Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > Stumbling Blind

Drawn and Quartered

by Virgo 0 reviews

Shikamaru on respect.

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters:  Ino, Shikamaru - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2005-05-08 - Updated: 2005-05-08 - 7967 words

Stumbling Blind
3. Drawn and Quartered

bgm- "Been Here Once Before", Eagle Eye Cherry

No one really had a problem with their team assignments. The instructors, of course, were briefed on their team before hand and therefore really had no problems. In fact, with this particular class, the instructors were rather looking forward to the potential in their teams. Team 7 was.... well, they all had problems and already other students and faculty members were betting heavily that they probably wouldn't succeed. Especially given their teacher.

Team 10....

Now that was more like a joke.

Shikamaru had told Ino that they'd go for teams that can cover each other's weaknesses. He had given her fair warning. But that didn't stop her from yelling at her new teammates for not being Sasuke. She had chewed them out on everything from having to be on her team to not getting in her way or, for that matter, even talking to her. Chouji really didn't pay attention and Shikamaru just ignored her. They knew well enough the touch-sensitive triggers of a woman's temper.


Asuma-sensei, as it turned out, was a rather welcoming individual. Right after meeting the trio in their classroom, he immediately took them out to eat. On him. Shikamaru wondered if he knew what he was getting into and if he'd treat them often with someone like Chouji on their team. But then, seeing as it was the Ichiraku, he didn't really have to worry about spending much money....

He had talked to them a bit, lighting up a cigarette as the kids ate. Ino barely touched her food and Shikamaru slowly downed his portion, counterpoint to Chouji as he inhaled his with much gusto. Asuma, it seemed, was already on Chouji's favorites list (as was anyone that gave him free food) and Shikamaru was gradually beginning to warm up to him when he was suddenly challenged to a game of Go. The older man talked about their fathers a bit, exchanged his likes and dislikes with theirs. He had even gone so far as to call them adorable. Shikamaru didn't know what to make of that and Ino might've giggled if she wasn't sulking. Chouji just beamed and asked for another bowl.

Over half the day had gone by the time Asuma had decided to part with his new team, fawning terribly over them. But, he had said before they left for their separate ways:

"Tomorrow I want to do a little test. It won't be hard, I just want to see first hand what I have to work with." He gave him another of his fatherly smiles. The boys couldn't help but look forward to what he had planned, small smiles on their own faces. Asuma flickered a look at Ino who was still ignoring the world and moping like it was cool. "Tomorrow after lunch, I'm going to meet the three of you outside the main doors of the academy and from there, we'll go to the testing area. I'll brief you there." With a puff and a smile and a quick wave, the jounin turned and walked off, somehow whistling as smoke wafted around his head.

"What do you think?" Shikamaru asked, hands deep in his pockets. The lines on his face smoothed out a bit from earlier that day. He wouldn't admit it to anyone, but he was slightly anxious that his teacher would be anal and strict (he'd seen the type of teachers those like Gai and Kurenai were).

"I like him!" The rotund boy said cheerfully, muffled by the chips he was currently storing in his cheeks.

"Besides the fact that he bought us food?"

"He's cool." Chouji nodded his head, taking time to swallow. "He has a calm air and he genuinely seemed interested in working with us."

That's what he liked best about Chouji. He was observant whereas no one else thought he would be. But, he supposed, everyone had their secret talents. Shikamaru looked over at Ino.

"Oi, Ino. What'd you think?"

She whirled and glared at the two with such intensity that Chouji reflexively swallowed a partly chewed chip and repressed the gag reflex out of sheer terror.

"Go away." She growled before she stalked off.

The two boys stood in silence.

"Not too happy with the team, is she?"


That night he had gone with Chouji to talk a bit with his parents. He figured he might as well seeing as the two were going to trust each other with their lives within a couple days. Of course, going over to the Akimichi house meant that he was staying for dinner. Which also meant that he wouldn't be able to get passed the appetizers before he got too full to eat anymore. But that was fine, Chouji and his dad fighting over his share tended to be rather entertaining.

Honestly, though, Shikamaru didn't think he'd ever find a more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere than in Chouji's house. Even if they weren't as close friends as they were, Chouji was the kind of guy that opened his house to anyone he treated warmly- even though the only ones he did that to were his friends because most kids wouldn't give him the time of day. And, of course, their fathers were friends. And that meant Shikamaru could bum off a meal or two if his place ran out of food and emergency food funds.

Chouji's dad had found out about their team assignments the day before. Due to his working in the admin section and being a well known and liked veteran around the place, it didn't take much work or sweet talking to find out. He claimed to know Asuma fairly well and assured them that he was, indeed, a good man and they really wouldn't have any problems with him. He was also thrilled that the children of his old team would be in a team together.

