A/N: EDIT: Well, those flames are just making me chuckle right about now. Thanks, I needed a good laugh.
As ever, the "Embers" rule remains in effect for now.
If folks don't like this, POOF! Away it goes. Deleted! Reviews are the fire that keeps me writing. Without them, I cannot put pen to paper. Simple as that. Every bit of feedback matters, large or small~! Your voice matters! Speak up! I repeat, every bit of feedback matters...even if people think it doesn't.
That's no joke; Feedback gives me strength. Looking forward to charring with you all~!
Now then, onto your questions!
Q: Well, all of Remnant is boned. You do NOT make a shinobi come out of retirement!
A: Naruto's a sweetheart to his allies and friends. Not so his enemies. Roman's set in motion a chain of events that extend well past his impending fate; a series of unfortunate events that just may well spell doom for quite a few people.
Q: Wait, so what's Cinder's real plan?! I assume Naruto got her to fess up.
A: Come now, that would spoil so many things!
Q: ...he's going to have an "HISHE Anakin" moment, isn't he. You tease!
Alright, I've kept you long enough.
As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. Not a wit or a one.
And trust me, there are a LOT of references in this one. Really had a blast writing it. Ready? Set! Go!
"They never learn, do they...?
I'm Thinking I'm Back
"Alright. You can do this."
Summer Rose whispered the words to herself as she approached the dust shop.
"You'll be fine." she spurred herself forward in spite of her fear. "Its only been...fifteen years...
Sure. Fifteen years of total radio silence between the two of them. Summer's confidence -what little she had left!- threatened to shrivel up at the reminder. Fifteen years since their last mission together! And she'd not spoke to him since! It wasn't fair! How was she to know he'd been so close, and yet so far?!
She was all but mumbling by the time she grasped the handle. Her feet cemented themselves to the floor, refusing to budge another inch. It was all she could do so psych herself up. She could do this! She was a huntress! A silver-eyed warrior! She'd faced down Grimm time and time again, escaped certain death, and lived to tell the tale! She could do this! She would do this! Just be brave! She only had a few minutes to do this! Ruby would be reporting for her first day any minute now and she had to get this out of the way BEFORE her darling daughter arrived. Trembling fingers twisted the latch...!
And she heard voices.
...simply doesn't warrant the damages."
Was someone there? Summer stilled, unwilling to interrupt.
"Gentlemen." she heard HIM then, the low timbre of his voice muffled through the wood. "It seems I've been away too long. That I've been forgotten." Silver eyes peeked up through the door window and beheld a familiar face near the entrance. His face. Just as she remembered him. "Are you really trying to shortchange me, here? he spoke unto two men, each wearing crisp white suits. Familiar suits.
One of them muttered something less than flattering.
...thought so. This reeks of Jacques. He's meddling again, isn't he? Alright. Here's what we're gonna do." Naruto climbed to his feet and moved around the counter. "If you schmucks don't pay me the insurance money that I am so rightfully owed for the damage MY shop has suffered," he jabbed one finger into the left man's chest with intent, "Your head," He whipped around and jabbed a digit at the other. "Is going up his arse."
There was a silence as one of them replied.
He sighed. "You sure you wanna ride this train, little man?"
"You can't touch us." this time, the response came through loud and clear. "The SDC would have your hide if you harmed so much as a haaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiirrrrr!"
His words piqued into an ghastly wail as the blond grabbed him by the face and moved. An awful ripping sound filled the air. Punctuated by a second scream that had no business coming from a grown man's throat. Cloth ripped. Something else...tore. Rapid footsteps approached and the door swung open in her face. Summer dove out of the way.
Two men soared out, conjoined in a way no one wanted to imagine, and crashed into a building.
They were still screaming when someone stalked out the door past her.
A young woman all but stumbled past her, pale face sick with nausea, bright eyes half-lidded in embarrassment as she covered her mouth with one hand. Summer had all of an instant to take her in. Clad in a deep red dress that clung to her curves like sin, she was a beauty like no other, golden eyes sharp and framed by long, lustrous midnight black dark hair. Then she was gone, heels clicking harshly against the sidewalk.
"Don't forget to visit tonight!" A familiar voice called at her back.
The young woman pivoted in place and flipped him the bird before she stalked off.
