Trespassers W. (hundredacresky) wrote,
Trespassers W.
hundredacresky

A Lighter Logic (2/?)



A Lighter Logic (2/?)
Disclaimer:
  Naruto=Kishimoto's awesome ninja brainchild.  I?  Am not quite as awesome. 
Summary:  One little favour may not have seemed like much to ask for, but in Shikamaru's opinion, there was no such thing as a good roadtrip.  Especially when Ino was involved.  

Part One here.


2.


*

Outside, it had started to rain. The impending season beckoning hypnotically, the sky followed blindfolded, littered through with hot and heavy clouds and spilling cumulus-filtered rays of light and water along the scattered expanse of the street, casting a grey glow through the cold, concrete expanse, dull and wan and ultimately lifeless.
 
And Shikamaru had mayonnaise in his shoe.
 
“Look,” he explained rather irately, turning to his new companion and counting off on his fingers. “You owe me a sandwich, possibly a leg brace, and an explanation as to why you’re here.”
 
“Gee, Shika,” replied Ino in a voice dripping with sarcasm, both hands propped against her hips. “It’s certainly nice to see you, too.”
 
When her comment was met with a silence that somehow conjured mental images of being lynched by a mob of angry protesters and her caught with a handful of burgers made from meat miscellaneous, she deferred to his powers of bizarre telepathy and scoffed, feigning flippancy.
 
“Well, I was in the Leaf last night, and the night before, for that matter, but I guess that’s a little off topic. It was a nightmare getting here after the flight landed, by the way, you’d think the whole big city thing would make it more accessible, maybe a little pedestrian friendly, but seriously. Lots of concrete. So hideously grey. Buses late like you wouldn’t imagine.”
 
Shikamaru gritted his teeth.
 
“Don’t give me that look. I’m getting to it.   So I was there and stuff, and then some things happened.” She appeared a little shifty at this and Shikamaru felt instantly suspicious. “But in the end, it was like, well what are you going to do about it, and we figured we’d come see you.” Ino looked at him frankly, both arms over her head to shield her face from the rain. “So that’s it, Mr. Fourth-Degree. Did I pass customs, or is there like some sort of surprise cavity check?”
 
Shikamaru actually made an attempt to open his mouth and argue that she hadn’t told him anything at all, except for the fact that she was now here and had something to do, in addition to possibly dropping his IQ by a few points. “Things,” Shikamaru reiterated and rubbed the bridge of his nose agitatedly. It was runaround for sure, and she still hadn’t answered his question, but goddamn did he need a smoke. He fumbled in his pocket briefly while Ino watched him in utter disbelief.
 
“I’m cold,” she deadpanned at his utter audacity. 
 
Luckily, there was still one left. Shikamaru flicked the lighter, watching the fire flare into crimson life. “Yeah.”
 
“Want to know why I’m cold?”
 
A wise man once said that honesty was the best policy, so: “No,” answered Shikamaru frankly.
 
“—Because,” Ino soldiered on, ignoring him. “I’m standing out in the rain in a time-flash winter, and here I am, without my muffler.”
 
So Shikamaru debated. There with two ploys to choose from this proverbial fork in the road and, with a little luck, both would end up with answers by the end of the day: 1) Following the creative ways of the ancient Chinese and hoping that the cold, dripping water would inevitably drive Ino crazy enough to at least spill her (real) grim purpose, or 2) taking her inside and making her warm and complacent enough to reveal said grim purpose. And considering that rain here (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter) had never before lasted quite long enough to provoke bouts of insane confession, and that the latter would be infinitely more comfortable for him (and, really now, this was all that mattered), Shikamaru was leaning heavily to 2).
 
The clincher, though, came at exactly 1:47 PM on that Tuesday afternoon, late as he was from his break and likely to die at the hands of his enraged, boy-hating co-worker, when Yamanaka Ino broke one of the very rules of the universe, reached over, and plucked the cigarette from his fingers.

And took a drag.
 
Everything went strangely quiet in Shikamaru’s head. It wasn’t so much the fact that here had been one serious Code A violation of personal space, since when one grew up with a girl prone to violent tendencies, one learned to get used to these (often bruising) contraventions. Or even the fact that she had started smoking (and when?), but mostly because you don’t show up and piss off and then steal the last vestiges of veritable lifeblood like that, you blood-sucking whore.
 
All of this, naturally, was conveyed as a few seething and soundless mouth flaps on Shikamaru’s part.
 
“I was cold,” Ino explained, both hands held up in a placating gesture and the cigarette shamelessly tilting from her lips.
 
No, thought Shikamaru’s livid and suddenly irrational brain. Oh no, she didn’t.   Now, there was suddenly option 3): snapping her skinny-ass neck right into half, but trace rationality deemed this one for the dreambooks, swinging, heavy and pendulous, to a resoundingly unanimous decision for 2).
 
“Give me back my cigarette,” he sniped, with an air of ‘you just brought the smack down’. “And get the hell inside.”
 
