Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
"There will be a short delay on the final tournament of the chunin exam as we are experiencing some technical difficulties—"
"—my ass," Neji growled under his breath. It was obvious they were just trying to buy time for a certain late contestant. Actually, make that a certain two contestants who were tardy.
Well, if you really wanted to get technical, three of the contestants were missing, but Neji barely noticed the lack of a mummified cyborg (What was his name again? Doku? Goku?). The fate-obsessed Hyuuga was too busy considering the likelihood that the Nara was late because he overslept. And fuming over the utter gall of the Uchiha brat— the 'main attraction' of today's show. Come one, come all, behold our fire spewing chickadee!
Just because the arrogant rookie had been the only runt deemed too pathetic to kill by a homicidal nutcase of an older brother didn't make him any different from what he'd always been— a runt. A prissy, overrated, egotistical runt, but still a runt. With a sorry cockatiel's ass excuse of a haircut too, seriously, how was that even physically possible—
"Sorry!" The sudden gasp of Tenten's voice broke him out of his brooding. "I'm sorry it's my entire fault and I lost track of time and there was this emergency and traffic was really bad and I got lost on the road of life—"
His teammate must be really flustered if she was resorting to the Hatake's poor excuse of an excuse. Not to mention that the state of the day's traffic should be irrelevant as a ninja's primary mode of transportation was jumping across rooftops (you'd think there'd be more than a few complaints from Konoha's residents). Neji sighed and turned around to ask the spazzing weapons mistress just what she was doing down in the arena when several things made him pause.
One, Tenten was not alone. She had the Nara right beside her, just as breathless as she was, but that wasn't anything new; they always seemed to be stuck to each other one way or another but the thing was Neji hadn't sensed him. And this was Neji. Three hundred and sixty degree vision, hyperaware, Hyuuga freaking Neji who came from a clan that practically breathed paranoia (it's hard not to when all your relatives could see through walls). Not even his jonin-sensei could sneak up on him (then again, it was kind of hard not to notice a full grown man in a green leotard, but you get the idea).
However, Neji didn't have time to ponder this because he was distracted by the fact that, Two, his teammate and the Nara seemed to have swapped outfits. Tenten was donning the lazy genin's typical mesh plus open front shirt while he wore one of her more unisex oriental tops. They both had a distinctly rumpled look, like they'd just rolled out of bed and grabbed whatever clothes were lying closest—
Neji stopped thinking right about there. He was far from dense— hell, he was the one who peeled apart his cousin's thought process in front of a live audience just based on the twitching of her eyes. One glance at the matching rings and their blatant familiarity had Neji concluding that the two were either pulling the most pointless of practical jokes on the rest of Konoha or in a relationship. Of the romantic kind. Of the procreating kind. Yes, Neji did understand the concept of boy-meets-girl-and-babies-are-made. God bless any other poor soul who got The Talk from Konoha's Green Beast (there had been enough youth in that spiel to make Neji want to live the rest of his life out as an eighty year old virgin).
So when he got slapped in the face with the image of two rumpled almost-teenagers flushed and panting— what were those red marks on her neck— Neji tried not to make assumptions. Tried.
"Where the hell have you been?" Neji hissed at the Nara who had opted to sit cross-legged on the ground, looking exhausted even though the tournament hadn't even started yet.
"Mmgrsff," Shikamaru unhelpfully supplied. The examiner recited rules with the senbon in his mouth bobbing up and down distractingly; the announcer informed the audience that the much anticipated 'Uchiha Pretty Boy versus Psycho Suna Redhead' was being postponed. Much rotten vegetable throwing ensued.
The group of chunin hopefuls, minus Neji and Naruto, trudged towards the staircase that led to the little peanut gallery where they were supposed to wait their turn; all the while, they tried to avoid any produce that went flying in their general direction.
Neji saw the lazy Nara drop down on the single bench available out of the corner of his eye, probably asleep before his back even hit the wood. The white eyed boy sighed and turned back to his opponent. An opponent shrieking like a little girl while only partially successfully dodging the rain of veggies.
Neji pinched the bridge of his nose and willed away the image of his female teammate sleeping with the only genin in Konoha he'd deemed intellectually worthy of his attention and tried to focus on the tomato splattered orange frog hopping spasmodically in front of him.
This was going to be a long day.
It was barely a minute before the tournament finally started when Tenten plopped into the seat beside Chouji.
Ino's eyes lit up in recognition, "Hey! You're that…" The blonde, for once, was at a loss for words. Nara who wasn't a Nara? Girl who seemed to mysteriously pop up whenever Shikamaru's around? "…person," she finished lamely.
Tenten gave a sleepy nod in reply and slumped in her seat. "Wake me up when it's Shika's turn," she slurred, soon emanating soft snores.
"…why is she wearing Shikamaru's clothes?"
When Neji came to he was greeted with a white ceiling and the smell of antiseptic. He blinked lethargically as the events of the past half hour returned to him.
