Chapter 6: "Plots, Secrets, and Choices"

    Sakura trapped her friend the only way she knew how. She lured him to the training field with promises of hot ramen.
    He showed up promptly at lunch time the day after the party, dropping from a tree and jogging over to where she was leaning against the post Naruto had once been tied to during their first training sessions with Kakashi. As promised, there were several large cups of ramen, and water boiling over a small fire. He greeted her enthusiastically and eagerly accepted the steaming bowl she handed him. As he noisily slurped at the snack, she watched him out of the corner of her eye.
    Once he was nearly finished, she cleared her throat to get his attention. "Naruto, did you have something you wanted to talk to me about?"
    "Huh?" Naruto glanced up at her in question, shoving his chopsticks into his mouth. "'Bout what?"
    "About..." Sakura shifted uneasily. "Well, about you and Sasuke. And last night in particular."
    Naruto hesitated, very carefully not looking at her. "What about Sasuke-bastard?"
    "Naruto, quit being difficult," Sakura said sharply. "I'm your friend too, you know. If you need to talk about it, I'll listen."
    Naruto was silent for a long time, stalling as he finished up the last of the noodles. "What brought up last night?" he finally asked cautiously.
    "The way you went running out of the house like your hair was on fire, for one," Sakura said slowly. "And why Shikamaru suddenly decided it would be a good idea to pick a fight with Sasuke and Neiji, for another."
    Naruto almost choked on the remnants of broth he was sipping. "Wh- Wha??"
    Sakura watched him carefully. "He followed you when you left the party. A little while later, he came storming back in, looking very, um disgruntled. I don't know what his problem was with Sasuke and Neiji, but whatever his reasons, I guess they weren't really expecting him to attack them like that."
    "Attack?" Naruto repeated incredulously.
    "Evidently he caught them with his shadow jutsu while they were in the living room. They just happened to be facing each other." She winced. "All he had to do was move his own fists, and they ended up hitting each other. Quite a lot. Until the jutsu wore off, actually."
    Naruto stared at her with his mouth hanging open.
    "I think they were going to beat the shit out of him, but we managed to break it up. Ino, Kiba, and I had to hold back Sasuke, while Neiji's team tried to calm him down. It wasn't pretty. The party ended pretty soon after that."
    "What the hell did he do that for?" Naruto blurted.
    Sakura propped an elbow on her knee and gave her friend a Look. "I was hoping you could tell me. Come on, Naruto. You know I'm not going to go spilling this like Ino would. Tell me what's going on. Maybe I can help."
    And in the end, Naruto realized, he did want to tell her. Shikamaru had been the one he'd ranted to over the last week, but now suddenly Shikamaru was a no-go zone.
    Because now the other boy was confusing him in a way he shouldn't.
    So he swallowed his pride with the rest of the ramen and went into rant mode.
    He told her about the coldness between himself and Sasuke; the nights alone, the stupid arguments, the cold shoulder routine, the lack of apparent interest on Sasuke's side. And how Shikamaru had seemed to know exactly what was going on, but had tried to convince Naruto to confront his lover about it rather than having to hear it from someone else. Which, he consented in hindsight, probably would have been a lot easier to swallow if he'd heard it from Sasuke rather than seen it on accident.
    He explained how he had come to understand his friend a bit better the more they'd hung out, and the other boy's somewhat scathing opinion of Sasuke. He told her about their stupid arguments, managed to tell her about the night the two of them had gotten drunk (without blushing too much), and then finally, he described what he'd seen at the party.
    Sakura had been listening attentively, her expression both sympathetic and thoughtful at the same time. She interrupted occassionally for clarification on something Shikamaru had done or said in particular conversations, which irritated and confused Naruto a bit. What Shikamaru had or hadn't said was not the point; he was trying to tell her how Sasuke-bastard and Neiji needed to be dragged through the streets naked by their ankles in penance.
    He'd picked up another cup of ramen halfway through his story, and by the time he was finished talking, the food was long gone and he was eyeing the third cup. Sakura pushed it absently out of reach, gazing off into space.
