A/N: Sorry for the delay; didn't have a chance to update this during the holiday blitz and fell behind.
Sorrrryyyy! *handgs head in shame.
Please read this note, would you kindly?
As ever, we're following the Ember's Rule here. That's no joke. Really, it isn't.
If folks don't like this, it'll be deleted. Poof! Gone! Every bit of feedback helps. Reviews are the fuel which keeps me writing in these crazy times. With my tight schedule, I simply don't have time to write a story folks don't like. Without them, my inspiration cannot take wing and I can't write a word. So by all means, speak up!
Now lets answer a few questions, eh? Onward!
Q: When does the Vytal Festival start, and will Naruto be in it?
A: Last chapter it was stated that three days remain. As time has since passed, its now one.
Also, why would he be in it? He's just a baker and far too old at that. Although...
Q: Raven's pregnant?! How far along?!
A: Not far. Mentioned it several chapter's back. Yang's gonna have a conniption when she figures it out...
Q: How are Naruto and Ironwood related? Is James *gasp!* adopted...?
A: I was trying to be subtle about it, but apparently went over people's heads. Keep reading.
Q: Is Adam being reformed in this story?
A: He's on the path to it; Naruto's seeing to that.
Far as I'm concerned anything is a VAST improvement over the Adam we got in canon.
Q: Wait, are the bad guys screwed?
A: I've already stated it. Mercury? Dead. Cinder? Dead. Tyrian? Being tortured. Emerald? Switched sides. Same for Roman and Neo. Adam all but told Cinder to sod off shortly before she died. Now who does that leave?
Lionheart? Being dealt with as we speak.
Ozpin? Yeah, no. He has no reason to turn on Naruto, nor the slightest desire to. If anything, he's grateful for his "Freedom" as it were.
That leaves Hazel -who may or not not do something foolish- and Watts, and the remnants of Adam's White Fang. Beyond that, Salem has NO maiden candidate to hand. I can certainly think of a few for her to subvert, -Illia, Sienna, etc- but she'd be a fool to try and strike now, much less during the festival.
Alright then, I've kept you long enough. Lets get into the meat of the matter and have some fun!
Once more, I own no quotes, references, or memes. Not a wit or a one. NOT! A! THING!
Papa!Naruto is still best Naruto, and woe betide anyone who hurts his kids.
"See, that's the thing. When your a father, your kids come to you for advice.
Mostly its the little things. Nuggets of wisdom. Easy stuff. Simple, no?
"NOT SO! Kids are messy. Kids are complicated. Kids...
...heh. I wouldn't trade them for the world."
Besting the Bull
Sometimes, Adam wondered where his life went wrong.
Everything had been so much simpler in the beginning; when he lived in ignorance, when the truth of his heritage was lost to him. Back then, the White Fang was all that mattered-no, wait. He told a lie. Blake first, Fang second. When she left, -betrayed him!- his priorities had likewise shifted. He'd been so angry.
A small part of him still was; if only because he knew he'd become a monster of his own making.
Mother wouldn't have wanted this for him. He knew that. Anna Taurus had...not been a gentle soul. She was stern. Uncompromising. She died as she lived, fighting for what she thought was right, to the exclusion of all else. His skills with the sword were all he had left of her beyond a few fated memories. And what had he done with those skills? He'd used them to reap lives, destroy families, and cause senseless bloodshed. All in the name of vengeance, of senseless spite.
And then he'd found Father. The one person Mother had never spoken of, even on her deathbed. Now he knew why.
Father's true might didn't lay in strength of arms. His words were the true weapon. A single meeting with him was all it took to shatter his beliefs. It was like looking into a mirror Father was more than passionate; he was strong and not afraid to use that strength. Committed to his ideals. If you crossed him, he made you pay. Put one of his in the hospital, he put ten of yours in the morgue, as the saying went. In that they were the same. Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. Evil for evil.
But Father wasn't evil now, was he? For all his fire and fury in a fight, Naruto was surprisingly...kind.
