Unspoken Rules

Chapter 3


Konoha Shinobi (Unspoken) Rule #4: Friendship above all else.


“You're lucky they know you personally, fellow ANBU and all,” Hyuuga Neji said after what could be described as a snicker.

Shikamaru put down his tea after taking a sip. “Yeah, well, with the noise she was making I doubt they thought I was assassinating the Sunagakure liaison, whoever I was.”

Neji snorted around the dango he was biting. “Still, to actually leave through the exact window where they stood guard…”

“It was the closest, least troublesome way out.”

“Whatever. I still can't believe you slept with a kunoichi who’s not only a Sunagakure jounin three years older than you, but is sister to the Kazekage.” Neji paused to laugh a little. “And you say you’re the biggest coward in Konoha.”

His pony tailed friend just smirked.


“They’re that good?” Nara Shikamaru asked as he moved a piece on the shougi board.

“Hm,” Hyuuga Neji affirmed quietly, pondering a move. “All of them seem to have chakra at least as strong as Naruto, if not stronger.”

“Hn,” Shikamaru grunted, rubbing his chin lazily as his brain automatically calculated possibilities regarding Akatsuki’s strength upon hearing the new information. “Well, at least everything turned out okay. In fact, losing the Ichibi might be a good thing for Gaara.”

Neji made his move, capturing one of Shikamaru’s pawns. “True.”

Shikamaru captured Neji’s rook. “And our alliance with Sunagakure is strengthened even more.”

“Just so,” answered Neji absentmindedly, thinking of a way to save his king before it would most likely get caught in the next three moves.


“And you say he’s wearing a Konoha hitai-ate?” asked Hyuuga Neji with a frown.

“Aa,” his companion answered sleepily, hands pillowing his head on the ground as he gazed at the clouds with half-lidded eyes.

Neji tried to analyze everything his friend just told him. “A jutsu that brings ink to life… That’s quite distinct.”

Shikamaru folded his right knee up and crossed his legs. “The first thing I did was look in to it.”


“Found it in old classified ANBU records.”

The young Hyuuga let out a worried look. Shikamaru just sighed as he continued, “An ANBU Root operative has that jutsu.”

Neji scowled, not liking the implication. “That organization was disbanded long ago. Even if that operative was still alive, he would have been in his thirties at least, whereas the nin that attacked you three was no older than us.”

“I talked to Tsunade soon after,” the younger shinobi responded. “She said not to worry and that she'd already taken the countermeasures.”

“That’s it? She didn’t tell you anything else?”

Shikamaru shrugged. “Need to know only. You know how it is. I’m only a chuunin after all, reserve ANBU or not.”

Neji sat up from his relaxed position. “Maybe if I-”

“Don’t.” Shikamaru cut him off in a firm tone so out of character, Neji had to turn his head to see if he was still talking to same person. “The higher-ups know what they’re doing. This is the kind of situation where we can only wait and see.”

The jounin sighed and decided to drop the subject, going back to accompanying his friend in silent cloud-watching. Besides, another friend had already plopped down near them while opening a bag of chips and an oversized puppy was bounding towards them, another young friend of theirs on its back.

Ever since he had become friends with Shikamaru, Neji had slowly also become friends with all the fifteen-year-old chuunins that was once he considered lower than him. It happened so naturally, the proud Hyuuga hardly noticed it much less thought of the ‘how’ or ‘why’ of it.


“…and he is now a part of Cell 7,” Shikamaru finished his story, pulling a snug black tank top down to cover his torso. On the bed beside him, bone-colored armor and plates were laid precariously next to a sword and mask.

Neji sat quietly on the edge of that very same bed. He had come to see if Shikamaru was available for a game of Shougi or two, catching the young Nara right after he had hurriedly returned from a hospital visit because of an unexpected ANBU mission. The last ten minutes were spent listening to Tsunade’s debriefing on the Uchiha Sasuke situation and about an ANBU Root personnel named Sai the chuunin had met at the hospital.

“How come Sasuke wasn’t declared Nuke-nin?” asked Neji after analyzing the information in his head. Shikamaru propped a foot on the bed.