    Naruto squinted at her, scowling slightly. "What, don't tell me you're taking Sasuke-bastard's side in all this??" he demanded, misinterpreting her silence as indecision.
    "What-- No!" Sakura shook her head, sighing. "I really am sorry, Naruto... I never thought he'd do such a thing. Kakashi-sensei tried to warn us. He told us that Sasuke's heart had darkness in it. He's held onto his hatred for his brother for too long. I guess secretly I'd hoped you would help bring him back from that." Her eyes lowered, a deep sadness flickering across her face. "I tried a long time ago, and he didn't listen to me. He doesn't..." she blinked. "I thought you were different. I thought he actually cared about you."
    Naruto shifted uncomfortably.
    "But..." Sakura took a deep breath and glared up at him resolutely. "You don't do things like that to the person you care about. You and Sasuke are my teammates, Naruto, and my friends. But this one thing, I can't forgive him for." She waved a hand impatiently when Naruto looked ready to speak. "Never mind. I didn't ask you all this to find out about Sasuke. Well... yes, OK, I did want to know what was so weird between you two. But mostly I wanted to have some of the blanks filled in concerning Shikamaru."
    "Shikamaru?" Naruto's eyes were drifting towards the last of the ramen again. "What's he got to do with all this? I mean, yeah, he's been a great guy this week, but why are you so--"
    "Did you know he broke up with Ino?" she interrupted.
    Naruto blinked, focusing on her at last. His heart gave a strange thump that he decided to ignore. "Huh?"
    "Last night, right before the party," Sakura confirmed, watching him carefully.
    "You're freaking kidding me," Naruto said incredulously. "I figured she was perfect for him. The kinda girl that could, yanno, keep him in line. Kick his lazy ass into gear. Why the hell would he--"
    "He told her he'd liked someone else for a long time. And that now that he knew he still liked this person a lot."
    "Shikamaru? Like someone?" Naruto repeated, eyes wide. "Don't tell me you know about this, too? Damn, I'm really out of the loop here. That idiot didn't say anything to me about it! So who is it?"
    Sakura sighed, pushing her hair out of her face wearily. As usual, Naruto didn't latch onto the important bits. She would have to take him through this step by step, just as he had to go through training when learning a new jutsu.
    "That's what I was curious about, as well," she admitted. "That, and the fact that he broke up with her on her birthday..."
    "Damn. You're right. That's harsh."
    "Shut up and listen, damn it." She took a deep breath and explained her suspicions and theories from the previous night; how for him to have broken up with Ino on such a day, it must have meant that the person he liked was single, or would soon be single. And that something must have happened the day before the party.
    "But he was sick that day," Naruto interrupted in confusion. "The only people he saw all day were me and Ino!" His eyes widened.
    Sakura perked up hopefully. Maybe Naruto wasn't so dense after--
    "No way! Someone musta come over to his house before Ino got there!! I gotta find out who it was!"
    Sakura slammed her fist against the side of his head. "MORON!"
    Naruto flinched away from her, covering his head protectively. "OWW! Jeez, Sakura, what the hell was that for??"
    "Try to pay attention, lamebrain," Sakura snapped, waving her fist threateningly in his face. "That was the night you got drunk!"
    For a moment Naruto's face was a blank mask of confusion. Then slowly his face turned an interesting shade of red.
    "Yeah," Sakura nodded as realization dawned on her friend. "Your little drunken make-out session. The night before the party. The night before Shikamaru broke up with Ino because he 'realized he still likes that person--'"
    "Shut up!" Naruto jumped to his feet, fists clenched. "You're reading into this all wrong. You didn't see the look on his face when we both realized what I'd done--"
    "What you'd both done," Sakura corrected. "As the saying goes, 'it takes two'. And from the way you described it, he was pretty into it until--"
    "Until he realized it was ME!" Naruto shouted. "He looked like he was going to throw up. I can't believe he still even talks to me after--"
    "He had a stomach virus, Naruto!" Sakura interrupted hotly. "Saying 'he looked ready to throw up' doesn't help your argument. Also, of course he'd be in shock! So were you."
