A/N: Okay. We're back with yet another new story. The inspiration for this, funny story, started when I (the Wits) came across one of my magazines that I have stacked on my nightstand. On the front cover was written LOVE QUIZ: ARE YOU FAKING IT? And the idea came to me, like if the inspiration bug bit me in the butt. All my creative juices were flowing and I instantly turned on my laptop and typed non-stop for about an hour. I told the Ditz about it and she was ecstatic. Usually we talk about an idea for a story and then hash it out, but this came all so sudden. The plot came to me first, then we had to add ideas and details along the way so we could both be satisfied with our work.

So, enough with the rambling, here's the story!! We had wanted to update the prologue first, then wait to update the first chapter, but then we decided 'oh, what the hell, let's just update it all together and not make you guys suffer with the wait.' :D

Faking It

Prologue

"You know, you really are different from what I expected," he said, reaching out to grab my hand. I hoped he wouldn't notice how sweaty it was.

"Y-Yea, you too," I stammered. Okay, maybe I did let things go too far. "You're not as lazy as I thought you were." He chuckled and squeezed my hand gently. We continued walking down the stone path.

"Ino…," he said after a while.

"Yes?" I said, my heart jumping. I knew what was going to happen next and I hated it.

"I know I'm not the most romantic guy in the world, but I'm very eloquent. So I'm just going to go and say it, and please don't try to interrupt me," he said. Oh no. This isn't good. I think I just entered my panic mode.

"Shikamaru, I-"

"No. Let me say what I have to say. Ino, this may sound crazy and sudden because we've been 'mortal enemies' since childhood. I don't know who coined that, Sakura maybe. But anyway, we've never really gotten along well, but after these past few weeks, everything's changed and….I think I love you. No, I know in my heart that I do. I do love you," he said, looking earnestly down at me.

-And pause-

Okay, I know how this looks. Just another romantic scene with two teenagers who are about to express their undying love for each other. Right? Well, not exactly.

It's every girl's dream to have a boy say that they love them. And I know I should be ecstatic, but there's this other feeling that's eating at my heart. Guilt is an ugly word, but I am guilty- of lying, of pretending, of faking. Yes, all these weeks I've been faking it. Just so that some guy I really like would get jealous. But now I see he wasn't worth it…and I've made a big mistake. Because the only person I was really faking was me.

I guess I should explain. You're probably confused right now (just like I am. Damn, I picked a really crappy time to fall in love). So I'll just start from the very beginning, when I still played with Barbie dolls and nothing was better than a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

It was recess time, my favorite time at school because we didn't have to learn anything. We just got to play with our friends and yell without being told to be quiet. Everyday, Sakura, Hinata, and I would go on the swings and compete with one another, seeing who could swing the highest. To put it nicely, we dominated the swings. I know there was a rule that if someone was waiting for a swing, they had to count to a hundred, then you'd have to get off and give them a turn. Psh. As if anyone actually paid attention to that. The playground was a jungle, and only the fittest survived.

Well, I was on one of the swings, laughing and trying to get as close as I could to flying, when I heard this annoyed voice below me. "Hey, it's my turn now. I already counted to a hundred." It was a boy, about my age, with his arms crossed in front of him and a scowl marring his cherubic face.

"Didn't you hear? You have to count to five hundred now," I said gleefully, lying through my teeth. Hinata, who was swinging beside me, looked at me with shock. She never lied.

"You just made that up," the boy said.

"No, I didn't," I said, kicking my legs faster in the air. "Besides, I bet you can't even count to five hundred."

"I can so," he said. "So, get off the swing, it's my turn. I've been waiting."

"No way, pineapple head," I said, and I stuck my tongue out at him. Ha!

The boy just looked at me, and if he was older, he probably would've flipped me off. But we were children then, and he did what every child does when they're mad and don't get things their way.

"I'm going to tell on you!" he said.

Okay, this grabbed my attention. I didn't want to get told on and get in trouble. "You better not, you tattletale!" I warned him.

"Just you watch," he said, and he started to walk towards one of the teachers. I couldn't let that happen. So, when I swung to the highest peak I possibly could, I jumped off and flew for a moment before landing on the boy and tackling him to the ground.

"Ino! Ino!" I heard Sakura say. "Get off of him. A teacher's coming!" There were other kids watching, and cheering. This was all very exciting.

"Hey! Ouch. Quit pulling my hair," the boy said.

"Well, quit pulling mine!" I said. He was tugging on my ponytail, and my violet ribbon fell off when a teacher did finally come and pried us off of each other. We were both sent to the office and waited until the vice principal could speak to us.