“Politics,” he answered in his usual bored tone as he strapped on a leg armor plate.

‘Ah, of course,’ Neji thought as he scowled in dislike. Sasuke was the only Uchiha left since Itachi had been declared Nuke-nin years ago. Not only was the Sharingan a very powerful blood limit, the name Uchiha itself was like a symbol to Konoha shinobi. It would be best not to give up on those before trying everything. As public knowledge, Sasuke didn’t run away, he was kidnapped.


Neji let the bird fly back to Konoha. The news was dreadful and the order was specific. Sarutobi Asuma had died and the rest of the Nijuu Shotai were to continue their search for the team of Akatsuki that had snuck in to Fire Country.

He wouldn’t be able to attend the funeral or check up on his best friend.

The young jounin briefed his team about the new situation with a worried frown. He hoped Shikamaru was alright.


“I heard you made jounin. Congratulations,” Neji said as he sat down. This was the first chance he got to see his friend after the whole Akatsuki fiasco. ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t there,’ his eyes said.

“Troublesome,” Shikamaru said with a sigh, tapping his cigarette on the ashtray. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ his eyes said.

“So how did Godaime-sama finally rope you into it?”

“She said, and I quote, ‘It’s a promotion, not an offer. Dismissed.’”

Neji snorted, “Well, you had it coming. After all that fuss she made when you refused to enter the Jounin Exam, you’re lucky she waited until now to promote you.”

Shikamaru poured more sake into his shooter. “Trouble-”

“Quit your whining, Nara,” the older jounin scoffed. “You’re the one who decided to show off by having your team defeat two immortal S-Rank ninja and bring back a talking head for Morino-san to play with.”

Said Nara took a drag of his cigarette before pointing out, “You mean Kakashi’s team.”

“Officially, yes.” A pause. “Have you read his report?”

Shikamaru shook his head and gave his friend a questioning look. Why would he? Neji answered the look with, “He stated that all tactical decisions, including the accurate estimation of the enemy’s location, were made by a team member who, and I quote, ‘has jounin-level battle skills and ninja sense, with extraordinary leadership and tactical genius.’ Now what was that shinobi’s name again? Nara something…”

This time Shikamaru raised an eyebrow with dread. Mission reports were classified material. He didn’t like where this was going. “And how did you know that?”

Neji gave him his usual smug smirk. “Everybody knows. Why did you think nobody said anything when Godaime-sama promoted a lazy ass like you to a Tokubetsu Jounin who functions as War Leader?”

Shikamaru drank his sake in one shot. He needed it bad.

“There were talks about making that mission a case scenario in the academy’s advanced strategy class. Along with your way of handling it, of course.”

Shikamaru nearly dropped the shooter he was putting down. Neji’s smile was utterly evil.

“I can just picture it: In the case of facing two immortals, go with Shikamaru Maneuver 1.0, proceed with other versions of the Shikamaru Maneuver accordingly during battle-”

Shikamaru flicked his cigarette and successfully burned a hole in Neji’s pristine shirt.


“Do you think he’ll snap out of it?” Neji asked quietly.

“Hn,” answered Shikamaru while lighting a cigarette. “Naruto and Sakura won’t let him not snap out of it.”

They walked in silence afterwards, slightly behind their other friends. Seeing what was once the most promising shinobi in Konoha turned in to an unresponsive occupant of their hospital’s mental patient ward wasn’t exactly an uplifting experience, especially knowing that their lives would continue like nothing had happened. They would go on with missions and other activities while Uchiha Sasuke sat quietly in his room, blood-red eyes staring at nothing.


Neji and Shikamaru walked wearily out of the mission room and into the night that was too warm for comfort. They had just reported in after their respective missions, both successful but filled with chaos and death. Their usual easy conversation was gone, and their companionable silence was now overbearing. In a dark alley they had taken as a shortcut, both moved at the same time.