He'd had his ass handed to him by a rookie dead-last in an orange jumpsuit and, in the process, ended up spouting his entire life's story.
The Hyuuga groaned. The hyperactive blonde always seemed to bring out all the angst and self pity in others. Neji sat up slowly, sore as all hell and his ego even more so. He rested his back against a wall, relaxing minutely. At least it was over. He wouldn't have to deal with any more of this shit for another twenty-four hours minimum.
Then Hiashi walked in through the door.
Neji slammed the back of his head against the wall.
Unlike Neji's, Shikamaru's awakening was a bit more abrupt. And painful.
He was half awake when he felt an odd weightless sensation, jolting back to reality when his back collided with the ground. To his credit, he barely even winced.
Shikamaru glared halfheartedly at the whiskered blonde yelling at him to get up, no doubt the reason he was now lying supine on the arena floor. A shadow fell over him and the Nara looked up to see the irritated face of the god forsaken Suna-nin he had to listen to his girlfriend rant on about for the last month.
Forgive him if he seemed a bit resentful.
"Are you ready?" She used a clipped, no nonsense tone that was way too close to his mother's for comfort. He got up in a fashion more suited to an old man than a shinobi and saw his opponent was already underestimating him. Good. That made his job easier. She stalked back to the center of the arena and he followed at a more sedate pace. By the time they were standing across from each other there was a visible tic in her forehead.
The examiner bobbed the senbon in his mouth amusedly at the premature tension. "Begin."
Temari whipped out her fan; no sense in wasting time on small fry. She was just about to let loose a powerful gale but ended up jerking to a stop halfway through her swing.
Her opponent was gone.
Murmurs broke out in the audience while Temari whipped her head side to side, trying to locate her suddenly nonexistent adversary. Meanwhile, Shikamaru was squatting on a tree branch. His head was tilted upwards as if he was cloud watching, but his eyes remained closed. Inhale, exhale— his breath came out slowly and deliberately; despite the micro-nap he just took he still felt exhausted. Then again, if spending twelve hours unconscious hadn't restored his strength, a ten minute nap probably wouldn't do much better.
If he thought about it, this troublesome situation was entirely his fault. For once. He could have just stayed in a hospital bed and forfeited like the lazy ass he was supposed to be, but he just had to decide this was the best time to (poorly) attempt to be a chivalrous, self-sacrificing boyfriend straight out of a cavity-inducing romance novel. This had to be the least rational decision he'd made in his life. Shikamaru supposed there really wasn't much to it other than that he wanted to please his girlfriend.
God he was so whipped. Okay, to make up for this abnormal bout of assertiveness he wasn't going to lift a finger for the next month.
He pulled out a small stack of flash cards, lovingly prepared by his fiancée with sugar and spice and everything that could possibly humiliate the Suna kunoichi he was currently facing off. He skimmed through her hasty scrawls; his memory was impeccable but mini-comas tended to cause even geniuses with IQs over 200 a bit of mental fuzziness. He paused at a flashcard he didn't remember being there before.
Don't overexert yourself.
The Nara snorted. This was very likely the first time in his life someone had to tell him not to use too much effort. He slipped the cards back in his weapons pouch and started a sequence of hand signs. His opponent had resorted to arbitrarily launching blades of wind at the surrounding foliage, looking frustrated and all the more pissed off.
Make her look like she's about to shit a brick.
"Now, next on the wish list…" Shikamaru mumbled to himself as he completed the jutsu, feeling very much like an avenging Santa Claus.
The arena turned silent. The swaying of the trees, the rustling of leaves, everything became unnaturally still. Temari paused in her crusade to decimate the environment while the audience members all leaned forward in anticipation.
Temari suddenly lurched to the side, dodging a sizable log that had been aimed at her face. More followed where the first led, and soon the kunoichi was doing a frantic job of dodging the chunks of foliage she had been indiscriminately carving up less than a minute ago. Well, that was karma for you. Shikamaru mentally checked off another item in his mental list.
Make her dance. Like a rabbit on crack. Or a frog having a seizure.
These prompts were really starting to get disturbingly creative. He didn't want to imagine just what kind of mood Tenten was in while she was writing these. The Nara continued to watch his opponent with detachment befitting of a shinobi, counting down the seconds before she snapped. Five, four, three—
"Show your face you coward!" She gave her fan a mighty swing, blowing back the wooden debris in an impressive display of strength. Huh, it seems he'd overestimated her patience.
Shikamaru carefully watched the subsequent explosion of flying sticks and twigs. This part was crucial— he had to find the one location where the wind currents twisted and slid against each other, the site essential for him to take advantage of her attack and turn it against—
"There," he breathed, pinpointing the figurative chink in the armor. His hands sped through seals with more fluidity than he was known to be capable of, completing a jutsu people definitely wouldn't believe him skilled enough to execute.
"Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu," Shikamaru muttered, refusing to reveal his location by bellowing out the jutsu's name like a certain Uchiha genin. The ball of flame he emitted was nowhere near as impressive as the ones produce by said Uchiha, but it didn't need to be. By the time Temari noticed the attack, the fireball had reached its destined location.
As any academy student could tell you, fire dominated wind. Although from another point of view, you could also say wind fed the fire. A small detail the Nara was going to take advantage of.
The fire attack grew, the tiny ball increasing in volume until it rivaled, if not surpassed, the size of those formed by seasoned fire practitioners. All the timber lying around only served to further fuel the inferno. The Suna-nin's previous efforts to blow back the wooden projectiles had created a ring of dead tree matter around her, a trap she'd practically set for herself. Soon enough, she was surrounded on all sides, and Shikamaru was making his way towards her from the tree line.
Light everything on FIRE.
Tenten really did have a flair for the dramatics.
Temari glared at him through the flames while the crowd cheered. There had to be at least some people in the audience who saw the irony in a shadow user having a fire affinity. The Nara had been baffled himself when he found out; people from his clan typically had earth or water affinities, reflecting stability of character and flexibility in dealing with obstacles (although his mother was convinced they symbolized laziness and the tendency to avoid work). There would be an occasional wind affinity for the particularly easygoing Nara who came along, but never fire. Fire was passion, fire was temper, fire was an Uchiha thing. He had a niggling thoughtthat, through some twisted, subconscious sense of protectiveness, he felt the need to defend his girlfriend. As her element was lightning, she was vulnerable to wind, so in order to account for that he became wind's weakness: fire. And from a logical point of view, he was spouting a load of symbolic crock.
In short, this was all Tenten's fault.
He was standing only a few feet away from his opponent now, a wall of flames separating them. Temari continued to send him looks much more scalding than the conflagration between them would ever be, while Shikamaru rummaged through his weapon's pouch. He procured a note card that had a considerable amount of text written on it.
The Nara cleared his throat and began:
"To the Suna-nin who should by now be in some sort of humiliating and/or shameful position thanks to my lovely fiancé," he swore he heard Temari growl, "this is a message from a certain, well-meaning kunoichi. I'll keep this short. Kindly take back your blasphemous, wholly untrue ravings on how, and I quote, 'A weapons-based fighting style is -insert derogatory term-,' and I won't sic my super awesome fire wielding, shadow bending boyfriend on you. Good day."
Most of that came out in a complete monotone as Shikamaru wasn't exactly suited for projecting "righteous anger." However, the insulting tone was not lost on the captive Suna-nin, who vehemently refused to do any such thing.
How to prepare a disobedient sand kunoichi: Keep on low heat, gradually increasing the temperature until it makes an "OKI'MSORRYTENTENSAMA" sound.
Shikamaru tried to ignore the cannibalistic images coming to mind. He sighed and put his fingers in a ram seal, the shadows from his surroundings converging on the ring of fire and shrinking it until the flames were only centimeters from the his opponent. Temari was starting to sweat, he expression clearly showing her ego and self-preservation instinct waging war. Shikamaru maintained an unaffected air, but he was really hoping the stubborn woman would just cave already— he could feel his chakra diminishing at an uncomfortable rate. The technique he was using was particularly draining, mainly because it wasn't one, but two techniques he sloppily mashed together no less than three days ago. He hadn't found an effective way to mesh the two hand sign sequences, so now he had to settle for performing both at once: Kage Kubishibari to act as an overarching, physical restraint and Kage Yose for fine-tuned control over any particularly rebellious flames. Furthermore, these were only bastardized versions he derived from watching his dad perform a few times, so Shikamaru could be doing them completely wrong for all he knew. Either way, couldn't the woman just swallow her pride and give in already!
He made the flames inch closer menacingly, singeing a few strands of her hair. Temari gritted her teeth.
"I… I take back what I said." The way she put it sounded more like a threat than an apology. Either way, it was good enough for Shikamaru, and he promptly smothered the flames before releasing the technique.
Shikamaru waved an arm in the proctor's direction, "Hey."
Genma raised an eyebrow.
And Shikamaru passed out.
A/N: Well, I guess I'm trying my hand a foreshadowing (pastshadowing?). This really is becoming less and less of a oneshot collection OTL. Um... I'll (probably) tie up all the loose ends in the next chapter.
On another note, this fic now has fanart! Sandra Phillips drew some adorable pictures of Shikamaru and Tenten:
sandra phillips (replacewithdot) deviant art (replacewithdot) com /art/ Shikamaru-Smiling-310906588?q=gallery%3Asandraphillips%2F37908733&qo=36
sandra phillips (replacewithdot) deviant art (replacewithdot) com /art/ Ten-Ten-310906242?q=gallery%3Asandraphillips%2F37908733&qo=35
Go check out her work! (And thank her since her PM was probably half the reason I got off my lazy ass to continue writing XD)