Soul Scrolls

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and its related characters. If I did, I wouldn't be here.

Chapter 1

"Anou... Sasuke-kun, I... I like you..."

My hands were clasped, and my pulse raced as I awaited his reply. My cheeks were hot, and all of a sudden I was intrigued by my well-kept toenails. The silence was deafening. I bit my lower lip in anticipation of his reply.It had taken a lot for me to muster up that bit of courage to confess. But would he accept me or...?

"Ino... I'm sorry... I already like someone else. " The apology in his voice was evident, and he bent down a little to gaze sadly and earnestly into my eyes, which were surprisingly dry despite the pain that seared through my heart with the realisation that I had been rejected.

"Oh, I see..." I forced a smile onto my taut lips as I lifted my gaze to meet his, and tried to conceal the hurt in my voice.


"Goodbye, Sasuke..." Unable to bear looking at him any longer, I took off, running aimlessly, not caring where I went- as long as I was running away from him. I must have bumped into several people along the way; I vaguely heard chiding voices calling from behind me. But instead of stopping to apologise, which I would have done had I not been so dazed by the pain, I hung my head and continued running.

The pain in my heart gnawed at my senses, and Sasuke's words reverberated in the depths of my mind. I already like someone else...

I fought back tears, and bit on my lower lip so hard that I tasted blood. No way was I going to cry over a boy, not even if he was the one I had liked for the better half of my life thus far.

I screamed as I bumped into a figure; I was so caught up in my thoughts that I didn't even notice the person before me. I landed hard on the dusty ground and winced in pain. I tried to get up, only to find that my left ankle throbbed with pain as I tried to move it.

Sheepishly, I mumbled an apology, and tried to get up on my own. I was offered a hand, and gratefully, I took it without looking at who offered it; I was too embarrassed to even look at him.

"Sheesh, Ino... Be more careful next time... Geez. How troublesome."

My head snapped up as I recognised the signature drawl of my teammate. "Oh, it's you..."

"Ino, what's with you? You don't seem yourself today... First you run around the marketplace like a wild boar..." Here he paused, as if waiting for me to fling a retort at him, and then continued, "And then you crash into me without even realising it. What's wrong with you?" He gazed earnestly into my eyes, genuinely concerned.

"I... " Tears suddenly welled up in my eyes, and I brushed them away quickly, hoping that he hadn't noticed.

But he did.

"Ino..." He placed a sympathetic hand on my shoulder.

And then the dam burst and I flung myself into his arms, sobbing hysterically, and with complete disregard for the rest of the world. While rather surprised at first, he seemed to know what to do, and simply patted my back gently and said, "Shh, it's all right... Let's find some place to talk..."

"So... you confessed?"

I nodded in reply, slightly embarrassed. I sniffled and scrubbed at my swollen eyes, and tried to shut out thoughts of Sasuke. Damn, why did I even bother to tell Shikamaru what happened? I wasn't even planning on telling anyone! I poked at my dinner with my chopsticks, suddenly finding the piping-hot tempura less than appetising.

"And he rejected you? Just like that?" Meekly, I nodded, slightly taken aback by the intensity in his eyes.

For a moment I thought he was going to slam the table or do something violent, but the suspense ended in an anticlimax. "Aww, he should know better than to do that... Sheesh..." He rolled his eyes melodramatically. "He really ought to be taught a lesson or two."

Alarmed, I jumped out of my seat emphatically, upsetting the soup bowl in the process. "No, you mustn't do that!"

"Do what?" His surprised face mirrored my own for a few seconds, and then melted into another of his signature smirks. "Oh, so you still do care about him, don't you? I meant, he ought to be taught a few lessons in the art of being a gentleman. Chill, don't worry. Surely you didn't think I was going to beat him up?"

I blushed furiously as I sat down and tried to clean up the mess I had made, amid stares from other customers in the teahouse. I was acutely aware of Shikamaru's taunting, and I kicked myself for not being able to fling back intelligent retorts like him. But hey, who's the un-gentlemanly one here? If teasing a girl who was nursing a broken heart was being a gentleman, then surely there would be no evil on earth and the hills would be reduced to water.

Damn you, Shikamaru. I gritted my teeth in anger as a sudden feeling of worthlessness welled up in my heart. First I lose out to some girl who got to Sasuke first, and now I can't even talk to my teammate without being taunted. Just what kind of loser am I?

I clenched my fists, determined not to cry. Shikamaru had always been like that, cynical and all, but I just didn't need that kind of cynicism around me just when I needed emotional support most! Oh why did I ever want to tell him what had happened earlier? I'd only made matters worse for myself!

Afraid that I'd start crying all over again, I stood up and made preparations to go. The disappointment on his face was evident, and he stood up, hoping that I'd stay. "Hey, Ino, you know I didn't really mean to make you upset... But um if you're really that intent on going home, perhaps I could walk you?"

I ignored him and walked on, pretending that I had not heard. But he grabbed my wrist insistently and refused to let me go. Unable to wrench myself from his grip without kicking up a fuss, I could only watch and wait as he paid the bill, and eventually gave myself in to the notion that he should walk me home.

I walked in silence beside him in the cool night air. This wasn't the first time he'd walked me home; after all, he said it was only his duty as a teammate to see that I got home safely. Since Choji was perpetually rushing home for his lard-rich dinner, it was up to Shikamaru to walk me home. And despite his constant phobia of being caught in 'troublesome' events, he would take the initiative to see me home.

I would often grumble that I was a ninja, and could easily take care of myself, but despite all that scolding and complaining, I didn't really mind him walking me home. Even though we spent most of the journey in silence, it was often with reluctance when we parted ways.

Tonight was no different, and I was touched that he still offered to take me home even though we had a minor disagreement earlier on.

"Anou, Shikamaru... I'm sorry for what I did earlier on..." I smiled at him sheepishly and stuck my hand out awkwardly as we reached my doorstep. "Truce?"

Instead of shaking my hand, he grabbed my wrist swiftly and, much to my surprise, pulled me straight towards him and engulfed me in a crushing embrace. Wordlessly, he bent down and brushed his lips lightly against my cheek and sped off into the night.

Slightly dazed, I slowly brought my hand up to my face and touched the place where he had just kissed me. Just what was wrong with him today? I shook my head to clear out my thoughts, and walked up into my house.

A/n: Yay! My second ShikaIno fic! XD Ah well. Took me eons to write that. XB Yeah. Hope you all enjoyed it ^^