Title: Sin Eater
Author: desolate butterfly
Genre: Gen, angst
Characters: Ino/Shika/Chou
Warning: implied character death
Rating: PG 13
Summary: Shikamaru isn't going to share this burden, not even if they want him to.

--

Ino's fingers dig into the fabric of Shikamaru's vest as she rubs a tearstained cheek across his chest. All his clothes smell like the cigarettes he took from Asuma now, which, he thinks, is probably the reason why Ino's clinging to him instead of Chouji. Even combined with bony elbows and wrists, the scent of smoke is still more comforting than Chouji's soft embrace and gentle words.

"I couldn't do anything for him," Ino sobs, and Shikamaru pats her back awkwardly and promises her that they will do something for Asuma.

They will kill his killer.

--

Shikamaru moves another shogi piece into position and considers strategies. In his mind, the pieces have faces: the faces of his team, and the faces of the enemy. This game is one Shikamaru finds more difficult to play out, because he knows he can't sacrifice any of his pieces.

Beside him, Chouji pushes another bag of potato chips in his face, another sandwich, another rice ball. Shikamaru refuses them all with a shake of his head, his eyes never leaving the board. He's not hungry at all, and that probably has something to do with the amount of cigarettes he's been smoking.

The pieces fall into place. Shikamaru taps the board with his fingers and ignores Chouji's hand on his shoulder.

"Don't worry so much, Shikamaru," the other boy says. "We're all doing it together, right?"

"Of course we're doing it together," Shikamaru assures him. But his eyes are glued to the board, where the empty spaces are just traps and there's no where left to move.

--

When Naruto shows up on the scene, Shikamaru curses out loud. He wants to take the blond by the shoulders and shake him, scream at him, ask him if he wants to make it easy for the Akatsuki to get him and the nine-tailed fox.

Kakashi isn't pleased either. He can tell by the way the jounin's eyes narrow and the stiffness in his arms as he mutters something quiet and vicious to Sakura. The girl shakes her head back at him, and Shikamaru guesses that Kakashi's order for her to take Naruto and leave the area immediately will be ignored.

Shikamaru does some rapid calculations in his head.

At his side, Ino twitches nervously, her hands coming up to form a familiar seal. Shikamaru catches her wrist before she can complete the second one and pushes her back into Chouji's soft stomach. Her cry of shock echoes in his ears as he rushes forward, forcing all his chakra into his feet for a short burst of speed.

His target is laughing. Those cold eyes focus on his chest, on where Shikamaru's heart pounds beneath the layers of bone and skin. Shikamaru hears Naruto shout his name as he slams into Kakuza's body, fingers digging in and holding close in a parody of embrace. Immediately, a sharp-nails palm drives itself into his chest, searching for the heart. It encounters a cluster of exploding tags first, nestled just under Shikamaru's shirt, waiting for activation.

Through the blood in his throat, Shikamaru whispers the activation code. In that half a second it takes to detonate both his heart and the remaining ones in Kakuza's body, Shikamaru has only enough time to whisper his apology to Chouji and Ino, although there's no way they can hear it above Naruto's angry screaming.

'Sorry for lying to you,' he says, 'but I never intended to bring you with me on this kind of mission.'

The last thing Shikamaru smells is the smoke from the explosion.

Somehow it's appropriate.

--

fin.

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