A/N: WARNING! NAUGHTY BITS WITHIN! THIS CHAPTER IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK! Also, a very wordy chapter with lots of talking and doing, but not so much in the way of action. Sorry if that isn't your cup of tea.

BRING ON THE REQUEST YEARS!

And is anyone interested in drawing NarutoxKuvira on deviantart? I think its just adorable XD

I think this chapter serves as a reminder that, while this particular Naruto may not be as spry as he once was, he's still deadly.

And you do NOT want to make him angry.

Anywho, I'm back and better than ever! Flames will not keep me down! Hate will not stop me! I will NOT kill myself! This story will never die! I look forward to hearing more from you as we begin down the strange, convoluted path that is this story. But first, some re-information!

But I've held ya'll up long enough! Now...

...ENJOY MY LATEST WORK! Its nice and LOOOOOONG! Also plenty of funny and feelsome moments XD Aye, this chapter is a bit bittersweet. For obvious reasons...aye, and a bit of language toward the end! Ye have been warned!

...and aye, ye might recognize some characters here. TIS INTENTIONAL! Also, I own no lines related to TFS or any other movies. Full credit to those chaps. I use them for entertainment purposes only. That said...

...off we go! No complaints about the previews or when they appear, please. I'm trying to keep everyone happy with sneak peeks like this =D

"So you're actually going through with it."

"I thought the big fucking pack made it obvious."

"Fair enough. Tell me, what made you change your mind?"

"Balance."

(Kuvira's fourth conversation with a very strange young man...)

Balance

Sometimes, Naruto wondered if he'd done the right thing.

He wondered if, in the long run, it would've been easier to simply roll over for Kuvira at the very beginning. To give her what she wanted and let her be on her way. She would've let him be and in return, he would have likely never seen her again. The Great Uniter would bulldoze a path through the Earth Kingdom to wherever her heart would take her and that would be that. True, she might well become a dictator if he let her be, take control of the world and rule it with an iron fist. But it wouldn't be his problem anymore. None of this messy business that came with trying to make her see sense. Too late for that, now.

Now he'd gotten himself involved.

Now he was too close to step away.

Now he was trying to be a guiding hand.

Now he wanted to help shape events to come.

Now, the closer he got, the more difficult it became.

Now, as the sun sank beyond the horizon at long last, as night came and this spirits-forsaken day finally came to an end, the one-armed shinobi found himself wondering what, if anything, he should do. Left a-pondering as he sat at the edge of the hearth, quietly reveling as the heat of the flames soaked through his thin coat to warm his skin. A light tap at his temple only served to further exacerbate the situation. For the first time in a long while, he felt old. And with that, came responsibility, thus his musings.

The short uprising had been quelled, at least.

Alas, it did little to warm his spirit.

Tara had long been tucked away in bed, her sleep deep and hopefully free from nightmares. Kuvira had fussed over her for hours before he'd finally stepped in and saw to the cuts and broken bones himself. Even then, the Great Uniter hadn't left her side. She'd fretted over the poor lass as if she were her own, and despite his anger, Naruto found he simply didn't have it in him to make her leave. She was just as likely lurking upstairs somewhere, maintaining her vigil over the battered little bender. Sooner or later, she would realize there was simply nothing more they could do. Tara would heal in time, now she just needed rest.

The conflict was over, and there was nothing to be gained from fretting on and on about it.

Of course, saying such things often proved easier than putting them into practice.

Naruto's sole regret was that he hadn't gotten his hands on Batar first.

Death was too good for those who assaulted little girls.

But what had caused him to act that way?

To take such rash actions?

Though he stared long and at length into the fire, he found no answers there, only heat and death. Fire was life, but too much of it was death. Balance was the key. Compromise. A happy medium. Like all things. If you didn't find balance in this world, you didn't last long. Batar hadn't been balanced there, at the end. He'd lost his mind and done something reckless and for that he lost his head. But not by his hands. If he'd had his way, Kuvira's associate would be languishing in the dungeon beneath the tormenting tools of Kolgrim. Alas, he was dead, and one could not extract pain from a corpse.

Kuvira had seen to that, and her actions had knocked his view of her askew.

At first, dealing with her had been like trying to redirect an avalanche with your bare hands alone; to physically force those jagged, tumbling rocks along a more constructive route up the slope, rather than allow them to run roughshod over everything in their path. Kuvira was that rock slide, and he, the one trying to direct it, bend it-her!-channel her energies down a peaceful road. It was hard, gritty work, and, even after all this time, he wasn't sure if he'd been entirely successful in it. That woman was driven and stubborn, not easily swayed by words, let alone actions.

He supposed he was the same.

The Great Uniter might have warmed up to him a bit, but he was under no illusions as to where her loyalties truly lay. Her heart stood firmly with the Earth Kingdom. She wanted to do what she thought was best for the nation, and by the spirits, she was going to do it, with or without him. Who else could stop her? The Avatar? No one had seen or heard from her in years. Republic City? They didn't concern themselves with the affairs of the outside world beyond their borders. The same could be said for many of the other nations. The new Air-Benders might be willing to do their share, but they were too few and her numbers too many.

