Shikamaru lazily rolled a shogi piece between his fingers as he stared out the window.

The sky was moving slowly today. Soft blue, a slight haze indicating that it was almost dusk. A few plump clouds were rolling leisurely in the distance, as if it were milk wafting across the sky. Even the air smelled sweet and calm. It was just one of those days which made Shikamaru yearn to go out to a field and lie in the grass.

At least, as a secretary for his friend, he was able to exert minimum effort in his job and spend more time relaxing.

The phone rang, and his idyllic atmosphere was crushed.

He grumbled unenthusiastically when he saw the caller I.D. – Neji, his boss – who no doubt wanted him to fill out some more troublesome paperwork.

Picking up the phone, he droned out, "yeah?"

He grinned a little when he heard Neji sigh with exasperation on the other end of the line.

"You're supposed to say, Hyuuga Investigations speaking, not 'yeah'," Neji said with irritation. "Anyway, forget that. I have a meeting with a client today but I'll be a few minutes late."

"Want me to send him away?"

"No! Good god…" Neji went silent for a moment, and Shikamaru could only imagine the Hyuuga rubbing his forehead with frustration. "Just hold him there until I arrive alright? He has things to sign."

"You're the boss," Shikamaru replied cheerfully.

He sighed with amusement when he heard Neji mutter a foul word then click the phone off abruptly. It was obviously one of the Hyuuga's busier days. Neji had always been known as a calm, collected and cool personality, and in order for something to provoke such a snappy mood was clearly something bad.

Shikamaru shrugged it off, deciding it wasn't really something he should concern himself over. Work was work, and work got you stressed.

He glanced down at the schedule sheet and searched for the supposed-meeting.

Only one today – Asuma Sarutobi.

The name itched in his mind. He hadn't seen this Asuma before, but he had seen his name printed on numerous files clustered around Neji's office. Perhaps Asuma always arrived during the night shift – something which Shikamaru insisted he didn't get, as he valued sleep above his 'career', as Neji had put it.

He flicked the shogi piece he was holding into the air and caught it, yawning.

The front door buzzed, as expected.

Shikamaru briefly noted that the man was 2 minutes late.

"Sarutobi here."

Shikamaru felt an strange twinge at the sound of the voice.

He pressed the button. "Yeah come in," he said lazily. He stared out the window as he listened vaguely to the footsteps coming up the stairs, and finally the sound of the door opening. Shikamaru sighed and settled back into his chair, a bored look on his face as he pretended to shuffle some paper together.

"Neji isn't in at the moment so if you'd like to-" He froze midsentence.

His eyes were focused on the small burnt holes in the denim fabric of the man's jeans.

Jeans – no one who hired Neji wore jeans, especially not jeans which were marked, stained and dotted with rips and tears. The smell of smoke suddenly reached Shikamaru, and he crinkled his nose in distaste. His eyes traveled up the man's figure – taller than he expected someone called Asuma would be – then rested on the cigarette dangling between the man's lips.

The man raised an eyebrow, cigarette between his lips shifting. "Something wrong?"

Shikamaru faltered slightly. The man, Asuma, gave a small lopsided smile.

He shook his head. "No smoking in the office – Neji isn't in so you're going to have to wait a bit."

Asuma looked around the room as he took a deep drag on the cigarette. With a slight smirk, eyeing Shikamaru, he exhaled a silky stream of smoke into the air before he sauntered over to the window. Casually, he stubbed the cigarette out onto the wooden window sill with a satisfying hiss, then flicked the remaining stubble out.

Shikamaru suddenly felt unsettled.

Eyes narrowing, he tried to pretend he was working, scribbling on a form.

Unfortunately, this Asuma was proving more troublesome than expected. The older man wandered in front of his desk. With two, strangely slender fingers, he plucked up a shogi piece off of Shikamaru's board and twirled it in the air. A twinge of irritation automatically ran through Shikamaru – he disliked it when people moved his pieces.

Pausing, and without looking up, Shikamaru huffed.

"Put it down."

Silence. The smell of flaky ashes.

The man placed the shogi piece down with a decisive 'click' against the board, then placed his hand casually back into his jeans pocket.

Shikamaru stopped writing again and glanced up at the shogi board, eyes immediately noticing that he had placed it in the wrong position. He opened his mouth to speak – then caught himself. The shogi piece… the man had just made a move. Not just any move, a good move.

His heart skipped a beat.

Neji rarely indulged him with playing shogi, and the board game left on his desk had laid dormant for two weeks waiting for him to make a move.

And now here, this man, Asuma, had picked up the game. Shikamaru's eyes flickered up to examine the man's face, slightly mystified. Asuma's lip quirked again. He was smirking.

"Your move," his said smoothly, the sound of his voice deep.

Without hesitation, Shikamaru reached out to make his next move.


Asuma's hand moved without pause. Click.

Shikamaru felt his pulse quicken – not many people made their decision that quickly in shogi. Already in two moves, Asuma was proving to be a rather difficult player. A smile spread across his face however, as after a few more clicks the game was near its end. He was winning.

The match stopped after a few minutes.

Suddenly feeling very satisfied, Shikamaru stretched back in his chair and exhaled long and hard, a content look spreading across his face.

The older man chuckled deeply.

Confused, he opened his eyes and looked up at the man. Asuma was smiling the same confident smile.

One hand against the desk, leaning forward, Asuma grinned. "You look real cute when you play shogi."

Shikamaru almost fell off his chair when the words sunk in. His eyes widened.


Frowning to himself,

Suddenly, a mobile rang. Asuma's, evidently, as he opened it and began mumbling down the line.

Shikamaru felt his cheeks flush as he realized that the man had just called him cute. Mentally gaping to himself, he stared at the mysterious Asuma with a lost look on his face. After a few seconds, Asuma was done with the mobile.

"Alright then – no problem – see you in 10." He flipped the phone shut, returning his attention to the numb shocked Shikamaru. "Got to run. Neji said he'll meet me downstairs."

Shikamaru nodded numbly.

With a surreptitious wink, the older man sauntered his way to the door and left. His footsteps echoed in the hallway, before Shikamaru could hear the door outside slamming shut from the wind.

Shaking his head, he noticed his cheeks were hot.

Muttering to himself, he decided to open all the windows before he suffocated from second hand smoke.

Consider this my little pet project to get back into writing :d

xx keiji