This is a sequel. Either read Indifference first, or if you for some reason want to read this instead (or you forgot what happened) read the crappy synopsis.
Synopsis of Indifference: Shikamaru, host of the demon Kyuubi, was challenged by Gaara several times during the Chuunin Exams, (which the lazy shadow-user dropped out of in the preliminaries, defeated by Naruto). When the Sound and Sand attacked Konoha, Shikamaru led Teams Seven and Ten, who defeated Kankuro. Together, he and Naruto fought and defeated Gaara and the Shukaku. However, he used the Kyuubi's chakra to do this, and his appearance was altered as a result. Sensing the feared demon's energy, the council - now without the moderating influence of Sandaime Hokage - kidnapped Shikamaru and kept him drugged. Fortunately, Asuma rescued him, moved to do so by his worried friends and family. At the end of the story, Shikamaru was watching clouds with Ino and Chouji, three days after the invasion.
I don't own Naruto (O RLY?). I do have a tendency to swear, for which I apologise in advance. If you're offended by occasional mentions of homosexuality, you may occasionally have to take offence.
Shikamaru found it hard to go back home, but he'd be late for dinner if he didn't leave. He returned to the Nara house, trying to suppress nervous apprehension of his parents' reactions.
When he reached the house, his mother ran at him and embraced him, concern and joy painfully clear in her eyes. Her arms around him felt both fragile and strong, and she shut her eyes as she held him. But he was looking forward into the house, and he met his father's eyes even as he raised one arm and put it around his mother's back. He felt more conscious of his appearance than he ever had before in that long second: twisted-sharp-nailed hand against Yoshino's back, red eyes watching Shikaku over her shoulder. Shikamaru shut his eyes.
Yoshino stepped back, pulling him behind her into the kitchen. She began serving up a meal as her daughter and husband took their places, and Shikamaru sat, looking down.
"It's okay, son" Shikaku said.
Shikamaru looked up.
"I'm..." The older Nara shook his head, slapped one hand on the table, then continued in a tight voice: "I was worried about you. It's good to have you back."
"Thanks" Shikamaru said. And set in a smiling face his ruby eyes seemed charming, not unnerving.
Rumiko grinned happily to herself - problem solved.
Ino came to call on her team-mate on the afternoon of the next day. The three-day period of mourning after Sandaime's funeral was over, so she had one aim alone: take Shikamaru shopping.
This is not good. The Shadow-user had been kidnapped once, he had no intention of being mobbed by villagers, whether they were Ino's friends or his enemies. But then again, he'd decided to accept who and what he was. There was no advantage to avoiding town, he needed to assert himself and show his face there.
So he agreed to go along.
"You see, that shade of green just does not go with claret!"
"The colour of your eyes, dipshit. I thought a genius like you would know these things, Shika-kun, you're slipping!"
She was unusually hyper, which was strange. Earlier she'd been dispirited, complaining about Naruto being absent, because this meant Sakura had time to win over Sasuke.
"It's a type of red wine, I didn't know you could use it as a colour" He said, absent-minded. It was strange, re-adjusting to life after the Kyuubi. Or, after being changed by the Kyuubi. The thing's influence had changed everything, down to the way he walked. A longer step was natural, and if he wasn't trying to seem normal he'd be tempted to run around on all fours like Kiba under his doggy-jutsu. And he was constantly conscious of noise, of footsteps, or smells and the taste of air on his tongue as he spoke.
"Does it matter?" Her voice broke through his distraction, and he could hear slight tension in it, concealed in levity "Either way, you need some new outfits. Unless you want to be, like, the foxy-boy equivalent of Naruto."
"Ino..." Why did females say outfit instead of clothes? And... 'foxy-boy'?
"You could get some shades, at least. Sunglasses, you know... if you're going to be all secretive and keep your pretty eyes covered."
"I hardly think the rest of the world is going to agree that they're pretty." Shikamaru said, tense now they were entering the village.
"Oh, I dunno. They are pretty. Sexy, even!"
Shikamaru stared at her, mouth falling open in shock.
Ino pushed his jaw back up with one finger, smirking at his reaction, eyes lit by a mischievous glint.
"You could be the next Sasuke. Bad-boy good looks, and with your hair down you look less dorky. Plus, red eyes, that's nearly U-chi-ha!" She giggled and skipped off ahead of him, leaving him to rub his temples and follow.
