I really enjoyed writing this. :)

Disclaimer: M. Kishimoto owns all characters and places. I don't make money off of writing FanFiction.


When she drinks, she fashions herself as the soul of the party. But really, she's just more of a bitch than usual.

Ino leaned against the bar, summoning the strength to stand up straight.

It had been an exceptionally sucky day for the Yamanaka kunoichi, one that only made her want to down more drinks.

It was Saturday, close to eleven, the time when the bar picked up the majority of its customers. The band, which was comprised of civilians, had just begun their second set, full of dance numbers to keep the patrons happy.

Slowly, Ino swayed to the music, waiting for the drink she'd just ordered.

Sakura strolled up next to her, flashing Ino a flushed smile.

Ino stared back at her sourly, insulted by the pink-haired girl's perky attitude.

"What's with the smile, Forehead?" Ino queried, keeping her slur under control.

The mirth on Sakura's face faltered for a second.

"Nothing, Ino-pig. Blowing off some steam," Sakura curtly replied.

Ino snorted, mentally running through the latest gossip she'd heard.

"Heard you lost a shinobi today. Hope Tsunade didn't chew you out too badly," began Ino sweetly, smiling toothily.

Inside, Ino could feel the bitchiness rising up in her. It made her stomach bubble like it was coated in acid. But she had a headache, and really, she couldn't be bothered with anyone else's feelings tonight. It felt good to be inconsiderate and cold-hearted sometimes, especially when Ino herself was hurting.

The shock and dismay on Sakura's face was instant. Her green irises stared back at Ino waspishly.

Ino continued, wanting to see tears, "I bet it really sucks, you know? Knowing that you couldn't save the poor bastard. Just like you couldn't even save Sasuke-kun. How does it feel, knowing you're worthless as a kunoichi? You're a shame to us all."

At the mention of Sasuke, Sakura's face darkened, her eyes closing—Ino knew it was to stopper tears from coming.

"Your drink, Yamanaka-san," said the bartender, sliding a glass of clear liquid to her.

Ino genuinely smiled. Vodka—the poison to end all poisons.

When Ino looked back to where Sakura had been, she found the pink-haired girl gone. Ino grinned as she sipped her drink. Mission accomplished.

Ino strolled over to where booths lined the walls, intent on finding an empty one.

Unfortunately, with it being a busy night, Ino was forced to share with a couple who were heavily making out on one side. They were so preoccupied, they didn't even realize they had company. That was fine with Ino; she planned on doing the same thing in a matter of minutes.

Ino arranged herself close to the booth mouth, elegantly crossing her legs outside of it. Her dress was tasteful when standing, but red satin could only cover so much when sitting.

Ino didn't really care. What she wanted was attention, and if ensnaring guys were an art form, Ino Yamanaka had certainly mastered it.

It didn't take long before she had a taker.

A wolfish grin appeared to Ino through the haze of the bar, the red marks on his cheeks distinct.

Ino matched his enthusiasm—Kiba was an old flame, and in the dimness of the bar and with the alcohol in her veins, Ino didn't mind rekindling that. Besides, Kiba was an exceptional kisser.

With the grace of a well-bred debutante, Ino set her drink down on the table as she grabbed a fistful of Kiba's shirt, pulling him into the booth without as much of an introduction.

Hot breath mixed with burning lips.

Ino settled into the back of the booth comfortably, pulling Kiba with her.

Ino felt her satin dress slip closer to her hips; fluidly and with much expertise, Ino one-handedly rearranged the hem of her dress.

Kiba was oblivious, lost in the kiss they were sharing.

Ino let her mind wander as Kiba's tongue found entry into her mouth.

Still not drunk enough, Ino thought to herself, feeling a small ounce of disappointment. She only liked being drunk until she could no longer register what was happening.

Ino pressed on Kiba's chest to make him release her for a minute.

Ino reached for her drink, downing almost half the glass.

Kiba snorted, amused, and pulled her mouth back onto his.

Ino rolled her eyes at the ceiling. So eager.

The civilian band began a thumping number, so loud that Ino felt the drum beats all the way into the booth seat.

She ran a hand down Kiba's back, silently sliding a hand up his shirt.

Ino detected a growl at the back of Kiba's throat, bestial and possessive.

