Title: Hide and Seek.
Fandom: Naruto.
Rating: PG.
Characters: Shikamaru, Shikaku.
Summary: Shikaku thinks he should spend some father-son time with 6 year old Shikamaru. It is not a mistake he ever makes again.
Big thanks: To Ann, who is awesome and beta-read this at very short notice and yet still managed to beat it into something presentable!
Notes: First Naruto fic. I love these two so very much ^_^. I can't remember the last time I had a functional father and son relationship to fan girl. Usually the characters I love have strained relationships with their fathers.

Hide and Seek.

Shikaku was, for all intents and purposes, a fairly brave man. He had taken down assassins with only his wits and a sizable chunk of good luck, and had battled against insurmountable enemies with a single chant of 'Ino-Shika-Cho!' Shikaku was there the night of the nine-tails attack, and had single handedly moved almost two hundred deer when the Barana stream flooded one dark evening.

So, yes. Shikaku thought himself a relatively brave man. Other people considered him an exceptionally courageous one. And yet, there was nothing that could strike the fear of god into him so potently as the lovely, sweet sound of his dear wife's voice.

"You need to spend some quality time with that son of yours."

Shikaku could have whined. He could have protested. He could have danced on the ceiling or skipped up the moon for all the good it would have done him. When Yoshino got an idea into her head it was best to simply ride her train of thought through to its least taxing conclusion. Assassins and rampaging deer were far less troublesome (not to mention less frightening) than Yoshino when she did not get her way.

"And it better be some kid's game, Shikaku! The boy is only six. Don't you dare try and incorporate anything remotely shadows based into your play time with him."

Play time. He rolled the words over his tongue as he hunted down his sloth of a son. Play time. Did men really play with their kids? It wasn't that Shikaku never spent time with Shikamaru, it was just that their time together was purposeful. Shikamaru liked training as much as he liked anything, Shikaku supposed, but play time?

Shikamaru was probably going to be just as horrified by the idea as Shikaku was.

Unfortunately for them both, Shikamaru was never difficult to find at this time of day. Sunlight flooded in through the patio doors and pooled onto the couch in their lounge, making it the perfect trap for his cat-like son. Shikaku watched him for a moment, noting Shikamaru's slightly too even breathing and overly casual sleeping position.

Shikamaru was good - just not good enough. He'd woken up the moment Shikaku had entered the room and no pretence otherwise was going to save him from his fate.

"You. Get up. We're going to play hide and seek."

Shikamaru rolled over, blinking up at him with bleary eyes. "Hide and seek?" Only half awake, Shikamaru still managed to get his surprise across. "Why?"

It was a good question. Telling Shikamaru that his mother had demanded they do so would only earn Shikaku a scornful look, not that Shikaku deserved anything less.

"Consider this part of your training."

Shikamaru looked at him doubtfully. "Tch. You are way too predictable for hide and seek."

"Oh, really?" He was going to let that comment slide just this once. At least Shikamaru was paying attention, even if his entire posture was still laden with laziness. "Then how about I try and find you?"

The things he did so his wife wouldn't lash him into submission with that tongue of hers.

"Weren't you listening? Too. Predictable." If possible, Shikamaru's expression soured even further. Shikaku's smile took on a manic edge.

"Oh. Really?"

Shikamaru's gaze narrowed at the taunt. "Seven moves. I bet it will take you exactly seven moves to find me."

Well, this could be interesting. So the brat thought he could predict his father's moves that effortlessly, huh? Yoshino might protest that this wasn't how hide and seek was traditionally played by children, but then, this was Shikamaru. When did he ever do anything the way other kids his own age did?

"You have three minutes. Go."

Most children, for instance, would have sprinted off when given a time limit to hide. Shikamaru simply stretched before moving away from the couch with a sigh, muttering under his breath how much better the day had been going before Shikaku had dared impede on his nap time.

Perhaps Yoshino was right, and Shikamaru did need to be yanked into a more appropriate state of six year oldness.

Three minutes was an absurdly long time when you were standing alone in the middle of a room, exposed and with your eyes closed. It wasn't a feeling Shikaku particularly liked, and he had to force himself to relax as he counted down the seconds.

