A/N: Made this fiction up out of sorry and pity towards Ino in Ep. 218.


Naruto © Masashi Kishimoto.

Fanfiction © ArAshiMitArAshi

"Hi." Shikamaru appeared beside Ino. His greeting was warm, his expression was cheery –something unusually odd about him.

"Hi!" However, Ino's greeting was much warmer and her expression was much cheerier –something unusually off about her. "Do you have a mission?" She asked, seeing him fastening the kunai pouch on his right thigh.

"Yeah." There was a smile in his tone.

"So, where is it this time?" Ino took a new set of shuriken and put it inside her back pouch, her tone matched his.

"Suna." There was Shikamaru, happy and all.

Ino laughed – clearly forcing herself. "Suna? Ain't it funny how you always end up having a mission there? It must be hard for you, poor boy. That place is awfully hot."

"Yeah, but it's comforting in its own way." Twinkle in Shikamaru's eyes.

Ino nodded, her smile never left her face. "You think so? Well, maybe it is."

"Do you have a mission, too?"

"Yeah." Shikamaru shot her a look of question. "With Naruto's team. Sakura's needed in the hospital, so I have to fill the gap."

This time, he was the one who laughed – obviously like the sound of her laughter just now. "Again? Wow, you must've get along really well with everybody in the team."

"You could say that." The look on Ino's face was triumph. "Our teamwork is naturally amazing!"

"Wow, I'm impressed." Shikamaru smiled slyly.

Chouji, who at that time was also in the room, having witnessing and hearing the two pretending to be somebody else for quite some time could not hold back the depression echoed in his head anymore.

"Could you both please stop?!" He wailed with an annoyed look. "Hearing you guys talking to each other like that are pissing me off!"

The pair quickly turned their heads toward Chouji. The chubby ninja frowned at them with fury.

"Troublesome… What's the matter, buddy?"

"Chouji… What are you talking about?"

"You two…" Chouji gritted his teeth. "Don't you think I didn't notice that you both have been trying to bite each other's head off? Stop it now already!"

"Stop?" Shikamaru queried.

"Bite each other's head off?" Ino gave a low chuckle. "What do you mean by that?"

"Something's going on between you two, right?" Chouji shot a sharp look to each of them. "And it has been since three years ago, correct?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Shikamaru mumbled.

"Yeah." Ino supported his words.

Anger just flared up within Chouji. "Stop it now already!"

"Stop what?" Shikamaru and Ino both spoke.

"The war!"


"Yes! I don't like to see you guys pretending to be somebody else every time you meet nose to nose! The smile doesn't suit you, Shikamaru! And it's frightening to see that you are extra nice to Shikamaru, Ino!"

"You have a problem with that?" Ino glared. "What is wrong for me being nice?"

"It's good to smile a lot…"

"It's just so out of character!" Chouji took his last weapon needed and stormed out of the room – completely pissed off.

"What the hell is wrong with him?" Ino put a hand on her chest, still in the pretending mode. "He's so angry. Did anybody steal his chips?"

"I have no idea…" Shikamaru scratched the back of his neck – was in the pretending mode, too. "Troublesome…"

"He mentioned something about war… Between us…" Ino stared at the ceiling thoughtfully. Then she turned to Shikamaru, smirking. "I don't know what he was talking about."

Shikamaru read her tone and smiled cunningly. "Yeah, me, too."

But neither of them believed each other.

Liar… They thought in unison, staring at each other, wearing a false good mood on each of their faces.

"Back to our conversation earlier," Ino broke the silence. "You don't know how pleased I was hearing you said that you were impressed. Thank you so much for your thought, Shikamaru"

"Troublesome… But it's okay." Shikamaru replied cheerily. "I'm sure you thought of me as the same."

"True." Ino nodded, adding more smile.

The tension increased and both felt it. The sensation was so toxic that it was difficult to breathe. Constricted by their lies, Shikamaru and Ino almost suffocated. But because of the pride they held in their heart, both managed to keep their self-composures just fine.

"When are you leaving?" Ino asked in honeyed voice.

"In a few more minutes." Shikamaru replied. His tone was similar to hers. "You?"

"Naruto and Sai will pick me up here. It's about time now where they are…?" Ino looked around, well aware of Shikamaru's sharp staring eyes. Just then the energetic blonde Naruto came into the weapon room with a loud "Ino-channn!!!" and Sai strolled casually and sexily with a fake smile of his. "Oh, look! They're here. Gotta go! See you later!" With a wink, she disappeared from Shikamaru's eyes and gone arm in arm with her teammates – just to piss him off.

Her method worked. Shikamaru was truly pissed. But when he thought that she was, too – had been smiling at her as he waved goodbye with a look on his face clearly shown "I'll be enjoying my mission in Suna" – he had a big fake grin plastered on his face.

