Disclaimer: Don't own!

Author's Note: My hand hurts so much! I've been writing for most of the day and it's….9:46 PM. I've been writing for my story on Fictionpress,(under the same account name if anyone's interested) for The Silver Lining, Baker's Love. I, unfortunately, haven't been able to write anything new for Painting Freedom (if anyone's still keeping up with that), mostly because I have hit a major writer's block on that. Also, I chose to, slowly but surely; rewrite Bittersweet Elegance because I've been on FF for nearly a year! And that's my own personal project, so it's the thing I'm working on when I really can't make myself write any more on any other story. And my mind decided to torture me some more because it gave me this idea just before I was going to bed. Grr. Argh. So here it is, my first ShikaNaru.

-~-~-~-~

"I believe in dragons, unicorns, good men and other mythical creatures."

-~-~-~-~

High school was never fun. It was less fun when someone woke you from your nap, however politely.

"Uh…hey, excuse me, you mind if I sit here?"

Shikamaru opened one eye to look at the person. Blonde, but he suspected that it was natural, tanned skin with six lines on the sides of his face that Shikamaru almost wanted to say were Sharpie'd on. The intruder looked uncomfortable in the school uniform, black slacks and the white uniform shirt with its navy blue tie. A tray with what looked like Meatloaf Surprise was in large hands.

"Sure, go ahead. No one else is gonna sit down anyway."

The blonde offered him a smile, one that lit up the summer-sky eyes. "Uzumaki Naruto."

"Nara Shikamaru. And if you'll excuse me, I'm going finish catching up on my sleep."

"Don't see how you can sleep anyways. All those populars are being really loud."

Shikamaru resigned himself to having to stay awake. "You're not fond of the populars, I take it?"

"Not really. Some of them are okay, but most…"

Naruto didn't really need to finish that sentence. Almost anyone in the school could have found something to tack on to the end of it. Shikamaru found himself watching Naruto as the blonde pulled out a schedule and was squinting at it something terrible. The school had something for the tiniest print possible, so it was understandable.

"Where're you coming from?" Shikamaru asked.

"Oh, umm…just the public school down the road."

"Your parents make you come here?"

Naruto didn't look up, but there was some change in his face that darkened it. "Sort of."

"What'd you do to end up here, anyways?" Catching the confused look on the whiskered face, Shikamaru continued. "Everyone here is here for a reason. Most of us can't be in public schools, for some reason or another."

"Why're you here?"

"They said I had potential or something. I figured 'why not?' I hoped the food would at least be a little better." Shikamaru grimaced down at his own tray, which he'd abandoned after a bite. "I was wrong."

"So everyone here is super-smart?"

Shikamaru caught the odd look in the blue eyes. "Not everyone, but a lot of the people here have something that makes them excel in one way or another. My friend Chouji, for one (I can introduce him to you later, if you like), he's got something in his cells or something that lets him build up calories and use them for energy a lot more efficiently than everyone else. Or, that's what it said on his doctor's report. Then they said that they wanted to keep an eye on him."

Naruto looked down at himself. "There's nothing that special about me. I'm a fast healer, but that's about it."

"Fast healer, huh? Can't remember ever meetin' one of those." The bell signaling the end of lunch rang shrilly and Shikamaru sighed. "Back to the torture chambers. Do you know where you're going?"

"It says Algebra 2 with…Kurenai."

"I have her next. C'mon."

Naruto smiled and it was more brilliant than the last, making his entire face light up. "Thanks, Shikamaru."

* * * *

It had been a week since Shikamaru had met Uzumaki Naruto.

"I don't get this at all! A equals b but b is only equal to c times a…I'm lost."

Shikamaru sighed and leaned over, snatching Naruto's bright orange mechanical pencil from him. "Look, if a equals b, then d has to be equal or less than whatever a times c is. The b is extra and you don't need it yet. Then you use the distributive property..."

Naruto studied Shikamaru's light, flowy handwriting. It was much easier to understand than Kurenai's explanation. "I think I get it. Would you happen to have a calculator, Shika?"