    "You're reading into all of this all wrong," Naruto growled, shaking his head stubbornly.
    "Look..." Sakura climbed to her feet. "The one who probably knows Shikamaru best of all is Chouji. After him is--"
    "YOU," Sakura snapped. "Ino has never understood Shikamaru as much as she thinks she does. It's why he confuses her so much, and why he doesn't talk to her. Cuz she doesn't get it. Shikamaru was one of the first people outside our team to become your friend. So you've known him awhile, and you've seen him fight. You've even been under his command before on a mission. What is Shikamaru's strongest point?"
    "Um... Planning?"
    "Right. We all saw in the Chuunin exams that he's capable of thinking dozens of steps ahead in a battle if he needs to. He doesn't do anything without a reason, without a plan."
    "So what?"
    "It's just... well, if he does that when he's fighting, who's to say he doesn't do that in everyday life when it suits him? Or if he thinks he really does have an opponent? Or rival, for this matter."
    Naruto just squinted at her.
    Sakura rolled her eyes heavenwards. Naruto could be surprisingly astute when it came to other people's feelings. But not when it came to how other people felt about him. That's because, she reminded herself with a twinge of guilt, most of his life he's had people look down on him. It's hard for him to imagine anyone really accepting him, or feeling anything other than scorn for him. "What if," she said slowly, peeking up at him, "he's been planning everything around you for the last week? With Sasuke as his 'opponent'."
    Naruto screwed up his face. "What're you talking about?"
    "Well... you said Shikamaru had strong suspicions that Sasuke was cheating on you. So he pressured you to talk to him about it, to figure out what was going on for yourself. Partly, I think, because he was sick of seeing you hurt. But also because he knew that when you found out, a break-up would be inevitable. So let's assume that he based his following actions off of the coming standoff between you and Sasuke." She held up her hand and began ticking off on her fingers. "He started out by warning you that Sasuke was a cold bastard, and that you should talk to him. After our mission a few days ago, you ran into him at the ramen shop. Naruto, everyone knows you go to the ramen shop at least three times a day. Especially after missions. There, you told him how Neiji had ambushed you on the road and then left to 'practice' with Sasuke. Which probably confirmed any suspicions he already had about the two. The next day you said you saw Sasuke at the ramen shop, and Shikamaru and Ino, too. I hate to break this to you, Naruto, but Shikamaru's not as big of a ramen fan as you are. He was probably there to try to talk to Sasuke, or maybe just act as referee when you inevitably came in. Which ended up being unnecessary, since as soon as you saw Sasuke, you booked it out of there. So instead Shikamaru went after you to try and warn you again, only a little more bluntly. He told you to dump him."
    Naruto fidgeted impatiently. "What's your point, Saku--"
    "Shut up and listen, I said." She took a deep breath, crossing her arms over her chest as she rifled through her memory, pulling out details from Naruto's story. "Then he proceeded to keep you distracted, since it was obvious you weren't going to talk to Sasuke, but hanging around him was just making you more upset. So, in a very un-Shikamaru-like way, he started training with you. Then there was the incident with you almost drowning, where he had to drag your ass out... and I don't think that really needs any explanation. Right beforehand, you said he was talking about why it was he was dating Ino in the first place. He doesn't want to date someone that needs to be protected all the time. And then another time, he told you his opinion on dating, which is... odd. He said you shouldn't date someone hoping they'll change; you should expect them to stay the way they are. You should take them as is."
    "So what?"
    "So," Sakura snapped, "why did he bother explaining his philosophy of dating to you when both of you were taken? You interrupt one more time, Naruto, and I swear..."
    He held up his hands defensively and fell into a sullen silence.
