A/N: I'M NOT DEAD! Ahem, sorry, sorry, sorry about that. Couldn't help myself. I've been on a wee bit of a hiatus as of late, enjoying time off and healing up after sustaining some injuries. BUT I'm alive! And though my legs might be busted up, my spirit hasn't faltered in the slightest. I've also seen the Force Awakens several times, so if you haven't seen it yet SPOILERS ABOUND WITHIN! I seriously suggest you see it, though. It was great!

Now, someone asked about Naruto having the force, or teaching Rey jutsu, etc. To answer the question, well, its complicated. The sage's chakra belongs solely to Naruto. Even if we're talking 'bout regular chakra here, I'm not sure that's just something you could TEACH to a random stranger without an intensive regiment. As to Naruto even wielding the Force itself, well, this chapter should illuminate that aspect, a bit.

Now, I proudly present the next chapter of...

...Not So Far Away!

...make of it what you will! On another note, this story starts approximately a few months before the events of The Force Awakens...hope ya like it! I tried to keep everyone in character, given that a certain someone suffers a tragedy in this chapter...but I humbly ask that you be nice and enjoy the story! Yes, yes, yes, Naruto is NOT overpowered in this one, so don't worry...

...and remember, he's still recovering from a bad loss...

"So...that's a blaster."

...yes?"

"I want one. Think I'll take his."

"Naruto!"

"What? Its not like he'll need it anymore...

~Naruto and Rey.

Recover/Regroup

With the dawn came apologies and explanations both; at least in part for the scavenger. Her guest?

Not so much.

Beyond offering his name, Rey's guest remained obstinately tight-lipped about who-or what-he was, and where he'd come from despite her prodding. He got this awful hollow-eyed look whenever she'd asked, so in the end, she'd given the matter up for lost. Instead she'd chosen to do her best to make up for last night's mishap by tending his injuries. For all the good it had done her. "Naruto" as the despondent outcast called himself, didn't seem keen on offering his thanks for her tender care anytime soon, but the man didn't resist, either.

In daylight, he actually looked...well, rather young.

About her age, actually.

With all the dust and blood scrubbed away and that battered jacket removed, he looked like a completely different person. His hair was the color of the sun, bright and yellow. His skin, tanned, suggesting a life spent out in the sun, in the wild, at work or play. He wasn't without his marks, either. She could see the whiskers on his face-three to each cheek-the latter half marred by an ugly scar-or was it some sort of burn?-running perpendicular to the right side of his face, just below the eye.

It looked...disturbingly fresh. What on earth had happened to him?

There was another, longer, curving mark on his neck resembling that of a hand. As thought someone had tried to...tried to strangle him. The mere thought of it made Rey shudder. She was no stranger to violence, but whatever marked Naruto had clearly been meant to draw out his death in the most painful way possible. From the way he flinched whenever she touched the bruises, the scavenger secretly suspected that, were she to look beneath his shirt, she'd find more scars within.

And then there was the matter of his leg.

It wasn't just injured; no, it was completely gone, ripped away near the knee. Rey had wrapped and bandaged it as best she could, but an injury like that was going to cripple him at the least, sicken him at worst if he didn't get it properly cleaned soon. Or find some sort of prosthetic. Not that those were all that easy to come by out here. She doubted she could even find the part to build him one, were she so inclined. The challenge of such a task appealed to her regardless, however, and she found herself staring at the scorched limb, contemplating it.

All in all, its owner was a far cry from the scorched, bloodied savage she'd found in the wastes. Honestly, he was quiet. Peaceful, even.

Until he opened his mouth.

"You hit me pretty damn hard for a girl, ya know."

"Oh, he speaks!"

Rey somehow managed to simultaneously laugh and snort at the same time before she realized what he'd just said. Of course she immediately regretted doing both, instead cringing ever - so- slightly as she dabbed at Naruto's forehead. For the most part, her patient remained silent from where he lay on the makeshift table, eyes focused on the ceiling. He didn't give any indication of having heard her stutter, let alone speaking again. Rey took it as a sign that he wasn't about to get up and start trouble.

Yet.

Then the weight of his words hit her, stabbing at her like early morning light through a hatch.

"Wait, what do you mean, for a girl?"

"Just what I said." A lone blue eye rolled up to meet her gaze, and when he spoke next, there was a subtle, sly bite to his voice. "The girls I know hit harder." He chuckled aloud, it sounded like blaster bolts on rust. "A helluva lot harder, actually."

