The Troubles of Holidays: A Christmas Special
By: Fallen Fantasist
Summary: It didn't matter that he would be the only one attending the Uzumaki's Christmas party alone. It didn't occur to him, however, that a certain blonde-haired blue-eyed high-maintenance loud-mouthed beauty didn't have a date either. Shika/Ino. oneshot
Disclaimer: If the world were perfect, I would own Naruto, there would be more romance in Naruto. Naruto would become Hokage, make wonderful decisions, and marry Sakura. Sasuke would fall off the face of the Earth and rid us of his horrible presence, while Kakashi would take off his mask and show the world his damn hot face. The world isn't perfect...so...
Married life, Shikamaru concluded, was much too troublesome for his tastes. He had been best man at one too many weddings, been to one too many house warming parties, and witnessed one too many 'lover's quarrels' to last him a lifetime.
No, he thought, bachelor life suited him. It suited him well.
For what wife would let her husband throw his dirty jounin jacket on the floor, no matter how much of an exhausting day he had? And what wife would allow her husband to flip through channels non stop and fall asleep on the couch, no matter how many papers he had to sort through during the day? What wife could actually stand getting her cooking insulted, no matter how unfit for human consumption is really was?
Not any wife that he knew. And he was no stranger to wives.
For wasn't Naruto married? And Neji? And Kiba?
And so, Shikamaru concluded, on that 20th day of December, that being plain and simply single suited him.
It didn't matter that he would be the only one attending the Uzumaki's Christmas party alone.
It didn't occur to him, however, that a certain blonde-haired blue-eyed high-maintenance loud-mouthed beauty didn't have a date either.
My perfect guy, Ino thought, will be as sexy as Sasuke, as smart as Sasuke, as noble as Sasuke, as athletic as Sasuke, and as funny as Sasuke.
Sasuke wasn't funny. And he wasn't always smart.
For how could he be smart if he had turned someone as irresistible as herself down for not another female, but another male?
Female, she could deal with. But how do you deal with a male?
You couldn't scratch or scream or cry or holler or give him the silent treatment. That only worked on girl rivals. Yes, she had tried. Males were a whole new species when it came down to fighting for Sasuke. Ino had spent so much of her time perfecting her plan of getting girls off Sasuke's back, that she never even once gave thought to what she would do if it were a man that he wanted. And of course, Uchiha Sasuke got what he wanted. And a man he did get. But no, it couldn't just be any simple man. He just so happened to be tall, dashing, social, and not to mention gorgeous.
How could Ino, no matter how dazzling she may be, fight against someone like that?
The answer, simply, was that she couldn't. But that wouldn't, and didn't, stop her. Oh no. She had spent way too much of her childhood chasing after her raven-haired dream to let it go at just the tender age of twenty-two.
And not to mention, her pride was at stake. And one thing Yamanaka Ino would not give up for anything- yes, not even for the love of Sasuke- was her pride.
So, on that 20th day of December, Ino made a resolution. Yes, a resolution. Not just any resolution, however, but a resolution that would change her life. She resolved that she would indeed go single to Naruto and Sakura's Christmas party. But she wouldn't just go plain and simply single. Oh no. She would come dazzlingly beautifully single. And she would make sure to bend over when around Sasuke a lot- just to show him what he was in fact missing.
"Shopping is troublesome," was the first thing that came out of Shikamaru's mouth upon entering the mall. It was definitely over rated. He could, and would, never understand why females (and some males) found shopping so enjoyable- especially during the holiday season.
First of all, there were the crowds. The crazy crowds that would push and shove and hoot and holler just to save- what? - $5.60 on a certain gift for their significant other. What Shikamaru never understood was why they would feel the need to save money when buying a gift for their supposed 'significant other'. Wasn't the love supposedly more important to them then the circumference of their pocketbooks?
