Title: As You Wish
Author: skylar_inari / Killaurey
Word Count: 6,563
Summary: AU. When Sasuke gives Ino permission to use one of the houses in the abandoned Uchiha sector for a party, Ino and Shikamaru get a little more than they expect from the house itself. InoShika.
Notes: This is totallywritten for Halloween despite the fact the Naruto-verse doesn't have that holiday. Shhh.
Sakura stares out the window of her office at the blustery day and wishes she was with a patient. Paperwork is the bane of her existence and she understands more and more every day why Tsunade-shishou does everything in her power to dump it off on poor Shizune, who manages to get it done in half the time.
Probably, Sakura thinks, because she doesn't waste time with griping.
Telling herself to stop whining, she picks up the next report and leans back in her chair to read it. Her office is small but the view is nice most days.
There's the tap-tap-tap of heels out in the hall. Sakura tilts her head, extends her senses to see who it is and then, upon recognizing the chakra signature, smiles. "Come in!" she calls, before her visitor can knock.
Ino, all bright eyes and a mischievous smile, opens the door, steps inside, and then leans against it. "Forehead," Ino says, because Ino has never gotten sick of that name and Sakura is too used to it from her to really care about objecting anymore. "You got a moment to spare for things that are more fun than," Ino leans over the desk and snags the report Sakura had been supposedly working on, "than this year's flu vaccine?"
"The vaccine is important," Sakura says pointedly but caves as Ino lifts one eyebrow and takes a seat in the other chair. "But, yeah, I've got time. What's up?" She glances at the clipboard that Ino is holding and wonders if she should be bracing herself.
"Well," Ino says with an angelic smile, "I was thinking-"
"-that really, it's been far too long since we've had a themed party," Ino continues, like Sakura hasn't interrupted her. "Last one was in June, and that was just a beach party, nothing too fancy."
"It's autumn," Sakura points out, "are you going to have us dress up as leaves or something now? I don't think you'll get any attendees if that's the case."
"No," Ino laughs. "Not leaves. I was thinking about a spooky party."
Despite herself, Sakura is intrigued. "A spooky party?"
"Yes! And, see, since it's got to be creepy, there's only a number of places that we could hold it." Ino's eyes are afire with the passion of an idea that she's determined to see through to the end.
Sakura reaches for Ino's clipboard. "What are your options?"
"The best one," Ino says, looking like a cat that's gotten the cream, "is in the abandoned Uchiha sector."
Sakura stares at her incredulously and tugs at the clipboard until Ino has to let go of it. Then she stares down at a picture of the building that Ino must want to have her party in. There's a faded Uchiha fan above the door and the windows are closed, their shutters hanging off their hinges and the paint is peeling off the walls.
"You're serious?" Sakura says weakly and gives Ino a look that says loud and clear that she had best be kidding.
"Don't look at me like that! I wouldn't do it without permission!" Ino says. "And I got Sasuke's permission to use the building provided that I go check it out and make certain it's safe for people to enter before we actually hold a party there."
"You asked Sasuke and he agreed?" Sakura's voice rises with disbelief.
Ino blinks. "Why wouldn't he? He seemed pretty thrilled by it-he almost smiled at the idea and that's basically a rousing go-ahead with him, you know how he is these days."
Sakura does and that's the problem.
Her heart twists in her chest and she realizes that if Sasuke really wants this to happen in the abandoned sector then she can't bring herself to shut Ino's idea down. Sasuke's been... unreachable since Naruto went and dragged him out of Oto, breaking the mind control that Orochimaru had held Sasuke under. That had been three months ago. Since then, Sakura thinks, Sasuke's asked for nothing. He's been too broken and too busy struggling to put the remnants of his life back in order.
And now he's given his permission for this.
Which hasto mean that he wants it to happen. Sakura looks at Ino's bright face and wonders how her friend has managed this. Is it the same thing as what Ino did for her, all those years ago, with a ribbon? She doesn't dare ask.