Because Kuvira was special.

She possessed that drive, that raw charisma that made you want to follow her to the ends of the earth. He'd seen the light in the eyes of her followers, those who willingly served her. It was the same drive that kept the people of this humble town at his side. That same inspiration drove those who served in her army. Because they believed in her, in her goals, in what she stood fore. And at heart, Kuvira's goals were indeed good, even if her methods weren't always gentle or kind.

He saw the truth now.

Kuvira wasn't just an avalanche, not some messy tumble of rocks you could simply shove aside. She had the spirit -mettle!- of an indomitable might. She was sheer steel. Metal. If you wanted to reason with her, if you wanted her to see sense, then you had to hammer it into her, repeatedly and often. If you didn't, she was just as like to ignore you as consider your opinions. Nothing less would do. Naruto remained certain he must've hammered at least some sense into her; else she wouldn't have killed Batar in the first place.

That troubled him.

In the bigger picture, anyone who killed so easily, could they truly be called good?

When she'd first come here, it had been to conquer. To take their resources, add them to her empire and move on. Nothing more, nothing less. She hadn't shown an iota of concern for him until he'd finally beaten her within an inch of her life. Only then did she take a step back. From there, she'd challenged him countless times after that. When she'd failed time after time, she drunk herself into a stupor, leading up to the events he both remembered fondly and with a touch of charign. One slip shouldn't redeem her, or her actions. By all rights she should've still been an enemy and he should've tossed her out after her subordinate's actions.

Yet she'd saved Tara.

Tara, that sweet little girl with a heart of fire, his daughter in all but name.

Would someone evil go out of their way to do save a small child?

But at the end of it all, everything came down to Balance.

Or more aptly, balance between them.

If Kuvira was unflinching steel, then he himself was pure, raw nature; an immovable object and an unstoppable force. Neither were willing to yield, much less compromise. Yet he she needed someone to temper her and guide her or she would make everyone her enemy. And she might even win. What then? What would become of the world if he simply told her to get out and never come back? He knew the answer. Chaos. And all of the deaths and disaster that followed would be on his head if he didn't stop her. Two choices lay before him. One of two options. He realized it, now. He could either break her so badly that she'd never be a threat to anyone ever again, or he could take that high, rough road and see where it went.

All this thinking made his bad arm start twitching all over again.

Naruto cast the old, ruined limb a wry, annoyed look, sighing.

"Well?" he asked of it, "What do you think I should do?"

As ever, the mangled appendage didn't deign to reply.

Naruto chuckled quietly into the silence.

...I'm talking to my own arm. Great."

He'd never partircuarly pined after the loss of a limb; even in today's day and age he refused to receive an artificial one. A wooden limb couldn't stand up to the tasks required of it and in an age of metal benders only a platinum creation would ever truly suffice. They didn't come cheap, even with the village's monopoly on the rare substance. It seemed an unnecessary extravagance, pointless, when he was responsible for so many. He could always create a temporary chakra construct if he really needed use of both arms, which was rare indeed. No one had forced him to fight at his full potential in well...years.

'Years? Oi, I'm getting old...

The loss of a limb wasn't much of a handicap when you could break mountains and create countless copies of yourself. It had forced him to master one-handed seals, to hone his techniques to a level he'd never thought possible in his wildest dreams. It had made him strong. In that aspect at least, it was a blessing. Now, if only he could decide what to do about matters that didn't involve him. Of course, he could just leave. Right now. Walk out to Kuvira's camp and massacre all her men. Then her. It wouldn't even be that hard. All he had to do was stand and-

No.

He'd left that life behind.

If Kurama had an opinion on the matter, he wasn't talking. Naruto wasn't surprised. After all, he'd barely exchanged so much as three sentences with the old fox in the last year. Oh, he was still very much present deep inside of him, he simply chose to sleep these days. Which was good, given that Naruto's own state of mind currently bordered on agitated.

What would he have to say about this? That he was honestly contemplating murder...

"For crying out loud," He muttered quietly to himself, palming his face. "Am I seriously considering this?"

"Considering what?"

For all his kind words and noble gestures, Naruto never lowered his guard. Even when he was sleeping he was still fully aware. It came with being a shinobi. You never let down your defenses. Never. Paranoia was near constant a companion. As such, he wasn't at all surprised when the light sound of footfalls reached his ears, heralding the arrival of the very one who'd been haunting his thoughts. Kuvira. Old instincts had him on edge at once; it took everything he had to school his face into a mask of impassivity as she appeared in his peripherals, moving with intent. Who else would think to disturb him at such a late hour?

She'd reclaimed her uniform since he'd seen her last, the stiff steel of metal shoulder braces sending shards of light dancing across the floor. Her hair was also let down, he noted absently, watching her circle the room to him. At length she gave up and took a seat beside him. He liked her hair down. It gave her a certain look, one he found absolutely adorable. If only she'd keep it like that.

