Seriously, I don't own Naruto or any of the characters. It saddens me that we live in a society where I feel the constant need to reassert that.
Shikamaru knew he was a genius, but he had never really cared. Going around bragging about his intelligence was not only troublesome, but was tactically unsound. It was never a good idea to acquaint your enemies with your strength unnecessarily.
As the years passed he began to appreciate his talents. He knew that his massive brain power allowed him to become the master strategist he was. Even if he didn't plan on becoming a great shinobi, it was still handy for surviving battles. Plus it helped when playing shogi. The real advantage though was his understanding of girls.
Shikamaru was very well aware that there was an inherent gulf between the sexes. He didn't need to watch some cheesy romance movies to realize that men and women didn't understand each other. Observing interactions around him was enough to show him that their communication techniques were rarely the same. When the time came to find an average looking wife, he figured his knowledge would come in handy for 'wooing' her.
Yet Shikamaru's observations slowly led to the realization that not only did girls and guys have a hard time understanding each other, but that girls used a completely different language than men. Technically, they were speaking the same language, but somehow females managed to convey intentions and meanings that weren't present in their spoken words. Shikamaru had briefly postulated that body language was the key element for the unspoken message. A ninja had to be familiar with body language though. It could be the difference between life and death if you could decipher an enemy's movements to know what attack he would be using next. No, there was some other method which allowed women to carry on their hidden bitch fests.
Spending time around Ino had allowed Shikamaru first hand experience with this secret code of women, and he had quickly realized that in almost every instance it was used to insult somebody. In fact it was because of Ino and her frequent interactions with Sakura that had led to Shikamaru's discovery in the first place.
It had been after a normal training session for Team 10, not long before the Chunnin exams. Shikamaru, Chouji, and Ino were just leaving the training grounds for a lunch break. Chouji was contentedly munching on a snack while Ino fanned herself with one hand and lectured about the necessity of weight control. They passed Team 7 standing miserably in the heat, and Shikamaru had idly wondered if they were still waiting for Kakashi to show up for the day. The groups had exchanged brief greetings, some more polite than others. Then it started.
"Ino, you look like you've actually broken a sweat. Don't worry about the harmful effects on your skin; I have a great cleanser you could borrow that's specially designed for dealing with sweat."
The boys, except Sasuke who was trying to ignore everyone present, all turned to stare at Sakura in surprise. From other occasions when the teams had run into each other they had grown use to the screams of "PIG!" and "FOREHEAD" and the deadly glaring contests. Sakura's voice had sounded friendly, and even Naruto understood how precious lotions, makeup, and cleansers were to the girls. To Shikamaru, the offer bespoke of the friendship of their early academy days, and contained no hint of their current so called rivalry. He couldn't understand why Ino tensed at his side.
"Well thank you, Sakura. You should probably just give me the cleanser though. From what I've seen you're never going to need to use it." Ino's smile was as sweet as could be, but a cold chill down Shikamaru's back warned him that there was an unaccounted tension contained within.
"Of course." Sakura nodded her head graciously at her former friend. "Though I'm not sure that even the whole bottle would be enough to help."
Chouji was trying to catch Shikamaru's eye over Ino's head. Though no clouds covered the sun, the air seemed to have severely dropped in temperature. Shikamaru studied Naruto's expression, but he seemed as clueless as he and Chouji were. Even Sasuke appeared confused and had started watching the girls' conversation. The exchange had been surprisingly polite, but you didn't survive as a ninja without being able to feel the killing intent that was quickly building. Shikamaru gave Chouji the barest of nods.
"Ino, I'm starving. We need to go eat now." Chouji crumpled up his snack wrapper and grabbed Ino's thin arm with a free hand as she was opening her mouth to retort. "Bye guys."
Shikamaru inclined his head in the general direction of Team 7. Ahead of him Chouji was still leading Ino away, though she didn't seem to be resisting. Instead she appeared to be silently fuming, and Shikamaru was relieved that even if something weird had happened between her and Sakura, they didn't have to listen to it.
