This is my approved way of being patient and not annoying Silver Queen to death with endless pleas for a new chapter. If you haven't read Dreaming of Sunshine, go read it now. These are short one-shots based on the the universe she created. If you still want to read this for some reason and you haven't read DOS, this is what you have to know:
Summary: Life as a ninja. It starts with confusion and terror and doesn't get any better from there. OC Self-insert
In other words, Nara Shikako is an OC self-insert who becomes Shikamaru's sister and has survived Naruto's lethal adventures until now.
This is Nara Shikaku's POV of his daughter after the Forest of Death, Chapter 26. I keep writing flashbacks within flashbacks so I hope it's understandable.
Chapter 1: A Father's Fear
Nara Shikaku is not a man prone to nostalgia. But as he looks at his daughter's impossibly fragile body engulfed by the white of the medical bed he can't help but remember the time he could still ensure the safety of his blood.
He remembers the birthing room, the screaming and blood. He is not a squeamish man; he can't be with all that he has survived. But it is different when it is your wife and the unknown complication are twins. Children born in ninja clans develop chakra pathways earlier in the womb. In the case of twins, the mother's chakra is unequally distributed and one is often stillborn, starved of chakra energy. His constant hidden worry for his children began before they had even birthed and the complicated pregnancy had had him subconsciously devise plans to bring Tsunade in during the birth.
Shikamaru he had no qualms about. The boy is eerily similar to him at that age and guiding him necessitates only the advice Shikaku's own father gave him. His daughter though, is a strange constellation of her parents and something decidedly unique. She constantly worries his wife with what would be erratic behaviour for anyone but a Nara.
And how fast they grow.
One minute Shikako is mimicking his every footstep, dragging books twice her size and the next it's Yoshino nagging him to go pick them up from their first day of school. He was waiting in the shade of the tree, more occupied with the latest puzzle the Hokage had set him in trying to control diplomatic relations with Suna when he saw them come out.
There was Shikamaru, ambling towards him and for once dragging his sister forward as she waved goodbye to a small blond mass – root of all ANBU headaches and captor of the only enemy his constantly churning brain had frozen in panic for. The first impulse to Shunshin forward and rescue his children is barely a twitch and he smoothes his features as logic returns.
He may trust the Hokage and intellectually pity the heavy burden on the Yondaime's son but he can still smell the blood spilt and the rot of the dead he helped bury that day. He had then returned home only to find Shikako deathly silent in her cot, curled around a squalling Shikamaru and had feared the worse. Shikaku had spent all night rocking her in his arms, sending soothing chakra to replace the corruptive one that must have silenced her and hoping against the possible death.
Shikamaru had been easy to hold and marvel at as love insidiously creeped up on him. Shikako had spent more time in the nurses arms as they tiredly tried to figure out her constant crying and he had loved his daughter in an abstract paternal manner. But by the time Yoshino found him still singing the old deer lullaby with a cracked voice, Shikako with her large dark eyes and tiny limbs had carved her own way irrevocably into his heart.
He blinks back to the academy playground, scooping up the small heated bodies as he set off a brisk pace, vaguely asking about school, his mind still on that night.
" ... met some new people."
Not one to ignore such an opening he carefully asked about the Uzumaki-boy, instinct waring with logic and for once not quite sure what to say.
"His name is Naruto. He's okay. Do you know… people treat him weird," her high lilting voice shaped in an unasked question.
Shikaku is too good to slip again but he mentally reassesses his daughter's perceptiveness. In a morning she had figured what took the Hokage 5 years to realise when the Jinchuuriki was still at the orphanage. He can feel Shikamaru twisting curiously at his long pause and he mentally curses the intelligence the Nara are known for. Now both his children are inquisitive about an S rank secret.
It's only their first day of school.
Kami-sama help him when they graduate.
He belatedly remembers to give a non-answer: "You should do what you think is right."
"What does daddy think is the right thing?" Shikako repartees, that childish voice asking him questions he's avoided thinking about for a long time.
"Why do you ask?"
