Shikamaru had hoped that no one would remember this year, and he wasn't disappointed. The day had passed by as usual with no one bothering to tell him a "happy" anything, and that was just how he liked it. There wasn't any trouble of throwing a party or getting a cake, which meant he didn't have to pretend he was happy or grateful. It was already troublesome being manager of the restaurant, and his job, was, after all, to manage and, as the tournant, to assist the other stations, but to put up with unnecessary festivities wasn't in his contract.

"Morning," greeted Temari, the co-manager of the place and also the garde manger. Her job was to also be responsible for the preparation of cold hors d'oeuvres, salads, and organize large buffet displays.

"You're late." Everyone had come an hour an hour ago, and it was almost an obligation for her to come earlier than the rest of the staff.

"Anko sent me on a few errands." Anko was the executive chef, the one who really ran the kitchen. She scared Shikamaru a bit, but she knew her stuff.

"Alright," replied Shikamaru. "Well, meeting in a few minutes, just to let you know." He began to walk away.

"Hey, wait a sec," began Temari. "Later, are you busy, because I—"

" Shikamaru!" yelled an annoying, yet strangely familiar, voice. The next thing he knew, a strong force had hit him. He realized he was being, not hugged, but glomped. "Shikamaru, I haven't seen you in ages!"

Struggling underneath the embrace of doom, he looked up at the face. "Get off of me, Ino." The whole kitchen was staring, including Temari, who was almost knocked over when Ino had run at Shikamaru.

"Sorry," she apologized. "I haven't been here in ages. How've you been?"

He examined her. She looked as good as usual, wearing a black t-shirt and teal skinny jeans with a pair of black flats. They had been keeping in touch when she left for Osaka, but they hadn't contact each other in the past few months. He knew she was coming back. Sakura had filled him in, since he hadn't been able to attend the will reading. "You're actually going to do it?" He'd seen tabloids saying that she had accepted the challenge, but Sakura hadn't really confirmed if they were true or not. He gave her two weeks before cracking.

She stared at him as if he was crazy. "Of course. You don't think I'm going to let that pink haired b-"

"Ino-pig!" exclaimed another voice. It was Sakura, coming over to "greet" Ino. "I thought you would've chickened out!"

"As if," said Ino. "You know I can't get rid of an opportunity to beat you, Forehead."

"Ino?" Kiba had just walked into the kitchen, carrying a couple of boxes.

"Kiba!" exclaimed Ino. She went over to give him a hug. He put down his boxes and embraced her.

"Didn't think I'd see you so soon," said Kiba. "I don't like this whole celibacy thing. I was hoping that when you'd come back, we'd have a little…'meeting' together at my place. You were my best friend with benefits, after all." He placed a hand over her bottom.

She laughed and slapped his hand away. "You're such a horny bastard, you know that?"

"Oh, I think I'm slightly aware of that," said Kiba with a dirty grin.

A few of the others had already gone back to prepping for tonight, but the some still watched Ino with interest. "Oh, Shikamaru, before I forget, I got you a little something." Ino dug through one of her paper bags and handed him a package wrapped in bright pink wrapping paper tied with a purple bow.

"What's this for?" he asked, grabbing it and looking at the colors with distaste.

"Your birthday of course! Happy belated birthday!" She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"No, his birthday's on-" Temari stopped in midsentence. "Why didn't you remind anyone it was your birthday?" She gave him a very cold glare.

"Shikamaru!" said Sakura. "You could've said something and we would've done something for you."

Shikamaru groaned. Ino hadn't even been here for an hour and she already brought troublesomeness with her. "Must've slipped my mind."

Ino looked at Temari. "Hello, I'm Yamanaka Ino, and you must be…?"

"Temari," came her succinct reply.

"Hey you all!" came a loud and irritated voice. Everyone turned their heads toward the source. It was Anko, looking super pissed. "I said we were going to meet at ten, and do you know what time it is? Ten past ten. I've been waiting in the room, wondering where the hell my employees were. Did Buddha reincarnate right before your eyes? Was that what kept you all?"