He didn't look up until she actually laid her head against his shoulder.

In that moment, his mind ceased to function.

Unusual.

'...eh?'

That finally proved enough to shock the weathered ninja out of his impassivity and make him stiffen; the simple, overt intimacy of Kuvira's actions-with no alcohol involved this time!-nearly shattered his calm outright. What was going on here here? She'd never been one for overt displays of emotion; that she'd done so now had him baffled. For the first time since they'd met, he didn't know how to react. Blunt to the bone, Kuvira had always been easy to read, yet this sudden display of affection threw him. Mildly disconcerted, he chose to remain where he lay and see what, if anything, she was planning.

"She's asleep," the earthbender continued by way of conversation. The words felt awkward, stilted, even to Naruto's ears.

"I noticed," he replied gruffly. "Out cold and snoring."

Kuvira studied him for a long moment.

"You're angry, aren't you." she ventured warily.

By way of answer, Naruto opened and closed his fist.

"Shit, Sherlock. First name no."

"Sarcasm doesn't become you."

"Neither does treachery."

"Treachery?" Kuvira blinked. "You think I had something to do with what happened today?"

"The timing was suspicious." Naruto replied flatly.

"I can't believe you!"

"Neither can I!"

Anyone else would've quailed beneath the vitriol in his voice. Not Kuvira. If you hurt her, she hurt you back. Twice as hard. That was just the kind of person she was. Her head reared back at the bite in his words to be certain, and her eyes flashed with hurt indeed, but when she turned to face him again those dark orbs burned like angry molten lava. If there was one thing the Great Uniter despised above all else, it was being accused of something she hadn't done. And just like that, things escalated.

"Don't worry," she intoned with false sweetness, "I won't be spending much more time in this slimy mud hole of yours, anyway."

Bright blue eyes snapped towards her.

"Mud hole?" he balked, words momentarily escaping him, "Slimy?! My home this is!"

"Naruto! I'm trying to have a serious conversation with you!"

"So am I." the blond tilted his head to regard her with the full weight of his gaze, pursed lips forming a thin line of irritation. "But y'see, I'm failing. Miserably. And I'm sorry for that. Its just that I'm so agitated. Wanna know why?" A hand closed around her shoulder, squeezing until the bone beneath began to protest sharply. Kuvira hissed in pain and tried to wriggle free from his grasp, to no avail. His grip was stronger than any steel. Naruto leaned forward then and pressing his visage close to hers, so very, terribly close until their foreheads touched and she finally found herself forced to look into his eyes.

"You." the words rolled of his tongue, dark and thunderous, almost as if another were speaking through him. "You're the problem."

Something in that gaze nearly had her gibbering like madwoman on the spot.

There was nothing there.

Nothing.

At all.

Not even the faintest semblance of emotion; as though she were staring into the void and the void itself were staring back. This was a ninja. This was a shinobi. Someone who could shrug off their emotions at the drop of a hat. A ruthless killing machine made flesh. It didn't matter if his killing days were far behind him, he was every bit as deadly now as he was then andohgodywhyarehiseyesRED? For a fleeting instant, Kuvira did see something in those eyes, and it terrified her. Something large. Something dark. Something with nine tails. What was it? She felt like a gnat beneath its gaze. A tiny speck, in the eye of eternity. It saw her. It grinned at And then it was gone, its presence masked on a swell of throaty laughter.

With that, Kuvira suddenly realized she'd never seen Naruto angry, before.

It simply didn't occur to her; he'd always been downright chipper.

She'd never roused his wrath like this.

Who knew how he might retaliate?

Because he was smiling now.

And it was all teeth.

Dangerous.

Jagged.

Teeth.

"W-What?" The Great Uniter managed eloquently.

Naruto wasn't having any of that.

"Because you see, Kuvira-chan," he purred softly, his voice adopting a dangerous, silken edge, "I have a problem. "It all started when this pretentious little shit waltzed into my town and tried to demand my allegiance." Pearly whites flashed in a dangerous, toothy grin. "Being the benevolent guy that I am, I decided to teach her the error of her ways. It takes a while, but she starts to come around. For awhile there, I almost think she might actually listen. Turns out she's a good person, real firebrand between the sheets, too." That clawed vice tightened imperceptibly, pulling her into his lap until she found herself-not unwillingly-straddling him. "So I start to like her. Start to think she's not so bad, maybe...

Kuvira suspected she knew where this was going by now.

She wasn't entirely certain she disliked it, either.

It had absolutely nothing to do with Naruto.

Or his ministrations.

No, not at all.

Not that spike of pleasure mounting between her legs, she told herself. Nothing about the way her body sang in his grasp, the pounding of her heart as she planted her hands against his chest, or even the heady rush of lust clouding her vision. It was none of these that clouded her judgement as he did...things to her with that hand of his. Spirits, he was barely even touching her shoulder and yet it took all she had just to think straight! The more she struggled against this feeling the worse it became; worse, because these were her feelings, amplified tenfold, every fiber of her being hyper-sensitive to the touch.

