A/N - Just a quick chapter for today! It's a little filler-y but a definitely emotionally needed part of the story, I hope you don't mind! I was going to add the next part to this (which most of the dialogue is written for! yippee!) but it didn't pair well with the tone of this chapter so I'll be splitting these chapters up for the flow of the story! I know, I know, longer chapters are nicer but the tone hehehe! I start my new job Monday so I'm very nervous but excited. My fiance and I are going clothes shopping later today so I can get nicer clothes for this new job and I'm going to dress him up while we're out there hehehe! Life is looking amazing!

For those that frequent reddit, I did post on a throwaway account on the r/Naruto_Fanfiction reddit page for questions related to this fanfic because it's been so long that I thought… maybe you all needed a chance to speak about the story, learn about my struggles with writing this fanfic, or if you just like the story and wanted to know more about it! I wasn't even going to do it, but I remember a while back someone posting on that reddit page that the redditor was wondering what happened to my story so, people are definitely interested in TGM, but I quite literally disappeared off the face of the earth for a long time.

I think I've rambled enough so enjoy the story!


Shikaku thumbed through an urgent report from the Third Hokage. It had been dropped off at his desk with a request from an ANBU agent to peer over it as soon as possible. Due to meetings and an interrogation he had to be a part of with Inoichi, he hadn't gotten around to it until after he'd brought home from work. Upon seeing the large pamphlet in his hands, Yoshino ushered him into his home office, sensing its importance. "I'll take care of dinner and handle the kids when they get back from their missions today." She said with a comfortable smile.

"Kids?"

"Your son and his friend?" Yoshino had looked at him as if he were dumb for even asking, something that had pulled a laugh out of him before the man disappeared into his office, locking it behind himself.

If a regular person had glanced through this report, they likely would've gotten a headache from the massive spike in detailed numbers and intelligence hidden within the pages. For him, though, it was nothing. Shikaku was well versed in this type of jargon, reading the words quickly. He was careful to analyze all the possibilities that could come from what seemed like an impending attack on Konohagakure grounds. It seems he and Hiruzen would be collaborating soon to hash out likely scenarios that could arise from the suspicious activities filtering through their allies. He pulled out a pen, scribbling in the margins to make sure all his thoughts were written down as he read through.

For some reason, communication with Sunagakure had completely ceased within the last few weeks. Imports from the region have decreased exponentially as well, costing vendors in the shopping district much grief, howling in the Hokage's ear how they're losing business. Nothing had been done to fix the situation yet due to its suspiciousness, but Hiruzen had bided his time with placating half-truths, quieting down the business owners who were getting antsy. Konohagakure and Sunagakure have been begrudging allies since Hiruzen had resumed his Hokage position since Minato's death, so why were they being so cold lately?

Something was definitely going on.

He heard the front door open within his home, a low toned voice calling out a polite greeting - his son, it seemed. Shikamaru greeted his mother warmly from the sounds of it, asking about Shikaku's whereabouts rather loudly. Shikaku smiled at his wife's voice, listening to them converse with one another before getting back to the documents.

Halfway through the intelligence, Otogakure was brought up, something that had immediately interested Shikaku. The Hidden Sound Village had seemingly arisen overnight, bustling with life forms never seen before by other village's observant eyes - and he wasn't talking about the people. Their declaration of villagehood to the rest of the world had caused an uproar of which main villages would get a new ally, what trades they could get out of Otogakure, and how they could utilize this budding village, molding it into something the main villages would desire.

Shikaku had been there during the initial meeting over a year ago to see what should be done about Konoha's involvement with the new village. It had ultimately been decided that Konohagakure would stay out of the initial tug-of-war happening around the world for Otogakure's allyship and would see what they could get out of the village once things had settled down. On another note, Hiruzen had worried that this village that had popped up out of nowhere couldn't be trusted, years of experience backing his claims. Strange occurrences surrounded the small but bustling village, but nothing could be proved by simple means, just a mere feeling the Hokage had. That was enough for Shikaku to back the decision the previous year, his vote making everyone else lean towards agreeing with Hiruzen.