His hair had been a problem. It had been thick with blood and dirty, tangled and grubby. He'd had so much trouble cleaning it he'd cut the worst clumps out, and then been horrified earlier in this day to find it didn't fit back in its pony-tail. Rumiko had cut it so it hung around his face in a way that could possibly be called stylish (to the less discerning, at least), but that hung into his eyes. It was aggravating, but it did have the advantage of making his eyes and darkened whiskers less obvious.
But now Ino was being weird. And talking about him like he was Sasuke, or comparable to the Uchiha lust object.
He'd think about it later. He hurried to catch up with her, hoping she'd calm down before they got to the busier parts of town.
His suspicions about the general public had been correct – as he walked into the commercial district many people gave him shifty – or downright scared, or plainly hateful - looks. And there was the whispering, painfully clear to Shikamaru. Ino, just as alert as he was to the nuances of behaviour, grabbed his arm and darted over the fruit-seller's stall, greeting a teenage girl by name. The girl and the other woman behind the stall, who looked like her mother, both looked at the pair of customers awkwardly.
"Hana-chan, is something the problem?" Ino said, in a sweet voice underlaid by pure acid.
"Of, - course not, Ino." The so-called Hana-chan said, eyes flicking between Ino and Shikamaru, who was looking at the wall besides him and trying to look casual.
Ino reeled off a long shopping-list and watched in amusement as Hana weighed out fruit. Shikamaru looked at her with pure admiration, once more glad she was on his side.
But he bit his lip (drawing blood), because if he grinned he'd show pointed teeth to the people watching him.
Ino stayed apparently happy, nodding and waving and calling to about every other passer-by. When they headed into a clothes shop she repeated her 'is anything the matter' question, tone still honey-poisonous. The fat woman behind the counter laughed, saying 'of course not, Ino-kun.' Ino's eye twitched in irritation, but she danced round the shelves.
Shikamaru leaned against a rack of long coats, depressed by the presence of girls his age. He hadn't noticed until they'd stopped, but there was a ... cloud of them. They were following Ino, a nebulous group that seemed vaguely sinister. He had always had good hearing, and it was even better with the alterations the Kyuubi had made to him, but he couldn't make what they were saying out. It made him nervous.
Ino returned, clutching a mass of clothing. She transferred it with bizarre dexterity to a folded position over one arm and grabbed him with the other hand, pulling him towards the changing room, which was not much more than a corner of the shop with a mirror leant against one wall and a curtain half-obstructing the view from outside.
He leant against the wall facing the mirror, pulling his green t-shirt off.
Looked at himself: The bottom of the mirror was further forward on the floor than the top, so he was foreshortened, head small and feet broad. He posed like Sasuke, topless and impassive. Hair thrown over face, stoic-cold red eyes. He did – privately – think his eyes looked nice red, at the least nicer than the Uchiha sharingan. His eyes had depth to them, complex colour, the sharingan was flat-blood-red and blank. But he himself ... he just looked like a kid. A spikey-haired sharp-toothed whisker-marked kid who moved with the fluidity of an animal, one who couldn't keep his face straight and solemn like an Uchiha, one who annoyed and infuriated his home village just by existing.
Ino shouldn't compare him to Sasuke. No way. The Uchiha was proud and distant and deserved the attention of the mindless fan-girl following he had, because their single-minded fixation on him wasn't that different to the fixation he had on his motive for being a ninja. (And Shikamaru was a genius, he was sure he knew what that motive was). Whereas he, Shikamaru, wasn't dumb enough to fixate on any one thing. And he certainly didn't want to be the object of fixation, not in the way Ino was implying or any other. Gaara's attention had been far too much already.
Heh, whatever. She'll get over it. He needed to get changed, or Ino would be angry. What was she going to insist he wore?
Nothing blue and nothing green, he saw, looking through. He liked those colours though...
There was a lot of black. And t-shirts, one russet-brown formal shirt, many sleeveless wife-beater vests in white, khaki, purple, orange and red. And she'd got him 'accessories' as well, wristbands and fingerless gloves and a necklace of a fox. Oh ha-ha, Ino. Thanks for that.
She'd got him leather pants, too.
Shikamaru emerged from the shop feeling uncomfortable in Ino's company. He liked her, he was grateful to her because no-one else he knew would have been able to so effectively parade him around the town without provoking some kind of trouble. But if she was going to be that clingy and weird and – act like she was attracted to him – he – he – he hoped she wasn't. It was scary. And the gaggle following him were equally creepy.
