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The Unplanned Surprises of Life

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Naruto Rare Pair Bingo Prompt: Acciental Child Acquisition

 


 

The cigarette fell from his slackened mouth to drop unnoticed to the ground. He blinked once, then twice, brain stuttering around the information. “What?” He half demanded, half whispered, not quite trusting his own voice.

Something painful and not quite whole passed through his mother’s eyes. Yoshino carried that look every day since his father’s death. “Kurenai Yuuhi was killed on a mission last night.” She pressed a scroll with the Rokudaime Hokage’s personal seal on it into his hands. “You’ve been summoned to the Hokage Tower.”

Shikamaru squeezed the scroll so tightly, his knuckles turned white. He’d read it on the way. “I’ll be going then.” He leaped out the living room window, trying hard to ignore his mother’s eyes lingering on his back. Yoshino lost her light with Shikaku’s death. Shikamaru didn’t know how to help her feel whole again, maybe she never would. Sometimes he felt that way himself.

The newly-promoted jounin used a bit of blood to unlock the seal (Iruka-sensei’s doing if the brushwork was any indication) and rolled it open. His jaw tensed, teeth gritted as his eyes skimmed over the details. A B-rank escort gone sideways, attacked by missing-nin, body recovered and returned to the village. Shikamaru almost lost his footing, something heavy twisted in his stomach and dropped painfully.

He lit the scroll on fire with a small katon jutsu and picked up speed. The light was on in the Hokage’s office so Shikamaru swung in through the open window. The red Rokudaime kanji seemed to stick out like a beacon from where Kakashi slouched over his desk. Shikamaru gripped the windowsill, balancing there for a moment to compose himself. He circled around the desk slowly and bowed his head to his Hokage. “You summoned me, Kakashi-sama?”

The Rokudaime’s eyes were red-rimmed when he glanced up. “Oh, Shikamaru. Thank you for arriving so quickly.”

The response made the younger shinobi tense. No goofy teasing or exasperation over the honorific. He swallowed hard before speaking. “I am more than willing to handle Kurenai’s funeral arrangements, but I believe Hinata is a more appropriate choice. The two were much closer than she and I.”

Kakashi studied his assistant with furrowed brows, realization donning after a moment. “Shikamaru, you’re mistaken. This isn’t about Kurenai’s remains.” He motioned for the Nara to sit down. Shikamaru knew the severity of such a gesture and remained standing. Kakashi sighed but relented. “Kurenai named you, Mirai’s godfather, as her legal guardian.”

Shikamaru felt his ass hit the chair without even realizing he’d dropped. No, that wasn’t possible. “There must be some mistake.” He heard himself speak, though it sounded hollow and miles away. Kurenai wouldn’t make a foolish decision like that. He couldn’t look after a baby, he was barely an adult himself. He loved Mirai with all his heart- she was Asuma’s king he swore to protect. He tried to be there for her and Kurenai as much as he could be. But this-!

This-!!

Without a word, Kakashi pulled a document from his drawer and slid it across the desk to Shikamaru.

Trembling fingers grasped the paper, drawing it closer to read. “No...” Panic seized his throat like it was closing off, making it difficult to breathe. Shikamaru swallowed hard -once, twice- wide, panicked eyes fixed on the neatly printed document. It was Kurenai’s handwriting. “No this…” He reread the words several times, dark eyes flicking up to his Hokage in panicked desperation. He tugged at his flak jacket’s collar. Why was it suddenly so hard to breathe?! “Please, Kakashi-sensei-!”

Shikamaru’s vision began to swim as Kakashi cursed loudly and leaped over his desk. The last thing he remembered before everything went black was the Hokage grabbing his shoulders.

Chapter Text

Shikamaru was still dressed in shinobi mourning blacks when he went to collect his goddaughter from her temporary caregiver. It rained the day of Kurenai’s funeral, the sky as grey and listless as he felt. Kurenai’s death dug the hole in his heart a little deeper, another loss piled atop Asuma, his father, Inoichi, and Neji.

The Nara pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off more tears. He couldn’t pick up Mirai crying, it would scare her worse. She didn’t need anything else upsetting her with so much upheaval in her young life. Shikamaru’s eyes were already blood-shot and puffy as it was.

They’d gotten close since Asuma’s death, he and Kurenai. Not as close as she was to Team Eight, but enough to consider each other family. That bond strengthened all the more with Mirai to anchor their fledgling connection. He lost a big sister when Kurenai died.

Once again, Shikamaru was left to pick up the pieces of a shattered life with more responsibilities, more pressure, more expectations he couldn’t -no wouldn’t- walk away from. Kurenai entrusted Mirai to him, not her team, nor any of her agemates. He had to show her faith in him wasn’t misplaced. Shikamaru refused to let either of them down.

Even if he had no damn clue what he was doing.

Shikamaru’s hand trembled as he pushed the door to the Jounin Standby Station open. In the haze of Kurenai’s death, he’d chosen here to meet his goddaughter's temporary caregiver. That peculiar decision showed just how out of it he was the last week. Making logical decisions was next to impossible when Shikamaru wasn't sure which way he was turning half the time.

Kurenai employed a civilian nannying company when she went on missions. A woman in the company’s uniform sat on one of the many sofas, attempting to console his despondent goddaughter.

Mirai’s cries hit him like a ton of bricks. It was that sad, broken sound, like the time he took her for a walk and she’d run off on shaky legs, only to fall and scrape both little knees on the concrete. She was hurting and couldn't understand why.

Her caregiver held her, rocking and bouncing the twenty-month-old as she fussed. Mirai spotted him after a moment and squealed loudly. “Niinii!” She squirmed through the tears, chubby hands reaching out for him in a grabby motion.

Shikamaru felt his chest constrict and clenched. He swallowed the rising bile in his throat and pushed the panic down. Damn, he needed a cigarette. “Hey, Chikoi.” His voice cracked on the pet name. It started as ‘Chibi Koi’ while Kurenai was pregnant, their Little Love, their Mirai- hope for a brighter, better future. Kiba was the one to shorten the pet name with his impatient, quick speech pattern and Chikoi stuck.

“Nii!” She squirmed impatient and teary-eyed, bottom lip quivering.

With a deep inhale, Shikamaru hardened his resolve and lifted her into his arms. Mirai settled naturally on his hip, tiny head pillowed against his shoulder. Shikamaru rubbed her back in slow circles to soothe her cries. She stuck her thumb in her mouth, sniffling quietly. A few final tears rolled down her chubby cheeks.

“Thank you for looking after her for the last few days.” Shikamaru bowed his head to the worker, accepting the bags she passed to him. He slung all three over his unoccupied shoulder, only partly hearing what Mirai’s caregiver told him.

He left the Jounin Standby Station in an utter daze several minutes later with little Mirai held snugly in his arms.

This was it.

No turning back.

He promised Asuma-sensei to protect his king. He accepted the responsibility Kurenai left him with. He always went good on his word, that was the nindo he shared with Naruto.

Shodai be damned if he'd go back on that now.

Shikamaru glanced down at the large, ruby eyes watching him. Mirai trusted him so openly and willingly. The jounin kissed her little forehead. “Well Mirai, it's official, we’re on our own. Just you and me against the world. You ready, Kiddo?”

“Nii!” She curled her chubby hands into his mourning shirt.

“Atta girl. Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

Shikamaru shifted the containers, one in each hand, as if weighing precious gems. He reconsidered his decision for the hundredth time and really, there was no need to spend this much time on it. “...What a drag.” Was the brand of baby wipes he used on Mirai that important?

“Nii!” Mirai peaked curiously over his shoulder, ruby eyes watching intently. It took several embarrassing rewatches of an online video and even more disastrous attempts to get her situated safely and comfortably in the back sling. Even then, he’d been anxious taking to the village rooftops with such precious cargo. Mirai squealed happily with each jump while he had his heart in his throat. And yet, shinobi parents did it frequently. He passed several young mothers with hitai-ate on his way to the store.

How they did it every day, he’d never know. Kurenai always made it look so easy.

With a sigh, he held both packages up for Mirai to see. “Which one? It’s your butt they’ll be cleaning, you might as well have a say.”

The toddler reached for the closest one. “Mine.”

Scentless it was then.

He tossed two wipe packs into his shopping basket, along with a package of diapers and butt cream. Changing dirty diapers was eye-opening, to say the least. How did someone so little poop so damn much? And the smell. He shuddered at the thought. We're starting potty training as soon as possible.

Never was Shikamaru so thankful for his mother’s housewife expertise.

Now if only she’d stop teasing him about it.

They'd spent the first week at his mother’s before Shikamaru felt comfortable enough looking after Mirai to take her home. He started renting a small apartment near the Hokage Tower a few months after the 4th Shinobi World War ended. Without his father acting as a buffer, and with both of them still reeling from his death, Yoshino and Shikamaru’s relationship quickly deteriorated. The near-constant fighting frayed his nerves until he was wound tighter than a bowstring.

His new duties, the constant reminders of his father, his mother’s frantic worry and nagging - it was all too much. He suffocated walked through the front door. He loved his mother dearly, but all his genius offered no answers to how to help her or how to mend the rift between. So he’d left and slowly moved forward with his life.

And how he was responsible for Asuma’s king.

“Oop.” Plastic clattered to the floor behind him. “Mine.” He felt her weight tilt to the side as if leaning to grab something. Shikamaru glanced over his shoulder with a sigh. Mirai dropped her binky, again.

“Troublesome girl.” Bending over with a baby strapped to his back and an overflowing shopping basket in hand wasn’t easy. He felt like he was maneuvering around hidden explosive tags. Sitting the basket aside, he squatted down to grab the binky.

A shock of blonde spikes and too-bright blue eyes blocked his vision. “Yo Shika! Looks like you could use a hand.” Naruto Uzumaki scooped the binky up and popped it into Mirai’s mouth. “There ya go, Mirai-chan.” He grinned as bright as the sun and held a hand out to Shikamaru.

“Uh, thanks Naruto.” Shikamaru grabbed the offered hand, letting his friend tug him back onto his feet. “I thought you were on a mission.”

“Got it done early!” Naruto poked Mirai’s nose when the toddler kept staring at him. She went cross-eyed trying to see his finger. “Thought I’d take a few days and check on everyone after what happened with Kurenai-sensei, ya know?”

Biting the inside of his cheek, Shikamaru pushed down the sorrow throbbing through his chest. Kurenai was gone, they buried her and he'd grieved. Now he had a toddler to take care of and a clan to run. He couldn’t let a friend's well wishes affect him like this. “I’m sure her team will appreciate that.”

“Mirai-chan too! She’s who's most important right now, ya know?” Naruto puffed his cheeks out and wiggled his eyebrows. Mirai giggled and clapped her hands together. “Looks like you got things under control.” Naruto let the toddler grab his finger. “Babysitting for the day?”

Ah, so Naruto didn’t know. That made sense considering the sheer number of missions he completed. He was out of the village more than in it lately. “Not quite, I’m her legal guardian.”

“You’re her what-?!” Naruto’s jaw almost hit the ground.

Mirai squealed with laughter. “Troublesome man...” Shikamaru shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed. “We’re in public, do you have to be so loud?”

“S-sorry, it’s just. I wasn’t expecting that, ya know?' Naruto scratched the back of his head, brows furrowing in thought. "You’re basically a dad.” He grinned after a minute and shot Shikamaru an encouraging thumbs-up. “But if anyone can raise Mirai-chan right, I know it’ll be you.”

