Ahh, the homecoming... I've looked forward to writing this since I started this fic. Tear drop. I feel just like J.K Rowling when the 7th Harry Potter comes out. Except I'm not ridiculously rich. Stupid copywrite laws...
Anyway, I just want to thank everybody whose read and reviewed Prison Camp. You people give me hope for humanity. I tried to make this very good and I am proud of it. Hopefully you all will like it too. Enjoy.
Shika… Shika where are you?
"Mom?" Shikachi's voice rocked Ino out of her thoughts. Her son would be three soon. He'd inherited his father's big brain, already talking in complete proper sentences, though not a lot with as slight lisp. His black hair was pulled into a small pony tail exactly as Shikamaru's had always been. Shikachi knew exactly what his father looked like from the picture that rested near Ino's bedside. His uncle Choji, his grandparents and of course his mother, told him everything there was to know about Shikamaru Nara, the late great shadow user of Konoha. Actually it was only his grandparents that thought their son was dead. Choji still held out hope and Ino wouldn't hear otherwise.
"Mmm?" She opened her eyes. Ino slept late in the day now. Nights were terrifying. After three years, she still had nightmares about her time at Kobe and what might be happening to Shikamaru. And in the dark, quiet desolation of her own house, Ino couldn't remember where she was. So she slept in the day time, in case woke up.
"You said we could go out today." Shikachi reminded, "We need more wild flowers."
"That's right." Ino sat up. After Shikachi's birth, she'd officially given up being a ninja. That was how it worked in most families with the exception of the Inuzukas. Now Ino worked two jobs, one at Yamanka Flowers and one at the Nara's pharmacy. Shikachi liked the pharmacy work better, though not nearly as much since his grandfather died last year. Yoshino Nara was retired now. She had buried her husband and, so she believed, her only son. Now she took pleasure in her deer, her daughter in law and Shikachi, the last of the Nara clan.
"Can we go?" Shikachi was impatient. That was his only noticeable difference from Shikamaru. Whereas the Shadownin would probably still be asleep at ten am, his son had been up for hours and was ready to get things done.
Shikamaru will teach him different when he comes back. Ino thought rising slowly from her bed.
If he comes back. That nagging, terrifying thought still lumbered after her. Ino did not dare to speak it out loud, not even to Choji or Ayume. Even in the back of her mind it terrified her.If he comes back. That was a huge if. He'd promised he would. Three times he'd promised and she had promised she wait for him. But three years was a long time to wait, a long time not to know what happened to him and a long time to raise a child by herself. He wasn't dead, Ino was sure of that. She would know the second that that man left the earth because her heart would break. Ino's heart was such a fragile thing nowadays. Shikachi was all that kept it beating now. Her only reason to live.
"Yes, we can go." She smiled for her son's sake, "Find your shoes, okay?"
Shikachi left obediently and Ino stepped into the shower. It would take him a good thirty minutes to locate said articles. Ino knew that because she was in the habit of hiding Shikachi's shoes. The small boy never kept track of them anyway and he had been known to leave in the wee hours of the morning if they were easily accessible. This way Ino got to shower.
"Mom?" His voice had the same irritated twinge as Shikamaru's, "Did you put my shoes on top of the wefrigewator?"
"Maybe…" She hated to lie to the boy but… he was getting too damn smart from her sanity. When the boy's father came back, Ino had no doubt she would completely lose her mind. One Shikamaru was boggling enough…two-!
Two would be fantastic. Ino sighed; giving way to hot water and memories, Oh, Shika, if only you could see him…he's almost as smart as you. If only you could see him…if only I could see you.
He chided himself uselessly; this is what you get for being so damn cock sure! Where the hell am I?
Shikamaru really had no idea why anyone thought he was a genius. He was a damned idiot! Five years in prison, five years of getting screwed over (figuratively as well as literally) and he couldn't even find the way back to his village.
