Pairing: Shikamaru/Neji, background Naruto/Hinata, Sakura/Ino, Shikamaru/Temari, one-sided Neji/Naruto
Disclaimer: Kishimoto owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Summary: For a genius, Shikamaru can sometimes be pretty dense.
Note: Written for Short Precarious Anecdote Month. Also for imadra_blue's birthday (November 20, 2012). Happy birthday, lovely! ♥♥♥ This is a future AU: it assumes that the Allied Shinobi Forces have won the war.
Shikamaru woke at sundown, blinking back a dream and rubbing a neck sore from sleeping in a tree.
He had only meant to rest his eyes for a few moments when he'd climbed up here earlier in the afternoon, but his body had had other ideas. S-rank missions were such a pain in the ass; it always took him days to recover from one, and the next one was never far enough for his liking.
He sat up and stretched, yawning. From his perch, he could see Naruto and Hinata walking up the street towards a nearby building. Oh, right; this is next to Naruto's place. The two stopped in front of the building. Naruto gestured to the second floor. Hinata peered up in that direction and asked him something Shikamaru couldn't hear.
He considered hailing them, but thought better of it when he saw Hinata's face turning red as Naruto extended his hand to her. After a brief hesitation, she took it, and they headed up the stairs to Naruto's room.
So it's like that, huh. Good for Hinata. In the five years since Fourth Shinobi World War's end, both Naruto and Hinata had rocketed through the hierarchy thanks to a series of high-profile A-rank missions they completed jointly. Somewhere in there Naruto must've had a change of heart about Hinata, whose feelings for him he had resolutely ignored ever since her extremely public confession in the ruins of the old Konohagakure.
Shikamaru didn't really get it. All feelings like that seemed to do was cloud your judgement and leave you wide open to sneak attacks. The thing to do was to find a suitable partner at an appropriate time and settle down; feelings only muddied things up. Hunger began to prickle his stomach. About time I got down from here and found some food. What a pain.
"Byakugan," someone -- a Hyuuga, obviously -- said from somewhere to Shikamaru's left.
He peered around the trunk of his tree and saw Neji sitting cross-legged on a tree branch, staring at the door to Naruto's room.
"Hey," Shikamaru objected. "That's pretty rude, don't you think?"
The Byakugan vanished from Neji's face, and he turned to Shikamaru, very pale. "I-- since when have you been there?"
"Since after lunchtime," Shikamaru said, hopping over to Neji's branch and landing next to him. "I was sleeping. Since when have you had such a special interest in Naruto?"
"Naru-- what are you-- it's not that!" Neji protested. It was unusual to see his serene eyes so heated.
"Come off it," Shikamaru advised him. "There's no reason for you to spy on them for the clan; everyone knows the elder Hyuugas want Hinata to marry Naruto. Hell, every damn clan in every village wants Naruto for their daughters. You can't be worried for Hinata's safety: first of all, you know Naruto would never harm her and second of all, you've done nothing but encourage her feelings over the years, as a good cousin should. If you were interested in Hinata in a special way, you wouldn't have encouraged her to pursue Naruto; at the very least, you would have disapproved. So why would you be trying to see what the two of them are doing behind closed doors? To confirm for yourself that they're really going out, which means you've lost your chance with Naruto, since you would never get in Hinata's way for any reason. It's that simple."
"I don't have to listen to this," Neji said. His cheeks had turned a barely discernible pink. "Mind your own business and stay out of my way."
With that, he vanished. Shikamaru scratched his head. What was the big deal? He'd simply told Neji the truth as he saw it. Why get riled up over it? Such strong feelings really did just leave a person flapping in the breeze and doing unpredictable things.
Man, I shouldn't even have said anything. Why did I open my big mouth? I could've just left him to it. Now Neji's gonna have a grudge against me. What a pain.
Shikamaru rolled a cigarette, lit it, and settled back against the walls of the house, blowing smoke at the stars. He did this often after visiting Kurenai and Biwako, as a nod of sorts to Asuma's memory.