 
*
 

Growing up in The Leaf had been a double-edged sword of sorts. For starters, it had resulted in a fairly close-knit group of friends, which, ironically enough, was the blade-edge in question. It meant that Shikamaru had spent copious amounts of his childhood playing with the children of his dad’s best friends. Unfortunately, this also meant that he had spent copious amounts of his childhood playing with the children of his dad’s best friends. If you knew the friends in question, this would all make a sick kind of sense.
 
Chouji had been okay, and if Shikamaru hadn’t been a guy with the emotional range of a piece of plastic, then he’d wax a little more poetic on how he had been his best friend for ever and ever, and that, until the latter years, they had never spent a day apart.  And how Chouji had always stoically agreed upon the understated therapeutic properties of cloud-watching. But in the end, Shikamaru wasn’t, so Chouji, for all intents and purposes, had been okay.
 
Ino had been – well, more on this later.
 
The majority of his class (yes, they had gone through all the grades together, a process that reeked strongly of those Friday-night family sitcoms he sadly had all the time in the world for) had attended the (only) local dojo. The place had been built before the yuppie explosion (Pilates classes everywhere, with a healthy side of various spiritual-reinforcing practices: Ashtanga Yoga, aikido, and smoothie bars – yes, Ino used to tell him, overpriced ground fruits and vegetables do improve the soul, so shut up and lend me eight dollars), so it had been the regular, run-of-the-mill Karate kind. To be fair, however, the place had not been untouched by the invasion of the Disposable-Incomees: it had expanded, hired more teachers from around the general vicinity and paid them plenty. This didn’t necessarily filter out the crazies (Kakashi-sensei had always been a tad off his rocker, and that was without considering those books he always read. Reading obviously-named erotica during Parents’ Night? Worst idea ever. “Or the best,” Kakashi had deadpanned cryptically. “Look underneath the underneath.”), but it did guarantee them the most capable teachers. 
 
Asuma had been, well, amazing. His mentor, friend, inspiration, and the only guy who had never really doubted that Shikamaru wouldn’t be absolutely nothing in the endgame (including Shikamaru himself, it was really that bad). But you know: emotional range, piece of plastic and all that jazz.
 
So, on the bright side, Shikamaru had been with the same group of kids year after year, and the possibility of improvement was rarely masked by embarassment (it became redundant after a while) and was usually fueled by rivalries (Shikamaru excluded, naturally). On the other side, it meant that Shikamaru had to share his precious childhood with the same odd-ball crazies continuously: Naruto’s bizarre, slightly ADHD-antics, Sasuke’s borderline sociopathic disorder, Lee’s – well – Lee-ness and, finally, the most violent girls the world had ever seen.
 
And this brings us to Ino. 
 
Now, Ino had been the ‘other child of his father’s best friend’, and some son-of-bitch thought it would be mighty hilarious if they had put Ino, Shikamaru and Chouji in the same individual performance teams, just like their fathers before them (le gasp!). This would be sort of fine, since Shikamaru had known them before, played with them during dinners and so on and such forth. And Chouji was cool and squishy and only hit really hard when you called him fat. Except, Ino?  Pummelled. Really, really, really hard. Suffering a mottled assortment of bruises in all colours of the rainy-day spectrum had not been worth it for someone’s stupid shits and giggles.
 
And so, even though Shikamaru had been sure that he would have ended up Chouji’s best friend in some other way: maybe it would have come to be on the playground, or maybe another one of the familiar family dinner parties, he was fairly convinced it would never have been the same with Ino. Time had caused the distance between ‘is’ and ‘what-if’ dissipate, immolate, disappear into a sort of normal that really couldn’t be undermined. Made it reach a point where he respected her, above all things, and knew, possibly better than anyone, all about the inner workings of her bad blood with Sakura. He knew about the ikebana and about Sasuke, about the whole touchy weight-issue and the anger-management problems. And she had never said a word. There, semi-understood, Ino had always remained the one axiom he had never bothered taking the time to figure out. 
 
And that had been alright with him. Although there were a lot of things to lament about the trio, there had never been any assumption of an alternate reality. And in real life, this half-assed sort of bliss was all anyone could ever ask for.
 
So they had all been a weightier, generic version of happy.  At least until Shikamaru left.
 
 
*
 
 
Now, Shikamaru had never been one to make proverbial mountains out of molehills, and anyone would contest that one sandwich, as opposed to the kind of switcheroo done by parents with a dead goldfish on their hands and their children due home any minute, actually did equivalently trade for another – in this case, it might even end up far better. But he supposed his lasting grudge was not the product of a childish mind but rather a reaction that was the sum of all individual mood swings occurring since the sad moment he had deemed to wake up that very morning.
 
And, seriously.
 
