Rating: PG for very mild language
Spoilers: All the way through Naruto Shippuden's Rescue Gaara arc. I don't read the manga anymore so if the ending doesn't quite match up with cannon, sorry.
Pairings: None. This is really supposed to be a gen fic, but I guess if you want you could make it a NaruShika. (Not really.)
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, never will.
A/N: I really started this because I was re-watching the Rescue Sasuke arc and noticed that Neji seems somewhat overly devoted to Naruto now. I'm not complaining. I kinda like it, but I thought, wouldn't someone notice how big of a change there is in Neji? I figured that if any one would, it would be Shikamaru, 'cause you'd have to be really observant about the people around you to lead them as well as Shikamaru does. Then I noticed how well Shikamaru and Naruto get along in the anime and this story spilled out.
Observation (n.): the act or instance of noticing or percieving
Naruto never realized, but ever since they were academy students together Shikamaru had been watching him out of the corner of his eye.
If it had been up to him, Shikamaru would never have given his classmate a second glance. While watching clouds was all well and fine, they weren't so troublesome that he had to give them a second thought and could let his mind wander. People… people were different, and very few of them interested Shikamaru in any way. Naruto wasn't even a decent ninja (let alone a decent student, but then again neither was Shikamaru) and so it should have been too troublesome to observe the crazy kid.
The first time Shikamaru noticed Naruto, the blonde was pulling some sort of prank. He couldn't really remember what it was anymore, only that it was big enough to shake him from his daydreaming momentarily. He had no idea who the loudmouth was, and frankly didn't care. The only thing of importance, and he hadn't realized this till later, was when Choji leaned over and, through a mouthful of chips, told the lazy boy that Mom says he's only trying to get attention. Shikamaru immediately blocked out everything and went back to sleep.
The second time Shikamaru noticed Naruto, it was only to realize that hehad the attention of every single person in the room. Every eye was on the blonde (including, he thought with a jolt, his own) and while none of the looks he was getting were exactly friendly (Shikamaru wondered if the boy even had friends) they were definitely and firmly focused on him. He thought it was pretty genius for a kid who was barely passing and went back to sleep.
The third time he noticed Naruto it wasn't actually the kid himself that Shikamaru was watching. His mom was in one of "those moods" where she had decided that the details of her son's life were invaluably important and she wouldn't stop pestering him until she had some information. Hoping to simply put her off, he carelessly threw out the latest Naruto move of the day. To his astonishment she immediately fell silent. When he glanced over, he saw that her body posture was stiff, her face dark. It startled him because he was pretty sure he had never mentioned the loudmouth before then, and if he, an academy student, hadn't known Naruto very well he had no idea how his parents would have known of the boy. It kicked his brain into overdrive and when he went to visit his usual cloud gazing spot he couldn't seem to unconcentrate. To this day he considers it the most troublesome thing he's ever said.
For a while afterwards, there weren't any specific moments that he noticed Naruto. He never went out of the way to watch him. That would have been too troublesome. Still, his mind simply collected information about the boy. If occasionally it meant that he and Choji spent some time goofing off with Naruto, well then that was perfectly fine, as long as they didn't do anything that was too much work. He found, though, that he generally only spent time around the kid when he felt up to it, because Naruto was always doing something that was troublesome.
In the end this was what he had learned. Most adults, if not all of them, knew who Naruto was. It made no sense, because even the most involved of parents didn't know every student in the academy and there was no reason for outside chuunin and jounin to know him, but they did and for now Shikamaru accepted it as fact. Furthermore, none of the adults who had an opinion on the loudmouth ever had anything kind to say about him. The adults who were too nice to actually voice those opinions merely gave dark, guarded looks and changed the subject, while those who weren't talked in whispers and code. The only exception may have been Iruka-sensei, but the chuunin seemed to love all his students more than he should have, so he didn't really count.
