So I started this story simply because a friend told me not too. He should have realized that it would only encourage me. Funny thing is he now likes it. Have fun with that, Shaun. You tried to stop the existence of this story.

There was something not quite right about him. The problem was the dark haired boy had trouble working out what it was. He had always felt that there was something off, but he couldn't put his finger on it. As they got older, the feeling only got worse. It had started when Iruka-sensei had made them sit next to each other in detention. There had been this smell. He had sniffed, wondering where it was coming from. It was light, but natural, human, but not male, and there were only three people in the room, all males. He had found that the source of the smell was the boy sitting next to him. Unfortunately said boy had noticed.

"Shikamaru, what the hell are you doing? Are you sniffing me?" The boy moved back, nearly falling out of his chair, his face scrunched into a frown.

He fought a blush at the blonde's words. "No," he protested in a huff. "I was wondering where that smell was coming from?"

Confusion filled blue eyes before the blond sniffed, then pulled his jacket up to his nose and inhaled deeply. "I don't smell anything."

"Naruto, Shikamaru," barked Iruka-sensei. "No talking!"

The blonde's reply confused Shikamaru, seeing as if the smell was unusual for Naruto to give off, he would have commented, even if it was simply a change in laundry powder or soap. However, it seemed as though Naruto found the somewhat girly smell he gave off as normal. Shikamaru pondered this some more as he put his head down into his crossed arms, trying to go to sleep on the desk. All thoughts were banished from his mind, however, when something hit him on the top of his head.

"No sleeping in class!"

"What a drag!" Shikamaru muttered, sitting up with a lazy yawn.

Naruto put a hand over his mouth, trying to stifle the giggle that escaped his mouth, making Shikamaru raise his eyebrow in surprise. It wasn't often he heard boys giggle. Most boys did their best not to giggle, since it was seen as a girly action. The blond didn't seem to care though, as he discretely pointed at Shikamaru, who rolled his eyes, thinking that the situation couldn't be that funny until he saw that Iruka-sensei was also smiling in amusement. Naruto decided to take him out of his misery by reaching out, only to have Shikamaru cringe. The other boy didn't seem to notice though, and Shikamaru wasn't even sure why he was so uncomfortable all of a sudden.

"Close your eyes."

The blond brushed his fingers over the top of Shikamaru's head, making the dark haired boy shutter at the gentle touch. He had never realized how small and soft Naruto's hands were before, even under all the calluses from training. When the boy had stopped, Shikamaru opened his eyes to find the table and his lap covered in white flakes, flakes he quickly realized that were made of chalk dust, left over from the blackboard eraser that Iruka-sensei had thrown at him.

"Thanks," he muttered, his throat constricting around the word as he watched Naruto smack his hands together, getting rid of the chalk. The hands really were small, and slender, covered in smooth, soft but hard skin, a combination he thought impossible.

"You're welcome." Naruto closed his eyes, smiling widely and putting his hands behind his head. "Hey, Iruka-sensei, can we go?"

Iruka-sensei looked at the clock before sighing. He knew that both Naruto and Shikamaru were going to score low on their next test, no matter how long he kept them. He nodded. "Fine, but study for the next test." His words were hollow.

"I do," Naruto muttered glumly before Shikamaru ran from the room, showing more energy than he ever had.

He didn't know why, but the blond had shaken him, making him uncomfortable. There was something not right about Naruto, but Shikamaru couldn't quite work it out. The only conclusion he could reach was that Naruto was actually a girl, which was ridiculous. Naruto acted and looked like a boy, even if his featured were softer than most boys, with a curved jaw line, rounded eyes, and fuller lips. There was still no way that Naruto was a girl.

The thought plagued Shikamaru all throughout his academic life. By the time he graduated he was beginning to hope that Naruto was actually a girl, like the signs pointed to. The little things that made him believe that the blond was female were… intriguing to him, and even other things, like Naruto's ambitious personality, his humour and especially the way that Shikamaru couldn't predict his behavior made Naruto draw Shikamaru's eye without even trying. The dark haired boy had always liked people watching, almost as much as he liked cloud watching, and Naruto had became his favourite person to watch. He told himself it was because there were so many questions surrounding the blond. The biggest question was if he was really a she, why was she hiding her gender?

