Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > Stumbling Blind

Big Cajonese

by Virgo 3 reviews

It takes a lot to really love someone.

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters:  Ino, Shikamaru - Published: 2005-05-08 - Updated: 2005-05-08 - 6035 words

Stumbling Blind
14. Big Cajonese

bgm- "One Good Reason", Maia Sharp

For the passed two weeks, Shikamaru had suddenly developed a habit of humming under his breath. Not that he had a bad voice, but it was an odd thing to start doing. And after two weeks of listening to him humming the same song and getting it stuck in her own head, Ino got annoyed.

"Where exactly," she said, rolling onto her side, "did you pick that song up from?"

He blinked, looking up from the book he was flipping through. Shikamaru had promised to help Ino brush up on her knowledge, going through her texts and coming up with a study guide for her. Ino was actually surprised at the lack of coercing she had to do to get him to agree to do it. "Oh. Tezuka's always humming it whenever he's dealing out cards." The boy scowled back into the book. "I swear he's doing something. Every time he deals I always get a crap hand."

Ino really didn't know what to say about that. In fact, she didn't know what to say about the situation in general. She knew Shikamaru wasn't much for large gatherings in small areas but he somehow managed to get dragged to a bar- the local hangout spot for the chuunin and jounin -by someone after a fairly easy mission.

It was because he was the youngest guy there, Ino thought, as well as not very sociable that no one talked to him. They didn't really give him a hard time, but no one really went out of their way to make him welcome, either. The next youngest person aside from him was well into their teens already. But, under the prodding of his last team, he grudgingly joined in the gambling rings and the adults made a show of making him a spot.

Card games, he found out rather quickly, were not like board games. They may need strategy, but not like a game of shogi or go. That night, he was the guy everyone went to to get a quick buck off of. And he was flabbergasted that he was doing so terribly/! He just couldn't understand how he was /losing so much!

That might have been the first time in his life Shikamaru ever felt his pride being wounded. Determination set, he continued to go to that bar every night that week, hell bent on seeing through their tricks. After a month, he was no longer someone they could all just bowl over, neither was he someone to look out for. He was just one of the guys you had to keep an eye /on/, coming up with his own tricks to win if he felt his situation was that desperate.

And while Ino was glad her boy was making friends (and money), she wasn't too sure she was happy with the amount of exposure to gambling and drinking and whatever other bad habits the upper ninjas were displaying. But Shikamaru told her not to worry. Even Asuma and her father said it was okay. Even if there lots of guys over there that always lost their money the night after payday, or spent it on alcohol or women or whatever, they didn't pressure anyone else to join them. Besides- if not just to make her feel better -they let their friends know not to let Shikamaru do something stupid.

So she could forgive the fact that Shikamaru was at the bar. He had already assured her the only times he went now was when he returned to the village late at night and was still too awake to sleep. Smiling that bossy- sweet smile only she could do, Ino slid up to Shikamaru's side. "Ne, Shikamaru...." She said in a coy voice.

The crease in his brow increased as he flickered his eyes to the blonde, knowing full well she wanted something. "What?"

"Are you going to buy me something with the money you won?"


Her jaw dropped. "Why not?"

"Lost it all."

"To who?"

To Ino's surprise, he blushed and tried to sink into the book. Shikamaru mumbled something faintly about the heat.

"Who?" She asked again.

His frown grew, but he said in a clearer voice: "Asuma."

There was a pause. Then Ino let out a snort, trying to hold back her laughter. "Asume-sensei/!? Asuma-sensei actually /beat you in something?"

"He's supposed to be a card shark." He said, still livid at his loss to his long-time, game-oriented punching bag. "I just didn't listen."

"I'll say!" She dissolved into giggles. Shikamaru hrmphed and turned deeper into the book as she let it all out. Finally, after laughing herself sore, Ino tried to get his attention again. "Ne, Shikamaru?" Just because she could, she fell against his shoulder, practically lying against his side. She felt him tense and shift his weight to accommodate hers but did nothing else. After it was apparent he wouldn't put his arm around her, Ino pouted, hugging his arm tightly and giving it a tug. "/Ne/, Shikamaru~!"

Closing the book around his finger, he turned to look at Ino. "What?" He asked, his voice seemed a little deeper than usual.

With his arm held snuggly against her chest, she asked, "Is something bothering you?"


She frowned slightly. "You seem really distracted."

Shikamaru looked away. Even if it was only a half-truth, at least she'd be satisfied with that. "Some jounin is getting married in a few days."


