Love Stupidity

By Kerrie


Disclaimer: Don't own... I think everyone knows that XD
Category: Romance/Humor
Rating: PG 13
Pairing: Shikamaru/Sakura, with minor Naruto/Ino and mentioned Kankurou/Tenten
Spoilers/Warnings: Minor swearing, Romantic cliches abound. Minor spoilers for the current manga plotline, its just mentioned
Men.

Sakura seethed silently, her limbs moving smoothly through her kata, her skin speckled with sweat. Her hands sliced through the air viciously, cutting down invisible enemies as if they were nothing to her.

Damn them.

A harsh roundhouse kick. Why did they have to be so stubborn and self-centered? So stupid?

"Aaagh!" She screamed, whipping her fist forward in one last, finishing punch. "Blind bastards….Moronic, idiotic, blind bastards."

"Damn, I really hope I'm not the one that inspired that kata."

Sakura stiffened, her chest heaving as she snapped her head towards the new, obviously male voice. However, she visibly relaxed upon seeing her visitor and she slumped to the thick grass of the meadow she had been training in.

"Then I'm sure you'll be glad to hear that you weren't."

Kankurou snorted, dropping Karasu to the ground and then settling himself beside Sakura. He ran a cool eye over his friend, taking in her ragged breathing, sweaty, dirty skin, glittering emerald eyes and twitching left foot. She was angry, he decided. About what? He didn't know, but he would find out. For some reason he had the feeling that he was somehow involved, though how that could be was a mystery. He hadn't even seen her in three or so weeks. He couldn't possibly have done anything to piss her off. She wasn't so temperamental that she would be mad at him because he had duty to see to? Tenten maybe, but not Sakura.

Once he completed his study he looked away, tilting his head up to the sky and leaning back on his hands. "So, you going to tell me what crawled up your ass?"

Sakura threw Kankurou a dirty look and blew some damp, stick bangs out of her eyes. He was a man too, like he would understand. Even if he was one of her closest friend.

Since the incident with Akatsuki and Gaara, and her saving his life, she and Kankurou had gotten closer – friend wise. She found in him a wickedly funny man who was actually quite intelligent. He offered her amusing social commentaries, ones that she had often thought of herself but that no one else seemed to understand. He was different from all her Konoha friends, and she found it often easier to talk to him then those of the Leaf.

However, the fact remained that he was a man. And men were stupid.

She would ignore the fact that she was being childish.

"What the hell is with you men anyway?" She demanded finally, narrowing her eyes at the happy little grass blades cradling her legs. "I mean, what's your problem?"

Instead of getting confused, upset, mad or even defensive as the majority of men would have at such demands, Kankuro merely smirked, his chuckle derisive. "Trouble in paradise princess?"

It wasn't just a glare she gave him this time, but an accompanying smack as well that had him clutching his arm in real pain. "Shut up." She retorted smartly, pursing her lips and ignoring his seemingly exaggerated moans of pain.

Fucking hell, she needs to figure out how to retain her ridiculous strength! He grumbled in his head, still rubbing his soon to be bruised arm. "Alright fine, what's the matter?" He asked it with a sigh, adding a mock-pleading look for good measure.

"Men."

Now he snorted. Again. "I have gathered that much. How can I agree with you if you don't give me details? Wait," suddenly a light went on in his brain and his smirk returned. "Let me guess, you finally realized that Mr. Mature-older-man wasn't the one you really want, and the one you really want is still acting the clueless part?"

Sometimes he scared her. Sakura couldn't help but feel a little annoyed that he had read her so easily, yet hadn't even been around for almost a month. "For your information, Genma and I broke up just after your last visit. It was mutual."

Kankurou grinned, his dark eyes dancing with malicious humor. "Dumped you like yesterday's trash didn't he?" He chuckled. "The words I told you so are floating through my brain."

Sakura growled when Kankurou managed to dodge her next punch. "He didn't dump me, we mutually agreed that it wasn't working." She couldn't help the petulant huff at the end of her words.

"Uh huh," Kankurou 'cheerfully' (as 'cheerful' as he got anyway) replied, picking a blade of grass and clamping it between his teeth. "What was his reason? Oh, oh, let me guess – you were too emotionally distant, frigid? You avoided him like the last one?" He snapped his fingers together as if he had had a revelation, "You cried his name during sex?"

