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To tame the deer

Chapter Text

A darkening sky rolled over Konoha, the previously bright blue sky, being hidden behind storm clouds promising a long-awaited rainfall. The shopkeepers rushed to cover their merchandise, cafe and restaurant owners covered their outside seating areas. Civilians darted for cover from the coming rain, and the shinobi population groaned at the thought of having to go on missions in the rain.

As the first rumble of thunder hit, a group of shinobi were just placing their orders in a popular restaurant. The Pantry was an Akimichi owned place, with wide booths and plenty of space. Given the clan who owned the Pantry, the food was loving prepared and bountiful. The decor was designed with shinobi in mind. Each booth had sturdy wooden half height wall to help with privacy, and lower the paranoia of the ninjas.
"So Shikaku, where is the guest of honour?" A light-hearted voice asked.
A snort was heard before a voice drawled "Avoiding responsibility probably". The voice belonged to a brown-haired ninja, with two scars across his face. He was leaning his face on his hand, a cup of sake in his other, as he sighed and looked out of the window.
A young female voice rang out from the booth.
"You mean Shikamaru is being lazy… AGAIN! This always happens! What was Lady Tsunade thinking promoting them?? Sasuke-kun would have been a better choice. He is amazing, not lazy, and so hot!"
A blonde ponytail was being flipped around, as the girl gestured angrily. "Seriously, why is Shikamaru late now??? Choji and I confirmed time and place earlier."
The five ninja sat at the booth in silence, before a gentle voice broke through. "Can we just order? If Shika turns up, we can always order more then? No point waiting around when they may not turn up."
Before anyone else could answer a shriek was heard. "CHOJI, DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN FOOD?? YOU'VE JUST FINISHED A PACKET OF BBQ CRISPS!" The blonde whacked her rather round companion with her menu before sitting down and huffing loudly. As the two started to bicker quietly, well the girl was bickering and Choji gave the occasional reply, the three older ninjas looked on with amusement.
"A round of sake says they end up together when they are older" was offered by the older blonde.
Two smirks crossed the other two weathered faces. "No deal" they chorused. All three turned their attention back to the two fighting ninja.
"Ino, leave Choji be, and decide on your order" the elder blonde said firmly.
"But Daddy..." Ino whined, before her father gave her a stern look, and she reluctantly opened her menu. Fight ended, the five ninja placed their orders, all of them shooting looks out into the pouring rain, looking for their missing member.

Honey coloured eyes flickered open as the first drops of rain hit. A sigh rang through the clearing in the forest, before their owner sat up. Glancing at the sky, the figure sighed again.
"Oh man, what a drag. It's going to be troublesome going home in this, especially when that troublesome woman at home is going to nag me about coming home soaked."
With a catlike grace the figure stretched and pulled themselves to their feet, their eyes darting around the clearing, they had claimed as theirs. Lightning steamed across the sky, illuminating the clearing, with its little waterfall, and wildflowers. The figure turned, and started to walk off into the forest, feet dragging as they went. Some of the more adventurous deer poked their heads out of their dens to watch the figure walk past. Two of the stags followed just in the tree line to escort the grumbling human home.
"Oh man, I completely slept through dinner with Ino, Choji, and our fathers. What a drag, Ino is going to be troublesome. Why did I have to be on a team with her? She only ever yells at me, or Choji; or she's waxing lyrically about Sasuke. I mean what's so good about him? Such a drag." A sigh followed this rant, and they continued their slow walk towards their compound, taking the time to enjoy the peace the falls over the forest during Konoha's rainy season. A part of their brain dedicated simply to taking in the serenity surrounding them before they get to civilization again. The other part was split between running through mental calculations for a new game plan on shogi, and keeping an eye on the surroundings. After the invasion of Sand and Sound, every shinobi of the hidden leaf walked with one eye on their environment. The paranoia was slowly starting to die down, now the village had been rebuilt, and the new Hokage was in power.

It was this heightened sense of paranoia that helped the girl catch the sight of a doe in distress. Slinking closer on silent feet so as not to scare the doe, the girl found the deer standing at the edge of hole. This hole looked to be the opening to an old well, its sides overgrown with greenery and decades of fallen leaves. Peering into the well, the girl could see light glint off the frightened eyes of a fawn. It wasn't a long way to drop, but still for a fawn it was a scary fall, and not easy to get out.
"What a drag." The girl muttered before switching to soothing sounds, and giving the doe a quick stroke. She lowered herself down the shallow well to land next to the little deer, murmuring sweet nothings to help calm the fawn.
"It's okay little one, you recognise me. I'll get you out of here and back to your mother. Just let me make sure you're uninjured." The girls voice lost its lazy edge as she spoke to the fawn. Her hands running gently over its body, checking for any damage.
"Looks like the Gods were watching over you little one. You're in perfect health, except being down a well."
Coaxing the fawn to stand, she crouched down and scooped the trembling body into her arms. Its spindly legs pressing into her stomach as she used her chakra to jump out of the well. Landing next to the worried doe, she put the fawn down onto its hooves, keeping steady hands on its body, until she was convinced it could stand and walk on its own.

With a grateful nuzzle from the doe, and a playful headbutt from the fawn, the girl made her way back to her original path, watching the doe lead her baby away. A gentle smile quirked her lips, as she continued her way, her uniform soaked from the rain and the well. Her mind noting the wells location to come back and cover it properly the next day. Hey, maybe she could use the fawn as an excuse for missing dinner? Nah, probably not. Ino was already on her back about skipping meals, no way she'd accept that. With a sigh, she looked up as warm yellow light began to illuminate her path. The forest growing thinner and thinner as she approached her clans compound. The shadows on the ground swirled in the light, racing each other in their patterns. A large wooden building rose in front of her, a porch wrapping round the edge. Light was spilling from an open door, hindered by two figures waiting for her. Lifting a hand in acknowledgement, she continued her unhurried pace towards them. Part of her wanted this walk to go on forever, to put off the inevitable confrontation, the other wanted to get it over with so she could have a warming shower.
"SHIKAMARU! Where have you been girl? Its pouring out there, and your father told me you never turned up for your celebration dinner! Well?"
A voice yelled at her, before she was dragged inside, the door closing behind her as she was pushed towards the stairs.
"Go get out of those wet clothes, and have a shower, I'll heat you something to eat." Her mother ordered, before turning to go into the kitchen with Shikaku.

Sighing, Shikamaru trudged up the stairs and into her bathroom. Her hands stripping her clothes off and into the basket, before she stepped into the shower. The water scolding her frozen skin, as it ran down her body. Lathering her hair with shampoo, as she turned her thoughts to the conversation that was undoubtedly about to happen.
"Why does she insist on nagging me? Just cos she has dad whipped doesn't mean she needs to nag me too."
Rinsing her hair and finishing up her shower before her mother came up to hurry her, Shikamaru stepped out and wrapped the soft towel around herself. Stroking the fluffy deep green towel, she ran her fingers over the embroidered Nara clan symbol. Grounding herself, and quieting her ever racing mind. It was a technique her dad had drilled into her as a child. Nara's are known to have ever racing minds, and sometimes they need something to help them simply shut their brain down for a bit. It's this reason that they always seem lazy. Unfortunately, the big intellect seems to mean insomnia is hereditary. To combat this, most Naras nap during the day, and sleep when they can at night. Maybe it had something to do with Yin chakra? Their clan jutsu was draining on the yin, and didn't use yang at all. As she contemplated this, and made a mental note of a few books to look up about this, a bang on the door shook her from her thoughts.
"Shika-chan, are you okay? Dinner is on the table, come down before it gets cold." Her mother's voice sounded. Reminding her of the need to get downstairs, and fast, before her mum lost her temper.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m on my way mum.” Shikamaru sighed, and slipped into a soft pair of black sweatpants, and a t-shirt. She dragged herself out of the bathroom, and down the stairs. Pausing at the entrance to the kitchen, and Shika inhaled slowly to brace herself for the coming interrogation. On silent feet, Shikamaru stepped into the warmth of the kitchen and seated herself next to her father; where a bowl of rice and vegetables had been placed, and waited patiently. For a heartbeat no-one said anything, then her father nudged her with his elbow.
“Eat, Shika. Ino-chan was telling me that you aren’t eating enough recently. To be a competent ninja, you need to be healthy… That means eating enough at meals.”
“That also means not skipping organised meals, Shikamaru! So where were you this evening?” Her mother cut across Shikaku. Her voice hard and unyielding.
“It’s bad enough that you’re too lazy to do anything, you never train, you’ve decided to be a school teacher, and you’ve shown no interest in starting to prepare for the jounin promotion board in a few years; you’ve been avoiding your family! Why, Ino-chan told me you never go to team 10 lunches now, or their missions; nor do you train with them!”
Shikamaru’s normally light-coloured eyes, darkened as shadows flickered across them. Frustration caused her tense muscles to tremble. The more her mother ranted, the more the room darkened. The natural shadows responding to Shika’s mood, drawing closer and closer. She wasn’t just angry at her mother for the constant yelling; she was also feeling betrayed by Ino. How dare she go behind her back and discuss Shika with her parents. After all, Ino was the one on constant diets. Ino was the one that kept berating her and Choji, so much so, they avoided spending too much time with her. Ino was the one that said Shika shouldn't go on missions with them, because Ino found it uncomfortable having Shikamaru as the chunin of the group. As her mother continued her rant, and demands, Shikamaru made her mind up to leave. There was no point in her saying anything, or defending herself. Her father wouldn’t rein in his wife, he never had before so why would he now?

She stood abruptly, and pushed her untouched food away, cutting her mother off mid-sentence. Spinning on her heel, she walked away. Stopping at the door, she glanced back over her shoulder.
“I’m going to bed, thank you for the food. Don’t bother making breakfast or dinner for me tomorrow, I’ll sort myself.”
As her mother spluttered and stumbled over her words, Shikaku spoke up.
“Shikamaru, do not walk away from us, I haven’t dismissed you from my table yet. You walk away now, and there will be consequences.”
With a huff, Shikamaru continued her walk away, continuing up the stairs to slam her bedroom door...

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Beams of warm sunlight fell across the room, bathing the bed in the center in light. The pile of pillows and blankets wobbled as two olive toned arms pushed out of the pile and stretched. With a groan the arms flopped back onto the bed, and their owner pushed themselves upright. Shikamaru sat there just soaking in the warmth from the sun, last night's confrontation playing on her mind. Honestly, she was surprised her dad hadn't followed after her, and spoken to her about how she spoke to her mum. However, it was nice to put *that* particular conversation off for a while. She was getting a bit bored of the "you're a disappointment" speech.

With a sigh, Shikamaru pushed herself out of the bed and got herself ready for the day. It was her first day at the academy as a teacher today. After the disaster of the chunin exams, and the rebuilding, Shikamaru had put in for a permanent job at the academy. It paid a decent and consistent wage, she didn't have to train particularly hard for it, and she could sleep in her own bed each night. It was common practise for chunin to take a more permanent job in the village, between missions. It would be strange being at the academy in a teaching role, but she'd survive. Luckily Iruka-sensei was her mentor for this year, she'd have someone to support her. Though, he seemed amused when she appeared to talk to him after applying, and a little proud (she could hardly believe it. Someone was proud of her!) of her quick promotion to chunin. 12 years old and she's a chunin. Not the most impressive age, but certainly one of the quickest promotions in the village for a few decades. Iruka-sensei also made sure to check how she was doing after the mission to rescue Sasuke. It was a success, this time, she thought darkly, but it wouldn't surprise her if Sasuke abandoned the village later on anyway. Either way, he would do well to avoid Shikamaru, she hadn't forgiven him for putting her friends in hospital with life threatening injuries.
Shaking herself from her thoughts, as a tap on her bedroom door rang out.
"Shikamaru, I've made you breakfast. Get up, you're going to be late!" Screeched her mother through the rice paper sliding door. Apparently her mother was ignoring her commands from last night. Oh well, Shika didn't want to deal with this mess this morning. So as her mother continued screeching at her, she slipped out the window, muttering under her breath.
"What a drag."
She jumped down, landing with a catlike grace, before slipping off into the shadows of the trees, not noticing her father standing on the porch, watching with a frown.

Shikaku watched in silence as his daughter slipped into the clan forest, going out of her way to avoid both parents. His frown deepened as he considered the deteriorating relationship he had with his child, and heir. In the 3 months since she was promoted, their relationship seemed to have crumbled to nothing. Normally, he'd sit back and wait for Shikamaru to come to him, but he was certain she wouldn't this time. This time, he may need to force the issue. Especially after last nights little scene. Out of character for his lazy, laidback girl. She would rather agree to something, if it meant avoiding confrontation. Instead, last night, she snapped back, and then directly disobeyed. Whilst he did need to correct her over that, if Shikaku was honest with himself, he just wanted his laidback, and happy, child back. Shikaku turned as his wife joined him on the porch.
"She's gone." Yoshino said, her voice trembling slightly. "She must be mad at me. Shikaku, she's my daughter, I love her. I didn't mean to upset her last night. I've been so worried since she got promoted. What if she doesn't come home next time, and it's because she's not been eating properly, or training enough?"
Shikamaru sighed, and turned to hug his wife. It pained him to see the normally abrasive and domineering woman so shaken. He understood her worries, they had been speaking about how to deal with the issues for a few weeks now. Still, turns out his wife had hit her limit on patience last night, and succeeded in pushing their girl away.
"She'll be fine, dear. She's with Iruka today, he'll make sure she's looked after. We'll try talking to her again tonight. Together this time."
Shikaku hugged his wife close as he looked across to were his daughter had vanished into, for once drawing up blanks on what to do next.

"... just make sure you keep calm and address the problematic behavior straight away. You won't be on your own this year, just co-teaching with me, so don't worry about trying to remember everything straight away. Oh, and Shikamaru, its okay to make mistakes, just try to fix them as you go okay?" Iruka-sensei smiled at one of his favourite students, as he did her introductory session. If he was honest with himself, the quiet intelligence in her eyes had won him over. Along with how … alone… she always seemed. In a roomful of students, she always seemed on the outskirts. When he had first noticed, Iruka had sort advice on how to integrate the little girl into friendship groups. His mentor had said to leave her be. That Naras mature quicker than their peers. That the best course of action was to leave her alone; her clan would provide her with enough companionship. As would their long time allies, the Yamanaka clan, and the Akimichi clan. So Iruka had left her be, though he had kept an eye on her. He tried to encourage her to join in or to come and talk to him, but she had dismissed the idea, and normally gone back to sleep. His worry eased when one day she had appeared with Choji Akimichi, and they had been inseparable from then on. Sighing, Iruka smiled at the girl in front of him, shaking the thoughts from his head.
"Any questions so far Shikamaru-chan?" He asked, knowing she wouldn't.
"None that I can think off Iruka-sensei." Shikamaru replied, already glancing over his shoulder to stare into the distance. Her mind processing the information from the last 6 hours. There was a lot more to teaching than she had thought.
"You can drop the -sensei part now, Shikamaru-chan. You're the same rank as me now." Smiled Iruka proudly, his hand resting on her head. "I want you to know, even though I'm not your teacher anymore, I am so proud of you and your promotion!" Iruka frowned in worry, as at his words the girl's eyes filled with tears. She didn't cry, but he could tell she was struggling to hold them back.
"Aah, Shikamaru-chan, would you like to join me and a few others for some training this evening? We normally train for a few hours after work each day, and then get dinner every few days. You're more than welcome to come, and dinner's on me tonight. As congratulations on your promotion."

Shikamaru hesitated. She knew she should go home and face her parents, but, here was someone who told her he was proud of her, and then offered to help her train. She would need new training partners, as well as mission partners, thanks to Ino refusing to have Shikamaru near. Also, if she was honest with herself, it was nice to be invited by someone she respected; to spend time with them and soak in some of the pride they had for her.
"Yes please sensei, I'd love too!" She answered, the eager tone in her normally bored voice, making her cringe. Great, she thought, the first person to say they are proud of me apparently makes me lose control of my emotions.
"Great! Let's head over now shall we? We can warm up before the others arrive. " Iruka beamed and headed for the door, excited for training, and introducing his ex-student to his training friends. 'Zumo, Ko', Gen', and Rai' are going to adore the little brunette he was bringing with him. He just knew it! Maybe then she could have a larger friendship group, after all if Naras matured quicker, she should be able to fit in with people older than her! Iruka grinned wider and ruffled Shikamaru's hair, he was finally fixing a problem he had had for years. He was going to get Shikamaru friends who had a chance of keeping up with her intellect.

The pair walked in silence through the busy market square, as they headed over to the training grounds. Each lost in their thoughts, the 30 minute walk passed quickly, Iruka guiding them to training ground 51.
"Ah, we're here!" He said. Glancing down at the girl with him. "It's our favourite training ground, so we meet here most days, unless it's already being used. So what do you think?"

Shikamaru looked around the grounds. It's boundaries were woody, and it had a stream running into a lake on one side. The rest of it was open grass and rock. Though she noticed someone had edged the lake with sand.
"Its varied. It contains most elements for people with elemental jutsus to pull from. It looks like a good way to keep and even battlefield for spars." She glanced up at Iruka as she finished her assessment. "Ah, Sensei, it's a drag, and very troublesome, but I don't have a large range of techniques. Nor do I have the chakra to actually give you a decent fight."
Hearing her words, Iruka frowned and looked down at her, his eyes noticing he embarrassed blushing sweeping up her neck and across the bridge of her nose.
"Nee, Shika-chan, do you think I was at the level I am now, as soon as I was promoted?" He questioned gently. She shook her head, her eyes making contact with his.
"Do you think leaf shinobi only care about themselves? Again, she shook her head.
"Our goal is to make each other strong. I've invited you, so you can get stronger, faster, better, by sparring and training with people currently better than you. That's how we improve. We train with those stronger, and we push ourselves and them each fight." Iruka smiled at Shikamaru, and flicked her on the tip of her nose.
"So lets get to warming up, it's nearly time for the others to arrive."
"Hai sensei!"

 

Whilst Shikamaru was out training with her newly met companions, her old teammates were sat in the BBQ restaurant talking with their team captain, about their missing member.
"Asuma-sensei, do you think I was too harsh on Shika, when I told her to leave us alone? I think she took it to mean leave us completely. We haven't seen her at all since then. I mean, its nice not having to see her as a chunin, especially since she doesn't deserve the promotion. Sasuke-kun definitely would have been a better choice." An arrogant voice rang out. Its owner sat facing her teacher, playing with her long blonde hair as she waited on her food to arrive.
Asuma sighed, and exhaled a slow breath of smoke. He put his cigarette down and folded his hands together, before looking at his student.
"I don't think, Ino, I know you were. You're holding a grudge against Shika for being promoted when you weren't, when quite frankly you embarrassed yourself. I think you need to find her, and get her to come back before you break the Ino-Shika-Cho bond completely. Frankly your synergy as a team is unmatched, but only if all three of you are here." Asuma fixed his student with a stern look. "Fix the issue Ino."
The third ninja at their table looked up from his cooking meat and sighed.
"The question is, will Shika want to come back?"
Silence fell on the table, as the missing presence of their final member made itself known.

