Breakfast in Bed
At some point prior to waking, Shikamaru's pleasant fantasy about a beach and his wife flowed seamlessly into a nightmare - a nightmare involving creaking springs and two children chanting, "Dad...wake...up! Dad...wake...up!"
The earth undulated beneath him like a trampoline.
In his dream, he crouched and assumed his thinking pose. He needed to simultaneously pinpoint the source of the creaking springs and develop a strategy, but his mind remained stubbornly sluggish. All he could think was that Temari had abandoned him to a homicidal toddler and its older sister; this wasn't like his wife at all. Was she still alive, or had the enemy already killed her?
He smelled rice. And...eggs?
Maybe she's just cooking breakfast...
It was the rhythmic bounce, bounce, bounce of small feet upon his back that woke him fully, but it was ninja training and parental experience that kept Shikamaru from killing his children right then.
"Oy! I keep telling you two - no jumping on my back!"
The jumping moved from his back to the bed without breaking rhythm.
"Dad...wake...up! Dad...wake...up!" Each word was punctuated with a bounce, and this chant was neither a command nor a plea. The words weren't even addressed to him at all - not really. It was just the thing the kids said when they jumped on the bed while he was still in it.
Shikamaru found the chant simultaneously comforting and annoying as hell. It was comforting because the jumping meant it was his day off. It was annoying as hell because...well, it was annoying for obvious reasons.
He groaned into his shoulder, still trying to recapture some part of his dream - the part where it was still just him and Temari and things were a lot less noisy. Not on a beach, though. It would be better if they were stretched out on a nice patch of grass in the middle of a clearing in the woods...blue skies overhead and a few lazy clouds...sunshine slanting through the branches and warming their skin. If he could just turn his head, he would see his wife's...
"Dad wake up! Dad wake up!"
"So annoying." Shikamaru stretched a hand out for reinforcements and met an empty pillow. "Where's your mother?"
The kids continued jumping on the bed, but the chanting stopped.
"Mom said," bounce, "she was going for a walk," bounce, "before she killed us," panted Karura. Her words came as fast as she could speak them. "She yelled twice," bounce, "and Asuma's already," bounce, "been on time out," bounce, "three whole times!"
Judging by the self-satisfaction in her voice, Shikamaru knew that Karura had not yet landed in trouble that morning. This didn't mean she'd been good. Judging by his wife's absence, Shikamaru suspected that his daughter had pushed the limits of acceptable behavior precisely as much as was allowed. Like we need another tactician in this family...
Asuma collapsed onto Temari's pillow. He clutched his stomach, exaggerating the gesture with a fake wince. "Dad, I'm so, so, so hungry!"
The bed continued to shake beneath them as Karura bounced.
Shikamaru smiled lazily at his son. "Then go get something to eat, kid. What do you expect me to do about it?"
"Mom said he's not allowed to get his own snacks anymore," Karura said. "He makes too much of a mess."
"I'm so hungry!" Asuma moaned. His entire face was contorted with pretend pain, but Shikamaru was positive Temari had already fed both of the kids. For one thing, the house smelled like rice. For another, Asuma had a few grains of rice sticking to the collar of his pajama shirt and a bit of omelet had dried at the end of his little nose.
Shikamaru brushed the food from his son's face...and onto Temari's pillow. Serves her right for abandoning me.
"Maybe next time you shouldn't dump the raisins all over the floor, kid. I'm kinda with your mother on this one."
"The rice too," Karura said, still bouncing.
"Heh." Last week, Asuma had cooked rice for everyone while Temari and Shikamaru argued over whose turn it was to get out of bed with the kids (an argument he lost). Asuma's gesture had been sweet and well-meant, but...really, really messy.
"Well..." Shikamaru lifted his head from the pillow and looked at his still-jumping daughter. "Then you go get him a snack. You're the big sister...go be responsible or something."
Karura stopped jumping and sat on his back. Hard. She yanked on his hair.
"Ow! Stop that! Respect me, you troublesome..."
"You're the parent. Shouldn't you be the responsible one?"
She was as mouthy as her mother. Shikamaru tried to shake his daughter from his back. "Listen, what a... I am responsible! Every other day of the week. Can't you guys just let me have one day off?"
Karura yanked on his hair again. "Grandma says parents shouldn't get a day off."
"Oy! I don't care what that hag thinks."
"Don't call Grandma a hag," Karura said, imitating Temari's tone. But then she swung her legs to the side of the bed and hopped from his back to the floor. "Asuma, stop whining. C'mon, Brat!" She flipped a hand at her brother and stalked out the open bedroom door.
"Oy!" Shikamaru shouted after her. "Don't call your brother a brat!"
"I'm sooooooo hungry!" Asuma was making so much noise that he didn't appear to have heard anything but the sound of his own voice. He was staring at the ceiling, clutching his toes, and rocking back and forth - he didn't look very upset. Or hungry.
Shikamaru tickled his foot. "Hey. Trouble. Your sister's getting you a snack."