* * * *

Shikamaru stifled a groan when he saw Sakura and her best friend Ino coming closer. Ino had grown up two houses down from him, so he was accustomed to her. But Sakura was a different story altogether. She was pretty, he supposed. Pink hair that she'd cut short last month (though it was still up for debate whether it was natural) with bright green eyes and a figure that had was still growing into its curves. Ino was similar, though her hair was platinum blonde and she was growing it out after cutting it short because of an unfortunate incident with bubble gum last year.

Naruto brightened at seeing Sakura, something Shikamaru wasn't sure of. "Hey, Sakura!"

"So you finally got here, Naruto?" She smiled and gave him a brief hug.

They were old friends then.

"Yup. Looks like you're still a grade ahead though." Sakura had skipped the fourth grade.

"Mmhmm. And I'm happier about it than ever. Guess who's in my class?"

"Some…uber-cute guy?" Naruto guessed.

"Better than that. Hyuuga Neji, one of the prodigies of the school." Shikamaru watched as Naruto's eyes became closed off, though his expression was still amiable. Neat trick, that was.

After saying goodbye to the girls, Shikamaru stuffed his hands in his pockets as he waited for Naruto to get all his things from the locker. "Didn't know you knew her."

"She lived across from me at my old apartment complex and we went to the same elementary school. She moved to this school in seventh grade. Ino said hi to you, though."

"We practically grew up together, her, me and Chouji. It's to be expected since our dads are all old war buddies."

"Which war?"

"I learned not to ask." Naruto locked his locker and they began heading to their next class, Chemistry. "Do you not like prodigies or something?"

Shikamaru pretended not to notice the way that Naruto stiffened at the question. But Shikamaru had to give him points on being an excellent actor, because Naruto looked at him with a smiling, confused expression. "Why do you ask?"
"The look you had when Sakura mentioned Neji and the word 'prodigy'. Usually I wouldn't pry, but I've never seen that look on you before."

"I'm just tired of hearing about prodigies and geniuses is all. No biggie."

"Mmhmm." Shikamaru didn't mention the fact that he could have easily been classified as one, had he wanted to be. "Something happen?"

"No." The answer came too quickly for the brunette's liking.

* * * *

"Oi, Sakura." She looked up at Shikamaru in surprise. It wasn't often he willingly talked to her. "You know Naruto from way back when, right?"
"Yeah…"

"What's he got against prodigies?"

A casual tension appeared into her shoulders. "Why? Did he say something odd?" Her voice was oddly nonchalant.

Shikamaru sighed. "Please don't beat around the bush. I'm not in the mood. Either tell me what it is or don't."

"There was a prodigy that went to our old school. Stuff happened and Naruto got hurt, simple as that."

"Not simple as that. What happened?"

"Here's an idea." Sakura stood, gathering her books. "Try asking him."

Shikamaru lightly caught her elbow. "Can you at least give me name?"

"…Uchiha Sasuke." The name sounded like icy venom.

* * * *

"Hey, Naruto, can I ask you a question?"

Naruto's head poked around the school's shower stall briefly, the blonde hair dripping and he nodded before disappearing back into the shower. Shikamaru didn't like to take showers at school, he was kind of uncomfortable with it, but he understood why other people would want to. Gai-sensei was a brutal PE teacher. Fair, but brutal.

As it was, he was sitting on a bench, still in his loose T-shirt and gym shorts. "…Were there any prodigies in your old school?"

There was a crash and a long string of loud crashes. Shikamaru waited a few moments before Naruto's voice floated over the stalls, "I'm okay. Where's the question coming from?"

"Just curious." If it really was something serious, Shikamaru didn't really expect an answer. He'd only known Naruto for all of four months. Why should the blonde trust him with something like that?

"There were prodigies there."

"Were you friends with any of them?"

"…One of them, yeah." The shower shut off and Naruto stepped outside, a beach towel around his waist. The sapphire eyes were narrowed in suspicion, but he didn't comment on it otherwise.

"Do you still talk to them?"

"No. We haven't talked in five years. Not since sixth grade." Naruto twirled open the lock on his locker expertly, giving it an extra shove to make it open. He pulled out his clothes and began dressing. Shikamaru politely kept his eyes averted. "Did something happen that you need to know about this?"

"No, not really. Like I said, I was just curious."

"Do I really need to say the overly clichéd line?"