Chapter Text

Shikamaru panted hard as she finished the warmup Iruka set them both. She looked up to find him, only to see him looking pretty relaxed as he spoke with three other guys. One of which glanced at her before saying something to him.
“Ah, Shikamaru-chan. You’ve finished!” Iruka called cheerfully. “Come over here, so I can introduce you to the guys.”
Shikamaru flinched and sighed. She hadn’t realised the jump between being a genin and being a chunnin. Until now. If that was Irukas idea of a light warm up, she would hate to see a heavy warm up. Apparently, the team 10 training was nowhere near what it should be, if she was still out of breath. Then again, apart from the troublesome blonde, no-one on her team had any kind of drive at training sessions. Looks like she had a lot of work to do. It would be a drag, but she really didn’t fancy dying at the age of 12. Shikamaru slouched, shoving her hands into her uniform pockets, and shuffled over. She stopped next to Iruka, fidgeting under the eyes of people she didn’t know. Still she felt a little more confident after Iruka threw his arm over her shoulders. Her ex-sensei had always been able to make a student feel safe and loved. It was too much of a drag to say it out loud, but it was her favourite thing about him! Giving herself a mental shake, Shikamaru focused back on the conversation.
“…you met them during the exams, but you haven’t officially met yet. So, this is Kotetsu and Izumo. We were on a genin team together, so we go back a long time.”
“Nice to meet you.” Shikamaru bowed. If there was one thing her mother couldn’t complain about, it was that Shikamaru knew how, and when, to use her manners; especially as a clan heir.
“Hey kid! Nice to meet ya’. I remember you quite well. Congratulations on the promotion. You earnt it with that strategy of yours! Afterall, a ninja battle is more mental then physical. That being said, we noticed a few areas that need some work. In these sessions we will help you improve those areas.” The one with bandages across his now (Kotetsu, she thinks) smiled as he spoke. There was a gleam of mischief in his eyes that put Shikamaru at ease. His partner whacked him over the head and spoke.
“I’m sorry Shikamaru-san. What Ko’ meant to say was; if you would like, we would like to help you in your training. Afterall, us chunnins have to stick together.” Izumos voice was directly opposite Kotetsu. His voice was gentle, a soothing sound. The equivalent to honey, in its sweetness. Shikamaru reassessed the two in front of her. She already knew they worked in T&I, but she was now certain the two of them were internal agents. Designed to work together to cajole traitorous shinobi into spilling their secrets in the village. One was energetic and overly friendly. The other polite, soothing over the ruffled feathers from his colleague. Izumo made eye contact with her, a smirk in place as he silently acknowledged her internal assessment of the two of them. Shikamaru bowed slightly in return.
“It’s a drag, and going to be a troublesome amount of work, but I’d appreciate your help.” She replied, making a conscious effort to lower the tone of boredom in her voice, before turning honey coloured eyes to the remaining unknown shinobi.
“The name’s Raido. It’s nice to meet you finally Little Nara. Iruka has told us a lot about you.” The only jounin in the group inclined his head in greetings, before turning to Iruka. “Genma sends his apologies and says next time dinner is on him. He was sent on an extended mission so wont make training this week. He also said he’d do poisons with you next time he is here, Iruka.”
As he spoke, Shikamaru allowed her eyes to roam the jounin, taking in the large scar across his face. It was interesting. It started on one side of his face, travelled across the bridge of his nose, and spread across his left cheek. It warped the skin around his eye and mouth. Shikamaru was fairly certain it looked like a bad burn, but from what she wasn’t sure. She lifted her eyes, so she wasn’t staring, only to see he was watching her in faint amusement. Shikamaru repressed her instinct to blush and look away, keeping her eyes firmly on his. Raidos’ normally strict face softened, before he grinned, happy with her attitude, at least she thinks that’s the reason.
“When you’re older, Little Nara, I’ll tell you all about how it happened.”
“Right. If you two are done with your staring match, it’s about time we got to training.” Cheered Kotetsu. “I bagsy ‘Ruka-kun for sparring.”
Iruka rolled his eyes and sighed, before grinning, his eyes glinting in the dying light. “Sure Ko’. I’ve a few new things I want to try. You’ll make a great guinea pig.” Iruka laughed at the responding squeak, before chasing after his friend. Izumo and Raido cackled loudly at the banter, before turning to Shikamaru.
“So, Little Nara, we know you’re good with strategy, and your Otou-san would be better at teaching that then us.” Piped up Izumo.
“From what we’ve seen your control is good but could use some fine tuning. However, your chakra capacity is way too low; your taijutsu needs a lot of work; and your ninjutsu ranges needs expanding. We’ll work on the odd genjutsu too. You’ll be a well-rounded ninja, by the time we are done.” Raido reeled off his observations, watching the young chunnin flinch at each weakness, her skin tinting red in shame at the large list. The odd bit was how she stood. It was almost like she was waiting to be put down harshly, and without restraint. He frowned and made a mental note to ask around about her normal behavior, and her interactions with people.
“To be honest, most of those weaknesses are common in your clan members, so you probably already knew them. We, obviously, will work on those areas, however, my main focus is to expand your library of techniques. Your family are outstanding in support roles, or fast and quick sneak attacks. When we are done, you’ll be an excellent ninja in a range of roles.” Raido sighed “You’ve got potential kid, the question is: Are you willing to put the effort in to reach the potential?” Raidos’ dark eyes pinned Shikamaru still, waiting for an answer. Almost like he was daring her to deny her potential.
“It’ll be a drag, but I’ll do it. I want to be able to protect my home, and the people in it.” Towards the end of her answer, Raido and Izumo smirked at her. They listened as her voice, normally apathetic, become firm and almost (for a Nara, they thought) passionate. Her eyes flashed, turning amber with an inner fire. Shikamarus clan had a saying: A bored Nara was a danger, but a motivated Nara was deaths shadow.”
She would be deaths shadow, she decided. She was sick of being considered a disappointment. She was tired of being known as the weak lazy kid. She wouldn’t act different in public, but she’d outshine everyone, Ino, Choji, Sasuke, Naruto, Sakura; all of them! If this jounin, who didn’t know her, saw some potential, she was going to grab it with both hands. She fixed both guys with a hard stare.
“When do we start, senseis?” Her voice was firm and unwavering, as for once she stood straight, with her head held high.
What followed was a grueling few hours. The training they had her doing, only a fraction of what they normally did, was the worst and best feeling she had had to date. Her body ached, and cried with pain, at every move. Her chakra was non-existent, and her chakra coils burned with the overuse.
First Raido and Izumo had her hold them in her shadow paralysis, whilst they resisted. Over and over, until she was out of chakra. At that point they smirked, and Izumo stepped forward into a ready position. Shikamaru whimpered gently before falling into her clans fighting style, her arms and legs trembling from the weights on them and around her waist. Unlike on team Asuma there was no warning. Izumo launched at her with a quick shout of taijutsu only. In Shikamaru’s mind, what happened next was a slaughter. She managed to dodge or block the first few hits, but she could tell Izumo was pulling his punches. Next thing she knew, she was on her back panting, and staring at the stars above her. A shadow fell across her face, and Raidos face appeared in her vision.
“We’ll debrief that round, go through what went wrong, then start again. Izumo and I will switch in and out, so youll have two different fighting styles and two different sets of feedback.” Raido pulled Shikamaru to her feet as he spoke.
Three hours later, Shikamaru was a wreck. Her chakra was gone, and her body hurt. The others had gone for dinner, but she had skipped this time. Shikamaru sighed and looked up at the dark sky. Her body soothed by the gentle, cooling breeze. She watched the twinkling stars above her, as her mind wandered. She analyzed her performance for the last three hours. She wasn’t impressed. It was, frankly, an embarrassment to the title shinobi. Even Ino, a fangirl, who spent hours doing hair and makeup, spending mission money on new pretty things instead of weapons; would have done better. Shika sighed heavily. This was troublesome, but she would need to really stick to this training. A rustling in the trees alerted her to her visitors, just before Ino and Choji landed next to her.
“See Choji, I told you this lazyass would be sleeping somewhere.” A smug tone threaded through the blondes’ voice, as she stood over Shikamaru. Her eyes flashing in triumph and disgust as she looked at Shikamaru. “Choji was certain you would be taking your training a bit more seriously now. Seems he put his faith in the wrong person.”
Shika gritted her teeth as the smug blonde kept talking, reminding Shikamaru why she was so mad with Ino. She decided she had had enough and cut across the other girl.
“Troublesome woman, what do you want? I was busy.” At Shika’s blunt words, Inos sharp eyes ran over the form on the floor in front of her. She didn’t miss Shikamarus hair falling out of her ponytail, the flushed skin and heavy breathing, her disheveled clothes, and missing flack vest. Shikamaru inwardly cursed, as she watched Inos eyes widen and heard her gasp. She just knew Ino had jumped to the wrong conclusion. This was going to be a troublesome situation to fix. What a drag.
“Ino, it isn’t what you think..” Shika started, her voice slightly panicked, as she attempted to contain her teammate.
“SHIKAMARU NARA!!!! Does Uncle Shikaku know?! How could you?? Wait, you wouldn’t break clan expectations, or risk the reputation of your clan. Oh my god. Do you need to go to the hospital? Do you remember what they looked like? Ill get my dad, he can mind walk you, so you don’t have to go through it again!” With that, Ino dashed off.
Panicking Shikamaru turned to Choji. “Go after her! Whatever she says, tell people she is jumping to conclusion!”
“Whaa’? What’s happening Shika-chan?”
“Not now Choji. Just go!” she barked at her kindhearted friend.
Watching her last teammate vanish, she sighed and pulled her self to her feet, and straightened out her hair and clothes.
“Man, I should go home, but that’s going to be a drag. I’ll go get ramen, then head back.” She muttered to herself, before slouching and trudging back to the village warily. Bright lights glinted against the dark night, as Shikamaru left the training grounds. A slight breeze entered her open vest, cooling her heated body down. Strands of chocolate brown hair swayed against her face, where the breeze wicked away any sweat left. She pushed her way through the thickening crowd to get to the ramen bar, that everyone in her class went too. Sliding into a stool at the bar, she waved to the girl serving. “One bowl of miso please”

Shikamaru wasted away an hour at the bar, slowly nursing her bowls of ramen. She was running through various scenarios with Ino telling different people in her head, hoping Ino hadn’t gone straight to their dads about it. Or if she had, that Choji had managed to calm everything down for her. Just as she straightened up to head home, there was a heavy hand on her shoulder.
“Hey there Shika-chan. The clan heads sent us to find you.” A jolly sounding voice said. Tilting her head back to look at the person touching her. A shock of red hair around a large face greeted her, along with a gentle smile. Next to him was a tall blonde male, and an obvious Nara.
“Hi Chouro, Inio, Cousin. What a drag. Which old guy sent ya?”
Her cousin, favourite one at that (not that she would ever tell him), snorted and gave her a half smile.
“All of them little cousin. I believe you’re in trouble. Something about reputation, or whatever. Inios’ cousin came running in screaming about something, being followed by Chouros’ cousin. Whatever it was, it’s bad enough we’ve been told to escort you home.” He hesitated and pulled on his ponytail. “If you resist, we are meant to bring you back forcefully. Don’t be troublesome please cousin, come with us willingly.”
With a sigh, Shikamaru nodded, and followed the older Ino-Shika-Cho out into the darkened streets heading to the clan compounds.

Chapter Text

Normally the sight of her clan compound gave Shikamaru a feeling of comfort and security, tonight however, it was dread. She clearly hadn’t accounted for something, if all three of the clan’s sent an Ino-Shika-Cho team after her, with permission to forcefully drag her home if needed. She really hoped Choji had calmed everyone down whilst they waited, or she would need to do some quick thinking. Well, there goes the hope and motivation from the guys training sessions. New mission: Survive the parental interrogation…. Times bloody three! If it wasn’t enough for her to just have her mother, and old man; she also had Inos dad, and Chojis dad to deal with. Shikamaru sighed and leaned into her cousin lightly, before straightening up.
“Are you meant to escort me home to them? Or can I walk in my own compound alone?” Shikamaru flinched at her tone. It was way more sarcastic than needed for the three of them who had always been kind and gentle with her. “Gomen...” She muttered, glancing at the three of them in shame. Shika felt a soft hand ruffle her hair, and her cousins shadow tugged on hers in a forgiving manner. Leaning into the hand on her head, her vision was blocked slightly by a waterfall of blonde hair before a kiss landed on her forehead.
“It’s fine little hime, we take no offense. This whole thing is quite troublesome, as you Naras say.” The rumbling baritone was tinged with a teasing lilt, as the Yamanaka winked at her. “To answer your question, we were told specifically to bring you to them…. Well, actually, we were told to keep a hold of you and bring you to them, buuuuuuutttttt, we are ignoring that part.” Inio withdrew his hand and nudged her gently further into the streets of the compound. Shikamaru sighed again and kept walking, a bunch of Nara children ran past laughing, as they chased after a stray foal. Shikamaru couldn’t help but grin at the sight. She remembered doing that a few years ago, the fawns were fairly shy to anyone who wasn’t a Nara but loved playing with the children of the clan. It was probably because the kids would sneak the fawns all sorts of snacks and tidbits. Aided and abetted by the Akimichi and Yamanaka children too. It was a surprise that you never saw a chubby foal to be honest. They made out like bandits most of the time. The bright light pouring from an open door, broke her from her thoughts abruptly. As did the figure stood in the doorway. As Shikamaru took in the person, the figure turned and stalked into the house. The door was left open, a silent demand for the four to enter the house. After a few seconds, in which Shikamaru took a deep breath and silently straightened her spine, her cousin nudged her forward towards the door…

The normally warm feeling room had taken a turn for the worse. Around the family table sat her father, her “uncles” and her mother. Behind them stood Ino, a concerned look on her face, and Choji looking confused. Personally, Shika thought that Ino was faking the concerned look, but that was not the point of debate currently. With that she turned her eyes to her fathers’ face, taking in the lines and set of his jaw. Whilst his face was a neutral as normal, his eyes held a worry and determination to them. Shikakus teammates, her uncles, were also sat with blank faces. Chouza Akimichis eyes were scanning her, probably looking for bruises, which she knew she had after training. Inoichi Yamanakas pupil-less teal eyes were firmly fixed on her face. Shikamaru made a point to avoid eye contact with him. The Yamanaka clan jutsu was mastered by its current head, if he made eye contact, you wouldn’t even feel him inside your mind. Her eyes flew to her fathers on hearing his voice echo through the room.
“Thank you Shirai, Inio, Chouro. You’re all dismissed now.”
“Shirai stays!” Shikamaru rushed to get out. She didn’t want to stand here on her own, being interrogated and accused, without someone on her side. “He isn’t accusing me of anything, I want him here.” Her cousin hesitated in the doorway, all eyes were on her father as they waited for his approval.
“Daughter, no-one is accusing you of anything here. Something is concerning us, that is all. There is no need for Shirai-kun to stay. He is dismissed.” Whilst gentle, his voice held a touch of steel to it. His mind was made, Shikamaru knew she wouldn’t be able to change it about this. It would be better for her to back down on this and hold her ground later. A brief tug on her shadow filled her with warmth, at least Shirai had her back, as did his team. Shikamaru stood straight, and held her head high, making eye contact with her old man. Silence reigned as the rest of the room watched the clash of wills between father and daughter. Their facial expressions never changed, but emotions ran amok in their eyes. As the stalemate dragged on, Shikamarus mother started tapping the table, clearly holding herself back from breaking the tension. The rest of the room waited on the Nara clan head and his heir apparent to start the meeting. A chirrup sounded distantly as the does called their fawns back to the forest, a nightly occurrence that didn’t register on anyones radar.
“Aren’t they, Nara-sama? Are you sure about that?” Shikamarus voice had softened, but in the silence her words filled the room. Her formal use of language, as well as, calling Shikaku by his title rather that as her father, raised the tension in the room; with Shikakus teammates glancing at him. Inoichi and Chouza could see the defeat, and heartbreak, on their friends’ face. The slight age lines deepening with sorrow. They knew he was thinking about how he had obviously failed at being a father. He had been at work too much, and too long. He hadn’t done anything except play shoji with her. He had left her mother to raise their daughter, whilst he dealt with the clan and the village. It seemed to them, that the man in front of them was broken, tired with the world and life itself. Apparently, they weren’t the only ones that saw it. Yoshino seemed to snap.
“Watch your tone, young lady! Your father isn’t the one who needs to explain his actions. Frankly your attitude for the last few months sucks, and your recent actions don’t exactly fill me with confidence of you being a chunnin! Maybe your father should recall you from active duty for a while, maybe us treating you like a normal clan heiress will help jog your memory about how easy you have it. I’m sure someone will accept you as a wife, if only for the clan headship they will gain!” Yoshino was stood leaning over the table, her chest heaving as she panted for the breath her rant seemed to have stolen. Despite her words carrying a weighty threat, no-one reacted. Her daughter ignored her, except a slight blush across her nose, and her husband didn’t even move. No-one was sure if Shikamarus blush was from anger, trying not to cry, or humiliation. Though most of the spectators were leaning towards the latter reason.
“Shikamaru.” Shikaku started, ignoring his wifes outburst. Everyone knew he wouldn’t force his child to leave being a ninja, or to marry. “Shika-chan, it’s been brought to our attention that something…. unpure… might have happened to you tonight. I understand it’s embarrassing, and humiliating, not to mention uncomfortable to talk about. What I don’t understand is why you didn’t come to me when it happened? Shika, little fawn, why didn’t you come to me?” Halfway through his words, Shikakus voice broke in sorrow. He was honestly heartbroken that his little girl didn’t trust him enough to come to him. That she felt the need to hide from him. How long had she been being taken advantage off, and she didn’t feel safe enough to come to him? Not once did it cross his mind that maybe, just maybe, Ino had misinterpreted what she had seen.
“There was nothing to come to you about, but you are right. This is humiliating.” Shikamarus voice was calm and steady, a stark difference to what she felt inside. As soon as she heard her father’s voice crack, guilt and desperation to fix something…. anything... filled her. Her emotions, something she normally had under tight control, were churning in her stomach, spreading a tight feeling across her chest. Shika swore she felt her lungs being squeezed and her heart ache from the intensity of the storm inside.
“Daughter, we are aware that something happened this evening. Ino-chan told us the state in which she found you. You were missing clothes. You were flushed. Your hair was down. You had bruises, that we can see, forming. That you looked thoroughly…” Shikakus’ voice got louder and more demanding as he spoke. “…ravished” he spat out. “You’ve been avoiding all of us for the last few months.” His shoulders slumped in defeat. “Unless you tell us, we can’t protect you little fawn.”
Fury. Strange really, she had never been fury before, Shikamaru mused. Frustrated, sure. Irritated, hell yes. Anger, of course, but never fury. The depth of the emotion floored her briefly, her brain struggling to comprehend the emotion that rose, and grasped at her throat. Choking her with its tangibility. Yet, instead of lashing out, an unnatural calm settled on her. Her mind was foggy, yet a reply came to her clearly.
“Did it ever occur to you, that your darling Ino-chan,” Shikamarus voice was steel dripping in venom, the cold tone stealing the breath of everyone in the room. “did exactly what the Yamanaka clan is known for? Jump to a conclusion and then run to spread the gossip? Did it once occur to you that she may have misread the situation? That if it wasn’t because of Ino deciding she didn’t want to train or go on missions with me, I would still be training with them. Or how about these supposed diets I’m always on? Shall we ask Ino who is normally on diets? Or better yet, what about asking Asuma-sensei? I’m sick and tired of being yelled at, being looked down on because I like to take life slowly, of being the scapegoat for someone else’s insecurities!” By the end of her rant, Shikamarus voice was raised to a yell. A thing rarely heard by anyone in the room. The storm of emotions inside her broke loose, tears rolled down her cheeks. Her chakra flared and filled the room. The older Ino-Shika-Cho trio gasped at the swirling chakra, their own raising in response, aiming to sooth and calm Shikamarus. Tears ran down Yoshinos and Inos faces, as they fell to the floor. A little-known thing about the Nara clan’s chakra, it was highly susceptible to emotions. That was one of the reasons the Nara clan reigned themselves in to always seemed bored, they grounded the Yin chakra from their emotions and their shadows. It was rare a clan child under the age of 5 was ever allowed out of the safety of their compound. It was impossible for a Nara child to leave before the age of 6, they were busy being taught to control themselves under the watchful eyes of their elder clansmen.
A crash from the front of the house was heard, before Shirai flew into the room, Inio and Chouro close behind. The trio had waited outside just incase they were needed. At the raising chakra, they had thrown themselves into action, their duty to protect their clan heads, and heirs. Shirai took in the room before leaping towards his cousin, his own chakra coming out to circle her protectively, as he wrapped his arms around her. He brought her tight to his chest murmuring comforting words into her ear, as he stroked her hair, one arm wrapped around her, keeping her close.
“Whatever conversation you were having is over.” Inio announced. “Anything else you need from her, I will find out. You want to know what she did this evening, right? Fine.” He turned to the sobbing girl, his eyes softening in sorrow and adoration. “Little deer, will you make eye contact with me please? Let me help you hime-chan. Please.” His gently spoken words aimed to coax the girl to look at him. “Come on little one, let me help.” Shikamaru stilled and slowly locked eyes with Inio, her agreement for him to mindwalk her, given in a barely seen nod. Time seemed to still as the two maintained eye contact for several long seconds. The Clan heads watching in grief, as a girl they all considered their child looked away from them for security. Their hearts shattered, as their own kin formed a barrier between them (and Yoshino) and their daughter.
“She was out training with a group of shinobi, including Iruka-kun.” Inio stated as he broke eye contact, and watched his favourite family member, burrow back into her cousins’ arms. His team had been watching over Shikamaru for years, they had noticed the distance forming between Shikamaru and her team. They had watched closely since she was promoted, they had seen her lock away emotion after emotion. They knew it would explode soon, she was still a child, not even a teenager yet, with the weight of a job adults a decade older than her struggled with. She was bound to lose control, it was both lucky it was in the clan compound, and unluckily that it was due to her kin.
“She’ll be staying with me tonight Shikaku-sama.” Shirai spoke up. His tone told everyone that he wasn’t asking, he was telling. Without waiting for a response, he vanished in a whirlwind of leaves, his teammates to follow in their own rush of leaves. Leaving behind six people looking like their world had ended…

Chapter Text

The morning filtered through a crack in the drawn curtains, breaking through the darkness inside the room. Its occupants stirred unwillingly, desperate to cling to their dreams and not surface into the real world. A grumpy sounding groan echoed in the silence, as its owner opened his blue eyes. Inio stretched out on the sofa, kicking Chouro by accident. He froze, but it seemed like he hadn’t woken anyone, so he extracted himself from the tangle of limbs and slipped into the kitchen. Inio yawned and scratched at his stomach as he staggered around the kitchen, pulling out the needed items for coffee and tea. He leant against the kitchen window as he waited for the water to boil, his breath fogging the window, his eyes people watching, but not really seeing. The memory of last nights antics breaking through the last of his sleep haze. After they had got back to their shared apartment, it took them hours to calm Shikamaru down. Frankly, it was a little disturbing to see the range of emotion she had been hiding, presumably for years. His blue eyes darkened to a stormy grey, the normal teal colour just a hint in the depths. Several times over the course of the night all three of them had to hold each other back, as they listened to Shikamaru rambling thoughts, feelings, and the actions of her team and clan heads. No wonder she lost control, she had been put down for years and, unlike the little Hyuga, she had locked it away; pretending it didn’t matter, that she didn’t care. There was only so much of that a 12-year-old can take. The three of them had been surprised that her chakra hadn’t lashed out with intent to hurt, and even more surprised that she had reigned in her shadows, they could be deadly!
A shrill whistle pierced his thoughts as the water came to a boil. Inio crossed the kitchen and turned the gas off, poured himself and Chouro a cup of green tea; adding some mint leaves in his and a stick of cinnamon in the other. He checked the coffee machine, happy with the amount in the pot, he set the table with bowls, their tea and coffee, and cut up fruit with a tub of yoghurt. Smiling at the table, he turned and entered the living room.
“All right you miserable lot, up and at it! Wakey wakey! Shikamaru you’ve got to get to work soon!”