Without thinking, she rose to the bait.

"You...!" The damp cloth in Rey's hands suddenly felt as though it weighed a dozen pounds-an angry lead weight in her hands, her anger rising before she clamped down on it. "You know, if you're going to act like this, I could just throw you out."

Naruto's only response was a dead sigh.

"Probably should."

"Do you even hear yourself?!" Rey exclaimed!

"Its my voice. 'Course I did."

"Aargh!"

Indignant, the scavenger actually considered tossing the kriffing rag at him, leaving him to suffer the fever alone. And why the hell was playing nursemaid anyway?! It wasn't as if she was responsible for his sorry state! Nope. Not her fault at all She hadn't cracked his ribs, whacked him on the head, given him a concussion, and now the fever...

Oh, wait, she had, hadn't she? At least two out of the three were her fault.

A thorn of guilt pricked at her and held her back, reminding her why she was tending the prone blond in the first place. Why she hadn't left him out there in the wastes. Not that she'd been without cause of course; he'd given her a right fright before she'd knocked him out. He'd woken angry and bitter; she supposed the snark was just his way of adjusting to whatever tragedy had befallen him. Anything was better than the silent crying he'd done last night when he thought she couldn't hear him.

Whatever, whomever, Naruto'd lost, it must have been recent. Recent enough for him to flinch whenever she asked about it, recent enough to be outright antagonistic towards her. Lost and alone. Stranded, in a strange and foreign place. No family and friends to speak of. Alone. And in that instant, incredibly, Rey understood. Anger gave way to pity, pity and pity yielded to empathy.

"Yes, well...

"..."

Silence stretched between them, an wet blanket, thick and cloying. Neither spoke as she finished wrapping his head forehead.

...sorry." when someone finally spoke it was Naruto; but even when the scarred blond found his voice, Rey wasn't entirely expecting the ensuing apology that followed. "Didn't mean to be a dick." he said, swallowing as if he'd tasted something incredibly sour. "Still, you didn't have to hit me back there, you know." when he spoke again his voice was quiet-an almost subdued slur-barely even a whisper. "Wasn't going to hurt ya." Only a few hours ago, she'd feared he might.

Now...

"And I am so, so, SO sorry for that." a pause followed on her part as well. "The hitting, I mean."

"Should be." He muttered blackly, still not looking at her. "I've got the bumps to prov-wahayah?!" a sharp intake of breath followed as she touched a particularly sensitive spot near his ribs. Azure eyes that had once cut bloody blue daggers at her now squeezed tightly shut in scarcely controlled mirth. "Careful!" his cutting reproach warped into a laugh as he wriggled away from her questing fingers. "I'm ticklish! Owowowowow! Hurts to laugh, ya know!"

Rey laughed despite herself.

"Then stop fidgeting and hold still."

"F-Fine, fine! I give, I give!" The wounded warrior offered one final cackle as she ceased touching his stomach and did as he was told, rolling over onto his opposite side. Rey silently marveled at it as she set to wrapping his ribs. She didn't think one so wounded would be able to laugh like that. It was the first time she'd heard any real emotion from all morning. She'd tried her best to tend to him as an apology of sorts, given her limited expertise in the area, but somehow, it felt like his laughter had lifted a weight from her shoulders, one she hadn't even known was there.

Easier said than done.

Patching him up was like working on a wriggling wampa; the blond couldn't seem to sit still for more than a moment without being told otherwise. He'd insisted that most of his wounds were healed, but he was running a slight fever and by the way he'd been struggling all morning suggested his injuries ran deeper than mere bruises, deeper than she knew. More extensive than she could tend. Not to mention the leg. Bandages were a good start, but if that fever got any worse, he'd need medicine. Not to mention food and water, the latter severely lacking.

Her choice made, the scavenger stood.

Blue eyes flickered toward her immediately. "Where're you going?"

"Out." Rey shouldered her pack and grabbed her goggles, snatched up her staff from where it lay against the wall. "I need supplies, and you need fresh bandages." Among other things.

Just like that, the blast doors slammed shut on his interest.

"I don't need your help."

"Didn't ask." she replied primly.

Naruto opened his mouth.

Closed it.

"Fine." he relented. "But you're not leaving me here."

"Wait, wait, wait, you can't-

She wasn't expecting him to get up.

Because he did.

