A/N: I am utilizing my creative license a bit, making Ino a little on the short side, but that is how I always envisioned her, a little spitfire capable of making our beloved Shikamaru do anything. Hehehehehe (flashes creative license).

Ino swept into the kitchen, slamming the door so hard the cabinets rattled. Kicking off her heels and throwing the keys onto the table, she grabbed a spoon and bowel from the pile of dishes next to the sink and made her way to the freezer.

It had been one of those days. One of those days when her clothes felt tighter than they did yesterday, her hair looked like a hay stack after the animals had gotten to it, and the skirt she had worn had an enormous rip across the rear end because she had tripped over the cat while trying to apply mascara and eat toast simultaneously because it was 7:56, and she had to be at work by eight. It took twelve minutes to drive there. Going thirty miles over the speed limit.

But these were normal, everyday occurrences for Yamanaka Ino. Except for the clothes thing, she would have to take care of that. What really had put her over the edge was that she found out her boyfriend of one month and two days had been unfaithful. But this time, she hadn't seen it coming. Not a hint of an "it's not you, it's me," spiel, or a single message on his phone from the generic "significant other." She was caught completely by surprise.

Actually, she hadn't even caught him in the act. Heck, she didn't even have a chance to barge in on the unsuspecting couple and go all righteous on his ass. Her boss had pulled her aside after an afternoon meeting and said he had seen something that might interest her.

Asuma led her towards a security room filled with miniature TV's stacked across the beige splattered walls. He walked over to a blue bin, filled to be what appeared to be security tapes. He rummaged through it for a minute, and then popped one into the VCR. He pressed play.

"You may want to take a seat." That was all the warning she got.

Ino sat transfixed by the image that appeared on the screen. There was Sachio, locked in a passionate kiss with her cubicle-mate. Who happened to be a man.

She opened the door to the freezer, letting her forehead rest against the cool plastic. Ino sighed; desperate times call for desperate measures. Her hand hovered longingly next to the chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream, but she remembered how she hadn't been able to slide into her clothes quite as easily as she would have liked to this morning. She sighed again, and snatched the fat free, no sugar added crap from the shelf. Ino rummaged gingerly through a drawer trying to find the ice cream scoop, but settled to just eat right the carton. After all, it had been one of those days.

She remembered seeing red. She couldn't focus on Asuma's face, or the moving image, or on her own feelings. She stormed out of the office, her heels pounding out the unfortunate man's funeral march. One minute she was flying down the stairwell, the next she is strangling Sachio with the blue tie which was conveniently located around his neck. Blue used to be her favorite color. Not anymore.

Her friends finally pulled her off him after he had started to turn a beautiful shade of purple. Well, Sakura and Hinata had held her back; Tenten had walked over and punched him in the face. Asuma had suggested she take the rest of the day off, to "collect herself." Sakura even went with her to make sure she didn't run over an unfortunate pedestrian who resembled her boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend that is.

She dug her spoon viciously into the slightly melted ice cream, imagining Sachio's face. It wasn't as if it was anything serious. And it's not like she was against gay relationships. Heck, she should be proud that she was able to turn a gay man straight for at least a month. Then again, she could have been his cover-up while he fooled around with all the guys in his end of the building. She sighed again. This wasn't cutting it.

Ino reached over and grabbed the phone. Dialing quickly, she listened as the phone rang, once, twice, three times.

"What?" drawled a lazy voice.

"Shika, get your ass over here. I need to talk to you."

"Ino, we're talking now." She listened as he heaved a great sigh into the phone. "Let me guess, this is about, what was his name again?"

"Shika!" She began to twirl her small fingers around the phone cord. "Come on! It's not like your doing anything

This remark earned yet another sigh, coupled with a last ditch effort to preserve the tattered remains of his afternoon. Which he meant to use to thoroughly enjoy doing nothing, but that was beside the point.

"Reminding you that I am completely and utterly uninvolved with your situation and will likely make it ten times worse because I have a natural talent for pissing you off won't help, will it?"

"Shikamaru, I think this is the first time you've resorted to rhetorical questioning to avoid me." She paused, letting out a sigh of her own. "Come on, I even got together our line-up of the Disney Classics."

Unintelligent grumbling and extensive groaning filtered through the speaker, but Ino knew he was coming. Few men can resist the allure of a woman in sweatpants surrounded by ice cream and animated characters. That, and the fact she had no qualms of physically dragging him up two floors and around the corner if he didn't show up in the next thirty minutes.

Ino referred to their relationship as "dysfunctionally stable," while digging an elbow into a sardonic Shikamaru, who pointed out that one, "dysfunctionally" was not an actual word, and two, a more accurate phrase would be "a poor, victimized individual constantly harassed by a troublesome woman who is under the misconception that he enjoys it." He would then be granted a good whack upside the head courtesy of Ino, who would then receive a response, such as, "Oi, why'd ya do that you troublesome woman?" The conversation then progressively degenerated to extended bouts of bickering and name-calling.

