A/N: (EDIT: Go the reviews section. I've put up a notice there. Apparently people are pissed with me for trying something new and I'm getting spammed with PM's and anonymous bullshit. Needless to say I'm not amused)
REVIEW FOR IT FEEDS MY ENGINE OF CREATION!
MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU!
Thought I'd try and get this out there in celebration. Looks like I was able to make it in time, eh?
Now lets answer some questions! I think Seven will do this time.
Q: Did...did Naruto just go full dark? As in Sith?
A: NO. I've told a lot of people this. He's been through hell. He lost EVERYTHING and Rey's been a bit of an emotional crutch for him because of that. He had a brief lapse when he saw her get hurt. I don't know what else to say. Those thugs he killed were BAD GUYS. No one will miss them. I don't want to talk about this anymore. Don't expect Naruto to fall so easily.
Q: Those previews were all kinds of spoilery! Did you really just do what I think you did?!
A: Yes. Yes I did.
Q: When do we get the romance between Naruto and Rey?! They deserve one another and we wanna seeeeee it!
A: Someone actually accused me of rushing things already. Can you believe that? There's a reason I'm taking there romance slow. I want to keep it natural. Its been SEVEN fucking chapters and they haven't done anything intimate besides share a bed. Seriously. Build-up is key.
And now, the dynamic of their bond begins to change.
Q: How much chakra does Naruto have at present?
A: Enough for basic stuff, clones, substitution and other less energy intensive techniques. He IS recovering and this chapter delves into just how much he has. Don't expect him to stay weak forever. For example, at this point, SPOILER he's created a clone that has been around for a bit.
Didn't see that coming, did ya?
Q: At last we see Naruto's lightsaber! I take it you have plans for it?
A: I do indeed.
Q: Please tell me you're not going to follow the plot of the Last Jedi. It was a shit show!
A: I'm neutral on Last Jedi and have my own plans, actually. I'm going to say it right now, its going to be different. For example, no Rose. She serves no purpose in my plans. There likely won't be an interval in Canto Bight either, for that matter and Ackbar lives, screw Holdo, etc. You'll see.
Q: Please don't let Rey and Naruto become insta-jedi! I beg of you, Master?
A: Master? Eh, I'm kinda embarrassed! But your point aside, that's actually one of the key issues I didn't like in the films. I don't care how you explain it, Rey learned WAY too fast. Yes, she is strong with the Force. There's no denying that. But I'm taking a more logical approach to things.
And there we have it.
Also, snuck a funny line in here.
Should be easy for the keen eye to spot.
Also, there's a very vulnerable moment here.
It should silence some critics and shows just Naruto feels.
"You finally smiled."
"Hey, I can smile! See!"
"That...honestly looks a little scary."
Echoes of an Old Life
The clone had been patient.
Days upon days spent in hiding.
Weeks of careful silence, biding its time.
Ungodly hours spent in rigid silence, refusing to speak.
Covertly, it sowed the seeds of chaos right under the First Order's nose.
Never once deviating from its course, it worked painstakingly to gather as much intelligence as it could. No piece of information was too small, too minute to ignore. Always watching. Always remembering. A careful sleight of sabotage there, a minor act of chaos there, each in place seemingly unrelated to one another. Change its face and move on before it could be caught. Rinse and repeat. Small acts that no one would notice by themselves, yet together added towards the greater whole. The doppelganger delighted in it. It felt like a return to the old life to him, when playing pranks and stirring subversion were all he had to worry about.
A pure, simple time.
Before everything came crashing down.
Once the clone began its work in haste, dismantling the First Order's operation proved...almost painfully simple. Especially when it started taking on the guise of the higher ups. After all, who could catch a thief who never wore the same visage twice? Certainly not when said thief disguised themselves as the esteemed Captain Phasma or the ever-brooding Kylo Ren. The end result proved as glorious as it was satisfying. Soldiers began to question one another. Officers turned on their superiors and lynched them. Others were condemned by their rivals and executed on the spot. Even droids were suspect. Trust evaporated overnight and paranoia bloomed in its place.