Oh, boy. What a bunch of liars they were.

Ino stared at her glass. Her face was gloomy, her pursing lips made her jaw line more visible. Her gaze was far and distant, as if thinking seriously about something painful. Bitter memory clouded her mind. She was alone in the bar. It had been three weeks since she last conversed with Shikamaru.

Her thought was somewhere else, flying backwards to three years ago, where the cause of his and her lies began…


She sat on the ground, witnessing the battle without blinking her eyes. What she saw before her amazed her to the max – she never thought that Shikamaru will fight amazingly well with any other girl but her.

It was obvious; how their jutsus – shadow imitation and mind transfer – suited each other perfectly.

But watching them fighting together, a complete opposite – she herself was far at the back – slowly tearing up her heart.

She didn't know why but she felt like she wanted to cry. So badly.

Shikamaru didn't rush to her the moment she was slammed on the ground by the impact of the opponent's strong wind. He just shouted her name and kept his stance in place. She understood that they were in the middle of a battle, but can't he just show his concern towards her even a bit?

Seemed like he had forgotten all about her.

And even after the battle was over, still he didn't come to her. Why? He was with her.


Someone appeared on Ino's left, breaking her thoughts into pieces. She glanced aside and found a face that was haunting her memories since three weeks ago.

Correction: since three years ago.

"Can I sit here?" Shikamaru pointed at the empty chair beside her. Ino shrugged, didn't care much, readying herself for another act.

"Sure. It's not a reserved seat." She flashed him a smile and sipped her drink to finish. Shikamaru occupied the seat and as he did so, Ino rose from her chair.

"Where are you going?" Shikamaru asked as he watched Ino paid for her drinks.

"Home." Was her casual, cheery answer. "I have full-day training with Sakura tomorrow. So I better go back and have some sleep. Goodbye."

"Wait. Don't leave yet. We have to talk."

Ino was surprised but she didn't show it. Shikamaru in front of her was different, so different from three weeks ago. He was serious, more like himself, his real self. That was something he had not been since three years ago whenever with her.

"Talk?" Ino put her usual, almost teasing-like tone. "About what?"

"I've been thinking," Shikamaru looked straight at her, didn't intend to retaliate. "What Chouji said that day was right. We have to stop all this, Ino."

"Stop? Stop what? I don't understand."

"Stop pretending you didn't know. You knew what the hell I was talking about."

"I'm sorry but I don't get it." Ino shook her head. "It's been a long day. I better go."

"The war." Shikamaru spoke, drawing her actions into a halt. "The cold war between us."

With her back on him, Ino tried her best not to cry. She didn't know why, but what Shikamaru said just now opened the scar in her heart, the scar that he had left her three years ago. Agony washed over her, but of course she won't cry in front of him. She was too proud to let him know that he was able to make her cry.

"Cold war?" Her voice was still the same as what she had been used in this entire three years conversing with him. "Do we have a war?"

"I don't know if we have one but…" Shikamaru studied Ino's back carefully, trying to read what was on her mind. First of all, he never knew the reason why they both started pretending, lying towards each other, faking their real selves. He realized long ago that somehow there was something wrong with Ino's behavior towards him but he couldn't trace the source why she was acting like that. Ino led him into playing the game of lying and pretending where he had no control except to play along. And without him realizing, a genius like him lost in that game.

He had followed her rhythm almost everyday, using manners and actions so differently from his lazy, old character. Why? Because of she had not been herself. He didn't know how to deal with her new persona. Every time they met, she did nothing but trying to piss him off, but of course not in Ino's way. She had been awfully sweet but irritating at the same time that it made him trying to do the same thing to her.

It had been a long three years.

Now he was tired of playing and wanted the game to stop. The dice must be rolled again and this time, he wanted the turn to be his.

"…we have to stop acting like this towards each other, Ino." He finished. "We're not being true to ourselves."

"I am being true to myself." Ino said curtly. "And to you."

"You know that it's not true." Shikamaru replied bitterly. "Never once you acted violent towards me since three years ago. You never yelled, you never bossed me around, you never forced me into a fight…you never did anything you."

"Don't you feel grateful?" Ino retorted, her voice started to lose its honey. Slowly she returned to her old self. "I was being nice to you and you complained?"

"Like Chouji said, it's frightening, Ino. You've turned into someone else, someone I didn't recognize. You've changed."

Only with you, Shikamaru. "Well, I can't help it." Ino shrugged. "Sorry if you feel that way."

"Ino," Shikamaru rose from his seat, walking to in front of her. Obviously he didn't come to the bar to drink but to find her instead. "You might think that you could have fooled me but I'm not dumb not noticing." Ino lifted her chin up to match his look, fear was never in her eyes. "You've been acting strange towards me, pretending to be someone else, lying in your words; don't you think I feel okay with that? It is so annoying that I have to do nothing but play along with you."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You damn well do!" Shikamaru almost yelled. Ino was so damn stubborn, so bull-headed, so proud. "What is wrong with you?!"