The boy (whose name was Shikamaru) and I sat far away from each other. He looked sullen and had his arms crossed. Meanwhile I was silently crying because I had lost my favorite ribbon, and it was all his stupid fault. He looked over at me once and almost looked sorry, but then he stuck his tongue out at me. I mean, I did manage to punch him so his whole left cheek looked rather red and swollen. He deserved it though.

"Crybaby," I heard him mutter.

"You're a slut," I said, wiping my tears away. I didn't know what that actually meant, but I heard it on T.V. before and it was used to offend someone.

"I'm not a slut. And you shouldn't be using words like that," he said. I don't know why, but he started to blush. Just then, we were called into the vice principal's office. She talked to us and blah, blah, blah. The main point is that she made us apologize to each other and I was suspended from using the swings for a whole week. I was upset by this. Shikamaru didn't get severely punished at all. He just received a warning. But this…this was just wrong.

It was then that I knew. Shikamaru and I could never be friends, or anything else for that matter. We were 'mortal enemies.'

Our mutual dislike for each other continued throughout the years, and still remained during high school. We avoided each other when we could, and if we did happen to run into each other in the hallway, there were some nasty words said (from my part, mostly). Shikamaru probably wanted to outgrow it, because he always seemed annoyed and just tired of it all. Like he was too important to be bothered with me. Ooh, that just riled me up even more.

What made things so much worse was that it turned out that both our fathers happened to work in the same law firm and became friends. No lie, they started their own bromance. It was very disturbing how they did everything together. They played golf together, they drank sake together, they exercised together, they even shopped for briefcases together. As if that weren't weird enough, our dads tried to get both our families to do stuff together, like going on camping trips, picnics, playing sports. It was hell. Shikamaru and I always ended up fighting and ruining the whole family bonding experience. But that didn't stop our fathers; they were stubborn. I had to endure his presence if we were together at some family function.

Hinata and Sakura always asked me why I couldn't just get along with him. But they didn't understand. Shikamaru was the bane of my existence. He sabotaged me, and always made cruel jokes about me. He didn't make a point to be nice to me, and neither did I. We were foes, not friends.

But how soon that all changed. And there is only one reason for that.

Sasuke.

Yup. The hottest guy at school, the most coolest, the most unattainable. And I wanted him. Only, there was one slight problem.

He didn't seem interested in me, or anyone else (although probably half the girls at school had a crush on him). He just didn't notice all the attention he received from us. He was more focused on schoolwork and sports, not girls. Which is a pity, really. But I was willing to change all that. And I had the perfect plan. Only, it's backfired on me.

Chapter One

"Yes! Yes!! Oh my god, I knew this would pay off," I said, holding the binoculars up to my eyes. I pressed them even closer towards the bridge of my nose, as if that would increase the magnification.

"Hey Ino, don't forget whose idea it was," Sakura said, trying to take the binoculars away from my hands, but I wouldn't let her.

"Uh…guys, there are bugs in here," Hinata said, slapping away an insect that had been crawling on her knee.

"Jeez, you guys complain a lot," I said. Then I sighed dreamily, watching as Sasuke finally pulled off his sweaty t-shirt and threw it on the sidelines. Yes, soccer practice is my favorite time of the day. "Sasuke's abs are so perfect and, just look at him, he is so dedicated!"

"Let me see," Sakura said impatiently. I took one final look and then handed the binoculars to her. I didn't mind hiding in a bug-infested bush just to watch Sasuke. It's all worth it. You see, we are meant to be together. That is a fact.

"Don't you guys feel bad about spying on him?" Hinata said. She was the one with a conscious, not I. So, no, I didn't feel bad at all.

"Hinata, if you don't want to be here, it's okay. You can go home, and we'll hang out later. But, you have to agree with me that Sasuke is a god," I said, lying down on the grass and looking up at the sky. The clouds seemed to conjure themselves into the shape of Sasuke's physiognomy.

"I'll stay, but not because of Sasuke," Hinata said defiantly. "He's so out of your league, you still refuse to see it. But Naruto, on the other hand…" Then she stopped and when I turned to look at her, she was blushing madly and staring at Naruto. He was dribbling the ball and kicked it to one of his teammates. I snickered.

"Looks like we've got you corrupted as well, Hina. What? Don't you feel bad for spying on Naruto? Or is it different because you like him?" I said, teasing her.

"At least I have a chance with him," she said quietly, twiddling her fingers absentmindedly.

"But you don't even talk to him," Sakura said, readjusting the binoculars. "I mean, you get all red in the face and start stuttering in front of him."