What manner of devilry was this?!

"And theeen~!" Naruto's voice warped into a slow snarl as his lips ghosted across the tan expanse of her neck, "For reasons beyond my understanding, her minions decide to fuck me over." A hand took hold of her chin, forcing One of attacks my guards. Another breaks into my village and tries to kidnap my daughter, and now the boss of said dead minions insults my home while trying to keep me from going on a killing spree. So you see my conundrum. I'm a patient guy, but there's only so much a guy can take. So what should I do?"

"Nnngh!"

Kuvira tried to open her mouth and reply, tried to speak up, fought to form something anything in the way of words, but only a moan emerged. Her body betrayed her, hands fisting tightly around the loose collar of the blond's robe, tearing at it. Sheer will kept them there, from descending further. She wanted to do...things to him. Nasty, awful, wanton acts that you had no business doing to another person, even one so depraved as him. All the while, Naruto didn't even try to move. He simply sat there as she shifted in his lap, his hand still fixed firmly to her shoulder. Grinning,

Smug bastard!

"I...you should...what are...

"Ara, why so hot and bothered?" the blond smiled trollishly. "Cat got your tongue?"

Words refused to come to her.

"You should know," he hummed, "You look absolutely adorable right now. If I wasn't a man of principle I'd probably take you here and now."

Kuvira bristled.

"But, I'm a nice guy, and I have my principles." the ancient shinobi continued on a sigh, "So I'm going to let her-you-take back that remark about my home." Chortling softly, he leaned forward once more, his nose brushing against hers. "We'll pretend none this ever happened, neh? You never said anything, and I certainly didn't use my chakra to stoke your erogenous zones and make you purr like a smitten kitten. Sound fair?"

It took all her strength just to manage a nod.

Naruto's smile thinned ever so slightly.

"See? Not so hard, then, is it?"

A snap of his fingers and the sensations assailing her vanished all at once. For a fleeting moment, she thought she caught sight of something golden in her peripheral vision. It vanished when she turned to look at it, her weakened body slumping against his, clutching against him for support. Chakra? What was that?

And how had he used it?

Kuvira deflated.

It was her loss.

Utter defeat.

"Well?"

"I'm sorry." she declared sullenly, fixing her gaze firmly on the floor and refusing to look at him, cheeks flushed with equal parts embarrassment and shame. Still, a spark of defiance flickered to life in her eyes. "And I'm leaving for Republic City tomorrow morning. I thought you should know."

She took some solace that her words seemed to yank the rug out from under Naruto, at least.

Because he released her.

Drew back, sharply so.

Arched an eyebrow.

"Just like that?"

"Just like that." the blackette reaffirmed. "You won." he must've started, because she turned her head against his shoulder to look up at him, her long hair tickling at the nape of his neck. "Don't look so surprised. Its the truth. I can see now that you won't be budging. If I try to ignore you and move on the state of Yi instead, you'll stop me, won't you? After all, they're practically your neighbor."

On some level, he wasn't sure to be proud or hurt that she'd finally given in.

"That still doesn't explain why you're leaving."

At that, Kuvira's smile thinned and she nestled her head deeper into his neck.

"I'm tired."

Naruto felt his frown deepen.

"Okay, I stopped screwing with you and you're still being clingy. What's eating ya?"

Kuvira still wouldn't look at him.

"I'm tired of fighting you." To her surprise, she was, and it felt a true relief to say it, to see the shock flit across his whiskered visage. "You're infuriating, you know that? You do everything backwards! I should hate you, but I don't. You're everything you shouldn't be and yet so many are loyal to you! Its maddening! I can't stand it! So I'm leaving." she repeated, folding both arms before her chest. "You're just a part of it."

"Meaning...?"

"I'm supposed to give a speech and surrender power to some powdered prince." she snorted derisively, brushing a stray ebony strand from her face. "Wu-something-or-other. He's never ruled a day in his life. I've been putting it off for weeks now though, and I can't afford to delay any longer. This mess just served to help me get in gear."

"And you're not seriously just going to hand the reins over like that, are you?"

This time, she did look at him, her smile entirely genuine.

"You know me too well."

"You'd be offended if I didn't." Naruto snorted, but the words lacked the bite he'd intended and he found himself mirroring her expression.

Together, they shared a rueful laugh.

"So, what? You're planning on letting things fall back into chaos?"

"What? No! Not at all." she replied, aghast, shaking her head. "I've spent the last three years getting the Earth Kingdom back on track; I'll be damned if I surrender it to some highborn floozy now." A note of defiance entered her voice at that, her dark eyes staring intently into the flames as though haunted by some fell vision of the past. "Noble leaders and kings are what got us into that mess in the first place. The Earth Kingdom needs someone who knows what its like; what it means to be one of the common folk."

Ah. He was beginning to understand her, now.

"And you think you're qualified to do lead."

She stiffened, slightly. "I do, yes. Unless-

Naruto bristled, eyes widening sharply.