It was through his time observing Naruto that he realized something important that many had overlooked. He had discovered the secret four months into observing Naruto, and was impressed with how well the other 'boy' hid it. Once he realized though, he had to decide what to do about the information, since he knew it could not go unchanged. The whole day after he figured it out, he debated what to do, before coming to the conclusion that he had to talk to Iruka-sensei, only in private, for Naruto's own sake. As class drew to a close Shikamaru was happy that no one had received detention, making them stay late. It was one of the first times that had happened.

After waiting for the class to empty, Shikamaru slowly walked down to the front of the classroom, where his sensei stood wiping the blackboard clean. "Iruka-sensei," he said once he had stopped in front of the desk, his hands in his pockets and trying to look bored. Truthfully, he was worried about how his teacher was going to react and what would happen to Naruto. He had a feeling the blond didn't keep the information to himself out of pride alone, but out of fear of what would happen to him.

The Chunin turned, his dark, kind eyes locking onto Shikamaru's, noticing the tension in the boy's shoulders, even as he tried to hide it. The encouraging smile the sensei gave calmed him, and reminded him that even though Iruka-sensei acted mean at times he cared, especially for Naruto, though he would never admit he favoured the blond like his own son, or brother.

"Is there something you need, Shikamaru?" Iruka-sensei asked, moving away from the board and around the desk.

The black-haired boy looked at the ground, going back over the information in his head to make sure he was correct before opening his mouth. "It's about Naruto…"

Iruka-sensei groaned, dropping his head into his hand. "What did he do this time? I swear if it's anything like the tuna incident then I'm going to give him detention for the next month!"

"No," Shikamaru yelped, waving his hands around as though he was wiping the words out of the air. "He didn't do anything; I just realized something today about him."

"Oh." This seemed to peak the man's interest. "And what is that?"

"Well, I noticed that his always frowning at the board, at first I thought it was because he was confused, but normally, people would write down the information so they can study it later and understand it, or they will ask questions, but he doesn't take notes. What is more: is that he gets frustrated with simply writing tasks. He said after our detention for our test results that he does study, yet his marks are horrible."

Iruka-sensei frowned in confusion. "You're not here to make fun of him, are you? If so, I think I should remind you that your scores aren't much better."

"No," Shikamaru sighed, his shoulders slumped. "I'm trying to say that I think Naruto is illiterate!"

The confession seemed to stun the older male for a moment before he chuckled uncertainly. "No, he couldn't be, I would notice…" he paused. "I mean… I must have asked him to read out loud… surely, he couldn't have gotten into the academy if he couldn't read."

"You have asked him to read stuff out, but he always asks where we are up to and annoys you so you ask someone else and it's not farfetched that he can't read. Children here tend to first learn how to read from their parents and become more proficient with it through school, but Naruto doesn't have any parents and I don't know if Naruto had anyone to teach him."

He noticed the faraway, horrified look on Iruka-sensei's face as he realized that Shikamaru may have been right, meaning he had not realized how much one of his students was struggling. "I'll talk to him, but please don't tell anyone, some people are already unhappy Naruto is in the academy… because he's a prankster."

Choosing not to point out that he knew Iruka-sensei lied, though he didn't know why, Shikamaru instead nodded, his hands back in his pockets. "Well, good luck with that, I'm going to go watch the clouds."

/ / / / / / /

Iruka-sensei found Naruto sitting on the fourth Hokage's head, looking up at the sky and taking deep, measured breaths. The ninja recognized what the blond was doing, seeing as he had found Naruto doing it multiple times. He was hungry but either the villagers wouldn't take his money, or he had none. It was no secret to Iruka how the civilians in particular treated Naruto. The poor child was chased, used to be beaten until Iruka put a stop to it, had his hair pulled out, hence he never let it reach passed his ears anymore, and was charged twice as much at stores for items that were nearly off, meaning he went hungry often.

