Word Count: 5208
Genre: Romance, drama
Status: One-shot, complete
Summary: AU: Yamanaka Ino always thought that when her time came, she'd simply die. She never knew that you could die before your destined timing. And so she met the Angel of Death, who tells her she can go back into the past to fix the one mistake that brought her to her end.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Kishimoto.
When I first saw him, he was watching me from across the road. He wore an annoyed expression on his face, sour from anger and irritation. I frowned. Who was he? People bustled about around me, bodies being rolled into ambulances, screaming neighbours. I spotted Sakura several metres ahead, looking around in a panic. 'Is Ino OK?' I heard her asking the people around her. I'm here, I thought.
My mind felt foggy, unable to solve what was happening. Wasn't I inside the apartment building? I twisted enough just to see our apartment. Flames licked the walls inside the 2nd storey. Hanabi, I thought. Did Hanabi make it out? Walking towards the ambulance to my right, I tried to look over the heads of the crowd that circled the vehicle, but all I could see was a thick set of bed sheets.
'Stupid,' I heard behind me.
Spinning around, I almost knocked into what my mind first interpreted as a brick wall. But brick walls didn't wear trench coats of a blue colour, or have bulging veins in their necks that looked ready to explode from anger and lazy frustration. I tilted my head back enough to see the person towering over me. The dude across the road, his face even scarier and more intimidating up close than from afar.
'You humans are such troublemakers,' he stated. What the hell.
'Who are you?' I asked.
'Do you have any idea what you've done?' he inquired, ignoring my question.
'What?' I responded, bemused.
He raised his hand to my face and flicked his fingers against my forehead. I slapped the limb away.
'The hell,' I started, ready to tell him off.
'2 people died because of you today,' he said, voice rising as he leaned forward.
'Stupid,' he repeated.
What was he talking about? I saved Hanabi didn't I? I pushed her out of the fire.
'The girl's fine,' the guy remarked hastily, as though he read my mind,' but what about the other two? What about yourself?'
I could feel my patience running out.
'There was no one else in the apartment. And I'm here aren't I?" I said, pretty sure he was trying to indicate that I was dead.
'No, you're in there,' he pointed towards the burning building. Fire fighters with hoses were making attempts to put out the flames, a whole lot of them circling the entrance.
'I don't have time for this,' I muttered, 'I have to find Hinata,' I turned to make a start towards where I saw Sakura last, but a woman in a hurry rushed past. The force of her pushing past should have knocked me off my feet, but it didn't. She stepped right through me. A shiver went down my spine. 'Did she just...' the guy in the blue trench coat grabbed my head and turned it to face the building again. A fire fighter just stepped out, holding a limp body in his arms. The body had on a green jumper, similar to the one I threw on this morning. Platinum blonde hair gleamed under the sun and the fire fighter rushed towards the only vacant ambulance.
'That's me,' I murmured.
'You troublesome baka, you're dead,' the guy said.
In the emergency room, there was me, two doctors, a nurse, and the guy who flicked my head earlier. Out of my four companions, only the dude actually knew I was there. We watched the doctors’ work on my body. I had on an oxygen mask and a white gown, a plastic cap covering up my blonde hair.
'I don't get it,' I said finally. The doctors didn't hear me, as expected. 'If I'm here,' I pointed at myself, 'how am I still alive there?' I pointed to where my body lay. The guy didn't look at me as he answered, 'right now, they are only stitching up your wounds. According to the information I've been given, by tomorrow, you'll be in a coma and on life support.'
I looked at him. 'How do you know?' I snapped.
He gave me a 'because I just do' stare before walking towards the emergency room's exit. He gestured me to follow him. He opened the door and stepped out, and because the doctors didn't seem to notice, I obeyed his command.
He walked down the hallway, making a beeline for a way out of the hospital. Considering the fact that he was the only person who could see me (not that anyone saw him either), I had no choice but to follow. 'What's your name?' I asked him, speeding up to keep in step with him.
'Call me Shikamaru,' he said lazily, hands in his coat pockets. 'Who are you?' I pushed, pressing for answers. A doctor walked right through me, stopping me in my tracks for about five seconds before I pulled myself together and caught up to...Shikamaru.
