Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Outlaw Star

A car sped along on the highway at a smooth clip, flowing past what little traffic there was in the evening hours. The sun was setting and soon, the moon would rise up to take its rightful place in the sky. Lights flickered on as the city's night life rose from the grave. Jim was driving while Melfina sat peacefully in Gene's lap, resting her head sleepily on his shoulder. Suzuka and Aisha were sitting in the backseat with a near hysteric inventor tied up between them.

The young man let out muffled grumbles from behind his cloth gag and occasionally gave wary glances to the CtarlCtarl on his right. She saw his stares and stuck her tongue out at him mockingly. It had taken a while, but the group had somehow been able to convince Naruto that Aisha wasn't in the store anymore. Unfortunately, it was a trap. As he walked out with a thankful grin, Aisha pounced on him, resulting in a minor struggle as he was bound, gagged, and shoved into the backseat of the car.

So here he sat, captured by his own bodyguards. He was alert for a while until he grew too tired to keep a vigil. The rumbling motion of the swaying vehicle lulled him to sleep after a long and eventful day. Gene looked back to see how the kid was doing and saw him dozing while leaning on the very object of his ire. They looked at each other and gave small shrugs before Gene turned back around. A tiny smile crept on Aisha's mouth as she felt Naruto snuggle closer, lightly snoring despite the gag. The crew of the Outlaw Star enjoyed the brief moment of peace and quiet on the road home.

The car parked outside the Starwind and Hawking Enterprises building. Gene opened the door and picked up a drowsy Melfina who gave a small squeak in surprise, and quickly placed her back down with a grin. Jim grabbed his keys and stretched, giving a large yawn in the process while Suzuka got out and began walking immediately towards the building. Aisha yanked Naruto from the middle and carried him cradled under one arm as the blond awoke with a start and flailed about uselessly in her grasp. A couple passing by murmured in worry at the sight of the hogtied boy, thinking they should call the police. Gene waved and gave a cheery smile.

"Ah don't worry about him folks, he's in good hands!" The couple stared at the red haired man as if he were crazy and hurried along their way at a faster pace.

Melfina gave him a small slap on the shoulder, "Gene, you're going to scare someone someday and they're going to call the cops on you!"

Gene gave a chuckle towards her, "Don't worry Mel, what are the cops going to do when they find out we're just a simple bunch of business owners?"

She stared back at him, "They would lock us up! It's already strange enough that we have a CtarlCtarl, a Class A assassin, a tech genius, a pilot and me, a bioandroid. Now we're walking in, carrying a young man tied and gagged like it's an everyday occurrence?" Gene couldn't help but laugh at how serious the woman was, and how dead on she described their ragtag group.

"Haha, you're right Mel, next time we come back how about we make Jim wear a clown costume for kicks?"

The woman didn't know what to say until the boy who had been standing next to Gene gave him a quick stomp on the foot, objecting, "Oh yeah, like hell I will Gene! I wouldn't be caught dead wearing something like that!" The boy stormed off in a huff while Melfina began laughing at the mental image of Jim honking a big red nose. Gene winced as his foot was stepped on for the third time that day by the brat and put his arm around Melfina's shoulder as they walked inside.

The group had settled into their normal routines once they were inside. Suzuka calmly sipped on warm green tea out of her favorite cup. Aisha began to play her favorite portable dating sim game, while Gene cleaned his equipment while sighing at his now broken gloves, Jim entered the new payment estimate into the accounting books with a satisfied "Yes!" coming from behind his monitor as their finances finally took a turn for the better, and Melfina hummed a tune as she cooked dinner.

Naruto watched it all from his seat on the sofa before finally spitting out the cloth gag. "Will someone please untie me already?!" He shouted. Gene walked over and leaned right down next to Naruto as he gathered air into his lungs and let out an oddly soft-spoken "No". However, instead of getting a rise out of the blond inventor, Naruto just reared his head back and rammed it into Gene's face. "Geez, no need to get all upset," Gene said as he grudgingly took out his small knife and cut the rope and Naruto rubbed his hands gingerly, trying to ease the aches he felt from being roughly tied up by the cat woman. He glared at Aisha who was enraptured by her game. He could hear the constant confessions of the male protagonist and the angry rejections from the women that denied him as she lost, her face contorting in frustration before she tossed it to the side with a huff.

The aromas from the various foods in the kitchen set Naruto's stomach growling; it had been a while since the ramen at his workshop. The fact that it was all homemade and smelled absolutely delicious made his mouth water even more. He sat upright as Melfina came out carrying a large tray of food to a wide circular table nearby. The rest of the crew immediately stopped what they were doing and walked calmly to the table, all except for Naruto and Aisha who were the first to arrive at the table and slide into a chair, waiting the other dishes to arrive with a ravenous gleam in their eyes.

Gene gave Naruto a quick pat on the shoulder, "Looks like someone's hungry. You act like you haven't had a decent meal in years!" He laughed.

The blond shrugged off his hand before smiling back, "I actually haven't had a home cooked meal since I was 10. My diet consists mostly of eating ramen, more or less." Everyone gawked at him and he soon felt uncomfortable under so many gazes at once and decided to give Melfina a hand. Melfina was in the small built-in kitchen, filling a large bowl of soup for the table.

