Hinata gulped.

She knocked slightly on the door in front of her, but no one was answering.

Maybe they didn't hear her.

(She certainly heard them, though, as his mother's voice boomed across the house.)

It was harder to hear what he said, but thankfully, she had been blessed with very attentive ears.

'Yeah, yeah.'

'You only need to say it once!'

He sighed.

'How many times do I-'

The doorbell rang.

His mother would've been very troublesome if she was to continue rambling on.

The door opened.

'Oh! Hello! Who might you be?'

(His mother looked like a nice, kind woman, but judging by what she heard, Hinata thought it'd be better for her to be polite.)

'I... Can I see... Shika...'

'Shikamaru?'

Hinata nodded.

His mother beamed.

'Oh! It's surprising that he'd finally invite a girl... he wouldn't even want Ino-chan over unless we're having a get-together with Inoichi! They're teammates, for god's sake!'

'Umm...'

His mother sighed, then gave Hinata a smile 'That boy... he thinks every female in the world is, as he'd put it, troublesome. Looks like he doesn't think one is...' She eyed Hinata appreciatively.

'Come in!' she invited (it seemed more like a command, though.)

'But... he... he didn't invite-'

'I'm sure he'd be glad to see you!'

'I... I only need a minute...'

'Don't be silly! You are quite welcome here!'

'Thank you... but... I...'

The woman was no longer listening to her, and yelled.

'Shikamaru! Someone is here to see you!'

'...'

'Shikamaru!'

He sighed. 'Fine...'

His mother smiled at Hinata once more, before leaving and entering what seemed to be the kitchen.

He looked like he was dragging himself to the door unwillingly.

Hinata feels worse for intruding now, especially because her presence wasn't quite welcome for him, and his mother seemed to have thought he invited her over.

His eyes momentarily widened, before they droop once more.

'Oh.'

'Umm... hello, Shikamaru-san.'

'Hello.'

Awkward silences seem to keep finding their way towards them, as one was present that moment.

'I'm sorry for bothering you!'

'... What is it?' he said, looking annoyed.

'T-thank you, Shikamaru-san... for walking me home yesterday.'

'Umm... it's no big deal, but...' He looked around, before facing her again, with his voice lowered. 'Can we talk somewhere else? I think my mum is troublesomely getting the wrong impression.'

Hinata looked over his head, and indeed, his mother was smiling to herself, as if having an idea of what was actually going on.

She nodded, as he took the lead and signalled for her to follow him.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'Was that all?'

They were on a nearby hill, as he kept his eyes on the sky, lying down, and she, a bit too nervous to do the same, was sitting down with her legs stretched out.

'Umm... actually, Shikamaru-san... I... I need to ask you something.'

'...'

'Sa-Sakura-san said that I should consider mixing some powdered medicinal horn into my... my ointments, and...'

'I happen to be a part of the Nara family, who coincidentally owns a deer farm, so you would like me to give you some.'

Hinata nodded hurriedly, as he watched, unamused.

'Umm... umm... I can pay you for the t-trouble, if you'd like...'

'...'

'But... if you can't, it's okay... Sorry...'

He looked slightly irritated, and by reflex, she turned away.

'Ah! I mean... umm... well... I'll try not to bother you next time...'

(She was about to apologise for apologising, but then it'd sound stupid, so she didn't.)

'Fine... but I don't really feel like getting up right now.'

(If she had been any other person by herself, she probably would've huffed and walked off, looking for someone less troublesome.)

'Oh... okay... how much would you like for it?'

'You don't need to pay me. I don't even do any work there.'

'Then who should I-'

He got up.

'You should just not pay anyone, okay?'

'O-okay...'

He sighed. 'Whatever, I'll get them for you... How much do you need?'

(She heard him muttering "troublesome" under his breath, and felt slightly guiltier. If only she knew he said that to everyone.)

'I-I'll come with you, if you'd like...'

He didn't say anything to show that he agreed, but it wasn't like he said no either, so she followed him.

Remembering what he said previously, Hinata jogged to catch up.

He looked at her with one of his eyebrows lifted slightly, and she gave a nervous smile in return.

'Ah... if you don't want me to walk next to you...'

'No... It's just that... it's weird.'

'I... I'm weird?'

'No. It's just that I never really noticed you were there when we were in the Academy.'

Hinata stared at the ground. 'I was that unnoticeable, huh?'

'...'

After she decided she had nothing to reply to his silence, she stayed quiet as well.

'Hey.'

'W-what?'

'Being unnoticeable isn't always bad, you know. Sometimes I wish people wouldn't notice me and boss me around to do all sorts of troublesome things.'

Hinata chuckled. 'You don't like getting responsibilities?'