But he wasn't thinking about Asuma tonight. His mind kept returning to Neji. He couldn't help it; he didn't like situations without a neat resolution. Neji had feelings for Naruto, who had feelings for Hinata, who also had feelings for Naruto. No matter how you played it out, someone ended up hurt. If Naruto dumps Hinata for Neji, Hinata cries. If Naruto and Hinata are together, Neji cries. The rational solution seemed for Neji to fall for someone else, but there was nothing rational about falling for people, at least not so far as Shikamaru had observed in his life, short as it had been.
It reminded him of the scandal Sakura and Ino had caused in their clans after the war ended. Ino had been injured in battle and spent several weeks at the hospital recovering, with Sakura looking after her. After Ino left the hospital, she and Sakura announced that they were going to move in together and that they were having an adult relationship. Everyone in the village had had an opinion about it for some reason.
One night, his old man had come home from drinking with Ino's dad and was talking about it with Mom, how the Yamanakas were furious that their only daughter had betrayed their expectations and had no plans to have a family of her own.
"Why are they talking like Ino's a breeding cow?" Shikamaru had asked.
His father had looked at him, puzzled. "What do you mean, breeding cow?"
"Well, they're acting like now that she might not have children, she was a bad investment. How many families did Ino save by fighting on the battlefield? How many people did Sakura heal? All those families and people will continue to live on, thanks to them. Just because they might not have any kids doesn't mean they're worthless for it."
"Son, it's a woman's duty to bear children," his father had said.
"Why? The shinobi blood is strong. If some kunoichi doesn't want to have a kid, a man can go and find a regular villager who does want a kid, and his ninjutsu will still pass on. Why put it all on the woman?"
It had been the first time his mother had smiled like that at him that Shikamaru could remember. Women were very strange. He hadn't even said anything nice.
Of course, the sensible thing for Ino and Sakura would have been to marry some random guys and carry on their relationship secretly on the side. No one would have suspected anything: they'd been friends since forever, and it wasn't like one of them could end up pregnant with the other's child. Their families would have been happy, they would have been happy, everyone would've won. He had said as much to Ino once, weeks after all the ruffled feathers and battle-dust had settled, but she had thumped him on the head and told him he didn't understand anything.
"Explain it to me, then," Shikamaru had said, rubbing his sore head.
"Once you fall in love, you'll understand it yourself," Ino had replied, watching Chouji shovel meat into his mouth, utterly oblivious.
But no matter how much Shikamaru thought about it, he didn't understand it. He and Temari had kind of an adult relationship going on, but Shikamaru didn't really have any special feelings about it, and neither did Temari. Sex felt nice, but Shikamaru wasn't about to leave Konohagakure behind so he could have it more often, and Temari wasn't about to leave Sunagakure for Shikamaru, either. If Temari showed up with an envoy tomorrow and told him she was marrying some Sand shinobi, Shikamaru would wish her a happy and prosperous life.
So no matter how much he thought about the anguish in Neji's eyes as he'd tried to peep on Naruto and Hinata, he didn't get it.
The cigarette finished, Shikamaru put it out, buried the remains in the soft earth underneath the floorboards, and went to bed.
A week -- and two C-rank missions -- later, Shikamaru was having a late afternoon nap in his room when his mother came in and told him he had a visitor.
It was Neji.
"I wanted to say thanks," Neji said as soon as Shikamaru's mom was out of earshot. "For not telling Naruto. Or anyone."
"Not telling him wha-- oh. That. No thanks necessary," Shikamaru said. He'd been paired with Naruto on one of the C-ranks -- guarding a shrine rebuilding site from vandals. "Like you said, it's none of my business."
Neji glanced at him. "Nothing fazes you, does it?"
Shikamaru shrugged. "Things that faze you are a pain."
That night, they went out drinking. Neji ended up having one too many and telling the whole sad story about his enchantment with Naruto -- how Naruto had saved him from a lifetime of living according to corrupted principles, how Neji's gratitude and respect became longings, desires, a secret passion. He didn't go into any great detail, just outlined the situation as one would outline a mission objective. Shikamaru appreciated that in a conversation partner.
