A/N: Here it is, as promised. Sorry it took so long to get here, folks, but thanks for bearing with me and keeping up with story! ^_^
Shikamaru carefully closed the book, fighting a sudden lump in his throat and telling himself the moisture in his eyes was from the dust that had drifted up from the pages. He closed his eyes slowly, letting the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding out in one long sigh in an attempt to steady himself.
He could hardly believe it. If he hadn't recognized his handwriting and it hadn't sounded so much like him, he wouldn't have believed it was his father.
There was no denying it though. From were he had found it - right were Shikaku told him it would be - to the pictures and little notes between the passages.
This had been written by his father, and it had been written for Shikamaru.
More to steal a few more minutes to compose himself than anything else, Shikamaru opened the journal to the last entry again. His stomach clenched almost painfully as he noticed the date at the top of the page, and realized it was dated exactly one week to the day Konoha had mobilized for the war.
It was like his father had known.
He took a few more gulps of air and read the entry again, running his fingers over the writing. No, Shikaku hadn't known; in most wars, there were always people that didn't come back, and he simply hadn't taken for granted that one of those people might have been him.
Shikamaru felt his grip on the journal tighten as he remembered the conversation he'd had with his father over Inochi's mind technique, when Shikaku had realized what exactly was going to happen. Shikamaru was a little embarrassed to admit that he'd originally thought his father had been talking about unsavory magazines of some sort (he still hadn't dismissed the idea entirely; he hadn't been through the rest of the closet yet), but what Shikaku had wanted was for Shikamaru to find this journal, to say the things he didn't think he'd ever get to say aloud to him again.
Leave it to Shikaku to be prepared for anything.
Shikamaru smiled slowly, turning back to the first page when he was startled into dropping the whole book by a sharp voice behind him saying "Oi, I could have sworn you weren't supposed to read that until you were twenty."
Shikamaru turned to glare at his father, who was standing in the doorway wearing a look that was a mixture of amusement and annoyance.
"And I could have sworn you weren't back yet. Besides, you overrode that rule when you told me where to find it." Shikamaru pointed out, bending down to scoop the journal and a few pictures that had fallen out of it back up.
Shikaku scoffed. "That's because I thought I was dying. I'm not dead yet, so I take it back. Now hand it over, you've still got four more years before you can look at it."
Shikamaru held the book against his chest, indignant. "But I've already read everything in it!"
"Then forget what you read and pretend to be surprised four years from now," Shikaku said tersely, holding his hand out. He was trying to hide some of his embarrassment but was failing miserably by the way Shikamaru was narrowing his eyes at him. He flushed a little, rubbing the back of his head nervously. "Look, I'm not...done with it yet. You can have it back, just...not yet. And it'll still be in the same place if you want to read it again."
Shikamaru frowned a minute, considering, then nodded and held it out to him. "Did you really get your scars falling out of a tree?" he asked with barely contained humor as Shikaku put the book back into the box and gathered up some of the loose photos.
Shikaku groaned. "That would be the one you latch onto. And yes, nothing I wrote was a lie."
Shikamaru wrinkled his nose, feeling faintly nauseous. "So Uncle Inochi used to date Mom?" he half-whispered, voice laced with something akin to horror.
Shikaku grinned. "Yep." Shikamaru blanched.
"I am not telling Ino." Shikaku grinned wider.
"I can tell you the whole story over a game of shogi, if you like." he suggested.
Shikamaru groaned in response. "No. I mean, yes to the shogi, but no to Mom. I don't ever want to hear about her dating history if it includes anyone I know."
Shikaku smirked as he got the shogi board out. A few minutes later, after they had settled down a started the game, he then threw a quick glance around and lowered his voice. "Er, you didn't find anything else in that closet, did you...?"
Shikamaru froze in the act of moving one of his pieces. "Oh God, I knew it."
A/N: And there you have it, the end. :) A complete departure from the rest of the story, I know. I have to apologize for the not-twist of Shikaku suddenly being alive, but I'm still living in denial-land and refuse to acknowledge either his or Inochi's deaths. In my mind, they miraculously lived somehow. If this is eventually proven wrong in canon (which the rational part of my brain keeps trying to convince me) then we can all pretend the epilogue didn't happen. In fact, if you prefer the story up till now, you can do that anyway.
Thank you to everyone who reviewed this: WatchingAsYouFall (who's the reason this story exists to begin with), a01, Gaaralover2247, SakuraSpark, Crackalive, Byakusharinnegan, TheCookieMonster77, bellatoz guardian, ZakuroU, xXreapXx, Sabuku No Shiaki, rebecca taylor, Evalyd Yamazaki, DancinAngel-love, Alex, time2read, Sato-San, Smiley Kiley, Akiko, Jenna, DanceAnna, December 25th, Me (no, not myself there was an actual reviewer called 'Me'), ADDAnna, and all guests. :) Your reviews were very supportive and helpful!
I also want to thank each and every one of you who read, followed, and added this to their favorites. Writing fanfiction like this is very therapeutic for me, and to know that other people not only read it but liked it? I can't tell you what that means to me. :)
So, one last time: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for reading! ^_^ I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it.