A/N: I realized that I tend to ignore Chouji in my fics. Here's a story to make it up to you, chubby guy. We know how important you are to Shikamaru and Ino. R-E-V-I-E-W or I'll chomp your heads off.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Short and sweet.


He's staring at her again.

Despite what others seemed to think, Chouji Akimichi wasn't stupid and obsessed only with food. He wasn't the strongest, no doubt about it, but he wasn't the weakest as everyone seemed to think. He was often afraid, that's true, but when it came to really important matters- his friends, family, Konoha- he was ready to risk his life.

She saw it and he blushed, turning his head away.

He also had a very rare gift of reading other people's emotions and meanings behind actions. When Ino screamed and bossed everyone around- he could see her anxiety about everyone and how she tried to hide it, pretending she didn't care. And that's why he accepted her beating and name-calling. Because he knew it was her way of showing concern.

Now she's glancing his way.

He knew when Asuma always complained about his team, in reality was very pleased with them. He saw how he liked them, even with their so obvious flaws and how he tried to get closer to them by treating all three of them to various restaurants, playing shougi with Shikamaru and sharing newest jounin gossips with Ino- all of it hidden well under a mask of laziness and complaining.

He pretends not to notice but there's sweat on his forehead.

As for the last member of his team, Nara Shikamaru, he knew him the most. They were best friends since childhood and over the years, Chouji managed to understand the genius. He knew that inside the young boy, there was responsibility, loyalty, care. In spite of constant complaining, Shikamaru always did what was important and had to be done- and he did it the best he could. That's how the three of them were.

Now she's clearly interested and he's all tensed and nervous, however he doesn't want her to know so he pretends not to be.

So, it wasn't a surprise to him when he noticed the first signs- even before the two that gave them did. He didn't miss the spark of interest and even fascination in dark orbs when his best friend looked at their female teammate. He was a little bitter that Shikamaru cares so much for that girl- a troublesome woman, nonetheless, and less for him. When Ino got hurt, the Nara always rushed to her side, leaving Chouji alone, to stare from a certain distance that seemed so close and yet so far.

She looks up at the sky, just like him; she wants to understand him more.

He didn't miss the way Ino screamed at them both for getting hurt- but when she looked at Shikamaru, there were tears in her eyes. And it was up to Shikamaru to cradle her in his arms and comfort, while he could only lie on the bed, with his back turned on the couple. And he certainly didn't miss how she brought them lunch- as well as he noticed the special care she put into Shikamaru's. Oh well, it tasted the same so Chouji wasn't bitter, because his looked quite nice too- but he saw the meaning.

He relaxes a little but feels regretful.

He saw how Shikamaru disliked the Uchiha, as well as he acknowledged his ninja abilities, just to be honest and not hold a grudge which would upset the blonde greatly. He also saw how, while searching for members, he desperately avoided any places Ino could be. And later, he saw Ino's pride and admiration when she learned that Shikamaru was the leader- and even though it was a failed mission, she was still so proud and happy. Not only because it was them- Team 10, the worst one, - but it was Shikamaru Nara. Her Shikamaru.

She closes her eyes and he feels save enough to look at her openly; his eyes are full of approval and admire.

When it was the jounin exam ceremony- in which Ino wasn't ready to apply for promotion and Shikamaru was- she was by his side all the time, tightly clutching his hand. And he responded with a comforting squeeze, reassuring that even if he won't be promoted it doesn't matter, because being a jounin is so troublesome and all- and much to Shika's delight, she relaxed and gave a slight punch on the arm for saying such things. Because, Shikamaru, you should be happy that you're able to take the exam now, because some of us can't- and this time all three of them can see laughter in each other's eyes.

His hand reaches out to play with her hair, flowing on the wind. He enjoys the touch and so is she- pleasure is evident on both faces.

When his name is on the promotion list- just like Neji's, Naruto's and Kiba's- she gives a happy yell and hugs the life out of him, but Chouji sees how he doesn't mind dying like that.

She opens her eyes and the wind really blows straight to her face; she seems disappointed, missing the reluctant retreating of his arm. He seems displeased and a little unsure.

All those things pass through his mind as he gets up and quietly leaves the happy couple on the grass. He heads home, not bothered by anything or anyone.

Only when he's home, he bumps into his father.

"Where are you going, dad?"

"I'm meeting with my friends at the bar; the dinner's in the kitchen, your mother should be home later today."

Chouji nods as the larger man passes him. Friends- Shikato Nara and Inochi Yamanaka. The old Ino-Shika-Cho trio. His gaze falls on the photo in the dining room- the said old Ino-Shika-Cho. Together, smiling and laughing. Even after all those years, still best friends.

"Oi, Chouji. Why did you leave like that? Did you forgot that Asuma is treating us today to celebrate my jounin promotion?"

"Come on, Chouji! Get down, we're waiting for you!"

He snaps out of nostalgic thought and as he looks down from the window on the three people outside his door, yelling that he's going, - he sees another future for the new Ino-Shika-Cho. A future, where a small toddler with spiky blonde ponytail, pale skin and dark eyes is laughing as his mother bosses his dad around, scowling when he complains.

And Chouji still sees the love for each otherin their eyes as well as warmth when they look at him and their child, playing. And each time he visits, he's greeted with a loud scream of boyish voice, forming two words: "Uncle Chouji!". As the blonde woman tries to pry the little hands away from his jacket, explaining that his dad and uncle Chouji have to go, so let them go and stop screaming, they'll play with you later! He can hear Shikamaru in the distance grumbling how he'd rather die than pretend to be a deer again and let his son ride on his back and how unfair life is that his son loves 'Uncle Chouji' more than his own father- And both, the future and the present Chouji smile as they step out of the house. Because he can now clearly see where his place is- and that's how things should be.

When they are in the restaurant, he lets Ino sit beside Shikamaru. And when he looks at them from time to time, once again the vision comes back...

She has some sauce on the corner of her lips and he leans in to clean it, by pressing his own mouth to hers...

...And he knows that's just how things will be.


A/N: Well, in the end I guess it's more like ShikaIno fic than a Chouji one. Whatever, I'm quite pleased with it. REVIEW!