Shikamaru sighed. A pissed Anko was worse than soggy bread. "Ino's here."

Anko blinked and looked at Ino. "I think I do remember getting a memo…Oh my gawd Ino, you've grown so big!" Anko and Ino embraced in a reminiscing hug.

"Hey, Anko, I brought you a gift, too!" She took out a smaller bag from her larger bag. From the looks of it, the bag had come from a sweet shop. She handed it to Anko.

Putting her hand inside, she pulled out a fancy box of dangos. She squealed with delight, "It's great to have you back kid." She patted her on the head.

"Um, the meeting, Anko-san?" asked Shikamaru.

"Oh right," said Anko, putting the dangos back into the bag. "Now, if everyone will just make their way into the conference room."

Once everyone was settled in a soft green chair, Anko said, "Before we get to other business, as you all can see, Yamanaka Ino will be joining our kitchen now, hopefully being a permanent member." A few craned their necks to take a look at her. "Now, Shikamaru, if you don't mind—"

"Which I do," mumbled Shikamaru

"What was that?"


"Anyways, now if you don't mind, please introduce everyone to Ino."

He sighed. Anko always left the introducing to him. As if new members couldn't meet people for themselves. "That's Inuzuka Kiba—"

"She knows who I am," said Kiba.

"This is how I've memorized it, and to change any of it would just be troublesome, so shut up," replied Shikamaru. "As I was saying, Inuzuka Kiba's one of waiters and garcon de cuisine (meaning he performs preparatory and auxiliary work for the kitchen). She's Karin—" he motioned to the red head that Ino had seen at the will reading who was all over Sasuke—"and she aids Uchiha Sasuke with the grilling and frying. Uchiha Sasuke is in charge of most meat dishes as well as most dishes that require roasting, broiling, or frying. Hozuki Suigetsu—" he nodded towards the direction of a cute white haired guy sitting on the other side of Sasuke—" is in charge of all gourmet drinks and is the bartender on weekend nights, but also aids Sasuke's station when aid is required. Juugo—" the tall orange haired man sitting next to Suigetsu—"is also a waiter, as well as Kin—" a girl with long black hair sitting next to Sakura—"and Tayuya—" a tomboyish looking redhead sitting on Sakura's other side—"and Haruno Sakura is not only our entremetier (person who prepares soups and other dishes not involving meat or fish, including vegetable dishes and egg dishes) but is also the saucier and works sometimes at the baking station, which leads me to Sai—" he had black hair and was strangely pale, but Ino thought that might've been working with too much flour and that he resembled Sasuke a bit—"who does most of the baking and desserts. Temari's also a manger, like me, and the garde manger, and Hatake Kakashi who doesn't seem to be here right now—"

Just then a man with a mask concealing his face burst into the room. "I'm so sorry that I'm late, but you see, a kitten was stuck in a tree and I—"

"Shut the hell up Hatake, and just sit down," commanded Anko. He shrugged and obeyed.

"Anyways," continued Shikamaru, "Kakashi's the executive mood supervisor." For as long as Ino coul d remember, that was what Kakashi was."No one has a clue what that was, but according to her father, he does a very good job of it. "He's also the host, so I guess he does have some use, along with Shizune, who's giving a visit to Tsunade. Sarutobi Asuma's another one of our head chefs, as I assume you do remember. Our other, er, 'staff members' come later. Konohamaru's our plongeur, which I hope you know is the fancy term for the dishwasher, and Udon and Moegi are the marmitons, which is another fancy term for junior dishwashers. I don't even know if we can legally have them here, but they're persistent, and they think they're our apprentices, so just play along, and if you want, they can do menial tasks for you, like chop scallions. We also have others who come and go, but this is our main staff. Tsunade sometimes send down people she thinks who has potential or need a temporary job." Woot, he thought to himself. He was finished. He really did wish Tsunade would stop sending people down; it was a pain in the ass to keep doing these introductions.

"Thank you Shikamaru," said Anko. "Yamanaka Ino will be in charge of the fish station and will be one of the saucier chefs." Sakura's eyes flashed anger, but she said nothing. "If any of you need any help, she's the one to go to. If you haven't heard of her yet, go buy a magazine or something, because her father's made her into practically as big of a legend as he was, may he rest in peace.