"Because Daddy knows things I don't," The fact that she is verbally challenging him after recognizing the fact that he hasn't answered her would have sent infiltrating-enemy-ninja warnings if she was anyone other than a Nara. It still is frightening how fast she reads the situation. He already knows Shikamaru is superior to her in analytical intelligence but Shikako has a drive obviously not inherited from him allowing her to pick things up much faster than her twin and her ability to interpret social nuances between people is prodigious. All the while realising he still needs to answer her, he replies:
"Daddy knows many things you don't. What do you think of him?"
He has seen too many dogmatic youths blindly following orders and does not want his children to grow up so. Only the youth can highlight the ignorance of the previous generations and he is starting to think the Jinchuurikii secret will be proof of that.
"He's annoying, but so is Kiba and no one tells us to stay away from him."
Shikaku can't help but chuckle at the rightness of her statement, no doubt that is Inuzuka Tsume's son. And if he's anything like his mother then he could understand his daughter's annoyance.
"Do you know who Naruto's parents are?" Shikako piped up while still playing with his hair – children were death to any manly dignity- and ramping up his awareness of how delicate of a subject his precocious daughter was rampaging through.
"Why do you ask?"
"Because you're old" She stated with a child's infinite tact and wisdom, "and because everyone says to Shikamaru, 'You're just like your father,' then they leave him alone, because they know you're awesome. So did Naruto's parents do something bad?"
His infinitely calculating brain that is often required to think 10 steps ahead of the enemy is brought to a halt as he tries to halt his daughter's leaps of deductions. Next thing he knows she'll ask why he's a carbon image of the Yondaime. And beyond all these thoughts is a deep sadness he cannot quell. He knew Minato more than his wife, late meetings sequestered in the Hokage's tower with the Sandaime attending as they employed his strategies in the war against Iwa. For Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina to be reduced to conjectured criminals could only be a sign of something deeply flawed in Konoha.
"No one knows who his parents are," He manages another lie as his traitorous brain vanishes into the horizons.
"But he has a last name," She replies under Shikamaru's very interested stare. He's actually opened his eyes to watch the inexistent reaction of his face.
"It could be an honorary name, after someone who died the day he was born." Shikaku tries to plant the idea carefully, mentally tensing for the next leap of logic. But Shikako only hmmed and let the matter drop. He knew it wasn't the end of it. She had not inherited the famed Nara laziness and she doggedly followed up on things that interested her. He still remembers the intensity she put in learning how to read. Hours upon hours, sitting much stiller than any child her age, even a Nara, ought to.
It is that same intensity that tempts him to ask for a change of team mates when his children are 12. Again, Shikamaru offers him no worries, Yamanaka-Nara-Akimichi teams have never had any problems but both the Uchiha boy and the Jinchuuriki each come fraught with complications and as he watches his constant source of worry shyly smile at them he needs to curb the same impulse he had on the first day of school. Ninja are not meant to be coddled and he can only fight back his impulses and let them grow up on their own two feet.
Which leads him back to this bed. He hasn't had a moment free since this blasted Chuunin exam had started, between the suspected but unfindable mole and the hostile nations' representatives prowling through the street. He's also had this constant background of worry with both his children entering the exam. His fingers clench convulsively as he remembers receiving the intel about Orochimaru and which team had encountered him. Only years of experience and self-restraint had stopped him from tearing into the Forest of Death and assuring the safety of his only daughter.
"Been working overtime?"
He jerked as he noticed Shikako sitting up and he was hit with just how tired he must be.
"Sorry, pet. Didn't mean to wake you."
She saw his hands still clenched around the clip board and with her usual want to avoid tension she soothes "It's just a broken arm and fractured ribs,"
Her eyes are wide and dark in the moonlight. Half her face is bandaged and he wonders if all fathers feel such helpless anger at their children's wounds. He taps the side of her face "And this?"
"Just a scrape, the medics feel like they have to bandage everything. I won't even end up with cool scars like yours."
Remembering the pain and adrenaline in a flash he settles for: "You're far too young and pretty for that."
Tentatively she asks "Do you know what happened? In the Forest?"
He hums but gives her little detail, she's deep enough already.