"It's just my nerves. I wish I wasn't like that, but I can't help it," Hinata said.

"Don't worry. You'll get rid of your nervousness once you feel comfortable around him. Hey, why don't you ask him out? I'm sure he'll say yes. Naruto wouldn't be mean enough to say no to you," I said, sitting up and removing any leaves embedded in my hair. Then I stopped and let out a scream.

"What is it Ino?" Sakura asked, alarmed.

"Oh my god! This is perfect!!" I said, clapping my hands. "Don't you see? Naruto and Sasuke are best friends, although I don't know how, but they are. If Hinata and Naruto end up together, then she can introduce me- I mean us- to Sasuke," I said to Sakura. "Then may the best woman win, right?"

"All's fair in love and war," Sakura said in agreement, smiling. I smiled too, glad that although we may be competitive about Sasuke, we don't let it ruin our friendship. The fact that we both like him is proof that we have so much in common.

"You two are so confusing sometimes. How do you know that you won't be secretly jealous if Sasuke picks one of you over the other? That is, if he even picks one of you. He might be interested in someone else. Or worse…he's probably already taken," Hinata said.

I ignored her. She may be the voice of reason in our trio, but sometimes reason is just stupid. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense, and you know that you have to follow your heart, not your mind. In my opinion, the heart is always right.

"Well, practice is almost over," Sakura said, peering through the bush. "We should go to my house afterward. My mom made her famous five-cheese lasagna."

"Ooh, yummy. Your mom's lasagna is worth the extra calories," I said. Hinata rolled her eyes. "What?"

"Ino, you're not fat. So quit worrying about your figure. You're waaay too young to be worrying about that anyway," she said. Then it was my turn to roll my eyes.

That's when I heard it. Footsteps coming from the big, wide tree behind us. I didn't think much of it. I mean, we were well hidden. No one could've seen us, but…

"Hey, what are you three doing down there? Aren't you too old to be playing hiding games?" It was Chouji, a classmate from our grade. I've always been nice towards him because our fathers are friends, but unfortunately he's friends with pineapple head. Too bad, because he seems like a nice guy. Speaking of, if Chouji's here, that means Shikamaru can't be far behind.

"Cho, I don't think they're playing any games. They're spying on the soccer team, or to be more accurate, on that Uchiha kid," Shikamaru said, appearing behind him. Right on cue.

"He's not a kid! And his name is Sasuke," I said, standing up from my position on the ground.

"Jeez. I only say one simple comment and that's already enough for you to get fired up about something," he said, his arms crossed behind his head. He tried to stifle a yawn. Gah! What is wrong with him? He's always yawning and on the verge of sleeping.

"What are you- some nocturnal freak??" I asked.

"You're slipping up, Ino. I think you used that comeback last week," Shikamaru said, yawning again.

"Are you kidding me? You can't even remember Sasuke's beautiful name, but you can remember something mean that I said to you about a week ago?" I said. Hinata and Sakura eyed me warily, waiting for me to finish so we could all just leave.

"Yeah, that's basically it. And now I can add pervert to your list of accomplishments," he said. Ooh, I can't leave now and let him have the last word. I won't let him have that satisfaction.

"Okay, Ino, let's go," Sakura said, tugging on my arm.

"No, wait," I said, glaring fiercely at Shikamaru. "You can call me any nasty name you want, but do not ever call me a pervert again!" Then I slapped him. It was a good, hard smack across the cheek that left my hand impression on his skin for a few seconds afterward.

"Ino!" Chouji said, shocked. Pch. As if seeing me be violent towards Shikamaru was anything new.

"Okay, now we can leave," I said to Sakura and Hinata. They gawked at me, dumbstruck.

Shikamaru, for his part, was rubbing his already inflamed cheek. Oh, and glaring daggers at me (but I choose to ignore that little fact). He wasn't going to hit me, god no, that was for sure. He was too "gentlemanly" to do an atrocious thing like that. But he kept glaring at me long enough for me to grow some sort of conscious. Damn him!

"I'll be glad to tell Uchiha that he has a faithful admirer who watches him from behind a bush. I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear that, that is, if he isn't completely freaked out by it," Shikamaru said with a smirk. Then Chouji and him left.

"I-I'm sure he didn't mean anything by that," Hinata said. "He was just bluffing."

"Yeah. Totally," Sakura said, nodding her head. "I mean, Shikamaru and Sasuke don't even get along that well."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," I said. "So…who feels like stuffing their face with lasagna?"