Summer's heart sank and all her courage withered as a flower would in the dead of winter.
Nope! Couldn't do it!
She whirled to flee; a thorn of concern pricked her heart and held her back. Naruto was in many ways, the wind. He could be calm and gentle, a cool spring breeze to those he loved. But when his wrath was roused, when he was angry, when someone took something from him...well. She had seen the results firsthand. Hurricane, tornado, cyclone, there weren't nearly enough words to describe the absolute avatar of annihilation he became.
After all, one did not simply leave the life of a shinobi behind.
A life like his followed you. It clung to you, infecting everything you were, everything you loved. If there was even the slightest chance that anger was directed at Ruby, unlikely as it may seem...no. She couldn't risk it, no matter how embarrassing it might be for her. She had a duty as a mother. Duty trumped fear any day.
So she plucked up up her courage and darted into the shop before that fear could get the better of her and send her scurrying.
Keeping her body low to the ground, she skirted a broken shelf and poked her head around the corner.
Broken glass crunched underfoot and she was betrayed.
Naruto looked up, caught in the process of toweling his bloodied hands with a damp cloth, and granted her a small smile. "Hello, sweetie."
Summer's heart skipped a single treacherous beat.
Silver eyes were drawn inexorably to blue and without thinking, she yanked her hood up. Without the glass acting as a barrier between them, she could see him perfectly; just as he could see her. Really, it wasn't fair. He hadn't aged a day since she'd seen him last. Nope. Not fair. Not fair at all! Belatedly, his words caught up with her.
The smallest of pouts tugged at her lips. "Thought I told you to stop calling me that."
"You did." he granted her a crooked grin as he leaned against the counter. "I chose not to listen. There's a difference. So?" his head cocked to one side, rather reminding her of a certain fox. "What brings you to my shop after all this time?"
"What do you think?" A familiar yawn arose somewhere behind her. "She obviously wanted to check in on you."
Her gaze found Kurama's false form easily enough; he'd all but curled himself up on a pillow near the counter, much like a cat. Anyone else would've thought him an adorable little fox, albeit one with nine tails. She knew better. She'd seen things. As she looked on, the small fox raised one of his many tails in a lazy greeting. She found herself returning it before she caught her wrist.
...aren't you angry?"
Both man and beast blinked. "Why would we be angry?"
That was it? Seriously? Just like that? Oh gods, they weren't even mad? It would've been so much better if they were. Anger, she could have dealt with. Sorrow, tears, anything but this. He was just...happy to see her, and Kurama with him. She hadn't expected them to be so calm, happy to see her even.
Had she really come all this way for nothing?
"M'fine." she leaned on a shelf, only to wince when it crashed to the floor and fell apart at her feet. "Oh, you know, I was just in the area...
"I don't blame Ruby for the damage." his words were a knife, cutting her fears to the quick. "It wasn't her fault, y'know."
Her shoulders slumped. "Oh, thank god...I mean, after all...
Naruto favored her with a rueful smile.
...she's mine, isn't she?"
Ack! Double urk!
Isn't it remarkable, how four little words can make you come undone? Just like that, all of Summer's carefully wrought plans and schemes were falling apart. She'd come here intending to be an adult about all this; come under the pretense of checking in on him; making sure he was alright after all this time, not plotting Armageddon on his enemies. She hadn't intended to broach the subject of Ruby's parentage quite that bluntly!
"Tai's been dead for awhile, Summer." Naruto picked up an upturned chair and plonked down in with a sigh. "I may be a lot of things, but I'm not blind."
"Speaking of which," Her brow furrowed. "That woman I saw earlier...
"Cinder?" the blond blinked. "What about her?"
"Are the two of you...?"
"What?! No!" He recoiled and made a face. "I adopted her a while back when she was just a runt. She was just paying her respects...and promising her support."
It was a good explanation. Too good. Paranoia reared its ugly head despite her best efforts. "So you're not...?"
"I'd rather shag a cactus than shack up with a girl I all but raised, thank-you-very-much!"
For all his fire and strength Naruto had always been something of a bleeding heart where children were involved. It sounded so very like him to pick a girl off the street and take her under his wing. His words to her earlier made sense. He'd told her to come back tonight. And the way she'd roller her eyes at him, even flipped him off...those weren't the acts of a lover.
