Even after so many years, the sight before him was somewhat hard to believe. When he was in the academy, he would never have thought it possible. And yet, Shikamaru sat at a table with the future Sixth Hokage and current Head of the Foundation as she good naturedly teased the Fourth Kazekage as his advisors, who were also his siblings, laughed. Peace between the five countries had always believed to be impossible. They had been taught in the academy that any temporary peace held was enforced by a handful of powerful ninjas. The Fourth Hokage had been singlehandedly holding off the other armies until his death. Without fear of the strongest ninjas, the different villages would be at each other's throats.
Naruto could have been the one to hold off the rest of the world. Instead, she helped to do the impossible. Admittedly, she wasn't the only one, but she was the first. She reached out a hand to Gaara, the Sand's 'threat', offering him understanding and acceptance. The Sand had made a treaty with the Leaf after their failed invasion out of fear, but once Gaara was in charge it had turned into one held by respect. And from there, it had built.
Shikamaru certainly hadn't expected to call one of the Sand's most terrifying ninjas amongst his closest friends but there was no denying that Temari had earned the term. As had Kankuro, as annoying as he was at times.
"So how is your training with Sasuke going?" Gaara asked abruptly.
Naruto sniggered at the clear change in topic but kindly didn't fight it. "Good. We have another one in three months if you want to join."
"Surprised you didn't plan one around your birthday," Kankuro said. At the frown of confusion, the blonde gave him he elaborated. "Temari mentioned you aren't a big fan of parties and I'm sure your friends will want to celebrate your twenty-first with you. I heard they threw you one last year."
Naruto shrugged. "It wasn't a big party, more like we all hang out and had dinner. I didn't even open my presents at dinner. They were very considerate about it all. I don't have to worry about them trying to spring a party on me so I don't see the point of being out of the village for it when I can instead spend it with those I'm close too."
"I'm more surprised you planned your last one during the Chunin exams." Temari downed the rest of her drink. "I thought you would have wanted to be promoted out of Genin."
"Don't you think it would be a little unfair for me to fight a bunch of twelve-year-olds when I have the abilities I have?"
"So, you're happy to just stay a Genin?"
Naruto shrugged. "I much prefer it over fighting ninjas much weaker than me just for a title."
"Didn't you say that it didn't matter if you were stuck a Genin, you'd still become Hokage?" Shikamaru asked, draping his arm over the back of Naruto's chair.
She laughed again. "I forgot about that. Guess I'm a woman of my word."
"Perhaps we other Kage can talk to Lord Kakashi about bending the rules for you, just this once."
"Nah, it's all good, Gaara. Chunin or not, doesn't change anything. Besides, there's no rule against a Genin becoming Hokage so that's the only thing that would affect my choice."
"You sure you can be Hokage whilst a Genin?" Kankuro asked.
"Yep. Looked into it to make sure. Otherwise, I would have taken the exams when I was seventeen."
Shikamaru couldn't help but laugh at the foresight of his girlfriend.
"I'm surprised that you weren't offered the position of Hokage when Lady Tsuandai retired."
The Nara noticed how Naruto tensed slightly at Gaara's statement before she slowly relaxed. He tried not to frown, not wanting the Sand Siblings to notice Naruto's behaviour if she didn't want to address it.
"They did," the blonde admitted, shocking even her boyfriend. "I turned it down."
Shikamaru was sure Naruto could feel his eyes boring into the side of her head. She shot him a look that her shoulder length hair half hid. He could normally read her expressions so well but that one he couldn't. She didn't look like she had been hiding it from him, nor did she look surprised that he was unaware. Lord Kakashi hadn't mentioned it to him that Naruto had been offered the roll before him, even though he had put his name in for the advisor position to train for when Naruto took the Hokage seat.
"Why? You've been harping on about the job since before we met you?" Temari scrutinized the other woman before looking to Shikamaru for answers, only to find his bored expression carefully masking his own thoughts.
Naruto just shrugged, looking amused at the clear annoyance she got in response.