That was how Iruka had met Naruto. He had found the blond sitting by the river, taking deep, measured breaths as though working through pain. Before he was able to ask if the little boy was okay, the boy had clutched his stomach and thrown up, tears streaming down his face and anguish over his features. The brunette charged forward and tried to comfort the child as he threw up what could only be the lining of his stomach. The blond tried to crawl away from him until Iruka promised he wouldn't hurt him and started to rub soothing circles on his back. That had been the first time he took Naruto to Ichiroku ramen, since the boy said he enjoyed the instant kind.

"Hungry?" Iruka asked as he drew close enough that Naruto would hear him.

The blond jumped into a seated position, turning to look over his shoulder. "Iruka-sensei, yeah, but I don't have any money, someone stole it."

"Well come on, I'll take you for ramen."

That made a large smile to appear on the boy's face as he stood up and hugged his sensei. "You're the best, believe it!"

"Alright, get off me." Iruka detached Naruto's arms from around his stomach with a chuckle before leading the boy to the ramen shop. He watched the boy out of the corner of his eye, wondering how he should approach the subject.

"Pork ramen, please!" Naruto stated cheerful once he had sat down.

That was when Iruka got an idea to see if Shikamaru was right first. "Naruto, you always order that, ever since I suggested it to you when we first came here. Why don't you look at the menu and pick something different. If you don't like it, I'll buy you some pork ramen after." He held out the menu, trying not to give away what he was up to.

"Nah, it's alright, I like pork ramen." Naruto waved him off, closing his eyes as he smiled widely.

"It never hurts to try something new. I might as well. Read out the options and we can both choose something." Iruka pushed the menu into Naruto's hands, who looked at it with a frown before slamming it down on the counter, making Teuchi look over with a surprised look.

Naruto started shaking, clenching his fists on top of the menus' glossy surface. After a moment he turned to glare at the dark haired male, making him shutter. There was no doubt that the blond was the container for the Nine Tails when he gave people that look. It looked as though he was contemplating striking out and hitting Iruka, but then his shoulders sagged and a look of defeat came across his face. "How did you work it out?"

It took him only a moment to decide that it would be wiser to leave Shikamaru's name out of it, encase Naruto sought revenge through pulling pranks on the lazy boy. "I started to notice things during class time that made me start to think that you were incapable of reading. It seemed as though I was correct."

"Now what are you going to do? Kick me out of the academy?"

"No." Iruka shook his head for extra clarity. "I'm going to teach you how to read. We'll start now." He slid the menu closer to him, so that both he and Naruto could read it. "This one here, is spelt S-A-L-T, and is pronounced salt." He pointed out each letter as he said them. "This word is spelt R-A-M-E-N. Do you know what it says?"

Naruto frowned and looked over the menu, seeming to notice that everything on the menu had that particular word next to it except for the drinks. "Ramen?"

"Yeah." A smile spread across Iruka's face at seeing the joy in Naruto's eyes. The boy was obviously eager to learn this skill that had been eluding him and causing him so many problems at school. They ordered their dinner, which was their usual order, as Naruto and Iruka progressed through the menu. When they reached the end, Iruka would point at random words and ask Naruto to read them. It was slow work, but the blond was slowly learning the techniques needed to read.

/ / / / / / / /

He woke with a start, choking on his own saliva. Looking around, he was surprised to see there were only two boys, including himself, in the inside training ground, which bewildered him. The blond sitting next to him gave no indication that he, too, found this unusual and instead continued to read the manga with a slight frown on his face, slowly moving his lips to spell out a word. It had been two weeks since Shikamaru had spoken with Iruka-sensei and he could see the difference in Naruto when it came to class work. He was still dead last, but he was closing the large gap that had been between Shikamaru and himself. Even when he skipped class with Kiba, Choji and Shikamaru, he was always reading, trying to become better at the skill.

"Where are Choji and Kiba?" Shikamaru asked, sitting up and quickly wiping the drool from the side of his face before his friend could see it.

Naruto's blue eyes slowly moved away from the page to meet the dark haired boy's gaze. "I don't know. Choji said something about food, and I think Kiba went to the bathroom, but it's not like they ever tell me anything." Naruto's next words were said so quietly that the lazy boy nearly missed them. "It's not like they like me."

