Traditions – Prologue

- - - - - - - - - - - - - September, Present- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Nara Shikamaru and his ANBU team had just completed an S-class mission and were on their way back to Konoha. There were no major injuries incurred during the mission, but for some reason Shikamaru felt the need to get back to Konoha as soon as possible.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -18 years earlier (March)- - - - - - - - - - - - -

"I have spoken with the patriarch of the family and he has agreed to the betrothal of his newborn daughter and the son your wife is carrying."

The man regarded his father carefully, knowing that he would have to tread lightly if he was to win the upcoming argument. "Father, I believe that it is in the best interest of the children and both clans if the betrothal tradition was to end." The man looked at his father, patiently waiting for a response that was not to come.

He was uncomfortable, it had been several months since he had brought up the betrothal tradition with his father, and there was not much time left to convince his father to discontinue the tradition. He knew that if he couldn't change his father's mind before his son was born it would be too late. He approached his father and waited, knowing his father and made his decision.

"I have made my decision, and I am sorry, but the betrothal tradition must continue. When your son is born the contract with the girl will be completed, nothing can change that. This tradition is as old as the clan itself; I am not one to change such a tradition."

The man glared at his father and took a deep breath before speaking in an attempt to control his rage. "Not the person to change it? You are the ONLY person who can change it." Before his father could answer they heard a sharp gasp coming from behind them. Turning they found his wife clutching her stomach. She looked into her husband's eyes and he knew that time had run out. As he walked to his wife to take her to the hospital he heard his father say he would gather those needed before going to the hospital himself.

- - - - - - - - -Present- - - - - - - - - -

Haruno Sakura had just finished her shift at the hospital; it hadn't been a difficult day, just very long. She was exhausted and wanted nothing more that to go home and collapse in her bed. But she couldn't, she had this…urge…to walk around Konoha. She didn't really know why but her feet were taking her in the direction of the main city gates.

- - - - - - - - - 18 years earlier- - - - - - - - - -

The man was in the hallway waiting for his wife to be situated in the birthing room. He sensed people coming down the hall and looked up to find his father leading the Yondaime Hokage carrying an infant girl; her parents were one a mission. The Hokage had a solemn expression on his face.

The Hokage spoke first, "Congratulations, fatherhood is a wonderful experience, and it will suit you well." Pausing the Hokage turned to address the current head of the clan, "If you would follow me, a room has been set up for the ceremony, it is just down the hall." The Hokage walked away but not before saying, "I know you did everything possible." He was interrupted by a scream coming from the room housing the man's wife. The Hokage's smile grew, "Go your wife needs you, besides the birth of your son is not something you want to miss." The man finally smiled and nodded before heading to his wife, leaving the Hokage continue down the hallway.

- - - - - - - - - Present- - - - - - - - - -

Just as Konoha's gates came into sight, Shikamaru increased his speed. He didn't notice the looks his fellow squad members were giving him. Even if he had he wouldn't be able to answer their unspoken question. He didn't even know the answer himself.

Sakura had reached the gates and started chatting with the two guards on duty. Their conversation had come to an end and just as she was beginning to walk away she suddenly turned to look out the gates. Coming towards her was an ANBU team with one individual member ahead of the rest. She stood there and stared the leading ANBU member, unable to tear her eyes away from him.

As Shikamaru got closer to the gate his eyes came upon a young woman, whom he recognized instantly, he would know that pink hair anywhere. As he continued to approach he couldn't tear his eyes away from her. He came to a stop when he reached the gate and acknowledged the guards with a brief nod, his eyes never leaving hers. Sakura had lost count of how long she was looking into the ANBU's eyes; she hadn't even noticed that the other ANBU team members had also arrived at the gate. The ANBU team and guards on duty were quietly observing the "staring contest" going on, unsure of how to handle the unusual situation. Finally, the ANBU with a fox mask cleared his throat, "Captain, we need to report to HQ." Snapping out of his reverie Shikamaru nodded and, with great effort, turned and continued into the city towards ANBU HQ."

Sakura watched until the ANBU team was out of sight, and after saying good night to the guards finally made her way home. On her walk home she thought about what had just occurred. I don't understand, but some how I needed to be there when he got back. She had never looked at him that way or felt drawn to him as she did tonight. She wrote the whole situation off to being tired. Tomorrow would be soon enough to contemplate the shinobi Sabaku no Temari called pineapple head.

As Shikamaru walked out of ANBU HQ, after handing in his report he was thinking about the trip home. I didn't understand the reason I was in such a rush to get back, but as soon as I saw her I knew why, how troublesome. Shikamaru continued home thinking about the pink-haired kunoichi.

- - - - - - - - - 18 years ago - - - - - - - - - -

Several hours had passed by and the man was smiling at his wife while holding his newborn son. He couldn't believe it, he was a father, he was so proud of his wife. He kissed her and told her he loved her as she fell asleep, exhausted from the labor. He walked to the window to show his son Konoha, and just as he was telling him the story of how the village began he heard the door open. Turning around he saw his father walking towards him preparing to take the baby to the Hokage. The man hesitated, sending his father one last pleading look before handing the child over to him.

The man walked down the hallway to where the Hokage was waiting to begin the betrothal. Once he handed the baby boy to the Hokage he left the room. It was a long standing tradition in the clan that the only one to perform the betrothal ritual was the Hokage. This was meant to symbolize the importance of the clan to Konoha, as well as strengthen the bond between the two being betrothed. The Hokage laid the child down on the opposite side of the little girl. He set up the scrolls that will be needed – one between the children and one on each side. After the preparations he looked at the infants and gave a small, sad smile, he didn't particularly like the idea of arranged marriages. But then his eyes widened slightly at what he saw, the children's chakras were reaching for each other. He had never seen anything like it before, he smile grew as he began the betrothal jutsu – these children might just be meant for each other after all.

Well there's the end of the beginning. This is my first story so I would love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading, Jae.