Chapter 5: "The Ugly Truth"

    Sakura had to wait almost an hour before she could get a moment alone with her friend. There were a surprising amount of people at the party; the house was packed, with cups of punch and party hats strewn everywhere. The music was just loud enough to irritate the neighbors, and someone had evidently spiked the drinks at one point, because several of the guests were acting ridiculous.
    "Happy birthday, Ino," Sakura shouted above the music and chattering, holding out her gift.
    "Oh-- thanks!" Ino took the present, grinning. "It's not a pipe bomb, is it?"
    "Har har." Sakura looked around, puzzled. "Where's Shikamaru? I figured he'd be trailing around after you or passed out in a corner."
    Ino's face fell. Sakura, sensing she'd said something wrong, tugged her old friend into the kitchen doorway, where they had a bit more privacy. She studied the other girl's flushed face and wet eyes with mounting trepidition. Her expression was twisted into something hovering between hurt and anger. "Ino..." Sakura grasped her friend's shoulders encouragingly. "Ino, what's wrong? You look like you're about to cry."
    "I'm not!" Ino snapped, shrugging out of her grasp to wipe hastily at her eyes. "It's just... STUPID SHIKAMARU!" She sniffed loudly.
    "He isn't coming??"
    "Oh, he came all right," Ino muttered angrily. "Too late to help with the decorating, of course. But he.. he..." She shook her head fiercely. "The bastard broke up with me! On my birthday!!"
    Sakura's jaw dropped. "What??" It was not the news she'd been expecting. That Shikamaru had ditched the party early or had forgotten to come at all, yes. But while the relationship between himself and Ino had always been a bit strange, she'd assumed it was simply Shikamaru's character. She had never imagined that there was really anything wrong between them. "Wha... Did he say WHY?"
    Ino hiccuped, face crumpled in enraged embarrassment. "He told me... he told me he was sorry, but he couldn't do it anymore.... That he'd liked someone else for a long time, long before we even started dating...." She sniffed loudly in a brave attempt to keep her tears back. "He said he didn't want to hurt my feelings, so... he went along with it, but... Well, he says he knows he likes this person definitely, so it's not fair for either of us if we keep dating."
    Sakura closed her mouth with a click of teeth. Shikamaru, like someone else?? She looked around a bit wildly. Had she fallen asleep on the couch? Because this was sounding more and more like some bizarre dream. "But... but he's Shikamaru," she blurted. "No offense, but he barely acted as if he liked you; it's hard to imagine him having had a crush on someone. Especially for so long." She winced. "Um-- sorry. That came out kind of, um..." She reached out and clasped her friend's hand encouragingly. "Ino, I really am sorry," she said quietly.
    Ino took a slow, deep breath, and her expression smoothed out a bit. "You know, I think I'm more upset because it caught me by surprise... and because I did like the lazy little bastard somewhat. But you know..." her mouth quirked in a sour little smile. "I think a part of me knew this was going to happen one day. I just didn't want to think about it." She shrugged slightly. "You're right. He never acted like he liked me very much. Even when we were dating it was more like we were just... friends."
    "Oh, I'm still mad at the little prick, don't get me wrong," Ino growled. "No one dumps me, dammit. But..." She blew out a long sigh. "I'll get over it eventually. Besides.." she smirked, "Sasuke-kun's still available, right?"
    Sakura winced. "Um..." She decided it would be best to ignore that. "So, I'm assuming you kicked him out? Shikamaru, I mean?"
    "Nah." Ino scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. "What's the point? As angry as I am at him right now, he is my team mate. And he did actually remember to get me a present. I figure he's just going to wander off eventually anyway, if he doesn't doze off somewhere first. It's not like I'll have to talk to him." She drew herself up, straightening her dress. "Forget that loser," she huffed. "I'm going to go talk with Sasuke-kun."
    Sakura blinked, startled. "You mean he actually came?"
    "Unlike that idiot Uzumaki," Ino sniffed.
    "Oh-- I was just looking for him." Sakura glanced around. "I was so sure he would be here already. He seemed pretty excited about it. Fashionably late, I guess."
    "Uh huh," Ino said absently, already craning her neck in search of Sasuke. "Hope you've already said hi to Sasuke, because I'm going to keep his attention for the rest of the party."
    Sakura rolled her eyes. "Have fun with that," she said drolly.
    Ino started to move, then hesitated, not quite looking at the other girl. "Um... thanks," she muttered. "For..."