Like a blundering rancor, the leaders of the First Order struggled and failed to find the cause.
They only created more destruction.
Innocent officers found themselves berated by the one known as the Supreme Leader-whom the clone had yet to properly glimpse completely-and in some cases thrown into cells to await torture. Pity, about that. Had it gotten a look at the mysterious mastermind behind the First Order, It might've sowed some chaos. Still, this outcome suited the clone just fine. It carefully cataloged those who were imprisoned and moved onto to those who were not, happily stirring the pot of chaos it had created.
All the while, its supply of chakra slowly dwindled.
Even confined to a singular planet, it continued its work.
And now, after so many days, it was ready for the master stroke.
In spite of harsh words and untold toil it had held its tongue throughout, refusing to shed each disguise until given no other choice. All the while, keenly aware of what might transpire should it expire. The original was running dangerously low on chakra already. It was something of a miracle that he'd managed to make one at all. In all likelihood he might not be able to create another for some time, let alone maneuver it into such a pivotal position. Thus, the doppelganger took pangs to such an outcome, never lingering in one place for too long, avoiding cameras whenever possible.
Today, one one bothered to question FN-2187.
He was so beneath their notice that most went out of their way to avoid him.
After all, who wanted to associate with the stormtrooper in charge of sanitation duties for Starkiller Base? No one thought to question why he was here. Most simply assumed he had been returned to this position after the failure on Jaaku. None wished to lower themselves to speak with what they viewed as little more than a glorified janitor. They simply left "him" to clean their floors, unaware of their own peril. Nor did they deign to conceal their voices from what they saw as scum. If anything, they strove all the more to make themselves heard, just to mock him.
"They're moving up the firing date?"
The clone's ears pricked up, ever so slightly.
"After all these...distractions, the Supreme Leader deemed it necessary."
He fought to keep his gaze fixated on the floor, on the mop in his hands as the pair of officers neared him, their voices rising in derision. One was a lanky stick of a man, thin and gaunt. His compatriot was a somewhat portly woman of unknown descent, her dark hair bound back in a prim knot beneath her cap. Her lip curled at the sight of him and he fought the urge to shake his head. If they was anything he'd learned during his time with the First Order, it was that they were entirely too full of themselves for their own good. Didn't they realize loose lips sank ships?
"Good for moral, I suppose." the man sighed. "It'll be a sight to see."
"Indeed." his companion agreed. "Soon enough the Republic will be little more than a bad memory.
"Shall we gather for whiskey and cigars tonight, then?"
"Never doubt it."
Beneath the helmet, the clone's face twitched into a smile.
'Good, good, just keep walking...
"You there! Trooper!"
Despite his best efforts, the impostor stiffened. Had he been made? Gloved hands tightened around the mop in his hand, ready to reach into the "container" below and draw the weapon he'd hidden there. In the end, he needn't have bothered. As he looked on, the man reared his head back and spat harshly on the pristine floor.
"You missed a spot." he sneered.
Anger howled in the clone.
Quietly, he stifled it.
Laughing they departed through a door, no doubt eager to witness what they believed would be the First Order's shining moment. Briefly, he considered hurling the container and its contents at their backs. But no, that would spoil everything. At worse, it might delay the station's firing. That wouldn't do. It simply would not do. If they delayed, they'd discover his handiwork; work that had taken weeks to accomplish. When he'd learned the purpose of this poorly named base, he'd forsaken his original mission to sabotage it. Anything capable of destroying entire planets needed to be stopped.
Whistling softly, the clone discreetly ignored the stain on the floor and wheeled his bucket after them.
If there was to be chaos...
...well, he wanted to see his handiwork.
Admittedly the clone hadn't known much about this foreign technology; little beyond the bare bones of what Rey had taught the original, but he'd seen enough during his stay. One needn't know how something worked in order to break it. In theory, if you hit something hard enough, for long enough, it ceased working. Or if you screwed about with a containment field and redirected the energy inward instead of outward...eh, semantics. If he'd done it right, the First Order would be in for a horrid surprise. If not...the blood of the innocent would be on his hands.