Shikamaru knew Naruto was correct to some extent. The only reason the other boys let the blond hang out with them was because Shikamaru himself asked them to. He had wanted to study Naruto up close, or at least that is what he told himself, and had invited Naruto to hang out with them one day. Since then, the blond boy was always with them when they snuck out of class, often being the one to come up with the idea for the distraction. There were also a few times they would have been caught if it was not for Naruto, who seemed to have the ability to hide even from the anbu, even with his brightly coloured clothing. However, even though they had been reluctant at first, Shikamaru could see that his two friends were warming up to Naruto as he had himself. They no longer saw the blond as a nuisance but as a friend, though they would never admit it out loud, just as he would not admit, even to himself that he cared what the blond thought.

"Oh, I wanted to thank you," Naruto exclaimed suddenly, drawing Shikamaru out of his thoughts.

"For what?"

"For talking to Iruka-sensei for me. I know it was you who pointed out I couldn't read." Naruto smiled widely, scratching the back of his head. "Everyone thinks I'm an idiot but I actually notice more than people realize. I noticed you watching me, then how you hung back after class, right before Iruka-sensei tracked me down and confronted me, and I noticed the look you and Iruka-sensei shared when you walked into class the next day. It was you who pointed out I couldn't read."

"Umm." Shikamaru cleared his throat, feeling a blush appear on his face. He hadn't realized he was being so obvious, or perhaps he hadn't realized how observant Naruto could be. "You're welcome. I see you like reading manga."

"Yeah, but this one has words I can't work out." He threw himself into a lying position, moving the book over so Shikamaru could see the word he was pointing at. "What does that word say?"

"Grotesque. The Q and U together can make a couple of different sounds." Shikamaru slowly moved into a lying position like Naruto's, supporting himself on his forearms and making sure not to touch the other boy.

"'I'm telling you'," Naruto read out-loud in a slow voice. "'The fight was grotesque, Ko…kot…etsu'?" The blond looked at Shikamaru to see if he was right. When he received a nod, he grinned proudly and went back to reading out to Shikamaru. Naruto unknowingly moved closer to him when he squirmed to get comfortable.

Shikamaru told himself not to react and instead pay attention to what Naruto was reading but he was engulfed by that feminine fragrance again that seemed to always cling to the so called boy. On top of that he was trying not to breathe too deeply. Not only would he get a lung full of Naruto's scent but he could feel every one of Naruto's breaths, feel his words rumble through his side, and feel the fabric of his jacket rub against his arm. Shikamaru was worried that if he breathed to deeply, it would distract Naruto, or make him aware to how close they were, or worse, making him feel how fast Shikamaru's heart was racing. The last one confused the dark haired boy, since he had not done any exercise, so his heart shouldn't have been beating so fast that it felt as though it was rattling through his head.

Eventually Kiba came back in with his hands in his pockets, looking bored, though Shikamaru noticed that there was a small tilt to the corner of his mouth, as though he found something amusing. He didn't voice what it was, so Shikamaru decided to keep focusing on Naruto as he progressed through the manga. It was an interesting story, with fighting and comedy in it, as well as enough challenging words that Naruto was learning more and more as he made his way through it. After some time, Choji wondered in with a grocery bag hanging from his wrist and an open bag of barbeque potato chips on his hands.

"Here you go, Naruto," Choji said as he pulled a cup from the bag. "It's a new flavor of ramen. I thought you might want to try it."

Naruto smiled widely, bracing himself on the floor to push himself up, onto his feet. He seemed not to notice that his hand was on top of Shikamaru's, making the other boy cringe and drop his head. "Thanks, Choji." Once on his feet, he noticed that he had hurt Shikamaru's hand, since the other boy was now sitting up and rubbing it. "Sorry, Shikamaru." Naruto crouched down, taking the boy's hand in his own and looked over it. "It doesn't look to badly hurt at least."

"Come on, Naruto," Choji interjected, noticing that his best friend was uncomfortable. "I'll show you where the kettle in this place is and we can start eating these." Choji threw Naruto's cup of instant ramen at him before pulling his own out of the bag and dropped the rest of his snacks on the ground where he had been sitting.