Better to focus on anything other than the thought that such a stance could easily get him killed.

This whole exercise was supposed to be about Shikamaru, after all, but really. Did it matter that Shikamaru didn't have half the energy or interests that other kids in the neighbourhood had? Kids were supposed to grow into motivation, not have it thrust on them by their parents or social pressures. Or was this one of those things that parents were somehow supposed to shape on the sly, manipulating their child towards success instead of just closing their eyes and hoping it came along eventually –

The three minutes seemed to drag on forever. It was bad enough to stand there, wondering if he was going to be struck down by a rogue ninja who couldn't believe his luck at having found the mighty Shikaku in such a compromised position. It was another thing completely to be made to spend an entire three minutes thinking like a parent. There was a reason why he left this kind of thing to Yoshino.

"Right, that's it. I'm coming."

Shikaku opened his eyes to an empty living room. No vengeful ninja after his blood, but no Shikamaru lazily plonked back on the couch, either. He wouldn't have put it past his son to have foregone hiding altogether.

"That's one place I've looked," he stated out loud. Sure, announcing each move might give Shikamaru the chance to move about, but he doubted the boy could move quietly enough to pull off such a feat unnoticed. "Two places." A glance behind the couch revealed that Shikamaru might just be in this for the long haul.

Shikamaru wasn't hiding in the coat closet (move 3) or the hallway (move 4), and there weren't that many places to check in the kitchen, either. Shikaku smirked as his moves became more ridiculous. Shikaku wasn't inside the stove (move 5), or in the cutlery drawer (move 6).

"Move sev-"

"Eh. Too easy," Shikamaru sighed as he crawled out of the tiny cupboard, all arms and legs. For a moment Shikaku could only watch as his son moved across to the fridge, grazing through the contents there with lazy eyes. "Are we done now?"

A muscle in Shikaku's cheek clenched.

"Not yet."

Seven games of hide and seek later found Shikaku silently moving down a corridor and towards his son's bedroom. So far, Shikamaru had hidden everywhere from behind the front porch ("18 moves") to the bottom draw of Shikaku's filing cabinet ("42 moves").

He was certain that Shikamaru was hiding this time in his tree house, but there was a chance Shikaku might accidentally spot him from his son's bedroom window. He couldn't risk Shikamaru claiming a win by default, and he only had one move left up his sleeve.

"Move 12!" he announced to the air, winning this round of hide-and-seek through admittedly devious means. He had already counted the hallway when he first entered, but there was no way for Shikamaru to know that. Now, to waste another dozen or so moves before he 'found' his son, just to teach him a lesson.

"Move13," Shikaku said as he threw open Shikamaru's bedroom door, deliberately keeping his gaze away from the window-

- only to find Shikamaru slouched on his bed, his forehead dourly scrunched into a frown. Shikamaru's sour face more than compensated for any residual guilt that Shikaku might have felt for tricking the six year old boy.

"You cheated." His son slipped off his bed with a glare, sliding past Shikaku as he peered suspiciously down the hall. "You're lying. There aren't more than 12 places to look between the kitchen and my room." The pithy stare Shikamaru shot him over his shoulder was – in its own way – oddly cute. The thought disturbed Shikaku. Shikamaru was many things. Lazy. Insufferable. Mouthy. Cute, however, was not a word he usually associated with the boy.

"Perhaps when you become as skilled as I am, you will figure out how I did it."

"Whatever." Shikamaru may have his 'disinterested' tone down to perfection, but his true feelings were betrayed by a hint of a childish pout. "You're just saying that because you know you couldn't do it."

"How about I hide and you try and fine me, then?" THAT caught Shikamaru's interest. "And to make sure it's not too difficult for you, we'll play the game straight. You just have to find me in as few moves as you think are possible."

The small boy's eyes narrowed thoughtfully, and Shikaku had to bite back a grin when Shikamaru chewed on his bottom lip briefly before giving a small, decisive nod. "Fifteen moves."

"Fifteen?" Oh, the boy was going to pay. "I tell you what, kiddo. If you can find me in under a thousand moves, I'll treat you and that fat friend of yours to barbeque."

It was rare to see Shikamaru motivated – and the look he shot Shikaku was hardly that – but something did flicker in his son's eyes that was almost, vaguely competitive.

