Summary: Somewhere in-between all these hushed-up visits to the Nara household late at night, she had miscalculated. She had been outmanoeuvred; she had stolen Shikamaru's body, but he had stolen her heart. (Ino one-shot.)
Rating: M (sex, violence/horror)
Disclaimer: Naruto and all of associated characters belong to Kishimoto Masashi.

I awoke only to find my lungs empty
And through the night, it seems like I'm not breathing
And now my dreams are nothing like they were meant to be
I think I'm breaking down, I think I'm breaking down

And I'm afraid to sleep because of what haunts me
Such as living with the uncertainty
That I'll never find the words to say
That would completely explain just how I'm breaking down

I've become a simple souvenir of someone's kill
And like the sea, I'm constantly changing from calm to hell
Madness fills my heart and soul as if the great divide could swallow me whole
Oh, how I'm breaking down

Some one come and, someone come and save my life
Maybe I'll sleep when I am dead, but now it's like the night is taking sides
With all the worries that occupy the back of my mind,
Could it be this misery will suffice?

(City & Colour, Sleeping Sickness)

Almost there. Just a little further...

"Oh, I know all about guys like you."

By the time Ino reached the Nara residence, the street lamps were lit and a filmy layer of sweat had covered her body, but there was no time to catch her breath - or rather, Ino wouldn't make time to catch her breath. Two short, quick raps on the back door and a pale arm was reaching through it to grab her wrist and yank her inside.

"You again?" It sounded like a complaint, but Ino said nothing in response and Shikamaru did not press her as he led her upstairs by the wrist, pulling her around the bend of the hallway. He pushed her inside his bedroom, but as he let go of her wrist she grabbed him and he stumbled inside with her, closing the door with a clumsy bang and falling onto the bed on top of her.

"What the hell," he muttered, clearly irritated, but Ino evidently couldn't spare time for this, either.

"Shut up," she replied, and her mouth met his.

From the center of the room, the shinobi watched the young woman take cat-like steps around him - toe, heel, toe, heel, silent and fluid as a feline - and could only manage to find bitter irony in the fear that consumed him. Any other day, in any other situation, he would have thought he'd died and gone to heaven if he had woken up from a state of unconsciousness to find himself at the mercy of a vivacious blonde woman with waist-length hair, bright blue eyes and pretty pink pouted lips. But reality was reality, and the predatory stare she fixed him with held no suggestion of heaven. The man glanced at the slender silver blade in her right hand and felt the wire that bound him to his chair cut into the bare skin of his arms. If anything, he had landed in hell.

Ino's lips migrated to Shikamaru's jaw and began trailing down his neck.

"You've come back from another one of your lessons, haven't you?" he said.

Her hands on his hands, placing them on her breasts. Ino felt her nipples hardening beneath the material of her purple top and let out an encouraging coo as she felt the first few threads of desire lick through her. She couldn't go home, she couldn't sleep. This is what she needed right now.

Shikamaru knew it, too; he let his hands fall from her breasts down her sides, then pulling her top over her head. She helped him by ripping the elastic band out of her hair and letting it fall across her shoulders and fan around her head like a great golden halo.

"How about no more talking tonight," She murmured breathily, reaching for the hem of Shikamaru's mesh shirt. He complied, as she knew he would, but only because it wasn't worth the trouble not to.

"I swear, I swear to you that's all I know! Please!"

"Hmm." Ino studied the dirt beneath her nails, unconcerned. "Bo-ring."

In the space of a breath, she was sitting on her captive's lap, one porcelain-skinned arm curled around his shoulders and the other holding the point of her kunai against his left temple. Carving a little heart lightly into one side of his face - a nice feminine touch, in Ino's own opinion - she purred, "You must have something else. If you're too shy to tell me yourself, I can...dig a little deeper for you. Would you like that?"

In a corner of the far side of the barren room, Ibiki's scarred face wore something of a small, satisfied smile.

In one fluid movement, Ino had rolled them both over so that she kneeled over Shikamaru on the bed, one knee planted on either side of his hips.

"How about I care of you tonight," she purred. "Would you like that?"

Her teammate just glared back at her sceptically with his dark eyes. "I thought you said no more talking," he said.

Ino ignored him as usual, giving him a coy smile and placing her palm flat against his chest before crawling backwards off the bed and standing before him. Hooking her thumbs into the band of her plain white panties, she worked them down her hips until they slid to the floor, baring all. In truth, Ino abhorred hair; it was hard enough performing maintenance to the long blonde locks on her head, so she kept clean-shaven everywhere else for encounters just like these.

She could have sworn that despite his air of nonchalance, Shikamaru's cheeks got a little more colour to them. Sometimes the casual way that she flaunted her body still bothered him.

Sauntering forward once more, Ino kept matched her seductive stare to Shikamaru's frank one and slowly knelt down in front of him. It was a quirk that she acquired as a girl in the Academy, when her father was teaching her the Mind-Body Switch: never take your eyes off of your opponent, never break their gaze, and their body will be yours.

The Mind-Body Switch - the simplest and most effective way to extract information from shinobi with what veterans liked to call 'liplock syndrome'. It was a Yamanaka specialty, but Ino had never found much use for it outside her team's dynamics, when Shikamaru could couple it with his Shadow technique...until Ibiki discovered in her the pupil that her father never had the guts to be: a pupil in the school of torture.