After thoroughly exhausted their verbal arsenals of anything remotely offensive, they then proceed to "go do something." This usually entailed Ino dragging Shikamaru into anything and everything that seemed even vaguely appealing. One could say the time spent together mattered more than where it was spent, but that person was typically Ino, who had wanted to go there anyway.

This had been the case since infancy, when a baby Shikamaru, ignorant of the great physical and mental torment that awaited him due to this decision, had given baby Ino his stuffed panda to replace the one she had been looking for, very noisily might he add. Their parents, who had also met as infants, regarded his actions as a prediction of a great and glorious union, began planning the wedding immediately after the blessed event occurred. 'If your boy can stop my baby girl from crying, consider him a god among men,' proclaimed her father. 'What a cute couple they are," cried his mother. 'My son can be the best man," a mutual friend exclaimed.

And so, the trio embarked on the long and arduous journey often referred to as "The Friendship of Ino, Shikamaru, and Chouji," three individuals who were so different, the closest thing they had in common was they liked something that the other two did not. Ino loved to shop, but Shikamaru and Chouji would rather gouge their eyes out. Chouji loved to eat, but Ino was always somewhat worried about her figure, and Shikamaru, well, he was too lazy to bring that much food up to his mouth. He reserved all his energy for an intense and lengthy game of Go with Asuma, a game which both Ino and Chouji tried to learn, but fell asleep before Shikamaru had actually begun.

A myriad of photographs lined the walls and pages of countless albums, chronicling preschool until graduation and beyond. Every single snot-nosed, tear-stained, brace-filled moment had been periodically stalked and trapped within the lens of a merciless camera, completely preserved to the horror, amusement, or delight of the observer, depending on who is being observed.

Ino hopped off the couch and padded over to a small bookshelf shoved against to opposite wall. Pulling out a dusty volume titled "Remembering the Memories" in peeling gold decals, she began to idly turn pages, stirring up both dust mites and nostalgia.

Her lips twitched as she looked down, a surly Shikamaru and concerned Chouji staring back, their backs against a neon pink and yellow door. She had stormed off after noticing, for the first time, she had to look up rather than into Shikamaru's eyes. In a fit of adolescent rage she had grabbed a bottle of calcium supplements and stormed into her room, vowing to remain locked away until she had grown at least five inches. What had scared her more than anything however was a strange fluttering sensation as she glared up rather than into the beady eyes of an adolescent Shikamaru.

Startled and apprehensive, she had fled to the sanctity of her glitter-infested, brightly colored room. Shikamaru was adamant he had done nothing wrong and that any logical person would agree with him, but Chouji reminded him that a teenage girl was a synonym of illogical, and so both had followed her upstairs and sat outside her room for six hours while Ino attempted to identify this foreign sensation while making a simultaneous effort to grow three inches.

Unfortunately for Ino, she remained five-foot nothing while "her boys" sprouted well past the six-foot mark. After her braces removed, the changes they underwent had moved from an insignificant pebble kicked along the side of a road to this hulking boulder they all were forced to acknowledge lest they trip and fall over it. Chouji became what he like to call, "big-boned," and solid, a far cry from the pudgy boy who bought out her entire Girl Scout troop's cookie supply. Shikamaru transitioned from a scrawny beanpole with a pineapple stuck to his head into a lean and sinuous man with a sexy shag and a perfect ass. Even Ino realized she had filled out quite nicely, although at first she was completely oblivious to her newfound sex appeal. At first, that is.

Despite her initial fears they would grow apart, the seemingly contradictory trio managed to stick together. Ino knew Chouji cared for them with all of his selfless heart and that it would be too troublesome for Shikamaru to establish such close relationships with any other people (even if he had an I.Q of over 200). As for Ino, she hadn't realized how much they both, particularly Shikamaru, meant to her until the night before senior prom, her date had cancelled and Shikamaru had shown up on her porch, stuffed into a rumpled tuxedo a few sizes too big and carrying a slightly wilted bouquet of roses.

A light blush had worked its way into his cheeks as she ran down the stairs, clutching the pink robe he had given her for a birthday present tightly around her body. As she stood dazed in the doorway, he had immediately launched into a monologue that expressed Chouji's wish for her to experience at least a fraction of the happiness she had given him because of her superior matchmaking talents, but all she could hear was the sporadic thumping of her heart echoing throughout her brain, silencing all coherent thought. Out of this primordial ocean filled with slightly wilted flower petals and cologne, a staggering epiphany surfaced. She loved him.