Shove Over, Shikamaru!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto blah blah blah. You know the drill.
Ino bounded down the stairs, her bare feet making dull thudding sounds as they contacted the wood. Her mother looked up from her cleaning, annoyed by the racket. When she saw her daughter all dolled up, dressed to party, she frowned. How could Ino be so irresponsible? There was much housework to be done, and they were both due for missions soon, so her top priority was to settle household matters.
"Ino, come here," she called her daughter sharply. Sure that she was in for a long lecture, Ino rolled her eyes as she turned around to face her mother. "I thought I'd already discussed this with you: we get the housework done, then we can do whatever we want. But evidently you aren't heeding what I said." She glared at her daughter and folded her arms across her chest. A pause, then she demanded, "Where are you going, dressed like that?"
Ino, who had been until then trying to look bored and nonchalant, now glared back at her mother, her flashing blue eyes mirroring that of the older woman. "Mom, I'm nineteen! I know my priorities and I promise, the housework will get done!" She threw her hands up in exasperation and, thinking the 'lecture' was over, turned on her heel and sauntered towards the door.
"Stop right there, young lady." The icy tone in her mother's voice somehow compelled Ino to stop in her tracks. Ino learnt from experience that whenever her mother spoke with this tone, she was in for trouble. Big trouble.
Reluctantly, Ino stood up from putting on her boots and tried not to show her annoyance as she slowly turned to face her mother. She was already running late for the party, and she had no intention to anger her mother further in case she got grounded. But she, like her mother, had a sharp tongue, and before she could stop herself, an impudent, "What, now?" had escaped her lips.
When Ino saw her mother stiffen and turn livid with rage upon hearing those two words, she knew this was the end. She sighed inwardly. No more partying, no more TV, no fun, until either of us gets a mission. And all because of what? My own, stupid big mouth.
She rolled her eyes at the thought.
When her mother saw this, she flung the broom against the floor in a rage. The sudden, loud clattering sound startled Ino, and before she knew it, her right cheek was stinging from the tight slap her mother had just given her.
Tears sprang to Ino's eyes, both from the pain, and because of the indignance she was feeling towards her mother. She touched the still-tingling skin of her cheek, both angry and humiliated. Her mother had never hit her that way before. Too bad Daddy isn't home or I'd surely have some protection.
"That'll teach you some manners, young lady. You're grounded until your next mission." Ino thought she saw her mother gloating at her as she brushed past her to pick up the broom, and then resumed her cleaning as if nothing had happened.
Feeling the tide of anger surge higher within here, Ino yelled at her mother, the first time she had ever done so, "Fine! If I have to live with your rules when I live in this house, I simply won't! I'm leaving!" Without another word, Ino stumbled upstairs to her room.
Thinking that this was but an empty threat, Mrs. Yamanaka resumed her cleaning, but much to her dismay, Ino soon reemerged from the stairs, carrying a suitcase. While she longed to take her daughter into her arms and apologise for hitting her earlier, her pride dictated that she should not succumb to emotional blackmail. Still, it took much effort for her to stop herself from taking a last glance at Ino and appear to be concentrating on her chores.
The front door closed with a slam.
As she slowly walked away from home, Ino felt her heart sink with disappointment. She had hoped that her mother would come running, begging her to stay, and she gladly would too. But she soon realised that her hopes would not be realised; she had to be realistic now. It was already night, and she was in no mood to party. So. The burning question: who was she going to stay with until the cold war between herself and her mother ended in a truce of sorts?
Ino quickly ruled Sakura out. She had recently been on a series of long-drawn missions and often resulted in her being too tired when off-duty to entertain guests. Ino attributed this to Sakura's guilt for being unable to persuade Sasuke not to leave Konoha. When he had finally returned to the village as a monster of Orochimaru's creation, Sakura was relieved, yet remorseful that she hadn't been able to do anything to save the boy she loved from harm. Although several years had passed since that incident, Sakura's life was still shadowed by her guilt, self-pity and a sense of worthlessness, and thus she sought to expiate her guilt to prove to herself that she was still worthy of life.
As Ino thought about the self-imposed tragedy that had befallen her best friend, she sighed helplessly. The least she could do now was not to trouble Sakura with such trivial domestic problems.
Ino leaned back on the park bench and continued thinking about who to bunk with. Her thoughts drifted back to her old Ino-Shika-Cho teammates. Nah, not Chouji. He'd tempt me out of my diet... Shikamaru... Hm... He's smart, so he can help me think of a way out of the mess I'm in now... He's lazy, so he won't bother to tell on me to my parents because the fuss they'd kick up would be more than any trouble I could possibly bring him... Hm... With that thought, her face lit up. "Perfect!" she exclaimed, inadvertently interrupting the romantic mood of the couple on the bench adjacent to hers. Grinning widely, Ino picked up her sole piece of luggage and bounced towards Shikamaru's house.
Shikamaru stole a glance at the kifu and placed a white stone on the lined board. It was a brilliant move, he thought. the player had managed to remove all threat to his territory, rendering his opponent's moves to dissolve his territory, useless. This marked the turning point of the game. Whatever Black tried to do, White's moves would block him and eventually, White won by a very healthy 3 and a half moku.
Shikamaru stared in awe at the black and white pieces laid neatly on the goban. The battle strategy laid out by White was brilliant, he thought. Duly impressed, he began to reanalyse the game right from the beginning.
So engrossed was he that he failed to notice Ino's frantic knocking on the far end of his room. Ino tried to force the stubborn window open, but to no avail. Exerting more force on the window, she managed to pry the window open, but only by a little. Ino pulled some more, and felt herself flush with the effort, and the window opened slowly, inch by inch.
