This story has some of Masashi Kishimoto's characters from Narutfo in a universe of my own devising. Apologies if the characters have grown differently in their new environment.
Thank you to those readers who have left a review. I read an pay great attention to each one.
Warning: The views, standards, mores and morals of the different groups in this story, including those of 'spacers', are not those of our world. They are the product of a fictional future history. Many of the behaviours they consider acceptable we do not; some of them are wrong by my definition they are damaging to one or more of the individuals involved and/or suggest that one individual has more intrinsic value than another. In this story, 'spacers' consider youths of fourteen capable of giving informed consent and they consider a job description that includes providing sexual favours to others, including much older people, to be normal and acceptable.
A few months after finishing this story I wrote a one-shot that fits into the story here. When I decided to publish the story on this site I thought about including it as a chapter here but it did not fit - the style is too different. Search for it as a one-shot on this site - Silver Leaf Tales: Tying the knot.
17. The beginning
Sasuke invited the Captain to the crew room. Iruka had instructed them to clear the couches and arrange the central area for a formal meeting, with eight places around a low table. Kakashi indicated to each of them where they should sit. Once all had settled, Sasuke began.
"I am Sasuke Uchiha. I am the surviving child of Fugaku-kyou who last led the Uchiha. I am the only full-blooded Uchiha alive. I have vowed to rebuild my clan. I am also a member of the Silver Leaf crew. I am cat." He looked his right where Kakashi sat.
"I am Kakashi. I was Beloved Companion to Obito Uchiha. I am sworn to the Uchiha. I took a vow of service to Sasuke on the day he was born. My task was to find a traditional crew, prepare it to receive Sasuke as cat, to oversee his development and to protect him. I am crew on the Silver Leaf."
"I am Iruka. I am… …queen on the Silver Leaf. I am willing to swear to the new Uchiha."
"I am Tsunade. I am Captain of the Silver Leaf. I have sworn to protect Sasuke Uchiha as long as he is a member of this crew and to never act against his interests."
"I am Ibiki. I am crew on the Silver Leaf. I am willing to swear to the new Uchiha."
"I am Shikamaru. I am crew on the Silver Leaf. I am willing to swear to the new Uchiha."
"I am Jiraiya. I was sworn to the Uchiha on the day I was born. I had the same vow of service to Obito Uchiha as Kakashi has to Sasuke. I am crew on the Silver Leaf."
"I am Naruto. I am Beloved Companion to Sasuke Uchiha. I am cat on the Silver Leaf."
"Kakashi?" Sasuke requested.
"I ask Jiraiya to speak." Kakashi responded.
"This is how Uchiha started," Jiraiya began. "With a crew. It is fitting that it should be revived from the same beginning. What made Uchiha great were loyalty, trust and honour. Such qualities cannot be bought. They must be inspired and earned. Sasuke inherits traditions, wealth and reputation. Wealth can corrupt. As for reputation, infamy would await he who killed the last Uchiha. The traditions are exacting but they must guide us."
"Sasuke needs to stay on the Silver Leaf for as long as is feasibly possible," Kakashi clarified. "For over a hundred generations this has been the best way of keeping young Uchiha alive without preventing them acquiring the experience they need. For now, anonymity is safest."
"What about what happened on Minunderville?" Shikamaru asked. "That crew, the one that had Naruto, they seemed to know who he was."
"I wonder," Tsunade replied. "If they had known you would have expected there to have been others by now."
"Or someone is biding their time," Jiraiya suggested, "or it has taken this long for them to convey the information they collected and for the recipient to respond."
"There is one thing we can do to make him safer," Ibiki said. "We can promote Naruto to crew. That would mean we would have the option of putting him forward as champion if we are challenged."
There was silence. Ibiki was correct but Naruto wished the big man had stayed silent. Sasuke would loathe it and Kakashi might be offended by the implication of weakness. If Naruto were crew, tradition would dictate that Sasuke would be left fulfilling all the duties of cat.