"Alright," Sakura says, flipping through the rest of the plans. Guest list, food and drink to be bought, preliminary decoration plans, a few notes contemplating costumes... "What do you need me to do?"
"Can you look after the food?" Ino wheedles. "Don't worry about money-Sasuke's said he'll pay."
"Ino," Sakura says, because seriously, "what do you have on Sasuke?"
"I told you! He wants this!" Ino insists. "Would you? If you've got any problems you can give me a call. I've got to go-Shikamaru and I are going to look at the building and get the inspection over with."
Sakura's lips twitch. "Does Shikamaru know this?"
"He will," Ino says easily. "And he'll grumble, but he won't say no. Not to me."
Ino is lucky, Sakura thinks, that Shikamaru is very fond of her. Which is as it should be, since they've been dating for a few months. Sakura doesn't think she'd be so inclined to go along with having a plan for the day dumped into her lap without being consulted.
But then, she realizes, isn't that what Ino has just done?
"You," Sakura says, "are a major pain."
Ino's eyes are big and innocent. "But...?" she prompts.
Sakura sighs. "I'll do it. Let me know when you get back and I'll tell you how far I've gotten."
"Perfect!" Ino says, beaming. "You're the best, Sakura."
And then Ino is gone is a swirl of blonde hair and clicking heels and a door that shuts gently behind her. Sakura stares bemusedly at it and then looks down at the papers. "Well," she murmurs, bending her head over the clipboard to read the notes more carefully, "this is more fun than a vaccine."
Not more important, she admits, but more fun for sure.
"This is the best place ever," Ino declares extravagantly. "Oh, I hope gets creepier!"
"This place is a disaster," Shikamaru says, looking up at the ceiling and scowling at the cracks in it. "This whole place is going to fall down on us."
Ino blinks at him, her hair the brightest thing in the dim room, and laughs. "You've got to be kidding," she says incredulous. "I mean, okay, sure the place is run down but that's not unusual-this isthe abandoned sector after all."
Shikamaru just shakes his head. He can't decide if the prickling on the back of his neck is just him being ridiculous or if there's actually something watching them. He can't feel another chakra signature, except for Ino's, which pulses against his senses comfortingly, but there's ways to hide a chakra signature...
"You cannot seriously think that this place is haunted, can you?" Ino asks, drawing his attention away from the dusty, ruined room.
"I think that if I did," Shikamaru says, "that it would make sense. People died here, Ino. This is a bad idea."
She shrugs, leaning over to inspect an overturned sofa and pokes at it with her pen. Dust rises from it and she steps away, coughing. "Sasuke said no one died here during the Massacre," she points out with the same logic that she'd used to get him here, "and he's all for it. I think he's looking forward to having people in here for the night."
"Ghosts," Shikamaru mutters, "shouldn't be played with."
Ino ignores him.
He watches her as she inspects the room, fearless in the face of dirt and decay as she explores the room. Once upon a time, he thinks, it had been a living room. Shikamaru snorts. A living room. Now only the dead keep the place company. The dead and them. He wishes he could shake the unease that trickles down his spine at the thought.
"You let Sakura know where we were, right?" he asks nonchalantly phrasing it with a twist to the words that Ino will take to mean he doesn't think she's capable of remembering to do that.
"Yes," Ino says snippily. "Just in case we don't return."
The worst part is, Shikamaru thinks, is that she says that jokingly.
"Sasuke said no one died in this building-how is he sure?" he asks, following Ino as she scribbles something down on her clipboard and heads towards the hallway that leads deeper into the house. The hall is even darker than the living room and Shikamaru scowls as Ino pulls out a flashlight and turns it on.
"Don't be stupid," Ino says, "this house was abandoned before the massacre. I'm not tasteless. There's a difference between spooky and just macabre." The flashlight throws her shadow against the walls eerily and as move towards the stairs, Shikamaru pauses.
Had the shadow moved in a way that Ino hadn't?
He doesn't have time to think about it because Ino is just reaching the stairs and muttering something about cobwebs and how she wants to place them on the banister and he's- "Ino," he says, "let me go first."
