Note: This is my very first ShikaIno fic so I'm very nervous. I thought I should probably get off my lazy duff and quit modeling Shikamaru if I intended to get any Naruto fanfiction done. But for some reason, fanfiction always makes me nervous and I worry I'll mess it up. This is from Shika's POV, which surprised me, as I usually write for Ino.

Ambling across town with little thought of moving any faster than he was, Nara Shikamaru slipped his hands into his pockets and felt the small box that resided in one. With his fingers, he traced the outline and the soft silk of the ribbon before realizing what he was doing. Jerking his hand from his pocket with disgust, he scowled and very nearly turned back. But today was Ino's birthday and he knew she'd be expecting something. He'd catch hell if he didn't give her his gift.

"So troublesome," he muttered, thinking women ranked about the top of the list for things he wasn't interested in understanding and didn't think it was worth it to bother.

His parents were a prime example of why a man shouldn't tie himself down with a woman if it could be helped. Shikamaru was more than certain his mother spent more time with her mouth open than shut. And he never liked a damn thing that came out of it.

Sighing, he slouched and kept his hands out of the vicinity of his pockets, settling for folding his arms across his chest. He was trying to remember why he was doing this, again. Sure, it was almost... dare he say 'cute', to watch Ino open her presents and squeal like a female pig over them (which was probably where Sakura had gotten the nickname). But he hated shopping and he couldn't stand it when the sales person followed him around suggesting gifts. He knew Ino, and he knew what she would like. It was only that it was such a hassle to give it to her.

It hardly helped when she'd been reminding him for weeks that 'a girl only turned 16 once'. Recalling that this morning as he forced his uncooperative self from bed, he was tempted to go to Chouji's and ask his friend to deliver the gift to Ino, saying it was from both of them. Still yet, his selective memory chose this moment to foist on him the outcome of such actions, as he'd tried that for her 14th birthday. She hadn't talked to him for a week.

Wasn't that a blessing?

As if getting up early hadn't been enough of a torment, his mother had forced him to cook breakfast while she took care of the baby (why his parents wanted more kids was beyond him) and then railed at him the entire time about Ino's gift. He'd taken it in with his usual aplomb and promptly ignored half of what she said. In his time around women, he'd come to the conclusion that they really only wanted to hear themselves talk and that no answer was actually required. If you offered the illusion of listening to them, they were satisfied.

Shikamaru didn't need the help of others to buy for Ino. They'd been friends for years. She liked the pretty and the expensive, objects that added to an appearance that needed no enhancements. Chouji'd once told him to let Ino know he thought that, but what a hassle that'd be. Besides, when had Chouji gotten so smart about women? He loved his best friend, but he'd only be inviting trouble if he made remarks like that to Ino. She took everything too seriously.

Like him, both Ino and Chouji were Chuunin now. Constant sources were always nagging him about becoming a Jounin, but he was putting that off until he turned 18 at the earliest. Chuunin was good enough for his friends and he wasn't interested in taking on more responsibility yet. His mother couldn't seem to understand that he wasn't Naruto and the thought of becoming Hokage made him ill, much less pushing himself to the limits Naruto did. As far as he was concerned, he had nothing to prove and enjoyed his reputation of being the laziest shinobi in Konoha.

Everyone had their separate ambitions, each of more import than his own. He only wanted a comfortable life with average things, being of an average sort himself. That hadn't changed in three years. Not much about him had, except for physical growth.

Pausing long enough to glance up at the sky with regret, he watched lazy clouds drift by at their leisure, as if lingering because they knew he wanted nothing more than to find a quiet place to lay and watch. It was more troublesome, however, to have Ino ignoring him. Which she would if he found a place to take a nap. She couldn't even deign to speak to him on missions and relaying orders and whatnot through Chouji to Ino was a bigger hassle than having her talking at him all the time.

Still, he'd seen what a woman could do to a man. Naruto was dating Hinata and he'd become absent minded as of late, spending all of his spare time with her and forgetting to do the necessary things, like shave, eat, and sometimes even sleep. Nice as she was, that woman was going to be the death of his friend. He wanted no part of that. He planned to die a comfortable, painless death in his bed at some old age.