The blond followed Choji with a slight bounce in his step. Shikamaru found himself smiling at this, noticing how cheery Naruto was at the small gesture of kindness. He had noticed how Naruto responded to the smallest amount of kindness, as though he had never experienced it before and was highly grateful to the person who gave it to him. The smile he gave after someone was nice to him was always the best of all his smiles. It wasn't wide, like his fake cheerful one, but small and soft, as though he did not even realize it was there, he just couldn't help but smile. Shikamaru always liked to watch it appear on the blonde's face and had even had the pleasure of causing it once when he knocked Naruto out of the way of an oncoming ball that someone had violently kicked towards Naruto's head.

He had held out his hand to the blond, asking if he was alright as he pulled Naruto to his feet. The other boy had assured Shikamaru that he was and had given him that small smile as he thanked Shikamaru for saving him. The genius was sure he was having a heart attack at that moment, but later realized he wasn't and assumed it was something he ate.

When the two came back, they were happily slurping down ramen with disposable chopsticks and talking about what their favourite kinds of ramen were. Shikamaru heard Naruto say something about having started to like instant ramen because it was cheap and had a long expiry date, making the dark haired boy remember something he had heard his parents talking about. He had been young at the time, only just having been accepted into the academy, and had not understood what they were talking about as he hid behind the kitchen door.

"I can't believe they are letting that monster into the academy. It'll be in Shikamaru's year. What about if they are in the same class?" his mother had yelled, sounding both angry and scared.

"He's not a monster, he's a child, and he saved us!" Shikaku sighed, disgust at his wife's words barely hidden within his sentence.

"We have to tell Shikamaru to stay away from it! I can't believe the thing still lives. You think it would have starved to death."

Shikamaru jumped when the sound of a fist slamming into their kitchen table thundered through the room. "You will do no such thing! I hope Shikamaru meets the boy, I hope he becomes his friend, and I hope that that boy finds a cherished ally in our son! He is tormented in the village, he is denied decent food, he is denied happiness and safety, all because that boy became a savior, without a say in the matter. He is not a monster, he is the one who saved us from it, and if you tell Shikamaru to stay away from him then you can leave."

He had never heard his father speak like that, especially to his mother. His mother was a scary woman, one who could easily keep a man like Shikaku in line, but this boy, one that his mother saw as a monster, seemed to be someone important to Shikaku, someone that made him stand up to his wife. The little boy was curious about who they were talking about, but their conversation seemed to be over and Shikamaru knew his father would come to see if he was still asleep after the yelling. He ran as fast as he could towards his bedroom, diving under the covers and faking sleep as his father wondered in.

Now he wondered if his father had been talking about Naruto, since it seemed to fit, but he did not understand why his mother would call him a monster, or why his father would call him a savior. He had noticed though, that many hated and avoided Naruto, but he had no idea why. He had seen the hated looks the village gave Naruto, and when he asked his dad about it, he had told Shikamaru to treat the blond how he wanted. Sure, Naruto was annoying at time, and could be really dense at the worst moments, he was a clown, and didn't seem to have any talent at being a ninja, but there was something about him, something that prevented Shikamaru from hating him. He could see it was the same for Kiba and Choji. The three boys didn't exactly see Naruto as a friend, and if the blond chose to stop hanging out with them, they probably wouldn't stop him, but it was clear that all three of them saw that Naruto was an honest person. He wouldn't use or trick them and he honestly valued their presence. If Naruto was the one his father was talking about, than he had done one thing his father wished of him, he was an ally of Naruto's.

He watched the blond sit down next to him, powering through his cup of ramen. When done, he put it down with a sigh, seconds after Choji, which was an accomplishment.

"Not bad," Choji commented, crossing his legs. "But I think the broth was a bit on the weak side. What do you think, Naruto?"

"Truthfully, I'm just happy to eat something, since I was starting to feel a little sick, and Iruka-sensei yells at me when I let that happen." Naruto shrugged before pulling a brown paper bag from his pocket that looked pathetically deflated. "How much do I owe you?"

