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Pep Rally

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"What are we supposed to do without Sasuke-kun?" One of the girls whined, pacing and looking ridiculous in her bulky shoulder pads and baggy football jersey.

"Have some faith in yourself, Ami! Just believe we can do this!"

Ami stopped panicking to stare flatly at her optimistic classmate. "Get real, Keiko. Without Sasuke-kun, we don't have a plan. I mean, were any of you paying attention to his outlines when he was lecturing us last week?" Most of the eyes in the room glazed over, remembering the fateful day when the class valedictorian Uchiha Sasuke had gone over their "battle plan" shirtless. It had been a very good day.

"And those senior girls are really tough!" Another girl complained, adjusting her helmet for the fifth time. "It's not like we'd win anyway..."

This wasn't far from the truth, as fewer girls were as crazy over the senior valedictorian, Hyuuga Neji (mainly because of an unfortunate incident the previous year involving a changing room and a misplaced set of clothes), and paid more attention when he laid out plans. Today was Homecoming, and the powderpuff football game, juniors versus seniors. It was all but guaranteed that the seniors would win, spurred on by their loss as juniors the year before. The only thing that really changed from year to year was how badly the juniors lost. The highly athletic senior soccer and field hockey girls were famous for their vicious game play, while the junior class devoted to their valedictorian, Uchiha Sasuke, and how to win his stubborn heart. There was no contest here, but the game would be brutal nonetheless.

This was because of a general rivalry between classes - it went back as far as elementary school, where students who were held back a year were completely shunned by the other students because they were "older," and students who skipped a year were shunned for being "younger." Eventually both groups went back to their respective years, scarred as only young children can by their peers. The grudge had lasted through the years, and this was their chance for redemption.

This year was going to be nasty, if the girl who tripped over the weight of her protective gear was any show of the strength of the junior class.

Even more so, when one considers the fact that the student coach for the junior team was absent from school today, having come down with a horrible 24-hour bug the night before. Meaning he would be able to play in the homecoming game tonight, but would be unable to coach the powderpuff game. (It would turn out later that one Uzumaki Naruto, jealous of the attention "Sasuke-teme" was getting from Naruto's crush, Haruno Sakura, had fixed it so Sasuke wouldn't be able to coach. He had hoped that Sakura would then turn to him as the coach, and he would save the day and she'd fall for him…but unfortunately, his name only came to one mind, and she was hiding meekly in the stands, too delicate for such an aggressive sport as football. Naruto's death at the hands of the junior girls would be slow and painful.

But in the meantime, the junior team just knew that Sasuke-kun was sick, and they had no coach.)

Just as the team was about to collapse to the floor in a collective puddle of tears and terror, two girls with frightening amounts of determination stepped to the center of the team room.

"Everyone, calm down!" Resident brain and wide receiver, Haruno Sakura attempted to reassure the crowd. "I'm sure we'll find a way to win, even without Sasuke-kun here."

"That's right! That's right!" Third-in-class and quarterback, Yamanaka Ino nodded confidently. "We'll just show Sasuke-kun how well we learned from him, in all those training sessions."

A moment of silence as the team collectively drooled ("those training sessions" had mostly consisted of Sasuke running around and getting sweaty while they watched, nodding occasionally).

Realizing that they hadn't learned a thing from Sasuke's training sessions, Sakura and Ino (usually the most bitter of rivals over Sasuke-kun's affections) scrambled for another inspirational tactic.

"And, um, besides! I've got someone in mind we can use! Like a pinch-hitter, but for strategy." Ino chirped up.

Sakura turned on her. "Who could possibly know as much about football strategy as Sasuke-kun, Ino-pig? Sasuke-kun's the best junior player there is - all the other good ones are seniors!" That was part of Sasuke's appeal, actually. He was one of a kind in his class, the only guy like him.

Ino smiled a very evil smile. "You'll just have to wait and see, forehead-girl."

Sakura smiled weakly as the rest of the team gained hope. Why do I get the feeling that Ino's about to blackmail someone?

Somewhere up in the stands, a pony-tailed boy almost sneezed. Almost. It would have been too much effort to actually sneeze, so he just put a hand to his nose and waited for it to pass.

The pudgy brown-haired boy sitting beside him turned. "You okay, Shikamaru?"

Shikamaru winced as he was sprayed with chips.

"Fine, I guess." He ignored the voice at the back of his head, saying something troublesome was going to happen.

That stupid voice never shut up.

The one good thing about this troublesome school is that the football field is outdoors, Shikamaru decided. You can't see the clouds from inside a stadium.

Most days, Shikamaru wouldn't let himself be caught dead at the football field. Too much shouting, and energy, and adrenaline, and testosterone, and all those other troublesome hormones and things that make people crazy. And all over what? A sweaty game? How stupid.

However, today was not most days. Today was Friday, and it was a Friday in October. More specifically, tonight the football team would be playing their arch rival team.

That's right.

It was the Homecoming game.

This meant that the Student Council, to pump up the student population in preparation for the game, would set up a Pep Rally. And during said rally, everyone in the entire school is in attendance.