So was Shikamaru's dad when he was told later that night.

"Fate, boy!" He had laughed, swigging back a jar of sake. He said team assignments meant celebrating. This assignment in particular. "Your team will be just fine! Best in the village, I'm sure!"

Shikamaru just raised an eyebrow at his father, not really sure how he should respond to that. In front of him was a small saucer half filled with sake. His father had said that drinking and high tolerance was in his bloodline, but he rarely drank; really only when his dad broke out the cups and told him to drink up. It just had a taste he didn't like and the only thing he found decently palatable was some of that sweet, imported stuff his father occasionally bought mixed in with a lot of tea.

A heavy hand clamped onto his shoulder and suddenly Shikamaru found himself face to face with his father's flushed face. "Take good care of your team, boy. Treat them with respect and never, ever turn your back on them, okay?"

He just bowed his head and watched the ripples that crossed the surface of his untouched drink.


The next afternoon was nice enough to train outside. Ino, however, thought it was a horrible, horrible day and made it evident to everyone around her.

"Ah, here we are." Asuma said with a smile. He reached into his pocket and brought out a cigarette and a match. The three children looked around.

"Why're we here?" Shikamaru asked. They had been told not to bring packs so it couldn't be some overnight survival training. Could it?

"Just a small test, that's all." He whiffed out the match with a flick of his wrist, the lit white stick snugly tucked against his lips. "It's simple. You see that large hill up there?" Asuma jerked a thumb over his shoulder. The genin nodded. "On the top is a flag. Before nightfall, you have to reach that flag. You can use any technique you want to get there, but there's one limitation. The three of you are from families with powerful blood techniques. Through the course of this test, you are allowed to use these techniques once apiece."

They looked at each other. Was that all? It didn't seem like a big limitation.

"But." Their teacher cut in. "Half an hour after you start out, I'm going to be coming after you. Here's where it gets fun." He smiled and dug into his pouch, taking out six pieces of papers. "You each get one piece, I get the other three. My goal is to take the papers off all three of you or delay you from getting to the flag. Your goal is to either get the flag or get the papers off of me." His smile took a hunter's look. "Two ways to win, two ways to fail. The test begins now. Good luck."


The three raced through the woods, bounding off the trees and making a direct beeline for the hill. As five minutes until their pursuer began crept up on them, Shikamaru called out to Ino, dashing ahead of them. "Ino! Hey, Ino!" She ignored him. "INO!"

"What?" She snapped irritably. Shikamaru rolled his eyes. Normally he wouldn't have bothered, but this was important.

"Ino, we have to make a plan!"

She grasped a thick branch, swinging under it to flip onto a nearby one, coming to a stop. "What for?"

The two boys landed near her. "Because Asuma-sensei is going to be coming after us in a bit. Remember?"

Ino scowled. "Well if we kept going /forward/," she was talking down at him, the tone grating at his nerves, "we could get to the flag before he got near us."

"Gimme a break. He's a jounin. He'll catch up with us before we realize it."

"What do you want to do, then?" She glared. "Fight him?"

"Slow him down."

"With what?"

"Traps, obviously."

Chouji watched the two warily. He could feel tensions rising.

"That's just a waste of time!"

"What would you rather us do?"

She paused for a moment, lips set thinly as she thought. "Split up."

The two boggled. "Split up?"

"He needs to get all three of our papers for us to fail, right? So we split up, he can't get all three at once. Not to mention it would take him too much time to find all three of us. One of us is bound to get to the flag, first."

Shikamaru scowled and crossed his arms. Chouji shifted, the branch rustled slightly under him. "I... don't like the idea."

Ino shot the large boy a glare. "What?"

"We split up," the dark haired boy said, "he can turn into one of us and take the paper before we knew it."

"He can't get them all!" She shot.

"He's better trained, Ino. He knows the forest better than us as it is. The three of us together don't have a chance against him. Even less apart."

She sneered. "Fine. Do whatever you want. But I'll do things my way." That said, she turned her back on the two and leapt off.

"Ino, wait!" But she was already bounding out of sight. Shikamaru sighed and rubbed his neck.

"What'll we do?" Asked Chouji. The other thought for a moment.

"Follow her." He said. "I'll set up some traps to slow him down. Don't let me come near either you or Ino, okay?"

Chouji squeaked slightly. "What? What am I supposed to do?"

"Anything you can."


Stupid Shikamaru.... She thought. It's his fault I'm not with Sasuke-kun, anyway.