Before Temari, or Kankaro for that matter, could pester Naruto for her silence Gaara changed the topic.
Shikamaru was able to bite his tongue on the topic for the rest of the night. It wasn't until they were getting ready for bed, Naruto having flopped down onto the mattress, that he brought it up again.
"Why didn't you tell me you were offered the Hokage roll? Why did you turn it down?" He shot a look at her over his shoulder before pulling his shirt off and tossing it at the hamper.
Naruto blew at her fringe where it was poking her in the eye. "Figured you would have heard or realized they considered me. As for why, cause I didn't want it."
Shikamaru spun to face Naruto. "What?"
"Not at the moment," she added. "I've known for a while that if I became Hokage too soon I'll always put others wants before anything else. I wanted a chance to build myself a life before I dedicated such a large part of myself to the village." She turned her head to look more fully at Shikamaru. "I've got time, I don't have to choose between what I have here and what I want for my future."
Sitting down on the bed, he thought over her answer. "So, you turned it down… for us? You can have both now, I'm here for you."
"I know." Naruto smiled at him, taking his hand. "I didn't do it for 'us', I did it for me. I wanted to devote my time to us, to enjoying this before adding more. I want to build a life with you before becoming Hokage, whatever that life entails. It was my choice. It's what I wanted, for myself, and I didn't want anyone worrying about my choice, which is why I didn't mention it. Kakashi-Sensei knows I still want the roll one day, when I'm ready, and as much as he didn't want the job, his willing to hold it for me for now."
He let her words sink in before he nodded. "Alright. As long as your happy, I'll support you." The question of when Naruto was hoping to eventually take the title almost left his mouth before he realized that it was possible that she didn't have actual personal goals to tick off but it was also possible she had no idea when she would feel ready, just knew she would. If she wanted him to know, or even knew herself, she would voice it.
As he and Naruto finished getting ready for bed, Shikamaru studied the blonde out of the corner of his eye. As he laid down with her in his arms, he focused on keeping his breaths calm. His mind started fabricating reasons for why Naruto had told him now that she had chosen to not become Hokage to focus on their relationship instead of telling him two years ago. He had to keep reminding himself that she had no reason to question the clan meeting he had called for the week prior. As the Head of the Naras it was expected for him to have meetings to ensure that the clan was running efficiently.
Even if she did suspect something, she probably wouldn't have been surprised. Shikamaru had made it a point to make his intentions clear, as had Naruto. After how long it had taken them to make their feelings known to each other, they had silently decided too always be upfront to each other about their intentions and emotions in regards to their relationship. And besides, it wouldn't be long before she found out anyway.
Ryota's words as they left the meeting ran through his head again, as they had since his cousin spoke them. "Make it worthy, or don't even bother!"
Easy for him to say. How did he make something good enough? He had felt confident that once the meeting was sorted and he had the clan's approval, it would be easy to create a plan. But no, with Ryota's words, his mind went blank. Would anything he could think of be worthy?
/ / / / / /
He blinked, then he blinked again, harder. What he saw didn't change. He contemplated rubbing his eyes to see if that helped as one of the figures in front of him chuckled.
"Naruto," he called, "am I hallucinating?"
The blonde walked up behind him from the kitchen, chewing on a biscuit. She looked over his shoulder. "Huh? What's going on?"
"Are you two going to let us in?" Shikamaru's father asked, his amusement still clear in his voice.
"Not sure if this is going to be funny or horrible," Naruto declared, walking off into the loungeroom.
Shikamaru shrugged, moving out of the way to allow his father to roll his wheelchair passed, followed by his mother, and lastly, Sakura, looking somewhat sheepish. He followed the trio into the sitting room, finding Naruto trying to look relaxed on the three-seater couch. Sitting next to her, he put his hand on her knee, giving a gentle squeeze.
"So, which one is it? Horrible or funny?" Naruto asked, ruffling her hair. Although she sounded casual, Shikamaru could hear the well-hidden strain.
"Umm, neither?" Sakura said, shooting an uncertain look at the Nara parents.