"Don't you have somewhere else to be?" was all Sakura said in reply, her tone sulky.

Kankurou hummed, secretly wondering if it really was the latter reason, but smart enough not to ask. "Sakura, men can tell when a woman's mind is one someone else. When they are in love with someone else." He sighed in irritation. He really hated acting the musy-best friend-advice giver role, but due to the fact that Sakura was a woman, and out of everyone, she, for some reason, preferred to talk to him, he was forced to play the role more often than not. Sometimes he wished Sakura was more like his sister.

"Pretending like your not in love with him and dating other guys isn't going to make the feelings go away."

It was Sakura's turn to sigh. Propping her arms up on her knees, she stared at the ground, her expression full of anxiety. He was right of course. No matter how many other guys she dated, no matter what she did, the feelings she had wouldn't go away. She couldn't forget him. Couldn't shake the love she felt for him.

But it didn't may difference. "He doesn't want me."

"And if you believe that you are the stupid one."

Slowly, Sakura raised her head to look at her friend who made it appear like he wasn't really paying attention to her or her 'problem'. Did he see something that she didn't? How could that be? He wasn't even a Konoha ninja, thus wasn't even around most of the time. How would he know anything?

"You don't know him Kankurou… you don't see what I see."

Oh please. Kankuro grunted, rolling his eyes. And she says men are blind. Oh yes, he knew all about the complaints against his sex.

"Look Sakura," he started, turning his upper body to finally face her. "Men are sometimes stupid and blind, even ones as damn smart as Nara. However," he slanted Sakura a narrow eyed, glinting smirk, "Women are irrational and subtle, they expect men to recognize ridiculous and impossible signals. They think their flirting is sooo," he dragged out the word, "Obvious. Well it's not." The last words were dry and poignant.

Sakura frowned, worrying away on her bottom lip, pulling her knees against her chest. "Do you have a point?"

Once more the husky Sand nin rolled his eyes. "My point is, maybe Nara isn't getting your 'clear' signals. From what I've seen of him, while he's a genius strategist and theorist, he's a moron when it comes to social relations. Unless you wear a sign around your neck – and even then that might be too subtle – he's not going to get it."

The pink haired kunoichi exhaled the breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. He was probably right. Maybe she should just come out and tell Shikamaru the truth? But… she had been clear in her not-so-subtle hints, and yet he hadn't made a single move. What else was she to make of that?

"Whatever. I can't believe I'm even listening to you. What do you know? Tenten all but clubbed you over the head and dragged you back to her lair. There's no subtlety in that. You didn't play the game, so how would you know?"

Kankurou's smirk became lazy and he allowed himself to fall back onto the grass. "Because princess, I'm a man."


Women.

Who got them?

They were as fickle as night and day and as confusing as some great mystery of the earth. Actually, they were the great mystery of the earth. Right above creation.

Shikamaru stared moodily at the neat and orderly shougi board where he was supposed to be strategizing his next move. His eyes were narrowed, his chin cradled by his hand propped up by his thigh, his other hand tapping impatiently on his opposite knee.

He had thought Ino was bad…. Temperamental, moody and difficult… confusing. But she had nothing on her. Nothing on the woman that occupied his thoughts far more than she should.

What was so great about women anyway? Why did men fall so helplessly at their feet? It was one of the few questions that plagued him, that no one seemed to be able to answer. No one.

As much as he normally really couldn't care less about answers (he couldn't actively be bothered either way), this was one question that bothered him; that would just not go away.

Why did men fall so easily to the wiles and charms of women? Why did they become so hopelessly addicted that they would forgo all else for the woman they loved?

He didn't understand.

Sure sex was good, but was it worth the cost of your manhood? He didn't think so.

He had watched over the years, starting with his father, one by one his friends and the men he knew all fell prey to the capricious advances of the opposite sex. His father was a strong ninja in his own right, but all it took was the mere hint that his mother could possibly have a reason to be angry, to turn the man into a terrified, blundering itiod. It was a perpetuating cycle that he watched over and over – even in his most powerful friends. One look from a woman, kunoichi or not, could make them cower in fear.

What the hell?

The worst part about it all was the fact that he could feel himself following the same path as all the sucker men before him and there was nothing he could do about it.

Damn her.

"You're distracted. Annoyed. Why?"

