Hi all you Naruto fans out there! This is my first Naruto fanfic and I'm excited! are you excited? you should be! this is going to be an epic, so officially welcome to Shikamaru: Shippuden!
Disclaimer: The information presented and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Masashi Kishimoto and/or his partners... blah blah blah.
The night was deep and dark, and as still as the mountains themselves. Nothing moved, not a snow-laden branch, not a terrified mouse, and definitely not the pair of shinobi standing in a forest clearing. They had triggered a trap and they knew it and behind their animal masks, fear played tricks on their dark irises. Every shadow was an enemy, every movement signaled death.
Nothing they did could have saved them from the terror that befell them. A large man stepped quietly from the darkness, not even crunching the snow underfoot. Silent as a ghost. The ANBU readied their blades, but his strikes were fast and fatal. They could hardly widen their eyes in shock before their blood stained the snow crimson. Quickly performing a single hand seal, they each melted away in a blue flame, the jutsu protecting their village consuming every trace they ever existed.
The man sheathed his own blade, brushing fresh snowfall from his own shoulder. It was rare that he had to deal with intrusions personally, but these two had been skilled. Shimogakure had many layers of detection and they had completely bypassed all but the last level. Some of his top subordinates might have been able to handle it, but there was no use in losing lives unnecessarily.
And speaking of such subordinates…
"Korikage-sama*!" yelled one man, dropping to his knees at his leader's feet. "My greatest apologies! I could not hope to keep up with you when you moved-"
"Quiet." The Korikage hissed. "The last group was four, I only killed two."
The man leapt to his feet instantly, drawing a tanto from behind his shoulder. They stood there for upwards of a minute before the Korikage relaxed, turning away. He could not detect any others, and if they did show themselves, he would know instantly.
He motioned to his subordinate to come, walking back toward his village.
More than one hundred meters away, the remaining two shinobi turned back, each making two quick hand seals almost simultaneously and teleporting away. It was unfortunate that they had lost their comrades at the end of a successful mission, but that was what happened when you let your guard down for even an instant. The information they had retrieved however, was critical. Their lives were not lost in vain.
How troublesome, thought Nara Shikamaru as he stared listlessly into the eyes of the Godaime Hokage. Lady Tsunade had just explained his next mission and it was one he shouldn't accept for several good reasons. First, it was an S-rank mission. That was problematic because S-rank missions involved work. A lot of work. Whether it be incredible amounts of paperwork, extended periods of time spent undercover or under fire, or one really bad-ass ninja that was supposed to be killed or captured, work was work and work was something the youngest member of the Nara clan did not do.
As if that wasn't enough reason for the mission to be deemed troublesome, it was supposed to be undertaken with her. Yamanaka Ino. She was the last person he liked to go on missions with for a list of reasons so long he'd get tired spelling it out. The irony did not escape his notice that he'd been on nearly every mission she'd participated in since they left the academy. At least in team Ten they had Choji to keep Shikamaru's mind occupied and Ino's rambunctious personality at bay. Now Choji was out on an assignment for the Akimichi clan and he was stuck with her. And to go on a two man mission? Together? It was madness! Who had written this mission's parameters anyway, his mother?
"I think, Shikamaru, that this would be a test for you especially. If you complete this mission successfully, I can see no reason not to award you the rank of Tokubetsu Jonin. We would normally have your father, Neji or some other Jonin take on a mission this important but it seems almost tailored to the skills of the pair of you. Do you accept?"
Deep down, Shikamaru knew that they would not send his father. As the highest ranking Jonin in Konohagakure, Shikaku was far too much of an asset to send out in such a ninja-starved environment. No, one of the Konoha 11 made much more practical sense, especially since many of them were nearing Jonin skill level themselves. And that decision, made by the Godaime more so than the elders, since none of the 11 had yet earned their trust, ensured Shikamaru's response.
He merely nodded his approval, pretending to examine his fingernail closely. Inside, he bristled at the mention of Neji taking this mission. Regardless of whether they were comrades, the Hyuga was one of the most insufferable people Shikamaru knew.
He didn't often enjoy his company, though he was quite an asset on a battlefield. The fact was, Neji seemed to take life entirely too seriously and whenever Shikamaru was around him he ended up frustrated to no end about the man's ridiculous ideas. Regardless, offering a promotion to get him off his ass was something he'd expected of the Hokage about a month ago. The fact that it took this long was a sign that Konohagakure had been experiencing a shortage of difficult missions to attend to.