He huffed. "He's a friend of my dad's. Meaning I'll probably be dragged along and be forced to play their drinking games again."

"Oh." But still she pouted, trying to get his attention.

Realizing this, Shikamaru rolled his eyes. One of his hands went up and gripped hers tightly. Ino loved the feel of his hands on hers, heavy, but always gentle, skin just rough enough to scrape pleasingly over her nerves. Her fingers gripped back, giving him a little squeeze. But, to her surprise, he peeled her hand from his arm.

A miffed look on her face, Ino tilted her head back to look at him. Shikamaru just gave her a vaguely apologetic smile. "We should get back to studying. You don't want to get shown up by the genin, do you?"

But she caught the strange that passed through Shikamaru's face as he turned back to the book. She wasn't certain what it was about, but she knew she didn't like how it looked on her boyfriend.


It wasn't too incredibly late by the time Shikamaru decided to call it a night though Ino's parents were insisting that he stay for dinner. He just waved off their invitation, explaining they had leftovers that needed to be eaten before it decided to mutate. Apparently his father had decided to cook a few days back. His cooking never came with a happy ending. Well, it did so long as the food wasn't kept around for long periods of time.

Ino followed him down the block, chatting idly to him. He didn't really listen to what she said, but he listened to her voice. When it came to disguising speech, Ino really was bad at it. Shikamaru could read her entire mood just by listening to her, the rhythm of her speech, the length of the words she used, the structure of her sentences. And that wasn't even going into her tone of voice. Tonight, it seemed, she wanted to say something that she was a bit too shy to just breech, outright. But the best way for Ino to say something, he knew, was to wait until she felt ready to say it on her own.

They stood under a lamppost for a minute or so, just enjoying the night in each other's company. Then Shikamaru turned to Ino, watching the reflection of the stars and moonlight against the clarity of her eyes. He gave her hand a little squeeze and told her good night. He let it slide out of his hands as he broke away from her, pace slow, giving her time to jump start herself into saying it.

Suddenly he felt someone against his back, throwing slender pale arms across his body.

"Shikamaru," he heard Ino whisper into his shoulder, "I-I just want you to know.... I love you."

It felt like everything in his body froze. His brain, his blood, his heart. All he felt was a sharp twang of panic that drenched his body in ice. He couldn't think anything but the same line of words that tumbled in his head.

Don'tsayitdon'ttellmethatIdon'tknowwhattodoIdon'tknowdon'ttellmethatI'mscare dIcan'tlosecontrolpleasedon'ttellmethat

"Shikamaru?" He felt her lift her head up to his shoulder.

The boy forced his lungs to work, but the only thing that would come out was a throat 'Aa' that wavered unsteadily. He had to ward off the tremors in his body as he pulled her arms off of him, willing his legs to keep him steady as he made his way home.

Only in the safety of his empty house did he allow his hands to tremble. Her bright smile, the warmth of her body next to his and the taste of her lips. The more he saw her, welcoming him back home after two or three days of missions, the stronger his feelings for her were getting. They were.... They were frightening, really.

He wouldn't deny that sometimes he dreamt about her. Oh, he'd be embarrassed whenever someone called him on it, but he wouldn't deny it. Why should he, after all? She was beautiful and intelligent and she cared about him. And- because she hadn't made any indication otherwise -she wanted to be with him.

But as Shikamaru walked into the living room, trying to find something to still his hands with, sometimes he was scared being around her. Feeling his chest constrict with emotions, sometimes it felt like he couldn't breath even when he was just watching her work in her shop. Even in cloud watching she was becoming a distraction, finding himself watching her more than the sky. Every time he held her it was getting harder to let go, every time they kissed he had to force himself to back away.

He didn't know when the time would come when he wouldn't be able to stop himself and he was afraid of what would become of them when that happened. Would she be willing to take it to the next level? Would she hate him? Would she cry to her father or to Sakura (if that happened, he would not only be slaughtered by no less than seven talented shinobi, he'd never be able to show his face around town again)? Or would she leave him?

The last thought stopped him cold. If-If she left....what would he do? He didn't think he'd be able to take it, a deep part of him didn't think he'd let her leave him. Shikamaru clenched his hands together tight. They were starting to tremble again.

He went over to the shogi board sitting on the table. Two more moves and he'd win this one though his thoughts were far from any victories that maybe coming to him. Somehow those dark questions and even darker thoughts swarmed in his mind and he couldn't get rid of them.

