Symphony of Opposites
AN: Note…the opposites don't apply simply to personality or whathaveyou. It can also focus on a difference of opinion, which is kind of what this one's on. I have yet to decide who's next, oy. Ah, another note. Not all of these are romance, either.
Ino hasn't been eating right.
Someone else might not have noticed, because she's really good at hiding it, but when someone loves food as much as Chouji loves food, he tends to make sure other people are as appreciative of it as he is (although he's not above stealing chicken wings from their plates when their backs are turned). And Ino hasn't been eating right.
Girls and their diets, he thinks, and it makes his head hurt, because he's never understood girls and he's not sure he ever wants to. Even so, the fact that Ino isn't eating right will eventually have an impact on their team, because if they can't perform at their full capacity during their missions, someone might be killed.
Chouji doesn't want to see that happen, because he cares too much. So, when Ino drops into the seat next to him with a tired little 'Hey, guys,' and proceeds to pick at her evening meal, Chouji's pretty sure something has to be done.
"Ino," he asks curiously, with a sort of gruffness that's utterly lost on his teammates, seeing as how they know him better than that. He casts a sideways glance at the blonde girl, who pauses mid-bite and turns her attention to him, one eyebrow quirked. "Let's train later."
"Me? I mean, you and me?" If she would have said that with a different inflection, it almost might have been insulting. Ino of earlier months probably would have made sure of it. But the Ino of today knew better.
Across the table, Shikamaru's giving him a sort of look. Best friends have a tendency to be able to read each other, and so Chouji knows exactly what he's trying to say. Anything wrong? Shikamaru asks with his eyes. The Akimichi boy shrugs and shakes his head a little. Nope.
Fair enough. And Shikamaru settles back to where he'd been half-asleep against the wall, at ease again. Shikamaru trusts him, Chouji knows. Trusts him to do whatever he thinks is right, whenever he thinks it's right to do it. Not many people trust others like that, and because of that, Chouji is glad. Very, very glad that he has Shikamaru as a friend.
And maybe he's glad of Ino, too. She may be a little too pretty and a little too shallow but she's learning from her past mistakes, and they're all growing up together and that means that everything is going the way everything should be going. The girl had been watching their silent exchange quizzically, and now that she assumes it as being over, she flips her hair and flashes a smile. "Sure, Chouji. I'm just not used to you wanting to train. Are you feeling okay?" she asks jokingly, nudging him a little with an elbow.
Chouji eyes her and resumes eating. Ino grins at him. "Hey, kidding, kidding."
He sighs at her and helps himself to thirds, wondering why Ino can't just be happy being Ino. Maybe she needs a Shikamaru of her own, to tell her that she's fine the way she is, and that trying to change herself won't make her like herself any better. Chouji thinks that maybe everyone should have their own Shikamaru, because if that were the case, surely the world would be a better place.
Later, after they clear the table and ruthlessly abandon Asuma-sensei to do the dishes on his own (which earns them all a laid-back sort of rebuke, the sort that Asuma-sensei is so good at). Shikamaru heads home, hands stuck in his pockets and his head down. Calls 'Later' over his shoulder and waves, which is a lot of effort for Shikamaru to put into a good-bye. Chouji tells him that he'll see him later as well, and Ino reminds him about their mission, which earns another hand wave.
Ino turns to him, smiles as kindly as Ino can smile, and asks, "So, where should we train?"
"Don't care," Chouji answers truthfully, already munching on a new bag of chips. Ino sighs.
"Must I think of everything?" she asks in fond exasperation. But she strikes off anyways and Chouji follows her and eventually they're at a little grove in the woods outside Konoha. Chouji's into his third bag of chips, and he offers it to Ino, but she shakes her head and makes a sort of warding-off motion with her hands.
"I like you, Ino," Chouji tells her. She blinks, straightens out of the combat position she'd assumed and, for lack of anything better to do, she blinks again.
"I…like you too, Chouji. But that was…random."
He settles on the ground, licks his fingers and glances back up at her. "You're pretty, and you're smart."
She looks nervous, like maybe she's thinking he's about to ask her on a date or something. Which is almost funny, in its own little way, because he's Chouji and she's Ino and he knows that dates just wouldn't work with them. She's not his type, after all. "Um…thanks, Chouji."
"And," he enunciates particularly, giving her a sort of Chouji-ish glare, "you're fine the way you are."
She has the good graces to look guilty, because like he'd said, Ino is smart, and he knows that she knows what he's talking about, and probably won't try to deny it, either. She sits on the ground a little ways away from him, cross-legged and cups her chin in her hands. "That obvious, huh?"
"You're my teammate. I have to look out for you if you won't do it yourself." Chouji shrugs and digs through his ever-present satchel for another bag of chips.
This time, Ino has some, too.
Chouji thinks that maybe it's hard being someone else's Shikamaru. But he's willing to try until he gets it right. So he watches as Ino munches on chips and makes sure she eats her portion and knows that tomorrow will be a better day.