‘Don’t do that,’ Shikako thinks at him pointedly even as he climbs over the fence to where the fawns are held.
‘Don’t do what,’ Shikamaru thinks back at her, tinged with denial and guilt and envy over her being allowed to sleep in.
‘I’m not sleeping in today because I want to,’ Shikako shoots back at him along with, ‘Don’t scheme against me. You’re supposed to be on my side’
Shikako coughs, lungs rattling and nerves zinging, both overflowing with chakra. Mum presses a hand to her cheek, careful and gentle and afraid.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” she says, “Breathe with me, Shikako. Breathe with Mummy.”
This is one of the worst attacks she’s had in a while, but at least it’s not bad enough to send her to the hospital.
‘You don’t have to go to the Academy,’ Shikamaru thinks at her, mutinous, lining up the bottles of formula for the fawns who need nutritional support, ‘You don’t have to be a shinobi.’
‘You forgot a sixth bottle,’ she thinks, even as she tries to take deep breaths alongside Mum, ‘Dad said there was a late birth yesterday.’
In the deer pen, Shikamaru’s breathing syncs up with hers. He pulls out another bottle.
Mum relaxes, presses a kiss to Shikako’s forehead and pulls the blankets up to her chin, “There we go. Sleep well, Shikako.”
‘You’ll be in danger,’ one of them thinks, as Shikako’s eyes flutter closed and Shikamaru starts feeding the first fawn, ‘Why won’t you let me protect you?’
Dreaming is strange for them. Well, stranger than dreaming already is. Stranger than what Shikako thinks she remembers.
Shikamaru has never dreamed without her.
He claws his way out of a deep, oppressive miasma of hatred, red on the back of his eyelids. He doesn’t remember this night from his own point of view, but Shikako’s memory of it might as well be crystal.
The village around him is warped. Caught between a hyperreal reflection of what he’s experienced–every pebble and crack in the road standing out–and the bright cartoony visions that come from his sister, everything flat and jarring.
“Shikako,” he calls out, looking behind him. Tonight his shadow is just a shadow, dark and unsmiling.
It used to be that Shikako would be there, looking back up at him. Or a blurry presence more heard and felt than seen.
Now, more often than not, her inner self matches her physical self.
“Over here,” she calls back, a flashing image of the Academy building.
Not always, though, he sees. Tonight she is more amorphous than not, unfamiliar height but familiar colors. A vague adult version of herself, perhaps.
“I am an adult,” she says from in front of a lone wooden swing.
“I’m not,” he says, waiting.
Between one thought and the next, a boy appears in the swing. Blonde and pouting and important.
Tomorrow is the first day of Academy–for the both of them, a matter long argued and only recently settled.
They’re meeting Naruto for the first time tomorrow.
Change is inevitable.
A/N: Thanks for reading, @flyingisthewaytotravel 😀
While I do think it’s in character for Shikamaru to want to keep Shikako out of the Academy, I don’t see how he would be able to go around her without her knowing and resenting him for it. And, as far as he knows, her going to the Academy doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll end up on a team or anything–she might end up a paperwork nin due to her chakra hypersensitivity. (Won’t he be unpleasantly surprised.)