He is forty-one - already old for his job, almost too old - and his students, even his child, fight by his side. And he suddenly has a newborn in his arms. The child was, to say the least, unexpected.
But there is his wife, tired and too old for this herself. There is the doctor, a female medic-nin - she reminds him of a student (but unlike her, the doctor still has hope) - smiling, almost as tired as his wife, and just as proud of the successful delivery. And there is the boy, gurgling up at him, with his face and his wife’s eyes crinkled into this adorable first attempt at a smile.
“Hokage-sama,” the assisting nurse asks, looking up from her records of the child’s measurements (51 cm from crown to heel, 35.6 cm around the head, 3.6 kg), “do you know the name you want for your son?”
Son. The word makes his throat clench. After a daughter (now married) and a stillborn so many years ago, he has a son.
He remembers the names they came up with for their first child (they had been so nervous, so excited—and he had had less responsibilities, and the time to think on such things).
What name goes well with Sarutobi, dear?
Your father’s name always sounded lovely to me, from the first time I met him.
Do you think so? Sarutobi Asuma?
He doesn’t realize he has spoken the name aloud until the nurse repeats it, checking to make sure she has it written correctly. His wife’s eyes widen in recognition, and she nods weakly. “I always thought it sounded wonderful.”
He smiles, both at her and at the child - at little Asuma, now trying to sleep in his arms. His eyes seem to burn, and he realizes he is about to cry. The nurse takes his wife’s answer as his own, seeing him unable to answer.
“Asuma,” he croaks out at last. The newborn opens dark eyes and looks up at him, as if he already recognizes his name. He smiles again at Asuma, the grin threatening to break his face in two.
His face is wet.
“Asuma. My son.”
He is twenty-six - just the right age for a new jounin - but suddenly feels like he’s a child again. He is far too happy to be a shinobi right now, too happy to be an adult. He has a son.
His wife lies on the bed, exhausted from her efforts. The family doctor (family, because the clan has specific medical needs that cannot be addressed in a normal hospital) glances the child over once more, before gently handing the bundle of blanket and flesh to him. He then begins recording the numbers (48.3 cm from crown to heel, 34 cm around the head, 5 kg), pleased at the child’s health - well, healthy for an Akimichi.
He cradles the child’s head (such a tiny little head, on a tiny little body) and looks at his face. Shifting the baby to one hand, he pulls out a small tube of red paste. As father, it is his job to create the design for his son’s cheeks, just as his own father had rubbed thick lines down his own cheeks.
Before he can begin, the doctor interrupts. “Chouza-san, what will we call your son?”
He glances at his wife, and remembers a conversation, before they were married - before they were even dating - when they were just working together. She was the squad leader, and he had delayed the squad, nearly costing the entire mission because of his one mistake.
I’m sorry for back there… I’m kind of worthless, aren’t I?
What are you talking about? You aren’t worthless!
But… I’m slow because I’m fat. A slow ninja's a danger to his team.
So what if you’re a bit… plump? If anything, you’re like a caterpillar.
Sure! You’re eating and eating and building up your strength, and then you’ll use all that strength and become a great butterfly. And you’ll show all those people that being slower doesn’t mean you can’t be a ninja!
He wants his son to become a butterfly, to become something greater than anyone could believe he would be. “His name… is Chou…”
He frowns. That doesn’t sound right. “No, no, not Chou…”
“His name is Akimichi Chouji, sensei.” His wife has spoken, and he can see the smile on her face. She remembered what she said too, but made a proper name out of it.
“Our favorite child. Our son. It’s perfect…” Chouôji chooses to look up at his father at this time, and words fail him.
“He has your face, dear,” his wife says. He doesn’t know how he can hear her; he is all eyes and ears for his child - those kind eyes smiling gently into his, that adorable sound gurgling from his throat. He smiles widely and hands his son to his wife, rubbing the red paste into his thumbs. It will take a few applications for the mark to become permanent, so this is just a preliminary design. He can already see it in his mind, though - twin spirals in opposite directions, identifying him for all his life as “Akimichi Chouji, of the honorable Akimichi clan.”
Before he realizes he began, the mark is made, and his wife is smiling up at him, their child tucked away in her arms. “He’s beautiful, isn’t he?”