**********

"Hey mom, where's dad? Shouldn't he be home by now?" I asked, tapping my pencil on the kitchen counter.

"And shouldn't you be doing your math homework instead of daydreaming?" she said, arranging some beautiful flowers in a vase. My mom is obsessed with flowers. She owns a small floral store and is dedicated to her gardening. Jeez, my parents are weird. "I'm sure you can pause any Sasuke fantasies you have on your mind long enough to finish your homework. Remember, if you get another C on a test, you're grounded."

I groaned and went back to my math textbook. Algebra is such a bore. I mean, when am I ever going to use it in real life? Never. "But model/actresses don't need to know math," I said to my mom.

"What happened to becoming a veterinarian? You love animals," she said.

"I do," I said, stooping down to pat my dog on the head. "But that was before I got discovered by that photographer in the mall. He said that I had potential."

"Honey, I was there. Remember? The man was a shoe photographer."

"So? At least he has connections. Prepare to see my pretty feet in magazines wearing next season's metallic pumps," I said. My mother only snorted and continued with her flower arrangement. "Oh, you never did answer my question. Where's dad at?"

"He went out with Shikaku, right before you came home," she said, nonchalant.

"What?! You let your husband go out on a man date?" I exclaimed.

"Ino, what are you talking about? They only went out to play a few rounds of golf at the club," she said.

"You do realize that your husband, and my father, is cheating on you…with another man?" I asked. "That's just not normal."

"Don't be ridiculous," my mom said.

"Uh-uh. I'm being rational. Dad's bromance has gotten so out of hand, it's down right embarrassing," I said. "What is it with men and their need to bond?"

"I think I preferred it better when you were daydreaming. At least you weren't talking nonsense," she said. I rolled my eyes at her.

At around six in the evening, my dad came home in high spirits, saying how much fun he had at the golf club with his 'buddy.' Then he mentioned how there was going to be a golf tournament in a few days. I wasn't paying much attention, until he addressed me.

"So Ino, what do you say? Aren't you excited?" he asked, smiling at me.

"Um…about what?" I said, clueless.

"Of volunteering at the golf tournament this weekend. It's going to be a huge family event, so you can volunteer at the face painting booth or something," he said. "Shikamaru will be there, too, so he can help you. Won't that be great?"

"Eww! No, that'll be terrible. Dad, you know how I feel about Shikamaru. That boy is trouble. He'll probably 'accidentally' spill some paint on my clothes or something," I said.

"Shikamaru's no longer a boy anymore, sweetie. I'm sure he's outgrown all that," mom said. "I saw him the other day, and you know what? He isn't that bad-looking," she said, winking at me. I gagged.

"Well, Ino, I already signed you up to help. You know how important volunteer work looks on your college application," dad said, choosing a newspaper from the coffee table.

"So does cheerleading," I retorted. "It shows that I'm outgoing and school-spirited."

"You're not getting yourself out of this one, so don't even try to convince me otherwise," he said, reading the newspaper in his favorite sofa by the fireplace. Mad at not getting my way, I took my dog Tracy out for a walk to cool off.

The sun was low in the sky and the air smelled like freshly-cut grass. I breathed it in and smiled to myself. With my anger subdued, I began to enjoy the quiet peace that only nature could provide.

Ten minutes later, Tracy, my black and white border collie, got all excited and picked up her pace. I had to run just to keep up. "What the hell, Trace, where are you taking me?" I asked, holding tightly to her leash and following her lead. I looked around and noticed the neighborhood looked familiar. I realized where Tracy was taking me- Shikamaru's house. For some unknown, unexplainable reason my dog adores that pineapple headed freak.

She stopped in front of their lawn and barked several times, wagging her tail. To me, it looked like no one was at home. I tugged on her leash, but she remained adamant. Tracy paced back and forth on the Nara's grass and started sniffing the ground. Uh-oh. I knew what this meant.

"Trace, no! C'mon, you are not- wait a minute, stay where you are. Good doggy," I said, smiling. Shikamaru really annoyed me by calling me a pervert today. I just can't forget stuff like that. "You know how that saying goes…if you gotta go, then go. I can't do anything to stop you." Tracy lifted her leg and peed on the lawn. I couldn't have been prouder.

"Ino, is your dog urinating on my lawn?" I heard someone say behind me. I turned around and saw Shikamaru. The smile vanished off my face.

"Shikamaru! Wh-What are you doing here?" I asked, surprised.

"What do you think? I live here," he said. "Oh great, now it's shitting on my lawn as well. That's just freakin' fantastic. Tell me, did you plan this?"

I scoffed. "What? You think I actually spent time to plan something like this?"