Either way, he didn't mind. Neji obviously didn't have anyone else to talk to about this; Shikamaru could see how it would be annoying if you had things to say but no one to say them to. With luck, Neji would be too hungover tomorrow to remember any of it.
"I even have permission from the main branch," Neji muttered, staring at the tabletop as he clutched his sake cup.
Shikamaru glanced at him with interest. "Permission?"
"More like a decree," Neji amended. "They want to put an end to all the main branch, minor branch nonsense so it doesn't lead to internal strife, so all the kekkei genkai shinobi in any minor branches are to abstain from marriage if we can't marry into the main branch. If I end up moving in with a man, no one will bat an eye, since Hinata is spoken for, and she's the only one I could've married."
"Sounds complicated. So it's not just Naruto for you?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you are like a homosexual?"
Neji gave him an incredulous stare that almost made him look sober. "Do you think I would've fallen for Naruto if I weren't?"
"I don't really know how those things work," Shikamaru admitted. "I've never fallen for anyone."
"Lucky," Neji said. Then his head hit the table, and Shikamaru had to carry him home on his back. What a pain.
They became friends after that. Not that they hadn't been friendly before, but Shikamaru didn't miss most friends when they were gone the way he missed Ino and Chouji -- and now, Neji. Besides, Neji was good at shogi, although he didn't like it much. They didn't discuss Naruto or Hinata again.
One summer day, about a year after Shikamaru had caught Neji spying on Naruto and Hinata, Chouji, Neji, and Shikamaru were eating watermelon at the back of Shikamaru's house, spitting the seeds out into Yoshino's flowerbeds, kind-of-but-not-really competing to see which one of them could spit the farthest.
"When's Ino getting here?" Chouji asked. "Watermelon is nice, but I want to eat meat."
"Supposed to be any minute now," Shikamaru said. "Sakura mentioned she had an errand to run on the way when I was over there."
Neji said nothing. He rarely said much; the night he had drunkenly spilled his guts to Shikamaru was still the longest conversation they'd ever had. He had tied his hair up higher than usual today; Shikamaru wondered why but didn't see a good reason to ask.
It kind of annoyed him that he even noticed such a thing. Lately, he had been noticing a lot of things about Neji specifically that he wouldn't normally notice about other people: the hair tie just now, the way he wore an older version of the standard flak vest on missions, the way he always held his rice bowl at the same height, the way he never laughed, his smiles mere shadows that barely reached his eyes.
It was troublesome, so Shikamaru tried to avoid thinking about it. Which rarely worked.
"Hey, sorry we're late!" Ino said from the doorway behind them. "Chouji, don't look so mad."
Neji turned to greet her and Sakura. A watermelon seed was stuck to his chin and his mouth looked really wet. Shikamaru, who had been staring at Neji and trying to figure out how to avoid thinking about something without thinking about it first, felt a weird chill at the base of his spine. It travelled all the way to his neck and left a vaguely pleasant sensation to linger all through him.
Maybe he was coming down with a cold. Man, that would be a total pain.
A few weeks later, a hawk from Sunagakure brought a bunch of documents and a private note addressed to Shikamaru.
I'm getting married at the end of the summer.
Thanks for everything until now.
Come and visit us any time.
Shikamaru had always figured this was bound to happen sooner or later, but he had never expected to feel relieved. It felt as though Temari's letter freed him -- but from what, and for what purpose? He had never felt tied down by her, and he certainly wasn't thinking about marrying anyone. If he had been, he would have sent a similar letter to Temari, out of the same sense of courtesy.
"You look troubled," Neji said, walking out of the briefing room. He, too, had received some intel from the Sand, something to do with a long-term joint project Shikamaru didn't know the details of.
"Troubled?" Shikamaru frowned. "I don't feel troubled." He thrust Temari's note at Neji and nodded for him to read it.
"You got dumped," Neji said, raising an eyebrow. "Of course you should feel troubled."
