Cloudy Days

A Xenocide Production

A/N: A little look at what could have been. Dreaming isn't so bad, is it?

Summary: Gray skies are just clouds passing over. [Shika-centric. Nothing important.]

Disclaimer: I own not Naruto. Damn if my Konoha Harem doesn't own me, though.


Uzumaki Naruto had never been one to see the value of a cloud.

While he respected Shikamaru's abilities as the junior head of Intelligence, he privately thought that Shikamaru was also the laziest ass he'd ever had the misfortune to meet. Life wasn't meant to be a spectator sport, and it seemed to him that the young Nara would have been perfectly content to stand aside and watch the world laugh itself into oblivion.

One day, he'd come across the lazy man sprawled on his favorite hillside, idly smoking his sensei's own brand of cigarettes, and watching the clouds drift by serenely in an endless waltz of carefully orchestrated chaos.

Naruto sat down next to Shikamaru. They were not friends, or even acquaintances, precisely. But even so, there was a quiet bond that existed between them, something that quivered in familiarity whenever one saw the other. It was the same bond that all inhabitants of Konohagakure shared, but shinobi felt it on a deeper level. Sometimes, that bond went so deep that entire conversations could be exchanged within the span of a handful of sentences, and understanding, however sparse or cloudy, could always be found.

"Why do you do it?" He asked of the shadow user.

"Hmm?" The Nara drawled absentmindedly.

Naruto leaned back and put his hands behind his head. "Why do you stare at the clouds so much?"

The wind wafted gently, tussling their hair and clothing, making the leaves in the trees and the fine blades of grass sway gracefully to an unheard waltz. Shikamaru was silent. He always thought out his answer much in the way he played shogi; anticipating his opponent's moves, his own responses, and the opponent's counters to his counters. Conversation was a simple thing, yet ironically, it was the most diffcult thing in the world for Shikamaru. There wasn't really such a thing as small talk for him. There was only a query or a statment and then a response. Only Ino and Chouji understood him well enough to understand that his closed mouthedness and standoffishness was not intentional or malicious in nature, it was simply because he had difficulty not overanalyzing things to death.

Shikamaru considered Naruto's question in the odd manner that his mind processed such things.

Why was Naruto asking him a question? And more specifically, why this question? No one had ever thought to ask Shikamaru why he cloud gazed, only why he wasn't doing anything else. He idly considered that Naruto was simply here to antagonize him, but he dismissed it almost immediately. The Rokudaime had better things to do than to track down one of his erstwhile advisors just to bother him on his off day.

He then considered that perhaps there was a different meaning behind the question posed. Naruto wasn't overly subtle, but donning the tri-cornered hat had taught him something of the nature of politics and looking beneath the underneath. Perhaps Naruto was subtly jibing Shikamaru, hinting at his somewhat questionable work ethic. Shikamaru wasn't Head of Intelligence merely because he simply didn't wish to deal with the large amount of paperwork that Ibiki-jii did.

Or perhaps, he was referring to Temari's pregnancy, which was nearing its ninth month. Shikamaru still had the vague suspicision that Temari purposefully forgot to use protection, as she had once confided that she wished to be a mother, but he wouldn't ever voice his suspicion. In his own way, he loved the girl and didn't begrudge her own little happiness. They both knew that he wouldn't be much of a father and silently agreed to leave the raising of the child to Temari. They never once mentioned marriage and most likely never would. But lately, Shikamaru had caught himself wondering what Temari would look like in his mother's marriage kimono.

Slightly amused at himself, Shikamaru also mused that perhaps Naruto was simply being Naruto and was asking him a honest question, something that shinobi had been trained since their academy days not to do. But then again, Naruto was exceptionally thick for a shinobi.

Several minutes passed in silence as Shikamaru thought carefully for an answer that would satisfy them both.

He finally replied, "Because it's something I don't have to think about."