They took periodical breaks as they kissed, allowing Ino to polish off the rest of her drink.

It was as she was doing this, that Ino noticed a familiar face at the bar, newly arrived. The rest of the vodka slid down her throat and Ino pushed Kiba off of her, scrambling out of the booth.

"What the hell?" was Kiba's only protest.

Ino ignored him, stumbling across the crowded dance floor to land against the bar, breathless and unsteady.

"Shikamaru," Ino said, staring at her teammate with unfocused eyes.

Shikamaru turned and looked at her, raising a single eyebrow.

"Ino," he responded, just as commonly as if they'd met in the market.

Ino's blue eyes flashed down to Shikamaru's hand where the bartender had just given him a shot glass of whiskey.

She raised her eyebrows.

"What's wrong with you?" she uttered clumsily.

Shikamaru lifted the shot glass to his lips, downing it in one swallow. He winced.

"I just got back from Suna. Long day," he answered.

"Mission?" Ino inquired.

Shikamaru nodded, expressionless.

Ino clenched her glass, suddenly feeling like the room was spinning. Her other hand gripped Shikamaru's elbow for support.

Shikamaru considered her mildly.

"Want me to walk you home?"

Ino, infuriated, turned on him, slamming the glass on the bar counter.

"Dammit, Shikamaru! I'm fine!" she roared, unnaturally loud.

Shikamaru barely batted an eye at this outburst.

"How much for her tab?" Shikamaru asked the bartender.

Ino continued ranting, causing several looks in her direction.

Unembarrassed, Shikamaru paid the balance wordlessly and grasped Ino around the waist, pulling her towards the doors.

Ino wrestled with him the whole way, claiming she could walk without his help.

Consequently, Shikamaru did not let her go until they'd exited. Ino plummeted towards the ground, and Shikamaru easily caught her.

"I didn't think so," he muttered under his breath.

Ino breathed heavily, clinging to Shikamaru, all angles.

Shikamaru inhaled; the alcohol on her reeked.

"I'm taking you home," Shikamaru informed.

Ino answered this with an unintelligible grunt. Shikamaru took it as a positive acknowledgement.

They were halfway to the Yamanaka home when Ino started crying.

Ino couldn't believe it—she was not a weepy drunk (that was Sakura's staple), but something about Shikamaru seeing her like this just made Ino want to cry.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen, her conscience whispered.

Ino sobbed a little louder.

Shikamaru stopped for a second, forehead creased in confusion. He looked down, and was very surprised to see the blonde weeping deeply.

Shikamaru was stunned.

Ino, even though she was a girl, had rarely cried in front of him. In fact, Shikamaru could count on one hand how many times he'd seen her cry, and those had all been after particularly devastating events.

Crying drunk just wasn't Ino's style, which was why it caught Shikamaru so off guard.

"Ino," he said, feeling her body shudder as she sucked in air.

"Why do you hate me?" she sobbed, her voice gut-wrenching awful.

Shikamaru stared at her, not understanding what she was talking about.

He pulled her closer to him, determined to get her home and to bed.

"What are you talking about?" he muttered.

"You . . . hate . . . me," Ino gasped haltingly.

"No, I don't—," Shikamaru began, but Ino cut him off.

"You . . . always . . . have!"

Shikamaru frowned deeply.

Ino grabbed the front of Shikamaru's shirt, mascara and tears running down her face.

"You n—never loved me like you l—loved Asuma-s—sensei and Ch—Ch—Choji!" Ino wailed. "You don't even love me more than that damn Sand kunoichi T—Temari! You don't c—c—c—care about me at a—all!"

Shikamaru gazed down at Ino's contorted, lamented face.

"Ino, you know that's not true," Shikamaru attempted, shouldering her weight as she dragged her feet.

"Yes . . . it . . . is!" Ino cried.

Shikamaru didn't know how to react to such a burst of emotion.

Silently sighing to himself, he thought, No girl ever caused me this much trouble. Guess there's a first for everything.

He glanced again at Ino, who had continued to sniffle loudly.

Shikamaru could see the entrance of the small Yamanaka clan compound now, only a few more feet down the road.

Ino was still crying, but at least she wasn't yelling. . . Shikamaru found himself hoping it would stay that way.