    Sakura smiled. "Being a friend?"
    Ino snorted quietly and disappeared into the crowd of laughing, shouting revelers. Sakura leaned back against the doorjamb, sighing under her breath. Well, this was certainly a surprise. While she had been aware of the tension in their relationship, she had just assumed Shikamaru would find a break-up too much of a hassle. And for him to say he already liked someone else... She frowned pensively. Never had she seen the other boy so much as look at anyone with interest. His mask of lazy indifference towards life in general had never shifted into anything other than annoyance when around most of the people his age. He seemed most animated with Naruto-- but that was just because he let more of his impatience come out when the two of them argued. But Ino was the only girl Shikamaru had hung out with on a regular basis. She was as baffled as her friend. Could he have lied? He was difficult to figure out. Sometimes assuming he was too lazy or uncaring to bother with a lie was a correct expectancy, but then again, he was much much smarter than most gave him credit for. His ability to look ahead and stategize was greater than anyone else's his age in the village. Even Naruto, who had surprised everyone several times with his habit of moving a step or two ahead of opponents in fights, was trumped by the other boy. Where for Naruto it was almost second nature to jump a few steps ahead in a fight, Shikamaru could plot things out until he was so many steps ahead in a fight it was as if he was a goddamned precognitive. The same appliance of will and calm concentration he applied to his games of shogi were easy for him to use in battle. So what was to say he didn't occassionally use this method of thinking ahead in everyday life? His excuse for the break-up could have been honest, but it could have also been a carefully thought-out fib to ensure a breakup, keep Ino away from him, and explain his indifference towards their relationship.
    But why bother? No... if he had a reason for such a lie, Sakura couldn't think of one. There was a good possibility he was telling the truth. But the thing that made it so unbelievable was the simple fact that he had never shown any interest in anyone before. Which meant if he had liked someone, the object of his affection was most likely clueless. Which might explain why he had even bothered to date Ino in the first place.
    Sakura's head was beginning to hurt a bit, but she shut out the noise around her and frowned in concentration. She had always been one to question things, to seek out knowledge and answers. She did not like leaving puzzles unsolved. And she felt instinctively that she was close to an answer, if only she could get a few missing pieces. Pieces that only Shikamaru had.
    Think, Sakura, she ordered herself firmly. All right... theoretically, Shikamaru had liked someone for a long time. But being Shikamaru, he hadn't even bothered to let his feelings be known. Ino had bullied him into a relationship, which he had entered... why? Because he'd grown tired of her nagging? But why not turn her down? If he was willing to be in a relationship at all, wouldn't he have made some attempt to capture the attention of whoever it was he liked? The only reason to date someone other than the person you liked would be...
    Sakura drew in a quick breath of sudden comprehension.
    Unless... He had started dating Ino because the girl he really liked was already in a relationship? Being Shikamaru, he would have instantly given up. He was not the type to bother fighting for something, regardless of personal interest. While he would put his time and even his life on the line to help his friends, when it came down to what he wanted for himself, he usually couldn't be bothered. If the mystery girl had ended up dating someone else, then that would explain his sudden agreement to date Ino.
    But for him to break up with her today... it would be cruel, coming from anyone else. But no, Shikamaru didn't go out of his way to hurt people. That wasn't like him. It wasn't because it was Ino's birthday.... It was because her birthday just happened to be today. Meaning...
    Something happened yesterday.
    Something with the mystery girl finally forced him to make a decision, drew him enough out of his nonchalant "don't give a shit" attitude. Either something had happened to give him the impression that the girl might like him back, or he had decided it was simply too much of a hassle and a cruelty to keep dating Ino when his feelings for the other girl were obviously still strong.
    Sakura pushed herself out of the doorway and began slipping through the crowded room, looking around for a familiar messy head of dark hair. Shikamaru had stuck around. That was unlike him. Parties were an annoyance for him, and now that he had broken up with Ino, he had no obligation to stay. He would stay because... because the mystery girl was also invited? Something in the back of Sakura's mind was bright with certainty. She felt as if the answer was just out of her grasp-- as if intuitively she knew who it was, as if she had unconsciously watched this whole act play out right in front of her without quite realizing what was going on. She couldn't explain her sudden urgency to find the answer, to confront him. But that small instinctive part of her seemed to think it was important that she did so. Because...
    Because she knew who it was. Because the person Shikamaru liked was close to her. The only one he could possibly like, if you assumed he had been carefully setting his pieces out, making his moves deliberately for the past few days...... That only left....