"We weren't really like that, though. It wasn't anything complicated. If anything, I'm glad it's finished, because--"
"For a genius, you can be pretty dense," Neji cut him off. "Why don't we go out drinking tonight?"
It was rare for Neji to offer to go out drinking, so Shikamaru didn't object. He didn't even like going out drinking -- in that way, he didn't want to resemble his dad -- but if it was with Neji, it was fine. The same way it would be fine with Ino or Chouji, of course. Even though it was a pain.
"How can you even have sex with someone when you don't feel anything special for them?" Neji demanded, sticking a finger into Shikamaru's face. As always, he was a chatty, amiable drunk -- the exact opposite of his sober personality.
Not that Shikamaru had any room to judge. "I keep telling you, I have no idea what that feels like! Me and Temari were compatible, we worked well together, I liked her body, she liked my body. What special feelings are you talking about?"
"How should I explain them to you? It's something that you just feel; it's nothing you can describe in words."
Shikamaru lowered his voice. "Okay, so pretend Naruto and Hinata broke up and you've started going out with him. Pretend he comes over to your room for some sex, you start going at it, what's so special about it?"
"That would be difficult," Neji said, his voice also hushed. "I'm pretty much over Naruto."
Now why on the good green earth would that make Shikamaru feel even more relieved than Temari's letter? Alcohol was really bad for your mind, obviously.
"Huh," Shikamaru said out loud. "Just like that?"
Neji looked into his empty sake cup and shrugged. "I think once I was able to talk about it to you, it stopped being this huge secret burden and I was able to think about it logically. I never had a chance with Naruto; as much as I don't believe in fate any more, there are some things you just can't force no matter how hard you try. Love is one of them."
Shikaku looked up from the scroll he'd been studying in the Nara living room. "What is it, son?"
"What does it feel like to be in love with someone?"
Shikaku exchanged glances with Yoshino, who was relaxing on the sofa with a cup of tea and a plate of sweets she'd got from a neighbour. "Could it be that you've met someone?" Shikaku asked with a devilish grin.
"No," Shikamaru said, rolling his eyes. "I just want to know what it feels like."
Shikaku looked at Yoshino again. She laughed. "In a marriage, it's a bit different. Ask one of your friends, they're not so jaded and old as us."
"That's just too embarrassing," Shikamaru said. "I get that once you've lived together with someone for a lot of years, the feelings change, but don't you remember?"
"You feel happy," Shikaku said. "You feel like if you can just see that person once, you'll have energy to face an army. You find everything about them lovely, even stupid things like their bad habits and such."
"That fades pretty quickly," Yoshino put in. "Which reminds me, separate your damned underpants when you put clothes in the laundry basket."
"Also, it doesn't' bother you when they're crabby and domineering," Shikaku said promptly, earning himself a pointed look. "When you see them, your heart beats faster, and you get the shivers. When they're close to you, you sometimes can't think straight at all."
"Sounds awful," Shikamaru concluded, smirking to mask the dread settling in the pit of his belly.
His dad was describing the physical symptoms Shikamaru had been experiencing around Neji for a while now. It had started off slowly, a shiver here, a chill there, but ever since they'd fallen asleep on top of the table at the izakaya after Temari's letter, it had been non-stop.
That morning, he'd realised he'd made a habit of passing by the Hyuuga estate on his way to headquarters, even though it took him fifteen minutes out of the way. At first, he had reasons to talk to Neji about the goodwill mission to Kumogakure, but those negotiations ended two weeks ago, and he was still stopping by every morning. The other day he'd watched Neji train for ten minutes before speaking up; he'd been transfixed by Neji's movements, by his face, by his everything. He'd been late to his briefing and got chewed out by the Hokage, but he hadn't cared even though it was a huge pain.
How the hell was he supposed to face Neji? He was invited to the Hyuuga onsen tonight, along with Kiba, Lee, and Chouji -- Ino, Tenten, and Sakura would be joining Hinata another day, since there was only one onsen on the property.
"Thanks for letting us intrude," the young men chorused after they'd shared a small meal in Neji's room, post-bath, and prepared to leave.
