Disclaimer: Not mine.
For Renalin on her birthday, who's been an incredible friend and is a brilliant writer. Love you, darling.




When Shikamaru is unceremoniously woken up by an infernal pounding on his front door at three A.M., he doesn't expect it to be Ino, looking disheveled and frustrated and wearing a lopsided ponytail.

He takes one glance, tells her blearily "no, I don't have your magazine, or your purse or make-up kit or any expensive shoes you may have misplaced", and shuts the door in her open-mouthed face.

It is two seconds before the knocking starts up again, this time even louder than before (if that was even possible).

Well, he should have known it wouldn't be that easy.

With the air of one being submitted to extreme torture, he opens the door a crack, and says "what." It is not a question. It is a "you may be the love of my life but it is three in the morning and not even Chouji being denied his food will get me up this early so you have five seconds to talk before I slam the door on you and this time I will not open it again. Thank you and come back later."

Although Ino is not quite that perceptive, she has known Shikamaru long enough to get the drift, so she hurriedly blurts out a "I burned my apartment down" before he can shut the door on her.

Shikamaru closes the door anyway, rubbing at his eyes. Then he realizes what she has just said.

"Your apartment burned down?" he asks in total disbelief after re-opening the door.

Now she looks not only messy, irritated, and exhausted, but also sheepish. It is an expression he is entirely unused to seeing on her face.

"Yes," she says, as though she is telling a toddler that why yes, one plus one does equal two and no, that that chunk of dirt doesn't belong in your mouth.

"Oh," he says weakly, for a lack of anything else to say. "That's not good."

"Obviously," Ino says, still managing to sound deprecating when she has just burned down her own apartment.

Shikamaru sighs, trying to think of a way out of what Ino is clearly asking him to do.

He concludes that his brain doesn't function properly when he is being woken up at such a goddamned early hour.

"This is so troublesome," he sighs, resigned, and steps out of the doorway to allow her to come in.

Ino steps in, offers him an uncharacteristic smile – a real smile, not a scheming or plotting or sarcastic one – and he thinks faintly that she ought to smile properly more. Suddenly, the loss of his apartment doesn't seem as horrible as it had before – and just as suddenly, her smile is gone, to replaced by her usual, semi-annoyed expression.

"The couch is free," Shikamaru tells her, "And Chouji's room smells like potato chips right now and we haven't yet figured out how to get rid of the smell so you probably don't want to go in there."

"Considering that I don't know which room is which, I don't think I'll be able to control whether I go in there," Ino says wryly, already rearranging the pillows on the sofa and chewing her thumbnail.

"It's easy," Shikamaru drawls, "See, his room is the one labeled 'Chouji's room' and mine is the one labeled 'Shikamaru's room'." He neglects to mention the fact that Chouji had scrawled do not enter unless you are Ino with promises of sexual favors on Shikamaru's sign.

Ino responds with a scowl before falling face-first onto the couch.


Shikamaru is woken up again, this time at six in the morning, and this time by means of Chouji repeatedly whacking a pillow against Shikamaru's head.

"What – were – you – thinking?" he snarls, still hurling the pillow even when it is evident that Shikamaru is awake.

Shikamaru blinks, wonders what he has done to deserve this when even the sun isn't up yet. "What, Ino?" he asks.

"Yes, Ino," Chouji emphasizes (thankfully the pillow is somewhere on top of the nightstand).

"Her apartment burned down," Shikamaru explains wearily. "She needed a place to stay. It was three AM, I was sleepy and obviously mentally unfit."

"She is currently sitting on our couch, just waiting for the next victim to come out so she can attack them with an hour-long lecture," Chouji laments. "She is like an obsessive-compulsive vulture. Do something about it."

Shikamaru inwardly mourns over the sleep he could be getting. Then he doesn't have time to mourn, because Chouji has opened the door and shoved him out of his own room.

"Wha – " he starts to say, and then stops. Because Chouji has locked the door. Of his own room.

Pathetically, Shikamaru trudges into the living room and prays desperately to whatever higher being might exist that he may get to the kitchen unnoticed.

Of course Ino would notice him. Of course.