There were things in life a man couldn't compromise on. Belief was certainly of them. That his own had been so thoroughly shattered simply showed how flawed -how fragile- they were at the end of the day. In the days that followed, the once rocky road of his life had gradually begun to smooth out. Adam had been an only child. To have a large family -Sisters and Brothers!- was always something of a secret dream for him as a boy; one he'd desperately longed for.
It wasn't lost on him that many of said siblings were emphatically human. He'd had time to meet them. None were wanting. If any of them saw through his disguise, they didn't say a word.
Pyrrha proved herself pleasant to a P, but beneath that, she loved to fight. He could respect such, the desire to tests one's limits.
Yang was wild and prone to mischief, determined to live without regret, the very spark of life made manifest.
Nora was...well, Nora. Pure, happy, and full of life. Always smiling, always so full of optimism.
Even Roman, while insufferable, had his own brand of charm.
Now there were even rumors that he'd was the father of a certain Atlesian general, adopted or otherwise. Absurd! Adam wasn't sure he'd ever get on with that one, not for all the lien in the world. General Ironwood could off him the head of Jacques Schnee on a pike and he'd still be hard-pressed to consider him family. But that was the beauty of it! He didn't have to! He wasn't being forced into anything here. Against all odds, his life had begun to improve since he'd left the Fang to their own devices.
He'd even forged a truce of sorts with Blake. A pact of nonaggression perhaps, little more, but it was a step in the right direction. The first in rebuilding the bond between them.
And he would see it rebuilt, even if it cost him his life.
So it was that Adam Taurus steeled himself, pushed the door Baker's Dozen open, and slipped inside. For once, the bakery wasn't bustling; a few tables were occupied and likewise tended to by a flurry of shadow clones and staff, but it was a far cry from the usual rush to which he had grown accustomed.
Yet another sign of the approaching Festival. He'd have to speak about that, and soon.
He caught Raven's eye across the way; the maiden spared him a grave nod, little more as she sashayed past. One warrior to another. Vanessa Nikos flashed him a merry little smile and a wave as she slipped, one tray balanced on her hand with graceful ease. Languid strides carried her by and he found his face heating up. Pyrrha's mother was just so damned nice. The faint scent of cinnamon and berries brushed his nose, giving him pause as his gaze swept across the empty seats. Wait. Where was-
"Adam Taurus." a voice sharper than any blade brushed his ear. "You're looking for him, aren't you?"
Adam nearly jumped out of his skin; it was only years of training that prevented him from doing so. That, and the hand currently clamping down on his shoulder. Mustn't show fear. Fear was weakness. Fear was the enemy. Sapphire Torchwick still scared the ever loving crap out of him. No maiden she, but she was without a doubt the deadliest woman in the room. Anyone who could so easily mask her presence -visible or otherwise- was someone to be feared. You wouldn't even feel her blade until it opened your throat.
Slim arms encircled him from behind. He stiffened.
...what are you doing?"
"Hugging you." her voice was muffled. "You looked to be in need of one."
Heat crept up the back of his neck. Damn her. Was he truly so easy to see through...?"
"I'm fine." he choked the words out.
You aren't. A treacherous little voice sighed in the back of his head. Its no crime to miss Mother. Think of it this way. Technically you have three mothers now. Is that something to celebrate?
She released him and gave him a nudge. "He's in the back.
Adam did not flee. No. Certainly not. It was a tactical retreat. Nothing more. All the while he prayed that she was wrong; that Father wasn't here, that perhaps he'd stepped out for a moment, as he was often wont to do.
The Gods were assholes.
He found Father stood behind the counter near the corner, apron on full display in all its merry color. His expression proved its opposite in every way. Those blue eyes were cold steel, sharp and angry, fixed on an absolute giant of a man as large as he was tall.
"My answer hasn't changed, Hazel." the bite in his voice would've put Wilt to shame. "You shouldn't have come here.."
These words were spoken to the goliath, one Adam dimly recognized as an associate of Cinder.
Hazel raised his arms, showing his hands empty. "I've come to parley. I am unarmed."
"Are you, now." came the hum. "Funny. I was just about to pay you a visit...