In all honesty, she knew she was being harsh and unfair to her teammates, but she was mad. Sakura was with Sasuke. And she was stuck with those two. She needed something to let it out on. It wasn't her fault they happened to be the most readily available 'things'.

Frowning, she bound quickly over the trees. She was proud of her skills, but she knew well enough that no matter how great of a kunoichi she was, she'd still have to struggle to keep up with her male counterparts. Their natural strength and speed would overshoot hers if she gave herself a moment of rest.

Something rustled around her, beyond the sound of wind in her ears and in the leaves. Sharply she glanced around. Someone was following her. Looking down she notice the angle of the shadows, stretching ahead of her. And she saw a large silhouette coming up quickly from behind.

It couldn't be...! He couldn't have caught up that quickly!

Ino reached into her pouch, bringing out a shuriken and a bandage. Tying the two together, she adjusted her path to run just to the right of a thick- bodied tree. As she passed by, she threw the shuriken into the trunk and using the shuriken and bandage to pivot she planted her feet against the side of a tree, her speed picking up from centrifugal force. Rounding the tree and her pursuer, Ino let the bandage go, leaping at the person through thick leaves, kunai in hand.

There was a startled squeak as she landed heavily on the pursuit, hand instinctively grabbing at the flash of paper she saw, raising the kunai back to fend off any attacks-


He looked sheepish, pressed up against a tree trunk with a girl one-third his girth pinning him down. "H-Hi, Ino."

With a groan she pulled back. "You moron. I could've seriously hurt you."

"It's okay." He rubbed the back of his head. "I guess I kinda deserved it...."

Ino glared. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"Following you."

"I know that!" She resisted the urge to stomp her foot. "I mean 'why'?"


"Ino, Chouji." The two looked in surprise as Shikamaru suddenly dropped into view. "Finally found you."

"What do you want?"

He winced slightly at her suddenly cold tone. "Jeez, what do you have against me?"

"I'll bet you're Asuma-sensei."

"Well I can tell you I'm not."

"Like he'd admit that he is." Ino put her hands to her hips. "Give me a break."

"That's true." He nodded, walking towards them, hands in his pockets. "But I have proof that I'm not Asuma-sensei."

"Oh yeah? How?"

"Because I told Chouji something very important...." Suddenly, to Ino's surprise, he caught the rotund boy with a cross punch, sending him a good two trees down. With no more fanfare than a clenched fist and an out-of- character grin, Shikamaru's form erupted in a pillar of smoke. And suddenly Chouji was standing in his place. "To keep him away from both of us."

She gaped. "But..."

The other Chouji chuckled, rubbing his jaw absently. "That was a very nice hit. Clean, powerful, effective. Barely even saw it coming. But," there was a blast of smoke and Asuma sat there, grinning at them, "you neglect something very important..." He held up a hand. And in its grasp was a piece of paper.

"What?" The large boy searched his body. "When did you-?"

"Sleight of hand. One of the ninja's greatest assets." Both blondes blinked as Shikamaru- yet again -dropped down from above.

"I swear, if another one of you does that...." Ino shook her head. He rolled his eyes but otherwise ignored her.

"Good work, Chouji." He said, nodding to the other boy. The other grinned widely.

That grin quickly faded, though, as Asuma leisurely got to his feet. "What do we do now?"

"You two run for it while I distract him."

"What?" Ino cried. "Why are you giving out the orders? Why should I listen to you?"

"Because out of the two of us, I'm the one making more sense." He said with narrowed eyes. To Chouji he said, "Take her and go. I'll catch up. Promise."

He frowned, but nodded. "All right. You better."

Asuma watched as the two bounded off, rolling his cigarette to one side as he blew smoke out the other corner of his mouth. Lazily he looked at Shikamaru. "Confident, are we?"

"I don't stand a chance against you."

His bushy eyebrows shot up. "So, what? Are you just going to let me run off after your friends?"

"Of course not." Shikamaru scowled. "Even if going against you is more work than I'd like, I already said I'd cover them. I'm only buying them time, after all."

Asuma smiled. It would be interesting to see what this boy had in mind.

He brought his hands out of his pockets, flexing them as he widened his stance. Then, Shikamaru shot forward, at the same moment making three copies of himself. Bunshin no jutsu? The man grinned. He was confident....

To his surprise, though, the four figures split up, weaving through the trees and bushes, using the natural obstacles to his advantage. Damn, and he just had to pick the forest as the testing ground, didn't he? He was a well-known tracker, infamous for always completing his missions in this terran so swiftly and deadly. But, dammit, he hated it when they used the terran against /him/. It made things so much harder.