She glances at him dubiously. "What," she says, "you think I can't deal with a bunch of stairs?"
"No," he says patiently, "but I'm heavier than you are. This place might be rotting. We need to see if the stairs can hold my weight not yours."
She taps her pen against her cheek. "Point," she agrees, a bit huffily. "But if you ever try to protect me-"
"You'll skin me," he finishes, "I know."
"Good," she says cheekily. "Now get up those stairs."
Shikamaru takes the flashlight from her and does just that.
An hour later, finds them in what Ino is certain was the master bedroom of the house.
Shikamaru isn't sure why the master bedroom would have only a twin sized bed and an open closet. There's a mirror on the wall opposite of the bed but there's nothing else in the room. It's too empty, he thinks, for this to have been the master bedroom.
Ino steps into the middle of the room, shines her flashlight at every nook and cranny, and then does a spin of sheer exuberance. "Look," she says gleefully, "there's room enough in here for all of us! We'll be able to start the scavenger hunt from here."
"Weren't you the one that wanted a fire lit at the start?" Shikamaru asks, watching the shadows carefully. Twice more he's thought he's seen them move but he can't decide if that's just his mood making him see what he wants to see. He's unaccountably jumpy.
"Yeah," Ino says, drawing a circle in the floor's dust with her foot. She surveys it critically, fixes some impossible for him to spot imperfection and then stands back to admire her work. "Sasuke doesn't mind and we're all going to be here. We won't burn the place down, you know? It's not like what we're doing is dangerous."
"The smoke will make the room unbearable," he points out, knowing she'll have an answer for that.
"So we open a window," Ino says, "which we'd do anyway so that there's a breeze."
Shikamaru just shakes his head as he leans against the door and frowns at the room.
The flashlight flickers as Ino frowns at him. "I'm getting the idea that you're not into this idea," she says, "and that's making me wonder why you even came along with me. I told you where we were going."
He shoves his hands into his pockets and slouches just a little more. His mother would smack him for it. Ino just waits for him to give her an answer. "Well," he says slowly, "I couldn't very well let you go alone."
It's hard to tell with the uncertain light, but he thinks she might be blushing. "It's just an empty building," she says, "it's nothing to worry about."
"And yet you're fussing worse than a mother hen."
"You're really such a pain. I don't know why I keep you around."
Shikamaru grins a little, despite his unease. "You ruined the pattern," he says, "I can say 'I know' to that one."
"No?" Ino asks, arching one eyebrow. "Are you sure you can't?"
"Not for sure," he tells her and is gratified to see her blush. He pushes himself away from the door and steps further into the room, making his way over to where she's standing, in the middle of her circle now. He's careful to step over it, not on it-that will just annoy her.
"Not for sure?" she asks him, and he knows that if her hands hadn't been full that she'd have them on her hips right now. Her eyes dance with suppressed laughter. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means," he says, his voice low in the dark room, "that I can think of a number of reasons for you to keep me around. It's knowing which one is right that's the problem."
"Do you have one in particular that you want to be right about?" she asks liltingly, tilting her head appealingly.
He takes advantage of the fact that her hands aren't free to kiss her. She makes a sound like a sigh and leans into him as he deepens the kiss. His heart is pounding and his skin feels tight and he feels goodand she's kissing him back like she always does.
"Yeah," he murmurs to her, "I've got one I prefer."
She draws breath to answer him and that's when the flashlight goes out, thunder cracks ominously from outside, and the whole house groans alarmingly.
The door behind them slams shut and there's the click of a lock sliding into place. Shikamaru twists around-he's pretty sure there wasn't a lock on that door originally. Ino steps back and he can feel her chakra sliding from at ease to something more combat ready.
"So," Ino says lightly, "I think someone's been reading too many horror novels." There's a tiny tremor in her voice that Shikamaru ignores because Ino would want him to ignore it.
"Funny," he says dryly, "very funny."