Shikamaru snapped out of his contemplations, his scowl darkening. "I'm fine." He mumbled, sighing a bit.

"You just defeated yourself. It is highly unlike you."

"What?" Shikamaru glanced down at the shougi board and sure enough, the pieces were aligned in such a way that his loss was imminent. He cursed out loud, his mood souring even more.

Neji arched an eyebrow at his shougi partner and quasi-friend. Neither of them was terribly social, and both very smart, they found in each other someone they could relate to, someone who didn't ask too many questions.

"Where did your mind go that had you making such Naruto-like mistakes?"

Even through his bad mood, Shikamaru could hear the humor in his opponent's words. His lips quirked slightly. Both rather liked the loud Rokudaime, but that didn't stop them from making jokes at his expense.

Feeling less annoyed, and more relaxed, Shikamaru sat back, his eyes skimming the board to see if there was any way of salvaging the game. He didn't answer Nei's question, more out of the fact that he forgot than anything else.

Neji continued to watch the other man, his careful Hyuga eyes missing nothing. "Well? Was it at least a nice place? There is no way out, by the way."

"No. New game?" Shikamaru was already repositioning his pieces for a fresh game.

"Yes." Neji knew better than to push, so he left it alone. If the other man wanted to inform him, he would speak. If not, it would go away.

Thoughts began to surface once more in Shikamaru's head. He had to discuss it with someone (even though that wasn't his nature), and Neji seemed like a good enough candidate. He was smart, quiet, generally had good insight, was on the same page as him and was married.

He sat up straighter. Neji was married. And what was more, he wasn't stupid and irrational as the rest of his newly wed friends were. Perhaps the Hyuga prodigy would have insight to his question. "Hyuga, you're married." He didn't know why he stated it, it just seemed like a good way to start the conversation, "Perhaps you can answer this question."

Ah, so he did want to talk about it after all.

Even though, like Neji himself, Shikamaru didn't talk much – particularly about things bothering him – Neji didn't act surprised to hear the statement. He merely raised his eyebrows to encourage the question, his pale eyes meeting Shikamaru's dark ones as he efficiently re-arranged his shougi pieces.

"Why is it that men go completely helpless in the wake of women?"

Now Neji was surprised, and it showed on his face. He had never taken the other man to be one to ponder about the mystery of the sexes, it just seemed odd. However, his quasi-friend looked troubled over the question, as if the answer held great weight over his personal life. Interesting. "An interesting question," Neji answered slowly, moving the first piece. "My first impulse is to say, because the men who do are weak minded and foolish. However, I have seen even the strongest of mind fall before a woman, so I suppose even the strongest of us can become weak."

"So?"

Neji's lips twitched at the impatience in Shikamaru's voice. He's fallen, even more interesting. "So, I am now more inclined to think that on some other level women posess something that men do not have, something to equalize the physical strength advantage most men have of women at the biophysical level." He watched Shikamaru carefully move a game piece. "Now personally, I have never experienced the love equals stupidity phenomenon, so this is just theory. My marriage, as you know, was arranged."

That's right, married to end years of feud between Hidden Cloud and he Hyuga family – the feud that killed his father. Perhaps he was not the best person to ask. Yet, the other man's answer had been rational, as was Neji's nature, and he did have a point.

"But, though I would hardly say I'm in loe with my wife, she has me do things sometimes that make me stop and question how she got me to do it in the first place."

Well, there it was. Even a man married to a former enemy had fallen prey to the pretty wiles of a woman.

It didn't make him feel any better.

It wasn't as if he had done or said anything stupid over her, well, nothing noticeable anyway. If anything he had merely gone out of his way to avoid her. Particularly since her 'friend' had been in town.

It had been the sudden flare of green emotion when he had managed to catch a glimpse of her unique hair, hair that fluttered in the wind along side a slightly taller covered head of a ninja that did not belong to their village, that had first alerted him to the strange and foreign emotions that now danced freely over his heart.

That had been a year and a half before. It had confused and annoyed him (still did actually). He had worked with her for years, though more so since she had made ANBU. For years he had felt nothing towards her but respect for a mind so like his own, and a little admiration for all she had achieved despite being ignored so much as a young genin. He had been the first of their group to achieve higher rank, but she was the true strongest of them all. She had skills that none of the rest of them could even comprehend, and a strength that out matched almost all other ninja in the village. She—

He stopped himself, cursing inwardly at his rambling. It was a perfect example of his falling into the love stupidity trap. A trap he fell into without even realizing it.