We made it out the hospital and kept walking until we reach a nearby park. He finally turned to look at me. 'Who are you?' I repeated.
'I'm a Corrector,' he replied, his anger from earlier seeming to have died down, replaced by a casual and relaxed expression.
I blinked at him. 'And that is?'
He raised his hand and flicked my head again. That was seriously stringing on the last nerves I had left today.
'Do you have any idea how much trouble you caused today?' he questioned, and instead of thinking it over, I was trying to decipher whether his eyes were brown or grey, but he flicked my forehead again.
'Two people died because of me?' I suggested dryly, thinking of what he had said before.
'Exactly. Hyuga Hinata and her grandmother have both because of your stupidity!' he exclaimed, and his anger appeared out of nowhere. Did he say Hinata? Was Hinata even home? Was their Nan home? 'I had no idea,' I told Shikamaru, 'but how is it my fault? I saved Hanabi, didn't I? She's alive, you said it yourself.'
'You're forgetting that you had three neighbours living in that flat above your own, Yamanaka Ino,' Shikamaru reminded. Somehow, he knowing my name didn't come off as a surprise, considering everything else he knew.
'So what's a Corrector?' I inquired, turning the spotlight on him. 'Think of me as a grim reaper,' he offered. I frowned. 'You're the Death Angel?'
He gave an annoyed sigh. 'Why do you humans always mistake us for the Death Angel? Do you have no originality? Corrector. Drill it in your head. Corrector,' he leaned closer with every syllable he pronounced.
'What is it?' I found myself shouting out of frustration. Shikamaru leaned back, waiting for me to calm down before finally answering,' creations that help dead souls get to the next world. We appear at a scene in which a person is fated to die, and then we send the soul onwards.'
I paused before retorting, 'that wasn't that hard.'
He didn't say anything.
So, are you the Corrector that came to take me?' I asked. His expression of annoyance and irritation returned. 'You weren't scheduled to die today!' he shouted all of the sudden. Gosh, he must be bipolar. Calm and cool one second and going all ape the next. Then again, I can't say anything different for myself in this situation.
'Then why did you come?' I yelled back. He gave me a look that could only be interpreted as 'are you stupid?'
'We aren't called Correctors for nothing. Every now and then, some idiots mess up fate and make a mistake so someone dies before their scheduled time. You are one of those idiots,' he snapped harshly.
'Excuse me? So I was meant to let Hanabi die? What would you have done in that situation?'
'What about Hinata and Nanny Hyuga? Because of you, they got killed before their time was up,' he repeated.
'I couldn't get out alive myself, how is it my fault they died?'
Shikamaru opened his mouth to speak, but thought against it and zipped up in its place. Instead, he lifted his hands and covered my eyes. I felt ready to slap them away, but pictures started forming before my eyes.
I saw myself, a laundry basket in hand. I knew this... this happened two weeks ago. Mine and my flatmate, Sakura's washing machine broke down, so we asked our neighbours, the Hyugas on the flat above, if we could use theirs instead. Hinata, being responsible for her Nan and younger sister, Hanabi, agreed. We were good friends anyway.
I was taking out my newly washed laundry from the washing machine when I stood up and stumbled backwards. My hand reached for the only thing available; the door handle. I fell on my butt, knocking the handle off, the sound of it hitting the floorboards sounding in my ears. 'Crap,' I muttered, picking it up and trying to screw it back on. It didn't work. Just leaving it hanging there, I quickly picked up my basket and rushed out, almost knocking into Hinata. I saw myself trying to tell her about the broken handle, but she brushed it off kindly, so I said goodbye and left.
Shikamaru moved his hands from my eyes, and I opened my lids, the sun's brightness blinding me for a few seconds.
'That doesn't prove anything,' I murmured, blinking a couple of times to adjust to the light. 'Do you know what happened in the fire?' Shikamaru asked.
I shook my head. Sighing through his nose again, he again reached his hand, and my first instinct was to bite it if it came near my face, but he started drawing on the air in front of us. And what he drew was in clear black, completely understandable. He was practically writing on air.
He drew a plan of what I recognized as the flats in our six storey apartment, but this one had features that resembled the Prestons' flat plan. 2 bedrooms, 1 kitchen, 1 lounge room, 1 bathroom, 1 toilet and 1 laundry room.