Why did that make her feel better?
"Just to clarify," she swallowed once, "I'm sorry about...the way things ended."
He scratched at a whiskered cheek. "That makes two of us. Shit happens. People move on."
Naruto's head snapped up. The rest of him went curiously still. Anyone else might've been concerned by the sudden intensity of his gaze. Not Summer. She kicked at the cracked flooring with one boot, unwilling to meet his eyes for fear of what she might find there. Blast it! She hadn't meant to say it like that! Treachery! Bad brain! This betrayal would be remembered!
"I really haven't." there was a curious note of longing in his voice, one she remembered all too well. "I missed you."
She peeked at him through her hair and watched his right hand curl into a fist.
"Me, too." Her heart twitched. She really had missed him. "It really was a stupid fight, wasn't it? I'm sorry I snapped at you back then."
He sighed. "Do you even remember what we were fighting about?"
Her head bobbed in a tiny nod.
She did. She'd tried to change him once. After Tai never came back from that gods awful mission. She'd been hurting at the time, lashing out in blind grief, trying to make him something he wasn't. It had been a futile attempt born from pride as much as selfishness. Some things just weren't meant to be changed. It wasn't possible. You couldn't alter the color of the sky anymore than you could snuff out the sun. Years of self-reflection -and being a single parent raising two girls!- helped her to realize that. And he was standing here before her, looking every bit as miserable as she felt.
That simplified things.
Yes, that simplified things a great deal.
Summer crossed the distance between them in a silver streak. Naruto caught her by the hips and reeled her in. Strong arms closed around her, pulling her into a warm embrace. She yielded to it with a soft sigh and buried her head in his chest, reveling in the faint scent of dust and fire he exuded. Blast it. He really did give the best hugs. And he was so damnably warm...or was that her face? Hard to tell.
...m'sorry." she mumbled against his jacket. "For all of it.
Silence was his sole response.
"Come back. Please." The dam broke and words spilled forth. "Ruby needs a father." she looked up at him, silver eyes shining with unshed tears. "She needs to know who you are." her voice warbled a little as she thought of Yang, not hers by blood, but her daughter all the same. I know Yang isn't yours, but she'd love to meet you...
His arms trembled a little around her. "I think I'd like that."
When he tried to pull away she held tight.
"Nope." she muttered. "You're mine now. Never letting go."
Reigniting their passion could come later. For now? She just wanted to savor this. It felt good to have him back; like she'd reclaimed a little piece of himself. Here in this moment she didn't care about the past, where he'd gone, who he might have been with, or any such hypothetical concerns. She was first. She would always be first.
"I'll talk to Ozpin about the insurance." she babbled into his chest, mouth running away with her. "I know he told you about Ruby working here, but you won't even have to pay her all that much. We'll get this sorted."
He chortled a little against her. "I take it you saw that last bit with the insurance agents...
"Saw it?!" she slapped his chest. "Half of Vale probably heard those two! Did you really have to shove that guy's head up his-
"To be fair, I'm fairly certain they were working for Jacques...
Jacques Schnee? Her smile froze. "Oh. Is that so. I just might have to pay him a visit. Personally...
Naruto frowned. "Summer, no."
"Ahem!" And then Kurama opened his big mouth. "If the two of you are quite done making eyes at one another, we have a store to run."
Summer scowled at the little red terror. "Oi! Watch it, fox!"
"Oi, watch it, huntress!" he sang right back. "If the two of you want to canoodle, get a room! Preferably one far away from me! You're entirely too noisy!"
"I can wait." Naruto nudged her hip with an elbow. "You can leave out the back when you're ready."
...then can we stay like this?" she leaned up and kissed his neck. "Just for a little while?
Naruto didn't use words. He simply held her.
...its good to be back."
Some time later, Naruto sprawled in his chair with a rueful smile.
Kurama hopped onto the counter to join him and curled up there with a scowl.
"Stop grinning like that. You're contagious. That cleanup took entirely too long."
...did it?" he sighed and crossed both hands behind his head, too content to take offense. "Did it really?
"Yes!" a tiny tail swatted his arm. "Because you refused to use shadow clones! Really, if you just stopped holding back...
"Nah," he waved a hand. "Where's the fun in that?"