"In other news, a business group has booked the restaurant for a dinner party a few weeks from now, and they've provided a list of what they'd like to have available, so we won't have to think of a menu, but I do want you all to add a little pizzazz to it. Do something new and innovative and make sure your displays are perfect. I trust you to be in charge of organizing the buffet displays. Keep in mind that they've booked a musical entertainment, so you'll have to decide where they go.

"Now, in other words, it's fall, but I still see some of you using the spring dishes, which is a no-no. And remember, think autumn. Temari's gotten a load of new stuff for you guys to take a look at and try it. If you've thought of anything good, come to Shikamaru or Temari or me. We want to give the customers something new next week, something they haven't tried before. Any new business any of you would like to bring up? No? Well, get your asses back to work then!"

Everyone slowly went out, with some speaking a few words of welcoming back to Ino. It left Shikamaru, Temari, and Ino being the last ones in the room. Shikamaru turned to Temari, "So what were you saying before?"

Temari pursed her lips and said, "It was nothing." She brushed past him to help the others prep.

"Troublesome woman," muttered Shikamaru.

"Problems with your girlfriend?" piqued Ino.

"What makes you think she's my girlfriend," he said irritably.

"My mistake then. She just seems to like you a lot."

"What makes you think that?" His meddling senses were tingling. He hated how Ino just loved to tamper with the lives of others, and when she had lived here, she had done it so much that he had developed a keen sense of detecting when she would strike. This sense was being strongly stimulated right now.

"A girl can always tell, that's all," winked Ino. "You should go for it. She's cute."

"Speaking of Asuma—"

"Which we weren't," interrupted Ino.

"—Didn't you wonder where Kurenai went?"

"Well, I was actually curious, but I didn't want to ask. I assume Kurenai and Asuma are still married?" She had gone to the wedding and was even one of the bridesmaids. Asuma wasn't as great of a teacher as her father, but he made a better fatherly figure.

"Yeah, but Kurenai's on maternity leave, and I hear that she's going to be taking a few years off to stay home with the baby once it's born."

Shikamaru was deafened by Ino's squeals. "How exciting! A baby! How many months has it been? Is it a boy or girl? Why didn't you write about this before? What are they going to name it?!"

"Geezes Ino, you act like you're the one with the baby." He was actually glad that this topic occupied her now instead of the one about him and Temari. "To answer your questions, I have no clue." She smacked him on the arm. "OW!"

"I would've thought that you'd pay more attention, since you and Asuma are so close," scolded Ino. "Oh my gawd, this is so exciting! I can't wait for the baby shower!"

"Right, exciting," he said unenthusiastically.

"You're such a wet blanket."

"Thanks. Speaking of birth, isn't today your birthday?"

"I'm surprised you remembered." She grinned at him.

"I'm not that ignorant. Anyways, yours comes a day after mine, and don't you usually do something big?"

She thought about how to explain it to him. "Well, you know, every year for my birthday, I end up getting drunk, and as you know, I do a lot of…er… stupid things when I'm drunk. Seeing my circumstances this year, I thought it'd be wiser if I didn't do anything that might lead me to go drinking, and if I let out that it was my birthday, Sakura would probably try to invite me to go out partying or something, and you know I can't refuse, so I want to keep this whole birthday thing a secret, and make it seem as if my twenty-fifth birthday never happened at all. "

Shikamaru had to give her credit. She had really thought it through. Maybe she would last longer than he thought. He sighed, "Well, I guess that means you don't want my present then."

Ino's eyes widened. "Present?"

"Yeah, since you're choosing to ignore this particular birthday…"

"No, wait, presents are fine!"

He silently chuckled. It was the same old Ino. He opened a cabinet in the conference room and pulled out square package neatly wrapped in wrapping paper with the Chanel symbol all over it. Ino opened it with zest, a happy anticipated look on her face. It was the Chanel penguin sweater dress created by Karl Lagerfeld.

"Shikamaru!" She glomped him again. "You're the greatest!"