The whining stopped. Asuma rolled off the bed and ran after his big sister shouting, "Not yogurt, not yogurt, I want cookies!"
"Hey!" Shikamaru shouted after them. "I'm hungry too! Bring me something to eat!"
In the sudden, wonderful silence, he threw an arm across his eyes and tried to recapture his dream, the one from before the jumping and the chanting and the undulating. He'd been with Temari and, for some unspecified reason, she had been wearing the trousers from their old joint shinobi army uniform...and not much else. Yes, they had definitely been in the clearing, on a patch of soft grass. Bare feet touched. Lazy clouds rolled overhead. A soft breeze stirred the hairs along his arms.
He smiled into his pillow.
Several minutes into his fantasy later, little pounding footsteps and giggles woke him again, but he kept his eyes closed and his features relaxed. He could hear Asuma panting and giggling, could feel his breath as he checked to see if Shikamaru was still asleep.
"Hee-hee!" Asuma's laugh was low and whispered; it smelled like chocolate.
Shikamaru felt a slight pressure on his back - the snack? - then felt Asuma's warm breath against his ear.
Shikamaru jumped. "Hey! No shouting in my ear, you little..."
"Here's your snack, Dad!" Asuma raced out of the room giggling. Off in the kitchen, Karura was giggling too.
Shikamarureached behind him to grab the snack. It was...sticky.
Not a cookie.
Shikamaru brought the food offering down to eye level.
No, it was a cookie. A cookie slathered with jam and honey and sprinkled with dried okaka - fish flakes. And garnished with a curl of pickled ginger.
He stared at Karura's concoction while the front door opened and closed. Shikamaru could hear Temari removing her shoes and the crinkle of a bag in her arms. Went to the store this early? He tried to remember the last time she'd done that.
"Oh, Daaaaaady!" Karura sing-songed. "How do you like your breakfast?"
"Oh, Sweetie!" Temari cooed. "Did you make your lazy daddy some breakfast? Oh, what a lucky daddy! Let me see..."
Shikamaru felt the vibration of his wife's footsteps as she moved toward their bedroom. Paused. He heard her settle the bag onto the table in the living room. Normally, he would be laughing to himself at how cute his wife was when she gushed over the things their kids did...nobody ever believed him. One of these days, he was going to find some way to record her...or trick her into gushing when anyone else was within earshot.
But for right now, he was distracted by the cookie-jam-fish-ginger thing he held in the palm of his hand. The fish flakes were both submerged and suspended in the gooey layer of honey. This somewhat defied logic and Shikamaru was trying to ascertain how such a thing had happened. Did Karura add the honey before or after she added the dried fish flakes? Or did she add some honey before and then more honey afterwards?
"Did your dad fall back asleep?" Gone was the sweet tone, but Temari only sounded mildly annoyed. Could be worse.
Her footsteps drew closer to their bedroom.
"No." He raised his voice enough for the kids to hear. "Just looking at my breakfast. I'm happy to share."
Karura giggled harder and he smiled.
"Oh, I'll try a bite..." she paused and Shikamaru looked up to see his wife framed in the doorway. She had stopped moving and was staring at the cookie, an expression of disbelief and awe on her face. "Never," she finished under her breath. "No chance in hell I'm sharing that thing with you."
Shikamaru smirked. "And I was going to let you have the pickled ginger too..." In a quieter voice, he mumbled, "She cooks like Kankuro."
Temari approached him and peered closely at the cookie. Smirked. Kissed his forehead.
"Yummy. Good morning. " She settled on the edge of the bed and he rolled onto his side. She leaned into the curve of his body, one elbow on his hip and the other against his ribcage. Her fingers plucked idly at the comforter.
"I don't know about good," he muttered. "It would've been better if I hadn't been treated as a human trampoline."
She patted his cheek. "Poor baby." She smirked. "So where were you this morning? No one could wake you. You weren't just playing dead again, were you? Asuma and I went to war - you really didn't hear us yelling?"
Her eyebrows lifted. "I lost, by the way. Lost my cool twice and had to retreat before the bodies piled up out there. Also, I think we need to tighten the rules on that girl again; she found another loophole. So where were you?"
He set the cookie on the mattress. "Somewhere six or eight years ago. It was quiet. Peaceful. There was sunshine for me and trees for you - no yelling." He rested a hand on her thigh; he knew his smile was a little cocky. "And no shirts."
"Heh. Dream on. No kids then."
Shikamaru sighed and dropped his hand. "Yeah."
"Sounds boring!" Asuma said from the doorway, his mouth full of cookie.
Temari held out her arms and their son soon crawled onto her lap. He leaned against her chest with a cookie in each fist.
"It was," she said. "Very, very boring. All your daddy ever wanted to do was just laze about on the grass all day and all night and never do any work! I had to bribe him to get anything done. Like a little kid."
"Lazy, lazy Daddy!"
Shikamaru snorted. That wasn't exactly how he remembered it, though the all day and all night part was right sometimes. Well, the bribing part was a little bit right too. He could see Temari hiding her grin against Asuma's head.