When he got home (having been kissed on the cheek as he said goodbye, and having made his excuses very hastily) he went to see his sister before heading outside.
"Uh, can I ask you something?"
"You just did."
"I'm packing; I'm leaving tomorrow, you know."
"Ino was being really – weird - today."
Rumiko snickered unpleasantly. She knew Ino was more mature now, but she couldn't help but be amused by that comment.
"How do you know if someone,... is attracted to you?"
"Oo-ooh dear." Rumiko said. Now that was a question.
"Seriously!" He actually looked agitated, as well. She fluttered her eyelashes sarcastically, very amused.
"Well, did she stare deep into your eyes?"
"She said my eyes were 'pretty'." Shikamaru replied, frowning.
Rumiko kicked her luggage to one side and took a seat on her bed, facing him. She did need to sort this out before she left, after all. He filled her in on the rest of the day, trying not to sound too strange. This whole situation was embarrassing... And certainly not one of the problems he'd thought would ensue from the whole Kyuubi affair.
Rumiko steepled her fingers under her chin, nodding wisely. But she saw the worry in his eyes, and told him her conclusion without much fuss:
"I doubt she really does like you like that in a serious way, Shikamaru. She's probably just trying to reassure you that you haven't been too badly fucked-up by the fox. And if there is something to it, it more likely just that she's... seeing you as grown up.
"That's why your year all adored Sasuke, you realise. He acted older and more mature, at least as girls see it, by being detached and cool. 'Course, he was actually just moping around in depression, but it seems grown-up to little girls." (to Rumiko, any girl younger than her was 'little') "And now you've been getting to be leader of your little group, mature and responsible and you didn't stress out over the exam. That makes you cool. Then you beat Gaara and now you look all ... sharp and different and stuff. Hence, admiration manifested as fawning idiocy. It's because she doesn't know how to treat you, you seem older and better than her to her at the moment. She'll get over it pretty soon, I'm sure"
"Unless, of course, she's just seen you with your hair like that and transferred her massive Sasuke-crush alllllll onto you." Rumiko said, bouncing off the bed to re-pack her belongings. "That would be hi-lar-i-ous!"
Oh thanks, dear sister.
Rumiko left after dinner, back to the hotel where her girlfriend was. Shikamaru gave her the fox necklace that Ino had picked out for him, remembering how she'd given him a deer pendant. It was.. fitting, in a very ironic way that got everything backwards.
With her gone, the house was quiet, each occupant in a different room.
He slipped out of his window, and walked out to the tree where he'd found Gaara. Maybe it was paranoia, maybe instinct, but he was sure there was someone out here. The field of deer was undisturbed, but ... Shikamaru leant against the tree, uneasy.
He didn't think his sight had got worse, but it seemed less important to him now. Now, when he wanted to know if he was being stalked, he found himself turning and listening, and trying to feel changes in the air-flow or the scents that it carried. Sometimes he wanted to reach out with chakra, but he knew that would be alarming to anyone nearby.
A lot of the time, he wasn't even conscious of searching things out with different senses. They were an automatic response to his concern, one his mind would interpret on its own unless he paid attention. He found himself struggling when he tried to understand what he'd sensed, still, and he wasn't confident he'd know if he did pick up on a watcher. Considering it, he wondered if he was subconsciously picking up on someone's presence right now. But that was paranoia.
He shrugged, and got up. No point in brooding about it, and the best solution for brooding was a session of cloud-watching.
And cloud-watching in the dusk sky is a beautiful thing, even when it's not true cloud-watching. Shikamaru was distracted – he could smell the meal they'd eaten, food-smell emanating from the house. He could detect each by sound and by scent, he noticed the subtle differences between male and female deer to the olfactory senses; he could hear fifteen different types of birds, and the insects and the wind and the distant village and thousands of actions and interactions that took place there. Cloud-watching was meant to be like meditating, blocking out the world. But it wasn't working today. He was on edge.
And he could feel chakra, distant on the edges of his mind. Grating against the periphery of his mind, there was something almost familiar there.
And Hoshigaki Kisame stepped out of a genjutsu in front of him, grinning in anticipation.
Shikamaru twisted to his feet with a cat's grace, keeping one foot forward, tipping his weight into perfect balance and jutting his head forwards, teeth bared. He raised clawed hands into a seal, ignoring the impulse to charge and scar with fire-chakra.
"You're going to come with us, fox-boy."
Shikamaru breathed out slowly, brushing his lower lip against his teeth. "Is that so...?"