There was a rustling to his right and Asuma turned just enough to block a kick with his forearm. This was a copy, he knew. He felt no heat from the body, heard no heartbeat, saw no soul in its eyes. He twisted his arm around and thrust his palm through the boy's chest, form erupting into a puff of smoke as another one came at him from behind. That one, also, was easily dispatched of and the last one came at him from the other side. He flicked his cigarette at it's face, distracting it while he casually backhanded it out of existence. That was all three. All there was left was the real thing. Asuma looked around and found the boy a few meters away.

Forming the In for the Kagemane.

He cursed at himself. He shouldn't have been playing with the copies, they were just buying time for his family's signature move. There was no time to get close to him and, though this was considered 'real training', he didn't want to hurt him with a projectile. Asuma ran to a nearby thick trunk, focusing his chakura into his feet, drawing him close to the tree. He could feel the shadows surging around him as he ran, changing the polarization of his chakura to send him up faster and faster. As he reached the top, he changed the chakura to fully repel, sending him leaping high into the air. Twisting, he angled himself to land approximately where Shikamaru was stationed. Diving through the treetops, he reached out a hand, aiming to take the boy to the ground.

Surprised at his teacher's reappearance directly above him, Shikamaru's eyes grew wide, unable to make a move. And as Asuma's hand clenched on his shoulder, he promptly vanished in a puff of smoke. Stunned, the teacher halted his descent a few branches down. He knew that feel. That was another clone. But.... he had taken care of them all before, hadn't he? Asuma frowned, thinking. He knew he did. He didn't see another one hiding in the group, not even a hint.

Then he remembered the shadows. No, that was definitely Shikamaru. At least, before. He must've done another Bunshin no jutsu when Asuma left his realm of influence. He scowled to himself. He shouldn't have let the boy out of his sight.

But, regardless, he smiled. The boy had potential. And if he got as good with the shadows as his father, he could track any creature setting foot in the forest. Judging from his mental capacity so far, he could probably figure out something more creative than that. That was the problem with chuunin instructors. Even though Iruka-sensei had put in remarks of the boy being more clever than one would initially think, he just had too many students to understand the depth of all their skills.

But at the rate they were going, it would take them a loooong time to pass this test....


"Let's go!"

"He'll be here soon, really."

Ino scowled. "Look, you're the one that wanted to go! He said he'll catch up, right? So let him catch up!"

The boy frowned at her. "He did just help us both out. Shouldn't you be even a little grateful?" She glared and he quieted. He never liked confrontations.

There was a sound of movement and the two turned, weapons in hand. "Relax," came a familiar voice, "it's only me."

"H-How do we know?" Chouji asked as the dark haired boy emerged from the foliage. Shikamaru gave him a dull look. The other immediately grinned. "Nice work!"

"How do you know that's him?" Ino shot out.

"You just have to look at him." Chouji explained. "No one can do lazy and annoyed like Shikamaru!"

He frowned flatly. "Thanks, Chouji." He sighed. "So, now that your plan cost us one of three papers, Ino, are you willing to work like a team, now?"

"I could've handled it perfectly fine by myself!"

"Oh? That's why you were just letting him go, huh?"

Ino flushed. "I didn't!"

"You thought it was Chouji." He said relentlessly. "You didn't listen to a word I said and it cost Chouji his sheet. And it nearly cost yours, too." He glared. "Almost one of our techniques, on top of that."

She sneered. "Are you blaming all this on /me/?"


"And you can do better, huh?"

"I think it's safe to assume I'm thinking more clearly than you are, right now."

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

"You're acting too much like a brat to think things through."

Ino bristled. "WHAT was that?"

"If you listened to me-"

"Oh, and what about your mighty plan? Huh? Where were your traps then? How come he caught up with me so easily?"

He frowned. "Those traps are setup in strategic places. If you're actually willing to listen-"

"You've been doing absolutely nothing for us!" She shouted.

"Will you shut up? You'll bring him right to us." Shikamaru hissed.

"So you can 'distract' him again? You probably just ran off and got lost as soon as we left!"

The muscles between Shikamaru's shoulders tensed visibly. "I did what I said I'd do. This spot was already prearranged between me and Chouji, he wouldn't know where we went." He said through clenched teeth.

"I don't believe you. You think you're so high and mighty just because I had the misfortune to be Asuma-sensei's first target. What would you say if you were the one he went after, huh?" She sneered. "Don't be so egotistical."

"I wouldn't seem like that if you'd pull your head out of your ass and /listen/."

"WHAT!?" She swung at him, but Shikamaru jumped back. He knew he went well over the line and he hadn't meant to. It just came out.

Hurt them just as bad as they hurt you, boy, his dad was fond of saying.

