Disclaimer:I do not own Naruto or any of its respective characters. But if I did, I would... Oh, hell... I can't think of anything witty this time. ^_^
Author's Note: Hi again everyone. This is a ShikaIno piece that occurs the morning after Ino's party in Attention. This is AU, and ties in with all my other Naruto fics.
Nara Shikamaru raised his groggy eyelids, as a sharp pain surged through his arm. "Ughh..." He groaned, rolling over onto his side, where he found Ino nestled snugly against him. She was laying on his arm, snoring, as she tended to do on nights when she was really tired. He carefully eased his arm from beneath her, determined not to disturb her peace. When he was free, he stood from her rumpled day bed, shaking his arm awake.
Shikamaru smirked to himself, while watching the girl shuffle from side to side, searching for his body heat, no doubt. Ino-chan. If her parents knew how many times he'd slept in her bed, they would flay him alive. Of course, he never did anything inappropriate with her. Such activity would be inexcusable for any Nara. Though the Clan had become more liberal over the years, it was still steeped in deep tradition, and the perception of unblemished honor. Shikamaru could sometimes be a lazy bum, but his father had managed to drill the same sense of honor into him.
He left Ino in her room, taking a walk through her parents' house. He sighed. The house had been a wreck after the party, but they had cleaned and fixed everything in the hours following. Every corner, every small, obscured nook. Both of her parents were shinobi, so they'd been especially thorough.
It was a risk, him staying the night, as her parents were expected to return sometime today. But, he just couldn't leave her. When she'd finished sobbing into his arms, he'd had to motivate her to hide the evidence of the party. Ino-chan. He sighed again, watching the clock on the kitchen wall. He was still tired, having only gotten a couple hours sleep, and now it was time for school...
"Ughh..." He released another deep groan. Shikamaru slunk over to the refrigerator, helping himself to some of the leftover spagetti Ino had cooked the day before. He pulled a small bowl from the overhead cabinet, filling it up, then put the spagetti dish back into the refrigerator. He didn't bother heating it, just stuffed his face as quickly as possible. As he placed his sauce-laden bowl into the sink, he hesitated, wondering how Ino would react to him leaving her any semblance of a mess. He frowned. Better to wash the bowl and fork than to hear her screeching.
When he was done with that task, he headed back upstairs. Peeking into Ino's room, he observed her still peaceful slumber. She could be a real harpy when awoken before she wanted to be. He pulled her door shut. Off to school alone, then. She had her dad wrapped tight around her finger, so she'd be able to get an excuse on her own. But, of course, if she needed it, he was always ready to forge one for her.
On the way back downstairs, he retrieved his jacket, which he'd left hanging over the banister. He slipped his arms through the sleeves, as he approached the foyer, where his sandals lay by the door. He leaned over to pull them onto his feet. When he was done, he took one last scan of the foyer, and the halls that he could see, making certain he hadn't left any evidence of his visit. Satisfied, Shikamaru spoke out loud, even though Ino would never be able to hear him.
"Get some rest, Ino-chan. See you tomorrow."
"Hey, Shino. Hold up a sec," Shikamaru called to the Aburame, as the bug-ninja led a very giddy Sakura across the Academy lawn. Shino turned and waited, while the cherry blossom skipped over to a group of giggling girls.
"Can I help you with something?" Shino inquired.
"Yeah, actually," Shikamaru said. He glanced over at Sakura, chatting with her friends. "How did you do it?" He asked, frowing slightly. This was more than a little embarassing, but he'd be damned if he wasn't going to figure this out. Shino had obviously been interested in the Haruno for some time, but had never even tried to talk to her until last night. And now... "How did you get Sakura's attention?"
Shino chukled. "I told her the truth."
Shikamaru's eye twitched. "The truth..." He repeated.
The Aburame's brows raised high above his shades. "You'd be surprised how appealing truth can be to a girl."
"Yeah, sure," the Nara replied, hands in his pockets, while shifting uncomfortably on his feet. "The truth doesn't really get me anywhere with Ino," he huffed.
Again, Shino laughed. "Buy her something nice, then, Nara. Everybody knows Yamanaka Ino is fond of delicate, sparkly things."
Shikamaru's dark eyes narrowed, and a sneer promptly appeared on his lips. "Ino isn't some shallow twit!" He snapped.
"I never said she was," Shino calmly replied. "But, she is rich, and she does like fine jewelry." He smiled. "But then, you know Ino better than anybody, so why are you asking me?"
"I don't know... Shit!" Shikamaru kicked up a modicum of dust from the sparse grass. "I'm just on edge." His gaze again turned to Sakura, and Shino followed his line of sight. "You know the Clan Party is coming up, right?" Shino didn't speak. "Come on, Shino. I know you've thought about this."
