A/N: I RETURN! My health has been horrible as of late, but its put a few things into perspective. I've lived a life full of regrets, and the absolute last thing I want is to feel that way about my story or stories for that matter. And on that note my decision is made. What is it? Well, you'll just have to read on to find out soon, won'tcha? Remember folks, no whining or griping here, fair is fair, lets not hassle a dying man, eh? But to be perfectly honest, even I was surprised by the result-oops! Almost gave it away! I've also made a slight change here and there for the sake of the story.
And with that being said...
...Onto the next looooong chapter of the Shinobi Menace! And of course...ENJOY! Naruto's absolutely hilarious in this one in more way than one!
"Family is family, no matter where you are...
Anakin Skywalker gasped as the very atmosphere boiled against his body; wave after wave of invisible pressure washing over him, the very air itself trying to hurl him to his doom. He resisted, but only barely; his long legs driving an angry red furrow into the earth. A stray strand of still-darkening hair peeked down into his vision and forced a blink-without thinking he swatted it aside to peer at his opponent. That tiny lapse-that brief moment of inattention cost him most dear. Egven as he lowered his hand, he felt the pushing forces subside...replaced by a sharp pull.
The world lurched around him and this time he was powerless to resist. His body flew forward, his dark tunic ruffling wildly as the distance shrank between them. He barely parried the opening thrust-blue striking gainst blue, their lightsabers colliding violently before he managed to wrench himself away.
His father stood opposite him, those eerie rimmed eyes peering back at him without fear, or any emotion for that matter. That was always something Anakin had envied about Naruto; the man lived his life without even the most minor regrets, taking nothing for granted. It was also something he secretly loathed. How could he live like this and not regret it?! Why was he so damned confident?! His mind recoiled at the thought, his eyes narrowing as he prepared to drawn upon the power of the Force, and coincidentally his anger, to aid him-
"...Don't even think about it..." the man's voice was harsh and cold, like the wastelands of Hoth, "...or someone will die."
Something in Anakin quailed at the sound of those words, shrinking away as his father stared him down. What had Naruto called it? Killer intent? His parent wielded it to devastating effect; even without his blasters, he could literally stare a foe into submission. It was worse when he spoke, his cold battle voice could make a rancor weep. The ice in his stare would've been enough to force the fight out of a lesser man; thankfully Anakin knew how to resist it; he seized upon the image of Padme in his mind,
They collided once more in a whirlwind of blows; young against old, peace versus anger. Naruto was like ice and Anakin fire, polar opposites;cold and hot, a reflection of their fghting styles. Naruto's attacks were frigidly dispassionate; if you gave him even the slightest opening he would exploit it. Anakin's confidence was fierce, embodied by his aggressive style, abandoning the precise form of Soresu for the aggressive and higher form of combat, his youthful stamina serving him well against his opponent. Naruto might be a fine warrior, but he was getting old. Using the Rinnegan twice in one day tired him almost imperceptibly, but it was still there-a slight slackening of his stride, a weakening of his swing. And then it happened.
Saber spitting sparks, his father leapt away.
"It's over, Anakin!" he called down at him, his voice piquing with exhaustion. "I have the high ground!"
The younger Skywalker scoffed at his progenitor, dark eyes blazing with surprise, then arrogance. It was true; his father had the advantage of terrain now; any assault on his part was doomed to fail against him. A wise opponnent would've admitted his defeat, surrendered. But something held the young man back. What was it? Pride? Determination? Overconfidence? He wasn't sure what; only that a low growl left his lips.
"You underestimate my power, father!"
"And you overestimate my tolerance, son!" the reply was as immediate as it was scathing, his face twisting in unseen recognition. "Back down! It's over!"
They stood there for a long moment, father and son; what felt like an eternity passed between them. Finallly Anakin raised his blade the blue-white bar of light humming as he started forward. Naruto frowned, realizing just what his progeny intended to do and he didn't like it one bit. Even without the Rinnegan, he could see the chakra flowing through his legs. Oh dear.
"Don't try it!"