Shikamaru looked down at the board and saw that it had been rearranged for a new game, his father having already made the first move. He reached down to move his own piece and paused. A sudden, inexplicable anger came over him and he gripped the side of the table instead, sending it, the game and all the pieces across the room.

He climbed warily up to his room, unable to keep his hands from shaking.


Every girl she knew was proud of their boyfriends. The ones that had boyfriends, anyway. Because they were strong or talented or they held a high ranking. But they didn't hold the same pride Ino did for hers. Strength and skill were good, she wouldn't deny it, but then the village would never be short of shinobi that had more power or ability than they knew what to do with. Her boyfriend, though, he was intelligent. And not just any intelligence that you'd see in every tenth ninja. Even at his age, his brain was starting to become legendary; the first newly promoted chuunin that had lead joint chuunin and jounin teams (of different villages, no less) and took down a bandit gang that had been plaguing the perimeters of Fire Country for almost a decade. When she thought about it, guys like Sasuke and Neji weren't all that impressive, not compared to Shikamaru. They were the best ninja of their generation, yes, but they wouldn't be able to do what Shikamaru has done without their abilities to aid him. To Ino, he was the greatest ninja in the village.

The only problem was, she had come to find, was that she really had a hard time understanding him. Sure, they'd been together for a long while, now, she could understand him. But sometimes, she just couldn't fathom what was going on in his mind, he was just too difficult to predict.

This was one of those times.

Ever since she 'confessed' (she supposed it could just as easily be called 'admitting what really should've already been known'), Shikamaru seemed to be avoiding her. Not really going out of his way to not see her, exactly, just seemingly distant. As if his mind had decided to go on vacation and left his body to go wandering around on its own. Not the brightest thing for a brain to do, but for all of Shikamaru's intelligence, he still struggled a bit with common sense.

Asuma-sensei had told her to tell Shikamaru that she loved him was the best thing to do, her parents encouraging the same. All of them said that he wouldn't hurt her, that he'd feel the same way, but to Ino he seemed more distant now than ever.

She wanted a second opinion.

The only problem, she thought, was the only person that knew Shikamaru better than herself, talking to him was no longer an option.

Let it not be said that Ino would just let an opportunity at her happiness (no matter how seemingly stupid) go without at least one try.

Kneeling at the marker, she put a small wreath of flowers leaning against Chouji's grave. She placed a plate of four sweet bean buns (she only made it once on his birthday, but he said she made some of the best he's tasted) next to it, taking a moment to pray.

Then, settling comfortably, Ino tried to find the best way to broach the subject.

"Hey, Chouji." She cleared her throat, really feeling dumb. But, she supposed, it's the best way to get a conversation going, why should it be different when she was talking to herself? "It's been a while, hasn't it? I really haven't been coming by a lot, I'm sorry." Annoyed at the lack of response she knew she was going to get, Ino put a hand to her head and told herself just to get to the point. "Anyway, I came because I need some help, though- and I'll be honest here -I don't really know what sort of help you could be right now. It's Shikamaru, you see? Yeah, that lazy bum. We've been going out for a while, a few months." She paused to think. "Okay, so maybe it's not that long when you think about it, but that's besides the point.

"I really, really care about him and I know he feels the same way about me. I love him and I told him that because, like I said, I thought he felt the same way about me." Ino rolled her eyes and waved a hand. "I know I said 'I know he feels the same way', but apparently I was wrong. Ever since I told him, he barely talks to me. He never really sees me anymore and every time we're together he acts almost like he'd rather be somewhere else." She gave wiry grin. "He's your friend. How about talking some sense into him?

"I know I'm not acting like me, but it's kinda hard to be like myself when he's not acting like /himself/!" Ino glared at the grave, haughty that the memory of her teammate would argue with her. "He is /not/! Shikamaru's being so aggravating! He won't talk to me, he won't do anything, he's..... he's......" Again she put a hand to her head. "......he's acting just like before. God." She sighed, bringing her knees in close. "I don't want to go back to that time, I hate it. When he's so distant and all you did was eat and I just yelled at you both. I look back at that time and I hate myself and I wish I could erase it from memory." Ino bit her lip. "The only way I got him to admit that he liked me was to bug him and yell at him until he just came out and said it. Because he got annoyed by me bothering him."