Shikamaru drew an 'X' in one of the rooms. '11:32am today, Nanny Hyuga, age 71, was asleep in this room. She has spinocerebellar degeneration, so she couldn't move during the fire.' He drew another 'X' in the kitchen. 'Hyuga Hanabi, age 15, was in the kitchen, making noodles,' he drew a final 'X' in the laundry. 'Hyuga Hinata, age 23, was doing laundry here, with the door closed.' He paused for a moment, making sure I was following before continuing.
'At 11:34am, Hyuga Hanabi, here,' he pointed to the kitchen, 'was lighting the stove with a lighter when she burnt herself and dropped it on the bench near a turned on power point, and it caught on fire. Hence, the cause of this dreadful event,' Shikamaru said in a lazy voice. It was dreadful, what part of it was worth a joke for him to treat it like a nuisance? Shikamaru went on. 'Hanabi screamed, causing Hinata in the laundry to hear her and panic. In a rush, she reaches for the handle, not knowing it was broken, and pulls on it hard. Not such a problem under normal circumstances, but the force of her pull chipped off a piece of the handle's inside. Because of this, Hinata got locked in the laundry and couldn't get out,' he turned to me. 'Understand now?'
My eyes were concentrating on where Hinata was meant to be in the drawing. She was unable to get out because I broke the door handle.
'So if I hadn't broken the knob that day, she would have gotten out and lived? How about the Nan?'
Shikamaru put his finger to where Hinata's 'X' was. 'According to fate, Yamanaka Ino, age 21, was to hear Hanabi's scream, and was to come and save her. Hinata was to save Nanny, and all four were going to get out just fine. However,' he his eyes pierced mine, gleaming with an emotion I couldn't pinpoint, 'you screwed up fate, and because of that, not only did two Hyugas die, but you put yourself in a life-support coma. Your physical body is brain dead, so you are considered dead.' He swayed a hand at the plan drawing, and it disappeared, leaving behind a trail of smoke.
I didn't say anything for several minutes, and Shikamaru didn't push me. Normally, I digested info pretty fast, but I needed a breather for this one.
'So what are you here for?' I asked finally, my spirits dropping to my toes.
Shikamaru sighed (again) but in relief this time, like I was finally catching on. 'Correctors,' he said, getting comfortable.
'When a person is responsible for a change in fate, a Corrector is sent to them also, to help them fix their mistake, so the people who weren't meant to die can live again,' I felt myself perk up. 'How?' I buzzed.
He watched me, searching for a sense of surprise as he responded: ‘Going back in time.'
Awesome. Going back in time to fix the biggest mistake in my life. Totally easy. Shikamaru gave me the details. So I had 3 chances to go back to any time before the fire to try and change the outcome. If I failed all 3 times... well, I was just told that the price to pay for ruining other people's lives in the next world were messy.
So here I was, sitting at a restaurant table, Shikamaru across me, listening to music through earphones he pulled out of nowhere. Being two invisible people, no waiter came to serve us, or noticed us for that matter.
Shikamaru, being the lazy, impatient, snappy yet cool bipolar dork that he was, was taking everything calmly, tapping his feet to his music, nodding his head while I sat there like a mad person, making a decision of what time to go back to. I guess the obvious one. Back to when I broke the handle. Apparently, in situations like this, as long as the outcome was he way fate had it planned out, the way it was done didn't matter. So I could go to the time of the fire and open the door to the laundry for Hinata to just get out. But it was too risky.
'I'll go back to two weeks ago,' I decided aloud. Shikamaru didn't hear me, looking around the restaurant. I reached over the table and pulled out the earphones from his ears. He looked at me expectantly, and slowly pulled them out of my hand.
'I chose when to go back to, now, how do I go back?' I questioned.
'Baka,' he muttered under his breath, putting his earphones back in his ears. Frustrating retard.
'What's that supposed to mean anyway?' I demanded. 'Baka this, baka that. I'd rather not be insulted,' I snapped.