"Is there much risk of us meeting a crew with a fighter better than Kakashi?" Iruka asked.
"There is an easy way of defeating me," Kakashi admitted. "I cannot cope with a second challenge if I have used my implant. Also I know of two fighters who could beat me in a single encounter. Naruto is one of them. If there are two then there are others. It would be better if we had the option of using Naruto."
"Sasuke can't stay cat forever," Iruka observed. "What happens when he is promoted and is no longer immune to personal challenge?"
"He cannot be promoted without giving him a bodyguard," Shikamaru explained. "Once we do that it is like putting a 'here's someone worth killing' sign on him. It's a small step between that and people working out his identity. Promoting Sasuke requires us to give up on anonymity and be suddenly much stronger. We would have to travel with more ships. We would need to recruit a lot more people. We would have to be sure of each and every one of them. At this stage, it is much better for Sasuke to remain cat. Sorry, Sasuke-san, I know it is not fair."
Naruto watched Sasuke forcing himself to relax.
"Life is rarely fair, Shikamaru-san, he said, then looked towards Kakashi. "Is the original plan still valid? Can I be promoted in a standard's time?"
"We will need to work hard but, yes, I believe so." Kakashi told him.
"Then I will do my best to take on Naruto's duties and apologise in advance for being a poor substitute." Sasuke said, with the smallest of suggested smiles.
A tiny part of Naruto was pleased that Sasuke was strong enough to joke; the rest bristled at the thought of any other man touching him. He heard himself growling. Those who had not been looking at him turned towards him.
Tsunade's lips quirked. "I think it would be safer to establish that Sasuke is not expected to provide intimate companionship to anyone other than Naruto," she suggested.
"That is hardly traditional," Jiraiya grumbled.
"Neither is delaying a cat's promotion past the time he is well-capable of being crew," Tsunade countered. "We are having this meeting because we are accepting that we are not a traditional crew and that Sasuke is, because of his heritage, more valuable than the rest of us." She laughed. "Given the choice between bending tradition and having your cock ripped off and stuffed down your throat, I would prefer you to choose the formal, Ji-chan. I am surprisingly fond of your cock."
Jiraiya's shock and Tsunade's laughter helped Naruto recover. He risked a glance at Sasuke, but Sasuke's expression was blank. He imagined Sasuke's reaction to his display of possessiveness and cringed inside.
"That's going to leave the three of you without access to a cat," Iruka observed. "Perhaps Naruto could continue to oblige," he suggested.
"That will not be necessary," Ibiki answered. "I will be grateful if an opportunity to recruit a suitable cat presents itself, but I will not be asking Naruto."
"Me neither," Shikamaru added. "It's not the same since he lost interest."
Naruto felt himself flush scarlet. He had tried so hard to hide his sudden lack of enthusiasm.
"It's not your fault, Na-chan," Shikamaru continued. "The species of fox they got your genes from is monogamous for life."
There was utter silence. Shikamaru shrivelled under Iruka's glare. Naruto guessed that 'monogamous' was something bad.
"Monogamous?" he asked.
"One mate," Jiraiya explained. "Shikamaru is suggesting that you won't want to fuck anyone else but Sasuke for the rest of your life, or of his, whichever is shorter."
Naruto swallowed. That was fine by him, from what Shikamaru said he was probably built like that, but Sasuke? "It's only me," he insisted, turning toward where Sasuke sat at his right. "You can fuck anyone you want," he promised.
"Provided you don't find out and castrate them," Jiraiya muttered.
"Be silent, Jiraiya," Sasuke ordered. His gaze bored into the older man, who coloured slightly and looked away. "Shikamaru, please watch your tongue more carefully." He reached for Naruto's hand and stood up. "We will be back soon," he announced and led Naruto towards the galley.