"Knowing you, I don't think you're smart enough to plan anything. But I don't really know what goes on in that bubblegum brain of yours," Shikamaru said. "Wait, I do, and his name is Sasuke, isn't it?"

"You're just jealous because he's a lot cooler than you," I said.

"Me, jealous of him? Yeah right," he said sarcastically. "The only thing Sasuke's got going for himself is good looks, but besides that, have you even talked to the guy? He's apathetic and antisocial towards everything."

"Sasuke may be taciturn sometimes-"

"Most of the time," Shikamaru added, cutting me off.

"But," I said, glaring at him," he's a very admirable guy. He's smart, competitive, responsible, and ambitious. Which is waaay more than I can say for you, Mr. Shirker."

"I did not come to my house in order to get offended by some Britney Spears-wannabe cheerleader," he said. I gasped, immediately pulling the hem of my shirt down so he couldn't see any of my midriff.

Shikamaru headed towards his house, pausing only once to scratch Tracy behind the ear. "Where are you going?" I asked.

"Inside to get a bag," he replied, already at the front door.

"Oh. Good, you should probably clean the mess on your lawn. I like to think of it as an early birthday present for you. Enjoy it," I said with a smug smile.

"Hold up Ino. I'm not cleaning that mess. You are. It's your dog, your responsibility," he said, entering his house. I quickly tugged on Tracy's leash but that dumb dog wouldn't move.

"C'mon! We need to leave before-"

"Before what?" Shikamaru asked, already back with a plastic grocery bag in his hand. "Nice try Ino. Now, here you go." He offered me the bag, which I hesitated to take.

I'm not going to describe what I did next. Eww, no. Let's just say that once I came home, I washed my hands at least a hundred times and used up most of the soap.

**********

The next day I woke up and grumbled out of bed. I got dressed, brushed my hair and joined my parents downstairs in the dining room for breakfast. "Good morning," I muttered, giving them both a peck on the cheek before sitting down.

"Ino, don't slouch in your seat," my mom said, pouring me a glass of milk.

I sat up straight. "Happy?" I asked, spreading some cream cheese on my bagel.

"Is there a reason why you're in such a bad mood today?" dad asked, taking a sip of his coffee.

"Well, if you must know," I said, "I got a call from that photographer. He wants me to do a photo shoot."

"That's good, sweetie. Isn't it?" dad said.

"No. I had to tell him I couldn't do it because of your stupid golf tournament this weekend. Do I really have to be there?" I said.

"Yes," he said. I groaned.

"You do realize you're ruining my life? I could be famous or something, but no, instead I have to babysit some snot-nosed kids," I said. I finished my bagel and stood up. "All my beauty will go to waste. Soon, I'll become one of those senile cat ladies, living in a shabby apartment."

"Ino, stop being so dramatic," mom said.

I stomped loudly towards my bathroom upstairs and brushed my teeth with quick, hard strokes. It's not fair! My one chance of fame is slipping away…

Five minutes later I drove to school and met Sakura and Hinata at our usual spot. I filled them in on the morning's event. "My parents are being completely unreasonable," I said.

"I still can't believe you even got called for a photo shoot. I mean, you have no modeling experience," Sakura said.

"But that doesn't really matter. As long as you're interesting enough, anyone can be a model," I said. "Even you, with your five-head."

"Ha ha," Sakura laughed dryly.

"So what are you going to do?" Hinata asked.

"Oh, I am definitely going to the photo shoot. I already have it all figured out. I'll go volunteer at the tournament for a while, just to make my parents happy. Bu then, when they're busy and won't notice, I'll sneak off and go to the shoot," I said.

"I'm impressed," Sakura said. "But who's going to cover for you?" I smiled sweetly and batted my eyelashes at her. "Oh no. Don't even-"

"Why not?" I asked. "What about you Hinata? Don't you want to help me?"

"Last time I helped you, I ended up having to wear a mustache and sombrero," she said.

"I needed my boss to believe I was in a mariachi group so I could have an excuse to take the night off to go on a date. And it would've worked too if your mustache hadn't come off," I said. "I didn't even go on the date, and I got fired afterwards."

"So you see the pattern here? Your plans almost always never work," Hinata said. I was going to respond, but just then the bell rang.

"Well, history awaits. I'll see you two at lunch," I said, waving at them. I entered my history classroom and sat down in my assigned seat, which was right behind Sasuke. I stared dreamily at the back of his head and sighed. Perhaps a bit too loudly because he turned around and looked at me, his eyebrows raised in question. I blushed madly, going through my mental check-list. Smooth hair? Check. Glossy lips? Check. Blemish-free face? Uh…

"Hey Sasuke," I said, dazzling him with my smile.