"Go ahead, I've got something to talk to Neji about," Shikamaru said to the others, feeling dizzy and nauseated. Why was this so hard?
But he couldn't delay it. He'd already spent all day feeling as though a fish with very sharp teeth had lodged in his stomach and was trying to chew its way out. He had an S-rank starting tomorrow; he couldn't afford to be distracted by imaginary fish.
"What was it that you wanted to discuss?" Neji asked, sliding the door shut and turning his back to it.
Shikamaru's heart pounded in his temples; his spine ran hot and cold. How had he not realised from the first day they'd met that Neji was incredibly, stupidly gorgeous?
He decided that a direct approach was really best. "I've fallen in love with you," he said.
A drunk Neji might've spluttered, coughed, and looked surprised and outraged, but this Neji simply held Shikamaru's gaze. "I beg your pardon?"
"I'm in love with you," Shikamaru repeated, cheered that he hadn't yet been thrown out on his ass. "I'm not really sure how it happened, but it happened, so please go out with me."
Neji lowered his eyes. "Please don't waste your favour on the likes of me."
"What do you mean?" Is that a no? Shikamaru had considered the possibility that Neji would refuse him, but he hadn't realised it would make him want to fall through the tatami floor and be buried forever under one of the many buildings on the Hyuuga estate.
"I mean you're the last in your family, you need to carry the bloodline. You can't be getting mixed up with someone like me. Besides, you're the one who always talks about finding a suitable woman and settling down properly."
"That doesn't matter," Shikamaru said, and it didn't, though if someone had told him a year ago that he'd say such a thing and mean it, he would have sent the person straight to the hospital to get checked out for a concussion. "I-- I've got cousins stronger than me in the Shadow techniques, and besides, even if you and me turn out like Ino and Sakura, we could find women who might agree to bear children if they don't have to raise them. It's been done before."
"What do you mean, if we turn out like Ino and Sakura? Aren't you proposing a relationship, or did I get you wrong and you just want to have sex?"
"What? No! I don't even know how the hell we would have sex in the first place," Shikamaru said, scratching his head. "I just mean that Ino and Sakura had their rough times -- they almost broke up twice -- but they're still together. That might not happen, with us."
"You're really a hopeless romantic, aren't you?" Neji's tone was very dry.
He pushed himself away from the door with his upper back and walked to stand so close to Shikamaru that their chests were almost touching. He was troubled, more so than he had ever felt in his entire life, but he also realised that in Neji, he had for the first time found something he didn't mind to be troubled by.
"About the sex," Neji whispered in his ear. "I have a pretty good idea how that works."
Before Shikamaru could think of a reply -- his brain was being extremely uncooperative -- Neji ran his hands down Shikamaru's arms and laced their fingers together, pressing a small, open-mouthed kiss to the side of Shikamaru's neck. The feel of Neji's lips against his skin sent a thrill through Shikamaru, all the way from the place Neji had kissed to his groin. Then Neji's lips found Shikamaru's -- warm, soft, pliant -- and it felt so good that Shikamaru squeezed Neji's fingers with his, hard, his eyes falling shut at the elation exploding in his chest; it was as though his chakra had awoken to find itself a living creature and was trying to burst out all at once.
Shikamaru let go of Neji's hands and put his arms around him, kissing him deeper, his nose bumping against Neji's and his lower body joining the revolt in his chest. Neji's tongue was slick, soft, perfect as it slid against Shikamaru's; his hands slipped up Shikamaru's back as he began to rock his hips gently against Shikamaru, sending another volley of fiery need through Shikamaru's lower belly. Just kissing Neji like this felt better than anything he'd ever experienced, and he finally understood why people who fell in love wanted to do things like this so badly. I could keep doing this forever, Shikamaru thought hazily.
Neji had other ideas. He dropped to his knees, pulling Shikamaru down with him until he was also kneeling, with Neji's mouth still on his and Neji's bent knees on either side of him; Shikamaru's cock didn't take the loss of contact well -- he tried to scoot closer, but Neji's hands left his back and yanked Shikamaru's pants down together with his underwear. Shikamaru yelped in surprise and broke the kiss. "Why are you taking my pants off?"