There was nothing like jealousy to slap you in the face and make you aware of something you didn't want to be aware of. Shikamaru didn't consider himself a possessive man, but every time the rumor mill reached his ear that she was dating yet another guy or when he saw them, or saw her with the puppet master from Sand, he felt the rush of jealousy and possessiveness that was so unlike him it caused him to question his sanity.

He hated the thought of her out with someone else, and was beginning to hate the Sand nin even though he had heard the man was engaged to Hyuga's old teammate. It annoyed him that such petty things and emotions could get to him. So he pushed the jealousy aside, choosing to ignore it, and avoid her, in hopes that the foreign emotions and pressure in his chest would go away.

She obviously had no interest in him. In fact, he was practically the only guy she had never, over the many years of their acquaintance, shown some interest in. Like any teenage girl, she had had her many boyfriends, none of them serious, but even at 25, she had yet to look his way in that way. The most attention he got from her was various questions about missions accompanied by smiles.

Because of this, he left her alone.

He was not willing to sacrifice his pride, put himself on the line for a woman that gave no indication that she was interested in him. So he ignored her and whatever news the gossip hotline gave of her.

Of course, that wasn't tos ay part of him – a part burred very deep inside! – didn't rejoice a little when the gossip line told him of her break ups. That part of his threw a parade at the news of her last break up with the older nin she had been dating. He wasn't even going to think of how homicidal he had felt when hews of that relationship reached him. No, thinking about it still made him angry.

Shikamaru sighed, more out of frustration than out of annoyance, no matter what he told himself. He couldn't remain like he was, if he did, he'd go insane. He had to find some way to shake her from his mind. He only wished women were as easy to figure out as shougi or go.

"May I inquire as to what brought the subject of women and their mystery up, seeing as it is obviously still occupying most of your mind?"

The Nara heir looked down at the shougi board and quickly realized that he had maneuvered himself back into a loss. He scowled. Bloody woman would be his ruin.

"It's not important. I have to go anyway, I'll see you later."

Neji watched with raised eyebrows as his opponent rose to his feet and reached for the jacket he had discarded at the beginning of their session. "Perhaps you should just tell her and be done with it."

Shikamaru stiffened as he pushed his arms through the sleeves of his jacket. He completed the act slower after his almost-friend and sometimes teamate's words, pausing before he exited the small tea house.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Lips quirked. "Fine."

He would not take love advice from Hyuga Neji, the villages most notorious social retard.

He wouldn't.

Damn the part of him that wanted to.


Nara Shikamaru was the smartest ninja in the history of the Hidden Leaf.

Haruno Sakura was the strongest kunoichi in the history of the Hidden Leaf, and was incredibly smart herself.

Together, they were the biggest idiots in the history of the Hidden Leaf.

Ino wanted to tear her hair out just thinking about them.

As the one person in the world who knew both of them extremely well, she was probably the only one that could see that they were both madly in love with each other and too stubborn to do anything about it.

It made her want to kill them both.

Ino tapped her unusually short nails against one of the window tables at the Ichiraku – she had just gotten home from an especially messy mission. Her teeth ground against each other, her blue eyes narrowed in a menacing fashion. Maybe she would murder them both… It would save her the future headaches that she was sure she was going to experience because of them.

Naruto's cheerful step faltered as he caught sight of his long-time girlfriend's expression. A sudden wave of anxiety washed over him causing him to wonder exactly what he had done this time. Now cautious, he made his way into the seat across from the blond female ninja. "Um… hi?"

His voice seemed to be what she needed to snap out of the anger reverie she had locked herself in. Ino blinked, her scowl quickly shifting into a smile. "Hello sweety," she chirped brightly, leaning over the table and kissing him soundly.

Naruto sighed in relief – inside his head of course. He may be the strongest nin in the village, but Ino was just terrifying when angry. Even to him. "I'm almost afraid to ask, but what were you thinking about just now?"

The scowl returned in an instant, and was accompanied by a rolling of her sky blue eyes. "Sakura and Shikamaru is what's wrong." She answered tartly, her fingers returning to their impatient tapping. "They're both so stubborn! And blind! I've never seen two people as foolish as those two."