Naruto lived by himself. No one ever really said this out loud, but everyone seemed to know this because of how he acted or (if you were paying attention) what was packed in his lunch or the fact that sometimes he didn't have a lunch at all. Once Naruto came to school with a fever so high he was hallucinating and nearly passed out. Iruka-sensei yelled at him about it, but when Shikamaru and Choji were walking home from the park later that day he noticed Iruka-sensei walking out of Naruto's apartment.
Naruto believed he would someday become Hokage. This wasn't much of an observation as the loudmouth shouted it at least once every day.
Naruto always, always had something up his sleeve. Naruto didn't know how to shut up.
Naruto had no real friends. He, Choji, and Kiba didn't count. While they would sometimes join Naruto in his mischief, none of them held a real close bond with the blonde.
When he thought he was absolutely alone and no one was even remotely close to watching him, Naruto looked lost and bizarrely fragile. Shikamaru had only stumbled across him looking that way once and something inside him never wanted to see it again.
Above all, Naruto never, ever cried.
Still, when Shikamaru bothered to watch him at school, he was pretty sure Naruto would become a ninja, but he'd never be a really good one and probably wouldn't make it past chuunin.
The fourth time Shikamaru noticed Naruto, everyone noticed him because Kiba had to be carried out on a stretcher and Naruto walked up to the balcony like it was perfectly normal.
The fifth time Shikamaru noticed Naruto, everything changed. There was almost a tangible feel to it in the air. He had no idea what he and Neji Hyuuga were talking about while they fought, although it was probably something to do with Hinata, but what mattered was that Neji—Neji—lost. In front of many from the village of Konoha, members of other villages, a hell of a lot of Lords, the Kazekage and the Hokage. Shikamaru couldn't tell what people were saying, he was too far away, but he could read body language and he could tell people were shocked, yet excited. At first Shikamaru thought, He has the attention of every single person, and then he thought, I've been left behind. The thought startled him because, no he hadn't, he would always have Choji, and he and Naruto weren't that close either but it obviously bugged him since he couldn't concentrate for a moment in his battle with Temari. He'd had to sit back and meditate to come up with a complete plan.
In the end, he was almost glad Naruto pushed him into the field because even though he gave up, he could have won and it boosted his confidence just a little. Then Naruto jumped down to berate him for giving up and suddenly Shikamaru knew he would never be left behind and he smiled and told Naruto to shut up so they could watch the next match.
After that, Shikamaru stopped counting how many times he noticed Naruto because the blonde suddenly exploded into this noticeable person, as if school had been holding him back.
Rumor had it Naruto beat Gaara, not Sasuke.
Naruto disappeared for a few months and came back calling Godaime Tsunade-no-baachan, and she didn't call him on his disrespect.
When people talked about Naruto now, there was a grudging respect in their voice along with the usual mockery, and thier eyes didn't have quite as much fear and hate as before.
Godaime suggested they take Naruto along to rescue Sasuke, and while it made sense, Sasuke was his teammate and Shikamaru would probably have taken him anyway, Godaime suggested it.
Then, during the mission, just before they split up with him, Neji said that Naruto would rescue Sasuke. That Naruto had better eyes than himself. Shikamaru didn't know Neji all that well but, from what he had heard of him, this conviction in Naruto was startling. The way Neji said it, it was almost as if he was willing to die for Naruto, had the cause been reasonable enough. It sent a thrill of fear through Shikamaru, who told himself it was only because Naruto was a complete idiot who couldn't handle that kind of respect. The truth was, from the look in his eyes, Naruto knew exactly how Neji saw him and was going to do everything he could to continue to deserve it. It made Shikamaru wonder what the hell Naruto had done or said to Neji, and whether there was any one else who saw the loudmouth that way, and maybe, just maybe, would he ever feel that way himself? Was there a chance that one day he'd have no problem looking the blonde in the eye and saying, Yes, sir, Rokudaime?
