During Chapter 134. Originally cut from the chapter for brevity and so we could get on with stuff – but then I wrote it anyway so progress is a lie. Plot is never going to happen. Bit jumpy because I skimmed a lot of stuff, but I invented four new side characters and considered the political and social state of Konoha and didn't want to invent a whole wedding ceremony. So there.
There was a knock on the door.
Risshuu wiped his hands on a dishcloth, setting aside the beginnings of the days bentos. He hoped it wasn't a mission; he'd only just started a rotation on Wall Duty and the day shift hours lined up pretty nicely with the Academy hours and made everything so much easier.
The shower was still running – Saidai taking his sweet time – so he edged his way past the kitchen table (where Ritsu was eating her breakfast one grain of rice at a time, of course, that child) to the front door and flicked open the traps that Saidai insisted on putting up. He'd taken them down at first, but Saidai just kept putting them back up with unending patience and it had become clear it wasn't a battle he was going to win.
There was a Special Jounin on the door step. A young one with a folder of paper tucked in the crook of one arm. She looked vaguely familiar but he couldn't place her immediately.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"Shingon Risshuu?" she asked in response, clearly knowing that the answer was 'yes'. "Nara Shikako. I hope I'm not interrupting – I was wanting to speak to you and Saidai." She extended a slim, pale hand.
He fumbled a fraction, half stepping back to let her in then correcting to shake her hand. "Nara-hime!" He should have recognised her. Should have recognised her clan symbol at least. What was the protocol for your partners defacto clan head showing up over breakfast? Was there a protocol? There probably was. "Yes. Please, come in."
This had to be about the adoption paperwork, he thought unaccountably nervous. Saidai had said it would go through without problem, but it had been weeks and Shikaku-sama was out of the village.
"Saidai is just, um, in the shower," he said, because the sound of running water was obvious. "He shouldn't be long."
She smiled, brief and polite. "I can come back later if it's more convenient," she said, slipping her shoes off and coming inside. "I just thought it would be easier to catch you before your shift starts."
It was a good assumption – some days he felt like they barely ever saw each other, and were very rarely in the house at the same time – but unnerving from someone he didn't actually know.
"Can I get you something? Tea?"
That same polite smile again. "Please, if it's not out of your way."
He retreated to the kitchenette to pour a drink for her, and she slipped into the table across from his daughter who was staring at her in fascination.
"Keep eating, Ritsu," he chided, absently wiping the rice that somehow ended up stuck to the side of her face. "Are you ready for school? Go and get your bag ready please."
Getting a child awake, fed and to school on time shouldn't be so exhausting every morning. But it was. Even in mornings without visitors.
The water finally, finally shut off, and Saidai called, a complete lack of curiosity in his voice. "Was there someone at the door?". He appeared out of the bedroom minutes later, dressed but his hair still down and wet. "Oh. Shikako-chan."
Was that an acceptable form of address for a clan heir? Risshuu wondered. She outranked them both just in normal rankings, Special Jounin to their Chunin, let alone whatever internal hierarchy the Nara clan had. Or was it just a relic of the fact that he'd watched her grow up?
She didn't seem bothered by it, anyway, that same placid grace, like the people around her could do anything under the sun and it wouldn't faze her. "Sorry to interrupt your morning," she said, flicking open her file on the table. "I just wanted to speak to you both about this."
"Are there problems with it?" Saidai asked, sliding into a chair. The lines around the corners of his eyes were tight, and Risshuu realised that he wasn't nearly so confident in their success as he had been saying. The thought was like a heavy weight in his stomach, and made him hover near the table.
"Not as such," Shikako said. She paused, and continued delicately, as if choosing her words carefully. "I understand that this is a situation where things are generally… unspoken. But you're applying for joint custody of a child. Housing stipends. Joint finances." She raised an eyebrow, leadingly.
"Yes," Saidai said, unflinching. Risshuu swallowed. There was no way she didn't know that this was only a two bedroom apartment, or was unable to put all those facts together. He wasn't ashamed, but she was right about one thing – it went unspoken generally. The Nara clan had never really objected to it, as such, but he'd never felt particularly welcomed by them, either.