Steeling himself for the strain, the younger of the pair made the jump, vaulting forward and into the air. It was a mistake. Too late he realized his father was all too prepared to strike with the blade; its deadly sapphire glow seemed to swell before his vision as it moved to intercept trajectory, the heat of its edge burning, promising pain as it descended upon his flesh. Oh lord, this was going to hurt-
Anakin yelped in surprise, then pain as his leap arc was bisected by the blue blade, its eerie radiance swatting his own aside and striking unnerringly at his head. But there was no blood. No lopping of limbs. No severing of heads. Just pain. Hissing out an obscenity he tumbled past Naruto-clutching feebly his head and the rising welt within. Naruto swatted at him a second time as he tumbled away an down the hill producing yet another but by no means less painful dent upon the boy's unprotected posterior.
Naruto blinked in surprise, a smile leaping to his lips when his son popped out of existence into a harmless plume of smoke, his body replaced by an inert log. Substitution, eh? He ignited his second saber and lowered it to the south, the verdant blade effortlessly blocking the strike that seemed to come from out of nowhere. It was pointless to attack him directly, what with his beskar armor, but he gave the boy points for trying. A swift swing of the blade and he batted him aside, swatting him back with ease.
"Good, good." he rewarded his son's stealthy strike. "Don't think like a jedi. Think like a shinobi. Follow through. Don't give your enemy the chance to recover. Like this!"
He was upon the boy almost before he realized it, raining blows down against him with a wildness that was as aggressive as it was impossible to predict. One. His bones ached. Two. His body quaked.
Anakin tried to parry the third strike but to no avail; his father's strength was too much; he swatted his saber aside ast though it were a wooden sword, a knee crushing against the boy's stomach. That, was that. Damn but the old man was a brutal teacher!
The boy didn't have the breath to offer a retort as he rolled down the hill; every fiber of his being screaming for air that refused to come. The grassy plains of Naboo tickled his nose, tormenting, offering no solace to his sorry state currently crouched at the bottom of the grassy overlook.
"That hurt, damnit!"
"Pain is an excellent teacher." Naruto replied, extinguishing the blade.
"Yeah, well so is kindness!"
His father lowered the training saber and promptly burst into hysterics; chest heaving heavily as he struggled to try and contain his mirth. Anakin didn't find it all that funny-he was tired of being beat into the ground by his old man! When Naruto had offered to teach him the art of the blade he had jumped at the chance, eager to test his newly created lightsaber. Their stay on Naboo was something of a short one-everyone had taken a welcome chance to recover from their wounds and now, that month-long respite was nearly over. During that time, his father had been quite busy taking care of Shmi; the blonde that stood before him at present was a clone and nothing more. But a very vindictive one at that!
Yesterday had been blaster training with Vette and Sette. Today, his least favorite of days, was lightsaber combat. He'd advanced rapidly in the last month, with Qui-Gon and Naruto to guide him, he even constructed a lightsaber of his own-though his father had been adamant that it remain in training mode lest he lose a limb. It had been a wise decision. Though he stood soaked with sweat, skin glistening in the early light of morning radiance, he still felt as though he had accomplished something in suprising his father.
"Why can't Qui-Gon teach me?"
"Qui-Gon would hold back on a beginner." Naruto admonished, still chuckling. "Besides, he's busy looking at the starship. IIII, on the other hand, have plenty of time and won't hold back in the slightest. Welcome to the crash course of life, kid! You'll thank me for this, someday." His eyes flashed dangerously. "Or would you rather I let Kurama take over your training?
Anakin blanched at the mention of the kitsune that was his father's darker half. "No thank you!"
"Great. Shall we continue, then?"
Naruto burst into hysterics again, his loud laughter rippling over the plains with the rising sun.
Shmi found herself suddenly beset by the urge to smile as Naruto helped ease her into a chair hovering around her like the protective husband that he truly was. Her pregnancy was progressing rapidly, what had barely been noticeable only a month before now felt like it was at least nearly three months along now. Perhaps it had something to do with his unique DNA or even Kurama's chakra. Whatever the case she'd begun to feel like something a bloated whale, trapped her in the Konoha. And she wasn't even at nine months yet. If this kept up, then the twins...
Echoing her thoughts, a gentle nudge pushed at her stomach, immediately followed by another.
"They're moving." she smiled softly, touching a tender hand to her stomach. Naruto's expression was wondurous. He laid an ear against the protuding bulge, only to start back in surprise moments later, eyes wide with delighted joy. They'd kicked! So enraptured was he at the two
"Have you finally convinced her to stay?"
