Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me
For those who feel a sense of deja vu, yes, this fic is a sort of expansion on a scenario done before.I wanted to explore the feelings Ino might have had in this situation so hopefully it turned out alright. Enjoy!
"I'm not sure I can love you the way you love me."
How long ago was it that she had said those words? Two years? Three years?
Ino wasn't even really sure herself, never having kept count of what had merely seemed to be an extension of a friendship that had existed ever since, well, ever since she was born.
Pale blonde hair swayed in the dim light of the hospital room as she made her way over to the window. It was raining again, like it had over the past few weeks. The heavens had opened and let loose a never-ending torrent, flooding the village streets and turning the training areas into one huge bath of mud. The shinobi had been kept busy, rescuing this and repairing that as their constant stream of missions became compounded with the pressing need to fortify the village against the worst weather Konoha had seen in twenty years.
The girl rested her head against the coolness of the glass, more than glad to let the physical sting join the chill that seemed to grip her body in foreboding.
"Maa, mendokuse. I guess I'll just have to love you enough for both of us."
She had sighed at his dismissive air as much as his corny words back then, unable to catch the flicker of pain that had crossed his face before he swiftly schooled it back into its regular, yawning expression.
Bloodshot eyes stared out into the distance, the usually vibrant blue dulled and framed by heavy shadows. The grey sky was crowded with angry black clouds that prevented any real sunlight from shining through. The streets were empty; the Godaime had warned everyone to stay indoors unless they were on a mission.
He had kept his promise too, never once letting her doubt his sincerity even though he received no such reassurance in return.
Various images ran through her mind and Ino closed her eyes wearily.
She remembered the first time he held her hand, his calloused fingers brushing tentatively against her own as they made their way back from training one night. He had touched her lightly as though afraid she would fling him away in disgust. His body was stiff beside hers until she gave him a small squeeze, her eyes focused on the road as if feigning ignorance could deflect the awkwardness of the situation.
Then there was her eighteenth birthday, her friends gathered around in a raucous, all-night bash that was as much a celebration of her getting older as it was of her surviving another year. That had been the first time he kissed her. Pulling her outside the village bar, Shikamaru had gazed silently up at the sky like he always did while she stood next to him, impatiently cuddling into his side for warmth.
He had mumbled something about wanting to watch the stars with her from now on, eyes meeting briefly before he lowered his head and pressed his mouth to hers. It had been quick and chaste, but the look in his eyes had burned themselves into her memory as she touched her lips in wonder afterwards.
Ino inhaled shallowly, pressing her forehead harder against the window as she fought down the horror and despair that threatened to break her again. The last time that had happened was almost eight days ago, the nurses rushing in to find her huddled forlornly in a corner of the room, apparently screaming and crying loud enough that she fainted from exhaustion afterwards.
Her hand lifted to touch her lips, tracing them like she had that night, imagining that she could still taste the lingering sake that forever reminded her of that first time.
He had been so shy when his body told her he wanted her, holding her tightly against him as his mouth plundered hers in warning. A warning Ino could not decipher but had no need to since he all but hissed it in her ear, hands gripping her shoulders as his eyes bore into hers.
"If we do this, I will never let you go."
She had made no reply, not wanting to or, perhaps, not knowing how. Instead, Ino had dragged his head back down to hers, urging his body to please her.
And he had.
The wary caresses had turned hungry in a blink of an eye, those large hands that were trained to kill stroking over her greedily the entire time he took her. His movements had been jerky and needy, even though she could tell by the way his muscles tensed and jumped under her hands that he was trying desperately to stay in control. Her name had fallen from his lips repeatedly, a devoted mantra that pulled at her until she moaned his own, his mouth swallowing her words with a hoarse groan.
Afterwards, he had slumped over her, rolling over on to his side as he kept a firm arm wrapped around her waist. Ino had run her fingers through his dark hair, his lean, tanned body contrastingly beautifully against her paleness as he nuzzled his head between her breasts.
The words had been murmured into her flesh but she knew that he intended her to hear them. However, she had said nothing, merely pressing a lingering kiss against his temple. After an agonizing moment that seemed to stretch for eternity, a quiet goodnight reached her ears. He had seemed to fall asleep soon after, although Ino had stayed awake staring through the darkness up at the ceiling.
The steady beep of the monitors pricked into her consciousness. Cracking her eyes open, Ino did not need to turn to see the still figure lying on the bed.
She had stayed by his side constantly ever since Shino and the rest of the team had carried his limp body back, his blood seeping into their torn clothing as they hollered for the Godaime. The woman had appeared almost instantly, jaw clenching as she whisked the villager's top strategist into the emergency room. Medic-nins had rushed around frantically for the next twelve hours, unfaltering replacing one another as they poured their chakra into his broken body, forcing the gaping wounds in his sides to heal as they pumped blood back into him.
"What do you want from me? What is it that you want me to say?"
She had screamed at him, throwing a pillow into his face as he stood there in the middle of her surprisingly plain bedroom. Shikamaru had stared at her wordlessly, the hand fisting around the pillow the only sign of emotion.
He had come to see her before he left on another mission, this time an S-class one to the Village of Mist. It was likely that he would be gone for three or four weeks, he had told her the day before. The visit had not gone well from the start, Ino already being in a frothing rage that she could not figure out or resolve. The frustration had blown up in both their faces when he softly asked if there was nothing more she wanted to say to him before he left.