He put on an irritated expression, hardly forced at all. "Will you calm down?"

"No! You started saying all these stupid things and now you want me to calm down? You're such an idiot, Shikamaru!"

Chouji shrank back from the two. He hated arguments and people yelling at each other. It always reminded him of bad memories and laying awake, listening to things he shouldn't be hearing during the night. But Ino and Shikamaru kept at it. The world didn't exist beyond them. To Shikamaru, Existence was Thought. To Ino, Existence was Being Right. And right now, the team wasn't big enough to tolerate them both.

The dark haired boy glared at her, lips pulled across his teeth. "If you have something to say, stop whining and say it."

Her mouth clicked closed and her face burned red. "ARGH! I hate you! You're so stupid, I can't stand it!" It looked like Ino was on the verge of pulling on her hair. "Why are you always giving me such a hard time? You treat everyone with respect but you seem to hate me for some dumb reason!"

"What's your point?"

She jabbed a slim finger in Chouji's general direction. "You give him over there more respect than me! /WHY/? How come you're so nice to Chouji and not /me/?"

Shikamaru's eyes narrowed. "Because he doesn't call me stupid or lazy. And I don't call him fat."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"How about everything?"

"Everyone should be treated with the same respect, Nara!"

"Not to me they don't." His arms crossed over his chest. "Everyone's entitled to being treated with courtesy, it's a natural right. But you earn respect. And for the passed day and a half, you've been proving you don't deserve even the slightest iota."

Ino still looked angrily lost and Shikamaru wondered if anyone could be that thick. "What have I done that-"

"How about the fact that you got mad at us because you weren't put in a group with Sasuke? We don't make team assignments. You've been calling us every insult you could think of since we were formed, you've been sulking, you've been ignoring us and you've done absolutely nothing to help us complete the test. You've been selfish, bratty and nothing but a pain in the ass. Why the hell should I respect anyone like /that/?"

Ino opened her mouth to fire off whatever retort made it out first-

Shikamaru's jaw was clenched.

She noticed it for the first time. His face was flushed, hands trembling in fists by his side.... He was really worked up over this. Never in her entire memory could she recall Shikamaru being anything but apathetic. He never cared, he never exerted himself. And yet here he was, standing in front of her. /Angry/. At /her/.

She looked away. She was still too grounded in her own world to admit she was wrong. "Fine." She hissed. "If that's how you feel, I don't care." She glared at him. "I can do this myself, I don't need help from you." She cast the same venomous look at Chouji. "Or you." With a huff, she turned on her heel and stalked deeper into the forest.

Chouji shuffled a large foot, casting a timid glance at the other boy. "Anou....."

"C'mon." Shikamaru said after pause. Though he seemed more collected, the vestiges of anger still colored his face. "She's still our teammate."


She still had her paper, so- sooner or later -Asuma-sensei would be coming after her. And she was going to make sure that she could handle it. However, her argument with Shikamaru less than half an hour ago was still plaguing her mind and the only thing she was truly aware of was the angry thoughts streaming through her head. She didn't think about how protected she was as she built her trap, she didn't think about how well she was covering it up, she wasn't even aware that she was muttering to herself.

"There." She said to herself, satisfied at the camouflage. "That'll do." Now she just had to make sure the bearded man walked into it: keep close to the trap without being too obvious about it. She huffed. Hopefully she didn't have to wait too long.

In retrospect, she probably would've done better hoping that it would actually /work/.

"Ho? All alone again?" She turned in surprise, Asuma was crouched down on a low branch, watching her. "Didn't you learn after the first time?"

She frowned. "I'm more prepared, if that's what you mean."

"Show me."

Blue eyes narrowed, she stomped her foot on the ground behind her. Half of a trunk sprung up from the earth, shooting dozens of little projectiles at him. Asume easily jumped out of the way, landing on the ground and preparing to deal with the girl.

Too far left! She had to get him into the trap no matter what! With a battle cry, Ino charged at him, kunai in hand. Don't try to fight him, that would be suicide. Just get him in position, that's all.

Asume rolled his eyes. She couldn't be serious, could she? It was one thing thinking you were being charged at head on by a kid and three clones, but it was an entirely different level to be attack straight forward by one child.

Using the bones of his knuckles he popped the kunai out of Ino's hands, making her fumble with it, slicing open one of her palms. Circling his palm around the wildly off-balanced girl, he redirected her momentum, sending her into the ground. In the middle of her own trap.

She let out an inadvertent cry, rustling up the leaves that covered the crisscrossing wires. Belatedly she was amazed that she didn't set it off. Then the pain in her hand finally caught up with her. Biting her lip, Ino hugged her bleeding hand to her chest, turning to look at her teacher.