    Naruto perked up as he entered the crowded house. This was just what he needed to get his mind off of things. He had spent a good part of last night and the morning wracked with guilt and questions-- questions he didn't really want to dwell on right now. After all, he was with Sasuke. He was still trying to work things out between them. What he had done while drunk had been unexusable. He was hoping that Shikamaru was just laid-back enough to eventually forgive him, but at least tonight he wouldn't have to worry about that. Even if Shikamaru had bothered to show up for the party, there was no way he would have stayed for long. So Naruto had deliberately showed up late. By now, Shikamaru should be long gone. He was probably already sprawled out in a field somewhere, lazily star-gazing or fast asleep. Now Naruto could enjoy himself. He might even have a chance to make things all right with Sasuke, if the dumbass had even deigned the party worthy of his time. Hell, he had probably come just to get Ino to shut the hell up about it.
    He made his way over to the snack table and snagged a cup of punch, stuffing a fistful of popcorn into his mouth. His mood was already improving. No one was staring at him, or muttering about his appearance. He had been invited. He had every right to be here. He was accepted in this small way, and it made him glow a bit inside. Still munching happily, he began wandering around, looking for his friends as he washed the kernels down with gulps of the punch. It had a strange aftertaste, but then, after seeing Ino's destruction of Shikamaru's kitchen, he wasn't surprised.
    It wasn't until he noticed random people making out in corners and the dopey grins on a lot of faces that he noticed the slight buzz he was feeling himself. He made a face at the empty cup in his hand. Spiked. Go fucking figure. He tossed the cup into the nearest trashbin in disgust. He never wanted to touch alcohol again. Not after last night. He was still thirsty after the popcorn, however, so he began to pick his way towards the kitchen, stopping occasionally to talk with those he recognized. He got into a mock-scuffle with Kiba, who seemed to be leaning on Shino quite a bit for support (damned punch), while the insect boy withstood it stoically. He stopped to tease Lee, say hi to a flustered Hinata and hand over his hastily-wrapped gift to a distracted Ino, who mentioned having seen Sasuke head upstairs, and finally made it to the kitchen.
    He was raiding the fridge for something to drink when he became aware of the figure slumped in a chair at the table, dozing.
    Naruto froze with a carton of milk halfway to his mouth, eyes glued to the other boy. Shikamaru. Shiiiit. He took a hasty gulp of the milk and put it away quickly. The other boy was still asleep; he hadn't noticed Naruto yet. What the hell was he still doing here, anyway?? Naruto had naturally assumed that Shikamaru would have only made a brief appearance before wandering off again. He turned to sneak back to the party, but Shikamaru's voice, muffled from where his face was buried in his folded arms, stopped him in his tracks.
    "I'm not mad at you, you know, so you can quit tip-toeing around me like I'm going to explode any second."
    Naruto hesitated, glancing back at his friend. He was flushed and uncomfortable, and unsure of what to say, so he went with the obvious. "Um, I'm sorry about--"
    "I said I'm not mad, didn't I?" Shikamaru finally lifted his head, looking half-asleep and a bit impatient. "You were trashed. You obviously didn't mean anything. You were so drunk you thought I was Sasuke, right?"
    Naruto recognized the chance to get out of the whole mess somewhat graciously, but his mouth overrode his brain, as always. "I did not!" he blurted. His face heated up in sudden humiliation at the admittance.
    Shikamaru's expression didn't change, though his eyes became more sharply focused. "What?"
    "I didn't-- I mean, I wasn't expecting--" Naruto floundered, unsure of how to dig himself out of the pit he'd created for himself, but at the same time unwilling to let Shikamaru believe a lie, despite the fact that the truth could make things tense between them. "I knew it wasn't Sasuke-- I mean, I knew it was you," he stammered. "But I didn't mean to, um... I mean, I was drunk, and what'd you expect, with.. with youontopofme," he finished in an embarrassed rush.
    Shikamaru blinked slowly, but wasn't able to completely mask the flash of surprise. "If you knew damn well it was me, then why--"
    "I don't know," Naruto interrupted hastily, face burning. "I was drunk, all right?? Look, can we not talk about this? As long as you're not mad at me or weirded out, it's good. I just want things to be normal again. So can we... just not talk about this again? Ever?" Shikamaru's silent stare finally broke his nerve, and he turned on his heel and fled with a hasty, "I'm gonna find Sasuke."
