Teenage Dirtbag

A Naruto fan-fic

Shikamaru was asleep in bed. It was a hot summer morning, he knew that, but a cool breeze wafted in through the window. He stretched. It felt good to stretch, knowing he didn't have to get up. The sheets and pillow were soft. He was pleasantly tired, not so tired that it hurt but not yet to the stage when staying in bed felt uncomfortable. He could spend all day like this.

Someone shifted beside him, a woman. She smelled spicy and fruity, delicious. A slim arm went around his waist and squeezed gently. "Hmm," she said, nuzzling her face against the side of his neck. Shikamaru smiled and peered through half-open eyelids at Temari. She drew closer, about to kiss him. "Shikamaru," she breathed.

"Shikamaru!" The voice became that of his math teacher, Mr. Iruka Umino.

"Huhnf?" Shikamaru slurred, raising his head from his desk. He could feel the imprint of his notebook's spiral binding in his forehead. Luckily, he hadn't been drooling during his classroom nap. Blinking rapidly, he tried to snap himself back into reality.

Mr. Umino was stern. "I'm sorry to interrupt what was probably a fascinating dream, but I need you to solve this problem on the board. If you did your homework, which I doubt, it shouldn't be too difficult."

Shikamaru hauled himself up and staggered to the front of the class to grab the whiteboard marker offered by his teacher. From the corner of his eye he could see Temari sitting with Kankurou. Kankurou had his chin propped on his hand as though anticipating something intensely entertaining, while Temari fanned herself with her fold-up paper fan and yawned, bored to tears.

They had moved to town over the summer. Temari was Kankurou's girlfriend, or at least that's what Shikamaru figured, since she was around him a lot. He'd never seen them showing any affection for each other, unlike all the other couples who filled the corners and abandoned stairwells between classes, groping each other and slobbering all over each other's faces until the teachers came and pulled them apart. But that just meant that Temari was classy, and had Kankurou wrapped around her finger. She made him carry her books for her, get her lunch and coffee, and drive her to school in his ancient '89 IROC that looked like it had been beaten nearly to death. So what if she never kissed him; Shikamaru wouldn't have wanted to either.

Kankurou lived on the same block as Shikamaru, on the opposite street, so their backyards faced each other. Temari was over there almost every day, lying out on the deck of the pool in a bikini, sunning herself. Shikamaru's bedroom window faced the backyard; he would peep out the window through his blinds, just watching this blonde goddess in her red and black bikini, baking in the sun and slowly fanning herself with that paper fan of hers. Sometimes Shikamaru would hang around in his backyard, occasionally glancing over at the pair in hopes that one or the other would invite him over for a swim. It never worked; neither Kankurou nor Temari seemed aware that Shikamaru existed.

Maybe she was using Kankurou for his pool. Even now it was baking hot every day; by now, Shikamaru knew that fall didn't actually start when school did. Maybe once the leaves started turning, Temari would dump Kankurou and be a free agent. There certainly was no shortage of young men leering at her. Some would probably even hit on her openly if it wasn't for Kankurou.

Maybe Temari was using Kankurou to keep the riff-raff away. Shikamaru certainly couldn't see anything else remotely attractive about the kid. Kankurou was a dick, in Shikamaru's opinion. He had bullied some poor freshman out of the locker next to Temari's so he could have it. He shoved his way through any crowd, to the front of any line, and anyone who wasn't fast enough to get out of his way was dangled, grinned wickedly at, and unceremoniously dropped or tossed aside. Apparently he played football at his previous school, and was such a juggernaut at the tryouts over the summer that he secured a spot on this school's team no problem.

Shikamaru gripped the marker and popped the cap off with his thumb. It went flying and landed somewhere; he didn't care where. It was for dramatic effect. The problem on the board was a tangled mess of parentheses and letters and numbers, squares and quadratics. After maybe a minute's thought, without doing any written calculations, he scrawled a number on the board and flipped the marker back to Mr. Umino, who barely caught it in his surprise. Shikamaru walked back to his desk without even waiting to see if he was right. Temari had closed her fan and was tapping it against her other hand, a thoughtful look on her face. Kankurou still had his chin in his hand, frowning and wondering what was up.

"Wow, that's correct," Mr. Umino said, checking his teacher's copy of the text.

