Title: Good Friend Chouji

Pairings: undecided (main pairing MIGHT be yaoi)

Warnings: nothing too extreme. I might have more adult themes later on, like child abuse, self mutilation, bullying, references to sex/sexual acts, and possible rape. Maybe.

Author: Drinking Acid


It was a rather beautiful day. The sky was a clear, pristine blue, reminding him of pure ice when light shines through it, and the clouds were a mix of billowing snowy clumps and wisps of white cotton candy. A thin breeze pushed the bands of condensation through the sky with practiced ease, churning them up and changing their shape like hands molding putty.

The perfect day for cloud watching.

As such, Shikamaru could be found on his favorite knoll in the park, lying on his back with his fingers laced behind his head. The grass was still a bit damp and his clothes were slowly retaining the dew, but he kept his dark eyes fixed on the mass of clouds above him.

It looks like a winged lion.

He snorted. How mundane.

The watch buckled to his belt loop beeped, signaling it was, in fact, 8:00. He was late for school. Again. He sighed, staring moodily up at the seemingly still sky. Didn't he have a test today? Oh well. He'd have blown it off anyway. All those tests were far too easy and he was almost always the first one done, unless he fell asleep while the teacher explained the directions.

Clouds were far more interesting than tests.

Closing his eyes, he sighed and shifted his weight, getting comfortable. The ground was nice and soft, acting as the perfect mattress for a much-needed nap. Even if it was only 8:00 in the morning. Oh, wait, 8:02. He sighed again. Time was so troublesome.

It was so very peaceful out on the hill with the clouds floating above him. He always liked clouds. They never rushed about, worrying about pointless things, or asked him stupid questions, or took up his time with annoying conversations. They simply were. And if the whole human race disappeared, the clouds would always remain, because they weren't human and thus didn't come with human deficiencies.

If only human's were more like clouds.

But then they wouldn't be human, would they?

He smiled to himself a little.

Let the clouds be, he thought. They deserve to be one of a kind.

From the corner of the park, directly across from the Circle K, Shikamaru caught the rustle of cellophane and the crunch of chips. He wasn't in the least bit surprised or annoyed, even as the sound got closer, thus louder, as the mystery person made their way over the sand box of the playground and the grass of the picnic area. Solid foot steps sounded in his ears, and he waited for the person, his eyes closed and his body lax. He could be patient if he wanted to.

There just happened to be very few reasons to be patient.

"Shikamaru." The voice was thick, as if the person's mouth was full of food, but questioning in a polite sort of way. He opened one eye to gaze steadily up at his best friend.

Chouji was standing over him, potato chip bag in hand, blinking down at him with small, dark eyes. He sat down heavily next to him, dumping his book bag on the grass, and crossed his legs, shoving another mouthful of chips in his mouth. It was quiet for a moment as Chouji finished chewing, and the winged lion morphed into a snarling raccoon-dragon-thing. He stretched himself out a bit more, almost like a cat. The larger boy shifted uncertainly, setting his chip bag down.

"Shikamaru," he said again, "We're supposed to be in class, you know."

"Yeah." Silence. Chouji shifted again, casting a glance at Shikamaru, The thinner boy paid him no attention and watched as a satyr glided over him.

"You have a test today, don't you?" tried Chouji, stuffing more chips in his mouth as he struggled to say something. While he didn't care for school work, Chouji was very dedicated to trying his hardest in school, studying his heart out the night before and scrambling to remember everything the next day. Shikamaru never saw any of Chouji's tests, but since he never made honor roll, he doubted he was doing as well as he should, especially with the way he studied. It was a shame, really, because he worked so hard for every test, his eyes glued to the pages of his notes and text books. Hell, if he studied like that, every test would be a solid 100.

But Chouji wasn't like him. He couldn't simply close his eyes and remember everything he'd read while skimming the text book or his notes; he couldn't figure out long division of polynomials in his head or remember all the times tables up to 345. He wasn't able to just know and remember things like he could; he just couldn't. He was human.

And humans aren't perfect.

"So do you." Chouji dropped his eyes and stuffed a handful of chips in his mouth quickly. He shot a look at his friend before staring back up at the sky. It was obvious that Chouji was going to miss his test while sitting out here with him. Biology was probably already in session, and while he didn't have that class (AP Chemistry) Chouji did. He'd watched his friend study furiously for it at lunch the other day while he devoured three trays of food, one of which wasn't given willingly. At least Lee wasn't violent like Naruto when it came to food. Or Chouji for that matter.

"We should still be at school," mumbled Chouji, his hand already digging for chips to replace the ones he'd swallowed. Shikamaru closed his eyes.

"Then what're you doing out here?"

The crunch of chips stopped as Chouji contemplated the question.

Crunch, crunch, swallow.

"I could ask you the same thing."

Shikamaru blinked his eyes open and glanced over at him. Chouji stared back, already chewing away. He gave a half smile.

"Cloud watching." It was Chouji's turn to blink.

"During school?"

"It's the best time. Nice and quiet."

"Oh."