Bracing both palms against the edge of table, the blond levered himself up and, impossibly, moved. In one flowing movement he rose, but instead of trying to walk-which would've been impossible in his current state-he braced himself against the wall and pushed. Certain he would fall, Rey stepped forward to catch him, but the whiskered warrior simply bent his weight on his remaining leg and lunged forwards, snagging a handhold and anchoring himself beside her, only an arms-length away.

His grin was downright cocky.

Rey blinked, baffled.

"How did you..?"

"Still got two hands, ya know." the ghost of a smile played across his face, dancing in his eyes. "Long as I got 'em, I'm fine." Then he seemed to remember something, and it withered away. A muscle jumped in his jaw, and his fingers knuckled furiously against the wall. "Not that they did me any damn good...!" More than anything else, Rey wanted to talk to him in that instant. To ask. To know. What had happened to him? What went wrong? For a moment, an instant, a fraction of eternity, he'd seemed downright jovial.

Then a shadow had fallen over him, and he'd closed himself off all over again.

Why?

In the end, she abstained and asked a different question.

"What are you going to do?"

Naruto grunted, balancing himself shakily.

"I'll figure something out.

Rey dithered a moment, considered, then offered him her cherished staff.

"Here."

"Eh? Nah, I'm good." Naruto deferred the offering with another grunt. "Just give me a second...or..two...!" His eyes trained down to his right hand, glaring intently at the strange, circular mark on his palm. Almost as if he expected something to happen. When no such happenstance occurred, he scowled and leered at his hand with renewed intensity. A bead of sweat gathered on his brow, trailed down his temple. Still nothing, after a handful of seconds passed, he gave up, swearing.

"Bullshit! Why isn't it working?! I should have recovered by now...! Crap. Sorry." he amended with a sigh. Blue eyes flicked back to her. "Look, can I...?"

"You can borrow it."

Naruto grunted. "Great. Thanks. Sorry, I'm not much of a talker, right now."

It was just as well then; because what he found outside left him speechless.


"I am not getting on that contraption."

"Why not?" Rey asked.

The searing light of Jakku's rising sun cut down on Naruto's prone from relentlessly, seeming to wreathe his body in tendrils of golden light as he stood there, stricken. He remained firmly rooted outside the door to her hovel, refusing to leave the sanctity of the AT-AT and venture towards her. Instead he remained, leaning awkwardly against her staff, refusing to move. As she looked on, he slinked back into the shadow of the fallen walker, emphatically shaking his head.

Within good reason!

"Because!"

Naruto regarded Rey and her speeder as though he thought the latter might rear back and bite him in two. Judging by the look on his face, he probably thought it actually would. He'd froze up the moment he laid eye on it-almost as if he he had never seen such a thing before. But that was absurd. You'd have to live under a rock your whole to be afraid of technology. Yet there was fear and confusion she saw there, lingering in the blond and his eyes, the very way he held himself.

Another unanswered queston.

"I don't understand; what's wrong?" she pressed. "You act like you've never seen a speeder, before."

"That's 'cuz I haven't! And it looks like a fuckin' popsicle!" he exclaimed, shying away. "How the hell do you use it?!"

...with your hands and feet?"

"Eh?"

"Its just a speeder." Rey continued, seeing his hesitation. "See?" A hand gently caressed the old, rust-red hull, greeting it like an old friend, another primed the engine. "Haven't you seen one of these before?" When the blond continued to fidget like a wild tauntaun in a sauna, she felt her the beginnings of a smile pluck at her mouth. By the sands, he was afraid! Of this old rustbucket! Ohhhhh, this was too good to pass up. She couldn't help but tease him. An impish grin playing upon her lips, Rey leaned back and patted the seat behind her.

"C'mon," the scavenger goaded, beckoning. "Its the quickest way into town. You're not afraid, are you? Hop on."

Naruto made a squelching noise.

"I am not, and I WILL not!"

Rey smiled slyly.

"Then get on."

Naruto groaned.

After another moment's hesitation, the wounded warrior reluctantly hobbled out of the shadow of the AT-At and started towards Rey. Pity stabbed at her yet again as she watched him struggle, the look of intense agony on his face was almost enough to make her hop down and reach him, but the determination in this blue orbs stayed her hand. Once Naruto reached the worn speeder he clamored up slowly, carefully, accepting her arm and swinging himself into the saddle behind the scavenger.

After tacking stock of the rickety speeder-and noting the distinct lack of straps-his face soured once more.

