This is a sequel to Dream. You don't have to read Dream to read this story. Inspired by the tv show, Crash Test Mommy. A pretty long oneshot.

Dedicated to Flaming Beauty because she asked for it. Sorry it took so long though!

Shikamaru x Ino. Back off if you're not a fan.

Naruto is forever and ever Masashi Kishimoto's.


REALITY

by ArAshiMitArAshi


"Stop brooding," Ino shot an amused look to a man sprawled in the bed, wearing nothing but boxers. His shoulder-length jet black hair spilled on the pillow, the sheets twisted messily covering half his long, lean body. Shikamaru was lying on his left side, a pillow was tucked under his arm. He wasn't sleeping, but instead, his eyes were wide open, shooting pitiful puppy eyes to his wife, who at that time was trying her best to get dressed, ignoring the silent plea coming from her husband.

"I'm not going away for long," Ino spoke again, tying the kunai pouch on her right thigh. Shikamaru grunted. "The mission is located not too far from Konoha and I'll probably be back by dinner. So stop making that face already, okay?"

"I just hate the thought of spending the day alone in this house with two little devils you left me with, Ino."

"Those little devils are you sons, Shikamaru."

"You know I'm not capable doing everything you always do." Shikamaru only showed his weak (and whining) side to his wife. "What am I gonna do without you?"

"Oh, do your role. Be a father," Ino smiled amusedly. Since she gave birth to their first born, Shikayume, she had taken fewer missions so that she could focus more on her family. She spent most of her time at home and sometimes at the hospital, and only took simple missions around Konoha. She rarely left her family for long missions; that was why when it came to time like this, Shikamaru was usually pissed—because he just didn't know what to do.

As a wife, Ino did all the work. And when she wasn't at home, the job fell into Shikamaru's hand.

"Do the laundry, wash the dishes, clean up the living room and sweep the floor, tidy up the bed, feed the kids—" Shikamaru nodded a few times while listening to his wife babbling about the things that needed to be done that day. Half-heartedly. "—makes sure Yume do his homework, no fighting between the kids, don't let them eat junk food—give them something nutritious, makes sure Naru gets his nap—and Yume, too, if you can. Stop by mom's house to take the chocolate cake she made for us—" The list went on and on.

Actually, Shikamaru knew exactly what to do, he was just lazy.

"And last but not least, don't forget to do it all, okay? Don't be lazy." Ino neared the bed and leaned closed enough to give Shikamaru a peck on the cheek. "Come on, now. The sun is almost up. You might to get up and do something before they wake up."

Shikamaru took the last sentence as an alarm to get out of the bed. Ino was right; he better do something, at least half of the list before the two little devils woke up because only Kami knew how troublesome it was going to be when they fully awake. Without bothering to put any clothes on, he sent Ino to the door and gave her a long, lingering kiss before she disappeared in the midst of early morning sunlight.

His troublesome day started now.


Shikamaru was regarded as one of the top Konoha strategists without anything. His excellent thinking skills and planning abilities made him the best rising jounin through the years. Over ninety percent missions under his supervision were carried out successfully, and tactics and strategies he provided the military served valuably for the glory of Konoha's proud name.

For him (although troublesome as hell), it was easy to complete difficult missions rather than taking over Ino's role for a day. In handling the kids and the household chores, he was totally clueless. But Shikamaru didn't forget what he had. Oh, his precious brain was going to help him organize everything. And if he took the job as a mission, then it should be a piece of cake. And now, he was going to use all he had to complete the endless list Ino had given to him without failing (because he was afraid being scolded by her if he didn't do everything she asked him—he was so whipped).

Little did he know that it will be as tough as hell.

Noticing the clock on the wall showed it was close to six AM, Shikamaru hurriedly went to the bathroom. First thing he was going to do was to take a shower (to make things easier).

By seven AM, he had tidy up the room he shared with his wife, he had sweep the floor (although not entirely), the washing machine was running the first batch of clothes he had shoved in (clumsily) earlier after his bath, and he was in the process of washing the dirty dishes in the kitchen (very carefully—after all, all the tableware was Ino's favorites).

When suddenly his two, adorable kids dropped their first bomb.

Shikamaru heard the familiar (quite irritating) noise coming from upstairs. The bed was creaking, indicating that someone was jumping on it. He also heard loud laughing voices accompanied the jumping noise. Sighing, Shikamaru quickly rinsed his hands and went upstairs; leaving the unfinished dishes remained in the sink (just picture Shikamaru in an apron and room slippers—how cute).

Through the open door of his kids' room, Shikamaru saw his first son Yume was jumping up and down happily on the bed. He was in his pajama (with chibi deer printed all over it) his black hair quite like his father was bouncing wildly following the rhythm of his jump. Yume was an active kid much like Ino, so that sight didn't surprise Shikamaru much. His second son Naru was a lot like him, however. With his quiet, laid-back attitude, Naru really resembled him much in terms of behavior. Ironically, Naru looked exactly like Ino; he got Ino's blond hair and blue eyes.

And while Yume jumped energetically on his tiny bed, Naru was only lying in his crib, looking at his big brother with his wide blue eyes, maybe questioning, "What the hell are you doing, big brother?"

"Stop jumping, Yume. You'll ruin the bed." Shikamaru walked into the room and dropped one of Naru's enclosed sides. The three-year old toddler instantly reached his tiny hands to him and Shikamaru scooped Naru into his arms. Yume was still jumping.

"Yume." Shikamaru called again. He put the little blonde on the floor so that he could walk around the room freely. But knowing Naru, Shikamaru had the least worry. Instead of walking around for morning exercise, Naru chose happily to just sit and watched his aniki. And knowing Yume, it wasn't enough to just call his name.

"Okay, big boy." Shikamaru picked his jumping son and spun him around (like Superman), making the five-year old giggled happily. "Stop jumping on your bed and do something less damaging." He placed Yume beside Naru and began to tidy up their beds.

"Where's mommy?" Yume asked. He was smart enough to realize that his mother wasn't at home. Seeing his father was the one attending them, he knew that mommy was going somewhere.

"She's on a mission."

"Oh." Yume nodded, understood what mission was. "For how long?"

"Only for a day. She'll be back by dinner time." Finished in tidying the beds, Shikamaru walked out. "Go take a bath. Take Naru with you."