Nope, none whatsoever.
Regardless, the results would speak for themselves.
"This fierce machine which you have built, upon which we stand, will bring an end to the Senate!" Hux's voice echoed out above, amplified by some unseen speaker, or unknown means. "To their cherished fleet! All remaining systems will bow to the First Order! And will remember this... as the last day of the last Republic!"
The clone permitted himself a moment of silence.
Uncaring of who saw, he removed his helmet.
Everything hinged on a single moment.
And Hux thundered out:
A beat of silence passed.
Followed by another. Another still.
"What do you mean it didn't fire? Fix it-
Beneath his feet, the podium trembled just so.
The clone began to snicker, despite his best efforts.
Detecting the sudden outburst of laughter, Hux rounded on him.
That was all Hux had time to utter before the earth underfoot erupted and a crimson pillar immolated him where he stood. In this, he was lucky. He was immolated in an instant. Standing at such close proximity to their general, thousands of elite stormtroopers perished with him before anyone realized what had gone wrong. By the time they did, it was already too late to escape. With a thunderous cry Starkiller base erupted, a great wound opening in the planet's crust as the mighty weapon tore itself apart from within. Fissures formed, great gaping tears in the earth swallowing up men and women alike.
It didn't end there.
Like a wounded giant, the planet gave a ponderous groan and began to tilt. Unable to maintain proper balance the station lost its very equilibrium and skewed horribly aside, pitching vessels into one another. Walkers and tie fighters alike collided, shuttles evaporating in a fiery crescendo to echo the abysmal failure that was Starkiller base. Somehow the base still maintained its basic integrity and held together, but only just. Rather than go up in flames and die a noble death it lingered on, a lurching husk of its form self, its great chamber now a twisted, mangled ruin that would never fire again.
That proved even more damning; the survivors would've gladly preferred death to this inimitable shame.
They'd never live this moment down, he had seen to that personally.
In the distance, the shadow clone howled with wild laughter...
...and promptly found himself riddled with blaster bolts.
His long labor finally complete, he perished laughing.
It felt freeing to finally do something...good.
"That's all, folks!"
They were arguing again.
Rey stumbled upon them just as they Falcon launched itself into hyperspace; the gentle rocking beneath her feet served as a strange backdrop to the scene playing out before her. Without thinking she flung herself back around the corner, nearly tripping over an indignant BB-8 as she did so. Frantically, she shushed him and risked a glance back. Han didn't seem to notice her, and neither did Naruto; they were too busy bickering. Not that she blamed them. Han had a right to be angry, if not confused after what he'd witnessed back there. She didn't condone the old smuggler grilling the blond about it, however.
"Alright kid, just what the hell are you?"
"Its none of your concern." Naruto retorted, watching him pace. "There was a threat. I dealt with it. They would've killed you."
"None of my...look, I'm not saying Bala-Tik was a good guy." Taking a deep breath, the smuggler calmed himself. "Neither were those Kanjiklub goons. That doesn't change what you did." he stepped forward, thrusting a finger against the blond's chest. "The droid's one thing, me? I'll take you to Takodona, but that's it. After that, I've got half a mind to toss you out the nearest airlock-
The ice in that word chilled Rey's blood.
"No?" Han blinked at the blond, incredulous. "Watch it there, tough guy. Do you even hear yourself? You can't just go swinging that sword around whenever you get angry! That's not what a Sith does! Not a Jedi!"
"THEN I AM NOT A JEDI!"
The words burst out of the blond in a roar, eliciting a flinch from both parties.
"Jedi, jedi, jedi! Why does everyone keep calling me that when I'm not? I am not a Jedi." he repeated quietly, bringing his anger back under control. "I never want to be a Jedi. Frankly, from what I've seen, the galaxy might be better off without them. This "Luke Skylwalker" everyone seems so hellbent on finding...where is he? Why did he run? Why not stand and fight if he's so powerful? Instead, he hid. Fled, when he should have fought. If running is all a Jedi does then maybe its best that we're rid of them! Some hokey religion won't save the galaxy from the First Order! Action will!"