"Lemme guess." he drawled. "I have to hold onto you, don't I?"

"Only if you don't wan to fall off." she quipped.

Another moan.

"I have a bad feeling about this...SHIT!"

Gunning the engine, they shot forward!


(...)


As it turned out, the trip into town was an experience in and of itself.

Naruto had clung to her like a monkey throughout the brief ride, refusing to so much as open his eyes the entire time. If the vice around her waist and his muffled curses had been any indication, he'd been right terrified the entire time. Had he really never ridden a speeder before? Or did he just hate technology? First time for everything, she supposed. Damn. Part of her felt just a twinge of guilt for accelerating so quickly back there; in all honesty, she hadn't even considered Naruto's reaction.

Until now.

Now, the moment she cut the engines and coasted to an easy, she could clearly hear him voicing his displeasure. "Get me offa this crazy ride!" Then he all but lurched out of the saddle. Ah. Perhaps lunged was a better term; because they hadn't even exhausted their forward momentum before the blond was hurling himself to the dusty ground with a disparate cry of:

"LAND! Sweet land!" By the sun, he was actually kissing the dirt! "By the log, I'll never forsake you again!"

"Oh, relax." Rey was physically shaking in an effort to contain herself as she dismounted and unstrapped her salvage from the speeder's net. "It wasn't that bad."

"Bad?!" his head snapped towards her with such speed she was certain he'd broken something. "Woman, that was terrifying! I'm never riding that thing again!"

"Then how do you plan to get back?" she offered him her hand.

Naruto lay there in the dirt for a long moment, considering. Then, reluctantly he accepted it and picked himself up, rags and all.

...damnit."

"Thought so."

Helping the battered blond to his feet, the scavenger patted him smartly on the back and started walking. In the end he was left with little choice but to limp after as best he could. Thankfully her pace was slow enough that he quickly made up the distance despite his disability. The scavenger continued onward, moving past stall after stall, holding his attention. Out of mere curiosity than anything else, Naruto followed, limping. Why he hadn't conjured a shadow clone and have it support him felt downright obvious by now; he doubted he had the chakra to form a single kage bunshin, much less maintain it.

Troubling, indeed.

"Wait, where are we going?"

She cast him a look.

"I told you, for supplies." a pause. "And clothes for you, if they have anything."

"Oi, I like what I'm wearing!"

"Yes, because I'm sure the dirty-vagabond look suits you. Besides, I might be able to do something about your leg."

Ouch.

"Wait, what's this about my leg?!" Naruto looked as though he might say more on the subject, but something caught his eye. A dark shape collided with him from behind, nearly sending him sprawling. An oath springing from his lips, the shinobi spun, ready to speak his mind to whomever had nearly knocked him over.

"Watch it!" A gruff voice boomed out at him.

"Oh," muttering quietly, the blond turned. "Sor...sorry...

He openly gawked at the sight sprawled out him, balking at the strange individuals shuffling by. Here he saw a man with horns, there, a little hooded creature with what looked like metal for a face. So many beings that he'd never seen before; strange, shuffling creatures and their beasts of burden. Metal men who shambled about slowly on stiff legs. Beasts with long trunks for a nose. Women with green and blue skin, strange tentacle like appendages sprouting out the back of their heads.

It was...overwhelming, to say the least. The full weight of what he was looking at threatened to engulf him. Envelop. Somehow, he managed to keep moving, his body falling into autopilot while his mind spun, confused and adrift. He was suddenly, keenly aware of everyone and everything around him, the foreign individuals-aliens-the strange instruments and apparatuses for sail...all of it. Now that he'd been made aware, it was all but impossible to ignore. The scene laid out before said much. Too much.

It also told him just how far he was from what had once been home.

"Okay." he mumbled. "Definitely in Konoha anymore."

"What's a Konoha?" Rey asked, slowing.

Naruto blinked; he'd almost forgotten all about her.

Blue eyes flashed.

Dimmed.

"Nothing."

His mind wandered after that; his body continued to follow Rey, but his mind, ah, his mind was elsewhere. He wasn't in the Elemental Nations anymore. Somehow, he knew. Call it a gut feeling, but he simply knew. Had he known he was in an entirely different realm, had someone told him this in that instant, it might've broken him entirely. Probably would. It wasn't as if he even had a home to go back to but the realization that he was simply elsewhere, still beaten, broken, threatened to drive him mad.

