Wait for me, Shika

She was always trying to catch up to him. Shikamaru/Ino ShikaIno. Dark.

Ino felt so much more relaxed now. Pale pink bubbles slowly swirled around the bathtub as she relaxed in the warm water. She was certain that this next time, she would definitely catch up to Shikamaru. Because she had always been a step behind him, walking in his shadow.

She remembered all the times she had tried to reach him, always just a little slower than the lazy genius. Always pleading, shouting, "Wait for me, Shika!"

Ino was trying to help, but that idiot Nara boy just didn't get it. If he didn't stay awake in class, he would fail out of the Academy.

Not that I care, Ino told herself. I just don't want him to get left behind when all of us graduate.

And so she spent every class sitting next to him, sometimes even giving up a chance to sit next to Sasuke-kun so that she could try to get that lazy boy to pay attention and learn something.

By the time of the first test, Ino had given up hope. The boy was so damn lazy he sometimes fell asleep while she was berating him for doing so. It was too bad that he was going to flunk out of the Academy on his first test.

Ino wasn't cheating off his test, but she definitely noticed when the pineapple-shaped head returned to its resting position on the boy's arms only ten minutes after the test started. She couldn't believe it. It was one thing to fall asleep and miss class, but to sleep through a test?

At any rate, she was seated too far away from him (spaced seating to prevent cheating during tests) to do anything about it, so she silently fumed and practically wished that he would fail.

At the end of the school day, their tests had been graded and returned. Ino smiled proudly at her grade. 97. Pretty good, considering that she wasn't a genius like Sasuke-kun. She looked to see Shikamaru's reaction, but the boy had already left school for the day. But Ino spied his test still sitting on the desk, and grabbed it to see just how miserably the Nara had failed.

100. Ino's mind spun. What the heck was up with that? She bolted out of the classroom, trying to catch Shikamaru before he got too far. "Hey, where are you Shikamaru?! I have your test for you!"

She raced along that path that she knew led to the Nara house. Their parents were friends, and so she had been this way many times. Seeing the boy walking far ahead, she shouted, "Wait for me, Shika!"

She never did find out how he had done so well, but she was determined to catch up to his grade.

When Ino was placed on Shikamaru's team, she groaned internally. Not only had she been slighted, her rival placed on Sasuke-kun team instead of her, but she had this lazy idiot to deal with.

Well, maybe idiot was a bit harsh. He had gotten perfect scores on every test, after all. But that might have been a fluke. Maybe he cheated or something. The point was, he was lazy and it would be up to Ino to pull him through.

The day after she, Shika and Chouji had met Asuma, they had to pass a test of some sort. Get one of Asuma's two packs of cigarettes to stay as a genin. Fail to get one and go back to the Academy.

Ino had fought valiantly against the jounin, but she just couldn't reach the packs sticking out of Asuma's chest pockets. After retreating for a breather, she found Chouji and Shikamaru sitting leaned against a tree, talking.

She screamed at them. "What are you idiots doing?! Do you want to fail?! I shouldn't have to get your bells for you, you stupid lazy idiots!"

Chouji looked thoughtful as he munched on some potato chips. "She has a point, Shikamaru. Maybe we should do something?"

Shikamaru sighed. "There is no way we can beat a jounin. This is just to test our teamwork. As long as we put up a fight while cooperating a bit, we'll pass. No problem."

Ino's mouth hung open. So she had wasted all that time and effort fighting Asuma for nothing?

Suddenly she realized that they two boys were gone. Whirling around, she saw them walking off toward the clearing where Asuma waited.

"Hey! Wait for me, Shika!"

Ino just couldn't believe it. To be sure, she kind of liked that lazy genius, as she now recognized him, but why did he get the only promotion to chuunin? He had forfeited his last match!

Growling as she waited with Chouji and Asuma while the simple ceremony took place, Ino watched the Hokage present Shika with a chuunin flak vest. That Nara had to be the luckiest guy ever.

Afterwards, she had pounced on him, stinging words at the ready. But he was one step ahead of her.

"Ne, Ino, you want to know why I was promoted to chuunin?"

Ino hesitated, her angry words slowly draining out of her. "W-well, yeah! Why the heck do you get it, when you forfeited, and some people fought so hard?!"

Shikamaru sighed. "Because I knew my limits. Ninja are supposed to fight to the best of their abilities, but if a fight is not winnable, they also need to know when to retreat. Because they knew the reason for my forfeiture, they knew that I was aware of this need. The village needs living ninja, not just brave souls who give their all and die on an early mission because they wouldn't give up."

Ino looked down at the ground. Of course he was right. Now that he had explained it, it seemed obvious.

Shikamaru cracked his neck one way, and then the other. "I'm supposed to get some other chuunin and form a team, but apparently there's no hurry, after the invasion and all. We're short on chuunin, and they aren't particularly eager to send a brand new chuunin on difficult missions."

Ino looked up, feeling a little hopeful. "So you probably won't get a team until after the next exams, right?"

Shikamaru cast a sideways glance at her, trying to discern her motive. "Yeah. Definitely not until then."

"Okay, then can you wait for me, Shika?"

He smiled, not just an amused grin, but a rare friendly smile that he reserved for his family and friends. "Of course, Ino."