Asuma let out a huff, slight frown etched on his face. "You kids aren't gonna make it. I expected some sort of challenge."

Ino glared, wishing her kunai were still in hand. Wishing her hand didn't hurt. And, most of all, wishing she were in some sort of position to set off her trap. As it were, even if she set it off now, it wouldn't do much good getting caught up in it with him. Asuma took a step closer.

"If I take your paper now, the three of you will be one step away from failing." He said lowly. "Aren't you going to do anything?"

Her face grew darker. What was she supposed to do? Run? Not without risk of setting off the trap- Asuma seemed to have noticed it, easily bypassing the trip wires. Fight? Right, fighting a jounin instructor. That was most brilliant idea she'd ever heard all day.

Suddenly, both of their attention was drawn to a whistling sound and a shuriken sunk into the ground between them. Ino's eyes widened and Asuma cursed, jumping back as the trap went off. She let out a small screech as the wires tangled around her and lifted her into the air. The bearded instructor was slightly impressed. Such a detailed trap laid down in a matter of minutes....

He turned at the sound of running feet, expecting some stupid, bravado charge from the two boys, but instead, Shikamaru shot around him, using trees and branches as springboards. Leaping into the air, he tossed out several more shuriken, severing the lines of the trap. Shikamaru easily caught Ino as she began her drop and twisted around. "Chouji!"

Asuma, having followed the young boy's movements, was slightly surprised to see the round-bodied boy suddenly standing in front of him. 'He has better abilities than I thought,' Asuma vaguely wondered. 'I didn't even sense him coming up.'

Both Shikamaru and Chouji didn't enjoy the fact that they had to resort to the Meat Tank so soon into the game, but it was for a good cause, they reasoned. With a roar, Chouji blew up over five times his size and spun towards his teacher with righteous vengeance. It was easily avoidable, Asuma merely reappearing behind the rolling ball as it passed. One thick brow arched, though, when he noticed that both Ino and Shikamaru had vanished. Realizing he no longer heard the rolling destruction, he turned to find that Chouji, also, had disappeared.

Asuma smiled, flicking ash off his cigarette. This might be fun, after all.


"It's just a scratch. I'm fine!" She growled, trying to snatch her hand back. Shikamaru's frown deepened, keeping her wrist in a tight lock.

"Then why were you holding it like it hurt?" He spared her only a passing glance before he looked back down at her palm. Eyeing the wound, he held her hand in both his own, tips of his thumbs pressing against her palm.

After a long pause, she asked, "What are you doing?" The weirdness of it was beginning to get to her.

"The nerves in your hand are reacting and causing the muscles to seize up." Came the calm response, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm trying to get the muscles to relax." At his silence, Ino pouted and looked away. Though she had to admit- in the furthest, darkest, least inhabited recess of her mind -it felt nice the way he was massaging her hand.

After a minute or two, Ino peered up at the sky beyond the trees. It was beginning to darken. "We have to get going. We're still not at the foothills, yet."

With a nod, Shikamaru pulled one of his hands away and dug into one of his pouches. He brought out a gauze and a couple swabs, cleaning the excess blood from her palm before placing a clean swab on the wound. Keeping pressure on her hand, he wrapped the gauze and knotted it tightly.

Satisfied, he said, "Don't over exert yourself." Ino looked away. She wanted to snap back that she knew, or that she wasn't helpless, but it seemed rather stupid in the light that he had helped her when he didn't have to. Rolling his eyes, he sighed. "Come on." And he offered a hand to the blonde. Blinking, she looked up at him. "Well? Do we want to pass or don't we?"

With a grin, she slapped his hand away and stood up. "Of course we don't. We want to blow Asuma-sensei out of the water."


Hmmm? Asuma listened to the rustling of leaves somewhere in the distance. Someone was on the move. And from the sounds of it, the three of them finally got their act together.

He smirked to himself. Judging the angle of the sun dipping into the trees he figured he'd give them five more minutes before he gave them the final chase.


They were making their stand, so it seemed. They must've realized that trying to get to the flag in their current state of training was not going to happen. Asuma tugged at his the corner of his lip with his teeth- a bad habit he acquired long ago and tended to do whenever he didn't have a cigarette to roll in his mouth. The smell of smoke would be too strong- the main consequence of his sadistic addiction.

Something was up, he could feel it. Gauging the area, there were some traps set up, he knew, but they were too well hidden to see. Which, in a way, surprised him. Flexing his hands, Asuma set himself up for the charge. Silently he skittered through the bushes, gradually picking up speed. By the time he was at a third of his top speed, he burst from the trees, ready to grasp the final two piece of paper.

