Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > Stumbling Blind


by Virgo 0 reviews

Of cloud watching and body mutilations.

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Characters:  Ino, Shikamaru - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2005-05-08 - Updated: 2005-05-08 - 2544 words

Stumbling Blind
2. Pragmatism

bgm- "All I Want", Toad the Wet Sprocket

Tomorrow..... Shikamaru scowled to himself. Tomorrow would be the start of hell.


He spent damn near four years of his life trying to graduate from the academy. Because his father wanted him to. And after heaving to deal with a son like him for twelve years and counting, he figured he'd do something (sort of) in return.

And, he supposed, becoming a genin seemed fine enough.

Except now- he resisted the urge to stick out his tongue -he was also expected to undergo the chuunin trials, as well. Needless to say, that was not something he was really willing to commit any effort to. His life, his dream was all centered around simple and unobtrusive. Nothing complex, nothing that required him doing much of anything but being the lazy, inert slacker everyone thought he was.

Damn, he was such a pushover.....

The sun was starting to descend into the tree-jagged skyline, he figured he had a good two hours before his father would start to worry.

.....If he was there.

This time he didn't squelch the urge to shake his head. That was unfair, he knew it wasn't his father's fault, being a single parent. Besides, it's not like he had as many or as high ranking missions as he did ten years ago.

Mood soured far more than usual, he laid his arms out against the railing of the bridge that crossed over the only, small stream that ran through Konoha. Chin in the folds of his arms and deep in his uncharacteristic funk, he failed to notice the other person there.

"Bad day?"

At first, Shikamaru didn't seem to have heard the voice (actually, he didn't think someone was actually trying to speak to him). Then, he suddenly jerked upright and turned the look at the speaker with a vaguely surprised look.

He knew that voice. It didn't speak to him as often as it used to, mainly because of conflicting schedules. She took her classes during the morning and the only times they crossed paths was when she stayed late as his afternoon courses were about to begin. But even then they rarely spoke.

She scowled. "Are you going to say anything or stare like you're stupid?"

"Ino." He said simply.

She waited for a moment. Then, "....Yes?"

There was a long pause as they just regarded each other, Ino with growing impatience. "What?" He asked innocently.

"Aren't you going to say anything?"

Shikamaru thought. And he scratched the back of his neck. He had a feeling this was one of those 'trick questions' his father said women liked to play. "....No?"

That apparently wasn't the right thing to say because she threw up her hands in exasperation. "Then why did you act like you were going to?"

"Were going to what?"

"Were going to say something!"

"What am I supposed to say?"

With a strangled noise, Ino snapped her head in another direction. After a few moments- in which Shikamaru deemed it was safe to ignore her again -she turned back to him with a forced, yet calmer air.

"Okay, let's start that again." With a smile only Ino could pull, she asked sweetly, "Bad day?"

Shikamaru shrugged.

"What's wrong?"


"C'mon!" She gave him her winning smile, which, to him, was more like a deceitful version of her bossy smile. "Tell me!"

He cast her a sidelong look, brow furrowing slightly. "It's nothing important."

Knowing that she wouldn't get her way (this time), she turned towards the twilight of the eastern horizon. "You here for the clouds, too?"

He looked at her as if she were stupid. "What?"

"The clouds!" She pointed to the fluffs in the distance, tye-dyed from the sunset. "Aren't they gorgeous?"

Shikamaru looked at the clouds, then Ino, then the clouds, then Ino again. ".....they're clouds." He said intelligently.

"Obviously." She snapped. She tried to regather her scattering good mood. "But aren't they pretty? They're my favorite clouds."

Shikamaru felt his eye twitch. Favorite cloud? Who the hell had a favorite cloud?

"Don't act as if I lost my mind! Besides, you're the one that's always looking at them."

He frowned at her. He didn't watch the clouds because they're 'pretty'. He looked at them because of the pattern they cast in the sky. How they formed, how they moved, how they broke up the monotony of blue span of sky. With the amount of time he spent studying the sky, he could've been an accomplished weatherman if he applied himself- knowing the differences in the type of clouds in the sky, how they moved, the differences in pressure or their color and thickness. He liked looking at the sky and clouds because despite how consistent they were, they were never the same. A change he loved to see.

That wasn't something she could understand and he let her know in a snort. "You're weird."

