A/N: Oneshot that was originally in my collection entitled "Chronicles", but I've since decided to clean it up and put it out here, in case i want to add other chapters to each of these. Anyhow, sorry if you've read it already-though it's been tweaked and cleaned up a bit!
Taming of the Shrew
He was only pretending to sleep.
His back was pressed against the tree, his skin beginning to scorch from the summer sun. He didn't care. It was worth it.
He could hear her approach. No, that wasn't right...he could smell her approach. She always smelled like he imagined a woman would, but something about it was so...different. Flowers. It was always flowers, but unlike the others of her gender, it somehow made his heart race every so slightly.
"Idiot!" she growled as she let loose a well-placed kick to his side. He could feel his ribs strain under her foot. "Wake up! Your team has been waiting for you for hours! In case you didn't know, it's hot out here and they are just kids!" she squealed from above him.
He risked a peek through heavy lids. She was glaring at him with her icy blue eyes; her hands thrust upon her hips, only serving to further animate her frustration. She pulled her foot back to kick him again, but his fingers wrapped around her ankle before her heel could slam into his ribs a second time.
"I got it," he grumbled, yawning unnecessarily. He rubbed his eyes, painfully squinting at her as she shaded him from the summer sun. He toyed with the idea of Shadow Possession, but the expression she was wearing told him that she was angry enough.
"Well then get your ass over there before I kick it there! That's a promise, you know!" she roared, flicking her blonde hair over her shoulder. "Those poor kids have been standing outside my parents' flower shop for a really long time. You shouldn't do that to them, Shikamaru! You're just like Asu—" she trailed off.
He looked up at her suddenly, catching the inflection in her voice. He knew what she meant to say. Asuma. A stab of guilt brought him back to reality. She was right; he was the leader of three future shinobi, and he should show some responsibility. He didn't have to take a job as a Team Leader, but he felt that he would be mocked if he asked for retirement at his age.
He masked his momentary sadness with a wry grin, "Thanks!"
"That wasn't a compliment," Ino sighed as she spun around. "Asuma-sensei told me to look after you, and that's what I'm doing. Now," she kicked him again, get your ass up!" He wasn't prepared for the third attempt at his life, and her foot easily slid past his arm and connected with his hipbone. He grimaced, knowing full well that one would leave a bruise. Shadow Possession was looking really good at the moment...
"Ooof! Ok, I get it. Quit being so bothersome," he muttered. "Such a pain." He nursed his throbbing hip and ribs.
"Hmmph," she replied haughtily, turning quickly and stomping away.
He watched her long legs lead her as she fumed about his laziness and lack of responsibility. He silently wondered if she was harboring some deep-rooted resentment from their last mission, months earlier. He knew she had it in her to be like a typical woman, but he was really seeing no other outward signs aside from her testiness. In fact, Ino had been acting as if nothing had ever happened. Of the two of him, he never expected her to be the disinterested one.
Granted, it had happened months ago. Most guys would have been excited by the prospect of making out with a decent-looking woman while getting paid for it and not having any repercussions. It was a mission and Ino had played the part well. So well that he had been surprised at how easily they could feign their non-existent relationship. He hadn't been expecting the outcome, however. Not in public. Not like that. It wasn't part of the plan; he hadn't made room for that. Afterward, she had acted as if nothing had happened, asking nothing of him and never speaking of it again. Shikamaru figured he would have been satisifed with those results as well, but, for some reason, that mission kept creeping into his mind and occupying his thoughts. She had acted so distant since then, shouldn't he-the guy-be the distant one? He was always the disinterested one! It was such a bothersome memory, but something about it caused his mind to linger. He was frustrated that he couldn't forget, while Ino had so easily moved on. As he mulled that event, he pushed his head back against the rough bark of the tree trunk, oblivious to how it scraped his scalp and caught in his thick, black hair.
Ok, one more time, he thought, but then I have to seriously forget about this!
He let his mind drift off to that day, three months earlier, on an exceptionally warm spring day...
