Title: Girls and the World of Dating, According to Nara Shikamaru and his Vast Intellect

Fandom: Naruto
Type: Oneshot
Rating: Pg-13
Word count: 3,076
Summary: He may be a genius, but Shikamaru is still your typical bumbling teenage boy when it comes to women.

A/N: An older fic, actually – thought it'd been posted here too, but apparently not. Absolutely and inexcusably silly.

At the tender age of twelve, Shikamaru was led out to the big oak tree in the backyard by his father who declared that it was time for them to have a chat about some of the facts of life.

The elder Nara took a deep breath before plunging into his rehearsed speech. "One: You will never understand women. It's a problem that we all must face, so let's just make sure we're all clear on that."

Shikamaru seriously doubted this; nothing stood in the way of his ninja genius analytical powers. He nodded and continued listening respectfully to his father anyway.

"Two: Nara men have a tendency to go for strong women." His father shrugged before continuing, "Don't ask me why that is, but I just figure I should warn you."

Shikamaru began to wonder exactly why he was being told all of this.

"Three: Um…" He cleared his throat and became a bit red in the face. Shikamaru sensed that his father was getting to the real point of the talk. "Son, I think it's time we discussed the, uh, the birds and the bees…"

Blanching, Shikamaru knew immediately that he had to stop this conversation. He'd seen what it'd done to other men: Chouji had mysteriously refused to eat for days until he sobbingly confessed that his parents had given him 'the talk', unfortunately describing and comparing anatomy to food. He'd sworn that he would never look at profiteroles the same way again.

Desperately, Shikamaru cast about for a way to divert the situation. At a loss for one of the first times in his life, he settled for blurting out, "Ah! Dad! I already know all that stuff! Besides, girls are troublesome! As if I'd ever be interested in them!"

Shikamaru's outburst must have been filled with enough vehemence to be fairly convincing, as his father looked quite taken aback. "Okay, well, umm," he scratched the back of his head as he did often when he was nervous, "I don't really know how any of that stuff I just told you applies in this case… Can't say we've ever had anyone in the family who's batted for the other team, so uh…"

Shikamaru blinked. What was his old man on about? He didn't even like baseball.

With the biggest pasted-on smile ever and dazed eyes, his father told him: "Just know, son, that I fully support and respect any lifestyle choices that you make, and wish only for your happiness."

With that, he gave him a manly clap on the back and led him back to the house where his mother was calling them in for lunch. Shikarmaru's father kept his huge fake grin for the rest of the week and started using words like 'respect' and 'alternative lifestyles' every other sentence. Shikamaru wished he would stop; the smile was starting to creep him out.

As Shikamaru continued stumbling through his youth, he concluded that maybe he had been a little too hasty in ending that conversation with his father. Although he would never admit to ignorance, he did have some significant gaps in his knowledge of the opposite sex.

Perhaps Genma and the other jounin weren't the most reputable of sources for education, but it was through them that Shikamaru ended up learning the facts of life. It was also through them that he first heard stories of women whose actions defied reason, of girlfriends to which the word 'rational' could not be applied, and of something that rhymed with 'textual savours'. Once Shikamaru had deduced that these had nothing to do with particularly good books but were still something to be desired, and his traitorous body told him that girls were actually quite fascinating, he figured he should take the next step on his journey through adolescence. It was time to find himself a girlfriend. And so, in his usual style, Shikamaru began to form a brilliant plan of action.

His logical, mastermind brain told him that the first step would be to select a suitable girl.

As he sifted through candidates for his plan, he began to see that his father had been right about one thing: he was attracted to strong women. This narrowed down his interests to two possibilities.

First off was Tenten. Focused, determined, serious, deadly. No wilting flower there. This possibility, however, was nixed during Shikamaru's first reconnaissance operation. The first time he tried to strike up a conversation with Tenten outside of a mission, he encountered an unforeseen obstacle that threw off all of his calculations. An obstacle with creepily blank white eyes that managed to communicate threatening messages in a single glance. Competing against a Hyuuga for a girl's attention? Too troublesome.

This left only one other choice amongst the girls his age: Ino. It was the perfect match, he observed: childhood friends, families that got along well, exciting missions together… Yes, it definitely had potential. The next day, Shikamaru did not make any tactical retreats when faced with his blonde teammate. He put up with her complaints that his hair was too long and he should cut it because no girl would be interested in that mop, and listened to her babble on and on about how she was totally not up for training that day because she couldn't wait to read the next chapter in an absolutely delicious romance novel she'd just bought.

Upon arriving home, exhausted, Shikamaru wondered if Ino was such a wise choice after all. As he was still in the process of removing his sandals, his mother appeared beside him, hands on her hips, and launched into a tirade about him not cleaning his room and he'd better do it now or there'd be dire consequences and he'd better not make her waste any more time yelling at him because she was going to miss her soaps. No, Shikamaru decided as he realized with horror that the most frightening woman in his life had a younger clone, Ino was not a suitable candidate. He was so not into that whole Oedipus deal.