Shikamaru looked to his father, expecting he would take over the conversation. Instead, it was his mother.
"Naruto, Sakura has been working with Sasuke recently, were you aware?" When the blonde shook her head, Yoshino went on. "Kuruma told Sasuke that when he attacked you with the Chidori as thirteen-year-olds that it opened the wounds on your lungs caused by… the jutsu. It allowed Kuruma to heal them. Sasuke mentioned that to Sakura."
Yoshino looked over at the pink haired girl, giving her an opening which she took with hesitancy.
"Sasuke and I started wondering if we could do something of a less volatile nature to help heal the scar tissue on women like the Children of Iron. We obviously didn't want to use the Chidori so Sasuke educated me on its nature so I could develop a healing jutsu which would work."
He was fairly certain he had stopped breathing. He knew Naruto had. The sounds of her breaths had vanished and Shikamaru could feel the muscles in her leg and the arm pressed against his were wound tight. Looking between the three faces, he wondered if he was truly allowed to hope. His mother picked up on the question he was practically shouting with his gaze.
"What you need to know is that it is only just entering its test phase," she told them softly.
"Already?" Naruto breathed.
Sakura gave her a small smile. "We've been working on this for three years. Kuruma told Sasuke shortly after everything settled from the war."
"So," Shikamaru started slowly, "you want Naruto to sign up for the tests?"
"No," Sakura yelped, shooting a look at Yoshino for help.
"I've signed up."
His mother's words made his brain pause. "You… want another child?"
Shikaku chuckled, shooting a look at his wife. "Neither of you are explaining well." He turned to the couple on the couch. "No, your mother doesn't want another child. Anko has also signed up."
"But she doesn't want kids!" Naruto frowned at the three in front of her. She looked only a few minutes away from blowing up in confused frustration. "Why would she sign up and why haven't I heard about this already if you are already taking volunteers?"
"They didn't tell you because you want kids." Shikaku levelled Naruto with a steady gaze. "It was decided by the healers involved and the therapists of the women effected, that they would reach out to those who were less concerned about having children. This is an experiment. It might not work, and giving you, and others like you, that hope only for it to fail feels too cruel. So, the volunteers are all those who are going to be alright if it fails. The procedures will be hard enough without wanting it to work so badly. They signed up for someone else."
His father reaching out to take his mother's hand made Shikamaru look at her, realizing what she had done.
"Mum?" he whispered.
"You can't be surprised. You're my baby, I'll do anything to make you happy. And, Naruto," Yoshino smiled at Naruto, reaching across the gap between armchair and couch to take the blonde's hand. "It took you calling me out on my prejudice to make me wake up to myself and I'm sorry for that."
"You don't need to apologize, or do this for forgiveness. You were easily one of the kindest out of those who didn't like me. You wanted your son to be safe. I get that."
"I'm not doing this for forgiveness. I'm doing this because you deserve to be happy. And I'm one of the few who has faced the jutsu and still had a child. Sakura says that's important."
"I can examine Mrs. Nara to perhaps narrow down the level of scarring that needs to be removed to give women a chance to conceive. There is medical help to boost chances so if I can just get it so those things can actually have an opportunity to work, that'll be something." Sakura took a deep breath. "But you have to understand, this could take years before we know if it works, and it might never work. This is a bit of a long shot and the only reason I've been given the chance to do this is because Lady Tsunade and Lord Kakashi-Sensei have backed me on it. I didn't want you to hear it from someone else and get your hopes up. Once we have answers you'll be the first person I tell, but please, please, remember that it might not work."
Naruto nodded slowly before looking at Shikamaru. He gave her a small smile before drawing her into his arms and kissing her cheek. "If it fails, nothing changes for us," he reminds her in a whisper. He held her tighter when his words made her release a shaky breath as she sank into his embrace.
/ / / / /
He had meant it when he said nothing changed for them. Even during the limbo of the medical trials, nothing changed. It didn't matter if it worked or not, he still needed to think of a plan worthy of Naruto.