Not to mention, Lee was always mooning after Sakura and she wouldn't give him the time of day. When he found a woman he actually wanted to waste his effort on, he didn't want to have to chase her around and deal with the hassle of heartache.

Keeping his arms firmly across his chest, he forced his feet to move forward again. Since he had no clear idea of where Ino was, he was going to try her home and her family's flower shop. If that didn't work, he was going back home to take a nap. She couldn't say he didn't try, though he knew she'd rather he search for her all over town. Why the hell did women want so much out of you? Couldn't they be pleased with the little efforts?

Blowing out an exasperated breath, he caught the faint trace of satisfied female laughter. Ino. He'd recognize her laughter anywhere. And that was the problem. He knew her form, her smell, her laughter, her voice... He knew her better than any man in this village and that knowledge had always left him vaguely unsettled. As if there was a piece he was missing, and his mind stubbornly refused to acknowledge it for fear of what it'd find.

He found her on the bridge. Her back was to him and her feet were bare. Suspended from one hand were both her sandals as she watched what appeared to be a butterfly the pale blue of her dress and her eyes. She'd bound her hair up in some strange fashion that left most of it down, where the wind caught it and lifted pale strands like gentle fingers stroking reverently. As he watched, part of his mind having gone numb, she reached for the butterfly with one slender, smooth arm and then laughed again as it danced out of her reach.

She didn't seem aware of him. Fingers trailing along the railing, she took another step forward and then broke into a run as the butterfly continued it's flight. From his vantage point, he watched her dress flare out and her muscles bunch and smooth as her more than ample breasts lifted and fell with the effort. Swallowing hard, he wondered when the hell she'd become so beautiful and so damned adult. And why did he have to notice?

Cursing hormones he had no control over, he found his legs carrying him forward of their own volition. As he stepped onto the bridge where she'd stood, he found himself caught up in the lingering scent of her perfume. It clung to the air, sweet and potent, and he unconsciously inhaled, taking in a lungful of it as if it were necessary to breathe. It stood to reason if he'd noticed finally, then everyone else in the village had noticed as well.

Gut clenching over the thought, he became further annoyed and started down the path she'd taken, her perfume guiding him. To his surprise his heart was pounding. Dropping his hands, he brushed at his chest in irritation, as if the action could curb it and do away with the glaring reminder of his own confusing feelings. This was Ino, she was the most troublesome of any female he knew, and thoughts of Naruto and his preoccupation with Hinata should've helped stay him, but they didn't.

Shikamaru caught up with her as she ran through the grass, and made a half-hearted dive, laughing and rolling as she missed and the butterfly escaped, alighting on a branch far above her head. Her hair had come loose. When she sat, bracing herself on her palms, it spilled across her shoulders and tumbled down her back. The trace of laughter dwelled in her eyes, leaving them bright and dominant in her face. A faint smile curved her lips and he found his eyes drawn to them, before he shook himself and looked away.

The green of the grass was a sharp contrast to her skin, making the ivory of her complexion and the blue of her dress stand out further. She'd discarded her sandals some feet from her, flinging them in her dive for the butterfly. It unnerved him that he wanted to go to her, that he couldn't remember a time when he was more aware of her as a woman.

What the hell is wrong with me? I'm lazy, I'm an underachiever. Ino's too beautiful and too high maintenance. She doesn't fit into my plans.

The wind shifted the trees above her head, and looked up, watching leaves shake loose and fall. When his eyes went back to Ino, she was lifting her arms to catch them. He couldn't remember her ever looking so peaceful. Would she be that way when she found out he was standing here?

He couldn't stall any longer.

As he forced himself down the hill, she saw him. Her gaze settled on him in a calm, steady manner that further unsettled him. She didn't look as if she were gearing for a fight, like usual, or bothered by his interruption of her play. Rather, she appeared to be waiting for him, prompting him to uproot himself and continue. He would just give her, her gift and leave. It was simple enough.

Resisting the urge to fold his arms again, he covered the short distance between them and effected a lazy, bored expression. If anything that he felt showed, he'd have wanted to die on the spot. Nothing was worse than being embarrassed in front of Ino. She never let go of anything, and he would hear it from her for weeks afterward.