Chouji frowned, chewing thoughtfully with his hand resting in his chip bag. Shikamaru watched as a lion-faced horse gallop through the mass of white, a thin-bodied wolf with human hands only steps ahead. Briefly he wondered if this was how mythological creatures had been developed: through cloud watching. He could believe that. The cellophane crinkled again, splitting the quiet air with it's unintentional racket.

"Do you want me to leave?"

Shikamaru shook his head. "No. You're fine here."

"Okay."

The large boy continued eating, the soft crunch of chips filling their comfortable silence. Shikamaru gazed languidly up at the clouds, letting out a contented sigh. A few birds twittered nearby and there was the faint sound of cars rolling down the street every once in a while. All was serene.

"Isn't there a test in biology?" he said suddenly.

There was a pause between bites, Chouji's face twisting into another frown. He swallowed.

"Y-yeah."

"If you don't leave now, you won't make it back in time to take it."

He didn't answer. Shikamaru turned his head to land narrow eyes on his friend, searching out equally reluctant ones.

"It's okay."

Chouji looked uncomfortable, his eyes shifting nervously as he avoided Shikamaru's. Within moments he started eating again. Shikamaru turned to look up again, but the clouds had shifted to leave a large blue hole in his line of view. He scowled. The clouds were against him today.

Sighing, he stood up and stretched his spine until he heard a pop. He dusted off his uniform (dark green dress pants, a black belt and shoes, a white button-up shirt, a red tie and an optional green jacket (which he wore)) and slung the strap of his own bag over his shoulder, glancing over at Chouji. His friend was staring up at him with a rather surprised look on his face, his hand halfway to his mouth. Shikamaru felt a smile tug at his lips.

"Well? If we don't hurry, you'll miss your test."

Chouji smiled up at him, replacing his chips and standing up beside him. They headed down the knoll, strolling over bright green grass, soft yellow sand and then hard grey concrete. From the Circle K, they went right, to the intersection, and took a left, heading more towards the center of the city.

As they got closer to their school, they delved deeper into the thickly populated metropolitan area, entailing huge, crammed together buildings, bustling streets, rivers of honking, smog producing cars, and the constant din of city life. There was almost always something going on, whether it was good or bad, and so movement in some direction was inevitable. People from all walks of life strolled these streets, jabbering away on cell phones and sending emails on their handhelds. Life seeped from everywhere, filling up everything in the city with a thick pressure, yet leaving the jungle of metal and brick unnaturally empty. Shikamaru despised the city.

Their high school, Konoha High, was situated perfectly in the center ring of the city, within a ten block radius of both the fire station and the local police station. Lots of rich, famous families sent their kids there, since it was so close to the upper-class neighborhood and it's record for turning out well-rounded community idols made it perfect for teaching young heirs of wealthy business empires. Everything about the school was supposed to be elite and proper, the ideal grounds for which business tycoons could rear ruthless, cunning, money-minded children to take over their business in the event of an assassination (as that seemed to be the most likely way to go in the business world these days).

Chouji's father, for example, was the chef at a five star restaurant one of the country clubs owned in Uptown. The Akimichi's lived in a nice, three story house (not counting the basement) with a four car garage and a very pretty yard of freshly cut green grass and crisp hedges. He'd gone there once when Chouji had to stop by to run an errand for his father on their way to the park. The whole time they were there, Chouji had been stuttering like crazy and he'd gotten them both out as quickly as possible, bumbling excuses the whole way. It would have been funny if Chouji hadn't looked so distressed.

However, the Nara family wasn't rich at all. His father was a manager at a hardware store and his mother was a waitresses at a café on the East side. They lived in a small, plain, house (also on the East side) that was two stories high and shoved between a cluster of other houses. They didn't even own a car; there was no where to put it since they didn't have a garage, and the streets were so narrow it was a wonder it could function as a two-way street. It was quite a contrast to the lives of the school's usual students.

It was really all thanks to Asuma he was in the school. Without him, he'd have just gone on to the local high school, wouldn't have had any chance at a college, and would've probably ended up dead in an alley after a mugging when he was twenty.

Asuma was a teacher at Konoha High (a Chemistry teacher, actually) and was a regular customer of a small chess parlor on the East side. He smoked, which was annoying, but he was fairly strategical and that made up for it. Plus, he paid for his lunch on Wednesdays. But besides all that, Asuma had been the first person to actually trick him ——him, the great Shikamaru!—— into taking an IQ test.

Turns out he had an IQ of over 200.

He certainly hadn't been expecting that. In elementary and middle school, he'd been barely scraping by with C's, which his mother and father tsk-ed at before moving on with their lives, and none of the teachers had ever genuinely tried to get him to work harder at his school work (not that he would have), so he'd simply let it go and held his C minus average. Until he met Asuma in that chess parlor a whole freakin' year and a half ago.

