So, having rediscovered the Naruto fandom rather recently, I have been prowling around for some decent fics and have come to like the Shikamaru/Naruto pairing rather a lot. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of stories for this pairing, and the ones there are I have probably read about a dozen times.

So that in mind, I have decided to start a new project: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

Here is how it works. I did a Google images search on the phrases 'shikanaru' and 'narushika.' I saved the pictures that I liked and got an inspiration for a story for. Now, with no context for the picture (no idea if the artist drew it for a specific reason or not) I will write a story using that image as inspiration. For those that had titles attached, I will try to use the title of the picture as the title of the story. For those that didn't, for whatever reason, I have created my own title. These will all be one shots and are only connected if I explicitly say that they are. There made be some sequels but for the most part these are stand alone. The story must be at a minimum: 1,000 words.

I don't know how many of these I will do, or how quickly I will manage new ones, but I have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of what little there is to this fanfiction fandom and I would like to contribute back in whatever way that I can.

So let it begin:

Disclaimer: Neither the characters nor the artwork are mine. This is purely a fan work and I am making no money off of the use of any material.

Note: Given the appearance of the picture, this is taking place during the time in the anime between Sasuke's running off and Naruto's going off to train.

Image to be found here:

nooneym. deviantart. (com/) art/ An-effort-made-331651418

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Story One

An Effort Made

Shikamaru knew that he wasn't the most expressive guy in the world. Honestly, it was just too much effort. To go out of his way to do some additional task on top of his already considerable responsibilities, which had only increased after he had been made Chuunin ahead of everyone else in his class. Now he was expected to lead missions and the responsibility of the outcomes of those missions, as well as the lives of the ninja's with him – quite often his friends – were quite a lot to be placed on a boy's shoulders.

Then he had gone as voluntarily placed another responsibility there – one he would never have seen himself taking on even a year before.

After the failure of his first mission as a Chuunin to rescue Sasuke back from the grip of Orochimaru's thugs, Shikamaru had started spending a lot of time with Naruto. He wanted to understand how the cheerful boy could stay so damn cheerful in the face of everything. Because Shikamaru was having a hard time coming to terms with the outcome of that mission, and of having to be rescued (by a girl no less) and seeing at all how he would be a good Chuunin if every member of his team came back so gravely injured, two very near death, and one who would have been if he hadn't been, well, Naruto.

So he had tagged along to Naruto's training sessions, sometimes sparring with the blond, sometimes just watching, analyzing from the sidelines when Naruto thought that the Nara was doing nothing more than watching the clouds drift by. Over that first month he learned more about Naruto than he had in all the years that they had spent together in school.

He learned that Naruto was always out training until he dropped because the boy didn't want to go home to his empty apartment, always putting off the end of his day until well after sunset, not leaving to head home until the last possible second, always looking back over his shoulder after he finally did in hopes that he would be called back.

He hated being alone.

He learned that Naruto was bright and cheery by choice. The boy got up in the morning determined to be optimistic. It was the only way he had survived his childhood in the village as a child outcast.

He learned that Naruto could be serious. When an exasperated Shikamaru demanded to know why Naruto had nothing in his apartment to eat but ramen and junky snack food, Naruto surprised him.

"How much cooking do you know how to do?" He had asked Shikamaru, with a curious expression on his face.

"Well..." Shikamaru had paused, "Not very much, my mom does the cooking at home...and we eat the ration stores on missions."

The corner of the blonde's mouth had ticked up in the saddest imitation of a smile that Shikamaru had ever seen. "When I was five I was brought to this apartment and told I would be living here by myself. If I was old enough to attend the academy, I was old enough to 'stop burdening the orphanage.'" Naruto said softly, complete with finger air quotes. "The council member who dropped me off, showed me how to make instant ramen." Naruto paused for a minute, a finger momentarily tapping the top of a case of instant ramen stacked next to the fridge, not even unpacked into the cabinets that were already stuffing with varying flavors of the stuff. "That was the first and only time anyone ever taught me how to cook something."