Choji, who was rummaging through his plastic bag didn't look up as he waved Naruto off. "It was on me, I like trying new foods with someone else who likes to eat." The boy finally raised his eyes as Naruto thanked him, noticing the paper bag substituting for a wallet. It was obvious that there wasn't much money in there and that Naruto didn't choose to be hungry. "Do you want some of my chips? I love sharing, just don't take the last chip." Choji wasn't lying, he did love to share his chips with his friends, but both Kiba and Shikamaru could see that he wanted to make sure Naruto was fed. If there was one thing Choji was against above all else, it was someone going without food.

"Wow, thanks, Choji, that's really nice of you," Naruto exclaimed, putting his 'wallet' away.

"Why don't you get a real wallet?" Kiba asked, frowning at the blond in confusion. "I can't imagine that one is very secure."

"Ba'cuse Ah can' afford id," explained Naruto with a mouth full of chips.

Shikamaru was impressed that none flew out his mouth as he spoke, something he felt the need to state. This caused the blond to laugh and nearly choke on his mouth full, making Shikamaru beat him on the back until he could breathe again.

"TRY NOT TO KILL ME, WILL YA?!" Naruto yelled, moving close to Shikamaru's face.

"LEARN TO SWALLOW YOUR DAMN FOOD!" Shikamaru pushed the boy back, trying to will away his blush as he narrowly avoided touching Naruto's chest. He ignored the raised eyebrow Choji shot him, making him wonder if Choji had noticed the blush or his odd behavior. He hoped not. He didn't want to explain his theory that Naruto was really a girl; since he didn't think even his best friend would believe him.

A week later, Naruto found a green frog wallet sitting in front of his door, the clasp looking like a large, silver smile. The wallet had two, black, goggily eyes that rolled around, and under the clasp was a white cloth strip with the words 'Naruto's Wallet' scrolled in handwriting that looked as though the person had put a lot of effort into making the words neat. The blond picked it up and looked around, not seeing anyone. Smiling the happiest smile anyone had seen on his face, he held the wallet up like it was a cherished pet. "I'm going to call you Gama-chan."

Cradling the gift in his arms, he unlocked his door and walked in, the clear sound of the lock being fastened ringing through the hallway. Shikamaru let out the breath he had been holding when he heard that, moving out from around the corner. He had been worried that Naruto would walk down the hallway to see if anyone was hiding there, but luckily he seemed to not want to question the charity. Truthfully he didn't know why he had asked his father for the money to buy the wallet when he saw it in the store. It was believed to be good luck to have a frog in a person's wallet, like a figurine, so he figured having a frog wallet would be even luckier, helping Naruto to get more money. He hadn't expected the other boy to cherish the gift so much, but he was happy he did.

/ / / / / / / /

He wasn't surprised when he found out Naruto failed the Genin exam. The moment he entered the room and was asked to perform a clone jutsu, he knew that Naruto would not pass. He saw the boy, sitting on the swing, looking at those that graduated. He had contemplated going up to him and talking to him but then Shikamaru's parents had arrived to congratulate him. By the time he disentangled himself from them, Naruto had disappeared. It was probably for the best. He had no clue what he would say to the blond, since Shikamaru saw it coming. Everyone did.

It was because of this that he was stunned to find Naruto sitting at one of the tables amongst the graduates. Truthfully, he had been annoyed that Naruto thought he could get away with trying to sneak into the Genin graduation. It wouldn't work. The moment Iruka-sensei walked in, he would be busted. He stopped his descent down the stairs when he spotted the blond.

"What are you doing here, Naruto?" His tone may have been harsher than it should have been. "This isn't for dropouts. You can't be here unless you graduated."

Naruto sat up, glaring at Shikamaru. "Oh, yeah, do you see this?" He pointed a thumb at his forehead where the dark haired boy saw a ninja headband. "Do you see this? Open your eyes, Shikamaru, it's a regulation headband. We're going to be training together, how do you like that?" He smiled widely, his eyes closed.

Shikamaru put a hand on his hip, quickly processing the information. He honestly didn't know how he felt about Naruto training with him. He was shocked, annoyed, happy, and slightly short of breath. In response he huffed.

"Let me put it this way," Naruto went on. "I look great in this headgear, like it was made for me. Believe it!"