"Ino, get off. It's no big deal. I was just in the Chanel boutique with Tema—a friend, and I saw it, and since it was getting cold and all, I thought you'd like it…"

She let go of him. "You didn't open your gift yet."

He had forgotten that he was still holding the atrociously bright package. He ripped off the paper and saw that it was a shougi board, the pieces hand carved from ebony and ivory while the board was made from Austrian crystal. "Ino, you must've spent a fortune." Her gifts were always unique and highly extravagant.

"Heh, well I knew a guy in Osaka, and he owed me a huge favor," replied Ino. Shikamaru handed her one of the white uniforms and she put it on as she tied her hair back into her signature ponytail.

Shikamaru sighed again. "I don't do this much, so don't get used to it…" He leaned over and gave her a tight hug, quickly letting go. It took a while for Ino to get over the shock. He noticed her grinning at him, so he said, "Let's go. You can see how things work in this kitchen."

"Ew, and can you believe her shoes?" asked Sakura. "Wedges were so last season."

"Ugh, I know, and did she look in the mirror before she left the house? Her eyelashes were straight as a messed up rainbow," agreed Tayuya. They were chopping up vegetables for tonight's dinner service.

Shikamaru and Ino had walked into the middle of Sakura's and Tayuya's criticism of some poor girl who had the displeasure of going out with them one evening.

"Sakura, your mouth's almost as big as your forehead," said Ino.

The three at that station looked at her, Kin giving her a particularly mean look. Before any of them could say anything back, Shikamaru waved Ino away, saying, "Come, Ino, and you ladies just go back to your brilliant chopping." When they were out of earshot, he hissed at her, "Don't mess with them. They're a nasty group."

"Shikamaru, you've known me since forever and yet, you truly don't know me. I can handle them."

"Ino, don't go looking for trouble." He brought her to an empty station. "Kurenai was in charge of most of the fish dishes, but since she's left, Sakura's been taking over, but to be honest, I don't think she's that great. We've had a few customers complain of bones in their sushi."

Ino gasped. That was a huge offense. "You think she'll be pissed now that I'm also saucier?"

"Probably, since that is one of the highest roles in the kitchen. I think Sakura and her trio's already finished filleting most of the fish, but you might want to give Sai a hand. He's a bit peculiar, but he's good at what he does. And, though I don't think I should be telling you this, but he tends to piss of Sakura a lot."

"Where are you going?" asked Ino.

"To sleep, of course."


"It seems like everyone has everything under control. Sai's just right through those doors, in the baking room. If you need me, which I'm praying you won't, I'll be in the conference room. The table makes a pretty good bed."

Ino shook her head at his retreating figure, noticing how static his personality was. She was a bit happy, since Sai did look similar to Sasuke. She hoped he wasn't as cold.

When she walked in, he was already filling up mochi with red bean paste. "Need some help?" she asked.

"You're Yamanaka-sama's daughter, right?" asked Sai.

"Yeah," replied Ino. Something hit her. "Wait…you were that guy who sat in front of me at the will reading?"

"Glad you remembered." He gave her a strange smile. She couldn't place a finger on why it was strange, but it was different from any other smiles she had seen, almost as if it were trying to be real, but couldn't quite reach the level of being genuine. "Could you give me a hand with filling these up, but with the white bean paste instead? Fill the white ones with it, I've got the pink ones covered."

"I remember my father always making ichigo daifuku during the spring. It's still the same recipe for the mochi?" asked Ino as grabbed the bowl of paste and began filling up the white mochi.

"Yes, Yamanaka-sama's original recipe," replied Sai.

She wondered how long he had been working here, noting how his moves were swift and graceful.

"So you know Baabaa-chan?" asked Sai, breaking the silence.

"Hm?" Ino wasn't sure if she heard right.

"Ah, I mean, Sakura-chan," explained Sai.

So he'd just called Sakura old hag. She was liking him more by the second. "Yeah, we go way back."

"Are you two friends?"

"Of course." A piece of the mochi she was folding tore off. "Shit." She tried pinching it back together. "What about you? Hang out with anyone here?"