    "Whenever you brought up your relationship with Sasuke, he insisted that you didn't talk about your sex life," Sakura continued after eyeing him suspiciously. "Yet he was fine with you dating another guy, and listened to you talk about it, and tried to help you. Obviously it didn't bother him that you were with another guy, so he's not a homophobe. I don't think he asked for you to shut up about your sex life because he thought it was weird or gross. I think he just didn't want to hear about your sex life, period, because it bothered him to think about you doing that with someone. The same way you wouldn't want to hear about my, um.." She coughed delicately, blushing and looking away. "If I had one. Anyway, he said 'people don't really change when you get with them'. That sounded like... not really a warning, but..." She shrugged. "A hint?"
    Naruto opened his mouth, then thought better of it.
    "Then he forced you to focus on what was the real problem between you and Sasuke: the way he treated you. You didn't take it well, so he followed, but..." She narrowed her eyes. "You'd both been over the argument before, and usually when it got heated, you would get mad and storm off. He must have expected that reaction. So when you ran off, he followed you. And who did you run into?"
    "...Neiji and Sasuke-bastard," Naruto said grudgingly.
    A small smirk twitched at her lips. "I could be wrong," she admitted, "but Shikamaru tends to surprise people. I think he knew they were nearby, and he knew you'd run off and come across them. He wanted you to see that; he was hoping you'd start building your own suspicions about them. Luckily, he stepped in before you got violent. Then he tried to prevent something from happening in the future, and asked Sasuke about whether or not he'd be coming to the party. Sasuke said 'I doubt it'. That probably made Shikamaru unsure of where those two stood. He wasn't sure if they'd show up or not. You'd think Sasuke would just say 'no', but maybe he didn't because he didn't know whether or not Neiji would want to go. Shikamaru probably guessed what the outcome would be if they did make an appearance, though." She tapped her lip thoughtfully with a painted nail. "That's when he got sick. No one knew he was sick except for Ino. Who doesn't talk to you unless she has to. So you had to track him down. Ino told me that Shikamaru had called her over, which surprised the both of us. Only, he didn't call her over until close to dinner time, even though he knew she had to get ready for the party. He must have known you'd come looking for him, and she would immediately bully you into taking her place so she could go home and finish party preparations."
    Naruto tried to pay a little more attention to what was being said. He'd been zoning out through half of it; she was just repeating back to him what he'd been telling her, except with weird hints at conspiracty. "Must have known?" he echoed. "Wait a minute, are you saying--"
    "I think he wanted to be honest with you," Sakura said quietly. "I think he decided that day. He knew that if Sasuke and Neiji went to that party, there was a good chance that you'd find things out the hard way, and that a break-up would soon follow. He must have decided the day he got sick that he was going to try and be honest with you, and that he would have to break up with Ino the next day."
    "Wait," Naruto snapped uneasily. "You're not making any sense. Honest with me about what?? And what does that have to do with him breaking up with Ino?"
    "I think, though," Sakura continued pensively, as if he hadn't even spoken, "that he was too unsure of himself. He was jumpy all night when you got too close. So he decided to get you both loosened up enough so that he could be honest, and you would hopefully be honest as well. Kakashi-sensei always said alcohol loosens the tongue. But then you had to make it a competition, and you ended up drinking much more than you were supposed to. You two got into a fight, and he must have thought he'd messed up pretty bad. And then, well... you kissed him."
    Naruto flushed.
    "And," she continued pointedly, "he kissed you back."
    Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance, causing them both to glance upwards. Dark clouds were slowly rolling in, cooling the air.
    "Was just a reaction," Naruto muttered in response to her statement, glaring at a rock as if it had personally offended him. "Afterwards--"
    "Afterwards, he realized what he was doing," Sakura admitted.
    "He was horrified."
    "Of course he was. He probably felt like a dirtbag for 'taking advantage' of you while you were drunk and vulnerable."
    "HE was drunk," Naruto reminded her.
    "Was he?"