There were times when the torture master wondered why he had broken his own rules and decided to take on a woman understudy. Times like Ino's first experience bringing true pain to the body she'd taken command of, where she felt the pain of the knife severing the victim's hand like it was her own and blamed Ibiki for it, lashing out and managing to give him his own wound. Times like, when Ino was practicing extraction, she accidentally killed the body she had switched into and avoided the Underground where her lessons were held for days.

For every bad day that they had, Ino parted in a rage, throwing blades and blowing holes in the wall and shrieking accusations as she stormed out of the premises. She was an abomination in a casual setting, a loose cannon who expelled heat when she was angry and didn't care who got burned because of it. Ibiki found out that it was no accident that she had been placed on a team headed by Sarutobi Asuma, the most solidly grounded jounin he had ever known. No other professional in their right mind would want a kunoichi like her working on with them on a mission.

And yet...the minute she walked into that dirty white room, Ino was a different person. She was cool, unruffled, deadly. After just two months of working with Ibiki, Ino's record of information extraction matched and even outshone the other apprentice Extractors, even despite that she was the youngest and also the sole female. She had the skill and the stomach and the psychological chemistry that they didn't. She had found her area of expertise.

Ibiki had seen the faces of her teammates when they had overheard him casually mention this to Anko. They could not decide whether to be impressed or worried for their friend.

"Harder, harder!" Ino dragged her nails down Shikamaru's back, leaving angry red tracks on his skin. She pulled his hair and grit her teeth, anything to provoke him. She wanted him to get angry at her, she wanted him to take it out on her, but he never changed his rhythmic pace.

"Ino," he panted in her ear instead. "Be quiet, my parents will hear you."

"Make it hurt, Goddamnit! I want you to make it..." Her venomous shriek subsided into sobs, and the sound of her own distress shocked her. God, she had come here for a roll in the sheets, not a session of therapy. What was wrong with her?

Shikamaru froze; he looked at her face carefully and with a slight frown, like he was attempting to analyze her strange behaviour, then turned and rolled off of her. "So troublesome..." he muttered under his breath.

He lay next to her for awhile, doing and saying nothing, wiry chest rising and falling to the sound of Ino's strangled sobs. She had curled up on her side, facing away from him to maintain whatever dignity she had left. That was the end of that, she was sure. Who could she go to now, late at night? Who would take her?

The reaction of Ino's teammates fell short of her expectations and her temper flared. Couldn't they manage to be proud of her? Couldn't they? It wasn't fair to expect her to be the third wheel forever. Shikamaru had his big genius brain, and Chouji had his Bloodline Limit. Ino wanted something for herself, something that made her special and valuable too, but she hadn't been specific enough; her wish had been granted, all right, but the cost...

The nightmares came and went, the nightmares that she buried in the back of her brain with the other things she didn't speak about. Sometimes she dreamed of cutting herself open, her hands acting all on their own accord as she screamed for them to stop. Other times she entered that white room to find her father strapped to the chair, or worse, Sakura, her short pink mop hiding the tears on her face as Ibiki looked on with his hardened blank stare. Once it was even Sasuke. Ino forced herself awake after that development - it hit too close to home, it was much too real. For all she knew, Sasuke could end up strapped to that bloody throne one day. It would be the end of her, it would be her undoing.

But it wouldn't stop her from doing her job, and that was what scared her so much.

Shikamaru sighed heavily and Ino flinched as two sinewy arms snaked around her waist and pulled her towards him until the arch of her back fit against his chest. It was uncharacteristically affectionate of him.

"What are you doing?" Her voice was slightly muffled against her pillow.

"We're going to try this again," he said quietly, "But this time, we're going to take it slow."

Slow? That was the way Shikamaru always did things, with deliberate slowness. Why couldn't she see it before? Nothing would change this. There was no hurrying him.

And then he kissed her gently, his calloused hand against her jaw, keeping her face tilted towards his, and Ino couldn't even manage to wonder how he had learned how to do that or why he was doing it, showing her this affection that she didn't know he was capable of and that she didn't believe she deserved. The tension leaked from her body like he was stealing it from her and she let him take it.

Make me forget, she willed. Make me forget about the things I did today, tomorrow, last week, last year. She formed the words in her mind and put that plea into that kiss, because she would never say them out loud where anyone could hear her.

She told Asuma-sensei about her fears when she visited his cenotaph, armed with an arrangement from the Yamanaka flower shop that she had put together herself.

Somewhere in-between all these hushed-up visits to the Nara household late at night, she had miscalculated. She had been outmanoeuvred; she had stolen Shikamaru's body, but he had stolen her heart. Ino had stopped guarding it properly a long time ago because she truly thought hers wasn't a heart worth stealing.

And the bastard must have chuckled and tossed a cigarette down to earth to Nara Shikamaru, who must have paused, shrugged, lit up and continued to play old-man's shogi against the empty space across from the game board that used to be occupied by his sensei.

"You deal with it, Shikamaru," he might have said. "You know what to do."

If that was Asuma's way of watching over Ino, it wouldn't surprise her.

Author's Note: Yay angstydarkfics! How'd you like it? Reviews greatly appreciated; I tried something new here, and would really like some feedback on what worked/didn't work. Thanks for reading, guys!