**

Kids screamed in laughter in the background, a young girl clung to the brunch of a tree looking tearfully over the top of a tall wall. Her clan compound had stopped being her playground as all her peers had started being allowed out of the compound, under the watchfully eyes of their elders. She wanted to go. She wanted to be free to run, swing, and play with them. She wanted to be friends, she was 4 years old and had no one she could call friend. Tears slowly rolled down her cheeks, a soft sob escaped her. The little girl hugged the tree and watched the playing kids until the sun started to set on the horizon. By that time, she was cold and hungry, so she slowly started down the tree. Her arms were stiff from hugging a tree all day, so they trembled holding her barely there weight until her hands slipped and she fell. The little girl bounced from branch to branch, twigs catching her hair and scratching her skin, until she left the tree, and flew down to the ground. Her eyes screwed tight, and her body tensed, preparing to hit the solid ground hard. She did hit something, and she hit it hard, but that something wasn’t hard, it yielded a little under her slight weight. She was brought to lay securely against something warm, a rumbling sounded under her ear.
“Well, I’m fairly certain little fawns can’t fly. Are you okay Shikamaru-chan?”
Shikamaru looked up and squinted at the shadow surrounded by the dying light.
“Daddy! I’m sorry I landed on you!”
Shikaku laughed, a soothing sound to the child in his arms. He tightened his arms around his girl, and ran a hand over her head, neck and back.
“It’s fine Shika. So wanna tell your old man, why you decided to try flying?”
Shikamaru pouted. “I didn’t try to fly, daddy, I fell. I was watching them playing outside the compound.” Shikamaru fell silent, before asking quietly, “Daddy, why can’t I go outside to? I promised I’ll be good! I’ll listen to you and mum! I’ll be good!”
Shikaku watched as tears streamed down his daughters’ face, before sighing and hugging her close. He turned and walked slowly down to their home, his mind pondering ways to explain to his child, about their chakra in a way she would understand. His daughter was already showing a high level of intelligence, and with it comes the lethargic nature of a Nara. Yet, she was just a baby (to him anyway), and somethings were still past her comprehension.
“Soon little fawn, you’ll be outside too. First, we must learn to control ourselves. We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, would we?” Shikaku waited for her to shake her head. Her eyes were unusually light for a Nara, almost amber and honey coloured, but they sparkled with light. Shadows swirling in with their natural light. “So, we must be calm. Nothing should phase us. Emotions are locked away outside of our compound, the Yamanaka compound, or the Akimichi compound. Outside of these walls, we become the shadows, calm and patient. Like the deer we guard. Do you understand Shika-chan?”
Little Shikamaru nodded her head. Her tears drying as she looked up at her father.
“What do I have to do?” her high-pitched voice was firm, holding an echo of something. Something that caught her dads attention. His eyes focused on her, the scars adding to the gravity of his search eyes.
“We keep going with the exercises we already do. We ground ourselves with something every day, until its second nature.”
At this point their conversation was broken by her mothers screeching to go and clean up, dinner was on the table. Sighing the two Nara headed in, one going to his wife, the other heading upstairs to wash up. Pausing on the stairs, Shikamaru crouched down and peered into the kitchen to see her parents. Whispered parts of their conversation floated up to her.
“…Crying again…”
“Needs to learn...”
“She’s way older than most…. You learnt…. Already...”
“Disappointing...The elders…. New heir...”
Flinching from the conversation, Shikamaru muffled her sobs in her hands, and slowly sneaked up the stairs. In her room, she leant on the door, sliding to the floor sobbing into her knees. She wasn’t good enough, or quick enough. Her parents wanted a new heir, does this mean she was going to be left alone more? No, all she had to do was learn some calming techniques, so learn them she would! As she stood up, determined to prove herself to the clan and anyone else who doubted her, a loud voice cut across…

**

“… Shikamaru you’ve got to get to work soon!” The loud voice cut through the dream, dragging her out of her dream. Shikamaru opened her eyes and recalled the dream. It wasn’t a dream, it was a memory really, only this time she was watching it. Like watching a film. She remembered that day, and plenty others like it, were her parents whispered about replacing her behind her back. Sighing, and shaking her head to clear the tears before they could form…again… Shikamaru took a few deep breaths, before sinking into a meditative mindset, trying to clear her mind before work. Today she was actually teaching a lesson. On chakra history, which was dry enough, without her being out of it too. In her mindscape, a mixture of a forest and a library, Shika began taking the books that were laying around, providing memories and emotions, and put them on their shelves. She was certain she had locked those particular books away; frowning, Shikamaru looked around. Her trees were dying, and any of her defenses were long gone. None of her padlocks, her chests or her safes were still there. The natural light was partially blocked, and items were missing. Making a mental note to talk to a Yamanaka (probably Inio) soon, Shika surfaced from her mind to find herself being watched by a curious Inio. Her cousin and Chouro were in their rooms from the sounds of it.
“Come, sit and eat with me.” Inio walked to the kitchen, his tone polite, but still a command. Shikamaru followed him, hearing her cousin exit his room. She loved their flat. It was clean and orderly, but still gave an air of being a home. She used to sneak here after school, they had a flat roof with a bench and shade on it. Perfect for cloud watching after a tiring day at the academy. She rested a hand on one of the four chairs, smirking when she found her name. She had carved it in one day, after spending nearly a week there and no one had noticed. It meant she had a permanent place somewhere, without expectations. She remembered when the three of them moved in. It had sent the elders of all three clans into a panic. Three of their most talented shinobi were living outside of the compound. It was unheard of, even among the laidback Nara who were not sticklers for the rules. The three of them had pooled their money together to afford the upfront rent and deposit, for a 4-bed apartment, and new furniture. It was a lovely place, in a mostly civilian area, on the outskirts of the village. Roomy, with a wall of windows, it was most shinobis nightmare. A large space, open for people to see into, made it hard to secure for paranoid ninja. Shikamaru, however, loved it. It had the same feeling as when she was on the roof. Open to the elements, nothing containing her to reality. Here she could let her mind wander with the clouds. She could allow herself to follow her pet projects more intently in those moments. Lately, she had been reading a bit of material on seals. It was gripping, but she knew no-one who could guide her in the village. Maybe at tonights’ training she would ask Raido. The jounin would probably know someone who at least dabbled enough to get her started, otherwise it was the risky way of experimenting until something went right. It would be awesome if she could start using gravity seals, and storage seals! Oohhh what about chakra holding seals? Could she seal away stores of chakra on her body, as reserves? Shikamaru mentally stored that thought away for now, she didn’t want to ignore the trio in front of her, (when did Chouro arrive?) especially when they risked discipline action for ignoring the clan head dismissal to rescue her. She sat down and reached for her coffee, sighing happily as the warmth seeped through the mug into her hands. She smiled at the three guys, happy to chill out with her coffee.
“Thank you for last night, guys. I appreciate you getting yourself in trouble for me.”
Shirai snorted “It wasn’t a problem. You should know by now, you are our sole focus, in the clan.” Shirai smirked at his cousin, remembering when his team were assigned to look after her. Each heir of the three clans had their own Ino-Shika-Cho team, young enough to play with them, but old enough to be good protectors for the little tots. Most of the teams stopped their roles as soon as their charges graduated, theirs however, didn’t. They ended up close to their charge, she became their little sister more than their future clan head.

With a smirk, and a nod, Shikamaru put her dishes in the sink, and slipped off to get ready for the day. She could feel three sets of eyes on her back as she went, the gaze warm and comforting. She had a room here with some clothes in. Not her normal uniform, it was more casual then she would normally wear. Mostly it was too troublesome to pick out clothes, so she wore the same cargo pants and jacket in grey and green. The clothes she had here were… interesting. Inio had picked out a bunch of stuff for a birthday and Christmas present one year. He updated somethings as she got older, but most of it was colourful and quite fashionable. She never really wore it, except to lounge around the flat, now however she didn’t have a choice. With a shrug and a muttered “Troublesome.” Shikamaru dragged herself through getting ready, and headed out to work, waving to the guys as she went. A bag with a notebook, pens, and some activities in. It was a drag, but at least it paid ok. Her lesson was last, so hopefully the kids would be too tired to play around. At least she hoped they would be...

Chapter Text

Shikamaru stopped outside the classroom door, listening as Iruka finished his lesson. She rested her forehead against the wooden wall, breathing in slowly and deeply. She held her breath for 5 seconds before slowly exhaling. Shikamaru repeated the process a few more times to settle her nerves. Steeling herself (why was she so nervous??!!), she backed away from the wall, and turned towards the door, an involuntary yelp escaping her as she saw Iruka leaning against the door watching her. He grinned in light hearted amusement, patting her on the shoulder, before straightening. His grin softening to a reassuring smile.
“You’ll be fine Shikamaru, just don’t panic. Just deal with everything then and there, keep calm and don’t let them get to you. Make sure you are fair, and deal with everyone equally. Teaching is less about your knowledge, and more about building a relationship with the kids themselves. I’ve seen your lesson plan, you’ve packed a whole lot of detail in it, just be prepared to go off plan, or not finish it. Lessons aren’t static things, they evolve and change with the class.” With a quick movement, Iruka brought Shikamaru in close, and gave her a fleeting hug. He knew Shikamaru didn’t like to be touched much, though she seemed to be more receptive to it, the longer she hung around with someone. Pep talk done, he stepped in to the room and headed up to a spare seat in the back. He hadn’t told her, that he had moved the trouble makers to the back of the class next to him, so he could help keep an eye on them. He really didn’t want to overwhelm her during her first lesson. He absentmindedly ruffled a few of the lads’ hair on the way up and patted a few of the girls on the shoulder as he headed up.
Shikamaru watched with fond remembrance of the times as a child, when he did the same thing. She also remembered the way everyone leaned into him subconsciously, just as the kids in front of her did. She shook herself out of memory lane and looked around the classroom slowly. It was a drag, but she made eye contact with every student. It was a trick her father said he often used at strategy meetings with the jounin and the council. It built suspense, so everyone waited on his word. It also made everyone believe that he was speaking to them; that they were included, and important. He said that creating an atmosphere in the room was a way to command the room. If you were the epicenter of the storm, people gravitated to you; and more importantly, they listened. From the silence in the room, it was working. The children were completely focused on her, their eyes wide and filled with anticipation. It was strange really, she mused, how ninja children even in their first year, were distinguishable from the civilian children. Some of them (*coughcoughHyugacoughcough*) were already being taught chakra control, and taijutsu stances, but the main difference was their body language. She hadn’t thought about it before, maybe it was passed through genetics, but they tensed and then relaxed. Their body’s relaxing in the imitation of experienced ninjas. Loose limbed but sprawled in a way that screamed predator. Well it would when they were older and trained, she smirked. Whilst the civilian kids were tense, practically panting in suspense. They would learn, or they would drop out over the years here. Shikamarus smirk widened, feeling the tension in the room rocketed up.
“Good afternoon. My name is Shikamaru, and this course will be about the force that keeps us alive, and keeps us…” Shikamarus voice was soft, almost hypnotic. Keeping all the attention on her. “...dangerous” Her voice dropped to a purr for the last word. She gave a half grin as she heard a breathed “cool” Hook.
“This force surrounds us all day. It flows through our veins, follows our blood around our bodies. It flows within me, within you. Ninja…Civilian...Animal…Plant. We all have it. It’s in the very air we breathe. The water we drink. Without it, life would seem darker…” Shikamarus shadows crept around the room, slinking from the corners, darkening the air. The creeping darkness cast a chill over the room. Shikamaru watched deadpanned, as the kids started to shiver, and glanced around in terror. Shika reigned in her shadows, allowing light to stream back into the room. Line.
“Every person has an element that the work the best with. For me, my domain is shadows. The darkness dogs my every step. It’s icy embrace a constant reminder of the power we, as ninja, can tap into.” Shikamaru paused and looked around the room. The boys of the class were enthralled by her display. They leant forward, eyes fixed on her. The girls were a bit more cautious, fear tinged their eyes. Sinker.
“For now, though, let us focus on what this force is, and where it came from.” Shikamaru smiled at the class and leant against the teachers’ desk. “First of all, what is this force?” A few of the more adventurous kids slowly raised their hand. Quite clearly, she analysed, they weren’t sure how to react to her after her display. Good. If they were off balance, they would be easier to manage. Honestly, Shikamaru didn’t particularly like kids, they were too much effort, and way too troublesome; but they were predictable. Give them something they consider ‘magic’ and they are hooked. Make something seem exciting and dangerous, they want to do it. A drag, but easy enough. Now to actually do the lesson. With a sigh, Shikamaru asked one of the kids with their hands down for the answer. Once she had confirmed it was chakra she had been describing, Shikamaru split the kids into their bench seat groups. Each group had a question “What is chakra?”, “Where does chakra come from?”, “How do we create chakra?”, “Why can’t everyone use it, like ninjas?”, and “Does chakra have a nature?”. The five groups were to talk about it together, as Shikamaru wandered between groups, listening and occasionally pointing them in a new direction.
For 10 minutes the discussions went on, and Shikamaru was quite surprised by the different reasonings the kids were coming up with. Some of them were quite impressive really, for first year students. Calling their attention back to her, Shikamaru discussed their answers, nudging some of them on track so everyone could understand correctly. Taking a deep breath, Shika summoned her chakra to the surface, so she was standing there with her chakra cloak coating her. Its flickering blue flames crackled and snapped around her. The children’s eyes were wide with amazement, some of the bolder ones reaching out to touch. What interested Shikamaru, was the swirls of black in her cloak. Apparently, her shadows converted some of her chakra to match their nature. Unfortunately, at that point, her lesson went a bit off plan. One of the little girls quietly asked if they could learn how to mould their own chakra. Shikamaru hesitated, and glanced at Iruka, knowing that they had a lesson on this further in the future. To her surprise, Iruka smiled and nodded his head, giving permission for her to start the process.
“Okay then. Everyone put your stuff away and follow me.” Shikamaru lead the class outside, to part of the academy’s training grounds. One near the forest, with sounds of birds, and water running in the distance. The class following her like eager puppies. When she was happy with the area, Shika turned and fell to the ground lazily, gesturing to the class to sit.
“Everyone get comfortable. We are going to be here a while.” When she was certain, everyone was comfortable and more importantly, still; Shikamaru walked the kids through the exercises her dad did with her when she was little.
“Take long, slow deep breaths. Keep your eyes closed and feel as the air floods into your lungs. Feel it sweep into every part of your body. Start to empty your mind of thought. Focus internally. Ignore everything else.” Shikamarus voice was low and calm. She spoke softly, and kept her tone even, aiming to lull the kids into the beginning of meditation. This was different to the normal, academy, exercises. This method was normally used by some of the clans, it took longer to do, but helped more in the long run. The exercise was designed to submerge the seeker in their own chakra, so they could take control of their own power. It made for better chakra control later on. She kept her own eyes on the kids in front of her. Sometimes, the seeker struggled to pull themselves out of their chakra pool and needed help to come too again. The branch clan kids were nearly ready from the looks of it, for the next step. One or two of the civilian kids as well. The rest were still struggling to reach their calm.
“You will know when you are ready to move on. Your mind will be dark, but you should see a faint blue glow. Follow it. If you can’t see it yet, keep clearing your mind. Focus on the sound of your heartbeat, and the blood rushing through your veins.” Shikamaru watched with her head resting on her knee, the other curled around her.
“…is this… is this chakra?” One of the little civilian girls stuttered. Excitement and nervousness filling her soft voice. “It’s like a rock pool. Glowing, and throwing shadows around me. It looks like water reflections on the walls?”
Shikamaru stood in one movement, and crossed the space between her and the child, noting the others stopping to watch.
“You’ve found it.” She confirmed “Now. Jump in. Take a deep breath, and swim down. You should see a plug, and a chain?” When the little girl nodded, Shikamaru continued. “Pull the chain, Chia-chan. Pull hard. It’s time to release your chakra.”
Shikamaru stood back as the wind picked up around Chia, her long purple hair flapping in the breeze. Her eyes squeezed shut in stress, as she mentally forced herself to open her chakra. The rest of the class were watching with open mouths, and wide eyes, as their classmate floated off the ground, in the middle of a storm. The wind dragging leaves into the whirlwind, and sparks of blue appeared on Chia’s skin. Just as Shikamaru was readying herself to pull Chia out of her task, the storm stopped. Shika caught Chia before she hit the ground, and found herself with an armful of child, glowing with blue flames. She waited until Chia had opened her eyes, before smiling and settling the girl on her feet.
“Well done Chia-chan! You’ve released your chakra.” At Shika’s sentence the little girl found herself surrounded by peers asking for hints and tips. A huge proud grin spread across Chia’s face as she let go of her hold over the cloak, answering questions on what she saw, and how she felt. Shikamaru backed off next to Iruka and watched as the shyest girl of the class found something, she could do better than the rest. A bell sounding from the buildings, pulled the kids out of conversation and running for their bags to go home. Following the kids at a sedate pace, Shikamaru and Iruka discussed the lesson, before she waved and headed off in to town.

 

Shikamaru wandered down the streets towards market square. Her lesson had gone fairly well she thinks. Maybe they had skipped ahead a little too far once they had got into a debate over chakra itself, but overall Shikamaru was pretty certain it wasn’t a bad attempt at her first ever lesson. Iruka had seemed happy with her performance. He had even admitted he was worried she would just throw a book at them, so she could nap in peace. To be honest, a nap sounds amazing. She hadn’t realized how hard this teaching thing was! You didn’t just have to teach new, and sometimes boring, material; you also become an entertainer, keeping the brats entertained and focused was a full-time job on its own! Iruka, she decided, needed a goddamn medal! He dealt with her class, which had the orange ball of energy in it! Her class this afternoon was a first-year class, so the kids were 6 years old this academic year. They should have been the easiest class, they had no hormones yet, and they didn’t talk back. Instead they bounced off the walls after their break. There were no main house clan children this class, though there were a few clan children, which put a little bit less pressure on her. Poor Iruka-sensei, he really had a hard time with the number of heirs in her graduating class. Sighing, Shikamaru shook her head, before continuing to look at stalls in the market. Iruka had said that training would be later today, so they could get changed and go out after, being a Friday night. Maybe one day they would let her come with? She didn’t see the enjoyment in drinking. Her dad and uncles went out regularly and seemed fairly unwell the next day. Drinking seemed to be a bit of a drag really.

