The Product of My Boredom.
So it took like, two days. And it was a great waste of time.
Prolly the randomest thing I've ever written...? (You can tell me what you think by pressing the REVIEW button. Because you know you want to.)
Anyways, enjoy :D
As long as Ino could remember, she had been beautiful.
The old women in the parks had tittered at her, eyeing her blonde blue-eyed countenance, her unmistakable Yamanaka poise, the clear manner in which she spoke. They had known, right from the start.
'Oh, there's that darling Yamanaka girl again.'
'That's the one. Rosy cheeks, blonde hair- and there's Inoichi himself. Hasn't changed a bit.'
'She'll be a heartbreaker, if I ever saw one.'
And so it went. She grew up in a sea of compliments, from her talent to her beauty to her charming personality, each word spoken affecting her and changing her in different ways. They applauded her prowess as a kunoichi, and admired her gentle actions despite it. Who could blame them? Her hair a lovely silver-blonde, her perfectly shaped blue eyes, her skin a golden peach and an intoxicating laugh. Tall, thin and exceptionally confident, she was what every girl around her aspired to be.
She noticed that people tended to gravitate towards her. As a child, she would sit with Sakura in class and lunch as much as she could- but there were always other girls hanging around, chatting them up. Sakura, always polite and slightly embarrassed, had handled the popularity as calmly as she could- a trait she carried for many years after. But on those long summer nights, where they'd talk until early morning and sleep until noon, she'd betray her excitement. And while she opened up, in the security that nobody but her best friend and the stars were listening, Ino would think despite her best efforts that it wasn't Sakura they came for. It was her.
And in a sort of selfish way, she was happy about it.
Long after the cozy nights faded away, the orange glow of the candles and the comforting sweet scent of cherry blossoms fuzzy at the edges of her mind, Ino noticed Shikamaru Nara.
It seemed as though she'd always known the boy- he'd been just there, in the shadows, for an indefinite amount of time. Unlike most things in her life, she couldn't place their exact meeting, their exact beginning, in her mind (-which drove her insane). In fact, he'd always reminded her of someone whose name always seemed to be on the tip of her tongue when she remembered them. It was one cloudy evening, when she was nine and there was a knock on the door, that she realized that Shikamaru Nara reminded her of his own father.
But she only really noticed him when she was eleven. It was five days before her birthday- and later, she realized, four days before his- and he'd just slouched into the classroom with the fat Akimichi kid when Iruka announced casually that there would be a change in seating plan. It was only the morning. He could afford to be casual.
Among the groans of annoyance and the shuffling of feet as the class moved towards the back of the room, she watched him drag his feet along the floor to the back. His hands twitched to his pocket- they were there, and then they were not- and without hearing it, she recognized a heaving sigh when his shoulders moved up forcibly. His friend trailed a little behind him, the ever present follower.
In that minute or so, Ino took in several dozen features of Shikamaru Nara that she had never before paid much thought. A brief moment of fascination, and she noticed that his eyes were dark gray and narrowed, that his arms were too long for his body, and that his sandals were almost destroyed. There was a thin white line, almost invisible, running along his jaw under his right ear, and she wondered how he'd gotten a scar there- of all places.
Then just like that, her fascination ceased immediately and she dismissed the both of them as losers. Who cared about the Nara kid anyway, and his stupid fat accomplice? They never talked to her or Sasuke. In fact, she had a sneaking suspicion that they were friends of Naruto, and that was most definitely not allowed.
She noticed him again eight months later, when they filed into the Academy for the last time. Looking around fondly in the hallways, the marks left behind by her generation and the memories she'd be leaving behind as well, she'd somehow ended up seated next to Shikamaru Nara without meaning to. Stupid looking and narcotic as always, he'd completely ignored her presence and carried on staring idly out the open window. Really, it was a wonder he'd even gotten this far- thinking about it, did he ever pay attention?
The lazy ass probably wouldn't see any of these people until his first Chuunin exams, and he was sitting on his stool as calmly as ever. No conversation. No goodbyes.
As Iruka stepped in, congratulating them all, giving them parting words of advice, and began announcing teams, she had her first legitimate conversation with the boy.
Although it was only a few spiteful remarks exchanged between twelve-year-olds, she was fuming by the end. Here was this insolent, stupid, rude, arrogant boy insulting her intelligence. This stupid, stupid boy who'd failed every damned test except for the finals, this stupid boy she'd be spending the next couple of years of her life with.
As if she was going to let it happen.
But she ended up having to. There were certain comforting things though- her team was annoying as hell, but at least she was in charge. Aside from the two obvious idiots, their sensei didn't really seem to know much about anything either, so she'd claimed her natural role as the leader of their group. Another satisfying fact- she'd hit her growth spurt, and the boys had not. For now, she was the tallest. Of the three genin, she was also the smartest, the fastest, and the most adept at chakra techniques. So what if Nara could hold people still? So what if Akimichi could inflate into a gross, giant ball? She could read people's minds.
And she was still the most beautiful.