Of course, Ino could only be silent for long. Speaking once to give her small order to the waitress must have broken her control, because as soon as the waitress was a few steps away, though probably still in hearing distance, she snapped.
"I can't believe Sakura! That bitch! Who does she think she is? Just because she's on the same team as Sasuke-kun doesn't mean she's any better than me. Seriously, did you hear what she said to me?!"
It was a lucky day indeed. Ino started shaking Chouji's shoulders and staring at him. Her rants were easy to ignore, but her questions normally needed to be answered. This time, it was Chouji who was stuck in the predator's gaze.
"Uh," Chouji looked around the restaurant expecting the right answer to appear on a menu or in the wallpaper. "I heard Ino, but she didn't say anything bad."
The smack across the back of Chouji's head let both boys know that was the wrong answer. Shikamau sighed. He didn't want to be dealing with this, but letting Ino continue to beat up his meek friend was unmanly.
"I have to agree, Ino. Sakura was being surprisingly polite back there."
Ino scooched further back in the seat and let her head fall against the back of the booth. "Men," she mumbled loud enough for them to hear, "they never know anything."
The topic died a quick death after that comment, and Shikamaru pushed the odd encounter to the back of his mind. The very next day though another incident made him reorganize his priorities.
Shikamaru had felt particularly lazy that morning, and had trouble getting out of bed. The swift kick from his mother had helped but he was still running late. His mother was still scolding him as he opened the front door to run to training, and both were surprised to find Ino standing there.
"Oh there you are, Shikamaru. Asuma-sensei sent me to make sure you were awake. I think he said that if were late to training again you had to go shopping with me and carry my bags for a week." Ino's eyes were alight with her glee at torturing Shikamaru.
Shikamaru groaned. "I really doubt that, Ino. Asuma-sensei isn't that cruel."
Yoshino was laughing behind him and gave Shikamaru a firm push closer to the door. "You might not want to risk it. Now hurry up! No son of mine is going to laze around all day when he's supposed to be practicing with his comrades."
"Come on, Shikamaru," Ino taunted. She quickly lost interest in Shikamaru however as she saw Sakura walking down the road coming closer to them. "Oh, Sakura!"
As Sakura looked over at the group standing in the Nara doorway, there was a moment of apprehension trapped in her eyes before she assumed an expression of polite interest. "Hi, Ino, Shikamaru."
Based on her position and Yoshino's stance behind him and to the right, Shikamaru guessed that his mother was out of Sakura's sightline. He wasn't very impressed that she didn't notice the extra person. Maybe Ino was right about Sakura needing to train more.
"You look great today, Sakura." Ino made a show of looking up and down Sakura's slim body.
"Thanks." Her voice sounded shaky and hesitant.
"Really, all that work must be burning up your extra calories. You know, I have a really nice dress that I don't wear anymore. It didn't do much for my coloring, but it would look great on you! It might almost fit you now."
"That's alright, Ino." Sakura was smiling at Ino, but Shikamaru could see the flash of pain in her eyes. "I'll make sure to remember your offer though."
With a toss of her pink strands Sakura marched off. Shikamaru still couldn't understand why the girls were being so friendly to each other. A glance at Ino made him suspect that her offering had nothing to do with generosity. There was an air of satisfaction to her that he'd only seen when she thought she won a fight.
His mother stepped further out into the doorway and gave Ino a firm look. "That was harsh, Ino. Do I need to tell your mother that you're starting trouble?"
"You didn't hear what she said to me yesterday," Ino said and quickly recounted the exact words.
A man unfamiliar with Ino would have been impressed with her memory, but Shikamaru knew that while she could accurately quote any gossip word for word, she was at a total loss for remembering pertinent information such as mission goals and the Shinobi Code. Shikamaru leaned against the house and waited for Yoshino to stop listening to Ino's stupid story so that they could meet Asuma-sensei and Chouji. It was troublesome enough that he was a little late, now he was probably going to miss half of the morning's training, and that was a bit too much for Asuma to overlook.
A small gasp from Yoshino stopped Shikamaru's musings. "How horrible! I never thought Sakura would ever say something like that. She used to be such a sweet girl."