She turned back to the marker, a hesitant smile on her face. "So you're saying go back to my annoying self to get him out of his annoying self? You think that'll work?" She let out a huff. "Yeah, I suppose it won't hurt." In hindsight, she supposed it should've felt odd at the time than it did. Instead it felt like a perfectly natural thing to do, throwing her arms around the marker in a hug. "Thank you, Chouji." She said softly. The sting of the beginnings of tears was creeping up on her. "I really do wish you were still around. I wish I could take back all the horrible things I said to you. You really are a wonderful guy, you and Shikamaru never were understood, were you?" She gave his grave a little squeeze before she pulled back to stand. "I'll come back again. And, hopefully, everything will be all right. Bye, Chouji."


Thinking is a very handy thing. It can help get ones' self out of a tight situation, it have help see a bad situation in a better light, it could even bring an equal beneficial arrangement to an otherwise hopeless argument. However, thinking could also be very treacherous.

Ino knew, as she went from place to place, looking for the ever elusive Shikamaru, that if she thought about it, she'd probably just wind up sitting somewhere feeling sorry for herself. She had spent the greater part of her career as a genin to learn to slow down and think about what she was doing. Asuma-sensei had drilled it into them that going forward blindly in a mission led to worse situations than better. But sometimes, she had learned, it was best to go about in her usual, straight forward manner, when you couldn't convince yourself that what you were about to do was a bad idea.

So she looked around all the places she knew Shikamaru could be (his home, his roof, his favorite field), all the time thinking only: 'where could he be?' and 'he's in for one hell of an ear chewing when I see him'. She had even gone as far as going to the admin building, just to ensure that he wasn't out on any missions.

After being told that he was still in the village (after much threatening on Ino's part and the intervention of a smarter and more Ino-experienced ninja), she was on the hunt again. Every single place she could think of, not a sign of her boyfriend. She was starting to get desperate.

Then, as she was passing by a lonely intersection, it hit her: the bridge.

Somehow, without a shared comment, it held some sort of symbolism for the two of them. Not too incredibly often did they spend time on the bridge, but it held a significance that she felt deep down inside. And when she thought of the bridge something in her heart thrummed. She knew she'd find him there.

It was that kind of connection that Ino knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.

"Shikamaru!" She called, jogging towards his familiar, slumped form. He flickered his eyes up toward her, as if not entirely surprised to see her here.

He straightened a bit, turning toward her. "Hey, Ino." His voice was a little grittier, weary lines on his face. Ino wondered if he was pushing himself too hard again (honestly, for a lazy bum he certainly didn't know how to take care of himself!).

"Hey." She returned, face a little flushed under the burning sun. It rested low on the sky. The sway of the treetops made it look almost as if the sun were a pendulum in the dark blue of encroaching evening.

Shikamaru's gaze flickered away briefly. For all his masks and intelligence he couldn't seem to hide himself totally from Ino. "Sorry I didn't see you today."

"I know." No trace of her former ire was in her blood. "You've had it rough." Just understand and the want to be as close to him as she could.

He looked at her, a brief study, before his posture relaxed. Tense, tired, but relaxed. Except for his eyes, a tiny fringe of something- anxiety, perhaps? Or maybe bracing for something inevitable? -when he looked at her.

"Busy day?" Shikamaru asked her. It sounded strange, those words on his voice. He wasn't much for small talk, after all. Or much talking at all, really.

"Sort of. Just a lot of thinking." Ino turned to gaze out at the sun and trees and sky of the soft cusps of moving water. Offhandedly she said, "I talked to Chouji today."

He shifted, a curios note in his voice. "Oh?" He didn't think Ino believed in talking to graves. He wouldn't have, either, but somehow it was different because it was his best friend. "Did he say anything useful?"

"You know Chouji." She said importantly. "Always has and always will be stuffing his face, even in the afterlife." At least, that's what she hoped. For all the shit he had to deal with and the type of person he truly was, Chouji deserved happiness in the next world. And if it was a heaven full of all-you-can-eat 24-hour buffets, then she was happy for him.

Shikamaru snorted but Ino continued. "He did tell me, though, that you're just being your old self. And we both find it very annoying."

He frowned, looking at her from the corner of his eye. "What are you talking about?"

She turned to face him fully, hands on her hips. "And I have to go back to being annoying and bossy to get the old you out of your system, I'd do it in a heartbeat."

Now he was openly scowling. "/What/," he asked again, "are you talking about?"

"You've been avoiding me- don't think I haven't noticed. I'm blonde, but I'm not blind, okay?" She narrowed her eyes, beginning to feel the old vibe of 'boss mode' coming back to her. "I told you I loved you. I thought you'd be happy but instead you're closing yourself off without explanation. Do you know how annoying that is? At least give me a reason for it! And if it's just because you're not ready, then forget I said anything. I can wait until your ready, I don't mind having to, just so long as we're still together."