“See?” said Ino complacently, unceremoniously plunking down one overly garnished tomato-pesto-chicken-and-sweet-and-sour-sauce-on-ridiculously-hard-to-pronounce-bread squarely onto their table; five medium-sized coffee cups nestled between her arm and chest. “One of three problems easily solved – even though we both know you don’t really need the leg brace.”
 
Shikamaru gave it the once over. And it was good thing that he never ate sandwiches with uber-hyphenated names purely on principle since Ino, after nestling herself and the coffee cups down in the seat across from him, reached right over and plucked up one half. 
 
“Wasn’t that barista just awesome?” She commented around a mouthful of the complicated sandwich. “She insisted on giving me all the cups of coffee you haven’t been taking. Seriously, Shikamaru, you were totally entitled to these.”
 
If Shikamaru didn’t know better, she was being rather shifty after all, overly-cheerful and a little too familiar after having not seen or heard from him for the upside of three years. 

The barista had toddled over, pen and paper in hand and Shikamaru, despite having eaten here almost every week for the past several months, had absolutely no idea they waited tables. “Would you guys like anything to drink?”
 
He was about refuse before Ino sprang to animated life. “Yes. One large West-Coast latté, please. Wait, no – make that Italian, super-dark, possibly, like, six shots?”
 
“You already have coffee,” Shikamaru deadpanned, indicating the five cups on their table.
 
“Oh no,” said Ino flippantly. “These aren’t for me.”
 
The barista, clearly deprived of the happy act of order-taking in Shikamaru’s vicinity, joyfully jotted it all down. “Then who – wait – six shots?” Gaped Shikamaru in disbelief, about to comment that, what with the skinniness and the smoking and caffeine, she somehow seemed to have cultivated a propensity to massive heart-failure in his absence, but then she stood up and excused herself to bathroom to fix her malfunctioning belt.
 
25 inches, he thought, the notion conjuring up his mother’s conspiratorial sotto-voce as the Nishizaki’s had left for their own home: “I thought she was going to break in half, poor thing.” 
 
“Is your friend a model, or something?” The barista asked somewhat wistfully, looking after Ino. Then, her expression turning troubled, said: “Oops. I forgot to ask what her milk preference was.”
 
Shikamaru shot her a withering glance. “Just coffee for me, thanks,” he snapped, a tad unnecessarily at her. “Black. And she’ll take 18% cream in her latté, only two shots caffeinated, four decaf. And don’t bother bringing them over – I’ll come pick them up when they’re done.”
 
The barista looked as though she was about to protest, but thought better of it and slank away to make the drinks, only throwing one bitter look for Shikamaru’s meanness before leaving.
 
Contrary to popular belief, the world did not stand still merely upon necessity. Shikamaru glanced at his watch and lamented the whopping forty-nine lunchtime overdue minutes it read, and acknowledged that he was clearly living on borrowed time here. Sadly considering Asahi, living had been a painfully fitting wordchoice.
 
Ino returned a moment later, sliding into the opposite benchseat. “You haven’t touched the sandwich,” she pointed out, swiping up the other half without his consent. Luckily, the surprise and subsequent shenanigans had caused his appetite to go the way of his lunch hour, but that still didn’t quite make it okay.
 
“Alright,” he started agitatedly, rubbing both temples with disturbing fervour. “I – just – why are you here, again?”
 
Ino glanced back towards the espresso bar for their in-progress drinks. “Why are you being so weird?” She prevaricated shiftily. “Could it be so strange that I’m just here to see you?”
 
Weird? Given the fact that Ino had shown up as basically 5 feet 6 of weirdness in oddly slouchy jeans, Shikamaru assumed that she might have been joking. And if not for the undertone of serious intent inherent in her (remembered) lilting tone, he would have.
 
Shikamaru, sighing indulgently, leaned forward. “Ino. I have an angry coworker waiting to lynch me and string me up on her Christmas tree this upcoming season, one less cigarette in my pocket and no explanation as to why you’re here. So, why. Are. You. Here?”
 
Ino gave him a withering look. “I’m not lying. There are a few reasons, possibly including but not limited to, a future favour that I may or may not need, but that’s neither here nor there.” And when Shikamaru’s expression suddenly took an express turn for the worse, added complacently: “But really, above all things, we’re actually here to see you.”
 
And despite the fact that he wanted, order notwithstanding, a real explanation for her supremely-shifty return – and no, he wasn’t convinced that it was to play quirky insouciant to his disenchanted everyman– one change of departments, a smoke, a sandwich and a long, fulfilling nap, Shikamaru staked this one as a sulky cease-fire, turning tiredly towards the adjacent window and looking forlornly down the street. Outside, it had stopped raining.
 
Regaining sullen equilibrium and turning back to her, the word ‘we’ ricocheting suspiciously through his brain like a boomerang ill-omen, Shikamaru asked: "So, what's this favor?
 
 
*
 

Argh... written in one blinding go, so pardon the errors. Reviews still warrant... um, a good word to heaven if I get there first? ♥
 
Tags: fic, lighter, naruto
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