"I-what?" Naruto sputtered his surprise. "No, I sent a clone to calm her down before she left...
"She'll be staying, then."
...what makes you say that?"
Shmi's smile was only slightly mysterious.
"Because I know you." was all she would say. "And I've already told you, I don't mind."
"Yeah, about that...
"You want me to do what?"
Embarassment crept up the back of Aayla's neck, turning her cheeks a palpable shade of violet. The Twi'lek wasn't entirely certain she'd heard him right. They hadn't spoken since he'd visited her in the infirmary only a few weeks ago, but it felt like a gulf had grown between them since then. In that time, her efforts had been focused strictly on healing and recreating another lightsaber, her old one lent to Naruto. Imagine her surprise then when the blonde sought her out today, the very day she was to return to Coruscant. Her bag was packed, her meager positions stored in her satchel. The shuttle was waiting.
The last thing she'd expected was for him to confront her in the hangar.
"I want you to hit me." he replied levelly, his facial expression still set in stone. "Once. Twice. Hell, three times if it makes you fell better." If this was one of his oft distributed clones she couldn't tell-even with the Force it was imposssible to distinguish one from the other. That was an admirable talent given his chosen field, to be able to replicate oneself was a talent that anyone would want. Even a jedi.
"I'm not sure that's wise."
"Did I ask for you opinion here?" the blond cracked his neck from side to side, blue eyes regarding her cooly. "I said hit me. You're going to do that and we're going to get all this aggression out. Put it behind us." Aayla hesitated, considering. She had volunteered to remain behind on Naboo to ensure no further incursion from the Trade Federations, but in reality...she simply couldn't bring herself to leave. Not with things as they stood between them. But her time here was nearly over, and she had to return. Soon. Was it right for her to feel this way? For these feelings to tear at her breast?
"Can't or won't?" Naruto challenged, his words reverberating across the empty bay. Aayla was suddenly intensely thankful that no one was up and about at this ghoulish hour in the morning; it would've been moritfying for someone to overhear them. Still, those syllables struck a chord somewhere deep within her soul. A very vocal part of her admired him, wanted to be with him, and his words had roused that side of herself to actions in spite of her best attempts to suppress it.
"Are you trying to make me angry?!"
"If it helps us solve this problem, then yes I'd be moooooooof!"
The word rushed out of him in a surprised whoosh of air; her fist finding his stomach between the armored plating. It was like being tackled by a rancour! For a slim little thing, Aayla Secura hit hard. Very hard. Had he been a shadow clone she realized, he would've dispelled by now; she knew for a fact that the blonde's dopplegangers, while numerous could only take so much damage before disappearing. Oddly enough she felt some of her anger dissipate as she unsheathed her elbow from his stomach
Hell, she half-expected him to lash out at her in recompense. Instead he simply straightened, albeit with a grimace.
"Feeling any better?" he asked with a slight wheeze. Rare, red anger colored her vision. How dare he?!
Aayla hit him again; this time, her knuckles crunched against his nose, snapping his head back from the blow. Naruto just laughed. She watched, awestruck as the cartilege simply snapped back into place, the blonde's ridiculous regeneration mending the injury at a speed that'd make even bacta balk.
"How about now?"
"By the Force, you are insufferable!"
"Says the emotionless jedi." Naruto returned with a hiss, touching his newly healed nose. "I'm doing this for your sake, ya know? I may've told you to hit me as many times as you saw fit, but its obvious this isn't going anywhere fast." Sighing, he reached toward his belt, unclipping his sabers.
It loathed her to admit it; but on some inherent level he was right. A jedi shouldn't feel this way; she shouldn't feel this way, and yet she did. Her teachings demanded that she reject this attachment, but her heart had other plans refusing to relinquish its hold on the blond so lightly. It was this came conflict that was slowly tearing Aayla Secura apart. She should either toe the line or abandon it altogether. The same could also be said of Naruto. Did he truly care about her, or was he content to keep her at arms length? Were his soft words those of a companion, or something more? There could be no middle ground for either of them, not here.
"Now." he said slowly, "We spar."
