Shikamaru shuffled and sighed as Ino loudly called out to the woman- her raven hair practically shrouding her form from their view as shadows caressed her and hid her. He grumbled under his breath as his friend bounced up to the wide eyed female – Kagome had impossibly large blue eyes.

Ino cleared her throat and straightened her self with an eager air about her, and Kagome shifted attentively as she tilted her head. Shikamaru sighed and slouched deeper- Kagome would say yes. She was too kind to rebuff Ino's machinations.

"Soo, Kagome-chan…" Ino began in a beguiling voice, a cat like and sly expression on her usually clear face.

Kagome blinked and furrowed her brow. "Ino-san," Ino winced and Shikamaru smirked at the woman's reminder about their detached relationship. "Did you need something?"

Inoi cleared her throat and recovered. "I actually need a favour."

"Oh?" Kagome raised one eyebrow, her head canting to one side as she pursed her lips. Shikamaru blinked at the wary narrowing of her eyes, his lazy expression twitching as he fought a yawn.

Ino had better hurry up and get this over with- he really wanted to go for a nap.

His friend elbowed him roughly in the stomach (Shikamaru winced and bent over slightly as his wind left him, not making any protest because it would be too much work and she would get her way anyhow). Said girl smiled as brightly as she could. "Well, you see, Shikamaru is down on his luck lately and needs a little cheering up. I don't think I've ever seen him this bored. I think," she sent him a sly smug look as Kagome's expression shifted to worry. "I think that he needs to have a nice conversation to get him out of his slump."

"Where is Chouji-kun? He usually knows what's wrong." Kagome flashed Shikamaru a quick smile as Ino twitched.

Shikamaru kept his face blank though he felt like snickering; Chouji had loudly disagreed with his girlfriend's plan, and had stolidly refused to have anything to do with it until Ino stopped interfering.

Ino cleared her throat and shifted her weight- "I was thinking more along the lines of female company." She drawled out hopefully.

Kagome blinked and reared back, stunned.

Ino coughed, "I was also thinking along the lines of you and him and a picnic…?" Her raised intonation clearly left the statement hanging and Shikamaru scratched the bridge of his nose as he slouched- this had got to be the worst part of it all. The females who just fell into Ino's plans and…

"Thank you, but no."

Ino's mouth dropped unattractively as Shikamaru's bored eyes opened. Kagome was smiling sheepishly at the pair of them, her eyes closed and her hands clasped in front of her shyly.

"Bu-but why not?!" Ino called out almost hysterically, and Shikamaru would have felt smug if he wasn't so darn disinterested, she did this far too much for it to draw his attention, but Kagome had declined…which was a first. "I thought you liked Shikamaru!" She finally wailed and dramatically flung her head about in confusion.

Said man blinked lazily and slouched deeper.

His interested eyes watched as Kagome blushed, fluttering her eyelashes as she cast her eyes about for a way to get out of answering the intrusive inquiry.

Shikamaru narrowed his eyes at the incongruity of that action, because it gave away a much deeper affection than her rejection would have indicated. His head fell to his shoulder as he regarded her from under lowered eyelids.

"I had been so sure!" Ino wailed from her fallen position on the ground.

Shikamaru yawned, Ino had been trying to set him up with girl after girl for a while now- and all the others he'd actually gone on dates with had turned out to be boring and fake. He wanted an average, real woman.

Kagome's face grew pained at Ino's dramatics. "I'm really sorry Yamanaka-san…"

"NO!" Ino suddenly flared up, "I know you like him, don't deny this!"

Kagome blinked, "I didn't."

Shikamaru's mouth dropped and Ino face faulted.

Kagome blinked again.

"What? Then why on earth wouldn't you go along with this?"

Kagome blushed and looked away. "I may like him, but I know he wouldn't make me happy, Yamanaka-san."

Ino spluttered and glared, incensed that she'd say such a thing about the loser that had become her friend. She wanted him to be just as happy as she was with Chouji- and he had no gumption to do it.

He had to learn that not everything fell into your lap if you just waited long enough.

But with Kagome not even wanting to work on it….

"Well excuse me." She said rather coldly.

Kagome fidgeted and then sighed. "Yamanaka-san, I don't want to be stuck in a relationship with another male who couldn't be bothered with me. I've had enough of that okay?" She blinked her large blue eyes up at them. "So please don't be angry, it's very human to want someone to love you and actually strive with all their being to make you happy."

