The Suna Chronicle: Chapter 5

by Juturne

Their stay was going by too quickly.

Shikamaru would spend his days working with the village's engineers while Ino spent most of her time at the greenhouse, cross pollinating flowers and studying ways to make plants resist the harsh climate. Kankurou was accompanying her as she moved throughout the village but his presence wasn�t as smothering as she might have thought. She was even of the mind that he was only interested in following her more for the form than because he really thought it necessary.

Most importantly, each of the Konoha shinobis was enjoying his/her role very much. This definitely beat the treacherous missions they were used to. In the evenings, they had time to enjoy a regular daily routing of fixing dinner (or in the case of Shikamaru, buying take out when it was his turn) and lounging around, to prepare for the next day. They were most like an old married couple but it was actually quite enjoyable, and neither complained; except maybe for times like when Ino found an empty juice bottle in the refrigerator.

�Why the hell would you put an empty bottle back in the fridge? Nobody can be that lazy.� she scolded him, loudly.

�If it bothers you so much then just throw it out. You know where the trash is.�

Obviously he didn�t get that that was just the point she was trying to make. She simply sighed and eventually did get rid of the container herself.

Ok- so life wasn�t a utopia; but then again that�s not what they were expecting it to be. It was simply the pleasure of being together, knowing the faults of the other, accepting them and living with. Neither would have changed the other for anything in the world.

Their close proximity led to a few embarrassing moments of course. Sure each had his/her room, a personal space, but the common areas were a free range for either. Shikamaru felt it only natural to mosey into the kitchen to grab something for breakfast dressed in nothing more than a towel, strapped quite loosely at the waist. Ino did her best to ignore his slim, yet finely toned figure, focusing her gaze on his face; but when he let his hair fall loose just after a bath, she would nearly melt from desire and would find herself fumbling for an excuse to leave the room.

In the evenings, they would usually find themselves on the oversized couch- Ino studying botany books while Shikamaru would stare out of the large window set before them, probably looking for nonexistent clouds. Despite the size of the sofa they would inevitably find themselves sitting very close in some fashion that could only be described as a cuddle. Often Ino would stretch herself out, her legs forming a bridge over the comfortably sitting Shikamaru, as she read. The first days they found themselves entangled as such he simply accepted their position, thinking it rather nice, but as the days progressed he found himself placing his hands on the delicate calves and shins laid out before him, eventually daring to caress their length as he stared off beyond the paned glass. Ino feigned ignorance of the pleasure his warm hands provided but as the movement of his hands took on more reassurance, neither could truly ignore the sensations they brought on. You could have cut the sexual tension between them with a katana. Shikamaru would eventually have to excuse himself to go watch the skies from the terrace roof, quite honestly needing some fresh air to clear his head. He might have been forced to give up cloud watching but he was finding a new passion in stargazing.

When he would take his leave, Ino would wonder in disappointment why he wasn�t pursuing her further. There was really nothing to hold them back now but fear of breaking the friendship barrier and what she reassured herself as being Shikamaru�s naturally conservative ways. However, she just couldn�t see herself making the first move. Men had rarely denied and most often implied their physical feelings for her. She couldn�t understand why she should let her guard down to do so, even for Shikamaru - not to mention the embarrassment it would cause her.

After a few days of flustered evening cheeks, Ino, feeling the tension on her end as well, decided this would be a good time to work on her taijutsu. She didn�t want to lose what skills she had so diligently worked on and the practice would be a good sexual outlet to boot. Shikamaru having lazily declined, she found an eager sparring partner in Kankurou. Normally Shikamaru would have been disturbed by her choice and their late afternoon matches but within just two weeks of training, the even sleeker, more muscular tone of her legs, now tinged by a soft, golden tan thanks to the Suna sun, reinforced not only his libido but also the fact that she was indeed only out training with the puppet master.

They had already been to a few official functions. There was the Suna Youth Parade in which the village�s prodigies showed off their skills as acrobats, singers or magicians. Ino had become totally bug-eyed and enthusiastic over the cutest young talents, showing a love of small children which Shikamaru confirmed as concurring with his eventual desire to marry and have two kids. Then there had been the Seafood Expo, presenting Suna�s top-quality marine fished goods, which had undoubtedly spent a number of hours spoiling under the hot sun on the journey between the ocean and the desert city. Ino found herself queasy after that event but Shikamaru spent the next 48 hours hovering over a toilet before he decided that Ino was much better equipped to play ambassador at these types of local events (although he would miss the whispers he had picked up on as residents smiled and pointed, referring to them as �the Konoha couple.�) Given his personality, however, there were few regrets as Ino took over all of the tedious, �troublesome,� diplomatic roles.

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And so things went until Shikamaru announced that he would have to leave the 26th day on an overnight trip for the irrigation project he was currently working on.

