'Could you imagine how horrible things would be if we always told each other how we felt? Life would be intolerably bearable.'

Randy K. Milholland.

- - -

Ino always knew that Shikamaru was about as apathetic as they came.

That didn't mean she had to like it.

- - -

A kitten was once told by its mother to wash when in doubt. Ino operated on generally the same principles – general in that it required the word 'wash' to be replaced with the word 'bitch.'

As usual, the girls were her captive audience, though only Hinata tracked the blonde with worried eyes as Ino paced around the room like a caged leopard; Tenten was braiding the Hyuuga girl's hair and Sakura had her nose buried in some dusty-looking medical tome. Ino would have been irritated by this if her quota of ire for that day (week, month, year!) hadn't already been taken up.

"I might as well be dating a sloth," she said acidly, elegant hand waving this way and that for emphasis. "Not even a sloth – a rock. Did you know, most days it's up to his mother to get him out of bed." When the other girls looked at her blankly (well, Tenten and Hinata did – Sakura's eyebrows just raised in query over the top of her book) Ino briefly considered tearing at her hair, then rejected the idea since it wasn't good for the follicles. "He doesn't even live at home anymore!"

Tenten shrugged and went back to her braiding, tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth. "It's Shikamaru, Ino, what else do you expect?"

"How is that even an answer?!"

"It's the only answer you'll get if you're going to insist on moaning to us instead of to him," Sakura said absently. She finally looked up at Ino and her eyes were amused rather than sympathetic. "It isn't as if you didn't know what you were getting into – you've known him for the longest."

"And he was supposed to have changed," Ino complained. "Gotten better or something."

Hinata's suggestion that, maybe, Ino should like Shikamaru the way he was only earned her a condescending look and a careless flip of a very blonde head.

"Just show him your boobs," Tenten suggested, much more practically. "It works on Neji."

This was how Yamanaka Ino came to forgo the righteous path of actually accepting her lover for who he was in favour of the morally questionable (but quicker) path of blatant sexual bribery.

- - -

Except…it didn't quite work like that.

She'd even gone so far as to challenge him to a game of Shogi, one she knew she'd lose within the space of five minutes (seven if she cheated outrageously and used her signature jutsu to force him into making a shitty move.) However, she'd spent her time flaunting the curve of her breasts and the line of her throat as much as she could without falling out of her skimpy top.

He paid no attention. Whatsoever.

In the end, it was desperation that did it. Or frustration – she often confused the two. After he'd completely failed to note her hand trailing up the side of her throat, Ino cracked and, with a defiant look in his direction, lifted her shirt up.

Right up.

Shikamaru just glanced at her unconcernedly, then looked back to the game board. "Checkmate."

- - -

"He ignored them. He ignored my breasts."

"Maybe they're just not very good breasts," Sakura said as she examined the insulted chest in question.

Ino shot her an affronted look and flounced to the open window. "Oi, Kiba – can I borrow you?"

Ten minutes later, after Ino had laced her shirt back up and Kiba had been sent off to the hospital for anemia induced by blood loss from the nose, she glared at Sakura. "My breasts are awesome, thank you very much."

Tenten wasn't much help because she found the entire situation far too hilarious for words. And Sakura just wanted to drag Shikamaru to the hospital so she could run various tests. ('Perhaps some sort of hormonal disorder – have you noticed any hypogonadism?') Just when Ino was about to sink into a turbulent and grey sea of despair (she always abused adjectives when she was depressed), Hinata – sweet, meek Hinata – put a hand on her elbow and smiled gently.

"Talk to him, Ino-chan," she said quietly. "Just talk to him."

"I just might have to," Ino grumbled, but she still let the girl hug her.

- - -

She had a speech planned. It was detailed and emotive and, if all went as it should, she'd reach her maximum volume about six minutes in. And she was definitely committed to it. No arguments. No distractions. None whatsoever.

She'd forgotten that Shikamaru had a habit of, quite routinely, fucking her plans up.

Ino walked into his apartment and found it dark, though his shoes at the door betrayed his presence. Already muttering a tirade under her breath as a warm-up, she stalked into the lounge, blue eyes flashing with incipient danger.

For the record, it wasn't her fault that her anger faded – it was the tea's. Granted, him being asleep on the couch didn't exactly win him any points, but it was the second cup of tea on the little side table that really got to her.

Ino stared at the cup – her cup – and felt resignation creep up on her. With a sigh of (grudging) acquiescence, she shucked her jacket, unbound her hair and lay down on the couch beside him, insinuating herself neatly under his arm.

Wrapped up in Shikamaru, Ino resolved to yell at him when he woke up.

And to make him take her shopping.

…but only when he woke up.

- - -

Lell says…

Okay, so I actually only wrote this piece for where Ino flashes Kiba. I like writing Ino in short one-shots – anything I write involving her wants to be snappy and fast-paced. She is, unsurprisingly, the most demanding of the Naruto cast when it comes to writing them.

Hence two stories about her in two days. Whoops.

(Degree? What degree? I know not of this 'dee-gree' of which you speak.)