Naruto nodded, looking slightly mystified. Shikamaru privately thought his answer confused Naruto mainly because the orange-clad Hokage rarely thought deeply on any matter not immediately concerning him. This was a rather unkind thought, but Shikamaru simply couldn't help but wonder if Naruto was truly qualified to wear the garments of the office.

Shikamaru sighed.

"It's like, 'Hey, I'm tired. Soft spot in the grass. Oh look, clouds.'" Shikamaru paused and then added, "It's also useful for tuning out the girl you play house with."

"So wait, you don't see any Great Mysterious Pattern or something like that?"

Shikamaru rolled over on his side to face Naruto. "What in the world are you talking about?"

Naruto was chewing on a blade of grass, his hands still behind his head and one leg crossed over the other. "You're this awesome genius that sees stuff where other people don't, right? I always thought that you saw something in the clouds that other people couldn't."

Shikamaru sighed and shook his head. "They're just clouds, Naruto. You can see anything you want to see in them." He reached up into sky and pointed at a particularly bulbous cloud. "See that one? That sorta looks like a stag beetle if you tilt your head a bit."

The two men both tiltled their heads slightly to the left.

" know, that looks more like Sasuke-teme when he's sulking."

"...the Uchiha sulks? I always thought he was more of the brooding type."

"Come on. Wouldn't you sulk if you had Sakura-chan throwing out all your porno mags and keepsakes from past battles?"

"I have a hard time believing that the Uchiha is capable of being interested in hot-blooded females, much less owning pictures of naked ones."

"Who said they were chicks?"

A beat.

"You know, Shikamaru, you're the only person who calls me Naruto anymore. Even Sakura-chan calls me Hokage-sama, except when we're all together." Naruto spread his arms out at his sides. "Awesome! That one totally looks like a hunch-backed turtle!"

Shikamaru rolled back on his back. "Yeah well, you're still the same idiot to me. And you do know that all turtles are technically hunch-backed, right? They're called 'shells'."

"I'm telling you, that turtle has a hunch on its shell!"

"...why do I even bother talking to you?"

"Because Temari is too high on hormones, all Ibiki talks about is how to break a man's spine in three places without killing him, and you don't have to think when you talk to me?"

For an awfully dense person, Naruto had the unsettling tendency to know things that he couldn't possibly know, Shikamaru thought.

"I can't believe that I'm actually going to admit that you're right."

Naruto crowed victoriously. "Hah! I knew something the Super Genius didn't! I'm not Hokage for nothing, you know."

"You drugged Tsunade-sama and had her deed you that hat and garish cloak, didn't you?"

Naruto shrugged nonchalantly. "Bet you're annoyed you didn't think of that yourself."

"Not half as annoyed as Ino will be with you if you're late for dinner with her."

Naruto sat up and smirked over at the other man. "You're not going to get me with that one. Sasuke-teme already tried that trick." Ino had wondered why three cartloads of flowers and candy showed up on her doorstep with an apology from Naruto for being late for their dinner date even though he was an hour early.

Shikamaru shrugged. "I don't particularly care. I heard her leave a message with your secretary, the Hyuuga chick, telling you to meet her at noon." He looked up pointedly at the sun, which was an hour or so past high noon.

Naruto paled and it seemed to Shikamaru that even the eternally cheerful man's spiky-blonde hair drooped and faded somewhat in fear.

"Oh shit."

Shikamaru smirked and resumed his cloudgazing.


Naruto flailed to his feet, making three clones and directing them to buyout the nearest candy store and bring as much as they could carry. Ino would require much appeasement in order for Naruto to avoid retiring early as a cripple.

"She's going to kill me!"

"Probably. The Great Mysterious Pattern in the clouds tells me that there shall be much pain in your future. And traction."

The lazy shinobi enjoyed the silence the absence of his Hokage brought. Of course, Ino had said no such thing to Naruto's secretary, but the man was still so gullible that he couldn't resist.

Shikamaru tilted his head to the side and blinked a few times.

"You know, that one looks surprisingly like Temari before she got fat."



Whatcha think?