Nara Shikamaru learned by watching. Most of his 'genius' had been acquired through careful watching of other people
He learned how most people thought, acted, worked. He watched how they interacted, he watched what they did when they thought no one was watching, he watched their mannerisms, and he watched the small tell-tale signs a person exhibited to each and every emotion.
He learned from this watching how to hide what he was thinking, hide what he was planning, and hide what he was feeling.
He learned from this watching how to pick apart a person during battle and find their weaknesses and what illusions they'd more easily fall prey to.
He learned from this watching that people very rarely make any sense.
But the most important conclusion he ever came to was because of her.
From the minute he saw her she'd been an interesting person to watch. She'd caught his attention the day he caught a glimpse of her. Her hairdo confused him, her attitude irked him, her abilities justified her attitude, her restlessness amused him, and her strong desire to be great mollified him.
He would never admit it out loud, but he still had some chakra left during his battle with Temari at the Chuunin exams.
He had just enough, barely enough, to finish her off.
And he knew just how.
But as he moved forward ready to carry out his plan.
He lost his motivation to win.
Not that he ever had much to begin with, but what little he had completely slipped away.
The shock in her determined green eyes as she realized she had lost stirred something inside him. And the… the fear, the regret, the disgust that followed after that one moment of realization – the realization that she would lose, still did nothing to subdue the plain shock upon her features. This girl was not used to losing. This girl, he had realized, hated to lose and would hate herself for being in that particular moment forever. This girl…wanted so strongly to win.
And the calluses on her fingers.
The scratches on her arm, faint though they were.
The nails filed down flat.
The cuts barely visible through the fishnets she wore on her legs.
Those ... those signs showed that she worked hard for it. This girl – this girl tried so hard to be so great, to never lose, and he, he who didn't care, who didn't even try, who wanted to be average, was going to take that away from her.
The faint desire to win disappeared and he raised his hand and gave up.
He didn't feel like he had lost that day.
It was an entirely different feeling.
To this day she still looks at him peculiarly whenever they discuss that moment. She doesn't believe he really ran out of chakra.
She really is pretty smart.
She's really very strange; she is always so…set in her ideas of what people are and what they could be. She would push him, she would scold him, and she would give him that look and said that he could do better.
That he could always do better.
"Why don't you ever try, Shikamaru? You could do and be so much more." She would always ask.
"It's nothing I want" He would respond. "When I find what I want, I'll try."
He learned a lot from watching everyone in the world, but the only thing he ever cared for he learned from watching her.
Shikamaru would watch the blonde kunoichi carefully. He would watch the way she meticulously arranged the objects she needed before her right before she set to work. He would watch the tugging of her lips as she was deep in thought. He would watch the neatness and efficiency she employed. He would watch her fingers tap against the desk impatiently as she saw he wasn't working. He would watch the blush on her cheeks that grew when she noticed him watching her. He would watch her try to smack him with her fan. He would watch her insult him. He would watch her grin at his playful reply. He would watch her very carefully.
It was after all this watching that he came to the most important conclusion of his life: he, Nara Shikamaru, was hopelessly in love with the most difficult woman to ever live.
And she would be his.
Right in this moment he would use everything he'd ever learned from watching.
It was this that led him to fingering a ring buried in his pocket.
A ring that cost him a year's worth of salary.
A ring he picked out all by himself.
It was this that had led him to becoming a Jounin; not a status he had ever cared for.
Too much work for him, but for her any trade seemed reasonable.
It was this that induced "butterflies" in his stomach.
It was this that made him smile as Temari sat down next to him and asked him why he had wanted to see her.
It was that had him looking at her for the next hour in silence just contemplating how wonderful she was instead of looking at the clouds as was his custom. This that she noticed and caused her to blush deeply, but didn't say a word over it.
Shikamaru had been watching her carefully from the moment he'd first laid eyes on her. He had decided at that very first moment that she was his; he just hadn't realized it yet.
Marry me, he said to her as he gave her the ring.
She stared at the ring wild-eyed then smacked him with her fan, scolding him, saying that the ring looked too expensive. How stupid was he to waste his money on a piece of jewelry.
Money is no comparison to you, he said to her.
Because it wasn't.
Baka, she said to him. But she smiled. And she put on the ring.
She was difficult and impossible, but he loved her.
A/N: Just a small idea that popped up into my head one day. A little strange, I think, but I kind of like it. What do you guys think?
Lately I've been toying with the idea that Shikamaru DID have chakra left at the match and he just chose to give up, so if I come out with a couple one-shots with that idea mixed in...well, you were warned. :)