"No. I know about the poor kitty that keeps getting killed because he poked his nose where it didn't belong. But I'm not a helpless kitty, so I'm going to ask anyways." Shikamaru took a slight breath, knowing that the question might break the trust that Naruto had in him. "…What happened between you and Uchiha Sasuke?"

Naruto froze, his entire body tensing. Shikamaru chanced a glance at him, half dressed in his jeans with his shirt half on. Naruto's knuckles whiter than the T-shirt in his grasp. "Where'd you get that name?"

"Places." Shikamaru stood because he had a feeling that sitting was not a good option with that kind of anger in his friend's voice.

"I'm being serious, Shikamaru." The brunette knew his friend was angry if he was using his whole name.

"I asked Sakura. She told me to ask you."

"Did she tell you anything else?"

"She said that Sasuke'd hurt you."

Naruto didn't say anything.

"If you don't want to talk about it, just say so."

The look on Naruto's face said it all. Shikamaru nodded, standing up. PE was their sixth period and the day was almost over. "I won't ask again, then." Shikamaru told him.

* * * *

It had been four months and Shikamaru had kept true to his word. He hadn't asked again. But that didn't mean he wouldn't ask other people the same question. He'd asked Ino for Sakura's address and asked her instead. She'd invited him in and just shaken her head.

"It's hard to tell sometimes, Naruto's a really good actor, but if you bring that up again with him, it hurts him. And I was there five years ago. He was a bit of a mess. Again, hard to tell, but if you know him, you know the signs."

Shikamaru looked at her, his chin resting on fingers laced together in a steeple. "And what, exactly, would these signs be?'

Sakura leaned back in her chair, hands folded in her lap. She had the look of a lawyer, Shikamaru thought. "What interest is all this to you? It's more than just being a good friend."

Shikamaru arched an eyebrow at her as he took a sip of his Mountain Dew. "I really have no idea what you're talking about."

"Ino's been complaining at me these last couple years. Something about how you hang around a girl named Temari that moved here a few years back. She your girlfriend?"

Shikamaru wondered how women made these mental jumps. Why did they make them? "My mom wishes she was. But what does that matter to you?"

"Is it because she doesn't want you or you don't want her?"

"It's a mutual thing. I fail to see where all this matters in what I asked you."

"You want it plain and simple?"

"I tend to prefer things that way, yeah."

"Are you gay, is what I'm asking."

Shikamaru blinked in surprise. "Anyone ever tell you that you can be startlingly blunt?"

"Not too much anymore. Are you?"

He shrugged, replying. "I suppose I'm bi if you want to get real technical."

"My technicalities don't concern your preferences so much as they concern your interest in Naruto. He's my close friend. We played in the sandbox when we were kids. He was the one who half dragged me home when I broke my ankle falling from the monkey bars. I'm going to tell you the signs so that you can't say later that you didn't know that you could hurt him."

"And why tell me for that reason?"

"Because you're in love with him." Sakura said simply.

As subtle as a battering ram, this girl was. "Well I'm glad you realized this."

"Don't try and mess with me, Shikamaru. I know how smart you are. And compared to Naruto, you are a terrible actor."

"Alright. So?"

"He'll tap out a beat with pencils, pens, whatever when he's trying to get his mind off of something. His dad was a drummer and started teaching him."

"Started?"

"His dad's been dead for eight years. Mom's in real estate. She worries about him a lot. Every time I go over, she seems a little nervous for him. But she's a real strong woman. Black belt in judo, registered gun license. "

"How'd his dad die?"

"Drive-by shooting. Why?"

"The registered gun would be a bit much since she worries so much. Figured it had to be something tragic."

"I knew that you playing stupid wouldn't work on me. You'd be a good detective, FBI, something like that."

"Too much work for me."

"You have a plan with Chouji, right? Run a restaurant together?"
"Ino told you. Now, what're the rest of the signs?"
"Does he ever show up with bruises?"

Shikamaru frowned. "Sometimes. He always says he falls or that he banged into something. He's clumsy enough that I believe him."

"Sometimes, he's telling the truth. He is clumsy enough that some of those are from falling. Others are probably from learning judo from his mom. But he gets into fights too. Don't know why. He won't ever say."

"I could probably find out, if you wanted."

Sakura laughed. "You probably could. I wasn't kidding when I said you'd make a good detective. But, no, you don't have to if you don't need to. The last sign I noticed was that he gets the black circles under his eyes sometimes."