My stress level was rising, and I was more than ready to claw out his eyes, but a familiar sound reached my ears. I turned my head to the source. In the middle of the restaurant was a grand piano, a man sitting at it, playing a melody I had learnt not long ago. Almost automatically, I stood up, walking over and watched over his shoulder as he played out the piece. Shikamaru followed me, doing exactly what I was.
Everybody stopped to listen, the beautiful notes reaching every ear. I yearned to reach over and play the keys myself, but the glory was for this man, I couldn't interrupt him now.
'Let's go,' I murmured to Shikamaru. He nodded, understanding.
He led me out the restaurant until the sound could be heard no more.
We reached our apartment building.
'Give me the date and time of the event, and I'll send you back. If you succeed in changing it, you'll wake up to however fate would permit it after the fire. If you don't, you'll just end up back here,' he turned to look at me.
'I doubt this is a goodbye, so when you come back, just find me,' he said.
'Where will you be?'
He shrugged. 'You'll know,'
I had no choice but to trust him, so I just went on to calculating the date. '12th of August, around 12:30pm,' I said, remembering that it was almost twenty past when I left my flat to go pick up my washed clothes.
'Enjoy,' Shikamaru saluted.
And then everything went dark.
'Thanks for letting me use your machine, Hinata!" I cheerfully thanked my neighbour. Hinata stood in the kitchen, making coffee. I stood before her, holding a laundry basket. She smiled sweetly. 'Don't worry, Ino,' she said softly. I smiled at her before going to the laundry room, but a weird feeling came over me, like I did this before. Was I having déjà vu? Feeling odd, I unloaded my laundry from the machine, feeling the funny need to be careful with what I do. But my tracksuit pants were too long, and as I stood, I tripped over them.
Unwillingly, I fell backwards, and my hand reached out automatically for something to hold on to. It all happened so fast when the handle knocked off its hinge and I felt a sharp pain in my buttocks. But the fallen off door handle panicked me more. 'Crap,' I said, making an effort to try and screw it back on. Fail. In a rush, I picked up my basket, and ran out, almost knocking into Hinata who held a coffee in her hand. 'I sort of--' but she cut me off. 'As long as you didn't get hurt, it's fine,' she assured.
A strange feeling washed over me, like it wasn't fine.
'OK,' I murmured. 'Thanks again,' and I left, a nagging feeling saying to me, 'baka, baka,'
And then the world went blank.
When I opened my eyes, I was in front of the building, and the memories of what just happened washed over me. I didn't remember. I didn't remember any of this when I went back, or the fact that I even went back. Panic rose in my throat. I couldn't do it. Stupid Shikamaru.
I followed my instincts to where I thought that good for nothing Corrector was, and sure enough, I was right. He sat on a bench in the middle of a busy street, between a cafe and a boutique store. He was watching something in the cafe intently, his face unreadable. From this far, I couldn't help but realize how his hair was shaped like a pineapple.
I plumped down next to him. 'You should have told me I wouldn't remember that I was going back in time, or told me that I wouldn't remember knowing that I'll die in the future,' I said, but I didn't bother telling him off. In the couple of hours I've known him, I already memorised his character.
'Should I tell you something about Correctors?' He said, ignoring my previous statement.
I went along. 'Go ahead,'
'In his lifetime, a Corrector only helps 79 souls to the next world. When we are first created, the only resemblance we have to humans is our physical form, but human beings have seventy nine important attributes. So every time we help a soul go on, we earn an attribute and become more human. The last attribute is immortality. After sending on seventy nine souls, a Corrector becomes a human with a normal life. A Corrector can live on for hundreds of years, but until he helps those seventy nine souls, he can never become a human being. Being human is a Corrector's goal in life,' he chuckled. 'Isn't it funny how we throw away a life of forever to become beings that would eventually die? Sounds ridiculous,' he said.
'How old are you?' I asked.
He grinned. 'One hundred and twenty-seven,'
I let out a snort before composing myself. I patted him on the shoulder. 'You don't look a day over twenty-five, it's alright,' I said sympathetically. He broke into a laugh.
'Why would Correctors want to become humans though?' I inquired.
He took a deep breath, crossing his arms in front of his chest. 'We were created that way, I guess. We're really backwards, huh?'
I smiled in response.
'How many more souls do you need to help now?'