Sai thought about it for a second as he was folding the mochi around the anko filling. "Not really. I used to, with a guy name Uzumaki Naruto."

Ino's eyes lit up. "Oh, I know him!" She remembered that Naruto had worked with Jiraiya long before she had, but he had been learning under her father for a while, and that he had came back to Kurahara to work for a few years when she arrived at Jiraiya's, but he went back to Jiraiya in the end. It was just so like Naruto to jump all over the place. "He's such a loud mouth."

"Yeah, he was my best friend. Sometimes I felt as if we were more."

The blood that flowed through Ino went icy cold. Was it just her or did Sai sound a bit homosexual just then? "I'm sure he'll come and visit."

"He did promise…maybe his penis will have grown bigger by now."

Her premonition of Sai's gayness grew, as well as her disappointment of that fact. "Er…I'm sure his penis is a suitable size…"

"If he comes back, we'll have so much more fun together," said Sai, reminiscently.

"Are you dating any chicks Sai?" This question would surely confirm a true answer.

"No, no one at the moment. To be honest, I've never really properly dated any girls."

"Why not?"

"I'm not really interested in girls."

"Oh. Are you, um, interested in, say….guys?" asked Ino. She knew it was a direct question, but the curiosity was killing her.

Sai stared at her. Then, he began laughing. "Are you asking me if I'm gay?"

"N—yes, and I'm trying to do it subtly. Did it work?" she asked, glad that he was taking it in a non-offensive way.

"You failed at subtly, but to answer your question, no, I'm not gay at all," replied Sai. "You'd be surprised at how many people have been wondering that."

"Heh, no kidding?" They proceeded to fill up the remaining last daifuku. "So where'd you school anyways, for like culinary stuff, I mean."

"Root Culinary Institute."

Ino's head almost came off as she quickly turned around to gape at him. "Seriously?! I heard that place was one of the toughest schools to get into and they'd literally suck all the emotion out of you."

"Funny you should say that…but it wasn't that bad. The experience taught me a lot."

They proceeded to make castella, a Japanese sponge cake, chinsuko, a small biscuit with a mild and sweet flavor, imagawayaki, which they filled some with sweet azuki beans and others with taro paste, melonpan, a pastry made from brioche and covered in a thin layer of crispy cookie dough, dango with four different types of filling, and even some hahngwa, which was actually Korean confectionaries. Sai had already finished most of the other preparations and the rest had to be prepared right after the guest ordered it. They chatted about random things as they talked, Ino enjoying Sai's company more and more.

"So what exactly do you sketch?" asked Ino after he had told her of his interest in drawing.

"People, places, things, nothing in particular. None of my works have names," replied Sai. They had just finished putting the last batch of melonpan into the oven, and were sitting down to rest.

"Show me one day, okay?"

"Alright. Feel like some halo-halo?"

"I'd love some, but I'm sort of dieting."

The comment led to Sai scrutinizing her. Then, Sai leaned in, looked into her eyes, holding her chin in his hand. "You don't need it you know."

"I-I don't?" said Ino softly as his face reached closer to hers. Her heart was beating a bit faster, a bit louder, but her breathing was slower and deeper. Their lips could almost touch now…

"Nope," said Sai, suddenly, breaking apart and getting up. "So it's settled then. I'll go make us some halo-halo."

As Ino sat there still a bit daze from what had just occurred, he took out two tall glass cups and began filling them with colorful jelly, agar-agar, shreds of jack fruit and cubed mango, sweet red beans, sweet palm seeds, and slices of coconut, which he all got from the refrigerator, and began filling the cups up with crushed ice until only an inch or two of the glass remained. He poured over it condensed milk and some coconut milk with a small portion of the sweet syrup that came from the canned jackfruit, and topped it off with a scoop of ice cream and leche flan. He brought out two long spoons and carried the glass cups over to Ino, offering her to take one.

Hesitantly, she accepted it, commenting, "Strange to be eating halo-halo during the colder seasons."