With a huff, Shikamaru looked around, actively paying attention to her surroundings. It was strange people seemed to be staring at her, some more obvious than others. Shrugging to herself, she continued to browse the stalls, hoping something would jump out at her for lunch. A light snack before training would do nicely. Maybe dango? Oohhh BBQ skewers! That’s what she was going to get. With a slight smirk, she sidled up to the booth, and waited patiently to catch the woman’s eye. Her team… old team?... used to be regulars at the booth in training breaks, so she wasn’t surprised when the little woman squeaked in delight at seeing her.
“Oh Shikamaru-chan! It’s been too long! How are you, girl? Quick quick, let me look at you!” The woman hugged her tight before holding her at arm’s length, her tired but sharp eyes running over Shikamaru. For such a frail looking lady, Mrs. Watanabe was remarkably strong. Her battleship grey hair was to her waist, and tightly plaited. Quite often she wove silver strands through the braid; to add sparkle she said. Shikamaru was certain it was more about the old man who used to work the stall with her. Mrs. Watanabes’ husband was hunched, walked with a stick, gave a good game of shoji, and was a walking ball of sarcastic humour. Mirin Watanabe had been a highlight of this market for as long as Shika remembered. He had been around in some of her earliest memories of the market, often watching over Shika, when her dad got called to deal with an emergency.
“I’m fine thanks Yuma-san. Just looking for some of your skewers, if you have any left.” Shikamaru asked, a hopeful tone weaved through the boredom. This stall truly made the best street food skewers in Konoha. Best of all, they weren’t particular expensive either. The miso mackerel was the best, though Chouji swore by the BBQ beef, and Ino would argue for the pesto chicken one. It was troublesome to decide on a favourite normally, but for these, Shikamaru would make an exception.
“Humph. For you, I always have some. You come sit this side with me, while I cook. You can tell me about what you’ve been up too. I hear you got promoted, the other merchants told me. Congratulations! You will make us proud.” Yuma waved Shikamaru around to sit by her, as hands gnarled with age, deftly made a set of skewers. Extra mackerel chunks were added, along with some onion and peppers, before they were placed over the fire pit. Mirin had always insisted an open fire pit made the food taste better; so, after he passed, Yuma kept the tradition going, in honour of her husband. The skewers slowly roasted on one side before being coated in another layer of marinade and being turned to roast the other side.
“Yup, it’s a drag, but I got promoted after the sand invasion. I work at the academy too now. I had my first troublesome lesson today, but it isn’t too bad of a job. Though, for some reason people have been staring at me today.” Shikamaru frowned in confusion, before falling back into apathy. “Business is going well, I see?” She was referring to the newly built and painted stand, with two firepits rather than the one. Not to mention the seating area had grown. She was glad. Yuma was a lovely lady, with a large serving of witty comments. She deserved to be recognised for the hard work her and her late husband did. The two were not native to Fire Country, though they never advertised where exactly they were from, Shikamaru suspected they were westerners, but she kept that quiet.
“Oh yes, very well. If only my darling Mirin could be here to see it grow. It was his baby, you know. He always wanted a child, but I have an illness that meant we couldn’t. So, this stand was created between us. A blend of both of us went into the creation, making this our baby.” Yuma smiled at Shikamaru. The laughter lines on her face deepening showing the world the happy life, she had led. The older woman turned away from Shika, leaning to tend to the fish. The fire light glinted off the unshed tears in her eyes, as she fussed with the fish.

Giving her friend a moment, Shikamarus eyes roamed the heaving market square. Taking in the merchants calling out to potential customers, and then haggling with them. The fishermen’s wives loudly arguing with buyers about the price for their fish, their catch displayed proudly in a covered showcase. The housewives out for the best prices, their kids running underfoot. The odd shinobi browsing wares, most of the ninja came at less busy times. When they could be sure they wouldn’t stab any civilian by reflex. All in all, the market was a vibrant place. A bit loud for Shikamarus taste, but still somewhere that she enjoyed watching from the rooftops. The bright colours mixed with children’s laughter, music and the conversations to create a harmonious background of sound for her to cloud watch to. A flash of bandages caught her eye, before a figure she knew emerged from the bustle. A grin spread across the bandaged face, and his eyes light up in mischief.
“Fancy seeing you here little Nara-chan.” Kotetsu held up a hand in greeting. His body vibrating with energy. He was troublesome; like the orange menace, he seemed high on life. It was practically visible, flowing in waves of tangible energy. Shikamaru was saved from answering by Yuma pushing her skewers into her hand and shooing her away. The older lady gave Shika a dirty look, when she was offered money in return.
“Girl, you grew up playing at my feet, there is no charge for you. Begone with you. Maybe this handsome gentleman will make an honest woman out of you. My heart longs for grandchildren.” With a smirk Yuma sent a teasing wink at Kotetsu and Shikamaru, hurrying them on their way. Shikamarus face was bright red currently, and Kotetsu grinned and sent Yuma a thumbs up.
“Don’t you worry Ma’am, I’ll happily keep Shikamaru-chan company.” With a laugh he rested one hand on the small of her back, ignoring the flinch, and guided her into the crowd towards the seating area.
Sighing Shika looked at Ko’ with bored face. “Where is ‘Zumo? I didn’t realise you were allowed outside on your own?” Her tone was flat, with no inflection.
“I escaped! He’ll never take me aliveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” With a dramatic cry, Ko’ slumped on to Shikamaru, his hand on his forehead imitating a lot of the noble women they saw. His faked distress caused her to snort, a half smirk twisted her lips, growing bigger at the responding voice.
“You better keel over then, cos I’ve found you.” A monotoned voice fell from a third persons mouth.
With a gasp, Ko’ straightened and twisted, pulling Shika to stand between them. “Shikamaru, save me! The foul Beast has found me! He’ll eat me!” Ko’s loud voice and dramatic antics had gathered a crowd. Shika shifted uncomfortably at being the center of attention. She swore she could see her father and his team watching, before Izumo captured her attention.
“Yes yes, I know. I’m a mean flatmate who makes you clean and do washing. Oh, and feeds you… How can I be so mean?” Izumos honeyed voice was completely deadpan, drawing giggles from the crowd. Shikamaru just munched on her fish; Ko’s grip on her too tight for her to slip away, so why bother trying?
“Do you see Shika-chan?? What I have to put up with on a daily basis.” Kotetsu exclaimed, shaking Shikamaru gently. Shikamaru smirked, and rolled her eyes, considering about responding, before a heavy choking feeling filled the square. She would have fallen to her knees if it wasn’t for Ko’s hands tightening around her shoulders, holding her up. She faintly could feel his hands tense, but her mind was busy in a panic. She couldn’t breathe! Shikamaru clawed at her throat, not noticing Izumos hands gripping hers and holding them down. Considering they were outside, all of a sudden, the world seemed to close in on her. Shikamaru had never been claustrophobic, but the world was now too small. It closed in on her, and she was certain she was going to die. Someone was ripping the oxygen from her lungs, as they hunted her down. She was a ninja, but she felt like prey. The world was greying out around her, her focus zooming to a point, everything else was irrelevant. She needed to run, fast and far. She needed to leave before the predator got to her, but she couldn’t move. What if the hunter saw her? Maybe staying still was the best. As quickly as it came, the sensation vanished, and Shikamaru came back to her senses. Glancing around, she noticed most of the civilians were looking terrified. The shinobi in the square were gently guiding their charges to sit down, two of them were going around providing hot drinks to everyone. Her eyes flickered over to were she thought she had seen her old man, to see it empty.
“Shikamaru-chan, are you back with us?” A soft voice pulled her attention back to Izumo. She flinched at how close he was, having not noticed him get that close.
“What, what was that?” She noticed distantly that she was shivering, and her voice was quite disjointed, almost not recognizable.
Izumo smirked darkly. “You just encountered your first killing intent. You handled it fairly well. Most first times, end in the genin or chunnin passing out, vomiting, or pissing themselves. It’s not a pretty sight.” His normally sweet tones now dripped with sadistic glee. Shikamaru could now picture him working in T&I, alongside Morino. “Shall we head to the training grounds? No time like the present to get started. We’ll add some killing intent today, so you get used to it.”
“Wait!” Shikamaru blurted out as Izumo started to walk away. She waited until he had stopped before asking the most important question she had. “Who was it? It felt familiar. Almost like a voice underwater. Distorted, but I knew it.”
Izumo glanced at her, before looking over her shoulder at his partner. He nodded at Ko before continuing on to the training ground. Shikamaru tilted her head in confusion at the actions, before shuddering as Kotetsu sighed by her ear. His breath was warm and caressed her ear as he breathed out, ending a shiver down her spine. Shika swallowed thickly, as her mouth dried out. She shook her head minutely, it was probably a reaction due to the killing intent earlier. Kotetsus soft laugh drew her out of her thoughts, as he turned her to face him. His eyes were a mix of amusement, friendship, and something else. This something else was heavy, almost hot in feel. It made her feel small, vulnerable, and fragile, but in a good way. A way that sent shockwaves through her nervous system, a ball of fire ignited in her stomach, tightening in a pleasurable way as his eyes darkened, and the something was the all that was left in his eyes.
A rough sounding cough broke through the tunnel focus, causing Shika to jump away from Ko, spinning to face the new person. Standing in front of her was Raido and Iruka. Both looking at her and Ko in amusement.
“Sorry to interrupt your…. staring…competition, but since ‘Zumo has already gone, shall we head off?” Irukas amused voice asked. Despite the lighthearted tone, his eyes were firmly on Ko, with a warning in them. A warning about what, she didn’t know.
“Let’s go! Oh, and Shikamaru, you do know the killing intent. You recognise the chakra releasing the intent. It’s someone close to you.” With that said, the three guys sauntered off to the training grounds, an expectation that she would follow them hung silently in the air. With a muttered troublesome, Shikamaru slunk after them, for another painful training session.

Chapter Text

Shikamaru leant on the wooden table, groaning at the pain shooting from her shoulder. Their training session went well, she thought. Her body was bruised to the high heavens, as was her ego. Even Iruka-sensei, who was off of the mission roster due to his role in the academy, throw her around a bit. Though she got a few good punches in and got down a new jutsu. Not bad for a 4-hour training session. Still she had a long way to go. From tomorrow she would be wearing weights on her arms, legs and around her waist. Raido and Iruka had given her a training plan for the next few weeks, including, to her utter most disgust, early morning runs. What…a…drag! Sighing, Shikamaru turned her thoughts to her new shiny jutsu. It was a bit of a chakra drainer, but it was an area effect that could be quite devastating. She smirked, replaying the flashy effect of Lightning Style: False Lightning. She could already see its use, and how to combine the jutsu with her shadows. Frankly, Shikamaru couldn’t wait for her next foray into combat with enemy ninjas. She hated the fighting to hurt, but she really wanted to see the after effect of her new tactic.
Unbeknownst to her, her smirk had taken a feral turn as she gazed into the distance. The four guys with her, glanced at her before smirking at each other. A knowing glint in their eyes. They had all been in Shikamarus place, young and eager, with a new jutsu. Fired up to try out the jutsu on Konoha’s enemies. Grinning, Kotetsu pushed a mug of coffee towards their younger comrade; fully aware she didn’t drink, and he didn’t want to encourage her to drink this young. Ninja law was a bit different to civilian law. As soon as a ninja graduated to genin, they were considered legal adults, able to drink, smoke, marry, have sex etc. Still the older shinobi did their best to keep their kids, kids for as long as possible. The older generation sacrificed a lot in the Third Shinobi War, for their young to grow up slower, in a more peaceful time. Though Kotetsu, Izumo, and Iruka grew up in the tail end of the war, they carried on the job of keeping the kids safe to be kids for as long as they could. Raido however fought in the last war, and it still haunted him. It was what provided him with the want to mentor Shikamaru, to provide the girl the opportunity to reach the simmering potential within her. He would hate to see her squander it in the way her old man did. Shikaku Nara was a man who was respected worldwide as being part of the best Ino-Shika-Cho team to have existed. Internally, his intellect, pharmaceutical knowledge, and command over the use of his shadows, made him a highly respected man. Add to that his position as Jounin Commander, and his position on the Hokage Adviser team, he was one of the most powerful, politically anyway, men in the village. However, he was an alcoholic, along with his old team, and just as lazy as his clan was reputed to be. Those in the elite circles were aware he had been a candidate for the Hokage position as the 4th, or 5th when the 4th died. Yet he had turned it down with a muttered comment of it being a drag. It was that comment that Raido couldn’t forgive. To be Hokage was a high honour. It was about doing your duty to the village, not about it if cut into your stargazing or napping time. If Raido could be get Shikakus daughter to become a motivated ninja, and excel, he would count that as petty revenge. Also, that fool Asuma had done nothing with her. He had had her for 6 months, and he hadn’t done anything. He fed into the Nara’s natural lethargy, allowing one of the brightest flames in the new generations stutter and die out. Well, not anymore. Not on his watch. Asuma could flair his chakra and flood the entire village in killing intent next time, for all Raido cared. He had his chance at being a mentor, and he sat around smoking and playing shoji with the kid, instead of training her to survive. Now it was Raidos turn to be a mentor, and mentor he would.

Raido turned his head slightly to look at Shikamaru. He had noticed this afternoon she had changed her clothes. They were…different… but they definitely suited the girl. The overall appearance was very feminine, not a word often used to describe the Nara heirs style choices. Her grooming was nearly always immaculate, even this evening she had vanished after the training session to have a shower and change before she met up with them. The clothes she had on now were different again. Both sets, today, allowed for her to move and fight but still flattered her growing figure. Raidos thoughts turned a bit sour, it was likely the boys and him would have to beat back her admirers as she got older; especially if she kept wearing these new clothes. The typical Nara armour-mesh undershirt and shorts were visible. Over the top was a fitted dark grey vest top. Green, purple and red were threaded through the shirt to create an oil slick affect. It had a high collar, but dipped low at the front, reaching just above her belly button. Across the split was 3 clasps in a forest green, designed to draw the eye, allowing a kunoichi to distract an opponent in a vital moment. Next came the ninja skirt; asymmetrically cut, reinforced leather dyed the same dark oil slick colour, it looked like to separate pieces, again held together on both sides by the same clasps as the vest. One side only had one clasp at the top, it was that short, but on the thigh, she had wrapped bandages, the same colour as the clasps, before adding a kunai pouch. Around her waist hung a utility belt, with a lot of compartments and pouches on it. Her ninja sandals were gone. In their place, a pair of what looked like combat boots. Up close, Raido had noticed they were the same design and soft leather, as the stealth ANBU specialists wore. A good choice for someone with the same predilection for shadows as her. The only other thing was a pair of gloves, made of the same material as her boots. It was a good look for her, he acknowledged. It played onto her strengths in stealth and traps, as well as played off her looks. She’ll be a killer with the guys when puberty hit properly, Raido thought in morbid amusement.
“Ryo for your thought, Raido-san?” Shikamarus bored voice pulled him from his thought train. Her eyes were staring at him, amusement lighting her amber eyes, a smirk pulling at her mouth. Yep, she’s going to have one hell of a fan club when she started filling out.
“Just wondering about the wardrobe change, Little Nara. Anything you wanna share with the group?” Raido gave a suggestive smile and eyebrow wiggle. His grin widening as she flushed red at his implied comment.
“Boys are troublesome. I stayed at Shirai’s last night, so I had to use the clothes Inio got me.” Shikamaru shifted awkwardly, tugging on her clothes self-consciously. “I didn’t think I looked too bad, but people keep staring at me.”
Kotetsu lent over and gave her an obvious look up and down, before whistling and winking. “Looking good, little deer. Almost good enough to eat.” His flirting caused Shikamaru to inhale her mouthful of coffee and start spluttering. Before she could recover, Kotetsu jumped and started cursing at Iruka; who was glaring at Ko’ with a dark look.
“Inappropriate Ko’. The kid is 12!” Iruka snarled, before turning and patting Shika on the back, pulling her close to him protectively.
Raido sighed as he watched the three teammates bicker with each other and amended his thoughts; it’ll be him and Iruka beating off her admirers and keeping Ko (possibly ‘Zumo too) out of her bed.

Shikamaru headed back to her cousins flat after splitting from her training group. It had been a nice evening, even if it was a drag to be social for that long, but the guys made her feel at ease. It was effortless on her part to talk with them, something she appreciated! She’d have loved to have stayed, but Iruka’s teacher voice still worked on her, and he sent her home. Even though it irritated her to be treated like a child, she loved that Iruka was still looking out for her. How he was a ninja, she didn’t know, he was just so ...nice… He was practically an angel. He cared for everyone, no matter who they were. It was refreshing from the normal guarded personality of ninja. Tilting her head up to watch the stars, Shikamaru slunk along the darken streets, her affinity to the dark drawing her into the shadows. She walked unknown to any civilians she passed, and any genin or chunnin to be honest. Unless the shinobi was of the Nara or Jounin and above, they wouldn’t spot anyone from the Nara clan in the shadows. It was as much a part of her clan as their blood, their deer, and their chakra. Most Nara specialized in intelligence or assassination. It was nearly a given, with their shadows and their brains.
It was a beautiful night, Shikamaru noticed. The sky was a clear ocean blue, dotted with twinkling stars. On nights like this, she used to go to the hill on her clan properties with her father. They would light a fire, talk a little, before he trained her in the art of shadows. It was there that her father and her bonded; there that she learnt to rule over the domain of darkness with her father guiding her gently, his chakra wrapping protectively around her as she learnt to assert her will over the shadows. Shikamaru smiled sadly at the stars, those times were long gone. It had been years since they had done their little ritual. She guessed that her dad didn’t want to waste time on the disappointment of the clan, when he could be training a cousin of hers to be heir. She sighed and leant against the wall, staring up at the stars.

Asuma watched the young girl opposite him. His cigarette in its customary place, held to his lip with a spark of chakra. He had been at the Poison Bottle, trying to work his way through the conversations he had had with a bunch of people today. None of them good. It looked like they had broken the Ino-Shika-Cho triad this year. The brains of their team had walked away after an intense, but brief, yelling match last night, according to Ino. According to Shikaku, Inoichi, and Chouza, they had lost their daughter last night. They recapped her lose of control over her chakra, her cold words, her tears and worse of all, her need to look elsewhere for safety. Asuma was aware she had spent the night out of her father’s house, and off of compound grounds. He had spent all afternoon looking around for her, after he saw her at the market, and couldn’t find her. That wasn’t an unusual occurrence, if Shikamaru didn’t want to be found, it would take a sensor type nin to find her. When he had finally given in, she appeared in the bar. Asuma hadn’t recognised her, until he saw her hair in its normal topknot ponytail. She had changed. He didn’t like it. Asuma blamed the clothing choice on the 4 guys currently sat with her. He was convinced they were manipulating her, to wear less clothing; sexier clothing. Asuma snarled silently, she was his kid, his student! He would put a stop to this, before that group got their claws into her deeper. Asuma was certain all of this was a misunderstanding, and could be easily fixed, all he needed was an hour or two with Shika. After that, she’d be back to her normal apathetic self. She’d come back to the team, in her normal clothes, and they would shelter her from these people. Asuma nodded to himself and approached the unaware girl, taking in the reflection of the stars on unshed tears in her almond eyes. He wasn’t sure why she was holding back tears, but whoever caused them would be in pain when he found out.

“Ohayo Shika-chan. What are you going out this late on your own?” Asuma called gently. Making sure to stand close enough she knew it was him. Inhaling, he watched as his student jumped and turned to look at him. He noticed she was shivering, so he exhaled his smoke away from her, and pulled her into a hug. “You’re frozen, kid. Let’s get you home. Can’t have you getting ill, when we have a mission tomorrow. Come on now.” Asuma steered her back the way she had come, towards a small hole in the wall bar that he knew Shikaku would be at. As they walked, he could feel her stop shaking, before she replied to his greeting.
“I was staying with cousin Shirai, sensei. This is the wrong way.” Her voice had already started to lower from a girl’s pitch to a woman’s’ lower smoother tone. She was going to be beautiful when she grew up, Asuma thought. Though he had seen Chouji sneaking admiring glances at their shadow user, so maybe he wouldn’t have to worry about her getting caught up with a bad guy.
“Hush just walk with me. You’ll need to go home anyway, we have a mission in the morning. You need to pack.”
“A mission? With Ino and Chouji?” Shikamaru was confused, she was certain Ino refused to do missions with her.
“Nope. You, Kakashi, and Anko. Kakashi asked for you. He figured it would be useful for you to work with the elites, and see how the higher missions are different, whilst being relatively safe. Kakashi is your team lead. Stick with him, keep your head clear and focused. You’ll do fine. Remember to pack for 5 days, that’s the mission length. He’ll brief you at the Main Gate tomorrow at 11am. Do not be late.” Asuma had kept her distracted with the mission news, as he guided her into the darkened pub, and towards the corner with her father and uncles in. He noticed they had clocked him, as soon as the two of them entered the room. Shikaku had pushed himself up and slunk across the room towards them, his eyes firmly on his daughter. He was flanked by Inoichi and Chouza, all three of them look relieved to see her, though you had to look close to see it. Asuma kept a tight hold around her shoulders as her father approached. He felt her tense and tuck herself further into his side. Asuma pretended it hadn’t happened and greeted the three.
“Good evening Commander, Yamanaka-sama, Akimichi-sama. I found a little doe wandering in the dark, I thought she may belong to you.” Asuma smirked around his fag and nodded his head in respect.
“She does indeed. Thank you Asuma. I’ll take her home now.” Shikaku was a man of few words, so three short sentences were all the gratitude he would give, and that was still a lot for him.
“Right, well I’m off. Don’t forget Shikamaru, tomorrow, 11am, Main Gate. May the Gods protect you.” Asuma headed to the bar, after giving Shikamaru a gentle push towards her old man.

Shikamaru shifted uncomfortably under her father’s’ heavy gaze. His gaze used to make her feel safe, loved, and protected; now it made her uncomfortable. Shikamaru cursed Asuma mentally, she had nearly made a clean escape to her cousins until he found her. Steeling her nerves, she forced herself to look up at her father’s face. The sorrow lining his face, surprised her. Never before had she seen her dad wear his emotions in public. Guilt hit her hard, she had caused her dad to break face. Shikamaru barely got time to inhale shakily, before her dad was there, pulling her close. As he tucked her into his chest, Shikamaru felt the creeping cold that she associated with her dads’ shadow walk. Shikamaru whimpered into his chest as the cold was gone as quick as it came. That meant they were home, which meant she would have to let go of him, and face reality. A reality where she was tolerated at home, but not really wanted. What a troublesome life.