"I have no desire to fight you."
"Well," Adam heard the crack of sarcasm long before the blond wagged a finger, "Maybe you should've thought that through before you threw your lot in with Salem now, shouldn't you?"
He paused, just out of sight.
...who was Salem?
"Hrmph." the large man bridled a bit at that. "What choice did I have? Ozpin cannot be trusted. You're a fool to believe in him. Surrender the Maidens now, give us the Crown, and we can avoid senseless bloodshed."
The silence that followed proved stifling, even to Adam.
And yet neither Raven nor Vanessa or even Sapphire made move toward them.
"Senseless, you say?" Naruto drummed his fingers against the wood. "Hmm. Senseless. Is that what you think this is?" he smiled then, a dangerous, jagged thing with far too many teeth. "One of those so-called Maidens is pregnant with my child. The other's going to be my wife. Hell, I intend to marry all three of them when all this is over. Proper. Properly!"
...so be it." the giant heaved a sigh. "I will not make the mistakes Cinder and Tyrian made. I, at least, will leave your children out of this."
"Good boy. Wouldn't want to disappoint Gretchen anymore than we already have now, would we?"
The barb wasn't even directed at Adam and he still found himself wincing in spite of it.
Hazel seemed to grow an extra foot. Muscles rippled beneath his shirt. "You dare?"
"Oh, I dare." Naruto -Father!- met him glare for glare. "You've delivered your warning, Hazel. Now get out of here before I THROW- Adam shied back. A treacherous board creaked beneath his feet. Naruto heard it and whipped his head around. Blue eyes lit up at the site of him. "Adam, my boy! Come in, come in. Hazel was just leaving."
The giant plodded past, perhaps a bit too quickly. Adam followed him with his gaze. "What was that about...?"
"Nothing you need concern yourself with." Naruto reached around and tousled his hair. "Sit down, I'll get some milk and cookies for you."
"No!" he exclaimed and jerked back, embarrassed. "No, that won't be necessary."...I need your help."
Naruto bobbed his head once in agreement. "Sure thing."
His brow furrowed. "I must insist-what?"
"I said I'd help you." His sire circled around the counter and plonked down into the seat beside him. The pleasant buzz of customers served to further mask their conversation. "Its the least I can do after all this time."
Elation dawned in his heart. "Truly?"
"Oi." a finger flicked his forehead. "Don't make me repeat myself! Whaddya need?"
Well. This was easier then expected. He closed his good eye, sighed and took the plunge. "How do I win Blake back?"
Naruto's head struck the counter with an audible crack, splitting the wooden lacquer beneath. His progenitor headbutted it once, twice, thrice. On the fourth
"Adam yes!" He bulled forward, glaring at the man. "I just need to talk to her! To prove that I'm willing to change for her sake!"
A blond brow rose. "You really do believe that. Why ask me, though?"
"You have connections."
...I do." it sounded like he'd dragged the words out of him. "What're you after?"
"Information, for one." An awkward thought occurred to him just then, despite his best efforts to suppress it. "Although, now that you mention it...
Naruto made to yawn, though better of it, and smiled instead. "She's not your sister, Adam. Don't worry.
Relief. Adam felt his shoulders slump as he released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Blake was beautiful, there could be no doubt, but if they were related by blood...well. That would have been too much, even for him. There were lines he just wasn't willing to cross...
"Ghira owes me a favor in any case." Naruto tilted his head just so, tugging him back to reality. "It might be a bit of a rush, but I can have him here by the end of the day. Maybe Kali, too."
His sire smiled. "Yup."
Suspicion sparked. "You're up to something, aren't you?"
"Me?" Naruto clutched at his heart and feigned a gasp. "Why, I never! My own son, accusing me of such things!"
Adam elbowed him for it, but conceded the point. It was like hitting a brick wall. He actually felt his aura sizzle, but pushed past it to speak anew. "...then how do I make Blake forgive me?"
A glimmer of pity flashed through Father's face, and his mirth faded.
"You can't make Blake take you back, Adam." he took a long drink from his glass. "Forgiveness is something you have to earn. It takes time. Are you willing to do what it takes to earn it?"