    Shikamaru stood up quickly. "Wait--"
    Naruto ducked his head to hide his furious blush as he pushed his way through the crowd. Shit shit shit shit. He'd thought that tonight he'd be able to just have fun and relax without having to think about last night at all. Not only had it been embarrassing, but...
    Why? The question had been bouncing around his brain all day. He'd been drunk, yeah, but he'd known exactly whose mouth it was he'd been exploring with so much enthusiasm. He'd known full well that it was Shikamaru, even when he'd...
    "Damn it," Naruto growled, pounding up the stairs and brushing past those few guests who were leaning over the banister, talking with friends below. The more he asked himself these complicated questions, and the more he thought about that night, the harder it became for him to ignore the answers his mind was trying to provide him with. He needed to talk to Sasuke, needed to clear the air between them and make last night's incident nothing but an embarrassing memory.
    Naruto rapped on the bathroom door impatiently. Ino had said she'd seen Sasuke head upstairs, and unless the retard had decided to take a quick nap, the bathroom was the only other option he could think of.
    "Just a minute," a girl's voice called from behind the locked door.
    Naruto hesitated, a little disappointed. Not Sasuke, then. Had he already headed downstairs and Naruto had missed him while he was in the kitchen talking with Shikamaru? Damn, what if he'd left the party already??
    He was turning to head back downstairs when what sounded suspiciously like a muffled groan caught his ear. He froze with one foot on the top step, straining his ears while his hand tightened unconsciously on the railing.
    He knew that voice.
    There was only silence, and he let out a shaky breath, berating himself. He was hearing things. He was thinking about last night and Sasuke and his mind was playing tricks on him...
    A sharp gasp from behind a closed door had him turning on his heel and stalking down the hall before he could stop himself. His heart was hammering in his chest, and a dark suspicion was gnawing at his stomach, even as he told himself fiercely that he was just hearing things, that even if he had heard something, surely it was just one of the girls who had dragged her boyfriend upstairs for a bit of fun...
    Ino's bedroom door was opened just a crack, not quite enough to see through. Naruto's first thought was to be cautious, to just take a peek. But the crack was too small to see properly through. Carefully, using all his stealth as a ninja, he pushed the door open a few more inches. It didn't matter; the occupants of the bed were far too caught up in each other to notice.
    They were half undressed already, moving against each other in the rough impatient desperation borne by hormones. Harsh pants accented with the occassional grunt or throaty groan, scarred bodies shoving against each other in a struggle for dominance, fingers clumsy with eagerness yanking at belts and buttons.
    Naruto couldn't stop the high-pitched noise of horror and pain that rose in his throat like a wounded dog. Immediately all movement on the bed came to a screeching halt, as two startled flushed faces swung his way.
    Sasuke took in a shuddering breath, the fog of lust clearing from his eyes a bit in sudden comprehension. "Naru--"
    He didn't want to hear it. He'd seen enough. He turned and dashed down the hall, vision blurred by stinging tears of humiliation and rage.
    He collided painfully with someone hurrying up the stairs, but recovered quickly. He shoved the startled person aside with a snarl of impatience, but a sudden hard grip on his elbow jerked him up short.
    Naruto blinked hard, trying to focus on the worried face of the boy who had stopped him.
    In the next instant he recognized the guilt on his friend's face, and a new flash of anger went through him. Naruto yanked his arm away in a violent motion. "You knew," he managed to rasp. Without waiting for a response, he spun away and pounded down the stairs.
    Shikamaru hesitated, glancing back down the hallway. The bedroom door swung open and Sasuke stepped into the hallway, sans shirt, belt loosened and hair in total disarray. He was still struggling to control his breathing. "Naruto!" he shouted with a tinge of impatience. Neiji appeared in the doorway behind him, calmly brushing stray hairs from his flushed face. He was down to his boxers, and looked vaguely annoyed at the interruption, but in no way guilty.
    Shikamaru gritted his teeth, clenching his fists in an attempt to keep himself from flying at either one of them. "I'll talk to him," he managed to growl through his teeth. "Just stay the hell away from him, Uchiha. I'm not stoppin' him if he tears you apart."
    Sasuke's eyes narrowed, but Shikamaru ignored him, hurrying down the stairs to catch up with his friend.

