Chapter 7: Spiders are Eww-y.

Shikamaru was hiding. He could hear Ino's footsteps crossing the floor above him and her voice calling his name. He shrank back more into the shadow of the space near the heater. He could also hear the baby's shrill screaming leaking through the floor. Minato...that baby had a set of lungs on him that could probably be heard five miles away like a lion's roar (it was more frightening than a lion's roar, too).

"Shika!" Ino called, "This isn't funny! Minato won't stop crying!"

Shikamaru was tempted to call back and tell her it was her own fault. She was the one who had volunteered the both of them anyway. And, she knew that he didn't like kids. But, no, he wouldn't say a thing. It was a trap, because as soon as he did, she would know where he was.

Wedging himself even further in his cold and spider-webby hiding spot, he shut his eyes. It wasn't like Ino could sneak up on him with a wailing child and he might as well take the opportunity for a little nap.

Shikamaru was a master at sleeping. He cleared his mind and focused on his breathing and was drifting off in no time. The best thing about sleep, was that sleep was quiet. No crying babies, no soiled diapers, and no smelly formula. Sleep was good.

However, Shikamaru must have underestimated how deep of a sleeper he was, because he woke up to Ino's fist in his stomach.

"Ugh," he said, his natural instinct to lean over hindered by the space he'd stuffed himself into. That girl hit a lot harder than he would have thought. Not to mention her attack had completely caught him off guard and stole his breath. She punched him again, this time hard in the shoulder.

Haha, jokes on her this time. She shook her hand and whimpered at the pain (duh, Ino, the shoulder is too bony to punch like that). When he laughed, she growled, jabbed him hard in the chest with her other hand, and said, "You jerk!"

He noticed then that the baby wasn't in her hands or crying, which explained why she had been able to go in the basement without him hearing her. She narrowed her eyes, "I can't believe you would leave me all alone with a crying baby! You could have helped me out by making a bottle while I tried to calm him down!"

"That baby is the spawn of the devil," Shikamaru grumbled, rubbing where she'd punched him in the gut while trying to squeeze out of the spot.

"He's not the spawn of the devil, he's just not used to being separated from both his parents at the same time," Ino defended the pint-sized monster.

"Okay, he might not be the spawn of the devil, but he is a freaking banshee. How did you get him to calm down anyway?"

Ino didn't answer right away, so he turned to look at her. She was frozen in place and staring at him with wide eyes.

"What?"

"Don't freak out...but...there is a massive spider on the back of your arm," Ino warned, pointing at his right arm. Yeah right like he'd freak ou...

"HOLY SHIT!"

"Shikamaru, I told you not to freak out!" Ino yelped when he started spinning around, trying to find something to kill it with while not letting the thing out of sight.

"I'LL STOP FREAKING OUT WHEN YOU GET THIS NASTY THING OFF OF ME!"

"Heck no! I'm not going near that thing!" Ino backed away from him.

"Get it off now!"

"No, Shika, get away!"

"Get it off!"

"Ew, stop!"

The hairy thing started crawling up towards his neck and he lurched forward, trapping her into the space he'd occupied minutes ago, "Come on, Ino! Get it off!"

"Fine!" she shouted. Pulling her sleeve past her hand, she whacked the thing off and sent it flying across the basement.

"Where'd it go?"

"I don't know, I lost track of it."

They looked at each other for a second before bolting for the stairs. The stairway was narrow, so they had to fight each other to make it through. Ino was smaller and quicker and managed to slip through the door before him. She threatened to shut it on him (she had a real mean streak at times), but he shouldered his way through.

"Do I have anymore spiders on me?" Shikamaru asked, turning for her to inspect him.

She shook her head and leaned over with her hands on her knees. They were both a little out of breath from the incident. When she straightened up, she had a smirk plastered across her face, "I didn't know you were afraid of spiders."

"I'm not afraid of spiders...I just don't like the gross things touching me."

"Whatever. You sounded like such a little girl down there," Ino said. She raised her voice to mock him, even though his was much deeper than hers, "Ino, Ino! Save me, please! Get it off, get it off!"

He crossed his arms, deciding not to even deign that with a response. Ino's smirk grew, "Are you pouting?"

"No."

In the resulting silence, Minato started wailing again. His face must have revealed his instinct to run, because she caught his sleeve and hissed, "Oh, no, you're helping me this time."

He groaned as she dragged him behind her into the nursery, "Troublesome woman."