"Does your friend know you feel that way?"
Just like that, his scowl crumpled into a forlorn expression.
...Rey's all I have left." the blond pleaded. "Please, don't tell her I said that."
"I know that look."
Naruto groaned and quietly palmed his face.
"Oh, we are not doing this now." he muttered. "No. No, you don't."
The weathered smuggler merely smirked in the face of his stubborn defiance.
"A' course I do. Seen it plenty of times, kid. Even a blind man can see you've been making eyes at her. But the way you flew off the handle there; when she got hurt," the old fighter shook his head. "You need to control yourself. I've seen that kind of anger before...my son had it. He let it control him. Rage is a dangerous thing. Take it from someone who's been there."
"You don't understand." shaking his head, Naruto turned away from him, growling like a caged animal. "My world...I lost everything already. I can't lose her. I won't."
As Rey looked on, Solo's stern expression softened somewhat.
"You should tell her that, then. Better you than me."
All the color drained from Naruto's visage.
"What? No! No, no, no."
"Don't you see?!" the old smuggler didn't flinch when the blond bore down on him, seizing him by the shoulders. "Yes, I care about her. Yes, she's important to me. That's why she must never know. If I tell her, things will change. I don't want them to change. If open my big mouth, I'll just ruin everything."
Han snorted softly.
"Doesn't that make you a coward?"
A hand slammed into the wall, denting it.
"You shut the hell up, ya scruffy nerf-herder!"
"Suit yourself. Let me know when you're ready to talk."
He cast him one last amused glance over his shoulder, then he was gone. Naruto made no move to follow him. He simply glowered at the wall and punched it again. Rey dithered a moment, wondering if she should speak and approach him...or do anything at all for that matter. Even now his words raced in her head like the wild rathtars they'd left behind; destroying all hope of reply. He'd just admitted something extraordinary, and for the life of her, she couldn't bring herself to muster a response.
BB-8 was having absolutely none of her fear or hesitation.
With a sharp jolt, the little droid prodded her forward.
Naruto tensed, suddenly aware of her.
His shoulders went rigid.
For some reason he refused to face her.
...how much of that did you hear?" he asked.
"Just a little." she lied, averting her gaze from his back.
If Naruto heard the falsehood in her voice, he did precious little to show it. His gaze seemed distant but supremely focused; locked upon an unassuming corner of the Falcon with frightening intensity as if he expected to somehow unearth the secrets of the universe there should he glare at it long enough. Gazing at nothing, yet everything. Indeed, he didn't even seem to notice her presence beside him. On some level knew the scavenger girl knew she should be happy; his early display had convinced Han of their sincerity and he'd sworn to help them in return. Even now, the Millennium Falcon-she still got shivers saying that-raced through hyperspace to their final destination, wherever that might be.
Yet her partner had inexplicably retreated inward, falling into sullen silence.
And now, given what she'd just seen, what she'd just heard him say...
Idly rubbing her wrapped arm, she waited for a response.
At her heel, BB-8 warbled an inquiry.
"Have you tried shocking him?" she muttered sardonically.
Rey thought she caught a mischievous gleam in the droid's photoreceptor when she spoke those words. She wasn't expecting him to follow through on his sarcasm. He certainly didn't need to be asked twice. Wheeling forward, the rotund synthetic extended its short arm and with what she almost swore was a chuckle, made to prod their ally in his good leg.
Naruto's right hand twitched, just so.
And the droid flew into the air.
With an indignant shriek the little ball found himself ripped from the floor and sent caroming off a nearby wall.
An outraged series of bleeps rewarded the whiskered warrior for his efforts.
...right." Rey grimaced at his reaction. "Lets not do that, again."
The little droid must've agreed, for he hastily rolled away.
Once more, she found herself alone with him.