just give up
and admit you're an asshole
you would be
in some good company
i think you'd find
that your friends would forgive you
or maybe i
am just speaking for me

    Naruto ran straight through the house, ignoring the angry shouts as he shoved or elbowed people out of his way. A few turned to start a fight, but he didn't stop, he just kept moving, his head pounding and his breathing fast.
    He burst out the front door and took off running down the street. He didn't think about where he was going, or even stop to think straight. Anger and humiliation and pain throbbed in his veins with each step he took.
    STUPID!! he raged at himself internally. Sasuke had been avoiding him, treating him coldly, and had stopped sleeping with him. He would disappear for hours... How damned STUPID could someone be? The signs had been there all along. Any girl who'd seen similar changes in behavior in her own boyfriend would have instantly begun to suspect foul play. But he'd been too goddamned focused on the invisible problem between the two of them, that he hadn't stopped to think that it had nothing to do with the fact that Sasuke could be a jerk. This was beyond jerk. This was...
    "STUPID!!" Naruto howled at the sky, unsure who he was referring to.
    He stopped, panting for breath and looking around to see where he'd ended up, limbs shaking with the urge to commit violence.
    He was in the woods, not far from the place he and Shikamaru fished at. He took a few deep breaths, struggling to get himself under control. Already he could feel it-- that stirring of power and pent-up hatred inside of him. The Fox had always shown itself in moments of extreme emotion, more so as he got older. But now was not the time to let it control him. He wasn't going to let the Fox take control so he could rip Sasuke to little bloody shreds over this. No matter how tempting the idea might be.
    "Training," he spat, glaring at his feet and biting his lip fiercely. "Just 'training' with Neiji, huh, Sasuke-bastard? You... you.... SUPER IDIOT!!"
    "Geez, keep it down, will you? You'll have every shinobi in the village running out here to see what the hell the big deal's all about if you keep this up."
    Naruto jerked his head up as Shikamaru came jogging up, puffing a little from his race to catch up. He felt his eyes narrow, fists tightening by his sides at this new opportunity to vent his spleen. "You knew," he accused. "You knew, didn't you? It's why you kept dropping those cryptic fucking hints about Sasuke, and how I should just break up with him. You knew what was going up upstairs, so you came up to stop me. You KNEW all this time! You helped them hide it from me!" Something angry and powerful in him snapped free as his temper rose to a furious level, and Shikamaru winced, arms jerking up instinctively at the sudden outburst of chakra from his friend. Naruto barely noticed, still struggling not to leap for the other boy. "What kind of friend are you?? You're a damned liar!"
    "I wasn't 'helping' them!" Shikamaru shouted, forced to fall back a cautious step as another wave of dark chakra rippled outwards from Naruto's stiff form, making his skin prickle and the hairs on his arms stand up. "I wasn't even 100% sure what was going on--"
    "Bullshit!" Naruto cut him off furiously. "You're Shikamaru, you're always ten steps ahead of everyone. You KNEW."
    Shikamaru winced. "I had no proof," he allowed. "I never even caught them in the act; they were very careful. But yes, I was pretty sure that's what was going on."
    "And you hid it from me."
    "It wasn't any of my business," Shikamaru started hotly.
    Naruto sneered. "Right-- Shikamaru the lazy half-ass ninja who can't be bothered to do anything."
    "It was YOUR problem, not mine," Shikamaru snapped. "I know that sounds fucked up, but that's just the way it is. What went on between me and Ino was our business-- no one else's. Your problems were for you and Sasuke to work out. I tried to help you out. I told you to talk to him, to break up with him, to do something. But you wouldn't. You were so sure he was just in one of his moody bastard phases that all you did was get angry and bitch about it."
    "You should have told me!" Naruto shouted.
    Shikamaru leapt back to a safe distance as his friend's chakra level spiked alarmingly. "Damn it, you monkey-idiot! Calm down! It wasn't my fucking business, and besides, even if I'd told you, you never would have believed me. Not without proof-- proof I didn't have."
    Naruto hesitated, breathing harshly. He realized belatedly that he was clenching and unclenching his fists. His nails seemed just slightly longer than normal. The sight helped bring his anger down just enough for him to notice at last what he was doing. Horrified, he struggled with the walls inside himself, dragging his temper into a more controllable state and instinctively blocking the mental snarling coming from the thing inside of him. Shuddering with the effort, he dragged his eyes towards his friend.
    "Jesus, Naruto, you're more angry than hurt," Shikamaru said more quietly, still watching him a bit warily. "Don't you even realize that?"