Shikamaru, burning cigarette thrown away, fisted his friend’s shirt the same time Neji grabbed his shoulders with bruising force. The kiss came simultaneously, hard and severe. Neji didn’t even realize he had let Shikamaru push him into a wall as he concentrated only on touch, feeling nothing but the greedy mouth sucking his tongue and the flak vest pressing hard against him.

The rest went by even more blurred to both of them. Shikamaru vaguely remembered having Neji’s legs locked tight around his waist while he thrust harder and faster, mind blissfully vacant from its customary unconscious turmoil of both inane and vital information processing. Neji barely remembered anything other than jolts of pleasure and exquisite pain that shut down his brain and blew apart his senses.

What they did remember clearly was how their comfortable silence and easy conversation had returned, even as Neji put on his pants while Shikamaru pulled up his zipper.


“Shikamaru! You’re late, you lazy bum!” Yamanaka Ino practically screeched. The recipient of said screech merely walked in with his usual bored expression, hands in his pockets and a burning cigarette perched between his lips.

“Hn. Happy birthday.”

“And a belated happy sweet sixteen to you, slow poke. Where were you anyway? I couldn’t find you yesterday, and now that I’m nice enough to also make this party your birthday party, you’re late!”

Shikamaru was unperturbed by the loud rant. “Mission. Just got back.”

Ino “hmph”-ed and Shikamaru took it as a signal to escape. He quickly walked away, idly waving off the “happy birthday”s thrown his way by his friends, and stood by the window so he could smoke without anyone fussing. Next to the window was Hyuuga Neji, relieved to see the only person he could actually talk to after playing wallflower for nearly an hour.

“Funny seeing you here. Didn’t think you’re the party type,” Shikamaru greeted.

“I’m working,” Neji said with a glance towards his cousin. Shikamaru followed the glance and chortled. Hinata was simpering, index fingers poking each other, face so red she could’ve had a fever. In front of her, Naruto was trying rather desperately to catch the attention of a pink-haired kunoichi who was too busy flirting with Sasuke to notice, while Sasuke glared at anyone stupid enough to catch his eyes.

“Idiots,” mumbled the two jounins at the same time.


“Happy New Year!” everyone in the bar shouted. The party had gotten somewhat out of control, regardless of it being a jounin and invites only celebration. Of course, with the way the drinks kept coming, perhaps it wasn’t that surprising.

Neji was frustrated by the fact that while he was already feeling the room spin all around him, Shikamaru was still as alert as a good shinobi on a mission. It wasn’t because the young Nara hadn’t been drinking, oh no. The most annoying fact was that they all knew Shikamaru had drank just as much if not more than they had. Damn Naras with their knowledge in medicine and their tradition of pumping themselves full of it since birth to have an absurdly strong tolerance towards any alien substance in their bodies.

Contrary to popular belief, being the sober one at a party was not a good thing. Not when the party was filled with drunken Konoha jounins, and most definitely not when you kept laughing at said drunken jounins whenever they failed to do anything simple like walking or grabbing a glass.

Jounins are good with teamwork, inebriated or not, and when Anko started to lap dance on Shikamaru, everyone picked up on the cue. It took a Hyuuga, one Shiranui, a bit of Namiashi and Hatake combo, plus a whole Umino to hold the strategist down while a cackling Mitarashi poured full bottles of sake, beer, and everything else she found within reach in to the poor genius’ mouth. The other jounins and invites cheered them on.

When morning came, Neji found himself blinking at a ceiling he didn’t recognize with an incessant pounding inside his head. The first fact he acknowledged was his naked state. The second one was that he was lying on the floor next to an equally naked Shikamaru who had also just woke up and was rubbing his forehead with a muffled groan, which was not surprising. The third fact he acknowledged, and the most disturbing one, was that a purple-haired, naked kunoichi was lying on top of them. If those facts didn’t hit them upside the head with a clue of how the night had ended, the reek of sex did.

Shikamaru looked at him with a painful look that said, ‘We didn't… did we?’

The answering pitiful look from Neji practically screamed, ‘God, I hope not.’

When Anko stirred and started to groan, signaling to the two young men under her that she was waking up with a hangover just as bad, one word came from both of them: “Shit.”


