a while, the need for words gone for now. Which was good in a way, Shikamaru didn't feel like talking or explaining what he was doing back here.
"…She didn't come." The blonde finally broke the silence. Shikamaru shifted a little and looked at his companion from the corner of his eyes. Naruto was still looking at the stars but his eyes seemed far away. Shikamaru didn't know what to say. He had guessed as much, after seeing the bouquet still there. So he kept quite.
"…Sasuke was coming back from a mission today." Naruto said quietly again, his gaze dropping beside him to look at the bouquet. "She must have gone to greet him back."
"…Did you think she would come?" Shikamaru had to know. If Naruto knew of Sasuke's homecoming then why did he chose this day? Wouldn't it be better to do this yesterday?
Naruto let out a dry bitter laugh. "No, I didn't think she would." He said. "But I hoped."
Shikamaru sighed again. "You really should forget about her, Naruto. I think she really loves the Uchiha." He told the gloomy blonde.
"I know." Naruto replied quietly. "I figured I'd try one last time. And now I know for sure." Naruto said looking into his hands, his throat seemed choked.
Shikamaru kept quite. He looked back up to the stars, seeing thousand tiny pin-points of light and yet not seeing them at the same time. Instead he kept seeing those thousand little emotional moments he had been having with the blonde for quite some time. The thousand random thoughts he had been pushing back and cataloging in some dark corner of his brain were opening up again, showing him an anthology of undiscovered and unresolved feelings. They were rushing and they were all directed towards the despondent light-haired boy sitting right next to him.
It was few minutes before anybody did anything. Then Shikamaru stood up slowly and stretched his hands high above his head. He looked up at the sky for a while and then said quietly, "…the stars are beautiful tonight."
"What?" Naruto looked up, confused at the random sentence.
"You're so troublesome, Naruto." Shikamaru said as he gazed down at his companion.
"What? Shikamaru, what the hell?" Naruto sputtered, as he too stood up from his seat to stand angrily in front of the smirking chunnin.
Shikamaru looked at the whiskered cheeks, puffed up a little in indignation and turned slightly pink in anger. He looked at the brilliant blonde hair, swaying gently with the wind, and looking as soft as they had felt when he had touched them. He looked at the deep blue eyes, alight with a fire that was missing just moments ago. He looked and he couldn't help it if he leaned just a little bit forward and captured those parted lips with his own. After all, Naruto did owe him for helping him this morning. And he had decided that this was his payment.
But the sheer sweetness of the mouth below his, the compliance and eagerness he felt on the lips brushing his and the taste of the cavern being explored by his tongue drove away any thoughts of the mechanisms of their deal. He forgot to move, he forgot to hear, he forgot to think. He forgot to even breathe until they parted when that forgetfulness led to a set of burning lungs.
He looked back down at the shorter shinobi only to be captured by the brightness of the gaze being directed at him and the depth of feeling within the blue pools. The shadows thrown by the dull glow of the dying lamps did nothing to hide the faint blush on those whiskered cheeks or the hint of a small smile creeping up on the stunned face. Shikamaru gave a small smile of his own back and started walking backwards towards the edge of the clearing.
"Come on, I'm hungry." He said, turning back towards the road and walking out of the clearing slowly. He heard the indignant shout and running footsteps behind him and let out a small laugh and a content smile. He looked back up at the stars and let his inner voice wash over him again.
That was a nice price for butting in other's business.
Yes, it certainly was. And from the look on Naruto's face, he knew that there would be others, because he had finally figured out what all those little emotions meant.
He watched from the corner of his eyes as the blonde tried to persuade him into having ramen with him, and he knew he was right.
He was in love.
The bouquet lay forgotten within the small clearing, basking under the glow of a moonless, star-filled night, as two sets of footprints walked away from it.
---- The End ----