Neji smiled -- and it was not his usual tiny, barely-there smile; his teeth were present and accounted for, and they were very white. "Would you like me to talk you through it or shall I draw you a map?" He reached for Shikamaru's cock with one hand and began to stroke it, gentle and lazy, just the way Shikamaru did it himself when he was bored. His heartbeat was reaching a very concerning level; at this rate he'd pass out, so he pressed his forehead against Neji's hitai ate to cool himself down some. His breaths came in short gasps on every upstroke, and Neji's other hand came up to drag the tie off Shikamaru's hair.
"Neji," Shikamaru whispered, fumbling with the fastener on Neji's shirt. It came open, and Shikamaru eased it down his shoulders, moving Neji's hand away from his cock so he could remove the shirt completely. "Your clothes are in the way."
The rest seemed to happen really quickly, or so it felt to Shikamaru. Once their clothes were gone, Neji led him to a futon at the back of the room, where the light didn't quite reach but Shikamaru could still see everything:
Neji's lips closing tight and firm around Shikamaru's cock, the pressure almost too much; Shikamaru dug his nails into his palms to keep from coming as soon as Neji began to move, his long hair loose around his face, obscuring it. Neji's tongue did things to him, things Shikamaru couldn't begin to explain even to himself; when Neji pulled away, lips shining wet and eyes hooded, he was almost coming.
Neji straddling him atop the futon, rubbing the head of his cock lightly against Shikamaru's belly as they kissed; the kisses grew furious, heated, mingled with tiny moans of pleasure from both of them. Shikamaru hissed as Neji moved lower and rubbed their cocks together in a slow, tantalising rhythm that left him helpless.
Neji rummaging in a pouch near his bed and drawing out a vial of clear liquid, which he poured over Shikamaru's cock and then told him to watch as he stuck his own slick fingers inside his ass, kneeling on the floor in front of Shikamaru. Shikamaru wanted to do it, but didn't trust himself to be able to convey that in any intelligible language; at this point his brain was too addled for speech -- but at least it wasn't too addled to understand that sticking his fingers into Neji's ass was probably not a thing he should do without permission.
Neji telling him to bend his knees and spread his legs, then getting on top of him again, kissing him once, hard, on the mouth, and then slowly settling himself onto Shikamaru's cock, the heat and the pressure so intense that Shikamaru let out a long, pitiful moan, hiding his face in Neji's hair, hoping to muffle the sound.
"It's okay, no one stays around here except me," Neji murmured to him, his voice tightly controlled.
Shikamaru's eyes snapped open. "Am I hurting you?"
"No." Neji kissed him again, and Shikamaru didn't think he needed permission to take Neji's cock in his hand as Neji moved, making Shikamaru move in him. Soon they both were moaning, broken sounds and shards of words and Neji's cock twitched violently as he came, painting Shikamaru's chest with it. Shikamaru, who had a principle that his partner must come first, followed immediately; if Neji had held off any longer, he would have broken that principle. The force of Shikamaru's orgasm made him lose his grip on Neji's cock, lose his balance on the one arm he was using to brace himself, lose his mind for a few moments of pure pleasure untouched by thought.
As Shikamaru caught his breath, Neji slid up and off him and lowered himself gingerly to the futon, between Shikamaru's legs, his thighs relaxed against Shikamaru's sides. He looked pensive and serious. Shikamaru stroked his hair with both hands and leaned closer to kiss the manji on his forehead, drawing a gasp from Neji, tiny but sharp.
"Do you hate that?" Shikamaru asked, pulling back slightly.
Neji shook his head. "It was... new."
Shikamaru hugged him close, experiencing a curious, completely irrational fear that Neji would vanish and he'd wake up in his bed to realise this had all been a really long, really elaborate, really wet dream. "So, was that a yes to going out with me?"
Neji sighed against his chest. "Of course it was. Idiot."