Shikaku hugged his girl tighter when he heard her whimper. Whatever was going on her genius little mind, it had to end soon. It was tearing her, and the family, apart. Shikaku leant his head sideways to glance at his brothers-in-arms. Easily meeting Inoichi’s eyes for a telepathic connection to form.
*“Thank you for coming with me. I was expecting more of a fight from her.”* Unlike vocal communication, the mind to mind communication didn’t allow for one to hide emotions. This gave Inoichi and Chouza a chance to hear the depth of worry Shikaku had for his daughter; it was a worry they shared. It was that worry that had them hanging around the Nara compound all day today.
*“Take this steady, brother. If you do or say the wrong thing, this could tear our daughter away. For tonight, just keep her close. Let touch be the language tonight. Hug her, pet her hair, let her know the loving father you are.”* Chouza advised *“There will be time after her mission to talk.” *
Shikaku nodded in agreement, his eyes showing gratitude towards his friends. He leant into Chouza’s large warm hand. The warmth crept into his shoulder and flowed through him, giving him a surge of energy. He would forever be indebted to his teammates. Their consistent support was unwavering and firm. It was something he had hoped his daughter would develop with her own team, yet from recent events, it would seem like that hadn’t happened. Looking around, Shikaku saw his wife open their backdoor. The light poured around her, framing her petite figure nicely. She was a beauty, his wife. Long smooth dark hair, dark eyes and milk coloured skin. Though, it was her spitfire personality and innate kindness that had attracted him at first. The gentleness she would tend a wound with, was a contrast to the deadly force she showed on the battlefield. The moment their daughter was born Shikaku swore his wife had never looked as beautiful as she had then. Their little girl held in firm but soft arms, a joyous light shone with in her eyes. At some point she changed, Shikaku frowned. She had started nagging and yelling. She even started hitting him and their daughter over the head, when she got mad. He normally wasn’t allowed a word in edge-ways. That too had to end. He wanted his wife back. He wanted his family back together. He would have to investigate, whilst Shikamaru is on her mission, until then he had better get his child inside.

With a nod to Inoichi and Chouza as both shunshin’d away, Shikaku lifted his surprisingly light daughter into his arms, and held her close as he set out for his house…

Chapter Text

Shikamaru woke up warm and comfortable. Without opening her eyes, she snuggled into the pillow in front of her, inhaling a scent that reminded her of home. The scent was pleasant, the scent of the air as it twists through the pine, and oak trees. A faint hint of steel, and deer, with an overlaying hint of smoke. The Nara clan always lit bonfires when deer-herding or celebrating something. For missions, they all used a scentless soap to remove their natural scent, but in their home village, there was no need. Shikamaru purred contentedly, an internal alarm letting her know she had another hours sleep before she needed to get up. Her pillow vibrated before a deep chuckle hit her ears. Shikamaru stiffened, as last night’s events flooded back to her. As she moved to pull away and sit up, an arm on her waist tightened and held her still.
“I haven’t woken up to you cuddled in my arms since you were 5, little fawn. It’s good to see you still sleep better, and react the same, as you did then.” Shikakus gravelly voice was feather soft, as he nuzzled the top of his daughter’s head, inhaling the scent he had memorized when she was a babe. For a guy, whose scarred face was in nearly every bingo book in the Ninja Lands and name was whispered in fear, he had always been a sucker for his wife and little girl. His teammates used to frequently come to his compound to find him, only to end up laughing their arses off because he’d be curled up asleep with Shika, playing with her, or patiently trying to teach her to read/write/play shogi. So much for their plans in their early 20’s to have a wife who looked after the kids; laughing about ever settling down and becoming family men. Shikaku raised his other hand and cupped her head, to hold her close. He handled her the same way he did when she was small. Everything was done firmly, but gently. Aiming to remind his girl she was loved; she was safe with him. He just hoped it would get through to her.

Slowly, Shikamaru allowed herself to relax into her father’s chest. There was no need to verbally answer him, she thought, as she nuzzled into his chest, a hand coming up to grip onto his vest. It was the first time in years that she felt wanted with her dad, so she was going to savour it. Neither of them mentioned the wet patch forming on his chest, or the slight shuddering of her shoulders, as Shikamaru cried. She cried for a childhood of feeling like a waste of space, a childhood of being lonely. She cried at being held so gently, like she was fragile and worth so much. In silence, the two stayed curled up together, the elder holding the younger tight as she cried; His heart breaking at the silent sobs.

“Breakfast is the table, I’ve packed you a food scroll for your mission Shika-chan.” Yoshino called quietly from the door, as she watched her husband comfort their child. She wished she could help, but after their last argument Yoshino was certain she wouldn’t be welcome. Yoshino made a silent promise to herself to rebuild the bond with her child. It shouldn’t be too hard; after all, her lunch group promised her that it was Shikamarus teenager rebellion coming to play. All Yoshino had to do was keep nagging and yelling at her, until Shika gave in. With a firm nod, Yoshino steeled herself to break up the adorable scene in front of her.
“Get up Lazyarses! If that breakfast goes cold, I’ll whoop both of your backsides!” yelled Yoshino, before she turned and stormed off down the hall, slamming the door behind her.
It was probably a good thing she didn’t stay, otherwise Shikaku was pretty sure he may have (finally) lost his temper with her. He felt his daughter raising the walls around her emotionally as she pushed out of his hold, muttering about getting a shower. As she shuffled into her connecting bathroom, Shikaku through an arm over his eyes and groaned at the amount of work he needed to do whilst she was on her mission. He had to sort out Yoshino, he wanted his sweet woman back, not this banshee that kept threatening him and his daughter. Hopefully, that would be easy to fix…

Shikamaru cursed to herself, as she ran across the rooftops. She was later than she wanted to be! Not a good start to her mission. Luckily, she always tried to get everywhere ten minutes earlier; so, she would still be on time when she got to the gate, but still, she was late for her. The little detour to Shirai’s flat for new clothes took longer than expected, as her cousin and his team grilled her on not coming home last night. They didn’t seem happy at Asuma taking her to her dad, though she was sure she saw a happy glint when she mentioned her dad hugging her to sleep last night. It was a drag at times, but she was glad they cared so much. However, if she didn’t get moving, Kakashi and Anko would kill her for being late. With that though, she flung herself off the roof, and landed in a crouch in the middle of the dusty road. Swiftly pushing herself up, she jogged the last 300 meters to the gates, and slipped into the cool shadow. Whilst the Land of Wind was an actual desert, the Land of Fire earnt its name during the summer months. The temperature soared, and the forest surrounding the village kept the air humid. Honestly, it was awful. You stepped outside and sweated in places you didn’t know could sweat. Seriously, eyeball sweat was a thing. With a shudder, Shikamaru changed mental tracks, Kakashi Hatake. She didn’t really know him, outside of what was common knowledge. He was meant to be a genius, chronically late, insanely strong, and have an innate talent for picking up on hidden thoughts. Shikamaru was aware he had been in the ANBU, from what she had inferred, he was the Hound, THE ANBU. The one that was spoken about in both reverence, and fear. New recruits into ANBU dreamed of being like him, veteran ANBU dreamed of not being like him. She had asked her dad about him at breakfast, and Shikaku had only repeated the common knowledge. He then told her that the man had earnt his privacy; if Kakashi wanted her to know, he would tell her himself. Now she was thinking about it, Shikaku had said the same about Anko. All she knew about her was that she worked in T&I and had been the proctor in the second part of the Chunnin exams. Shikamaru sighed.
“How troublesome.”
“Personally, I love mystery missions! They add an element of fun to the mix.” A cheerful voice answered her. Drawing her attention to a scantily dressed lady next to her. Her clothing consisted of a fishnet body suit, a ninja skirt, and a long tan jacket. Her shortish purple hair pulled back into a spiky ponytail. ON one shoulder she had a backpack. In her other hand, a stick of dango, red-bean flavoured if the faint scent was to be believed. Shikamaru forced herself to look away from the woman, trying to suppress a blush. That fishnet really left nothing to the imagination!
“Aww, come now baby Nara. No need to be shy, you can look all you like.” Anko purred, as she squished herself against Shikamaru, wrapping her arms tight around her. Her voice caused Shikamaru to shiver. It was deeper, breathy, and wrapped itself around Shikamarus mind. It gave a sensual feel, to the normally wild woman. “I promise I only bite if asked.”
“Put her down Anko.” An amused voice spoke up, causing Anko to pout before laying a kiss on Shikamarus cheek.
“Urgh Kakashi, you’re ruining my fun. Baby Nara here is a cutie-pie, and it’s wise to educate her in the more… pleasurable parts of being a kunoichi before she has to do the honeypot style missions. Besides, I can’t snag the elder Nara, and this one has the added delight of being innocent.” Anko whined. Her eyes glinting with a sadistic amusement at Shikamaru.
“Whilst I agree Shikamaru-chan is adorable, she is also our student on this mission. Another thing, I do not want the older Ino-Shika-Cho trio, and Asuma, coming after my backside because I defiled one of their kids.” Kakashi’s deadpan voice was a counterpoint to his dramatic shiver, causing Shikamaru to smirk in amusement.
“You can’t be that scared of my dad, Kakashi-sensei. You’re the copy nin, you’d win.” Shikamaru quirked an eyebrow at Kakashi, amused that he is scared of someone weaker than him. Kakashi stared back, his dark grey eye curious as it rested on her.
“You have never seen your father in action have you, kid?” Anko broke in, hesitation in her voice. Something so out of place in her normal behavior, that Shikamaru frowned at her, and shook her head. Shikamaru had never seen her father fight, not seriously. He sparred with her occasionally, but mostly deemed it too much of a drag. Despite knowing he survived the Third Shinobi War, Shikamaru had always classed her dad as a desk nin, he stayed in his office and deployed troops, he didn’t fight the enemy. So, to see to elite jounins, with their names in multiple Bingo books, hesitate about fighting him, took her back.
“We’ll discuss this later Shikamaru, for now, I want to go over our mission specification. So, gather close” Kakashi pulled Shikamaru close to him and Anko, opening a mission scroll for them to see. “Our mission is a B class, with potential to become a low A mission. We are intel gathering. Basically T&I got some information about a potential risk to the village, so we are heading out to confirm or deny the information. High chance of meeting bandits, and a high chance of there being enemy nin. From the current intelligence, the nin we are facing are low chunnin to genin level, so nothing the three of us can’t handle. If we are unlucky, we end up facing enemy jounin and/or missing nin, our job is to get back to the Leaf with whatever info we have. It’s a 5-day mission, so a day and a half there, 2 days there, and a day and a half back. Understood?”
“Yes Sir.” Shikamaru and Anko chorused, on paper an easy mission, in reality anything was possible. The chances of the mission going south was high. Shikamaru was glad that her dad had given her a scroll with the Nara clan medicine in, as well as an information booklet. She was also cleared to use the medicine on her team members, so long as they didn’t get to take samples with them. He had also mentioned he had slipped some training packs in her bag incase she had time. She doubted she would, but at least they were there.
“Right team lets go. When we get there, we will discuss our plan. I’ve already signed us out.” With that, Kakashi launched himself into a run towards the forest. He set an easy pace, at least for him and Anko. For Shikamaru it was pushing the higher end of her speed, she was having to use chakra to augment her natural speed, especially whilst wearing the weights. She just hoped they would slow down at some point for her to conserve some chakra.

Half a day passed in silence, with just blurs of green to see. Shikamaru wasn’t a big talker, and that was probably a good thing with how much she was panting currently. The pace was starting to get to her, but there was no way she would admit that to the Copy Nin. Hell no, it was a drag to keep up, but she would not ask him to slow. Shikamaru gritted her teeth against the exhaustion eating at the edge of her sight. So focused on keeping up, Shikamaru nearly slammed straight into Kakashi’s front as he appeared in front of her. Back peddling fast, Shika yelped, and nearly fell off her branch.
“Why haven’t you said anything” Kakashi asked, his voice stern and his single eye a piece of flint. He wasn’t happy with her at all.
“About what?” was her stammered reply. Shikamaru was a bit shocked from how fast he moved. If this was the speed of a jounin, she was nowhere close!
“Don’t act stupid Shikamaru. You’re not on a genin mission now. This is a chunnin and jounin mission. If you are being pushed past your limits, you say. What if we were attacked now? Anko and I wouldn’t realise you were exhausted, because you haven’t said anything. Wake up to reality, this isn’t about proving yourself, this is about the village and completing the mission.” Kakashi scolded her. He had noticed hours back she was starting to struggle but had wanted to see what she would do. Kakashi knew what pride did to people on missions. It was something all newly promoted ninja went through. That was the reason he requested her after all. She had potential, she just needed the motivation, and this mission would give him a chance to see if she would live up to that potential. Whilst it was remarkable someone who had been out of the academy for only 9 months managed to keep up the pace he had set, it was barely a fraction of the speed the two jounins had. Still, he acknowledged, she had done well to keep the pace up, though it had drained her chakra. Kakashi sighed and jumped to the ground, a glance at Anko sent her off to scout ahead. He waved Shikamaru to the ground next to him and set a gentle stroll, they were ahead of schedule currently so he could afford to walk for a little bit.
“Shikamaru, a ninja is only as strong as the team with them, you know this, as part of an Ino-Shika-Cho team. If one of the team is in a vulnerable position, as a team leader, what would you do?”
“I’d guard them, cover their weakness.”
“Right, so if that team member didn’t tell you they were at their limit on speed, chakra, strength; and something happened… Let’s say their weakness caused someone to get hurt, how would you feel?”
“Mad they had put the team at risk, mad that I hadn’t noticed it.”
“Good. Now, why would they not tell you?”
Silence was his answer, before Shikamaru sighed and looked away. “Pride. They didn’t tell you because they couldn’t see past their pride. That would have made me even angrier. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything Kakashi-san, I hadn’t wanted to slow you down.”
Birds tweeted as a breeze ruffled the leaves around them, Anko appearing next to them with a grin and a nod, the area was clear. Kakashi ruffled Shikamarus hair, before striking up general chitchat with Anko, leaving Shikamaru to her thoughts. Yep, he thought, she’s a good one.

A small brown dog nosed around the entrance of a cave, a small distance out of the village of Ganhow. The village was a sleepy little place, right near the border of Fire and Earth Country. They rarely sent missions to either major ninja villages but did trade with the Nara clan for medicine. The information the Leaf had, mentioned that a gathering of Iwa nin was happening near the town. They were planning on sneaking close to the Hidden leaf and destroying their trade routes, before launching an attack on the village itself. After the disaster of the Chunnin Exams, the T&I department was taking any and all information seriously as a potential threat to the village. When they had briefed Kakashi, they had warned him about other rumours stirring. Apparently, Iwa had an informant in the village, which T&I were sniffing out. Kakashi’s team, on paper, were looking in Ganhow for proof of foreign ninja being there; in reality, they were to hunt the nins down and dispose of them. They also had to find out if Ganhow was sympathetic to the Iwa ninja or not. So far, in the first morning of their two day stretch, they had discovered that it was a sizable group of ninjas in the mountains just a half hour sprint from the village. To cover more the ground the team had split up. Anko had hit the village bars and pubs; she had dressed to draw the eye and had been delighted to start to work on the local guys. Kakashi had taken Shikamaru to scout out the Iwa ninja. His reasoning was that Shikamaru had already started to specialize in stealth, which was his main skillset too; this would give him a chance to give her pointers as well as keep her close. Crouched in a rocky outcrop, the two waited.

By midafternoon, the two were resting against the rocks, a travel set of shogi set up. Kakashi had layered a genjutsu around them, and taught Shika the hand signs. With her bloodline, her chakra control was second to none, so she should take to the subtle art of genjutsu. When she had the signs down, Kakashi forbid her from trying it this close to enemy nin, the slightest flash of chakra would be a beacon to the Iwa task force. Instead, he settled for giving her some mental exercise, using the game she had brought with. Shikamaru had raised an eyebrow at Kakashi asking her to set up her travel set, causing him to grin and wink…or was it blink… at her. Kakashi knew she beat Asuma regularly, but half way through their first game, he realized just how far ahead she planned. The easy of her planning and constant reassessing, made him pause and watch her thoughtfully. He knew she would be intelligent, despite her academy scores, but he had a feeling she was better than most realized. When they got back to the village, he would need to hunt Asuma down. Someone this intelligent shouldn’t be as far behind physically as she was; something was going on.
“Ahh, there he is.” Kakashi rose to his feet and headed over to meet a little dog. Up close, you could see he was a pug. What had thrown Shikamaru off, was the pug’s ability to talk and use chakra. The only ninken she knew was Kiba’s puppy, and he didn’t speak at all. Pakkun, on the other hand, was quite talkative, though if he would stop calling her a puppy, she’d be happier.

“They are there Boss. The cave doesn’t go too deep, it looks more like a temporary base. It opens inside the entrance to a small round room, if you aren’t careful you miss the entrance. Looks like a slit in the rocks, is actually overlapping walls of stone. I suggest you and the puppy here draw them out, and fight them in the open, rather than in their rabbit warren.” The pugs voice was gravelly, and rough sounding, but his report was delivered perfectly. “I smelt 6 of them; at least 3 of them are chunnin level, and I’m fairly certain on of them is a jounin. The other two I do not know. Once you’ve handled the nin, I can lead you to the room that seems to be the control point.”
“Right, thanks Pakkun. We’ll draw them out here, hopefully one or two at a time. Can you hang back here whilst we are fighting, so I don’t have to summon you again?”

The pug nodded and trotted of a fair distance to hide in the rocks. Kakashi turned to Shikamaru, his eye serious, as he put together a plan.
“Okay Shikamaru, what would you do currently? Assume you don’t have the choice of waiting for Anko to get back, and we need those documents.” Kakashi asked, his voice free of any inflection. Inside he was curious about her ability to come up with a plan. Her old man was one of the best, if not the best, in the village. Kakashi hoped all of his ability had been inherited by his daughter. As he watched, Shikamaru crouched down, and put her hands together into a circle infinity. A sign her father had taught her for helping to focus. Her father had told her that everything goes in a circle, people just join the life cycle at different points. Shikamaru snapped her eyes open.
“I’d see about sending a clone in to get their attention, draw them out to fight. Once they are out, have one of ours draw their eyes so I can slip behind them and capture them. I won’t be able to hold them long, especially the jounin, but it’ll be long enough for you to dispose of them. It’ll be quiet, and wont draw attention, incase they have reinforcements nearby.” Shikamaru’s plan had the highest percentage of success, according to her calculations. She had run through various different actions, and decided that as a ninja, sometimes the battle had to be clever rather than flashy. Especially when the flashy ones ended in injuries for her and Kakashi.
Kakashi gave her a grin and nodded. “I like it. Simple, easy, low chance of getting into a fire fight. Let’s give it ago. If something unexpected happens, we’ll deal with it then. When you are planning something for your team, sometimes the simplest plans work the best. Most shinobi rarely do anything not flashy, so they don’t expect something so simple to work.” With a quick hand sign, a clone appeared next to Kakashi. It flicked Shikamaru on the nose gently, before speeding off with a smirk. When it reached the entrance of the cave, it gave the original a look before stepping in. Watching the clone move, Kakashi moved himself to lounge against a rock in direct view of the entrance. His sheer audacity at lazing around, to wind the Iwa nin up with his apparent disrespect, was amusing. He gave a quick wink to Shikamaru as she snorted in amusement and snuck to the cover of a rock by the entrance. This rock was part of the mountain, and so gave her a large amount of shadow to weave. Waiting in the shadows, just out of sight, Shikamaru ran over the past few days in her mind, whilst still keeping an eye out for enemy ninja. Kakashi and Anko had been teaching her sporadically. Little known facts about things, how to move in complete stealth, how to track properly rather then like the academy taught. It had been an interesting mission so far. To be honest, as troublesome as it was, it reinforced the fact that team ten were way behind what chunnin should be, let alone jounin. She was still waiting for the promised conversation about her old man, but the senior ninja had said it would be for on the way home.