"I know," Shikamaru said flippantly, and flopped back down in his seat. He allowed himself a glance at Temari. Kankurou was whispering something to her, but she smacked him with her closed fan and he shut up, rubbing his nose and looking peeved. Temari turned her attention to her notebook, but she had a wry little smile on her face.

Shikamaru lay his face down on his arms again and fell back asleep.

Shikamaru was asleep in bed. It was a hot summer morning, he knew that, but a cool breeze wafted in through the window. He stretched. It felt good to stretch, knowing he didn't have to get up. The sheets and pillow were soft. He was pleasantly tired, not so tired that it hurt but not yet to the stage when staying in bed felt uncomfortable. He could spend all day like this.

Someone shifted beside him, "Go back to sleep, Temari," he murmured.

A beefy arm went around his throat and squeezed hard. Shikamaru yelped. Kankurou chuckled ominously. Suddenly they were in a wrestling ring, the crowd roaring and stomping their feet, Kankurou's arm around Shikamaru's throat in a headlock, Shikamaru's forehead pressing into the mat. The referee mercifully rang the bell, and the pressure eased as Kankurou got off of him. Shikamaru collapsed to the mat as the bell rang and rang…

The end of class bell woke Shikamaru from his dream. He stumbled to his feet, half asleep, and shoved his notebook into his backpack as his classmates shuffled out around him. "Shikamaru, stay here a minute. I want to talk to you," Mr. Umino said.

Shikamaru slung his backpack on and walked up to Mr. Umino's desk. He yawned hugely, not bothering to cover his mouth with his hand, giving the math teacher a good look at his back teeth. "I have never seen a student get as much sleep in one class as you do," the teacher said. "What do you do all night?"

"Sleep," Shikamaru said with a shrug.

"Do you have an iron deficiency? Are you depressed? Maybe mono?" Mr. Umino pressed.

"No. I've always been like this."

"Bored with life?" Mr. Umino said somewhat tartly. Shikamaru shrugged again. Mr. Umino sized up the bleary-eyed student. He was average height, average weight, with dark hair in a sort of standing-up ponytail like a turnip stalk. He was wearing slouchy blue jeans and sneakers, and a black t-shirt that said, simply, "Meh." He had five of them. When he wasn't wearing that shirt, he wore one that said, "I'm up and dressed, what more do you want?" or the one that said "Out of Service" which, Mr. Umino thought, Shikamaru must have thought was exceedingly clever. That pretty much summed up this Nara kid: a clever, lazy smartmouth.

Mr. Umino squeezed the bridge of his nose as though trying to pinch back a migraine. "Why don't you do your homework? You pass every test… when you bother to pick up your pencil and take one. You could have an A+ average instead of B- if you would just do your homework. I know it's not hard for you."

"It's too easy. What's the point?" Shikamaru asked. "Homework's for practice. What's the point if I already know it?"

"If it's so easy," Mr. Umino reasoned, "why not just go through the motions? It'd probably take five minutes."

"That's still five minutes wasted. I've got clouds to watch." Shikamaru was perfectly deadpan as he said this.

"Don't you care about your grades?"

"Not really," Shikamaru said with another of his signature shrugs.

The math teacher became exasperated. "Shikamaru Nara, if you only applied yourself, any top college would give you a free ride. They won't know you're a genius if you don't have the grades. Even if you score a perfect 1600 on the SAT, even if you make state shougi champ every year, if they see a B- average they're going to think, 'This is a kid who is smart but won't apply himself.'"


"Don't you want to go to college?"

"Meh." It was that ever-infuriating response.

Mr. Umino hung his head. "I'm not getting through to you, am I?"

"I'm late for gym class," Shikamaru informed his teacher.

"I'll write you a note," Mr. Umino snapped. "Just… humor me, please, and do the homework. Now." He pushed a blank copy of last night's homework sheet across the desk. Shikamaru whipped out a pen and went to work. Five minutes later, tops, every blank was filled in. The teacher compared it to the answer sheet.

"Aha!" he crowed triumphantly. "You got number fifteen wrong!"

Shikamaru blinked, and bent to look. "No, the book got that one wrong." He flipped the sheet over and worked the problem out, step by step, the way he usually only did in his head. "See?" he said. Mr. Umino stood staring at the figures, his mouth moving slightly as he worked it out. "Can I go now?"