All these trees look the same! He thought, frustration mounting, It's been five goddamn years, things can't have changed that much! I don't even know where the hell I started from!
It could have been worse. He could have been out wandering the desert still. Kobe was located on the border of The Land of Sand and The Land of Grass. Shikamaru thought briefly of trying to get to Sunagakure and making contact with Temari, who could easily get him back to Konoha. Their Kazekage, Gaara, who was also Temari's brother, owed a debt (apparently) to Konoha, and would have been happy to help. But Shikamaru did not want to waste time. He knew the way (he thought). Just go east through grass and bam! You're there! But The Land of Fire was a large country and Konoha was not call the village hidden in leaves for nothing. After about a week of heavy travel, living off whatever he could beg or steal, Shikamaru had managed to get himself thoroughly lost.
As it had been for the past five years, the thought of Ino kept him going. She was waiting for him and, with the exception of his mother; Ino was the most impatient person he'd ever met. Three years she'd been waiting, she was bound to be pissed. He could handle pissed.
This is looking more familiar… He thought grudgingly, wishing he'd brought food and/or cigarettes. His addiction had suffered horribly in prison. The smell of flowers wafted to his nose…
"I'm coming. I'm coming." Ino had pulled her hair back into its traditional long pony tail. It had grown back to its original length since she'd been forced to whack most of it off three years ago. Most of Konoha was off the streets to day, at the office or training in the forest if they were ninja. Shikachi ran ahead, the soft patch, patch, patch of his shoes were the only sound.
Shikachi knew why his mother moved so slowly. His father's absence was a constant weight on her shoulders. True, she acted happy. She laughed and smiled when something amused her or made her glad, but the smiles were empty and there was hollowness in her laugh.
"We're here." He said, gesturing at the end of the village.
"Not yet." Ino said, stepping outside the walls, "Now."
"You wemember what we need?" Shikachi asked.
"Wildflowers, I was told." Ino said, "Why don't you go find some?"
Shikachi raised an eyebrow, "What're you going to do?"
"Watch the clouds for a bit." She smiled up at the sky, "Don't worry, I'll catch up with you."
Shikachi sighed in a manner that reminded her far too much of his father, and left Ino to her musings. She smiled and settled comfortably on the grass. This was the place of her childhood. So many memories. Picking flowers with her mother, training with her father, barbeques with Choji and…
It shouldn't hurt so much to think about him. Ino thought, sadly, it's been three years. It shouldn't sting like this.
But it did. Ino knew that feeling sorry for herself would not bring him back, nor would it help her raise Shikachi. But it was so hard. It was so hard not to think about him. Everything was a reminder. Shikachi, Choji, the clouds, the sun, the scent of the flowers, the man standing in the shadows at the edge of the forest, watching her…
She couldn't make out his features from that far off but there was something familiar about his shape. He stood tall, but not strong, in the midst of the shadows, like a soldier who'd seen too many battles. Ino stood, shading her eyes from the sun. She could not see much more. His hand rested upon a tree and his head was toped with a small black pony tail.
No, Ino. A voice spoke softly from the back of her mind, don't do this to yourself. Its not him. Don't get your hopes up. How often have you seen that shape only to find it wasn't there?
But Ino's heart beat had already quickened and she trembled softly. Her body knew, despite whatever her brain might tell her, she knew. The figure moved slowly into the gleaming sunlight and she knew him. How could she not? She knew those arms. They had held her closely as tears fell from her eyes. She knew those eyes, they had watched after her for so many years. She knew those lips and the sounds they made when they spoke her name. It was his name that passed through her lips now, barely a whisper because she feared he would shatter and disappear into the wind again.
She was crying the last time he saw her as well. Shikamaru had a feeling that these tears were slightly different than the others. She was taller now and she had paled visibly when he approached but no much had changed. He still wanted to end her tears, to grab her and hold her until he knew she was alright but…he was so goddamn tired. She looked at him, her lips trembling and he felt like he should say something but no words came. Fortunately, Ino always knew what to say.