Shikamaru knew this better than most. His principle job nowadays was to oversee mission planning for the more dangerous assignments the villiage recieved. His keen intellect and insight had been invaluable in raising the survivability of several recent assignments. But that was just his day job. If anyone asked him what his primary focus in life was he'd probably say cloud gazing. Not only was it infinitely amusing to watch people's startled reaction, but he appreciated a bit of humor now and then as well. After all, what's more ironic than the most intelligent man in the Fire country answering a question about the meaning of his life with an activity befitting of exhausted children?
"Shika-kun," Ino said, waving her hand in front of his face. "You spaced out. She asked you if you accept."
He replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "I nodded."
Her face fell to a blank stare and she turned around quickly, facing Tsunade and crossing her arms. A slight "Hmph!" escaped her pursed lips.
"Good then," Tsunade said, ignoring their private quarrel. "If you two will excuse me, I've got a bottle of sake calling my name. The details are in the scroll." she handed Shikamaru the scroll as she stepped past him, making a beeline for the door and her escape. "Goodbye paperwork!" she sing-songed as she rounded the corner.
Shikamaru opened the scroll. He read it. He closed the scroll.
"Arent you gonna read it?" Ino asked him without turning all the way around. Apparently she was still pouting.
"I already did." he replied, turning to leave as well. "We've got a special training regimen with Kakashi Sensei in the morning to prepare. Six o'clock tomorrow. That's too early." Kakashi-sensei? At daybreak? Troublesome…
Ino rolled her eyes. "Everything is 'troublesome' to you, Shika-kun, live a little!" she made quotation signs with her fingers as she talked.
That irked him and she likely knew it did. Not only did he intentionally say 'troublesome' only in his head, but she did the quote sign. Every time she did it, he couldn't help but feel his eyebrow twitch once in annoyance. He would have noticed that tick were the shoe on the other foot, so he therefore would assume anyone else might notice it also. It kept him from underestimating people in a rather arrogant manner.
"Do you want to read the scroll?" he asked her without making eye contact. He hated making eye contact with her.
She put her hands on her hips, annoyed, "No, I want you to read it for me as a bedtime story."
Shikamaru didn't even have to look at her to know her expression. He'd seen it too many times to count. She stood with her head slightly tilted to the left, her long blonde bangs hanging so they reached the right corner of her full lips. Her nose was crinkled ever so slightly and her left eye stared at him through its beautiful blue iris, brow furrowed angrily. One of the benefits of his photographic memory was being able to observe her beauty without ever looking at her and getting caught in it and in that respect it had served him well thus far.
He looked up just to confirm her expression and spent the next moment experiencing a rare feeling. Surprise. She did have her hands on her hips aggressively but instead of her annoyed expression, she was leaning slightly forward, a smile extending from one cheek to the other forcing her dimples prominently into his consciousness. And he contended not with one eye but with both of them, her bright blue orbs gazing into his own in a way that was far more than just disarming. It felt like he was caught in a genjutsu that no amount of pain could remove him from. He looked away and her face remained in his mind, all the other details of the room blurred around their edges because the focus was her. It was always her, and that was precisely why this mission would be a problem. He handed over the scroll.
"How troublesome," he repeated.
Ino stared into the unreadable face of Nara Shikamaru. It frustrated her sometimes that she couldn't hope to figure out what was going on inside his head, but like many things that seemed bothersome or insurmountable, Ino simply let it be. She was a practical woman and realized a long time ago that one was far more likely to enter a closed room by searching patiently for another entrance than bashing down a wall.
It frustrated her even more, however, that she was always the one who had to do the searching. Shikamaru was always more likely to contend that there were plenty of unlocked rooms around that were just as interesting and Choji, her third childhood teammate, was infinitely more likely to break down the wall than to waste time even searching for a door at all. But the patience paid off, especially when dealing with the young man before her.
She examined him closely as she always did, not because she liked the set of his strong jaw line, or was attracted to the way his lips would turn only slightly up or downward, never expending more energy than absolutely necessary, or even because she felt lost in his dark, hyper-intelligent gaze when he'd turn his coal-black eyes to her.
It was because she had to pay that much attention to discern anything from him. It was like trying to read the patterns in a brick wall. Attraction to him had never been an option because there wasn't anything discernable to be attracted to.
Ino had known Shikamaru literally from the day she was born. His birthday had been a day before hers and their mothers, lifelong friends because of their father's generation of Ino-Shika-Cho, had been insistent that they be in adjoining rooms. So much so that Mrs. Nara had her bed rolled into Ms. Yamanaka's room immediately after Ino's birth.
Just the thought made Ino want to strangle her mom and choke some sense into her. As if the bandwagon didn't stop there, she'd been assigned to the ninja genin team with him under the late Asuma Sarutobi while Sakura got to spend her time with the Uchiha boy, Sasuke.