“I want to be ANBU,” Sasuke stated in his usual imposing tone, eyes glaring. He had passed the chuunin exam with a team that consisted of Naruto, Sai and himself a couple of months ago, and now he was in a hurry to step up the career ladder.

Shikamaru was unfazed. “And you’re telling me this, why?”

“Hn. You’re an ANBU Reserve who’s also Konoha’s strategist. The whole ANBU force listens to anything you say. If you told them to, they’d recruit me.”

The other people at the table consisted of Sakura, Chouji and Neji. And they started to get anxious. They knew Shikamaru was never comfortable talking about his position with his friends, and Sasuke wasn’t exactly using the right approach.

“That, Uchiha Sasuke, is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard.” The pony tailed jounin paused to swallow his barbeque and drink his water. “Besides, even if I did have such power over ANBU, what makes you think I should tell them about you?”

Sasuke didn’t budge. “I have more than just the right capabilities. We all know the rumors about ANBU Reserve. I’d be perfect as one.”

“Hm?” Shikamaru asked serenely, lighting a cigarette. They could all feel the tension thickening, particularly with the commanding air Shikamaru started exuding, one that was usually reserved for missions or tactical briefings in jounin meetings. “How so?”

Sakura tried to amend the situation. “Ah, those are just rumors. Don’t take him seriously, Shikamaru. Sasuke-kun was just-”

“You know ‘how’,” the Uchiha survivor cut her off. He looked Shikamaru right in the eyes and continued with a low voice, “I can see it in your eyes. You’ve killed people.”

Chouji tried his version of damage control. “Ne, Sasuke, we’re shinobi. We've all killed at one time or another in battle. You’re being-“

“I said people, not other shinobi.” Sasuke smirked at Shikamaru. “And I never said anything about battle either.”

Neji frowned. That was a low blow. Sasuke was lucky that Shikamaru was a Nara, and as such, had no temper what-so-ever if not complete control over his psyche. If it were anyone else, the Uchiha clan would have lost its one and only chance of revival.

“I’ll repeat my question,” Shikamaru responded with eerie calm before pausing to exhale a trail of smoke. “How so?”

This time Sasuke hesitated, eyes darkening. After casting faint glances towards the other three, he made a decision and answered, “While in Orochimaru’s forces I’ve… seen things. Done things. And I can see in your eyes that you understand what I’m talking about. I’m possibly even more qualified than you are.”

Shikamaru took a deep drag of his cigarette. “It’s funny you should say that,” pause, exhale, “After all, I wasn’t the one spending almost a year in Konoha’s mental facility acting like a potted plant.”

Everyone froze. Sasuke even more so. Shikamaru decided to fill the silence by adding more of his two cents, peacefully smoking. “You’re weak, Sasuke, and I’m not talking about your fighting abilities. Your very decision to go to Orochimaru in the first place showed that.”

Inhale. “You wanted to be stronger than Itachi, sure. But rather than gaining strength with your own power, you actually chose to sacrifice your body and mind, not to mention your own village, in exchange for Orochimaru’s.”

Exhale. “That, of course, begged the question of whether or not you have any willpower at all. Weak and self-centered. How troublesome.”

Inhale. “Aside from being weak, you’re also remarkably stupid.”

Exhale. “Even if your idiotic plan had worked, the one who killed Itachi wouldn’t have been you. It would’ve been Orochimaru in your body. Seriously, Sasuke, what were you thinking?”

“Stop.” The voice was so small they barely heard it. It was still firm though. “Please.”

Shikamaru stopped, cigarette perched between two relaxed fingers on the table. He just looked at Sasuke with his usual bored expression, the other young man not looking back, face hidden behind his hair. Chouji waited calmly like he usually did whenever Shikamaru took charge of a situation, ready to play back up if needed. Neji followed his lead. Sakura was near tears.

“I take it we won’t be hearing about ANBU from you anymore,” Shikamaru finally said.

Sasuke took a shaky deep breath, but his voice still managed to came out firm. “Yes.”

Shikamaru took another drag before calmly asking, “Do you need to excuse yourself?”