With girls his age clearly not working out, he set his sights on the older kunoichi. This plan was also quickly crushed, as every time he tried feebly to chat them up, they laughed, tugged his ponytail, and called him a 'cute kid'. Finally, Shikamaru felt that it was time to pull in additional resources: it was time to ask for advice from an authority figure.

Since his father was still handing him copies of Swordspoint and The Last Herald Mage, Shikamaru chose to avoid any misunderstandings and consult his next trusted source: his teacher.

He approached the matter cautiously one afternoon while playing chess with Asuma. His teacher took a long drag on his cigarette and adopted the look of a caged animal before replying, "Don't start down that road, buddy, you're still young, you've got so much to live for." Exhaling smoke shakily, Asuma continued, "I got messed up in that shit early and look where it got me."

Shikamaru was just about to interrupt with the correction that he'd asked about women and not crystal meth, before he remembered the recent gossip going around: Kurenai had greeted Asuma after one of his missions with a kiss on the cheek and a "Welcome back honey, and by the way, I'm pregnant". She'd then set down the ultimatum that he either marry her within the next nine months or start writing support checks.

Tapping the ash off the end of his cigarette, Asuma moved a pawn up one square on the board, his mind clearly not on the game. "It's a bit like chess," he explained distractedly, his hands shaking, "Women start off all calm and demure. They seem harmless, like pawns. Once you get far enough into the game though, they've somehow made it over to the other side of the board without you noticing and now they're in control. They become the most powerful piece in the game and can make any move they want. Before you know it, you're done for." Asuma lowered his voice and said in a tone of pure terror, "You can't stop them."

As Asuma began to tremble, it appeared as though Shikamaru wasn't going to be getting any advice on women from this source. No matter, he decided. After all, nothing was too difficult for Konoha's resident genius. He would figure things out sooner or later.

"You can't stop them," Asuma continued whispering to himself, drawing desperate breaths on his cigarette, eyes wide and unfocussed.

Some time later, Shikamaru's perfect woman appeared out of nowhere during a mission and swept him off his feet, both in the figurative and literal sense.

From the moment a gust of wind from Temari's giant fan blew away the flute-toting Sound ninja, he was smitten. She was tough, smart, didn't talk meaninglessly, and was just pushy enough. The fact that she was wearing fishnets and a short skirt was entirely beside the point.

Unfortunately he ruined his immediate chances by spouting a load of unmanly, emotional, self-pitying bull during the time they had alone together in the hospital waiting room. Upon the realization that failing a mission, being called a coward by your father, and crying were not too attractive to females, Shikamaru proceeded to fall into a great sulk. To console himself, he wasted many a long hour staring at the sky, heartbroken, and reflecting upon how its colour was the exact match of the woman of his dreams' gorgeously exotic Sand-ninja eyes. (Most of the residents in Konoha thought that he was simply being lazy as usual, but they were only partially right.)

He had almost resigned himself to the possibility that their relationship would never be, when the perfect opportunity fell into his lap: he was assigned to be an examiner at the upcoming chuunin exam. Upon hearing that Temari would be acting as a representative from Sand, Shikamaru concocted a cunning plan.

In his imagination, his plan unfolded in three stages. Firstly, he would tell her that becoming an examiner was the first step to fulfilling his dream of becoming a teacher. He knew that girls fell head-over-heels for the serious teacher type; he'd heard enough times how Pre-Pubescent Genin #163 was determined to someday tack 'Umino' onto her name. Ino had had a crush on Asuma back in the day, and even Kakashi, widely known as the worst teacher around, was hugely popular with the ladies. Surely this would be one step towards winning his fair lady's heart.

Next up, he would casually mention something about how being an examiner was also in-line with his views that the next generation was important and worth protecting. Shikamaru reasoned that pretending to have a love of children would of course appeal to Temari's natural feminine nurturing instincts.

Finally, after being faced with such charm, she would have no choice but to throw herself wantonly into his arms. Yes, Shikamaru congratulated himself mentally, this spawn of his enormous intellect could not fail.

Unfortunately, reality happened slightly differently than he expected.

The plan started off well, as he succeeded in bumping into the beautiful Sand ninja before the chuunin exams and they both happened to be heading in the same direction. Already tasting sweet victory, Shikamaru tried to think of a way to look suave but ended up just stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets.

Determined to strike up the conversation he'd prepared for, he began cleverly with: "I'm an examiner, because I really like kids."

He must be coming down with something, he thought frantically as words strung clumsily together tumbled from his mouth. Or at least something was not right, as his mind and tongue seemed to be rebelling against him. After hours of careful rehearsal, he wasn't even sure what he was saying now.

As Shikamaru finished his rambling, Temari raised an eyebrow at him, more bored than sympathetic. "Yeesh, how'd you get stuck with that job? I'm glad I'm not you; I hate kids."

With the tone of finality in her statement and the sudden apparition of Naruto back from his special training with Jiraiya, Shikamaru ground his teeth in frustration and unwillingly accepted defeat.

