A/N: I know that this is unusual for me but I try to remain open-minded when it comes to pairings. While some of my more ardent readers might sacrifice me on the Shika/Tem altar, there is only so much I could do with Temari. Plus, I love Hinata. If you don't you need to pull your head out of your ass.
This story takes place during the current story line as of manga chapter 456. Naruto has decided to go convince the Raikage to forgive Sasuke.
Disclaimer: I don't, haven't and will never have owned Naruto or anything copyright related.
The most basic definition of irony is the perceived notion of incongruity between what is expressed and what is intended. What we know or what we perceive of reality is ultimately the opposite of literal truth. In essence, irony is a contradiction of our conscious and in a way, reminds that we do not know everything. To truly define irony, one only has to look at one's own life.
With the summit of the five Kages coming up, each of the major villages has placed restrictions on traffic and missions. While they were not entirely on lock down, leaving the village at the time was a very good way to get oneself into a heap of trouble and that was something only the crazy-brave or the ignorant-stupid were willing to attempt. Seeing that he was neither, he did what he was told and stayed in the village.
The tent cities that sprung up in the wake of the disaster became the temporary homes for most of the citizens of Konoha. The fact that most of the people remained in the village lead to an exorbitant amount of them congregating in the tent cities. With nothing better to do, they hung around having loud conversations that only seemed to aggravate a certain Chuunin which is why he found himself wandering aimlessly through a quieter section of the village ruins.
The clouds were nice today and they offered a much more pleasant sight compared to the destruction that lay around him. Those wonderful little particles of frozen water vapor formed a wide array shapes and sizes. It was amazing how one of the simplest acts of nature could draw forth the most imaginative and artistic parts of the mind. Even for one who was hopeless in the arts, shapes and images became crystal clear if you looked at them just right. The dark nature of the ones in the distance suggested a cold front rolling in from the east. While most people would see it as a bad sign, to Shikamaru the coming rain was a symbol of nature and everything was going to be fine.
"Shikamaru-kun" a soft voice interrupted his thoughts. Not expecting an interruption, he didn't immediately address it. Letting his eyes take in the sight a bit longer, he took a deep breath allowing the cool, crisp air saturate his lungs. Somewhat satisfied, he lowered his gaze from the sky in the direction of the voice and he saw her standing there a few meters away. Her long dark hair contrasted with her pale skin and white eyes. In a way, she was as interesting as the clouds. Under his scrutinizing gaze, she grew nervous casting her eyes downward.
"Hinata," he said and it seemed to catch her off guard. "I didn't expect anyone else to be out here," he confessed. She took furtive glances up at him but never made strict eye contact. Her timidity was quite amusing and gave her a smirk. At least she wasn't being troublesome. "Well, if you remain quite, I don't have a problem sharing."
That statement seemed to give her more confidence as she looked up and gave him a bright smile. As he looked back up at his clouds, he idly wonder why she was out here but the thought went the way of many things as he was once again immersed in his clouds. He heard her move around a bit but he chose to ignore it. Drawing pictures in the clouds, it would take a lot more to distract him than that but like most women, she couldn't leave it there. "Um…Shikamaru-kun?"
A bit miffed that she didn't take long to break their agreement, he looked in her direction with annoyance written on his face. She reacted like a scolded child, looking away again. This time she began fidgeting and he began to wonder why his facial expressions were not this effective on other women. He'd have to remember to tone down his facial expressions with her in the future. Pushing that thought aside, he decided that even though she broke their agreement, she was still probably the least troublesome woman to ever grace his presence so he smiled. "You can just call me Shikamaru. I don't mind."
She looked up at his words and seeing the smile on his face only served to exacerbate her situation. "Sorry, Shikamaru-kun," she apologized quickly. As if realizing she did it again, she closed her eyes and began to shake. Becoming even more nervous, she seemed to struggle with her thoughts finding herself unable to focus on what she was going to say. Seeing that his disposition was this effective on her, he resolved to only express apathy with her from now on because otherwise they would never be able to hold a simple conversation. "Um…I was just wondering…" She lost her thought again. "what are you were doing…"
"Out here?" he finished for her. She seemed to tense up at his voice and become more uncomfortable. The reason he came out here relax and it would be selfish of him to deny anyone else that comfort. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and relaxed. When he reopened them, he cast them towards the sky, his reason for being here. "Some times," he said softly. "I like to get away from all the noise of the village and clear my mind. I find the clouds to be one of the most relaxing parts of nature."