'This is too much. This is, I can't even..I can't...

Without thinking he paused, drawing up short. Rey was only slightly ahead of him, perusing a Zabrak's wares. Good. He wouldn't lose her, then.

Unbidden, his mind spat forth an idea.

A bit of senjutsu might help, speed the healing, perhaps? It had always eased his mind before. Made him stronger. Tougher. Calmer. Naruto didn't care. His mind was reeling, desperate, grasping at something anything to center himself. He hadn't heard so much as a peep from Kurama since landing in this desolate hell, so that was out. Pacing was a no go. And seeing as he didn't have enough chakra himself...

Senjutsu it was.

He sighed, and planted the staff into the ground. Opening himself to nature he saw-

Suddenly, he was somewhere-somewhen?-else.

He looked down at the imploring and dying face of his opponent. Despite the difference of shape and structure that separated the two beings, he could see that he truly feared dying, and felt his disarray. It made a knot, somewhere deep in his gut. It was pity that attacked him, a sentiment rarely felt, theoretically present in all life forms… but absent here, in that moment. Rambling. He was rambling again. He'd been doing that a lot in the last few...what was, it days? Weeks? Months?

Years?

"Please..." the face beneath his boot rasped. "Spare...me...

In that moment, he realized that even a monster that unleashed armies on innocent people, and was responsible today of several thousand deaths, could still inspire pity.

Didn't mean he was about to give it, though.

He raised his foot and stomped down on the skull dozens of times, for a whole minute, until not the slightest sound came from it...

And there, overiding it all, a voice.

"This is only the beginning..."

Naruto nearly stumbled as the scene-vision?-left him.

Head pounding, he spun around, but nothing had changed. He was still the market, still beside Rey. Nothing had changed. Nothing, beyond what he'd seen. And what had he seen? It didn't make sense. Whatever it was, senjutsu wasn't an option. Certainly not! Not if it made him see visions! Immediately he released his hold on what little chakra he'd gathered, and the spinning stopped. Impossibly, he felt even more ill than before; yet in the same vein, he also felt something else. A strange, alien sensation, tickling the edge of his consciousness, as if it were calling to him...

"Naruto? Naruto!"

Blinking, the blond came back to himself.

"Eh? What?"

Rey's face swung back into view as Naruto hastily blinked away his own thoughts, stepping back from the brink. The scavenger worried gaze was fixed firmly upon him, teeming with concern. Idly, he realized he must've stopped following her some time ago; because her hand was on his shoulder. Shaking him. How long had he been in a trance?

"You've been staring at that blaster stand for the last five minutes." his ears popped on the last word; she must've seen him wince, because she drew back. "Is something wrong?"

"I...what? Blaster? What's a blaster?"

Looking down, he found he was indeed gazing at what Rey called "blasters", which turned out to be a series of sleek looking...well, he didn't rightly know what they were. Some were large, others, small. They came with all sorts of colors, varied in shape and size. What the hell were they? Curious, he reached for one of these 'blasters', a large, sleek looking thing with what he could only assume was a scope. He wasn't quite sure what it was about it, but the shape fascinated him

Unknowingly, his finger tightened on the trigger.

Pew!

It barked fiercely in his hand, a blue bolt shrieking up to tear a hole in the tarp overhead.

Rey cringed.

Naruto simply gawped.

Then the Devaronian tending the stand took one look at him and swatted his hand, snarling loudly.

"Chuba! Pateesa moulee-rah!"

"Whoa, whoa! What?!" Naruto dropped the blaster with a yelp and recoiled violently, his mind reeling from both the verbal assault and strange language. "Oi! What the heck?!" The strange horned man continued to rant at him in that strange series of syllables and he simply stood there, weathering the assault, unsure of what to make of it. Inwardly, he was far too delighted at the discovery he'd made. to care. A laser! That damn thing spat a laser!

"E chu ta, sleemo!"

Rey swooped in spitting what sounded like a curse at the vendor. Before Naruto could say a word she took his arm and led him away from the raging alien. "Ignore him." she soothed. "Zathar doesn't like it when people touch his merchandise without paying." Tossing her head to the side, the scavenger risked a glance back at the fuming Devaronian, now nowhere to be seen. "We should get out of here before he decides to take a shot at us. He's known for that bad temper."

"I noticed." Naruto could only shake his head in disbelief. "So, what did he say? Probably wasn't asking me for a second date."