"You're on."


"It's his own fault. He made me play that stupid game in the first place." Shikamaru stretched his arms lazily above his head, his gaze never wavering from the clouds above. "Besides, he'll figure it out eventually."

"It's lucky that he changed the game up so you had a chance to escape," Choji said admiringly.

A small smile flickered briefly at the corner of Shikamaru's mouth. "Yeah. Lucky."

Choji had shown up in their special cloud-slash-chip-eating place several hours ago, and had been keeping Shikamaru company ever since. It was only now, however, that Choji had dared breach the subject of the stupid game that had delayed Shikamaru's own arrival by a good half an hour.

"Won't he be angry at you when he finds out you never even tried looking for him?"

Shikamaru's forehead furrowed in thought. It was a curious idea. What would his father do after spending much of the day most likely crouched behind the dipping pen at the far corner of their farm? His curiosity was quickly replaced by a dawning sense of horror. Dad would NOT be happy. Still …

"It'll be worth it," Shikamaru finally decided, with a calculated sort of glee.

"Oh, it will, will it?"

Ah oh.

His father loomed above them, chasing away the clouds so that they were only faint, intangible wisps off in the distance. Shikaku glowered at them both, and the heat of his stare wasn't lessoned at all by the sizable bits of twig twisted into his hair or the dirt clinging to his trousers.

Shikamaru shot Choji a knowing look (a very distinct smell clung to his dad, the kind that one would easily pick up if they had been – say - hiding behind a barrel of dip for the last four hours), before hopping off the makeshift bench with a small grunt. "Whatever. I win."

The temperature on the rooftop dropped by several degrees.

"Excuse me?"

"I found you in less than a thousand moves." Shikamaru explained, deliberately dragging out each word. Choji shrank backwards as Shikaku's expression took on a frosty edge.

"I found you."

Shikamaru waved his hand dismissively.

"Same thing."

It was the standoff for all ages. The chip that had been on its way to Choji's mouth froze halfway there as Shikamaru scowled up at his father. Shikaku, in turn, stared down at his son with the hardened look of a man who had been far too close to deer droppings for most of the afternoon. Choji tensed, clearly prepared to come to his friend's aid if need be –

And then the tension was broken, not with a silver tongued barb or a hash scolding, but with a yawn. Skikamaru's eyes widened in horror and disbelief, and he had to fight back the urge to press his fist against his mouth. It hadn't even been a 'your boring lectures are sending me to sleep' yawn. Oh, no. It had been an 'it's almost 5pm and I'm feeling tired and sleepy' yawn.

Just to make the horror even more complete, his father was no longer scowling. He was smirking.

Damn it. It wasn't fair. To be betrayed by his own body, his own mouth even! It was normally his mouth that got him out of these kinds of situations, not landed him knee deep (and yawn high) in them.

And now his dad was looking even more amused than before. Why was he looking at Shikamaru like that? It could hardly mean anything good.

Shikaku extended a hand down to his son, and waited. Shikamaru looked at it with distrust. On one hand, his dignity was at risk. On the other, what good was dignity if it meant he had to walk all the way home? Decision made, Shikamaru reached up and placed his hand inside his father's much larger one, marveling briefly at how warm it was. With a grunt, Shikaku swung Shikamaru up onto his shoulders in one jerky movement.

Shikamaru wiggled himself into a comfortable position, nudging away some of the more pointy twigs before folding his arms over the top of his father's head and rested his chin there with a sigh.

It beat walking. And the clouds seemed so much closer from up here.

"Shikamaru and I are going to stop and have some barbeque for dinner, Choji." It was as close to a concession as Shikamaru was going to get, although it was a hollow victory. Shikamaru had a feeling his father's willingness to admit to any kind of defeat had more to do with the fact that he had caught a whiff of what was being cooked at home on his way here. "Shall we drop by your parents place and see if you can come along as well?"

Choji shot Shikamaru a sheepish look, before dropping his gaze shyly to the ground.

"Uh …"

"Let me guess, you already have permission." Shikaku stated dryly. It wasn't a question. "When did my brat of a son invite you out?"

"Uh …"

Shikamaru smiled into his father's hair.