�That�s two nights, not one!� Ino insisted.

�Look, we spend one night on site but we head back the next evening after sunset.�

�Which equates to two nights, not one, at my last calculation. You�ll never be home before 10 pm.�

�We�ll be back before midnight, so the second night doesn�t count so calm down,� he rebutted, not ignoring, to his great pleasure, that she now referred to their apartment as �home.�

�Look, you do whatever you have to do,� she finished, practically storming off, still not comprehending why she had been under the impression that they would be spending three complete months together which hadn�t included a two or even one night trip apart.

XXXXX

Day 26 arrived and Shikamaru left with the survey team much to Ino�s regret. She understood that it was part of his duties but that didn�t take away from the fact that she would miss him immensely.

She went through the work day with little enthusiasm, running more on instinct than drive. That afternoon she went to sparring practice with Kankurou as usual but her heart just wasn�t in it. She asked to finish early and Kankurou, perceiving his chance, asked if she didn�t want to see a bit of Suna nightlife. �Come on, Ino. I�ll show you a good time, promise. I can get us into any club or party you want.�

It had been a long time since Ino had been out clubbing. Her life with Shikamaru was overly calm, filled with evenings in and not too late nights. When she considered the alternative of sitting in the apartment they shared, alone, sulking until Shikamaru returned, Ino decided it would be best to take him up on the offer. At least it would give her something else to focus on until Shikamaru returned.

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Ino dressed for the evening, not caring so much how she looked as she would have usually done, preferring that Shikamaru be present for the effort. That didn�t mean she wasn�t looking great however. It didn�t take too much for Ino to make an impression with even just the basics. A little black dress and a splash of gloss were enough for her to turn heads. Kankurou picked her up at the apartment. She didn�t let him in but he confirmed, as best he could, over her shoulder from the doorway what he had noticed before from inside when he had been allowed to enter- that she and Shikmaru were still keeping separate bedrooms.

They proceeded to what Kankurou insisted was the hottest nightspot at present in the village. So hot in fact that most everyone would be turned away at the door. As the brother of the Kazekage, however (he wanted her to clearly understand,) no doors would ever be closed to him.

They chose a table and drinks and made casual conversation. Ino did her best to remain good spirited and they eventually made their way to the dance floor. She felt it would be good therapy but wasn�t enjoying the proximity of Kankurou�s dance moves. On more than one occasion she had practically pushed him off of her in as firm a way as possible without seeming impolite. She wasn�t sure that he even really noticed though, having had more than a few drinks. He, on the other hand, wanted to make certain that everyone saw that he was with the hot blonde Konoha chick (not that that kept him from scoping the scene for any other takers as well.)

To Ino�s relief, Matsuri spotted her and came out to the dance floor to say �hello.� She was there with a group of friends out celebrating a birthday. She offered to introduce Ino to the group, providing her with the perfect escape.

Around 3 am Ino insisted for the umpteenth time that she was more than ready to leave. The crowd was beginning to clear anyway so Kankurou finally offered to walk her back to her apartment.

At the door he hesitated, waiting for the invitation to come inside which never came. To say that he didn�t appreciate being ignored like this by a woman would have been an understatement. This was a situation he couldn�t remember ever having been faced with as Suna�s No. 1 eligible bachelor and his initial instinct was to insult her like the prude she was until he realized that he still had two months to get under her skirt but only a few minutes to get back to the club if he wanted to score with the hot brunette that had been eyeing him from the bar for most of the evening. Nothing like a Suna girl to respect his position, he thought. That Konoha girl had no idea what she was missing out on � for now at least.

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Ino turned into the dark, all too quiet apartment. She was secretly hoping to find Shikamaru sprawled out on the couch, back early from his trip. She didn�t know why but she felt guilty, guilty for something she hadn�t even done. The smell of cigarettes and sweat that lingered on her clothes, hair and skin reminded her of Kankurou pressed all too closely to her person and of the fun she should not have been having (as little as that had been) out on the town without the shadow ninja. She wanted nothing more than to soak in a hot bath, hoping to remove the odors of guilt.

She scrubbed and scrubbed until her skin was pink and raw before settling under the warm water only to find a new wave of guilt eating away at her. How could she have ever thought that she would really enjoy herself like she used to- as a single kuoichi in her native village, who would happily spend late nights in clubs enjoying the company of friends as well as strangers. Today she found no comfort or joy in her late night escapade. All that she wanted or needed at present was a lazy evening curled up on the couch with Shikamaru to be happy. (Oh, why wasn�t he here???!!!) The only good that had come of her late night was the extreme fatigue that took over her body as soon as she dropped onto her bed. Sleep came quickly and she barely had a minute to wallow in her sorrow before entering a land of dreams, far from the reality of her plight.