Shaking her head furiously as tears inexplicably clouded her vision, Ino had glared at him. He had been reaching for her, the tremble in his hand nearly imperceptible. That hand had dropped to his side, the slow downward arc replaying again and again in her head as if in permanent slow motion.
The boy left then, wordlessly closing the door behind him without another glance back. And she had crumpled on to the floor as the sounds of his footsteps faded down the hallway.
A steady stream of visitors had come by ever since they placed him into the critical ward. Well-wishers who left baskets of fruit and flowers before offering her more meaningless words of support. Naruto had planted himself by the bed as Tsunade explained the situation to Shikamaru's parents, their faces stoic and drained as they stared down at the prone form of their only son.
Ino had lost it when she discovered he wouldn't respond to her call. It was the first time that had ever happened.
Gasping incoherently, she had grabbed a hold of the front of his hospital gown, shaking him hysterically as the others tried to pry her off, yelling something about needing to calm down. She had been injected with a repressant, slumping into her father's arms as he carried her out of the room.
Everyday since then, Ino had lived in that room, holding his hand and washing the unbandaged parts of him. She had talked to him, filling him in on news the others brought her whenever they popped by, which was pretty much daily. Sakura visited her when she had a break from hospital duties, patiently urging the girl to eat and going over the latest medical reports with her.
It had been a living hell. And Ino knew she deserved every second of it.
But not Shikamaru. He doesn't.
The voice was barely more than a croak, but it was there. Ino whirled around, blinking incredulously as her wide blue eyes filled with unshed tears. Her own voice was hardly any better after weeks of disuse.
Shikamaru groaned as he tried to turn his head in her direction, a grimace of pain creasing his features as the motion pulled at numerous freshly healed cuts that were still more than raw. Ino took a shaky step towards the bed, wanting desperately to just rush over and bury herself in his scent just to reassure herself that this wasn't a dream. But she was not sure that her legs would hold her up at the moment; the last thing he needed was a hysterical blonde collapsing on the floor leaving a man who had just escaped death to revive her.
Shikamaru frowned again when she simply stood there staring at him, one pale hand propped up against the window as the sunlight lit up the gleam of moisture glazing her eyes.
A heavily bandaged arm reached out towards her.
"Are you…going to come here or not?"
Sobbing once, Ino flew to his side, clasping the outstretched hand urgently in both of hers as she cradled it against her cheek. Swallowing hard against the lump in her throat, she offered him a weak smile.
Her speechlessness did not seem to bother him in the least. In fact, the boy smiled back, the corners of his mouth curving in that rare, lopsided smirk she had only ever seen directed at her.
He understood. He always did.
His hand tightened minutely on hers, knuckles brushing gently across her skin in a familiar caress. A single tear fell at his tenderness. Shikamaru caught it with the tips of his fingers as she nuzzled her face into his palm, turning slightly to press a kiss against it.
His trademark mutter did the trick. It was as if the whole world suddenly sprang to life again after endless weeks of hovering in a dull, meaningless void. Something between a strangled cry and a chuckle escaped her lips as Ino launched herself forwards, needing to feel him against her.
Mumbling apologies into the curve of his neck, she readjusted her limbs, carefully lifting the pressure so that she was not sprawled haphazardly over his injuries. Wincing slightly, Shikamaru slowly lifted a hand to rest against the back of her head. His fingers stroked the soft skin of her nape lightly as he let out a contented sigh.
"Everyone else got back safely."
Another gentle kiss was dropped on his ear. Ino could feel him heave another sigh, this time one of relief.
They lay in each other's arms for a long while, both elated and thankful that they had been blessed with the opportunity to do so. The whole mission could have ended so differently. Ino forced herself to feel the overwhelming pain of believing that it very nearly had one last time before pushing it away firmly.
She had finally understood. Understood him and understood herself.
She needed to tell him. Not everyone was lucky enough to get a second chance.
He did not pause in his soothing ministrations even as she raised her head to gaze down at him.
Faltering, Ino traced his cheek with her fingers, skimming lightly over the edge of the bandages cupping his jaw as she gathered the courage to say what she knew he needed to hear.
Her hushed whisper was accompanied by a faint flush as she watched his reaction shyly. The dark eyes sharpened immediately, his stare increasing in intensity as he took in her words and turned them over in his head. She didn't turn away, allowing him to look his fill.
The hand on her nape tightened abruptly, roughly tugging her down for a long, deep kiss. His mouth was almost desperate, tongue sweeping into her mouth possessively to taste and claim her at the same time.
Pulling back just enough to draw in a much-needed breath, Ino smiled down at him. She felt his corresponding response against her lips, his eyes locked on hers. There were so many emotions swirling in those deep brown depths, encompassing her and everything she was as fully as his arms always would.
Shikamaru took her hand, resting them both over his heart as he closed his eyes, mouth moving over hers once again.
"Took you long enough."
A/N: I'm currently working on another ShikaIno multi-chp fic, rated M this time. It won't be posted for a while since I've written the ending first and am working backwards (AGAIN).
Actually, I wanted to ask if there's anything readers would like to read about in their relationship? I don't do marriage or baby topics but anything else is fair game. So please, do feel free to let me know in a review or PM about any specific scenarios you'd like me to include!
Thanks for reading and please do review!