At that moment Shikamaru realized that whatever was going on extended far beyond Sakura and Ino. If even his mother seemed to understand it...
"I thought she was being nice." Shikamaru grumbled. He had never had to deal with this before, and he didn't like the feeling of being left out of the loop.
His mother and Ino shared a smug glance and laughed. "You would think that, Shikamaru," Yoshino explained, "you're a man."
So that was it. It was some sort of language that only women spoke. Shikamaru followed Ino to the training grounds, ignoring her ramblings to dwell instead on his new discovery. It didn't really surprise him that women would invent their own sort of idiom with the sole purpose, as far as he could see, to make life more difficult for men.
Shikamaru was a lazy ass, and he would never deny that. However when he had a goal nothing could stop him from reaching it. In this case, his curiosity was enough to motivate him to dedicate his normal cloud watching time to research. For several weeks Shikamaru observed the kunoichi of Konoha. He had first tried to watch only Ino, knowing that she was proficient in the secret speech, but he had felt a little too much like a stalker. Branching out his observations allowed him more opportunities to see it in action. He was surprised by how many of the women he knew would insult each other this way. Even Kurenai had done it while talking about Anko!
Thanks to his genius and dedication to the subject, Shikamaru was able to master the code in weeks. At first the practical applications seemed unclear, as he had no plans to ever try and converse with a woman with their form of veiled insults. He was content with understanding the conversations around him. Soon he realized that it really paid off to know which women were having these verbal fights, because it made it much easier to avoid pissing them off by saying anything good about the other woman. Shikamaru was proud of his new ability, but didn't share it with the rest of the male population. If Chouji was heading into a sticky spot Shikamaru was nice enough to steer the conversation into a new direction. Being a friend came with certain responsibilities after all.
But no matter how happy Shikamaru was with his accomplishment, as time went by he realized that understanding just how catty women could be had a few downsides. It irritated him to no end that instead of actually fighting it out and getting over it like a sensible man would do, they engaged in their covert arguments sometimes for months. Everyday he appreciated anew the simplicity of men and their conversations. Unfortunately he was definitely not attracted to men, which meant at some point he would have to get over his growing aversion to women and find at least one, or possibly die of sexual frustration.
"Hey lazy." Shikamaru looked over to see a certain blond that shared his hairstyle times four watching him carefully. With a start he realized that he had drifted off into his own musings while Temari had been telling him about a rogue ninja the sand siblings had captured a few weeks ago. He could feel the blood rushing to his cheeks, the visible ones, so he turned away to study the interior of the restaurant.
A slightly husky chuckle that smoldered his heart revealed that Temari was well aware he was trying to avoid embarrassment. "Since whatever is going on in your mind appears more important than my story, maybe you should be the one talking. I don't deal well with being ignored, Nara."
Temari stretched her arms over her head, drawing Shikamaru's attention right to her ample chest as it was thrust out. He restrained the urge to gulp, but couldn't help but twitch as he felt a feminine foot brush his thigh. A quick glance down showed that Temari apparently needed to stretch her feet over to his bench in order to be comfortable.
"Well?" Temari practically purred, "What's so interesting that you can't pay attention to my take on the mission? It's a little odd, as you're the one that brought it up."
Yup, death by sexual frustration. That was how the average shinobi Shikamaru was going to go, not on a dangerous mission, not from pissing Tsunade off one too many times; he just had to be the only male in Konoha that was increasingly attracted to a woman but hated the entire gender too much to do anything about it.
"Ok, I'm sorry, Woman. I'm listening now."
Not that he hated Temari, the individual. Actually he had been fascinated with her ever since the Chuunin exams. Here was a woman who spent more time training than fixing her hair, and still looked ok. Well, maybe a little more than ok. Sure, Temari had a tendency towards violence as a means of expressing affection, she was lousy at comforting people, and she always spoke her mind. Who said that was a bad thing though? Shikamaru appreciated Temari's bluntness more and more when comparing her to the layered arguments of other women.
Cool teal eyes were studying him. "I don't think you are. Something's clearly still on your mind. Want to fill me in?"