Comfortable silence stretched between them as they lazed about. Neither spoke for what felt like an eternity. Someone might have sought to fill the void with aimless chatter or traded further barbs among themselves, but they didn't feel the need, both man and beast knew one another well enough by now and didn't feel the slightest need to do so. There could be only one course of action from here.
"So?" Kurama yawned at last. "I know what you plan to do, but how do you intend to go about it?"
"For now, we'll let the gears of Vale turn." Naruto considered the ceiling with a sigh. "Roman will stick his head out sooner or later. He can't hide forever."
"Then we chop it off." He made a sharp cutting motion with his good hand. "Once and for all."
"You do realize he may well send someone after us in the interim."
A blond brow arched. "And?"
The bell above the door chimed once as someone opened it from without. Kurama perked up. Naruto's posture shifted just so, his upper torso leaning forward as a knife flicked down his sleeve and into his hand. Summer had only just left, and Cinder wouldn't be returning until later this evening. Junior knew better than to send anyone after him. So then who...?
A familiar voice called out to him when a streak of red and black blurred inside. "I've come to work~!"
His fingers twitched and it vanished from whence it came.
"Oh," he leaned back, concealing its just you, Ruby."
Now that he knew what to look for, he really could see the resemblance as she scampered through the door. She was Summer's daughter alright, but beneath that he saw something else; those ever-so-faint dual whisker marks tripling her cheeks. Ruby was quick on her feet, almost unnaturally so. Something told him that if he turned his senses on her, he might find the faintest stirring of chakra coils there. He chose not to, if only because she wasn't alone...and for fear of what he might find.
No, she wasn't alone at all.
That was most certainly a Belladona on her right, and a Schnee on her left. He'd known a few of both during his heyday...and more recently. Mercifully, neither looked a thing like him.. Or perhaps they simply took after their moths. In theory it shouldn't be too hard to conceal whiskered cheeks with a bit of makeup. Perhaps he was being too paranoid...
"Wow." a low whistle pierced the gloom. "You really did a number on this place huh, sis?"
He recognized Raven and Tai's brat last; one; because she brought up the rear and two, it was absolutely impossible to miss the blond bombshell. Arms crossed behind her head, she craned her neck too and fro, surveying the damage to his shop with keen lilac eyes. The last living piece of Taiyang Xiao-Long in this world. It almost hurt to see her. Really, he'd have to pay Raven a visit one of these days and smack some sense into her.
Ruby make a keening noise akin to steam escaping a tea kettle, snapping him back to reality.
"Yaaaaang! I already told you! That wasn't me! Well...!" she paused and cast about, as though seeing the damage for the first time in broad daylight. "Maybe the window was, and possibly a shelf or two, but still! Not my fault!"
"You dolt." the Schnee palmed her face. "Do you not know the meaning of restraint?"
"I do!" the little reaper flailed her arms. "But there were so many bad guys...
Naruto took mercy on her at last. "Why are you here?"
"Eh?" she jolted a little, startled by his inquiry. "Ah, Ozpin said I have to work for you on the weekends...until I paid off the damages...
He knew that of course, he'd just said it to make her squirm a little. Really, he couldn't help but tease her.
Ozpin really was a cheeky bastard, making her work for him like this. Was probably afraid of pissing him off. That, or this was his way of getting back at him for forcing Ruby into Beacon two years early. Really hard to tell with the old geezer. Plans within plans, that one, ever trying to gain an advantage while keeping him placated at the same time. At least Salem made some modicum of sense...every now and again.
Now that he was back, he might need to check on her, too. Wouldn't do for her to get too big for her britches...
So many heads to crack, so little time...
"I appreciate it," outwardly, he merely quirked a brow. "But, well, there's not much to be done right now, still waiting on the insurance money." he looked past her. "So? Is this your team?"
Ruby made her introductions with all the energy a fifteen-year old could muster. No faulting her that. Yang he knew, and the dark-haired one was Blake -such a familiar name- but there at the end...
"Hmm" His gaze fixated on Weiss in particular. "Aaaaand I see a Schnee. Why am I not surprised? Everywhere I go, there's always a Schnee...
Weiss absolutely bridled. "Excuse me?"
"You're excused." he flicked a hand at her. Now buy something or get. I know you're good for it."
