I joined a fanfic challenge where you have to write a story about a chosen couple, mine is ShikaIno, for each season. Therefore, this is spring!

I know there are many time changes and they are not in chronological order, so take notice to things that tell the time, like the grass's growth!

Like a Cloud

Disclaimer: I don't Naruto or any of the characters!

There was definitely something in the air that night. The air was cool, still lingering with the briskness of winter, but was softening to the warmer temperature of spring. The heavy scent of the candles' aromas cluttered her lungs and their flames caused smoke that made the air denser. The lights flickered around her, but her vision was blurry and the world was spinning so very strangely. The night was a dark shade of blue. Music hummed in the air. It was as if she was in a trance and the music and lights only added to the hypnotic atmosphere. The bitter taste of alcohol still could be sensed on her lips and her tongue slid across her mouth.

She wobbled as she rose to her feet. Once stable she grabbed his hand and yanked at it. Her attempt didn't budge him. She was far too intoxicated to muster the strength for such an effort. He stared at her in a dull daze. He was also lost in a haze of drunkenness.

"Dance with me," she commanded woozily, grasped his arm, and pulled at it yet again. He mumbled something inconceivable, but she could guess that it was a complaint, yet for some reason he gave in to her demand. Maybe it was the toxic seething through his veins. Maybe it was how the moonlight cast its rays upon her and brought out her slim, curved figure in that tight dress she wore. Maybe it was just to avoid being hit. Or maybe it was that he had a headache and couldn't bear her nagging. It could have been many things, but for one or the other he pushed out his chair and rose slowly to his feet.

She threw out her hand and he reluctantly grasped it in his own and led her to the small area that had been cleared of tables and chairs. Others had all ready been dancing for a long time. Both young and old moved slowly, absorbed in the rhythm of the songs.

Did their parents see them? Maybe. The two didn't know. The men were occupying a table a way to the right. They were laughing loudly, just suddenly bursting out at moments. Were they much too absorbed in talk and jokes, and blinded by the curse of alcohol to see their children? Perhaps.

And what of Chouji? He was eating away at the table where they had left him. Yes, he noticed their absence and watched the two expectantly as someone would watch a movie, stuffing all sorts of foods down his face as if it was popcorn.

The two made hesitant and shaky movements. It wasn't due to embarrassment. No, they had lost all that the first few drinks. Now they simply moved on that lasting favor. His arms wrapped around her waist and she flung her arms around his neck. She more so clung to him for support than as a dancing partner.

The music notes breezed through the wind. They flowed into their ears and though the words were lost and instruments unidentifiable, the beat remained. The vibrations caused their bodies to move in sync. The world whirled around in a slow spin and the flickering lights of the candles blurred until they were just one big yellow stain against a gray canvas.

There must have been something in the air. There must have been something in the music. Feelings were rushing up from within. Where that "within" was located neither could tell, but it must had been a place hidden and nearly impossible to find. The feelings had risen from a depth and had winded through an unfathomable amount of mazes and labyrinths. Somehow, they had found an exit. The feeling had become apparent when it reached the heart. She saw something she had never seen before in him. Something attractive; something she wanted. Never before had she wanted him. Of all the people in the world, she would never want him she had told herself, but in those moments, she yearned for him with a burning passion. And he wanted her too, little did he know. Her hazy eyes sparkled at him and her skin was so smooth and creamy. And that passion found an exit. It found it in their lips, which yearned for each other's. They drew closer until they connected. The bitterness of sake could be tasted and the burning of passion was in the kiss. It was a thirst that couldn't be quenched with any amount of sample. It was a time of exploration for that passion and only when they were both breathless did they stop, desire still lingering.

Little did they know, they had both swallowed the others passion. It had split from one's mouth to the other.

Black water splattered against Ino's calves as she stepped in a deep murky puddle. Maybe before she would have avoided the mess at all costs, but in those moments she didn't care. The rain fell around her in a light drizzle, slowing making her clothes and body wetter and wetter. The sky was crying the tears her eyes refused to shed, but these were tears her eyes weren't even aware she wanted to let go. There were thousands and thousands of drops that would not spill from her eyes. They were held there because she was not able to deal with the fact; she was in denial of her feelings to such a degree she had turned a blind eye to them. Yet, still the cloud of gloom clung to her like a thick blanket that was wrapped around her so tightly that no matter how hard she pulled and twisted, she couldn't be free of it; it was relentless.

Each step she took caused a splatter of liquid to hit her legs and drench her sandals. She held an umbrella in her hand, but it was useless. She had all ready been soaked to the bone a long time before she opened it and being shielded from the rain now was totally pointless. Her hair hung heavily from the top of her head. It was stiff and the strands were clumped together thickly. Water droplets formed at the tips and dripped to the ground. Her bangs were stuck to her face, blocking her sight in one eye. She stomped along, making loud splashing noises. She fumed inside.

