[[A/N]] Hello there! and welcome to another wild ShikaNejiShika ride!

Summary: 21 years ago, Shikamaru Nara was kidnapped. No one knows why or where they took him. Desperate and clinging to their last thread of hope, Shikaku and Yoshino hire Neji Hyūga, Konoha's number one ninja at finding things.

Pairing: Eventually Shikamaru/Neji

Warnings: There will be violence, there will be sex (maybe) and you can definitely expect some characters to be very OOC (Shikamaru for one but at least I have an excuse for him)

Anyways! Buckle up guys, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

The boy was perfect. Barely a year old and he was already showing huge potential. He would be their new hope. He would be their new leader. Only if he had the right upbringing and the right training.

He had been with them for just 5 years and already they could see they had made the right choice. His knowledge was exceptional and his techniques were improving by the day.

The boy was thirteen and already he had surpassed his teachers and coaches. There was little or nothing more they could teach him now other than how to utilise his power.

In his 21st year he had gone beyond what they thought he was capable of. He had mastered everything they had tried to teach him and created his own new techniques. They were ready. Konoha would fall.

Dark brown eyes fluttered open to greet the morning and a quick glance out of the window told their owner that the weather in the Hidden Village of the Rain was the same as usual; wet.

Shikamaru sighed. Every day was the same. He would wake at dawn, train, eat, sleep then start all over again. Day in, day out, there was no change in the solid routine that he had kept for as long as he could remember.

After he'd washed and changed, he made his way to his training area where his new trainer was waiting.

"Shikamaru," the old man greeted him. "We are going to practice your ability to gather information today. Remember –"

"Don't let anyone know what I'm doing," Shikamaru said. "Yeah, I know."

"Excellent. Now, there are four pieces of information held by different people in the town regarding your next mission. Your job is to gather this information without being caught."

"If I am?" Shikamaru questioned.

"Then you fail," the old man told him. "And failure is not something we tolerate."

Shikamaru bowed to the old man before turning away. Sometimes these training sessions would only last five minutes; this one was likely to take a bit longer.

Shikamaru made his way into town with a carefree ease. He was known by the people in the town to be a lazy person, someone who didn't show enthusiasm for anything in particular; he was quiet, but smart and at almost 21, most people considered him to be a very eligible bachelor. His dark hair was pulled into a rough ponytail and his dark eyes scanned the marketplace for anything that seemed out of the ordinary.

"Shikamaru-kun," came a voice from one of the nearby tea-houses. "Are you coming in today?"

Shikamaru turned to the entrance of the tea-house with a fake smile adorning his face.

"Good morning, Inoko-chan," he said to the small, dark-haired woman peering around the doorframe at him. "I was trying to decide where to go for breakfast," he told her, walking in through the door.

"It looks like you've made the right choice, Shikamaru-kun."

Shikamaru forced his smile to grow at the use of the childish suffix. Inoko and her mother ran the tea-house he usually frequented and every time he was there he was forced to put up with her mother trying to force a date with her daughter on him.

"Would you like to join me, Inoko-chan?" he asked, his gaze piercing her and shattering her wafer thin will.

Inoko's eyes widened at the suggestion and she nodded furiously. "Uh... Of course, Shikamaru-kun," she replied, blushing deeply. "I'll have my mother bring us out something to eat right away."

Shikamaru smiled. If there was anyone in the village who would willingly give him the information he needed it was Inoko.

Two hours later, Shikamaru was sat in his bedroom piecing together the random scraps of information he had gained, wheedling out the information that was useless to him and mentally restoring the parts that would lead him to his mission.

Infiltrate Konoha. Return home.

He would be going to the Land of Fire and attempting to penetrate its highly guarded hidden ninja village. He had direct orders to return afterwards. He would receive the rest of his orders when he met with his guardian for dinner, but one thing was absolute; he was to return alive.

Shikamaru stood up from his uncomfortable position on the floor and crossed the room to his bed. Lying down, he prepared himself for the sleep he knew would eventually come. His mind reeled from the thought of being sent on his first solo mission in another country and one by one, he let the thoughts go; as though his mental hand was simply screwing up bits of paper and throwing them away.

His orders were simple.

Infiltrate Konoha.

Return home.

After 20 years, one would think it had gotten easier. After 20 years, many people had simply forgotten what had occurred. But, still, after 20 years Shikaku Nara was woken by the sounds of his wife trying to stifle her tears, because, even after 20 years, they had not forgotten, they had not given up hope and it still never got any easier.


"Hyūga-sama will see you now," said a petite woman from near the door.

"Thank you."

The tall, dark-haired man wrapped a protective arm around his wife and led the way into the meeting room.

A circular table sat in the centre of the room. There were five chairs, three of which were occupied by very similar looking people.

All of them had long dark hair and very light, lavender tinted eyes. They all had high cheekbones and even the men had soft jaw lines. The only female looked to be about 20, and although she had her eyes cast downward, they were sharp, picking up the slight tension in the muscles of the two people who had entered the room.

The young male was slightly older than the woman, but by 2 years at the most. His equally sharp eyes were watching the pair blatantly. He wore a loose white shirt over a mesh t-shirt. His long hair was tied back loosely and his expression was unfathomable.

The older man, the head of the clan, was similarly dressed. Only the faint lines around his eyes suggested he was a lot older than the other two Hyūgas present.

"Shikaku Nara," said the eldest Hyūga. "Welcome, please, take a seat."

With Shikaku and his wife seated, the clan leader sat down. He knew what this was about he just needed to hear it from Shikaku himself.

When Shikaku began to speak, his deep voice was held steady. Neither his nor his wife's face betrayed any emotion.