"Those I'd noticed."

"Not surprising. They do stand out. But those are signs of nightmares. What happened with Sasuke hurt him bad enough that he's probably still getting nightmares."

"Will you tell me what happened between them?"

Sakura looked at him, and then stood. "Walk with me, won't you?"

Her neighborhood wasn't the best, but it was nicer than most. Shikamaru walked with his hands in his pockets and disinterestedly observed the houses. Most of the lawns were nicely cut and neat. They walked nearly two blocks when he saw one house that had weeds and grass growing as high as his knees. The walls were cracked and the paint faded to an ashy gray.

She stopped in front of it and looked up at the empty window frames. "This is where Sasuke used to live."

"It's been five years, right?"

"Mmhmm. No one wants to come here anymore. Or buy it. They say it's haunted."

"Haunted?"

"…Do you remember hearing about a fire about six years ago?"

Shikamaru racked his mind. "Uh…yeah. Burned down an entire house, not too many people dead, right?"

"You're right. There were survivors. Sasuke and his brother, Itachi. This was the house."

"The house doesn't look too damaged."

"The back and inside are worse. Me and Naruto went inside with Sasuke and Itachi after they were released from the hospital because of smoke damage. There was barely anything left. Anyways…at the time, Sasuke and Naruto had been dating for about half a year, little more maybe. Sasuke got really closed off, wouldn't talk to anybody, not even Naruto. I don't know all the details, but one night, Naruto knocks on my door and he's shivering and in the rain and everything and I ask him what's wrong. He…he didn't tell me too much. But he looked like he just had his heart broken."

"Which is what happened?" Shikamaru surmised.

"Yeah. He still hasn't given me too many details, but apparently Sasuke snapped. Itachi didn't even know all the details. But he tried to help Naruto get over it, but it hurt him more because Itachi and Sasuke could almost be twins if it wasn't for the fact they're like seven years apart. They left town for a couple of months to stay with some great great uncle of theirs and when they came back, I guess Sasuke apologized to Naruto or something because they got back together."

Sakura's fists clenched. "That bastard hurt him again about a year later. Never learned how, but he did. Then he up and left, didn't see him again. Left Naruto in pieces, but he's been picking himself back up."

"So now he hates prodigies? Is it only because of that?"

"He doesn't hate them. He's never gotten along with them other than Sasuke and even after they met, way back in elementary school, they hated each other for years. Naruto and prodigies haven't ever mixed well."

"…I see."

"I hope you do, for Naruto's sake."

The sound of Sakura's flip-flops slowly faded as she walked away, leaving Shikamaru to stand in front of the ruined house.

* * * *

Shikamaru didn't bring up the subject with anyone for almost a whole year, until graduation. They'd all sat through the ceremony, had congratulated, laughed and, in some cases, cried with each other. Now they were all reluctant to leave, because it seemed too permanent, too final.

Naruto tugged at the collar of the graduation gown. "Why do they make us wear these things again? They're damn uncomfortable."

Shikamaru smiled. "Because they're secret torture devices in the guise of ceremonial wear."

Naruto rolled his eyes and leaned on a low garden wall. He looked back at the school. "Feels kinda weird, ya know? We never have to come back to this place."

Shikamaru mimicked his position. "I suppose not."

"You gonna miss it?"

"Not particularly." The sad part wasn't leaving school; it was leaving people you cared about, knowing you had to go down different paths.

"I don't think too many of us are going to miss this place. Although I've got a question for you, Shika."

The brunette arched an eyebrow and waited.

"How is it that you graduated with honors?"

"I have an IQ of over 200, Naruto. It wasn't difficult."

Naruto laughed and there was the slightest undertone of bitterness there. "Of course. Another genius."

Shikamaru stood and bent down so he was level with the blonde. Swiftly, he pressed his lips to Naruto's. Pulling back, Shikamaru smirked and asked, "Now, are geniuses so bad?"

Naruto looked straight at him, a smile twitching at the corners of his lips. "Mm…I don't know. I think I need more convincing."

Shikamaru chuckled and kissed him again, pressing one hand onto the wall to keep his balance as Naruto tugged him closer. When they broke apart for air, Naruto's smile was a grin.

"I suppose geniuses aren't all bad."