They had spent the last five years together as teammates and then friends, and only twice had she seen him display anything other than boredom and disinterest outside of battle. Unfortunately these moments were usually accompanied by a certain blond kunoichi from Suna.
Ino sighed, turning away from the insufferable genius. "Shika-kun, I'll see you tomorrow. If that won't be too 'troublesome' to you, I'm going to find Sakura."
As expected, she got no reply to this other than a shrug. He didn't care either way. Her company meant less to him than the clouds that he would be headed to stare at. It was a bit disheartening that her teammate would seem to care so little, but she had grown accustomed to his attitude.
Ino no longer associated his disinterest with lack of concern. She'd learned long ago that his disinterest was simply to hide his compassion and love of life in general. She was convinced that he would only show that side of him to someone truly special to him. Temari. At least she tried to convince herself of that. She couldn't help but feel a tiny twinge of sadness every time he made her feel that way. Her face crinkled into a frown at the thought and she walked off, searching for the Gondaime's apprentice.
As she headed to the hospital, she unrolled the scroll and peeked at its contents. Tsunade had already explained the details, but she liked to read them herself.
Country: Land of Frost
Hired by: Fire Daimyo
Detail: to investigate possible connection between gang lords located in Shimogakure and Akatsuki remnants. Normal infiltration is impractical, as borders in LOF are tightly controlled and very little intel is available. Two elite Shinobi will infiltrate the village as tourists, as such no ninja tools or distinguishing items may be carried. Two self sufficient ninja who rely primarily on ninjutsu are best. Gang leader is rumored to be a mastermind who pushed Akatsuki interests for his own gain and profited greatly from the Fourth World War. Normal security is excellent. Recommendation for infiltration is seduction. Gang lord is rumored to be promiscuous.
Parameters for completion: Successfully Infiltrate Shimogakure. Make contact with gang leader, and ascertain Akatsuki remnant involvement, and contact information. Exfiltrate Shimogakure successfully without capture or identification. No traces to Konohagakure are allowed.
Bonus Parameters: Capture or kill Akatsuki remnant contact. Extract valuable intelligence on Shimogakure and gang.
1) Hyuga Neji
2) Nara Shikamaru
3) Yuhi Kurenai
4) Yotsuba Rina
Shizune's Note: Nara Shikamaru and Yamanaka Ino have been chosen. Kakashi has agreed to a special training session at daybreak.
Ino bristled at her own perceived disrespect. She wasn't even suggested but Shikamaru was? And not only that, but when she was chosen anyway, they assumed she needed extra training? It was the most insulting mission scroll she'd ever read!
She continued her search for Sakura, crumpling the scroll in her fist. I'll show Kakashi sensei tomorrow. I don't need extra training for this!
It didn't take her long to find the pink haired kunoichi. She was exactly where Ino expected her to be, in the hospital attending to injured and sick shinobi. She was looking down at a clipboard when Ino spotted her, oblivious to the world around. She waved her arm around giving orders to orderlies without looking up from the data in front of her. Ino crept up behind her and placed her hands over her eyes.
"Guess who!" she called playfully.
Sakura's response was to deliver a sharp elbow to her ribs. "Not now Pig, I'm busy."
Ino's temper flared instantly. "You little bitch! I was just playing around! Now I'm gonna redecorate that giant forehead of yours!"
With that, she pounced on her, trying to drag her to the ground and get her in a chokehold. She managed to get her arm around Sakura's neck and swing her down to the ground. Sakura landed in a heap atop Ino and the blond began raining open handed slaps down on Sakura's forehead with her free hand. That ended when the pinkette drove her elbow into Ino's side once again.
"Get off!" Sakura raged and used her incredible strength to yank Ino's arm from her throat. She turned around and lifted Ino by the front of her shirt, tearing the purple fabric just a little at the seams and dropped her onto the hard wood floor.
"That was my favorite shirt pinkie!" Ino yelled, examining the damage. "I can't believe you ripped it you brute!" She stood quickly, her fist raised angrily. Sakura matched her fist for fist and glare for glare.
Sparks of white-hot electricity arced from their eyes and destroyed each other in a desperate attempt to gain an advantage on the other. Neither kunoichi noticed the orderlies and doctors staring at their confrontation with a mixture of amusement, surprise and fear.
"I was trying to tell you that I'll be leaving on a mission soon," Ino griped at her friend. "Before you attacked me!"
Sakura turned away from her now, arms crossed and nose high in the air, feigning indifference. "Well you should know not to bother me while I work."