His students turned in surprise, unable to do anything more than move. Except for Ino. That girl was charging at him again while the two boys jumped out of the way.

"Ino!" They cried. She threw a shuriken at him. Asuma merely shifted his weight to one side, letting it sail harmlessly passed him. Then his keen ears heard something sever.

Eyes flickering up, Asuma saw a thick trunk sailing down towards him and Ino. "Shit!" Instinct took over, screaming at him to get the student out of danger, first. He planted his foot and brought a hand out to push the girl back.

But his hand went right through her stomach.

A copy??

Cursing himself, Asuma dug into his pocket and brought out his bladed knuckle. Expending his chakura, he willed the blade impossibly sharp and rose to meet the trunk, slashing through it easily. A sudden movement caught his attention. Both boys were already high up into the trees, bending over a line of rope.

"Now"! Shikamaru cried, severing the line as Chouji did the same. The air filled with noise and Asuma twisted his body, dodging the ropes that were shot at him, shuriken thunking deep into the opposite trees, lining the air with ropes.

He grabbed one with a hand, using a small amount of chakura to keep him balanced. His sight landed on Shikamaru and he smirked. Then he charged. The boy's eyes went wide and stumbled back as his teacher nearly reached him- and promptly stopped.

Too startled at the close call, the boy fell on his back, form going up in smoke and revealing a shocked Ino. Asuma frowned. That meant...

Involuntarily he cracked his knuckled. "Mission complete, Ino." He heard Shikamaru behind. Great, the Kagemane....

"Could you cut it any closer?" But she was smiling, dusting herself off. Smiling sweetly she said to the bound jounin, "Well, Asuma-sensei? Looks like we win."

He chuckled, voice the only thing he still had control of. "No you didn't."

She frowned. "What do you mean?"

"The sun went down two minutes ago."

There was a long silence. Then the three of them looked to the western sky in unison. The sun had, indeed, set.

"We-We lost!" Ino's mouth gaped. "I can't believe it!"

Shikamaru snorted, retracting his shadow. "Man, all that work for nothing...."

"I'm hungry...." Ino tried her best not to snap Chouji.

Their teacher, casual as ever, reached into his pouch to light a cigarette, ruby ember brightening the blue scenery. "Well, it was a good try, kids. Haven't seen traps that creative since jounin training."

Ino whirled on him, glaring. "We would've beaten you! We just needed more time!"

He smiled, as if he already knew what she was getting at. "I know." The three children looked at him incredulously. "By they way, congratulations. You all passed."

They blinked at him in surprise.

"What?" Ino asked intelligently.

"You passed." Asuma proudly said again, taking the time to tap the ash off the end of his cigarette.

The three kids exchanged confused glances. "But...." Ino said, the spokesman for the group, "we didn't complete the requirements."

Their teacher shrugged. "It doesn't really matter because I would've trained you regardless. It was just obvious that not everyone was thrilled being in the same team. I just wanted to make sure that you three could pull together and work seriously as a group. And I'm glad to see that you can. Besides, if the three of you worked together from the very beginning, it's very probable that you would've beaten me." He grinned rakishly at them. "But all in all, less work for me."

They still looked skeptical. The man grinned and clapped his hands. "I'll see you three bright and early tomorrow for our first mission! The admin building opens at 0700, don't be late." There was a chorus of groans as his students began shuffling. "Oh, and Shikamaru."


His smile became enigmatic. "Did you really have to cheat?"

The boy blinked slowly. "I didn't cheat."

"You used the Kagemane twice."

"Did you get caught in it?"

"Not the first time, no."

"Then how would you know?" There was a lengthy pause. Then, Shikamaru turned and walked away.

Asuma inhaled thoughtfully. Yes, he was certainly going to enjoy this group.

Shikamaru, on the other hand, was somewhat depressed. All that work, all for nothing. Essentially. Okay, really it wasn't, but that was besides the point. The frustration, the tension, getting worked up over noth- all right, so it was for a good reason. But, he supposed, at least they got it all out of the way. Hopefully the three of them had come to a happy 'medium' between them.


He turned, half surprised to see Ino behind him. "What?"

"I wanted to thank you." She held up her hand. "And.... I wanted to know, why did you helped me?"

He didn't answer for a while. Then he frowned. "You're my teammate, aren't you? We're supposed to help each other."

"But you said you didn't like me."

"That doesn't mean I'll just leave you in pain." His frown turned into a scowl. "I told you, everyone regardless deserves to be treated with consideration. It's a natural right."