"Oh," she all but whispered. Taking the time to look at her, he noticed that she was listening intently. Curious eyes blinked a few times. Trying not to ruin the moment, he looked down at the ground before she would collapse under his scrutiny. As he surveyed the damage that lay around him, he noticed a particular familiarity about the place.
"The building that once stood here…" he told her but didn't look to see if she was listening. "The roof used to have this bench that was the perfect spot to watch clouds. It was conveniently tucked away were no one would bother you." He closed his eyes and imagined the old building. It brought a smile to his face.
"Sorry, Shikamaru-kun," she apologized again. Opening up his eyes, he looked at her. Her apology carried with it the utmost sincerity which was reflected on her face. "I didn't intend to interrupt you." As he looked at the humble woman in front of him, he couldn't imagine this woman interrupting anything. He couldn't be angry with her if he tried.
"It's ok," he told her. "It was a pleasant interruption." She seemed to light up at his implied complement. A blush began to creep onto her face. She chuckled a bit but her breath hitched with embarrassment at whatever thought had crossed her mind. His smile only made it worse. "Besides," he said. "I can think of much more troublesome people to interrupt me."
"Shikamaru!" Ino called as she came running towards them. He didn't even have to turn to see that it was her. It was a voice he would recognize anywhere. As he watched Hinata look towards her with piqued interest, he had a thought.
"Speaking of more troublesome people," he said sarcastically. Hinata's first reaction was a giggle but she realized his implication and stopped herself immediately. She gave him a disapproving look that was more cute than effective. All he could do was laugh, even if he was the only one.
Hearing Ino's footsteps get closer, he turned to see her come to a stop close to him. "Shikamaru," she said again. Panting hard, she struggled to catch her breath and she took the moment to look over at the other girl. "Hinata?" she question but the girl just looked at her innocently. Shaking off the thought, she looked back at him. "Shikamaru, Naruto's gone!"
"What?" he asked. Faintly he heard Hinata whisper the young man's name.
"He disappeared," Ino said. "Along with Kakashi-sensei and Yamato-san. Sai said that they were going to find the Raikage." As if he were privy to something she wasn't, she looked at him as if he were supposed to shed some light on the situation. Despite her expectations, this was the first he had heard of any such information. Even so, she still looked at him expectantly so he looked up to the sky and began to speculate out loud.
"Well," he mused. "It probably has something to do with the recent appearance of Kumo shinobi in the village. There are rumors that Sasuke was involved in an altercation with a Kumo shinobi and that Sasuke had joined the Akatsuki. It probably has something to do with that." Rolling his tongue around in his mouth, he search for a way to voice his next thought. "Where or not that is all true, leaving the village at a time like this is a troublesome offense. AnBU are definitely going to be after him and if he's going to the Raikage he could be killed. His actions might even start another war. I wonder what he's…"
"Shikamaru!" Ino interrupted his thought process and she sounded angry. Pulling his eyes down from the sky, he turned to look at her and she was definitely angry. Had he missed something? He turned to see if Hinata could inform him as to reason behind Ino's disposition but she was no longer there. Confused, he looked back at Ino who was now his lone source of information.
"What?" he asked. The look she gave him suggested the answer was right in front of him. Still confused, he made a show of looking around for the answer then finding nothing he just shrugged. This only seemed to irritate her even more.
"Bakayarou(1)," she spat at him shaking her head. "You know that Naruto is a sensitive subject when it comes to her. She has deep-rooted feelings for him and you vilified him in one sentence and killed him in the next. You have no tact. When will you use that brain of yours for something other than Shougi?" She shook her head furiously. Her little rant was making his ears hurt. "You have to make it right," she said calmly.
"Why me?" he asked incredulously. That was obviously the wrong thing to say because he swore he could see her eyes shaking in her skull. Her blood must have been boiling, evidence in the dark flush that surfaced on her skin. In instinctive preparation, his hands began to rise towards his ears.
"Because you're the one who did it! That's why!" Wincing, he half expected some for of physical abuse to follow but Ino showed incredible restraint. He sighed in relief. Ino put her foot down, literally and extended her arm to point in a particular direction. "Now, go!" she ordered.
Not bothering to follow her hand, he just looked at her. The look in her eyes said she was entirely serious about this and if he didn't, there would be hell to pay. He gave her one last stubborn look of defiance before relenting and following the direction of her finger with his eyes. Feeling his own frustration, he took off after her but not before muttering troublesome under his breath.