Still, minutes passed between them and the whiskered warrior showed no sign of acknowledging her in the least. She suspected she knew the reason for his silence. Unbidden, her gaze strayed to his hip, the simple cylinder dangling from his belt like an innocent bauble. In truth, it was anything but. She'd seen him cut down Did she fear him for it? Of course not. Tsau Leech and that other gang-some absurd name that escaped her at the moment-had tried to kill them. They'd shot her, she'd fallen to the floor, and from there was presented a prime view of their slaughter.
He'd barely spoken a word since.
Before she'd met him, this stoic silence might have rankled her. Now? She weathered it quietly. That was alright. After all, if Jaaku had taught her anything it was how to wait.
And to fix broken things.
Sure enough, after the fifth minute he finally stirred.
"You asked if I was alright." though he spoke, he still didn't face her. "You wouldn't believe me if if I told you."
To her initial shock, he did.
His response nearly floored her. Not because of the deadpan tone in which it was delivered, but the words themselves. The First Order possessed a base capable of taking out entire planets in a single shot. And he'd disabled it...with a copy of himself? It sound almost too absurd to believe. Yet, coming from him...Naruto didn't lie. He had no reason to concoct a story like that out of the blue. Much less tell her. Yet something in his words gave her pause. The way he'd spoken...it made a lump form in her throat.
"Naruto...look at me."
A beat of silence passed.
"Rey, I don't think that's a good idea."
Looking back, she wasn't sure what spurred her forward.
It could've been impatience.
It might've been empathy.
Something else entirely.
Whatever the case, she found herself moving to his side. Slowly, carefully, she took hold of his face and forced him to look at her. Naruto didn't struggle. His sole form of resistance came in the form of a weary sigh; as if he were tired and in need of rest. Perhaps he was. They'd been running for so long, from one disaster to another, that they simply hadn't had time to rest. Still, she sensed it was of paramount importance that she break through the strange haze of depression that had inexplicably fallen over her comrade.
"Look at me."
Without protest, the blond berserker turned his head to regard her, his gaze reappearing over his shoulder. Rey nearly jumped out of her skin. For a second those blue eyes almost seemed gold to her; the color of poisoned honey soaked in morning dew. When she blinked again they were nowhere to be seen. All that remained were those mournful azure orbs gazing back at her. Had she imagined it? Was that a tear rolling down his whiskered cheek? Was she imagining that as well?
"I killed them." he muttered, his hand sliding over her palm. "Not just that gang...but those people on that base. And it felt...good. I enjoyed it. What's happening to me?"
Rey hummed softly.
"I don't know. Whatever it is, we'll face it together."
She'd rarely seen Naruto at a loss for words; but this was one of those moments.
The weight of her own words caught up with Rey a heartbeat later.
'Stupid, stupid, STUPID! What was I thinking, saying that!?'
Wordlessly she pushed past his guard and tucked her head into his broad chest to hide her face. The musky scent of oil coupled with ozone filled her nose but she tactfully ignored it, instead wrapping her slim arms around his waist. Once again the blond stiffened, but this time in surprise, rather than anger. She felt rather than saw his arms turn stiff as durasteel at his sides. He likely felt just as uncertain as she. With an awkward twitch, they rose to encircle her just above her waist. Not trusting herself to look him in the eye, the scavenger opted to stare at his feet instead.
...I did hear you." she admitted, the words muffled into his coat, mirrored by the rising flush in her face. "Earlier, that is. I'm sorry."
A bitter laugh escaped him, rumbling through his chest into her ear.
"Of course you did. You always were an awful liar."
She feebly kicked him in the shin.
...so, what happens now?"
"I don't know either."
"I'd be lying if I said there wasn't...something there." she relented, keenly aware of the flush crawling up her neck. "But I don't know what to call...this." In truth, she didn't. Naruto had quite literally, fallen out of the sky and dropped into her life. In the time she'd come to know him-which was substantial-she'd felt something. A seed had been planted in the arid wastes of Jaaku. By all accounts it should've withered and died. Yet instead it had grown and flourished and inevitably become something more. Yet what had it become?