    Naruto blinked and peered at her in suspicion. "He was shitfaced," he said firmly. "You didn't see 'im. He--"
    "I don't think," Sakura said quietly, "he was as drunk as you think he was, Naruto. He probably just acted drunker than he was. Maybe so that if things went wrong and he said something you didn't want to hear, he could blame it on the sake later. I think he only allowed himself to get buzzed enough to be relaxed. Maybe that buzz is what made him pin you down in the first place. But after you two kissed, he must have realized why you kissed him in the first place. He was in a position similar to Sasuke's." She was blushing slightly at the thought. "You reacted as you would have if it had been Sasuke, um, over you. He probably couldn't resist the chance, and kissed you back. And then immediately felt like shit for doing it."
    Naruto was opening and closing his mouth like a dying fish. In the sky above, lightening flickered in the clouds, making them both flinch unconsciously.
    "When you kissed Shikamaru, did you, for even one second, think it was Sasuke? Were you drunk enough that you acted without thinking?"
    "I acted without thinking, yeah," Naruto grumbled. "I was drunk, for crissakes, and I hadn't been laid in awhile because Sasuke-bastard--"
    "...No." Naruto scowled some more at the rock. His voice was a barely audible mumble. "I knew it was Shikamaru. I just... didn't care."
    "You didn't care who it was?" Sakura demanded. "Do you mean that if it had been Kiba who'd been in that position, you would have done the same thing?"
    Naruto flinched, avoiding her gaze. ".....No."
    "Then why did you--" She stopped and took a slow breath. "Shikamaru probably thinks you would have kissed anyone at that time," she said softly. "That's why he feels like a dirtbag. And why you probably hurt his feelings without even meaning to."
    "I wasn't-- he--"
    "At the party, I thought it was strange that Shikamaru had chosen to stick around. Especially after breaking up with Ino. It occurred to me that whoever he liked must be coming to the party. I was starting to have my suspicions... which your story's just confirmed..." She gave a wry smile. "Seeing him lose his temper and use his jutsu to get Sasuke and Neiji to pummel each other was a nice fat hint, too. That, I don't think, was part of his plan. He lost his temper and got back at them for you."
    "Sakura," Naruto cut her off uneasily, "what the hell is the point to all of this? What the hell are you trying to say?"
    Sakura stared at him silently for a long moment. "You're not that stupid, Naruto," she muttered. "You know damn well what I'm trying to say. Now it's your turn to say something."
    "You said you're more angry than hurt about what Sasuke did to you. Shikamaru made you realize that. Which means you didn't have as much feeling invested in your 'relationship' as you thought you did. Maybe you did once, but that changed when you and Sasuke started drifting apart. He was telling you that Sasuke isn't the one you care about."
    "I know that," Naruto snapped, glaring at his fists. "I know that now..."
    "Then who do you care about, Naruto?" Sakura demanded quietly.
    Naruto finally lifted his gaze to stare at her in a mixture of frustration and helpless confusion. "I don't know," he managed to snarl. "It's-- complicated--"
    Sakura's eyes narrowed for a moment, then abruptly she shrugged and spun away. "Oh well. You'll figure it out eventually," she said lightly. It was getting darker as the clouds moved to cover the sky, lightening flashing in their depths in intervals. "Sorry, I just wanted to... clear some things up." She started to walk away then stopped, raising a finger to her chin as if remembering something. "Ah-- sou. I almost forgot. I saw Shikamaru at the ramen shop this morning. He was getting ready to head out on some mission. He said he'll be back in a few weeks."
    "A few weeks?" Naruto blurted in surprise.
    "Yeah, maybe a month. Escort duty. It'll take awhile to get there, and the guy he's escorting is wanted by Sound, so he said they're gonna have to be slow and careful if they hope to avoid any traps. Sounded pretty dangerous. Neiji was supposed to go with him, but for some reason he kicked Neiji off the team, so they're a man short. There's too many people out on missions now, so it's hard to find people for a team."
    "What??" Naruto looked up to check the time before remembering the clouds were covering the sun. "They're going on a high-class mission and no one wanted me to come??"
    Sakura rolled her eyes. "Team Seven has a mission already, doofus, remember? Next week. He won't be back by then. You can't go with him, you'd miss our mission."