Shikamaru shifted, they had sent the clone in a while ago, and he wasn’t out yet. For someone who was normally patient, this wait was starting to get to her. Her blood drummed through her body, as excitement for action built. It was unusual, different, a completely odd experience, but addictive. If this was the rush the senior nin got from their missions, she needed it. She needed to go on higher missions more often. Unaware to her, Kakashi was watching her closely from where he was sprawled across his sunny rock. He could see the spark of adrenaline rush through her body, the bloodlust starts to build as the tension rocketed. It was that thrill that the elite of the jounin lived for, throw themselves into high risk missions. It was an addiction that made them addicted to winning. Afterall, each mission was a game. One side won, the other lost. The goal, now Shikamaru had had her first taste of that thrill, was for her to learn to stay in control of the rush, to not lose her cool to it. Most shinobi needed to be brought back under control after their first taste of blood lust. Still, maybe the take down of the Iwa nins will be enough to satisfy her for now. They’d spa on their way back, that should take the last of the hit off.
Kakashi’s eyes were drawn to cave, as his clone darted out laughing manically, followed by two chunnin who had been henged to look like dogs. Kakashi had to admit, a good prank always lightened the mood, but two bulky Iwa nins with shaved heads did NOT suit puppy ears, whiskers, and tails. Nope, totally uncute. As the puppy-ised nin exited the cave, yelling about some gruesome torcher or another, Shikamaru struck. As quick as lightening, her shadow zipped across the floor and branched out behind the enemy. Once caught the Iwa nin yelped and started to struggle against her hold. The two Kakashis sauntered over to their captives, and with a quick movement pulled a kunai and held it to Iwa ninjas throats. A slow, but deep, cut spilled ruby red blood down their fronts, splashing to the ground in a river. The dark red uniform, now crimson rather than brick red. As Shikamarus shadow slipped away from the bodies, the ex-Iwa nin dropped to the floor, the blood flowing out to make a horrific imitation of wings on the rocky ground. Kakashi glanced over to check on Shikamaru, his eye glinting in worry as he took in the excitement making her body tremble.
“Ready for round 2, kiddo?” He asked as his clone flitted away into the cave again. His voice was carefully blank. Held steady to give the girl an anchor point through the adrenaline. “Shikamaru?”
Shikamaru nodded, and slipped back into the shadows, her eyes swirling amber and streaks of shadow, almost glowed in anticipation. Kakashi watched her with narrow eyes, he knew she was training with some of the higher chunnins and some of the special jounins. He’d have to hunt them down and get them to walk her through dealing with this. It’s okay to enjoy the thrill, after all it’s what keeps them alive most days, but you had had had to be in control.
Movement drew both of their attention back to the hideout, just as Kakashi’s clone burst into the sunlight, yelling about there being four of them behind him. The original Kakashi shot up from his stone, landing in a defensive position. As the clone skidded to a halt next to his creator, 4 Iwa nins appeared cackling about killing a leaf nin. Well they did cackle, until they noticed the bodies of their comrades, then they snarled, fury radiating from their chakra. The four made to launch themselves at the copy nin, only to find their bodies frozen in place. Shikamaru had been quicker this time, splitting her shadow to capture the nin in front of her.
“What..what is this? Taka-san, I can’t move my body.” One of the chunnin stuttered, fear starting to fill his voice.
“Why, you guys never hear of the Hidden Leaf’s shadow possession jutsu? It’s a pity you didn’t look to the shadows before you stepped out.” Shikamaru tightened her hold the nin. “Kakashi-san, shadow possession… successful.” Her father had trained her into the ground to announce a successful possession to her allies, otherwise they may not have seen the shadow attach. With a smirk, Kakashi launched at the Iwa in front of him, kunai glinting in the light…

Meanwhile, back in Konoha, two preteens were sat leaning against a tree. Silence was their companion as they waited for their sensei to appear. Wind rustle through the branches above them, catching in platinum blond hair, sending it streaming in the wind. The girl in question folded herself into her teammates arms, sadness in a pair of teal eyes. The same sadness mirrored in a pair of brown eyes, as the boy hugged his friend tight. Their hearts aching from their missing friend. No matter who or what joined them on their missions, nobody filled the space left by their shadow. They hoped she’d be back soon, snarky comments and laziness. The two of them found themselves isolated in their training fields most days, seeking each other’s company more and more. None of the other rookies knew the split happening in team 10, and that was the way they wanted it. It wasn’t like the others ever come seeking their company; Ino and Chouji didn’t mind encouraging that for now. At least until Shikamaru was back with them. The other teams didn’t understand the bond of an Ino-Shika-Cho trio. They have been together every day of their lives, since they were 5. One of them being gone felt like a limb missing. Soon, was the unspoken prayer, soon…

Chapter Text

Shikaku slipped out of the shadows next to the hole in the wall, him and his teammates frequented. The alcohol was good, the prices better, and it was small and dark. Only a handful of veterans were here at a time, most from the Nara, Yamanaka, and Akimichi clans. Sometimes they brought other shinobi in, but they were rare moments. Still the owner of the establishment refused to move further to the center of the village, he didn’t want more customers. The ones he had were loyal and came back regularly. He, for a civilian raised ninja, understood the bonds between the three clans, and their need for space from other people at times. It helped that his bar also doubled as a café all day. He had filled the walls with bookshelves, and game cupboards. Though it served different things, the rules were the same; Do Not Start Shit. That, and the barman’s word was final. Shikaku smirked, it was a great hideout from his wife, as she detested the place. With his hands stuffed into his pockets, Shikaku lazily slunk into the bar, nodding his head in greeting at the bar keep.
“Welcome Shikaku-san. Inoichi-san and Chouza-san have already ordered for you. I’ll bring it over as soon as you are settled.”
“Thank you, Daisuke-san.” With a fleeting smile, Shikaku gave his thanks to the owner, before wandering across the bar to the usual seat. A flash of long platinum blond hair caused amusement to flood through him. No matter how often they tormented their brother about his hair, Inoichi never got it cut. God help anyone who harmed his precious hair. After he had …removed… the issue from near his hair, he used to cling to the nearest person and wail about how his hair was ruined for good. Dramatics ran through the Yamanaka clan. It was as much a part of them as the gossiping, though they cultivated that image so most people underestimated them. Shikaku snuck over behind Inoichi, motioning to Chouza to keep quiet, and waited for the right time.
“…and then she came home with a whole bunch of new clothes and told me she needed a bigger wardrobe. A bigger wardrobe!! She already has a room as her wardrobe. I love my princess, but maybe I spoiled her a little. She is so picky, I’m worried I am never going to see grandkids.”
“Inoichi, you always say this. You never do anything about it.” Chouza’s rumbling voice was amused. He was right; Inoichi complained most weeks about how picky his girl is and that he wouldn’t live to see grandkids. Yet, every week, he would decide that there was nothing he could do.
“I keep hoping she’ll come home and say she is dating your son. Hell, she could date Shikaku’s girl if she wanted. I’d be happy. There is always adoption!” Inoichi dropped his head onto his arms and sulked silently.
“Oi, why is my daughter a second choice?” Shikaku grinned and winked at his rounded teammate opposite him, before throwing himself over Inoichi’s back. The normal rough and tumble followed as Inoichi tried to throw Shikaku off and pin him. “Besides,” Shikaku laughed “I think two out of the three together wouldn’t work. It would be unbalanced.”

A cleared throat separated the two, and they sank into their seats, pulling their alcohol towards them. Chouza shook his head in amusement. The two in front of him, never changed. They always take any chance to tumble about like puppies. When they were younger, it often led the three of them to a private area for a quick romp. Especially near front lines. During the war, it was pretty much expected that every shinobi had someone to help release stress with. The Ino-Shika-Cho had just relaxed into the bonds their team had; it made them stronger, allowed them to put aside the masks within their team. When Shikaku needed to let go, and stop being in control, Inoichi and Chouza were there to meet his needs. When Inoichi needed to feel grounded to his own body after one too many mind transfers, Chouza and Shikaku were there. When Chouza needed to feel love after he had stretched, twisted and shrunk his body all day, Shikaku and Inoichi were there. They were brothers; closer than lovers in some ways. Now-a-days, they had their wives for that kind of comfort. Still, sometimes the puppy piles and the physical fights that were not fights happened.
“So Shikaku, what’s happening in clan Nara this week? Any luck with talk with Shika-chan the morning, before her mission?” Chouza asked, to stop Inoichi plotting a not so sneaky, sneak attack on Shikaku.
“I thought I had had a break through that morning. She fell asleep in my arms the night we brought her home, and was relaxed the next morning.” Shikaku explained his voice low, and slightly tense. “Well, she was relaxed enough to cry. I’ve not seen her cry since she was a child, yet twice this week alone she has been a sobbing wreck.” Shikaku’s voice cracked slightly, his dark eyes, so like his daughters, swirled with worry. Instinctively, his brothers’ chakra circled him protectively and in comfort. “Then Yoshino came in.”
Shikaku sighed and stared into the cup of sake. Studiously avoiding the looks the two next to him were exchanging. He knew how they felt about Yoshino. Hell, he knew how everyone in the village felt about Yoshino. Even he, and he loved his wife, agreed with them most of the time. Yet, when they first met she was different. Still loud and nagged a lot, but she didn’t scream or threaten. She didn’t try and crush his spirit day in day out. Something changed after they were married. He needed to find out. Yoshino used to be firm but had a gentle heart. Tender towards the people she cared about. She would be a spitfire in the battlefield, and tough on people who broke the rules, but under all of that was a heart of gold. A gentle loving spirit. Yet, now, he felt like he had married a battle axe. The bit that got to him the most, was how she treated their daughter. The Nara clan loved children. Afterall, children were the future. They kept the village and the clan prosperous and safe in the years to come. Her distain for their heir is the final straw with him. If he couldn’t find the problem and fix it, they would need to split. He would not put up with his daughter being put down in her own home! Shikaku looked up and met his teammates eyes, his own were firm. Almost steely in determination.
“I need your help.” He asked. His voice just as firm and his eyes. He felt no shame in asking the two members of his family, who have had his back for decades, for help.
“Of course. Always.” Was the chorused reply; their voices reflecting his steel back at him. Together, they would fix their family.
“Yoshino has changed. I know you guys haven’t …approved… of her for years, but she hasn’t always been this way. Not long after we got married, and she was expecting Shikamaru, she started to go out once or twice a week. I thought it was with your wives. Then I discovered it wasn’t. It was another group of her friends; which is fine, she is welcome to have friends and a social life, so I didn’t interfere. Then she started to nag and ignore me. Then the threatening started. I can take my wife, but I don’t want to hurt her, so I’ve put up with the threats. Now, she treats my daughter worse. This is unacceptable. I want my heir around more, not hiding from us. Logically, there are two possible reasons.” Here, he stopped, waiting to see if his friends would pick up where he had finished.
“Either she was faking the personality you met originally or...” Chouza’s deep voice started slowly. His dislike for the idea showing.
“Or, someone is influencing her to change.” Finished Inoichi. His words coming out in a snarl. If it was the latter, then the three of them will remind the person exactly who they were. Their masks would be put to the side, so the feral shinobi could shine through for a purpose.

The three sat in silence drinking their sake. Each one of them coming up with plans and ideas, before chucking some and storing others. A sigh broke through the silence, before Chouza looked up.
“So, what’s the plan Shika-kun? How do you want to do this?”
“Today happens to be a lunch day for Yoshino. How good are your henges?” Shikaku smirked, as he stood up and dropped some coins on the table. Inoichi and Chouza smirked back before rising from their seats. As they dropped coins on the table, and walked away, a snort of amusement followed them out.
“Damn, whoever pissed those three off are so dead.” A cackling Yamanaka stated to his companions.

The outside of the bar opened onto a quiet street, mostly residential. Three women stepped out and glanced around, before heading into the center of the village. One was tall, with hair like spun gold, pulled into a bun on her nape. She had clearly aged well, her face tastefully painted with complementing colours. Her clothes were elegant, and obviously costly. A silk kimono top of a dazzling blue rested on black fitted pants. Threads of the same blue colour outlined flowers falling down the side of one leg. Her companions were a definite contrast to her. One had locks of fire gathered into a messy bun on the top of her head, two wooden hair sticks held it up, though if one looked close you could see the hair sticks were actually a pencil and a slim paintbrush. Her clothes were simple. A kimono in autumn colours, with a black obi, tightened around her slim waist. Her face was clear of makeup, and she wore a simple necklace of leather. The third woman was slightly chubbier than her companions. Her hair fell down her back in a tumble of curls. She was definitely the plainest out of the three, but the aura around her was sweet. Like coming home after a long time away. She wore a pretty dress in plain black, with cherry blossoms embroidered on. The three of them sauntered up the streets to a modern looking café. The blonde looked at the menu before loudly deciding that they were eating here, it looked lovely. The inside was sleek and modern, the kind of place that tried to downplay their price, but you just knew lunch was going to be expensive. Everything was in black and white, with the odd splash of colour. A server showed them to a table, and handed out menus, before vanishing off.
“Ohhh look at this girls, they have my favourite wine! I knew this place was a winner!” the loud blonde squealed in excitement, drawing attention from a table nearby. The nearby table was large, an elder woman sat at one end, holding court with the others. In the middle of one side sat Yoshino. One of the braver ladies leant over.
“Oh yes dear, this café is brilliant. Say, would you ladies like to join us? It’s always nice to have new faces. We are a support group really. We look after our own, and make sure we are all happy and help with any issues we have.” The older woman smiled sweetly at them and gestured to the servers to move their tables over. Quite clearly this woman had never been told no before. Once they were moved over and had ordered the woman picked up where she had left off.
“So, my name is Mito, and I’m one of the founders of the lunch group, along with my sister, Kito, who is sat down there. Currently we are helping Yoshino-chan. She is struggling a little with her family, the poor dear.” The woman paused to nod to Yoshino, who smiled brightly, and started to speak.
“Oh, I’m married to Shikaku Nara, and we have a little girl. I came here first, because I was a civilian ninja, and my new husband was about to become the head of the Nara clan. I didn’t want to embarrass him or show him up and be a bad wife. This group has been so kind to me. They’ve really helped me become the main person in my family. I run my household, so my husband, bless his soul, can work for the Hokage and relax at home. The problem is my husband, and daughter, are so lazy! I’m proud of them, I really am, but I wish they had some kind of ambition and motivation. My daughter has just been promoted, so she goes and signs up to be a school teacher!” At the end of her rant the other women all made soothing and sympathetic sounds. The lady identified as Kito started to speak.
“A school teacher? As the heiress of a great clan? Well I never! You poor dear, having to deal with this! You told us you were nagging, yes? You’ve been trying your best to get them to realise potential Yoshino-chan, don’t take it to heart. As for your daughter’s recent behavior, well, nothing a good scolding and punishment wont fix. She needs to recognise that, as her mother, you have the highest of authority over her. Why, in my youth, my mother would give my sisters and I a good thrashing for even thinking of acting like your girl. Have you tried the…older… way of doing things? Maybe a trip over your knee would sort her out?”
“No! I’m not sure my husband would stand for it.” Yoshino gasped.
“Come now Yoshino-chan, it’s not beating, if it’s done as a punishment, and with love.” Mito broke in. “Anyway ladies, look at the time. I must go, I have a doctor’s appointment. Same time on Wednesday?”
As if her words were magic, the other women started to stand, leaving Yoshino, and the three new women at the table. With a sigh, Yoshino stood slowly, her head hanging low. She bowed goodbye and turned to leave.
“Sit down Yoshino.” Shikaku’s voice was soft but harsh, like a velvet covered sword. His henge dropped as his wife swung her head around to meet his eyes. Shock plain to see as she took in her husband, and his teammates sitting there, watching her with hard eyes.
“Shikaku-kun, what are you doing here?” She stuttered as she tried to compute that it wasn’t a trio of women that had sat down at the table.
“I think we need to talk, wife. You will go straight home. You will wait for me in my office. I think its time we had a chat. Now go.”
Yoshino practically ran for the door, a flush across her face, quite telling that she was near tears. As she pushed the door open, her husbands voice froze her to the spot.
“I have never been disappointed in you Yoshino Nara, not until today.”
With a choked back sob, Yoshino ran from the building and down the street. Through the window, Shikaku watched with dark eyes as one of the two most precious people in the world fled from him. His heart hung heavily in his chest as he internally blamed himself. Maybe he should have been more aware. He had been praised all his life for being a genius, too observant for his own good, yet, when it matters the most, he failed to see the pain his wife was going through at the beginning of their marriage. He assumed she knew he didn’t care what she did, that the clan accepted her no matter her background. Now he sees that is not correct. He had truly failed his family. A nudge from his companions draw him out of his dark thoughts.
“Well Shikaku, you always had a knack for getting things done in the quickest time possible, but this was ridiculous! Did you suspect the group from the beginning?” Chouza asked, his voice filling the now empty café.
“I had an inkling. When we got married, most of her friends stopped talking to her, some rubbish about her being a clan matriarch now, and above them. So, when she came home and told me about a new bunch of women, she had met one day, I was both suspicious and happy for her. I choose to focus on the happy part. She had friends and wasn’t relying on me to be her only socializing point. The change, when it happened, was slow, and I remained willfully ignorant. Now. Now, I’ve had enough. This ends; before I lose my wife and my daughter.” Shikaku’s voice raised towards the end. His closing statement sent shivers down his teammates back, this wasn’t their friend anymore. This was a Clan Head, Hokages advisor, and the Jounin Commander talking. People were about to be reminded that Shikaku Nara was not a lazy doormat, and that he had power.
“But first, I’m going to the ANBU training grounds. I need to work off my anger before I speak with Yoshino. There is nothing good to come from having that discussion in anger. You guys coming?”
“To see you let loose, and kick some arse? Hell yes, we are coming. It’s been way too long Shika-kun. Maybe we should both join in too. I think we’ve left Konoha to forget who it holds for a little long now.” Inoichi’s words dripped in dark enjoyment. A seductive pull of power from the blonde, that spread to the other two. Their eyes gleaming in sadist delight. This was going to be fun…

Chapter Text

With the enemy nin dispatched, Shikamaru followed Pakkun and Kakashi into the rabbit warren of a cave network. It was dimly lit, casting shadows around the trio, something that allowed for Shika to relax a bit more. Her own shadow trying to leap ahead of her, being dragged back through force of will. A little-known fact of the Nara clan’s ability is that shadows around them became almost…alive… not the right word, but the closest she could get. They developed personalities of their own and could act with some independence. The clan believed the shadows came from the old Gods; that their clan was still in touch with the old ways, so their reward for loyalty was a genetic disposition to the shadows. Hard to deny when you are standing there having an argument with your shadow about hugging other people’s shadows without consent. The problem with the ability was that humans aren’t meant to work in the shadows that literally. To bend the shadows to your will, you had to stare into the abyss and not get lost. It was why the number one important rule about working with shadows, was do not learn on your own. Beginners easily lost themselves into the void, so the clan enforced this rule with an iron fist. Every knew technique you learnt, was practiced with someone experienced until you were deemed in control. The clan jutsu had ranks assigned to them. Shadow possession was the only one a genin was allowed to learn. It was the only thing really that her father ever was firm about. He had warned her a few times that she wouldn’t enjoy the consequence, but she had no idea what the punishment was. It was always dealed out by the parents of said rule breaker.

Shika was pulled from her thoughts as the duo in front of her slowed to a stop. Pakkun indicated that was the room they wanted before popping out of existence in a cloud of smoke. The room ahead was open to the corridor, obviously somewhere that someone had just opened out the corridor and kept widening. The rough stone walls were stepped, creating natural looking shelves. A large round chunk of stone had been flattened to create a table. Candles provided the lighting in the room, centered around the table covered in paper sheets and scrolls. She watched as Kakashi slowly approached the table, taking care to check as he went for any traps. It was interesting to see how the elite approached a possible trap room. He did everything differently from the academy lessons. His method seemed to be, lets give it a go and hope.
“Umm Kakashi-sensei?” Shikamaru asked. Her voice light and airy in the silent room. She loathed to seem unaware, but the curiosity was killing her. She waited until his dark eye swung her way before she continued.
“The academy showed us a different way to enter a potentially trapped room. Why is yours different? It looks like you are trying to spring a trap…” Her voice trailed off towards the end of her sentence, her eyes focused on the shinobi ahead.

“Ahh, that’s cos I am.” Kakashi grinned through his mask and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Quickest way to find a trap? Is to spring the trap.” As he explained his rather simplistic thought process, he noticed her eyes seemed to have simmered down the bloodlust. That was good, he really really didn’t want to have to help her work off the excess energy. He knew some great ways, but the thought of Konoha’s Shadow Walker (and team) hunting him down made him pause a bit. As pretty as she was, Kakashi like Shikaku as a commander, and really didn’t want to break the trust of having his only daughter on his team. Besides, Kakashi thought, he liked having a life, and really didn’t fancy dying this young. To steal a Nara term, that would be troublesome! He waved a hand at the girl, directing her to follow him into the room.
“Come come, it’s clear in here. It’ll take both of us to skim the documents. We are looking for military orders/plans and to see if the village below is in on it. Quicker we get it done, the quicker we can head back to Anko. Tomorrow we can spend training. I figured we’ll work on stamina and chakra control. Between the two of them, it’ll help your reserves grow. I figured I’d show you an offensive jutsu too. Build up your fire power. Do you know your element yet?”