The math teacher looked up, looking somewhat drained. "Yes. I'll just… I'll just write you out a pass." He fumbled for a blank pass and jotted down a note on it. He handed it to Shikamaru. Shikamaru took it and left, leaving his teacher staring catatonic at his pupil's work.

The class was done with their warm-up and stretching by the time Shikamaru came out of the locker room. Their instructor, Gai Maito, was about ready to tell them all about today's torture. Mr. Maito always creeped Shikamaru out. He was too enthusiastic about everything, overly energetic (though he supposed that was probably a required trait in gym instructors), always wore the same overly-tight green shorts and just as tight green t-shirt, and went on about the wonderfulness of youth so much that it made him sound, quite frankly, like a pedophile. His close friendship with Lee Rock, another of Shikamaru's classmates, made the pedophile rumor even more believable. Lee adored Mr. Maito, and even went out and got an identical gym outfit so he could take his teacher's-pet efforts to the fullest in creepy inappropriateness. Thankfully he had gym class on alternate days from Shikamaru, so he didn't have to put up with it in person, but his friend, Ino, told him stories.

"Class, you all look very youthful and energetic today! Awesome!" Mr. Maito shouted. Mr. Maito liked to shout. Shikamaru figured that he thought it made him seem youthful and energetic. "That's very important for what we're going to be doing today!"

Shikamaru sidled up to his best friend, Chouji. "What are we doing? Wind sprints?" he whispered.

Chouji balked. "I hope not. I just ate." Chouji was a chunky young man, not incredibly athletic, and was almost always munching on something. He was probably the only person in the whole school who hated gym class more than Shikamaru.

"Flag football!" Mr. Maito declared, holding aloft a fistful of little red banners with Velcro on the ends. "Line up and get your flag belts!"

Shikamaru and Chouji groaned in unison. Kankurou cackled eagerly, his eyes darting around the group, no doubt picking out his victims. Shikamaru strapped his flag belt around his waist, feeling like an uber-dork. Chouji looked pale. "Do you think it's too late to fake a stomachache?" he asked Shikamaru.

Shikamaru smiled and slapped his friend on the back. "Well, if you barf on the field, you can probably spend the rest of the period on the bench," he said. Chouji groaned and the two followed their instructor, who was literally marching out the door to the football practice field.

There was another gym class in the adjacent field, the outfield of the baseball field, playing field hockey. Shikamaru spied Temari, who was clutching her stick and driving the ball down the field like a charging bull, almost literally knocking people out of her way. He sighed. She was damn hot when she was fired up.

As usual, for most of the game Shikamaru avoided being a part of the action out of sheer apathetic incompetence. He spent more time watching Temari's field hockey game than the game his own team was playing. Chouji tried, but tripped over his own feet more often than not. It wasn't until Kankurou's trash-talking that Shikamaru's apathy melted away like a popsicle dropped on the sidewalk.

It was between plays, when they were catching their breath and trying to come up with a strategy. Kankurou stood up from his crouch. "Mr. Maito, I think my game's getting worse just playing with these losers. Coach'll be pissed when I show up to practice all tainted by their incompetence," he shouted.

"Maybe you can give them some pointers, Kankurou," Mr. Maito suggested.

"Hah, right," Kankurou scoffed. "I wouldn't waste my time." He went back into the huddle with his own team, probably instructing them on how to hurt people seemingly by accident and take them out of the game.

Shikamaru had been standing outside the huddle, watching his team try and squeeze out a strategy. Kankurou's words burned him up for reasons he wasn't quite sure of. He shoved his way into the circle, surprising several of his classmates.

"I have a plan," he said, cutting off whatever one of the girls, Tenten, was saying. She looked annoyed but paid attention. "Tenten, you hike the ball to me. I'll pretend to pass it off to Chouji. Chouji, you run over there, pretending you're clutching the ball. Meanwhile, when everyone's running after you, I'll run it down to the end zone."

Chouji paled. "Why me?"

Shikamaru explained, "Everyone will assume that I, like usual, gave up the ball as quickly as possible so I didn't have to do anything—"

"Plus you're the weakest of the herd, Chouji," Tenten interrupted, catching on, "which means Kankurou won't be able to resist going after you." She nodded approvingly at Shikamaru. "Let's do it."