'Alright, tapping the breaks, there!'

"Me? Rule? No, no, no." he waved his good arm emphatically, jostling her against his side. "You've got the wrong person, there. I hate leading. Too much paperwork. But I don't like following either. I'm perfectly content with running my little village as it, thank you very much. No need for anything more. I won't stop you from leaving. Though, I might be sad to see you go." As he said it, he realized it was true. In the short time that she was here, Kuvira had given his life new meaning. Not so much purpose as intrigue, a marked change from the routine he'd unwittingly fallen into. Even her constant challenges had been entertaining.

On the morrow she would be leaving and things would revert to how they'd always been.

Naruto wasn't sure he could stomach that.

It pained him to admit, but he'd gone and grown rather fond of her.

A beat of silence passed between them and for a moment he thought neither of them would break. Then Kuvira spoke up, uttering a single word.

"Dissent."

"Beg your pardon?"

Kuivra shifted ever so slightly beside him, tucking her knees beneath her body and turning until she was facing him directly. Her hand snaked out and snatched his, firm fingers locking around his wrist. It would've been easy to break her grip but something in those dark eyes held him, bade him hold his tongue a moment longer.

"You are a voice of dissent." the Great Uniter repeated emphatically, barreling onward before he could think to interject. "Yet you care about this country, about its people. I need that. I need...well, you." she said, averting her eyes when he snorted in derision. "You're not afraid to speak your mind, and you have the strength to back it up in spades. I can't intimidate you into agreeing with me, which is all the more important given the magnitude of what I intend to attempt. I want a voice of reason. Not an underling, but an ally. An adviser. In short, you."

"Ah. Like...Batar."

Kuvira flinched slightly.

"Naruto-that was different."

"I don't think it was, actually."

"By all means, enlighten me, then."

Firelight flickered between them, casting Kuvira's face into shadow.

...must I?"

"If you want me to trust you? Yes."

On some level she and Batar had clearly cared for one another to a great degree; that last fleeting glimpse of betrayal in the man's eyes before his death had spoken more than words ever could. Yet Kuvira had cut him down without hesitation. Who was to say she wouldn't try the same with him? Not that she'd be successful mind you, but he didn't relish the idea of being even more on edge than he already was. She was clearly trying to propose an alliance of sorts, but what could he possibly have to gain by entering into such a union behind disaster?

"Well? he prodded at last, "Why did you kill him, hmm?"

"I had no choice-

"Bullshit. There's always a choice." Naruto chastised her sternly, biting back the words before he went too far. "You chose to end Batar's life when you could've just as easily subdued and captured him. Hell, you could've waited for me to step in; I would've taken him before he could blink. Yet you killed him. Again, why?"

Kuvira grit her teeth and looked away, warring with herself.

At length she sighed and raised her gaze.

"Because of that girl of yours."

A brief blink.

"Tara?"

"When I was a little girl, I was cast aside by my own parents like I meant nothing to them." her free hand clenched around a cushion, digging deep gouges into the yielding fabric. "When they left me, my father nearly cut my throat to make certain I didn't try to follow them. My mother had to talk him out of it. In the end, he beat me and left me to rot in a gutter. I was dead to them in all but name." she bit her lip and looked away, gripping his palm tighter as though she could somehow will the memory away if she just squeeze hard enough.

But they didn't.

"How could I just stand by and watch the same thing happen to another child... when I...!"

Flicker of old, painful memories assailed Kuvira all at once as she stared into the shifting flames and for a fleeting moment she was a eight years old again. You're nothing but a burden. We don't need you. The brush of a knife against her neck, so close to drawing blood, ending her life with just a tug...! The scene went no further; for her mind rejected it violently and shuddering, she curled inward on herself, her face screwing up as she fought to lock down the painful image. To her surprise, Naruto's arm encircled her a heartbeat later, currents of warmth ebbing from the the outstretched limb and into her body.

She almost didn't want to look up, fearful of what she'd find there.

In the end she needn't have worried; for the quiet stoicism on his face told a painful tale indeed.

"You believe me?" she almost dared to hope.

"I've always been able to tell when someone's lying." the blond murmured, sounding slightly sheepish for the first time since they'd met. "Call it a...perk of this lifestyle. I'm good at reading emotions as well. You were putting out some powerful vibes there. No way that's a lie." he beamed down at her, teeth flashing in a wry grin. "So color me convinced." the simple declaration must've shattered the last remnants of her composure, for that roguish grin grew positively sunny. "That settles it! All's forgiven!"

...ha?"

"Do I need to repeat myself? I said we're good!"

Once again, Kuvira's tongue failed her.

Not so her mind.

Damnit.

Yes, that word summed up Uzumaki Naruto quite nicely. He seemed intent on defying her every expectation at every turn. When she expected him to be calm he tormented her. When she expected anger, he refused to take things seriously. Yet here when she was east prepared for it, he chose to comfort her. Try as she might, she just couldn't get a handle on him. He was a complete and utter enigma, one she just couldn't puzzle out. Maddening. He led not through force and strength, yet simple kindness. An ally to those beneath his banner, nightmare to his enemies. She saw a glimmer of herself, in that.