Ah, and that brought along the second reason for why he hated shopping: love. Yes, love. It was much too troublesome for him. Those silly couples cuddling and holding hands- it was enough to make one nauseated. Especially him. Love was overrated- maybe even more so than shopping. Sure, it gave you those annoying butterflies in your stomach, made you grin goofily like an idiot, and blush a lot- but that lasts for about a whole of 4 minutes before you realize that the person you love actually didn't love you back, and the realization of that, well my friends, just wasn't pleasant.
And well, the last reason of all was that you could never ever go shopping – even just four days before Christmas when everyone should have been done with their shopping – without seeing someone you knew.
And Shikamaru did see someone he knew. Someone he knew too well. The someone that he was actually out trying to get a gift for. The someone that made him realize just indeed how troublesome love really was.
And so what did Shikamaru do when he saw the blonde-haired blue-eyed high-maintenance loud-mouthed beauty he'd been in love with since age twelve?
He turned around and ran out of the mall.
Ino absolutely loved shopping. The crowds, atmosphere, and gifts were just utterly divine! How could anyone not love shopping?
She was doing some last minute shopping for everyone. Shaking her head at the selection, she reprimand herself for being such a procrastinator. Now how would she find that oh so special gift she was supposed to get Sasuke?
And that's when she saw it. Across the lane in the jewelry store was a necklace. A beautiful white gold necklace with blue roses carved into the weave. She longingly stared at it for a few moments, open-mouthed. Oh how she wished she had the money to buy it! But unfortunately her teacher's salary as a chuunin didn't give her the luxury that she would've liked. Buying that necklace would've put a huge whole in her already deflating pocketbook. That wouldn't be good if she was planning on paying rent for the next month.
Oddly depressed by her situation, she went about buying gifts for everyone, finally picking out an ugly bright red tie for Sasuke without even thinking.
Then, while walking through the streets of Konoha, she came to a realization. The reason why she didn't seem to be able to afford anything was because she was single! No woman at the age of twenty-two could afford everything by herself. No wonder Sakura, Tenten and Hinata were so well off. They had men to support them!
And what did she have? She had an infatuation with Sasuke that wasn't going anywhere. She was able to admit that now. But there really wasn't any other man for her. She wasn't the type to run off and woo any good-looking man out there. She believed in love, and she would settle for no less. Ok, so maybe loving Sasuke was a mistake, but it was still love. Wasn't love supposed to make you happy? Wasn't it supposed to make you giggle like a schoolgirl and blush like a maniac?
For some reason, Christmas seemed to loose all its cheer as she opened the door to her apartment. As she turned on the light, she didn't realize that out of all the presents she had bought for people, she had forgotten someone. Someone who was very dearly important to her. She just didn't know how important yet.
Shikamaru reasoned, as he walked briskly away from the mall, that if Ino was shopping there, then she wouldn't be back to work at her flower shop for at least another two hours, leaving him enough time to go there, get her something, and leave. His highly intelligent brain, however, forgot to remember that if Ino wasn't working there, then Sakura would be and just as he opened the door, he heard a high pitched "Shika!" squeal that made his heart stop beating in his chest.
"Oh," he said a bit awkwardly, upon seeing the pink haired girl, "It's you Sakura."
Her green eyes sparkled mischievously, "Is that disappointment I hear in your voice, Shikamaru-kun? Were you expecting someone else?"
He frowned a tired frown, already weary of this game. "No Sakura, you just caught me off guard."
"Oh, well, is there anything I can help you with?"
He scanned the flowers. "No, thanks for asking, though."
The selection was at an all time low, he noted, as he looked around. Then something caught his eye. Amongst brilliant blood-red roses was a single blue rose. He picked it up and examined it, finding no flaw, every thorn cut off. Then he remembered something he had heard a long time ago.
Blue roses. Fantasy and impossibility. Hoping for a miracle.
He smiled at the irony.
Sakura smiled bright as she greeted all her friends beside her husband.
"I'm so glad you guys made it!" she gushed as Tenten and Neji passed. She smiled at the protective arm that Neji had around his very pregnant wife as he led her inside.
"Aren't they the cutest couple ever?" she whispered to Naruto.