Shikamaru’s lips curved into a small, brief smile. Of course, if anyone believed in him whole-heartedly, it would be this knucklehead. “Thanks, Naruto.”

That’s right, for Kurenai and Mirai, he would do this.

He could do this.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t do this!

Shikamaru passed through his small living room, circled the kotatsu and headed back down the hall. Mirai wailed on his shoulder, tiny hands fisting into his yukata. She pressed a feverish cheek to the curve of his neck. Her skin burned, damp from sweat and tears. Nothing he did calmed her. Not a bottle, not her binky, her favourite stuffed animal, rocking her, a bath, nothing!

So Shikamaru talked to her and walked her around his apartment far into the wee hours of the morning. The Nara rubbed her little back through the damp onesie. He feet bore the same path, over and over again. He stopped counting after the laps hit forty.

His beloved little goddaughter was sick for days, the fever burning through her little body. Three frantic trips to the hospital had Tsunade sending him home each time with the same words. “Shikamaru, it’s a virus. Antibiotics won’t make her better. It’s something her body needs to fight off on its own. I’ve already prescribed antihistamines for the fever and congestion. Bring her back if the symptoms worsen.”

Mirai didn’t get worse, but she didn’t get better either. “Come on, Chikoi.” Shikamaru coaxed and pressed a quick kiss to her sweaty hair. “Sleeping will help, I know you’re tired.” She had to be tired after three days of this, he was exhausted. An hour or two of sleep each night wasn’t cutting it, not with his clan duties and responsibilities as the Hokage’s Aid on top of rearing a toddler. Fatigue dragged at his limbs, his eyes blood-shot and aching from the lack of sleep. He crashed just long enough each night to keep his overloaded system from completely shutting down.

Mirai rested only when she cried herself to sleep, too exhausted to fight it any longer. He used those fleeting hours to do paperwork. Having a sick child meant bringing more work home with him than normal. Official documents lay scattered across the kotatsu and desk, half finished and long forgotten.

“Mama...” Mirai’s broken sobs jerked her tiny body against his chest. “Mama...!!”

Shikamaru’s back hit the wall, one hand cradling the toddler’s head. It wasn’t the first time Mirai cried for her mother. Two months did little to ease Kurenai’s loss when each day was a struggle. Moments like this kept her absence a raw pain that never seemed to ease. Shikamaru swallowed the lump rising in his throat and squeezed his eyes shut against the wet ache building behind his eyelids. Crying wouldn't help anything.

Come on, Shikamaru, you've got to do better than this!

“Nii…” Mirai babbled and pressed closer to him, one tiny hand caught in the opening of his yukata, just over his heart.

Shikamaru buried his face into her unruly, dark hair. A heavy shudder wracked his body. “I’m sorry, Mirai.” His voice cracked on the apology, his shoulders tensed, knees buckled. The jounin slid down the wall until he hit the floor. His eyes burned, tears slipping silently down his cheeks. The tension coiled inside him, pulled taut against his frayed nerves. The sob shook his shoulders, his cries mixing with Mirai’s.

What made him think he could do this? He had no clue how to raise a toddler. He barely took care of himself some days, let alone his clan and Mirai. What was Kurenai thinking, leaving her and Asuma’s daughter in his care? She was too important for him to make mistakes with. He couldn’t learn this as he went, not when Mirai suffered the consequences of his negligence.

Asuma’s king…

His sensei's precious king deserved so much better than this!

“Shika…? What’re you and Mirai doing on the floor?” A large hand pressed to his clammy forehead, then pulled back abruptly with a curse. “Shit, Shikamaru! You’re burning up.”

“Naruto?” Scowling, Shikamaru blinked up at his friend through blurred vision. “Why the hell are you in my apartment?"

"I just got back from a mission. It's three o'clock in the morning and your light was on when I came by. That didn't seem right with you having Mirai here now. I was just gonna peek in, but then I saw you crying and you left the window cracked... So, yeah." Naruto scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Can't leave a friend like that, ya know?"

"I've got everything under control, Troublesome-" Shikamaru's protest was cut off by a rattly cough and a wail from Mirai.

"Yeah, we totally got this!" Those strong hands lifted Shikamaru up beneath his arms. "Come on, Shika. You can't stay on the floor sick."

Despite his irritation and protests, Naruto coaxed him onto the sofa with a stubborn persistence and his normal, blinding smile. Shikamaru found himself tucked beneath several layers of blankets and force-fed some nasty cough syrup he vaguely remembered hating as a child. Every time he tried to get up, Naruto shoved him back down. Over and over again they repeated the motion until the last of the Nara's energy was spent. He finally relented, slouching back against the sofa in defeat.

Damn if it didn't feel comfortable.

Shikamaru finally fell asleep with Naruto's hand on his forehead and that sunshine bright smile staring down at him. 

Chapter Text

Shikamaru startled awake to sunshine streaming through his bedroom window. Layers of blankets bunched in his lap as he sat up abruptly. He raised a hand to his throbbing head, fingers brushing across a cold compress stuck to his temple. Shikamaru peeled it off in confusion. What the-?

He pushed the covers back, reaching for the toddler that should be at his side. Shikamaru put Mirai in bed with him while she was sick. It was the only way he got any rest. His hand his empty bed. "Chikoi?" Illogical panic shot up his spine and twisted in his stomach. "Mirai!"

Where the heck was his kid?!

Grabbing the kunai beneath his pillow, he stumbled from the bedroom. His limbs still felt heavy with exhaustion as he inched down the hall. Dulled from the fever and heavy sleep, Shikamaru's mind jumped immediately to the worst possible scenario. If Mirai wasn't with him, then someone else had her.  The orphaned granddaughter of the Sandaime Hokage would make a perfect political prisoner.

Mirai was far too little to realize she was in danger, let alone defend herself.

The Nara stopped short at the sound of loud snoring coming from his living room. You’ve got to be kidding me…

Pocketing his kunai, Shikamaru rounded the corner from the hall to his living room. There, lying sprawled beneath his kotatsu, was Naruto Uzumaki with Mirai sleeping soundly on his chest.

Shikamaru watched in utter amazement as the toddler cuddled deeper into Naruto’s black jacket. He must’ve wrapped it around her at some point during the night. Warmth blossomed in the jounin’s chest, chasing away some of the aching, overwhelming helplessness he’d struggled with since Mirai came into his care. “Troublesome man…” Squatting down next to the sleeping pair, he brushed a few stray bangs from the blond’s forehead. A small smile curved Shikamaru’s lips when Naruto snorted and unconsciously leaned into the touch.

Of course, Naruto would be the one to step up and help when Shikamaru he was too stubborn to admit needing it.

The Nara carted his fingers through his friend’s hair. Blue eyes fluttered open, followed by a loud yawn. “Oh, hey Shika. You feeling better?” Grinning up at him, Naruto lightly patted Mirai’s back and pressed his forehead to her chubby cheek. “I think her fever broke, she doesn’t feel as hot.”

“I’m doing fine.” Shikamaru lifted Mirai onto his shoulder so the jinchuuriki could sit up. Sure enough, her little face was back to a more normal temperature. She'd lost the flush from her cheeks. “You didn’t have to stay the night, we would’ve been fine.” He had to be exhausted from his mission.

“Yeah right, you were both a mess!” Naruto’s azure eyes narrowed, his face scrunched up in disbelief. He leaned in close so his and Shikamaru’s faces were only inches apart. “Like hell I was going to leave you and Mirai-chan sick on the floor. You’re too important for that.”

Shikamaru’s stomach did a weird flip. He shifted back from the blond, his cheeks flushed slightly. “I said we were fine, what a drag…”

“Come on, Shika, you’re the most intelligent guy I know. I thought you, of all people, would be smart enough to get help when you needed it.” Naruto motioned with a thumb over his shoulder to the piles of paperwork Shikamaru brought home from the Hokage Tower to do on his downtime. “How’re you gonna spend any time with Mirai-chan if you keep getting overwhelmed by paperwork? That's worse than Iruka-sensei's desk the week before report cards are due home.”

Wasn’t that a slap to the face? The shadow-user truly was completely in over his head if someone as dense as Naruto picked up on it so easily. Shikamaru scowled, his gaze shifting away from his friend. “I have responsibilities-”

Mirai’s fussy cry cut the conversation short when she stirred against his shoulder. “Nii.” She peeked up at Shikamaru with a soft yawn and laid her head on his shoulder.

“Good morning, Chikoi.” Nuzzling his nose into her dark hair, Shikamaru inhaled her soft baby scent. As long as Mirai was on the road to recover, everything would be okay. He could figure the rest out as long as she was happy and safe.

Naruto crossed his hands behind his head with a grin. “You’re doing awesome with her, Shika. Letting me help once in a while ain’t gonna change that, ya know?”

Troublesome, meddling man…

“What a drag…” As irritating as it was, Shikamaru knew there was no stopping Naruto once he set his mind to something. Might as well accept it now and save himself a few headaches (not to mention much exasperation) down the line. “Fine.”

“Awesome! This is gonna be great-!”

“She’s my goddaughter, I’m responsible for her. What I say goes, got it?”

“Yeah sure, Shika! I just-”

“Naruto-”

“Yeah yeah, I hear ya, just-.”

“Naruto-!”

The blonde pouted, his brows set in a childish scowl. “Whaaaat, Shika? I said I heard ya.”

“...Thank you.” 

Chapter Text

True to his word and every bit as frustratingly determined as Shikamaru predicted him to be, Naruto forcefully inserted himself into every aspect of their hectic lives. The hyperactive knucklehead was suddenly just there, whenever he thought Shikamaru or Mirai might need him.

The shadow-user returned to work at the Hokage Tower two days after Mirai’s fever broke. He walked through the doors of Kakashi's office to find Naruto planted firmly at the Rokudaime Hokage’s side."What the...?"

Naruto folded his hands behind his head, his grin brightening when he saw the Nara. "Hey, Shika!"

Kakashi raised a hand in greeting, his eyes curving into a smile. "Welcome back Shikamaru, are you and Mirai feeling better?"

"We're fine, but what is Naruto doing here?"

"Mah..." Sighing, Kakashi leaned heavily onto one arm. "He pestered me relentlessly until I agreed to him becoming my personal assistant."

"Part-time assistant, ya know!" The blond piped in. "With my missions and Mirai-chan to look after, that's all I got time for."

Shikamaru buried his face in his hands with a groan. "When I said you could help, I didn't mean to make such an impulsive decision, Naruto!" It was too premature to start grooming the jinchuuriki as the next Hokage.

"Hey! It's my choice to help you and Kakashi-sensei-"

Kakashi held up his hand, cutting off the argument he saw coming. "Experiencing the more mundane responsibilities of the Hokage will be a good experience for Naruto. Who I take as an assistant is my decision, after all." He picked up several documents from the top of one towering pile and handed them to Naruto. "Now, I suggest we get to work. I promised Iruka I'd be home in time for supper tonight."

To Shikamaru's chagrin, that was just the beginning of Naruto's determination to implant himself into his and Mirai's routine.

Naruto leapt from the rooftops -at seemingly random times- to walk with them throughout the village, whether it was to take Mirai to her hoikuen, to run errands, or to head to the Hokage Tower together.

The blond's first, over-confident excusion into diaper changing was an experience they agreed never to speak of again.