"Trust me, you don't want to-watch it!"

Her warning was the only thing he heard before all hell broke loose.

In his mind's eye, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck begin to warm, prickling as something incredibly hot approached them. Something inside of him was screaming, telling him to move, to dodge, to get the hell out of the WAY-

Instinct took over.

Naruto gathered himself and all his remaining chakra up, honing it into a single point. Then he leaped with his remaining leg and Rey's staff both, hurtling upwards and away mere miliseconds before an angry bolt of red plasma passed through the space he'd just occupied. His abrupt ascent ripped a tarp in half as he shot upright-sending it spinning wildly as he tore through. His arm shot out even as he gained airtime-whipping the staff to where he somehow knew Rey would be.

Then he was descending, falling, landing awkwardly on his knee some yards away. More shouts followed his graceful fall and still, more confusion. And by the time the blond finally found the source of the noise Rey was already advancing, furiously swinging the staff he'd hurled in a smooth overhanded motion at someone's head.

A familiar someone's head.

Her adversary, the very Devaronian she'd just insulted only minutes before, took the blow full on the chin and went down in a boneless heap. The blaster he'd been holding, the very one he'd taken a shot at them with, went skittering out his hand to vanish amidst the stalls and passerby. No one had stopped to even bat an eyelash at the fracas now that the Devaronian was down. Naruto straightened up with a supreme effort, feeling oddly drained just by doing so. Alright, that settled. Either he'd messed up his chakra coils somehow, or something was just plain wrong.

It shouldn't take this long to recover!

"Why was he shooting at us?!"

"Guess he just doesn't like you." Rey replied breathlessly, handing him back the staff. "C'mon, lets get out of here before he wakes up."

"Don't have to tell me twice!"

Before he could so much as hop in her direction, however, a sharp cry commanded her attention.

"Rey! Dei wanna wanga!"

Naruto turned to find a woman in black and white leathers approaching them with quick, sure strides, her light blue skin seeming to shimmer in the fierce heat of Jakku's sun. She was a beauty to behold, as was the determined, almost feverish look in her eye, but that wasn't what drew Naruto's attention. The jiinchuuriki took one look at the strange appendages sprouting from her skull and drew back. "Everybody wants to mess with me, today! The hell is this?!"

"That would be Syn." Rey explained simply, arching an eyebrow as the woman drew up short nearby. "She's actually the one we were supposed to see today. She's a...smuggler, of sorts. Sells fabrics, junk, jewels, that sort of thing. I wasn't expecting her to find us, though...

Before she could finish, the twi'lek completed her trek, reaching the scavenger in what seemed like a single stride. She was a tiny thin, barely cresting out around five foot. Slim arms threw themselves around the taller Rey's neck, squeezing happily as she babbled out what he assumed was a greeting. Then, to Naruto's great confusion and dismay, the strange female turned to him and bowed. An actual bow, bent low and deep at the waist. She spoke rapidly, lekku twitching furiously.

"Dobrah gusha tu trawbbio grandio, mendeeya!"

"Wait, what?" Rey sputtered. "What're you taking about?"

"That's what I said." Naruto sighed as those amber eyes turned back to him. "Look, lady, I have no idea what you said, but could ya stop bowing-

Before he could ask, Syn pushed something into his hands.

Opening his palm, the blond found himself staring at a strange, small, sunset-colored crystal. It felt almost warm to the touch, as if the tiny gem somehow possessed a life of its own. Warmth. Alive. He held it up to the sunlight for a moment, a flicker of uncertainty passing through his eyes. Whatever it was it felt...strange to him somehow. Blue eyes flicked back to Syn, who seemed to be watching him almost as if she expected him to do something.

"Translation, please?"

Rey's face dimpled in disbelief.

"She only speaks Huttese." she clarified. "Syn says...she was watching, back there. She saw you. That it would be an honor if the "great one" took this. And put it to use."

Syn beamed and nodded, pushing it back into Naruto's hand.

"Great one? Me? Take what?" Naruto eyed the crystal with renewed scrutiny. "The hell is it?"

Rey followed his gaze.

"I'm...I'm not sure."

Naruto turned it over, quietly trying to decide what the gem was. It felt...right with him. Like he'd been mean to find it, somehow. He didn't what that mean-if it meant anything all. Merely holding the crystal in the palm of his hand evoked a soothing effect. It seemed to give off an almost preternatural hum in the back of his mind, if such a thing were possible. Frowning, Naruto ghosted his fingers over the jagged surface.