Then things got bad and Shikamaru didn't give it a second thought until he visited Naruto in the hospital (they're all alive, it's okay, they're alive, I won't fail next time) and he noticed that lost and fragile look again and Shikamaru had to walk out of the room until the next visit when he and Naruto only swapped a few words. It wasn't enough, Shikamaru knew it would never be enough and he spent the rest of the day cursing Uchiha Sasuke.
Then Naruto disappeared again, although it wasn't so much disappeared as went on a training mission with a freakin' Sannin and the village suddenly seemed desolate. It became an unspoken rule that The Rookie Nine (The Rookie Seven) and Team Gai would never mention the conspicuous absence but they all knew that they were pushing through their training just so they could keep up and to pass the time until he came back.
Mostly Shikamaru tried to keep Naruto out of his mind because there really was nothing he could do, but three times during the two and a half years he was gone Shikamaru noticed Naruto.
The first slammed into Shikamaru when he really wasn't expecting it. He and everyone else had met up with the Sand Siblings during the next Chuunin exam, and while the others were catching up with each other (and generally trying to get used to the fact that Gaara wasn't out to kill them anymore) he and Temari had somehow gotten separated from the rest. There wasn't much to say. It wasn't as if they were friends, after all. But when an awkward silence fell between them Shikamaru felt it was troublesome, but polite, to ask how her brothers were doing. She gave him a strange look, it was pretty obvious that he wasn't at all interested in them since he just saw them and could have talked to them himself, but she answered anyway. He wouldn't have blamed her if she simply said They're fine but apparently the Sand Village didn't follow unspoken Leaf Village rules and while she was talking about Gaara she slipped in that, "He seems to have this thing for becoming Kazekage for that blonde shrimp."
It stopped Shikamaru in his tracks. Temari literally had to turn around to look at him and asked him if he was okay, but he didn't know how to tell this virtual stranger how incredible it was that two of the strongest shinobi gennin Shikamaru knew looked up to Naruto.
In the end all he said was, "I'm fine," and kept walking. Curiosity got the better of him though and he figured, hell, he'd spent a good chunk of his life watching Naruto, why stop now?
"Why does Gaara want to be Kazekage for Naruto?"
"Because he beat Gaara," was the only answer he got and Shikamaru didn't understand, but at the same time he did (You have better eyes than me) and so he let it go.
"Where is that kid anyway?" Temari asked. "I would've thought he'd be in the exam again this year."
"Gone," Shikamaru replied, and Temari may not have understood that either, but none of the Sand Siblings mentioned him ever again in all their visits to Konoha.
The second time Shikamaru noticed Naruto during those two and a half years was when Neji became jounin.
The third was when every one of the Rookie Nine (Seven) and Team Gai reached chuunin. That night they all went to Ichiraku Ramen and celebrated. They would have pooled their money to buy one steaming bowl and leave it sitting next to them, but Ichiraku said it was on the house.
The next time Shikamaru noticed Naruto was when he walked into Godaime's office to collect some papers for the chuunin exams with Temari and there he stood. He was older, taller, his voice was a little deeper, and his eyes were just a little harder than when he left, but he was still wearing orange, still held himself as if all eyes should be focused on him, and was still as loud and obnoxious as ever and Shikamaru couldn't help but feel so relieved that he smiled.
The last time Shikamaru noticed Naruto (before he started keeping careful tabs on him, despite how troublesome it was) was while he went to rescue the Kazekage (and why couldn't the people Naruto cared about just stay put dammit.) Naruto was only gone for a little more than a week, but he wasn't gone, only on a mission. While he was away, everyone who was anyone knew that Uzumaki Naruto was back and the village seemed just a little crazier and livelier. Plenty of chuunin and jounin were talking about it with knowing smiles and just a little excitement.
It was then Shikamaru realized Naruto had the attention of every single ninja in the village. Every eye was on the blonde (including, he knew, his own) and while not all of the looks he was getting were exactly friendly (Naruto had enough friends that that didn't matter anymore) they were definitely and firmly focused on him. Shikamaru thought it was pretty genius for a kid who didn't actually hold the title of Hokage yet and let his mind wander to the clouds floating above his head.
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