Disclaimer: Insert witty statement about not owning Naruto.

Author's Notes: Trying to expand my horizons with this one; can't keep writing Team 7 angst, can I? Warnings for many, many run-on sentences. Information from the anime filler arcs has also been ignored.

watch the sky →

You live the life you're given with the storms outside;
Some days all we do is watch the sky.

- watch the sky © something corporate

Ino doesn't turn up for Shikamaru's funeral.

Instead, she lies on his roof, blonde hair fanning out behind her. He had told her once, that she looked pretty okay with her hair let down. She'd slapped him on the arm and told him to go flirt with Temari instead, leaving him completely bewildered because he'd merely stated a fact that was so obvious to him. It had been someone's birthday party, and she remembers that he stalked off muttering that women were just too troublesome.

Today, she wears her hair down for him.

There is an unlit cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth – she doesn't think it's very healthy to chew cancer-sticks, but it beats smoking them, she's sure. But it's getting pretty soggy and disgusting, so she decides to light it anyway. The first match breaks when she strikes it, the second burns her fingers. She finally gets it on the third try and puts her face near the flame gingerly to light her cigarette. They've done this before, all three members of Team 10. The white smoke wafts around lazily as she looks up at the sky, breathing in her late teacher's familiar scent. It reminds her of Shikamaru too, because he'd often smelled like this after returning from a particularly taxing mission.

Ino has never been a very good medic, as compared to her fellow kunoichi. Her not-so-best friend's talent is flourishing nicely in the medical field, because of her excellent chakra control and firm stitches. Who would've guessed that Forehead would actually end up being one of the best in her field? The head of the Hyuuga house has her plants and her salves that soothe even the worst of burns. Even Tenten, the master of all things sharp, is adept in healing her team-mates. And that's why Ino is glad that she hadn't been the medic assigned to Shikamaru's team, because she doesn't need to feel guilty about his death this way. She is not full of aspirations like the other girls, because she is fully aware of her limitations – she is definite that she couldn't have saved him.

Her blue eyes mirror the sky above her. She's never understood Shikamaru's love for lazing around on roof-tops, but now she thinks she can, just a little. Maybe all that sky-watching had helped him to develop his genius mind. Ino just thinks that the clouds are pretty and form all sorts of patterns as the spring winds blow through them.

The sun is already setting when Chouji finds her and asks her why she didn't go for the funeral in an angry tone. She turns away from him.

"It's too troublesome," she says in classic Shikamaru fashion, except that she's Ino and not Shikamaru and the team is falling apart – there's only two of them left – and Chouji starts to cry for the two of them until there are no tears left, and his throat is all sore. Ino doesn't cry, because she has to be strong. So she hugs Chouji to her chest and strokes his hair like a mother comforting her son and whispers soothing words into his ear.

Before long, the sun has disappeared and the sky is darkening. Chouji is lying on the tiles next to her, and they're watching the light disappear from the sky. The pack of cigarettes has been used up, and the Asuma-sensei-and-Shikamaru scent is dissipating into the air.

"There's never going to be another Ino-Shika-Chou," she murmurs suddenly as she sits up, eyes wide with realization.

"But you have Ino-Shika in there," Chouji says in return, his eyes disappearing into slits as he smiles at her. His chubby index finger is pointing at her tummy-area, and she reels back a little to stare at him. Her only team-mate knows about the late-night trysts and drunken nights that mainly consisted of her getting drunk and Shikamaru holding her hair back as she puked on the pavement. He knows about their first time on a freaking roof-top, of all places. She'd been ashamed of how desperate she had been, but now she understands that she'd done it because she'd been yearning for his touch for almost fourteen years. Chouji probably even knows that Shikamaru had asked her to marry him the day before he left for that dreadful mission as they lay under the stars, watching the sky.

It's only then, that she allows herself to cry.

End Notes: The last part really just popped out of nowhere. Feedback on my first Team 10 fic would be very nice.