Considering he had known and observed the blonde for almost all their lives Shikamaru felt that it shouldn't have been so difficult to think of something. He had thought of making a reservation at Ichiraku but that was too simple. They went there so often, regularly with their friends so it wasn't even their spot. He could have used Naruto's old apartment but Konaharmaru lived there now and the décor showed that. It didn't feel like Naruto's, and later his, apartment. There was one spot that was entirely theirs, the clearing in the forest, but every time he thought it would be perfect, his cousin's words resounded in his mind.
What was 'worthy' when it came to Naruto? Shikamaru doubted he was, so how could he plan something that was good enough for her. She was the woman who helped create peace, the one who turned the tide of battle, who fought a god and won…
He jumped when he felt a hand drop heavily onto his shoulder. Looking up, he found Ino raising an eyebrow at him and Choji giving him a questioning look as he lifted his hand from Shikamaru.
"Why aren't you lying down, staring at the sky?" Ino asked with an exasperated lilt to her voice.
With a sigh, Shikamaru told them what had been occupying his mind.
"I'm glad you got permission," Ino smiled at him, "though I'm not surprised. Your clan would be stupid to not agree."
"Well, if any of them had disagreed I'm pretty sure they knew nothing would change from how it is now, I just wouldn't have a headache from trying to come up with ideas."
"How are you possibly struggling with this? You know Naruto!" Choji laughed. "She's the same loud-mouth, bright girl who created a Sexy-Jutsu for attention, and who turned Iruka-Sensei's face every colour under the sun."
He sniggered at Choji's words only to pause. "I'm an idiot! I've been thinking about what the village would think was worthy of Naruto. I wanted them to know I did right by her. But it's Naruto, not the Village Hero. I have an idea, something the Naruto we grew up with deserves. But I might need your help. I just need some time first to smooth out the ideas."
/ / / / /
He knew that Naruto usually stumbled home after her week-long training with Sasuke and members of the Foundation and slept for twelve hours after greeting him. Even though she could rest before doing the full day journey home, she never did. It was perhaps the only predictable thing about her, and Shikamaru was thankful for that.
Looking back over the plans he had made, he tried to swallow around the lump in his throat. He knew that planning things in detail would be a hinderance, it would be harder to adapt, but part of him wanted to anyway for his own peace of mind. Perhaps if he had every small part planned, he could control the outcome. But he knew he couldn't.
Naruto's chakra flared in the distance. Her signal that she was about thirty minutes out. Shikamaru quickly gathered his papers, putting them in his desk draw. Naruto would be travelling through the Nara Forest to get home, she had taken to flaring her chakra to let him know she wasn't far, in the hope he would be home when she arrived. It was something she started after she had nearly collapsed in the streets trying to see him at the Hokage Tower. He had had a good chuckle at her as he had practically carried her home, detouring just long enough to order delivery from Ichiroku Ramen. It had arrived literally as they had stepped over the threshold of the Nara Main house.
The blonde made good time, stumbling into the entry way exactly twenty-seven minutes after she had alerted Shikamaru that she was close. He watched her take a deep breath, her stomach grumbled loudly, probably in response to the smell of waiting dinner. Shikamaru chuckled, drawing Naruto's attention. With a blinding smile, she tackled him to the ground, making him groan. Before he could grumble in annoyance at her, she kissed him.
"Missed me?" Shikamaru asked, like after every trip, once Naruto had pulled back.
"Every minute," Naruto replied, as he knew she would. She jumped up, dragging her boyfriend to his feet. "I'm starving!"
"And probably only minutes away from crashing for the night."
"I've got enough energy to spend some time with you."
Shikamaru schooled his features into what he hoped looked like amused delight. "Didn't Sasuke and the Foundation push you hard enough?"
Naruto shrugged. "Maybe I've just improved a lot. Sasuke looked like the walking dead when I left them." She gave him a suggestive smile. "You can always burn up the last of my energy."
Fighting the urge to check his watch, he kissed her cheek before whispering in her ear. "I can do that."