And she was falling for him.

The realization rocked Kuvira to the very core of her being; in no small part because she'd actually deigned to admit it to herself. Why? Because he was the first to stand up to her? The first man to prove that he was her equal? The first to make her question her ideals? Perhaps it was his wit? His drive? His determination to take the high road in all things? That raw need to protect everything that was his, and flay anyone who dared take from him? It might even be all of those things. She couldn't even begin to quantify it, only that she cared.

'Care?!' a girlish voice in her hear squeed. 'You're head over heels for him!'

Lies and slander!

'Well,' the more rational part of her sighed, 'This is unfortunate.'

Kuvira silently slammed the lid on them both.

Regardless, she found that she had grown rather fond of the blond and his unusual talents. That and she was loathe to leave him behind. An equal, she mused. It had been so long since she'd had one. It wasn't quite love-not yet-but there was something there, something she couldn't bring herself to deny. The smallest thorn of regret pricked at her and held her back. Batar had been a pawn to her, one she'd felt for mind you, but those fledgling feelings were paltry compared to this. That still left them with the awkward matter of whether or not Naruto would accept her offer, at any rate. By contrasts, her short-lived feeling's for Su's son didn't matter in the-

Oh, god.

Su.

What was she going to tell her?

Caught up in the moment, she hadn't given it any thought at the time, but she'd killed Batar. Killed him. She didn't even know if he'd been buried or not yet! And she was going to have to tell her about it, because Su yin was like that, she knew when you were lying no matter what you said and ohspiritsthiswasgoingtobeawful...

"Well, I guess that means this is goodbye," Naruto was saying when she came back to herself, "Kinda sucks, really."

"You're not coming, are you?"

The village head shrugged.

"I used to make snap decisions in the past, when I was younger." he confessed, turning his gaze onto his mangled arm. "They landed me in a bad way. Everything worked out in the end, but I tend to be choosy when it comes to being rash like that. I mean, if I up and left without saying anything, it wouldn't go over well. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to go traveling with you. I want it more than anything. It'd be fun to tear shit up, just like the old days, but...

...you can't." Kuvira finished.

Naruto favored her with a sad smile.

"A leader's duty is to their people, after all."

Kuvira wasn't quite sure what compelled her to kiss him then, only that she did.

Shifting in his lap, the Great Uniter scooted forward and pressed her lips to his planted both hands on his chest. Then, as surprise dawned on his face, she gave him a mighty shove, using her weight to force him down against the soft cushions. When he tried to rise she twisted a leg in his, tripping him up. Naruto could've escaped in any number of ways-she knew this-and yet he simply stared back at her, a look of mild consternation crossing his whiskered cheeks.

"So, is this a confession, or...

"Shut up and kiss me."

Naruto did just that and from there, he wasn't given anymore time to protest. She didn't reply to his goading; instead she began to shrug out of her coat and Naruto's breath caught in his throat.

She melted into his embrace immediately, her lips parting for him on a moan.

Neither noticed when they tumbled off the couch and onto the hard floor; indeed, a touch from Kuvira's hand and the stiff earth became soft as clay.

Her hands fisted around the sash of his tunic and pulled, even as his fingers found the thin clasp of her own uniform with a tug. It had barely fallen before he began attacking her neck with his lips, planting a searing line of kisses along the length of her collar. Kuvira hadn't thought herself physically capable of purring aloud until that moment. She was wrong. A sound she'd never dare utter in public escaped her, regardless, and Naruto's laughter had her coloring a deep, rose red.

Making love when you were drunk off your ass was one thing; when you were fully coherent, well, that was something else altogether.

"Did you just purr?" he snickered.

"I did not."

"Did."

Simultaneously angered and aroused by the blond's antics, she rolled her shoulders for him and cast her will into the bits of metal within, shucking the heavy garment aside. Divested of her metal vest, her upper torso seemed to glisten in the firelight to his eyes, tan skin catching the waning illumination and sending it dancing across her breasts. Naruto's hand did more than that. Kuvira preened slightly at the unexpected attentions, a flicker of her ego regaining its former stature beneath the blond's minsitrations.

With Batar it had been little more than frantic coupling in the dark when no one was looking, driven by want and need. Naruto seemed to openly take the time to admire her every curve, paying equal attention to every part of her. When he continued to stare overlong however, she rolled her hips against him invitingly, catching his wandering gaze.

"My eyes are up here."

Naruto laughed.

"So they are."

He grabbed her then, and in the flickering firelight, their shadows intertwined as one.

There were no more thoughts of alliances that night.


(...Early the Next Morning...)


Kuvira woke slowly.

Well. Her mind mustered up a thought. That happened. Again.