They spent lazy afternoons with Mirai at the playground rebuilt to replicate the one they frequented as kids. Shikamaru laid back on the grassy slope, watching Naruto with his goddaughter more than the clouds drifting lazily above. The blond cheered Mirai on as she struggled up the massive steps and caught her at the bottom of the slide. Naruto hoisted her up, spinning the shrieking, laughing toddler around and around with the same enthusiasm he approached everything in life.

The more Shikamaru watched Naruto with his precious goddaughter, the more that warm feeling seemed to grow and spread inside him. Naruto didn’t have to be there for him or Mirai, but he chose to be.

As irritating and overbearing as that was.

No matter how tired he was from his missions, Naruto always greeted them with an enthusiastic grin.

When the blond started showing up on Shikamaru’s balcony with Ichiraku Ramen dangling from a bag in his hand, Shikamaru just stepped aside and ushered the jinchuuriki inside.

“I brought supper so you don’t have to cook, ya know? Uh, Mirai-chan can eat ramen right?”

“Yeah, it’s fine to try her on some.”

They gathered around the kotatsu with Mirai in his lap and dug into the steaming noodles. To Shikamaru's horror, Mirai quickly grew to love ramen as much as Naruto did.

On the nights Shikamaru worked late and Naruto was in the village, he babysat. The Nara returned after sunset  to find the blond and toddler sleeping beneath the kotatsu with empty Ichiraku Ramen take-out containers scattered around them.

Not having the heart to wake either of them, Shikamaru cleaned up the containers and retired to his own bed. Mirai was fine with Naruto for one night. That was how he rationalized it before dropping face-first into his pillow from exhaustion.

“SHIKMAAAARU!” A heavy weight landing atop him woke the jounin up the next morning. Groaning, the Nara pulled his pillow over his head, ignoring the little giggles and tiny hands pulling at his blanket. “Shika!! We made breakfast, ya know? Come eat with us! Mirai-chan spread the toast!”

He shoved the blonde off and reached for his goddaughter. “You let a toddler use a knife?!” Everything seemed to be in order though, no missing fingers or toes.

“What? No! She used her fingers.”

Oh for the love of Konoha…

“Of course she did.” 

Chapter Text

“Shika!! I got the day off!” Jumping off the apartment building to their left, Naruto landed before Shikamaru with Mirai in his arms.

“I see you’re wearing your birthday present.” Balancing the now two-year-old Mirai on his hip, Shikamaru's eyes swept over the blond from head to toe. The zip-up orange hoodie and grey capris suited him surprisingly well- the perfect clothes for a cool, early autumn day.  

“Yeah, they fit super well! You gotta show me which shop you got them from, Shika!” Naruto held his arms out and rocked back on his heels to emphasize the point. His attention quickly shifted to the toddler in Shikamaru's arms. He waved to her with both hands. “Hey, Mirai-chan! How’s my favourite ramen buddy?”

Mirai’s ruby eyes unexpectedly widened as she twisted in her godfather’s hold. “Ah, Papa!” With that happy squeal, she thrust her chubby hands out to Naruto to be held. “Papa! Me up Papa! Up!”

Both shinobi froze, dark eyes locking with blue. Naruto’s mouth dropped open in shock. “D-Did she just-?”

Shikamaru’s gaze shifted from Mirai to Naruto, then back again. His stomach did an uncomfortable flip. No, there was no way she would mistake Naruto of all people for her father. Hadn’t he and Kurenai done well enough explaining who Asuma was? How important he was to them all? Yes, they'd spent a lot of time together lately, but he wasn't her primary caregiver. Surely she'd call him that before Naruto.

And yet, here they were. “I-I think she did.”

“Papa!” Mirai’s impatient repetition reconfirmed their unexpected discovery. “Papa me up now!” She wiggled in Shikamaru’s arms, tiny hands reaching for Naruto in a grabby motion.

For the first time in all the years Shikamaru knew him, Naruto looked genuinely terrified. The blond slowly inched closer to them, blue eyes shifting to gauge his reaction every few seconds. Naruto clearly knew he was treading on thin ice. Despite the conflicting emotions raging inside him, Shikamaru couldn't deny either of them the contact they clearly wanted.

“Alright, Alright, I got you, ya know?” The jinchuuriki reassured Mirai. When the Nara didn’t protest, he slowly lifted Mirai into his arms.

"Ma Papa." The toddler wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed a sloppy, wet kiss to the blond’s cheek.

Naruto’s blue eyes went glassy the second before he squeezed them shut. His bandaged hand cradled her small head as he hugged her close. "...Papa's got you." He murmured against Mirai's dark curls.

Shikamaru watched the exchange in anxious silence. His hands fisted and unclenched over and over against his pants. The warmth inside Naruto usually brought him coiled and lashed into an all-consuming inferno. He felt the heat race through his veins, and flush his cheeks. It raged to the surface so sharp and sudden, Shikamaru grit his teeth to hold it down.

Jealousy.

Jealousy and fear.

The rational part of his mind supplied. Him jealous? Of what? Mirai's happiness? Naruto's? The bond they developed so naturally while he struggled to stay afloat in a sea of ever-mounting responsibilities?

Jealous Mirai loved Naruto more than him?

Afraid he’d get left behind, alone? The Get-It-Done man in the shadows. But wasn’t that what he always wanted? Minimum effort and a simple existence out of the spotlight.

An average life.

Only now he was a jounin, a war hero, the Nara Clan’s Head, the current Hokage’s aid, the future Hokage’s advisor, Mirai’s godfather, guardian, parent, and-

Jealousy, fear and something much, much more.

“Uh, Shika? Are you okay? You’re getting kinda red-faced.”

-and he was suddenly there, standing before two of the people he loved most in this unforgiving, impossible world. Both stared at him, wide-eyed, uncertain, just waiting to see what he would do. Shikamaru knew he must look feral. The fire blazing inside him licked at his insides, burned away his self-control. They were so close, the Nara could see Naruto's irises were a paler shade of blue at the outer edge.

"Come on, Shika." His blond brows knitted together. "You're starting to creep us out, ya know?"

Grabbing the front of his orange sweater, Shikamaru yanked the jinchuuriki into a rough kiss. Naruto gasped in surprise, a motion that let the shadow-user catch him open-mouthed. A slight tilt of the head fit their mouths firmly together and muffled the surprised groan that slipped past Naruto's lips. Shikamaru's free hand tangled in his hair, fingers twisting through spiky, blond locks to stop him from pulling away.

With Mirai in his arms, Naruto was completely at his mercy. Shikamaru forced his lips further apart, to move as he desired. The blond startled in his hold when their tongues twined, stroking, seeking, the taste both intoxicating and exhilarating.

A guttural moan rumbled through Naruto's chest. Slowly, but surely, he leaned into the kiss, his mouth hesitant but seeking against Shikamaru's.

It was the lack of oxygen that finally broke the kiss- out of necessity, not desire. Smirking, Shikamaru looked his conquest over. With flushed cheeks and half-lidded eyes, Naruto was the picture of stunned bliss. He blinked once, twice, his mouth moving in silent surprise.

A speechless Naruto, how adorable.

Dark satisfaction pooled in Shikamaru’s stomach, his lips still tingling from the kiss. “I like you.” His fingers curled deeper into the orange material of Naruto’s shirt, refusing to let go just yet.

The jounin wasn’t sure if the confounded look that passed over Naruto’s face was more adorable or infuriating. “Uh… Shika?”

“I have feelings for you, Dumbass.” He covered the blond’s hand where it rested on Mirai’s back. The toddler was uncharacteristically quiet, simply staring at her caregivers with wondrous, innocent eyes. “Romantic feelings," he clarified, just to get the point across.

Shikamaru watched with growing amusement as Naruto's jaw slackened and his face rapidly flushed scarlet. "W-What? When did you-? How? Why? "

"Why not?" Shikamaru pressed another quick kiss to the jinchuuriki's mouth. "Don't go overthinking things, that's not your strong point. Why don't I take you out for Ichiraku Ramen instead?"

"You mean, like a date?" Naruto looked down at the toddler in his arms. "But what about Mirai-chan?"

Shikamaru smiled softly. That gentle warmth flooded through him once again, chasing away the all-consuming fire of jealousy and fear so only love remained. There was still so much uncertainty, the overwhelming responsibilities and anxieties of everyday life.

But not this, never them.

Naruto was right. For being so smart, he could be such a fool. Shikamaru shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. "We can make it a family affair."

That glassy look of awe darkened Naruto's azure eyes. "...A family?"

The hopeful uncertainty in that question dug at something raw inside Shikamaru: Asuma, his father, Inoichi, Neji, and now Kurenai. They were all gone and he was still trying to pick up the pieces. But Naruto never had those kind of bonds to lose in the first place. Jiraiya was the closest, and that almost ripped the blond apart. Now, what he always wanted and never had was dangling before him: a family.

He and Mirai deserved so much more than what Shikamaru could give them, but he was going to try.

"Yeah Naruto, we're a family- you, me and Mirai."

Chapter Text

“Naruto, she’ll be fine without us for a few hours.” Shoving his hands into his pockets, Shikamaru turned to his date lagging two rooftops back. “Who’s better with kids than Iruka-sensei? He managed to raise you with all ten fingers and toes still attached, didn’t he?”

“It’s not Iruka-sensei I’m worried about!” Naruto glanced back the way they’d come. The Hokage Manor was nothing but a silhouette in the distance now. “If Kakashi-sensei tries to corrupt Mirai-chan with those books-”

“He’ll be spending another night in the Hokage office like he has to every time he pisses Iruka-sensei off.” Shikamaru leapt back to his date and reached for his hand.

“I guess you’re right…” Pouting, Naruto turned around, only to get caught in a gentle kiss. His cheeks flushed as he laced their fingers together. “How’re you not worried?”

“Naruto, she’s being looked after by Iruka-sensei in the Hokage’s house. Not only is she in the hands of the most capable man I can think of, but there are also ANBU and wards everywhere. What’s going to happen?”

Naruto scrunched up his face like he’d just bitten a lemon. “ Icha Icha ,” he whispered darkly to the Nara.

Shikamaru shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Naruto, do you want to miss the all-you-can-eat special at Ichiraku’s?”

“Ack, no! I promised Iruka-sensei and Mirai-chan we’d bring them back a bowl!” In a panicked rush, Naruto activated his Kurama Chakra Mode, scooped Shikamaru up bridal style and took off over the rooftops. “Hold on tight, Shika!!”

“Naruto!” Shikamaru threw his arms around the jinchuuriki’s shoulders, his hands fisting into his date’s glowing sweater. “Don’t drop me, troublesome man.”

Naruto’s laughter echoed across the rooftops. “I won’t!”

They landed in front of the rebuilt Ichiraku Ramen to several pairs of curious eyes. The blond set Shikamaru on his feet, one hand lingering against his hip as Kurama’s chakra receded. Reaching down, the jounin laced his fingers through Naruto’s. He held firm against the onlookers and simply let blond drag him under the awning.

“Two miso ramen, for me and my date, Teuchi!” Naruto held two fingers up as they took a seat.

“A date?” The aging shop owner leaned over the counter, his eyes shifting from Naruto to Shikamaru. The wide smile he gave them was warm and welcoming. “Congratulations you two! This is cause for celebration. The first bowl’s on the house.”

Resting his chin on an upturned palm, Shikamaru watched his date let out an excited whoop and start chattering to Ayame and Teuchi about Mirai’s love of ramen as they prepared their meals. The jinchuuriki was around even more frequently since his confession a few weeks ago. Having Naruto and his goddaughter so completely imbedded in his life now felt so natural.