A gale began to blow, and her suitcase teetered on the edge of the window ledge. She knew that if the suitcase fell, neighbours and passers-by would be alerted to her presence, and word would get around to her mother that she was staying with Shikamaru, and Ino did not want that to happen. In any case, she had to get into Shikamaru's room as soon as possible.
With this sense of urgency upon her, Ino gave all her strength into the final shove. The window suddenly heaved, and she stumbled into a stunned Shikamaru's room, crashing into him, toppling the goban, scattering the stones, and of course, creating a great deal of noise.
In the cool wind outside, Ino's suitcase balanced precariously on the window ledge. Grinning sheepishly at a very bewildered Shikamaru, Ino dashed out to get the suitcase and made it into his room just before the window slammed back down again of its own accord.
Shikamaru was half-sprawled on his back, the black and white stones scattered on the floor around him. He was visibly shaken by Ino's sudden, and very dramatic appearance. What in the world is Ino doing here? He felt his cheeks redden as he took in her long, slender legs; only a little of their great length was covered by the white miniskirt she was wearing. He allowed his gaze to run up and down her svelte figure, undisciplined, and only managed to force himself to stop, albeit with great difficulty, when he heard footsteps approaching his room.
"Shikamaru?" It was his mother.
Tearing his lingering gaze off her, he grabbed her suitcase and stuffed it under his bed, and urgently motioned for her to follow suit. Understanding fully, Ino complied and deftly tucked herself in the narrow space between his bed and the floor.
After ensuring that neither she nor the suitcase could be seen from the door, Shikamaru took in a deep breath to calm himself down and then nonchalantly began to pick up the black and white stones scattered on the floor after righting the goban. Ino knew that he was putting on an act to account for the loud crash she had caused earlier, and was confident that he could pull it off convincingly. For now, she had to keep quiet until his mother left, and it was the least she could do not to get him in trouble. After all, she had been the one who had cause him all this trouble and she felt a small pang of guilt for having brought him the trouble he disliked most.
The door opened with a soft creak. Although she could not see much from where she was, Ino could imagine Shikamaru's mother popping her head into his room, much like what her father often did when he called her for dinner. Ino felt her chest muscles tighten, but quickly suppressed her emotions.
"Shikamaru! I called you! Why didn't you reply?" A pause--she must have noticed the mess of Go stones and the overturned goban, then, "What in the world happened down here? I heard a crash, then a slam." The sound of faint rustling of cloth--Mrs. Nara was folding her arms across her chest. "You better have a good explanation for that, young man."
Shikamaru mumbled something unintelligible, under his breath, as he continued to scoop the Go stones from the floor. Ino stifled a giggle as she imagined his scowl.
"It was a cat."
Shikamaru continued to drone, but with a slight edge in his voice. "Yes, a cat. A cat came in through the small gap between the window and the ledge and jumped onto me. I chased it out."
Ino smiled to herself. It was just like the old times: Shikamaru would always try to protect Chouji and herself, because they were his beloved teammates, and no matter how troublesome things got, he'd always be there to protect them.
But Shikamaru's mother was no idiot. "A cat jumped onto you and you, in turn, made the goban topple? The cat must've been quite heavy, huh."
"Huh? The goban toppled?" Shikamaru quickly feigned ignorance. "It's over there, isn't it?" He pointed at the righted goban, even as he continued to pick up the remaining black and white stones on the floor.
Ino guessed that Mrs. Nara's eyes were narrowed as she glared as Shikamaru, who was still calmly gathering the pieces on the floor.
After a pregnant pause, Mrs. Nara gave up trying to intimidate her son, and simply concluded that she was hearing things. She shook her head and complained, "Didn't I tell you to always keep that window shut? Why was it open? To let the breeze in again huh? If not for your own negligence, you wouldn't have to clear this troublesome mess."
Shikamaru was silent, and Ino was filled with contrite. Not only that, she was also upset that Mrs. Nara had displayed so much concern towards Shikamaru. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she bit her lip and blinked the tears back. For now, her focus had to be keeping Shikamaru out of trouble. If there was a time for her to shed tears, it would have to be later.
Thankfully, Mrs. Nara soon announced her departure. "Oh yes, Shikamaru, I'll be going over to the Akimichi's for supper. If you need anything, I'll be there. And there's some leftover food in the freezer, if you fancy eating. Take good care of the house while I'm gone. Bye dearie!"
She shut the door, and was gone.
However, it was not until Shikamaru heard the front door open, and then close, that he allowed Ino to come out from underneath his bed.
"Ino, you can come out now."
Wearily, she crawled out from the cramped space she and her suitcase occupied. It was remarkably clean, considering that this was Shikamaru's room. But she knew she shouldn't be all that surprised; his mother was known to be a very meticulous person.
Shikamaru stared at Ino, who was slightly disheveled after crouching beneath his bed for all that time. He noted a certain sadness in her eyes. Concerned, he gently asked what the matter was, despite knowing that the result could be troublesome.
The cheerlessness in her eyes seemed to intensify. Then, without warning, she flung herself at him, and sobbed pitifully into his shoulder. Awkwardly, Shikamaru put his arms around her and stroked her hair soothingly.
This is troublesome, he grumbled to himself. But he had to admit, he loved the feeling of having her in his arms.
A/n: Wow that was one really long chapter. It's like this mainly because I didn't want to break the flow of the story ;; I really doubt I can write such long chapters consistently. Nevertheless, hope you enjoyed my stab at fanfic after nearly a year (is it? I really can't remember... it's been such a long time ) of relative inactivity (thanks to exams). I hope to update about once a week, maybe. I MUST finish this before the new term begins in January, or you'll be left hanging for months (guess what motivates me? XD;;)