"I don't want to bath him." Yume pouted, much like Ino's pout.

"Why?"

"It's too troublesome."

"Now Yume, don't make this hard for me, okay?" Shikamaru sighed. "I'm going to be with you two all day, so give me some cooperation." Daddy Shikamaru wasn't good in dealing with kids including his own (he aimed for the 'Cool Dad' title). I'm not used to this at all… How troublesome…

After locking the bars at the beginning of the stairs (so that Naru didn't fall down if he walked carelessly without being watched), Shikamaru didn't forget to remind his kids to brush their teeth and dressed properly. Continuing to wash the dishes, Shikamaru busily thought what he should feed the two for breakfast. Ino had warned him to not give them junk food, so any instant meals weren't his choices. Cereal? Oatmeal? Bread? Those were what Shikamaru could think of. What Ino usually feed the kids? For the first time in his life, Shikamaru regretted for not paying attention to his wife in the mornings.

A loud noise snapped him out of his thinking. Once again, Shikamaru felt the heavy load pounded his chest. The sound of crying. Naru. What was Yume doing to him this time?

Taking a few steps in one go, Shikamaru reached upstairs in no time. The kids were still in their room, clearly disobeying his order to take a bath. The crying sounded louder and louder each second. When Shikamaru saw what the cause of Naru's crying was, he felt his patience soared out of him impatiently.

Yume was standing a few feet from his brother, his hands were forming a seal Shikamaru really recognized. "Yume," said Shikamaru coldly. "When I told you to do something less damaging, that doesn't mean you could pick on Naru. Just what are you thinking you're doing?"

"I'm trying to get him to the bathroom." A sweat was rolling down his brow. Yume certainly couldn't mold his chakra well. "He just won't listen to me when I told him to move. So I thought by using this jutsu I could make him imitate my movement."

"Very clever," Shikamaru easily cancelled his son's Kagemane. "But jutsu is only used against the enemy, not your own brother. You haven't mastered Kagemane well, Yume. I just taught you last week. What if something happens to Naru? Would you be responsible for that?" Turning to the crying toddler, Shikamaru spoke. "And what's with the crying, Naru? Boys don't cry, you know."

"But it's scary…" Naru meekly answered. Shikamaru sighed, wiping the tears.

"That's because you don't want to go the bathroom." Shikamaru pulled Naru into his arms, giving him a comforting hug and a quick peck on the forehead. "Don't worry, when you're big enough I'll teach you the same jutsu so that you can cast Kagemane on Yume, okay?" Yume pouted at this.

"Hmmph! When that time comes, I already learn tons and tons of cool jutsus to defeat you! Ah! How about I perform Shintenshin on you?" Ino had taught Yume her skill as well. Just for fun, she said. But unlike Kagemane, Shintenshin was a quite dangerous jutsu if it was formed improperly. So Ino just taught Yume the basic. Yume couldn't form any of the Yamanaka's techniques yet; he only said that to scare Naru.

"No Shintenshin, no Kagemane, no anything. It's dangerous. And stop being rude to Naru, Yume." Shikamaru gave a warning look. "Geez, why are you always giving him a hard time?" (Including your own father, you little thing…)

"Because you love him more than me!"

Shikamaru was surprised, but also amused. He never thought that a kid Yume's age could get so jealous. "Oh?"

"You always pay attention to him! You always spend your time with him! Even grannies and grandpops always play with him!"

"That's because Naru still little, so he requires more attention than you." Shikamaru tried to explain. "We treat Naru pretty much the same as we treated you when you were the same age as him."

"But it's still not fair!"

"Okay, okay…" Shikamaru decided to let Yume win. Arguing with a chibi Ino would be troublesome. "I will spend more time with you, I promise."

"Tell grannies and grandpops that!"

"Okay, okay. Now make peace, you two. And go take bath together."


An hour later, Shikayume and Shikanaru went to get their dad with rumbling stomach. They smelled fresh and heavenly and fully dressed. Shikamaru didn't feel surprise at all to see that. Yume could put his own clothes and obviously he helped Naru putting on some blue shorts and a red shirt with Nara clan symbol printed on the back, while he himself was dressed in dark-colored trousers paired with a mesh shirt, much like Shikamaru's attire when he was twelve (minus the jacket—Ino unintentionally encouraged him to show some skin).

Shikamaru just finished inserting the final batch of laundry into the washing machine (again clumsily and effortlessly) and was ready to hang the clothes when the two kids found him. "I'm hungry!" Yume cried on behalf of himself and his brother.

Almost rolling his eyes, Shikamaru walked to the backyard with the basket full with half-wet clothes in hand. His boys followed him. "Alright. I hang these clothes first and then we eat, okay?"

"Is it going to take long?" Yume shot him a helpless look. Boy, he really was hungry.

"Maybe. But if you help me, it'll be done in no time." Shikamaru, you lazy bum!

"But it's troublesome, dad."

Shikamaru lightly chuckled. His son really sounded like him. "Well, don't you want to eat breakfast as soon as possible? If you don't help me, it'll take ages."

"But what about Naru?" Yume pointed at his sitting brother.

"Just let him be." Shikamaru glanced at his second son. "There's nothing he can do anyway."

"I was right! You do love him more than me!"

"Oh, how come?" Shikamaru teased.

"Because you don't make him do anything!"

"He's still little." Shikamaru reasoned, giving a reluctant Yume a dozen of tiny hangers. "Stop refusing, Yume and help me hang these clothes. See? I'm spending my time with you, not with Naru."

"Okay." Yume mumbled, clumsily hanging his own shirt. He was delightful now that his father's attention was on him, not Naru as always, seeing he was the one who with Shikamaru in the yard, while Naru was sitting, watching them quietly near the back door.

"So what do you want for breakfast?"

"Ice cream!"

"No, mommy said no junk food."

"Why?"

"I don't know. Ask mommy that."

"But I love ice cream! Can't we just have ice cream, dad? Mommy's not around…"

"I'm not sure, Yume. If mommy finds out…"

"We'll be dead." Yume was well aware of his mother's wrath. "I know! Why don't we have ramen?"

"Ramen?" Shikamaru instantly looked at Naru. He didn't mind ramen really and he'll be pleased if he didn't have to cook for breakfast because of his limited cooking skills, he wasn't sure whether he could prepare a satisfied meal for his children. But can toddlers eat ramen? Can they digest it?

