A/N: Hi everyone! This is something that's kind of old. It was the answer to a challenge, so I hope it doesn't sound forced. The pairing? Shika/Naru. Different from my usual, yes? I hope so, because I was getting stuck in a rut. Okay. On with it. This is just the prologue, which is why it is so disgustingly short. Now, read, and I'll post the next chapter very soon.

Legal Stuffiness: I do not own Naruto, or any of the characters therein. Kishimoto Masashi, sole proprietor.

The Rubber Band Odyssey

Prologue: Good Morning, Sunshine

The day began as it always did. The alarm clock rang constantly for close to fifteen minutes before a lazy hand emerged from under the dark green coverlet to find the little switch at the top that, with a small flick of the wrist, was turned completely off. He never was one for energetic mornings. When he pulled the covers back from his face (one eye at a time because boy, was it bright in here), he winced. Another day, another mission. Growling under his breath, he said one word.

"Troublesome." That's what today was going to be. After stretching, Shikamaru threw the covers off of himself to begin the new day. Looking around, he saw that his mother had cleaned again. She always complained about it, but still did it once a week. He sucked a tooth for a moment, hoping that she hadn't moved anything important (because right now, if he had to deal with her, he would slit his own throat).

"Nara Shikamaru!" Speak of the devil, and she screams…he thought. "Get your behind down those stairs and come eat your breakfast!"

Eying the kunai he kept on his night-table, he thought for a moment. His mother had been a Genin. She wouldn't be able to learn that resurrection jutsu to bring him back. Therefore, if he killed himself, she couldn't ever torture him again. A wicked smile curved his lips at the thought, but he shoved it away lethargically. It would certainly be more trouble than it was worth, and one couldn't play Go when one was dead. So, he just slithered out of bed and padded to his closet to get dressed.

"Now…" he mumbled, putting all of his weight on one leg, and a hand on his hip in a decent impression of Ino, "Whatever shall I wear?" Staring at the hangers of clothing, he snorted. Not much variety in a shinobi's closet, really. At least, not in one that belonged to a sixteen-year-old Jounin. He had his mesh shirts—long sleeved, now—along with the loose black shirts and pants he wore for comfort's sake, as well as several vests. Other than that, he had one set of funeral clothes (sadly, they were seeing the light of day too often as of late), some lounging things for when he stayed in on his days off, and two extra pairs of sandals. The very last thing he had was the thing he hated wearing more than anything in the world: his festival kimono. He cringed away from it before grabbing his usual clothes.

The time was now 7:35 a.m., and if he didn't make it downstairs in thirty seconds, his breakfast would be launched at his head with deadly accuracy. If there was one thing his mother had been good at when she still wore her hitai-ate, it was throwing things. Taking up his vest and pulling it on as he descended the stairs, he met his mother's cool glare head on with a lazy smile and his usual "Konnichiwa, okaasan." The woman merely rolled her eyes before pointing at his place at the table.

After a rousing (and rather tasteless) breakfast of steamed rice and pickles, he excused himself from the table and went to the door, ready to start the day. Noting the change in air pressure behind him, he reached back and caught his lunch before it could smack him in the back of his head. "Arigato, okaasan," he grumbled, hefting the bento. It felt like there was lead inside. He sighed softly, blowing out his cheeks. The only being in the world that could habitually stomach Shikamaru's mother's cooking was Kiba's dog.

So he fixed his hair with his usual ponytail and headed out the door, intent on doing two things: getting some decent food, and giving his lunch to Akamaru. The moment he stepped outside, he was met by an armored and tattooed youth who was easily identified as Akimichi Chouji. The portly young man scrubbed a hand through his bright red hair, eyeing the bento. "I thought you were going to try to get out of the house without the usual brick?" Chouji asked, sheepish. He didn't like saying anything bad about Shikamaru's mother, and to him, insulting someone's cooking was the worst kind of offense. But, as previously stated, her cooking sucked worse than fire-leeches, so it was excusable.