Ino took a deep breath. Then another. Today was the day she would finally ask him. They had been on the same chuunin team for quite a while now, and working with him, she realized that she really did enjoy his company. But since he was lazy, there was almost no possibility of his instigating things. She would have to ask him out herself.

She casually walked out onto the hill where her Shika was always watching clouds. She was not disappointed when she saw lying on his back on the soft grass, staring blankly into the sky. Some sort of wicker basket sat next to him.

As she often did, she sat down next to his prone form and stared at his face. He grinned and looked back. As had become normal for her, Ino felt a warm sensation spread through her chest. She liked it when he looked at her like that.

"So, Shika, I've been thinking..."

"A dangerous thing to do, Ino. Be careful."

She resisted her urge to bop him on the head. It took continually less and less effort to resist those urges anymore. Just like it took more and more effort to resist...

Actually, why should she resist now? She had come here to ask him out, anyway.

Ino grabbed his flak jacket and pulled him up, squeezing him in a tight embrace. "I've been thinking that it's time we do something about this thing we have. And since you're too chicken to ask, I want to ask you, Shika." She pulled back far enough to look him in the eyes. "Will you go out on a date with me, Shika-kun?"

The pineapple head chuckled. "Of course, Ino. How about a picnic lunch?"

Ino giggled. "Sounds like a good plan for a first date!" She was ecstatic with this turn of events, even more so because she saw a hint of a blush on the lazy genius's cheeks. He definitely returned her feelings!

"How about now?"

Suddenly Ino knew what the wicker basket was for. Shikamaru pulled out two sandwiches, handing one to her. Ino was at a loss. How could he have known that she would ask him today?

"I didn't. I was going to ask you, Ino."

Ino jumped at his interruption into her thoughts. She really needed to learn not to let her thoughts show on her face. "I'll surprise you one day, Shika, and you won't be ready. You'll never see it coming."

"I'm looking forward to it. Now do you want to go for a walk?" he had already finished his sandwich, and stood to stretch his legs.

"What?! Wait for me, Shika!"

The last mission. They were both jounin now, and made up one of the only two-ninja squads in Konoha. This particular mission was rather dangerous, infiltrating into a missing-nin hideout and reclaiming a stolen scroll.

Ino used her specialty jutsu on the lone guard on this side of the large warehouse, and let Shika tie her up. Returning to her own body, she and Shika sneaked into the building. Large crates blocked their view on all sides.

Suddenly bright lights shone down on them, and they realized that it had been a trap. Of course there should be more than one guard.

But they weren't jounin for nothing, and they fought bravely. They killed the weaker ninja, but there were three more left, at least skilled enough to be considered jounin.

Shikamaru and Ino whirled around, back to back, and blocked every attack. Soon, one opponent became impatient, and charged in, trying to break their defensive stance.

A quick kunai thrust into the eye finished him, but his dead weight broke them apart, and the remaining two ninja attacked. Shikamaru used his last kunai to hit a box overhead. The kunai cast a shadow down the stack of crates, allowing him to stop the ninja with his Shadow Imitation. The poor ninja was forced to imitate Shikamaru as the lazy genius pretended to pull a kunai out of his empty pouch and stab himself in the eye. The ninja, not yet out of kunai, died quickly.

But Ino had no quick fix like Shika. And she sucked at close combat. There was a reason that she and Shika had planned to do this as a covert operation.

A swift kick knocked her onto her back, and she saw a kunai raised high, preparing to strike down in a finishing blow.

But the blow never came. Shikamaru tackled the ninja off Ino and rolled with him into a corner. Unfortunately, even the genius ninja hadn't planned past that much and found himself in a close fight with a larger, stronger opponent.

Ino grabbed a kunai and waited for the opportunity to throw it for a killing attack. But it was so difficult, with Shika and the other ninja grappling each other and rolling around on the ground, and she couldn't get a good shot.

Suddenly Shika gasped, and Ino saw blood drip from his mouth. The ninja had snuck a kunai into one hand and stabbed Shikamaru in the stomach. Several more stabs followed before Ino's kunai pierced the ninja's temple, killing him instantly.

Without even confirming the kill, Ino rushed to Shikamaru's side, absent-mindedly grabbing the scroll that had fallen from one of the ninja during the fight. She cradled him in her arms, sobbing.

"Don't die, Shika-kun. You can't die yet. I can get you help, just be patient for a little bit here."

Ino sprinted back towards Konoha, not even trying to mask her presence, or to quiet her wracking sobs as she flew through the otherwise quiet forest. "Just wait for me, Shika. I'll get you to the hospital. Just a little longer."

She blew past the gate guards, who hadn't even thought to ask for her name or purpose of visit before she was a block past them.

"You can do this, Shika. If not for yourself, then for me, please..." Ino sobbed out loud as she caught sight of the hospital. "Can you wait for me, Shika?"

Ino rested her head on the back of the tub, letting the soothing warm water calm her. She was tired. So tired. Was that Shika she saw in the bright glare of the bathroom light? Was he calling for her, stopping for a moment so she could catch up?

As the pale pink bubbles darkened to a sickly, blood red, Ino's eyes closed, and she whispered, in a voice only he would hear:

"Wait for me, Shika..."

So, what do you think?