As a shinobi, you were supposed to put your personal emotions behind you. You weren't supposed to allow things like love and kinship into your life. This was easier said than done. The first mistake, of course, was pairing up young genin with one single teacher, with whom they were likely to form a lasting friendship with. Young as they were, controlling such emotions was difficult, and so they developed such attachments that were unbecoming of the future protection of the entire country.
And currently, Shikamaru was beginning to feel the burn from this very mistake. Asuma was gone and all he could think about was that bastard, that creepy bastard is still out there, and who the hell else is he killing now? Prior to recent events, the Akatsuki had just been an idea-- a scary idea, but just a concept none the less-- but now they were real and personal and just about as tangible as the stone that made up Asuma's grave or the flowers Shikamaru was always leaving there.
He didn't come to the bar to get wasted. No, he didn't really see himself the drinking type. (then again, he'd never seen himself the smoking type, either.) Instead he came to think, because somehow it sated his raging emotions to know that drunken bliss was an order away if he needed it. He never had, so far, and hoped he never would, because he knew it would cut in on his strategy planning, and if he was going to get his revenge, he'd need a fool-proof strategy.
As he always did, as he entered the dilapidated bar, he took a glance around, more out of habit than anything. Usually it only told him what sort of crowd was around tonight, but today he noticed a familiar face towards the back. Waving off a waitress who offered to seat him, he weaved his way through tables and people towards the back end, stopping to stand at the table where one of his former classmates now sat, looking a little more than out of it.
"Mind if I join you?" he asked simply. He'd never been one to tarry words, and hopefully, Neji was still conscious enough to recognize him.
Through the thick haze of an alcohol-induced fog, Neji thought he heard something. A voice, but it was vague, sounding far off. Though he should have been able to define at least ten characteristics of the speaker from voice alone, he somehow wasn't able to. He just knew that somebody had said something, and, given his recent luck, it had probably been directed at him.
He opened one eye, blinked, and shut it again with a groan. He was pretty sure someone had said something to the extent of asking if they could join him. Yeah, it had sounded something like that. Or, at least, he hoped it had. Things had the possibility of turning nasty if he was wrong in his assumptions, but he decided to stay with what he originally thought. To do otherwise would require thinking, moving out of his temporary numbness.
While he would have most defiantly preferred if they found siting arrangements elsewhere, telling them so would require mental activity on his part, and if he used his brain, then there was a possibility that the very thing he was trying so hard to forget would resurface, and that wouldn't be pleasant. For the owner of the bar, that was. For if Neji remembered, then he might feel inclined to hit something.
And even when intoxicated, Hyuuga Neji's blows almost always hit their intended target.
He gave a noncommittal grunt in response to the question, which could be taken as a yes or a no, depending on who was asking. He wasn't sure who was standing there, but he was hoping they'd be of the latter group and leave him alone.
Shikamaru took Neji's vague grunt to be a "yes" and promptly seated himself, kicking back and relaxing as much as the stiff seating would allow, which was really not much at all. Giving him a once over, Shikamaru sighed inwardly, shaking his head. It seemed as though they had been kids only three years earlier, and now, not yet physically adults, they had been thrust into this world of violence and death. Some of them would make it through relatively unscathed, of course, some would just scrape by, and others...well, others could end up like the somewhat pathetic scene in front of him. It was one of the top reasons that Shikamaru didn't dare drown himself in the comfort that alcohol could offer. It never ended up pretty.
To see his friend, comrade, and technically senior like this was a bit disheartening, but he wasn't a lost cause yet. Yet. But the empathy required to actually do anything about it was a foreign concept to Shikamaru. Sure, he had his logic, but that would only get him so far when it came to deep-seated issues and jarring emotions. And heck, he couldn't even sort out his own problems, so was he really in any place to be lecturing others on picking themselves up?
"Oi, Neji," Shikamaru finally said, after feeling that he'd waited long enough for some sign of life. "I wasn't expecting to see you here."