Ino glared furiously at him. She was going to lose, she knew. Gathering her wits, she uttered her last words. "I'm going home."

She left before he could do anything to stop her. She marched along the street to her house with full anger that she was almost in tears. She walked, stomping her heels in each of her steps, almost destroying the pavements. She was angry, angry at herself, angry at him, angry at the feeling resided in her heart…

She walked and walked forward, almost reaching her home when suddenly her footsteps stopped on its own.

Her body tensed. That jerk! She growled angrily. She looked down and saw lots of shadow look-alike fingers were hugging her body up to her waist.

Shikamaru had stopped her with his Kage Kubi Shibari.

Ino inhaled her breath, slowly washed her anger and her beginning formed tears away, trying to look strong and composed, ready for another act.

"Why are you like this, Ino?" Shikamaru made no move to draw her closer to him. He didn't even turned her body around to face his. "What have I done to you? Is it really bad that you have to punish me this way?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Ino gritted her teeth, muscled tensed, fists balled hard.

"Just tell me what the matter is and I'll make it up for you." If Ino was full with fire, Shikamaru wanted to be water, anything just to cool her off, just to return her true self, just to draw back their normal friendship. "What is your anger all about? Tell me. I'll do anything for your forgiveness."

"Release me from your jutsu."

Shikamaru didn't move.

"You said you'll do anything."

"But if I let you go now, we might not have a chance to talk again."

"Release. Me."

It was not a plea. It was an order, a demand.

Shikamaru waited a few moments but knowing Ino too well, he entrapped her at last. Feeling her body was back to her control, Ino didn't waste any time to take the safest route out of her misery.

She ran, ran away from him, faster and faster until she lost out of his sight. She ran aimlessly, to the middle of nowhere, without specific destination to go. Her journey home was left unfinished. Darkness swallowed her body slowly, until she vanished fully from the earth.

She hit the ground hard. She was covered in dirt and mud. There were leaves and small branches in her hair but she didn't care. Light bruises and small cuts covered her bare flesh. She had run into the forest wildly, passing the trees without taking caution. Blood started to drip from her fresh wounds. She didn't feel the physical pain. All she could felt now was the one in her heart.

She sobbed into the ground and cried out into the night, letting all the three years frustrations free. Her heart ached painfully against her ribs. She never guessed how much he could cause that pain to her. And most of all, she never guessed how much her heart could be hurt that much because of him.

The truth was she didn't like to see them together. She just wanted to be the only girl in his life. Over the years, she had grown into thinking that only she could fit in what seemed to be his troublesome life. Only she was allowed to enter, only she was acknowledged. It was not like she liked him, no. She only liked the thought of being that girl, the only girl.

Without her realizing, her selfishness had turned into jealousy, her jealousy had turned into obsession and obsession had turned into something else.

Ino looked up from the ground to the marble stone in front of her. Putting her hand on the smooth, cold surface, she cried out.

"Asuma-sensei…" She sobbed wholeheartedly, breaking the silent night. "Help me, please…help me… I don't know how to deal with it…please…help me…" Her tears were like rain. She must've looked like hell. "I think…I think…" Her steady breaths turned into hiccups.

"I think I'm in love with him."

Ino woke up with warm, comforting feelings surrounded her. She was covered in thick blanket and comfortable mattress was underneath. As she inhaled, taking the air into her lungs, a familiar scent filled her nostrils.

It was obviously a scent of a man.

Ino opened her eyes and studied the place she was in groggily. She was not fully recovered from sleepiness. Somehow, her battered and sore body felt great, as if she had been born once again. All those physical and emotional pains seemed like they were already go away.

She pushed the cover down to her waist and sat up. She noticed that she was in an oversized black shirt; the neck had fallen off one shoulder. Her cuts were tended and all the dirt on her skin had been washed away.

She eyed the walls and the ceiling. The sight was familiar.

Where am I? Ino wondered, shaking her head awake. She sensed a movement on her right and she turned to look.

Shikamaru was half sitting on the chair, almost fell down. He was sleeping peacefully. Ino's eyes widened.

She eyed her clothes once again. Her face heated up. The T-shirt was his! She pushed the cover fully down to her feet and saw there was nothing underneath, no pants whatsoever. She pulled the neck and peeked inside.

Nothing. Completely nothing.

She felt hot even more, not from anger but more from embarrassment. She quickly whipped her head to look at Shikamaru. He was fully clothed, but not in his last night's clothes. He was in more comfortable clothing.

Ino frowned and bit her bottom lip. How the hell did she end up there?

And why was she dressed like that?