"Yume, can Naru eat ramen?"

"Of course! If Naru can eat instant noodles, surely he could eat ramen!"

Ichiraku Ramen, here we go… Shikamaru thought delightfully. "Wait—who gave Naru instant noodle?"

"Mommy!" Yume answered cheerily, hanging his third hanger. "Mommy always gives us instant noodle whenever she feels lazy to cook!"

And mommy said no junk food…


The Naras made their way to the said ramen stall after finishing all that had to be done that morning. The rooms were (erm) clean, the kitchen and the living room were spotless (nod nod), clothes were hung, sparkling (?) dishes by the sink. Now they were on another mission: to satisfy their hunger.

Shikamaru found Naruto was already at the stall, sampling his nth bowl of ramen. "Hey," he greeted the blonde. Judging by the piled bowls, Shikamaru guessed it was his seventh.

"Hey!" said Naruto back cheerily. "Oh, you've brought your kids! Ino surely isn't at home, huh?"

"She's on a mission."

"Oh, she must be under Neji. I saw them leave earlier this morning."

"You saw them? Just how early you're up anyway, Naruto?"

"Hey, I'm always up early for training!" He shot his hand upward energetically. Shikamaru just replied "Sure, sure…" while adjusting Naru to sit comfortably on his lap.

"Dad, I want to order!" Yume was practically yelled in his ear.

"Well, go ahead." Shikamaru turned to Naru and asked what he wanted to eat. Naru just shrugged and Shikamaru placed his order of beef ramen. He'll share his ramen with Naru.

"Oh, this is your boy that named after me, right?" Naruto sent playful smile to Naru. "No wonder. He looks just like me."

"He looks like Ino." Shikamaru snapped, somehow irritated. He didn't like the thought of having anybody claimed his sons to look like them.

"But he got blue eyes and blond hair; just like me." Naruto took the little blonde from Shikamaru's lap and put him on his. What an adorable child, he wasn't resisting at all (an easy target for kidnapping). "Here, let me help you, Shikamaru. I will feed him." Then he ordered another bowl of beef ramen so that Shikamaru could have his own.

After paying the breakfast, Shikamaru led his boys to a familiar path they knew so well. This time, instead of holding Naru, Shikamaru held the boy's little fingers in his while keeping him walking by his side and Yume the other.

"Are we going to gramp's house?" Yume asked, his intelligent eyes scanning the familiar shops lined up the street.

"Yeah." Shikamaru simply answered, sometimes making eye contacts to some colleagues passing by.

"For what?"

"We're going to pick up a chocolate cake."

"Chocolate cake? Awesome!" Yume clapped his hands and started walking two steps faster than his father and brother.

"Oi, Yume! Slow down!" Shikamaru called. Why was this one so energetic? "You're going to lose us!"

"Don't worry! I know my way!" Then the five-year old spotted a few kids his age was playing in one corner and ran to join them. "You guys go ahead! I'll catch you up later!" And quickly engrossed in a game of tag.

"So much for wanting to spend some time with me," Shikamaru grumbled under his breath. "Don't take too long, Yume! Be sure to be at gramp's home by noon! We're going to have lunch there!"

Sometimes timing is important, Shikamaru thought as he glanced at the sky and smiled.


"Oh, kiddo!" Yoshino beamed at the toddler standing just next to Shikamaru. Without refusing at all, Naru let himself being scooped into his grandmother's arms. "Let me guess: Ino's not in the house?"

Shikamaru followed his mother into the house. "Yeah. She has a mission."

"And where's the big boy?"

"He's out playing with his friends."

"Really energetic, isn't he?" Yoshino led the two to the kitchen where she picked a piece of chocolate cake from a plate and fed Naru.

"Yeah. It's hard to keep up sometimes." Shikamaru stuffed a piece into his mouth as well.

"Good thing Ino is your wife. I don't think any woman can keep up with two kids and a lazy husband at this young age and still could maintain her beauty. I bet other women complain all day—if they get into her position—and age really quickly."

"Then I should count my blessing."

"You better. It's good to have what you dreamed of happens in reality, right?"

"Obviously." Deciding to not sit any longer in the kitchen—his mom could talk on and on about things from the past to present—Shikamaru rose from the chair and walked to the back door. "Old man?"

"If he wasn't in the lab, then he must be at the farm—looking over the deer. Or maybe in the forest, I don't know."

"Can you look after Naru, mom? I'm going to lay down a bit."

"There you go again. What is the point in watching clouds anyway?" Yoshino lightly scolded. "Oh, geez. Go away. You just like your father. Maybe you'll find him in the field, who knows? Don't worry. I'll take care of Naru. You guys are going to stay for lunch, right?"

"Yeah."

Timing is everything.


"It's lunch time. Where's Yume?"

Yoshino shrugged, setting the table. Naru was already seated in the high chair. "I don't know. He still hasn't back."

"How troublesome. I've told him to be here by lunch." Shikamaru strode to the front door (intending to go after that troublesome little thing). A good way to burn energy (and maybe calories—it worked for Ino) except Shikamaru wasn't fond of doing something so tiring. "Don't bother to wait for us. I think Naru is hungry."

"Okay. Just go find Yume."

Shikamaru went to the place he left Yume earlier but the kids weren't there. He frowned; it had been only two hours—so quickly they disappeared.

Now where the hell that little devil had gone to?

Shikamaru wondered around the village, his patience was running thin. Yume was clearly forgotten about lunch; he must be too immersed in his game. What game he and his friends were playing anyway? Shikamaru had no idea. It may be something fun. Maybe they were playing ninja.

After ten minutes of walking under the hot sun, Shikamaru found the troop. About four or five kids including Yume was assembling near the bridge, excited over something. Two of the kids were in the stream and Shikamaru recognized one as his own.

Yume's trousers were rolled up to his knees and compared to his half-wet companion, he was fully wet. He and his group of friends were trying to catch the fishes by hand and by the looks of it, none of them succeeded.

"Oi, Yume!" Shikamaru made his presence known (his stomach was rumbling—boy, he was so hungry! And hot and tired). He stood behind the railing, looking down at the kids. The five-year olds looked up and found a tall (respected) jounin (their oyajis always talked about the Nara prodigy) was standing on the bridge above them and stopped their antics. All of them except his son were staring at him in awe. Yume frowned. "It's lunchtime. Come on. Get out of there."