It had been described in that he had "moved away." The thought infuriated her. She was not a small child. No vague words needed to be used around her. Did they think that by not saying the truth her feelings wouldn't be hurt? They weren't protecting her from the truth. She knew the facts. They were as clear as day. People didn't move away from Konoha. Population decline was due to one thing.

People didn't move away from Konoha, they died.

The question had been ridiculous the moment it split from his lips. He seemed shocked by his own words. His eyes were wide and he looked like he regretted it. She stared hard at him and soon his visage changed to appear serious. It was as if he decided that his words weren't silly after all. Chouji's plump face became painted with a determined, yet curious expression.

"Were you in love with him?" he repeated, louder than before.

She had to catch herself before she rolled over on the ground laughing. This would not be a good time to crack up. She couldn't believe what he had just said. The thought was absolutely absurd. Yet, also, she couldn't believe he had even thought of it. Her standards were much too high! She would never lower the level to the likes of him. She, in love with him? It would never happen in a million years.

It was too late for it to happen.

"No way!" she huffed, quietly so the others dressed in black around her couldn't hear. "He was just a friend," she added softer.

"I saw you kiss him that night," he retorted calmly. His eyes narrowed.

"I was drunk," she growled and turned her eyes away from her companion. "It meant nothing." There was evidence of bitterness in her voice. A soft bitterness that was filled with regret and pain.

He stared at her a long moment and said nothing more. Then he too turned to look at the sad event around them. Gathered round was the majority of the village, young and old alike. All wore black and a solemn expression. No one uttered a word. Hours before Ino and Chouji had seen his face for the last time and now they stared at a plain wooden coffin and listened to the monotone speeches of officials. Then the wooden box was lifted slowly deep in the brown ground and dirt rained down upon it.

The grass felt itchy under her exposed skin. Its green tentacles brushed against the soft, pale flesh of her legs and arms. All around her were green splotches on a brown canvas of dirt. The grass was just now growing back from death of winter. The patches were small and the individual blades short. She stirred slightly and then turned over on her side. She cuffed her cheek in her palm, using her arm as a pillar to prop her head up. She stared at him with a bored expression.

"Stop moving," Shikamaru muttered in a dry matter. He didn't look at her or make any effort to move at all. He just continued to stare up into the sky. He watched the white puffs

"This is so boring!" she pouted. "How can you stand it?" Her voice rang with disbelief.

He didn't answer immediately. It seemed he was contemplating whether in fact to answer or not. He decided to answer. "It's relaxing," his reply lazily escaped his lips.

"There are more relaxing things."

He didn't reply so she turned over on her back. She starred up at the white cotton candy in the sky, which floated magically against a blue screen. "What's so great about clouds?" she muttered, not really addressing anyone in particular. She could think of a billion things more interesting than them. Of course, her ideas mostly related to shopping and beautification. "They're just things formed from water. They'll disappear when it rains. Can't see them at night, neither."

There was a long silence, but then she heard him mutter from her side, "They always come back."

The flowers had been unexpected to say the least. The truth would be that her mind was spinning and if she wasn't so shocked her jaw would had hit the floor. Instead, she stared at him, wide-eyed and completely speechless. It was completely unlike him to do something like this. She couldn't imagine how big a bother he probably thought it was, yet, the fact remained that he did do it! Despite all that, he held flowers out in front of him, his hand grasping the stems.

They were simple flowers. They were white little blossoms with yellow centers. He probably just picked them in a field. There were no doubt prettier flowers in her family's shop. Yet something about them made her heart skip. Breathing had become hard for her and her cheeks were slightly pink. She noticed the blush that was intense and bright on his face as well.

"I saw them and thought of you," he muttered almost so low she didn't hear. Before she could say a word, he had pushed them in her hands and begun walking away.

She starred at them blankly, unable to speak and unable to think. Then it hit her that he was leaving.

"Wait!" she hollered. He stopped, but didn't turn around. "Why? Because of last night?" she asked softly. The music and scent of the evening before swept back into her mind, but most of all she remembered the touch and taste of his lips. Even though she had been drunk she remembered it, but she could not remember why she had kissed him. She didn't understand why she did it. She didn't want to be confronted by him about it. She didn't want him to think something of it when she wasn't sure whether she should think something of it herself. Panic and uncertainty was filling her stomach.

He shrugged. Then he said, "I'm going on a mission tomorrow. Don't know when I'll be back. Maybe in late spring." He walked away before she could say anything back, but she wanted to say something. She just didn't have the words.

She sipped at her drink slowly. She wished it was something that would take away the intense pain that pierced her heart, but she knew it wouldn't. There was no hint of alcohol in it once so ever. And it wasn't a lethal poison. Chouji sat next to her gulping down his own drink and a handful of various foods. The restaurant had a few more consumers scattered about who chattered, but she could not hear them and didn't care as to what they had to say. The room seemed colder and gloomier this day than ever before.

