Choice:

A Terrible Splendor

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Author's Note: YAY last chapter! What a wild ride... this was definitely one of my more serious fics. Next is going to be a good ol' NejiSaku... except, contrary to my regular style, they won't know each other very well in this next fic, so I'll have to challenge myself to really make their relationship grow, y'know? Fun stuff. Fun stuff. Anyways, I hope you guys all enjoyed the story. I know I did!

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Act VIII: Gorgeous Smile

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Nara Shikamaru's brown eyes opened slowly at the not unpleasant touch on his stomach. A light weight rested there that hadn't been there before, and it had disturbed his sleep. Sighing slightly, the lazy jounin opened his eyes fully, looking at his stomach to figure out one of his daily morning puzzles.

A shock of pink hair spilled over his bare stomach and chest, with a sliver of peachy skin underneath. The same skin covered a hand that was on his chest, connected to a small lump that was moving up and down with light breaths.

Smiling slightly at the solution to his puzzle, the twenty-two-year-old ANBU turned slightly and reached for his hair tie, knotting his hair into a low ponytail gently as to not wake the sleeping form on top of him. He caressed her face gently, tucking a strand of silky pink hair behind her ear, and closed his eyes again, leaning against the headboard of the bed.

He remembered a couple years ago, when she had saved his life from a fatal disease and killed one of the Three Lengendary Sannin. He remembered when she had woken up, how he had kissed her roughly and passionately and had proclaimed for the first time (of many) that he loved her beyond all words. He remembered his proposal... awkward as it was, it was successful. He had taken her out to dinner, given her flowers, done all the things that Ino had said to do... and then, when he kissed her, he'd slipped a ring onto her ring finger of her left hand. "Marry me?" he'd breathed into her mouth.

He remembered the way she'd turned away, looking at the ring, and he remembered the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. She was refusing. Then, all of a sudden, she'd practically knocked him down with a tight hug and covered his face with kisses, an exhuberant 'yes'. He remembered their wedding, how beautiful she had looked in the pale yellow kimono, how happy everyone had been for them. He remembered how Naruto and Sasuke and Kakashi and Sai, who had come back for the wedding, had embraced her and kissed her on the cheek. They had been her only family till then.

He remembered when she had announced she was pregnant, the way she had looked ecstatic and worried all at once. He remembered the day of the birth, when Tsunade had gone in and helped her through it, when he had gone in and squeezed her hand and kissed her fingers, and he remembered the inexplicable joy and pride and love he'd felt when he'd held the infant for the very first time. That had been a year and a half ago, and now their child, their son Satoya (named after Sakura's late father), was probably still sound asleep in his room.

Shikamaru looked out the window, watching pale shafts of light come in through the clouds. It was a good day for cloud-watching, he decided, if he got enough time alone to actually do it. What with a house of their own, and constant droppings-in from friends and family, not to mention the lovable yet demanding Satoya, he hadn't watched clouds in what seemed like forever.

Sakura stirred slightly, wrapping an arm around his waist. "G'morning," she whispered into his skin, smiling.

"Morning." He smiled at her, and she looked up, emerald green meeting dark brown. "Y'know what?"

"Nani?" she asked sleepily, sitting up and laying her head against his shoulder.

"I was thinking about when Satoya was born," he answered lazily, kissing her forehead.

She smiled slightly. "Painful yet beautiful. What about it?"

"Remember how you were so positive it was a boy?"

"I remember. I was right." She smiled a gorgeous smile reserved only for him and pecked him on the cheek. "What of it?"

He smiled. "I remember how I kept on wishing it didn't have your hair."

She sighed. "Not this again, Shika."

"Well, wouldn't that be horrible, though? To be a boy and have pink hair?"

Sakura rolled her eyes. "I think it would be cute."

"Cute for you, maybe. He'd be so teased, though!" Shikamaru protested. "I'd have to dye it or something."

"You wouldn't dare!" Sakura said, horrified and amused. She knew he would have never died it. She'd been told numerous times that her hair was marvelous. "What if we had a pink-haired girl?"

"Well, that'd be fine," Shikamaru answered. "The girls are a bit high-maintenance though, especially pink-haired ones."

She smacked him lightly on the shoulder. "Hey, hey! Watch it! I can break your nose as soon as heal it, you remember."

He winced. "I remember. Remind me never to call you Pinky again."

Sakura laughed. "I think you'll keep that in mind without your prompting."

"Mommy?"

The jounin woman looked up from her husband and smiled brightly. "Morning, Satoya. Come on up."

The toddler took his father's strong hands and clambered awkwardly up the bed, snuggling in between them. "Guess what, Mommy?"

"Nani?"

"Uncle Naruto and Uncle Sasuke said they'd teach me Rasengan and Chidori today!" Satoya announced proudly.

Shikamaru sighed. "At two years old? Not this again."

Sakura muttered under her breath. "That is so like those two. I bet you anything Hinata-chan doesn't know about this, or Naruto wouldn't be doing it. I can't really stop Sasuke, though." She looked at her toddler. "Well, when you see your Uncle Sasuke, tell him that if he teaches you Chidori before I say so, I'll give him a taste of his favorite super-strength, eh?" She cracked her knuckles, and Satoya giggled.

"Aa, Mommy! I'll tell him!"

"And that's that," Sakura said, satisfied. "Now, who wants breakfast?"

"I do! I do!" Satoya hopped on the bed, and Sakura picked him up, holding his hand as she put him on the floor. "Well then, let's go make some pancakes. Shika, come on down, okay? The dishes are waiting." She winked at him and blew a kiss before following the tug on her arm down to the kitchen.

Shikamaru smirked slightly and leaned back again, looking at the sun. No cloud-watching today, it seemed. It would be a busy Saturday.

Oh, well. No matter how troublesome it got, he loved it, didn't he?

And Sakura would somehow always find time to watch the clouds with him, anyway.

He grinned, recalling the only words he remembered saying besides 'I love you' after his sickness.

"Not troublesome at all."