Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of the characters depicted below.

Setting: About 15 years after the events of manga chapter 238. Naruto and the rest of the former Rookie 9 are now aged 27.


Chapter 1: A Bad Omen

"Check."

A slim hand moved the threatened king to one side. The hand belonged to an attractive, blonde woman in a dark blue dress. Her unruly shoulder-length hair hung loose behind her. "That seemed too easy. Is something bothering you?"

"Not really. But I've had this feeling at the back of my mind for some time now that something big and very bad is about to happen. Like a war, maybe," a thin, dark-haired man with a slightly-abstracted expression on his face answered. A stubble of hair grew around his chin, as if he was undecided whether to be clean-shaven or have a goatee.

"Whatever gave you that idea? Ever since the Earth Country and Hidden Stone Village agreed to join the Coalition, there's been almost universal peace."

"I don't know. Call it an instinct. I just don't think the 5th's Coalition will last very long."

"Don't you trust the 5th's leadership and diplomacy skills?"

"Not really. I know her too well. She's always goofing off and getting Shizune to do the work. Typical of a woman. I wouldn't be surprised if this 'universal peace' of hers fell apart within a few years."

"Would you like to rephrase that comment about women?" the woman's voice hardened.

"Uh… never mind. Forget I said anything," the offending player cringed slightly.

"You're just being paranoid. Relax and enjoy this game. Wasn't that what you told me you wanted, back in our youth, before we were married? Besides, even if a war did break out, we wouldn't be involved anyway. We both stopped being shinobis after the peace was declared, so that we could be together."

"Yes, but I still have ties to the village. They are our major customers after all – nearly half of our goods goes straight to Konoha Hospital. And we both have precious people we want to protect. If a war really did break out, we may be forced to fight again, to protect this house, our friends, and especially Shikari. It's my duty as a man and head of this household."

As if on cue, a little blonde girl came barrelling out of the door, clutching a doll. "Mummy, mummy! Uncle made Takara dance! See!" She held the doll up to the female player, then seemed disappointed when it lay limp in her hand. She shook the doll and tried to make it stand on its feet. "Dance, Takara, dance."

A large man came out of the door with a rueful grin on his streaked face. "Sorry, you two. Have to keep in practice, you know. Kazekage made it a standing order for us to train everyday still, whether we have missions or not."

"Did you have to practise your puppet-playing on my daughter's doll, though? We asked you to babysit, not practise jutsus." The woman abandoned the game to comfort her daughter, who was starting to sniffle at the doll's lack of motion. The other player gave an absent-minded pat on the little girl's head as he studied the chessboard intently.

The large man looked at the board. "Looks like you're in a pretty bad position there," he commented to the other player. The player nodded and touched his fingers together in concentration. The little girl slowly subsided with a cough and a hiccup. Her mother took her off her lap and handed her over to the larger man.

"Now, be a good girl, Shikari, and go play with your uncle while your Mummy beats Daddy at chess."

The larger man snorted in laughter as he took the girl. "Hah! You haven't beaten him even once ever since you got married. And that was five years ago. That wedding seems to have permanently softened your brain." He got soundly thwacked by the woman.

"Go away and let me concentrate. And take Shikari out to watch the clouds. She'll like that more than you messing around with her dolls. She reminds me of her father more and more every day." She shot a sidelong look at her opponent. "Equally laid-back and lazy."

Her opponent ignored the comment as he moved a piece forward. "Check." With a parting snort, the man left them, carrying the little girl on his shoulder and pointing out the cloud formations in the sky.

The woman turned back to the chessboard and stifled a smile when she saw her husband's move. "You must be getting desperate." She moved her rook forward to block the attack as well as mount another. "Check"

The man noticed two figures on the hillside approaching the small cabin where they stayed. They were still a good distance off – too far away to make out at this moment. He shrugged. It wasn't worth the effort to investigate. If trouble was approaching, it was best to put it off as long as possible. His eyes returned to the board, then widened in shock. The woman was grinning.

"I don't believe it…"

"Go ahead. Make your move."

The man's hand trembled slightly as he made the only move available to him. His wife had forced him into a trap.

The woman, a vicious and terrifying smile on her face, moved her rook to the final position. "Checkmate"

"I can't believe I lost…"

"Finally, after five years of humiliation, I have my revenge!"

"It's a sign that something's going wrong with the universe."

"You're such a sore loser. Let me have my moment of triumph, won't you?"

"You had your moment of triumph the other night in bed."

The woman gasped and blushed slightly. Her husband grinned at her reaction to his uncharacteristic comment. Surprising her was one of the few things he loved to do. He shifted his gaze from the chessboard to the distant figures rapidly approaching, then back to the chessboard, and shook his head.

"It's a bad omen, I tell you."


Author's Notes:

I'm a big fan of ShikaTem stories and romances, even though a lot of the really good ones don't see them getting together successfully. This chapter is dedicated to miyawada, who is writing one of the better ShikaTem romances out there, entitled "Ienakatta Omoi".