Shadow and Memory

By Silver Dragonfly

Small fists pumped as short legs carried him as fast as they could through the never-ending dark alleyways and streets. Shadowed figures stood in windows, doorways, and along the rooftops. Everywhere, he could hear the all too familiar hissing whisper of voices.

Demon child.

That child shouldn't be allowed to live.

He ducked into a shadowed doorway and froze in place as he stared inside at all the people sitting at the various tables and countertop.

"If the Pirate King had a son?" the words fell from his own lips though he could have sworn he never heard them before in his life.

The people in the bar roared.

Such a creature should never be allowed to exist!

The child must pay for the crimes of his father!

The child of a Demon is a Demon!

Naruto bolted upright, his hammock swinging wildly with the sudden motion; blue eyes staring out wide-eyed in the darkness of the cabin, sweat quickly cooling on his skin.

He quickly swung his legs over and hopped out of the hammock, pausing to make sure none of the other sleepers were disturbed as he slipped out of the cabin and moved toward the bow. He glanced around briefly before making the quick jumps to land on the figurehead and then settled himself.

It had been a long time since he had been bothered by dreams of his childhood; it was usually the war that haunted him and the memories of those friends that had been lost.

It wasn't just your memories. The rumbling voice of the fox stated.

Naruto blinked but then took a deep breath as he anchored himself and let his consciousness drift inwards. When he opened his eyes once more he smiled at the sharp vulpine grin that greeted him.

"Sorry if I woke you." Naruto apologized before approaching the fox and settling himself against the large fox's chest between his paws.

The fox huffed.

"You said it wasn't just my memories, but how could I get someone else's….wait… Ace?"

My thoughts are of that nature as well. I believe it is a side effect from flooding his body with our chakra and feeding his devil fruit core - that flame deep in his center - that has led to this.

"Does this mean he would have my memories…"

I do not know. It is likely that he would be affected in a similar fashion.

Naruto sighed. "He didn't even have an actual demon in him and they called him that…."

The large fox shifted and dropped a paw heavily onto the blonde. A muffled "Hey!" and muttered curses could be heard before the orange clad figure struggled out from under the furry appendage.

"All right, I get the idea. No need to be so touchy about it."

If you continue whining I will bite off your head and put us both out of your misery.

Naruto opened his mouth to reply but then froze and turned toward the shadowed opening that served as a door into the seal chamber of his psyche.

Someone is coming. The large fox hissed.

Naruto nodded and began to fidget as a familiar figure appeared in the chamber opening and then entered.

Brown eyes framed by vibrant red hair glanced at the teen where he lay against the large paws and then looked upward.

"Shanks-oji…" Naruto whispered, eyes wide as he stared at his uncle.

So this is the little brother of my second host. The fox drawled and gave a vulpine sneer. It is fortunate they selected her and not you as my would-be jailer. I would have destroyed you.

The Red-Haired pirate arched an eyebrow and then chuckled. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Kurama-san." Then the older man bowed. "Thank you for looking after my family."

Silence filled the room and then the fox rose to its feet and snarled, tails lashing. You are more the fool than I suspected. Did the Gaki not tell you that your sister is dead because of me? I am the sole reason for her death!

The Red-Haired pirate did not flinch as the angry breath of the fox washed over him and set his hair into motion.

"Would Naruto still be alive if you had not been with him during the War that was so recently finished back in the Elemental Nations?"

The fox snorted but then seemed to consider the words and glared.

"Kurama…" Naruto breathed out quietly, his hand resting on the leg of the large red fox, but the blonde teen was ignored.

Several long moments passed as the large fox and pirate stared at each other, neither flinching nor giving ground.

No, he would not. Nor would I or any of my brothers and sisters still live. The entirety of the Elemental Nations would be in ruin if Naruto had not been my host. The fox finally responded as he settled down once more, acting as if nothing at all had bothered him moments before.

Shanks smiled. "So I thank you, Kurama-san, for looking after my family and in turn, allowing us the chance to meet once more."

The fox snorted. Whatever doubts I had that you were in fact a relation to either Naruto or his late mother and my second-host, are dismissed. There is no doubt Yonko Red-Haired Shanks, you are in fact Uzumaki.

Shanks laughed.

