A Fool's Tear
by Rustic Diamond

This is technically a one-shot, though if I have more motivation and inspiration this may eventually appear as part of a longer story... but for now, it'll stay as a one-shot... This is my first attempt at a Naruto fanfic...

Disclaimer - I don't own anything remotely recognizable in this story - i.e. I don't own Naruto, nor any characters from it... And no, I won't get paid by writing this...

He never imagined that it would happen like this. He always thought that he would be able to find an average girl to be his average wife, have the average two kids, and lead a peaceful life, especially after retirement, staying away from troublesome things. But things never happen the way we want them to, do they? Nope. He, the one who hates troublesome things, had to fall in love with one of the most troublesome girls in the world. Not that he was new to this knowledge. He wasn't a genius for nothing. He figured it out a long time ago… His family has always been close to her family, and so there were always plenty of opportunities to see her. It was all fine until she really started to obsess over that Uchiha boy. Back then, he wasn't sure why he felt severely uncomfortable when she brought him up in conversation. He felt this weird clenching in his chest. He was originally sure that he would die of some random heart disease. But then he figured it out.

He was in love with her.

He first cursed it to all levels of hell, and then he cursed himself for falling in love with her. He tried to deny these feelings, deeming them troublesome whenever he had a chance. He acted as if nothing was wrong most of the time, but it can only go so far. Temari had flirted with him like there was no tomorrow. He was flattered, but he declared it troublesome as usual. But despite his mind telling him to move on, his heart wouldn't let him.

Now it just hurts.

How is that even though Uchiha had betrayed the village that Ino still loves him? Still? How come he, Shikamaru, cares so much? He had always worried about her. Whenever the two were not on the same team for a mission, he would always worry about her safety. Not even his cloud watching would be able to calm him down. He cursed this troublesome woman for causing him to fret, yet whenever he was attacked with the thought that this mission that she was on would be the one to take her away from him, he heart would feel like it would break. Whenever she came back, safe and sound, he would let go of that breath that he had unknowingly held while she was out.

Now that she had finally made it to jounin, he worries even more. He was never one for taijutsu, but ever since Ino had come back wounded because of a less competent teammate lacking in taijutsu, he forced himself to train harder and harder. He would never want her to be hurt, not ever. Chouji thinks that he's going overboard, but he never stopped Shikamaru from training. Chouji knew how important it was to him to feel strong enough to protect his love, having been friends with him since they were in diapers. He realized Shikamaru's devotion towards Ino even before the chunnin exams, and was saddened that even after 10 years, his friends have not get gotten together. He voiced this to Shikamaru, and all the genius did was sigh, and tell Chouji not worry about him.

It was actually this specific friend of his that came running to where he was lying, contemplating his life.

"Shikamaru? Hokage-sama wants to see you." At 23, Chouji was still a chunnin, but it was out of choice. He chose not to take the jounin exams, and was happily teaching at the academy alongside their old sensei Iruka.

"Eh? What is it this time? Troublesome woman…" Shikamaru muttered, frustrated that he was bothered on this rare occasion he could lie down in the fields, as he once did 10 years ago.

Shikamaru went over to the Hokage's office, and was surprised to see Naruto and Neji there also, yet Tsunade was nowhere to be seen. They all waited there for a few minutes before Tsunade appeared with Sakura in tow. She sat at her desk, and wasted no time beating around the bushes.

"Uchiha Sasuke has been found."

These words shocked the three male shinobi. Naruto's jaw drapped, Neji's eyebrows raised, and Shikamaru's eyes widened. Sakura, however wasn't shocked. It was surprisingly Naruto who regained his senses first and started firing questions at Tsunade.

"When was he found? Where was he found? Where is he now? Who found him? What's really going on?" Naruto's impatience had improved over the years, but his attitude towards his former teammate had never changed – he still wanted him back, and he still cared for him as a close friend.