"Hey Melfina, need a hand bringing stuff out to the table?" He asked cheerfully. Melfina looked at him and gave a quick smile.

"Sure Naruto, here," She said while handing him two plates filled with an assortment of food piled on.

Naruto gave a quick smile, happy to be of help to someone else, and carefully walked back to the table, placing the food down in the center (while inconspicuously stealing a few morsels for himself). After a few more trips to and from the kitchen, the table was set and Naruto and Melfina sat down with the others. Not quite knowing how he should act, Naruto decided to grab whatever looked appetizing. Grabbing his chopsticks and holding his plate in his other hand, he deftly scooped up a bit of everything, not noticing that the others, besides Aisha, just stared as he ate to his heart's content.

"Aw man, looks like we have another ravenous eater here. Good thing this job is paying a lot, otherwise we'd be even more in debt. I should start charging for meals…" Gene muttered before hurrying to pick as much food as he could for himself. Melfina, Jim, and Suzuka immediately followed, choosing the amount they were planning to eat and quietly munched away while Naruto and Aisha were grabbing whatever was left.

"I understand Aisha's large appetite but I never imagined Naruto to have the same," Suzuka remarked while sipping her tea after her meal. Most of the plates were soon empty and Naruto and Aisha began arguing over who got what, their hands a blur as they shoved more food into their mouths. Finally the last of the spring rolls came into view and Naruto glanced at Aisha with an unheard challenge and both attacked the defenseless morsel simultaneously.

"Move it Blondie! That's mine!" Aisha shouted while dueling her chopsticks with Naruto's.

He fought back with his own chopsticks while shouting back, "You already ate enough, it's mine!"

"I ate enough? I am a growing CtarlCtarl, and we need our energy for battle!"

"What battles? You aren't in a life or death situation right now, and I doubt you will grow anymore!"

The heated argument continued until a single pair of chopsticks swept up the remaining roll. Suzuka chewed on in slowly, just to rile the two up some more. "You two are much too noisy. I'll just save you the trouble and enjoy it myself before it gets cold." She smirked as their faces stared in shock and the assassin popped the final bite into her mouth before swallowing and silently moving her plate to the kitchen. She returned and murmured good night and walked around to her room on the first floor and slowly closed the door behind her. Gene grinned, thankful that he didn't have to listen to those two's petty argument anymore. He picked up Jim and Melfina's plates and set them in the sink before returning back to cleaning his equipment under a lamplight. Melfina slid out of her chair and gave a sleepy good night to everyone before walking up the steps to her room. Jim let out another yawn, waved goodbye and shuffled off to his room as well.

Naruto and Aisha slowly rose out of their chairs and set their plates in the kitchen sink before Aisha let out a small chuckle. "You know, you're the first human I have seen ever match a Ctarl's appetite. I'm impressed," She grinned.

Naruto raised an eyebrow at the cat woman while slowly backing away, "Uh, thanks?" She gave him a hearty pat on the back, almost making his knees buckle.

"You're welcome Blondie!" She laughed as she walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her bed in the alcoves. He walked out to the living area and sat on a sofa across from Gene.

"Man, Melfina is one hell of a cook." Naruto sighed contently.

The redhead gave a small smile while inserting a couple rounds into a pistol magazine, "Yeah, she picked it all up really fast. She really is amazing." Naruto gave a grin.

"So how did you two meet?" He asked while leaning back into the sofa.

Gene put the finished magazine to the side and let out a breath, "It's a long story." The young blond shrugged.

"I got time don't I? Tell me." He said, his blue eyes glimmering with alertness in the lamplight.

"Well, Jim and I were running our business as usual when we get this call from a woman named Rachel who said that she needed to have some bodyguards and parts delivered. We took it and long story short she was the infamous outlaw Hot Ice Hilda running from the Kei Pirates for having stolen two very valuable items."

Naruto sat forward, listening intently as the man continued. "Turns out, the metal case she was carrying had this woman inside of it. It was Melfina. She was woken up from a deep sleep and had no idea who she was. So after having a slight skirmish with the Pirates, we escaped with Hilda to Blue Heaven. Hilda showed us the ship she stole and hid away in an asteroid field, the XGP something or other and..."

"And what?" Naruto asked.

"The Kei Pirates found us and in order to save us, Hilda sacrificed herself." Gene's hands clenched tightly. "I wish there was something that I could have done, but the past is past." Naruto nodded in silent agreement.

"So you, Jim, and Melfina got this ship and then what?"

Gene smiled, "Well a lot of things happened. I got the ship repainted and christened it the Outlaw Star, doing some side jobs for my friend Fred Luo for some cash including having to duel with Suzuka."

Naruto grinned at that statement. "Able to survive someone as dangerous as her? I feel a bit safer already."

Gene gave a scoff, "You mean you didn't trust me before?"

The blond shook his head. "Not that much, you won that fight with the mercenary back there more with luck than anything else." He glanced over at the gloves, feeling a bit guilty that they were ruined. Deciding to change the subject back, he said, "So how did those two eventually add on as your crew?"