    Naruto paused in surprise. "What--" He shook his head sharply. "Shut up. What are you talking about? How can I NOT be angry?"
    "I mean..." Shikamaru judged it safe enough to come a few steps closer. "If anything, at least you can comfort yourself knowing that this feeling won't last forever. You said it yourself-- you don't even know if you like the bastard anymore, much less love him. The fact that you're more angry than hurt is, in a messed-up way, a good sign. A broken heart takes a lot longer to get over than injured pride."
    Naruto flushed. "Shut up," he snapped. "Don't give me love advice. I'm not a goddamn chick."
    Shikamaru made a face at him. "Feh. You can't take advice from anyone, can you? Idiot. Fine, never mind, go rip the woods apart or whatever if it will make you happy. Just don't be surprised when the Anbu come to take you out. You keep flipping out like this when there are no enemies around, and they're gonna get paranoid and think maybe that seal doesn't work anymore."
    Naruto took a deep breath, drawing himself up straight. "I can control this stupid fox," he shot back. "He doesn't control me." He blinked and frowned. "Anyway, stop changing the subject."
    Shikamaru shrugged, sitting himself down on a stump. "It forced you to calm down a bit, didn't it?"
    Naruto ran a hand fretfully through his hair, eyes shifting towards the stars above once more. "...This really really sucks," he muttered at last, voice gravelly from his shouting.
    "I still wish you told me."
    Shikamaru gazed back at him solemnly for a long moment. "Maybe I should have tried," he relented at last. "But you know you wouldn't have listened to me. You just would have gotten angry at me."
    "Yeahhh, I guess so," Naruto mumbled, kicking half-heartedly at a rock half-buried in the ground. "I still feel like a complete moron. I mean, everyone had to have known about it."
    "No," Shikamaru surprised him by saying. "I don't even think Sakura figured it out. I told you, they were very careful."
    "Then how'd you figure it out?" Naruto demanded with a frown. "You said you never caught them in the act."
    Shikamaru shrugged a shoulder. "All the signs were there," he said, making Naruto wince. "I thought it was a good possibility that Uchiha was being unfaithful. And when I heard from Lee that Neiji had started training with Uchiha all the time, I put two and two together."
    "How'd you know they weren't really training?" Naruto interrupted. "I mean, I saw them leave to go train a few times."
    "I'm sure they did train," Shikamaru assured him. "Lee did say Neiji's gotten better and faster. But while I didn't see anything concrete, I did see..." he shifted a bit uneasily, "well, you know. Looks."
    "Looks?" Naruto repeated blankly.
    Shikamaru made a face, obviously uncomfortable. "Yanno. The way they looked at each other."
    Naruto opened his mouth to ask for clarification, but he thought suddenly of back when things between the two of them had still been good; when Sasuke's eyes would travel down the length of his body from across the room in such a way that he would go beet red. "Oh," he squeaked miserably.
    "Look, I'm no good at pep talks," Shikamaru said abruptly, pushing himself to his feet. "Or helping people with emotional crap. You should probably talk with Sakura about this. If you don't get it all outta your system, you're gonna go apeshit."
    "Yeah," Naruto said quickly. Sakura would be perfect to talk to about this. She was a chick, she was good at this emotional romantic stuff. And she already knew about him and Sasuke, which would save some awkward questions. "Good idea. Um... Shikamaru?"
    The other boy paused from where he was already walking away, hands stuffed in his pockets. He shot a bored look over his shoulder. "Huh?"
    Naruto rubbed the back of his hair a bit sheepishly. "Sorry for, um, goin' off on you. I guess you were just trying to help, in your weird way."
    "Yeah, whatever." Shikamaru strode off. "I'm gonna go home and catch some sleep. You should do the same; it's probably not the best idea to go back to Ino's and look Sasuke or Neiji in the face just yet."
    "Yeah..." Naruto murmured, but he was talking to himself. Shikamaru was already gone. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He thought of the frustration and hurt he'd been through for the past month or two with Sasuke and winced at the sting of it. Shikamaru had been right. He should have broken up with the bastard. "This," he told himself quietly, turning his feet in the direction of his own home, "might be a good thing."
    It hurt. It hurt a lot.
    But Shikamaru was right-- he was furious. More angry and embarrassed than hurt.
    When, he found himself wondering, did I stop caring about Uchiha Sasuke?

Author's Notes: OMFG this chapter is so OOC T__T Gomen neeeeee
One chapter left~

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