"U-Un...." She looked at her hand again and Shikamaru believed it was the end of the conversation. But then she said, "Do you think... we could be better friends?" He looked at her in surprise. "I mean, it always seems like we're arguing when we shouldn't be. And it always seems to be my fault-"

"And you hate being wrong." He added for her. She smiled and stuck her tongue out.

"I won't argue with that. But, do you think we could be friends? I don't want to be disliked by my teammates. And I don't want to spend my entire time disliking you two."

With a shrug, Shikamaru said, "We never really disliked you. You were just being really bratty."

Ino huffed. "Well I'll try to be nicer."

He closed his eyes and smiled crookedly. "Don't try to be anything. Being fake is the worst thing possible. You're fine how you are. I know you're not a naturally angry person." His smile seemed to soften in the gathering stars. "That's why I wanted you in my team." Ino was speechless. "C'mon," he tossed his head, "I'll walk you home."



Well, I stand corrected. Team 9 is, in fact, a year older than the other teams. Thanks for the info, I can't believe I forgot that, I feel kinda stupid now :P Chapter 2 has been changed accordingly.

Anyway, if there's anything that Team 10 seems to be the best at, it would probably be teamwork. Individually they're not really all that strong, but seem closer knit than the other teams. Neji and Lee obviously don't like each other, so I can hazard that their teamwork is lacking, also party evident that they haven't passed the chounin exams yet. Team 8 doesn't have a lot of interaction, but both Shino and Hinata seem very docile. While they could very well be Kiba's support (he seems like he would be the main attacker), it's different from teamwork. And, really, Sasuke and Naruto only work together when they have to (they are, after all, still rivals).

A note about personalities: Shikamaru, to some people, may seem much more open and less like the complainer he's portrayed in the manga. My reasoning is this; he's part anti-social, part lonely. He doesn't like to be around other people (specifically the stupid ones) but he doesn't want to be alone, either. He has a few people that he feels comfortable around and opens up to them. But around those he doesn't like or doesn't know, he seems cold and unhappy. It makes sense when you think about the way he acted when he stayed at Naruto's bedside (vol 11 chap 96) or when he was talking to Chouji (chap 174) where he also seems very straightforward and honest, a surly gentleman, if you would. And his views on courtesy and respect are the same as mine^^

Ino I'm basing off a normal female. Well, when I say 'normal', I mean the normal females I work with. ....I can't really say that either because all the females I work with aren't really normal. Okay, normal military females. Independent, a bit bossy, but not without a feminine side. It's because she seems to be pretty much the 'take charge' type and doesn't shrink away from the little things (if you ask me, having someone like Neji as a possible opponent during the chounin exams is not what I'd call a little thing). And yet, she still tries to be sexy (something I don't think a 12 year old really should be trying to be^^;;).

Chouji doesn't get a lot of screen time in the manga and I haven't gotten all the parts with him translated. So I'm going with what I interpret his expressions, forgive me if I'm wrong. He seems to be a bit of an observer and seems to be more intelligent than most give him credit for. He also seems very empathetic and sensitive. I would guess that he would know his teammates better than anyone else (because some of the scenes make him seem like it), but he still gets hurt when they make even a remote criticism on his weight or lack of skill (chap 173 and 174). The part in the story about his parents getting into arguments (I haven't decided if it is them, or if he has other family that doesn't get along well) is made up by me. He seems like he wouldn't like people getting angry and it would add to his sensitivity.

Asuma I find to be sort of like an uncle that likes to spoil you. He's fatherly enough to be relaxed around and that you would respect him and do what he tells you, but not so much that you couldn't have fun or tease him a lot. In hindsight, he's kinda based of my brother o.O;; You'll see more of my version of his character later, promise.

Just some side notes, they mentioned one way they put together teams is match the top, bottom and middle students. I would think that, as far as Team 10 ranks, it would go Ino, Chouji then Shikamaru. Ino is said to be one of the better kunoichi that graduated in her class and Shikamaru was said to have barely scrapped by, mainly because he thought it was boring and a waste of time to move his pencil over his tests. Chouji, then, would be in the middle, which is fine. Because he seems fairly intelligent and able, just, I would bet, he gets distract easily. Especially by food. Also, the reason why I put that they weren't that adapt at their signature skills is for the fact that they had just become genin. Sure, it's bloodline techniques, but that doesn't meant that they're automatically masters of it. Sasuke couldn't use his Sharingan until late in the Haku Arc, and even then he didn't have full control of it. Though I doubt that Asuma could help them control it, I'm sure other training would've helped. Chakura control and such plays a big part, I'd bet.

Er, okay, this is getting a bit long, so I'll end it here^^;;
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