Rain lashes at the window and for a second, at a flash of lightning, he can see Ino's expression. It's torn between amusement and apprehension.
"You know," she comments, "there wasn't a rainstorm predicted for today."
"We can't have ghosts without rain," he says. "Isn't that right?"
"It's great atmosphere for a party. I mean, I can't get an atmosphere like this going with streamers and crepe paper." Ino sounds impressed despite herself.
"You do fine," he says, trying the door. The handle is freezing cold under his hands. A muttered curse from the window tells him that Ino's encountered the same thing. "Much more approachable than this."
Her laugh is a little giddy. Nerves, he knows, knowing that his are just as stretched. He still can't feel a chakra signature other than his and Ino's and there's no way that this could just have happened.
"We could break the window," Ino suggests. "Or the door. I mean, we're not exactly sitting ducks in here. We might have to apologize to Sasuke though."
"True," he agrees. "Though I'm not sure he'd believe this. I don't believe this."
Ino laughs softly. "It doesn't, but is it really so bad to be trapped in a room with me?"
"You know that's not my problem." He can't help but feel disgruntled at the very suggestion. "Quit playing around." He shrugs his shoulders as Ino slips her arms around him from behind.
"Right then," Ino says calmly. "I think I'll break the window. Much easier than knocking out a door."
He waits for her to let go of him to do just that-he knows better than to offer to do it himself-and just as he opens his mouth to goad her into moving, there's the crash of glass shattering into a million pieces and another bolt of lightning artistically illuminates the room. He sees Ino, over by the window, looking smug that she's managed to break it and realizes that there's still arms wrapped around his waist.
Shikamaru looks down before the light can fade and sees nothing. He reaches with his hand and his hand encounters nothing.
The arms around him tighten and Shikamaru swallows hard. Do not freak out, he tells himself, if you do you'll just let whatever it is know you're on to it.
"Ino," he says, "can we get out the window?"
"I think so," she says, "though it's going to be a bit of a drop. Lucky thing we're not civilians. If we were, we'd probably break our necks in this."
"Fantastic." Shikamaru can't help sounding cranky. It's a good way to keep from freaking out. He takes one step and then another and the arms move with him. Now that he's paying attention, he can notice that there's no body pressed against his back the way there would be if it had really been Ino. "Ladies first."
"Nuh huh," Ino says and he doesn't need to see her to know that she's grinning. She's not taking this nearly as seriously as he is. "Gentlemen first. After all," she adds, "I'm not the one that was scared of this rickety old place."
"I wasn't scared," he snaps because he's rather unnerved now. "I just didn't think it was safe. You never know if spirits will be around."
"I don't believe in them," Ino points out, "so they can't be."
Shikamaru grits his teeth and carefully doesn't say the first three things he comes up with to reply to that. "Alright," he says, reaching her and the window. He looks outside at the rain whipping through the air and bouncing off the sidewalks and cringes. Where had the storm even come from? "I'll go first. Just because you're so nice to insist upon it."
"I am rather nice," Ino says immodestly.
Shikamaru snorts with amusement that's real enough under the unease and the fact that the arms are stillaround him, or feel like they are, but Ino hasn't said anything to indicate she can see them. He carefully clears away the remaining shards of glass—no need to jump out of a building only to gouge his hands open—and then—
There's a flash of purple-blue light and Shikamaru goes flying. He hits the wall hard and collapses on the dusty, dirty floor.
The last thing he hears is Ino's voice.
It's funny, Ino thinks, that even while she's worried about Shikamaru, she can't seem to bring herself to worry about the house that hurt him.
She kneels by him, having found him mostly by luck and sporadic flashes of lightning. The thing that upsets her the most is that the moment the window went weird and lashed out at Shikamaru, his chakra dwindled to almost nothing.
Even right by him, Ino can barely feel his chakra.
She swallows the urge to freak out-what on earth had done that to the window and to Shikamaru and oh god was it going to do that to her next?-and confirms that Shikamaru's just unconscious and not actually badly hurt.