He smiles. “He’s going to become a great ninja.”
His wife looks down at the boy in her arms. “You’re right, dear.
“His kindness will make him great.”
He is twenty-six, and should probably be more worried about this. As a jounin, he has experienced death, suffering, and torture with a straight face. As a father, he should be terrified that his son might die before even being born.
But he isn’t. One of his best friends already had a child a few months ago, and he was born fine. No complications. So why should his child be any different?
A lengthy stream of shouts and screams echoes through the room. He cringes, remembering why his child will be different.
Yoshino is nothing like Chouza’s wife.
He sighs as a nurse motions for him to come into the room, and moves slowly, drawing out his last moments of freedom.
…well, freedom from fatherhood.
When he finally pokes his head through the door, it is to see (with no small relief) that the child has already been cleaned up and disconnected. He swears, he would have made himself disappear if they asked him to cut the umbilical cord. And then Yoshino would have killed him, which would be a pity.
“Nara-san, come hold your son.”
A son, he thinks. Well, that answers one question. As the doctor double-checks the measurements he recorded (50 cm from crown to heel, 36.8 cm around the head, 3.5 kg), he takes his first good look at his kid.
His eyes soften as he glances at the familiar features. The lazy little thing (who took two more weeks to come out than the doctors said he would) looks just like him. Well, less pointy and bony. Baby fat tends to round things out.
The kid is also missing his hairstyle (simplistic, yet unique, and low maintenance), but that will come in time. Unless he turns out to be one of those pretty boys Yoshino used to fawn over…
Why had she married him, again? Oh, right. She wanted one of these things.
Said “thing” lets out a yawn and tucks himself into his father’s arms. A moment later, a soft buzzing sound starts coming from his arms. He stares at the bundle of flesh and blanket in disbelief. Did the kid just go to sleep, without eating or crying or - or whatever else babies do when they’re born?
“Hey… is he supposed to go right to sleep?” The doctor takes the boy out of his father’s arms and looks him over.
“…not usually. Nara-san did go through a very long labor, though. Perhaps your son is as tired as she is.” Shikaku glances at his sleeping wife, remembering the very late night awakening she had given him two days ago, sometime around 2 or 3 in the morning. Getting her to the hospital had not been a pleasant trip for either party.
“What will you be naming your son?”
Oh shit. Yoshino had some stupid name picked out already, didn’t she? What was it? What was it? When did she tell him what she wanted to call their child…? He puts a hand to his head, scratching it as he tries to remember the conversation.
Hm? What is it?
Since we’re going to be having a baby, I picked out a few names I think sound good.
For a girl, I think we should call her mumble mutter, or blah blah.
And if he’s a boy, I definitely want him to be called Nara mumble mutter. Isn’t it a lovely name?
Uh huh… ow! Why’d you throw that at me?
Pay attention! This is our child I’m talking about here - if you don’t pay attention, or we pick out a bad name, our baby’s life will be changed forever!
Fine, fine… how irritating…ow!
He groans. He hates it when Yoshino is right; she never ever lets him live it down. And for him to forget, now of all times…
It is time to implement one of his specialized tactics as a jounin: making shit up.
“His name is…” He stares at the boy as he stirs in the doctor’s arms and turns to look his father in the eye. There is so much ability hidden behind those eyes - a mental capacity, the ability to absorb and analyze information immediately, and make strategies from the analysis.
This boy - his son - is going to be something great.
And, if he’s anything like his father, he’s going to really hate doing it at first.
If he’s anything like his father, his name should be like his father’s too.
“His name is Nara Shikamaru.”
Shikamaru rolls over and goes back to sleep.
Yep... just like his dad.
Shikaku doesn't understand why that makes him so proud.
It is a short labor, he is told - he is only sitting outside the room for half a day before the cries of his wife are joined by another voice. He is by his wife’s side by the time the baby is cleaned off, and is holding the bundle gently in his arms, letting his son’s bright baby blue eyes look at his mother before anything else.
“That’s kaa-chan,” he says, pointing towards his wife, sleeping off the opiates - his boy was early by almost a month, quick, and gave his mother a good bit of pain in the process. “I’m tou-chan.” He points to himself.
