Keys

Summary: Ino has agreed to be Shikamaru's girlfriend, but first she has a small test for him to pass… Slight AU, takes place in high school

Shikamaru fumbled with his pencil as his history teacher, Asuma, went through another lengthy lecture. Today's topic? The Qin Dynasty. And really, Shikamaru thought this Qin guy was on crack. Who really gets buried with a thousand terracotta soldiers?

He looked over to his left. A few seats away, the blonde object of his affection scribbled down notes. Her long, glistening hair was tided back into a high ponytail, but her bangs hung out and covered the right side of her head, the side that faced him. That was the reason Shikamaru hated his seat. Sure, he got to sit in the back corner, the best seat he could ever hope to receive, but that meant being on the side of the room that Ino concealed her face from. Sometimes she would shake her head or turn in his direction to speak to him or someone else, and he would have the pleasure of gazing upon her beautiful face. But that tended to happen rarely, as her best friend, Sakura, sat on the side of her opposite to him.

But now wasn't the time to daydream, as much as he hated to believe that. He had only the remainder of the day to finish her 'test' if he wanted to get through this lovesick trap that had somehow weaved its way through his life.

Flashback

"Shikamaru!"

Shikamaru slammed his locker shut and turned in the direction he had heard his name from. It was the passing period before his history class, the most boring class of the day. Things happened, let's get over it! He slumped his shoulders and relaxed into his classic lazy pose. It was hard this time, though, because he recognized the voice all too well. That high-pitched, incredibly enthusiastic voice with the more-than-occasional bossy tone always made his heart race. It was a chore to keep up his reputation around her.

"So hey," She smiled mockingly, "Guess what I heard today."

Shikamaru cocked an eyebrow, "What?"

"Something very interesting, about you, that Naruto told me."

Shikamaru's heart raced faster, he wouldn't!

"I heard," Ino grinned, taunting him, "That you like me, Shikamaru."

Shikamaru's heart seemed to stop, right then and there. She knew? Well, this was crap. Utter crap. The crappiest crap that was crappier than any other crap that has existed in the crappy history of this crappy world. You know what this meant? The world was ending.

He didn't respond, only let the heat rise in his face to the point that he could have sworn that it was sizzling. Ino laughed.

"You know what? I'll date you. You're an amazing guy, Shika, being so smart and all. You just have to pass one test, first."

Shikamaru snorted, "A test? You know you can't push me away that easily."

"Who said I wanted to?" Ino tossed him a suspicious smile, then raised a hand to her left ear, the only one she allowed the world to see. The other stayed hidden under the mass of hair that hung on the right side of her head. "All you have to do," She used her hand to emphasize the earring that hung from her left ear. It was a lovely, shining, silver earring that matched the intensity of her hair perfectly. It was a heart-shaped lock, but made of plastic, of course, "is find the key to this lock."

"The lock is a fake isn't it? There's no key."

"Well I wouldn't ask you for the key if there wasn't one. It's a real lock, all right. It was an extra that came with my diary. And there is a key, so you better find it, and by the end of the day, too."

She laughed, waved and made her exit to go to history. Shikamaru shoved his hands in his pockets to follow her. I hate tests…

End Flashback

Shikamaru was deep in thought, but definitely not about the lecture. He was gazing at Ino, thinking about the test. Where would Ino hide a key, on her key ring? No, too obvious. What about her pocket? She'd probably lose it that way. He frowned, and noticed her shake her head a little, then reached her hand towards her right, concealed ear, fingering the hair that hung across it. She ran her fingers through it, and Shikamaru thought she would, for once, tuck it behind her ear so he could see her face. But she only brushed it out, and he could see the slightest shine of the earring she wore under that mass of blonde.

Ino turned her head away from him, whispering something to Sakura. They both chuckled. In front of them, Sasuke shushed them, and they pouted at him in return. Sakura, being the one sitting directly in front of him, kicked his chair, and then whispered something in his ear. Sasuke shushed them again, jotting down notes to Asuma's lecture. Naruto, beside him and in front of Ino, slapped him and grunted something that Shikamaru knew was about disrespecting Sakura. Sasuke ignored him and continued writing, while the girls laughed. Naruto and Sakura slapped hands. Ino bopped Naruto in the head. He rubbed his head where he had been hit, stuck out his tongue at her and faced Asuma again.

Their teacher never noticed.

Figures, Shikamaru groaned. Placing those four together was a bad choice on Asuma's part. They would commonly goof off in class (excluding Sasuke, he was normally just pulled into it against his will).

