An Ino/Shikamaru Story...


Shikamaru didn't eat ramen that often. It wasn't that he didn't like it, no, it was that actually getting up and walking all the way over to the ramen stand was far, far too troublesome for him to manage.

It wasn't that it was that far, no. The reason for this aversion was not the stand itself, really. It was the people in it.

Now, this might have made it sound that Shikamaru was people-phobic, but this is far from the truth. Our hero does in fact have quite a few friends. Okay, maybe it would be more appropriate to call them "close acquaintances." Anyway, these "acquaintances" were, in fact, the people at the ramen stand. And while Shikamaru liked these people, and he could quite handle them by themselves, the whole group together was an entirely different story.

Take now, for instance. Shikamaru is sitting on one of the stools next to the bar. Ino and Choji are sitting on either sides of him. Choji and Shikamaru are eating and talking, the larger boy consuming the food with much gusto, greatly hindering any conversation that could be had with the other boy. The lazier boy of the two, however, was scarcely eating at all. No, he preferred to mumble every so often under his breath, "This is so troublesome."

A cozy scene, no? Well, that it may be, but outside of this nice picture is total and complete chaos. From Shikamaru's point of view, anyway.

It was far too loud for his liking. The cooks were shouting orders to each other, and the other patrons in the vicinity were laughing loudly, giggling incessantly, and others, causing mischief.

These patrons happened to be, coincidentally, Shikamaru's "close acquaintances."

Naruto, who you may remember to be quite a prankster and all-around mischief-maker, was occupying himself and a few of the other people in the restaurant by making exaggerated impressions of two quite angsty teens, Uchiha Sasuke and Hyuuga Neji. It is sad, though, that the blonde does not notice these aforementioned persons standing behind him, looking ready to maim him soundly.

Hinata and TenTen were sitting at a close by table, talking about how their boyfriends often got into trouble. Or rather, caused it. Shikamaru could tell, because there was lots of head-shaking and disapproving glares. You could say he was pretty good at reading people.

Most people, anyway.

"Shika!" Ino says, shaking him by the shoulder. Her irritated face is slightly flushed. "Are you going to order or what? God, this guy's been waiting to take your order forever!" she adds, jabbing her thumb in the direction of the man standing behind the bar.

He nods sheepishly. "Son, it's been about ten minutes since I said, 'May I take your order.'"

Shikamaru, remembering his manners, says dully, after sighing quite a bit, "Uh, yeah. I'd like a shrimp ramen."

The guy replies, "Coming right up," before yelling, "YO! ONE SHRIMP!" Shikamaru winces. More noise.

"How troublesome..."

Ino slaps him on the arm. "Shut up, Shika! I was kind enough to take you to hang out with me and Sakura, so please, at least pretend to be grateful."

Shikamaru sighs and groans, at the same time. It's an odd noise, but one that he has mastered perfectly. "What the hell made you think that I would enjoy this?"

For a second, her hard glare softens. "Well, it's been awhile since the three of us have been together. Ever since you've become a Chuunin..."

And there it is. Somehow, even when he's not the one at fault, she always manages to make him feel guilty. Somehow, he always has the need to make her happy. Even if it is at his own expense.

He acts annoyed but the scowl disappears, "...thanks, Ino."

She smiles a brilliant smile that makes his heart lift. She leans in close and whispers in his ear. He can hear her breath and it tickles his neck, making his stomach do cartwheels.

"Thanks, Shika-kun. It means a lot to me..."

And with that, she turns back to Sakura and continues her giggly conversation. Shikamaru wills his heart to stop racing and the blush on his cheeks to recede. It's wonder she can do all this to him. He wonders if it is harmful to health, because surely his organs have jumped around enough inside of his body today.

And he's about to turn to Choji and proclaim, for the twentieth time, how troublesome this is, when he hears what Ino and Sakura are talking about. He only catches bits of it, like "Sasuke" and "first kiss", but it doesn't take a genius (which he is) to know what they are taking about. He suddenly feels very uncomfortable.

It doesn't help when Sakura asks Ino, "So," (giggle) "who was your first kiss?"

Shikamaru feels his cheeks turning bright red again. He glances out of the corner of his eye at Ino and is surprised to find that her cheeks are doing the same. She catches his fleeting look and says hesitatingly, "Uh..."

Shikamaru knows that Sakura's intellect is only second to his own. She's not dumb, and she knows from the minute she sees their identical red blushes. He sees the smirk coming even before the pink-haired girl does.

"," Sakura says after a while, barely trying to conceal her snicker, "how exactly did it happen?"

Choji jumps in at this.

"They were twelve," he starts enthusiastically. What great friend, Shikamaru can't help but think sarcastically. "Ino just wanted to get it over with and Shikamaru was too lazy to protest. It took them about a week to be able to look each other in the face without blushing, after that."

Sakura just smiles knowingly at Shikamaru and says, turning back to Ino, "How sweet,"

And just like that, it's over. But his heart is still pounding and his cheeks are still red and his organs are still feeling the need to shift incessantly. And Shikamaru knows that, like all the other times, this incident will stay with him forever. Just like all the other times, this moment is recorded in his memory, along with all the other blushes, touches, and basically embarrassing episodes.

The thing that sucks about being a genius is that because you notice all the little things, you remember them too.

He returns to his ramen, missing Ino's little sideways glance towards him. Sakura and Choji, however, do not. They exchange knowing smirks.

Crowds really do bother Shikamaru. There's too many people at once and they're all talking too loud and too fast and they're just plain annoying.

But really, Shikamaru thinks as he stares at Ino's hand, placed just within eyeshot, he shouldn't be so irritated. Because somehow, someway, he always ends up feeling like there's only one other person in the room besides him.

And we all know he's not talking about Choji, either.


BTW: It's a one shot, believe me. :)