The Suna Chronicle: Chapter 3

by Juturne

This was the ninth day of their journey and Shikamaru had to admit that things were running rather smoothly. They had only had two full blown arguments, quite a record for them.

Leaving earlier than planned had not only given them time to spend together but also allowed Ino to collect plant and pollen specimens that would serve in her greenhouse experiments. Shikamaru was already quite used to her leaving the main road on missions to wander off to pick bouquets or to find that rare plant which �only grew under that one particular tree and would only be in bloom those three days after the first rain of Spring.� He remembered how Asuma would often scold her saying that she needed to focus on the mission and stop lagging behind. �But didn�t he understand that by the time they would pass through this part of the forest again that all of the petals would have fallen and she would have missed out on this once in a year chance and it would all be his fault,� would be her reply, accompanied by a polished, well practiced pout. Asuma would simply shake his head and sigh, always letting her have her way if they weren�t too far behind schedule. Shikamaru had always been grateful for the slow pace her flower quests provided. It gave him the chance to linger as well and had provided him the opportunity to perfect the art of walking with his hands clamped behind his neck, head tilted up towards the clouds.

�How can you walk like that?� Ino had asked. �You can�t even see where you�re going. I�m surprised you don�t trip up more often.�

�Probably the same way you follow the route, always looking down at the ground for plants. How do you know where you�re going?� he rebutted, knowing that that was just how they were and somehow it worked. Him with his head in the clouds, her with her eyes riveted to the ground. He figured that between the two of them they must be looking forward one way or another.

Just now he was stretched out, head propped up on a rock, watching the clouds roll by in a much more practical, static manner, as Ino dug up the last bulbs she�d have time to collect. This would be their last night before rising extremely early to journey the last 30 minutes before they would have no other landscape than sand. This last part of the journey would require a sprint to Suna in order to arrive before the dangers of the noon sun went into effect. It was a wearying dash; one that had to be made at great speed and with enough chakra collected in their feet to avoid sinking into the sand which would slow them down considerably. Plus, they would be weighed down by all of Ino�s samples. As he checked the angle of the sun, he knew that they needed to return to their final campsite. Shikamaru sighed lazily as he sat up and finally made the strenuous effort to stand. He easily found Ino digging away at the base of a large boulder with her kunai. She looked so cute, propped on all fours, grunting at the effort required to dislodge a particularly resistant bulb from the earth, that he almost felt guilty having to interrupt her: �Ino, come on; time to call it a day.�

She looked up, attempting in vain to blow her long bangs, sticky from the sweat of several days of gardening, out of her face. �Already?� she complained. �You know, I could have gotten so much more done if you�d have helped some.� (That had been the subject of argument one, day two, which he had won with a �these were his final days to watch clouds since everyone knows that there are hardly ever any clouds over sunny Suna and did she really want to take away his one great pleasure in life.�) Reluctantly she stood up and placed her last find in a small leather pouch filled with dirt.

She felt tired but content. She had truly worked her ass off collecting every type of plant and fungi available that she considered essential for the mission, determined to do a good job; but now she looked a mess. Fortunately Shikamaru had known of a campsite near a stream, the last they would see for a while. Konoha shinobi coveted this spot as an oasis before entering the unforgiving deserts of Wind Country. This was geographically the closest body of water and served for filling canteens one last time or needfully re-filling them on the return trip. For Ino it would be a chance to get cleaned up and prep her collection one final time.

Once at the campsite, Shikamaru set about starting a fire and preparing their meal. (That had been the subject of argument two, day five, which she had won with a �there�s no reason why you can�t take care of the evening meal; Chouji never minded,� and not wanting to appear sexist he obliged, although Ino would later regret winning that one. A boy who still let his mom cook for him did not a great chef make. Still, she swallowed what he prepared gleefully, not wanting to admit an underhanded, albeit innocent, victory on his part.) During this time, Ino watered and tended to the plants that needed it and began to repack their bags, distributing the weight of the samples evenly between them.

After a quick dinner spent mostly in silence, as each reflected upon the last few days coming too quickly to term, Ino stood to go gather her things for her first bath in nine days. Looking down, she couldn�t believe what a mess she was. Her knees and elbows were blackened from crawling under shrubs. Her hair was matted and tangled. Even her outfit was barely recognizable as her signature purple. Now knowing that it might actually matter to Shikamaru how she looked she would have felt embarrassed if he hadn�t already seen her look much worse. He had seen her bloodied, bruised and torn, in a much worse state than today and had curiously never commented on the lamentable physical shape she sometimes found herself in. Now she thought he might make some kind of snide remark but, in fact, he seemed to feel that she would be wasting her time to clean up before the morning dash. They�d just arrive sweaty and filthy in Suna anyway, he had warned her. Although she felt comfortable, even flattered, in the knowledge that he wasn�t judging her looks she felt disappointed that he didn�t seem to understand the importance of making a good, first impression. Did she need to remind him that they were representing Konoha? Well, she would make him clean up whether he wanted to or not.

Grabbing fresh clothes for after the river she knew she would need to hurry to finish before sunset if she wanted to leave Shikamaru enough time to get cleaned up too. She glanced down at the boy who already looked fast asleep next to the fire and sighed. How typical, she frowned, but still threw a precautious �don�t peak,� back over her shoulder as she made her way towards the water. To her surprise she thought she heard the sleeping lump reply, �Wouldn�t dare.�

Shikamaru lay there, not quite asleep, eyes closed, simply imaging his environment. He was most certain that just by lying there he could still predict everything that was going on around him. His mind�s eye saw the water rippling by, a large boulder near the middle making the path for a small cascade. He knew Ino would make her way to the boulder to use it as a makeshift shower. There beneath the small waterfall the spray would work its way over her soft, naked body. He had promised not to peak and he wouldn�t.

When you spend days on end on missions you�re bound to catch your teammates in some of the most embarrassing situations. Ino had walked up on him taking a piss in the woods more than once and just lying there he was sure that he had slowly and diligently gathered more than enough information to know what lay now beneath the water�s foam and allowed his imagination to roam into territories he had never allowed it to go into on previous missions with the girl.

He had seen Ino in any number of compromising positions, all dutifully innocent � a sleeve that would fall too low off the shoulder as he watched over her spiritless body when she invaded the mind of an enemy, or a high kick to a skull that would reveal a creamy thigh or the base of soft, round buttock. If he could just put all of these images together he was sure that he could bring a full vision of the naked girl to life but as his mind drifted he couldn�t help but envy the water lapping over the large rock, swirling over her now exposed body, given the permission to caress and explore each curve. Water made of drops much like the raindrops that fell from the clouds he so adored. If only he could be that one drop which would land gently on her forehead, dripping down her long, sleek nose and crossing the deep delicious valley that he knew separated her full peach colored lips. Then he would continue his liquid journey down her sharp jaw and warm neck, lingering at the collarbone only to slide with more vigor to a full, rounded breast. Dangling from a hardened pink nipple he would fall reluctantly to a smooth, tight stomach, rounding a delicate belly button only to be lured towards the deep curve outlining the dense forest covering her�

�Ow!� he exclaimed as he was rudely awakened from his dream by a swift kick to the side.

�It�s your turn, lazy ass!� ordered Ino.

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