She smacked his shoulder. "How can you say that?" He didn't know how he could think any differently. "Look at them! All sorts of different colors, they're so pretty! Don't you wish you were a cloud?"

He couldn't help but wrinkle his nose at the thought. "A cloud? Why a cloud?"

"Because," she gave him an askew grin, "you don't have to do anything. Just floating around in the sky, not worrying about anything, going where the wind takes you." Her grin became all the more evil. "Perfect for someone like you."

He thought he should've felt insulted at the comment. But he thought and- though it was an absurd idea -it held an odd ringing that he sort of..... connected with? He shook his head. "Perfect for someone with no sense of reality." Shikamaru gave her a look that said something akin to: 'Speaking of which....'

Ino immediately became defensive. "What?" Her voice was harsh. And when he started looking her up and down, eyeing especially her legs and slim waist, she resisted the urge to punch him. "/What/?"

Finally, as if putting together some puzzle that still left him confounded, Shikamaru stated: "You're wearing binds."

"Yeah? So?"

He lifted his head up as if it were a distasteful subject. "An adolescent wearing binds around your thighs, hips and waist."

Ino couldn't help a bit of color creeping into her cheeks, arms crossed over her waist. "So what?"

"Don't you know how dangerous that is?"

She blinked. That wasn't what she was expecting to hear. "What are you talking about?"

"Binding is a defunct form of physical mutilation." He pointed out, voice like a dull lecture and half turning back to the eastern horizon. "Tightly binding your body parts everyday, especially during the age when your body grows keeps the muscles and bones from fully forming." He pointed to Ino's feet. "Used to be that they'd bind little girl's feet to keep them small. But they realized that all those that bound their feet ended up getting bone damage later in their lives."

Ino was..... speechless.

What was she supposed to say in response to something like that?

Shikamaru seemed to realize this and sighed. "Why'd you do something like that to yourself, anyway?"

For a while, she thought. ".....Your ears are pierced." She pointed out. "That's physical mutilation."

"It doesn't cause adverse health effects."

True, true.....

"I just...." as Ino thought, the words suddenly popped out before she could even realize it, "did for Sasuke-kun."

So startled by what she had said, she failed to notice a slight darkening of Shikamaru's features. "Sasuke, huh?" He shouldn't have been surprised. Or upset. But he just kept getting annoyed. Sasuke, Sasuke, Sasuke. Couldn't any of these girls think about something different? He flickered a dark eye towards the blonde kunoichi. "Has he noticed you, yet?"

Ino stiffened. "Huh?"

"Has Sasuke noticed you've been doing that for him? Has he realized you've forced yourself to be thinner and shapelier for him?" He couldn't help sneering a bit. "I hope you aren't anorexic or bulimic or anything, as well."

She colored badly. "What's with you, anyway?" She tried not to make her tension so obvious, but her fingers digging bruises into her elbow wasn't so convincing.

Shikamaru pushed away from the railing. "Nothing, forget it."

"No," she moved in front of him, "tell me." He rolled his eyes and moved to the side, only to have her sidestep ahead of him again. "Tell me."

"Che. Forget it."

"Tell me."

He gave her a /look/. "Why?"

"I want to know why you don't like Sasuke-kun." She insisted.

"It's nothing important, all right?"

"Then tell me."

He looked away, trying to hold back a sneer. Geez, what was wrong with this girl? Couldn't she just leave it alone? He wondered if it would just be easier if he told her so he could /leave/. From the look on her face, she definitely wasn't going to let it go.

"Fine." Shikamaru looked away, rubbing the back of his head. "It's not that I dislike the guy, I just....." he thought for a moment. "Don't like him."

Ino's eye twitched. "What sense does that make?"

"There's nothing about him I like, that's all. But I don't actually not like him. I'd just rather not have to deal with him if I didn't have to."

"Then why were you so upset at me?"

Shikamaru looked at her, crease between his brows deepening. "I wasn't upset."

"Yes, you were."

"No, I just think what you're doing is really stupid."

Her face colored with insult. "Stupid?! What's so stupid about looking the best you can!?"

"The fact that it hurts you in the long run? Or maybe because the one you're doing this for doesn't care?"

She couldn't think of anything in response. So she kicked him. In the shins. "Shut up! I'm doing the best I can so he will notice me and he will realize that he loves me!"

