Death, Clouds, and Ninjas

Rating: K+

Warnings: Death and taxes. (I kid, I kid … but Stranger Than Fiction so KICKED ASS!)(That was a reference to it, BTW) But it does have death. And "hell".

Pairings: None (that I'm aware of. You could make the argument, though. I guess.)

Genre: Introspection. Aaand ... I dunno. General.

Word Count: ... Shit. (checks) 637

Disclaimer: Please see my profile for details.

A/N: I'M GOING TO WAHSINGTON D.C. TOMORROW! (is excited) SO as a bon voyage gift to myself ... a Shika drabble! Because he's hot and lazy and one of my favorite characters. Even though the title sucks and it's not that great, it doesn't really have to be, becasue it's a present to myself! (bounces away)

xXxXxXx

Shikamaru hadn't lost anybody for a few weeks now. This was surprising, because as a ninja, he was used to losing someone pretty regularly. Funerals were just something else troublesome to bemoan, rather than the loss of someone he knew.

The last person to die was Tenba-san, their next-door neighbor who hadn't been a ninja at all. He had been a grocer, and had always given Shikamaru some sort of fresh fruit whenever he saw him. Oranges in the summer, peaches in the fall, etc.

So when death hadn't made it's appearance in a few weeks, instead of counting his blessings, Shikamaru would think of those closest to him. Like his dad, who had creaky joints and a bad elbow that ached when it rained because an enemy Rock nin had pulled it out of it's socket and shattered it a few decades ago and it hadn't worked right since. Or his mom, who was starting to get a little hard of hearing and still a pain in the ass, always harping on him about how he never visited.

And then there were Ino and Chouji, who he still hung out with and went on missions with and complained with/about them.

Chouji, still single and fat and happy about both.

Ino, who partied and dated but hadn't settled down yet.

And him, lazy and a jounin and only "went out" when Ino bitched and Chouji pushed.

He would never admit it to anyone, but he was starting to think of them as his "most precious people," as that idiot Naruto would say.

So Shikamaru would think of the countless times he nearly lost them (except for his mother, who only went to the hospital for check-ups and that one time where she broke her leg falling down the stairs).

Every time his dad left the house for a mission when he was a kid. And that constant worry in the back of his mind whenever he heard he was on a dangerous mission.

Just like that constant, gnawing ache he felt in his chest for Chouji, who had given him the biggest scare of his life. To look down on that peaceful, too-thin face had made his mind go blank and something to cut through his chest like a knife.

And then he had refused to leave his side until Chouji was once again fat and happy and walking around munching on potato chips. Shikamaru had never forgiven him for almost dying, for nearly leaving him and Ino alone.

And Ino … it was so easy to imagine her dead. He had never told her, but he had shared this unspeakable fear with Chouji. They both knew how she would look, all boneless and calm, and how her head would loll when they picked her up.

Her Shinntensin was a great jutsu ... except for her friends who were stuck with her lifeless body. Shikamaru used to unconsciously check her pulse every couple minutes whenever he was stuck holding her, which was often, because she looked so dead lying pale in his arms.

He was always alone whenever he thought these things (except when they would pop up at the most random times and make him tired as all hell), normally looking at the sky and watching the clouds.

Clouds couldn't die.

But they could look like those who had, and those who would.

He shut that down quick and rolled over to take a nap, with the sun warm on his face and the grass cool under his cheek and the fact that things were okay for a short time.

Because, as a ninja, he knew it wouldn't last.

The dead wouldn't come back.

And the living wouldn't escape death.

And it would always be in his life, for as long as he would live it.

END

So yes. Miss me, dammit! I'll be gone for five days!

(Insert standard demand/plea/bribe/threat for reviews)