He half-expected her to burst out in a sputter of denial. She did not. Points to her.
What came next forfeited what little good will she'd earned.
"I've heard about this place." Her gaze flitted about, considering what little intact stock he had left. "Your Dust is supposedly second to none." he caught the gleam in her eyes at once and didn't like it one bit. "How much would it take to buy you out-
A muscle jumped in his jaw.
"NO." a hand snapped up, vetoing her. "Why do you silly Schnees always think you can buy me out? Is there a price-tag on my forehead? Ah! No talking!" he jabbed her forehead when she tried to speak. "Schnees never have anything good to say."Really, your mother was the only exception." on a whim, he decided to twist the knife. "Be sure and tell her to visit sometime." He wriggled his fingers once and laughed as she recoiled. "Real lightning between the sheets, that one." One last wistful sigh stole the fight right out of here. "Those were the days...
Yang whistled. Ruby gagged.
Blake...wait why was she taking notes?
He supposed it didn't matter. Weiss had already died inside. He saw it in her eyes. "Ex...excuse me?"
"You're excused. Again." he smiled. A speechless Schnee was a good Schnee. "Feel free to pick your jaw up off the floor at your leisure."
Kurama chuckled. It would prove his undoing.
Because the very moment he did? Why, Ruby noticed him.
"Oooh!" she cooed, eyes all but aglow with stats. "Is that a fox?"
Kurama placed his chin atop one crimson paw. "I am no mere fox, mortal!"
"Holy crap! It talks?!" she all but squealed with joy. "Is it a toy? No, wait, toys don't talk like that..."
"Hmm." Blake bulled in from the side and actually had the gall picked him up. "Looks rather lifelike to me...
Kurama bared his fangs at her. "I will bite you, Belladona."
She remained unbowed. "Very lifelike indeed...
"Jokes on you," Yang elbowed her partner. "You should see the stuff this one reads. She's probably into that shit."
Blake dropped Kuarama like a hot potato and slapped at her arm. Bah, kids these days. He'd seen stranger things eons ago. Really, biting was tame nowadays.
"You know," Naruto thumbed his chin, "I think I might've written a book series once or twice. Still do, in my spare time." His fingers drummed against the counter as he grappled with the vague memory, faded though it was. "Ninjas of something or other...?"
Kurama huffed. "Smutty trash, more like."
Blake pivoted, regarding him with a narrow look. "Do you mean...Ninjas of love?"
"Ah!" He snapped his fingers. "That's the one. You've heard of it? I'm thinking its about due for a sequel."
...he wasn't sure he liked the gleam in her eyes. Was she drooling? She was!
"Can," the young Faunus gulped once. "Can I get your autograph?"
Kurama rolled his own. "Look what you did!"
"Ignore him, he's a big softie."
Yang scoffed. "Heh, I bet."
It was the straw that broke the fox's back.
Kurama buried his head in both paws and muttered something less than kind.
"Right. You've brought this upon yourself, Branwen spawn. Know that I will show no mercy."
"Whaddya gonna do?" she booped him on the nose. "Bite my ankles?" The rest of his words hit her a moment later. "Wait...Branwen?! You know my mom?!"
"Know, and hate." Came the snarl. "Rip and tear!"
Then he pounced on her.
"To be fair, he's nice to most people." Naruto shrugged as Yang reeled back, clawing at the angry bijuu now tearing at her hair. "You should see what you really looks like."
Yang wailed. "Get off, you damn kitsune! Off, off, off!
"You cannot comprehend the amount of tails I do not give!"
"And?" Weiss quirked a pale brow. "What does he really look like? Is this a joke?"
"Weiss, no!" Ruby cried!
Kurama reacted before Naruto could even hope to warn her. In a single bound he leaped from Yang's hair, planted himself on the desk and whirled to meet the sullen Schnee. His fur stood on end, all nine of his tails rigid as red spikes. For an awful moment nothing happened, and Naruto wondered if his partner had lost his touch. And then.
A towering golden maw filled the entirety of the Schnee's vision. "BOO~!"
Weiss toppled backwards with a startled shriek. "Yeek!"
Naruto shook his head with a rueful sigh.
"Well, this is my life now...
"He won't get me."
Roman whimpered in the dark.