"Stop telling lies to our children, woman."
"Mommy never lies," Asuma mumbled around his cookie. Shikamaru watched his wife's shoulders shake with suppressed laughter.
"Meh." He sighed. "Why do you guys gang up on me all of the time? I don't deserve this..." He closed his eyes and hoped he sounded casual and disinterested. "So, you went to the store?"
"Did you buy anything for ME?" Asuma asked and took off to look before Temari could answer him.
"Yeah," Temari said after a moment. She rested a hand on his arm. "I thought we could have a picnic today. It's nice out."
He looked at her in disbelief. She punched his shoulder.
"What? I thought it would be nice!"
"Well, yeah, it'd be nice if it was just the two of us, but you know they're going to want to play that stupid game, and then we'll be chasing them all over the park and..." He sighed.
She pinched his ear. "Can you at least attempt to be a little less lazy?" But she was smiling because she knew he wasn't serious. She slid a finger from his shoulder to his wrist and a slow, smooth motion, like a drop of water beading down a mirror. "But you're right. That would be nice. You know...you could always ask your parents to watch the kids for the day."
Falling right into my trap... As soon as she started to want a thing, Temari wouldn't stop until she had it.
But he had pretenses to maintain, so Shikamaru closed his eyes and turned his face into his pillow. "Too troublesome."
Her finger stopped moving. "If you think I'm asking your mother this time, you're crazy!"
Shikamaru froze. When she laughed like that, it always meant trouble. He looked back at her. "What?"
She had him, or she thought she did. Her expression was smug: the smirk, the raised eyebrow, the creases around her eyes and mouth, the challenge in her eyes. Smug...fiendish. This expression was the one thing about her that he knew would look the same when she was eighty as it had looked when she was sixteen. When they were younger, it was the expression that made his heart pound - at the time, he thought it pounded in terror. Now he knew his heart pounded because she looked so damn beautiful when she got worked up and thought she'd won. Her smug expression always meant things were about to get interesting.
"I'll ask your mother if you eat that cookie Karura fixed you."
He didn't hesitate. Still watching her eyes, Shikamaru shoved the entire horrible confection into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed.
The cookie tasted disgusting and the ginger burned his nose - must've been the hot batch - but the taste and the burn were worth it both for the promised reward and for his wife's shocked expression. Knowing she was staring at him, he threw back the covers and slipped off her side of the bed. He almost felt energetic. Almost. He was out of bed, anyway.
"Have you seen my trousers?"
"They were on Asuma's head this morning," she said faintly. When he glanced her way, she was still staring.
He loved shocking her.
"You know...you'd better call my mother now, before she makes any interfering plans. Look, do you need any help fixing food for the picnic, because...it's troublesome, but it's your day off too, and I don't want you to do everything...especially since you've already been to the store." He paused. Looked at her again. Yup. Shocked her again. I definitely won this time. "Speaking of trousers, do you still have your old uniform?"
Temari continued to sit on the edge of the bed, continued to watch him. She blinked and, at long last, her lips slid into their familiar half-smile. "My, my. Properly motivated, are we? Not so interested in sleeping anymore."
He found his trousers at the foot of the bed and drew them on, smirking as he looked at her.
"Meh. Some things are worth doing instead of just daydreaming about." His smug moment was ruined by the arsenal of plastic kunai and shuriken that fell out of his trouser leg. "Dammit, Asuma," he muttered.
She laughed and ducked the plastic shuriken he shucked at her head.
"Well. It's nice to know you've learned a few things over the years."
He fastened his trousers. Approached her. Drew Temari to her feet. "Well...I've been married to this bitchy nag." He slid his arms around her, pleased by the way she was smiling at him. "She beats me if I don't listen."
When Temari opened her mouth to protest, he kissed her. She slid her arms around him and, as he deepened the kiss, she made a noise against his mouth.
This plan is working out better than I thought...
When their lips parted, she leaned against his chest, but not before he saw her soft smile. Her arms around him tightened.
"Must've been a nice dream," she murmured.
He stroked her back. "It'll be a pain, but...I'll demonstrate later. If you want."
He felt her silent laughter. "You're so helpful today." She paused. "Hell. I wonder if I repaired those trousers after our last...picnic."
He rested his head sideways against hers and caught sight of their children standing in the living room. Karura was dribbling honey onto a cookie while Asuma clutched his stomach, again claiming intense hunger. The table had several open jars and containers standing upon it; even from a distance, he could see that there were crumbs and sticky globs everywhere. He didn't look forward to cleaning the mess up, and Temari would probably yell at him for using the wrong rag and the wrong cleanser, but for now...
"You know, maybe the dream was a little boring compared to this." He kissed the top of her head and she nestled closer to him. "Anyway, this is nice too. Happy morning."
"Happy morning," she said.
A/N: Thanks for reading! This story was inspired by my naughty daughters - last Saturday, I woke to them using me as a human diving board. Not cool, but very inspirational. If you're reading this over the weekend, then... happy weekend!