He frowned, confused. "What?"
It was her turn to frown. "Are you even listening to me, dear?" her voice dangerously quiet.
"Er- ahem. Of course. It really is quite chilly outside. Why don't we go in?"
"Naruto… you weren't listening to me- again! What on earth is going in that head of yours that you cant even listen to your own wife on Christmas Eve?"
"Well…" he trailed off, looking at everything but her.
"So now you're hiding secrets from me too, huh?"
Naruto gave up. You couldn't hide anything from his pink haired wife. "Ok fine, I'll tell you. But you cant tell Shikamaru or Ino!"
Sakura's eyebrows shot way up. "I promise I wont, now tell!" she commanded, interested.
"Ok, well, you know how Sasuke can't come? Well, us men, well, and Tenten, because Tenten is involved in everything, made up a plan."
"Yes, a plan."
"And what does that plan involved? Oh please don't tell me it has to do with getting someone drunk and then leaving him and her together alone in a room together while we all mysteriously disappear!"
Naruto stared wide-eyed, "Who would ever think of something as stupid as that?" he asked, highly offended.
Sakura tapped his forehead. "You. If my memory doesn't deceive me, I remember quite well that one valentine's day when you tried almost that exact plan on Tenten and Neji."
"But look how they turned out! And even earlier you said just how great they looked together!"
So he was listening earlier, she thought with a smile. "Ok, back to your oh so magnificent plan. Let's hear it."
"Ok," taking a deep breath, he continued, "So, we were thinking about how Shikamaru is single and we all know that he's totally madly in love with Ino but he's just too stupid to do anything about it, so we're going to help him declare his undying love for her."
"And how exactly do you plan on doing that?"
"Well…" he shifted uncomfortably under his wife's penetrating gaze. "Ok fine, this part does include some booze."
"No! Oh my gosh. Absolutely not! That's horrible! I'm ashamed that my own husband would think of doing that! Do you know all that boy has been through? When he feels like telling Ino, he will. For heaven sake he's not stupid. He just knows where he shouldn't tread. You and me both know that Ino is still sore over the whole Sasuke thing, so if you know what's good for you, you leave him alone, you hear?"
"But Sakura… common, look at him. He's miserable!"
Sakura glared at her husband. "He'll be even more if you intervene- oh hello Shika! I'm so glad you could make it!"
Naruto pivoted quickly on the spot. Shikamaru stood directly in front of him, an eyebrow raised warily. "Hey Shika!" he said cautiously.
"Did I interrupt something?" was his answer.
Sakura coughed nervously, "Oh no, of course not. Why don't you come inside? It's freezing out. And here, let me help you with those gifts." She reached out to grab them but just as she grasped the bag, someone jumped on her from behind, screaming, "Sakura!" in her ear quite loudly, making her drop Shikamaru's bag of gifts. It was a good thing that Shika had good enough reflexes to catch the bag just as she let go of it.
"Goodness Ino, you nearly gave me a heart attack!"
Ino grinned cheerfully, "I missed you too."
The two girls shared a warm hug. When they pulled apart, Ino peered over her shoulder into the house. "Is Sasuke-kun here yet?" she asked anxiously.
Sakura tried not to frown as she heard Shikamaru make a few coughing noises. But of course, he was much too polite to just leave the conversation and go into the house, so he stood there. "Didn't you hear? Sasuke can't make it today. He had more… pressing matters to attend to."
She watched as her friend's face fell. "Oh. Ok. Well, I'll be going in now. It's pretty cold out here." She flashed everyone a forced smile and made her way inside, leaving the other three out on the porch in a deafening silence.
Sakura saw the emotions that played over Shikamaru's face during the scene. The raw pain that was visible for about three seconds before masked with indifference almost sent tears to her eyes.
Naruto broke the uncomfortable silence with a cough. "I think all the guests are here. We should go inside now and start dinner."
Shikamaru nodded, and, being always the gentlemen, let her and her husband in before going inside himself, closing the door with a snap that seemed to echo the emptiness she was feeling in her heart for her friend.