I shouldn't have asked. Naruto settled himself in for the long run. He didn't really know what she was talking about, but he had learned long ago just to let her rant. Otherwise he ended up with a concussion or some other bodily injury. "Mhmm."

"I mean can they not see that they are perfect for each other and that they feel exactly the same! Yet they still play retarded and avoid one another! Ugh! It drives me nuts!" She didn't even notice that his eyes had gone glassy and lidded.

"Uh huh…" he droned, his chin propped up in his hand. Wait what! Naruto snapped to attention as his brain slowly processed the new information. "Wait, feel the same? What?"

Ino rolled her eyes again, reaching out and flicking Naruto in the forehead. "Isn't it obvious Naruto?"

He blinked, scratching his blond head. "Isn't what obvious?"

"They are in love with each other Naruto!" Ino cried out of frustration, one of her eyebrows twitching. A sure sign that she was getting pissed off. "Haven't you been listening at all!"

"Um yeah, of course I have," he replied instantly as any other answer could mean a premature death. He had been listening, he just didn't understand. Sakura-chan and Shikamaru? Since when? "I don't get it… Shikamaru doesn't like anyone.. He's like Neji."

Ino snorted, sending her boyfriend a disgusted look. "And you call yourself their friend. You wouldn't know love if it hit you in the head."

At this, Naruto smiled dazzlingly. "Well, I don't need to know it when I have you to tell me." He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

The blond kunoichi's lips twitched as she struggled not to gram him and cuddle him. He could be really adorable when he wanted to. Of course, that didn't mean he wasn't a huge idiot. Because he was.

She sighed, lacing her fingers together on the table top. "Ok look Naruto," she gave him a pointed look, "Shikamaru may not be particularly fond of people, but I've known him long enough to tell when he has feelings for someone. I saw it 13 years ago with Temari, only I think it's worse now. He's emotionally guarded and doesn't know what to do with himself when it comes to women. He doesn't have a clue."

"Like Neji?" Naruto prompted with a smirk.

Ino rolled her eyes. "Yes, like Neji. Only unlike Neji, Shika's family isn't going to go out and find him a bride."

"Ok… so Shikamaru is in love with Sakura-chan?" Naruto looked thoughtful. "Well, she needs someone like him, someone to keep her grounded, but how do you know Sakura-chan feels the same?"

"Please," Ino scoffed, flipping her hair over her shoulder. "Sakura is so predictable, and I know her almost as well as I know myself. Haven't you noticed that Shika is the only one Sakura doesn't flirt with?"

"And that means she likes him!"

The blond huffed, throwing up her hands. "Duh," she snapped. "Sakura avoids guys she really likes." It was said as if it was common knowledge. Which, of course, it wasn't. "Besides, Tenten, who was told by her fiancé, told me that she's completely in love with him."

Once more Naruto scratched his head. "And how would Tenten's fiancé know?" He was getting more confused as time went by. He couldn't really see where Ino was going with it all. Why was Sakura-chan and Shikamaru any business of theirs?

The eyebrow began to twitch once more, and Naruto took the cue to cower. He had spent far too many years with Sakura – and Ino for that matter – not to understand the two women at least on some level. He was pushing her limit. Maybe he should have fallen for someone calm and understanding. He sighed inwardly.

"Listen and listen good," Ino growled, leaning forward, her eyes slits. "Tenten's fiancé is Kankurou of Sand, the Kazekage's brother-"

"Oh! And Sakura is good friends with him! I didn't know he and Tenten-"

"Exactly," she cut him off before he went off on a tangent. "So you see? It's obvious all around."

"Ok." Naruto nodded, trying to look as if he understood. He just wished understanding women was as straight forward as running a ninja village. "So…" he paused, cautious about his next question. "What exactly does all of this have to do with us?" He braced for the inevitable explosion.

But she didn't explode. Instead her eyes lit up and a grin spread over her face. Naruto felt real dread then. And something akin to terror. "Um… Ino-chan, I don't think-"

"Zip it Naruto," Ino interrupted automatically, not even missing a beat as her mind whirled with excitement. "I have it all worked out! We are going to get those two together, if it's the last thing we do!" She flipped her hair again, looking triumph and and just a touch evil, making naruto cower even more. "You know what they say: you should always be a bridesmaid before being a bride!"