"Suzuka tagged along because someone in the Kei Pirates had murdered her family, so she was seeking revenge and eventually got it. Afterwards, she decided to stay with us because it's exciting or something. Aisha demanded that we pay her back for ruining her military career after running right past her with Hilda when being chased by the pirates. She was Ambassador for the CtarlCtarl Empire at the time, charged with finding the Galactic Leyline, but once they found out she lost Hot Ice Hilda they stuck her on Blue Heaven to look for 'clues' as punishment."

Naruto gave a small wince, "Ouch, way to destroy someone's life Gene."

Gene frowned before shrugging, "Well, it wasn't like I had it planned. Besides, now she is here under our care and enjoying a mostly carefree life compared to being a stuck up military person." The comment earned him a large pillow to the face, thrown down by a rather angry Ctarl.

"You forget that being a part of the military is a great honor for us Ctarl!" She huffed and slunk back to her alcove. Gene gingerly rubbed his nose while glaring up above. Naruto held in a snicker and mentally noted not to step on the woman's pride. Gene turned back to the inventor and tossed him the pillow. Naruto caught it and placed it behind his head while giving his favorite grin.

"So eventually Aisha saved our asses a few times over and joined up like I said, until we repay her for the damages. We started looking for information regarding Melfina and soon found that there were connections to the Galactic Leyline, leading us to a long trip across space and back, getting into fights with the Kei Pirates special unit 'The Anten Seven'. Eventually we found our way into the Galactic Leyline and after fighting the last of the Seven and saving the universe, we came back home."

Naruto was struggling to think of a proper way to phrase his awe but settled with a low whistle. "Sounds like you guys have quite a bit under your belt then. This kind of bodyguard and escort mission must be a piece of cake then."

Gene gave a proud smile, "Yeah, don't worry, we'll have you to Heifong III sooner than you know it. Plus, if those Kei Pirates come around again for you, I'll be much more prepared this time around. In space or on the ground." Naruto chuckled at his confidence and nodded in approval.

"I'll hold you to it then." He stretched out on the sofa, pulling off his goggles and placing them gently on the table. He fluffed the pillow under his head and turned inwardly to face the sofa as he closed his eyes.

"Hey Naruto?" Gene asked. A questioning grunt came from the blond. "Why are you so afraid of Aisha?" Naruto turned around and blinked before stating in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Cats are abominations of evil and have caused me nothing but misery in the past."

Gene stared, not quite sure what to think of his answer. Deciding to not dig any further into the reasoning, he changed the subject, "So tell me then, what's your story?"

"Hrm…I have no likes or dislikes and dreams for the future...well, I've got a lot of hobbies," Naruto shrugged.

Gene raised an eyebrow. "Come on now, I'm trying to be serious here!"

"Alright, alright!" Naruto said as he crossed his arms in thought, "I was raised by no one in particular, drifting from place to place as soon as I was able to survive on my own. One day I saw this old man dueling with some random thug and the old man pulled out a Caster, although at the time I had no idea. He fired a single round and after a huge flash of light, the thug was nothing more than a smoldering crater on the ground." Gene's eyes gave a hardened stare, understanding the destructive power of a Caster.

"I followed that man, in both because of awe and curiosity, perhaps even boredom, and pestered him to teach me about the weapon he used. Turned out he was a Castersmith and soon accepted me to be his apprentice but only after I agreed to never tell a soul the techniques of his craft. He even made me sign a contract sealed with my own blood as a way of insuring it. If I broke the contract...." His voice lowered as his gaze looked to nowhere. Gene gave a small nod to show he understood.

"So after you apprenticed with him for a few years, you soon got the hang of seals as well?" Gene asked.

"Yeah. I figured it wouldn't hurt to learn a bit more than some of the basics of seals for smithing. My master seemed to really enjoy my enthusiasm and taught me as much as he could before he had to go." Naruto's features darkened with a calm sadness.

"Why did he have to go?" Gene asked quietly.

"He said that it was to find something important. Something that could help everyone." He stared up at Gene. "I think he was looking for the Leyline too." Gene frowed, puzzled as to why a master Castersmith would leave his apprentice behind to search for the Galactic Leyline.

Gene nodded after filing the information away for later, "Well, maybe Jiraiya has something to say about it?"

Naruto closed his eyes again before chuckling, "Possibly, he did have a knack for finding information, whether is be where girls like to spend their time frolicking or the latest in military advancements." Gene smirked at the statement.

"Well, looks like we'll have to go see him right away then."


Gene let out a quiet chuckle.

"Yeah, yeah. Come on, Kid, get some sleep. You get to see our beloved Outlaw Star in the morning!" He grinned as he switched off the lamp and strode upstairs, grabbing a blanket and throwing it over Naruto before turning in for the night.

A/N: Okay, a new chapter up just in time! Happy holidays everyone! As always, thanks to my beta for all the help, and let me know what you guys think, whether its good or bad. It just helps me improve! The next chapter will have more action and suspense, so watch out!