So, despite all instinctive reactions saying, "stay away!" and "it's too troublesome," Shikamaru found himself attending the Homecoming Pep Rally. And, staring blankly at the sky, he was also thankful that he wasn't being forced to actually do anything but sit in the bleachers at this rally. Not like those "cheerleaders" - he was fairly sure that was a few dozen Naruto (or would you call him "Naruko"?) making a pyramid, while Kiba (cross-dresser instead of transgender) and Akamaru shouted at him (her?).

And now Kiba had knocked over the entire pyramid, leaving just one Naruto, who had dropped his oiroke no jutsu after his fall from the top of the pyramid. He was cross-dressing anyway, making his use of jutsu redundant.

And now they were shouting at each other again.

Oh, great. They were flashing the crowds. Shikamaru rolled his eyes, and turned to the person on his right.

Chouji was eating. Big news there. The guy always managed to get around the school's rules about food during class. Shikamaru secretly suspected that Chouji had secret pockets on every scrap of his clothing that he could put bags of chips in without making a sound when he moved. How else could he go through so many bags in a day, when he didn't even bother carrying around a backpack to most of his classes?

Watching Chouji eat made Shikamaru feel sick after awhile, so he glanced back at the field.

Big mistake. Naruto and Kiba had moved to the other side of the field, which meant that the senior class's "cheerleader of youth" was on this side.

Oh, how the spandex burned. Why did it have to be that shade of green? Why did his teeth have to ‘ping' so?

And, more importantly, why am I forced to suffer through this?

The principal was announcing something. Shikamaru sat up a bit. Is this troublesome event finally over?

No, it seemed it would last even longer, because of a delay. What kind of delay, he could only wonder, because that troublesome woman never explained anything properly. Shikamaru had a decent idea of what it could be, though.

Girls take so long with everything, it figures they would take forever with something as stupid as this.

Shikamaru leaned back, and rested his head against the seat behind him. People were used to his behaviors, and had long since stopped trying to sit behind him. They'd get speared by his spiky hair, the way he wore it making it even spikier than it was naturally.

I wonder if I could get away with sleeping up here…

"Nara Shikamaru!"

…no, it doesn't look like I'll ever get that lucky. He sat back up, and looked and Chouji, who had stopped eating when he heard that cry. It could mean only one thing…


Chouji nodded. "Ino." He peered down at the base of the bleachers, where a figure in football uniform, with a touch of yellow at the top, was currently shaking her fist in their general direction and steaming from either ear.

"You should probably see what she wants," he added unnecessarily.

Shikamaru sat still for a long moment, then sighed, and stood up. "I guess I should." Sticking his hands in his pockets, he walked down to the bottom of the bleachers, where Yamanaka Ino was waiting impatiently for him.

"You took long enough!"

"And a good afternoon to you too, Ino." Shikamaru yawned. "What can I do for you today?"

Ino held out a book to Shikamaru. "Read this."

Shikamaru blinked. "…Football strategy? What do I…?"

Ino looked at him expectantly.

"Oh, no way, Ino. Hell no. I am not coaching your stupid powderpuff football game. Why not get your precious Sasuke-kun to help you out? I'm sure he'd be thrilled to get a step up over that Hyuuga who's coaching for the seniors."

"Sasuke-kun's out sick today, Shikamaru. And you're the only person besides him who can actually strategically do anything!"

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, suspicious. "Is that so?"

"Yes!" Ino glanced to the side after her outburst. "Not that anyone else believes me…"

Shikamaru snorted. "Thought so."

"Come on, Shikamaru! I've seen you play chess - you've never lost. Not to your dad, not mine, not a single teacher here at school has beaten you. That's gotta say something for you." Ino poked Shikamaru in the chest, pushing the book into his hand. "So you're gonna prove to everyone here that you're not a moron, and win us a game over the seniors, all in one fell swoop."

She smiled brightly. A normal person would have thought she was pleased.

But Shikamaru had, unfortunately, known Ino since they were in diapers (stupid dads being stupid best friends and stupid next door neighbors and stupid…troublesome neighbors!), and he knew that that smile hid a very scary death-glare with a very scary message:

Or else!

"Do I have to - "

And now she had him in a death grip. Ino's death grip has caused the death of far too many of my shirts to be worth ignoring, Shikamaru reflected. He sighed. "Fine…" He glanced at the book's cover. "Give me ten minutes with this thing, and I should be alright."

Ino's smile disappeared, only to be replaced by a sneaky smirk. "Perfect." She dragged Shikamaru by his shirt (not another shirt, he cried) to the junior powderpuff's team room while he stared wistfully at the clouds.

The team room had a roof, sadly. He bid a final farewell to the sky. Ino gave one last powerful yank, nearly tearing his shirt in two (my shirt!) as she pulled Shikamaru indoors.

Chouji watched his friend from up in the stands. "Looks like Shikamaru's been caught up in another one of Ino's plots." He chuckled warmly. Ino's plots were always more fun when she pulled Shikamaru into them.

Several rows below him, a teacher sat up from his half-asleep state, noticing Shikamaru's new role with the team. He put out his cigarette (his first smoke all day, thanks to a solid block of coverage classes when he normally would've taken a smoking break) and smiled to himself.

"Shikamaru controlling their movements? This could be an interesting game after all."