She had to sleep twelve hours! There was no way he, Ino, and Choji could enact his plan in under twelve hours!
Throughout dinner he tried to focus on Naruto as she told him everything that had happened over the week. She wasn't nearly faceplanting her food, she wasn't muttering incoherently between deep yawns and large mouthfuls. Would she even sleep five hours? How was he to sneak out of bed without her wondering why he was giving up sleep? He racked his mind for a believable excuse that wouldn't have Naruto trying to stay up until he returned home. Besides, he doubted he could sleep now. He was to wound up and he had slept most of the day so he would have energy throughout the night. If they stuck to his plan, they could get everything done in eleven hours, with that last one to allow for any setbacks. But he hadn't ever thought of this one.
After the last bite of food Naruto slumped back in her chair, yawning widely. "I'm exhausted!"
Shikamaru picked up their plates, turning towards the sink to hide his face. "I thought you still had a bit of energy."
"Only a little, and just for you."
"So, you still need your twelve hours," he asked, trying to not sound eager.
"Eh, maybe not twelve but definitely a full night for sure."
Shikamaru shot a look at the clock. It was 10pm now. A full night for Naruto meant she would be up around 7am… nine hours. To ensure it wasn't all for nothing he would have to do the biggest task first. He had wanted to leave it for last. If Naruto saw that step before he was done with the others, everything would be over, the plan would be a bust. But perhaps it was better Naruto knew the plan unfinished than him having to explain. If she saw all the other steps and possibly the last one half-done it would be worse. That final part was what made the entire thing 'Naruto'.
/ / / / /
He found Ino and Choji just inside the Yamanaka Estate. Choji was stomping his feet to get blood moving again after jumping up at Shikamaru's approach. Ino looked like she was seconds away from squealing in frustrated excitement before she caught herself.
"What took you so long? You were meant to be here by ten thirty! We're over an hour behind!" Ino hissed at him as he stopped before them.
"Naruto wasn't nearly unconscious when she got home. I left her as she was going to sleep but I had to tell her I had Clan stuff to talk to you two about. I don't know how long she'll sleep so we're going to have to change the plan around." Shikamaru sighed, rubbing his face. "I'm going to do the painting first. Will you two be able to handle the boards alone?"
"We should be fine. Choji can carry five at least. It'll be time consuming though, especially since we have to be quiet… and hope no one sees us. It's the flowers that'll take most of the time. Even if you're done and can help us we'll be rushing."
"We should start at the end, that way if we don't get it all done it'll at least still look good at the end. We need them to reach just before here. Any less and we'll have to think of a way to hide the paint. But we need those boards up. I've already talked to the guards on duty tonight so we won't have a problem with them, just anyone who shouldn't be up."
Shikamaru squared his shoulders. "Alright. Let's get as much done as possible. If we fall too far behind I'll try to think of something but for now we'll stick to the altered plan. Thank you, both of you."
His teammates nodded to him before they gathered their necessary supplies and separated.
He was halfway through the most important step when he got busted. It was somewhat to be expected. He was in plain view of the tower and the offensively bright paint cut through the blackness of the night. The torch he had attached to his belt probably didn't help.
Even so, he didn't stop what he was doing as the Sixth Hokage appeared beside him. Kakashi-Sensei took one look before turning his eyes onto the Nara leader. Shikamaru slowly turned his head to meet his gaze with a blank, defiant one of his own.
"How can I help?"
With that one sentence Shikamaru's panic over time restraint was lifted. Kakashi-Sensei sent out anbu members to wake up as many ninjas as possible not on mandatory rest. He wisely instructed them to not wake anyone within a certain radius of the Nara Estate encase Naruto sensed it in her sleep or they were noisy. From there some civilians also woke from the movement of so many people. After seeing Shikamaru's painting they started helping too without being asked.
