A/N: This story is a long epic that puts the Naruto characters about six and a half years forward in time from their initial age to around nineteen years of age. There is some action, some drama, comedy and romance. Hopefully you'll find the plot believable!

I am pulling story elements from the manga up until the time jump Kishimoto-san just made at Chapter 245. This fic is AU for anything that happens after that although I will incorporate some things from later chapters. Anime watchers shouldn't be fazed, but there is possibility for spoilage.

Finally there will be a mild yaoi relationship with my personal fav KakaIru, but to those who wish to avoid it I'm going to identify those chapters upfront. The focus will be on romance and character development not the "insert Tab A in Slot B" aspects of love and sex so please don't worry yourselves too much about it!

The main character is Shikamaru, but Ino, Sakura, Naruto, Sasuke, Neji, Iruka and Kakashi all play major roles. Pretty much everyone makes an appearance!



Disclaimer: Alas, Naruto is Kishimoto-san's and will never be mine

Chapter One – Domestic Bliss

The dawn found Yamanaka Ino walking briskly along the small streets of Konoha Village. Her obsession with keeping on schedule had taken over legs this morning and all too soon she arrived at her destination. It was early summer and before the noon hour the air was still dewy and cool. Ino relished the simple act of breathing in the fresh clean smell the air had in this season. In no time at all she had reached the yellow-brick apartment building that had become her regular stop for the last nineteen months.

"It isn't the nicest property in town," she commented to herself for what seemed like the hundredth time, "..., but for a first place out of your parents' house it isn't bad either." Climbing the three flights of steps that signaled the end of her journey Ino switched the bag of groceries she was carrying to her other hip and fished her keys from her pocket. The door was sticking a little this morning as she opened it, stumbling into the dim one room apartment.

Steadingly herself Ino glanced around to survey the home of her boytoy. Two mismatched chairs faced a square little table whose sole purpose was to hold his cherished Go board. Set with small black and white stones that made it always seem abandoned in mid-play. Piles of laundry and scrolls along with a couple of futon cushions covered the remainder of the floor space. She noted that all the sharp pointy things were in the designated corner, which made her pleased. The kunai and underwear pile was a recipe for disaster. The final piece of real furniture was a black painted coffee table that functioned as both a dining room and home office.

She placed her parcel on the counter of the small kitchenette that lined the near wall before going over to push open the curtains to let some light in. The drapes revealed a pair of sliding glass doors that led out to a small railed balcony.

Ino sighed to herself.

A laundry line was tied up blocked the only saving grace of his flat, which was a surprising nice view of the village looking east. Turning back she spied the one corner where the sun's rays did not yet reach. In its shadowy preserve lying on an uncovered mattress was the "master" of this fine abode. Sprawled on his back with the sheets twisted around him, he was almost indistinguishable from the other piles on the floor. Ino could still hear him snoozing away lightly despite all the noise she must have made coming in.

She walked over to the small gas stove next to the sink counter where she had put the groceries and in a deliberate fashion picked up the largest pot on the range Ino tested its weight in her hand and with an approving nod dropped it with a metal crash back on to the burner. She turned back with a satisfied look to see her results.

The boy had bolted upright to stare at her wide-eyed. His long hair, freed from the constraints of its ponytail stuck out at crazy angles from his head.

"Ino!" he yelled.

"Rise and shine, Shikamaru-kun!"

With a strangling sound he collapsed back down to the futon.

"Sometimes you worry me, " she said starting in on making breakfast. "You know I could blindfold Choji, spin him like top and shove him in here... you probably still wouldn't wake up. It's just not healthy for a ninja to sleep that heavily."

"Argh! It's cause this working everyday thing is so much of a pain," he groaned. He lied there for a while looking at his ceiling and tried to call the desire to get up. It was a daunting task and one he had no intention of winning at.

He rolled onto his side to watch Ino's back as she prepared breakfast in the kitchen area. Like always she had the energy of ten hungry tigers. Shikamaru also noticed she was wearing her favorite color (and his on her), purple. It was just like her old genin outfit.