There had been trivia at the luncheon. He had wanted to avoid anything that took any sort of effort, but she thought they would blend in better if they participated. He had sighed, inwardly cringing as he succumbed to her suggestion. Much to his surprise, he had actually enjoyed the game, though it was most likely due to the fact that he had managed to sweep the first round...by himself. After nine rounds of trivia, the two had easily had the upper-hand, much to their initial expectations. It was Ino who had won the game for them, her professional knowledge of plants clinching the hefty monetary prize. She had immediately ran into Shikamaru's arms, pulling him into a tight hug. He hadn't responded to the embrace, caught off-guard by her giddiness. When she pulled away, their faces were inches apart, their breaths intermingling with one another's. He remembered that he could see every freckle on her face. Her eyes were an amazingly vivid blue.
Why hadn't he realized how pretty she was before?
Suddenly their lips were pressed together hungrily. He found himself, surprisingly, returning the kiss. It had been apparent that Ino had been the experienced one-something he found upsetting. They had pulled away, their faces red with wonder and their lips swollen from the friction of the heated embrace. The round of applause and cheering that rang out around them reminded the young 'couple' that they were not alone...
They had never spoken about that moment. Ever. Ino had been nonchalant about the entire thing, which oddly disappointed him. He hadn't been able to stop thinking about it, no matter how much he tried. It was very un-Shikamaru-like-even he recognized that.
He had even began finding ways to ensure he encountered his former teammate. He had made the Flower Shop a common meeting place for his team. Today, for instance, he knew that she would see his leaderless team and come looking for him. It gave him such a rush to have her come and find him, similar to the feeling of winning a game of shogi. But each time she walked away, he felt an emptiness he couldnt quite explain.
He decided to go and meet his leaderless team, as they were most likely in the Yamanaka Flower Shop. He winced at the pain in his side as he tried to stand. Perhaps she broke a few ribs. He could get Ino to heal that, he thought, smirking mischeviously. He, Nara Shikamaru, was scheming like a pain-in-the-ass adolescent girl.
"She's what?" he repeated, slamming his mug onto the table much more forcefully than he had intended. His beverage spilled out onto the table, splashing his vest. Good thing Choji was too busy eating to notice his sudden interest.
"Going on a date. Just like I said," Choji mumbled between bites. "Geez, Shika, you sound like you care whether Ino goes on a date or not."
Shikamaru remained quiet. Did he care? Why was he so surprised? Why did his stomach feel like it was going to retch at the very news? "I don't care if she goes on a date. She never mentioned it to me, that's all," he said calmly. He wiped his finger through the beer he spilled on the table. His thoughts were turning murderous.
"Oh come on, Shika. Like you haven't noticed how hot Ino got since we were teammates," Choji gulped down the cold beer. "Sometimes I think I would ask her out, if I thought the chubby had a chance," he said, wiping his mouth after an especially loud belch.
Shikamaru grimaced, "Troublesome. "
He leaned back in his chair. He had noticed how attractive Ino had become, that was the problem! She had matured since their younger days, no longer focusing on her looks as much. She long ago gave up her crazy dieting he was so used to hearing her whine about. He couldn't deny that she had filled out some, but he found her to look more...womanly. He liked the curvier jonin. Something about her being less revealing and more voluptous made drove him wild. He had always told himself he would only be attracted to ordinary women, nothing too attractive or too ugly. But, Ino was definitely above that middle ground...
"Do you…do you know who she's going out with?" he asked, his eyes closed as to not betray his emotions.
"Are you sure you're not interested?" Choji asked, his voiced filled with both suspicion and concern. His eyes fell on his comrades' plate, momentarily distracted by Shikamaru's uneaten dumplings "You going to eat those?" he pointed at the remains of dinner.
"Help yourself," Shikamaru pushed the plate toward Choji, who immediately began to shovel the food into his mouth.
"Thanksh," he mumbled, mouth full of food.
The Nara heir knew he could take advantage of the situation. "You never answered my question," he pointed out, carefully feigning disinterest.
Choji kept his eyes on his lifeless prey, "I think she's going to the festival with Sai."
"Sai?" Shikamaru echoed. That guy had no more personality than a shogi board. Of course, some would argue Shikamaru didn't have much of a personality, either, but that was beside the point.
"Yeah, she asked him out, actually. He agreed," Choji explained matter-of-factly.
"How do you know these things?"
"Because unlike you, I still drop by to see Ino now and then. I consider her a good friend. I expected you to as well, but you seem like you could care less. And now you're suddenly interested in who she's dating," Choji said, pushing the plate away from him. He looked directly at Shikamaru, "I'm not stupid, you know."
Shikamaru didn't understand where this conversation was going. "Huh?"