He shook his head. 'Don't you hate it when your parents keep telling you to "practise your jutsu" or "learn to throw your kunai better" and troublesome tasks like that?'

'Well... my father... h-he never really thought I was good as a shinobi... so... he never told me to practise my skills...'

She gave a small laugh, but it only made her sound even more depressed.

'I... I think the most difficult task he ever gave me is to make tea.'

'Oh,' he started. 'It's just that... just like me, you're the heir of the clan, right? With a big and famous clan like yours, I thought you would've had bigger, more troublesome tasks.'

'My... my sister Hanabi seems to be more suited for the job...'

'...'

'I... I'm sorry, for telling you all these things. Y-you probably don't want to know...'

'...'

Hinata turned away, trying to escape his enquiring gaze.

'Your father was right; you're not suited to be a shinobi.'

Hinata gaped slightly, almost expecting some sort of support from him.

She laughed again. 'Heh... I... I guess so...'

She felt a lot more awkward walking next to him.

He kept looking at her, though.

'You might not be suited for it, but I guess if you keep at it you eventually will be.'

'Huh?'

'Well, I think you're not the best person to be a shinobi, but if you don't give up, you can become a great one.'

Hinata felt her cheeks redden a bit.

'Really?'

Shikamaru nodded lazily.

'T-thank you, Shikamaru-san.'

'Hmph.'

'B-but... it's funny, that it came from you...'

'Why?'

'W-well... you're always saying things are troublesome, a-and you don't really like working on things... so... it's funny...'

'Oh.'

(It seemed that he didn't think it was funny at all, and honestly, she didn't really think so either.)

'Why did you stay as a shinobi then? Y-you could've worked at the deer farm.'

'I think I'd rather be a chuunin than to shovel up deer crap.'

'But... your father is a shinobi as well... a-and he takes care of the farm...'

He sighed. 'Well, probably I'd have to do that as well when I'm older. How troublesome.'

'He seems to be managing well with two jobs.'

'I guess he is,' he replied. 'But he doesn't do much work there anymore, now that Konoha is in desperate need of shinobi to complete missions.'

Hinata nodded back quickly.

'Hey,' he started. 'You're about to take the chuunin exam again, aren't you?'

'Umm... yes... I am...'

'...'

'L-last time... I... I lost to Yamanaka Ino-san at the first match... b-but Shino-kun was made chuunin.'

'I know.'

'Oh... okay...'

'...'

'...'

'You did fine, though. No one could escape from Ino's jutsu.'

'B-but... I saw Sakura-san getting out of it... and I thought-'

'Well, Sakura's a freak.'

Hinata gave him a slightly disbelieving look.

'Umm, in a good way, I guess.'

'S-Shikamaru-san... We're always getting along while walking together, aren't we?'

'I guess so.'

'Uh-huh...' she replied, before running out of things to say.

Luckily, they reached their destination before Hinata had to struggle to find another conversation starter.

He opened the door, and she waited for him to go in, but he stood next to the door, slouching.

'Girls first.'

Hinata looked down, flushed, before entering the small building.

He entered the room.

'Which kind do you need?'

'W-what?'

He sighed. 'The powdered horn. Do you want one from a young female, an adult male? How fine do you want it to be?'

She tapped her fingers again. 'I... I... I don't know. All Sakura-san told me was t-that-'

He sighed again.

'Wait,' he instructed, and she refrained from finishing her sentence.

He took something out of his pocket.

Her ointment.

'S-Shikamaru-san-'

He opened the lid, and examined it (at least it slightly looked like it, even though his eyes were too droopy to look like he's concentrating).

'I think you should go with that one.'

Instead of getting it himself, he seemed to prefer simply pointing where the said powdered horn was (which was not very gentlemanly).

Hinata complied, and found a jar full of some sort of funny-looking powder.

'I-Is this it, Shikamaru-san?'

'Yeah.'

'Th-th…'

'Thank you.'

Hinata looked down, before looking up once more, her hands fumbling with the jar of powdered horn.

'W-what?'

'Thank you, for the decent conversation.'

Hinata flushed. It was nothing out of the ordinary, she was the type who flustered very often, but it felt different.

It didn't feel as overwhelming as when she was around Naruto-kun but it felt nicer than when she was with Kiba-kun and Shino-kun.

'You're welcome… You're welcome, Shikamaru-san!'

She smiled proudly, successful at saying the last sentence out loud.

'… No problem, I guess.'

Silence- Hinata's starting to think half of their conversations are made out of awkward silences.

'Umm… umm… Shikamaru-san…'

'Hm?'

'Can you walk me home?'

He sighed, before positioning his mouth to what looks like a smile and signalling for her to go after him.