Who says that? That doesn't even make sense! Naruto groaned in his mind. All he wanted to do is have a nice meal of Ramn after a hard day's work, go back to his apparement with Ino, cuddle, then sleep – was that too much to ask? Instead, now, he was going to be dragged all over Konoha in a crazy matchmake scheme that was based on gut feeling and hearsay.

He'd take a life-threatening mission any day.

"Come on Naru-chan!" Ino exclaimed, "We have someone to see!"

Poor Shikamaru.


"So you want me to do what?" Was kakashi's first question after Ino had blurted out their mission. He looked lazily up at Naruto who shrugged his shoulders and looked helpless.

Ino blew some stray hairs out of her eyes impatiently and glowered at the tall copy ninja. "How hard is it to get? Just copy Sakura's handwriting and write a note."

A silver eyebrow rose. Kakashi leaned against his doorframe, crossing his arms over his chest. "And why would I be doing this?"

Men! Were they all so clueless? "For Sakura's own good of course," Ino sniffed, placing her hands on her slender hips. "Sakura's too shy to confess on her own, so we're giving her a little push. Shikamaru's just too obstinate to see what's in front of him unless it hits him in the head."

"Mm.." Kakashi slid his lazy eyes from the flushed blond back to the tall Hokage. "You are aware that I can only copy movements?"

Naruto sent him a look that clearly said "Just make something up then!" causing Kakashi to smirk behind his mask, a mask he had thrown on in haste when they had knocked on his door.

"However," he continued before Ino couldexplode." I may be able to pull something off. Would you happen to have a sample of Sakur'a writing and what it is you want me to write?"

Ino's head bobbed up and down and her bright expression returned. Naruto merely thanked his lucky stars his old sensei was going to play along with her little scheme. He was frightened to think of what would have happened if he hadn't been so willing.

She produced two papers, one a letter Sakura had written her, and the other a crudely written note she had drafted when they had stopped by to pick up the Sakura writing.

Naruto still thought the whole thing was a bad idea what was going to back fire.

Kakashi took the two papers and disappeared into his apartment, muttering a "Stay there."

"I don't see why we can't just write the note ourselves and have like Neji give it to him saying it was from Sakura-chan. Wouldn't that be easier?"

Ino shook her head. "Shikamaru would know our writing. My guess is that he knows Sakura's as well. He'll be onto us unless it looks at least mostly like Sakura's.

Naruto fell silent after that, knowing any more questions would just get her annoyed and probably keep them out longer. So, the couple waited in silence, absently keeping their minds occupied for the fifteen to twenty minutes Kakashi was gone.

When he reappeared, he was wearing his usual aloof, yet friendly expression. He returned the two papers, plus a new one that was obviously the Sakura to Shikamaru good copy note. Ino skimmed it, studying the letter formation keenly with squinting eyes. After a few seconds she looked up grinning, giving Kakashi a thumbs up sign.

"Thanks Kakashi-san!" She beamed, clutching the papers to her chest. "If I didn't know better, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference myself!"

"You're welcome, good luck."

Ino just smiled as she turned and skipped down the apartment hallway. Naruto sighed again, shoving his hands in his pockets and followed his girlfriend down the hall with shuffling feet.

Kakashi chuckled, closing the door. He had just guessed in the writing, allowing years of knowing Sakura to flow onto the paper. He just hoped, for Naruto's sake, that Nara wouldn't know the difference.


Why did life have to be so painful?

Shikamaru grunted, shuffling through the ever increasing stack of papers that littered his coffee table. Mission plans, mission reports, strategie outlines, training guides, roster lists… It never ended. If he had known the paper load that went along with being an ANBU captain, he would have declined the position. Or at least that's what he told himself.

Who was he kidding? He would have taken the job no matter what.

Picking up the paper he had been looking for, Shikamaru leaned back on his couch, scanning the sheet thoroughly. The mission strategy sounded good in theory… He'd have to run a test of it though… perhaps Naruto would spare him some ANBU for a day… maybe Sakura could look it through, she always had a good mind for strategy.

He sighed as his thoughts inevitably turned to the pretty pink haired ninja. He wondered idly (like a slack-jawed idiot he was becoming) what she was doing. He hadn't seen her around much in the past couple of weeks, and since he had been avoiding the Hyuga since their talk almost a week before, his life had been dull. Normally he liked dull, but in his utter irritation, and insanity over Sakura, it was making life difficult.