He looked back out into the river. But his hands were clenched tightly together.

"You can at least tell me what's bothering you about it! If you didn't feel the same way at all, I know you'd say something about it. At least I thought you would! Now I'm thinking I may have given you more backbone than you deserve! A man wouldn't let his girlfriend hanging like this! Especially not a chuunin, and especially not when-"

"Okay, okay, I get the point!" He snapped irritably. "You don't have to go full bitch mode, okay?"

Crossing her arms and letting his words slide over her shoulders, Ino sniffed. "So are you going to tell me what wrong? I can go back entirely to my old self if you won't."

Annoyed, Shikamaru pushed away from the bridge railing, half turning toward Ino. The muscles in his jaw twitched, fighting to be said, fighting to be swallowed and worried about at a later time. But he knew that they had to be said or else she'd never leave him alone about it.

So, with a deep breath, focusing on the flight of leaves in the distance, Shikamaru forced his throat to spew out the words it couldn't decide what to do with.

It hurt, from the very depths, churning his stomach, to the deep scratches it left as it clawed passed his vocal cords to the bitter, acidic sting it left on his tongue, cracking the surface of his teeth and lips.

"We should break up."

Around them the world moved on. Birds chirped, the creek ran. Bugs crawled over the wood of the bridge and a merchant called for the last sales of the day somewhere in the distant. To Ino, though, it felt as if her blood stopped, then started surging back the opposite way. Her body was cold and it felt like something was trying to tear her body inside out, starting with her heart.

Very carefully, keeping her voice steady, she asked with wide eyes, "What?"

His hands clenched at his sides, desperately not looking at her. "I said," his low voice replied, "we should break up."

"Break... Break up." Ino pleaded with herself to stop trembling. "Why?"

"It's just.... too much of a hassle. I can't do it."

Tilting her chin up, she looked at him with a strained, haughty expression. "Is this because I'm not putting out? Is that it?" Her anger was starting to build behind her voice. "What do you want me to do? Throw myself in your arms and scream 'TAKE ME'!?"

"That's not it!"

The sharp edge in his voice snapped her back. Shikamaru did not get upset. He did not get angry.

And he did not stand in front of anyone, head bowed, desperately trying not to tremble. "That's not it at all."

"Then why?" She wanted to be angry, it was better than crying. "I don't get, I thought we were doing okay."

"I don't...." he stopped, trying to gather his thoughts. "I can't.... I don't want to end up like dad."

She grabbed Shikamaru's hands, worried at the tension in his fists. For a boy his age, they should've been more callused, but it just proved he preferred to use his head in a situation than his fists.

"Tell me." She said softly. "Make me understand? I deserve that at the very least." Give me a chance to change your mind....

Slowly he looked up at her and Ino was surprised at how his eyes glistened, uncertain. "It's why my goals had to have a normal girl...." Shikamaru turned his hand over, thumb gently moving over Ino's palm. "Because mom left. Dad said that she was too beautiful, too outgoing. He said that he loved her too much." His hand tightened over hers. "I don't want to be left alone. I don't want to still love you after ten years, hoping you'll come back."

Her eyes widened. "You.... You love me?" His face was drawn as he nodded. "Then why? Why do you keep trying to push me away like this?"

He opened his mouth and no sound came out. Just this once, he thought, come out the way you're supposed to. "These feelings.... Sometimes they're too strong, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Sometimes even just being with you is too much and it gets hard to breathe. Even being with you isn't enough sometimes."

Her hand tightened around his. "I-I don't understand...."

"I'm afraid, all right?" He snapped. He was trembling again and he hated it. He could feel the strands of control slipping away from him and he hated it. "I'm afraid about what would happen if I just let go. I'm afraid what these emotions would make me do, I'm afraid what you'd do once you see them. I'm afraid that they may never go away and I'm afraid what would happen if you ever tried to leave me." He squeezed her fingers painfully, teeth grinding together. "Sometimes you make me want to lose control and I'm afraid of what I'll do when that happens. It's best this way when I can still ignore it."

For a long moment, Ino was silent. "....You're serious." She stated quietly.

"If we do it now, it's fine. If I lose it, I'd never be able to let you go."

She snatched her hand out of his grasp. Shikamaru did nothing but let his hands drop, looking at the ground. She was going to yell at him, call him stupid, lazy, a coward, anything hurtful she could think off. She was going to walk away and he was just going to let her.