Naruto gushing over Mirai was the cutest damn thing ever.

“You really care about him, don’t you?”

The question broke the Nara from his thoughts. “Hm?” He glanced up at Ayame as she handed him a pair of chopsticks. “I do, but what made you ask?”

She leaned closer so the other patrons couldn’t pick up their conversation. “The look on your face gives away your feelings, Nara-kun. You’re quite handsome when you smile like that.”

“What a drag…” Shikamaru felt his cheeks begin to burn scarlet. He slouched down on his stool a bit farther.

Ayame simply smiled and brought their ramen over when it was done. “Enjoy your date.” Thankfully, she didn’t tease him any more during their meal.

Naruto powered through five bowls of ramen. His constant stream of chatter never ceased, not even with his cheeks puffed full of food. Content to listen, Shikamaru picked at his own bowl and offered a word here and there when his date paused long enough to swallow. The more they ate and the more they talked, the more relaxed they became.

When was the last time they enjoyed each other’s company without Mirai in the middle?

It was nice.

Shikamaru’s knee brushed against Naruto’s black pants, smug satisfaction coiling in his stomach when the slight contact drew a bright blush from the blond. Naruto stuttered between sentences and swallowed a mouthful of ramen hard.

Too damn cute.

With their stomachs full, Shikamaru paid the tab and the pair bid Teuchi and Ayame goodnight. They opted to walk back to the Hokage Manor through the streets. With the sun long set, very few people were out and about. Stars twinkled in the clear sky above, the streets quiet, the night peaceful.

After a few blocks, Naruto’s fingers laced through his own and held tight. “Shika, I-”

Pulling the jinchuuriki close, Shikamaru cut off his words with a passionate kiss. Naruto groaned softly, his head tilting to get better access. They exchanged several chaste kisses, each one lingering a bit longer than the previous. “Stay the night.”

Naruto shrugged without giving the request a second thought. “Sure, I mean I do that a lot anyway. I like reading Mirai her bedtime story, and your kotatsu’s really comfy.”

Shikamaru resisted the urge to bang his head off the closest wall. Okay, the blond really was that oblivious. No wonder he never noticed Hinata’s massive crush. With a sigh, the jounin brought their linked hands to his lips and kissed his date’s knuckles. “Naruto, I want you to spend the night with me. In. my. bed. Not under my kotatsu.”

Naruto’s face slowly brightened three shades redder. “Oh,” he squeaked in a tiny voice.

He rolled his eyes fondly, lips curving into a lazy grin. “You’re lucky Mirai and I love you so much, moron.”

The blond’s eyes darkened in that broken, yet hopeful way that left Shikamaru’s gut clenching. “Okay Shika, I’ll stay the night.”

Chapter Text

“No Papa!” Mirai’s squeals and giggles carried into the kitchen. Tiny feet stomped across the floor in a flurry from one end of the living room to the other.

“You better run, Mirai-chan! Papa’s gonna getcha, ya know!” A scrape and bang followed soon after, a sign Naruto most likely vaulted over the kotatsu again.

With a sigh, Shikamaru set the document he was reading aside. Naruto’s offer to distract Mirai was thoughtful, but having two screaming people in the apartment instead of one was counter-productive. His boyfriend’s heart was in the right place though.

“Kage bushin no jutsu!”

“Ahhh! Papa!” The myriad of little stomps was most likely from Mirai dancing in place. She did that when overly excited. “... Papas ?” Shikamaru had to stifle a laugh at the confusion in her voice.

“Get moving, Mirai-chan!” One Naruto cautioned.

“Yeah! We’re gonna catch you for sure now!” A second declared.

His goddaughter’s scream was followed by a bang, something toppling to the floor with a clunk (most likely a lap), and tiny feet headed his way. Shikamaru counted down in his head.

Three…

Two…

One…

The two-year-old came barrelling around the corner with Naruto on her heels and headed right for him. Shikamaru dropped into a squat to catch her as she squealed loudly. “Daddy!!”

The toddler hit his chest and the entire world seemed to freeze. Shikamaru’s arms closed around her on impulse, his breath catching in his throat. Mirai’s hands curled into his flak jacket, completely oblivious to the impact that one word had on her godfather.

“Shika!” Naruto skidded across the linoleum on his knees and tackled them both in a bear hug. “Shika did you hear that? This is great! I knew she’d do it sooner or later but-”

“I-” The jounin choked on his words, his shoulders stiffened, then began to shake. Biting his bottom lip, Shikamaru squeezed his eyes shut against the building tears. Something inside him seemed to both fracture and heal -love and sorrow, happiness and guilt- it blended into a strange amalgamation that took his breath away.

With that one, innocent word, Mirai made the last six months of hardship and uncertainty worth it. He had a family of his own now. A man he loved and a little girl he absolutely adored. But this wasn’t his place, it was Asuma and Kurenai’s. He wasn’t the one the toddler should run too, he wasn’t the one that title belonged to.

Daddy...

Papa...

He and Naruto were thieves taking the place of the dead. Even as he gathered Mirai close and let Naruto brush the tears from his face, Shikamaru felt like an imposter.

“Daddy?” Mirai’s ruby eyes looked from Shikamaru to Naruto in confusion, her bottom lip began to quiver. “Papa?”

“...Don’t cry, Shika. Mirai-chan doesn’t understand why you’re sad.”

The Nara shook his head, pale-faced. “Th-this isn’t right. I-I’m not the one she’s supposed to-”

Naruto silenced him with a gentle kiss to his lips, then pressed a second to Mirai’s forehead. “It hurts loosing people." The blond nuzzled his face into their little girl's dark hair. "But I think whatever happened was supposed to happen. All three of us are right where we’re supposed to be, ya know. We’re a family, you, me and Mirai.”

“Noooo, no cry, Daddy.” Mirai’s chubby hands patted his damp cheeks and wrapped tightly around his neck. Cuddling into Shikamaru’s shoulder, she pressed a sloppy kiss to his jaw.

The blond’s arms tightened around him and Mirai. “You’re my family. I love you both so much.”

Shikamaru drew in a shaky breath and pressed his face into his boyfriend’s shoulder. As much as he hated it, Naruto was right. The past couldn’t be changed. Asuma and Kurenai were gone, but he and Naruto were still here with Mirai: the only parents she’d ever know.

They’d have to be enough.

 “I love you too.” 

Chapter Text

“Hey, Shika, which cupboard do I put my ramen cups in?” The blond poked his head around the kitchen doorway. “You’ve already got so much food in here.”

Shikamaru looked up from the half-empty box of manga he was currently stacking onto the lone shelf Naruto brought with him. “Don’t you think there are more important things to unpack first?” After six months of dating and almost a full year of raising Mirai together, Naruto was officially moving in with them.

“Oh no, Daddy!” Mirai audibly gasped from between Naruto’s legs, her little mouth falling open dramatically. “Ramen yummy.”

Naruto almost doubled over laughing. “Atta girl, Mirai-chan! You tell Daddy what’s what.” He hoisted the two-year-old onto his shoulder and kissed her cheek.

Shaking his head, Shikamaru sighed exasperatedly but affectionately. “If you finish unpacking this afternoon, I’ll get take-out from Ichiraku’s for supper. How does that sound?”

The blond almost tackled his boyfriend to the floor. “You’re the best, Shika!” Pressing a hard kiss to Shikamaru’s lips, he deposited Mirai into his arms. "I'll have it done in an hour!" Footprints thundered through the apartment as Naruto took off down the hall to their bedroom.

The jounin snorted in disbelief and kissed to the toddler’s forehead. “Well, that’s one way to motivate him.”

“Silly Papa.” Mirai laid her head on Shikamaru’s shoulder, tiny hands fisting into his flak jacket. Her dark eyebrows knitted into a scowl when one hand curled around a lump hidden in his breast pocket. “What that Daddy?”

Shikamaru’s face flushed. Swallowing hard, he quickly drew Mirai’s hand away from his pocket. His gaze shifted to the hall where Naruto could be heard chattering to someone as boxes were shifted around and drawers opened. He must’ve summoned a toad to help him unpack.

Well, he hadn’t specified Naruto needed to do it all himself to earn that ramen.

“...Can you keep a secret, Chikoi?” The Nara murmured quietly to his foster daughter. He brought a finger to his mouth for emphasis when she blinked at him curiously. “Shh, don’t tell Papa. It’s a surprise.”

Mirai copied the motion with a nod. “Shh, No tell Papa,” she whispered with as much seriousness as a two-and-a-half-year-old could muster.

“That’s right, you’re such a smart girl.” Kissing her cheek, Shikamaru pulled the small box from his pocket Mirai had unintentionally wrapped her fingers around. The black velvet was soft against his fingers as he held it out for her to see. “This is for Papa.” He flipped the top open, revealing the delicate engagement ring inside -silver accentuated with a center of rippling orange in different shades. Classy, but bold enough for a bright, booming personality like Naruto’s.

Now if only he could work up the nerve to pop the question.

The damn ring had been burning a hole in his flak jacket for the last two weeks. The moment never seemed right, never quite special enough. And the few times it had?

Shikamaru utterly chickened out.

“Oh, pretty!!” Mirai’s eyes brightened and rounded. She reached for the ring box, taking it with surprising care in her tiny hands. Bringing the box eye-level, she stared at the ring with her face scrunched up.

Chuckling softly at her reaction, Shikamaru gently slipped the box from Mirai’s grasp. “Think Papa will like it?”

“Yep!” She grinned wide and toothy. The jounin felt his stomach flip, that smile reminded him oddly of Naruto’s.

Kissing both of her chubby cheeks, Shikamaru pressed his nose into her brown hair. It lightened over the last few months, making her resemble Asuma more. “I hope you’re right, Chikoi...”

Moving in together was a massive step for them and Mirai. The reaction to their relationship was mixed. Their friends, while surprised, were supportive. Hinata gracefully congratulated them, even with tears in her eyes. As for his mother, well, that was a can of worms he didn’t plan to open again any time soon. Yoshino’s furious cries and the devastation on Naruto’s face played through his memories, twisted his stomach with anger and guilt.

“I'm sure this is just a phase. I know he's helped with Mirai a lot, but that's just gratitude. You're not really in love with him.” His mother’s voice rang in his head. “You have duties to fulfill. How’re you going to produce an heir this way? Think of the clan. Think of me. You’re father-”

“Dad would’ve supported us.” The jounin murmured against his goddaughter’s hair. “I already have an heir.”

It took weeks for Naruto’s smile to reach his eyes again.

“Hey, Shika!!!” The blond appeared in their bedroom doorway, breaking him from his downward spiral of negative memories. “Can I hang the Princess Gale poster over our bed?! Can I please do it? I bet it would look so good,” he begged in one breath.

Shikamaru quickly shoved the engagement ring back in his breast pocket before turning with Mirai in his arms. “Troublesome man, that thing is an eyesore.”

Naruto’s eyes narrowed, a sly grin spreading across his face. “Relationships are a give and take compromise,” he recited in a poor imitation of Shikamaru’s usual drawl.

Of course, the knucklehead would use his own words against him. Shikamaru peeked around the doorframe to see the poster already hanging above the head of the bed. Just like Naruto to ask after the fact. The Nara stared at the massive posted for a minute. It wasn't that bad, he supposed. His boyfriend brought much less orange with him that Shikamaru expected. “Fine.”