He bowed as best he could in the chair, which was to say not well at all. "Yessir. Thank you."
"Stop bowing, boy. You're makin' me feel old. And don't thank me." a finger flicked his forehead again. "This is a long road you've chosen to walk, Adam. A long hard road, filled with pain. You do realize you'll have to apologize for all that you've done."
Apologize?! His pride rankled, but it was tempered by the raw reminder of the man before him. Murderer of Mercury, Slayer of Cinder, and now the tormentor of Tyrian. Each of whom were stronger than him. The latter hadn't even been granted the sweet release of death; he'd never see the light of day again. He did not wish to make Father his enemy; he could no sooner stand against him than defy gravity.
More than that, he felt the onus of choice upon him.
He had made mistakes. So many mistakes. Clinging to his pride would only leave him alone, and make Blake all the angrier.
...I will make amends as best I can." it was the best he could say in the moment.
"So long as you're genuine...
A moment of serene silence passed between Father and Son.
...you really do love her, don't you?"
Adam answered without hesitation, eve as heat hit his cheeks. "More than I can possibly explain."
"Well, fair be it from me to decry your choice in women." his father stood abruptly. "The meeting will have to take place on neutral ground, of course. Beacon should do."
A grimace plucked at his scarred face. "Will the headmaster allow it?"
"I'm fairy certain Ozpin's...occupied at the moment." Naruto smiled at him. It was all teeth. A pause then, as he considered something he'd not thought of. "Come to think of it, he really spending a long time in Mistral. I thought he would've flown back by now...
Lionheart squeaked. "I can explain?"
Ozpin planted both hands on his cane. "By all means. I'm listening."
To his credit, Leonardo fled very quickly. He'd always been good at that. Just not good enough.
A cane cracked him across the back of the head.
...meh, probably not important. Might be better to hold the shindig here, after all. Still, there's a condition for my help. Two, really."
Adam gulped once. "Name it."
His father smiled. It was a sweet, sappy smile, but it left him on edge all the same. For it was the grin of a man who held all the cards. He leaned forward, planting one elbow against the counter to better balance himself against, and spoke the words that sealed his fate.
"When the two of you get back together...I want lots of grandchildren."
Adam choked on his spit. Indeed his pale face burned down to the very tips of hos horns. "Excuse me...?"
"Nine would be nice," Naruto prattled on, blissfully unaware of his dismay. "But if you're willing to have more, I wouldn't mind~!" Quick as can be, he steepled his fingers and leaned back. "The second's a bit more difficult, but I have faith in you."
Naruto told him wanted he wanted in no uncertain terms.
He wasn't lying. Adam's brow shot into his hair.
"You want me to enter the Vytal tournament?" he all but exploded out his seat. "Are you mad?! I'm not even on the rolls! They'd arrest me the moment I set foot in the arena!"
"I don't want you to enter the tournament." Naruto held up a finger. "I want you to win it."
"Why?!" Adam flung up his hands with an exasperated snarl. "My point still stands!
"So does mine." his father stood firm. "Its this or nothing. You'll understand."
The ex-terrorist winced. "Is that legal...?"
"I will make it legal."
...with all his connections, he probably could.
"How can you even pull that off...?" he flailed for an objection. "You can't honestly expect me to win alone...?"
The faint shattering of glass behind him was his only warning; punctuated by the faint click of heels. He looked back and immediately regretted it. Behind him, Neo's grin was nothing short of vicious. Evidently she'd been briefed of this beforehand...which meant father knew he was coming. He stomped down on the surge of anger that followed. Was he actually considering this lunacy?!
"Capable as she is," he allowed with a grimace, "She's still only one person...we'd need two more."
His father's smile, meanwhile, was telling. "I know. Fortunately, they're already here."
Two chairs scraped back behind Adam.
The faunus turned. Blinked.
Blake Belladona was one skittish cat.
Yang had come to accept that, just as she'd come to accept a lot of things these past few days. Two dads, huh? Neat. It wasn't like she'd lost anything at that; simple that she'd gained something -someone!- she hadn't even known was there. Ruby was certainly over the moon.