"Your sofa is lumpy," she informs him, fully awake and looking more cheerful than she had three hours ago. "And it's got questionable splotches on it. I found three shuriken hidden under the pillow, too, which was pleasant." She prods the cushion. "Good morning, by the way," she adds as an afterthought.

"Yeah," he says. "I just remembered, I need to go, there's, uh – "

Ino tilts her head inquiringly at him.

"We're out of rice," he blurts out, and flees.

Being a genius isn't much useful in situations like these, he decides once he is safely out of the apartment.


"Flowers," Chouji wails when Shikamaru comes back several hours later.

"I – what?" Shikamaru asks.

"Flowers," Chouji repeats. "Ino is putting sakura blossoms everywhere and the smell is nauseating, even worse than the potato chips in my room. I've changed my mind. She is no longer only an obsessive-compulsive vulture, but an obsessive-compulsive vulture with a penchant for pink objects."

"A few flowers aren't that ba – oh good God," Shikamaru stops short upon catching sight of the living room.

Chouji nods grimly. "Wait until you've seen what she's done to your room," he adds, with some relish.

"What about yours?" Shikamaru snaps, and then sneezes.

"The smell of potato chips was too strong," Chouji says, marginally more cheerful. "She lasted for about three minutes before she ran away."

"I think I'm going to become a hobo," Shikamaru announces. "I'll change my name. No one will find me. Insert maniacal cackling here, which I haven't yet gotten the hang of. Incidentally, Ino didn't see the sign on my door, did she?"

"I don't think she noticed it," Chouji tells him, just as Ino comes in.

"Who?" she asks, appearing from seemingly nowhere.

"No one you know," Shikamaru says, almost too hastily, while Chouji looks from Ino to Shikamaru and back to Ino, and then stuffs a handful of potato chips in his mouth.

"Oh," Ino pauses. "Anyhow, I redecorated the apartment a bit, a few minor changes – "

Chouji, from behind Ino, rolls his eyes.

" – not anything too big, just a few things here and there." Shikamaru is uncomfortably aware that Ino is holding a flowerpot and beaming at him. "What do you think?"

Tell her, Chouji mouths, still behind Ino.

"I, uh – " Shikamaru surveys the living room, which looks as though it had snowed inches of pink, now sickly-smelling flowers (is that the couch buried under there?), and then surveys Ino in her radiance. "It's nice," he says sincerely, and isn't sure whether he is referring to the sakura or Ino.

Ino flashes him a brilliant smile, and then Shikamaru is sure. "You like it?" she asks, trying to appear nonchalant and entirely failing to hide her enthusiasm.

"Yeah," Shikamaru says faintly.

You are so screwed, Chouji mouths at him.


"Is anyone using the bathroom?" Shikamaru asks, finding the door closed but unlocked.

Chouji shrugs. "Ino left to talk to Sakura a few minutes ago."

Shikamaru has already pushed the door halfway open before there is an ear-splitting shriek; he tries to shut the door as quickly as possible, but not before catching a glimpse of a slim silhouette under the shower. Slim, very female silhouette.

"Aurghnf," Shikamaru says miserably, wondering if gouging out his eyes would make him forget what (very little) he had seen, and then wondering whether he would want to forget.

Chouji holds his book over his face to hide his smirk.


"I hate my life," Shikamaru tells his bed.

It doesn't respond, but if it could, he thinks it probably would have sneezed from being covered in so much pollen.

He furtively brushes it off (to mostly no effect) before sitting down gingerly.

"Because her apartment would burn down, and she would have nowhere else to stay, and she would suddenly have the urge to buy a million sakura plants and stick them in my apartment," he says, voice muffled by the pillow he is squishing against his face.

He ends up falling asleep still sitting up and when he wakes up he finds, to his horror, that he reeks of sakura.


"Ino wants to know if the reason you're avoiding her is because you walked in on her in the shower," Chouji tells Shikamaru, cornering him after breakfast.

Shikamaru blinks. "But I haven't been avoiding her. I don't think."

"Also," he continues, with no sign of having heard Shikamaru, "She would like to know why you haven't been making eye contact for over a month, and why you cannot seem to put together more than twenty words at a time around her."