"Unless you want to be dragged with us,... rendered armless?" The shark-like man hefted his sword menacingly, smirking.
(Still hidden behind a genjutsu, Itachi smacked a palm into his forehead. He'd told Kisame about jokes like that.)
Shikamaru lowered his eyebrows. That sword gave off... not chakra, as such, but there was a power to it. He did not want that cutting into his flesh, even more than he didn't want any other pointed thing slicing into him.
And Itachi made himself visible, then. With the flair for dramatics of a very gay man, he pulled his black and red cloak back with one outstretched hand as he undid the complex web of chakra-layers, sweeping it around him and becoming visible as it passed over him, then replacing it in the same movement. He was a magician, fooling the eyes with skill unsurpassed.
He took one step, positioning himself beside his partner. After all, solidarity was important for a group.
"You're Uchiha!" Shikamaru couldn't conceal his shock at that.
"And you will come with us or be brought."
"You'd pay for me?" Shikamaru employed sarcasm, preparing to tap into the Kyuubi's youki again. The seal hadn't closed off totally, it shouldn't be too difficult to draw out more energy, and his only hope in fighting these two was to surprise them and run. If not, at least the chakra-flare would alert people.
"Shut the fuck up and fight, kid" Kisame said, and charged.
And Shikamaru was left to leap away, adrenaline and the heightened awareness of chakra that combat situations bought making it an easy matter for him to reach into the supply of energy that the seal formed. In mid-air, he lit up with flame-youki. Kisame's sword cut a gash in the ground, and the shark-nin swung it back towards him and raised the blade as Shikamaru landed on his knees and slammed clenched fists into the ground, making gathered youki race along the ground and flare up at his enemy. Kisame roared in pain, convulsing as his body was covered by red fire.
But Itachi stepped forwards, flicking his hand at Shikamaru and sending a tidal-wave of water towards him. The fox-host leapt backwards again, but fell short. Chakra-summoned water rose in a sheet of steam around him, but he made himself balance against it by modulating energy levels, like in treewalking. It worked for a second, but then he fell; by the time he'd struggled his way out Itachi was standing by Kisame, distractedly using some kind of burn-healing skill. Shikamaru had stopped drawing on the Kyuubi's energy, and he felt unsteady as he grabbed a kunai from his pouch.
Itachi looked over at him, as if he was a boring dinner guest rather than someone he'd just attacked. But behind him-!
"Come with us, I said." The Uchiha repeated.
And then he looked down at his feet, frowning. A black shadow was joined to them, and another branch of it was latched onto Kisame.
And behind it, back to the two attackers and in the same position as them: Nara Shikaku.
"I don't think you're going to take Shikamaru anywhere, Uchiha Itachi. At least not until the council has judged you for patricide, matricide, homicide and many, many other unpleasant crimes of murder. And no, I won't look into your eyes."
He held his hands up, spreading the fingers wide. Kisame's Samehade dropped heavily to the ground as the missing-nin copied the motion, and Shikaku walked backwards in synchrony with his captives until he stood less than two meters away from the two bound criminals. Shikamaru jumped out of his tree, legs shaking. That one attack, it had completely caught him by surprise. Gaara had been dangerous, but these people were killers, pure trained and skilled murderers. Uchiha Itachi, annihilator of the clan Uchiha. S-class criminal.
"I surrender" Itachi said. His tone was insouciant, like a schoolboy saying 'sorry' when he doesn't mean it in the slightest.
"Who sent you, and why?" Shikaku bit out. Shikamaru had never seen his father interrogate someone, and he realised exactly how much of a shinobi Shikaku was at that moment. There was lethal coldness in his voice.
"Our organisation goes by the name of Akatsuki. And our objective..." Itachi raised one elegant, nail-varnished hand, and pointed it between Shikamaru's eyes "Is to retrieve the legacy of the Fourth Hokage."
"The bind" Shikamaru said, voice suddenly hoarse with fear. Itachi had moved without being allowed to, and looking down the shadow link had been broken. When? How?
And Itachi and Kisame dashed away, one passing on either side of Shikamaru, both well vanished into the depths of the forest by the time he had turned around to see them go.
Shikamaru turned back to his father, red eyes wide with fear.
So, this is the start of a brave new fic. Better start than for Indifference? And do people approve of longer chapters? Is Ino's random behaviour here worrying you? (Don't worry, this is not suddenly going to have shipping in it.) Please, click the nice little lavender-blue button down there on the bottom left.