Despite the hesitancy, Hiruzen had been surprised that Oto's representatives had reached out to Konohagakure requesting potential allyship. But the Hokage had not been persuaded by their kind words and gestures of humanity towards the cause. He had agreed to be trading partners but not allies - if Otogakure got into any wars, Konoha would not help. Otogakure representatives had seemed decently okay with it and had started to import and export supplies to Konoha.

But something in the documents was nagging at the back of Shikaku's head. There were too many strange occurrences continuing well after the village had established itself. What's even more worrisome is that Hiruzen had extended an olive branch, telling Oto that they could send their genin over to try out in the chunin exams that were to be held soon.

Something was going on and Shikaku was going to find out what.

There was a sudden knock on his door, startling the older man out of his musings. "Dad?" A quiet voice called out, "Are you busy?"

Shikaku sighed, scratching his temple in annoyance. He was about to send the boy away, knowing how important this document was and he had never liked to walk away from something without completing it. But there was something different about his son's voice that gave him pause. Shikamaru's voice wavered with indecision, an unlikely outcome. Shikaku made his way to open his office door, letting his son inside before shutting it behind the two. He turned his head to look at his son. The boy's thumb was running up and down in between his middle and ring finger, a sign that the young genin was anxious or needed to talk about something. It's a habit he'd picked up from his mother, something Shikaku would pick up instantly.

Shikaku went back to his desk, hiding all the confidential paperwork in a locked drawer he kept before finally speaking, "Is there something you wanted to speak with me about?"

"Well, yeah, I guess…" A look fell over Shikamaru's face, eyes glancing away quickly, "If you're not busy, that is?"

The older of the two nodded his head, "Come, we'll talk over a game of shogi."

"Okay…" He found himself following his father towards a corner of his father's office that had a small coffee table with a couch and an armchair. Shikaku moved around the furniture before pulling out the shogi board. Shikamaru moved to sit down in the arm chair, knowing his dad liked to lounge while playing shogi. They were silent as they put the pieces on the board, getting it ready to play with.

While they set up, Shikaku kept an eye on his son, watching the boy's movement with a calculating glaze as well as the boy's responses to the environment around him. Shikamaru couldn't keep eye contact for longer than a couple seconds and when he did, it was an odd look that the older man couldn't pinpoint. There was a line of anxiousness running along the teen's spine, Shikamaru's fingers messing with each other by his side as the shogi board was finally set. Shikaku moved first - he was always first - before looking up at his son. "So," He started, watching Shikamaru try to figure out what he should do for his own first turn, "you wanted to talk?"

He gave a quiet sigh, "Yeah, I did." Shikamaru made his move, his father instantly moving a piece afterward. He sighed dramatically; he shouldn't have moved there, the older man already knew what he was going to do. He thought for a few more seconds on how he should play the next piece before following his gut instinct and moving. "It's kind of… hard to explain, I guess." The teen tried, teeth gritted.

Shikaku listened quietly before making his next move, "Well, then just say it. Don't go beating around the bush if it's already hard to explain. It'll just make the words more painful."

Shikamaru found himself rolling his eyes before contemplating the trap he'd found himself only three moves into the game. "It's Naruto." He finally blurted out.

"Okay…" He waved a hand for him to continue, effectively taking out one of his son's shogi pieces.

"Do you remember the night of the Mizuki incident?" His words were hollow, pausing Shikaku's movements.

"Yes." How could he forget?

His son shifted awkwardly, a painful look in his eyes, "I think I just wanted to… talk about it again?"

He gave the teen a puzzled look, "Talk about it… how?"

"Like… You know how, with that ninjutsu stuff you've been teaching me lately, you make me redo them over and over again until I learn something new from it?" Shikamaru tried to explain exasperatedly, "Well, I want to talk about that night again… but go over it as if it were some… document, or something…" His words seemingly died in his throat, choking up quietly.

Shikaku halted in his final move, one that would've secured his victory in less than ten moves and instead gave his son a thorough look. Something was bothering him about that night, not that there wasn't anything to be bothered by, it was an extremely traumatic event for all of them. He reflected quietly for a moment on that night.