“Yes,” answered Sasuke, still looking down with his fists clenched.

The jounin nodded, cigarette between his lips. “Go on. I’ll take care of the bill.”

Sasuke stood up. “Thank you for the meal,” he said before leaving. They could hear his footsteps turning into a run the minute he got outside. Sakura bolted after him.

After a bit of silence, a sizzling noise was heard as Chouji grilled a piece of meat.

“Well,” he said with his usual happy voice, “that’s surely something you don’t see everyday.”

The two jounins snorted before Neji suddenly thought of something and asked, “Did you pick up that trick from your time in ANBU Torture and Interrogation Unit?”

Shikamaru smirked around his cigarette. “Yeah. Cool, huh?”


“I didn’t think they’d be this adamant about it,” Neji huffed in frustration.

“Well, it is one of the Hyuuga’s fundamental traditions,” Shikamaru said calmly. He moved one of his pawns before continuing, “I think you’re the one making this troublesome. Just marry that distant cousin of yours and everything will be fine.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” the older jounin grumbled. “You’re not the one who has to marry some girl you hardly know.”

Shikamaru lit up a cigarette. “Then get to know her. Do you even know her name?”

“Her name is Hinako. She’s seventeen, your age by the way, and she’s a member of the branch family.” Neji paused and moved his knight. “She doesn’t have Byakugan, so she didn’t become a ninja.”

“Hm,” Shikamaru responded while scanning the board. “Is she ugly?”

“Wha-? No. Actually she’s quite pretty. Why?”

“If that’s the case then I really don’t know what the problem is,” the young Nara answered while moving his rook. “She’s pretty, and since a Hyuuga isn’t allowed to marry before the age of eighteen you still have a year to get to know each other.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Why? Is it because you have feelings for someone else outside your clan? If that’s the case then I’m officially offended. I can’t believe you never told me, being your best friend and all.” Shikamaru paused to smirk before saying, “And with benefits, no less.”

“Ha ha. Very funny, Nara. No, I don’t have feelings for anyone outside or inside my clan. That’s not the problem,” Neji said with a glare, callously capturing Shikamaru’s knight.

“Then what is?”

“I don’t want to get married. To anyone. Not when my children will end up with a god damn seal on their foreheads.”

Shikamaru tapped his cigarette on an ashtray, eyes studying his friend intently. Apparently, the issue was deeper than Neji’s dislike of having his life controlled by his family. He would offer his help, but he knew this was something Neji wanted to deal with on his own.

“You know,” he said after pondering for a while. “You could always just get a vasectomy.”

Neji threw a shougi piece at him.


Neji was glad when he saw that the lights were on in Shikamaru’s bachelor apartment, otherwise his midnight roof-jumping would’ve been for nothing. His young friend had rented the place because it was only a block away from ANBU headquarters and closer to the mission office compared to his house, but he only stayed there after missions, opting for the comfort of his family’s house when he wasn’t going anywhere.

Since the Hyuuga compound was also quite far from the mission office, Shikamaru had given him a spare key with the offer of a closer place to sleep whenever he was too tired to go home after a mission. He had used the key many times in the past two years, to drop dead after a mission or just to get away from his family. Or, like tonight…

Shikamaru only needed one look at Neji’s face to know what his friend had come for. He merely greeted, “Bad night?”

“Hn,” answered the long haired jounin absentmindedly as he relocked the door.

As was habitual, no more words were exchanged before Neji found himself naked and writhing in pleasure under his best friend, practically screwed into the mattress. It was puzzling really, how they could understand each other without having to say anything. When one came around, the other would know what was expected. That was saying something, seeing as they sought each other out for many reasons; a friendly chat, a heavy discussion, a quiet companionship, a game of shougi, sex.

When both young men started to fall asleep in their dazed, contented state, they didn’t need to say anything to thank each other for those occasional chances of having their minds completely blank. The morning would be filled with easy conversation and friendly banter during breakfast, and then they would go on their separate ways.