He's bruised her fingers tell her, their touch enhanced with a tiny spark of her chakra so she can sense that without seeing. But he's out of it due to chakra exhaustion, nothing else.
That's good news and bad news. Ino fumbles in her pockets and curses the fact that she hasn't brought her soldier pills with her. Bad girl, she thinks, to be unprepared.
A scuttling sound, like many, many legs across the floor makes her freeze just as she reaches for Shikamaru's pockets to see if he's better prepared.
One Konohagakure, two Konohagakure, three Konohagakure...
Nothing. Ino sighs and continues her search. She finds pills but in the darkness she can't tell what sort they are and now that it would be helpful, the lightning isn't striking enough for her to see. Of course, she thinks ruefully, that's totally the sort of day this is turning out to be.
She's glad, now, that she'd made sure to tell Sakura where they were going.
Because the house, which had felt old and disused and tired was now feeling distinctly more alive. She doesn't think it's unfriendly but… Ino shivers as she gropes for her flashlight and tries clicking it on again.
It doesn't work.
That's weird. Everything in here is weird.
The window gets a dirty look. It should have been their way out but with what it's done to Shikamaru, Ino isn't going to try that. She bites her lip and then turns towards where the door was supposed to be.
Is she allowed to leave the room, she wonders. If they're not allowed to leave the house, that's clear enough, but are they able to move through the house?
Ino twirls a bit of her hair around one finger, settles back on her heels, and thinks it through. If they're allowed to leave the room, should they? If there's more weirdness out there-despite the way her chakra and her mind aren't sensing anything-then she's not sure she can take care of herself and Shikamaru while carting him around unconscious.
And splitting up is what ridiculous heroines in silly horror novels do.
Though, she thinks, at least I wouldn't be doing it because I'm mad at him for some stupid reason.
That decides her. She has to try. Ino gets up, tucks away the pills she's taken from Shikamaru-she'll see if she can't find out what they are in another room; maybe there'll be one with better light-and tucks her flashlight in her belt. It's not very comfortable but she doesn't want to leave it behind. What if it starts working again?
The space between Shikamaru and the door seems to take forever to narrow and Ino is panting with effort when she finally reaches the door. More weirdness, she tells herself, and forces a shiver away.
She touches the handle and jerks away swearing. It's icy and painful to the touch. Ino grits her teeth and rests her hand on the wood of the door, trying to remember how thick the door was.
Can she kick it down? She's pretty sure she can.
Just as she decides that it's worth trying, the door flares a deep, ruby red under her hand and begins to pulse.
Ino stumbles away from it, swallowing the urge to scream. She can see it beating now, an ominous pattern of thump-a-thud, thump-a-thud, thump-a-thud.
Okay, she thinks, definitely creepy.
She's got kunai on her but Ino rather thinks that throwing them at the house would only piss it off and that's the last thing she wants right now.
Windchimes-and where were those?-play a soft counterpoint to the thump-a-thud of the door and pale blue light fills the room so slowly that it takes Ino a few moments to figure out where the light is coming from.
It's coming from the mirror, Ino realizes, taking advantage of the light to stumble back to Shikamaru and check those pills. They are soldier pills. She quickly feeds two of them to him, using some water from her water bottle (at least she wasn't entirely unprepared) to help get them down this throat.
She's busy staring at the blue-white light that's streaming from the mirror.
"Ino," Shikamaru says roughly, "you've gotten us trapped in a nightmare."
Ino can't help but smack him, lightly, on the shoulder for saying something like that. She's kind of noticed that herself. "Sasuke said this house would be fine," she murmurs, "he mentioned rumours from when the clan was around that this was haunted but said he'd never seen anything. This was a popular place for telling creepy stories."
Shikamaru sits up, the pale light making him look sickly and Ino doesn't even want to know what it's done to her. He rubs his face, mutters something that sounds a lot like he's complaining about their situation-she can't blame him-and then glances at the mirror.
She follows his gaze. "You think we ought to go near it?"
