Not Twelve Anymore

Okay, before you all kill me: I am trying out ShikaIno because I know that I'll be hell of disappointed if Shikamaru and Temari aren't together, and since in the recent chapters (SPOILER) They're going on this mission thing...so I'm trying it out. Besides, Ino is cool too ALRIGHT.

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There she was.

He didn't know what to say, for once, he didn't know what to think. There she was, hugging that rock like it was keeping her alive, tears lost in the rain. He never before knew she could be so fragile.

She was the confident one, the ever ready, loud one. She was the one that kept them going when they wanted to stop. She was a troublesome pain in the ass, and here she was, soaked in tears, caught of guard by sorrow.

Shikamaru had no idea what to do. He stood there, cigarette hanging loosely in his mouth, eyes pained, hands thrust deep into his pockets.

"I—Ino..." He called out softly. His voice sounded different, something making it hoarse and unsure. Her head turned a few moments later.

Her ponytail was wet and her face was a soft red from crying. She looked up in confusion.

"Shikamaru?" She asked, then realizing her voice sounded weak, cleared her throat quickly. "I was just—after the funeral, I thought I'd stop by, and the rain always makes my face wet—" She trailed off with a bitter laugh. "What am I thinking, I don't have to lie to you. You're my teammate."

You know what I'm feeling.

Shikamaru knew that those unsaid words were what kept her so open with him right now, when she had always berated him before. They were friends, and somehow now they felt a strange loss.

"Asuma-sensei would want you to stop crying. It's too troublesome. Your face is all red." He said, throwing his cigarette down and crushing it with his foot. She gave him a sad look.

"He wouldn't want you to smoke." Was all she said, staring at the still smoking cigarette lying on the ground. Shikamaru just shrugged.

"Erm...I, uhh..." He said, putting an arm above his head. He looked down, at a loss for words. 'What do I tell her? That I'm worried about her, that I've worried all this time, while she's wandered after Sasuke? Man, troublesome woman...'

"What?" Ino asked, scrunching her eyebrows together in confusion. "I mean, you can smoke if you want to..."

"It's not that." Shikamaru said, looking up again. "I just wanted to say that...mantroublesomewoman...I'm, err, worried about you." He said finally. She blinked, then her face turned even pinker than it had been and she scowled.

"Well you don't need to be. I'm perfectly fine!" She said, getting up, smoothing out her black dress. "I'm not twelve anymore, Shikamaru!" She said a little fiercely. He nodded a little, then turned to look at her.

"Neither am I." He said, staring at her. She blinked. "Come on. Let's go to the barbeque. I'm buying." He said, beginning to walk. She quickly followed him, puddles splashing on the ground. Then suddenly she brushed her face off. He turned to her again.

"What?" He asked, noticing her discomfort.

"Asuma-sensei always paid. You're acting like him." She said softly. "You're right. You're not twelve anymore." Shikamaru stopped and turned to her. Suddenly she felt his arms around her. Her eyes widened in surprise.

He had her in a strong embrace. She felt tears come again, and suddenly she felt her arms around him also. He looked down at her as she cried, watching her dig her head into his shoulder.

"I didn't know you cared about me." Ino said softly, breaking off the embrace. They began to walk again. Shikamaru had thrust his hands into his pockets again.

"Troublesome woman. I always cared." He mumbled, feeling a streak of red fly across his face. She looked at him. 'More than what I could say for Sasuke..I was a foolish girl..wait, this is Shikamaru! My friend! Baka!' Ino scolded herself.

"It'll be different now, won't it..." She trailed off, looking ahead. Shikamaru nodded slightly, then spoke.

"Yeah." Different, different. What did she mean now? Different as in Konoha? Different as in Team Ten? Different as in them, Shikamaru and Ino? Either way, it would never be the same.

Suddenly, she felt his hand on hers. She blinked, blushing again. She looked up at him. He was looking straight ahead, but she could tell he was blushing also. She smiled silently, wiping off her tears with the other hand.

"I don't want to make the same mistake Asuma did." Shikamaru said suddenly. He had a look of concentrated pain on his face. He grimaced. Then he turned to her. "Would you...if I was...gone...if someone told you, would you cry?" He asked. She gaped.

"Why would you say that!" She cried out, holding onto his arm tightly. "You're not thinking of doing anything stupid, are you?!" She said angrily, feeling more tears come. He turned to her again, his eyes hard.

"Ino, this is important..." He said quietly. She looked at him sideways.

"I would..." She closed her eyes as more tears came. 'What's he getting at? Asuma's mistake...Shikamaru...me...Kurenai...' Suddenly her eyes flew open. 'Is he...is he trying to ask me if I care about him?' She looked at him hard. Pain was darkening his face. Suddenly she realized something.

They weren't twelve anymore.

He had changed. Here he was, more mature than any of the rookies, and he was asking her something important. How had she never realized who he had become? Had she been that crazy over Sasuke?

She gave him a small smile. Tears betrayed her newfound happiness. She had never felt so afraid of what he was telling her, and so happy. 'Maybe this is what happens when the love you give is returned...I never felt this way for Sasuke...'

"I'd feel worse than Kurenai-sensei." Ino said quietly. He looked at her, almost disbelieving. She held his hand tighter as they walked. He smiled.

"Tch, love is more troublesome than I thought it would be. And with such a troublesome woman, too." He said, as he stopped to take out another cigarette. He flicked out the lighter and tipped it into his mouth. She scowled through her blush.

"And I thought this was the part where you outright tell me you loved me since we were on the same team, and then, you kiss me!" She blurted out, hands on her hips. He smiled, and reluctantly flew the cigarette down.

"I knew you'd want something troublesome. Tch, it's worth it." He said, and leaned in to kiss her.

It was the first time she had kissed a boy, and strangely, she found herself glad that it wasn't Sasuke. It was someone feeling, someone stronger than Sasuke would ever be. She smiled when they broke off. Suddenly Shikamaru's face became hard again.

"You know...we have to avenge him." Shikamaru said, clenching his fists harder. She looked down. Would the life of a ninja conflict with their feelings?

"I know." Ino said softly. Suddenly her throat felt dry. "But...if one of us...doesn't return..."

"I'll want it to be me." Shikamaru said softly. "Before you, always. Or Chouji. I won't let you get hurt. The man always protects the woman. Especially the one they love, even if it gets too troublesome." She blushed.

"I never knew that all this time...I think I loved you too." She said. Suddenly her face didn't feel wet anymore. The sun had bled through the clouds, and the rain had ceased. Shikamaru let out a small laugh.

"Asuma-sensei's watching us. He's probably laughing at us. How troublesome." Shikamaru said with a smirk. Ino laughed also.

"He's probably just thinking that it took too long." She agreed. Then she nudged him. "Come on, I'm starving." She said. He nodded.

Then they left, staring at the sky, where Asuma was indeed laughing, thinking that finally, his students had found each other.

A/N: You drowned in the fluff, right? Haha! My evil plan! Just kidding. Anyway, hope you liked it!