"I can see you're interested in her," Choji pointed out. "I've never seen you so interested in anything before. Except maybe shogi. Or naps." He was amused he could catch Shikamaru off guard. He prided himself in his observational skills, and, right now, he was definitely sensing Shikamaru's interest in Ino's date.
The raven-haired jonin decided to feign ignorance. That would be safest. "I'm not interested in her. I just hadn't heard any of this before, and it was surprising. That's all. I couldn't be bothered by this stuff, really" he muttered. "I'm going to get another beer, do you want one?"
Choji wasn't convinced by Shikamaru's change in mood, but he loved free beer. "Sure! Then I'll tell you about the new technique my dad and I came up with!"
Shikamaru didn't understand why Choji's words bothered him, but they did. He slowly walked to his place, his hands deep in his pockets. So, Ino was going on a date, huh? Wasn't his business. He could care less, right?
But it was his business. She kissed him. She could at least own up to that fact. Maybe if he got her to talk about what happened, he would feel much better and could move on from this constant state of emotional confusion. Besides, he was never emotional. He was pretty sure that his disinterested demeanor was inherited from his mother. She was always screaming at his father, who just took everything in stride. Shikamaru often wondered how his father could tolerate such a bothersome woman. He had even dared to ask Shikkaku once, but his father just smiled and said that Shikamaru's mother had a "softer" side. He had laughed so hard at that idea, much to his father's chagrin. Shikamaru was almost convinced that his father stayed with his mother out of fear. Or that his mother made Shikkaku marry her. But, there were times where he undeniably did witness a different side to his mother, mostly when she didn't think he was watching. He remembered how she would meticulously fold his and Shikkaku's clothes, or how she would sometimes tenderly kiss her husband before he left on a mission. He had even witnessed them embrace on a few occasions. Did he just prefer to block out the moments of tenderness between his parents? The look of love in his father's eyes when he spoke or watched the Nara matriarch was one of much devotion. There was no fear in that gaze. Perhaps his mother was a loving and warm-hearted woman...
He scoffed at such a thought as he kicked a stone loose from the dirt. It skipped along the trodden path before it disappearing in the nearby foliage. He noticed a few wide-open blooms. He reached out and touched the fragrant flowers. Night blooming jasmine, he remembered. Ino had taught him about the nocturnal-blooming flowers years earlier, while they were on a mission. He had never been interested in botany, and was surprised to find that he remembered this flower.
Realization fell upon him like a ton of kunai. "Shit!" he growled, before turning on heel and running in the direction of her house.
Such a pain!
Ino opened the door, surprised to find Shikamaru standing at her doorstep. She was dressed in a shorter, slate blue silk summer dress. It was much longer than something Ino would have worn in her genin days. Her eyes widened, "Shikamaru! What are you doing here?" Her hands immediately went to her hips. Irritation!
"I…just..er, wanted," he gasped for air. "To tell you...not to go on a date..with Sai."
There. He had said it.
"WHAT?" she boomed. "And just why not?" Her slender hands balled into fists as they rested upon her curving hips. He couldn't take his eyes from the gentle sloping line of her waist. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. He responded in the only way he knew how: shrugging.
"A shrug? I ask for a reason, and you give me a shug?" she look nonplussed at his response.
"Don't go," he said coolly.
"Ok, Shikamaru. I won't go. Because you shrugged," she said, rolling her eyes at her sarcasm. "Thanks for the warning. Seriously. Goodnight," she began to shut the door.
"Wait!" he said, sliding his foot in the door. "I'm serious."
"How did you find out I'm going on a date? And why do you suddenly care?" she asked, eyes narrowed suspiciously.
Again, he shrugged.
"Ok, well, if you don't have a real reason, then I'm not going to listen to this," she tried to shut the door again, but this time, he slipped his entire body through the door.
"What the hell? Go home!" she warned, her blue eyes flashing anger.
He towered over her, taking a few steps toward her. She began backing away from him until she hit the wall behind her. "Shikamaru, what's gotten into you?"
Again, he shrugged. This time she hit him in the shoulder. Hard. He was confident she wasn't trying to hurt him, as he knew very well that she had excellent control of her chakra punches.
"I'm serious! What the hell is going on? You could give two shits about my life and suddenly you're at my door telling me who I can and can't go on a date with?" she hissed, her voice rising in anger.