“Your kid come out already? That was fast.” He glances up to see a grimacing jounin standing in the doorway. The doctor protests a non-family member being in the room, but he waves him off.
“Shikaku. Thought you came in the other day.”
His genin teammate frowns. “I did. That lazy boy of mine took two days to come out. He’s sleeping now - that’s all he and Yoshino have been doing since he was born yesterday.” Inoichi smiles despite himself, seeing through the facade of annoyance. Shikaku’s honestly happy, nervous, and worried; he would just rather not have people bothering him about “feelings” and being “open” about them.
He’s always been good at reading people. His son’s going to be just like him, he thinks.
“We got here in the morning, and here’s our baby!” He holds up the child to face Shikaku. “And this is Shikaku-ji-chan.”
“…I’d prefer to not be called “ji-chan,” if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, of course not. My mistake.” He holds his son up to his cheek, as though whispering a secret. “He’s actually really old, and likes being called Shikaku-ojii-sama.
“I heard that.”
He laughs. “Then make up your mind! Ji-chan or ojii-sama?”
“Ji-chan. If I must.” The look on Shikaku’s face - twisted, as though the neither of the choices appeals to him in the least (or he might just be constipated) - makes Inoichi burst into laughter. The laughter is infectious, as his son suddenly starts to giggle lightly.
He really loves having a son.
“So… what are you calling the girl?”
The question is so simple that he doesn’t need to think twice. He remembers the name they chose months ago. “Ino - ”
Hold on. “The girl?”
That’s impossible. The doctor - months ago - had taken a picture. It was an odd angle, but definitely a boy. He remembers the words exactly.
Yamanaka-san, this picture says it all. You are, without a doubt, going to have a boy.
Did you hear that dear? We’re having a son!
That’s wonderful! We’ve always wanted a boy.
Have you seen how happy Chouza has been since Chouji was born? We're going to be just as happy, I'm sure.
Yes, we will. You, me, and our son.
He takes a second look at the bundle - a pink blanket wrapped around the baby, he suddenly notices, and numerous other details he just hadn’t considered. The eyes are just a bit too big and round. The bit of hair that’s already grown is just a shade lighter than his hair. He turns to the doctor, who had been preoccupied during this altercation.
“Sensei?” He is stuttering, he realizes from the back of his mind. It’s as though he used the shintenshin incorrectly, and is stuck outside his body - which, instead of being unconscious, is on auto-pilot.
The doctor finishes the last stroke on the file, about to sign his name under the measurements (50.5 cm from crown to heel, 36 cm around the head, 3.4 kg), when his attention is drawn upwards. He glances up at the suddenly mortified father. “Oh, yes. What are you going to name your daughter?”
“I...I...I - ”
With a lightning-fast, near instinctive movement perfected through years of being teammate to a Yamanaka, Shikaku catches the baby in the crook of his elbow and his teammate on the other arm. The baby blinks, surprised by the sudden movement. Shikaku rolls his eyes, smirking at the single-mindedness of his old friend and the blatant irony.
“Inoichi, you idiot. Didn’t bother to check the kid… nearly gave it a boy’s name.”
The doctor stares at Shikaku, at a loss for words. Shikaku looks around for a long moment.
His friend is unconscious. His friend’s wife is still sleeping off the drugs, and Shikaku doubted the baby here could tell the doctors her name. He sighs.
“It’s always left to me, isn’t it?” When no one answers Shikaku, he sighs again. “Fine. He said he wanted to call his kid Ino.”
Still a bit stunned, the doctor writes Yamanaka Ino in a shaky script.
Ino, done being shocked by her sudden fall, begins crying. Loud crying.
Shikaku sighs a third time, deeper and longer and more obviously bothered by this situation. “Let’s take you to see Shikamaru. Maybe you’ll wake him up with all your shouting, and then Yoshino won’t bother me about our son falling into a coma, or something ridiculous like that.”
Ino refuses to stop crying.
“Geez, you’re a whiny little thing, aren’t you? Bet you’ll be pushing Shikamaru and Chouji around in no time…”
He pauses on the way out the door. “Hold up... Ino-Shika-Chou? Really?”
After a long silence, he laughs loudly, surprising baby Ino into silence.
“The Academy’s gonna get a kick out of this, when the three of you start school!”