"The door would be a smart..." Shikamaru trails off and Ino's pretty sure he's noticed the way the door is beating like a bizarre heart. "Never mind," he says wearily. "How about the mirror then. How long has it been doing that?"
"A few minutes," Ino says, biting her lip. "I figured you'd appreciate my waking you up instead of going to inspect it first. You were out with chakra exhaustion."
"And no idea why," Shikamaru mutters.
She doesn't have the heart to snap at him for that. She doesn't know either. "Well?" Ino prods. "Should we go touch the mirror or step into the light? We can't just stay around here forever."
Shikmaru rubs his face with his hands. Ino knows he doesn't want to give an answer because he doesn't like either of the options.
She gives him a few seconds and then, just as she's about to nag him to make up his mind-honestly, what's the worst the mirror could do to them?-Ino notices something that makes her squeak in dismay.
Which is sort of humiliating, really, though it's gratifying the way Shikamaru's head comes up and he looks all protectivewhich is really pretty attractive as a look for him. Ino tucks that thought away as it's useless and pointless and...
"The walls are bleeding," she says weakly. "I can even smell it."
Blood drips down the walls in oozing tendrils, filling the air with its tangy coppery scent. She breathes and tells herself she's not allowed to be sick because she's a kunoichi of Konoha and has seen a lot worse than this.
Though, Ino thinks, it's seldom crept her out as much. At least in other situations, she's been able to see why people are bleeding and why blood is everywhere.
Shikamaru gets up, his hand firm on her elbow as he uses her for leverage-by that, she knows he's not feeling a hundred percent yet. "Let's try the mirror," he says, his face grey. "Because otherwise we're going to drown in blood."
Even as he speaks it begins spreading across the floor. Ino shudders makes herself move towards the mirror. "I'm still thinking," she says, "that if we can get out of here, wouldn't this be the best place for a party?"
"Ino," Shikamaru says, "if we get out of here, why would we go back?"
"Because we'd know we can get out," Ino says with what she thinks is impeccable logic. "And wouldn't it be great to watch Naruto freak? He's coming, you know."
"It's a party. Of course he's coming. I still don't think that we should be holding it here if we get out."
Ino stops just outside the light and studies it dubiously then shrugs. Really, she thinks, it doesn't feel like it's going to kill her. She can probably survive everything else. "It'll be great," Ino says, "and I won't even have to do much decorating. That's pretty awesome."
And while Shikamaru is staring at her, certain she's kidding, when she's not, Ino steels herself and steps into the blue-white light braced for the worst.
"Oh look," she says brightly, feeling relieved. "I'm totally good here. Come on, Shikamaru, look-"
Shikamaru is staring at her in abject horror.
Ino blinks at him and then looks down at herself. "Do you not like my outfit or something?" she asks, her voice echoing slightly. "That's pretty horrible, you know, when you had no complaints earlier about kissing me."
He makes a strangled sound, somewhere between a laugh and something that she suspects isn't funny at all. "Ino," he says, "can you get out of the light?"
"I don't see why not," she says, looking down at herself. "It doesn't do anything. The question is 'do I want to'?" She likes the light, it's warm and way better than bleeding walls and beating doors and a window that hits back.
The expression on his face, a silent plea for her to stop being a brat and fooling around, is the only reason that Ino sighs and takes a step to leave her oasis of not-so-weird.
Her foot bounces off the edge of the light. Ino stumbles backwards. "Um," she says, "that's not supposed to happen."
"I should hope not," he says, "considering you look like a ghost right now."
"I do not." Ino raises her hands to study them and they look the same, despite the blue-white glow that surrounds them which, as any idiot would know, comes from the light of the mirror. (She ignores the fact that she doesn't know where thatlight comes from.) "I look like me. It must be an illusion! Shikamaru, get in here!"
"Are you out of your mind?" Shikamaru demands. "You can't get out of there and you want me to join you?"
Er. "Put that way," Ino concedes, "you have a point. But seriously, if this is being a ghost, then it doesn't hurt at all."