He staggered but managed to stay on his feet as she hit him running. He breathed deeply and the smell of her… it was some sort of flower, he was sure, welcomed him home. Ino held him tightly, tears pouring from her eyes and his arms closed gently around her. She was so soft. A sigh slipped passed his lips and Shikamaru listened joyfully to her babble.
"Shikamaru…" Her voice was choked with happiness, "You came back. You came back."
" 'Course I came back, Ino." He whispered, "I told you I would."
"I know." She hugged him tighter, "I know you did…I missed you so much."
"Ino..." He said in a husky voice, wiping the tears from her eyes. Ino smiled and placed her hand on his cheek, kissing him softly. It ended fair too quickly for Shikamaru and he kissed her again coming up only for air.
"Shikamaru…" Her arms reached far around him, sliding up and down his body, making sure he was all there.
"God, I love you."
He would have been very glad to do so, many times over, if only he hadn't looked passed her shoulder. Later, he would decide that it was so much better for everyone that he had looked instead of just going at it, but a chill was sent straight up his spine. A little ways off, watching them with wide eyes of hazel was a carbon copy of himself. Albeit much smaller. The boy, he supposed it was a boy though the thing look to be of an age where gender was not entirely obvious, couldn't have been more that three. It was clothed simply, an orange shirt with some symbol in the middle of the chest, light blue shorts with it's black hair bunched into a ponytail on top of his head.
"Ino…" Shikamaru stared, trying to keep his voice calm, "What is that?"
Ino glanced over her shoulder and smiled softly. She had honestly forgotten the boy was there. Who could blame her? Who could blame Shikamaru, coming home to a son he didn't know he had?
"That…" She tried to keep down her laughter, "That would be your son."
"Oh." He'd let her go, much to Ino's disappointment, and crouched down, staring at the child in great confusion, "When… did I get a son?"
"He'll be three in April."
"April…" The mathematics of it all suddenly dawned on him and he looked back at her, "But…there was only that one time…"
Ino shrugged, "Once is all it takes."
"Uh huh." He looked at the kid again, "What's your name?"
"Shikachi Nara." The voice was small and father and son regarded each other for a few moments in silence. Then Shikamaru said,
"That's a good name. I'm Shikamaru."
Shikachi nodded, "I know. You're my father."
"I guess so." The boy must have taken a tip from its mother is displays of affection. He hit Shikamaru like a bullet with a strangle hold around his neck. Shikamaru couldn't help it. He grinned and Ino laughed softly.
"Shikachi…" She smiled down at the two of them, "Your father will need to breathe eventually."
"Its fine, Ino." Shikamaru gasped as his son loosened his grip. His arms wrapped around the little body and hoisted it onto his shoulders.
This is my kid. This is my flesh and blood.
The idea was not as scary as he thought it would be. He looked back at Ino and smiled. She smiled back and walked forward, slipping her hand into his. She would have to wait to welcome him back fully. It was alright. She was just happy he was back, safe with her.
Shikamaru's stomach grumbled, "Ino, where's Choji? I need to eat something."
His father had returned and, for the first time that he could remember, Shikachi Nara heard his mother laugh.
The boy slept silently. It had taken him quite sometime to get Shikachi down and asleep but he had done it. Now the boy's gentle breathing was the only sound that penetrated the still night of Konoha and Shikamaru wondered again how he had managed to get there. He'd given up on Konoha, given up on ever seeing Ino or Choji again and yet, here he was. Safe, home, alive. With a kid, no less.
"What are you doing?" Ino came up softly behind him.
"I still can't believe it." He whispered, draping his arm around her shoulders, "What a day."
"Mmm." She leaned comfortably against him, "There's another one tomorrow."
"Yeah…" He smiled softly, "We've got a kid, Ino."
"I noticed." Ino's amusement was deeply apparent, "You forget, Shika, I carried him around for nine months. Come to bed."