There was no pause, no warning. One moment the Shinobi Menace stood across from her, the next he roared forward, filling her vision; the sudden displacement of mass sending her soaring from her feet. Aayla barely has a moment to ignite her own newly made blade before he fell upon her in a cyclone of spinning blades.
Then there was only the Force.
Naruto's combat style is different than what she's accustomed to; he's all jagged edges and precision, aggression tempered only by an icy resolve. He attacks and attacks and attacks again, as though victory is the one and only thing he can think about; nothing else matters. Its not dark she thinks, but neither is it light. The closest thing she can claim for it to be is...grey. Power teems under his skin but he doesn't use it; not all of its is unleashed in that instant; so much is still held back. Even then a mere quarter of his strength is enough to send her skittering backwards in retreat. His blades fill the air with their deadly thrum, descending flawlessly for her head, leaving time for only one thought as she fends him off.
Inadvertently responding to her distress, the Force peaked outward from her in a rising wave, blasting the blond halfway across the hangar. There was a sickening crunch of metal as he slammed into one of the Nubian starfighters, carroming painfully off the durasteel hull despite his beskar plating. There was a silence as he lay there dazed and unmoving, the vessel hanging precariously over his head. A twinge of warning from within the Force was his only warning before she angrily grabbed the wounded vessel with telekinesis and yanked it down on his head, crushing him beneath. There was a silence as she realized what she had done, her anger having gotten the better of her perhaps the first and last time. Tears brimmed in her eyes, regret for what she'd just done.
As if summoned by the sound of her voice his sabers flashed beneath the vessel's great bulk, one blue, the other green. Aayla yelped as they carved through the Nubian like butter. It severed halves skittered across the hangar in either direction, leaving her thunderstruck.
"That," he began hoarsely, wiping a thin line of blood away from his mouth, "Is quite enough."
There's a moment of silence as he stands across from her, and in that instant Aayla sees him as he truly is. He is energy. His body is the Force personified and made flesh, millions of midichlorians working together in a violent concerto that promises peace for the downtrodden, but no mercy for his enemies. Neither light nor dark. Just...
"Naruto," she began weakly as he approached. "I-I didn't mean to do that...it was a mistake! I'm sorry!" Still he stalked forward, his eyes never leaving hers. Aayla shrank in on herself she wanted to curl up somewhere in a dark corner and weep. Just weep. Her frustration had gotten the better of her once more and now she was about to pay the price for it. But she wouldn't go down without getting everything out. "Its just...I care for you! About you! Everything! I've cared this whole time and you won't even give me an answer and I...I...I...
"Aayla." She froze as a battered hand reached up to cup her cheek.
His lips took hers then and she melted, knees buckling. It was a gentle touch of the lips, nothing more, but it sent tongues of fire shooting through her cheeks and dancing down her lekku. Her mind was little more than one crazy blur, her thoughts slamming against one another, colliding violently.
"If you meatbags are done sucking face," the monotoned voice of HK-47 interrupted, "I have a matter that bears importance; Qui-Gon requests your help with your latest...acquisition."
Sparky trilled impatiently beside him.
"Relax killer." Naruto sighed, disentangling himself from Aayla. "I was just saying goodbye."
"I do not like that name." the droid somehow managed to deadpann despite its emotionless face
"I'm not leaving." her words were small and soft, but there they were. "I...would you be willing to let me stay?"
"It'd be my pleasure."
"Trust me," She said, a sultry tone rising over her cheer," the pleasure is all mine."
She turned and walked away, swaying her hips with each step, and as she rounded a corner farther down the corridor, he could hear her quietly laughing. Naruto shook his head as he watched her go. What the hell had he gotten himself into here? Had his desires finally gotten the better of him? Shmi had made it abundantly clear-many times-that she didn't mind sharing him...
...so what was this feeling of dread?
Perhaps, had he been more focused, he might've seen Anakin's shadow clone peering at him from around the corner...
A few hangars down, one of Naruto's clones quietly shivered at the feedback.
Naruto warily input the code for Maul's Sith Infiltrator, peering intently at the keypad as the ramp hissed open settling before him with an audible click. Four entire weeks had passed, since their gala celebrating Naboo's freedom from the oppressiong of the Trade Federation and still the festivities showed no sign of stopping; outside the hanger, the sounds of merriment could still be heard. But that wasn't why he was here, him and Qui-Gon, in the dead of night, messing with a sith ship. Their purpose was far less sinister that one might think. Almost benign, even.
