(An original InoShikaChou fic)
1. Sakura [Cherry blossom]
They were six years old and Inoichi was the last to be admitted into their academy class. It was old news: The youngest child of the current head of the clan fell ill easily but he was the only boy amongst six siblings, not to mention the only one with the chakra reserves to perform the family jutsus. The Nara and Akimichi clans were concerned, of course. Their clans were bound together tightly with the red string of destiny—when one fell, they all fell. The plan was to put him through the academy and see if he survived.
Shikaku doubted it.
Inoichi was smaller than the other boys, slender, with pale skin, hair and eyes. He had a doll-like fragility about him; beautiful but transient. The girls were immediately fussing over his long blond hair and pretty face. The boys were not impressed with his skinny stature and family's flower shop.
Shikaku, shrewd even at six, thought he wouldn't last a day in the ninja world. Chouza, kind hearted since he came out of the womb, was more optimistic about their future teammate.
Children were cruel and didn't take long before they honed in on who they believed was the weak link of the class. "Why don't you go home and pick flowers with the girls?" one of their classmates sneered, looming over Inoichi. Inoichi ignored them, choosing to read his book on ikebana instead. The boy plucked the book from his hands, holding it over his head in a game of Keep Away.
"Should we do something?" Chouza asked Shikaku nervously. He didn't like to fight unnecessarily but he didn't like bullying, either. He had been bullied because of his weight and the emotional blows always hurt more than the physical ones.
"Not yet." Shikaku also didn't like to fight unnecessarily, mostly because it was troublesome and he was lazy. In this case though, he wanted to observe. Could Inoichi hack it or should the Yamanakas cut their losses and find a new heir?
Inoichi stood up and wordlessly punched the bully right in the face. The other boys took a step back from Inoichi's desk as their friend clutched his bleeding nose. He looked around, blue eyes daring someone else to challenge him. "Does anyone else have a problem?"
They all shook their heads in unison.
Newly retrieved book tucked under his arm, Inoichi marched over to where Chouza and Shikaku were and sat down in the chair between them.
Yeah, Shikaku thought with a grin. They were going to be alright.
2. Asagao [Morning glory]
"Take care of my body, would you?"
"Don't 'yeah,yeah' me, Shikaku! Are you forgetting the last time I used Shintenshin and you let me fall off a cliff?" Inoichi hissed, hands on his hips.
Always the dramatics, Shikaku thought with an eye roll. Only Inoichi would throw a hissy fit while they were crouched behind a bush, covered in mud, trying to pass their Chuunin exams. "It was a small cliff and Chouza caught you before any damage was done."
"THAT IS NOT THE POINT!"
"Shhh, you're going to give away our position—" Chouza tried to warn them but it was already too late. They heard a low growl and soft, familiar whispers.
Inoichi clapped his hand over his face. "Ah crap, the tracking team is after us? How is that even fair?"
Shikaku remained stoic and carefully evaluated their situation. Three shinobi whose jutsus were made for tracking enemies. Three shinobi and a dog, he corrected himself. In terms of brute strength, it was a tossup over who would win but first and foremost, Shikaku didn't want to bring more attention to their hiding spot. It would be better to let everyone take each other out first. The fewer enemies they had to fight, the better their chances were. "Just be lucky it's not Minato's team. Infiltrate and divert their attention elsewhere, Inoichi."
The blond looked horrified and betrayed. "Don't do this to me, man. Don't tell me I have to—"
With a grumble and a few choice curses about Shikaku's alleged parentage, Inoichi formed the proper hand seals. True to his word, Shikaku caught his lifeless body and waited quietly.
"They're this way," a rough female voice said.
"Are you sure, Tsume?" The male voice was quieter, more contained. Aburame. Shikaku and Chouza held their breaths.
"I just said so, didn't I?" she snapped.
"Then let's not waste time here."
A few minutes later when Inoichi was safely back in his body and the shinobi were long gone, he punched Shikaku in the arm. "I need to take ten showers! I still smell wet dog! I bet I have fleas. Great."
Shikaku rubbed his bruised shoulder. One would think Inoichi would be more grateful that he didn't toss his friend's body off a cliff (again). Shikaku was arguably more mature than Inoichi and didn't usually feel the need to fight back with his teammate and friend, but…
"If you dare," Inoichi glowered, cutting Shikaku off before he could open his mouth, "make one joke about me being inside Inuzuka Tsume, I will punch you so hard that Great-Grandmother Nara will feel it."
The three young dissolved into laughter, touching fists in victory. Be it genius Hyuugas, haughty Uchihas, or whatever unfortunate enemy came their way, their teamwork would always prevail.
This was the beginning of their legend.
3. Hagi [Bush clover]
They hid in a muddy trench in Kusagakure while the Third Shinobi War continued on around them.
"I'm not going to make it," Shikaku coughed around a mouthful of blood. "It's enough."
Surprisingly, Inoichi was calm. While an exhausted Chouza kept a lookout, the Yamanaka heir applied medicinal salve to a deep cut on Shikaku's face. It would leave a scar, he thought absently, but it was fine because Shikaku wasn't that good looking to begin with. "Shut up, you're distracting me."
Their mission was a simple one: Kill all the Iwa ninja and try not to die.
They were failing on both parts.
"Leave me here and make a run for it."
"Not an option," Inoichi tied a bandage around Shikaku's arm harder than necessary to emphasize his point. "Stay still, I have to make a splint for your leg."
Shikaku grabbed Inoichi's flak jacket with the little strength he had. His hand was shaking and it was getting harder to breathe. "Your compassion will get you killed."
"You're the one who caught a kunai with his face and has a broken leg," Inoichi pointed out, finally hefting Shikaku onto his back. "We're going. No more arguments." Chouza nodded in agreement, preparing to fight off the rest of the Iwa ninja while Inoichi and Shikaku got a safe distance away.
Shikaku's vision was dimming. "You're breaking the rules," he heard himself say.
"We're InoShikaChou. We make our own rules."
4. Tsubaki [Camellia]
"We have a problem," Inoichi threw open the door to the bar, storming in with his long hair and red haori jacket blazing behind him. Always the dramatics, Shikaku thought. "My daughter likes boys."
Chouza took a sip of sake, relieved, not for the first time, that he had a son. Ino was adorable, smart, and a delight to have around but being a father to a kunoichi came with a whole different set of rules. Difficult rules. Like boys. And seduction missions. And menstrual cycles. And boys."She's six, Inoichi."
"She thinks 'Sasuke-kun' is dreamy," he groaned and sat down next to his friends. "Can you believe it?" Inoichi buried his head in his arms. "She's not allowed to like boys until she's forty."
"How about we set up an arranged marriage with Chouji or Shikamaru?" Chouza joked.
"That's not funny," Inoichi ordered three bottles of sake and he wasn't sharing.
Shikaku scratched his stubbly chin. Drinking always made him feel philosophical. "Gone are the days of our youth, my friends. Now we have to worry about raising the kids right, keeping the wives happy, and paying the bills. Ah, and of course Inoichi has the extra worry of Ino-chan running off with some boy. Say, isn't Tsume's son in her class, too?"
Inoichi scowled. "I should have left you in that trench in Kusa."
"But you didn't and here I am," Shikaku said grandly.
"Here we are," Chouza corrected.
Here they were, Inoichi thought. Jounin. Respected throughout the village and maybe even across the ninja world. Legends in their own right. Now, they even had children to start a legend of their own.
"I'll drink to that."
And they did.