Ino turned her head towards Shikamaru, and he nearly jumped in his seat. He had been staring at her, after all. It wasn't exactly the greatest thing in the world that she caught him; especially after she found out he liked her. She smiled, then mouthed the words: so where's the key?

Shikamaru shrugged, casting a disinterested look. Ino silently laughed, turning her head again, letting her blonde hair hide her face from him once more. He sighed, hating the wall she would put up between them.


"Naruto, your ass is mine."

"Mmf?" Naruto gulped down his ramen, confused. Shikamaru dropped his tray of food on the cafeteria table, taking a seat beside the blonde idiot. He grabbed his shirt collar and cast a death glare.

"You bastard!" He growled, "You told her!"

"Oh yeah, Ino…" Naruto said with his mouth still full. He swallowed and tugged at his collar, hoping Shikamaru would let go soon, then gulped "So you two going out now?"

"No." Shikamaru threw him down, then took a sip from his water bottle, "Now she's giving me this damn troublesome test before she'll late me date her."

"What kind of test?"

"I have to find some key."

"Tough."

Shikamaru kicked Naruto's chair over, causing Naruto to fall and throw his chopsticks across the room. He groaned, rubbing his side before he stood up again. He straightened his chair and sat back down, returning to his ramen, "So you figure it out yet?"

"No."

"Tougher."

"Hey man," Choji sat down a heaping tray of food at the table and sat across from Shikamaru. He picked up a sandwich and took a bite, "Naruto told me about Ino. What she say?"

"Ask him," Shikamaru grunted. Naruto repeated what he had been told a moment ago, and Choji nodded.

"Just find the key, already."

"We were just sitting in class for over and hour; do you really think I had the chance?"

"…maybe…"

Sasuke joined the table momentarily, giving an 'hn' in greeting as he sipped some tea. Shikamaru replied with the same gesture, eating his sandwich. After a few minutes, Sasuke decided to speak.

"Sakura told me about you and Ino, the whole story." He said monotonously, "and during Asuma's lecture, too. I missed the whole part about Qin's examination processes."

"Look it up."

"I did, but Asuma always gives those random details that he asks about all the tests. I'll have to go in for tutorials now."

"Here," Shikamaru pulled out his binder and slid it across the table, "copy my notes and stop whining like a brat."

Sasuke threw in a glare, but accepted the binder and pulled out his own. While he copied, Neji showed up and sat beside him, instantly looking at Shikamaru, "So… you and Ino, eh?"

"Good lord, I hate rumors," Shikamaru rested his head on his fist, "What a drag."

Neji smirked, and as if on cue, Lee ran onto the scene, "Guys, guys, you'll never guess what I heard!"

"Let me guess!" Shikamaru groaned, eyeing Lee almost threateningly, "You heard about me and Ino too?"

Lee blinked, "No… but what about you two?"

"Nothing, don't worry about it." Shikamaru placed his head back to his fist.

Lee shrugged it off, and then got excited again, "So guess what I heard, guys!"

"Bowl-cuts are in style?"

"Youth is the best way to empower your life?"

"You're going to stop imitating Gai?"

Lee scoffed, "No," He sent them all nasty looks for mocking him, "You know Gaara's 16th birthday is today, right? Well Temari and Kankurou are throwing him some big party tonight. They invited a ton of people, including all of us."

"How exciting," Shikamaru remarked sarcastically.

"And there's also supposed to be Sakura, TenTen, Hinata, and Ino…" Lee continued to list off some names. Naruto listened whole-heartedly, starting to get excited, while the other boys just sat and listened contently, continuing their own business.

What a drag… was all that ran through Shikamaru's mind.


Shikamaru avoided Ino at the end of the day; he didn't want her breathing down his back about the test. He still had the remainder of the day, which meant that he had to be at the party tonight.

While walking out of school, however, he saw Ino hanging out on the curb with Sakura, laughing about something. Her long, blonde hair flowed in the wind. He watched the right side of her face, the concealed beauty she held away from the world. Her bangs floated away from her hair, and he was finally able to see her entire, beautiful face at once. It almost felt miraculous. And while her hair got rustled in the wind like that, he saw, again, the faint shine of her right earring from behind her hair.

He grinned. He knew where the key was.


When he reached home, he tossed his bag onto the coffee table, mumbled a word of hello to his mother and ran up to his room. Yoshino felt puzzled, finding the newfound rush that had set in her son amazing. Maybe he finally found some meaning to his life…

Shikamaru scanned his room, looking for a sign of anything that could aid him for the night ahead. The party started at six, and he had to look presentable to Ino…

It was going to be a long two hours.