Maybe I should just tell her. That way at least, I can put this absurd need to touch her to rest… nothing like an unwilling woman to damper any feelings of lust. Now he groaned. He was ruined, he just knew it.

The sound of knocking at his front door broke him out of his self depreciating thoughts. With a sigh so heavy it could only be attributed to a man with woman problems, Shikamaru stood, popping his back as he went. Far too long sitting in one place. Sometimes he just forgot to move.

When the knock sounded again, he lout out a gravelly sound of acknowledgement. If he wasn't so bored and unreasonably tired, he would have realized that whoever was behind the door either masked their chakra extremely well. Or that they weren't there any more. However, being in the state he was, it didn't even occur to him that the chakra that should have been there wasn't.

Thus when he opened the door, he was annoyed to find out that no one was standing there. His eyes rolled skywards, his lips pursed, teeth ground, and a guttural mix between a groan and an exhale escaped his nose. "Why me?" He grumbled, moving to close the door again.

However, before he could close the door completely, he caught sight out of the corner of his eye, of the white envelope lying on his door step. With an exaggerated huff, he opened the door again, bent down and plucked up the letter, turning it over in his hands as he returned back inside.

It was a plain white envelope, and didn't seem to be laced with a trap or some kind of poison. His curiosity got the best of him, and as he plunked back down on his couch, sending some of the papers fluttering to the floor in the process, he tore open the letter.

Sakura, was the first thought that entered his mind, as he saw the elegant hand writing of the letter. Now his curiosity was really peaked.

"Dear Shikamaru,

I know this is going to be a bit strange, coming out of the blue like this, but it was the only way I could think of to tell you. Since Sasuke, I've had this problem with telling guys I actually like, that I like them.

Now I'm sure that you're looking at this funny, like it's some practical joke. But it's not. I care about you… a lot. I think I may even love you… as hard as that is for me to admit. I avoid you because I don't know how to act around you…

I can only hope you feel the same.

If you want me, I'm right here.

I'll be at the park at 7 o'clock… I really hope I see you.

Love always,

Sakura."

Shikamaru stared at the letter, complete shock numbing his senses. What the hell? She was right about one thing, it was out of nowhere!

If someone told him a few days before that he would be receiving a letter from Sakura declaring her love for him he would have either laughed at their stupidity, or punched them for toying with him – depending on his mood of course. But here he was, cradling such a letter in his lap, feeling lost and confused.

What did he do? Did he trust the letter? It could be someone's idea of a joke… but who knew about his feelings for Sakura? And why was it Sakura's writing that graced the paper? The only one capable of copying someone's writing was Kakashi, and the likelihood of the older nin spending that much time just to play a joke on him was ridiculous. Particularly since he knew the silver haired genius was on a mission.

He read through the letter once more, feeling utterly lost over it. His heart sped up, part of it dancing happily that his feelings were returned, the other part of it weary and mistrusting. What if it was a joke? As much as he hated to admit it, it would crush him.

Women. They were far too much work.

His eyes turned up from the letter to the clock that ticked cheerfully on the wall beside his couch. It was already 7. If he was going to go, he had better go, or she probably would take it as a sign that he hated her. Shikamaru sighed.

Troublesome woman.


The September night was chilly, a cold breeze blowing through the main park that serviced the Hidden Leaf village. Leaves that were just starting to fall were carried away into the approaching dusk, leaving the lone girl on the bench feeling even more annoyed, and cold.

She couldn't believe she was waiting for him. She should have just gotten up and left when he was ten minutes late (he was generally never late…) But no, it was almost twenty minutes after his scheduled meeting time and he had still not shown up. What did he think she had all the time in the world?

Stupid men.

Sakura's foot bobbed impatiently over her knee in some effort to put both heat and circulation back into her crossed legs. Her arms hugged her torso tightly, again in effort to stave off the frosty fall wind. She was failing fast.

If he didn't show up in the next five seconds she was really leaving!

"Sakura…"

Sakura jumped in fright as the sudden voice sounded in the pale light of dusk. Hopping to her feet, she whirled, stumbling because of her numb half-asleep legs. Before she could fall however, hands wrapped around her upper arms catching her, and causing her instead to fall against the rough green material of a standard issue flack jacket.