"She looks really cute today," he thought.

"Hey Ino," he said coyly, "why don't we both just call out sick for about a week." His tone deepened a little as he dragged a finger along the pillow, "... and then we can, you know... spend all day in bed together."

The rhythmic percussion of Ino's chopping on the cutting board did not even skip a beat as she gave him her sobering response. "Yes, and then my father would kick down the door and skin you alive. If you miraculously survived that event, then your mother would come by to finish the job… and honestly, I've put too much work into you to start training another boyfriend."

He smiled. They had a different version of the same conversation at least once a week. Shikamaru rose scratching his head. He grabbed some clothes and his ninja gear and wandered into the leaking closet his landlord called a bathroom. By the time he came out breakfast waited on the table and Ino was outside taking his dry clothes off the line. The entire apartment had been straightened a little here and there, that classic woman's touch.

He sat down eagerly to a simple meal. Ino was a staunch traditionalist when it came to food. Miso soup, rice balls wrapped in nori and some of her mouthwatering grilled fish leftover from dinner last night were laid out before him. He paused for a second in momentary appetite loss. Shikamaru loved Ino's cooking, but he really couldn't wait until leftovers weren't such a major part of their diet.

The Yamanakas while not powerful were a pretty wealthy clan in the village. Their flower shop and hothouse business provided fresh produce year round to all Konoha and they had almost no competition. Ino's suite of rooms in her parent's house alone was over half the size of the home he grew up in.

His family managed the Nara forest preserve, which was supposedly this all-important task given to his great grandfather by the first Hokage. The deer found there were considered rare and valuable medically. Whatever... it all sounded good, but the stipend the village paid his dad to play park ranger didn't exactly have them living the high life growing up.

"I can't wait until I get that raise in pay next month, " he thought. Although to be truthful with himself it wasn't going to make a whole hell of a lot of difference. He had been saving up for over a year now and there were just a couple more weeks until he would have enough to do as he had been planning.

"I should probably talk to dad too," he thought decidedly. If he had any problems he could always borrow the money from him and pay it back later. He was finishing his second rice ball when Ino came in with a neatly folded pile. She placed it down and grabbed the teapot off the burner before sitting down with him. Shikamaru took the pot from her and went straight to pouring a cup for each of them.

"So how is your summer class going?" he asked.

"Oh fine, you know how it is. The summer cram classes are for the kids who are have difficulty with certain jutsu. Today I've got five of the chibis and we working on Bushins. It's funny, there's Kanae who can't transform into people, but she can henge into any animal she's ever seen, and then there's this little boy Sai who..."

Shikamaru could really care less about kids or the academy, but Ino was so happy being a student teacher. Working under Iruka-sensei who they now called a 'headmaster' she taught all the students under the age of ten. She couldn't have older kids due to the fact she never went for Chuunin again after the year he passed. It never seemed to bother her though and given the risks in taking the exam it didn't bother him a whole lot either.

"Are you listening!" Ino asked.

Shikamaru gave a start.

"Sure! Bushin no jutsu today! Kanae can only turn into pigs, there's some Sai kid..."

Ino laughed. She got up and came around to his side of the table and after finding a brush somewhere on the floor she sat behind him. This was another ritual of theirs. Ino swore he didn't know how to take care of his hair.

She undid the leather string holding up his tail and then with a practiced hand brushed the knots out.

"I still don't understand how you have such good hair," she said "I know women who would give their right arm to have it this thick and soft."

Shikamaru barely heard her. He was too busy savoring the feel of her touch. Ino's soft, warm hands slid along his neck and behind his ears while in the act of brushing. He suppressed a shiver as the tingles went down his spine. He'd never tell her, but for him it was one of the most innocently erotic things they did together. She deftly wound the leather cord backup to finish the job.

The chuunin felt very at peace with the world at that moment. Ino cleared the table as he wandered out the patio doors to get a breath of fresh air. He was doing some cloud watching when he felt her beside him.