They were here to steal it.
Officially, the Jedi Council had laid claim to the deadly vessel after purging it off all taints of the Dark Side. Unnofficially Obi-Wan Kenobi, the jedi assigned to reclaim said ship, had never done so. Qui-Gon knew not the thoughts of his former padawan, now light years distant, but he suspected his one-time protege had chosen to leave the vessel in their care rather than take it for himself. For this, Qui-Gon was most grateful. Although he found the Konoha most welcome to his prescence, he felt he needed to have a vessel of his own. Probably why the boy had "accidentally" left them the keycode.
"Are you certain about this?" he asked.
"Hey, you're not a jedi anymore, right?" Naruto turned his gaze away from the gaping maw that led into Maul's former home, bringing himself face to face. "You can have it, if you want." His gaze snapped back towards the vessel Honestly, this thing gives me the creeps."
The older man sighed, his large shoulders sagging in defeat.
"Very well. I see there's to be no talking you out of this."
Naruto's grin was positvely beatific. "I love it when you see
But now to the matter at hand. He'd chosen to inspect the ship before bringing it to Mandalore, now he was beginning to wonder just what manner of secrets might be hidden away within the cockpit. It creaked open as he input the second code, quietly bracing himself as its second door whooshed open.
What he found there caused his eyes to bulge. A sharp, feminie gasp came from within the ship. Baleful yellow eyes-sith eyes-glared back at them.
"Die in the name of Lord Maul!"
"What in the-
That was all he managed before a crimson lightsaber ingited; then an explosion of Force Lightning ripped through the ship and slammed into his chest.
A/N: LO AND BEHOLD! I hope you enjoyed it! As I've made clear in this chapter, I intend to stick with the harem pairing. I'm sorry if this gets any flak from those of you who wanted a pure Naruto and Shmi pairing, but that is my decision. Yes, this may cause friction between him and Anakin. Yes, it can cause chaos. That's the idea. Conflict. No family is perfect, and with Aayla, as well as the potentiality of other girls being added, Naruto's going to have to walk a very fine line to keep order.
I'm terribly sorry if I've upset anyone and so I say again, it won't be a large harem. Maybe two or four girls, including Shmi. With Aayla in that means two more at the most. Naruto isn't some ladykiller in this fic, he's just a man trying to look out for his families...while struggling to deal with the very real reality that someone-Palpatine!-wants him very DEAD for disrupting his plans. But who oh who was that unknown attacker at the end? And wil Naruto get a wookie to join his crew as well? Stay tuned to find out!
So...in the immortal words of Darth Vader...
...Review...IT IS YOUR DESTINY! And of course, Enjoy the Preview! It shows just how much events have changed...
When the dreams came again, the young padawan wasn't prepared for them.
It was as if everyone were made of glass and she the only living creature amongst them. The light glistened off their crystalline highlights, the blood ran fast over her smooth surface. And their expressions, a combined look of resignation and apology, a look that said they had failed her and that she had failed them, drove a sharp point into the helpless onlooker's heart.
She tried to reach out for them. Tried to save them.
She resisted the silken call of that voice as cracks began to appear in the glass. She heard crunching sounds as they elongated. Screamed as they shattered into thousands of pieces-helpless to do anything but watch in utter despair before the unseen onslaught.
And above them all, the shadowed man. He grinned down at her, his crimson lightsaber filling her vision. And then, as it always did, the blade...
"Farewell, little togruta."
The Jedi Padawan jumped to a siting position in her cot on the starship, her eyes popping open wide, sweat on her forehead and her breath coming in small gasps. A dream, she realized.
It was all a dream.
She told herself that repeatedly as she tried to settle back down on the cot. It was all a dream.
Or was it?
She could see things, after all, before they happened.
"Ahsoka?" Her mentor's voice called down from the cockpit, nearly a decade had changed him from a fledgling boy into a strong man, having grown into his role as a jedi. "We'll be approaching Coruscant shortly. Time to wake up." There was a pause as his rich voice seemed to consider what he'd just said. "It wouldn't do to keep Senator Admidala waiting."
Sighing, the young learner pushed herself up out of her cot.
"Yes, Master Kenobi...