"Um, hey," he said.

Um, hey? Um, hey? Oh my god, this is amazing! I got Sasuke to say more than one syllable. This is like a miracle!

"How's the soccer team going along? I heard the practices were pretty intense," I said, remembering how sweaty-licious he looked the other day.

"Not really. I'm used to all the running by now," he said, then as an afterthought, "I heard something strange about you yesterday."

"Oh, you did?" I said, nonchalant. "It was probably nothing. Just, you know, gossip."

"Well, I heard that you've been spying on some guy and that it's gotten completely obsessive," Sasuke said, looking at me for an explanation. "Is there any truth in that?"

"No, of course not. There are some freaky people in this school who have nothing better to do with their lives than make stuff up like that," I said. "I would never spy on anyone. Scout's honor." I added a smile for effect.

Sasuke smiled back at me, his white teeth flashing. I knew how rare those smiles could be.

"So, uh…," I said. C'mon, Ino, you can do this! Man up and just ask him already. "Are you going to Kiba's party this weekend?"

"Probably not. Unless Naruto drags me to go," he said, looking bored. Quick, I have to reel him back in.

"You should definitely go," I said, hearing the teacher start on her lecture. "It'll be lots of fun and there'll be great music."

"I don't dance," Sasuke said.

"That's okay, I…" No, I have to be cool about this. Not too clingy, but not too aloof. "I don't dance either," I lied. "I just hang out with my friends and-"

"Your friends are going to be there?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied, not sure if this was good or bad. "I wouldn't go to a party alone. Would you?"

"No," Sasuke said.

Is he going to ask me?

"So I guess I'll see you there," he said, looking interested about something.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.

"Yeah, I'll see you there," I said coolly. Inside I was beyond ecstatic. Sasuke turned to face the front of the classroom again, while I tried my best to hide my smile.

**********

GOLF TOURNAMENT DAY

11:47 A.M.

(NOTE: I AM NOT HAPPY)

"Don't forget to put sunscreen on, sweetie. You know how easily you burn," mom said, tossing me a sunscreen bottle.

"Well, this is a great turn-out," dad said, adjusting his golf bag on his shoulder. He kept waving to different men in his club and stopped to make some 'small-talk.'

"Way to fraternize with the enemy, dad," I muttered under my breath. My mom, unfortunately, heard me and shot me a glare. "What? He is competing against them, right?"

"That's not the point, Ino. This tournament is set up to raise money for charity foundations," mom explained.

"Oh. I guess that would explain why a hot dog here costs two dollars," I said. I continued applying sunscreen on my arms and legs and stopped when I heard an all-too-familiar voice.

"Inoichi, my man, are you ready to admit defeat," Shikaku said, clapping my father on the back. My dad gave a hearty laugh. Shikaku greeted my mother then turned his attention to me. "Ino! Well, come here, squirt!" Then he proceeded to hug me and ruffle my hair. Oh my god, I was ambushed by armpit sweat.. I was silently dying. Then he released me.

I was barely recovering when Shikamaru's mother greeted me with a hug of her own. Her perfume smelled wonderful in my lungs, but her embrace was too tight. "Ino, you should come over more with your parents to our house," she said, fixing my hair. "We got a pool installed in the backyard and I know how much you love to swim."

"We should have a get-together soon," my mom suggested.

"Yes. Maybe a luau barbeque?" Mrs. Nara said.

"That'd be perfect. I found a recipe for coconut cake and I've been looking for an excuse to try it out," mom said.

That's when I tuned them out. I started to walk around the grounds of the club, trying to look for something to ease my boredom. My god, there were so many little kids running around and yelling.

"Hey Ino, you got stuck into coming here too?" I heard Kiba say from behind me.

"More like forced," I said, grateful for his presence. You can count on Kiba to lighten any mood. "I'm in charge of the jello-throwing booth. It has disaster written all over it."

Kiba laughed. "Wow, I feel for you. I'll make sure to get in a decent throw, at least."

"Make yourself useful and help me look for the booth. I'm suppose to be setting it up soon," I said.

"What does that even mean anyway? Soon. That could mean five minutes or five days or even five weeks," Kiba said.

"It means…," I said, finally spotting my booth. Amazingly, everything was already set up and several kids were waiting in line to get a chance to throw cubes of jello at a bull's-eye for a special prize. "It means that my awesomeness has prevailed yet again. Someone else set up the booth for me. I should thank them. They saved me a loadful of time."