"Shikamaru, I've decided I want to have a baby."

The old wooden railing they were leaning on gave a sudden squeal of protest as Shikamaru gripped the thing with terror-born strength. He forced himself to pry his hands off it as he turned to her.

"Ino, honey, our parents would flip if you got pregnant. The only way they would allow that to happen is if we got married."

She looked up at him with a pleased expression. "See! I tell my mom all time how smart you are."

He couldn't help rolling his eyes. "I've told you before give us some time to each get settled a little more, then of course when everything's ready I'll..."

Ino was already inside the apartment again as the glass door slammed with a force that made him cringe. It really couldn't take more than a few hits like that. He to took a moment to prepare himself for the worst before walking in.

"Ino?" he called in a soothing voice. "Baby, I'm sorry I know..."

She was facing the sink and he could hear her breathing heavily. As she turned to him, she appeared on the edge of tears. However breaking down in sobs was not the style of Yamanaka Ino. She picked up the spatula on the counter and wielded it at him like a weapon.

"No! Shikamaru you don't know anything. Sometimes... sometimes I feel like we are going great and everything's going to happen, like I want, like I think we want... and then you change... you shut off from me and then I can't tell what's going on..."

He hated to see her upset like this. He reached out a hand to her.

"Ino, just listen... "

The spatula clattered into the sink.

"No! Shut up, you listen! I don't care if we're poor, I don't want that... I don't need money. If I did I'd be after Neji or even Choji. I'm sick and tired of it. Tired... tired of you thinking you're not good enough or... or you need something more to..."

She threw hands up in disgust.

"God! If I wanted a relationship like this I'd go back to trying to steal Sasuke from Sakura again. At least he's... eek!"

Shikamaru had moved with speed only a ninja could possess. He had scooped her up from where she stood and in the blink of an eye they were back out on the balcony, but this time he stood poised like statue on corner of that old rickety railing. He stared at her with a fierce stony expression and his voice contained a heat she rarely ever heard.

"What makes you think I would ever let any of them take you away from me."

Ino felt the wind blow over them as he stood with her perched high about the pavement. A small shudder passed through her that she knew had little to do with the breeze or the fear of falling.

She forgot sometimes that under that mask of affable laziness the person she was in love with a ninja of the Leaf. At that moment he looked more made of tempered steel than mere flesh and bone.

"He's gotten so strong," she realized.

In the last couple years the change was so apparent, and it wasn't something she alone recognized. Everyone in the village who wasn't a complete idiot saw it. She was so proud of him and at the same time, even more, a little afraid.

"It's scary to love someone this much," Ino thought.

She put a hand gently to his face and looked into his dark eyes.

"I want you to know we are on the same side," she said. "When you can, I want you to share your troubles with me. And above all else I need you to know I love you no matter what."

His face softening Shikamaru let her down. Ino stepped easily to the railing as a lifetime of ninja training gave her the same surefooted grace he possessed. There bathed in the morning sun they kissed deeply, breaking after a while to merely hold each other closely.

Ino looked up at him finally and smiled. "This is way too melodramatic," she said. To his surprise, she broke free and jumped down to the porch. He swayed comically with windmilling arms to correct his balance.

"Go to work." she told him. "I'll clean up here before I go. Don't worry; my classes are all in the afternoon today. And if you're mission is longer than a daytrip send a note through the administration office."

Shikamaru's face was still a little serious as he leaned down to he speak with her, though his voice had switched back to that pleasant smoky tone she only heard when he was being a flirt.

"Just give me a few weeks until the Fire Night festival Ino and then I'll make you the happiest women in the world." With that he disappeared in a grand flourish of nin-smoke.

"Showoff," she muttered with an indulgent smile.

Ino couldn't help humming happily to her as she tidied up before heading back to the family flower shop. Shikamaru's parting words had put her in a chipper mood.

Later locking the door to leave she mused, "The best part of getting in a fight with your boyfriend has to be making up at the end."