Why Bother?

Shikamaru's eyelashes flickered ever so slightly, and Ino immediately turned around, sensing his movement.

"Hey," she said as his eyes opened.

He looked around with his eyes. "Hey," he said finally. "Where's everyone?"

"They're fine." Ino said as she sat down at the edge of his bed. "The rest of the team showed up before anything really bad could happen."

He slowly pushed himself up to a sitting position with a slight moan as he moved.

"Don't push yourself." Ino warned.

"I'm fine," he said defiantly as he swung his legs around so he was sitting right next to her. He was slouched over with his elbows resting on his thighs and his head hung low, as Ino sat up straight and looked down at him.

There was a long, uncomfortable silence.

"I just cause trouble around here," he said finally.

"What?" Ino questioned.

"I cause trouble. We've gotten into a lot of bad situations because of me. Maybe..."

He stopped.

Then took a deep breath and went on. "It would be best for the team if I just resigned."

Ino gasped and got to her feet. "How can you say something like that?"

"Not having to deal with me all the time." Shikamaru said as he got up as well. "I've thought about it a lot. It's not like anyone likes me anyway..."

Before she even realized what she was doing, Ino raised her hand high in the air and brought it down, slapping it clean across Shikamaru's face. Shikamaru was so surprised by the gesture that he was almost knocked off his feet as he stumbled to regain his balance, putting a hand on his cheek.

"I don't believe you!" she shouted. "You're the smartest guy I know! You're our greatest asset! Sure, you might dwell on a single decision longer than any normal guy and stir up controversy every now and again, but everyone has their faults but that's no reason to get down on yourself."

Shikamaru only stood in stunned silence, his hand still touching the red mark on his face as he stared at her.

"And furthermore," Ino said, her voice lowering dramatically. "Where do you get off saying that nobody likes you? We're like a big family. There's plenty people that like you. There are some that love you too."

Shikamaru lowered his hand.

"You?" he said finally.

Ino's face flushed. "Maybe!" she said elusively. "But not when you say stupid things like this!"

"But most of the time?" Shikamaru whispered.

"Yes, most of the time." Ino confessed as she reached out and touched the red mark on his face. She then cupped his chin in her hand and leaned in to kiss him. Their lips met, and Ino waited for anything from Shikamaru, but he did not move or react. After a moment, she pulled away and put her own hand to her face.

She looked at Shikamaru. There was an uncharacteristic sadness in his eyes.

"Well?" she said, trying to keep herself from crying. "Can't you at least say something?"

Shikamaru brought her face closer to his and smiled. "Why bother?"

She smiled back.

"Shikamaru," she said. "You planned all this, didn't you? You tricked me into confessing, didn't you?"

"Does it matter?" Shikamaru asked.

She shook her head and wiped her tears away. "I'm glad you're all right."

"Me too."