"I still wanna play!"

"No, you're coming with me and we'll have our lunch. After that, we're going home." Seeing Yume still hadn't move from his spot, Shikamaru spoke in a stern voice. "Would you like me to go down and get you?"

"But I still wanna play! I'm not hungry yet!"

Wow, so this cool guy is Yume's father… Some of the kid whispered among themselves. Sugoi…

"Oh, so you rather spend your time with your friends than me? Okay, then I'll take Naru to—"

"Okay, okay! I'm coming with you!" Yume reluctantly bid his friends goodbye and rushed to his father.

"And all of you should go home, too. Don't make your parents worry." Shikamaru noticed there was a tinge of blush spread on all their cheeks as they nodded and dashed off without protesting at all.

Soon there'll be some Shikamaru 'The Cool Dad and Awesome Ninja' fan club created by his little admirers.

"Geez, look at you. All wet. You gotta change before you have your lunch. Gran doesn't like wet floor, you know." Playfully tugging his son's free hair, Shikamaru teased. "And what's with this fashion? You look like a girl."

"Mommy said I look cool if I let my hair down. And Shizuka-chan said so, too."

"Shizuka?"

Yume blushed a bit. "A girl in my class. She's really kawaii."

Shikamaru looked at his son amusedly. So Yume had found his springtime of youth? At this early age? Yume pushed his hand away from his hair. "Stop pulling, dad! It hurts!"

"Then tie it up," said Shikamaru with a smile. "C'mon."


After lunch, the trio went back to their own house. During the journey home, Naru had fallen fast asleep in his father's arms while Yume chatted noisily about everything under the sun—including the topic of the kawaii girl, Shizuka-chan. Shikamaru didn't forget to take the chocolate cake as requested by Ino and he had the cake safe in Yume's hands.

"Put it in the fridge," Shikamaru told Yume as he lowered Naru onto a thin mattress already spread on the carpet in the living room. "We'll eat it later."

"Can I have just a bit?" Yume beamed at him.

"No, you already ate some back then at gramps. Quick, put it in the fridge. It's melting." Yume saw the chocolate icing was running down his hands and he yelped, hurriedly rushing to the kitchen.

Shikamaru thought of what to do and remembered something. "Yume?" He called out to his son. "C'mere. Take a nap with Naru."

Yume came bouncing to the living room. "I'm not sleepy," he replied energetically and went to his play box and start digging for toys.

Shikamaru sighed. The house was going to be messy again. "Okay. Then do your homework."

"I don't have any homework." Red car, blue car; which one was the fastest? BROOMMMM…

"Mommy said you have." Yume quickly made a face, indicating he was a little bit annoyed at having a mother who knew everything. Shikamaru grinned triumphantly and once again putting the cool dad act. "Go get your homework and finish it in front of me. You wouldn't want to make mommy angry, would you?"

So again, Yume reluctantly did what he said. And while Yume did his homework seriously (lying on his stomach and was biting the end of his pencil, thinking of the right answer) not too far from his brother, Shikamaru hesitatingly got up and walked to the back and picked up the dry clothes.

He set the basket full of clothes at the corner of the living room and wondered whether he should fold the clothes now or not. A yawn escaped his lips and he realized that he was so sleepy. Heck, he worked practically all day and he deserved a nap… (Just face it; he was just a lazy husband)

But before he was drifted to sleep, the peace and lazy air was interrupted by the loud voice of Yume.

"Dad, can you help me with this question?"

Shikamaru tried to stay awake. "Uh…what?" He looked at his son hazily. Can you please stop nagging at me?

"I don't know the answer to this question."

Despite his heart's voice, the cool act still on. "Oh…let me see." Yume handed him his notebook and Shikamaru examined the question. His face instantly fell.

Yume was a bright child and Shikamaru was fully aware of that. In fact, he might have his genius. Well, of course he had. Yume showed the sign of a high IQ person ever since he was a baby. His growth was so fast that Ino was so glad Yume began to walk before he turned one and by the age of two, he could already talk! Not just the 'mommy, daddy' stuff but almost everything! And he was also very, very noisy.

"What do you mean you don't know the answer? This question is so simple." Seven kunai plus two shuriken equals to?

Oh, Yume was just trying to get his attention. Either that or he was too lazy to think of the answer—speaking of which, where do you think he got his trait from?

"What's the answer?" The boy urged.

"Nine." It was pointless to not give the correct answer. Yume will just keep asking until Shikamaru reach his limit and give up (and he wasn't in the mood for that). If only Yume let him sleep in peace. A mission-less day should be spent lying around or watching the clouds—not do anything troublesome. Oh, why did Godaime give Ino a mission?!

"That's what I thought!" Yume snatched his notebook back and carefully wrote the correct word.

Shikamaru attempted to sleep once again only to have Yume's loud voice interrupted his slumber.

"Dad, what is thing called?"

Shikamaru looked helplessly at excited Yume then at last reaching a hand to him. Yume shoved his ninja homework happily to him.

The adult Nara frowned and almost sent a glare to his son. "You know the answer, Yume. You have it memorized since you were four."

Yume shot an innocent look. "But I forgot the name."

You remember, Shikamaru growled silently. "It's Fuuma Shuriken."

"See? I know it's Fuuma Shuriken!" Once again, Yume stole the book from his father's hand and jotted down the answer. "Geez, you are so smart, dad!"

An amused smile crept into Shikamaru's face. Though he heard that praise many times, but hearing from his own son gave the best feeling. Knowing that Yume wouldn't let him get his afternoon nap anytime soon, he decided to just relax and enjoy the rare (father and son) moment.

The basket full of clothes was completely forgotten. Oh, Ino was so going to be really, really mad.

"Mommy never got the answers right." Yume informed without being asked.

"Really?"

"Yeah! She always gave me the wrong answers!" For once Shikamaru was curious. Ino couldn't be clueless to answer academy questions! He made a quick mental note to ask Ino about that.

"Dad?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you think mommy's pretty?"

"Hey, where did that come from?"

"My friends said mommy is pretty. And I think so, too. What about you, dad? What do you think?"