Closed them.

"Look" he began at last, "Its, valuable. Syn, right? I appreciate the thought, but I can't keep this-

Sy shook her head fiercely and spoke in Huttese.

"Ban gon wan she co, cah!"

"She insists. Free of charge.

Syn chattered off something else and Rey forcibly bit her lip to keep from laughing.

"She...she also says you can come by anytime to let her look at that leg of yours."

"Oh, that sounds good-wait, why?"

She told him why.

"You wan't a new leg, don't you?"

"Eh?!"

"We'll come back later." Rey continued, thumbing the small sled of salvage she'd dragged along for the ride. "Gotta turn this in, first."

Syn waved happily.

"Mee jewz ju! Bye, bye!"

Once again, Naruto found himself left with the ungainly task of hobbling after Rey, relying utterly on the staff as an impromptu crutch. It galled him. Lacking a limb was one thing, but he couldn't do anything like this. He'd been slowed. He felt weak. Exhausted. Drained. Crippled. Hmm. Was that the problem? The reason for his lack of energy? That thought threatened the return of the soul-crushing despair again, of losing everyone he'd lost, but he stubbornly shoved such thoughts away.

Dwelling on it wasn't the answer.

But how not to?

"Please, don't start anything with Plutt." Rey said suddenly, making a hard left. Naruto couldn't so much argue as he could follow.

"Why not?vPlutt. Sounds like a lovely name."

"Naruto, don't. He'll kill you."

"Does it count if I already feel dead?"

She didn't answer, so in the end, he was left to dutifully follow Rey.

Upon reaching a ramshackle stand, Rey unhooked her precious salvage and hoisted it piece by piece a rather portly looking creature, the entire time, her face carefully blank. It wasn't until the alien spoke that he realized why she'd maintained such a neutral expression. He watched her carefully as her slim hands pushed the small mountain of associated parts and circuitry onto the counter and patiently waited for him to take stock of it all. Ah, that's what this was. An exchange.

Bartering.

"Hmm," the junkboss began in a voice like boulders grinding together, "What you've brought me today is worth...one portion." A thick, meaty fist slammed down a packet of rations and swiftly withdrew behind the grate just as quickly. Rey twitched, her mouth set into a stubborn line.

"Last week that much would have been worth ten."

Plutt snorted.

"And today its worth one. Next."

Naruto twitched; blue eyes snapped into angry red slits.

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

"I said the scavenger gets one portion." Unkar Plutt rumbled, sneering. "An she should be lucky she's getting even tha-GAH!

A scarred fist crashed through the grate, locked around the crolute's throat, hauling him up and forward almost instantaneously. Through the grate. Rey was still wondering just how the blond had managed to do that when Naruto tugged even harder, dragging the hulking alien out of paddock and pressing his forehead to that of the junkboss. His odd comment about Plutt cheating her suddenly seemed like a distant memory now, as she watched the battered blond stare down the much larger entity.

For a terrible moment, nothing happened.

Then, incredibly Naruto smiled.

"You meant one hundred portions for that salvage, right?" his voice was oddly calm-almost pleasant even-lacking even the slightest amount of menace as he spoke. "Not one?" His opposite hand rose slowly, crushing the comlink in his hand like a piece of flimsiplast. Those scarred fingers opened slowly, allowing Unkar to see the sundered scrap tumble down to the ground. When the blond looked up from the mangled pile of circuit, his smile was decidedly frosty.

"Well?"

"Y-Yes!" the alien sputtered! "One hundred portions!"

"And you're going to GENEROUSLY share the rest of your stash with the good folks behind us?" Naruto continued genially, blue eyes twinkling.

Plutt immediately bristled.

"Now see here-

A clenched fist dented the wall beside Plutt's head.

"I...ah...I mean yes, of course!"

"Right, then." With a grunt, Naruto tossed him down like a sack of rotten garbage. "Now pay the nice lady for her WONDERFUL salvage and shut the hell up."

Rey stared after him, stupified.

Her body distantly registered the new rations and went through the motions; her arms furtively scooping them up into her bag, legs hastening after the hobbling blond. It wasn't difficult; even at what he would probably insist was a "fast walk" Naruto still moved painfully slow even with the aid of her staff and she caught up with him easily.

"Why did you do that?"

Another grunt.

"Don't like cheaters."