They broke the huddle and got into position. Tenten hiked Shikamaru the ball. He ran and collided with Chouji, shoving the ball at him. Chouji cradled his arms and shot off in the direction Shikamaru had indicated. Everyone ran with him but Shikamaru who, as usual, was staying as far away from the action as possible. With everyone's attention off of him, he started to jog for the end zone, the football hidden under his arm on the side facing away from the rest of the class.

The other gym class was taking a break, and some of the students had filtered over to watch the football game. Temari was one of them. Feeling cocky, Shikamaru smiled and gave her a wave, which she returned. Her eyes narrowed as she spotted the ball in the crook of his arm. She glanced over to where Kankurou was pursuing a fleeing Chouji, and smirked. For a moment, Shikamaru was afraid she would shout a warning to Kankurou, but she stayed silent and watched.

Kankurou ripped both of Chouji's flags off of his belt, one in each hand. "Hah!" he barked, "smooth move, Tenten, giving the piggie the ball. Huh?"

Chouji smirked. Cradled in his arms was a single-serving bag of his favorite variety of potato chips.

Kankurou wheeled around with a roar to see Shikamaru, still jogging nonchalantly at the other end of the field. The juggernaut chugged to life, sailing down the field bellowing his battle cry. Shikamaru, a few yards from the goal, looked up just in time to see death howling toward him and wished he had picked up the pace just a little. "Oh shi—"

Shikamaru's world was pain. He'd heard that said before, someone crying, "My world is pain!" or someone else saying, "You're gonna be in a world of hurt!" but he'd never experienced it before. As if his strategy failing wasn't enough, now his neck was being crushed under Kankurou's meaty, football-player buttock.

"Kankurou, we're playing flag football!" someone yelled.

"I appreciate your youthful enthusiasm, Kankurou, but you can't tackle the other players in flag football," the gym teacher, Mr. Maito, said.

"It was reflex. I usually play real football," Kankurou said. Shikamaru heard him as if through a pillow. He was beginning to see those stars everyone talks about.

"And you might want to get off of Shikamaru before he blacks out," the gym teacher added. Kankurou had been sitting proudly atop Shikamaru like Teddy Roosevelt on a prize stag, posing for a photo with his latest kill. Shikamaru groaned weakly.

"Oh," Kankurou said with exaggerated apology, "Whoops." He stood up. Shikamaru wheezed.

Mr. Maito leaned over. "Shikamaru, why don't you go to the nurse for the rest of the period? Sit this one out." He hauled Shikamaru up, almost dislocating his student's shoulder as he did so. Shikamaru bit back a whimper and staggered back toward the building. He thought he saw Temari out of the corner of his eye, an expression of concern on her face, but he didn't want to look. It was bad enough to be creamed by her tank of a boyfriend; he didn't need to witness her pity too.

After school, Shikamaru and Chouji sat across from each other across a shougi board. The other members of the school's shougi club were at their own boards, the only sound that of quiet clicking. Shikamaru was grateful for that. His head still pounded.

"I'm surprised you're here," Chouji said quietly, sliding a tile. "Why didn't you go home and go to sleep after all that?"

"And listen to the soothing tones of my mom screaming at me to do my homework? I prefer this," Shikamaru replied, struggling to think about his next move through the haze. The nurse said she didn't think there was any serious damage, nor signs of concussion, so she gave him some Tylenol and had him lay down on the uncomfortable, hard plastic mattress in her office.

"It was a good strategy," Chouji said, watching Shikamaru with a concerned expression. Shikamaru was still squinting at the board. This wasn't like him. Usually he would have beaten Chouji five moves ago.

"You know, I think I will go home," Shikamaru said, standing up and slinging on his backpack. "See you tomorrow."

"All right. Feel better," Chouji called after him.

Shikamaru went right up to his room when he got home, answering his mother's inquiries about his day with the usual monosyllabic grunt. He didn't want to get into the whole football fiasco. He downed more Tylenol and sat at his desk to stare at his pile of textbooks. For maybe a minute he considered doing his homework. "Nah," he said, and went over to the window instead.

Kankurou's yard was empty. The big oaf was probably still in football practice, running people over and bragging about he destroyed some scrawny wimp in gym class. Temari wasn't out there either. She was probably at her own home, doing her homework. She seemed like an achiever. Another reason why she's out of my league, Shikamaru thought sulkily.

Shikamaru opened the window, slid open the screen, and climbed out onto the roof of his family's screened porch. The gritty shingles were still warm from the sun, though that side of the house was now in shadow as the afternoon passed. He lay down on them, feeling the pain in his head throb as it slowly ebbed.