Shikamaru had gone home that night and immediately asked his mother to start to teach him how to cook. The initiative has so shocked his mother that she was convinced for a week that he was in fact not Shikamaru, but rather someone else, possibly Chouji, under a henge as a prank and demanded that his father take care of him and track down their real son.

When it was still practically impossible to wake him from slumber every morning, and shogi still occupied massive allotments of his time, in addition to continually trouncing Asuma at the game, his mother finally believed that she was truly dealing with her own son and decided to take advantage of it while she could and made Shikamaru spent two hours every day in the kitchen learning different dishes.

But frankly – he sucked at it. It was only the timely interference of his mother that rendered most of what he cooked anywhere near edible.

The lessons continued, as did his observations of Naruto.

But the more that he learned about the boy, the more intrigued he was. That seemed wrong to Shikamaru. The more you learn about something, the less there is to find out. But with Naruto it was like reading a book that grew two pages for every one that he read. But he kept on trying, spending more and more time with the boy, growing closer and more comfortable.

So it really shouldn't have surprised the genius as much as it did.

It really, really shouldn't have.

But it did.

It really, really did.

The pair were sparring in an otherwise unoccupied training ground. Naruto was dodging around, trying to evade Shikamaru's shadow when the blonde seemed to just give up tactics. That was the amazing thing about fighting Naruto – it forced Naruto to include possibilities that he would otherwise discount in normal scenarios because Shikamaru's ordered mind wouldn't believe others would behave in such a reckless fashion. But that was a lesson that he was still working on with himself, because here Naruto went and did it. Charged right in, regardless of consequences and doing what Shikamaru had not quite prepared for: a physical assault.

Naruto bowled right into him, sending them both rolling, but Naruto was in control and forced the roll to end with himself on top, pushing Shikamaru into the soft bed of dirt just inside the tree line at the edge of the training grounds.

That's when it happened.

Shikamaru felt it. The quickening of his heart beat, the catch in his throat, a slight tightness in his pants that could become very embarrassing and the sudden, overwhelming need to push up on his elbows and lay his lips against the blondes.

And taking a leaf out of Naruto's book, he did exactly that, the complete unexpected, laying his lips against Naruto's slightly chapped ones. It only lasted a second. Then he pulled back and returned his head to the forest floor, watching Naruto intently for the other boy's reaction.

Which was to stare.

He just stared at Shikamaru for a long moment, his fingers loosening their hold on the shadow ninja's wrists until they were finally freed, Naruto splaying his fingers on the ground next to Shikamaru's hands, still straddling his friend, still staring.

Shikamaru didn't think he'd ever heard Naruto be this quiet for this long – and frankly it was scary.

"Naruto...?" He whispered, finally unable to take it anymore.

"Uh..." Naruto jumped to his feet, carefully stepping away so that the Nara was no longer stuck between his legs, "I' to go..."

The blonde shook his head and wandered off slowly.

Shikamaru sat up and watch stuck by the sudden empty sensation in his chest, like he had lost something greatly cherished. Now he'd done it...

"Shikamaru...!" Naruto called, just loud enough to be heard from Shikamaru's position. "I'll see you tomorrow..." he said, a baffled expression on his face, still trying to sort out just what had happened.

But Shikamaru felt immensely better. Because his moment of irrationality hadn't scared Naruto off completely.

But was it irrational? Truly? Because now that he had done it, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Shikamaru didn't like lying to himself – it was too much effort. As he walked home that night, heading to his next cooking lesson with his mother, he went over his relationship with Naruto in his head. It had all the markings of a crush: wanting to spend time with them, taking note of even the small things that they did, and changing your own actions to be more in tune with theirs.

Yup. It was undeniable: he liked Naruto – and he had made the first move, before he had even been fully aware of his own feelings.

The next day, he approached the usual training ground with trepidation. Would Naruto be there? Would things be the same? Would they be different? Shikamaru had run through all the possibilities, however improbable in his head last night. Now it was time to see what the outcome would actually be.

As the field came into view, he saw Naruto sitting against a tree, eyes closed and soaking in the sunlight. It was almost like he was recharging, gaining energy from the very light that helped Shikamaru cast his shadows.

He walked quietly up, murmuring a hey and sitting down as Naruto flashed a lazy smile, cracking one eye and softly calling back, "Hey."