She was sure she didn't remember meeting him after she had left him. Her last thought was in front of the memorial stone, sobbing madly in front of Asuma-sensei's carved name. If she was to lose consciousness, she must've end up there, not in Shikamaru's room.

"Oh, you're awake." Shikamaru looked at her with half-lidded eyes, adjusting his position. His sleep must be rough; sleeping on a chair was not that comfortable. "How are you feeling?"

Ino didn't answer. Instead, she kept on staring at him, her blue eyes silently asking for answers.

Shikamaru scratched the back of his neck. Guess that he didn't have a choice but to explain.

"Last night, I searched for you everywhere. I found you sleeping on the ground, in front of the memorial stone. You were sleeping. You looked terrible, Ino." Ino stared at her feet. Her cheeks were as red as tomato. "I didn't dare to take you to your house with you in that condition so I brought you here instead." Shikamaru himself turned a bit red. "Um, I hope you didn't mind about staying here and um… I hope you didn't mind me…undressing you. It's just…you looked so…um…dirty and you had a few cuts and wounds, so I get you cleaned."

Ino continued shutting her mouth, too embarrassed to say anything. Shikamaru had seen her body fully, up close.

"You sure were tired from running away from me. You didn't even wake up when I…um…bathed you."

Her heart drummed nervously.

"We have to talk, Ino." Shikamaru sat straight in his chair, fixing his gaze intently at her. "There is something going on between us, but I don't know what it is. What have I done to you? I always asked myself that question. You were confusing me over this past three years. But if you don't want to tell me then it's okay. I just want to straighten things out between us, once and for all. I just want our friendship to return to normal."

The blonde swallowed hard, seeming like she didn't intend to open her mouth at all.

"But whatever the matter is, I guess it must be something big because it made you looking like that. Seriously, when I found you last night, I didn't expect to see that sight." Shikamaru sighed. "Look, I don't know what my wrong doing to you is, but I'm sorry, okay?"

Still silence.

"I don't want to lose you, Ino. I don't want our friendship to end just like that. You are precious to me. You are my first girlfriend," tears began to perform in her eyes, he noticed. She must've been hurt so bad. "Always has, always will be. Nobody could replace your place in my heart, remember that."

Shikamaru moved to bed, sitting beside her, taking her hand into his. "Forgive me, Ino. Whatever the matter is, just let it go, just…forgive me. That's all I wanted from you."

A tear fell and he raised his hand to brush it away. Ino didn't move a bit, not even trying to let go her hand.

"Look, like I said last night, I will do anything to make it all up. Just give me a chance to return our friendship back to normal. What do you want me to do? Tell me. I don't mind if it is troublesome though."

Ino cried even harder. She shielded her face with her free hand, sobbing her heart out. Though she hated to admit, actually her heart was comforted by his voice. It was calm, soothing the wound in her heart. It was nice to hear that deep in his heart, she was acknowledged as the first girl, the number one girl, even if Shikamaru only meant it in friendship term. And most of all, Shikamaru said she was precious to him.

Precious? Was that word could mean something, anything special?

She was touched that Shikamaru was willing to do anything to save their broken friendship, was willing to do anything so that he would not lose her. Knowing that, Ino's cold heart warmed up little by little.

"I want you to give me something from your heart." At last she spoke, glancing a little to her side. Her teary eyes met his brown.

"Something from my heart?"

Ino nodded.

Shikamaru fell into a deep thought but it was not long. He then rose from the bed, walked to his desk, pulled out the last drawer and took something out. He walked back to her, occupying his seat earlier and handed her the thing.

Ino's eyes widened. Her sobs suddenly stopped.

"Will this do?" Shikamaru asked as he witnessed Ino took the thing in her hand. "I've wanted to give you that for so long but guess that I'm too much a coward. You always made me lose my nerve, Ino."

Ino kept on pinning her gaze on the thing in her hand. Being kept in the drawer for so long, the thing had lost its moisture and freshness, looking dry and dead by nature. Probably Shikamaru had kept that thing to himself for months or perhaps years. But even so, the thing was still recognizable, the original color still visible. Being an expert in that thing's area, Ino wasn't dumb not to see the meaning hidden behind it.

It was a classical symbol of love, true love, the one and only love, the other way to say "I love you", everything whatsoever. Ino looked back to Shikamaru and saw him nodding his head, showing his first genuine smile in three years, silently approving her thoughts.

Ino felt tears dwelled in her eyes as she turned to stare at the thing that came sincerely from his heart once again.

What lay in her hand was a red rose.


I'm sorry it's not lovey-dovey! I know it's Valentine but I'm not in the mood to write mushy and fluffy stuffs. Anyway, hope you guys like it!

Happy Valentine's Day! Valentine candy to each of you who read!

Love is in the air…