Hello everyone. I'm hoping it's okay to post this, since it's really only hinting at LeeShika fluff instead of being pure yaoi. ^^;
I don't think you need to know anything about shogi for this fic to make sense. I tried to keep that part simple. If I made something confusing/wrong please tell me and I'll try to fix it. *bows* Thank you and please enjoy.
Working title: The Way He Moves
Pairing: Hints of Shikamaru/Lee
Stats: 4 pages; lacking in spoilers or a specific spot in the Naruto timeline
Notes: Lee's strategy is simple, but there's something about him that keeps Shikamaru guessing.
Shogi is a simple game when you look at its most basic level. With only nine types of pieces, each restricted to a specific type of movements, there are a limited number of possible moves so long at you count them turn by turn. It is not in the pieces or the board that the complexity lies, but in the partner.
That was the reason Shikamaru played this way, plotting out two completely different strategies on his own. Playing against himself was little fun, since he already knew all too well what he was thinking. Besides, the outcome was boring. He never lost to himself. Or rather, he always lost, depending upon the point of view.
It was far more interesting to plot moves for a theoretical opponent. Over time he could single out strategies they might favor, working out the most likely moves of someone who wasn’t there to decide for themselves. That was a far more interesting pastime than second-guessing himself, particularly because his theoretical opponent could change each time he played, without him having to track down someone new.
He had played often against Asuma-sensei this way. Until very recently he had done it more often than he had faced off against the man himself, deliberately imagining his sensei at the top of his game in all conditions.
And, more recently, he had made attempts to plot out the way Temari would play against him. She plotted ahead in a more instinctive than specific way, he thought. That made it tricky to guess just which moves she would see through, and which she wouldn’t. Ino was an opponent he had tried to play from his imagination alone, though she had never obliged him with a game. He had a feeling she would be good at shogi. She had a knack for holding some final trick or move in reserve that could serve her well, especially against an opponent who didn’t know any better than to take her at face value.
The one person he had never gotten into the habit of playing imaginary games against was Chouji. He was the one person Shikamaru could talk into actually sitting down and playing against him. It wasn’t Chouji’s strategy that made the game interesting, but the presence of a lifelong friend.
Even though he had plenty of theoretical friends and enemies to try his hand at mimicking and defeating within the bounds of the game, lately Shikamaru had found himself imagining one boy more often than anyone else. Against all logical sense, he kept returning to the same opponent. Someone who had never made a vast commitment to shogi, or to Shikamaru himself, yet someone he couldn’t keep his mind from returning to.
Lee probably wouldn’t have been able to tell shogi from go before Shikamaru had attempted to teach him how to play. Strategy games obviously weren’t Lee’s forte. He had never showed a single glimmer of hidden genius in shogi. In fact, he was entirely too straightforward when it came to playing.
It wasn’t that Lee was hopeless, just that he approached the game in the same way he would throw himself into any battle. He never held anything back, and no mater where he might find extra reserves of strength on the battlefield, he wouldn’t be able to tap into that same miracle to save himself in shogi. No matter how fast you moved, no matter how much energy you had, it was impossible to cram two moves into one turn. Lee was used to doing that in his life, but it only worked in life itself and never in the world of the game.
In any case, Lee was always a good sport about losing, which had surprised Shikamaru at first. He always seemed to wear his heart on his sleeve, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to hide his disappointment. It would have made sense if he didn’t care in the slightest about the game, but if that was the case, would he ever bother to approach Shikamaru and ask him to play? He had only done it a few times, and never when Shikamaru hadn’t already had the board out, but still the fact that Lee offered while presumably knowing he would lose was intriguing.
When Shikamaru looked up he could almost see Lee sitting on the other side of the board for a second. It wasn’t logical to half-see that cheerful face when he knew the space across from him was empty. It was troublesome, thinking so much about someone who spent so much time trying to throw himself in all directions at once.
He could imagine the way Lee smiled when he lost. He never made excuses, though he was still new enough to the game that he had that right. He would only gave Shikamaru that playful grin of his and say it had been fun, and that maybe he would like to play one more game if Shikamaru could spare the time.
Maybe that was why he couldn’t get Lee out of his head lately. Shogi hadn’t been ‘fun’ for a long time. It was never the sort of fun that those careless smiles implied anymore. Not since he had figured out how to win. Even when he played with Chouji, it was only the company and not the game that made it fun. It didn’t make sense to suddenly be enjoying both with Lee.
Then there was the fact that he couldn’t quite wrap his head around Lee’s way of playing. He might be straightforward, but not in a way that made sense intuitively. Something of the way he played depended upon his mood, which made it hard to imagine playing against Lee when the other boy wasn’t truly in front of him.