A knock sounded off loudly in the dead of the night, startling Shikaku out of his sleep. It was well after midnight if he had guessed correctly, meaning that whoever was knocking wasn't there to talk nice. He went to the door, his wife in tow albeit sleepily. The Nara clan leader swung open the door, staring face to mask at an ANBU agent. "Shikaku Nara."

"Yes?"

"Are you affiliated with Naruto Uzumaki?" The agent asked quickly.

Shikaku's eyebrows furrowed together. "He's friends with our son." Yoshino responded instead.

"You have been summoned to the Hokage's office and it's imperative you make your way there as soon as possible." The ANBU explained.

Yoshino grabbed her husband's shoulder, "Did something happen to Naruto?" Her voice was hushed as the chill of the night crawled its way into their home.

"I am unable to say at this moment as it has been classified."

"Classified?!" She gasped, glancing at Shikaku for comfort.

He looked down at the ground, eyebrows taut with tension, "Is he hurt?" The ANBU agent paused before merely disappearing, leaving a sinking feeling in his gut. He turned to the side to face his wife, moving down to kiss her forehead before going inside to grab a jacket. "I'll be back shortly." He whispered out. In the dead of the night, the Nara clan leader dashed as fast as possible.

"Dad?" Shikamaru's voice interrupted quietly.

He hadn't meant to zone out, but it happens from time to time. "Sorry, kiddo." He apologized loosely, "Maybe instead of going through it like a document, maybe you tell me why you're trying to remove yourself emotionally from it?"

"I… I'm not-"

"Son," He interrupted, "No one asks if they can talk about something traumatic as factual instead unless you're the Hokage asking for a mission report. What's going on?"

Shikamaru sighed, sagging into the armchair like a deflated balloon. "I'm struggling to… move on from it." He tried to say, "It's been almost two weeks since it happened, which I know isn't enough time to work through this… stuff, but I feel…"

"Useless?" Shikaku offered, "Like there's nothing you can do for your friend?"

"...yeah." He sighed deeply, "I feel like if I knew exactly what happened that night, I could… I don't know, make Naruto feel better?"

He gave his son a soft smile, "Shikamaru, that's not going to help and I think you know that."

"Could I try?"

"No." Shikaku was quick to say, feeling only partially upset after seeing how devastated his son looked, "It will only make you feel worse or you could start to pity Naruto for his circumstances."

"I would never pity him!" Shikamaru defended harshly, "He's my friend!"

He gave the teen a look that said 'lower the tone' very clearly before continuing, "My son, you already know what happened that night. There's not much else for you to know. Lord Third got that information out of him when he woke up, Naruto has told you some of it in confidence, you've heard about how Iruka ended up paralyzed, and you've been privy to confidential information like the attack on the academy and hospital. What more do you want to know?"

Shikamaru was at a loss of words, eyes glassy looking and utterly defeated. "I'm sorry…" He breathed out.

"You're confused about your feelings." The man explained softly, "You are fiercely protective of Naruto - he is your resolve. Because he is your resolve, you experiencing these conflicting emotions feels almost ten thousand times worse, right?" Shikamaru nodded. "You were traumatized." Shikaku said bluntly, "Naruto's heart stopped on the operating table; we know this. But he came back and healed fairly well. But you almost lost your best friend. You waited for him to wake up day and night at his bedside any chance you could, forgoing food and water in case his eyelid so much as fluttered. It's traumatic to wait for someone's condition to get better or worsen."

"But he's fine… sort of." He grumbled out, "I shouldn't be acting like this when he's the one who went through all of that."

"If you keep thinking like that, you won't be able to make him feel better." Shikaku sighed deeply, "Naruto's wired in on your emotional state at any given time. Sometimes I feel like he can sense when you're feeling different than usual more than your mother and you know how she is. If you're not feeling fine, he won't either. The longer you take to consider yourself traumatized by the entire situation, the longer you're going to hurt Naruto in the process."

"I would never…"

Shikaku's eyes hardened, "I know, kid, but it will happen if you don't address your own feelings. Trying to go through each and every part of the incident, desperate to dissect it will only hurt Naruto in the process. Be honest with him about how it felt for you, talk about it. It will help lessen how bad you feel and, in turn, will make Naruto feel better."