Effectively, Shikamaru maneuvered Ino into her room without a ruckus. Soundlessly, he shut her bedroom door behind him, turning to find his teammate sitting on her bed with her back against the wall, her knees drawn to her chest.

She stared back at him, expectant, runny mascara making travel lines on her cheeks.

Shikamaru slowly made his way over, sitting next to her.

Gone was the panting-by-tears, when Ino spoke next, it was steady and hoarse.

"Why don't you love me as much as everyone else?"

Shikamaru opened his mouth to reply, but Ino shook her head, not finished.

"I love you more than anyone. More than Sasuke and Sai and Kiba. I love you more than any other guy ever. But you don't love me. And that's not fair. You should love me. I know everything about you—how you secretly wish you could just be a civilian so you wouldn't have to deal with all of the duties required of a shinobi. How you hate boiled eggs. How you wish that you wouldn't have to kill someone ever again. How you can't wait to have children, no matter how much you complain about them."

Ino shook her head again, blue eyes dimming.

"And I know I'm a bitch, and I'm cold and self-absorbed and inconsiderate. That I'm the cause of so much of your stress. I'm sorry for that. I just can't seem to stop. And I can't stop loving you like I do, because I've tried. I'm the exact opposite of what you need, and yet, I need you to exist."

Ino's head lightly fell against the wall behind her. Shikamaru looked at his knees, silent. For a moment, they sat there unmoving. Then, Shikamaru reached into his ninja bag and withdrew a prescription bottle from a drugstore.

Silently, he gave Ino two pills, which she popped without question.

"They'll save you a headache in the morning," Shikamaru murmured.

Ino nodded, eyes almost closed.

Shikamaru turned to look back at her, leaning back into her space.

Without waking her, Shikamaru brought his lips to the corner of her mouth, cringing a little at the bite the alcohol left on her lips.

He stood from the bed, moving Ino beneath her covers. She stirred only enough to draw the blankets closer around her.

Shikamaru gazed down at his broken teammate, exhaling.

In the morning, she would retrace her drunken steps until they led her back to Shikamaru. When she called, Shikamaru always told her the same story: She'd done nothing embarrassing and hadn't said anything stupid either, and Kami, Ino, when are you going to stop being so troublesome?

It was a well-versed routine Shikamaru was used to.

It broke his heart every time he had to do it.

Choji frequently claimed that Shikamaru's lying did more harm than good—if Ino knew what she said, she'd come clean, and lying to her only prolonged the cycle.

Shikamaru disagreed. Drunken words were sober thoughts. And if Ino really loved him the way she said she did every time there was alcohol in her system, then it was a realization she'd realized a long time ago. Ino just had trouble saying it sober. Shikamaru wasn't going to spoil the moment she finally decided to, if she ever chose to.

That was a day worth waiting for, and Shikamaru would be damned if he ruined it.

~o~

The next day, Ino awoke groggily, hungry and fuzzy-brained.

This was the worst part about waking up a night after heavy drinking—Ino could never for the life of her remember anything she'd done or said.

She remembered the bar for the first few drinks, but after she started taking those big and tall vodka drinks, her memory was a blank slate.

However, she found it always helpful to retrace her steps, just to prepare herself for public outings if she'd done something particularly scandalous.

By now, the bartender was aware of Ino's behavior.

He accepted the call after the third ring.

"Shikamaru-sama paid your bill and then walked you out, Ino-san. After that, you didn't come back in."

"Thanks," Ino said, hanging up and dialing the Nara household in the same breath.

Shikaku answered grumpily.

"Shikamaru? Yeah, he's here," replied Shikamaru's father gruffly.

A moment later, a bored voice greeted Ino.

"Oi, Shika-kun. The bartender told me I left with you last night?" Ino queried, her mouth dry.

In his room, Shikamaru ran a hand through his hair.

"Yeah, you did."

"Well, what happened? I didn't do anything stupid, right?"

"No," Shikamaru lied tonelessly.

Ino breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thanks, Shikamaru. I owe you one."

Shikamaru was silent on the other end of the line, recalling how many other times he'd done this. How many times he'd kissed her and she'd never know.

"Shikamaru? Are you okay?" Ino hesitated, suddenly fearful. "You're sure I didn't do or say something crazy?"

Shikamaru blinked, the moment past.

"No, Ino. Nothing happened."


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