With a half smirk, Shikamaru entered the room to start looking through the scroll, noting anything that looks important, and what was general information.
“I don’t. I know an earth jutsu, a lightning jutsu and my shadow ones. So, I guess lightning or earth?” She rummaged through a pile of scrolls, pulling out anything that caught her eye. “Kakashi-sensei, look at this.” She through the scroll at him as she continued. “Iwa invasion notes. Apparently, the aim is to cut off all the trade routes slowly, and then attack when we send our forces out to find out why we have nothing coming in. It also mentions a traitor.” Here she hesitated... “In the Hokages office.”
Kakashi snarled, nothing angered a shinobi more than a traitor. His chakra flared and flooded the room, brushing harshly against her. He had managed to reign in his killing intent, but his chakra was more than able to let Shikamaru know that the copy nin was pissed.
“New plan. Find everything we need, I’ll summon my pack to take the notes back to Tsunade-sama. We’ll wait for orders before heading back tomorrow.” Kakashi stalked outside to summon his pack, whilst Shikamaru gathered everything together and sealed it in a storage scroll she had found…

 

The sun was setting, before they had found Anko and filled her. She in turn told them that the village were aware of the Iwa ninjas being close but didn’t know about any planned invasion. The village simply sold them the supplies to survive, since they were too far away for Konoha to send protection quickly. With a brief outline of tomorrow planned, Shikamaru found herself being dragged to the bedroom by Anko. Apparently Anko had taken offense that Shikamaru had ever been drunk. Kakashi just grinned at her from behind his mask, before burying his nose in his porn, leaving her to the not-so tender mercies of Anko. In a brief flash of childishness, Shikamaru stuck her tongue out at Kakashi as the door slammed shut, before turning wary eyes on the insane woman next to her. Her wild grin had slipped into a predatory smirk, her eyes hooded and heavy on Shikamaru.
“Now, baby Nara, tell me you’ve packed more clothes then uniform clothes. Specifically, civilian styled. I doubt you’ve brought make-up, but I have that covered. We are going to a bar. I’m going to teach that pretty little head of yours about how much power we have over mortal men.”
Shikamaru paled and backed against the door, as Anko’s words registered in her mind. A non-verbal whine caught in her throat as Anko started cackling and pulling clothes out of Shika’s backpack. Shika was pretty certain her dad would not be happy at the skills Anko was going to teach her. Hell, she wasn’t sure if she would be happy learning these skills either. Though for the looks of it, she wasn’t going to get a choice... Maybe she could slip away from the troublesome she-devil… Very slowly, Shikamaru crept to the side, one hand reaching behind her for the handle. Her wide terrified eyes stared at Anko, hoping she’d escape before the crazy woman saw her. The door handle turned slowly and creaked lowly. Shikamaru froze, but the gods seemed to be on her side, as the purple haired demon in front of her kept rummaging for an outfit. Her confidence bolstered, she resumed opening the door until it was open wide enough for her to squeeze through. With a silent sigh of relief, Shikamaru inched her body sideways to slip through the gap.
“Do not move cutie-pie. My babies don’t like being stood on. They get all… bite-y!” With a feral grin, Anko looked up. The sadistic glint in her eyes back. Shikamaru whined lowly at the look, before glancing down to see Anko’s “babies”. She jerked back into the room at the sight of the two entwined, yellow and black snakes. The two of them looking at her with beady little eyes, their long slender tongues flickering at the air. Behind them stood Kakashi, his book away as he shook in silent laughter. A brief displacement of air behind her, alerted Shikamaru to a close presence. Arms threw themselves around her neck and chest, pulling her back tight against what was definitely a woman’s body. A tongue flicked against the shell of her ear, before teeth bit down causing a spark of pain; the sensation tugging a quiet moan from Shikamaru. A wave of heat flooded her neck and cheeks, as Shikamaru closed her eyes out of embarrassment. The surprise in the single dark eye staring at her from the door, compounding her shame.
“Well, well, well. Would you look at that, the cutie-pie here likes a little pain. Who’d a thought?” A breathy purr caressed Shikamarus ear, as Anko spoke. “I may have to change the plan for tonight. Maybe we should have an … early… night.” Shikamaru shook her head, desperately trying to hold back a shudder as Anko’s voice filled her ears. Anko’s hand stroking the over the mesh on the open part of her top, the other tight around her waist.
“Step away Anko.” Kakashi’s growl was dark, with a feral tone to it. His chakra reaching out to curl protectively around Shikamaru. “Before the Shadow Walker hears. You know the shadows willingly reach out for him. Don’t provoke them by upsetting their heir.”
The reaction from Anko was more abrupt then Shikamaru expected. The woman forced the distance between them to widen, by shoving Shika at Kakashi. Her face a pale grey, and her eyes darting to look at the shadows in the room warily, before she turned her eyes back onto the pile of clothing and continued her rampage.

Kakashi reached out towards the falling girl instinctively. His arms curling around her shoulders and pulling her close to his chest. He could feel how embarrassed she was, from the heat radiating from her face. He stroked his hands down her back as he watched Anko continue putting an outfit together. He held Shikamaru close to him firmly, when she attempted to pull away. In the privacy of their team, she didn’t need to back away from comfort so soon; especially as such a young ninja. Most of the veteran ninja wanted to see some type of childishness left in their young. It helped their generation know they had made the world a little safer with their sacrifices. Still, the young Nara was an independent one, and wouldn’t stay in his hug for long, so he stepped back and ruffled her hair.
“Get a shower kid, Anko and I are taking you to the bar in a bit. It’ll do you good to see how some people gather information… Or in Ankos case, conquests.” With a grin, Kakashi disappeared back into his book (where did that come from???) and vanished off into the sitting room attached to their bedrooms; leaving Shikamaru alone with the crazy lady…again!
“Well kid, lets get moving! I have sake calling my name, and a game or two of poker!”

 

Meanwhile, back in the Hidden Leaf, shadows lashed across a training ground, barely contained fury in each strand. Three ninjas in animal masks were dodging to avoid the wall of black. Desperately trying to break through the onslaught to reach the commander of the shadows. With a growl, the bear masked shinobi threw himself into a back somersault to dodge being stabbed, his hands flashing together as he straightened up.
“Fire style: Phoenix renewal” A ball of blazing white-blue flames shot towards Shikaku, who didn’t even flinch. His shadows rose up to bat the flames away. As the fireball shattered, Shikaku looked back at the ANBU he was moving like puppets on strings. With a cold smirk, he directed his shadows back onto an offensive track; well he did, until he noticed the bear masked nin looking off over Shikakus shoulder. Spinning, Shikaku dropped into a crouch as he scanned behind him. A yell from Inoichi drew his attention up.
“Shika, above you!”
From out of the sun above his head, Shikaku could see a shape forming against the glare. What was it? He was confident his shadows would protect his back whilst he figured it out. He watched carefully, his mind making plans and binning plans, until the shape was clear. It was fire. The same white-blue as the earlier fireball! Cursing Shikaku threw himself out of the way at the last possible minute.
“Do you like my new jutsu, Commander? There is a reason it’s called phoenix renewal.” Bear’s voice was smug. He was overly confident in his new technique. “It tracks the person it was targeting originally, and I know you don’t have any water jutsu in your arsenal!” His smug and celebratory tone was really starting to grate on Shikaku’s nerves. His killing intent flared, and his shadows increased in speed and strength. His own bloodlust feeding into the void. The rabbit- and cat-masked ANBU backed away their hands up in surrender. They had felt this intent before; no way were they getting in the firing line. Clearly their teammate had a death wish.
Shikaku took a few precious seconds to slowly smirk at the bear ANBU, in his mind actions speak louder than words, so why waste his breath correcting the idiot in front of him. Instead, he made sure he pour dark promises into his smile, and was rewarded when the bear shinobi lost his confidence stance.
“What...why are you smiling? Don’t you see, you can’t win! You shouldn’t have expected to win! You’re too old, and too specialized to win against ANBU!” He yelled at Shikaku, who simply raised an eyebrow, dodging another attack from the blue flames. If this is what the ANBU thought, he would need to do a surprise evaluation of the ANBU forces later this week. Someone would need to knock the rookies off their high stool. Maybe Kakashi, Gai, and Asuma would like to help. Yes. That would do nicely, he though, his smirk widening into a savage grin. He channeled his inner Yoshino and tutted slowly.
“Temper temper rookie. You’ve had your fun. Now…. Now it’s my turn!” With his teammates’ laughter ringing in his ears, Shikaku melted into the shadows below, just as the phoenix fire collided with the place he stood. Bear froze at first, he hadn’t meant to kill the Jounin Commander! The Hokage was going to kill him… worse the Nara clan matriarch was going to hunt him down! As the flames died down, the bear relaxed. There was no charred body, which means the Nara was still alive. Wait, where was he? He frantically glanced around, searching for his opponent. Where was he?!
A slow clap directly behind him, caused the bears eyes to widen slightly. That was it. He tried desperately to move his body, but he couldn’t even tense up. He was wide open, and the Jounin Commander was stood close behind him. A dark sounding chuckle sent shivers of fear down the ANBU rookie’s spin.
“It is an impressive jutsu, I will give you that. It’s a pity the user has more ego than brains though. Allow me to show you a favourite technique of my own. Ninja art: Hell’s calling, heavens denial.” With his jutsu complete, Shikaku stepped back out of the shadow, and shoved his hands in his pockets, mildly watching the now screaming rookie. His face blank as he watched and waited for the ANBU to release the genjutsu; when he didn’t Shikaku gripped the illusionary technique mentally and gave it a vicious twist. The sadism that he normally hid behind the veneer of a lazy alcoholic was in full force. If the rookie couldn’t even dispel a technique that was announced, then the idiot didn’t deserve to be in the ANBU.
“Time to release him Shikaku, before we end up having to taken him in to the secure ward at the hospital.” Inoichi and Chouza rested their hands on their brothers’ shoulders. “I think he has learnt his lesson. I think the rest of his squad have also been reminded that you are just as dangerous now as you were during the war.”
With a roll of his brown eyes, Shikaku released his grip on the bear-masked ninja and stalked away. He nodded to the other ANBU before leaving the training grounds. He guessed that now he would need to talk to his wife. He’d worked off the anger and was feeling pretty settled. So, plan for the afternoon: go home, have the conversation with the wife, go out drinking afterwards. His daughter should be back in a day or two, then he could come up with a way to fix her problem. Damn, this was a lot of effort. What…A…Drag…

Chapter Text

The house was silent, the normal sounds coming from the kitchen were missing; the tempting smells weren’t wafting through the house, and there was no pot of coffee fresh on the table. He closed the door gently and padded through the house on steady feet. The chakra in his home reaching out and welcoming him home. The shadows bent around him, keeping him hidden as he prowled the house for his target. This was a long time coming, but there was only so much a patient man can take! As he stalked around the house, his steps focusing towards the only other chakra in his home, he took a moment to slip into a meditative state. Even with the ANBU training session, he still had anger to face. He could feel it smouldering in the pit of his belly, he needed to control it for now. He did not want to lash out at his wife during their…discussion. Pausing outside of his office door, Shikaku drew in a soothing breath, it was time.

Yoshino had run straight home, only her pride and her determination not to humiliate her husband’s name held back her tears. She ignored the calling of her clansmen and focused on getting to her own place. Her husband was unhappy with her, the first time in their 15 years of marriage, and it hurt! Yoshino had never felt as guilty and as shamed as this. He must be overreacting! She had been asking for help, to improve their families standing, to keep herself worthy of being his wife; and this is the thanks she gets?! Scolded in front of his teammates and sent running like a child! Oh, he was in trouble when he got in! With a snarl, she slammed the door closed, her dark eyes flashing with anger. No-one spoke to her like that, no-one. She stormed through the house, and threw herself into his office, sinking down to sit on the floor cushions by the window; determined to stay mad at him. Grumbling to herself, she waited. He’d be home soon, then she’d remind him that she ruled this house!

The clock ticked loudly in the stillness, Yoshino kept waiting. Worry started to cross her face, and the anger she was holding started to fade. Guilt flooded through, dousing the flames, and cooling her temper. As her temper gave way to a cooler more rational head, Yoshino turned the events of the day over in her head, looking at that and her behavior for the last few years sent shame through her body. Her lord husband was mad, and rightfully so! Hopefully, he would forgive the foolish actions she had taken. The soft closing of the front door echoed up the stairs, and Yoshino sat straighter, straining her ears to hear if her husband was approaching. The slight brush of the shadows against her neck sent her shuddering, he was close.
“Wife.” Was the greeting from the door, in his raspy voice, before he lowered himself on to the cushion opposite her. Shikaku held a hand up, cutting off Yoshino before she could start speaking.
“Never, in 15 years of marriage, have I been so disappointed in you. I have put up with you yelling and screaming at me, as well as hitting me more recently. Now, I have reached my limit. I want to know why; and you will tell me.” His voice was cold, like ice, and his face was blank. He was no longer playing around, nor was he indulging her whims. He was the Clan Head, and he wanted answers; he wanted the truth. Yoshino slipped off of her cushion and knelt in front of him. Her face an open book, now was not the time to hide her feelings.
“Forgive me Husband. I have shamed your name and brought dishonor upon our family. I wanted to be the best wife for you, and the best matriarch for the clan I could be. So, I sought the advice of older, wiser women. I just wanted to be perfect. I’m sorry, Shikaku-sama. I never meant to disappoint you.” Yoshino bowed low, touching the floor with her forehead. She stayed there as she spoke, her voice shaky as she held back tears. Her voice was choked with emotion, yet not once did she regret showing them. If anything, she felt lighter for getting them out. This was the guy she chose to marry, the guy who held her when her father died. The guy who threw himself in front of a sword for her, he still carried the scar though he wore it with pride. A sigh drew her attention up.
“Look at me, wife.” Shikaku waited til his woman lifted her head, his heart wrenching in his chest with the need to comfort her and wipe her tears. “Troublesome woman, why didn’t you come to me? Why didn’t you say anything? I vowed in front of the village that I would love, support, and protect you. I meant it Yoshi-chan. You were perfect then, and you are perfect now. You have no need to go to those bitter old women. Yoshino, my spitfire, the guardian of my herd, the mother of my fawn; those women are jealous of you. They took advantage of your self-doubt and nearly ended our marriage.” At his last statement, Yoshino gasped and reached for him instinctively. He nearly divorced her, and she was too blind to notice! Shikaku pulled his love into his lap and wrapped her in his strong arms. “Just promise me that you’ll be you now. Come to me if you need something. No more meetings with the leaf’s knitting club, and no more following their advice. Promise me Yoshino Nara!”
Even with her face buried in his chest, her voice was clear and firm in its reply. “I promise. I’ll fix this, I’ll fix us.” A rumbling chuckle had her looking up.
“My love, we will fix us. We are a team, you do not need to try and fix anything on your own. We will fix us and our family. You, me, and our fawn; that’s our team.” Shikaku brushed his lips against his wife’s head after a long time, he felt secure in their future. Sure, this was a bump in the road, but they got through it together. Yoshino wiggled in his arms until she was sat with her knees on the floor on either side of him. Shikaku raised an eyebrow silently, as he observed her lean back to make eye contact. Her eyes, full of mischief and promise, had him inhaling sharply a smirk pulling at his lips.
“Well, my husband, allow me to show you how much I love you.” Yoshino purred against his lips, her hands swiftly coming up to open his dark green flak jacket. One of Shikaku’s hand coming up to tangle in her hair, pulling her head closer. Well, fixing the marriage was easy, he thought, but we both need to be confident in each other before we address our family. Bonding, he decided would have to be something they did regularly. With a self-satisfied smirk, he deepened the kiss, and stood up, holding his wife up as he carried her to bedroom. Oh yes, a bit of marital bonding was definitely the way to go.

“…And that, my dear student, is how you pull off free drinks from desperate men.” Cackled Anko, as they stumbled back to their hotel. Or, rather, Shikamaru stumbled and Kakashi kept her on her feet. After the awkwardness of earlier, Anko had shoved Shikamaru into a pair of skin-tight trousers made of a light clingy material. They looked like liquid black had been poured over her skin. They fed into her stealth combat boots. Definitely on the list of clothes to wear again, Shikamaru decided. They felt good, flexible, and breathable. The top, she wasn’t that sure about. It was another vest style, with detached sleeves. Made of a dark green leather, it was cut high on the from, and just brushed the top of her thighs at the back. The exposed stomach was more Ino’s style than hers, but even Shikamaru had to admit she looked good. Anko fussed with her hair for a bit before deciding on loose braid down her back, and adding a solid line of eyeliner, before announcing her ready. They had spent the last few hours in a dark seedy looking bar, that Anko found yesterday. It was an entertaining few hours, to say the least. Anko tried shoving alcohol down her throat, and Kakashi kept fielding it into his cup. Shikamaru’s dad had never been strict about her not having a drink, especially since he drank a lot, however it had never appealed. This evening Shika had discovered a love for a certain cocktail made with coconut, lime and pineapple. It was thick and creamy, something you could drink a lot of, before falling over. It wasn’t advisable to drink too much on missions, but Kakashi and Anko both agreed it was best Shikamaru started to build a tolerance now, so it didn’t hit her too hard when she was older and going on those types of missions. After the first couple of drinks, Shikamaru had found herself starting to relax in the company of the older ninja. By the forth drink, Anko started chatting about different persuasion techniques used by the kunoichi, along with the occasion demonstration. Shikamaru eagerly lapped up the new information, her brain racing to record and store it. By the sixth drink, she was curled up leaning on Kakashi, his arm wrapped around her waist. She was warm, comfortable, and her brain had finally quietened down. It was still going and going, but more like a background hum. Nothing was picked up, categorized, and demanding her attention. It felt a little like floating. Really, if she had known that drinking made you feel like a cloud, she would have drunk already! Honestly, a bed and sleep sounded great about now. Shika gave a sleepy murr of approval as Kakashi stroked her side slowly, his body warmth keeping her cozy. A low chuckle sounded next to her as he put his book away and downed his drink.
“I think it’s time we got the kid back to the hotel. Tomorrow we are just going to do some training with her. I want her alert, well as alert as a Nara can be anyway.” Shikamaru mumbled something quietly in response, and both Anko and Kakashi leant in to hear better.
“Try that again, cutie-pie?” Anko asked, her eyes showing disbelief at what she had heard.
“Said: I’m not a Nara. They don’t want me, I’m not good enough.” Anko looked up at Kakashi in bewilderment. She knew the jounin commander adored his daughter; hell, her own boss, Inoichi Yamanaka loved the brat. How on earth did the kid come to this conclusion?! Kakashi shook his head, cutting off anything she may have said, and jerked his head towards the door. Time to go. Which brings their evening to them stumbling back to the hotel. Kakashi kept a tight grip around Shikamarus shoulders, holding her up, hopefully she wouldn’t have too bad of a hangover tomorrow; he had training plans! Though he had to admit, he was surprised about her taste in drinks. Who’d’ve thought that Shikaku’s daughter would have hated sake, but adored pina colada. Oh well, either way, 6 drinks later she was still standing…kinda… not bad for a first drinking session. He’d have to drag her out more often in the village to build her tolerance, besides she was apparently a cuddly drunk and who could resist such an adorable student cuddling close! Hopefully new commands would come tomorrow as well. Then they could head back. Either way, he had a drunk chunnin to herd into bed. At least she was both light and obedient to his directions. Kakashi sighed and kept shuffling along the road towards the hotel. Damn, but he was knackered.

The morning dawned bright and clear, its light filling the room dragging a low groan from the sprawled figure on the bed. A hand lazily snatching the blanket and pulling it over tangled hair to block out the light. A contented sigh followed as the girl snuggled back down into the bed. Best nights sleep ever! She had never felt so relaxed and rested, if this what her dad felt it is no wonder, he drank so much! Shikamaru pulled the blanket closer and started to drift off, taking advantage of how calm she felt to get a few extra hours kip. Well, that would have been the plan, if the blanket hadn’t been yanked off the bed and a cheery voice had rung out.
“Up and at it, Kid! We have a day to train before we head back home.” Kakashi hadn’t had this much fun since before the chunnin exams. He rarely got to work with his cute little genin now, so opportunities to torment and tease a subordinate were far and few between. He wasn’t surprised she was still asleep, being both a Nara and drunk. At the groan of frustration, Kakashi’s grin widened, well, if she wanted to do things the hard way he wasn’t about to complain. More fun for him, really. He flashed through a couple of hand signs, still with his Cheshire cat grin on, and twisted his chakra slightly. A small wall of water crashed down on to the bed, followed swiftly by some imaginative swearing and dark glare being directed at him.
“Sorry not sorry kiddo. You chose to take the hard route. Now up and at it. I have orders from Hokage-sama; and you have some training to do.” With that said, Kakashi pulled his book out of his pocket and sauntered out of the room, giggling to himself, Princess Yoki had just ripped her dress accidentally, and the good part was about to start.