It was through one of Ino's horrible romantic-comedies that Shikamaru came up with his next ingenious plan. While listening to his teammate warble about the main character Mr. Dreamy-Eyes-So-And-So in a new film and how cool he looked with his leather jacket, he glanced up at the billboard advertising the movie. As he studied the undeniably cool man who leaned against his motorcycle and gazed out of the image through a thin puff of smoke, Shikamaru focused in on the object in the man's mouth. As Ino continued to blab, Shikamaru realized a key fact that he could not believe he'd overlooked before: chicks dig cigarettes. No wonder Asuma had bagged such a hottie!

Feeling that he had discovered the Rosetta Stone to the hearts of women worldwide, Shikarmaru was overwhelmed with confidence. He felt that his plan was even more fantastic because it required minimal effort on his part: he'd just ask his teacher to lend him some cigarettes.

Yes, he decided, he'd do that right after their next mission. It sounded like a piece of cake; they just had to take out a pair of loony fugitives and then Shikamaru would be able to turn his full attentions to wooing the woman of his dreams. He was vaguely aware that Ino had now moved on to complaining about how this upcoming mission was going to be their most dangerous yet, but he tuned out her nonsensical ramblings. After all, if not even the opposite sex could defeat him, clearly nothing was a match for his intellectual prowess.

In the end, the mission went slightly different than he'd been expecting. He was kept busy for the next few weeks, alternating between consoling Kurenai and assuming the position of leader of his team. When his exquisite gem of Sand perfection was reported to be back in town, however, he did at least have his cigarettes.

Feeling pleased with himself and seeing nothing but a bright future, Shikamaru leaned against the wall near the entrance to the Hokage's complex. He'd even turned up the collar on his flak jacket. Oh yeah, he thought, he looked so cool. Now all that was left was to wait for Temari to finish her meeting, and then the walls of her heart would fall to his tobacco-scented charm.

As he ran through his head the best intonations of 'Hey baby', the object of his affections stepped onto the street. Startled from his thoughts, Shikamaru choked on the smoke he'd just inhaled, blowing it out right in the Sand-ninja's face.

"You Southerners and your revolting habits," Temari coughed out as she walked through the cloud of smoke. Her top lip curled in a look of pure disdain and she strode away from him without a second glance.

Once the initial shock that his infallible plan had fallen through wore off, Shikamaru headed straight for the pharmacy and bought himself some Nicorette.

His next plan was surprisingly inspired by Sakura. Apparently she'd been off on a mission when all of a sudden things had gone awry. Naruto had shown up by surprise and swept her off to safety in his not-quite-yet-manly arms. Now she wouldn't shut up about how Naruto was just misunderstood and he was definitely going to be Hokage and blah blah blah. While everyone else in Konoha breathed a sigh of relief that she'd finally shifted her attentions away from the long-gone Uchiha kid, Shikamaru saw the method in which he would at last gain Temari's tender affections.

So simple! Why had he not thought of it before? It had to be the basis of pretty much all the girly novels that Ino felt obliged to tell him about. It was a simple matter of saving her life during a perilous situation. Pure genius, he congratulated himself.

Shikamaru's third Great Plan may have worked, if not for the fact that it completely overlooked precedent.

During the next mission in which his team worked with Sand, his efforts to be heroic in front of Temari resulted in him being cornered without any remaining chakra by two enemy ninja. Gliding in on her fan, Temari carried him off to safety while Ino and Chouji dealt with the remaining enemies.

Later, while listening to Ino brag about how she took out an S-rank criminal single-handedly, the humiliated Shikamaru knew he was sunk. Chouji was congratulating her while Ino was impatient to retell the entire story, with embellishments of course, to Sakura, but Shikamaru drowned out their words morosely.

He would just have to give up; Temari would never notice him. He dared a glance over in her direction, where she was half-listening to Ino's gigantic ego. He would never convince her into so much as even going out on a date, he thought dejectedly. For the first time, it occurred to Shikamaru that you couldn't make any A leads to B plans when dealing with people, no matter how much of a genius you were. You could do it in chess, where there were rules, but not so in real life. You couldn't examine a person as a problem to be solved. (Privately, he resolved to toss any psychology books he came across directly into the garbage.) If Temari wasn't interested on her own, he couldn't convince her otherwise, even if he had fifty of the most cunning plans imaginable.

He sighed, frustrated, and didn't bother to turn to look at Ino and Chouji as he spoke. "Hey, why don't we go get some ramen?"

There was an odd silence, and Shikamaru turned, puzzled, to glance beside him. Ino and Chouji had mysteriously disappeared without his knowing, and only one person remained.

"Sure, why not?" Temari replied, surprised but casual, as she shrugged her shoulders.

In a daze, Shikamaru absentmindedly led the Sand ninja in the direction of Ichiraku as she made sure to inform him that he'd better not try to pay for her meal. She could take care of herself perfectly fine, she told him haughtily, but not without a well-concealed budding interest in the ninja beside her. By the time they reached the ramen shop, Shikamaru concluded that his father had been right: he would never understand women.