"It's one of my favorites, so I keep a steady supply of its components in the fridge and for a few special regulars as well." He stuck a spoon into it, and began eating the cold, sweet dessert, savoring the bits of fruit and beans.

Ino reluctantly stuck the spoon full of calories into her mouth, ruining her diet for the day. It was a beautiful taste of tropical fruits and rich milk, and it brought back hot summer days of her childhood when the vendors would sell shaved ice treats like this. Her father never piled his halo-halo as much as Sai did, but she liked Sai's decadent dessert better.

"Marry me, Sai," proposed Ino. "You can make this for me every day and we can grow fat and old together." She indulged some more.

Sai laughed. He looked at her again, his face serious. "You're so cute, you know that?"

Ino looked back at him and blushed. She cursed herself for it, wondering why she would be blushing when she had so much experience with guys, but Sai…he was so direct and so strange…she couldn't predict his movements…but she was glad to have met him. So this morning wasn't as bad as she thought it would've been. And, plus, Sai wasn't gay. That made everything all the better.

Dinner service was about to start in a few minutes. Everyone was moving around faster than usual; even Shikamaru bothered to get up and help the others with preparing. When they finally opened their doors, crowds of people poured in, some with reservations and others who had to wait at least an hour before a table was opened. The underage employees were already there, each ready to wash away at the utensils or chop garlic or whatever was required of them, excited to be in the bustling atmosphere.

The dinner service wasn't much different from what Ino had experienced at Jiraiya's. Of course, she and Sakura competed for dishes made by the saucier. Anko had told them to play nice and take turns, but that was as effective as telling a lion to go vegetarian. Ino had already prepared her dashi stock ahead of time, so that gave her an advantage at making the miso soup, but Sakura had the upper hand in creating imoni. This went back and forth as the waiters and waitresses brought in orders, but since Ino was also in charge in fish and Sakura in charge of the vegetable dishes, they had other priorities to think about.

Throughout half of the dinner service, Kiba came into the kitchen, announcing that some man was unhappy with his chawanmushi. "He claimed it was too flavorless and when I sent out another one, he said it sucked too, and er, he demands a free meal…" He looked over at Anko for help on what to do.

"Tell him to shove it up his ass," she said. Then, she turned around and looked at the staff. "Okay, which one of you made the chawanmushi?"

"Er…" Sakura and Ino looked at each other. They each had made so many of them that night that who was to know who made which one?

"Anko," began Ino, "if you want, I'll take care of it." When Jiraiya realized that Naruto wasn't good at handling bitchy customers (the guy had thrown a large bowl of natto at a famous singer, for Kami-san's sake), he had sent either Ino or Neji to handle it (Neji was most popular with the ladies), so she had a little experience with it.

"You're not going to do anything rash, are you?" Anko knew Ino's fiery attitude. If someone pissed her off, Ino would let them have it.

"Of course not, but don't worry, if I fail at persuading him, you can dock it from my pay."

"Alright, but if there's any trouble, call Kiba."

Ino walked through the doors, Kiba guiding her towards the table. The man was one of those big and sweaty businessmen, who, everyone knew, were perverts underneath. He had two beautiful women on both of his sides (Ino was almost sure that they were at least twenty years younger than him). This was going to be a cinch.

"Sir, is there a problem?" asked Ino, putting on one of her dazzling smiles. Ah, how fake she could be when she wanted to be. Very few people, including Shikamaru, could see through this shield an analyze how she really felt.

The man looked at her, examining her body. "Yeah, your food tastes like crap, and I want a free meal for me and my beautiful dates." The women on both of his sides giggle.

That eliminated her waterworks plan. He wouldn't feel any mercy for a crying girl. She approached it from a different angle. "Oh, you know I'd love to give a handsome man like you a free meal"—he grinned at this remark—", but my boss…she's bitter towards men…but I'm sure I can sneak you a few dozen hanabiramochi?" She gave him a sweet smile. "And if that doesn't feed your appetite, maybe—" she said the last few lines a little quieter—"a call to me will." She handed him a card with her n umber on it. The girls next to him glared at her furiously, but he looked at her hungrily, reaching for the card.

"Well, there's no use crying over spilled milk. When do you get out?" he asked.