Once the door was shut, Sasuke wrapped his arms around Naruto's chest and hugged him tightly. "It's fine, dobe. All of it. If it turns out you are monogamous, it's just part of you, like your whiskers and your superhuman speed and going berserk. It all makes you Naruto."
Naruto nuzzled Sasuke's hair. "I am sorry I growled."
Sasuke kissed his neck. "I can live with Jiraiya thinking you will castrate him if he touches me."
"What about the promotion? Shikamaru is right, it isn't fair."
"But it is logical. I need your protection, Naruto. This is necessary until you can openly stand beside me."
Naruto was warmed by Sasuke's acceptance. He drew Sasuke closer and Sasuke allowed it for a moment before reminding him that they had a meeting to attend.
The plan was to recruit and, between them, they had a list of twelve individuals, the location of four of whom was known. They started with the one who was easiest to find, a woman called Rin who had been recommended by Kakashi as a possible Chief Medico and whose quality had been confirmed, somewhat reluctantly, by Jiraiya.
"Uchiha would never have had a woman in such a prominent position," he complained that evening.
"You did not raise any objection in front of the Captain," observed Ibiki.
"This is the new Uchiha," Sasuke stated. "It will not be a clone of what was before. Kakashi recommended her: it does not matter that she is a woman."
"How good is she?" Shikamaru asked.
Kakashi considered. "If someone dies and Rin is there, you know there was no chance of survival."
Shikamaru explained to Naruto that booking the crew in at Mercy Station was the equivalent of taking the ship to a yard for an overhaul. Naruto did not like the place, mostly because of the smell and the bright lights. They waited in a comfortable room for the medico. At exactly the time of their appointment a male medico appeared and began introducing himself but was halted by a gesture from the Captain.
"We have an appointment to see Rin-san." Kakashi stated.
"And I am a member of Rin-sempai's team," the medico explained. "Sempai cannot see every crew who books in."
Kakashi was stopped from arguing further by Shikamaru's hand on his arm. "We have him," he said, pointing at Naruto. "That's why we want Rin-san."
The medico glanced at Naruto and then stared.
"None of our diagnostic gadgets will work on him." Shikamaru continued. "Do you have Rin-san's experience in dealing with hybrids?"
They had to wait, but eventually a neat, composed, slim, brown-haired woman arrived. Her medico tattoos were bold, two slanting purple rectangles, one on each cheek. She stood absolutely still for a moment and then was running towards Kakashi. She leapt at him, wrapping her legs about his waist and her arms about his neck.
"Ka-chan!" she squealed.
He spun her around once. "You never change, Ri-chan."
"It is good to see you again, Rin," Iruka said in greeting.
She looked at him with cool eyes. "You still with him, Iruka? That must be a record."
"Rin," Kakashi warned. "You know Jiraiya," he added.
"Old man," Rin acknowledged.
"I need to introduce you to the rest of my crew," Kakashi told her.
She released her grip on him, stood, straightened her tunic and turned. Her gaze fell on Sasuke and Naruto saw all the colour drain from her face. However, she pretended to ignore him, as was proper behaviour towards a cat when introduced to a crew. She exchanged polite and pleasant greetings with the others.
"I hope you are not here for my expertise about hybrids," she said, once the introductions were over. She looked Naruto up and down. "I have none. You are, Naruto-san, a most magnificent specimen. This is good because I doubt that any of my equipment will work on you."
"I am fine, Rin-san," Naruto assured her. "It was Shikamaru's trick so that you would come in person."
She looked at Shikamaru and nodded.
"It is a matter of recalibrating the machines," Shikamaru told her. "It is troublesome but not that difficult. I reprogrammed our dia-doc to work on him."
She looked at him and smiled. "I would be interested to see how you did that, Shikamaru-san." Then she paused before saying, suddenly, "Is it time, Kakashi?"
"It is time, Rin."
"The answer is 'yes'."
She went to stand before Sasuke, knelt and bowed until her forehead touched the ground.