Ino froze, not knowing what to say. "F-fine!" She finally sputtered out. "Then I won't!" She turned and stormed away, more than a little peeved at Sakura for acting so careless. I'm going on an S-rank mission for crying out loud! My best friend could at least show some concern.
"Whore!" she called over her shoulder as she stomped out in a huff.
"Pig!" Sakura shot back.
Ino bristled even more as she left the hospital, not even turning back to continue the fight. She burst out onto the main boulevard and began stomping up the street glaring menacingly at every woman or girl that passed her, as if they would relay her anger directly to Sakura. This earned her quite a few strange looks and more than one disapproving glare.
Her eyes perked up as Naruto rounded the corner ahead of her and the wheels began turning in her mind. Naruto would be a great guy to vent to. He appeared to be alone and was probably going to visit Sakura anyway. Ino could prove right now that she could steal Forehead's man right out from under her if she wanted and that made the beast inside her purr in content. It didn't hurt to get some one-on-one time with the most popular man in the village either.
"Naruto-kun!" she yelled sweetly, waving to the boy. The blonde looked up surprised. It had been quite some time since Ino had seen him. The Great Shinobi World War had been over for nearly a year and Naruto was usually the first ninja sent on missions for most of it. Most of the village were under the impression that he was actually invincible, and after successive victories over Pain, Sasuke and Madara Uchiha, he certainly lived up to the idea.
"Ino!" he yelled back, waving and smiling at his longtime friend, "I haven't seen you in forever!"
"I know Naruto-kun! We have to catch up!" she looped her arm under his elbow playfully. "You won't believe what Sakura just did!"
His face scrunched up in embarrassment. "Actually, i was going to visit Sakura-chan now..."
Bingo, Ino thought evilly. Now to soften him up...
Ino started walking away from the hospital, adopting a concerned expression. "Oh, she's terribly busy right now. Some ANBU guy came in all bloody and beat up and they needed her. You'd just get in her way."
"But-" he protested feebly, knowing that if he did interrupt her work, he'd pay dearly for it. "Sakura-chan told me specifically to come see her first thing when i got back..."
"Did she anticipate that?" Ino countered. "I'm sure she's dying to see you, but so am I, Naruto. I haven't talked to my foxie-kun in so long..." She reached up and stroked his chin enticingly as she said this, drawing a pronounced blush from him.
Got him on the ropes! Time for the kill.
"Besides, Naruto, what's better than having the most beautiful kunoichi in Konoha treat you to your favorite food?"
Naruto slammed his face into his palm, berating himself for being caught by Ino's trick. The blonde kunoichi didn't notice however, her mind and mouth already on autopilot as she vented the day's frustrations to him. Naruto had caught on too late that she'd steered him directly to Ichiraku Ramen.
He resigned himself to her trickery, taking a seat and ordering. There were a lot of worse tricks in the ninja world than free ramen. "Gee, Ino, you really know how to make a guy feel special." Naruto said through his first mouthful.
"So," Ino said, ignoring him. Her target was exactly where she wanted him and she had an ear to listen. Nothing else mattered. "Earlier, Sakura completely flipped out on me when i came to tell her about my new mission! I mean its S-rank for crying out loud! She ripped the seams on my favorite shirt and now i have to go shopping when i get back! I mean, really, I'm going to want to rest!"
Naruto glanced for the first time at the tear in Ino's shirt, the fabric exposing a sliver of her cleavage. His nose began to leak red, barely missing a piece of fish that he brought to his mouth.
"Is that mackerel in your ramen? Seriously Naruto, how do you eat that? Though I suppose if it had mackerel in it Shikamaru would eat it as well, but I doubt he'd eat ramen. Speaking of Shikamaru, let me tell you what he did!"
Naruto's loud groan was only partially masked by his slurping, but no amount of noise could stop Ino's rant.
When she finally had no more to say Naruto stood, looking expectantly at Ino. Ino glanced up at the man who ran the bar, hoping her plan would come together at the end like one of Shikamaru's elaborate schemes. The younger girl, Ino had no idea her name, didn't appear to be working today.
"How much do I owe?" she asked the man, Teuchi himself presumably, in her sweetest, most innocent tone.
He was confused for a brief instant. "Oh, you were treating Naruto-kun? Don't worry about it! Naruto-kun doesn't have to pay for ramen today! Congratulations on your latest mission, Naruto-kun! Keep it up! i wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you!"
Naruto smiled and began to recount his latest adventure to the man. Ino interrupted quickly to say her goodbye. then dashed off.