Hyuuga Hinata’s eighteenth birthday was celebrated in a traditional, elaborate manner. It was the presentation of the next Hyuuga clan leader, after all. All clans and other invites, which consisted of fellow shinobi and acquaintances of the family, came with formal attire and were seated according to the order of their stature.

Branch family members were in charge of security. Neji, being the most favored one by their clan leader, was stationed right behind Hinata to act as her bodyguard. That was why he got a full view of shinobi dropping their jaws with eyes widened to impossible proportions when the Nara clan leader and heir arrived.

The shock was double. One was from seeing the fact that Nara Shikamaru was the heir of his clan, and another from seeing the slothful jounin walking -- and not slouching -- with a majestic presence as natural as Hyuuga Hiashi’s himself. The shock was triple for poor Neji, since that was the moment he realized his younger friend had actually outgrown him, even if only by an inch.

Eventually, as the ceremonies and speeches ended, the shock wore off and everyone just plain enjoyed themselves, mingling and partying.

“Since when are you the next clan leader of Nara?” Neji asked once he reached his best friend.

“Since I was six,” answered the younger jounin while lighting a cigarette.

While Neji was garbed in formal white male kimono like the other Hyuuga males, Shikamaru was clad fully in formal Nara regalia that consisted of a black hakama and gi, covered by a black haori adorned with the Nara symbol on the back. His hair was tied up into its customary ponytail by a metal band that also carried the Nara symbol.

The whole getup was a far cry from Shikamaru’s usual shabby shinobi attire and ugly hair tie. Not to mention the relaxed yet commanding presence he continuously exuding without realizing it. Neji could understand why some of their friends were still staring at the genius behind his back. Not that said genius didn’t notice.

“I don’t understand,” said the Hyuuga. “Your father isn’t the clan leader, but you’re the clan heir?”

Shikamaru shrugged. “It’s our way. While your clan relies on birthright, my clan relies on the clan leader’s careful deliberation.”

“Oh,” Neji responded with a thoughtful frown. “Are there any particular guidelines in choosing an heir?”

The younger man exhaled smoke. “Only that it has to be a male. In fact, our current clan leader, who is my distant uncle by the way, isn’t even a shinobi. But he’s an excellent businessman and his wise and caring nature makes him a good leader.”

Neji smiled sadly. “That’s nice.”

The two young jounins stood in silence afterwards, atmosphere suddenly distressing. They were saved, surprisingly, by none other than Hyuuga Hiashi.

“Neji. I never knew you were well acquainted with the heir of the Nara clan.”

“Ojii-sama,” Neji greeted his uncle. Shikamaru just nodded politely.

“So you’re the famous Nara Shikamaru,” Hiashi said, turning his attention to his young guest with a smile. “I never thought Konoha’s strategist was someone my daughter’s age, and a friend of my nephew, no less.”

Shikamaru returned the hospitality with an obligatory smile. “We share quite a bit of interests, like shougi, for one.”

“Oi! Shikamaru!” a voice suddenly called. It sounded like Naruto.

“Deer-brat! Come here for a minute!” That was undoubtedly the Hokage. People were starting to get loud in there.

“If you’ll excuse me,” the young Nara said with a nod.

Hiashi let him go. “Of course. Please, enjoy yourself.”

Neji didn’t have a chance to get away before his uncle said, “It’s good to see you being friendly with shinobi your age. You’re always so serious, sometimes I worry. From what Hinata just told me, that Shikamaru seems to be a nice young man. Is he a good friend?”

For a split second Neji had to think about that. They understood each other enough that sometimes words were unnecessary. They trusted each other completely; the Konoha War Leader had no compunction in sharing classified information and the older jounin never thought twice before sharing stories about his clan’s disgraceful secrets. They even trusted each other enough to share their weakest moments, which usually led to sharing their bodies. One never demanded or expected anything from the other. Their friendship was as reassuring and comfortable as no other thing in his life could be for, Neji knew, they would remain friends no matter what happened, sex notwithstanding. The answer was right there.

“Yes, Ojii-sama. He is the best friend anyone could ever hope for.”


Chapter 2 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Shikamaru/Neji ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 4



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