"And if I have? What is it to you?"
"Look, just tell me where you're going for Sakura's gift. I don't want to walk all around the village looking for a vendor."
"Hn," Shino scoffed. "You have no sense of style, Shikamaru," he turned his back, sauntering toward the cherry blossom, who was waiting for him with the most spectacular blush spread across her cheeks. "There's more to choosing a thoughtful gift than the vendor you bought it from. Anyway, it hasn't even been decided which Clan is hosting, yet, so don't sweat it."
"Don't sweat it..." the Nara spat. "Not like I've got a lot of time." Then, he realized Shino had already walked away. "Hey!" Shikamaru yelled at the bug-ninja. "You never told me where to go!"
"And I'm not going to!" Shino answered back.
Nara Shikamaru held onto his throbbing head, fingers digging into his scalp. He'd gone to every jewelry shop in Konoha, some of them more than once, in his search for Ino's escort gift. He wanted to scream. This was not at all what he wanted to be doing right now. He scanned the display of peridot and sapphire necklaces again. He had seen Ino's jewelry box... None of these would get him anything except a bruised jaw. They weren't good enough for Ino, and he wouldn't dare try to give her something she thought was cheap.
"Do you have anything else I could look at?" He asked the shop-keeper.
"Certainly," the woman answered. "May I ask what it is you are looking for?"
Shikamaru sighed, recalling the amount of money he'd withdrawn from his account. "Something expensive..." His mother wouldn't be happy about it, since she supervised his spending so carefully. But what choice did he have?
"Are there any types of gems that are especially appealing to you?"
"I don't know... It's for a girl..."
"Oh, I see!" The woman's smile was a knowing one. "Well, then, what kind of young lady are we talking about? Can you tell me a little something about her?"
The truth. That was what Shino had suggested. Although he had meant speaking to Ino herself, perhaps this was as good a time as any to be honest about what he thought of the Yamanaka.
"She's gorgeous. And I'm not exaggerating. She's knows it, too. And she's rich and spoiled, and perfect." He could feel his temperature rising as he thought of Ino. "And blonde," he added. Was that enough of a discription? He hoped so, because he didn't think he could describe the true depth of his feelings to a stranger.
"Sounds like you are very fond of her."
"Yeah, well..." He stared up at the ceiling to avoid the shop-keeper's gaze. "We've known eachother our whole lives. Our dads were on the same shinobi team, and we were practically raised together."
"So, tell me what she likes. Her favorite colors?"
"Purple, blue and green," he answered.
"May I also ask... is this gift for the upcoming Gathering of the Great Shinobi Clans?" Her eyes were like stars as she smiled, beaming with a dreamy radiance.
"Ah, yeah, actually."
"I think I may have just the thing, then." She hesitated. "As long as you are aware, it isn't going to be cheap."
Shikamaru snickered, while clutching the wad of cash in his pocket. "That's why I'm here, ma'am," he said. "She's got expensive taste."
It was done. Finally. Nara Shikamaru had successfully purchased an escort gift for Yamanaka Ino. He arrived back home, slinking through the door like a cat in the night. He was late. Maybe he could get to his room before his mother noticed he was home.
"Nara Shikamaru! Come here at once!" His mother's shrill voice beckoned him into the kitchen.
Nope. No luck this time, but he was prepared for this. He knew his mother was as fond of Ino as he was, so he'd had this confrontation all thought out ahead of time. When he got to the kitchen, he immediately pulled the small black box out of his pocket, opening it to reveal the glittering, bejeweled trinket.
His mother's eyes bulged, and her mouth fell open. "How much did that cost?" Was all she managed to say after several gawking moments.
"Enough," he answered. "It's for Ino."
"For Ino," she repeated. Then her gaze shot up to meet his. He could see the plans already beginning in her mind. "Does this mean..."
"Ah..." Shikamaru leaned against the wall, after closing the box. "I haven't even asked her yet, mom."
She smiled now. "But, you're going to, and that's all I need to know." She waved him forward. "Come and sit, dear. I'll make you something special." Then she giggled. "Jewels for a jewel," she said. "Ino-chan is going to love it, you know."
He took a seat at the kitchen table, as his mother breezed around, gathering up ingredients for a late dinner. "She'd better," he huffed. "I spent my allowance for the next year and half..."
His mother's left eyebrow rose in disbelief, as it tended to do when she knew he was lying.
"Or more..." Shikamaru finally admitted.
She chukled, while setting to work at the counter. "Much more," she said. "Much, much more."