'You're the last one. Souls that you help correct their mistakes count in the seventy nine too,' he answered.
I clucked my tongue. 'I'm keeping you up, am I?' I questioned. He shrugged. 'Doesn't matter.'
I nodded in response, then I realized, this whole time we were speaking, he didn't look at me once.
'What are you staring at?' I'm not sure if he noticed just how many questions I've asked today, but he didn't say anything about it if he did. Must be used to it.
'Can you see that guy there? In the red baseball cap,' I followed his eyes. Indeed, there was a guy, perhaps in his late twenties, sitting at a table next to the window of the cafe, looking out of it.
'What do you think he's staring at?' Shikamaru asked. I turned around in my seat, eyeing the people in the boutique store where his gaze seemed to be.
'See the woman behind the counter? Brunette with a grey cardigan?' I eyed the said person.
'Yeah. Is he watching her?' I asked.
'Everyday for the past two years, he's come to the cafe, sat in the exact same seat, ordered the exact same thing and watched that woman through the window. He's in love with her, but being the gutless guy he is, she doesn't even know he exists.'
I smiled sadly. 'Unrequited love,' I said under my breath, watching him. The man had a straight face, eyes just concentrating on the woman.
'I plan to do that,' Shikamaru stated. My head snapped to him. 'What?'
Finally, he looked at me. 'I first saw her eight years ago, at the funeral of a soul I helped. It must have been her distant relative. She was a barely thirteen back then,' he said. I got myself comfortable, like I was listening to an interesting story. 'What happened? You just fell in love with her then and there?'
He shook his head. 'She just attracted my attention because of her purity. She looked so pure and innocent. It was hard to find people like that,' he added the last part for emphasis.
'After that, I started following her, watching her from afar, interfering if anything bad was to happen, helping her here and there when she was struggling, without her noticing. As the years went passed, she grew older, and as a creation that physically stayed the same...I don't know, I just...fell for her.'
My smiled grew.
'I'm not sure if that's stalker-like or romantic.' He didn't respond to that.
'Before a Corrector becomes human, God grants them a single wish for them to have in this world. That girl is going to be my wish,' he said.
'How? You just said you were going to be a coward and watch her from afar,' I pointed out.
He shook his head. 'She was a soul who accidentally screwed fate as well. I was the Corrector to help her fix her mistakes. So we spent time together, but once a soul fixes his or her mistakes and comes back to life, they don't recall memories of such things. No going back in time or waking up as a soul. Because fate went perfectly, so there is no reason to remember or else the heavenly secrets could be revealed to all of humankind.'
I waited for several seconds for him to continue, but he didn't.
'So what's your wish?' I questioned.
He took in a deep breath, as if still thinking it over. 'She's going to notice how I watch her, how I'm there every time something happens, and with time, I want her to remember who I was. That's all I want.'
I frowned. 'Why not just ask for her to fall in love with you? What if she rejects you even after she remembers?' He gave me another unreadable look.
'I'm not going to force the woman I love to love me under unnatural circumstances. Even if she rejects me, just knowing that she's alive and healthy is enough for me to be happy.'
I slapped my forehead. Lovesick puppy. Completely different to the arrogant dog he was just a few hours ago.
'Baka,' I said. He grinned, flicking my forehead once more. 'I agree,' he assured.
Because I had no time limit, I was free to clear my head and think of a better plan to get things going smoothly. Shikamaru decided to give a tour on how life was as a soul, and so our day of fun began. He took me to the museum first, and we jumped all the ropes and touched all the things that were prohibited. Without getting caught. We went to the amusement park and rode on all the rides for free. Without getting caught. We went to the zoo and entered the bird cages and monkey areas. Without getting caught. And finally, as a surprise, Shikamaru took me to the music studio after hours, where he sat me down at the piano in the auditorium to play on and make all the noise I want, as it was empty. He made me play all the pieces of music I knew, and asked me questions he already knew the answer to, but claimed that he wanted to hear from my mouth.
