Slowly I Learn

And that time we laid there
Talking the night away
That's when I knew...
That's when I knew I was in love.

The very first time I noticed him was during the preliminaries of my first Chuunin exam. He had walked on to the arena full of apathy and apparently careless disregard. He'd dissected Kin amazingly easily and when she thought she had caught him – when everyone thought she had caught him – he showed he was already one step ahead.

When it came time for my match against him (in the tournament or whatever the fuck Konohans call it), when I swung my fan at him in a blind frustration, so sure that just that would cause him to quake in fear if not immediately fall, I hated him. I hated the way I felt when I looked up and saw he had moved so quickly that I'd failed to notice, saw that he was standing on kunai he'd embedded in the wall, I cursed my rashness. But when he said – when that idiot said that he could not stand to lose to a woman, I imagined killing him. I would never have actually killed him. But I imagined it all the same. I grew determined to beat him so badly his shame would never fade.

When I felt his shadow grasp me just as I had concocted a plan, I realized I had underestimated him. I let my anger and my pride destroy me once again. As he showed me how I'd lost and he explained what he had done – I respected him. I still wanted to kill him and still detested him, but I respected him. He was intelligent.

Konoha wasn't full of idiots after all.

When he gave up, I felt an inexplicable surge of horror. For some reason, his choice to just give up scared me. I think it was the fact that behind his eyes I imagine there's a monstrously dangerous creature stirring. A powerful and spectacular shinobi. One that he doesn't care for.

After that match, I would constantly wonder what he had been thinking. Because he had to be thinking some amazing things to give up a victory such as that so easily. Out of chakra? What kind of nonsense is that?

The day my siblings and I saved the Konoha shinobi, I was filled with pleasure. When he tried to tell me that retreating would be the best choice, I proved him wrong. I wanted to show him – to show him, that I wasn't that weak little thing he thought I was. The rash and easily infuriated creature that couldn't hold up in a real battle. I wanted to show him. I'm still not sure why. Pride maybe. But I did show him. And I was proud – oh Kami, the look on his face was priceless. So does the fact that he would've died if I hadn't gotten there. That thought comforts me. I saved his thoughtless ass.

Later when he was in the hospital awaiting the news of his best friend's health, I felt terrible. My insides were squirming and just watching him fret disturbed me. A large part of me wanted to go sit beside him and hug him. A large part of me wanted to pull him close and comfort him. The part of me that I've always tried my best to ignore. Because in Suna listening to that part only leads to trouble. My mother listened to that part, and look what happened to her. So I ignored it, but I still sat there. I sat across from him my legs crossed insides squirming. I told him the facts as they were. I tried to emotionally detach myself from the entire situation, but he made it worse. He screwed the entire thing up. What he responded, it dropped to the bottom of my belly like a heavy laden rock and all I could think to say was "Unexpected fragility…Men are strange." It was all I could say. All I could think. I'd never met someone – a man to be exact – who really truly could deal with the fact they felt.

And that whole thing, it threw me.

It was after that moment that whatever I could've done to cease being a part of the boy's life was lost. I was in his life now, and because I'd glimpsed into his life, the reality that he too would soon see my life frightened me.

We were friends after that.

Neither of us said anything, but we knew.

Little echoes of 'troublesome woman' followed me relentlessly for days, even after my siblings and I had departed from Konoha.

He came to a mission in Suna once. I was his unofficial Suna guide, a self-appointed duty. I made sure the little idiot didn't get lost (Suna can be very confusing) and got to where he needed to be on time. I found he could be quite lazily. While he was in Suna I teased him callously and mercilessly about the time he cried. He blushed pink and muttered 'troublesome' every time I brought it up. Looking at him then, during one of our conversations I came to realize he was quite…cute. With his dark brown hair pulled up into his ponytail, dark slanty eyes, and thin prominent eyebrows, I found him very cute. The lethargic demeanor he bore only exemplifying it more. But I pushed it aside. Men are men, and all men are not worth my time.

The day he left I got into a spat with one of the most influential council member's only daughter. I managed to refrain from ripping the girl limb from limb, but I did punch her. The girl threatened to have… things done to my family. I hated her for it, but I knew she could get it done if she desired. Blatantly the girl extracted my one prized possession from me in return for her silence. My mother's necklace.

I cried that day.

And Shikamaru did what I couldn't do for him. He sat down next to me, wrapped his arms around me, brushed my hair with his fingertips gently, and was just there for me. He didn't even ask why I was crying.

He didn't need to ask.

He left late for his mission that day. His teammates merely assumed it was because of his lack of duty and impossibly laziness. But as he left he looked back at me with concern in his eyes and a small smile. "Troublesome woman."

I blushed.

I saw him a few other brief times after that. Nothing too significant.

But when I became the foreign ambassador, I began to see him quite often. What with him being my 'official guide', and my responsibility to work with him on parts of the upcoming Chuunin exam kept me in close company with him quite often.

The day he met me at the gates, as my first official acting day as foreign ambassador in Konoha from Suna, I realized my perception of his appearance had been wrong. He was not cute, he was…gorgeous.

That time Naruto came back from his two-year training session with that famed Sannin and he asked Shikamaru if he was on a date with me, I felt my heart flutter strangely. When he answered that it "wasn't like that" I can't lie and say his words held no impact on me.

Inside I felt a little crushed.

Okay, a lot crushed.

But I think I hid it quite well.

The time I played Shikamaru shogi – and lost, I find I didn't mind so much. Normally I hate losing, but to see the smile on his face at finding someone who, in his own words, 'could actually play' was by far the greatest winnings I could possibly gain.

Then there was that day.

I rather like that day. We were having an argument. Who knows what about at this point? Half the time when we're having arguments I don't even know what I'm angry about. I think he realizes this, and knows secretly I just like fighting. It must not bother him though, if he continues to humor me. At some point during that argument he grew so frustrated that he told me to shut up. I realized then that whatever it was we were arguing about, was actually a relevant topic – that or he was having a bad day. Before I could ask what the hell his problem was, he kissed me.

And it was nice.

My heart was pounding so furiously it seemed to want to break my rib cage, my skin was tingling so pleasantly it was as a if chill had just spread through my bones, and my stomach was twisting so horribly and madly that I liked it.

I like how he tasted too.

And most importantly of all were the times when we would just lie on the grass and look up at the sky. Mostly at clouds, but sometimes we would watch the stars. When we would lie there, when his fingers would brush against mine and his eyes would wander from the sky to me (and my eyes doing quite the same) I rather think that what I feel for him is not an infatuation.

When we just lay there, and we're talking – the kind of talking I normally don't do because no one every really takes the time to talk just to talk. To ponder and chatter with no purpose other than to enjoy each other, I think he's something else. Because even when he's lazy he's not lazy in the least.

It's at that time, when we talk and talk and talk, that we don't even realize how late it's gotten, that time when I look into his eyes and I feel more comfortable than I've ever been, that I realize the biggest truth of all.

It's at those moments, I see that I'm hopelessly in love with him.

And the worst bit, is that I don't mind.

I don't mind at all.

In fact I can't think of a better person to hold my heart.

So I give it to him.

And he accepts it calmly and with a smile. He's more patient that I've ever been. He'd given me his heart long ago, and he knew if he just waited, I would give him mine.

A/N: Luckily, my insane Ino/Shika temptations have passed (the plentiful chocolate offerings helped ;p), they've actually been replaced wth a desire to write GaaHina (Weird, I know) and something about the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer...If you haven't read those books, I'll just say they're very good.