Shikamaru sat stiffly, not knowing what came next. It was awkward. Is this what it felt like to be like everyone else? He wondered. Not knowing what would be coming next, without even an inkling of an idea? Because he didn't like it. It sucked.

His mental meanderings were brought to a shuddering halt when he felt a cautious hand settle atop his own on the grass.

Naruto's eyes were still closed, but a massive blush covered his cheeks and Shikamaru noted the tenseness of the boy's muscles. Smiling to himself, he gently linked their fingers and let his own eyes slip shut, enjoying the warmth for a moment.

That was the beginning for them.

The thing was, they had been doing things together for so long, that it wasn't much of a change now to be seeing each other. No one else even guessed that anything else was going on.

Given Shikamaru's lack of public displays of any kind, it's just not the kind of person he is, their escalated relationship was relegated to holding hands in private, cuddling in Naruto's apartment and stolen kisses.

But Shikamaru saw Naruto's eyes wander. Saw the look that his blonde gave to other couples that they saw in Konoha. He saw the look aimed at clasped hands as a couple walked down the street and knew that Naruto wondered about a day that they might finally do that.

Shikamaru knew that he was going to have to start making something more of an effort than he was now.

He still wasn't willing to do PDA...he wanted what was between him and Naruto to remain between him and Naruto, why did he had to show the world? The only person that mattered was Naruto, but he could make more of an effort.

It had been three months since they had begun this stage of their relationship and Shikamaru had decided to do something to mark it. As opposed to all of the traditional meals that his mother had been teaching him, he asked her to teach something different.

With a surprised eye, she decided to go along with it, even if it was a food that Shikamaru didn't particularly like himself.

So in the middle of the night, he slipped out of the bed he and Naruto were sharing (apparently his mother did not think it was at all odd to still be doing sleepovers as a Chuunin) and ran out over the rooftop to where he had stashed his present earlier, before knocking on Naruto's door. Slipping back into the silent apartment he saw that Naruto was still sleeping soundly, on his side facing the window.

Shikamaru breathed a sigh of relief and busied himself getting the presentation ready, as simple as it was. With everything set, he silently walked around the bed and watched the clock tick over to midnight. He placed a hand on Naruto's shoulder and gently shook the other boy awake.

Blue eyes blinked into wakefulness as he saw the small light being produced from the candle in front of him. A candle placed inside of a cupcake. Slowly the blonde pushed himself up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

He took the proffered cupcake but stared at its giver. "Shikamaru...?"

Shikamaru nervously scratched at the side of his neck, glancing away as his nerves killed the smile that he attempted to form on his face.

This is not how he had predicted it would go. His own body was retaliating against him.

"Happy Anniversary..." he whispered finally, blushing fully to the roots of his hair.

Naruto snorted, but was quickly down on his knees in front of the squatting Shikamaru and holding the lit treat safely away, had pulled Shikamaru into a one-armed hug.

"Thank you." He said simply, and Shikamaru warmed all over, his blush getting even deeper as an immense sense of pride seemed to wash over him that he had done the right thing. That he had made Naruto happy.

Pulling back Naruto held the treat between them. "Do you wish on anniversary candles?"

Shikamaru stopped for a minute, "I have no idea..."

Naruto smiled, "Well, we'll wish on ours!"

He grabbed Shikamaru's right hand in his free left one. "Make a wish!"

The two blew out their candle together.

After eating the cupcake, which was surprisingly good, the pair cuddling back under the sheets. As they started to slip away, Naruto asked quietly, "What did you wish for?"

Shikamaru smiled, kissing the forehead that lay just in front of his face, "For you to be happy."

Naruto snorted again, "I wished for you to be."

Shikamaru laughed lightly, wrapping an arm around his blonde, "Then we will be together."

Moments later the two boys slipped into dreams, contented smiles on their faces.

And Shikamaru learned that sometimes going through a little extra effort was totally worth it.

The End

So – please tell me what you think. If I should continue with this project, or if you have any images that you would like me to attempt a story for. I'm just doing Shikamaru/Naruto though. If you would like to take this idea for another couple, feel free.