Ino forced him to hold Minato and rock in the chair while she went to find the diaper bag. She was taking her sweet time (probably as punishment for disappearing earlier). He looked down at the baby, assessing him. Minato's face was scrunched up and was red like a tomato in his anger. His cries were shrill and bound to haunt his future nightmares.

"Hey, baby, quit crying," he said. The baby continued screeching. He picked the baby up to hold him at eye level. "If you keep crying like that, you'll never get a girl to like you."

His cries got a little softer, as if the baby wanted to hear what he was saying but also wanted to continue to express his displeasure.

"Girls say that they like sensitive guys, but they don't really. They mean that they like when guys are nice and vulnerable. But, once a guy starts crying they start to wrinkle their nose in disgust. Guys just look stupid when they cry. It's something to do in private," Shikamaru lectured.

Minato stopped crying, now sniffling and breathing loudly and shakily.

"You don't want to get the reputation as a crybaby. You'll be seen as a wimp for the rest of your life," Shikamaru continued.

"Do you really believe that?"

Shikamaru jumped as Ino startled him the second time that night.

"Believe what?" he asked.

"That girls think it's disgusting when guys cry?" she asked, setting the diaper bag on the ground by the rocking chair.

"Yeah, it's the truth. It's a real turn-off," Shikamaru said, handing Minato over for him to change.

She didn't respond immediately, focusing on unbuttoning Minato's onesie and changing him. He was subdued now, sucking on his thumb and hiccuping.

"Girls hate when guys are dramatic. But, they think it's cute when a guy gets teary eyed over a sad movie...especially when they try to hide it. And, they don't mind tears at all when a man is grieving. It's good to let feelings out and girls like to feel like a guy is letting his guard down around them," Ino said.

"Well, don't expect for me to ever cry," Shikamaru sniffed, leaning back in the rocking chair and closing his eyes. His nap earlier must've not been very long, because he was still tired.

"You weren't crying when I saved you from that spider?" she asked, snickering.

He cracked his eyes open to glare at her, "I was not crying."

"That's right, you're too boss, aren't you?" Ino said, snickering again.

"Whatever," Shikamaru muttered.

Ino stood and said, "Let's go downstairs. Now that he's been fed and changed, he ought to fall asleep."

He followed her into the living room and the settled on the (comfiest ever) couch. The nice thing about Naruto's house was, well, he was loaded. Which meant that his TV was humongous. And, Naruto tivo'd sports. Not just Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Next Top Model, and Glee like a certain someone else he knew.

Ino curled up next to him and snuggled with Minato on the couch and said nothing when he chose a baseball game. He expected her to complain, but she only shrugged and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, "I'll let you watch sports because you are still traumatized from that horrible encounter earlier."

He scowled and ignored her in favor of the TV program. The game was bad again. His team lost again. He turned to look at her. She had put her head on his shoulder at some point during the game and Minato had fallen asleep on her chest, looking deceptively calm and normal.

She met his gaze and asked, "What?"

"Every time I watch a game with you, my team loses. You are bad luck," Shikamaru said.

She laughed, "Does that mean I don't have to suffer through anymore games?"

"Sports are infinitely better than America's Next Top Model," he said.

"No way, the competition is more fierce. Those girls are so catty," Ino said.

"Sports are better," he firmly maintained.

"Well, lets watch something else now," Ino said, reaching for the remote. He let her take it and she started flipping through the channels. She settled on a movie that appeared to be a chick flick.

"Really?"

"Really."

"Troublesome creeper woman."

Instead of attacking him, she turned the volume up and snuggled her face into his shoulder. He only had to watch half of it, because she fell asleep. He waved his hand in front of her face to ensure that she really was sleeping and then changed the channel. He left it on an action movie from demand, though he didn't pay much attention to it. Instead, he struggled with staying awake.

He almost lost to sleep when the couple finally stumbled in. Hinata was giggling and looked extremely happy and Naruto kept touching her. Her cheek and back and shoulder. Gross. They stopped when they saw them on the couch. Minato was still sleeping on Ino's chest, but Ino's head had slipped down to his lap so that she was laying flat out on the couch. Shikamaru had put a pillow under her head to make it more comfortable for the both of them.

"Did everything go well tonight?" Hinata asked in her soft voice as she scooped her son off of Ino. Minato seemed to take more after Naruto. He could never imagine Hinata wailing that loudly even as a baby. She probably cried apologetically whenever she was hungry. Like, "Excuse me parental figures, I happen to be hungry. But, you don't have to rush to feed me, I just wanted you to know that I was hungry in case you were in the position to feed me."