The problem with Temari was that no matter how direct she seemed, she was still a woman. Surely at some point she would revert to the natural communication techniques employed by her kind. Shikamaru had tried to avoid being around Temari and other women at the same time, because he wasn't sure he was ready to see her catty fights with them. It would destroy something in him.
"It's nothing," Shikamaru finally answered. "Just thinking."
"Uh huh. Luckily for you the food is on its way over, otherwise you'd have to either tell me what's going on, or I'd beat it out of you."
Shikamaru had never been so glad to see food. He felt like Chouji for a brief moment in his happiness. When Temari said something like that, she meant it, and he had witnessed her beating Kankurou with her fan too many times to take threats like that lightly.
And then it happened. Shikamaru was avidly watching Temari devour her food, perhaps lingering a little on her throat as she swallowed or her lips as she licked them clean, when he heard the sound of his doom.
"Shikamaru!! There you are!" Ino was dragging Chouji behind her, approaching with all the fires of hell and a predator's vicious gleam in her eyes. Chouji knew that it was best to keep Temari and Ino separated, which explained his hesitation within a restaurant he enjoyed. "What a coincidence! We've come to eat too! Well, since we're all friends we should share a table; leave more room for the other customers."
Across the room a short, elderly man almost fell off his seat trying to see the demented loud girl who apparently didn't notice that over half of the tables were empty.
Temari had stopped eating, but was unusually quiet. It seemed that his friends were his problem. Shikamaru didn't know what to do. It would be too troublesome to argue with Ino, because he knew that regardless she would sit with them. Instead he wiggled his eyebrows at Chouji in a manner which conveyed certain instructions.
They had spent years together, and Chouji was an expert at reading eyebrow language. He moved quickly towards the side of the booth with Temari.
"Chouji," Ino reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt before he could sit down. "Why don't you sit with Shikamaru? That way there's sure to be enough room, since he's all skin and bones." She casually took the place next to Temari.
With a sigh, Shikamaru hit his head off the back of the booth. So it had begun. He closed his eyes and waited to hear Temari's rebuttal, feeling the dip in the seat as Chouji accepted defeat and sat with him.
"Try a bite of my chicken, Chouji. It's delicious, with just a hint of spice. I think you'll like it," Temari said.
Without looking up, Shikamaru frowned. Either he had become deficient in girl code, or Temari was, or she was ignoring Ino's jibe. None of those options really made sense.
The air on his left side stirred as Chouji reached a little in front of him to stab a piece of chicken. "Wow, that's great. I'll have to expand my order then. Thanks, Temari!"
"I'll just be having a salad," Ino announced. "There has to be almost a hundred calories in that sauce alone. Not to mention how fattening chicken is. Plus I think I read somewhere that it takes longer to digest meat, which probably means it provides additional calories or something."
"It's worth it," was the only response from Temari.
Shikamaru finally sat back up and stared at the girls. Ino was scowling, apparently unhappy with Temari's refusal to play the game. Temari didn't seem any angrier than usual. She was gracefully reclined against the wooden booth, reaching for another bite. However, she was a brilliant strategist, if not quite on par with himself, and so Shikamaru checked her weak point. Staying cool while playing with your enemy's emotions was a common ploy, but Temari always dug her left thumb into her palm when she was pissed. A quick check of the hand resting on the table revealed that either she was unaffected by Ino's taunts, or she had learned to hide that little tell since yesterday.
Ino was opening her mouth to speak again. It was time to be a man, and divert the conversation.
"So," he drawled. "Why are you guys here?"
"Ino promised to buy me lunch if I went shopping with her." Chouji was seriously the best friend in the world, speaking up to keep Ino quiet.
Unfortunately, one could only do so much.
With a flick of her shiny, recently washed blond hair, Ino jumped back into the conversation. "It seems like a fair trade. Chouji carries my bags, and I buy a meal. Might as well spend the money if I have it. Are you guys splitting the bill?"
A flash of lightening exploded in his brain, and Shikamaru realized what was going on. Ino had contrived this meal simply to piss Temari off and make one of them confess if they were dating or not.
