Thirty Moves

Yugao

Summary: Ino was no good at chess, and she knew that. But still, she was going to have him in thirty moves.

Author's Note: Thank you also to my friend Hirvegil Gilraen, who loves chess and hates annoying questions – thanks for enduring my annoying questions regarding chess. That fact was precious to the writing of this one-shot. And thank you to Iyocee who also supports the pairing! This was actually inspired by the team chess tourney in school a while ago (our team lost) but who cares about that, huh?

Disclaimer: I don't own Shikamaru or Ino.


Ino is no good at chess, and she knows it as well as anyone else does. Shikamaru has always told her that it's because she doesn't think out her strategies thoroughly, and her plans are often predictable and easily anticipated by the enemy. But he never meant it as an insult. He always said it gently. That is, as gently as the Nara could muster.

Today, though, things were going to be different. She'd been practicing, and she knows that her new plan will work. No one knows about it, least of all Shikamaru. He'd be surprised, she thought with a sly grin, And he'll never think of my plans as predictable ever again. I'll make him eat his words.

Thirty moves. The past few weeks she'd been formulating the plan, she'd narrowed it down to thirty essential moves.

She is no good at chess, and she knows that. But still… she is going to have him in thirty moves.

She smiles to herself as she remembers something Shikamaru had told her quite some time ago, when she was pestering him as he sat idly at a chair, moving the little pieces on the board. "Thirty moves," he'd said, "Not too much, not too little. Just enough to defeat your enemy."

In thirty moves, then, she was going defeat him.

One. She spots him off in the meadow, lying under the tree. He's watching the clouds go by, just as she'd predicted. She smiles to herself and runs towards him. He does not notice. But she doesn't let that daunt her. He knows she's coming, but he has absolutely no idea why.

Two. "Shikamaru!" she calls his name. She's close now, and her plan is in motion. She smiles because she knows it's foolproof, that there's no way he could evade it as easily as, say, shuriken.

Three. She stands two steps away from him, and she leans against the tree to look down at him. "Shikamaru," she says his name again, and puts on her prettiest smile.

Four. "Ino?" he asks, and there's a shred of confusion in his voice. She smiles again, because she knows he has not yet seen the web of her plan. He sits up so that he leans against the tree trunk. "Did you want something?"

Five. She nods. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I did," she says as she slips down comfortably beside him. It seems he is not uncomfortable with their closeness, and she knows that is a good sign. "I wanted to ask you something."

Six. He answers with a noncommittal grunt and a monotone, "About what?" He looks at her rather confusedly, but not too much. He is a genius after all, and one with such renown mustn't appear too baffled.

Seven. She blushes shyly, but it is at will. It's a handy little trick she learned and perfected since she was a child, but no one knows of it. "Well…" she bites her lip, pretending to feel a little embarrassed at her question.

Eight. His eyebrow raises, and he's probably wondering what's going on. Ino, who forever seems to exude confidence, is blushing, smiling, and acting very unlike her. What miracle had taken place to bring this about?

Nine. She notices his reaction, and wonders if she pushed it a bit too much. Inside, she steels herself. She'd come this far, and she will finish the plan. Twenty-one moves to go; she knew she still had a fair chance. "It… it's kind of personal… and… I wanted to ask you," she said sweetly, "Because you seem to know everything."

Ten. He smiles ironically. "Well… not everything, but… all right, go ahead." He's fallen into the trap for sure, and she knows it. However, he doesn't.

Eleven. She bites her lip again. "Okay," she takes a deep breath, as if she hasn't rehearsed this moment a thousand times in front of the mirror. "I wanted to ask you… how does it feel to be in love?"

Twelve. He looks at her blankly. She wonders if that's good or not, but she does not have time to think about it, because he scratches his head and mumbles, "How troublesome," somewhat to himself.

Thirteen. She supposes she should have seen it coming. What would Shikamaru possibly know about such a touchy-feely subject? She is about to scrap her plan and move to her backup one when, suddenly, he surprises her.

Fourteen. "Hmm… love?" he mumbles. She stifles a sigh because she was hoping he had found an answer. All of a sudden, her plans were starting to fall apart. Has he found out? Does he know?

Fifteen. She stands, and is ready to walk away. "I'm sorry for bothering you. I know you have more important things to do today, and I'm sorry to have wasted a lot of your time," she says, rather resignedly. Only halfway through the thirty moves, and her meticulously thought-out plan seemed unsalvageable.

Sixteen. "Wait," he says to her retreating figure, "Stay. It gets a bit lonely here all by myself. And I have something to ask you, too."

Seventeen. She turns, a little hopefully, and smiles. "All right. Just for a bit longer," she says. She sits back down beside him and asks, "What was it you wanted to ask?"

Eighteen. He looks at her curiously. "I wanted to know… why you asked what you did, Ino," he says, and she knows he genuinely wants to know.

Nineteen. Of course she wouldn't tell him the real reason. Right? Right? Her mind was debating with her heart, and as Shikamaru often said, it was quite troublesome. "Um… because I want to know if I'm… you know, in… love," she whispers, and the moment the words come out of her mouth she regrets them. What has possessed her to say such things?

Twenty. He looks at her blankly, as he had a few moments ago. Then he leans back against the tree and looks up at the cloudy sky, which is for him a mystery. He seems to be contemplating what she said.

Twenty-one. She sighs, wondering what it was exactly she had gotten herself into. She looks, with him, at the sky. She does not see the same one he does, because while he sees something he can immerse himself in, she only sees the evanescent beauty of the wisplike clouds passing by. She knows this, but what she does not know is why despite all their differences they sit this close, today…

Twenty-two. He murmurs something unintelligible, and she looks at him. "I'm sorry, what was that?" she asks. He shrugs as he looks back at her. When he doesn't answer, she adds, "What was it? Please tell me."

Twenty-three. "I was just saying that… the feeling of love might not be the same for everyone," he says, and she is dumbfounded by what she hears. Despite her surprise, he continues, "For you and Sakura, it might be the happiness you feel around Sasuke, or the excitement of winning a competition, for example. For Hinata, it might be finding something to smile about each day, with her own special someone. But, as for me…"

Twenty-four. She waits for him to continue. She has never seen Shikamaru this way before, never heard him say such things. She smiles because it is only with her that he has shared it.

Twenty-five. "… For me, it's the feeling of always being there to protect her, of staying calm knowing that she's safe," he finishes. He looks up at her and tries to read her expression, but it's impossible.

Twenty-six. "Thank you," she says finally as she stands up, "But I'm not actually thinking of Sasuke at the moment." She brushes the dust from her skirt, and offers him her hand. He accepts it, and stands up beside her.

Twenty-seven. He smiles dryly at her. "Oh? Then who is it you were talking about, pray tell?" he asked. "Someone I know?"

Twenty-eight. She laughs lightly, and turns to walk away. But in a split-second she trips accidentally on a rock, and she thinks that her plan, which had surprisingly been pieced together again, was going to be shattered in the blink of an eye.

Twenty-nine. She opens her eyes, noticing that she had closed her eyes in anticipation of the impact. She looks around, and sees that Shikamaru has caught her around the waist and had kept her from falling. She blushes again as he releases her. "Well, who is it?" he asks again.

Thirty. "Oh? Someone!" she called out playfully as she ran back towards the village, leaving him standing there under the tree alone.

She smiled contentedly.

Checkmate.

Author's Note: Does it make sense or not? Is the style confusing? I'm so sorry if I change tenses, but it's ideally in the present tense. Please tell me what you think of it, and please be honest.