    Naruto hesitated, eyes flicking around wildly.
    Sakura watched him for a moment expectantly, then checked an imaginary watch. "Well, I said bye for you. He left a little while ago. He'll be back in a month, and you two can hang out again. It's not a big deal. And when he gets back, you can tell him who it is you think you care about now, because I'm sure by then you'll have found someone--"
    "I don't need to 'find' someone!" Naruto snapped without thinking. He turned and took off running. "I mean-- I'm not missing a great mission like this! They need the great Uzumaki on their team! Take Neiji with you on our mission-- I'm sure Sasuke-bastard wouldn't argue with that."
    "They already left, Naruto," Sakura called after him. She was shouting at thin air. He'd already leapt into a tree and bounded away. Sakura felt a smile twitch at her lips as she gazed in the direction he'd gone. "Naruto, you idiot," she murmured. "Doing what you do best-- act, don't think."

cuz when i look around
i think this, this is good enough
and i try to laugh
at whatever life brings
when i look down
i just miss all the good stuff
when i look up
i just trip over things

    The rain was starting to fall in earnest as Shikamaru led his small team down the road away from Konoha Village. He wrinkled his nose as a raindrop landed on his cheek, glancing back to check the formation. It was a small party, and despite himself he felt a twinge of discomfort. This mission was going to be tough. If they ran into trouble on the way, he wasn't sure he had enough on his team to take care of it. While he had led Chouji and Kiba before, he'd never had Shino on his team before. And while he knew the boy to be skilled at his own jutsu, he had never fought beside the boy. He wasn't sure of all his strengths and weaknesses, and he wouldn't be able to work as effectively with him as he could with Chouji or...
    Best not to think about that.
    They were all skilled, but he would have preferred one more just in case. In hindsight, ordering Neiji off the team in a moment of anger had probably been a mistake. But, he conceded, with the animosity between them, working as teammates would have been difficult anyway. He would rather have the boy off his team than have to worry about whether Neiji would watch his back or not.
    The man under their protection seemed similarly uneasy. He clutched his bag to his chest, looking them all over nervously. Their youth didn't seem to ease his mind any. "Is this really enough?" he asked tremulously. "Aren't there others? Or... more experienced..."
    "All the jounin are on missions of their own," Shikamaru said firmly. "I trust my team to do its job. Just do what we tell you, and you'll be fine. Sound is after you, but they don't know who was hired to escort you; they won't know what road you'll be on or what direction you'll be taking. As long as we're careful--"
    Kiba reacted first, head jerking to the side as he sniffed the air. The rest of them were snatching their kunai from their pouches an instant before a wet, bedraggled form landed with a thump in the middle of the path, dropping from a tree. "You'll be fine, old man," the newcomer scoffed. He straightened, shaking rainwater out of his hair. "You've got the great Uzumaki Naruto watchin' your back!"
    Shikamaru lowered his kunai, staring at his friend in blank surprise. The others were holstering their weapons, grumbling.
    "Good grief, Naruto, are you tryin' to catch a weapon in the mouth?" Kiba grunted, but he was grinning a bit. "Looks like we got our five-man team after all. Don't scare me like that, Shikamaru. You coulda just said Naruto was running late. As always."
    "Shut up, mutt!" Naruto hollered, pointing at him. "You stink like a wet dog!"
    "What was that??"
    Shino realized Shikamaru still hadn't said anything, and turned to their befuddled employer. "It's another genin. He's stronger than he looks."
    "Apparently," Shikamaru agreed in a mutter, still staring at Naruto in wary confusion.
    Chouji glanced at him sharply, wondering if the other boy was even talking about Naruto's fighting ability.
    Naruto hesitated, gazing back at Shikamaru. He crooked a finger. "You got a minute?"
    Shikamaru started to shake his head, but Chouji stomped on his foot, cutting him off. He grinned at Naruto. He had always liked the brash boy. At least he was honest. And he didn't let other people get him down. He also appreciated the blonde's friendship with Shikamaru. "Yeah, we were just about to check our weapons anyway. That'll take a few minutes."