Defiantly directed at him this time. Had to be: as far as the Hyuuga was aware of, he was the only one named Neji in Konoha. Damn it all, it seemed mental activity would be required tonight, despite his intentions of forgoing it. Had he been sober, Neji would have been swearing quite colorfully, but he wasn’t, not by a long shot.
He opened both eyes this time, lifted his head slowly off the cool surface of the rather dirty table and turned his head in the general direction the sound had come from. He blinked slowly and then scowled darkly. Sitting next to him was none other than Konoha’s resident genius, Nara Shikamaru, and one of the last people he wanted to see at the moment.
He thought for a moment, letting his thoughts come to him rather than going hunting for them, for to do that was to risk a headache, among other things, and he’d rather wait until morning to get a hangover.
After a minute, he realized that Shikamaru had said something, and it would probably be a good idea to respond. Because if he didn’t, well, the Nara might get the idea that Neji wasn’t just suffering from intoxication, but something more serious, just like the Desk Chuunin earlier had, when the pale-eyed jounin had turned in his mission report. And the Hyuuga had a feeling it would take more than a few pressed tenketsu points to make his comrade shut up about it, let alone “forget he had seen anything”.
Forcing a bit of chakra to his throat, Neji coughed, ignored the sharp pain in his chest and said, rather shortly. “Don’t come much.”
The chakra kept his voice from slurring, making him sound almost sober. A neat trick he’d learned on an undercover mission a while back.
Shikamaru wasn't exactly a fool. While Neji may have sounded okay, he certainly didn't look it. Still, everything Shikamaru could think of to say or do towards a productive end, only resulted in making things worse. And to be truthful, pathetic as it was, and comrades though they may be, it wasn't much of his concern if this is what Neji wanted to do with his life. And who knew-- no amount of genius could actually predict the future. For all the chuunin knew, something amazing could happen, out of the blue, to turn the boy's life around. Things like that happened...right? Shikamaru resolved to at least keep an eye out, to make sure nothing too bad would befall his friend.
But that was neither the here nor the now, and something about the way Neji said that he didn't frequent the place didn't sit quite right with Shikamaru. It didn't seem very honest, but he had no basis upon which to make that claim. Oh he could have logically deduced it some how, but his aim wasn't to call anyone out.
"Ah, so, I don't suppose you could tell me what's good here then, could you?" he asked, even though he knew full well what was on the menu and nothing appealed to him what-so-ever. But even small talk had its uses, and would hopefully provide some insight as to what was really the problem. Hopefully his concern wouldn't be misconstrued, fully aware of the fact that he had never been this outgoing, but recent events had facilitated this somewhat sudden change.
“No,” Neji said shortly, a smidgen of bad temper creeping into his voice. He wasn’t in the mood for conversation, and if that was what Shikamaru wanted, then the chuunin would just have to find seating arrangements elsewhere.
He turned away from the Nara and downed another mouthful of the booze. God, it was terrible. Even the Hokage didn’t drink here.
He closed his eyes, setting the bottle back down with a solid “clunk”. His head was starting to hurt, but in return, the sharp, throbbing pain in his chest had dulled somewhat. Trading one grievance for another, that was what alcohol was good at. The only question was, which pain was worse?
He saw his teammate’s face as she screamed for them to run, to leave her behind, and, shuddering, decided he preferred the pain given by the booze better than the pain in his ribs or of the images flashing through his head. Even if the relief was only temporary, and he was guaranteed to feel worse in the morning. Even if his hangover would be horrible, giving his broken ribs a good run for their money. Even if the medics, when he finally went to them, would scream and lecture about how it was his duty to go for treatment when hurt, especially when it was bad. Despite all that, Neji still preferred drinking and the effects of such.
It seemed the Hyuga’s plan of forgetting his most recent mission were bust. He wondered briefly how long it would take him to knock himself out, and if that would finally make him forget. Probably not, but it was worth an attempt.