He did not expect her to kiss him on the forehead.

Pulling back, he looked into her smirking face. "What....?"

"You think I want you to let me go?" She said in that bossy tone that was Ino's alone. "I don't think you realize just exactly whose locket you're wearing. That doesn't get passed around easily, you know. I would never just give it to anyone, especially someone who I didn't care deeply for." She poked him in the chest. "That locket will stay around you neck until I take it back and so long as it stays there, you belong to me." Her face softened then and she smiled up at him. "Maybe, sometimes, it's okay to lose control. I won't lie and say I'm not afraid of it, too. Sometimes I get scared about how much I love you. Sometimes I'm frightened of it. Sometimes, even thinking about you makes me want to cry and never let you go. Even if we are scared, it's okay to let go. If we both want it, it can't be a bad thing. If we forced each other into something, even if we had to force our own feelings away, that would be when we're wrong, isn't it? Would you be happy with locking away your feelings just so you won't frighten me away? Holding back even if maybe I'm waiting for you to let go?"

"I.... I don't know if I could get it back." He looked up at her a little shyly. "I don't know if I could stop once I lose control."

She returned the look with a little smile and a little blush. "Maybe I'd like you to lose control."

Neither said a word for a minute, timidly their eyes met. And they couldn't help but to smile through their flushed faces. Then, Ino held out her hand and hesitantly, Shikamaru took it. "C'mon," she tugged at his arm a bit, "you can walk me home."

"No." She looked at him in surprise and he just gave her that same little smile. "I just want to be with you right now. Just for a little bit longer." That said, he held his other arm out to her. She willingly fell against his chest, comfortable in his warmth and scent as he held her tightly. And if they had to give up the rest of their lives for just one more minute together, just like that, it wouldn't mean a thing. Because they were there now and that made all the difference.



Anyway, if any of you really care to know what else I'm doing or just listen to me whine, comment, bitch, whatever, you can go to my livejournal, just search for ajremix. I put up the occasional drabble, insight, bitching, obsession of the moment and it'll have information for when I put up my revamped website. Or if you prefer a more direct contact, you could e-mail me. Just put something in the headline that you're from or I may accidentally delete your e-mail with my mounds of crap mail^^;;

When Shikamaru was mumbling about 'heat' when he was talking about losing his money, it's a little play on words. Ino had misheard him grumbling 'Asuma' as 'asemo' which means (directly from the dictionary) 'prickly heat'. More useless knowledge from me^-^

Yes, there is a difference between intelligence and common sense. Intelligence is how smart you are, what you know, book knowledge and how you use it. Common sense is knowing things people should know. Like washing your hands after you go to the bathroom, picking up after yourself, holding open doors for people whose arms are full. Or not spacing out in front of your girlfriend, that's a good one, too.

The hardest part, really, was trying to decide how Ino would go back to superbossy!Ino mode, so I had her talk to someone. Then I couldn't figure out who to have her talk to. I couldn't do Asuma because he was already done in the previous chapter. I thought of people from Shikato, her own parents, Sakura, Ten Ten, or Hinata (or any combination of the three), even thought Kurenai, Anko or Tsunade. Hell, for a second, I was even thinking Neji for some LSD-induced moment (no drugs were taken in the making of this series. honestly.). But, when I thought about it, the only one she could talk to that had a real good idea on the workings of Shikamaru's mind was Chouji. Then I rued the day I decided he just had to die. So I just had Ino talking to his grave^^;; I know people says it's helpful. I don't really understand it myself, but, you know, if it works.....

The original ending to this (pretty much a more condensed version of the break up line down) was written out since at least near the middle of this series. Overtime, though, it got changed and extended and redone, though it's still pretty close to how I first had it typed out. So, yeah, pretty much this entire series was just so I could do that one scene XDD

All right, all right. I'm done now. Remember, just 'cause I'm not doing any more big projects (after i finish with this last big project) doesn't mean I'm done writing. It just means I'm done with big smeggin' projects :P. Remember, the side stories are still a semi-on-going project (whenever i feel like writing them), though they won't all be just about Ino and Shikamaru (some thoughts i'm toying with- shikamaru's relationship with tsunade, more sasuke dealings, a possible future for ino and shikamaru- including kids). After all, Stumbling Blind wasn't just about the two in a romantic relationship, so it's only fair that the side stories wouldn't be just as narrow :P

Anyway, enough rambling. Thank you all for your support and your comments and the constructive criticism I've gotten. I wish everyone got as great a group of reviewers as you all^^
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