    "But we already--" Kiba started. Shino absently smacked him upside the head to silence him.
    Shikamaru nodded warily and followed Naruto into the trees.
    "I thought your team had a mission coming up," he pointed out once they'd left the others behind."
    Naruto had his back to him with his hands clasped behind his head. "Yeah, well, it sounded boring, and this one sounded loads more fun. Besides, I heard you were short one. Neiji was just bumming around doing nothing, so he's gonna take my place with Sakura and Sasuke-bastard."
    "I talked to Sakura ealier."
    Shikamaru hesitated uneasily.
    "Yanno, she's not the strongest on our team when it comes to most things. Except with controlling chakra. But she's always the first to see through things. Looking 'underneath the underneath'. She's always been able to see straight through illusions." He shrugged slightly. "I guess, as she got older, she learned how to see through other types of illusions as well."
    "You went by the ramen shop to say goodbye, didn't you?" Naruto asked without turning around.
    Shikamaru reached up to wipe rainwater from his face, struggling to think of something to say that wouldn't anger the other boy.
    Finally Naruto turned to face him, his face solemn. "You told me before," he said quietly, "that I was wrong to think Sasuke would change. That you shouldn't be with someone because you expect them to be different. That you should like them for who they are. I guess you were right. I knew Sasuke was a bastard from the minute I met him. I shouldn't have been stupid enough to let, um, lust cover that up." He looked away uneasily. "I guess I need to learn to see 'underneath the underneath', too. Sakura... she's been trying to help me with that."
    "Man, this mission's gonna be long," Naruto said abruptly, frowning with displeasure. "We so gotta get ramen when we get back."
    Shikamaru frowned, confused. "We can all have ramen when we get to where we're going--"
    "I meant," Naruto corrected, flushing slightly and avoiding his eyes. "You 'n' me."
    Shikamaru fell silent, sure he'd heard something wrong. A crack of thunder overhead made them both start slightly. He glanced over his shoulder. They needed to move out... but he felt as if he had to say something. Obviously Naruto wasn't angry at him. But no way was he... suggesting that...
    When he turned around again Naruto was right in his face. He jumped, startled. "Hey--"
    "You knew how this was going to end, didn't you?" Naruto muttered, studying his face almost thoughtfully.
    Shikamaru swallowed, forcing himself not to retreat. "..Not really," he admitted. "Just... hoped, I guess...."
    Naruto made a face. "Damn, man, that's pretty messed up. You were hoping Sasuke-bastard would fuck with my head like this? That I'd find out the hard way that what I got wasn't what I wanted?"
    "That's not what I--"
    Naruto laughed. "I'm joking, you--"
    Shikamaru was rarely impulsive; it went against his nature. But he decided if there was ever a time to take a chance, this was it. He leaned forward abruptly and pressed his mouth to Naruto's to silence him.
    Naruto was startled at first, but he didn't quite pull away. After a moment a hesitant hand landed on Shikamaru's shoulder. Shikamaru pulled back self-consciously.
    Naruto grinned up at him, hair plastered to his head with the rain. "This, though," he murmured, tugging at Shikamaru's shoulder to pull him back down again, "I'll take as is."
    Shikamaru's smile was wiped away by the mouth claiming his own, the hand on the back of his neck warming him even through the icey rain.

i've got no illusions about you
guess what
I never did
when I say
when I say i'll take it
I mean
I mean as is


Author's Notes: w00t I managed to keep this fic short XD;
I usually prefer Sasuke/Naruto, and Shika/Chouji/Shika is really cute, but I'd always had a certain interest in Shika/Naru, too. So I just had to do this fic ^_^
There are vague ideas floating in my head with these two... probably because the fic was so short. So who knows, maybe someday soon I'll do a sequel (with lemons mwahahaha).
But thank you for reading~ XD

Ch. 1
Ch. 2
Ch. 3
Ch. 4
Ch. 5
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