"It was okay. Though, he cries like a banshee," Shikamaru said, poking Ino's face to wake her up. She groaned and tried to pull away from him.

"Oh yeah, he's quite the yeller," Naruto laughed. "That's why we don't go out too often."

He poked Ino's face some more and she tried to pull away again. She pulled away too far, though, and tumbled off the couch. Startled from the sensation of falling, she was awake and alert to yelp and feel all the pain of the fall.

She looked prepared to shout an angry tirade at Shikamaru when she noticed Naruto (Hinata had disappeared upstairs with Minato). "Oh, how was your night?"

"It was good," Naruto said with a wide smile, "Thanks, you guys. We really needed to get out for a night."

"No problem. Call me again soon and we'd be glad to watch him again for you guys," Ino said (speak for yourself, crazy woman).

"Will do," Naruto said. "And, we'll start on your gazebo soon. We'll make a gazebo palace for you."

"Gazebo palace? No freaking way, she doesn't need something too big or intricate, just somewhere to sit and girlishly fawn over her stupid flowers," Shikamaru said.

Ino pinched his cheek hard, "Shikamaru is right. You don't have to do anything to grand for me. I appreciate it that you're making a gazebo for me in the first place."

"But, I want to, Ino. You'd look nice, like a Disney princess, sitting in your gazebo with flowers and finished wood. It would suit you. Plus, you've helped Hinata out plenty of times, we want to do something nice for you."

"You've been spending too much time with Lee," Shikamaru said, shaking his head.

"And, it's almost like you've been spending time with Sakura, the way you squealed when that sp-,"

Shikamaru clamped his hand over her mouth and dragged her to the door. He called a quick good bye to Naruto, all the while ignoring her muffled cackles, and made a hasty exit. He didn't uncover her mouth until they reached his car.

"What, didn't want Naruto to know about your fear of spiders?"

"I told you already, I'm not afraid of spiders," Shikamaru said.

"Uh huh," Ino said in an infuriating tone.

He unlocked his door, but neglected to unlock hers and started backing out.

"Not this again!"

"Say it," Shikamaru said.

"Say what?"

"You know what."

He kept backing out slowly as they had a staring contest. Ino blinked first and relented, "Fine. You're boss and not afraid of spiders. In fact, all spiders are terrified of you and screech when they see you approaching."

"Not that!" Shikamaru growled.

She blinked again in confusion. And, then, realization dawned on her features.

"Oh. Oh! I won't tell Naruto about the incident."

"And?"

"And, I won't tell anyone else either."

In response he unlocked the doors and let her slip into the passenger seat. Ino didn't ask him to stay over again, which he was glad because he was really tired and didn't want to spend another night on the floor. Ino hadn't wanted to be along at all that night, so she and him had made a little camp on the living room floor with sleeping bags and he had to listen her talk until she literally fell asleep mid-sentence.

He was glad to sink into his own bed again and promptly fall asleep. Ino was really busy with a bridal dinner rehearsal and he had work in the morning so he wouldn't see her for a few days. The complete freedom made him want to find a good hill and nap. He was grabbing his keys and getting ready to drive out to his favorite spot, when his phone rang.

He considered ignoring it and leaving anyway, but it rang insistingly, so he sighed and picked it up.

"Hello?"

"Shikamaru, Honey?"

It was his mom. (Hopefully she wasn't calling him to nag him about not visiting her enough).

"Yeah?"

"Your uncle Asuma, he hasn't been feeling good. We're trying to get him to go to the hospital, but he keeps stubbornly telling us that he just the flu. I'm worried though because he seems in too much pain for it to be just the flu."

"And, you want me to go over and talk him into going to the doctor because I'm his favorite?" Shikamaru guessed.

"I knew you would do it. Thank you so much," his mom said, hanging up before he had a chance to object.

He looked as his watch. If he drove all the way over there, night would fall by the time he'd get back and he'd miss this nice and balmy night to cloud watch. His persuasive skills would be just as effective over the phone, so he'd try calling him first. If he didn't agree to go, then he would drive over there and force him out the door.

"I'm not going to the hospital."

"Hello to you, too, Uncle Asuma."

"I know what you're going to say. I'm not that sick, your mom needs to let well enough alone."

"It doesn't hurt to just go to the hospital."

"I don't like hospitals. They smell funny and they're too expensive. They'll probably send me to multiple doctors for 'second opinions' and I'll have to pay all of the bastards."

"You seem irritable. Is this the sickness talking?"