Remembering the love of his life, Shikamaru smiled to himself. "Yeah, she's pretty." Even after having two kids, somehow Ino managed to keep herself stay in shape. Ino was a slim woman in her single days and still a slim woman now, only softer and curvier. She never go on diets anymore (Shikamaru had forbidden her) but doing house works and taking care after two kids plus a husband were more than enough to help her lose her pregnancy fats and give the body she desired. Not that Shikamaru mind having a plump wife (he very much prefer she had some meat on her) but it was Ino's goal to stay beautiful—for her healthy mind (and her husband's eyes of course).

"…and they all have a crush on her." Yume giggled.

Shikamaru frowned. "Who?"

"My friends."

An image of a bunch of five-year olds (some with runny nose) below the bridge earlier flashed in Shikamaru's mind. "Your friends have a crush on your mother?" Yume nodded, nonchalantly moving on to the next question.

"Yeah. They always said to me that I'm so lucky to have a mother like mommy. Their mothers aren't as pretty as mommy. Mommy is pretty and kind and smells really nice—they said."

"Your friends actually said that?!" Shikamaru was half-amused, half-irritated. When he was a kid, he never admired someone's mommy. Those little perverts…

"She becomes their heroin!" Yume didn't realize that his father had turned into something monstrous-looking. "They're really excited when mommy invites them to our house and feed them cookies and give them hugs and kisses them on the cheeks…" The excitement died in Yume's tone. "But I really hate it. They keep on asking me to bring them home ever since—as often as possible but I never invited them again. I don't like to share my mommy."

"They better stay away from her…" Shikamaru clenched-unclenched his fists. Those brats… How dare they fancy my wife!

"But I can't stand her if she yells," Yume made a yucky face. "Really, really annoying… Right, dad?"

Shikamaru snorted—his mood turned to normal. "Sometimes it gives me a headache…"

"Yeah, yeah!" Yume agreed. "Why did you marry a woman like her?"

The question reminded Shikamaru instantly of a scene from the past where he in his twelve-year old form asked his dad the exact same question regarding his mother. His father told him that even troublesome woman had her best, tender moment sometimes and that was why he married his mother. Shikamaru frowned at it at first but later on he discovered that what his father said was actually true.

"Mommy is my dream," Shikamaru recalled the event happened six years ago. "I just make my dream come true."

Yume knitted his brows and Shikamaru knew that his son couldn't decipher his cryptic words but he'll get it when he was much older.

"Yeah, I've finished my homework!"

"Good. Let's have a nap together." Shikamaru patted the empty space beside him.

"I'm not sleepy!" Yume repeated his statement earlier and Shikamaru sighed, thinking what he could do to make Yume lose his consciousness (kinda a bad thought, was it?). If his active son resumed his play again, in his lazy state, there'll be no time to clean up before the scary wife Ino arrive.

"I know!" Yume slammed his tiny fist into his palm (just imagine the 'I know' action complete with a shining light bulb). "Let's play shougi, Dad!"

"Shougi?"

"Yeah!" Yume hurriedly dashed off to take the shougi board and its pieces and set it up between his father and himself.

Not the quite idea Shikamaru had in mind to spend his leisure time (God, he just wanted to sleep!) but it wasn't bad either. Due to lack of missions, he hardly had had time to play shougi anymore and not everybody in Konoha was fond of that game. He had taught Yume how to play but last time the boy still hadn't got a clue what the game really was (he was a genius but he was also lazy, remember—and still found cars and airplanes fascinating than a boring checkered board and its funny pieces) so when Yume willingly suggested a game, Shikamaru found it surprising. And playing with a child was certainly refreshing.

Beating up a kid might not be a challenge but who knows in the future Yume could be a better shougi player than him? And challenging Yume as an equal opponent should be interesting…

"Bring it on," Shikamaru sat cross-legged, facing his son. "You go first."

"Alright." Yume moved a rookie and the game began.

After several moves, Shikamaru found out that Yume was a lot, lot better than their last game. He was impressed. Though the boy's moves were still immature and full of openings, but it were very interesting and unique. Yume had his own natural rhythm of playing and his cleverness offered Shikamaru some sort of enjoyment.

"Hey, you're quite good," Shikamaru complimented. "Where did you learn all these moves?"

"Gramps!" Yume answered cheerily. "I always play with him!"

"But I thought you're not interested in playing this."

"Gramps said playing shougi is good for strategy practice! He said you play this a lot, that's why you're so good in planning strategies!"

"He said I was good?" His old man, Shikaku never praised him over anything. He practically teased him all the time.

"Hn! And he also told me by planning good strategies makes me a good ninja and by becoming a good ninja makes me cool!"

So to put it simply, you only play shougi to become cool… Shikamaru sweat-dropped.

Half-way through the game, Naru suddenly woke up from his comfortable (and very enjoying) nap and found his aniki and oyaji was busily playing something really interesting (in a three-year old opinion). For a moment, his now openly wide blue eyes were scrutinizing their excitements and somehow feeling not wanting to be left out of the matter, he got up and went to his father.

Shikamaru felt something soft was patting his back and when he turned around, he found out Naru was already awake. "What you play?" The blonde asked in his not-so-perfect sentence (note: he was a toddler) and Shikamaru instantly smiled, placing Naru on his lap.

"We're playing shougi," Yume stuck up his nose, quite annoyed at the presence of his little brother (he wanted daddy all by himself!) and started making some noise. Shikamaru pretended he didn't see the signals Yume sent him and motioned the board to Naru, "Wanna play?"

"Dad, Naru doesn't know how to play shougi," said Yume in a monotone voice.

"I know. He's playing with me."

"What?! You two cannot be in the same ship! That's not fair!"

"Then you and I team up and play against Naru alone?"

"That's not going to work! He doesn't know how to play! He doesn't even know what shougi is!"

"I know." Naru defended himself (not really knowing what he meant).

And angered Yume even more. "You don't!"

"I do!"

"Don't!"

"Do!" Can someone who just woke up from sleep could be so loud? Oh, maybe Naru just had his switch on…

"Enough you two." Shikamaru pulled up his cool act once again. "Give a break to Naru, Yume and finish your turn. The clock's ticking."

"I don't want to play with Naru!" Yume resisted stubbornly but moved a piece anyway.