Naruto glanced from the fox to his uncle and breathed out slowly. "Not that I'm not happy you two got to meet… but Shanks-oji, how did you get here?" the blonde asked.

Shanks blinked. "I followed your haki."

"Huh?" the blonde muttered his face blank.

Shanks chuckled. "Observation Haki, I can sense your spirit or will. When I found you meditating on the figurehead and sensed all your spirit focused near your center, I decided to try and reach out to you with haki. I found myself here."

Kurama chuckled. Typical. The Uzumaki have never been predictable.

Naruto grinned while Shanks also chuckled.

"So, how do we leave?" The Red-Haired Captain asked.

Kurama grinned. Like this.

Naruto groaned as he reached up to rub his forehead and slowly blinked his eyes open, adjusting to the early dawn light. "Stupid fox: knows I hate it when he does that."

Another groan behind him quickly drew his attention.

Blue eyes snapped open wide in panic. "Shanks-oji! Are you all right!?"

"What a dirty trick." The Red-Haired man groaned. "Feels like a hangover and I didn't even get to drink anything to get it!"

Naruto's shoulders slumped in relief.

The Red haired captain leaned back so the two sat resting back to back. "Is he always so testy?"

Naruto smiled, "Yeah… but it's mostly for show."

I heard that. The fox muttered in a grumble. Naruto ignored the response and kept his attention on his uncle.

"So he blames himself for Kushina-neesan's death."

Naruto turned his head to look back over his shoulder but then nodded. "He tries to hide it, but he does; even though it really wasn't his fault. It's true my mother would not have been attacked that night if she had not been his jinchuuriki, but someone else would have all the same. His extraction would have led to her death and I can't really blame him for not wanting to be imprisoned again. He lashed out, my parents got in his way while protecting me."

Shanks nodded, as if he had expected as much. "And what he said about you being his host during the last shinobi war?"

Naruto fidgeted. "If my parents had been alive… there's no real way of knowing how much that would have changed things. I… I just did what I felt I had to do. I never went into the war trying to be a hero... they tried to keep me out of it, actually. Tried to protect me and Killer Bee, the Gyouki's jinchurriki, and keep us safe. I wouldn't let them die for me while I hid in some cave."

Shanks smiled at that. "And that is probably a big part of why your fur-covered partner said what he did."

The teen smiled lightly and leaned back further resting against his uncle's back. Silence held between them for several long moments as they just sat, back to back, watching the sun rise and spill its light across the ocean, reaching its fingers slowly up onto the deck of the Red Force.

"So," Shanks said after several long moments, turning to stare at his nephew with his scar marked eye. "What do you say to a bit of a field trip today?"

Naruto turned so he could face his uncle. "Field trip?"

Shanks grinned, his expression taking on a feral glint. "Ah, I need to have words with a certain acquaintance about trying to kill Luffy, let alone the death threats made against my nephew."

Naruto blinked and then his eyes widened. "Hawkeye?"

Shanks grin twisted into a smirk. "You still have him tagged?"

Naruto's expression shifted into a matching smirk. "You bet."

From across the deck Benn breathed out slowly, smoke wafting up on the morning breeze as he watched the uncle and nephew pair. Beside him, Yasopp cringed before muttering, "I really don't like it when the Captain gets that look on his face… and now Naruto has it too… this is going to mean trouble."

Benn chuckled. "Not ours to deal with for once. Captain wants to drop in and visit Mihawk."

Yasopp blinked. "But it would take us weeks to get there."

Benn exhaled a long trail of smoke once more. "Not if he gets Naruto to take him."

Yasopp blinked again, then his eyes widened. "Oh to see Hawkeye's face!"

Benn chuckled as he finished off his smoke, "Like I said, the trouble they are planning won't be ours to deal with and I'm sure Mihawk will manage to survive the visit."

Yasopp snorted at that.

Suddenly, there was a startled yelp followed by a shriek and splash from the bow of the ship.

Benn and Yasopp stared.

Overhead the lookout called out, "Captain and Naruto overboard!"

Thank you for reading.

One Piece and all its characters © Eiichiro Oda

Naruto and all its characters © Masashi Kishimoto

Special Thanks to my beta readers (and sounding boards): Blue Melodie, Inazuma Pocky, & Aria Ino.