"I told him I'd stay here."
"He'll be fine." Ino said, slightly irritated at Shikamaru's level of devotion. He was a great father but she ought to come first. She turned and kissed him soft on the lips. "Come to bed." She repeated.
Shikamaru's eyebrows raised and he smiled at her. Ino grinned but he glanced over his shoulders to the sleeping boy, "Much as I'd enjoy that… won't it wake the boy?"
"It's been three years, Shika. Yes, it will wake the boy."
"That's why god invented locked doors." She said, reaching behind her and closing the door, "Shikachi will still be there in the morning."
"You are an unnatural mother."
"And you are an unnatural man unless you come to bed right now!" Ino was now sorely displeased with him.
Shikamaru raised his eyebrows and frowned at her, "I'll show you unnatural." He threatened.
"That was my intention." She smiled and dragged him toward the back bed room.
It took him a moment to remember where he was. The room was dark and all was still except for the crickets outside and Ino's soft breathing. Shikamaru glanced down beside him. Yes, she was still there, her eyes still closed and her hair long and yellow. Shikamaru sighed as his heart beat began to slow. He supposed it would take him a while to get used to this. Not being scared all the time…
"Shika?" Apparently Ino was as heavy of a sleeper as he thought, "Shika, what's wrong?"
"Nothing." He said, "Bad dream."
"Take a wild guess."
"No, I changed my mind." She wrapped her arms around him, "I don't want to know. Are you better now?"
"Yeah, go back to sleep."
"Naw…" She kissed him softly on his ear, "I can't. You woke me up. Now you've got to keep me occupied."
Shikamaru smiled and kissed her neck, "I think I can think of something." She grinned as he rolled on top of her.
"You usually can." She reached up, putting her arm round his neck, "I love you, Shikamaru."
"And I love you."
It was not long before Ino was pregnant again with their second child.. Thankfully, Shikamaru decided he ought to "make an honest woman out of her" before she truly began to show. It was a small wedding, close friends and family only. Needless to say Sakura Haruno was not invited. Their daughter Kuina inherited her mother's looks and her father's attitude. Both children excelled in ninjetsu, when they put in the effort
The search for Uchiha Sasuke continued but Shikamaru Nara was not a part of it. Ino decided a long time ago that Sasuke was not near worth the trouble he caused and would not allow his name to be spoken in her house. She was a busy woman between two children and two jobs, not to mention her "lazy ass" husband.
Shikamaru did go back to being a ninja. Ino was against it at first but relented after he spent three weeks lying around the house. Mostly, he served Konoha as a professor at the ninja academy but that didn't stop Ino from worrying when he did get a mission. Ever the woman of action, as soon as both her children were safe at the academy, Ino rejoined the troops. She said it was to watch Shikamaru's back. Shikamaru said it was because she liked to kill things.
Shikachi proved to be a skilled ninja and married Cho Akimichi when he was twenty six years old. Kuina, like her mother, savored independence but had a brief, passionate affair with the nephew of Kiba Inuzuka. Shikamaru did not especially prove but Kuina was the most troublesome person he'd ever met so he did not complain.
Shikamaru died in his sleep at the age of 89 and three months. Ino was depressed but not heart broken and she followed him to the grave with in the year. Theirs was not a story of war, not a story of grand sacrifice for their country. Both agreed they would have died for Konoha, but they lived for each other.
Sigh. It's all over. No, I didn't kill Sasuke. Shikamaru and Ino just decide revenge wasn't worth it. That and I'm lazy. So you'll have to wait untill Kishimoto kills him instead (heres hoping) or you can use your imagination and make up his death (maybe Sakura kills him, that'd be cool)
So basically it's happily ever after for everyone in the story and us too. At least I hope for us too. I really hope you guys liked this and I hope you'll come back and read some new fics by me. Thank you again for your wonderful support. You are the best!