Sweeping his eyes over the blonde's forehead, he noticed that it already had a scratch or two on it, and had a slightly different shade cloth on it than Shikamaru's. The taller boy instantly recognized it as Iruka-sensei's, making him wonder why Naruto didn't get one of the new ones like everyone else. A few harsh replies came to mind but when he looked at Naruto's genuinely happy smile, he couldn't bring himself to say any of them. Many of Naruto's smiles were fake, but this one wasn't. "Congratulations, Naruto."

The look of surprise on Naruto's face was worth it. "Thanks, Shikamaru. Congratulations to you too."

Clearing his throat, he nodded and headed over to Choji, who was looking at Shikamaru with a questioning look. To try and stop the boy from speaking the question that was clearly on his mind, Shikamaru asked him what he would like to do after being assigned to groups when they hung out. It worked to some extent, for it turned Choji's mind to food, since he wanted to eat.

There was a commotion behind the dark haired boy, but he would tell from the words that reached his ears that it was just Sasuke's fangirls. A quick glance at Naruto's direction, since he knew the blond boy had been sitting next to Sasuke, found the blond on the ground, looking bewildered and annoyed. Shikamaru could only roll his eyes at the girls until he saw Naruto frown. The look in Naruto's eyes was not something he had been able to witness before, but he identified it easily. Naruto was studying the situation.

Next moment, the blond was crouching on the desk, frowning at Sasuke. The dark haired boy stared back with a blank look. Shikamaru could never tell what kind of relationship those two had, since they would often seek each other out, sitting next to each other, but everything indicated that they hated each other. His face tightened and an uncomfortable feeling entered his stomach as he watched Naruto lean closer to the popular boy. The two boys ignored the Sasuke's fanclub as they yelled at Naruto. Next moment, the boy sitting in front of Sasuke leant back with a laugh, unknowingly knocking Naruto forward.

Shikamaru couldn't register what he was seeing at first. He didn't seem to be the only one. His mind went foggy, his eyes widened. His jaw dropped open as the girls all started to yell. Naruto and Sasuke pulled apart with disgusted looks on their faces, holding their throats and spitting. Naruto suddenly stopped and went still, whispering something about danger. He couldn't blame the blond. Sasuke's fanclub looked like they were out for blood.

"Naruto, you are so dead!" Sakura growled.

"Hey, wait, it was an accident." Naruto held up his hands in a defensive manner.

Sakura cracked her knuckles. "You're dead!"

Naruto looked scared with the girls glaring at him. "Hold on."

The girls rushed him, pulling him off the table and punching him. Naruto instantly put up his arms, tucking his head in to try and protect his head and stomach. He did it so quickly that Shikamaru wondered how much practice Naruto had with defending himself. Shaking his head, Shikamaru walked forward, grabbing Ino's arm as she went in for another punch.

"That's enough. It was an accident and beating up Naruto won't change that." He pushed his way in between Naruto and the group of girls, staring at them with an annoyed look. Looking over his shoulder he noticed Naruto slumping against the desk, bruised. He hadn't thrown a single hit at the girls.

A girl that Shikamaru thought was called Aya piped up, her two bushy pigtails poking in the air. "But he stole Sasuke's first kiss!"

His heart stopped before clenching painfully. Looking at Naruto again, seeing him sitting on the floor, his tongue prodding the bruise forming on his lip, made the feeling worse. Taking a deep breath, Shikamaru faced the crowd again, ignoring the worried look Choji shot him. "Well it happened, so get over it."

Shikamaru turned around, bending down to help Naruto up. As he did, Sakura charged passed to get the seat next to Sasuke. Grasping his arm, Shikamaru pulled Naruto up onto the seat. "What a drag."

"Thanks, Shikamaru," Naruto whispered, giving him a small smile before slumping in his seat.

He swallowed before nodding mutely.

Ino growled, allowing Shikamaru to ignore his racing heartbeat. "Billboard Brow, what do you think you are doing?"