Shikamaru walked into the massive mansion that belonged to a certain, spoiled rich kid name Gaara. He never knew whether to envy him, be disgusted by him, or just thank the lord that he got along well enough with Temari that she invited him over for things like this.

The invitation had mentioned to dress casually, so he was wearing some simple worn jeans and a blue shirt and black jacket. His hair was up, as usual, and he had black Converse shoes on. His hands were stuffed in the pockets of his jackets, his shoulders slumped, and his back slouched, the usual, lazy pose. Temari greeted him at the door, smirked at him and left him alone.

So she's heard too? I'm sure it's the talk of the whole school by now… Shikamaru sighed, wandering through the party crowd until he found a nice, somewhat empty spot by the food counter, I hate rumors, they're such a drag.

He spotted her in the crowd, the blonde beauty that had been causing him so much trouble all day. She was chatting with her girl friends, laughing about some nonsense in that weird way girls always do. He only watched her, not making his move. If this test really meant something, she would come to him.

And she did. She looked around the room until she finally laid eyes on him. Grinning, she waved to her friends and left the crowd. She joined him in the solemn world of the food area, where the only person that would possibly bug them was Choji.

But of course, we can trust Choji to leave his buddy Shikamaru alone at a time like this.

Ino smiled, taunting him, "So," She began, "Time's up, where's the key?"

"It took a while to figure this one out," He smirked. His arms were crossed and he leaned against the wall, looking down at her from where she stood in front of him, "I may be a genius, but I'm about a dumb as Naruto when it comes to you."

"Strange simile, I'd never expect you to compare yourself to him."

"You're a mysterious girl, Ino, when you want to be."

"Like now, perhaps?"

"Exactly like now."

"But you still haven't answered my question, Shika," She tilted her head in question, almost like a puppy, "Where's my key, Shikamaru?"

He raised a hand to her face, raising the strands of shining yellow from her face, and reached for her right ear. He fingered the silver key that hung from it.

"It was so obvious; I can't believe I didn't figure it out right away."

Ino took the hand that held her face in her own two, closed her eyes and smiled, "Would you believe me if I told you that every other guys that's liked me never found the key?"

Shikamaru raised both eyebrows, "No, I wouldn't."

"It's true," she giggled lightly, placing his hand on her cheek but not letting go, "you're my genius, Shikamaru."

"This is really cliché, you know. Please don't tell me you mean for this to be the key to your heart."

"It makes sense, though! I wear these earrings every day, and I always hide the key behind my hair, along with half my face, because I feel so incomplete."

"Incomplete?"

"I had no one to love and no one to love me back. Doesn't that make you feel incomplete, too?"

Shikamaru thought it over, "I suppose."

"And now," She took his arm and rest her head on his shoulder, "I can love you, Shikamaru. You've made me complete."

Shikamaru smiled, feeling a sense of accomplishment. He bent down, capturing her lips in his. She kissed him back, snaking her arms around his neck as he wrapped his arms around her waist tightly. After several moments, they broke apart, smiled at each other, and then looked at the party crowd. All eyes were on them.

"Troublesome," Shikamaru sighed. Ino giggled and waved half-heartedly at the crowd, who in turn cheered for the new couple. Seconds later, they went back to their usual business.

Shikamaru raised one arm to rest on Ino's shoulders while she leaned on him and rested her arm around his waist, "You should give me that key, then, if I'm the one who makes you complete.

She frowned, "Then what will I wear on my right ear?"

"Here," he reached up to his right ear and took out the small hoop that hung from it, then gave it to Ino, "I propose a trade."

"They don't match."

"They match if we say they match."

Ino laughed, took the hoop and gave him the key, "You've got a deal."

From then on, when Shikamaru looked to his left side during history class, he could actually see the amazingly beautiful face of the object of his affection, because now she pulled her bangs back with a clip. Her hair no longer served as a shield of her incompleteness. And when you walked the halls of Konoha high, chances were you would run into a couple that comprised of a lazy genius and a bossy blonde, both wearing matching earrings.

The End.


I actually have a pair of earrings like that. Not a real lock and key, but it is a pair of earrings that has a heart shaped lock with a matching key. And I like hiding the key on my left ear, which is 90 of the time hidden by my hair. I just switched it to the right side for Ino since that's the side her bangs are on, XD.

EVERY TIME YOU READ WITHOUT REVIEWING, A SQUIRREL DIES IN ITS SLEEP BECAUSE IT DIDN'T STORE ENOUGH ACORNS FOR HIBERNATION.

Save the squirrels, people.