It didn't come as much of a surprise; that was overshadowed by the same realization that she'd slept with him twice in as many days. Only hours after killing her former fiance. Another pesky thorn of guilt pricked at her and held at the flesh of her heart, keeping her back. Irritated, she plucked it out with a thought. Naruto had refused her offer after all. Darn it. Darn him. She'd gotten her hopes up and for what...?

Chiding herself for her foolishness, she willed her

When she opened her eyes it was to warm sunlight, a pleasant ache between her legs and the sensation of freshly-cleaned sheets against her skin. It seemed someone had taken great pangs to push both sofas together while she slept and as such she found herself nestled between them, tucked into a soft cocoon of velvety bliss, pillows and all. The scent of breakfast reached her moments later and she beheld a rather pleasing sight of warm, buttery pancakes heaped upon a neat little tray furnished of light platinum. A small hidebound letter was

Hope you like 'em! Not much of a waffle guy.

~Naruto.

The ghost of a smile plucked at the corner of Kuvira's mouth.

"Idiot." she murmured, but the words were without rancor.

Her hand darted out, plucking one of the moist pancakes from the plate and lifting it to her mouth. Delicious. Words alone didn't do this culinary creation justice. Within seconds she devoured it and the rest. Her appetite now sated, she leaned back against the cushions, idly clutching the sheets to her breasts for modesty's sake. This presented her with a very tempting prospect, all things considered. She could simply lounge here all day if she were so inclined and not worry a wit about anything. She wouldn't even have to get dressed. Now there was a pleasant thought. She'd no idea where her outfit had landed into last night's scrabble and wasn't looking forward to hunting down her undergarments.

And she was tempted, too.

But in the end she knew that, as much as she might like too, she couldn't lounge in bed all day. If Naruto had deigned to stay in bed with her she might've given in but alas, the enigmatic blond was nowhere to be found and she knew she must get up sooner or later or risk laying about all day like a lazy sod.

It took her nearly half-an-hour to hunt down her clothes.

Somehow her pants had gotten stuck on the stairs.

How it had gotten up there, she had no idea.

The rest of the day progressed as much as she had suspected it must; with open suspicion and angry jeers, more-so as her men packed up camp and made to depart for their vehicles. The lucky ones were pelted with stones. Others weren't so fortunate and found themselves chased out of town with a barrage of fireballs and blades. Kuvira made no effort to stop these little riots. These people had every right to be angry at her, and her troops. her Word of Batar's fell deeds had already spread like wildfire overnight and many of the townsfolk were glad to see her gone.

Of Naruto she heard or saw no sign.

As if he'd vanished from the face of the earth.

In a matter of hours all her troops had secured their belongings and pulled back. A few had sustained minor injuries, but nothing serious. The delegation dispatched to retrieve Batar's body had been successful and his cadaver was safely secured in one of the flat beds. All was in readiness, all was prepared.

She had only to give the word.

Still, Kuvira hesitated to give the order.

Part of her wanted to storm into the village, hunt him down and drag him with her. But she knew how poorly that would be received. The entire town would rise up against her if she attempted it. Surely he wouldn't just leave her hanging like this? Common sense dictated she leave immediately and make haste for Republic City. Ah, but her heart had other plans. So she lingered atop one of the trucks, clutching the guard rail, feeling an imbecile as she waited for one

"Room for one more?"

Kuvira spun around so fast she actually bent the metal beneath her feet without intending to.

"I...you...what?"

To her surprise

Instead of the plain clothes she'd grown so accustomed to, the blond had shed them entirely. As if he'd peeled away that guise to reveal what lurked beneath. Now he wore a grey tunic with light armor-most likely platinum-across his chest and forearms, over which he'd draped a bright red crimson coat etched with sigils of blue flame. Had she been familiar with his home and upbringing, she would recognize the attire right away; he looked like some eldritch cross between an Anbu elite and a Kage. He looked every bit a warrior, and a small part of her thrilled at it.

"I thought you weren't coming." she managed.

"I never said no." the chipper blond informed her as he climbed up onto the truck after her. "I just said I wasn't willing to leave without saying anything. And now I've said my peace" he gave the massive pack a tug with his good arm. "Kolgrim's agreed to look after things while I'm gone, and everyone knows you won't be taking over. Folks aren't happy about me taking a vacation, still, my word's law, so they're listening. I may have to have a word with one or two of them when I get back, but they understand why I'm doing this."

"So you're actually going through with it."

"I thought the big fucking pack made it obvious."

"Fair enough. Tell me, what made you change your mind?"

He tapped his staff against the ground.

"Balance."

Kuvira blinked.

"Balance?"

"Exactly." the blond replied cryptically, causing her to arch an eyebrow.

So he wanted to be smart, did he?

"First time for everything."

"Ohoho!" Naruto cackled back. "She's got claws!"

Kuvira couldn't help herself.

Laughter bubbled up out of her all at once; a great, deep giggle that had her doubling over, continuing to rise until her eyes watered and her sides ached, leaving her clutching herself until it physically hurt to breathe. It wasn't Naruto's remark that had her laughing so, though it was certainly a part of it. It was sheer, cleansing glee. It felt...refreshing. To just laugh and not care who saw her. Because she'd gotten her wish, whether she knew it or not. With him at her side, she felt like she could take on the world and win. And maybe she could.

