"Oh Shikamaru!" Sixteen-year-old Yamanaka Ino peeked inside the room of her teammate, her azure eyes roving around the bedroom. "Rats! He has escaped again!" She let herself into his room, anyway, as she scanned the room once more. Everything was in order, as it was yesterday, and the days that came before that. Knowing Nara Shikamaru since childhood, she knew that he would find it too troublesome to actually disorganize his room. He merely sees the room as a comfortable place to lie down at night.

She ran her fingers across the cabinet stands and made a 'tsk, tsk' sound when her fingertips quickly accumulated dust. But of course, Nara Shikamaru was the last person in her mind that would actually get the initiative to pick up a broom or a rag and start cleaning up.

So even if her original agendum in coming into her teammate's room was to remind the Jounin candidate that he would have a briefing with the Godaime this afternoon, she found herself going down the hallway to get the soft broom that always stood by the master's bedroom.

"That Shikamaru," she said to herself as she entered his bedroom again. "Doesn't he know that cleanliness is next to godliness, and that modern men are now domesticated creatures if they want to survive this big, bad world?" She picked up the feather duster and began her job on the bookshelves. "Geez, as a Chuunin, he often makes use of these books. Why doesn't it ever occur to him to clean? Is he going to die if he tries to lift a finger to get rid of these nasty germs and bacteria?" She nodded to herself. "He should thank Kami-sama that he has someone like me to worry about the things he wouldn't give a thought about. If I don't boss him around, he won't get the initiative to not lose to a woman in the Chuunin exams. If not for my nagging to train harder now that he's a Chuunin, he won't be chosen as a candidate for Jounin class. If I don't ask if he had eaten already, he'll get stuck the whole afternoon playing shogi with Choji and Asuma-sensei!"

"Ino, are you alright?" asked Shikato, peering inside the room. His attention was caught by the monologue of the only girl that Shikamaru had given the privilege to enter his realm and organize his mess he would leave untouched if only for its troublesome tendencies when attempted to be cleared.

She sweatdropped, and then laughed embarrassedly. "Ahahaha, I-I'm sorry. I-I was just…rehearsing what I'll tell Shikamaru when he returns." She looked back at the shelves, sighing. "Why does he consider it such a sin to try to become a bit more motivated in life? I mean, doesn't he have a dream or an ambition of some sort?"

Shikato waved his hand. "Hehe. You exasperate yourself too much. He's a grown man, and quite a smartass at that. He'll figure things out soon enough."

Ino groaned. "But how soon?" She grabbed the feather duster again. "I mean, I couldn't spend my whole life worrying for him. I may still be around to kick his lazy ass today, but really, I don't have plans to keep this setup permanently."

"Maybe he's doing this deliberately to keep it permanent," mused Shikamaru's father, a wicked smile playing on his lips.

The girl sweatdropped. "E-Eh? Oh no…not again…" She sat down on Shikamaru's bed and looked at him with narrow-lidded eyes. "I have not forgotten my father's story yet…when the three of you, being the best of best friends can be, tried to work out an arranged marriage for your children. Two will marry each other, and the third one would make sure that the marriage would last."

Shikato grinned. "It was a wonderful idea! You and my son are so well-suited to each other!"

Ino sighed. "But your dreams were broken when he told us flatly that I will make a troublesome wife."

"He was just in second grade then!"

"With an IQ of 200 plus." She smiled wanly. "Smart guy."

The man got up, still grinning. "Well, I still have not given up on hope of having you as my daughter-in-law. I don't give a damn what my son feels, but I will not have any other woman in my family except for the child of a Yamanaka!"

Ino's chagrin was obvious. "Why didn't I have a sister?"

Shikato was about to leave the room when he glanced at her again. "After all, you have not said 'no' to my junior yet." Whistling triumphantly, the old man left the bedroom.

She sweatdropped, and then got back to her work again. "How can I say no when he hadn't even proposed anything yet?" Realizing what she said, she quickly added, "Not that I'm waiting or anything, of course. If he thinks that I'll just brew trouble for him, well, I don't think much of him either. I mean, honestly! The only plus he has over Sasuke-kun is his higher ninja rank!" She knelt down to reach the lower level of the bookshelf. "And he just happened to be quite tolerant of my own little hang-ups, which I find nice… and that he would do anything I say even if he protests on it so much, which is a bit sweet too…" Her words trailed off, her rag-holding hand hanging in mid-air. "…h-he's okay… and when he smiles without his usual sarcasm…" She would see those once in a while, even though they would come and go in a flash. A pleased smile when she would bring him lunch while he was stuck in a desk job in the Hokage's office, or when she would thank him profusely when he announces that he had done whatever errand she had asked him to. These and other small events that could make her smile too whenever she remembers.