Naturally, it was infuriating when she lost out to stupid Sakura Haruno in the Chuunin exams. She'd deserved to win, and she was sure they both knew it. In shock, she came to terms with the fact that Shikamaru Nara had made it to the finals, and she had not. She got over herself enough to cheer like mad for him in the last round. In fact, she cheered so hard she ended up convincing herself that he would actually win. She screamed herself hoarse, just to realize that she'd turned him into the person she wanted him to be in her mind- and she realized, in the moments after his ground-shattering forfeit, that she did not know this geeky, gangly boy at all.
It was upsetting, though she didn't admit it.
Ino was just barely fourteen when she realized that stupid Shikamaru Nara was taller than her.
They were training. Asuma-sensei, slave driver that he was, had had them up at training ground 5 since dawn that day, and it was nearing sundown. It had been a chilly day, perfect, as Asuma said, for 'vigorous physical and mental training'. Their skin streaked with dirt and sweat, bruised and battered, chakra almost exhausted, the two of them had stood back to back in a clearing on the lookout for their opponents.
She remembered distinctly a cool breeze rustling up the leaves at their feet, all reds and browns, and the crackling sound as they brushed against the ground and each other. Wearing her signature cutoff shirt and black shorts, she'd shivered slightly in the wind. She could remember the feeling of his warm back on her shoulders, his chest expanding as he breathed in heavily, the hair from his loosened ponytail brushing against her forehead.
It had been a shock, to say the least, to realize that she only came up to his mouth. Since the Chuunin exams, she'd been so preoccupied with figuring out who he was- who the real Shikamaru Nara was- that she had completely forgotten to pay attention to his physical appearance. Shikamaru had never been beautiful; he'd been ugly, annoying, skinny and stupid. Or at least, that was what she had gathered in the beginning. But with the concentration she put into realizing what a complicated and interesting individual he was, she had completely missed his growth spurt. The new clothes. The exact way that his flak jacket seemed to fit him nowadays.
It was sad, thinking that her boys had been growing without her.
True to the words of the old women in the parks, now long gone and resting peacefully, Ino became a true heartbreaker.
Perfect lashes, pouted pink lips, long soft hair, glowing skin; beautifully rounded shoulders and thin arms; large swaying hips narrowing to a perfect waist; long shapely legs, delicate ankles, and narrow feet. It wasn't just her features themselves- it was the way she would wrap herself around her boyfriends, whispering softly into their ears; the way she smiled when she got what she wanted; the way she traced her kunai across her victims' throats to ensure the quickest, quietest death.
Meanwhile, Shikamaru and Chouji walked quietly and supportively in her shadow. Hidden behind the glow of her beauty, they were free to spend late nights out in the fields with no one wondering about them. Although Ino thought she was in charge, this strong self-assurance provided Shikamaru with sufficient cover to slowly take control of their intertwined lives- with Chouji's blessing. Ino thought she had control and power- what she really had were two exceptionally capable bodyguards who were willing to eliminate most threats before she noticed them.
The ethereal beauty, with her immeasurable charisma and confidence, left bewilderment, jealousy and chaos in her wake. Lovely in every way, the world had difficulty keeping up with this force of nature- one to be reckoned with. So the boys learned to deal. With years of practice, they were fully capable of keeping Ino happy, eliminating threats to said happiness, cleaning up her messes and leading their own lives as well. She loved them, but considered them a bit boring and clueless. In her wild eighteen-year old ways, she was blinded by herself and failed to see something changing within them as well.
Ino had always dismissed Shikamaru Nara. Sometimes to a greater extent; sometimes to a lesser one. Whether she'd written him off as stupid, lazy, narcotic, cynical, emotionless, pitiful, pathetic, ugly or annoying, she'd never really been capable of capturing the boy's fleeting moments of true personality.
It was when Temari rushed through the gates into his arms, kissed him forcefully, and asked him to be her boyfriend that she fell back to Earth and looked for a re-evaluation.
As he kissed the woman back, she noticed- godammit, had she been paying attention at all?- his black sleeveless shirt, the exact way in which it hung of his shoulders and contrasted his skin; the way his arm casually sat on Temari's waist, while with the other he held her hand; how tall he was, and his low, almost inaudible voice rumbling a soft 'Yes.'
So, Shikamaru grew away from her. At first, it was little differences.
She'd be sitting with Chouji at Yakini Q, impatiently playing with her beef, when Chouji would look up and remind her that Shikamaru was out; and then sometimes Chouji would have a mission, and she'd be left sitting at the barbecue shop alone, waiting for the teammates who would never come. She's usually stay out of principle- somebody had to take up their booth, didn't they?
She'd be lonely sometimes- and sometimes Chouji would invite just her, or Shikamaru and Temari would join in to whatever together. The distance, in turn, made her grow closer to Sakura again, her need for friendship forcing back all her inhibitions about her oldest friend. But Sakura was a medic and a ninja, and duty called- not to mention that Naruto remained an important part of the girl's life as well, and she just couldn't move everything for Ino. Even if she wanted to.