"...okay." Shikamaru stood up abruptly, "Um… thank you."

"Anytime, kid." He watched his son move towards the door before calling out to him, "Do you love Naruto?"

"Dad, I-"

"Because that kid loves you." Shikaku said quickly, "Remember that, Shikamaru."

"Yes, sir." With that, the boy left the room quickly. Shikaku watched the door for a long time after his son's departure, sighing deeply. His thoughts consumed him once more after their conversation, something in his son's tone taking him back to that night.

He swung the door open quickly, seeking out his wife and son as soon as possible. Yoshino was easy to find, the woman sitting on the couch waiting for his arrival. He'd been gone for only thirty or so minutes, but it was probably the worst thirty minutes of her life, awaiting dreaded news she knew was to come. "Get Shikamaru, now." Shikaku's voice was harsh but firm. His wife didn't say anything about the tone like she'd usually do. Instead, she practically ran to her son's room.

It was only a moment or so later that Yoshino rejoined her husband, the two anxiously waiting for Shikamaru to get out of bed. He was groggy, hair spiked all over the place and hanging out his forehead and around his shoulders wildly without a secure ponytail to keep it down. "What is it?" Shikamaru had mumbled out, a yawn escaping him before he weakly looked up at his parents.

Shikaku reached both his hands out until he cradled the boy's face, "My son, I need you to listen to me very carefully, okay?"

He must've had a look on his face or maybe the tone of his voice was too serious, but the teen immediately perked up. "Dad, you're kind of scaring me…" He whispered out, glancing at his mother for comfort. She too was in the dark.

"Shikamaru." His father called once more until the boy's eyes were on him, "Naruto was gravely injured tonight and is in the hospital."

"What…?" Shikamaru's eyes filled with tears instantaneously, "Dad… you're pulling my leg, r-right?"

Shikaku swallowed thickly, "I'm being serious, Shikamaru. Get your shoes on, we're going to the hospital."

His bottom lip wobbled as he dashed to the front door, clumsily throwing his sandals on. Yoshino grabbed a jacket to throw over her nightgown, sobbing loudly. Once they were all ready, the Nara family left for the hospital. It didn't take long distance wise, but it felt so much longer in their panic. In the emergency room, they were directed by nurses to the intensive care unit where Naruto would be waiting for them once he gets out of emergency surgery. In the ICU, there was a warm waiting room that did nothing to soothe their anxiety.

"D-Dad…" Shikamaru hiccuped, watery eyes looking up, "What h-happened?"

Shikaku smoothed down his son's hair, "Naruto was attacked by your teacher, Mizuki… He…" His voice warbled, coughing discreetly to try to dislodge the budding grief he was feeling in his chest. His eyes felt watery. "He was attacked viciously. When they got to him, he… he wasn't fairing very well." The older man explained with a strained voice.

"W-Why would Mizuki-sensei do that?!" Shikamaru's face dissolved into tears, his entire body shaking with fright, "Do you think he's o-okay?!" His eyes were wide as panicked breaths left his weak body. "He has to be okay!" Shikaku watched with a pained face as his son began to scratch his face, overcome with emotion to control himself.

Shikaku was deathly quiet as he moved to pull his son towards him, keeping the sobbing teen close as they waited in the waiting room. He tried to get Shikamaru to take a seat since the boy was completely shaking by this point, but nothing would get him to rest. "I'm sure the doctors are doing their best." He found himself whispering out, desperate to say something to soothe his son.

A terrible wheeze left the small boy as he sobbed, choking on his tears. He was a mess as his mother moved to cradle his face carefully. "Do you t-think he's g-g-going-" Shikaku deflated with warmth building in his eyes after hearing his son's painful words, crying out as if he was in physical agony. "Is… Is he going to d-die?!" He watched as Yoshino pulled their son as close as humanly possible, soothing his cries as much as she could.

Shikaku stepped forward, feeling weak in the knees as well, tugging his wife and son in a group hug. A tear slipped down his cheek, unable to stop it. The Nara's held one another and cried together helplessly as they played the most tortuous game of all.

The waiting game.