"Tell the truth, now. You were in love with him, weren't you?" Chouji asked in between swallows and bites of the items on his plate.

Ino didn't answer. She stared at her drink a long time. She watched the little bubbles form and float to the surface of the liquid. She then brought her hand to her temple as agony hit her mind.

"I don't know," she muttered with a shake of her head. She was honest.

She knew she had lost her mind that day. She had had her heart broken in two and had come to that spot of all places. She sat down on the cool ground in a cold slump and threw something on the floor. The grass was completely dead. It hadn't returned yet from winter's grasp. The tears were on the verge of spilling from her eyes. Her breathing was short and she sniffed. She wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her head into them. The package, which had been denied, lay on the ground next to her.

At one point or another he must had sat down besides her. It was no wonder. This was his spot. This was where he always went to watch those stupid clouds. But she knew he'd show eventually. Maybe that's why she came. She wanted some amount of comfort. Why she wanted it from him she didn't know. Today, however, his focus wasn't on the clouds.

After a long silence of sitting next to her he spoke. All that time he must have been analyzing her. "Sasuke didn't accept your chocolates, did he?" His voice displayed no ounce of pity. He always said it just how it was. He didn't particularly care for Sasuke or support her infatuation with him, so it didn't exactly surprise her.

"No…" she mumbled in a voice filled with sobs.

He sighed. "What'd you expect? Cool guys are jerks." He said it like it was a pure fact.

She didn't answer.

Suddenly she grabbed the box of chocolates next to her and shoved it in his stomach. He made a groan of pain, looked down at them dumbly, and then turned to her. Her fingers still clasped it and fiery eyes filled with sorrow stared at him under a mat of blonde hair. She still had her head laid on her knees, but she had turned her eyes to look at him. Her hair fell over her face and down her back.

"Take it," she ordered. "I'm on a diet so I don't need it…"

He eyed her oddly and then finally decided what to do. His rough hands enclosed around the red box.

"And don't give it to Chouji," she muttered in a huff. "I gave it to you."

It would be a long time before she realized what that box meant. But not such a long time until its effects took place. It wouldn't be long before they kissed for the first and only time. In that moment, as spring began, something else was beginning. In the season where life starts and births occur, something was coming to life; something was being born. It was a love that would never run a course.

The sky above roared its last cry. The water no longer was falling from the formidable dark clouds. Slowly the sky was brightening from dark gray to a bright blue, as Ino remained seated on a little bench for what seemed to be hours. Her damp hair slowly dried. The birds twittered merrily from unseen places. A little ways down the round one could see the little flowers and other vegetation. The grass was almost completely grown back. Most blades were longer now and places previously bear were now full of new sprouts. Only a few areas were still lifeless. They had escaped the tyrant grip of winter at least. Spring was the season of new life as was evident, and the season of the blossom of new life, which was not so evident to her. Her love had ended midway through the season and wouldn't come alive again. Spring was supposed to start better things, but not for her.

Chouji sat down besides her and this time he never got to ask before she answered, "Yes, I loved him," somberly.

He looked shocked for a moment and then sighed. He shook his head, after some amount of thought dug into his pocket, and brought out a folded piece of paper. It was a light tan. He held it out to her and she eyed him suspiciously.

"What is it?" she asked, unsure whether to take it.

"It was found in Shikamaru's pocket," is all he replied and he shook it. "It's for you."

She became even more confused. She had a hard time even imagining Shikamaru writing a letter. It was much "too troublesome" of a thing to do. But that fact only made her more curious. What on earth would he write? And more questioning, what could he say to her?

Gingerly her fingers clasped onto the tan paper. It slipped out of Chouji's hand and she brought it to her eye level. She stared at it a long time. She hesitated. Shikamaru wouldn't write a letter. She knew that he wouldn't. He never would do his assignments when they were at the academy. He wouldn't even write his name on a test. So why write anything now? Slowly, she opened it.

It read:


It's annoying, but I won't get to say this in person, so I guess I have to write it: I love you.


There wasn't much there. What, a sentence? Of course, there wasn't much written. Shikamaru wrote it. It wasn't a dramatic and romantic confession of hidden emotions. It was plain and to the point. It was a complaint followed by the simple outspoken truth.

She reread it several times. The tears formed in her eyes and a drop fell onto the white paper, staining it. More followed. Her heart ached with pangs of all degrees. She sniffled and looked down at the ground so her eyes weren't seen. She wished that Chouji wasn't watching her cry. But he didn't react. He knew that it was sometimes better to let the feelings out than comfort and with strain them. She had needed to let it go, because he knew all a long that she had loved Shikamaru.

She looked up to the sky, tears staining her cheeks. White puffs glided through the blue sky.

He didn't come back like a cloud.

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