Naruto let out an excited whoop and pressed a rough kiss to his mouth. "You're the best."

Wrapping his free arm around the jinchuuriki, Shikamaru held him close. Naruto's arms instantly encircled both him and Mirai in a tight hug. "Is everything okay?" The blond murmured softly.

The toddler squirmed until she got a good hold on both their shirts and laid her head on Naruto's shoulder. "Papa."

"Yeah, just thinking." For a few minutes, Shikamaru savoured the contact of strong arms and little hands. This was his family, his boyfriend and their little girl. Warmth spread through his chest and settled an agitated uncertainty clawing at his insides. "I love you."

Naruto smiled so brightly, it was almost blinding. "I love you too, Shika."

And that was all he needed. Naruto, Mirai and the life they were making together. Their mounting responsibilities to the clan, the village, the nation -the daunting, uncertain future- would be handled together. A united front against the unknown. They would persevere together in whatever form that took.

Because they loved each other and they loved Mirai.

That was enough.

Chapter Text

Shikamaru couldn’t stop his knee from bouncing, even as he shifted to better hide his legs beneath the counter. Nerves buzzed inside him like someone let a swarm of bees loose in his stomach while he was napping. Not necessarily unpleasant, just unnerving. 

His boyfriend occupied the stool to his right, happily chattering away with Teuchi and Ayame, just like any other time they came to Ichiraku's on a date. It was a common occurrence, one of their regular spots. Most times their beautiful little girl came with them, but sometimes they could sneak away for some time alone. 

Tonight happened to be one of the rare latter occurrences. As soon as Shikamaru hinted at his intentions, Iruka-sensei volunteered to babysit Mirai. He fell into the role of Grandpa as if he’d been waiting for the opportunity his entire life. Maybe he had, maybe he hadn’t. Who was Shikamaru to judge? He was just grateful for Iruka and Kakashi’s support. 

Though Kakashi was more of that weird uncle people didn’t quite know what to do with than the grandfatherly type. Mirai loved them both regardless and greatly enjoyed her sleepovers with their former teachers. Naruto didn’t fret when they left their two-year-old with them so Shikamaru took advantage of it when he could. 

“-the mud blew everywhere and Mirai-chan laughed so hard. Have you ever heard her laugh, Ayame? She’s got the cutest laugh, ya know? Oh wait, I think I got a video of her laughing on my phone.” Naruto fished the device from his grey capris pants, quickly swiping a picture of the brown-haired toddler on his lock screen. The blond continued to gush about their adoptive daughter as he sifted through dozens of pictures and videos. He turned the phone for Ayame to see, his smile brightening as she cooed over Mirai. 

The anxiety in Shikamaru’s chest slowly eased into a fond, comfortable warmth. Yes, this was the right decision. He could do this. It was happening tonight. No more waiting for the right time. No more cold feet. 

He caught Teuchi’s gaze out of the corner of his eye and gave a quick nod. The older man grinned knowingly and turned his back to the counter. Shikamaru watched silently as he finished their ramen orders and personally brought the heaping bowls over. “That’s one tonkotsu ramen with kakuni and one miso ramen with boiled egg and chasu.”

Shoving his phone back in his pants pocket, Naruto grinned and rubbed his hands together eagerly. “Awesome, I’m starving! Looks great like always, Teuchi!” 

“Enjoy you two.” Teuchi winked none too subtly in Shikamaru’s direction. 

“Thanks, we will.” The jounin broke his chopsticks with an exasperated sigh. This was the only time he was ever thankful for Naruto’s innate obliviousness. Breaking the kakuni apart, Shikamaru absentmindedly chewed on a piece as he watched his boyfriend. The countdown was on.

“Yeah, thanks for the food!” Naruto broke his own chopsticks and dug into his ramen quickly. He brought a massive tangle of noddles towards his mouth and-

A glint from a chopstick made all the colour drain from Shikamaru’s face. “Naruto wait!"

-shoved the entire thing into his mouth. Blue eyes blinked over at Shikamaru, his cheeks puffed out like a demented chipmunk. “Hm?” Naruto bit down on his mouthful -most likely with the intention of chewing, swallowing and asking what was wrong- only for a sickening crunch to come from inside his mouth. Naruto’s eyes widened, a pained whimper sliding from his throat. His face scrunched up in alarm.

Shikamaru slapped a hand over his face with a disgruntled groan. This could not be happening. “What a drag.” Of course this wouldn’t go as he planned. Not with the most unpredictable, knuckleheaded shinobi in all of Konoha as his chosen life partner. “Just… spit it out already.”

Instead, the jinchuuriki reached into his mouth and pulled the engagement ring out. Ripples of orange gleaned from the center of the silverish band Naruto held between his thumb and two fingers. Shikamaru could do nothing but watch as Naruto’s eyes widened until they resembled saucers. He was torn between laughing at the look of utter disbelief on his boyfriend’s face and sinking under the stools in embarrassment.

Behind the counter, Teuchi shook his head and Ayame just sighed before returning to work. 

What an utter, complete disaster this was.

Naruto swallowed his mouthful of ramen so hard, he almost choked himself. He pounded a fist against his chest, his face turning blue, then pale before flaring scarlet as the implications of what he was holding finally hit him. “What the-?” 

Uncertainty crawled up Shikamaru's spine. Not good, this was so not good! Putting the damn thing in Naruto’s ramen was a huge mistake, not endearing! What was he thinking? Why did he take advice from Ino of all people? Trying to be romantic with the proposal was too damn troublesome. Grabbed the ring before he lost the last of his nerve, Shikamaru shoved it onto Naruto’s finger and blurted out, “marry me!” 

Everything went deadly quiet around them. The other customers kept glancing in their direction. Teuchi almost dropped his ladel into a boiling pot. Ayame clapped her hands, dancing excitedly on the spot. Shikamaru felt heat steadily burning through his face, right up to his very ear tips. He hadn’t so much asked as just demanded, but still-!

Why isn’t Naruto saying anything?!

Naruto stared at him slack-jawed, slow to come back from the shock. He blinked, his gaze slowly lowering to the orange and silver accentuated band fit snugly around his ring finger. His bottom lip quivered as tears gathered at the corners of his eyes. “...Shikamaru?” 

Drawing in a deep breath, the jounin reached for his boyfriend’s hands and drew them against his chest. Okay, calm down and try this again. Naruto needed to know exactly how he felt, how much he meant to him and Mirai. “I felt like I was drowning,” Shikamaru started quietly. “The clan, the war, the deaths, rebuilding, helping Kakashi-sensei and then Mirai... There was so much sometimes I didn’t know which way I was turning. Then there you were. Just this bright sunshine of support and acceptance. You strong-armed yourself into our lives without a second thought. I’ve never been so grateful you’re such a troublesome man-”

Naruto’s sob cut off Shikamaru’s words. The blond openly blubbered -eyes shiny, tears and snot streaming down his face. “Sh-Shika…” The happy little whine that slipped out reminded Shikamaru of a beaten puppy being offered affection. 

“Ah, just let me finish, yeah?” Shikamaru wiped some of Naruto’s tears away with his sleeve. His face flushed more when his boyfriend hiccuped and nodded. “You’re amazing with Mirai and a wonderful damn partner. Being with you makes every day brighter. I love you, Naruto. I want to spend the rest of my life making you as happy as you make Mirai and I. So, Naruto Uzumaki, will you marry-?”

Shikamaru was tackled off his stool before he got the last word out. Grunting as his back hit the ground, his arms closed around the orange mass pressing down on him, practically vibrating as he cried. “Yes! Yes, yes, yes!” Naruto kissed him so abrupt and roughly, their teeth clicked together. “I love you too, ya know!” 

“I know.” Warmth flooded his entire body, sudden and delightful. Sitting up, Shikamaru pulled the blond into a proper kiss. He was only faintly away of the catcalls and applause coming from Ichiraku’s other customers. None of that mattered.

Not as long as he had Naruto. 

Chapter Text

"I hate to burst your bubble, Naruto, but there's no such thing as orange roses." Popping a hand on her hip, Ino cocked her head to one side. "Unless you plan to paint them all by hand before the wedding." 

"Can we do that?" 

"What? No! Just pick something else." Ino circled around the counter of the Yamanaka's flower shop and directed him deeper into the greenhouse. "If you're really stuck on the colour, I have orange begonias, marigolds, tulips and spider lilies. Any of those would look lovely for an autumn wedding." 

"But no orange roses," he concluded with a pout. Scrunching his face up in thought, the blond looked down at Mirai balanced on his hip. His daughter. How amazing was that? How amazing was she? He was the luckiest guy in the world. "What do you think, Mirai-chan?" 

The almost three-year-old looked heavenward in thought. Cute, oh man it was so cute how she picked up that habit from Shikamaru. His fiancé. Cause they were getting married in two months. Two months! Then, Shikamaru would be his husband and they could officially adopt their daughter.

Mirai Sarutobi would be Mirai Uzumaki-Nara!

The toddler's ruby eyes brightened when she finally came to a decision and declared, "daisies! I want daisies, Papa!"

Genius! His little girl was going to be as smart as her Daddy, Naruto just knew it. He looked expectantly at Ino and grinned so wide his cheeks started to hurt. "Tiger lilies with daisies sound awesome!"

Ino slapped a hand over her face with a groan. "Sure, whatever you want. It's your wedding.”

Naruto nuzzled Mirai’s cheek as she let out an excited cheer. “Mirai-chan is a floral genius, don’t ya think so Ino?” 

“Daisies are definitely a better choice than orange roses,” she agreed. “I know you have an unhealthy love of orange, but what made you ask for roses of all things? They don't exactly come to mind as their first thing you'd chose.” 

“Well, Shika really liked the roses I got him a while back so I thought they’d be nice to have for our wedding party, ya know?”

“Daisies prettier, Papa,” Mirai pointed out in a matter-of-fact tone. 

“Yeah, yeah, daisies are pretty cool.” Naruto nodded, taking his toddler’s sagely advice to heart. Flowers weren’t really his thing, but Mirai-chan was always bringing them home. Their kitchen window was currently littered with glasses full of dandelions. She was a floral expert compared to him. “But Shika likes roses so I just thought…” 

Pulling a three-ringed binder from behind the counter, Ino flipped it open. “What about something like this?” She turned the binder around for him and Mirai to see. “White roses would help balance the tiger lilies and blue daisies will be in season by your wedding date. They’d accentuate the floral arrangements so the orange isn't too overpowering. What do you think?” 

 “Awesome Ino! Those look great. Do you think Shika will like them?” 

“Yay, Ino-oba so awesome!” Mirai repeated with an excited chirp. 

“If Shikamaru left you in charge of the flowers, I'm sure’ll he like whatever you pick out.” Closing the binder, Ino tucked it beneath her counter. “He’s never been the type that cared too much about appearances.” 

Smiling softly, Naruto hoisted Mirai up higher on his hip. “I just want to make it special for him, ya know? He deserves the best.” 

“Aww, that’s really sweet coming from you,” Ino teased.

“Hey!” Naruto puffed his cheeks out in a pout. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing, nothing~” Waving off the comment, Ino leaned over the counter beside her cash register and rested her chin on an upturned palm. “You’re good to him and Mirai-chan, that’s all I care about.” 

Naruto pressed his face into Mirai’s brown curls. “He gave me a family, Ino, a daughter. That’s more than I ever thought I'd have, ya know?” 

