title: head in hands
pairing: LeeIno—please give it a chance. I hope that the comments I do get, are not constrained to just quibbles over my "wrongness", or the "wrongness" of this pairing. And of course, the requisite sprinkles of SasuSaku, because I can't help myself.
for:
written for Pinaface's birthday, and (later) as an answer to one of Annie's prompts. :)
summary:
He wondered if perhaps he was in over his head—wondered when exactly he had stopped caring.

notes: Very short piece. I can't see it going past five chapters.

disclaimer: Not mine!


Yamanaka Ino flicked a white-gold lock of hair away from her face, and leaned in so that she was almost nose-to-page with the book in front of her. Her shoulders were curled in, almost protectively, blocking the text from any prying eyes. It wouldn't do for anyone to catch the Head Cheerleader // Homecoming Queen // Most Likely to Be a Trophy Wife doing something as plebian as...reading.

Ino shuddered at the thought, and her pink mouth pursed into a small frown, the line of her lips drawing inward so they were more curved than straight. It was that Sakura's fault, she thought, half-exasperated, half-amused. It had been her well-meaning best friend who had flicked her eyes dismissively over Ino's birthday wish-list - make-up, and leather, and two different types of lace - and told her (with that Look in her eyes that never led to anything good) that she'd be getting Ino something "entirely a world away from your usual tripe, Ino-pig. And you'll thank me for it - mark my words!"

When she'd opened the package from Sakura - cunningly masked by miles of white tissue with the double C logo, and spritzed with No. 5 - and found a tome of seven volumes that were each bigger than her head, she'd turned a twitching face to her laughing best friend.

"Not that I'm not grateful," she now remembered saying, "but I'm not grateful. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? What is this?"

Sakura had cocked her head to the side, grinning a little at the frustration Ino was sure she'd had painted on her face.

"That, my dear-hearted little piggy, that's your newest obsession."

Sometimes, Ino thought idly as she flipped to the next page, sometimes, it was so very annoying being best friends with a genius.

-

He tried very hard not to whistle as he made his way through the quiet annals of the Renaissance section in the library. It wouldn't do to disturb the other students who were working diligently at their various projects - he remembered how strict the teachers here were from his own youthful days as a student in The Konoha Academy of Arts & Sciences. His own mentor - whom he'd seen not only moments before - had been in the middle of assigning the end-of-term project to the first years when he'd knocked on the door to his classroom.

The memories seemed to play against a silent backdrop in the theater of his mind - days he'd whiled away, reading book after book on the philosophy behind martial arts after Kendo, so he could absorb the theory, as well as the practice. He'd read the biography of heroes - and he had many - marveling at the small ways they'd changed themselves in their youth, as though they'd known of the burdens they would later carry as men. Then, there were days for leisure, where he read science fiction and discovered that even masses of words had soul, when put in the hands of the right artist. The library had been second only to the track behind the school, when it came to sanctuaries. Its quiet green glow, and the smell of books had never failed to calm him after a day of vigor.

He stopped in his tracks, eyes widening at the picture before him. Almost distantly, he felt his cheeks warm - he was blushing.

A girl was hunched over - if she let him, he'd tell her the value of good posture one day - a book, her blonde hair spilling over her thin limbs. Her small mouth was moving quickly, and he assumed she was reading along silently with the words in front of her. What caught him, though, was the movement in her thin - everything about her seemed fragile, delicate, not quite-whole - blonde brows.

They arched one moment, and he wondered if she was aggravated, what, with the way she was rolling her eyes. Her smooth white brow was furrowed, but in the next instant, it smoothed out, and she nodded a little, as though in agreement with some invisible man before her. The thin arches receded - she was calm again. Then, they quirked, one after the other, and this time with amusement. She smiled with restraint - not too wide, as though there were some old bluestocking from finishing school standing beside her, ready to reprimand her at the slightest expression beyond cool disdain - her tongue poking out between her thin lips, as though she were afraid of happiness.

He stood there, watching - taking her in. It was difficult not to feel like the worst sort of voyeur, but something in him would not allow him to move.

That was, until, she decided to call out to him. Her voice was soft, but rang true with clarity.

"You can come out now," she said, not taking her eyes away from the page in front of her. "I know you're there. But I should tell you, stranger, that my best friend's a black-belt, who taught me how to punch. So, I wouldn't take me lightly."

He tried very hard not to chuckle - it wouldn't do to show disrespect to an opponent, and really, he thought, she had every right to be upset. He had, in a sense, been spying on her.

Slightly chagrined at the realization, he stepped out from behind his hiding place near library shelf number one-hundred-and-twenty-eight.

He cleared his throat, and smiled sheepishly.

"Hello," he ventured unsurely, suddenly wishing he hadn't worn his deep-green sweater vest. It was hot enough with the white dress shirt he was wearing as a concession to the autumn chill.

Her blue eyes narrowed, and she didn't reply.

"What's your name? I figure that since you've spent the better part of - here, she checked her watch - thirty minutes (had it really been that long, he wondered) ogling my unsuspecting person, you can either tell me, or take me out to get some coffee. I could do with a bit of warming up, and," she didn't neglect to remind him again. "You owe me."

Unbidden, he felt his lips quirk up into a small smile. This girl...

"What are you staring for, creeper? Let's go!"


More coming.