She was mad. She was frustrated. She was embarrassed. All that she had gone through to impress him- the dress, the makeup, the nails, the hair, the shoes- were all for naught.
It was a big deal. It was a huge deal. She had bought new shoes on her low teacher's salary just for the occasion. And the shoes weren't the tiny cute black type that you could wear with anything. They just so happened to be the exact exotic shade as her dress- the type of red that only went with the same red color. The result: she was dazzling with a mile deep hole in her bank account.
And the man of her dreams wasn't even there for her to impress him. So there she was, fuming in the corner, all by herself with a black & white martini in hand.
Stop sulking, her mind told her. Don't ruin the party by pinning after a man that doesn't even deserve you. Go show them what you're made of.
And that's exactly what she did.
Shikamaru smiled. Everyone at the party was so happy, so content. He was ecstatic for his friends. He really was.
But the selfish part of him wondered why he wasn't content. Didn't he deserve it as much as everyone else in the room? Didn't he deserve to be happy too? To be loved? To one day settle down, marry the girl of his dreams, and maybe produce a few kids?
The answer to that was no. Fate obviously wasn't on his side this time. Sure, it had helped him become a chuunin before all of his friends. It had helped him become a jounin, and then move on to becoming Konoha's top strategist. Many people even considered him being second only to the Hokage. But was it selfish of him to want a little more?
So busy in his contemplations, he didn't even notice the blonde haired girl who sat down next to him. He didn't notice the anxious looks everyone else there cast upon him, but he did notice when someone placed a light hand on his knee and asked, with concern, how he was.
Shikamaru stared wide-eyed at the girl he was so completely madly in love with. "I'm sorry," he said, with a clear of the throat, "What was your question?"
His heart was beating erratically.
Ino rolled her eyes. "Shika, do you ever pay attention? I asked how you were!"
"Oh," his mind worked fast to form a complete sentence. "I've been doing alright, I guess."
She nodded with a smile. "Don't you miss those days when we used to be in a team together with Asuma-sensei? Everything was so happy and carefree. Nothing ever seemed impossible."
"Yeah," he said, just for the sake of answering. He knew she wasn't listening to him anymore. Ten years of knowing someone made you understand his or her body language well. When she had that far away look in her eyes and crooked smile on her lips, he knew she was thinking of something intently. Or someone, he thought, feeling the all-familiar stab in his chest.
"Have you talked to Sasuke lately?" he asked, knowing she wanted to talk about him. That was what he was to her- her problem solver, psychiatrist, helper. Love wasn't included anywhere in those occupations. There was no room for another lover when your mind was so clouded by the infamous Uchiha.
"Oh Shikamaru!" she cried, flinging herself at him and silently crying into his chest. He was used to this. "I don't know what to do."
Why, he would ask.
Sasuke-this, Sasuke-that, she would reply.
"I've tried so hard to get over him," she didn't need to clarify who 'him' was. "I cant, Shika. I've spent more than half of my life loving him. What do I do?"
Pain seemed to make a permanent residence in his heart. It was his turn, now, to give her some great advice. Something that would make her eyes shine again, to give her back hope. But for some reason, he couldn't seem to think of anything to say.
It was because he was selfish. He was willing to give up Ino's happiness for maybe just a second of his. But really, in the end, he wasn't happy. Because Ino's happiness was his happiness.
So he just tightened his hold on her. When he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine that Ino was in his arms for a different reason. Maybe it was because she loved him. But for whatever reason it was, it didn't include Sasuke anywhere.
Sakura cried softly into Naruto's shoulder. "It's not fair," she repeated, over and over.
"I know. We all know," he whispered, over and over.
"I mean," she sat abruptly up, "How could they both be so stupid? Yes, both. Shika is being stupid too. How can he continuously help Ino try to get Sasuke when what he should be doing is trying to get her to love him!"
"Sakura…" Naruto said softly, "Shikamaru loves Ino so much more than he loves himself. He thinks that she deserves so much more than him."
