Naruto refused to talk to him, Sakura was avoiding him, probably out of embarrassment, Ino still hated him, and Sasuke continued to glare at him while keeping a protective hand on Ino. Things were falling apart at the seams and he didn't even know where to begin. On top of that the recruits from Sand arrived, and Temari was among them. Shikamaru felt like he could put a kunai through his eye at that very moment, because it seemed everything was falling apart around him.
For the most part, Temari ignored him. But that was what was bothering him. Why the hell was she ignoring him all of the sudden? She had to have some sort of plan in mind; because there was no way she was going to just forget him like that. No, something was going on, he just wasn't sure what. He hated not knowing.
He had decided to take these things on straight away. He was going to deal with Naruto, and Temari, and then he would handle Ino and Sasuke. There was no way he could handle being on a mission with them if he couldn't straighten things out. So immediately after breakfast, he went out to find Naruto.
The young man had been in the training area, beating a target bag. As Shikamaru watched the young blond wail into the hard leather bag, he only prayed that his face wouldn't soon be in the same situation. With a sigh and a mumble of 'troublesome' he headed up to stand next to the blond, watching him punch the bag, slamming a kick that was hard enough to pull at the chains in the roof, threatening to pull it out.
"What the hell do you want?" Naruto snapped suddenly, his eyes darkening as he continued to slam into the leather punching bag.
"I wanted to explain things," Shikamaru said blandly, watching with disinterest. "How it happened."
Naruto suddenly stopped beating the bag, turning towards the dark-haired Nara with unnaturally calm eyes. Blue fire still raged, but it seemed to have boiled down to a simmer. "I know," he said simply. "Sakura told me everything after I hit you."
"I'm sorry," Shikamaru said simply.
"No, I am," Naruto said, punching one last time into the bag, listening to the chains clank together above him. "I acted like a jerk, and for that I'm sorry." Shikamaru could only let a smile tug softly on his lips. "Is there anything… y'know that I can do to make it up to you?"
"Put Temari on washroom duty?" Shikamaru asked, humor dancing in his eyes. Naruto laughed as well, as though it was a release of tension that had built up within him.
"Hell man, I wish I could do that. Sometimes I just can't stand her. I wonder how Gaara can do it all the time."
"Gaara's a very patient man," Shikamaru replied, grabbing a nearby water bottle and handing it out to the young man. Naruto accepted it, and drank the liquid down gratefully.
"It's not very polite to talk about someone behind their backs."
The pair turned almost instantly, surprised to find said Kazekage of Suna standing behind them, his face as unreadable as ever. Shikamaru's eyes widened a fraction. He never got over how terrifying Gaara could be at times. He could still remember how horrid the young redhead had been only a few years ago. But now, Shikamaru could almost detect the barest hints of a smile as the blond turned and welcomed his friend loudly.
"Gaara!" Naruto exclaimed, grinning until it seemed his face would crack. "When did you get here?"
"Just now," the stoic kage said simply. "I need to discuss some things with you, Naruto, and you, Shikamaru. It's concerning Sound's movements."
Immediately, the two ninja from Konoha's expressions darkened. Naruto's fists clenched at his side, and Shikamaru ground his teeth. "What's going on?" Naruto asked simply.
Gaara sighed through his nose, but otherwise gave no indication to his irritation. "Shinobi from Sound are moving out in a wide arc all around us. I believe they're trying to gain the advantage of all sides. Defense now would be our best option."
"Okay then!" Naruto cheered, fisting his hand. 'Let's call the men together and start planning our retaliation attack."
"Oh, and Naruto," Gaara added, causing the blond-haired fox-boy to blink.
"You might want to shower first."
Shikamaru suppressed a smirk as Naruto grinned. "That would be a good idea."
The meeting dragged on for an agonizing amount of time. They missed lunch, and by the time it was finished dinner was just ending. Everyone in the meeting was starving by the time the meeting drew to a close, but important strategies had been planned, and Shikamaru had been glad that they could finally get some important planning done. Tomorrow was going to be atrocious itself in preparation and Shikamaru wanted nothing more then to get a decent meal in him and head to bed.
He'd managed to catch the tail end of dinner, grabbing something to eat before taking a seat at a table. He ate alone, as everyone else had finished and moved off onto more important tasks. He spotted Temari hanging by the door, eyeing him as he began to finish his dinner. Shikamaru paid her no mind, and prayed she would just piss off and leave him the hell alone.
But Temari continued to linger as he placed his tray back on the shelf, and turned towards the door. When he got there, she reached out a grabbed his wrist, spinning him back to face her with astounding strength. She stared at him like a predator eyeing its dinner, as she pulled herself closer to him. She pressed herself tight against him, and Shikamaru remembered why he'd been attracted to her in the first place. He inwardly cursed his male hormones and attempted to step away, but she held firm.
"I've grown bored of this place," she told him in a low whisper as she leaned up, nipping his ear. Shikamaru felt himself shudder involuntarily. "Come back to my room, Shika-kun, it might be fun."
"Piss off, Temari," Shikamaru snapped, shoving her off of him with an amazing feat of control. "I don't want to talk to you, let alone be in the same room with you. So stop bothering me."