She blushed more, her eyes glancing away from Ino's shocked face and Shikamaru's steady gaze. Then she bowed formally and murmured her farewell before quickly taking her leave.

Shikamaru swallowed as he felt something very primal and masculine well up inside him, a rush in his blood as his eyes glowed. He wanted that woman.

He wanted that woman more than he had wanted anything in his life.

And the thought sent him tumbling into ruminations- perhaps it had been because she'd so delicately challenged his masculinity by doubting his ability to make her happy; Shikamaru was very aware of the male mind's wiring to take care of female mates…but it had to be more than that. He hadn't cared when some of the more vulgar females had questioned his balls.

And all the many other dates that had, the ones who had been fake and stupid, hadn't incited such a reaction.

Hadn't incited any reaction actually, and Shikamaru was aware enough to understand there wasn't anything wrong with his desire to have everything average (though, give him a little credit, he had some standards- he didn't want anything like those girls).

It was a typical textbook reaction to seeing too much and living through too much.

His had just come on sooner in life- he had always been a genius.

But Kagome's unique reaction to Ino's scheming had caught his attention, her almost confession of her past had fired his protective instincts, and her delicately phrased challenge had hooked him.

He clenched his jaw and straightened before setting out after the strange woman.

He was motivated.

He heard Ino spluttering behind him, but he didn't bother turning to say his goodbye as she remained rooted to the spot.

He grinned as he realized Kagome could be the one to get Ino off his back.

He would enjoy the peace.

He finally caught up to Kagome as she entered the more civilian parks (where ninja were not allowed to train and mess up the landscaping) and meandered down a shaded path on her way home. Shikamaru paced himself to a walk beside her, looking lazily into her shocked and wide eyes as she stiffened and looked around uncomfortably.

He tilted his head as he watched her shoulders roll into an easily defensibly kata and her steps take on a more straight line to her destination.

So she wasn't as untrained as they'd all thought.

Kagome had been a mystery woman who'd shown up in Konoha months ago, her clothing torn and bloody as the Anbu escorted her to the hospital. They hadn't gotten much out of her past her name and that she was attacked- no details of that even.

But she was the most innocent creature they'd ever seen in an adult body- Shikamaru had even heard Ibiki in a pleasant conversation with her.

So she had been allowed to stay and had taken a job at the Ichirakau stand- which is why most of the rookies knew her. Naruto dragged them there often enough.

He cleared his throat to gain her attention, and steeled himself to take the initiative when her blue eyes looked up at him (she certainly was no average woman- he guessed he'd have to cross that part out of his future plans). "Are you sure you're not up for that date? I know a nice spot just…"

"Nara-san." She said firmly as she stopped and turned to him, her chin tilted up as she looked into his eyes and narrowed her own. "Stop it. I told Yamanaka-san no to her face, you don't have to do this. She'll stop eventually."

Shikamaru raised one eyebrow and fought not to clench his jaw- Ino most certainly hadn't put him up to asking her out again. He didn't think she'd had the mental faculties to do much of anything but splutter when he'd left to pursue this strange woman.

He blinked. "Ara, She doesn't know I came this way."

Kagome scrunched up her nose in confusion (cute) as she blinked and glared crosswise at his clavicle. "Anou, then what are you up to?"

Shikamaru smiled softly as he realized, and then he cursed Ino (because if she hadn't asked before he wouldn't be doubted now, but then again if she hadn't asked he might not have been here now anyway…). "I am asking you out."

Her lips pursed and Shikamaru found his gaze snapping to the flesh of her mouth and his usually multitasking attention blanked with one thought- he really wanted to kiss her.

Kagome swallowed and blushed, looking away from him and bringing up her hands to fiddle with the hem of her shirt. Shikamaru slouched as his mental processes returned and he observed the very Hinata like gesture- Kagome was just as shy as her when it came to anyone truly thinking that she was worth something. She blushed up a storm when Naruto praised her ramen making skills, or even when Chouji happily gobbled up his BBQ.

He swallowed and leaned down, his nose almost touching hers and he could almost feel the heat of her blush as her wide eyes stared into his. He put his hands in his pocket as he remained bent that way; observing the way her lashes fluttered and she tried not to blink.