With a heavy sigh, Shikamaru dragged herself out of the now wet bed, and slouched her way over to the window. Letting in a warm breeze, she turned to hang the bedsheet up in that breeze. Hopefully it’ll dry before tonight. Sleeping in a wet bed would be a drag. She scrapped her hair up into her topknot ponytail, and threw on a new uniform, before following Kakashi’s path out of the room. Better see what the plan was, they were still on a mission after all. Dragging herself into communal area of their rooms, she yawned and waved lazily at the senior nin.
“Morning cutie, how’s the head?” was the flirty greeting from the other woman on the team. The woman was currently sitting there petting a snake. Where she got that particular snake from, who knows, the rock adder wasn’t native to fire country. Shikamaru distinctly remembered Anko mentioning her love of poisons last night, so maybe that’s why she had a venomous snake as a necklace? Clearly, Jounin were crazy with an innate love of dangerous things. Now she thought about it, wasn’t Iruka-sensei learning about poisons from Genma (who she thought was the guy who proctored the finals)? Did that mean the insanity was passing on to the chunnin? Sounded troublesome. She’d have to avoid it at all costs. Though T&I kinda interested her, so maybe she’d put up with Anko’s crazy for a while.
“My head is fine.” Shikamaru yawned. “Have we heard back from HQ?” stretching before opening her stance and lowering into the first of her many yoga routines. Another one of the many grounding mechanisms she was taught as a kid. Now she enjoyed it for a moment of moving meditation. The increase flexibility was a bonus too. She could feel her mind relaxing under the familiar stretches, as she listened into Kakashi’s report.
“Yep. Hokage wants us to head back to the village on the original timetable. He has given us today as a training day in the forest, to head back tomorrow. They’ll send out ANBU teams to run the borders and trade routes. As for the traitor…” The temperature in the room dropped rapidly, and Shikamaru wobbled in her inverted lotus position, her breath catching in her throat. The last training session had been on coping with Killing Intent, but Kakashi’s and Anko’s was so more predatory than they had in the session. Still she hadn’t started clawing at her neck or falling over this time, so it seemed like the training had been worth it.
“…Let’s just say, their days are numbered in single digits.” Anko finished. Her face curled into a blood thirsty smile. Her voice was silky dangerous, a hint of sadistic anticipation woven through. Her tongue flicked out to lick at her lips, as she imagined the torture session in the near future. A shiver flowed down Shika’s spine. Anko looked truly wild at that point, is this what a shinobi was really? Under their civilized masks, a primal being who delights in the chaos and destruction they cause. No, that can’t be right for every shinobi; her father and uncles were gentle giants really. They wouldn’t be this feral.
“Still” chirped Kakashi “that’s not our problem at the moment. Instead I want to do some heavy taijutsu practice with you today. We’ll try and start improving your stamina. When that’s done, we’ll move on to chakra control exercises. Anko is going to head into town and get some supplies, before joining us in training. So, if you are ready, lets go.” Kakashi threw a ration bar at Shikamaru, before he headed out of the room, he had already found a place to train whilst they left their charge to sleep off the alcohol. He was looking forward to this session. Afterall the girl had potential, now she just needed to believe in herself long enough to reach that potential. With that thought, he sunk his head back into his book giggling to himself as he led Shikamaru to the clearing he had found.

Several hours later found Shikamaru looking rather rough. Her clothes were covered in mud, her hair was loose, and she was covered in bruises. When Kakashi said heavy taijutsu, he meant heavy taijutsu. Though she was slight ashamed of how far away from her skill level he was. He didn’t have to put any effort in, if anything, he seemed to have turned the spar into a game of how far he could throw her. It hit her pride and ego hard, despite already know she was behind on taijutsu. The frustration was building, as she stopped planning and started more spontaneous moves. Instead of relying on her brain, she sunk into her training, allowing instincts and reaction to take over. Her body was moving quicker, sharper, stronger she noted distantly. She felt more in tune to the fluctuating chakra around her, the small flares that signaled an attack, the slightly larger flares that signaled a reinforced attack. It was a thrilling sensation. Being able to feel the throb of chakra running through the veins of every living thing, the hum of it dancing on the air. As her back hit the ground hard, knocking the breath from her lungs, the grounds chakra rose to cradle her. Shielding her from severe damage. She lay there panting, marveling in the chakra surrounding her. The urge to just go to sleep coated in the warming touch of the chakra was overwhelming.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” Kakashi’s voice was soft, filled with contentment. “I was hoping you’d work out how to reach this level of connection. The point where a ninja stops using their brain to fight, and switches to trusting their body to do as it is trained to, is exhilarating. Some ninja are more adapt at feeling the chakra on this level, others will struggle to feel it mutely. I know it runs in the Ino-Shika-Cho clans, but sometimes it can take a while to manifest in your clan. You guys are too intellectual. You rely on your brain power so much, its hard to let go. Well done kid, you did good. However, your stamina is still lacking. You’ll need to practice daily, despite it being troublesome.” Kakashi sent her a wink at the last comment, before hauling her up to her feet. Time to get back to work…

Chapter Text

Shikamaru sighed gently as they broke through the thick forest, and into the warming sun. It’s soothing caress sending waves of contentment through her. She was home. The scent of the forest flowers blooming was a delight on her sense of smell; especially after a mission in a town of rock. The mountains had great sunsets and sunrise, and you were so close to the clouds it felt like you were floating, but nothing, nothing, was as good as coming back to the village. The hidden leaf was a shining beacon of safety to leaf shinobi, and a declaration of power to enemies. It was where she was born and raised. It was what she would die to defend. It might as well as been the center of the universe for the shinobi that protected it. Its high walls, protected by the visible chunnin and not so visible ANBU, held great memories from a kid. After the academy, a few of them would attempt to scale the wall without getting caught. They never succeeded, but the ANBU catching them would play along. Sitting at the top and either pretending not to see them until they reached the ANBU or encouraging them with gentle words and advise. If they slipped and fell, the ANBU would catch them before they hit the floor, their tiny bodies cradled in the ANBU’s arms protectively. When they started chakra control exercises, well the Ino-Shika-Cho trio did, they used to play the same game, except walking up the wall. Like real ninja, Shikamaru though with an amused smirk. Now look at the team, proper ninja now, and broken up. A rare thing for their clans, but maybe it was for the best. Shikamaru sighed, people were troublesome and could be such a drag. Especially that blonde brat, Ino. The girl spent more time obsessing over her looks and her “precious Sasuke-kun” then working at being a ninja. No wonder kunoichi’s have bad reputations, with people like her and Sakura. Shikamaru sneered at the thought of the pink haired girl. Seriously, she was worse than Ino! At least Ino knew how to work with people and cared about her teammates (despite her yelling). That pink haired excuse for a human constantly hit and belittled one of her teammates. That was enough for Shikamaru to develop a strong streak of distrust and dislike. The girl had book smarts and damn good chakra control, she’d give her that, but outside of that she was not ninja material. She should have stayed in the merchant clan she came from. Honestly, how she managed to survive Kakashi-sensei’s training when he was obsessed with teamwork, Shikamaru did not know.

With a sigh, and a roll of her eyes, Shikamaru forcefully changed her mental track. Now they were back at the village, she could get back to learning about seals. Actually, wasn’t Kakashi a student of the fourth Hokage; who had been a seal master? Maybe he could help.
“Ano Kakashi-sensei?” She asked, her voice lazily filling the air between them. “It’s a drag, I know, but do you know anything about sealing? The books in the libraries I have access too are limited on where to start.” Which was hugely annoying. The civilian library had nothing, which was expected. The genin library had nothing except a brief mention, and the chunnin library mentioned the things possible with seals, but not how to get into sealing. Apparently, it was more a Master and Apprentice styled learning path, which was aggravating; since Konoha didn’t have a seal master left in the village. Maybe Jiraiya-sama would respond to a letter?
“Oohhh, are we a curious little deer about seals?” was Kakashi’s cheerful reply. “Tell you what, if you can put together a decent enough reason for learning and can master a storage seal, then I’ll help you. I’ll even be generous and give you three attempts to earn that right.” Despite his cheerful demeaner, Kakashi’s words were firm. If she truly wanted to learn seals, she would need to prove her motivation to learn them. What. A. Drag. With a nod, Shika accepted the conditions and silently took the offered seal diagram. At least, if nothing else, she would be able to do a storage seal. The rest of the trip to sign in was quiet, except for the odd threatening/flirting between Anko and the chunnin duo, Izumo and Kotetsu. Shika just raised her hand in greeting at the two, a faint blush on her cheeks as Ko’ gave her a flirty wink over Anko’s shoulder.
“Looking good Shika-chan. I am lovin’ the blushing!” Ko called. A smirk spreading across his face as the girl in front of him turned bright pink under the attention. He added a wolf whistle just to see her go darker. Damn she was easy to torment. Apparently still quite shy and innocent, unlike the crazy snake lady of a friend next to the little deer. A whack across his head, had him tearing his eyes away from Shikamaru to pout at his partner.
“Owie ‘Zumo. Why you gotta be so rough? Sometimes I like it gentle you know.” Ko’ snickered at the dramatic eyerolling that he got in return, before Izumo turned to the returning shinobi.
“Thank you for your hard work guys. The Hokage only needs the jounin to report. You are free Shikamaru, if you fancy another training session today, we are all meeting at the usual time.” With a bow, Izumo waved them through, his gentle manner appealing to any homecoming shinobi.
With a lazy wave, and a parting word thrown over her shoulder, Shikamaru headed into the heart of the village. It was lunch time, and she wanted to kill as much time as possible before heading home. She really didn’t fancy seeing her parents this early in the day. With her backpack thrown over her shoulder, and her hands shoved into her pockets, she trudged her way into the busier part of Konoha. Noodles sounded good, maybe she’d try that stand of Naruto’s. Shikamaru couldn’t remember the last time she had ramen. As she wandered, she could feel herself sinking into the familiar sounds of home. The fishwives loudly calling their wares, the general chitchat, the children playing, it all mixed together to soothe the shinobi part of her. A growl from her stomach pushed her onwards towards the ramen bar. No matter how nice the food was on a mission, nothing was better then the first meal back! Maybe she’d go and pester ‘Zumo and Ko’ afterwards or go and watch the clouds! That would be nice. A quiet hill, with a good view of the clouds. Just her, a drink, and the clouds. Yes, that sounded like a good idea. With a pleased smirk at the plan, she quickened her pace just a tad, eager to get to her hill. Maybe she’d treat herself and get it to go, then she wouldn’t have to sit there and potentially get spoken too. With a slight spring in her slow steps, Shikamaru wove her way through the crowd to duck under the curtains; only to curse herself for not checking who was there already.
“Oh Shikamaru, come join us, you can tell us how the mission went!” A cheerful voice called out, as the guy it belonged to approached her, hooking one arm over her shoulder and pulling her tight against him. He hugged her briefly, before guiding her over to his vacated seat and gently pushed her on to it, calling out to the waitress to order for her. Normally this behavior would irritate her, but he was one of a handful of people who had been doing that for years. When she was younger, Shikamaru had struggled to talk to new people. Unlike Hinata’s shy stutter, Shikamaru had just avoided new people and new situations. To counter this, her clan, the Yamanaka clan, and the Akimichi clan had taken to doing a lot of the talking for her, for the majority of them the habit was so ingrained that it just happened. No-one stopped to consider that she could now talk for herself, but it was a drag to try and stop them, so she just accepted it. Besides it was kinda nice to know they still cared enough to do it.
“What is that about? I’ve seen both Ino and Chouji order for you too.” The bearded jounin opposite her asked. His voice, rough from years of smoking, sent panic rushing through her body. Last time he made her go home. Did he bring the rest of his team with him?! A quick glance showed her that it was just him, Inoichi and Chouza at the booth. The arm around her shoulder tightened and pulled her close, Inoichi’s thumb gently stroking across he collarbone as he frowned down at her. Apparently, he had noticed her tense up. Great, what a drag.

Inoichi frowned down at the top of his surrogate daughter’s head. He wasn’t sure why Asuma had caused her to panic, but he didn’t like it. Letting Chouza answer for them, he concentrated on calming the girl down. Normally, he went for a melodramatic to get her to laugh; today he had a feeling that wouldn’t work very well. So, he went for a more physical way to soothe the girl in his arms. He cuddled her close, slowly running the pad of his thumb over her collarbone. His stroking timed to a calming-breath pace, it was a system their team had worked out for calming Shikamaru down as a kid. Naras, as a rule, were prone to panic attacks as little ones. Their minds working to a frenzy that they couldn’t stop on their own. Inoichi locked eyes with Shika as she glanced up at him, and he was in. He skimmed through the thoughts at the front of her mind, the ones about him having caught her tense up, before he pushed deeper and landed in the mindscape, he had helped her build. It was a beautiful place. Reminiscent of the Nara clan forest. It had huge trees of oak, pine, and cherry, twisting together to create a canape. The sun shone between the leaves creating an ever-shifting pattern of shadow on the ground, with specks of colour from small hanging coloured glass charms. The effect was designed to be the first layer of defense; a hypnotic pattern to trap someone long enough for her to boot them. Around them were books hidden in the trees; what looked like a good amateur attempt at hiding her thoughts. These books were traps hidden within random memories that had no meaning or no importance to them. Lastly was the deer watching him through the overgrowth, allowing him to move as long as he meant no harm to their mistress. Pushing forward, Inoichi ignored the books and moved the over hanging branches aside until he reached a clearing. In shock he froze, the clearing (as he remembered it) had been enchanting. Like a sanctuary within Shikamaru’s mind. It had safes, chests, lanterns and a never-ending tea set. It was the kind of place that told him how much she loved the peace and serenity that came from the forest. Now. Now, it was gone. The place was crumbling around him. Rot had set in the tree roots, and everything was gone. There were no chests, no floor cushions. The books were torn apart and scattered. This was not good! Shikaku needed to know, and soon. They would need to get to the bottom of this before her mind shattered completely. With a last devastated look around, Inoichi yanked himself back to his own mind, and focused back in on the conversation.
“…clan thing, Asuma. It’s nothing you need to worry about, but if it makes you feel better about it, I’ll explain. When Shika-chan was little, she struggled with people. We think it was because her mind was picking up cues and signals subconsciously, but she didn’t know how to interpret them yet. It caused her to panic around new people, especially if they were talking to her. So, our clans decided to speak for her, at least until she was confident enough to do it herself. Nowadays, it’s habit to order for her.” With a shrug, Chouza explained. One of his giant paws for hands, resting on Shikamaru’s back the other holding his cup. Seeing Asuma open his mouth to ask something else, Chouza directed a stern glare at the jounin.
“Enough Asuma. It is of no concern of yours. It doesn’t affect your role as a sensei, nor does it impact her performance on missions. If you want to know more, go through her clan head.” The big mans voice rang with steel. He was putting his foot down, as both a superior ranked nin and a clan head. Ignoring the frown on the jounin, Chouza smiled down at the girl next to him. He delighted in having her near. Honestly out of the new generation of InoShikaChou, Shikamaru was definitely the one that had a soft spot in all of the Clan Heads hearts. It started as a child, when they noticed how shy she got with everyone except them, and just grew as she matured. The strength of her connection to the void worried all of them, so they had made extra effort to visit her when she was confined to compound as a toddler. It had hurt all of them to see her upset about being kept in the compound unlike her peers in the clan. Still, it helped form the bond with the three older shinobi and her future teammates.
“So Shikamaru, you going to tell us about your mission? I’m glad to see your normal uniform back too, much more professional looking.” Chouza swept his eyes over the girl in approval, taking in the black combats and armored mesh shirt with her normal dark vest over the top. The only splash of colour now was her chunnin flak jacket and the silver stud earrings. The practicality of her uniform suited her, and her clan style, perfectly. It was better to leave the girly/flirty style to Inoichi’s daughter. Afterall the Yamanaka’s took pride in using their appearance to build an image for people to underestimate. The Nara clan tended to go for something dark, and something they could move in. Honestly, the flexibility of that clan was ridiculous. Some of the acrobatics he had seen Shikaku preform are ludicrous. Now the Akimichi clan went for heavier material. They were the combat specialist on the team, so their uniform tended to reflect that, with armored plating sown in. The material was specially made in the clan for them. It had to stretch as they grew, so it was tricky to make.
“It was interesting Uncle. Kakashi-sensei is definitely unique in his methods.” Shikamaru’s voice was filled with her dry humour at the last sentence. Unique was one way of putting it. “We finished the mission early, I can’t tell you anymore currently. It’s classified still.” Shikamaru perked up. “I can, however, tell you about the day of training with Kakashi-sensei! That was such a drag, but I learnt quite a bit, I think! He also plays shogi, so I have a new partner… though he cheats!” Shikamaru pouted slightly at Kakashi’s form of ninja chess or shogi. He refused to use the board, preferring to play the game mentally. He kept stealing her pieces and changing them to his own, still it was both frustrating and fun. She needed to keep coming up with new ways of proceeding to keep up with his cheating ways. She perked up and smiled at her uncles, steadfastly not looking at the Jounin opposite her.
“He taught me how to sense chakra around me. How to fight instinctually, understanding the slightest of fluctuations in the chakra around me to predict my opponent.” Shikamaru spoke slightly breathily, her awe of what she felt clearly showing. “I could feel it vibrating through my body, I could feel innate chakra of the ground catch me before I hit the ground. It was one of the best things I’ve ever been taught! Kakashi-sensei is amazing, he understood that I can do more than I present, and he made sure I reached the level he wanted. I wonder if he’ll be up for sparring with me occasionally. I know I’m way out of his league, but it would be useful.” Shikamaru was eager to train with Kakashi again. The silver haired nin was a legend. He was just as insane as he was genius and it appealed to Shikamaru. He was someone she could learn so much from, especially if she wanted to go into assassinations. Konoha’s Hound is nearly as famous as the Nara clan for their success rates with assassination missions.
“I’d be happy to beat you into every muddy puddle in the training ground Shikamaru, especially if it helps you improve.” Speaking of the devil, with a poof of displaced air next to Asuma, Kakashi included himself at the table. His one visible eye curved into a happy shape as he answered, before nudging Asuma.
“She was fun to throw around the training grounds Asuma, you should have shared earlier! Way more fun than my own cute little genin.” He chirped, waving at the two clan heads next to Shikamaru, ignoring their amused chuckles.
Asuma, however, wasn’t impressed. He growled at his friend before replying, a harsh tone in his voice. “You aren’t meant to be beating them, idiot. No way was I sending my kids over to you. You’ve no idea how to treat genin! Just look at your team. One is useless with no confidence in herself after you ignored her; one of them has gone with a different teacher, and the third is a traitor! So no, I didn’t share my team with you, and I’m glad I didn’t.” Asuma breathed harshly at the end of his rant, and the table was silent. Shikamaru had her hands covering her mouth, looking on in horror at her old sensei’s unprofessional outburst. Never, never, had Asuma lost his temper to this point, especially with a friend.
Kakashi stood up stiffly and dropped a pouch of coins in front of Shikamaru, with a note on it that it was her share of the mission pay. His one visible eye was cold as ice, and as hard as steel. He jerked his head in some resemblance of a nod to the table and walked away. His movements were tight, erratic and his chakra coiled coolly around the room, stealing the breath of the people it touched. He didn’t look back as he ducked under the curtains, so he failed to see the response from the booth he just left.
“What the fuck was that, Asuma?” surprisingly, the hiss came from Shikamaru who slowly stood up. Her eyes were flashing between their normal honey colour and the black of the void. Her body trembled under the weight of her fury. It was strange, she thought distantly, she hasn’t felt fury in years and then twice in two weeks. This time, however, she had a target for this anger. She felt a hand on each of her shoulders. One slimmer than the other, but with no less strength to it. With an abrupt shrug, Shikamaru shook off her uncles’ hands, and gave Asuma her iciest glare. Loyalty meant a lot to her, that included loyalty to friends. What he did just then crossed the line. No matter how mad he was, he didn’t have the right to treat a friend like that! As far as Shikamaru was concerned, he was not her teacher anymore. With a growl, Shikamaru exited the stand and went searching for Kakashi. She faintly remembered her dad talking with uncle Inoichi about Kakashi spending most of his time at the memorial stone, so there was where she was headed. If she remembered correctly, and she always did, there was a cheap, but decent, coffee stand on the way. If she was going to have to deal with troublesome shinobi today, she needed the coffee!

The remaining 3 shinobi sat in silence, two of them watching the third, their body language was loose and relax, their eyes however told a different story. The blonde male had his head tilted and his eyes were narrowed on the jounin opposite, as he psychoanalyzed the jounin. Whatever conclusion he reached formed a reproachful stare, one that clearly conveyed disappointment and mild reprimand. Meanwhile Chouza hardened his glare into one of distaste. As far as both Inoichi and Chouza were concerned, you didn’t throw a friend under the cart for someone else betraying the village. Especially when said friend had trust issues anyway, so you were one of their handful of friends.
“So, Asuma, do you want to answer Shika’s question? What on earth made you say that, boy? You know Kakashi had nothing to do with that traitor leaving the village. Hell, we had already stopped him once; or do you not remember one of your own genin in the ICU, and the other nearly quitting the forces after blaming herself for the genin that got hurt?” The words were snarled out in a low voice. Chouza’s face was covered in shade from the booth, causing a terrifying look to be on his face. It had been his boy in the ICU, and his surrogate daughter that tried to quit. Shikamarus mission report had described how Sasuke had willingly gone to the sound nin. The boy was out for power, and he didn’t care if comrades got hurt in the process. The report indicated that no matter what, Sasuke would try to leave the village, it was just a matter of time. If it wasn’t for the civilian half of the council, the Uchiha spawn would have had his chakra sealed for good.
“Jealousy is not a good look on a Jounin, Asuma.” Inoichi’s smooth tones cut through the tension. A hint of reprimand curled through his voice. “You had your chance to teach her, now she needs to spread her wings a bit. She is still your student, but she has something to learn from nearly every ninja in this village. She would never had stopped being your student, until you acted that way today. Give them both time to cool off, then apologize. Can’t guarantee they’ll forgive you, but it’ll help.” With that both of the older jounin left Asuma to his thoughts.