Shikamaru was snapped out of his reminiscing as he and Chouji stepped onto the school campus. It was huge and sprawling, probably the only owner of that much green land this deep into the city, with four huge buildings lording over it. One was for classrooms (Second building), another was the library (Old building), then the tall-small administration building (First building) and finally the gigantic cafeteria/gym building (New building). A regulation football field and a huge set of bleachers sat behind the gym and two soccer fields bordered the library. Inside the gym was a nice, wooden basketball court, also with bleachers, and outside were three concrete courts, as well as two volley ball courts. The buildings were that mix of Roman/Greek architecture and red brick that the American East Coast was drowning in, with lots of white columns and windows, as well as huge wooden doors with knockers of lion heads that glared down at you with that knowing look as if it new your were doing something wrong. It screamed prestige, which Shikamaru also detested, though not nearly as much as cities.

They made their way across the front lawn and climbed the steps up to the front doors (luckily unlocked) and entered the main hall of the First building. It was the fastest way to the Second building, which was just a left turn and a hall away. Of course, taking this route when school was already going on implies that there are far more instances where they could easily get sentenced to a week's worth of detention. This was, obviously, a bad thing. Chouji might not have complained about it, but Shikamaru had things he needed to do after school and staying at the damned place just because he was a little late in coming seemed extremely stupid.

So, he decided, we won't get caught.

"Um, Shikamaru," muttered Chouji, wringing his hands nervously now that he'd finished all his chips and his hands had nothing to do, "Your class is upstairs, right? Shouldn't you go that way?" He gestured towards the center hall where the staircase was, leading up to the second and third floors of the administration building that served as the home for all the AP classes. Well, most of them; the AP Chemistry class was on the first floor with all the other lab classes like Home Economics, Cooking class, and all the sciences.

He waved his hand absently. "There's a staircase at the end of the Second building. I'll just go up that one."

Chouji didn't look all too reassured as they slunk down the hall to the end of the First building, where it turned into the Second building, and hurried cautiously down another corridor. They passed rows upon rows of lockers and doors, which they had to duck below the windows to avoid being seen. Their footsteps echoed loudly in the wide hall, making it seem as if a whole herd of kids was banging through the school. He was probably exaggerating, but that's what it felt like.

Shikamaru stopped just before Chouji's biology class, turning to face Chouji who was panting at having to scurry down the halls so quickly. He realized suddenly that they should have stopped at their lockers, but figured Chouji would be okay for the first class.

"Here's your class. Gotta go," he said, turning towards the staircase at the end of the hall. Chouji caught his sleeve, still bent over in an effort to catch his breath. He waited patiently until his friend could talk properly, discreetly shifting his weight to one foot.

"Wha-what am I s'pposed to teh-tell the tea-teacher?" gasped Chouji. He thought for a moment before grinning.

"Tell 'em you were eating too fast and got a chunk of sausage stuck in your throat, so you were late 'cause you were choking." Chouji laughed, his cheeks flushing scarlet. Shikamaru patted his shoulder.

"Good luck, Chouji."

His friend smiled, still laughing slightly in gasping breaths before turning to open the classroom door. He didn't hear what the teacher had to say about Chouji's punctuality (or lack thereof) since he was already at the base of the stairs and climbing. Figures his class had to be on the third floor. They just couldn't make things easy, could they?

Since his IQ was so high, Asuma had managed to coerce the school board into letting him take college credit classes even with his horrible track record. This let him gain all the graduation requirements as well as a good start towards college. Of course, he was still a freshmen (no, seriously, he was), so he had to take all those other classes like P.E., Home Ec, and Cooking class, which he was sure he'd fail. He honestly sucked at cooking. Or any other sort of house work for that matter. Most of the time his mother did that, or she'd force him into doing it, which usually resulted in him doing it wrong (how? He'd just been washing dishes! How can you do that wrong?) and she'd make him do it all over again. And thus the park became a safe haven from his mother's "cleaning mood."

After an unnecessary amount of climbing (it was as if the building had something against him), he reached his first hour class, AP English. He wasn't in the best of moods, so he entered the room without any sort of class or finesse, and made a beeline for his desk.

"Oi! Nara! Where the hell have you been?" Anko, the AP English teacher, snapped at him, snapping her hand out to grab his elbow. He was effectively halted in his tracks.

"Outside."

"Doing what?"

"Cloud watching."

Laughing sputtering in the room, the shuffling of feet and bodies as they all leaned over to one another to laugh at the weird freshman with the spiky ponytail. Anko didn't look very impressed.

"You're telling me you were missing my lecture on A Tale of Two Cities because you wanted to watch a lump of water float through the sky?" she growled, her eyes narrowing rather dangerously. He, of course, didn't pay any mind to it, rolling his eyes with much exaggeration.

"Yeah."

She closed her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose. "Nara, it's not even the end of the first quarter and already you're ditching class?" She shook her head. "I'm going to have to talk to Asuma about this, got it?"

"Yeah."

"Sit."

Shikamaru turned abruptly and went to his seat, dumping his bag on the ground before plopping down on his chair. Once he was seated, Anko returned to her lecture, scribbling nonsense on the dry-erase board with a fadding red marker. He leaned back, sinking down in his seat, and stared out the window. The clouds were back, dancing over the sky in a multitude of shapes and sizes, capturing his attention immediately.

Thank goodness for window seats.

As Anko's voice provided background noise for his wandering thoughts, Shikamaru wondered if Chouji was doing well on his test.


To be continued . . . .