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Ino was happy to wake after noon. She wouldn�t have excessive time to kill before Shikamaru would get back that evening. She spent the afternoon doing some window shopping, lingering in front of shops as long as she liked but eventually only purchased a few magazines and some of Shikamaru�s favorite foods, anticipating his return. Back in the apartment, she lounged around, reading the revues she had bought, later studying serious books and taking notes for the work week to come. She watched the grains of the hourglass slip by : 8 pm, 9 pm, 10 pm passed and still no sign of Shikamaru. He had said he�d be back by 10 pm, right? (Or had that been her own miscalculation?) Eleven came round and she decided to get ready for bed. She knew that by the time she had bathed and dressed in her pyjamas it would be 11:45. He�d have to be back by then.

11:45 turned into midnight and there was still not the slightest sign of Shikamaru. Ino began to worry. What if his party had run into an ambush; what if there had been an accident at the work site? Maybe this was why they had been taught to keep their feelings in check even as young genin. It hadn�t even been 48 hours since his absence but Ino couldn�t help but imagine all the worst scenarios to explain his tardiness. She knew her worry was unhealthy but she couldn�t shake the feeling of unease no matter how hard she tried.

As she sat there worrying it occurred to her that he might have come home while she was busy getting ready for bed. His bedroom door was closed (as it had been when he left); but maybe he was there inside. She decided to tempt her chance and slowly slid back the door to his room. She didn�t want to wake him, sure that he would be exhausted after the grueling trip. However, to her great disappointment, she found his bed as empty as it had been the night before.

Standing there in Shikamaru�s private space, curiosity got the better of her as she made her way robotically into his room. Blueprints and notes littered the floor. Good thing they had a weekly maid service, she briefly smiled, taking in the disorder.

He hadn�t even thought to pick up his clothes; she sighed, knowing he�d liken her to his overbearing mother if he could see her now, proceeding to pick up what she could of the mess, when the most agreeable odor made its way to her nose. It took her just an instant to recognize the subtle mix of sandalwood and musk which she had come to associate with his presence. The smell was coming from the shirt which she held in her hand and clutched only tighter as the imprinted memory of the boy and his pleasant odor invaded her mind.

She decided she would wait here in his room for him. She didn�t want to miss his return. Shirt clutched like a child�s favorite blanket between her fists, she lay on the bed, just knowing he would be there any second. All she had to do was to wait a little longer; but despite her best efforts, sleep won.

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It was after 2 am when Shikamaru finally made it home. He was exhausted and was making an involuntary beeline for his room until he noticed a foreign chakra that radiated from within. Years of training placed him immediately on guard despite his fatigue and his hand instinctively reached for a kunai, ready to take on the intruder. Arriving in front of his room, to his great relief, he recognized Ino�s friendly chakra permeating from the dark lump now lying on his bed.

The kunoichi had happily curled herself into a fetal position, clutching one of his shirts to her breast. He thought, for a split second, to wake her, to save her from the embarrassment and himself from the thrashing that would result when she would find herself in his bed the next morning; but she looked so tranquil, and he was so dead tired, that he decided not to bother.

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6:48 am and Ino felt the sunlight that invaded the room. As she woke she had the foggy feeling that she wasn�t quite where she should be but it still took her a moment to shake off all sleep and put one and one together.

Her heart jumped to find Shikamaru lying there beside her. Time to do a quick body check : her clothes on, check; his clothes on, check. No, nothing had happened that she didn�t remember. Now she just needed to sneak away quietly, as if she hadn�t been there at all. She moved slowly, with great stealth, safe in the knowledge she would get away unnoticed, when a hand grabbed her wrist, preventing her from rising.

�You ok, Ino?�

�Yeah, of course.�

�You wanna talk?�

No, she didn�t want to talk. What would he think if she showed herself so vulnerable? How could she admit being so weak faced with his absence? �No, just go back to sleep,� she suggested.

He knew better than to pursue the matter but if she didn�t talk now she�d just clam up and the next few days with her would be absolutely miserable; but how to go about it without pissing her off? Perhaps a bit of humor�

�So this is the warm welcome I come home to? No, 'glad to see you Shikamaru; really missed you Shikamaru?' �

She did almost crack a smile realizing that she should be happy to find him back safe and sound. She felt a bit ashamed giving him such a cold reception instead and, despite all efforts to contain herself, burst into a confused litany of all the events that had transpired during his absence in a move to absolve her guilty soul. More than once Shikamaru had to tell her to slow down so he could follow what she was trying to get at but eventually he pieced together Kankurou�s involvement in the whole scenario. Fortunately nothing had transpired during his short absence and, although Ino had not painted the puppet master as a bad guy, Shikamaru was now more convinced than ever that he would do best to never turn his back on the Sand bastard again.


Shikamaru and Ino are copyright to Kishimoto Masashi. This is simply a fanlisting/fansite.