"Hn. Yeah, well. Looks like we've gotta make a couple stops before we wake Ino up." The two of them walked along, talking a bit as they did. Finally, they came to the gates of the Inuzuka complex. There were two enormous dogs standing guard, one of which only had the one eye, but looked suspiciously at Shikamaru and Chouji nonetheless. Holding out his bento for the black and white wolfhound to sniff, he said, "Special delivery. For Akamaru." With a loud yip, the other dog, this one brown, with a body full of shaggy hair, ran off into the maze of buildings.

A few moments later, Kiba accompanied the now-grown Akamaru to the gate. The dog bounded forward when he caught a whiff of what Shikamaru held. Kiba barely managed to yell, "Sit!" before the kage-nin was bowled over. Now sitting impatiently on his haunches, the dog was looking intently at the red lacquered bento in his hands. "You can make him beg, you know." Kiba said this in that playfully growling tone he had, and laughed when Shikamaru rolled his eyes.

"No way. He'll bite my hand." When he removed the cover from the box, he saw that there were three pieces of what resembled (but would by no means taste like) onigiri laying on a banana leaf inside. He had to give her points for trying. Shikamaru held up one finger to Akamaru. "No biting, okay?"


"Good enough for me," he chuckled, and tossed one of the pieces into the air. The dog's eyes watched it fly, and he caught it deftly between his toothy jaws, munching on the rice, and what appeared to be bean paste.

"You know, maybe your mom should make dog treats. Akamaru loves her cooking." Kiba said as he leaned against the gate and unzipped his jacket and allowing the black material to hang open.

Shikamaru fed his second onigiri to Akamaru, and snorted. "I want to see you mention that to her. Not even my dad says anything about how her food tastes like something Kakashi cooks on a bad day. She'd skin you alive, Kiba." All he got in reply was a fang-filled grin, which told him he'd be willing to do it if he thought he could run fast enough. Sometimes, he wondered if Kiba had a death wish. For one, he continually pissed off Shino, who could choke him with bugs in his sleep. Another thing was that he kept hitting on Ino, who could get into his head and turn his brain to jelly if she felt like it. Now, Kiba was thinking of suggesting that his mother make dog treats because that's what her cooking was best suited to?

No…he wasn't going to let the boy get killed. "It was a joke, Kiba. If you tell her that, then I'll have to kill you myself. There are lots of shadows for me to hide in."

Akamaru chomped on the last bit of onigiri, and Shikamaru put the bento in his pocket as Kiba pouted. "You're no fun, Shikamaru."

Turning to leave, he gave a little wave, and muttered (just loud enough to be heard), "That's what I'm told." Their next stop was the bakery up the street from the Korean Barbeque (their usual mission celebration spot), where he got a manju bun, and Chouji bought a couple sticks of dango. Once they'd eaten, the pair moved along to Ino's house. Rather than yelling up to her window as he would have done on most mornings, he decided to take advantage of the morning sun.

When he held up two fingers, and wrapped his other hand around them, the same fingers from the other hand in the same position, Chouji said, "She's going to slap you for that."

Shikamaru just snorted. At this point, he didn't care. It would be entertaining.

His shadow crept over the ground, up the side of the house, then into Ino's open window, using the shadows of the room to travel in and lengthen. He knew where she slept, and it didn't take long before her indignant squawk filled the morning air. Chouji covered his ears as she screamed, "Shikamaru! You're dead!" When he released his jutsu, it took less than three minutes for Ino to be down in the street, completely dressed and not a hair out of place. She blew her bangs out of her right eye needlessly before performing the most graceful full-armed slap Shikamaru had ever had the pleasure of receiving.

"I'm going to get you for that." She said as she crossed her arms under her breasts.

"Slapping my face doesn't count as getting me back?"

An evil smirk crossed her features. "No, Shikamaru, it doesn't." Ino took a couple of steps closer to him. "That is, unless I can do the same thing to you?" His eyes went wide. The last thing he wanted was to let her use that stupid Shintenshin on him. He shook his head. "Well, then when you least expect it, my revenge will come." Ino's voice held a tone of finality. Shikamaru wasn't scared in the least.

A/N: Well…that's the prologue. There will be more. I think I've got four chapters written, and an epilogue that's in the works. Hehe. Let me know what you think. Ja, ne.