"I like you living and breathing and warm," Shikamaru says bluntly. "And I have no idea how to get you out of there."
Ino taps one finger against her cheek thoughtfully. "You could... break the mirror?"
Actually, she thinks, she should probably try that too. But now that she's in the light, she can't help but feel that the house didn't really mean to scare them. That it just wanted to entertain them.
"Shikamaru," Ino says, after weighing the pros and cons of telling him what she's thinking about the house. "What if the house really doesn't mean any harm?"
He gives her a look.
"Okay, maybe it miscalculated," she says, knowing he's got his eyebrows raised because his back is bruised and she knows it. "But, seriously, it's a little too much like a textbook horror house."
"Which isn't your fault, house," she adds, just in case it takes offense. "Actually, I really don't mind. It's rather awesome and you're probably getting your ideas from me because, well, I'm pretty sure Shikamaru doesn't read the amount of cheesy horror that I do."
"Ino," Shikamaru says, "you're talking to a house."
She shrugs and offers him her hand. It sticks out of the blue light and she thinks that's just proof that the house knows she's willing to play along. Ino can't explain how she's so sure this house isn't going to kill them but she is.
Shikamaru has no such certainty, but that's alright, Ino thinks, he really ought to trust her.
"If I take your hand," he says, looking wary. "Where are we going?"
"Into the mirror," Ino says. "That's where the house wants us to go." It's funny, how certain she is, all of a sudden about that.
"We're not doing what a house wants us to. That's madness."
"It's better than standing in a room that's slowly filling with blood, isn't it?" Ino asks reasonably and waves her hand at him.
He glowers at her then reaches for her hand. The moment he does, she pulls him into the light.
"I was going to pull you out," he says, his arms sliding around her to hold her tightly despite the cranky words. "And yet you dragged me in here, idiot."
Ino presses a kiss to his cheek. "But look," she says, "the blood can't get us."
"But what can?" he murmurs.
Ino looks at the mirror. "We're going to go and see," she says and wriggles until he's forced to let go of her. She claims on of his hands and then tugs on it as she heads for the mirror.
It's a plain mirror, just a sheet of glass in the shape of a square.
As they approach it, there's the sound of a bell being struck and then the ground falls out from under them.
They tumble down into the darkness.
They land in light.
Ino is standing by the time that Shikamaru gets to his feet. He wonders peevishly if it's because she's gone completely batty and he hasn't and so this is easier for her to adjust to.
He shudders. He never, ever wants to be able to see through her again. That's the thought that drives him, when she turns to look at him, likely to say something ridiculous, that has him move to kiss her breathless.
If he can feel her under her hands and with his mouth then he can be certain that she's not see-through, like a ghost, with an echoing voice and glowing with unearthly light. When he lets her go, she's breathless, her eyes are sparkling and he's breathing heavily. He doesn't want to stop but he does because they're still in the house.
And he has no idea what it wants.
Ino's hand wraps around his. "What was that for?" she murmurs.
"Reminding myself," he says honestly.
She gives him a side-long look but let's it drop. Only, he thinks, because she's spotted the way the light is swirling around them, forming a ball of shimmering light, about half their height, a few feet from them.
There's a chime, one that's deep enough to rattle bone, and then a little girl is where the ball of light was, her eyes big as she stares at them. She's wearing all white; a dress with poofy sleeves and lace around the hems. Her hair is up in two pigtails and her face is solemn.
"Hello," Ino says, like houses take on human form in front of her every day.
Shikamaru wonders why he's in love with her sometimes, he really does.
The child tilts her head and looks at him, like she's heard what he's thinking.
Shikamaru resists the urge to shiver. The gaze is cool and inhuman.
"I'm Ino," his girlfriend says, kneeling to be on height with the... house. "This is Shikamaru. Do you have a name?"
The girl shakes her head. "Houses," she says in a whisper, "don't have names."