She had gotten farther than he expected in that short amount of time. Whether or not she was expecting anyone to follow her, she had made it to the tree line of the forest out of sight to the casual observer. Even though she was still moving, he caught up with her pretty quickly. She seemed to be moving with no purpose in mind other than to move away from him. Taking a long stride, he closed the distance between them and reached for her shoulder.
"Hinata," he said with the most concern he could muster. She stopped moving but wouldn't turn around to look at him. Hearing her sob ever so softly, he could tell that she was crying but couldn't understand why. Dealing with a crying woman had to be one of the most troublesome things to do. Wasn't comforting each other things that women did? Why was he here? "I was just thinking out loud back there. I didn't really mean any of it."
Hoping that would suffice, he began to look around, waiting for the opportunity to retreat slowly. Seeing that there were few obstacles for an escape, he checked on his reason for being here. She slowly turned around to face him. Fully expecting her to say she was alright, he did his best to maintain an apathetic face knowing her reactions to his facial expression but he wasn't prepared for the lacrimation that blurred her vision. Liquid collected on her eyes until the pull of gravity was strong enough to drag it to earth like drops of rain.
As a defensive measure over the years, he had dissociated himself from his emotions to prevent being drawn into troublesome situations or thinking irrationally. Despite the fact that it gave him a jaded and pessimistic posture, he still felt emotions but he chose to ignore them. There was something about the tears streaming down this woman's face that struck a chord within him. Like getting his heart ripped out of his chest, those damn little tears brought forth emotional pain that he'd only felt a couple of times before. It was as if he associated with her pain and he understood how she was feeling.
His pulse quickened and the demand for oxygen labored his breathing. His mouth dried out but his forehead began to sweat. Whether or not he wanted to, his facial expression changed to a much softer empathetic look. It must not have been right because she covered her eyes with her hands in embarrassment. He wanted desperately to tell her anything, that everything would be all right, but the words just wouldn't come to him. Reaching up and grabbing her arms, he pulled her hands down so he could look her in the eyes again.
As she looked up at him with moist doe-eyes, he could only hope that she could see through his own eyes that he understood. As she seemed to stare at his face searching for answers to questions known only to her, she struggled with a few deep breaths. Finally, she gave into the overwhelming emotion collapsing into his chest and digging her fingernails into his vest. Lifting his chin so her head could slide underneath, he instinctively wrapped his arms around her.
Closing his eyes, he just held her in that embrace feeling her sob into his chest. Not knowing if it was right, he kissed the top of head and took a deep breath inhaling her scent. She smelled too nice to be crying. The thought ran through his head and he laughed disturbing her to the point where she stopped sobbing for a moment to look up at him. He just smiled at her. "There's no need to worry," he told her. "I'm sure he'll be alright and if Kakashi and Yamato are with him, Naruto will be just fine."
This seemed to help because she even allowed herself a chuckle. She gave him her pretty smile she dried the tears form her face with her hands. That pretty smile had a way of wiping away even the most deep seeded emotion pain and he immediately felt better. Recognizing the position they were in, she stepped back and that annoying blush of embarrassment crept up again. "Arigato gozaimasu, Shikamaru-kun."
Before she would embarrass herself anymore, she took off in another direction heading away from him. Just watching her go away, he would chase after her again. Even though she was gone, he sensed that he wasn't alone. Someone else was there. "You followed us?" he asked without even turning to regard the intruder.
"Somebody had to make sure you did it." Ino said jumping down from her perch in the tree, landing behind him. "You see, even you understand peoples feelings. You just have to move your lazy ass." she said placing a hand on his shoulder. Even then, he didn't even look at her staring in the direction Hinata just left. He just couldn't believe it. Out of all the troublesome women he knew, it was the one he considered the least troublesome that managed to pull forward emotions he'd been so careful to suppress. Despite that fact, he smiled. Irony has a mysterious way about her.
A/N: (1) Bakayarou- the Japanese/English dictionary defines it as a foolish or stupid person but what they neglect to mention is that both of the words used to make it carry a harsh edge and can be offensive. With that in mind, I would consider it to be more equivalent to the English "Dumb ass!"
Author's Confession- I must confess that I pulled this story from my own life. I have…a weakness…for a crying woman. I'm not quite sure where it comes from but when ever I see a woman crying I immediately feel responsible to make her feel better. I can't do anything about. A woman should never have to cry.