"Aaaah! What am I thinking?!!" she cried, slapping her forehead. When the dirty rag touched her, she got irked some more. "Ugh! I shouldn't have listened to Shikamaru's father!!!" She gripped her rag with more determination, and started to wipe the books with more force, using it as an outlet for her irritation.

She took out one book after another, wiping thoroughly the hardbound covers of the textbooks, as well as the scrolls that were tossed aside thoughtlessly. The girl couldn't help but grimace; at first look, it may seem that her teammate's room may look untouched, but his bookshelf knew better, and so did she.

"Eh? He still keeps his elementary notebooks?" She had to laugh when she saw that indeed, they were the notebooks that he used back in the Ninja Academy. In all his years spent under Iruka-sensei, he didn't need to buy new notebooks—he rarely copies down lectures anyway.

A little curious, she decided to browse what his notebooks contained. She wasn't surprised when the first page of his notes was made back in first grade, and the next page was in third grade already. "I bet he never had to sharpen his pencil twice in one school year," she mused.

She skipped the other doodles and scribbles, and only paused when she would look at his commentaries on certain subject areas, and perhaps even certain attitudes of their Iruka-sensei. She had to giggle at the part when he wrote down some questions on why Iruka-sensei would put much focus on shuriken throwing when he himself could not catch a ball in their games of dodge ball.

Some moments later, she was about to close the notebook when she noticed a small series of questions that were meant as guide questions for a supposed essay.

And vintage Shikamaru answered them in enumeration format.

The formal theme was entitled, "Me and My Dreams". She snickered silently. Fat chance that Nara Shikamaru would come up with something worth more than one hundred words on that topic.

"What are dreams?" read Ino aloud. "They're something I wake up from every time." She sweatdropped, and then went to the next question.

"Why do people dream? Because you don't have much options in life—either you deal with what's real, or you don't. When you don't, you dream." The girl read the statement thoughtfully. It sounded bitter, but then again, it was her teammate's nature to perpetually sound sardonic anyway.

"Do you have your own dreams? Yes. Name some of them. I'm not telling. Do you think you can achieve them? I won't know unless I cross the bridge. How can you achieve them? Stay asleep, and you'll keep dreaming." Ino paused momentarily to cry out in frustration. "Argh! Immersing myself in Shikamaru's world is too disheartening! Even someone like Naruto will get disillusioned in these stuff!"

"Are your dreams important to you? I feel so. Why? Because they are." Ino groaned. "I had enough of this!" She peered at the last question though, determined to finish her friend's literary masterpiece.

"What is your most cherished dream?" Ino's eyes widened as she read his answer, and then she grinned slowly, almost goofily. She got up, now more energetic than ever, as she continued fixing Shikamaru's room.


"That girl's been into my room again?" said Shikamaru warily as he looked at the wax-shiny floor, the newly-dusted shelves, the organized books, and just-ironed clothes. It was not to say that he was displeased by what he was seeing, but Shikato was standing behind him, and there was no way that he would express his pleasure when the old man was around.

"Don't hide that smile of yours, my son," said his father, grinning. "The look on your face is the same one I wore when your mother told me that she accepts my offering of love already."

"You know, old man, if you're wearing my facial expression right now back when you courted her, she would never consider marrying you." He looked at his shelf that suddenly looked spankingly handsome, what with its dust-free shelves and glass paneling that could actually contain your reflection, and then back at his father. "You've cooked dinner already?"

This snapped his father out of wonderland. "Oh yeah! I'll see you later, son! Let's do some man-to-man talks, you know, like good fathers and sons—"

"No thanks. My time is precious." He slammed the door on his father's face, and then settled on his bed. He scanned his bedroom again, imagining what it could have looked like with Yamanaka Ino shuffling around in an apron, holding a broom and a rag, wearing those slippers he would see his mother wear while cleaning the house.

He laughed inwardly. Yeah right.

For some reason, a memory from his Ninja Academy class returned in his mind. An essay that asked what was his most cherished dream as a man.

To have a troublesome wife, start a troublesome family, and live in bliss that only these troublesome conditions could give.


Cleaning Shikamaru's Room

A ShikaIno request for Chibified Kitsune