"I don't want you go. Is that enough?" he said softly. This was truly becoming a royal pain in his ass. He didn't like to explain himself. He took another step. Their toes were touching. He could feel the heat of her body, smell the lavender on her skin. Her long blonde hair held a natural curl that he wanted to run his fingers through. He was confused at his sudden attraction toward the girl—no, woman—he had been teammates with for years before.
"I really don't get it. After what happened months ago, you haven't said so much as a word to me. I got the message loud and clear, Shikamaru. And suddenly now you want something different? It doesn't work that way!" her voice was rising. The angrier she became, the more attractive her found her. He reached out and touched the hair on her shoulder. His fingers brushed her collarbone. A blinding heat seared through her body at the contact. She tried to hide the blush that was growing on her cheeks as she half-heartedly pushed on his chest.
"I thought you didn't want to talk about it," Shikamaru raggedly breathed, his eyes elsewhere. Without prompting, he brought his lips to her clavicle, teasing the sensitive skin with hsi breath.
"Wha-?" she began, immediately forgetting her reply as his lips trailed their way up her neck. They brushed along her jawline, hovering near her lips. She could feel his breath against her face, and there was no denying his intent. His eyelids were heavy as he watched her from under them. She could sense his pulse racing, and she knew he was nervous.
"I really don't get you," Ino said softly against his lips.
"I don't get me either. Not lately," he replied as he licked her bottom lip. She moaned, arching her back into him. He tenderly grabbed the back of her head, crushing her lips against his in an amazingly heated kiss. By the time the kiss ended, they were both breathless.
"I wanted to do that for months, now," Shikamaru whispered into her ear as he kissed the lobe, his forehead resting against the wall behind her as he tried to regain his composure. The words tumbled from his lips uncharacteristically.
"Well, why didn't you?" she purred, only half-listening to him.
"Because I didn't think you wanted to," he explained, his face growing hot, "you never spoke about it, and it was a pain to bring up."
"So it was..just...a silly misunderstanding? Ahh!" Ino squealed as he kissed the sensitive spot beneath her ear. How did he know about that spot?
"Guess so. What a troublesome misunderstanding," he murmured into the nape of her neck. He ran his hands down her sides, sliding them around her waist. He quickly lifted her, and she instinctively wrapped her legs around his torso. This time, she pulled him into a kiss.
"Ino? Could I ask a favor?" Shikamaru groaned as she eagerly kissed his neck, biting as shew went. Perhaps pain did lead to rewards...
"Hmm?" she murmured against his skin. He found the vibration enticing beyond belief. Perhaps it was because it had been a while since he had a woman's touch...
"Your date. Cancel it," he rasped the command.
She pulled back, staring into his eyes as she cupped his face in her hands. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips, "Consider it done." Before he could say anything else, she covered his mouth with soft, full lips.
She would thank Choji later for blabbing about her date. Mostly because, well, she didn't have one. Like Shikamaru, she hadn't forgotten the kiss they shared months prior. She had been the one to initiate it. She had wanted it and she wasn't about to forget it. But, she had known Shikamaru since they were almost teenagers, and he didn't like women who were clingy or desperate.
So, she had developed a theory that ignoring him would be the best way to lure him in. Her hypothesis was further fortified by a certain family matriarch who had it, on good authority, that such a method was guaranteed to lure in a Nara male. This same tactic, which had led to almost twenty-five years of a blissful marriage.
It was purely fate that it rained as Nara Shikkaku's wife stopped by to purchase a few potted plants that day, Ino was sure of it.
Yes, Ino supposed it was a tad bit facetious. But who was she to argue? He was the one pulling her dress straps off of her shoulders. She had noticed his little mannerisms that kept them in constant contact these past few months: how he would always assign her family's flower shop as his team's place of meeting, how he watched her as he pretended to nap, how he knew she would come find him if his team sat without him for long enough, how he would respond if he thought she had moved on from the juvenile kiss. She had "accidentally" mentioned her date to Choji, knowing he was quite a gossip. Especially to Shikamaru—whom he told everything.
Ino was tempted to tell him all of this, but why ruin a perfectly good moment? She was only a troublesome woman, after all. It was in her gender to be conniving when necessary, and she found this very necessary. She grabbed Shikamaru by his hand and led him to her room, smiling to herself in triumph.
It had been quite easy for her to tame this shrew.