"Um," Shikamaru says, trying to fully comprehend what his best friend is saying.

"Please to resolve your sexual frustration with her before she talks my ear off with information I would rather not know such as the fact that Sakura is making Sasuke carry around condoms in his weapons pouch," Chouji informs him, as calmly as though he is discussing a book he read last weekend.

"Urk," Shikamaru says meekly, and tries to erase the mental picture this evokes.

"Also because I think the sakura plants are starting to wilt," Chouji adds.


Despite the fact that Chouji claims that he trusts Shikamaru with the task of properly talking to Ino, he still finds a way to interfere to the point at which stealing the last potato chip from his bag starts to sound unnaturally appealing.

"So," Chouji says at dinner.

There is no response. Shikamaru is studying his food with an intensity that is usually reserved for training or practice fights. Ino is watching Shikamaru in his stony silence with complete bemusement.

Then Chouji grins, pulls out a pair of handcuffs, and, with a speed that explains why he made it to the chuunin rank, swiftly cuffs Ino's right wrist to Shikamaru's left one.

The two stare at the handcuffs for what seems like years until Ino starts screaming and Shikamaru starts trying to hack at the handcuffs with a butter knife.

"If you don't figure things out," Chouji says threateningly, "I'll stuff you two in the closet and swallow the key," and he dangles the key for the handcuffs almost mockingly at them.

They both lunge at him at the same time. Chouji squeaks and locks himself in his room.

Shikamaru tries very, very hard not to notice how soft Ino's hand is.


"Do you think he'll take them off now?" Ino asks, jangling the chain a little.

Shikamaru snorts.

"Yeah, I didn't think so either," she sighs, a little dejectedly.


"Now?" Ino wonders out loud. The cuffs are beginning to cut into her skin.

"Not until you resolve your sexual frustration," Chouji calls from the relative safety of his bedroom, accompanied by much cackling.

Ino reddens. Shikamaru despairs.


"I'm not trying to purposely touch you or anything," Ino informs him later, with a slight sniff, "I'm tired and there's no comfortable way other than this so…"

Before Shikamaru can quite register what is happening, Ino yawns and leans her head on his shoulder, unconsciously moving a little closer to him for warmth.

Shikamaru allows himself a small smile before trying to discreetly reach for a pillow without disturbing the now sleeping girl burrowed into his chest.


At some point Chouji wakes up and wanders to the kitchen for a glass of water.

He flips on the light and finds Shikamaru lying in his usual sprawled position on the couch with Ino curled up into a ball on top of him, resting her cheek against his.

Carefully, he unlocks the handcuffs and covers them with a blanket.

Then he makes a mental note to get rid of all the sakura because they seem to shed more than cats.


When Shikamaru wakes up the next morning, it is to the unpleasant smell of Chouji burning eggs. Then he remembers that he has a bundle of sweet-smelling girl nestled on his lap, and tries to think of the best way to get up while moving as little as possible.

It turns out that Ino's already awake and quite comfortable, at that, and she tilts her head up and smiles at him. "Hi," she mumbles sleepily, and brushes a loose strand of hair off her cheek.

He feels awkward and hazy and vague all at the same time, but mostly there's an unexplainable pool of warmth spreading throughout his body and he thinks – well. He could get used to it.

"Hey," he says, burying his nose in her shoulder for reasons he's not quite sure of except that she's soft and delicate and he decides that being this drowsy is making him do things he wouldn't normally do in broad daylight, and then she's laughing and nudging him gently and he's still dazed by the afterglow of that smile that he thinks he wants to wake up to for the rest of his life.

And then Chouji says, "oh – oh God, you guys. I know you're in love and all that but honestly, get a room. You're nauseating."

"Mmmn," Ino hums, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and presses a soft kiss to Shikamaru's forehead before leaning her head back on his shoulder.

Chouji sighs and attempts to salvage the remains of the burnt eggs.


A/N: If you've read this far, you are wonderful. This piece sort of appalls me for no reason that I can find other than that I just don't like it. Um.

Oh. Yes. And the site refuses to let me fit the whole title in. How dare it. That, and I need to be able to come up with shorter titles.

... anyhow. Reviews are much welcome. :3