"I would like it if you said yes."

Kagome stuttered, "I….but you didn't…what?"

Shikamaru leaned back up with a sigh, "No cure for it then."

"Wha-?" Her brow furrowed before he was suddenly leaning forward and tasting her lips- the taunting pieces of flesh he'd been so focused on earlier. He felt her long eyelashes brush against his cheeks and the sharp breath she took in through her nose. He half expected her to slap him for the tender assault, but just as she tensed her fingers grasped his lapel and she practically melted into him (and Shikamaru felt a burst of very masculine satisfaction that came with the understanding of all his friends and the talks they'd had about taking care of their girls, as if they couldn't take care of themselves- it must be ingrained).

He gently caressed her lips with his before pulling away, regarding her closely as her blue eyes hesitantly opened and she looked up to him.

He tilted his head and smiled gently as he took in her flagging blush, the way her eyes darted around as if searching for the reason for all of this. He swallowed and cleared his throat- "I do want to take you on that date."

I want to love you and keep you from being hurt again, prove to you that you deserve to be treated like a princess and protected with all the strength I have in my body.

Kagome smiled bashfully and bit her bottom lip, her cheeks delightfully rosy as Shikamaru smirked and looked down at her. He cleared his throat and carefully pulled her hands into his, rubbing his thumb along a rough callous until her fingers relaxed in his hold.

She cleared her throat and glanced down quickly before looking up at him. "I might like that." She smiled impishly, a dimple on her left cheek. "Let's start easy though, okay?" And she looked up to him from under heavy lashes, not coy but uncertain and a little scared.

Shikamaru felt a fire light in his chest as he agreed and tucked her hand into his arm. As they walked along the park paths he watched the way she carefully opened to him, despite her very obvious fear he would go too far too fast.

But Shikamaru wasn't really a taker.

He was a thinker.

They walked over a grassy knoll and he gave her a hand down before seating himself and rolling into a comfortable reclined pose.

Shikamaru watched her settle in the grass, a quiet alertness in him as he admired the way she didn't care about grass stains on her clothes or getting dandelions in her hair. No; she splayed out without a care and smiled up to the clouds. He smiled and curled his arms behind his head, settling in for a relaxing bout of cloud watching.

And it was comfortable, almost impossibly so. It had only ever been Chouji that had understood him and his silences, and only the large boy that had stayed passive and unassuming in his presence.

But Kagome only sighed happily as she quietly went about drawing her fingers through the grass, an impish smile overtaking her lips and a slight blush engulfing her cheeks.

Her eyes turned and blinked at him, seeing his attention. "Hey Dreamer, what are you thinking about?"
"Yeah, Dreamer."
"Never been called that before." He grunted and shifted.
"What else do you call a man who stares at clouds and thinks all day?"
She giggled, "Okay, lazy too."
Shikamaru felt a smile pull up one side of his lips and he turned his head to face her more directly, watching as she shifted to support herself on her hands while her thick hair fell around her. "Shikamaru?" She quietly questioned, a light to her eyes as if she didn't want to push her earlier question but was too curious to at least no attempt it.

He smiled. "Actually, I was thinking about how you just fit." He twisted his neck to look more directly at her, admiring her blush as a brilliant smile overtook her face.

She let out a little laugh as she leaned over him. He blinked as the shadows created by her curtain of hair played over his eyes and he had to adjust to the sudden lack of sun. But then he smiled and lifted a brow- a smirk on his lips as she grinned down at him. "I like fitting into your world- and I think that's the nicest thing someone's ever said to me."

Shikamaru smiled.

Then Kagome leaned down and softly kissed his lips, her lashes fluttering against his cheeks as she slowly settled her weight on his chest and sighed. Shikamaru grinned as he gave her a peck, very happy to lie still and accept her affection now that she'd been assured of his own reciprocal and reliable admiration.

Shikamaru didn't know exactly what he'd said- but something he did had soothed her fears. He'd figure out that mystery later, and any of the other ones she seemed to cart around in her past- Kagome's kisses were too distracting.

He felt her smile against his lips as her hands wove into his hair, drawing out his ponytail and massaging her nails into his scalp.

Shikamaru went to putty in her hands.

Heck yes, that's what he called motivation.