She neither realized nor cared that he hadn't spoken a single word the entire time. Her plan was a complete success! She got her revenge against Sakura, and thought of a successful plan in a bare instant! Treating the town hero to his favorite restaurant was the easiest thing her wallet had ever done. It no longer mattered that Shikamaru was an arrogant douche bag, or that Sakura was an unkind and ungrateful excuse for a friend, the birds were singing their last songs of a beautiful day as evening fell and she headed up the street to the Yamanaka flower shop. She had to tell her mother about her newest mission.
Evening fell as Shikamaru stared upward at the sparse clouds floating past him. He lay on his back on his favorite hill, near the edges of Konoha. The view over the forests and the clear sky gave him lots of time and ample reason to get lost in thought. It was…calming. When he reached into his flak vest and pulled a pack of cigarettes, however, things began to go downhill.
"What do you think you're doing?" The voice belonged to Kurenai, the former lover of Shikamaru's deceased sensei and teacher Asuma Sarutobi. He put the cigarette to his lips and produced a lighter as well. He respected and admired Kurenai Yuhi and vowed on his teacher's grave to protect her and raise her child as his own son. Kurenai was probably the least troublesome woman he'd ever met. That said, using words like 'least troublesome' and 'woman' in the same sentence was akin to mentioning the 'least dangerous Akatsuki.' And within four seconds she proved him right.
"What does it look like?" he retorted. "I'm smoking."
"Not around Hiruzen you don't!"
Already annoyed, Shikamaru clicked his tongue and put the cigarette away. He sat up however as she sat beside him, noticing the months old baby held in her arms.
"May I?" he asked politely.
The dark haired Jonin smiled, nodding as she passed her son to Shikamaru.
The Nara held him gently as if he were a priceless vase rather than a baby. Kurenai laughed quietly at his expense. Hiruzen had been born during the war almost a full year ago. Despite this, he had not had a chance to properly interact with Shikamaru until now.
The genius poked at his tiny nose gently and the baby boy grabbed at his finger, gripping it tight.
"You've got some grip there, Hiruzen. Trying to grow up big and strong and live up to your name huh?"
The boy smiled at the man holding him, perfectly innocent and without knowledge of the grim life that he was destined to live. "I'm gonna train you good someday. Wind chakra and Genjutsu. You're gonna be a tough little shinobi."
"Speaking of being a tough shinobi, Shikamaru-kun, Kakashi-san has got the works planned out for you tomorrow. You'd better be ready."
He frowned, his mind racing to catch up and dissect the information she'd presented in that simple sentence. If he didn't, he'd end up asking a stupid question and he hated stupid questions.
"Since you even know I have to train with him, I assume he told you, which means he wants you to assist him correct?"
Kurenai beamed. "Yes, Shikamaru, that's exactly right. Just pass along a message to Ino for me that there's no need to arrive early. Kakashi-san hasn't been on time for anything since he was twelve."
Shikamaru thought hard about why Kakashi would do that. The most likely answer was that he wasn't certain of his own ability to take on both him and Ino without assistance. While that was quite an ego booster, he realized that Kakashi was probably every bit as smart as he was. It could all be a trick. But why would Kurenai tell him to tell Ino? It didn't make sense.
Shikamaru frowned. "I'm relaxing right now. And anyway why can't you tell her?"
"I have a feeling Hiruzen will keep me busy," Kurenai replied with a slight chuckle.
"Huh?" Shikamaru stared at the boy intently, wondering what she meant. He looked no different than when he'd first picked him up. Hiruzen's own smile merely continued as he pulled Shikamaru's fingertip into his mouth, slobbering profusely on it before a rather loud sound emanated from the baby boy's backside. His curiosity now officially fulfilled, he passed the child back to Kurenai quickly.
"I'm done." He said, turning his head. "Sheesh. Babies. So troublesome."
Kurenai grinned as she took her child back. "Of course they are, Shikamaru, that's why women are made more capable from birth. I'm sure your mother's told you that." She walked off with a gentle wink and Shikamaru was left contemplating her last statement.
"Eh? Kurenai! What's that supposed to mean?"
She didn't answer him, however and he flopped back onto the grass. He knew how he would spend the rest of his day. He would take a nice long nap. Yes, that was it. A good nap would be excellent.
* Korikage: (lit) ice shadow
Blooper no Jutsu!
Naruto scarfed down his sixteenth bowl and wiped his mouth on his sleeve contentedly.
"Thanks for paying for my dinner, Ino! You're completely awesome!"
He bolted from the resteraunt before she could protest.
"Naruto!" she yelled after him. "I wasn't really going to pay!"
Author's Note: And that's the intro folks! i'll have the official chapter one up as soon as possible featuring another of my favorites, KAKASHI! Please please please let me know what you think and i'll reward you...uhh...with cookies!