I spoke too soon. I saw Shikamaru sitting at a folding chair by the booth, his lids drooping sleepily over his eyes. He pointed at me to the kids.

"There she is! The blonde, ditzy girl!" a young boy yelled.

"She's late!" another boy yelled.

Umm…what? I was utterly confused. Then a little girl with the face of a sweet angel said, "Get her!" in a demonic, possessed voice and started to run towards me. That little bitch!

All those kids were ready to attack me. So I grabbed Kiba's arm and yanked him away with me and ran. Hey, a girl needs protection, right? "Whoa Ino, slow down. They're just kids," he said.

"Ha! That's what you think. Damn kids, they're vicious. Now, hurry up," I said, zig-zagging across the different booths and throng of people.

"Ino, I think we lost them. Hey, watch out for-"

Too late. I didn't see it coming. I landed head in to the dessert table.

**********

"Well, it's a good thing Shikamaru had an extra shirt on hand," Kiba said in good humor. "Right?"

"Yeah, right," I said, trying to make the shirt as fashionable as I could. But it was no use. The shirt was an icky shade of green and several sizes too big. I was drowning in it. And it smelled like bean burritos. "Uh, Shikamaru, not that I enjoy being mean to you, but seriously, what's up with this shirt? I don't think it even fits you," I said.

"That's because it's not my shirt. It's Chouji's. He left it lying around in my car after we went to the gym last week," Shikamaru said. He was lying down on the grass, watching the clouds. How boring.

"This is Chouji's shirt?" I said, tugging at the neckline and smelling it in disgust. Kiba was laughing in the background. I glared at him until he stopped.

"Well, I'd love to stay and chat but I think I hear my sister calling me," Kiba said, lying horribly. "I'll see the two of you at my party tomorrow. Bye." Then he left, leaving me alone with Shikamaru (oh, and the monstrous kids).

I crossed my arms and gazed down at him, tapping my foot impatiently. "C'mon, we need to work the booth," I said.

"We? Don't you mean you?" Shikamaru said, propping himself up on one elbow.

"No, I mean us. I can't handle all those rugrats all by myself. Didn't you see the way they attacked me? They practically pushed me towards all those cakes and pies," I said. "Because of them I have frosting on my hair."

"Ino, they're just little kids. They don't know any better," Shikamaru said.

"Hey, we want to throw some jello!" one of the kids yelled.

"Yeah, it's jello-throwing time!" another kids said. I quickly grabbed the trays full of jello from the ice cooler.

"Okay, get in a straight line. Who's first?" I said. A small boy came up and handed me a dollar. And so it begun.

20 minutes later…

"Who threw that?!" I exclaimed, turning around to face the culprits. But they all smiled innocently. "That was the fifth time, so I know it was not an accident," I said, wiping jello away from my arm.

"My turn! My turn!" a girl said, grabbing a handful of jello-cubes and aiming for the bulls-eye. She completely missed. I snickered and walked towards my chair. That's when I felt something hit my butt.

"See, that's how you throw," I heard Shikamaru say to the little girl. He was kneeling down at her level and wiping his hands from the jello.

"Shikamaru, what are you doing?" I said, outraged.

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm showing Kimi how to improve her aim," he said.

"Yeah, and you were the target," Kimi said.

"I'm not a target," I said. "And I would appreciate it if one of you could at least hit the bulls-eye. Not me."

Ugh. I hate this day. I freakin' hate this day, and the people in it. I can't wait until my photoshoot. That's the only thing that can make me happy. I'll be decked out in wonderful clothes and my hair will- wait, what time is it?

I checked my phone and let out a yelp. I had completely forgotten about the time. And Sakura and Hinata aren't even here to cover for me.

"What? Forgot to charge your phone or something? Someone who talks as much as you do should know tha-" Shikamaru said before I cut him off.

"Not now. I need to think," I said, concentrating.

"Okay, just don't hurt yourself," Shikamaru said with a smirk.

"If I had a piece of rope I'd tie you to a tree and muffle your mouth with a stinky sock just so I wouldn't have to hear your annoying voice," I said. That shut him up…for a while.

"I didn't know you wore stinky socks, Ino. Not only are you named as a pig, but you're trying to smell like one too," he said. "Oww!"

"Sorry, my hand slipped," I said. On your face, I thought secretly. "Anyway, seeing as how much you love these little rascals, I don't think you'll mind being left alone with them for a while."

"What are you talking about? Where are you going?" Shikamaru asked.

"To my photoshoot, duh. I'm surprised you don't know about it, since you seem to know everything about my personal life," I said.