The woman pouted with her full lips, batting her eyelashes in a way that would've made any man succumb. "Come on Shika-kuuuun. You know I really like it when you—" as she reached out to him, he abruptly slapped her hand away. A dark look crossed her features immediately, and her pout turned into a scowl. "Fine." Was all she said after a tense moment of silence before turning and stalking down the hall.
Shikamaru surprised himself with that rare bit of control as he turned to head for his dorm room. He didn't want anything now. He just wanted to sleep, and he prayed he would meet no one else on his way to his room. Luckily, his silent prayers were answered when he discovered no one on his way. It was when he arrived in his room that he came across someone. Shikamaru would've been annoyed if he wasn't so surprised.
The young blond-haired woman stood in the center of his room, clad in sleeping pants and a tank top. Her hair was down on her shoulders, and her eyes seemed uncertain in the dim light. It seemed like she was about to head to bed herself when she'd somehow stumbled across his room. He had to be dreaming, right? He must've been, and if he could move, he would've pinched himself. Where was the camera? Sasuke? This had to be some horrible joke that would blow up in his face any moment now.
The pair simply stood, staring at each other for a long moment. Sky-blue orbs caught black in the dim light, and neither dared to move to break the tense atmosphere. They stood frozen for only god knows how long, before finally Ino moved. It wasn't to stalk out, or to slap him or even to yell, but it was to fall back onto his bed as she began to cry. She placed a hand over her mouth, attempting to suppress sobs and only then did Shikamaru chose to move.
He crossed the room swiftly, bending down in front of her and attempting to pull the hands away from her face. Ino, stubborn as ever, continued to pull away from him, attempting to hide her tears. "Ino…" he said softly, his heart breaking at the sight of her so distressed. He wanted to put his arms around her, and simply hold her, but he wasn't sure if she would allow the contact. "What happened…?"
"I hate you!" Ino scream suddenly, her eyes blazing despite the fact that they still poured tears. "Why the hell am I so… why do I keep…" she began to sob again, and covered her face with her palms. "Why do I care about you so much?"
Shikamaru's breath caught at her words, as he moved to sit next to her. Deciding to be bold, he placed a hand around her shoulder, before pulling her into a hug. She relaxed there, gripping the fabric of his shirt tightly in her hands. "You do not know how much I want to be with you," Ino said softly, hiccupping. "But everything… and she… and I don't know what to believe anymore…I want to be with you, even if you do end up hurting you in the end."
Cupping her chin in his hand, Shikamaru turned Ino's face up to meet his, swimming in blue orbs. "I would never hurt you intentionally, Ino," Shikamaru said simply, watching more tears pour from her eyes. "I don't care whatever anyone said, I want to be with, forever, and I am in no way whatever Temari told you. You have been the only girl I've ever… really…" beginning to fumble over words, Shikamaru found he could only do one thing to express how he felt.
He kissed her.
Ino all but melted at the contact, falling against him as she killed him back that smoke volumes of how she felt. Easily, the pair fell back into the bed, and Shikamaru kicked off his shoes, not even bothering to get out of his uncomfortable ninja clothes as he pulling Ino closed. The kiss broke, and the two merely stared at each other. Shikamaru interlaced their fingers, drawing the blond closer to him. "Ino…" he whispered. "I want you to make a contr5act with me."
Ino's voice caught at those words, and she used her free hand to cover her mouth as more tears began running down her face. Shikamaru knew instantly that she remember, and that only made him feel better and he pulled her closer. "That means, when we grow up, you have to marry me. And you're not allowed to see any other guys."
He brought their hands to his lips, kissing each one of her fingers while his eyes stayed trained on hers. "That way," he whispered against her knuckles. "We can write our names on a piece of paper, and we can be forever and ever. The two of us."
Pausing, he wiped away a few tears that stubbornly clung to her eyelashes. "Will you be a part of my contract, Ino?" he whispered, offering her a soft smile. She pulled her hand from her mouth, smiling broadly as her eyes shimmered.
"Of course I will," she whispered, winding her hands behind his neck and pulling him close. Shikamaru's hand found the small of her back, and he simply held her, glad for this rare opportunity to hold her. It felt like so long since he'd felt her skin under her hands, and the scent of her shampoo. Shikamaru had never realized how much he needed her—how much he loved her—until she was gone. You want what you can't obtain, eh? Shikamaru felt like chuckling at the irony.
Her placed a kiss to her neck, allowing his eyes to fall closed. "I love you, Yamanaka Ino," he said softly.
"I love you too, Nara Shikamaru," she replied softly.
Comforted by the fact that he'd finally won back the girl of his dreams, Shikamaru allowed his eyes to slide closed. His entire body relaxed as his thoughts drifted on Ino moments before the pair drifted off into slumber, enveloped in each other's arms.
The peace and tranquility of the night seemed to stretch on forever, and it seemed that morning would bring nothing but harmony. And as they lay sleeping, somewhere within the walls, a voice chuckled.
"Let's begin, shall we?"
And then all hell broke loose.
A/N: Hi everyone! (sweatdrop) I put a lot of ShikaIno in this chapter just for you guys. Too bad it's short. But the end is within sight now, and there should only be two or three more chapters left. They will not be five months apart, since I know what I'm doing. I do not know when the next chapter will be up, so please don't ask me. All I know if that the end is within my reach and the next chapter will be up as soon as I have another couple hours to think on it.
Anyway, I love you all, and I hope you al won't kill me for taking too long.