It was a perfect cloud-gazing day. They were huge and fluffy, moving at a leisurely pace across the turquoise sky. Shikamaru never really tried to look for forms in the clouds, though when he was younger he could see airplanes and horses and ice cream cones in their shapes. Now he preferred to just examine how the light and dark contrasted in them, like the lighting effects in an oil painting. He'd imagine them as two-dimensional and made up of pigments instead of a shaded three-dimensional object. Time slid by like this. It was almost like sleeping.

The sky had gotten a bit dimmer when he heard his mother yelling that dinner was ready. He didn't answer. He'd noticed that one of the clouds above looked uncannily like Temari's fan.

The door to his room banged open. "Where are you—oh for heaven's sake!" his mother said, exasperated. She leaned out the window. "How many times have I told you to stay off this roof, young man? One day you're going to slide off and break your neck!"

Shikamaru rolled his eyes. The roof had a gentle grade, and the shingles weren't slippery in the least, but logic had never worked on his mother. "Don't roll your eyes at me! Come eat dinner before it gets cold!" She pulled her head back in the window. Shikamaru crawled back in, replaced the screen, and shut the window. If only she knew how close he came to breaking his neck today…

The next day, they had taken over the school: every locker, every wall, every door was plastered with photocopied flyers for the school's Harvest Moon dance, apparently taking place on Friday. Shikamaru ripped one off of his locker. "Tch," he uttered, and let it waft to the floor. It crunched underfoot as he rooted out his notebook and text for science class.

"Who are you bringing?" Ino asked as she measured the leaves on their team's plant. "Two and a half inches," she told Chouji, who jotted the information down.

"That's pretty pathetic, Shikamaru," muttered Kiba from the next bench over.

"Yeah, at least I don't sleep with my dog," Shikamaru muttered back, recognizing Kiba's attempt at a dirty joke. Kiba frowned and went back to his team's sad little plant.

Shikamaru was glad Ino was on his team. Her parents were both botanists, and her mother ran a flower shop in town. It was clear that their plant was doing the best out of the entire class.

"Who am I bringing where?" Shikamaru asked.

"To the dance," Ino said as though this was obvious.

Shikamaru shrugged. "I dunno. You wanna go?"

"I'm gonna ask Sasuke," Ino simpered, as Shikamaru knew she would.

Chouji spoke up, "I heard Sakura was going to ask him, so you'd better hurry."

"Sakura?" Ino spat. "Why would he ever go with her? She has a forehead like a bottlenosed dolphin!" Shikamaru rolled his eyes. Ino and Sakura had been best friends until middle school, when Sasuke Uchiha started attending public school with them. He was a member of the ultra-rich Uchiha family, but when his parents were killed, he had to abandon his swank private school and rub elbows with the normal kids. Gifted, attractive, and (as Shikamaru thought) a total arrogant prick, he naturally attracted the girls in droves. And just as naturally, he didn't give a damn.

"If Sakura gets to him first, you can go with me, Ino," Chouji said hopefully. "That is, if you want to," he amended.

Ino gave him a sweet but somewhat pitying smile. "That's sweet, Chouji. I'll keep it in mind," she said. "So what about you, Shika?"

Shikamaru growled a little, in the back of his throat. "Don't call me that," he said. He thought of Temari, wearing a hot little dress, dancing under flashing lights. He imagined dancing slow with her, a hairsbreadth apart, her silky dress plastered to damp skin. Her arms around his neck, breathing in his ear as she gently bumped against him as they rotated. Maybe they'd find some deserted corner and she'd deign to let him kiss her, let him slide his tongue in her hot, wet mouth. He was getting sweaty just thinking about it.

"Shikamaru!" Ino called, snapping her fingers an inch from his nose. "Stop making those creepy faces, jeez! Measure out the fertilizer." He shook his head violently to bring himself back to the present, and realized how glad he was that he was standing against the lab bench, in the corner between benches. He tried to spoon fertilizer into a beaker, but his hands were shaking so much that he was spilling little beads of it everywhere. He heaved a heavy sigh and set the spoon down.

"I'll do it," Ino groaned, exasperated, snatching up the implements. "So you're going, right?"

"Nope," Shikamaru replied, letting cold, icy reality wash over him, hoping it would have the same effect as a cold shower. He really didn't want to have to walk down the hall holding his books quite obviously over his lap.