“Okay then,” Ino clapped her hands, head nodding in determination. “We’ll get you two hitched without a hitch. Don’t worry about a thing! Did you choose a montsuki or haori for your wedding attire?”

Naruto went utterly still. “Uh, neither?”

Ino paused, all her attention zeroing in on Naruto. “You have chosen a formal outfit for the ceremony, right? What about the venue? Did you ask Teuchi-san and if he’d cater? I assume that’s who you want providing the food. Mirai-chan’s your flower girl, right?”

“V-Venue? Caterer? I haven't asked Old Man Teuchi anything.” Naruto blinked, trying to wrap his head around the new questions Ino posed. “O-Of course she is but I just thought we’d get be married in our uniforms and-”

“Naruto!!” 

The jinchuuriki let out a tiny squeak and back-pedaled towards the door with Mirai held protectively in his arms. “I-Ino?” Oh no, had he dropped the ball that badly already? Was this not how wedding planning went? Shikamaru told him not to put too much thought into it, that they’d figure it out together. But his fiance wasn’t here and Ino looked like she pulled a few face muscles with how strained her smile was. 

“Okay, it’s fine. There’s still time, we can salvage this.” His friend took a deep breath and grabbed the cordless phone resting beside the cash register. 

Naruto dared to take a peek when she started dialing someone. “Uh, what’cha doing Ino?” 

“What does it look like? I’m calling Sakura,” she brought the phone to her ear. “I need reinforcements if we’re going to get this wedding planned on time. You’re absolutely clueless when it comes to this kind of thing and Shikamaru’s too damn lazy to bother. It took him weeks to even pop the question. Do you know how long he carried that damn ring around for?”

Naruto's eyes shot to the engagement ring on his finger. “Eh?!”

Ino covered the receiver quickly. “Now, are you going to call Iruka-sensei or am I?”

Chapter Text

Shikamaru cradled the teacup with both hands, silently running his fingers over the forest green ceramic. His mother thumbed a matching cup before bringing the steaming brew to her lips. They exchanged only a handful of awkward words since his arrival. Yoshino had simply corraled him into the sitting room and made tea. Shikamaru knew it was more so his mother had something to do with her hands than out of politeness. They’d passed the need for niceties the day Yoshino Nara tried to guilt him into ending his relationship with Naruto.

That occurred almost a year ago and they’d barely spoken since. 

Silence stretched between them, thickening the tension until the jounin thought he would suffocate on it. “Mum,” he began slowly, not quite sure how to breach the topic he needed to. No woman ever intimidated Shikamaru quite like his own mother. 

Yoshino stiffened at the title and blinked rapidly to clear her watery eyes. She inhaled deeply to steel herself. “Have you finally come to your senses, my Shika?” 

Fresh pain sliced through his chest, reopening the wounds her rejection left festering in his heart. It was a deep ache, a whole Shikamaru could never quite refill. He shoved the hurt down and let his face fall neutral -impassive, bored. “I never lost them.” 

Her browns dipped in disappointment momentarily. She sighed, an exasperated, long-suffering sound. “Well, you’ve come here for a reason, so you might as well spit it out.” 

Shikamaru’s hands clenched around the untouched tea. After a moment, he pushed the cup aside and dropped his hands to his lap. “Naruto and I are getting married next month. I came to invite you to our wedding.” 

“I’m not going to watch my only child throw his life away!" Her teacup shattered when it hit the wall directly behind his head. "You have responsibilities as head of the Nara Clan. When are you going to stop with this charade, Shikamaru?” For all the years that passed since she’d seen active duty, Yoshino was still a kunoichi. Her aim was true. That cup hit exactly what she intended it to.

Sharp pain blossomed across Shikamaru’s cheek. A shard from the cup had sliced his skin open. Fresh blood trickled slowly from the cut. “Please enlighten me as to what duties I’m shirking.” His voice sounded distant and calm when he spoke, the exact opposite of the turmoil raging inside him. 

“You are the head of our Clan. It is your duty to marry and produce an heir-”

“I am.” 

“A proper heir, Shikamaru. The elders will never approve of you grooming an outsider to take over as clan head. You need a proper spouse, someone who can handle clan affairs in your absence. Your father would-” 

“He’d want me to be happy.” 

“I want you to be happy!” Yoshino slammed her fist down on the kotatsu. "I know you, Shikamaru, you’re my son. This isn’t what’s best for you. Naruto is a wonderful person but he won’t-”

“I love Naruto and our daughter.” A small part of him wanted to drop into dogeza and beg for his mother's forgiveness, to lay his head in her lap, like he was still a small child, and never move again. He ached to see her smile, to have her arms around him again. But he couldn’t have that, not now. Not like this. “...I love you too. Come to my wedding, Mum. I want you to be a part of our lives so you can see your granddaughter grow-” 

“Get out!” Yoshino cried, completely turning her face away from her son. Her shoulders quivered as tears trickled down her cheeks. “You made your choice, Shikamaru. Now leave me alone.” 

Biting back the protest rising in his throat, Shikamaru stood from the kotatsu. Without a word, he pulled a wedding invitation from his flak jacket and laid it on the table. “You don’t have to be alone,” he murmured softly. “Just think about it please.” 

He left his childhood home and mother behind. When he walked out the door, the woman who gave birth to him didn’t even look up. He let his feet carry him numbly out of the compound he worked diligently to lead and across the village he sullied his hands to protect. Everything felt muffled and far away, like a fuuinjutsu barrier had been erected between him and the rest of the world. 

“Daddy!”

“Hey, Shikamaru! I thought you were busy this afternoon. Kakashi-sensei offered the garden at the Hokage’s Residence for our wedding. Whaddaya think of that?"

The sound of his fiance and daughter was the first thing to pierce the haze he’d been plunged into. Blinking through blurred vision, Shikamaru raised his head slowly. Naruto was heading right for him with Mirai balanced precariously on his hip. They both smiled at him, bright and blinding and beautiful. Everything in life he ever wanted. 

His family. 

Naruto suddenly stopped short, his blue eyes fixed on Shikamaru's cheek. The air rippled with the slightest bit of Kurama's corrosive chakra. "Who hurt you, Shika?"

Mirai went deathly still in the jinchuuriki's arms, confusion and anxiety making her tiny face scrunch up in alarm. "Papa? Daddy?"

Numbly, Shikamaru raised a hand to his face. His fingers came away red. Oh right, the teacup cut him. The jounin blinked rapidly, but it did little to stop tears from building up in his arching eyes. “Sorry, Naruto… Chikoi…”

They were there in an instant, all concerned faces and comforting hugs. Shikamaru let himself sink into Naruto’s chest and pressed his face into Mirai’s soft, russet curls. Large hands rubbed down his back and tiny ones wrapped around his neck. Naruto didn’t ask any questions (though he could see them practically burning behind his fiance's blue eyes). For that he was grateful.

They’d talk about it, later.

Much, much later.

For now, Shikamaru clutched his loved ones as tightly as he could and finally let his tears spillover. 

Chapter Text

The wide sleeves of his montsuki fell over his hands, hiding his anxious fidgeting from the gathered guests. Head lowered, his eyes fixed on his zori -seeing yet unseeing. Nerves flitted through his stomach -tiny butterflies of nervousness but not doubt, never doubt. He was about to marry the man he loved. Hands clenched together, he squeezed and kneaded until his knuckles turned white. 

A large, gentle hand on his shoulder was what pulled Shikamaru back from the panicked precious he teetered on. “Everything will be wonderful, Shikamaru.” Chouji’s reassuring smile settled some of the anxiety rumbling inside him like a barely contained storm. 

Chouji, his best friend, his best man.

Kakashi stood close by, eye smiling beneath his wide-brimmed Hokage hat, ready and happy to officiate their wedding. Ino flitted about with Sakura’s help, adjusting the flowers one final time -white roses, orange tiger lilies, and blue daisies. The combination was as bright, startling, and oddly fitting as their little family.

It was them.

The garden was beautiful, softly illuminated with lanterns that highlighted the flower bunches and soft, white decorations. His and Naruto's most precious people filled the rows, chatting quietly until the ceremony was ready to begin. Many brought dates, which neither he nor his betrothed minded. Naruto seemed to know every damn shinobi in the elemental nations by name anyway. 

In a bid to keep cold feet at bay, Shikamaru counted each guest off in his head: In the very front row sat Yamato, Sasuke and Sai with two empty seats for Ino and Sakura between them. Naruto refused to get married without his best friend so an ANBU team spent the last three weeks in the mountains of Kumogakure tracking the damn Uchiha down. It took Sakura cracking said mountains to actually get Sasuke to attend -as her date no less.

Directly behind them, Hanabi sat quiet and regal beside a happily chattering Moegi and Udon. Naruto’s self-proclaimed little brother  brought the Hyuuga heir as his date. Good on Konohamaru for following his heart. Teuchi and Ayame finished off the row. Ayame kept brushing her fingers gently across Yamato’s arm- a subtle gesture that spoke volumes. 

Shikamaru’s attention shifted back a few more rows. Tenten seated at Shino’s left, her hand resting upon his shoulder, Kiba with an arm flung haphazardly over Hinata’s shoulders. Rock Lee at Gaara’s side, their two-week-old son Metal sleeping peacefully in the Kazekage’s arms. Kankuro and Temari remained close to their brother. The Suna kunoichi shot Shikamaru an encouraging thumbs-up when she caught his eye. They’d maintained a deep friendship through the years Shikamaru was very grateful for. Her date Darui looked incredibly uncomfortable in his tuxedo. No doubt Temari forced him into it, the woman was downright terrifying at times.

A very pregnant Karui eased into her seat with Chouza’s help. The happy whimper at Shikamaru’s side eased his nerves further. There was no doubt Chouji would make a great father with his big, caring heart. The guy overflowed with love, just like Naruto.

The kage from other villages and several of the older jounin and chunin of the Hokage’s generation filled out most of the remaining seats. Despite the prominence of the majority of their guests, the wedding was small and intimate, just as Shikamaru wanted. Naruto was surprisingly accommodating of his desire for a quieter wedding. If he agreed, just about everyone in the elemental nations would want to attend their wedding. Naruto's sunshine bright personality naturally drew others to him.

It had drawn Shikamaru -held him captive, made him want things he never expected to desire. 

Dressed in his formal Hokage robes, Kakashi brushed a supportive hand over Shikamaru’s elbow. Officiating the wedding as Hokage meant appropriate attire, much to Kakashi’s discomfort. Of course, Iruka wouldn’t let his husband get away with any shortcuts, not when it came to Naruto’s wedding. 

The final few guests took their seats, every chair full except for one in the very back, closest to the door -the one set aside for his mother. Inhaling deeply and slowly, Shikamaru pushed down the heavy throbbing in his chest. Logically, he knew the chances of her showing up was slim. That hadn’t stopped a tiny silver of hope from remaining. The pain of having his mother reject his daughter, Naruto, him left an ache he knew would never quite heal. 

Chouji’s hand tightened on his shoulder. “You’re getting married.” Leave it to his best friend to know exactly where his mind had gone. 

The jounin forced a smile. “I’m getting married.” 

The guests’ excited murmurs had Shikamaru straighten stiffly. Everyone stood, their attention turned to the pergola’s entrance. “Kona-ji! Kona-ji! Hold the flowers too!” Mirai’s voice carried up the pergola, as loud and robust in her proclamations as Naruto. Shikamaru stifled a snort his collar. All the jitters, all the anxiety and nerves he’d fought since first stepping beneath their wedding awning ebbed away. 