Even now, the way the board was set up he would expect anyone else to take his rook, leading to him being able to drop in behind their defenses and check them within a few decisive moves. Would Lee take the bait? Looking at the pieces reasonably, and thinking only in the short term, that would be the best move. However, Lee wasn’t always logical. Just because he was prone to put attack before defense didn’t mean he would attack in the same way every time.
It was impossible to be sure, without knowing Lee’s mood. Shikamaru stared at the board for a moment, thinking. The theoretical Lee, who was nothing more than an image in the empty place across from him, was obviously doomed. However, there was no way to be sure about the real Lee.
What if he was distracted by the way Lee put his face up close to the board in concentration? Or, when Lee rubbed his head as he tried to think, what if Shikamaru finally snapped? What if he pulled Lee’s hand out of his hair and smoothed the rumpled strands back down? He had wanted to do that for quite some time now, but he was sure it had to be some sort of forfeit. If nothing else than because he had finally gone against his better judgement to satisfy a moment’s whim.
Playing against Lee shouldn’t be so much trouble. Lee was never deliberately impossible. It was only the way Shikamaru’s thoughts on him wound themselves into knots that made things difficult. It didn’t make sense. How could something so simple show so many sides? How could someone so straightforward confuse him so thoroughly?
What would Lee do? Besides showing him a myriad of distracting expressions and trying to make light conversation and making him want to reach across the table and touch him on nothing more substantial than a whim? What would Lee do with the pieces? That was supposed to be the important thing. The pieces and the board, not the way Lee made him feel as he moved one across the other.
If Lee saw the trap being set for him, if he wanted to lengthen the game and create a chance for Shikamaru to slip up. . .
Shikamaru didn’t exactly jump when Lee really did appear before him, but it was a near thing. He looked up at Lee standing over him and didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t been doing anything wrong, imagining Lee, but still his heart was racing as if he had been caught at something unforgivable.
“Who are you playing against?” And of course Lee knew, somehow, about his habit of pretending to play against other people. He didn’t know how Lee had figured out he was not merely studying the game from an academic perspective, as some people assumed. It must have been a natural conclusion, even an assumption, from the careless way Lee brought it up. He had never attempted to confirm what he thought or to impress Shikamaru with the fact that he knew.
He shouldn’t have admitted it, he knew. Something in Lee’s face made it plain that Lee was aware he wasn’t the most exciting opponent, and so he didn’t understand why Shikamaru would want him. Well, Shikamaru didn’t understand it either. There was no explaining such a logic-deprived situation. Shikamaru sat back, putting his hand to his head in frustration. He couldn’t explain, and he hoped Lee would know better than to ask. Lee’s intuition had saved him from several such frustrating questions already.
“It’s your move.”
“Is it?” Lee looked at the board for a second before making a quick move and sitting down across from Shikamaru as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Not the move Shikamaru had been about to make for him. In fact, it hadn’t been any of the moves Shikamaru might have chosen for Lee. He hadn’t fallen into Shikamaru’s carefully crafted trap, but then again, maybe he had moved too quickly and not even seen that possibility.
Or maybe he had learned to look past the surface of things, at least in shogi.
Shikamaru watched Lee frowning at the board as he tried to take in the positions of the pieces and catch up, and was struck yet again with the fact that his imagination hadn’t been quite right. There was something about Lee that he kept forgetting to add into his mental calculations. He could see that, but he had never decided on just what that might be.
Lee tilted his head slightly, waiting for Shikamaru to make his next move, but for once Shikamaru wasn’t concentrating on the pieces. He already knew the moves he needed to make to defeat Lee. That wasn’t a concern anymore.
His true concern prompted him to reach across the table, running his fingers through Lee’s hair once, catching a small twig that was caught between the strands.
Shikamaru could feel his heart going double-time again, but Lee didn’t even flinch. He simply turned his head calmly, just enough to see what Shikamaru was doing, then smiled his thanks.
Shikamaru didn’t know what he was doing. He liked Lee’s hair. It was smooth and soft while the rest of him was warm and rough. It was practical, forgettable. It was undeniably Lee.
“It’s your move,” Lee reminded him politely.
Was it? And here he had thought he had just made one. By rights, Lee should have to make some move to counter his. Especially when Lee was the one who was always fighting to fit as much as he could into each moment, trying so hard to get ahead. Then again, that was life. And unlike shogi, life didn’t progress in an orderly way.
Lee simply didn’t make sense sometimes. Shikamaru knew he should be used to that by now. He liked Lee, but he really should know better by now. . .
So Shikamaru focused on the pieces and the board. Unlike Lee, he could at least say he understood the game intimately. It was so much less trouble to bury himself in the complexity of the patterns of possible moves than to even try to understand the simplicity that was Lee.