Then, she found herself walking alone along the streets of Konoha, tall and beautiful and graceful as always, but something was… different. Because there were men who made comments, and whispers that circled, and girls she thought were her friends looking at her in a way she had never before noticed. Had the world changed this much? She had never remembered it such and ugly, ugly pitiless place. So she stopped going for walks after that.
Ino remained beautiful. Even as spring turned to summer, and the heat penetrated the walls of houses and the shade of trees and building, the distance grew. She remained beautiful, but somehow, she fell from the spotlight. She was no longer pulling the world behind her- instead, she seemed to be standing somewhere just outside of it, lost, as it moved on without her.
One hot July day, Ino realized what was missing.
That night, there was a storm. A true summer storm, with splattering rain and booming thunder and lighting that flashed like the sun. Her father was out, and she was crying- she was crying like the time Sakura had left her, with her mind and body and soul all collecting into a torrent of tears. Her throat and lungs hurt, and her eyes stung and itched. Her nose was sore from the rubbing. She was trembling all along her body, and the pain felt great. In fact, this pain, this fucking release, felt better than the sun and the stars and the warm, hot afternoons spent with those boys and that girl and that man and those godforsaken memories invading her mind. It was great because there was no faking, no gimmicks, no control. Just the godhonest truth and raw, raw emotion.
That night, Ino cried herself to sleep for the first time in years. And when she woke up, she didn't see beautiful, dangerous, heartbreaker Ino. She saw a young girl left behind, who needed a boy. A girl who needed him very badly.
So she got dressed. Not in her usual, Ino-esque getup. She pulled on a light white dress, long with thick straps, that she thought made her look boxy and Shikamaru thought made her look beautiful, and taking a good look, she realized what he liked about the dress.
It was a beautiful day. The sky was overcast with exhausted rainclouds, and the ground was wet and dark and smelled strongly of earth and nature. It was warm and humid, but a soft breeze blew occasionally from the West. Beams of sunlight appeared filtered and hazy through the clouds. It occurred to her that she had forgotten to put on her shoes, but she it then occurred to her that she no longer cared.
As the wind blew again, it caught her dress and it blew ahead of her, crinkling around her knees and waist, her ponytail brushing against her face. That day, Ino decided she liked her dress.
She remembered that afternoon clearly. After wandering around the village all morning, she joined Naruto and Sakura for lunch at the ramen stand, and she discovered suddenly where the boy found the appeal. Sakura questioned her muddy feet, and the box-dress, but Naruto just looked at her.
Years later, she remained convinced that he understood.
After she consumed her second bowl ('Ino, are you feeling okay?') she left, despite their protests that she wasn't intruding and that they would enjoy her company. They were too nice, the both of them. She wandered around the park for hours more, making careful bouquets from the wildflowers she found growing resiliently under the rocks and between the roots of great big trees, struggling to make their own in a bigger world. It didn't matter who found the bouquets- she even gave one to an old woman sitting idly on a bench. It was therapeutic.
After that, she decided to find out was Shikamaru found so appealing about his naps, so she hopped the fence to the massive Nara grounds and located his hill. Of course he wasn't there. He was never there anymore. She lay down on the grass, damp and smelling of plants and animals and freshness, and she felt the damp ground staining her dress and hair. It didn't matter.
She slept. She slept and she dreamt and she woke and she blinked and she slept and she absorbed the world. As the end of the day approached, she woke to a canvas of pinks and purples and golds, and she felt good about the world. As she crept out to the main road, she thought she felt Yoshino's intense gaze- she could recognize it anywhere. But the woman, she felt, understood as well.
She found him sitting on the hokage monument. Not on the fourth's head- that was reserved solely for Naruto. Instead, he was lounging on the third's, probably absorbing the last of the sun's rays before it set definitely for the day. She approached him slowly. Of course he knew she was there.
Ino had always dismissed Shikamaru Nara. She'd thought he was stupid; he had an IQ of 200. She thought he was lazy; he had made ANBU. She'd thought he was cynical; she had been under the impression her team would fail. She'd thought he was pathetic; if he was pathetic, then what was she?
'Ino.' His voice. Soft, deep, smooth.
He paused. He always did that before answering a question. 'She left this morning.'
'Oh.' She took a deep breath. 'Can I sit?'
'Sure? It's not my mountain…'
She didn't comment. She just sat down.
'Are you going after her?'
This time, he paused even longer. 'I don't know. I think so.'
He looked over at her, slowly as always. Light illuminated his eyes- they looked green. He didn't say anything, just looked at her.
That was when she realized who Shikamaru Nara was. Who he was was not defined solely by the qualities that he did have- it was equally measured by those he did not. Because Shikamaru Nara was not judgmental- was not questioning her appearance, her disappearances, her reasons. He was not judgmental, nor was he stupid, or cynical, or pathetic or cruel. Not like her.
And she needed him, twisted as it was.
'Don't leave me.'
Like an invitation.
Like a promise.
And it was a beautiful thing.