“Come on, Mirai-chan.”Konohamaru’s exhasperated plea carried just as loudly as his little cousin’s voice. “We’ve got to start walking, Shikamaru’s waiting for you and Naruto-nii-san.” 

“Oh no, Daddy!!” 

The resounding crash, scuffle and yelp made Shikamaru visibly wince. His little girl all but leapt into the pergola, one tiny hand clasped tightly around Konohamaru’s. A small zori rolled to a stop by Temari’s chair. Where the other sandal was, the jounin could only guess. Wrapped in a silken kimono of orange and deep forest green, Mirai threw her hands up in the air. “Coming Daddy!” Tabi clad feet stomped down the velvety, red carpet. 

Konohamaru had no choice but to stumble along with his little cousin’s determined pace. “Ack! Not so fast, Mirai-chan! Slow down! What about the pictures? We’re supposed to be taking pictures!!” 

Dropping to his knees, Shikamaru gracefully caught his daughter as she threw herself into his arms. “Oh Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Papa’s sooo pretty dressed up all real fancy!” She declared in a breathless rush. Her bouquet of orange tiger lilies remained forgotten in Konohamaru’s hands.

Chuckling softly, Shikamaru straightened with his daughter in his arms. “Troublesome girl,” he murmured affectionately and kissed both her round cheeks. 

Mirai went willing into Chouji's arms as Naruto stepped into view holding Iruka’s hand. Shikamaru’s breath caught in his throat. The entire world zoomed in entirely on the man he loved. The black hakama helped even out the bright orange of Nauto’s haori. A giddy warmth spread through his chest, making his hands tremble for a completely different reason. 

Never had Naruto’s smile looked so bright. Mirai was right, he was the most beautiful thing Shikamaru had ever seen. The heartbeat pounding in his ears seemed to grow louder as each step the jinchuuriki took brought them closer together. 

A teary-eyed, very proud Iruka placed Naruto’s hand in his own. “Take care of each other and Mirai-chan.” 

"We will." His fingers laced through Naruto’s own, holding tightly. That grip kept him grounded when the rest of the world seemed to fly away around them. Those beautiful blue eyes stared at him, glassy with tears and overflowing with love and happiness. They consumed every bit of his attention until all the noise around them -Kakashi’s covenants, Mirai’s little voice, applause from their most precious people- faded to a dull whisper in the background.

Nothing mattered in that moment but the man standing before him. The one who supported and believed in him unwaveringly every, single day, through the struggles and the heartache, who pulled him up off his lazy ass and got him moving towards a better future. Naruto made him want to be more, made him believe he was capable -as a shinobi, as a husband, as a father. 

He loved Naruto with everything he had, every fibre of his being. 

The ceremony blurred into a euphony of blessings and vows. The traditional red union sash was tied about their clasped hands. They knelt before a small shrine and lit candles in prayer, and received the blessings of their precious people. The entire time, Naruto’s beautiful blue eyes shone glassy with unstead tears and Shikamaru found he couldn’t look away. 

A gentle nudge to his shoulder had Chouji slid the wedding band into his hand with an encouraging smile. Shikamaru nodded once to his best friend, forever grateful for the steadfast support Chouji always so readily gave. His friend always had his back.

The glittering gold ring fit snugly on Naruto’s finger. The blond smiled, wide and bright, as the tears slipped down his whiskered cheeks. His vows tumbled from Shikamaru's mouth in mesmerized awe. “I, Shikamaru Nara, take you, Naruto Uzumaki, as my own, to love and cherish through the good days and the bad. With this ring, I trust in you all that I am and all I will ever be. I chose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.” 

Naruto bit back a sob with a strangled whine, his eyes twinkling so bright, they looked almost starry. Reaching for the silver band that matched his own from Iruka, he fixed the ring onto Shikamaru’s finger. His free hand covered their clasped ones still bound by red silk. “I love you, ya know?” 

“I love you too,” he grinned so wide, his cheeks began to ache. Naruto radiated warmth. His smile was infectious. 

Kakashi cleared his throat. “Naruto, your vows,” he prodded in his usual blase manner. 

“I know, I know Kakashi-sensei! I’m getting to it.” Naruto’s cheeks pulled out like a scolded child. A light squeeze of their bound hands brought his attemption back to Shikamaru. The blond’s smile softened. “...I’ve already chosen you and Mirai-chan, Shika. You’re my family. I’d do anything I can to support and make you both happy, ya know?”

“Of course,” Shikamaru laced their fingers together, the silver and gold wedding bands shining gently.

“I suppose that’ll do,” Kakashi sighed, though his eyes remained curved in merriment. “Perfectly fitting for my adorable, knuckleheaded student.” 

Indeed, those vows were completely, perfectly Naruto. 

When his new husband leaned in for their first kiss as a married couple, Shikamaru felt his heart swell. This was exactly where he was supposed to be.

Chapter Text

The cake was sooo good! 

Ayame and Teuchi-san made the bestest ramen. (Even better than Papa!) But the cake was real, real tasty too. It was a spadial special day so Papa let her eat two pieces of cake and it was almost as good as seeing Papa smile.

Almost.

Papa had the biggest, most prettested smile. It lighted up his face like a sunshine. Mirai loved Papa's smile and she loved Papa and her Daddy a lot more than she loved ramen and cake cause they were a family. 

And Papa and Daddy got married today. So they were husbands like Grandpa Ruka and Grandpa Kashi. That was a real big thing. Mirai didn't see why that was so special but Grandpa Ruka said it was a way for Daddy and Papa to show how much they loved each other.

Mirai giggled. That was soooo silly. 

Cause Papa loved Daddy and Daddy loved Papa and they both loved her and she loved them!

They said I love yous every day. There were kisses and cuddles and lots and lots of hugs. Papa gave the bestest Bear Hugs but she liked it the most when Daddy and Papa both held her and she got to cuddled between them. It always made her feel better when she was sad. Daddy and Papa and she got double hugs when one of them was sad. 

Mirai hated when Daddy and Papa were sad. Papa's face scrunched up real funny, like he ated a lemon. And Daddy- 

Her tummy did a funny squirm and the cake wasn't so tasty anymore. 

-Daddy looked so losted when he was sad. Sometimes he cried and it made her want to cry too.

But this was Daddy and Papa's wedding! Everyone was happy and smiling and the cake was real good (even if it wasn't so tasty as before. She still finished it cause Daddy always said not to wasted food. Sometimes people didn't have food and they went hungry. She was gonna send those people a cookie). 

There was a fancy cermoney ceremony for the wedding. Mirai got to pick the flowers (blue daisies!) and everyone dresses up all pretty. She got to wear a kimko kimono with flowers on it. Aunty Sakura did her hair and put make-up on her. 

Make-up!!

Papa said she was the most be-yu-ti-ful thing in the whole wide world.

Daddy said she was all growed up. 

Mirai said Papa and Daddy looked funny and all stiff cause they did. 

Then Daddy's face got all red, Papa laughed that big, boomy laugh that always made Daddy call him Troublesome Man and they got married and now there was a big party with tasty food and presents and dancing in her grandpas' garden with all Aunt Ino's pretty flowers. 

Daddy always said sonabi shinobi were graceful but boy they couldn't dance! She loved them all. These were precious people for her and Daddy and Papa. There were grandpas and aunties and uncles and friends all together and it was so much fun! But they were all stiff like Papa and Daddy before the wedding. 

So, Mirai showed them how to dance. Okay, Grandpa Ruka and Uncle Chouji and Lee-san were good dancers. And her aunts tried really hard . Aunt Ino did this weird bum wiggle but she was trying and that's how to learn, by trying. 

Grandpa Kashi wouldn't dance with Grandpa Ruka and that was making him real upset. Grandpa Ruka was scary when he got upset (boy could he yell loud) so Mirai helped. 

"Come on, Kashi-jii-san!" Mirai grabbed his fingers and pulled. "Dance with me!" Grandpa Kashi shot Grandpa Ruka his funny fish-outta-water look but he got up after Mirai pulled and pulled and pulled. Grandpa Ruka grinned a sunshine smile like Papa did when he was real happy and they showed Grandpa Kashi how to dance. Cause even though he was Hokage Grandpa Kashi didn't know how!

She was going to be the greatested koinocha kunoichi ever if she was teaching the boss new things already! (Papa just started showing her how to hold a kunai. It was their secret from Daddy so it could be a surprise when she learned. Daddy would be so proud when she finally got to show him how awesome she was.)

So Grandpa Kashi tried to dance and boy was he bad. Soooo bad. He stepped on Grandpa Ruka's feet and moved like a robot! At least Aunt Ino wiggled!!

That was okay, Papa was the bestest dancer anyway. 

Even better than Lee-san.

And Daddy danced the slow dances with her and Papa so it was fine dancing was such a drag for him and Papa was a Troublesome Man.

He still did it. 

Kinda. 

They swayed more than danced. 

Mirai liked watching Daddy slow dance with Papa though. It made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside cause they were happy and loved each other. She saw it in how they danced. Papa held Daddy super close and gentle and Daddy turned his face into Papa's neck. It was how they said I love you without the words. 

That and kisses.

Lots and lots and lots of kisses. 

She got to give and get kisses too, so she didn't mind. It wasn't icky like Kona-ji said, it was I love you.

And their family was full of love. 

Then Lee-san showed her how to dance like springtime and youth. Mirai liked Spring. It was when daisies grew. Lee-san was the best and his baby Metal was so cute and Metal had two daddies too! Gaara-sama let her sit in his lap and hold Metal. He was real tiny and looked a lot like Lee-san. 

Gaara-sama was so kind and gentle and made the neatest stuff with his sand. They were going to have a tea party in Grandpa Kashi's Hokage office tomorrow cause she got to have a sleepover with her grandpas for two whole nights but Grandpa Ruka worked at the Academy. She was too little to go there so she got to go with Grandpa Kashi!

What was Gaara-sama's favourite tea?

"I like oolong." 

Oh, that was a good one and-

and-

Where was Daddy going? 

Her tummy did the weird flippy-floppy thing again and she didn't like it! Cause this was a special night. Daddy and Papa got married and there was cake and baby Metal and dancing and family. 

Papa was here and she was here.

Daddy never left without saying good-bye. He gave lots of hugs and kisses to her and Papa first and always, always, said how much he loved them.

But he didn't this time.

Miai didn't like that.

Not one bit.

She liked it even less when she saw some mean lady making Daddy sad. His eyes went all black and far away. That scared her cause it meant Daddy was going away without really going away like Grandpa Kashi did sometimes and she didn't want him too. 

Grandpa Ruka said some shinobi get stuck inside their heads. It had to be cramped in there.

"I should've never come. This was a huge mistake. I-I can't do this! I can't lose you again, Shikamaru." The mean lady growled at Daddy like Pakkun that one time she dumped her juice on his head. That was an actidant accident. Mirai knew the lady being mad was not from an accident when she yelled at Daddy, "what was I thinking?!" 

That was not okay!!

Yelling was never okay! It made people hurt inside.

"Leave my Daddy alone!" Mirai yelled right back at the mean lady cause no one hurt Daddy! She was a big girl now. She could protect him like he and Papa did her. She planted herself right between them and put on her angry face. 

"Mirai?!" Oh boy, Daddy looked super surprised. "What are you doing out here?"

"Stop making Daddy sad!" Mirai stomped her feet to show just how mad she was and held her arms out to keep him safe. "That's mean! You're a meanie!" 