"Ow, stop it!" He hopped back, leaning against the bridge rail, rubbing his red shin. "He doesn't even know you, how's he supposed to like you?"

If anyone could part a sea, Shikamaru could do it with logic. And stopping Ino in mid-temper tantrum- and making her wonder why she was even throwing one -was probably his piece de resistance to date. No sound came out of her mouth as she stood there and gaped at him.

Curious, Shikamaru moved a bit closer to her. "Ino? Ino....."

"It doesn't matter!" She demanded with the finality of an adolescent with a mission and an impossible crush. "He'll get to know me. And he'll love me. That's all that matters."

"Right, right." He waved her away with an expression meaning he had reached his tolerance of her illogical thought process. "I'll see you later, all right?"

But, before he could step off the bridge, Ino was walking next to him. "Shikamaru."

Holding back a strained noise, he said, "Hm?"

"You're going to be there tomorrow, right? To the team assignments?"


"Who do you think you'll end up with?"

"Ha?" He gave her an odd look. "What're you talking about?"

"Who do you want on your team?" She repeated. "I want to be with Sasuke- kun!" She squealed. "And the Sakura will be on some loser team, crying because Sasuke-kun will be mine for certain!" She giggled.

"And who'd be your third member?"

"Huh?" She looked at Shikamaru, temporarily forgetting what she was talking about.

"The third member?"

"Oh. Um...." she thought. "Well, a lot of the guys are stupid or don't like Sasuke-kun at all..... and I don't want any other girls getting near Sasuke-kun." She thought some more. "But, Hinata seems nice, and I think she likes someone else, anyway. Or you." She said simply. "You wouldn't bother Sasuke-kun and you wouldn't get in my way."

Shikamaru snorted. "So?" Ino asked him. "What about you?"

With a sigh, he decided to humor her. Because it was easier than ignoring her as she- somehow -roped him into walking her home with her complaining to him the entire way. He didn't really pay attention to the kids outside of his class. Oh, everyone knew about Sasuke's genius ability, Shino's stoic composure and Sakura aceing all the written tests. In his class Kiba and Akamaru were always making trouble. By themselves if not with Naruto, probably the closest thing blonde had to a friend though they were generally fighting most of the time. Chouji spent his time eating and Hinata kept to herself.

And as he thought.... he measured strengths and weakness. "I'd say the best team for me would be...." Ino blinked when he looked at her. "You, me and Chouji."

She abruptly stopped. "Eh?" He kept walking, not even noticing he was suddenly alone. "W-Wait!" She hurried to follow him. "What makes you think that!? Why don't I get to be with Sasuke-kun??"

"Because," he said simply, "we'd compliment each other well. Chouji doesn't have much skill or intelligence, but he's dependable and he's got power. With the proper motivation, he'd take on an entire army. More likely than not, you'd be the leader and I'll just go along with everything."

"But.... But....! Sasuke-kun!"

Shikamaru shrugged. "He'll be in someone else's team."

"But I want him to be on my team!"

He resisted the urge to smack his head. "Look, I told you what I thought. You can dream about being on a team with Uchiha until we get our assignments tomorrow. Okay?"

She huffed. "I will! And tomorrow, I won't have to dream anymore!"

"Right...." He turned and waved her off. "I'll see you tomorrow, Ino."

"Eh?" She looked around and found herself standing in front of the flower shop, sky a nice shade of night. "Oh. Um, good night."



As you can tell, this is supposed to take place the night before everyone gets assigned to their teams. Anyway, as far as this 'bridge' is concerned, I haven't actually seen anything involving a river in the map Kishimoto-san made in the Official Fan Book, but I'm assuming that they get water from /somewhere/. Unless it's an underground spring....^^;; Anyway, I needed a river because it plays another part in a different chapter.

I put it that Shikamaru and Ino aren't in the same class. After I had them meeting four years earlier, I had to find a way to keep them from acting so familiar since they don't in the manga. So, I guess a couple years would split them apart enough. Also, I don't know what age they usually start training, but I'm assuming that, in the manga, Konohamaru had, at least, just recently started his training. And given that he's eight, I'm assuming that they start training at around that age. So I suppose you could say the reason they met four years ago was in case they got into the same class^^;; (it was coincidence now that i look back on it....)

I don't know what the obsession it is with my friend and clouds. Or at least a certain type of cloud forgot what they're called but it really sort of annoys me every time she has to point them out >
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