He knew I wanted to get into uni as a music major to become a professional pianist because my mother was one before her dreams were ruined when she fractured her wrist. He knew my mom died when I was eight, and my dad was a junkie so he struggled with looking after me. He knew I left home when I was eighteen with my best friend Sakura, to start anew. He knew I worked at a nearby cafe every single day with Sakura to raise our tuition fees. And he knew that I had never been to a museum, zoo or an amusement park. And yet, he made me say every single detail. So he wasn't the dog he was when he first spoke to me.
'Shikamaru,' I said as we were heading back to my apartment to finally get to business.
'Hmm,' he responded.
'Promise me that you'll come looking for when you become human. Even if I don't remember, remember to come, alright?'
He grinned. 'Why?'
I smiled. 'I've grown attached to you,' I said teasingly.
He sighed in satisfaction, 'What can I say, I'm that type of person,' he explained. I laughed.
And then we were standing in front of the building.
'Why didn't you tell me earlier that I wouldn't remember anything when I went back in time?' I buzzed.
'You had to find out for yourself. It's forbidden to tell a soul such a secret. That's why 97% of the time, a soul always goes back in time a second or a third time.' he explained. I nodded, understanding.
'Well, this might be our last time meeting as people, who know each other,' I said. I reached out my hand towards him. He shook it.
'Ciao,' he said.
'Bye,' I offered back, but in pure English.
'August 12, 12:30pm,' He announced.
And like before, everything blacked out.
'Thanks for letting me use your machine, Hinata!' I cheerfully thanked my neighbour. Hinata stood in the kitchen, making coffee. I stood before her, holding a laundry basket. She winked. 'Don't worry, Ino,' she said. I smiled before disappearing into the laundry room. A feeling of déjà vu came over me, like a repetition was happening in my head. Careful, Ino, A voice chastised me. Perhaps I was going mental. I kneeled down next to the machine and unloaded my clothes, but before getting up, I could feel a thick fabric under my foot. Realizing just how long my tracksuit pants were, I tied a knot to not step on it. God forbid if I trip and something bad happens.
I stand up, pick up my basket of freshly-washed laundry, and made my way out the room.
'Thanks again, Marie,' I said to the said person as I walked passed her.
'Anytime,' she replied, waving as I said goodbye. As I got home, an awesome feeling of triumph overcame the odd one from before. It was a good day
4 MONTHS LATER
Everybody escaped from the fire that happened almost four months ago, thank God. Though not all of us were unharmed. Hanabi had a large burn on her arm, and Hinata and I had scars. Hinata's were more covered, being on her shoulder and back where she hit herself while getting out of the fire. Mine however, were more publicly seen. A long, thick scar ran down my neck. I barely remember how I got it; it was all hazy at the time. But we made it through. We made it through with permanent reminders, but we were alive, that was the important part.
I was working at the cafe one Saturday, serving drinks when Sakura called me over from behind the counter.
'You know that guy at table 4?' Looking as natural as possible, I turned my head to take a peek. Oh. That guy. Again. If an explanation is needed: tall, good-looking, dark eyes, spiky brown hair, and blue trench coat. Well, the coat changes colour every time he comes, he must have a whole cupboard of them.
'What about him?' I asked.
'He's been coming every day for the past three and a half months, and he orders the exact same thing, but every time I look at him, he's watching you. Should we be worried?' she asserted.
'Chill it, Sakura,' Kiba said as he came next to us. Kiba was a waiter here too, and just about the most relaxed guy I know. Laidback and calm, down to earth and loves life, Kiba is the definition of a hippie.
'Why?' Sakura inquired.
Kiba rolled his eyes. 'You females are really oblivious to the way men work.' Sakura and I gave each other a look. 'He's not stalking Ino, he's interested in her,' he clarified.
And slowly, it all started coming back....
The amusement park
The music studio.
Son of a.... my mind trailed off. That baka, I thought.
When I got off work at seven, I took notice that Shikamaru got up as well. As soon as I disappeared around the corner of the cafe, I turned around, and, as expected, he stood there, grinning a ridiculous grin.
'You are such a dork,' I told him.
'That's not the first time I've heard it,' all it took was a few steps for him to stand right in front of me. He flicked my forehead.
I frowned, but a smile was crawling its way into my face and I knew he saw it.
'Baka,' I mumbled.
He was still grinning.
'That's my line.'And then he leaned in, grazing his lips against mine.