"But," she slouched against the wall, defeated. "It's still not fair."
"You learn after a while that life is never fair. Some people aren't as lucky as us to find their other half."
Sakura smiled slightly and sniffed. "It's still not fair."
"Don't they just piss you off?" Tenten asked her husband as they watched Shika and Ino from the hallway in an embrace.
Neji grinned and slung an arm around his wife's waist. "They've got a really complicated relationship, Tenten."
"Oh I know. Be quiet. But still. I mean would you look at them? They're idiots! Why don't they just freaking declare their undying love for each other and be done with it! I'm sick of all this drama! I'm sick. Do you hear me Neji? I'm sick!" She huffed and stomped her foot angrily, putting her off balance and falling against her husband.
He grinned. "Calm down Tenten. Think of the babies." He gave her extremely bloated stomach a pat.
"I'll tell you what I'm thinking about! I'm thinking about…" she clutched her stomach. "Oh my god. Neji!" she shrieked.
"Tenten. What's wrong?" He asked, even though he had a pretty good idea.
"Oh my gosh it hurts! I think the kids are coming!"
"No," he said, panicked, "It's too early."
"It doesn't freaking matter. Go get some help you idiot!"
If he didn't love her so much, and if she wasn't in labor, he would've been mad at her. But he did love her, very much in fact, so he did exactly what she told him to do. He ran into the living room and yelled, "Tenten's in labor! Someone do something!"
There was a flurry of activity as everyone rushed to Tenten's side. Hinata, being Hinata, got there first. "Don't panic Tenten," she said soothingly, running her hand up and down her back, "Just breathe. 1… 2… 3…"
"I am breathing. Holy crap!" she looked close to tears.
Sakura had finally made her way over, and upon seeing the situation, yelled, "Neji! Get over here and help get your wife into your car! We need to get to the hospital!"
Neji nodded mutely and got his wife, leading them out of the house and into their car as everyone followed.
At the very end of the group was Ino and Shikamaru. Ino gave him a watery grin. "That's so exciting. I can't believe they're already having twins. It seems just yesterday when the two got together. Too bad Gaara and Lee aren't here to witness it. They were the ones who brought the two together."
"Yeah. It's just too bad that not all of us have their own matchmaker to find them the love of their life."
"You know, Shika, I've always wondered why you never ever dated anyone." Ino said as she instinctively got into his car.
He smiled sadly. "There are lots of things you don't know about me, Ino."
"Well, maybe if you told me I would know some things. You're always like… that."
He gave her a sideways glance, "Like what?"
"Like that! You act as if you don't care about anything. Why don't you care about anything?" she glared at him. "You know it hurts the people who care about you a lot when you act all no-nonsense like you always do."
"I care about a lot of things," he said quietly.
"Like what? Name one thing you care about besides Konoha, your job, and your family."
She stared straight ahead. "Well, you don't show it very well. Aren't I your friend?"
I wish you were so much more.
"You're one of my best friends, Ino."
She turned around in her seat to get a good look at him. "Then why are you always so distant?"
They had made it to the hospital. He parked his car before turning to answer her. "Ino, how many times have you come over to cry about Sasuke? How many times have I given you advice, helped you, without asking for anything in return?" he reached to the backseat of his car and got something, thrusting it into her arms roughly, "I've given you everything. My mind, my advice, my heart. I'm sorry I'm not good enough for you, but I try. I try hard."
He got out of the car, and before leaving said quietly, "Merry Christmas Ino. I would do anything to make your wildest dreams come true – but I'm sorry I cant."
It was the necklace she had seen in the mall. The white gold one with the beautiful blue roses in the weave. He had gotten her what she had wanted most and more. He attached a beautiful blue rose with a note that said one word – one word that said everything that was needed: impossibility.