With the help of the people of the village he was able to have the orange barriers erected much quicker, creating a tunnel from the Nara Estate to the designated location. Getting them up so close to the estate without Naruto being completely exhausted would have been a challenge if Kakashi-Sensei hadn't ordered anbu members to do it. As long as Ryota was able to get Naruto into the tunnel it would work. The fact that it was an open top, though high sided would ensure her comfort whilst blocking her view. The top had a net with sunflowers woven through. There was enough space between flowers to allow easy glimpses of the sky whilst deterring Naruto from jumping onto a roof top and stopping her from seeing the end.
The orange walls circled around the clearing Shikamaru had picked out, the netting stopping at the tunnels exit. The area was normally for formal ceremonies held by the Hokage and he had been concerned people would walk through it whilst he waited for the blonde before so many had decided to help. Now the clearing was filled with potted sunflowers. Ino and her mother officially had none left from their most recent harvest.
Shikamaru had been a little concerned about how long it was going to take to pay off the bill only to find as he went to pay the first installment that it had been paid in full. When he had looked bewilderedly at the group of people marching in and out of the store, collecting bouquets of sunflowers an old lady smiled at him.
"Save your money, dear, it's the least we can do for Naruto."
He barely managed to stumble out a thanks before Choji and Ino came running up. As Choji gave a puff of exhaustion and rubbed his shoulder Ino spoke up.
"Aiai just found us. Ryota sent her. Naruto's awake. He said he can stall her for a little bit but get ready." Halfway through she had decided to fix his hair for him, putting it into the half up do that Naruto liked. "You look good!"
Looking at his watch he sent a silent thank you out to everyone who helped them. It was 7.28am. Even with the help they had gone over time. His original plan hadn't had the boards circling the clearing, since he didn't think he would have been able to get away with it. Iruka-Sensei had been the one to suggest it, with Kakashi-Sensei backing up the idea, giving him permission to essentially cut the village in half with the structure they had built.
"Once I'm in position can you send word to Ryota to stop distracting Naruto and instead get her in the tunnel?"
Once Ino nodded Shikamaru dashed off for his spot, patting his pockets in a panic. He sighed in relief and tried to calm his nerves when he felt the last key item waiting ready.
His heart felt like it was pounding hard enough to rattle his body apart. Smoothing out his shirt, he looked around for the item he was meant to be holding. He found the orange rose with a nearby bundle of sunflowers. He could hear people moving around behind the barriers. From a gap to his right, he caught a glimpse of his mother, pushing his father's wheelchair. The older man shot him an amused smile before he pushed the gap closed with his shadow. Knowing his parents, along with Ino, Choji, Iruka-Sensei, and probably Kakashi-Sensei and half of the village were behind the orange walls should have made his skin crawl. Instead, he actually felt somewhat comforted.
No one helped him expecting a spectacular fail, and he doubted that everyone was waiting to witness one now. People had been supportive of them for a long time, and honestly, he had little doubt on how his plan was going to end.
Even so, standing in the middle of the street with faces peeking over the barrier, he started to get nervous. He spotted Ino as she appeared over the top, probably on Choji's shoulders. When she gave him a thumbs up his throat constricted, realising Naruto had entered the tunnel. It wouldn't be long at all before she appeared at the end. That's when he realised, he hadn't thought what to actually say. He looked over his shoulder at the Hokage faces, hoping they would be enough.
There was no time to think of anything though as Naruto rounded the corner, entering the last corridor before the clearing, looking confused. She looked at him questioningly but also with eagerness. As she stepped out into the open air her gaze is caught by the neon colours adorning the Hokage faces. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped as she read the graffiti.
NARUTO, WILL YOU MARRY ME?
She stumbled forward, staring up at the rock above. With each silent step she took Shikamaru's heart hammered painfully in his chest. People started to do away with their discretion and instead leant over the barrier. His mother nearly fell over the top but Choji pulled her back. They were all grinning at Naruto as she turned her gaze slowly from the words to the people. When she drew closer to Shikamaru he lowered himself to one knee, making her look at him. Instead of a ring, which was safely in his pocket, he pulled the orange rose from behind his back. He opened his mouth, wondering what was about to come out.