"I won't let him. Crazy bastard. I'll show him...!"
Cinder returned that very evening.
Much to his amusement, she was not alone.
"Welcome back." he looked up as the bell rang. "Any news for me?"
Her face was a curious study of contrasts, equal parts concern and anticipation wrapped up in one package. She squirmed like a naughty little girl with her hand caught in the cookie jar. Fond memories. She'd been such a wild and coltish little thing back then...
"I thought it best to introduce my...associates." under his watchful eye, she nudged two teenagers forward into the light. "To prevent any confusion in the future. This is Emerald," she gestured to the girl on her right, a dark skinned youth with green hair and striking red eyes, "And the boy is Mercury." her left hand indicated the pale silver haired boy at her side. "Please be kind to them."
Naruto looked down at them. Up to Cinder again. Down once more.
Really, there was only one conclusion to make.
"You have kids?"
Cinder's eyes all but bulged.
"Daddy, no!" Her hands clamped down to stifle the outburst, but it was too little, too late. Wide golden eyes narrowed as she realized she'd been had.
Really, it was all too easy.
"Wait a hot minute." Mercury gave a startled blink. "You're her old man? Because I don't see the resemblance.
"There isn't one, you louse." Naruto feigned a jab at the younger man's head. "I adopted her when she was about...hmm." He held out a hand and levered it above the counter somewhat. "I'd say about this tall."
Mercury sniggered softly. "Really?"
Emerald all but twitched. "You adopted Cinder?"
Kurama cackled. "Blunt, this one! I think I like her!"
Mercury blinked. "Is that...a talking fox?"
"Sure is." Naruto didn't bother to contradict him, eyes fixed on Emerald. "What, did she adopt you, too?"
"Yeah, sorta." the tan shrugged. "I mean, she took me off the streets when I was younger and...wait." he saw the moment her thoughts clicked into place. "If you adopted her, and she adopted me," She held up her hands counted, doing the math before turning a hopeful expression on him. "Does that make you my grandfather?"
Naruto's brain fizzled out.
"You've doomed us." Cinder all but sank into a chair. "Here we go...
"Wait," Mercury frowned. "What? I don't get it?"
Naruto did a double take. Blinked.
Then he inhaled deeply.
Kurama absolutely hissed. "Don't you DARE-
Too little, too late. "I HAVE A GRANDDAUGHTER TOO?!
Cinder groaned into her palms and doubled over. "Daddy, no!"
"Daddy, yes!" Naruto slammed to his feet! "This is wonderful! I must tell everyone!"
A/N: READ THIS NOTE, PLEASE. It clarifies some important points.
As ever, the "Embers" rule remains in effect for now.
If folks don't like this, POOF! Away it goes. Deleted! Reviews are the fire that keeps me writing. Without them, I cannot put pen to paper. Simple as that. Every bit of feedback matters, large or small~! Your voice matters! Speak up! I repeat, every bit of feedback matters...even if people think it doesn't. And there we have it.
And yes, I might write a story with Naruto as the author for "Ninja's of Love" one of these days, if only for the sheer hilarity of it.
Bit of a gentle chapter...though the next one won't be. Now, then:
So in the immortal words of Atlas...
...Review, Would you Kindly?
Here, have a preview!
She kissed him fiercely, slamming him down to the bed.
"No more foreplay. Mine!"
"Remember that bit when I said that I considered guns uncivilized?"
The harsh click of a round entering the chamber filled the room.
"Hello, friend. Lets have a talk."
Clawed fingers closed around his face and yanked.
...how many children do you have?!"
"In all fairness, I've been around awhile, soooo...
"Best. Grandpa. Ever."
"I'm shutting you down."
"Oh, you think so, Jacques...?"
"Insolent cur!" A hand struck his face. "You think you're so big!"
A blond brow quirked, framing a devilish grin. "Your wife certainly thought so."
EDIT: Well, you made it! Hope you enjoyed the previews! Once more, the "Embers" rule remains in effect for now.
If folks don't like this, POOF! Away it goes. Deleted! Reviews are the fire that keeps me writing. Without them, I cannot put pen to paper. Simple as that. Every bit of feedback matters, large or small~! Your voice matters! Speak up! I repeat, every bit of feedback matters...
...even if people think it doesn't.