Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto, etc. Borrowing for the purposes of entertainment, procrastination, and basically, escapism.


It was fifteen minutes past midnight of the thirtieth of October. This he could easily tell by the svelte shadows in his unlit room and by the placement of the glow-in-the-dark hands on the alarm clock resting at his bedside table. Instead of being at his bedside, he'd much rather be in bed, preferably sleeping. Of course, he wasn't going to complain if his bossy wife decided not to let him sleep yet.

It was a dangerous thing, to complain, that is. Though, having a wife who's still sexy even during pregnancy was dangerous, too.

"Really, Shikamaru. I'm concerned about my best friend."

Shikamaru sighed.

"Don't just sigh at me; I'm serious!"

"No doubt about you are," he muttered.

She looked like she was about to hit him. Yep, almost time for her to lose it.

He watched as her blue eyes blazed in her rage-mottled face and, call him a masochistic manic who so foolishly liked to live in the dangerous side it had be pathologic, thought her beautiful, appealing, and downright homicidal. Her braided blond hair whipped about her as she stalked about him, probably looking for an opening in his defenses. Which was probably a hard thing to do, he reflected, his tactic being passivity these days. Ah, yes. The bamboo were these humongous, knobbly grasses that were very useful, very strong, very grounded, and very enduring. They bended low with the winds dictations, thus they almost never break.


"All right, Ino," he said in a justifiably ornery voice. "You didn't have to hit me with your encyclopedia."

"For your information, this is one of your so-called bathroom reading material: 'The Dummies Everything Manual In Surviving Those 9 Months.' And, yes, it's an interesting read. Even more interesting is how the lazy genius Nara Shikamaru actually decided to do background research on his own volition." She nodded in satisfaction as she brandished her weapon. "And I'll quote, ahem, 'a man may feel confused and inadequate, thus withdrawing and ignoring the problem. The woman, who needs increased love and affection at such times, thus perceives this as unloving and unsupportive.' Now, I'll ask you again, my dear crotchety husband: do you really think, Sasuke, the Uchiha Sasuke, is capable of addressing my friend's emotional needs, especially as an expectant mother?!"


Ino stopped pacing. "What are you doing?" she asked in a terrible voice.

"My end of the deal," replied Shikamaru, as he watched a piece of paper burn in a small ceramic bowl.

Ino watched, jaws dropping, the reddish light of the dying flames painting a haggard starkness on her face. The finality of the smell of ashes seemed to have absorbed all her towering protective energy. She seemed almost dilapidated.

She carefully sat on their bed, feeling for the edge in the sudden darkness with one hand, her other hand stroking her distended belly lovingly.

"You actually waited till they got married," she observed.


"But she still needs to know what's in that piece of paper," she said quietly, uncharacteristically so.

"He has the rest of their lives to tell her."

"That long, huh?" Ino sighed. "D'you think he's telling her right now?"

"..." Shikamaru looked at his wife blankly. "It's their wedding night."

"With words, stupid."

He shrugged. Personally, it wasn't any of their business, he thought. Of course, he wasn't crazy enough to share that opinion.

She sighed again. "Poor Sakura-chan. And I thought I had it bad."

"What?" He raised an eyebrow as he helped her into bed. "All we did in our wedding night was talk."

"Let's say I've forgotten about the things you said." Her impish grin was visible even in the darkness. "Tell me again."

Shikamaru lay by her side, arms pillowing his head, and watched the subtly shifting shadows of the trees outside etched on his ceiling, watched the balding boughs lugubriously wave around like pompons.

And so, with the power of his heritage ironically cheering him on, he began.

December 19, 2004 (1:26am)

Wow. We reached the end. Thank you for reading. And a special thank you for all those who commented. Always, always appreciated. If you have any question, suggestion, complaints, anything, what I could have done differently, etc, I'll happily accept. Much room for improvement.

Thanks for helping me grow. : )

P.S. I wanted to write about how I got the idea for this story, but I'm pressed for time. Ah, well.