Smooth. Sakura cursed inwardly, sighing outwardly as she picked herself up again. "Sorry," she murmured, slowly looking up into her 'rescuer's' eyes.

Yet, as her emerald green met with dark brown, her body froze, panic welling up in her throat. What was he doing here? Bright pink spread over her cheeks as she quickly pulled away from him and looked down at the ground. Calm down Sakura… breathe! Think… "Umm… thank you."

Shikamaru's eyes narrowed at her, running over her in a quick, but efficient study. She certainly wasn't acting like she was expecting him… but then, if what her letter said was true, then she was all backwards anyway.

Why me?

Sakura, meanwhile, was trying to figure out what to do. She obviously couldn't just run away… and making some excuse was out of the question, since it had been her waiting in the first place. She was so lost when she was in his presence, and he made her feel stupid, as if her keen mind didn't work anymore.

Then there was the fact that his mere proximity was heating her in ways that a heater, sweater or blanket couldn't. She couldn't feel the nipping cold that had been irritating only moments before. She liked being so close to him, but feared it at the same time. You only fear rejection, her inner voice said sagely, nodding its invisible head. You felt the way he held you, just tight enough to be inappropriate. He won't reject you!

Sakura shook her head mentally, shooing the voice away. It was absurd, and obviously seeing things that weren't there… wasn't it? She couldn't help the small flame of hope that sprang up at the minor doubt.

The silence that stretched out between them was awkward and painful on both ends. Sakura continued to battle with herself, staring at the ground while she wrung her hands. Shikamaru watched her, his lips twisted in thought. It was only getting darker, and colder around them.

Obviously she wasn't going to make the first move, Shikamaru noted sourly. Of course, if he cared to think about it he would notice that she already had. The letter, technically, was the first move. It was easier blaming it on her though.

What do I say? He struggled to find the right words. Somehow, just out and out saying that he loved her seemed so cliché and out of character. He couldn't bring himself to do it that way. He could just out and out kiss her… but that might seem to forward, and, if it was all a joke, could earn him a premature death. He didn't fancy being beaten to death.

So then what? All this thinking was giving him an even bigger headache. Just get it out and let her deal with it. After all, she had already come out with her half. He sighed heavily, steeling himself.

"I want you."

He winced visibly at that. That hadn't been what he wanted to say… not really anyway. It had just sort of popped out. The things love made you do and say. He was ruined forever.

Sakura froze again, hardly believing the words she had just heard. Was he serious? Her heart rate increased, and her breath caught in her throat. Sure the delivery was kind of cheesy, and would have made Ino scream in indignation, but she could see behind it. She wasn't Ino, and she saw a lot deeper than people generally gave her credit for.

There was feeling behind the words, feeling that didn't just grow on trees, feeling that echoed in her own heart. Tears sprang to her eyes, maybe her inner voice had been right, maybe what Kankurou had told her was the truth. Maybe he did really feel the same.

Shikamaru groaned out loud, running a frustrated hand over his pulled back hair. "That sounded bad," he grumbled, grimacing. "What I meant was-"

But Sakura was already moving, her arms circling his neck and her lips crashing down on his. Although he was some inches taller than she was, she had managed to maneuver it so that his head bent to meet her. It only took seconds for him to respond, letting his body take over as his arms moved around her waist and his head bent further to accommodate her smaller size.

"I want you too," she whispered against his lips as they pulled apart to breathe. "For a long time I have."

"Mm." He mumbled kissing her again. At that moment, nothing else occurred to him except that even if love turned him into a simpering idiot, he didn't care, as long as she was a simpering idiot with him.


"Ah ha! Victory is mine!" Ino crowed quietly, since they were almost within hearing distance of the newly formed couple.

Naruto grinned stupidly beside her, inwardly just as pleased as Ino was about their 'victory'. He had had his doubts, but he was just glad that it worked out for the better.

Now, he just hoped that neither of them realized they had been set up.

"NARUTO!"

"Shit," Naruto gulped, grabbing Ino by the arm and scooping her up into his arms. "Time to go Ino-chan!"

Ino cackled, hearing the curses Sakura threw into the night, as well as the snapping of twigs as the rampaging kunoichi stormed their way. It didn't matter to her that she was probably going to get an earful the next day when Sakura finally caught up with her.

"The ends justify the means Sakura!" Ino called as she and Naruto disappeared in a puff of smoke.