His uncle laughed, "It's not. And, I'm not going to the hospital. I haven't been to one since my dad died and I ain't ever going back."

"Everyone's worried about you. Just do it for them, okay?"

Asuma was quiet for a long moment. Shikamaru was starting to think that he'd hung up when he said, "Fine. I'll go."

"That's all I wanted to hear."

"Tomorrow."

Shikamaru groaned, "Hell no. Just get it over with tonight. If you just have the flu, then they'll tell you just have the flu, and then my mom will finally get off your case and you can be sick in peace."

"That's true."

"So, you'll go tonight."

Shikamaru could hear him let out a gust of breath on the other side of the phone and knew that he was smoking.

"I guess."

"You had better."

"I will, I will," he said. Another gust of breath. "You know, if Kurenai wasn't in Paris right now, you know I'd already have been there. Nothing can stop her when she's got her mind on something."

"Then do it for her too. She'll be stressed if you don't go, and stress isn't good for a pregnant lady."

"I already said I'd go."

"Are you walking out the door right now?"

"Yes."

"I'm going to stay on the phone with you until I hear a doctor confirm that you're at the hospital."

"And, you complain about your mother's nagginess," he complained. Shikamaru could hear the engine start on his side. Shikamaru made his way out to his own car and they chatted the entire car drive. He made it to the hill first and found his usual spot.

Laying at the clouds, he listened as Asuma told him about how his muscles were incredibly sore and how he kept getting these bad headaches. He was always a big baby when he was sick, but Shikamaru figured that it was always better to be safe than sorry.

"I'm at the hospital now," Asuma announced. Shikamaru heard him tell the receptionist about his symptoms. Then he handed the phone over to the receptionist.

"Hello?"

"Hi. This is his nephew. I just want to confirm that he really went to the hospital."

"Yeah, he's at the hospital."

"Which hospital?"

"Konoha Hospital."

"Can you swear on your life that you aren't a random citizen he paid to pretend to be a receptionist?"

"Uh, yes?"

"You don't sound too sure."

"I can. I can."

"Okay. Please make sure that he stays and sees a doctor. His family is worried about him."

"Alright. I will."

"Good."

Then he hung up and relaxed on the hill. It seemed lately he'd been asked to do a lot of favors. Tomorrow he was supposed to head over to Ino's to start working on the gazebo. They'd done a pretty good job of keeping Sakura away from Naruto. She hadn't gotten a chance to speak with him yet and the last time Ino talked to her, she had sounded really frustrated. She'd even said she never realized that Naruto was such a busy man before.

He was just starting to relax and enjoy his free night when he was once again interrupted by a call. The caller id read "Ino". He ignored it and looked back up at the clouds. One of them looked like a rabbit. She called again and he ignored it again. The wind must be picking up, because the clouds were traveling faster now. She called yet again.

This time he answered.

"What?"

"Hey, Shika, sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to see what you thought about something."

"Go ahead."

He could hear her smile so vividly that he could picture her wrinkling her nose in that pleased way she did, "Thank you. It's about Sakura."

"What has that girl done now?" he groaned.

"Something really strange. She's been giving me the cold front lately, because she suspects that I'm meddling. But, she called me today and told me about this job. It's working with patients recovering from TBI."

"TBI?"

"Traumatic Brain Injury."

"Ah."

"Yeah. She told me that she had a med school friend who was asking around for recommendations for employing someone experienced with the workings and healing of the brain. I guess she recommended me and the friend is interested in interviewing me."

"Wow."

"Yeah...do you think she's trying to bribe me onto her side? Or, like trying to get something to hold over my head?"

"I don't know. That sounds really movie-villain conniving and she is your friend. Maybe she just saw a good opportunity for you and knew how much you wanted a job in your field and didn't want to let it pass you by just because you guys were fighting."

"Girls can get pretty underhanded when they're fighting, though."

"Well. Even if she is using it for leverage, I say go for it. Unless you want to work at your dad's shop for the rest of your life."

"God, no."

"Then, just go for the interview. If she tries to use it against you, just threaten that you'll tell Sasuke and Hinata."

She got quiet just like Asuma. Then she said, "Okay, I will. Thank you, Shika."

"You're welcome. I'm going to turn my phone off now, I've done more than my share of good deeds today and I just want to look at rabbit-shaped clouds now."

She laughed, "You do that, then. Thank you again."

"Yep. Bye."

"Bye."

True to his word he turned his phone off. But, the sun was setting and it was going to be dark soon. Grumbling, he stood up and headed back to his car.

Screw everyone.