Ino smiled up at him, resting on her hands again, legs together at the knees but splayed at the feet. Shikamaru was once again struck by her, and it was all he could do to remain nonchalant. He had to get out of here before he did something stupid.

Grunting, he reached into his pocket. Why the hell wasn't she speaking to him? She always said the first words; and the last.

Procuring the package, he muttered, "Happy birthday."

Reaching up for it, she smoothed her hands across the top of the box and the look on her face made him want to turn and run away. Using chakra to force his feet to remain where they were (that was how strong the urge was), he watched as she opened it, becoming more and more restless with each careful tear of the paper. When she finally removed the lid and took the object out of the tissue paper within, he grimaced as she held it up and the smile on her face blossomed.

"Shika, it's beautiful."

"It matches your eyes," he noted, before he could stop himself.

As her entire expression warmed, and a faint tinge of pink highlighted her cheeks, he was mentally kicking himself for opening his mouth.

Rising to her feet, she dusted grass from her dress and held out the comb, which remarkably, had a blue butterfly on it in an elegant gathering of glittering stones.

"Put it in place?" She asked quizzically, inclining her head.

When the hell had his palms started sweating?

"Ah... whatever," he mumbled, taking the comb and sliding it into her hair. His fingers brushed over the soft strands, and he felt something warm pool in his stomach and slip lower.

Twisting from side to side, she asked, "Well, what do you think?"

He stared at her blankly.

Fisting her hands on her hips, she intoned, "You picked it out."

"It, uh... looks nice," he finished lamely.

Ino rolled her eyes. "Men." And then, startling him, she stepped in and hugged him.

Every nerve in his body came to life, and he felt his face heating up as he reluctantly brought his hands to limply hold her. Further torturing him, she lay her head to rest on his shoulder and seemed to have no intentions of letting go anytime soon. What was wrong with her? What was wrong with him for not letting her go and getting home while it was still safe to do so?

"Your gifts are always so thoughtful, for all you pretend not to care," she said softly, and to his horror, she was playing with his hair.

Swallowing hard, he managed, "Ino... what are you doing?"

"Hm?" She asked, shifting to look up at him. All he saw were warm eyes and her lips.

Wetting his own dry lips, he swallowed again and told himself he didn't want to kiss her. That was too troublesome. If he started a relationship with Ino, there would be no taking it back. And he'd have to commit himself to something more ambitious than what he'd intended since he was a child.

Yet, no one, besides Chouji, knew him as well as Ino. No man knew her better than he did. The thought of her with someone else left him cold and feeling the vague stirrings of jealousy, which was such a hassle he couldn't believe he'd even give it passing attention. And it suddenly occurred to him that in order to be with a woman, he'd have to actually stir himself to get to know her. That could take months, years. While a woman was in his arms right now, one he knew and who knew him, and who he was so obviously attracted to and cared about.

And it was just like that, that he made up his mind.

While lazy, he was far from a fool, and intelligent enough to alter his plans when they better suited him. He'd wanted a plain wife who wouldn't nag at him. Instead, he'd gotten a beautiful girl who wouldn't leave him alone. All he wanted was a simple life with two children. First a boy and then a girl. Even the best laid plans could go awry.

"Shikamaru?" Her lips parted, as her eyes slowly fluttered shut and her breathing became more apparent as the rise and fall of her chest echoed against his own.

He sighed. "Ino..." And then lowered his lips to hers.

The kiss was hesitant at first, as if neither of them were quite certain what they wanted to do. When the heat infused them both, he tightened his grip on her as she clung to his shoulders and accepted the kiss as it went deeper. Her scent intoxicated him, invaded every sense until he forgot where he was except in this little world compromised of her. The inside of her mouth was sweet and he couldn't get enough. He knew he could have stood like this with her forever.

When they both finally came up for air, they stared at one another, dazed. He could feel every curve of her body, and the analytical part of himself thought they fit well, like the pieces of a puzzle he sometimes entertained himself with. He liked timing himself, to see how long he could put together the ones that nearly spanned his entire room before he'd tear them down again. Only, now that he'd put this puzzle together, he didn't ever want to take it apart.

Slowly smiling at her, he said, "Happy Birthday."