Shikamaru paid no attention to Yume's constant outburst and instructed Naru to pick up a piece and placed it on a place where he ate one of Yume's generals. From mild annoyance, Yume turned furious. But he kept playing. After several movements, his childish anger took over him and he slammed his tiny palm on the board and declared he had enough.

"You guys are so frustrating! I don't wanna play anymore!" With that, he got up and ran to his room, sulking all the way.

Shikamaru sighed helplessly. He thought he bonded really well with Yume but apparently not. Naru (quite shocked with his brother's wild reaction) could only stare questioningly at his father with his adorable Ino's (or rather Naruto's) eyes, totally clueless at what happened.

"Aniki angry…" He spoke.

"Yeah." Shikamaru agreed. Seriously Ino, how could you stand being with Yume twenty-four/seven? He's really a pain in the ass…

And the banging started.

"Oh no, Yume…" Shikamaru groaned. Didn't he tell him to not do something damaging? "I'm gonna check on your brother," he said, getting Naru off of his lap and got up. "And you just stay here, okay? Don't go anywhere." And being an obedient child, Naru nodded.

Shikamaru found Yume was throwing his rubber ball against the wall furiously, over and over again. He almost knocked down a desk lamp when Shikamaru entered. The young father caught the bouncing ball easily and calmly neared the mad boy.

It was quite strange to see the younger version of him being so angry over something because he was calm and composed most of the time. Shikamaru vaguely remembered his glaring eyes, nor his pursed lips which Yume perfectly imitated. And as a kid, he never had been so rude towards anybody, not even to anybody who always made fun of Chouji or to someone as pushy as Ino, who always made him do troublesome things.

Yet somehow (as much as he wanted to scold Yume for being such a jackass—in his opinion), his eyes softened seeing that particular look. He couldn't deny it—he saw Ino beneath the angry eyes of his son, the same eyes reflected in the mirror he saw everyday through his younger days. And in those pools of Yume's dark eyes, Shikamaru saw his dream and now reality were in his grasp, so loving and understanding, comforting, companying him though the years of their marriage, always supporting, always being there for him. A sudden longing rose in Shikamaru's chest and he very much wished for his wife to come back soon and help him sort all things out. Without Ino, he just couldn't function properly.

Wordless, Shikamaru held out his hand to Yume. For a moment, Yume backed away from him, still angry, refusing to take his hand. But at last he gave up. He couldn't get mad with his father as long as he wanted to, because he adored him so much. Shikamaru always away on missions so once he was at home, Yume wanted to spend his time with him as much as possible. But his little brother often got in the way. Shikamaru always paid more attention to Naru, it makes Yume felt neglected. That was why he always felt some irritation towards his brother because he felt Naru was stealing the limelight from him.

Shikamaru led Yume out of the room in silence, hand-in-hand and walked down the stairs together. "You know," Shikamaru began, his pace was slow. "Jealousy is an ugly thing."

"I'm not jealous…" Yume mumbled, quite embarrassed with himself. He was a boy, yet he acted like a girl (a complicated gene inherited from his mom). "I just—I don't like sharing anybody's attention…"

Shikamaru chuckled and he halted, bringing himself eye to eye with his son. "I know how you feel."

"No, you don't."

"Believe me, once I was a jealous kid myself. Only unlike you, I'm not good in voicing or expressing my feelings." (Oh, you know… Ino-Sasuke…got it?)

Yume brooded. "I just cannot help it, dad… I just feel so angry when I'm not the only one who was given the attention. All the time. Even—even towards Naru, my own brother…"

"Then learn to let it go. Don't think about it much. It's not wrong to feel jealous or anything and it's actually good telling people what you feel. But you cannot be blindly jealous without a reason."

Yume made a face and Shikamaru sighed.

"Listen Yume, you have to understand. You're a big boy now. You know how to take care of yourself. But Naru don't, because he still doesn't understand what this world really is. That's why I have to pay more attention on him and so does everybody else, so that he could learn everything. And paying attention on him doesn't mean I'm neglecting you. Just give Naru some time, let him grow, then you'll know that I treat you both equally the same. Besides, you're the big brother. Instead of picking on Naru, making fun of him, you should protect him, support him. Do you understand?"

"Then I don't wanna be a big brother…"

"Tell you what, I make you a deal. If you could promise me to be much nicer to Naru then I'll spend my next off day with you. Alone. Just the two of us. Say—we go camping, how's that sound?"

"But that's blackmail!" Albeit complaining, Shikamaru saw Yume's eyes lit up with excitement.

"No. That is called 'give-and-take'. So what do you say?"

"Just the of us? Alone?"

Shikamaru nodded. "Yeah."

"Okay then!" Unlike Ino, Yume was easy to win. And Shikamaru had his way dealing with that kind of problem.

They continued their steps again. "See? There's benefit being a big brother—big boy, I mean." Shikamaru was pleased with himself, for calming a raging kid down. He'd like to think he got a natural talent for that (which actually something he mastered ever since he was five. Why, he spent a lot of time with someone like Ino—not to mention his mother).

"Yeah, yeah…" Yume just mumbled.

When they arrived at the living room, they found Naru was playing with the cars Yume took out earlier. His eyes brightened seeing them and he instantly reached for them. "Aniki not angry anymore?"

Yume neared him, scowling. "Baka." And smacked the blonde in the head. But Shikamaru noticed his dark eyes softened looking at his brother and the urge to smack Yume back died itself.

Delighted, Shikamaru ushered them to the backyard (completely forgotten about some housework to be done before Ino arrive). "The sun is going to set. Come, let's watch the clouds." After going through some serious talks with his son, Shikamaru needed a break. (Oh, come on. It wasn't that hard, you lazy bum)

"But dad, we can't see the clouds when it darks."

"Then we watch the stars."


The first thing Ino noticed when she came back a little before the dark fully came was the basket full of clothes.

That Shikamaru, she growled as she scanned around the living room for any signs of the man. He was nowhere in sight. Ino's gaze fell on the scattered shougi pieces and the board blocking her way and also a few toys lying around. I've told him to clean up the house… Ino clenched her fists. As a perfectionist, she expected the house to be completely spotless. Her frown deepened when she felt the dust under her feet. Oh, sweeping recklessly, huh? Just wait till I get you…

"Shikamaru? Where the hell are you? Shikamaru!" Furious, Ino searched the whole house. No such luck.

