The room was surprisingly messy, considering that there was barely anything in it. Some pizza boxes, coffee mugs, wrappers, and dirty clothes were all scattered about a big, brand new couch(*), where the tenet lay snoring. He hadn't even managed to change out of his uniform before he had fallen asleep. If his mom could see him, he would have been in for it. But that was one of the good points about being alone. He could do as he pleased.

Well, to a point.

Ino looked around from her relatively safe place in the doorway, disgusted. "He really lives like this, does he? And here I thought that he had gotten more responsible…" She tossed a strand of beautiful blond hair behind her ear irritably, and put her hands on her hips. There was no denying that she was beautiful. But her temper had a history of masking her more attractive features.

Chouji shrugged pleasantly. He was big, round; a sort of softie, though he was protective of his teammates. As he had grown older, he had only grown more good natured. He softened Ino's sharp edges rather nicely, having gotten used to her nuances back when the three of them were children.

The blond sighed; hand on her head as if warding off a headache. She really, really didn't like messes. Oh well, the faster they did this, the faster the mess would be gone. "Well, alright, then. Let's do this."

Chouji smiled. He looked at the box he held gently in his hands. "You'll think he'll like it?"

"He better, after all the work we put in."

Ino frowned. She had a bouquet of flowers in a vase, each different but all beautiful. She was acting grumpy, but she had worked hard on this, and she expected the lazy brat to be grateful. "Better return us the favor, too."

The friends entered the room, and began to work. Ino had brought some scented candles and some clean cloths, as well as a mask—she promptly set to work dusting. Chouji cleaned up the garbage and set to work on the dishes. They worked as quietly as possible. Ino thought it was good luck that Shikamaru had just been out on a difficult mission, or else they wouldn't have been able to do this, Shikamaru being a lazy but light sleeper normally.

She was wrong. Shikamaru was doing a lot of work, pretending to be asleep. This better be good, he thought, its troublesome pretending like this.

Finally they were done. Chouji and Ino put their gifts down on the table in front of the couch. Ino reached out, pushed Shikamaru's shoulder gently. "Hey, wake up," she said.

Shikamaru gave a loud, spiteful snore.

Ino twitched. "Hey, you, I said GET UP!" She shouted.

His eyes snapped open, startled, and he jolted upright. His hands went to his ears, and he gave Ino a pained expression. "Ok, ok, ouch…"

"Happy birthday, Shikamaru," Chouji said, grinning. He opened the box, revealing a big and delicious looking homemade cake. On the cake Chouji had iced a tired looking deer, a cheerful butterfly, and a strange boar wearing lipstick. Ino gave a shocked gasp, and glared at her partner-in-crime, who gave her an innocent look. Shikamaru snorted.

"Good one, Chouji, that's even better than last year's. Like the lipstick."

"I am not a boar!"

Shikamaru smiled, "What about your present, Ino?"

Ino huffed, "You don't deserve one."

Shikamaru shrugged. He made a big show of yawning and stretching. "Well, if that's all…" he plopped back down on the couch and closed his eyes.

Chouji said, "She did get you something, she got you—"

"Shut up Chouji!"

Shikamaru opened his eyes and rolled them.

Ino shoved her gift in his face. He took the vase, gave her a look, and examined the flowers. Factoring in that these flowers weren't even grown at Ino's shop regularly, which he bet she didn't know he knew, Shikamaru estimated that the gift was both expensive and that Ino had cared for them by herself. In fact, he knew so. The flowers were so beautiful, they had her name written all over them.

Shikamaru smiled. "Thank you," he said softly.

Ino's expression lightened, but she huffed out a, "I'm sure we're disturbing Shikamaru's birthday sleep, we better go, Chouji." She grabbed his hand and pulled him to the door.

"Where are you going?" Shikamaru asked.

Ino raised an eyebrow. "Me and Chouji have… stuff to do," She smiled seductively, wrapping around Chouji, who played along. It had become a routine to tease Shikamaru for his birthday. All three of them enjoyed it.

Shikamaru sighed, rolling his eyes again. "Fine, you go if you have to, but leave him here."

Ino's eyes flashed. "Oh, you are a bastard," She smirked, "But Chouji here wants to come with me, don't you, big boy?"

Chouji smiled. "Yes."

The birthday boy gave one last exaggerated sigh, pushed himself out of bed, and walked towards the other two. He kissed Ino and then Chouji, and leaned into his friends. "Well," he whispered, "I guess I'll just have to come along."

Chouji looked at Ino, "But we cleaned so well, it would be a shame to waste it," he said.

Ino kissed Chouji. "Yes," she agreed, "We will stay here."

Shikamaru twitched. He glared at the two of them. "Hey, you just got me out of bed, now you're going to put me back in?" Chouji laughed.

Ino took Shikamaru's hand, pulling him back in the apartment.

"Come on, Shikamaru, your couch needs a good breaking in," Chouji said. He smiled so sweetly, that the other man couldn't bring himself to do anything but grumble under his breath about this change of routine. Besides, Ino had already pulled them all the way over to the couch. And this was his favorite part of birthdays…


*Shikamaru got the couch as a present from his parents that very morning. It can collapse into a bed, king sized.