"Why not?" Ino demanded, as though his reply went against the very nature of things.

"Dances are stupid," Shikamaru said. "The music sucks, everyone thinks you're a dork if you dance, or a wallflower if you don't, they charge a buck for fifty cents worth of soda in a paper cup, and it's just a big make-out factory anyway. If you're there by yourself, you look like an even bigger loser. It's less troublesome to stay home."

"Suit yourself," Ino said. "But I'm going. Chouji's going with or without a date, right?" She turned to Chouji, who nodded vigorously in order to please her. "Why won't you just go with us, as friends? I won't ask Sasuke—" she winced as she said this, and in spite of himself Shikamaru was touched; that was a big sacrifice for Ino to make. "—I'll just ask him to dance while I'm there. I'll whisk him away from Sakura with my superior femininity."

"Just forget it, Ino, all right?" Shikamaru grumbled. The end-of-class bell rang, and he grabbed his things and left without even staying to clean up and put away their project.

Shikamaru was in such a foul mood the rest of the week that Ino and Chouji steered well clear of him. It seemed like he was tearing another flyer off of his locker every day, and it seemed like he was the only one doing so. The nakedness of his locker door seemed to further underline how alone and out of place he was.

All the chatter around him, in every class, was about the dance. Did so and so get their tickets yet? Will you ask so and so if he/she would go with me? What are you going to wear? It drove him nuts. And what was worse, was he couldn't sleep without Temari invading his dreams, like some kind of succubus. And when he woke from those dreams (always when it was getting good, too) his clamoring thoughts would keep him awake for hours. He was falling asleep in class from real fatigue rather than boredom.

Friday arrived, and Shikamaru was standing at the mouth of his locker like a man looking into his grave, wondering if it would be comfortable to sleep in, when the sound of someone clearing her throat snapped him out of his reverie.

He looked up, dazed. Temari was leaning against the adjacent locker, and in her hand was a pair of orange tickets. Her sexy, crooked smile turned into puzzlement. "What happened to you? You look like hell."

"Thanks," he murmured, and shut his locker door. "What are those for?" he asked, indicating the tickets.

"Us," Temari said simply.

Shikamaru knew he couldn't have heard her right. "Us as in…?"

"Me," Temari said, crooking her thumb back, "and you," she finished, giving him a solid poke in the chest that almost bowled him over.

"You're… huh?"

"Are you feeling okay?" Temari asked.

Shikamaru felt like something was dissolving inside of him. "What about Kankurou?" he asked, because he didn't dare to hope, because he knew sooner or later he'd have to say it and the spell would break and he'd wake in bed and curse at the ceiling until the sun started peeking in through his window shades.

"What about him? I think he's asking that girl, what's her name… the flute player… oh, you know who I mean." Temari waved it away. "Anyway, don't worry, I told him if he keeps picking on you I'm going to shove my fan sideways up his—"

Shikamaru tried again. "But isn't he your… your…"

"My brother," Temari said, slowly, as if to a dim child. Realization dawned in her eyes. "Oh, oh wow, you thought he was my… that we were… heh… haha!" She began to giggle. Shikamaru giggled back weakly, his face hot enough to cook on. "Ew!" Temari exclaimed, and gave a weird little twitchy shudder, her eyes squinched shut and her tongue sticking out. It made her look so incredibly adorable that Shikamaru almost fell over right there. "No no no!" she said when she had recovered somewhat. "Oh god, the only reason I even hang around him is because he's my baby brother."

"Baby brother," Shikamaru echoed, hope and joy filling him so much that he felt he should be glowing.

Temari stuck one of the tickets into his numb hand. "Hey, get some rest tonight before the dance, all right?" she said. She grabbed his chin and gave it a shake. "I don't want you falling asleep on me. I'm keeping you up all night, you understand?" She made him nod. "Good." Temari grinned. "I'll meet you out front, seven sharp. Later, Shika." Releasing him, she sauntered off. Shikamaru's knees went to pudding and he vaguely realized he was leaning against his locker and sliding down to the ground.

He stared at the ticket in his hand as though trying to figure out what it was. Then he started to laugh, weakly at first, then rising to almost maniacal. He kissed the ticket, tucked it securely into his wallet and, with renewed vigor, hauled himself to his feet and bopped down the hall to his next class.