It was just… Ritsu. If things went badly, if by some horrible twist of fate, something happened to him on a mission then Ritsu would go back to her mother. That wasn't something that anyone wanted, but he had no other family, no one to take her in and Saidai would have no legal recourse.
"Okay," Shikako said, tapping her fingers in a slow beat on the table in what might have been emphasis or might have been nerves. "Well. Did you consider just… getting married?"
There was a beat of incredulous silence.
"The paperwork is easier," she defended, with a shrug. "It's all inclusive."
"I … didn't think that was an option available to us," Risshuu said, hesitantly. He put a hand down on his partners shoulder and squeezed.
She frowned, slightly. "Well, I'm not sure about village law specifically… but once you're adopted into the clan then it becomes an internal matter," she explained. "And that supersedes village law because Konoha can't interfere with the running of a clan." She glanced sideways, seeming to ponder it. "I don't think it's actually forbidden by law so much as … the interpretation thereof and there's no precedent for it…"
"Yes," Saidai said, voice as set and flat as it was when he decided on a course of action, come hell or high water. "Can you sign that?"
"Now?" Shikako asked, eyes a fraction wider, like they'd thrown her off step.
Risshuu knew how that felt. Should they be discussing this first? Except what was there to discuss? They had an opportunity to do what they had wanted, to do more than what they wanted, and if they didn't grab it with both hands it might vanish.
"Er- I need to get the paperwork from the tower," Shikako said, recovering. "And you need to organise an officiant and witnesses-"
"Tonight then, after our shifts," Saidai said, and he really was taking it and running with it. On a mission, with a goal in mind, he was forceful and unstoppable. "We don't need an officiant – you're an acting clan head, right? You can do it."
She blinked at him. It seemed a little presumptuous, but surely Saidai knew what he was doing. "I- okay? Sure. Sunset then. By the Clan Memorial."
"Tonight then," Risshuu echoed, and then caught sight of the clock. "Oh blast. Look at the time."
Shikako swept up her folder and made it vanish… somewhere. "I can drop Ritsu off at the Academy," she volunteered. "I have some business there anyway."
Sunset came faster than expected. (And slower, too, in a lot of ways. Was there going to be a problem? Was someone going to stop this? Would someone wake up and realise it was impossible?)
But no one interrupted them to say it was off. The three of them made their way to the Nara compound, accompanied by a few friends, still dressed in their field gear. Well, Risshuu had made Ritsu put on her nice, non-dirty dress, but it was stained muddy at the knees already so that had been a wasted effort.
There were a few Nara there, waiting for them. Saidai's family, the few of the wider clan they were on friendly terms with. Shikako, conversing with a blonde girl and boy with cheek tattoos who (maybe?) weren't Nara.
"Who are they?" Risshuu hissed to his partner.
Saidai's eyes widened, fractionally. "Yamanaka and Akimichi," he said back, voice low. "That's good. The heirs, not the heads, but it still means all the clans are ratifying it. Kinda."
"Kinda?" Risshuu asked, nerves leaking into his voice.
"Shikaku-dono won't be able to undo it, if that's what you're asking," Saidai said, and yes, that had been a concern. "Leaving them in charge was a show of trust, really. If he countermands their choices then he's saying it was a mistake – and that's not something you want to admit, right? Same with the other clans. The heads aren't agreeing, but the heirs are." He shrugged. "It shows which way the wind is blowing, anyway. Ten years, twenty years… this might be normal."
And then Shikako caught sight of them in turn and everything became a strange, unbelievable whirlwind of activity. Yamanaka-hime had brought flowers, it turned out, for them and for Ritsu to throw around to her hearts content.
"Ready?" Shikako asked, voice low, and when they responded in affirmative, led them through an abbreviated ceremony that included exchanging rings, sake drinking and completion of paperwork.
Somehow, the last step felt just as ceremonial.
"And now," Akimichi-san said, once the cheering had died off. "The most important part… cake!"
"We didn't-" Risshuu started to say. "Oh."
Shikako gave them a small smile, pleased by slightly mischievous. "The Akimichi donated some catering," she demurred. "And really, what's a wedding without cake?"
And Yamanaka-hime was weaving flowers into his daughter's hair and she had a clan now, she had two fathers to care for her and so many more people to look after her. She would be okay.
"Right," he choked out, and really, what were weddings for but tears, anyway. "The best part."