"Would you like one?" Ino asks, sitting down. He tries not to think about what she could be sitting on, considering the state of the house when it's not surrounded in light and stays standing. Just in case.
Both of them ignore him.
"What do you want?" Ino asks, leaning forward. "I can help you if you tell me."
"Why," he murmurs, "do you want to help someone who has been freaking us out for the last hour?"
The girl-ghost-house looks like she's been slapped.
Ino hits his leg hard. "Shut up," she says, "she didn't do anything wrong. I went to the house wantingto be scared. She did exactly what I wanted, when I wanted. I'm not going to get mad at her for that."
"She hurt me," he says indignantly.
"Didn't mean to," the house says, in a tiny voice. "Forgot how to answer right. Forgot how much strength to use. Haven't... haven't... done anything for so long."
"See?" Ino says. "She's sorry."
The girl-house nods and looks at him with big eyes.
Shikamaru stares at the both of them and just shakes his head. "Do what you want," he says, "but if I get hurt again, I'm burning this place down."
The house gives a keening wail and Ino is up and over to it in a flash with her arms around the tiny body. "He doesn't mean it," she says, as the house trembles in her arms. "He won't do it. If he does, I'll never ever forgive him so he won't do it."
The worst part, Shikamaru thinks, is she's right. He doesn't say that.
"Now," Ino says, once the house has calmed down. "How about it? What do you want, sweetie?"
The house says something inaudible.
Ino looks thoughtful.
Shikamaru feels like this can't bode well for anyone.
They're standing outside of the house, on dry ground, and Ino is bouncing on the front step.
Shikamaru's got his hands shoved in his pockets. "Ino," he says, "I still think this is a horrible idea."
"I know," she says, looking at her checklist. "But it's a bit late for that. Sasuke's already sold me the house."
"I don't understand why you had to go this far," he says for what feels like the thousandth time. "It tried to kill us."
"Scare us," Ino corrects. "And it did that because that's what I wanted and it thought I was there to become its new owner."
"So you bought it." The unspoken because you're mentalhangs in the air.
Ino purses her lips. "The house will be perfectly friendly. We need to fix it up, but we'll do that after the party and then I'll move in."
"You're going to live in a haunted house?" Shikamaru asks dubiously. That part of her plan is new.
Though it makes sense, since she bought it.
"Don't be stupid," Ino says impatiently, swinging her bag of decorations. "It won't be haunted unless I want it to be. I toldyou, I've talked it over with the house."
"Don't say that too loud," he says, cringing.
"Why not?" Ino asks. "People won't know. No one lives out in this area but me and Sasuke."
Which unsettles Shikamaru almost as much as the house, really. He doesn't like how wellIno and Sasuke are getting along these days.
He looks at her. "Unless what?"
She flushes. "You could move in," she says, "the house promises not to freak you out again and well..."
"I guess so," he says, with a sigh. "I could do that."
She wriggles her fingers at him so he takes her hand. "I'll make it worth your while," Ino promises, looking pleased.
"You tend to," he murmurs, kissing her once. "Come on, you wanted to decorate the house today, right?"
Ino's laugh is joined with the laugh of a little girl, who is peeking through the living room window, her head just visible. Shikamaru rolls his eyes. "I'll keep you company," he says. "While you and the house do all the work."
"This," Ino says, "is going to be the best party ever."
"The walls are bleeding," Sakura says incredulously.
"I know," Ino says smugly.
"The door is beating like a heart."
Ino nods her head and offers Sakura a chip. The other girl takes it automatically.
"What's the light do?" she asks suspiciously.
"Why don't you go see?" Ino suggests innocently. "It's what sent Naruto shrieking from this room."
"Somehow," Sakura says dryly, "that doesn't fill me with confidence. But alright, I'll try it."
Ino grins as she feels a tiny hand take hers and, when Sakura approaches the light, looks down at the little girl holding her hand. "House," she says, "you and me are going to have so much fun."
Sakura shrieks. Half her body has touched the light and has been turned translucent.
The house giggles.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! \o/ Please review!