Without another word, the broken shinobi limped away, favoring his remaining leg and leaning heavily on the staff. Rey followed a moment later, frowning. Only then did she noticed the weapon the blond was holding in what was supposedly his unoccupied hand. Where had he gotten that? She didn't recall him buying any such thing after she'd shown them to him. So where had he-

"So...this is a blaster." his musings interrupted her. "Looks nice."

...yes?" she frowned. "Wait, you didn't!"

"I wanted one. So I took fatso's when he wasn't looking."

"Naruto!"

He grinned.

"What? Its not like he'll need it anymore...now...

...lets go get me a new leg!"

"You are aware that she just has the parts." Rey pointed out. "I'll have to cobble something together. IF I can cobble something together."

The blond's face fell, his spirits sinking like a stone cast into a lake.

"Crap."

"Have a little faith!" she reprimanded him.

"Where you're concerned, I think faith is the problem...

"I resent that!"

It would prove to an unusual outing indeed...

...an unusual, marvelous journey that had only just begun.

A/N: Poor Naruto. Sorry if this chapter is so terribly, short, but I needed one for the interlude. Now, before anyone says anything, Naruto is NOT at his max in this. Nowhere near it in fact. In short, he's gotten his arse handed to him, most of his powers reduced/stripped away, flat. Yes, he's stronger than your average human, but don't expecting him to be tossing any buildings around just yet...

So, in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...REVIEW! And May the Force be with you!

AND ENJOY ZE PREVIEW! Tis a shocker!

(Preview)

"Kill them-

"HEY!"

Ren's head snapped up as a sharp cry rang through the night. In the same instant, a boulder the size of a human head smashed Captain Phasma off her feet and slammed her into the shuttle. Collapsing with an audible grunt, the stormtrooper fell. She did not rise again.

Ren didn't care; his eyes were decidedly elsewhere.

Cast in the light of a smoldering homestead, a lone figure stood, right had extended.

Perhaps that wasn't the right word.

This young man didn't so much stand as he seemed to tower; rise from the very flames themselves, shaking off the soot and smoke as though it were made of flimsy sticks. He shook himself roughly, like a wet nekku cleaning its coat. He looked like little more than some homeless vagabond; with his torn coat and battered appearance. In his hand he clutched a slim black rod, seemingly little more than a walking stick. By all rights, he didn't look like a threat. But it was the eyes, those eerie, angry blue eyes, that warned of something more.

"Oi."

A lone finger thrust itself in his direction, pointing.

Accusing.

"The hell is wrong with you?" the intruder demanded in a loose, drawling voice. "These folks ain't done anything deserving of execution. Let 'em go." Let them go? Preposterous. Ren scoffed. In his mind, this wasn't an execution; this was only a proper chastisement, a punishment for standing against order in the chaos.

"They're guilty of crimes against the First Order."

"The fuck is that?" came the spitting reply. "You know what? Nevermind-I don't care. Look, I'm not in the best mood right now, punk." the words were a growl. "So I'll say this once. Leave the villagers and beat it. Or don't." he shrugged, hefting his weapon. "Makes no difference to me."

Incredulous, the dark side user scoffed.

...do you have any idea who you're threatening?"

"Not a damn clue. But," to his eyes the whiskered warrior merely twitched; just the slightest movement of his arm-of his eerie black rod-and the stormtrooper who'd fired found himself sporting a smoking hole in his helmet. An awful moment of silence passed between them. "I don't like being shot at." The rest backpedaled away from their comrade's corpse, baffled. The blond spun his weapon once, and grunted, balancing on a leg that looked like it had been cobbled together from spare parts.

His smile, it one could call that expression such, reminded Ren of a hungry rancor.

"Anyone else? Didn't think so."

Behind the mask, Kylo Ren frowned.

"Who...are you?"

"Doesn't matter." Blue eyes snapped into sinister red slits. "I've changed my mind, anyway."

"You have." Ren deadpanned.

"Yeah."

Vzzzm!

Even with all the might of the Darkness at his command, Kylor barely ignited his lightsaber in time; the vents had only just opened when the stranger's staff slammed down into his weapon. Incredibly it didn't cut clean through; instead sparks ignited, spraying wildly as saber and staff vied against one another.

Ren's blond foe leaned forward across their deadlocked weapons.

Then he hissed.

Five.

Little.

Words.

"I'm gonna kick your ass."

R&R! =D