"I'm afraid pretty late tonight," she replied apologetically.

"I expect you to pick up your phone on Saturday." He left some money on the table and left with the two huffing girls by his side.

"Woah, Ino," said Kiba as he picked up the money. "It's a C-note!" He looked at her shiftily. "You didn't really give him your number did you?"

She smirked, "It's to my other cell phone, for creeps like him. They like to buy me nice things."

He laughed. "You are such a whore."

"Right back atcha," she winked, returning back to the kitchen.

It was about time to close. The last dishes were being cleared and washed and everyone was putting the supplies away in the cupboard. A few had already left for the night.

"Sasuke-kun!" whined Sakura. "Will you give me a ride home, please? Tayuya and Kin already left!"

He grunted consent as she squealed in delight. Karin growled. "Ride with Suigetsu for tonight," commanded Sasuke. As they were about to exit, he walked into Ino. For a split second, their eyes met, but he quickly turned to the side, grunting, "Let's go." He walked to his car with Sakura tagging behind him and scowling at Ino.

"UGH!" cried Karin. The glass she was holding seemed to be under a great amount of pressure. "Why does he want to spend time alone with that big, fat, forehead bitch?!"

"If you go in the same car as her, you two are going to fight, you know," commented Suigetsu.

"But if I ride with you, we're going to fight! That's why we go to work in two different cars in the first place!"

"Yeah but…you two would probably slaughter each other. Calm down, and Juugo, let's go," motioned Suigetsu.

Juugo grunted and they left.

"Geezes, what a major Sasuke-otaku," said Ino after they had left.

Shikamaru snorted. "As if you haven't treated Sasuke anything less of Kami-sama in the past."

"Shut up…that was a long time ago," but Ino couldn't deny that her heart did jump when his piercing eyes darted into hers…

Temari looked incredulously at her. It was her turn to lock up for the night. "You were a Sasuke fan girl?"

"Yeah, can you believe it?"

"I don't blame you though…he's pretty hot," smiled Temari.

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, but remained silent.

"It seems as if he's gotten colder…"

"Eh? Was he ever warm?" asked Temari.

The three began to leave the kitchen while Ino answered, "I guess you can't say he was ever truly warm, but he was a bit kind…"

"Hey," called Ino, jabbing Sasuke with a pencil.

"What?" asked Sasuke, irritated. He was concentrating furiously on the paper in front of him, nearly finished. The two were at Ino's house studying for an exam tomorrow.

"What did you get for number six?" asked Ino.

"B," replied Sasuke. He returned back to his work. A minute later, she jabbed him again. "Yes?"

"How'd you get that?"

"Well, all of the electrons have to fill the smallest levels before it can fill the higher levels, according to the Aufbau Principle, and there's only a maximum number of two electrons per orbital, according to the Paul Exclusion Principle, so it has to be B, since A has three electrons in one and C has the higher energy levels being filled before the lower ones."

"Oh, okay. Thanks, Sasuke-kun."

Five minutes passed before she poked him again. "What is it now?"

"Er…What's an electron?"

"...You're serious?"

"Heh…kind of…"

He gave a frustrated sigh. "You're hopeless, you know that? Why are you in this class anyways?"

"My family does provide for nearly half of the donations that go into this school after all," grinned Ino.

"How corrupt the system is," commented Sasuke.

"So, um, any plans for homecoming?" asked Ino casually.


"You, know, like, are you going or anything?" She crossed her fingers behind her back.

"Of course not. I wouldn't be caught dead there."

"Oh yeah, me either." She had already picked out a dress.

"So what did you need help with again?" he asked bending over her work.

"Um, this one…"

A/N: Yay! It's a finished chapter! Sorry it took a while for me to update. Thanks to everyone for reviewing. It's you people who put the blood into my stories. I was actually a bit proud of this chapter because it accomplished a lot of what I wanted it to, and also because it was one of the longest ones I've written so far. It might take me quite a while to get the next chappy up because of winter break stuff and homework, and my apologies to those who also read Kindergarten Love, since I haven't updated that one in forever…