Shikako then gives a clinical recounting of her adventures in the past few days. The cold and technical language help him keep his calm when all he wants to do is spend a few days in T&I with all her attackers. He even manages to add a wry: "I have Jounin that can't give reports that detailed."
When she asks about what her mother knows he internally winces. Yoshino had been wound tighter and tighter with every passing day of the exam and he had carefully not mentioned anything about Orochimaru, the dead ANBUs or the fiasco the entire Chunin exam was turning out to be.
"No, she doesn't," he says levelly. "We've been keeping his presence here quiet. It's the kind of thing that causes panic… or sets people out looking for revenge. The fewer people who know…" He doesn't say her mother would be the first one after Orochimaru's blood, and he's lost enough family to be wise about telling the truth to the wrong people.
"Team 10 and Team 8 know. We told them. I don't know who they've told."
Shikako hasn't learnt that lesson yet but he can only sigh. She's surpassed all his expectations and he wonders if she will broach what is really on her mind as he answers absently: "It can't be helped. But for now… try not to bring it up, alright?"
She nods and he can see her eyes narrow with mirth as she decides to leave him deal with Yoshino when she inevitably finds out the truth. He doubts any of his comrades have such a hard time with fatherhood. "Wicked imp," he mutters, as she widens her eyes, scrunches her nose and blinks innocently.
He snorts before he can help himself. But humour fades quickly as he considers how to address the elephant in the room. "How have you been holding up?"
As expected, she knows immediately what he's referring to and without looking at him she answers: "I don't know... everyone keeps looking at me…"
Shikaku still remembers his first kill. It had been a few years before the Second Great Shinobi World War and the simple caravan they were protecting from bandits was ambushed by ninja. Missing information, precious cargo, a lying customer – it had been a recipe for disaster and in the heat of the battle, when his limbs were moving as fast as his whirring brain his body's mechanical Taijutsu became a lethal weapon. He remembers how shocked he was when he saw the broken neck of the teenager lying in front of him. How being honed into a killing machine from childhood didn't prepare him for the results of said training. He had never forgotten his fist kill. He had been 14.
And now his daughter lay in the sterile hospital room, eyes not meeting his and he wonders if the endless cycle of death will ever be stopped. "You're probably the first of your friends to take this step. They don't understand yet and they're looking to you to see how you handle it."
He had been lucky, his comrades hadn't even noticed the dead body as they set off after the ninja bandits and the stolen caravan gold. But this is one more thing he cannot protect his daughter from. He only wishes it hadn't happened so young.
"I know. It's just..How am I supposed to feel about it? With everything else that happened… its such a small thing…"
Death becomes routine once you survive being a ninja long enough he muses. There is nothing worse then the first time you see the body of the life you've just snuffed out and do not feel anything. And yet, desensitisation is a must to remain sane. The end justifies the mean is a poor comfort when you try to wash of the blood of children. That had been his last mission before he went into the strategical division and started devising Konoha's protection from behind the scenes. There is nothing comforting he can tell his daughter and she needs the truth so he settles for: "You feel about it however you feel about it. No one can tell you that you're right or wrong to feel that way. But you can't change what happened either; its too late for that now."
"Was it the right choice?" The question is nearly whispered and he wonders if she means to say it aloud but he answers all the same: "I can't tell you that. The life of a ninja is a hard one, with hard decisions that have to be made. We might not always make the right choices, but we learn from them regardless. And sometimes, the choice we must make isn't one we like, or sometimes none of the options are happy ones. Only you can tell if the decision you made was the right one."
She fidgets a little before finally lifting her eyes back to me, a glint of defiance in them. "I wish they hadn't attacked us. But… I don't feel guilty. I don't… regret it."
He carefully keeps his tone calm as he comments: "It's something that every ninja has to face at one point or another,"
Her brow finally unwrinkles as she sighs: "You better go home or Mum will start to worry about you too."
He knows he cannot stay here all night if Yoshino is to remain ignorant so he quirks a smile and drops a light kiss on her forehead. "We can't be having that, sleep tight."
As he silently moves off he decides himself. His daughter had been forced to kill. His children need all the Nara techniques they could learn. He would be very busy come next week.