She cried. She cried for the second time that day – but for a completely different reason. The first time she had cried over her situation with Sasuke. But that was so clear to her now. It was stupid and pointless. She was just so blinded by her infatuation with him that she couldn't see what goodness that was being offered to her for absolutely nothing in return. Shikamaru. He was so wonderful – so good. He had helped her deal with her love for Sasuke and helped her realize where her heart really lay.
She made another resolution. And in her rumpled red dress and exotic stilettos, she got out of Shikamaru's car with a renewed mind.
"Would you like to hold them?"
Shikamaru looked at the two squirming babies uneasily. Even at 23 minutes old, he could already tell that the two would live up to their namesakes perfectly. Cautiously, he held out his hands and the two tiny baby boys were placed in each of his arms.
A small smile played across his lips at the sight. They were beautiful babies -- exact carbon copies of their father except with their mother's light brown hair.
"They're amazing," he said to the extremely proud father who looked close to tears. "Congrats, man."
"Yeah," he said in a hoarse voice. "Thanks."
Everyone in the room started to file out – probably to let the couple rejoice alone. Shikamaru followed suit after handing the twins back to their rightful father.
"Wow," said Naruto, "Who would've thought it would be Neji and Tenten to be the first to reach parenthood."
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"Lets start heading out, you guys," said Sakura, "Dinner can still be eaten in our house, you're all welcome to come back."
Shikamaru was getting up to follow the crowd when he felt a touch on the back of his shoulder. Turning around slowly, he found Ino looking at him apprehensively.
"Shika – look --" she began.
"No, Ino," he cut her off. "I'm sorry about what I said earlier in the car. I don't want you to feel… obliged to loving me. It's going to be really awkward – and I'm not asking you to forget it ever happened. I'm trying to ask you to – well – not to dwell on it. Get on with your life, find a guy you can totally fall madly in love with and can spend the rest of your life with. Ino, I want you to be so happy. You deserve to be happy. Don't let someone like me keep you from getting what you really want in life."
He broke off at the end. That was a lot to get out, and he was glad he had.
But it still hurt. Maybe it was just a dull pain that he could probably get used to living with, but it was a pain nonetheless.
Ino stepped a little closer to him and grabbed his hand. "You deserve to be so much happier then the rest of us. Shika," she looked him straight in the eyes, "Do you really love me?"
He stood there, looking into the beautiful blue eyes. He was fighting a battle – a battle he knew he couldn't win. "Ino, I've loved you since age twelve."
"You told me in the car that you would do anything to make my wildest dreams come true."
"Yes, I did, and I would," he said. In his mind, he prayed she wouldn't mention anything about Sasuke. There was only so much he could take of emotional beating in one day.
"What if," she looked deep into his eyes, "what if I told you I loved you, and what I wish for most in this world would be to spend the rest of my life with you?"
His mind was trying to process everything that she had said. But the 'what if' part was annoying him. What if's held no promises or anything concrete. It was just an idea – a fantasy.
"I don't play 'what if' games, Ino," he said calmly, trying his hardest to not sound hopeful. He didn't want to set himself up for another loss.
She stepped so close to him that he could feel her soft curves against his body. On tiptoes, so close to his face that he could feel her breathing, she answered with a smile, "And I don't play 'try-to-guess-the-meaning-of-the-rose-color' games, Shikamaru. Instead of getting a red rose, I'd rather get a kiss."
And with a smile, that's exactly what he gave her.
A/N: ::grin:: I had fun writing that. It's my longest one-shot up to date. Hope you guys enjoyed it!
The car thing: I don't think Konoha has cars, but I couldn't figure out a way of getting Tenten to the hospital without a car. How else would she get there? Neji carrying her on foot? That, my friends, would be a perfect Kodak moment.
The rose thing: Roses symbolize things. A blue rose obviously symbolizes the impossible while red roses symbolize true love (we're all romantics at heart, don't deny it).
The updating Love Sick Giggles thing: Ok, I know I haven't updated since –what—September? But I'm working on it. I just so happen to be stuck. Yes, stuck. I know where I'm going, it's just the getting there part that's annoying me.
And lastly, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! Love you guys bunches!
December 20, 2004