"Naruto, you are literally the most unpredictable, illogical, loud, brash, and impulsive person I know and honestly I can't decide which one of those things I love more. No one in the village took the time to notice how amazing you were when you needed it the most. I swear I will live my life trying to make that up to you. It's my nindo."
Shikamaru watched tears roll down Naruto's stunned face. Unfortunately for him she had yet to morph her expression from shocked into anything he could use to know her answer.
"I know I don't deserve you, so if you say no, I will understand," Shikamaru promised, his throat tightening.
Naruto shook her head, covering her face with her hands. She gave a short laugh before wiping at her tears. "And people call me an idiot. You did all this for me?"
"You got everyone to help, for me?"
"Well," Shikamaru stood, walking closer and holding the rose out for Naruto to take, "I got busted defacing the Hokage monument, and Kakashi-Sensei asked to help, from there, it kind of just grew into the village all helping. They all wanted you to have a proposal you deserve, just like I do." He pulled out the ring and held it between them. It was a simple band with a fire opal in the middle, with green and orange sapphires either side making a wave pattern off the opal. Like two fish circling the sun. He had paid extra to have the ring custom made by his distant cousin. He was just lucky said cousin remembered Naruto's necklace.
"So, this is the part where the woman tends to either says yes or breaks the guy's heart… no pressure." Shikamaru smiled when Naruto snorted.
"You honestly think I'll reject you?" When Shikamaru shrugged she snorted again. "Like I said, people say I'm an idiot." She threw her arms around him, kissing him. "Of course, I'll marry you! Yes! Believe it!"
Everyone listening started cheering as Shikamaru grinned and pulled back enough to slip the ring onto Naruto's finger. He was glad he had measured her finger in her sleep. It was a perfect fit. The moment it was secure he put his hand on the back of Naruto's neck, his forehead against hers.
"Can I kiss you?" he whispered, getting a mouthed 'yes' back before he kissed the blonde bouncing with excitement in front of him.
The sounds of everyone around them was drowned out as he realised his plan had worked. When he drew back, he felt people clapping him on the shoulder with congratulations. He looked over his shoulder to see Kakashi-Sensei, Iruka-Sensei smiling behind Naruto. The moment Shikamaru and Naruto separated he drew the blonde into his arms, kissing the top of her head.
"Many Jonins owe Mirai money now," Kakashi-Sensei declared. At Shikamaru's raised eyebrow he elaborated. "After the Chunin exams that led to your promotion, the Jonins who had been involved in the tests were all talking about different relationships between the students. Asuma had told all of us that you were going to end up with Naruto. We all laughed at him, so he bet us." He smiled under his mask. "I'm glad we all lost. Congratulations."
"Thanks. And thank you for the help setting all this up."
Kakashi-Sensei nodded before disappearing into the crowd. Shikamaru was swept into a hug by his mother. Over her shoulder he could see Naruto bending down to hug his father. The smile on her face was radiant. As she broke the embrace, she turned to look at him, her smile somehow widening.
As her eyes moved to the paint on the stone faces above, Shikamaru realised his grin was probably just as wide, perhaps even more as he saw the ring glint off Naruto's finger.
Extracting himself from his mother's grip, nudging her towards his father as she became a sobbing mess, he moved to stand behind Naruto, wrapping his arms around her waist.
"I hope the proposal was everything you hoped for."
It took Naruto a moment to find her voice. "I had only ever hoped you'd one day ask and that the Clan would let you. But this! This is so much, I can't believe it's all for me."
"I told you. You are my nindo. Something this eye-catching is what you deserve."
Naruto turned in his arms, blinding away tears. "I only ever wanted people's attention because I was lonely. But you were the reason that loneliness ended. You helped me make friends, you showed me I had worth, you taught me to value myself as much as I value others. You don't need to make me your nindo. You've already succeeded in making me feel whole. I just want to be with you."
Lifting her hand with the ring on it, he kissed her knuckle, the stones bumping his lip. "You have me."
R and R if you like.