It was Sakura who answered those questions. "He was found this morning, at dawn, bloodied and beaten, at the village gates. He was in really bad shape, Naruto, really bad. How he managed to avoid all other shinobi outside of the village gates, we still don't know, but he's at the hospital now, recovering. It was actually Ino who found him this morning, and brought him into the hospital and contacted Tsunade-shishou." At the mention of Ino's name, Shikamaru's interest was piqued. Why was she out so early? What was she doing? How was she taking this? He was lost in his own questions when someone's hand on his shoulder made him act on reflex and grab it. The hand was attached to one Hyuuga Neji, who just gave him a look. Shikamaru let go of Neji's hand, and turned to find everybody else staring at him.


"Well," Naruto began, "we're all about to go see him. We need you to be there, to gauge his reactions when questions are asked. So are you ready?" Shikamaru nodded, and the four jounin set off.

They bumped into Kakashi in front of the hospital, and the five went in and was greeted by four ANBU guarding the entrance to Sasuke's room. At the sight of the gathered five, they let them into the room. And there was Sasuke, lying on one of those hospital beds. Another two ANBU and two jounin were guarding inside the room. Knowing that Sasuke was a highly skilled and potentially very dangerous ninja, this precaution was unavoidable. Shikamaru spotted Ino there, sitting in a chair next to the bed. She looked tired and worn out, and Shikmaru's heart clenched.

'Would she ever be that broken if it was me lying on that bed? I doubt it… This is Uchiha Sasuke, idiot, that she is broken over. Not Nara Shikamaru. It will never be Nara Shikamaru. Give up.' His thoughts were torturous, but his heart, despite its breaking, wouldn't let him give up.

Ino's head moved from looking at Sasuke to looking at her friends that had just come in. All but Shikamaru met her gaze, and she found that odd. She was just about to comment when a noise from beside her shook all that were in the room.

"I…Ino…" Sasuke's raspy voice broke through the silence. Ino immediately turned her attention back to Sasuke, her ear pressed close to his mouth in an attempt to listen to him without having to strain his voice. Shikamaru's hands balled into fists at this intimate display, his nails digging into the palms of his hands, and his jaw clenched in anger and jealousy. He closed his eyes, trying to block out the images, only to have his own imagination flash images of what is likely happening behind his closed lids. He needed to get out of here before he blew, he knew. Knowing Tsunade needed to be alerted, he volunteered himself to go.

"I'll go find someone to alert Tsunade-sama." With that, he spun around and, nearly ran out the door, closing the door with a force a lot harder than needed. He found an unfortunate chunnin and ordered him to go find the hokage and bring here here, and when that was done, Shikamaru stepped over in front of a window, hands still fisted, and jaw still clenched. He hit the windowsill in anger, and he bit his lip in reaction to the pain in his heart.

That was that, then. Sasuke was back, and what little chances Nara Shikamaru had with Yamanaka Ino was gone. Obliterated by the return of the Uchiha heir. He looked out the window at the clouds. How he wished to be one of those clouds, free, without a bother. He wished for the days when he was still a genin. Those carefree days when Ino, Chouji, Asuma-sensei and his family were all that he really needed to care about. Again, a hand on his shoulder broke him from his thoughts. Neji's hand, Shikamaru knew. He tried to school his features to resemble his normal grouchy face, but before he could do that Neji's voice shocked him.

"Things aren't always as they seem, Shikamaru. Remember that." Shikamaru remained looking out the window while Neji removed his hand and walked back into Sasuke's room.

'Things aren't always as they seem? I wish I could believe that, Neji. Your byakugan may be powerful, but it cannot discern the ways of the heart. Though I wish I could believe you." A lonely tear fell from Shikamaru's eye, a physical sign of just how much he wished that were true, and that Ino really did love him.

"You were always a fool, Shikamaru. You were always a fool," he whispered to himself.

'Oh Ino, how I love you…"

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