"It's about my son," Shikaku said. "We have heard the rumours that Neji is the best there is at solving the unsolvable and we wish to hire him. Money is no object. We just need to know what has happened to our son."

"Nara-san," the younger male, Neji, said. "I have heard what occurred with your son and it would be my honour to help. I do not take payment until the end of a case and the fee is fixed at 10,000 ryou."

"Neji feels strongly about things like this," Hiashi Hyūga explained. "When my daughter, Hinata, was three, someone tried to kidnap her. His father died during the event and he has sworn to give his life to protect Hinata and others like her."

"Thank you, Neji," Yoshino said, bowing her head to the young man.

Neji Hyūga was considered in Konoha to be one of the best at finding lost things; members of the public came to him about all sorts of things; people, pets and even jewellery. Nothing was too small or too big for the Hyūga prodigy to focus his mind on. The boy who had been taken 20 years ago was just a few months older than his cousin, Hinata. And he had looked up things about the case a long time before his family were approached to take on the case.

It seemed that Shikaku and Yoshino Nara had been asleep when their only son, Shikamaru had been taken from his bed in the dead of night a month before his first birthday. Yoshino had woken to the sounds of the deer in the forest and had looked out of the window to see a retreating silhouette in the distance. She had then gone to check on her son and found his bed still warm, but empty. Shikaku had given chase to who they assumed to be the kidnappers but the trail had gone cold about two miles outside the village.

The Hokage had been alerted and two teams had been sent to try to recover the infant. One team consisting of skilled tracking members of ANBU, the other, an ANBU captain and members of the Nara, Akimichi and Yamanaka clans. Neither team had any more luck finding the child.

After five years, the Hokage held a memorial service for a child they presumed dead.

Shikaku and Yoshino Nara didn't stop looking. They would not believe they're son was dead until they had a body they could bury themselves.

Neji's family had been lucky compared to the Nara's. They had guards stationed almost everywhere around the compound. Even if you thought you were completely alone, there was nowhere you could go where you weren't being watched by at least three people. When Hinata was three someone had tried to kidnap her, but thanks to her father's guards, the right people were alerted and the danger passed quickly. The only flaw was that the clan who tried kidnapping her had sworn they're revenge and killed his father believing it was the head of the clan.

When he had read about the Nara's problem, he was confused as to why they had not come to his family sooner. It hadn't occurred to him that not all families could afford to throw away his usual fee for lost persons but when he realised that, he had decided that if just for the peace of mind of the Nara's, he would give them the lowest price he could negotiate with his uncle.

Neji prepared several things to take with him on what was likely to be a long journey; a weapons pouch that carried 10 shuriken and a few kunai, a bedroll and backpack filled with clean clothes and non-perishable food and a first-aid kit that was prepared for him by his cousin, Hinata.

The finer details of Shikamaru's kidnapping had been relayed to him by his uncle after the Naras had left. The little evidence that had been found suggested that the boy had been taken west. If this was true, Neji thought to himself, the most logical route would be towards Amegakure, the Hidden Village of the Rain. However, Amegakure was not an easily infiltrated village and Neji had to at least ascertain if the young Nara had been taken there. Closing his eyes for a moment, Neji sighed. He was creating problems for himself before he had even left his home. He would deal with Amegakure if the need should arise. How he hoped that the need would not arise.

Shikamaru took his place at the table in his guardian's home. The young maid that served them was fluttering her eyelashes at him and he hated it.

"So, old man," he started as he picked up his chopsticks. "What's up with my orders?"

The man was younger than Shikamaru would have placed him. The deep lines around his eyes and mouth aged him almost a decade and the hair that should still be rich with colour was more salt than pepper.

"Tell me what you know, kid," he said.

Shikamaru raised the corner of his mouth in a lazy smirk. "Infiltrate Konoha, return home," he recited. He had spent most of the afternoon running through the orders in his mind and had found no further meaning to them.

"Shikamaru," the old man said, setting down his chopsticks. "There are a few things you should know and now that you are almost of age, you have a right to know them."

Shikamaru followed the man's lead by dropping his chopsticks. He was intrigued, to say the least. "I'm listening."

"You are, of course, aware that you are not a native to this village, or even this land. You were born in the Land of Fire almost 21 years ago, while the third Shinobi war was raging. When you were barely a year old, a team of ninja found you abandoned in the forest bordering the two countries. In a time of war, not many people are willing to take on an extra mouth to feed, let alone one to protect as well, but one of the ninja, was a woman who had lost her own child. She convinced me to bring you back here and look after you until she returned. A few weeks after I brought you back here, she died in the war and so I swore to raise you as my own child.
We believe that your allegiance to Amegakure is true, and, as you know, Konoha poses a threat to us. We believe you are the only person who can successfully infiltrate the Land of Fire and return to us with your Intel. With your skills, you could easily become the leader of our village, now that our own is looking for his replacement. This mission will be the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your skills and become acknowledged as one of the top ninja in Amegakure."

"My orders?"

"Infiltrate Konoha, convince them that you are loyal only to the Land of Fire, discover their weaknesses and then return to Ame. If you succeed, you will be hailed as one of the greatest shinobi this village has ever seen. Failure is not an option."

"I understand. When will I set out?"

The old man smiled at his adopted son. "Dawn."

And so it begins.

[[A/N]] Wow... That took a very long time to plan and write and stuff... I've had the rest of the story sort of in my head for a few weeks now and this chapter was originally three, but, after much deliberation (Read: I flipped a coin) I decided to merge them into one big, long, establishing first chapter.

I will be attempting to update this every two weeks or so, preferably with nice long chapters like this one.

This is my first attempt at an alternate timeline fic so I really would appreciate it if you all let me know what you think =]

Lessthanthree you all