She also failed to find her two sons.

"Where are they?!"

Ino picked up the receiver and dialed her parents' number. "Hello, daddy? Yeah, it's Ino. Is Shikamaru there? No? Did he ever come over? No, huh? Oh, nothing. I just came back and he's not at home and so does the kids. What? Try the Naras? Okay, I call them right away. Bye."

"Hello, mom. It's Ino. Have you seen Shikamaru and the kids? Oh, they've been there to pick up the cake this afternoon and went home afterwards? Strange, they're not here. I've looked for them everywhere. What? Maybe they're out somewhere? Okay, I'll check the backyard. Bye!"

Ino marched to the back door and spread it open, only to find it empty. From angry she turned worried. Oh, where have they been? His motherly instinct kicked in, fearing the safety of her two children, even if their father was with them. Ino looked around and started walking towards the border of her house, to the four corners and halted when she saw them at last.

Her heroes were lined up in front of a small stream not too far from a big tree, all faces facing the darkened sky. It was Shikamaru's newfound spot for cloud-watching, and it had became one of his favorite spots ever since they moved to their medium-sized double storey house shortly after Naru was born. They both agreed now that their family was growing, they need a bigger house. So when their parents heard about the plan, the four beat them up to it. Without them knowing, a beautiful house, complete with enough bedrooms, cozy living room, spacious kitchen and spectacular surrounding was given to them as an anniversary gift.

They'd declined—of course—at first. Hesitatingly so. But her mother-in-law and her own father were being so persistent (with the support of their companion) that Ino and Shikamaru had to agree. Ino'd like to think that the house was suitable, more than perfect actually for her family. Now Shikamaru didn't have to go somewhere just to watch clouds because he could do it right at the back of his own house and once in a while, they'd had guests coming over for brunch and threw a couple of parties for the kids.

Making her way as quietly as possible, Ino realized her anger had subsided at the sight of her sleeping husband. Shikamaru's peaceful face reached something in her heart and it almost made Ino wanted to jump on him and kiss him over and over again. But that act risked her children to wake, so Ino just took a light step one at a time. And when she just about to kneel down behind his head, Shikamaru's eyes fluttered open and he craned his neck just enough to look at her.

"Hey," he greeted her with a lazy smile. He'd been awake since Ino spotted them. "You're early. Welcome back."

Ino returned his greet with a swift kiss on his forehead. "Yeah. The mission ended up sooner than we thought."

"Are you in Neji's team?"

"Yeah." So Naruto wasn't lying…

Shikamaru made an effort to get up but Ino stopped him. "You'll wake the kids," she said softly. "It's okay. Just stay with them a little bit longer." Then Ino stood, starting to walk towards the house.

As if remembering something, Shikamaru's face fell. "But Ino, I haven't—"

She hushed him with a small, genuine smile. "It's okay."


Shikamaru didn't know how Ino did that, despite her exhaustion from mission, the house was (note this) completely spotless when he and his two boys returned just in time for dinner. He wondered where Ino got the strength to do that.

Maybe it was her drive that made her couldn't rest easy until the house was wholly clean, just like it always been under her touch.

The floor was dust-free, clean (Shikamaru wondered whether Ino scrubbed it all the way) and there wasn't a single toy left on it. The basket full of clothes was no longer housing the corner, the dishes were actually sparkling now and delicious, warm meal was laid on the table, waiting to be consumed.

And Ino, fresh from her shower was standing at the door greeting them, welcoming them back—as if the trio were on a mission, not her.

She took Naru in her arms and headed towards the bathroom with Yume (without being told) obediently tailing her. Shikamaru heard her ordered Yume to fetch towels for him and his brother and once again he freely complied and once he was back, she ordered him again to strip his clothes and no sound of protest ever came out of his mouth. Their noisy voices in the bathroom filled the whole house, warmed up his heart and Shikamaru had never felt content as he was feeling right now. This was the life he wanted, apart from dream because reality was much, much better.


As midnight slowly approached, the Nara family had cleared all tasks for that day and now it was time to turn in.

When Shikamaru entered his room after bidding the boys goodnight, he found Ino was already curled up in bed, as if sleeping. But when he slowly occupied the empty space beside her, his weight somehow awoke her and her blue eyes fluttered open.

"The kids?"

"They're sleeping." Shikamaru answered in a low voice as he slid under the blanket.

"Good." Ino snuggled closer to his body and draped an arm across his torso, murmuring, "How's your day?"

"Tough and troublesome."

Ino chuckled. "Oh, come on. It wasn't that bad."

And Shikamaru laughed. "It wasn't." He filled in the information briefly.

And when he was finished, Ino was red from laughing. "Oh, you gotta be kidding me, Shikamaru! Yume's friends didn't have a crush on me!"

"They do. Ask Yume that." Shikamaru half scowled. "And speaking of the boy, I didn't know he's so hard to deal with until today. Man, he's a handful!"

"Well, what can I say? He's your little devil."

A lame chuckle escaped Shikamaru's throat. "I helped Yume with his homework and found out something. I was curious: why did you never get his answers right?"

"Because he always got the right answer."

"What do you mean?"

"You know it's pointless to ask when you already know the answer. Yume just wanted attention. So I answer all the questions wrong on purpose. It's fun to watch him making faces at me. Why, you told him the answers straightaway?"

"He kept on asking me…" Shikamaru mumbled. "It was bothersome and I couldn't let him down…"

Ino laughed. "Some father you are, Shikamaru. Sometimes we couldn't just give everything they want. They'll step over our head."

"Oh, that's why Yume never protests anything when he's with you?"

"Only once in a while. He knew I was tired and I could've been worse than usual if he makes me angry. So he just complies with my demands. You know, he's a little like you."

"I'd like to think that he's a bit more like you. Seems that it's true."

"He got crazy, mixed-up genes."

"True. From both of us."

They laughed at the last statement and when the laughter died down, Shikamaru pulled Ino closer to him. "Man, what a long day… The kids and the house chores you gave me were two times harder than an A-ranked mission. I'm so tired…"

"But not at all tired, right?" Ino tightened her grip on him and also draped a leg over his. "Shikamaru…"

Seeing the signals she gave him, Shikamaru immediately understood what she wanted. "Yeah?"