She couldn't be sure.
"Well, thanks." her companion muttered, favoring her with a grim smile. "Really did wonders for my confidence, there."
Rey kicked him harder.
"You finally smiled."
"Hey, I can smile! See!"
Rigidly, he forced a toothy grin.
"That...honestly looks a little scary."
"Yeah, I might be a little out of practice there...
Words finally failed them there and a restless beat of silence thrust itself between the two exiles once more; a dark shroud neither dared part. One for fear, the other, uncertainty. Neither moved. Eventually one-Rey couldn't recall who-pulled away from the other, withdrawing to arms length without relinquishing their hold. Without pause or warning, she found herself gazing up at him. Blast it. Why did he have to be so insufferably tall? Heat rose in her cheeks again and for all her valiant efforts, she couldn't bring herself to look away. With each passing moment she found herself growing restless. Anxious.
Why was she hesitating?
A fit of impulse-and quite possibly something else entirely-seized Rey all at once and she pushed herself upright to the very tips of her toes in his arms. Perhaps Naruto realized what she aimed for; what she must've intended to do. Perhaps he'd intended the very same himself. Perhaps not. Regardless, he made no move to escape, though it was well within his power to do so. He could used any number of maneuvers to wriggle free and bolt, yet he stood stock still. Which was just as well; because Rey doubted she'd be able to muster enough courage to make a second attempt if she failed.
Her lips touched his.
Reluctantly, pulled away.
"Anything?" Naruto ventured.
"I'm...not sure." she admitted weakly.
Rey could feel her face burning, awash in red.
Unable to look him in the eye, she scooted closer.
"Eh? Wait, wha-
She kissed him again.
Tentatively, hesitant and horribly awkward at first, testing out this new, strange sensation. Then deeper when that didn't satisfy her. No. Not enough. More. Naruto inhaled sharply as she pushed him against the wall and crushed her mouth against his. The sound triggered something in Rey. No, it awakened something. Something that had always been there, dormant, slumbering, now suddenly, terribly awake. A strange feeling she couldn't quantify. Desire might've been the word. Possessiveness, another. Try as she might she couldn't find a name for it, only that it was quite suddenly there, driving all thought.
In the end, she couldn't bring herself to care.
She wanted more of this, this indescribable feeling. His lips molded marvelously on hers, and in turn her arms tightened around her waist while his fingers threaded through her hair, undoing the knots there. Someone laughed, but she didn't know who. Her hands looped around the back of his neck, locking herself in place as they drank in one another. Deep in her soul, something sang as he held her. Yes. This felt right. It felt pure and good and hers and nothing was going to take this way from here because she would kill anyone who tried and-
Poking around the corner, BB-8 whistled cheerily.
Rey jumped. Where had he come from?!
"How long where you there?!"
"Hey, lovebirds!" Han's voice crowed from the cockpit. "We're here!"
A/N: SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO sappy there at the end, but that was definitely worth it!
Yeah, writing that bit put a smile on my face.
Now, then! Onto other matters!
Let's put things into perspective, hmm? It is HEAVILY implied that Naruto squirreled away a clone on Kylo's transport. Wasn't hard to do, considering the chaos. He might be low on chakra, but he had enough to create one. That one clone was more than enough to cause some chaos. No, more than chaos; one disguised clone ALONE was enough to sow chaos and disorder on Starkiller Base and all but drive Snoke mad trying to find him.
Reflect on that for a moment, if you will.
This brings about MASSIVE changes, and good ones at that!
Suffice to say the First Order is going to strike back and strike back HARD.
Naruto and Rey aren't out of the woods yet...
...no, definitely not by a bloody long shot!
So, in the Immortal Words of Atlas...
...REVIEW! And May the Force be with you! AND ENJOY ZE PREVIEWS!
"Where are you going? Don't leave!"
"Where is she?"
"She belongs to darkness now."
"No, no, please don't go this way...