A/N:
Happy Birthday, Shikamaru! This was timed to coincide with Shikamaru's birthday, though due to the nature of some special occurrences in the story (which I've constantly been dwelling on since before I wrote 'Shadows of the Night'), it's been set around May to June, instead of on September 22. To all ShikaTema shippers, I hope you like it!

This story can stand alone, though if you'd like to know what took place before this, you might want to read 'Shadows of the Night' and 'Wind Shadows' (sequel to SotN).

Special Thanks...
To Kishimoto Masashi-san (岸本斉史さん) for sharing Naruto with us, and for bringing Shikamaru (and Temari) into the Naruto world.

Disclaimer:
Naruto was created by the recipient mentioned above. For a more formal disclaimer, refer to my profile page.


BEYOND THE SHADOWS

Chapter 1: The Start of a Troublesome Day

He'd been anticipating and dreading the arrival of today for a long time.

Two females had been pestering him from the depths of his heart and from the shallows of his mind lately. Dwelling on this made him sigh audibly, as he let the familiar path from the Hokage's office lead him back home.

They'd timed it so perfectly; Shikamaru was sure that they'd conspired to stress him out. Females! He'd never known a less troublesome species.

Subconsciously, he slowed into a tardy gait as his gaze graced the cotton puffs of white drifting past overhead. Absorbed in the view and lost in his thoughts, he barely registered the forms of Kiba, Akamaru and the Haimaru Triplets, who'd just turned the corner.

Jostled back to reality by Akamaru's friendly yips and the 'Arfs' of the triplets, he lowered his gaze to meet Kiba's. Seeing Kiba at ease on Akamaru's back, with the obedient trio padding deftly alongside, made him marvel at the Inuzukas' ability with animals, and he was fondly reminded of the fierce loyalty they had to their village and comrades.

'Shikamaru! I look princely, don't I?'

'Yeah…'

'These triplets are the best! Ane-chan lets me walk them sometimes, though she only lets me train with them on rare occasions, like the past few days…'

He smirked with a dubious wolfish gleam in his eyes.

.

'What've you been keeping her busy with, eh, Shikamaru?'

Shikamaru's eyebrows jerked upwards quizzically, subtly drawing attention from the faintest hint of Sakura pink that bloomed on his cheeks.

'All she's said was that something was up, and I followed her scent to the Nara compound…'

'Che, troublesome! If you say so, Kiba. I'll be off!'

Shikamaru's expression hadn't gone unnoticed by Kiba, even if he hadn't dropped any verbal hints.

Something fishy was going on. He could smell it.

He'd press the truth from his sister when she returned home that night.

O-O X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X O-O

.

Shikamaru wondered if Kiba's appearance had been deliberate; that wasn't the normal route to the training grounds. Though more thoughts clouded his mind and slowed his thinking down by a fair bit, he felt the brisk motion of his feet carrying him home at record pace.

Today was one troublesome day, and it'd only just begun.

O-O X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X O-O

.

Shikamaru entered the Nara estates, pushing the gate open as he quickened his steps towards his house, pausing briefly to let himself in.

'I'm home, Mum!'

To spare himself the trouble of incurring a reprimand which had the potential to last l-o-n-g-e-r than lectures at the academy (and the other which would follow shortly after she caught him stifling a yawn) from his mum, he'd learnt to add that troublesome term into his greetings. Thinking of it was already making him tired.

'Hana-chan's here already, Shikamaru. It's not nice to keep a lady waiting, you know?', drifted a voice from the kitchen.

Shikamaru merely sighed, resigned to his mum's idea of a greeting.

'Hana-senpai! Thanks for coming! Sorry for the trouble I've caused you lately.'

Yoshino couldn't help but smile to herself at her son's sweetness to Hana.

'Shikamaru-kun, you're most welcome! It's no trouble at all, and I'm honoured that you trust me so much.'

Shikamaru blushed again; hearing the honorific had reminded him of his conversation with Kiba earlier, though since bringing it up would be too troublesome and embarrassing, he thought better of it.

Hana smiled fondly at him as Shikamaru involuntarily scratched his head; this was immediately followed with another sigh.

He was glad he'd been absolved from normal duties lately. His mother called them duties, though a more appropriate name would be 'chores'. His dad must've fallen in love with this more rational side of her, he gathered, though noticing this only made him more certain that his dad was whipped.

'Give me a moment, senpai.'

Shikamaru entered the kitchen, picking up a bowl of Fuji apple, which his mum had diced into tiny cubes, before striding across the Nara compound towards the Nara Medicine Facility directly opposite their living quarters. He then entered the Herb Room and gravitated expertly towards one of the many drawers of well-preserved herbs. He repeated the process a few times in different corners of the room, until, obtaining what he'd come for, he'd moved towards the table in the centre of the room.

He pounded the diced apple rhythmically, then mashed up an assortment of dried berries and peas, and mixed them up like mixing batter, using the moisture of the apple to hold the paste-like mixture together. The silent room amplified his thoughts of the two females, and he found himself hurrying out of the room with the mixture packed in a container.

O-O X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X. X O-O

He hoped she'd understand when he didn't turn up at the gates of Konoha.

.

-End of Chapter 1-

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A/N:
Strange behavior, huh? I'm sure some of you already suspect what's happening, or going to happen. I hope you liked the places I thought up in the Nara Compound; it was fun visualising and imagining the settings and scenes! As far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong, no such Medicine Facility has been shown or implied in either the manga or Anime, so I'd claim it (the idea, rooms and medicine, etc) as mine.