"I'm not the one who spies on people," he said.

"Thanks, by the way, for telling Sasuke that horrible lie about me. Luckily I set him straight about it and he said he'd see me at Kiba's party," I said. "So your plan failed." I turned to leave, but Shikamaru grabbed my wrist. "Hey, let m-"

"Do your parents know about the photoshoot?" he asked.

"Well, I told them about it and they said I couldn't go," I said, trying to release my wrist from his grasp. I didn't want to be late for the bus.

"They probably said no for a reason."

"No, they're just life-ruining parents. The photographer has his own studio set in his apartment and wardrobe and make-up. I don't even have to pay for anything. How legit is that?" I said.

"Just because he isn't asking for money doesn't mean he's safe," Shikamaru said.

"Yes he is. Now, let me go," I said, yanking my wrist away. "I don't want to show up late and make a bad impression."

"Ino, wait-"

"Someone's got to stay at the booth, Shikamaru," I called back, running towards the exit.

***********

1:13 P.M.

(I AM 8 MINUTES LATE TO MY PHOTOSHOOT!!)

I knocked on the door, perhaps a bit too eagerly. My whole body was tingling in excitement. This is it. This is the moment to propel myself forward into the spotlight. And it all starts here- at some shabby apartment studio. But whatever.

The door opened and I was greeted by Tal, the photographer I met at the mall a few weeks ago. He was sporting a very hideous goatee, which I was kind enough not to comment on.

"Ino, I'm so glad you could make it. You had me worried," Tal said, ushering me inside.

"I said I would come, didn't I?" I said, readjusting my shirt. During the bus ride here I had tied the hem at my waist and rolled the sleeves up to my shoulder. Now at least it looked half-decent. Except for that smell…"So, where's the studio at? I'm kinda on a time budget so I'd really like to hurry it up if you don't mind."

"Of course, that's perfectly understandable. And with beautiful looks like that, the shoot will be a breeze," Tal said. "But first, sit down and I'll get you something to drink. You look parched."

"Oh, thanks. It is kinda hot outside," I said, sitting down on the sofa. I couldn't see the studio anywhere and that should have set off the warning bells in my head.

Tal walked to the kitchen and fixed me a drink while I looked around the apartment. It was filled with pictures on the wall, most of them abstract, but there were some of scantily clad young women in compromising positions, as if they were flirting with the camera. There was a glazed shine in their eyes that sent chills down my spine.

"Here you go, Ino. Freshly squeezed orange juice, no pulp," Tal said. I thanked him and took a sip. It tasted weird, like orange juice with a mild burning aftertaste in my throat.

"Did you spike this?" I asked, incredulous.

"Only a little. The alcohol is only to relax you a bit for the photoshoot. Trust me, it'll make all the difference," he said. But I didn't trust him, not completely. This whole situation was a bit weird.

I stood up. "I'm sorry, but I don't drink alcohol," I said.

"C'mon Ino, loosen up," Tal said, tugging at the knot on my shirt.

"No!" I said, backing away from him. "I want to go home," I said childishly.

"But I thought you wanted to hurry it up," he said. "We could make it quick and-"

"Gross," I said. "I came here for a photo shoot, not…not this." I eyed the door.

Tal laughed. "You really thought this was all real? Wow, you are stupider than I thought." I saw a dangerous look on his face and quickly ran to my escape but Tal lunged towards me and gripped me hard. I struggled against him.

"You shitface! Let me go!" I yelled, kicking him. He grimaced.

"Why are you making this so difficult? Just have a nice drink and relax," Tal said, groping me. "Relax Ino, I won't hurt you. I'm a good guy, maybe a bit lonely, but you can fix all that."

The horror of it seized me in a sudden explosion. I started to cry, to fight, to panic. I was so afraid in that moment. For the first time in a long time I started to pray.

"P-Please," I whispered, feeling so useless. But I wasn't useless. I still had my will, and with that I dug my $25 manicured nails into Tal's shoulder and used that as a distraction. I made it to the door and hurried to unlock it.

I felt Tal's arms wrap around me and he pushed me to the floor. I withered and twisted from his grasp, kicking in every direction. I was not going to lose. I had prayed for a miracle, and by God, it was going to happen.

It came in the form of a pineapple.

*****end of chapter*****

A/N: Please review!! Flames NOT welcomed, only constructive criticism.

Oh, and keep a lookout for our Halloween Special one-shot story. Most likely, it's going to be posted on Halloween (if we have it finished by then). We're so excited about it, it's going to be sooo scary.