The entire village, but especially his friends, had been pestering him recently as to the exact status of his relationship with the Suna representative. His defense that they were friends was ignored. He supposed that it did look like they were dating. As soon as Temari arrived outside the gate Shikamaru was by her side. They ate together, trained together when Temari made him, and sometimes even watched the clouds, if he could trick her into agreeing to be lazy. Nonetheless, they weren't dating. Shikamaru refused to even think about it if she was just another catty woman fighting in secret. Well, maybe it would depend on how catty. He could forgive a lot when it came to Temari. That didn't mean she would be interested in him though, and either way she definitely wasn't the average woman he was going to marry.
"Nara? Didn't I tell you I dislike being ignored?" Shikamaru almost jumped off the bench as a small foot started working its way up higher and higher on his leg. He really needed to stop drifting off like this.
"Technically Ino was talking, not you." He firmly fixed his attention on his food, which apparently had gotten cold at some point.
"That's not really any of your business, Ino." Chouji said disapprovingly.
"I was just wondering." Ino smiled innocently at Temari. "You ordered so much; I thought maybe Shikamaru lost a bet."
Shikamaru started choking as Chouji thumped him on the back, paying far more attention to the puzzling interaction on the other side of the table than how hard he was hitting his poor friend.
With a smile that showed almost all of her teeth, Temari seemed to finally be focusing on the blond beside her. Shikamaru painfully swallowed the bite down, sensing that the moment of truth had arrived.
"There are a lot of things I could say to that, Ino, if you really want to go into this sort of childish game. Instead, why don't you tell me why you feel the need to insult my weight every few minutes? I assure you, real woman aren't sticks. I'm completely comfortable with my body. Nothing you say is going to change that. Maybe we should talk about your obvious self esteem issues?"
Next to him, Chouji stammered a "What?" while Ino gaped like a fish. Shikamaru laughed.
"And if you're trying to find out about me and Nara, let me spell it out. We're friends. He's a lazy asshole and I'm a tough bitch. We understand each other. I'd say there's a fair amount of sexual tension between us, and one day when Nara grows some balls or I get bored maybe we'll start something a little more exciting." Temari folded her hands and studied Ino as if she were some sort of interesting specimen. "Anything else?"
"I've got something to say, Woman." Shikamaru leaned forward, grabbed Temari's shoulders and pulled the upper part of her body to the middle of the table so that they were face to face. "God knows you could never be an average female, and I wonder why I ever thought you'd resort to subtle insults instead of outright pain, but I've waited long enough to find out that you're exactly what I need." He pushed her lips onto hers roughly, then soothed them with a gentle kiss that would have melted any woman's heart. Oblivious to the coming of the waitress, their friends' ordering, and the shouts of encouragement from the old man across the room, they broke apart several minutes later and sat back down.
"Good kiss," Temari nodded her approval. "but that speech was weak. Corny, even. You should work on that. I'd expect more from a genius."
Shikamaru scoffed and scanned the restaurant for their waitress. He was ready to pay the bill and take Temari somewhere a little more secluded.
"I don't know, but I hope the food gets here soon," Chouji said. "I'm going to need a dinner to go with that show."
Emerald: Ok, I know that some female characters come off sounding a little bitchy in this, but let's be honest. We all have our days.
Duo: Some more than others.
Emerald: Anyways, this really isn't meant to offend anybody.
Legolas: And if you don't know any girls that talk to each other like that, you're a lucky son of a…
Emerald: Can I finish? Muses… can't get anything done with them, can't write without them. So the point is that I'm not condemning the feminine sex. Go women! Blah blah. However, this was inspired by a certain (thankfully now ex) girlfriend of my brothers, who loved to insult me all the time right in front of him, but the men in my family never caught on. I dearly wanted to just shout in her face all the reasons why I hated her, but she had her claws sunk deep into my brother, and it was to the point where I worried that yelling at her might drive him away.
Duo: Thus anger and frustration were dealt with by a plot bunny with Temari, one of the best female anime characters around.
Emerald: Indeed! For some reason I finally got around to writing about it tonight, when technically I have nothing due tomorrow, but there is a quiz in my first class. Figures.