Before Ino could start a fight with Sakura, that would no doubt result in more pain for Naruto, Shikamaru grabbed her arm and dragged her to the table behind Sasuke's, practically throwing her into the chair just as Iruka-sensei walked into the room. The dark haired boy rested his chin on his palm as he half listened to what Iruko-sensei was telling them about the teams they were going to join. Truthfully he didn't care who he ended up in a group with as long as he didn't have to put up with Ino. She was currently whispering snide comments about Sakura and Naruto under her breath. Shikamaru couldn't help but notice that Iruka-sensei was wearing a headband identical to his own.

"As of today you are all ninjas. To get here you have difficult trials and hardships. But that's nothing! What comes next will be far more difficult. Now you are only Genin, first level ninjas. All the Genin will be grouped into three man squads. Each squad will be led by a Jonin, an elite ninja."

Whilst Iruka-sensei spoke, Shikamaru watched Naruto, wondering if he was going to move from his place, slumped on the desk.

"Well, someone's got to be in Sasuke's group," Ino said in a snide voice. "I wonder who."

"I don't know," Sakura replied in an airy voice.

Naruto slowly sat up, looking around. Shikamaru wondered what he was looking for. Perhaps he had temporary memory loss and didn't know where he was or what was going on. Then the dark haired boy noticed Naruto look at Sakura. He felt sick. It seemed Naruto had a crush on a girl who thought he was scum, though she had no reason to think that. She was just stuck up and anyone who wasn't Sasuke wasn't worth her time. Truthfully, Shikamaru couldn't tell who he wanted to be in a group with, though Choji would be nice.

"We want each squad to have a balance of strength and abilities," Iruka-sensei continued. "So that's how we set them up."

Shikamaru made sure to keep his ears open for his name, but other than that, he didn't see a point to paying attention. He definitely noticed that Naruto ended up on a team with Sakura, which Naruto was overly thrilled with, and Sasuke, which he was not so thrilled about. Turning his head away from the table in front of him, Shikamaru tried to ignore the feeling gnawing at his insides. A barely suppressed groan passed his lips when he heard that he was in a team with Ino. At least he had Choji to keep him company.

When he met his sensei, with the rest of his newly formed team, he would have been impressed, if he could see through the smoke that clouded his vision. They were able to get their sensei to put out his cigarette when they couldn't speak around their coughs. He seemed like a competent leader. Although his habit was far from healthy; Shikamaru knew that almost every ninja had his or her vise. His own father drank, most of Choji's family ate, and Ino was obsessive over boys and looks (though he couldn't tell if that was an actual 'vise'). If he had to guess his own, he would say that he enjoyed studying people to much, or was lazy.

Asuma-Sensei had them name their favourite and least favourite things, as well as a dream of theirs. Shikamaru groaned when Ino used it as an excuse to talk about Sasuke for five minutes. It would have been longer, no doubt, if their sensei hadn't put a stop to it. It was obvious that he was paying close attention to all three of them and the way they behaved. Once they had answered his questions about themselves, he told them something they did not expect.

"Only three teams will move on to the next level of ninja. Some Jonins decide within days whether or not their team will be sent back to the academy. Now, I'm not going to do that. We have a couple of months before we decide and I plan to use them. However, if you all show little improvement or talent, I will have to send you back earlier. You shouldn't worry though, I'm sure you will all do well. One thing you have to remember is that you are a team. You pass or fail together, so if you slack off, or refuse to work, you are letting down the other two members in your team." He let them think over his words for a moment.

Shikamaru shot a look at Ino. He had no doubt that he could work with Choji, and that the heavy boy wouldn't let him down, but Ino he wasn't so sure about. For all he knew, she could be contemplating whether Sasuke would be sent back, since he was on a team with Naruto, giving her the opportunity to be put on his team. To his surprise, the blonde had what looked like a determined look on her face. Perhaps he had misjudged her.

Turning back to their sensei, Shikamaru listened to the man as he talked about their training schedule and what kind of missions they were liable to go on for the first couple of months. It seemed all routine really, which was fine with Shikamaru. Once they were finished, they were told to meet the next day in one of the training grounds to work on team work. Their sensei wasn't going to let them on any missions until he had learnt their strengths and weaknesses and they had started to learn to cover them with team strategy.