It didn't matter.

Because she'd won.

Smiling, she extended her hand.

"C'mon, country boy. I'll show you what a real city looks like."

"We'll just see about that."

Naruto accepted it readily, allowing her to hoist him up into the truck. Kuvira barked an order and the driver gunned the engine, the vehicle roaring to life beneath them and starting forward. Naruto whistled softly as he settled down into a nearby seat, idly balancing himself against her side. Kuvira instinctively leaned into him, nestling her head against his shoulder. After a moment's hesitation, the blond reciprocated, draping his good arm around her, pulling her close and never looking back, even as his home shrank into the distance.

"So." he started cheerily, "Whaddya want to do today, Kuvira-chan?"

Kuvira restrained a small knowing smile from forming.

"The same thing I want to do every day, Naruto."

He shot her a wry look.

"And that is...?"

"Try to take over the world."

Naruto laughed.

"Classic."

A/N: Aaaaaaaaand there we be! Naruto's decided to tag along with Kuvira for the time being. He is BY NO MEANS subservient to her. Neither is his little village. He's simply taken an interest and chosen to follow her on her journey ahead. He is a voice of reason. Of Dissent. One can only wonder what will come of it. And now we can't help but wonder...where will things go from here?

Find out next time!

Yes, this Naruto is the one from near the end of the series-he got his arm blown off by Sasuke and the ensuing aftershock flung him across dimensions. As to whether he'll ever get his arm back, eh, who knows? The mark has moved to his opposite hand for obvious reasons; even with only one arm, he's still a force to be reckoned with. Pairing is NarutoxKuvira! Why, you ask? Because I can't stand Batar Jr. He was...is...not the best guy. He struck me as a whiney brat in the season, with no real explanation for his actions. I've watched all of Season Four, and nothing I've seen clarifies it.

So, sorry if it seems like I bashed him in this chapter, but that's that. He'll have much less of a role in later chapters anyway, so don't worry. ALSO! Apparently, according to Michael Dante Dimartion the final pairing for Korra was...Asami? I know they held hands at the end...but DANG! Wasn't expecting them to go and make it official by post! Now, back to this story. How did it come to be, you ask?

Simple. Naruto and Kuvira are quite alike, personality-wise. They are fierce, determined, and most of all...DRIVEN.

So I thought to myself, someone who openly defied Kuvira, preventing her from uniting the Earth Kingdom. Wouldn't that get under her skin? Ohhhhh, yes it would! Naturally Naruto came to mind, a little older, a little wiser, but still very much himself, always willing to stick up for those who need it, and kicking the asses of those who deserve it! It'll be quite amusing to see him interact with Kuvira over the course of this story...

So...in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review, Would You Kindly? TIS A SHOCKER! WHAT LED TO THIS POINT?! THAR BE THREE THIS TIME! And yes, the bit with Su and Kuvira happens next chapter. It just felt forced to put it in this one, ya know?

(Previews)

Su yin scowled.

"Who are you? Where's Batar?"

Kuvira stiffened.

Despite her every instinct screaming at her NOT to do it, she shrank back and hid behind Naruto. Such was the heat in Su's gaze. That intense stare bordering on disappointment, it reminded her of countless days past when she was a child with her hand caught in the cookie jar.

"Erm...

Naruto sighed and scratched the back of his head.

"Well...ah, y'see, its kinda complicated, but, ah, fuck it...he's dead."

"What?!" The leader of Zaofu balked, taken aback. "How?!"

"I killed him." he lied eloquently.

Kuvira whipped around.

So did Su Yin.

"WHAT/WHAT?!"


Naruto sighed and tapped his staff against the ground.

Once.

Twice.

Thrice.

"Ladies."

The staff took Kuvira low and hard in the stomach, just as a boot slid beneath Korra's guard and caught her on the chip, flinging her to the ground. When they scrambled upright the blond stood between them, a small smile affixed to his face.

Kuvira hadn't thought it possible for someone to crack their knuckles with one hand, but Naruto did just that.

Handily.

"Now, let's talk this over like adults."


Sly.

Little.

Stowaway.

"Do you love him, mama?"

Kuvira colored to the very roots of her hair.

For all her strength of will and all her stubborn pride, she found that she couldn't speak. Words simply failed her. All this from a little girl! Granted, a very clever little girl who seemed entirely too smart for her own good but still! She'd found herself completely, utterlyshut down by five little words, all her pride and ambitions squandered in an instant by that simple inquiry. No, that wasn't quite right. Mama. Tara had taken to calling her that ever since that spirt-forsaken morning, and for the life of her, she didn't know how to make her stop!

At length, she found her voice, but the words emerged as a stumbling stutter.

"W-What did you just say?"

Tara blinked.

"If you love him, then marry him."

She said it as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

R&R~! =D