The mean lady stared at her funny and Mirai had to try hard not to squirm. "...She's not a baby any longer." 

Then Daddy had her in his arms and she could see his cheeks were wet with tears. Oh no! "Don't cry, Daddy!" 

Daddy just kissed her forehead and hugged her close. This was bad. What was she to do? How did she help? In the end, she just hugged him back real tight and presses her face into his neck like he did with Papa. 

"She hasn't been a baby for a long time, Mom." 

Mirai blinked. Huh? She knew what a mom was. They were girl daddies. She just didn't think about them a whole lot. She had two daddies like Metal did. And Papa had two daddies too, even if he was silly and called them sensei and not papa or daddy like she did. She had Grandpa Ruka and Grandpa Kashi so it didn't matter. 

She asked Daddy once where his daddies were but he just smiled all sad and took her to look at rocks. No, graves. Daddy said he only had one daddy and he died. Then he said Papa and she had other daddies and mommies that died too but it was okay because they still watched over them and loved them from far away. 

Then Daddy said he would tell her more when she got bigger and showed her all the ones special to them and told her their names: Shikaku, Minato, Kushina, Asuma and Kurenai. Sometimes they brought the graves flowers too and she didn't mind. 

They had rock family too.

She was sure Kurenai liked daisies as much as she did. 

But this mean lady was not rock family. None of them would come from far away and make Daddy cry after watching over their family so well. 

Mirai pouted and thought hard about it. Daddy had a mommy that was not a grave but she was mean and made him cry. 

Oh. 

Mirai knew what to call a person like that.

"Daddy, why's your mommy a bully?" 

...why did Daddy and the mean mommy both look like they ated Papa's extra spicy ramen?

The mean mommy started to cry but Daddy just kissed her forehead again and answered her question like he always did when Mirai asked about new things. “Sometimes people make choices others don’t agree with. Change can make them scared or hurt inside." Daddy tapped her chest just over her heart. "Especially if they think they will lose someone they love because of those choices. Anger is a good way to mask fear. Shinobi use it all the time to do their jobs well. Do you understand?” 

Of course, she understood. Daddy inpaned explained things so well. He was the smartested daddy ever, even Papa said so. Mirai studied the lady, her face scrunched up. Trying to put pieces together all by herself sometimes was real hard, but she could do it. Daddy always gave her the pieces, she just had to fit them into the puzzle the right way. "Are you a kunoichi?" 

Daddy's mommy went very white. "I-I was."

"She's a chunin." Daddy's hand rubbed up and down her back. Mirai liked it when he did that. 

"Oh, like Ruka-jii-san!" Grandpa Ruka was so smart and strong. He was teaching her all about chakra from his school books. If the lady was just like her grandpa and she was scared and sad like Daddy said (and she had to be cause Daddy was never wrong) then maybe she didn't want to be a bully. She was a kunoichi using shinobi stuff cause that's how they learned. 

Papa helped shinobi like that all the time. He said to be real kind and try to think of how sad and lonely and confused the other person must be. Mirai tented her hands together -fingertip to fingertip and thumbs pressed. Daddy did it when he had to solve a problem and it helped her think better.

Why Daddy's mommy suddenly cried harder, she didn't understand. 

Her belly did the weird squirmy thing again. The lady didn't look angry or mean anymore. She was just crying and that wouldn't do. This was Daddy's mommy so she was Mirai's grandma and that made her family too.

Well that was that then.

"Have you made a decision, Chikoi?" Daddy asked gently. 

"Yup!" Mirai squirmed until Daddy set her down. She stomped right up to her new grandma so she’d know Mirai was still angry she made Daddy sad. Papa could help explain why that’s a no-no. He was real good at that. Holding both hands out to her, Mirai nanounced announced loudly, "we're getting more cake together, Obaa-san."

That made Grandma cry more. She’d have to ask later why. Maybe she was happy? Papa cried when he ate Teuchi-san's ramen after a long mission and that was a happy cry.

It didn't matter why she was crying though cause Grandma took her hand and Daddy took the other and now they had one more loved one for hugs and cuddles and kisses and I love yous. 

That’s what family was for.

Chapter Text

The soft brush of lips against his nape should've made Shikamaru tense. A shinobi's back was their biggest weakness -a blind spot to all but the Hyuuga. Instead, warmth spread through him from that one point of contact. It spoke of an all-encompassing love without his husband's normally boisterous inflection. 

His husband. 

The thought still left Shikamaru reeling, even as the wedding band glinted on his ring finger. This was different than the nexus Mirai forged between them. Of course, the beautiful, spectacular little girl they were raising together would forever connect them to each other. She strengthened their bond in a way neither knew they needed until it developed into something more.

A child.

Each other.

A family of their own.

But this marriage was just theirs -just his and Naruto’s. 

Uncertainty flickered through those blue eyes when he eased the orange haori from his husband's shoulders. It mirrored the nerves flitting in his stomach like a school of butterflies, fleeting and beautifully fragile. The heavy material pooled at their feet with the slightest rustle. Naruto's bandaged hand covered his own to keep it against his shoulder. "Shika, I've never, uh... ya know," he trailed off red-faced. 

Shikamaru's fingers curled into the soft kimono. "I haven't either," he confessed quietly. "Not with another man at least." Falling in love with Naruto was never an option. He never thought of the blond as anything more than a dear friend he wanted to support. Then Kurenai died and Shikamaru almost drowned under all his mounting responsibilities with an innocent toddler completely dependent on him. 

Naruto was there when he was too caught up in his own struggles to admit he needed help. The darkness his husband pulled him from was different than Gaara's or Neji's or Sasuke's, but Naruto brought him back into the light regardless. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with that unwavering sunshine. "No pressure, I don't have any expectations." The kiss he brushed to the blond's lips was a chaste comfort that made Naruto inhale sharply regardless. "I just want to be with you." 

The tie binding his hair came loose beneath Naruto's probing fingers. "I love you, Shika." The words caught in his throat, seemed to choke Naruro on the raw emotion. A shudder ran through Shikamaru as tanned fingers sank into his hair, cradling his head as those warm lips tentatively sought his own.

Innocence fled in the clash of teeth and tongue. 

There was never time for physical intimacy beyond a few heavy make-out sessions. Those always got interrupted just as hands wandered below the belt. With their heavy workloads and the insatiable curiosity of a toddler that only grew as she did, time alone was a rarity. Iruka-sensei, always eager and happy to help, was a godsend. The nights he took Mirai always ended with them asleep in a tangle of exhausted limbs thought. 

Now trembling fingers loosened obis and ties, shedding protective layers with each piece of clothes they let drop to the floor. Only their underwear remained. Shikamaru felt whatever confidence he'd hung onto whither away as Naruto stepped from his hakama. Face-flushed, a shiver ran up his spine. Shikamaru crossed his arms over his bare chest. Never had he felt so exposed, so uncertain of himself. Was this enough? Was he enough-

“You’re so pretty,” Naruto whispered in breathless awe. Azure eyes drank in every inch of exposed skin, from the pale scars littering his body to the faint freckles peppering his shoulders. Shikamaru didn’t have his husband’s healing. Naruto didn’t scar, but he carried every battle with him. 

And Naruto didn’t care.

The flush spread down his chest and up to his very ear tips. “Troublesome man.” Exhaling on a sigh, Shikamaru brushed his fingertips across his husband’s bare chest.

“Sh-Shika…” Naruto’s breath caught on a hitch. Muscles flexed beneath his slight touch. 

One step.

All it took was one step and Naruto was back in his arms. Right where he was supposed to be. His heartbeat pounded like a drum in his ears, but Naruto’s hands kept him grounded. The same hands that held Mirai so gently, rocked her to sleep, read her stories, now slid down his back to knead his behind. 

Shikamaru lost himself in the feel of those exploring hands and the taste of Naruto on his tongue. Naruto ended up on the bed beneath him, sprawled against the white sheets like some otherworldly god -all flushed skin and reddened kiss-swelled lips. "I love you so much." Shikamaru claimed those lips again, got lost in the soft moans and eager responses. It wasn’t enough.

It was never enough. 

Naruto broke the kiss with a soft groan and pressed their temples together. "Sh-Shika it's not-... You're so... I mean I-I want…" The blond struggled through his desires, trying to find the right vocabulary to express what he wanted. Words weren't needed. Shikamaru could feel his arousal pressed against his thigh. 

"Yeah okay, okay…" There were the nerves again. Buzzing just beneath his skin. “Just let me, uh…” He just had to go for it right? Naruto arched beneath him and Shikamaru visibly shuddered. Oh damn, this was really happening. What if he did something wrong? What if Naruto didn’t like it? What if- 

Tanned fingers curled around his shoulder, pulling him down. Naruto propped himself up on an elbow. Lips crashed against his own, coaxed him deeper into the impatient kisses. Shikamaru gasped breathless when that mouth ripped from his own and whispered heatedly against his skin. "I love you, Shikamaru, I want you."

An urgent arch of hips was all it took for him to know exactly what his husband needed.

Cotton bunched haphazardly when his dragged Naruto’s boxers down his hips. A final moment of uncertainty and Shikamaru took the plunge. The taste was bitter on his tongue, but the beautiful sounds -exhilarating, raw sounds- coming from his husband made the whole thing worthwhile. 

He took his time, tested the waters to see what Naruto liked best. A swipe of tongue here, a nibble or lick there. Shikamaru stroked the blond’s hips when they began to tremble, let his eyes slide closed when Naruto’s hands sank into his hair and pulled. “Sh-Shika I-I think I’m gonna-!!” The heated warning cut off with a strangled curse, a stutter of hips and a guttural groan.

That’s what Shikamaru wanted. 

To watch his husband come undone beneath him. 

Shikamaru left a quivering mess of blond against the sheets when he finally pulled away, very aware of his own arousal caught achingly inside his briefs. He teetered at the edge, each brush of tight cotton excrusiating against his straining fresh. The need for physical release clawed at him. Damn, he couldn't put it off any longer. 

Face flushed and skin hot, Shikamaru slid a hand into his briefs. The contract drew a shaky moan from parted lips. A few strokes stoked the fire burning through him into a raging inferno. He strained in his own grasp, seeking sweet release. 

“Let me do it.” Naruto’s large hand cupped him through his briefs and kneaded. 

Shikamaru groaned, relented and pulled his hand back. This troublesome man was going to be the death of him! “F-Fine just, hurry.” The command came out more clipped and biting than he intended, but it felt like he was coming apart at the seams. 

Drawing his earlobe between his teeth, Naruto bit down lightly. Each press and slide of fingers were tentative and exploring at first. It was simultaneously too much and yet not enough. Every touch was teasing, delightful agony! It took only moments for Shikamaru to succumb to the overwhelming pleasure. 

They laid in silence afterward, limbs tangled and heartbeats slowing. There was a comfortable, sort of awed quiet. Their first adventure into physical intimacy was awkward and messy, but there would be more time to explore, appreciate and better know each other’s bodies. They had their entire lives to figure it out.

"You doing okay, Naruto?"

"Yeah." Yawning loudly, Naruto nuzzled his face deeper into Shikamaru's shoulder. “...Love you,” he mumbled, already drifting off to sleep.

With a sigh, the jounin pressed a kiss to his husband’s temple. His lips curved into a soft smile against the damp, tanned skin. “I love you too,” Shikamaru answered softly, though Naruto was already snoring lightly.

Yes, the rest would come with time. 

But for now, they had everything they needed.