"No, no, no.
But she digressed; back to their flighty kitty; she was Team RWBY's cat and they loved her.
"NO! NO! NO!"
Yang did not love her propensity for panic attacks when things didn't go this way. She'd been on about that for the last five minutes; pacing back and forth without end. At this rate she was going to wear a hole through the floor of their dorm. All this from a little letter? She hadn't even had a chance to read the damn thing!
"Blaaaake," Ruby whined, "Stop! You're giving me a headache."
She continued to pace, golden eyes scarcely noticing them. "No, no!"
Yang sat up. "I mean it kitty-kat. If you don't, we're gonna hog tie you."
Weiss arched an eyebrow. "We?"
Blake continued to ran in the background. "No, no, no!"
"C'mon, Weiss-Cream. Back us up here."
She twitched. "Right, you were warned. Xiao-long hold her. I'll get the glyphs."
Their flighty friend didn't even have a chance to put up a fight before they descended upon her; not a minute later she found both her arms and legs behind her back. Yang sat on her for good measure. Didn't do much to stop the struggling. In the end it took their combined efforts to get her trussed on the bed, and even then only just.
Yang groaned. "Can't you say something else?!"
Blake glared. "Adam! White Fang! Trap!"
"You just had to ask her, didn't you."
Ruby snatched the letter of the floor.
Silver eyes widened as she read.
"Oh. Ohhhh that's baaaad...
Watts slid a holographic chess piece across the board. "And, checkmate."
This was his victory. The fools knew not what lay in wait.
But they would. Soon.
A/N: About five chapters left now, more or less.
Feels strange to have this story wrapping up soon. I almost don't want to see it end...
As ever, reviews are my lifeblood. Without them, I cannot write.
So In the Immortal Words of Atlas...
...Revieeeeew, Would You Kindly?
They keeps an old man alive.
And enjoy the previews.
SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!
PLOT DETAILS AHOY!
YE BE WARNED!
Get ready to smile~!
Obvious references are obvious~!
(POTENTIAL!) Previews! What can I say? I've been busy.
"Why are you here?"
"Ummm...I work here?"
"How did you know about...no," she held up a hand when he opened his mouth. "I don't want to know."
"Just visiting our resident runaway."
"You! You had something to do with this."
"Ding, ding," the older blond mimed a bell noise.
"Just to be clear." she swallowed once, "...you're not my father, right?"
A blond brow rose. "And you're asking me this, why?"
She mirrored the motion with one of her own.
Blake absolutely choked.
"Don't worry." he laughed. "I'm having you on. I'm not your pops. Just the guy who called yours."
"Oh. That's good-wait, you did what now?!"
Someone knocked on the door.
"Ah! That would be him now."
Blake's face closed down.
"They say might makes right. Sometimes it does. But sometimes, being sneaky works even better...
Watts whistled softly as he walked by.
Behind him, a building imploded inward on itself.
Nora crashed into a tree.
She then slid down said tee and landed facefirst in the muck. Pyrrha joined her a heartbeat later.
Pyrrha landed facefirst in the mud. "Owww...
Yang stumbled back, rubbing her jaw. "You hit like a truck!"
"And so will you lot when I'm done with you." Naruto raised his arms, took a boxing stance, and waded in. "Up and at 'em, girls! Dodge!"
"You're no better than that Belladona!" Die, traitor! FOR THE WHITE FANG!"
Adam tutted once.
"Idiots." Wilt cleared her hilt with a silken rasp as he brought his cherished blade to bear. "I trained you better than this."
None dared approach.
"Well? Who wants to die first? Is it you, Banesaw? Or perhaps you, Perry? Come! You said it yourself, I'm just one man!"
Naruto crossed one leg over another and watched.
"That's my boy...
Glynda stalked in. "UZUMAKI! I would had words for you!"
"That's my name." Naruto sauntered around the corner, carrying a fresh tray of cookies. "Don't wear it out-oh, hey! Look who came back for the last round!"