Ino drew circles on his clothed chest, teasing him playfully. It had quite been so long since they last made love and as a normal woman, Ino had her needs to be pleased. "I want you to give me a baby girl…" She purred softly in his ear.

Shikamaru snorted but responded to her touch. "Right now?"

"Yeah."

"I don't know you but I'm so tired…" Shikamaru grinned, playing along with her.

"Oh? Shame on you," Ino stuck up her nose but a wicked smile was formed between her lips. "You're a lot stronger and all you have to do today is just a couple of house works and take care of the kids. But I went on mission and return only to do your work all over again because it wasn't good enough, I've prepared dinner, watch over the kids, double-checked Yume's homework and in the end, I can still give you a pretty good sex."

"Oh, really?" By now, Shikamaru had a gleam in his eyes that Ino longed to see and he stole her answer with a single, hot kiss. "Then prove it."

Ino rolled over to him and got on top in a swift movement. She smiled and lowered her head to capture his lips again and they were locked in long, mouth-to-mouth contact as the heat of their desires slowly pumping in. Murmurs of love were being spoken as the acts followed. They were ready to shed their clothing when a sudden, familiar sound echoed outside the hall.

They broke apart instantly. "Wha—?" Shikamaru looked around hazily, completely drowned in his desire.

"I bet it's Yume." Ino, who was still on top of her husband volunteered to check the problem out. When she threw open the kids' room, she saw Yume was standing just beside Naru's crib and the little one was crying out loud.

"What's going on?" Ino demanded with her hands on her hips. "I thought daddy has tucked you in minutes ago." She shot a questioning gaze at Yume.

The big boy backed himself instantly. "I didn't do anything! He just cries!"

"He won't cry unless you have something to do with it."

"I swear I don't have anything to do with it!" Yume insisted but his enthusiasm (and bravery) slowly faded seeing the angry face of his mother. "Okay, I tell you! Naru snores and I couldn't sleep! So I wake him up and he cries."

"You mean you smack his head to wake him up." Yume bit her lip and Ino knew she got it right. "And Naru snores?"

"He did!"

"Oh, my goodness…" Ino took the crying boy and tried to calm him down. She was lucky because Naru was easily calmed and in just short moments, he fell asleep once again. "Come, I tuck you in." Ino spoke to Yume once she put Naru inside his crib once again. Yume hurriedly went to his bed and slid under his blanket and Ino stood a little longer to watch her younger son before turning to Yume. "Naru doesn't snore."

"Then maybe it's just my imagination." Yume grinned cheekily.

"If you pull this prank once again then I won't hesitate to beat you into a pulp, big boy. You do understand who are you dealing with, right?"

"Right." When Yume flashed his sorry face, Ino's temperature dropped down. She understood it; he just wanted something from her. A good night wish. "Good night, mommy."

"Yeah, good night." Ino neared him and kissed his forehead like every other nights, pulling the blanket further up and tucked it under his chin. "Sweet dreams, baby."

When Ino was almost at the door, Yume called her. "Hey, mommy?"

"Yeah?"

"Will you be at home all day tomorrow?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Can we go picnic?"

Ino considered it for a moment. "Okay, sure."

"Promise?"

"I promise," Ino halted before added quickly, "but only if you promise me to be much nicer to Naru."

"I am being nice."

"No, you're not. You always picking on him, teasing him—"

"But I am! It's just my way of bonding with him!"

"Whatever. But starting from now, you have to learn how to behave properly. I don't want a naughty kid as my son."

"Okay…" Yume surrendered at last. "Good night, mommy." Ino blew him a kiss before she shut the door.

She found Shikamaru had taken off his pajama once she made it to their bedroom but she paid no attention to it. Somehow Yume's interruption killed the moment. It wasn't like she lost her interest or desire, but what she felt like now was only mild feelings. Even Shikamaru in his sexy state couldn't put her burning feelings back into place.

Ino slid under the covers and hugged her half-nude husband but that was it. Shikamaru frowned. "Hey, I thought you want a baby girl."

"That can wait." Ino mumbled. "I'm so tired—I realize it now."

"What happen to 'pretty good sex'?"

"Tomorrow," Ino promised and closed her eyes. "I just want to sleep. You're right. Yume is a handful. Gosh, he'd do anything for attention. His last attempt sucked out all my energy."

"What he'd done this time?"

"Nothing major. He just wanted my goodnight kiss." Ino paused before adding, "Oh, and he also have a request."

"What is it?"

"Picnic tomorrow morning. No excuses. I'd promised him."

Shikamaru groaned. He'd planned on just lazing around. "Guess what? I promised him something, too. A camp out on my next off day."

Ino sighed but a little smile spread across her face. "Guess that reality isn't as good as dream, right?"

"Right." Shikamaru agreed. "It's troublesome but it is so much better."


Epilogue

Five years later, Shikamaru and Ino were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. The two-month had fair skin much like her mother and a cloud of dark hair on top of her head, resembling her father. And her eyes were the color of the sky. The Nara couple could never been happier.

Yume, who was now ten years old and Naru, who was two years younger than his aniki had developed some kind of strong relationship as siblings. Yume was no longer the naughty boy he used to be; somehow he gained a little sense of maturity just after he graduated from the academy when he was nine. Since he turned genin, he understood how hard life of a ninja could be and there were so many fun things to do apart from pulling pranks and playing around. Now he took his training seriously and definitely made his mommy and daddy proud.

And Naru saw his brother as an idol and he was trying his best to catch up with him, whether in ninja training or in life. Rivalry was always between them and Shikamaru took it as a good sign, as long as his two boys knew their boundaries. Sometimes they sparred and other times, they just battled each other in shougi. Constant arguments were no exception, but they also knew how to forgive and forget. And one thing the two Nara brothers had in common was their certain interests towards girls—unlike their father.

Which made them very protective of their one and only sister.

When Shikamaru and Ino reminisced the days they had gone through, despite all the problems and worries and fears, happiness mostly filled their conversation.

And they agreed on one thing.

Dream was nice but reality had never been much better.


THE END


Hey, I'm glad I finished this fic. It was fun writing it!

In Dream, the Nara boys' names were Yume and Naruto, right? But since I want to maintain the use of 'Shika' in every Nara boy's name, so I change the names into Shikayume and Shikanaru.

Hope you enjoy this story and thanks for reading!