A/N: A man keeps his promises!

Can anyone this? Site's being...well...odd to say the least.

Hard to believe Attack on Titan's going to end as of next month. Feels like the end of an age. Can't help but wonder what the ending will be like, though I suppose that's the fan in me. As to this little tale...well, I started it so long ago, back when little was known about the Titans or anything; subsequent revelations forced me to adapt as things went along and now, quite suddenly...here we are.

Now for your questions!

Q: Neon, no! Don't you do it! I know what you're thinking! Have mercy!

A: ...there is no mercy.

Q: Are you going to *SPOILER* and *SPOILER*

A: I'll let the story speak for me. But I will say this. Eren's going to have a family of his own. Won't say with who. Shouldn't have to. Oughta be obvious.

Q: Please please, please, please don't kill Sasha! Murk Gabi instead!

A: I have not forgotten about Falco, Gabi, or Marley. That's all I'm going to say at this time.

Well, I suppose I've kept you long enough then. Let's get going, shall we?

As ever, I own no quotes, themes, or memes. Not a wit or one.

...onward~!

"Live, Eren."

"What're you talking about, teacher?"

"Its just as I said. I want you to live. I want you to grow up into a splendid young man. I want you to fall in love. I want you to have a huge family. I want you to die of old age long after I'm gone. And if that means I have to beat your arse into the ground every day for the next three years...well. That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Now dodge."

"OW! You can be a real demon sometimes, you know that?"

"Demon? Eren. You don't know the half of it. The world needs people like you and I. Those in charge who are willing to put the animals down. Now get up. We're not done training."

~?

Isle of Devils

Zeke had to sleep sooner or later.

Their mission was a failure. Everything had been ruined; all because of that blasted devil.

Reiner and Bertholdt were gone. Annie betrayed them to save her own hide. Pieck had not returned. Zeke could only assume she'd done the same or been slain. He wanted to believe it was the latter. With his wounds healed, the battered shifter began making his way toward the coast. Slowly, carefully, as not to draw attention. Weeks passed. Weeks became a month. He didn't dare transform for fear of wasting energy. He kept his titans close, ready to defend him at a moments notice. And if they couldn't defend him, they could a least serve as a warning system.

Yes, even he needed to rest eventually. The human body can only endure so much without slumber. And when he did...

"Good evening, Zeke."

Its a strange thing, how three little words can strike terror into a man in the dead of night. They weren't a threat. Barely more than a whisper really. There was no subtle menace behind them, no overt threat, no sign of anger or wrath at all, really. No attack followed those words. No dagger in the dark, no sack flung over his head. Nothing at all. Zeke Yeager jolted out of his bedroll with a start, eyes bulging, heart hammering in his chest, only to find himself quite unharmed.

Because there, perched on a log him, limned in the light of a once-dying campfire, was the man responsible for his failure.

He'd never seen him up close. Clad in a worn riding leathers and a loose green cloak, Naruto Uzumaki didn't seem that dangerous. A strange scar ran across the bridge of his nose, as if someone had slashed it with a knife. Zeke couldn't see so much as a single weapon on his personage. He was a young man, but his eyes looked old. Cold. Stranger still, there were streaks of white threading through his hair. That couldn't be right. He should have a few years left...surely?

"Noticed those, did you?" he ran a hand through his shaggy locks. "Sasha says its too much stress. Maybe she's right." a rusty chuckle fled from his lips as he gazed up into the starry sky. "Between fixing her little size problem and helpin' Historia run the kingdom...at this rate I'm not gonna have any color left by the time I hit fifty."

"How did...?"

"I find you?" his gaze swung back, drawing a flinch from the older man. "You're not half as clever as you think you are." a careworn smile flashed out in the gloom. "You left tracks. And even if you hadn't...well." he tittered softly. "I'm a bit of a pro when it comes to sensing negative emotions. I could smell you all the way from the walls. You reek of fear. Suppose I'll be frank with you, then." his body shifted on the log, adopting a loose posture Zeke didn't recognize. "Your titans are dead. Your men have fled. No one will come for you. No one will save you. Make a scene here and...well. You'll die."

His gaze rake across the campsite, idly noticing the smoldering bodies. "I didn't hear anything."

"Of course you didn't." the whiskered warrior smiled, as a parent would toward a naughty child. "You're playing with the big boys now. Did you think I would blunder up to your campsite and make a ruckus? No." he shook his head. "Did you think you'd hear me coming? No." another shake of his head. "Did you think I'd give you a chance to escape? No." here at last he growled, and his body seemed to burn gold for a moment before fading once more. "Before all of this, I was a ninja. I can still be one when it suits me."

There it was. That word. Ninja.

By the ancestors, what the hell was a ninja? He'd seen this man and his students perform incredible feats, pull the very elements from the air. What else could they do? Rain meteors down on his head?! As if sensing that very thought, Naruto cocked his head. His heart skipped a beat at the thought.

He climbed to his feet.

Naruto's smile didn't waver. "Sit down, Zeke."

The titan shifter frowned. "I...don't think that's a good idea."

"No? I think its a splendid idea." Blue eyes flashed gold. "Sit. Down. Now."

Zeke complied with a reluctant scowl and lowered himself back to the trampled earth. He was too close. No time to escape. No time to run. His best hope was to buy time...for what? The best he could hope for at this point was a tactical retreat. It would have to be a swift one. He could see the ocean from here, and further down the coast, a distant speck where he and Pieck had moored their boat. Could he make it in time? Assuming he yet made it to the boat...

He looked past Naruto and saw shadows in the night. Figures on horses.

"You didn't come alone." his lips pursed into a scowl.

"Would you?" A blond brow quirked. "I've asked Eren and the others to stay back. Its just you and me."

Eren?! He was here?! Zeke craned his neck, struggling to peer into the dark, but his vision betrayed him. He found himself struck by a wild urge to leap to his feet and run to him. So close! Yet so far! Reason rooted him, preventing him from doing something foolish. Even if by some miracle he made it past the blond before him, there was no guarantee he spoke the truth.

"Have you come to kill me, then?"

"Kill you?" Matchless blue eyes regarded him. "In truth, I haven't decided yet. I wanted to talk with you first-get the measure of you, ya know."

Zeke's hand twitched. Naruto noticed.

"Before you do anything, I should remind you; I'm already four for four when its come to your Titan Shifters." he raised his own. "Care to make it five?"

It was true, then. "You killed them."

"I did. Reiner and Bertholdt both." the killer's whiskered visage turned deceptively blank. "I still hear their screams in my dreams." a haunted look flashed through his eyes. "I think Reiner wanted to die, near the end. But not like that. Certainly not poor Bert."

...and Annie?"

"She saved me. And I saved her." was that a glint of anger in his gaze just now? "She is no longer yours to torment."

The firewood crackled ominously.

"But you're wondering about Pieck, aren't you?" that eerie smile returned, leaving Zeke discomfited once more. "Don't worry. I didn't kill her." his arm dipped down, searching for something in the dirt. "All I had to do was offer her an alternative to the life she found herself trapped in. Well, that...and promise protection to those precious gunners of hers."

Was that is endgame? Was he trying to sway him to their side...?

"I don't want to convert you, Zeke." Naruto shot that fledgling idea before it could take flight. "Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I could." his visage hardened as he found what he was searching for. "Its kinda my shtick these days."

"Do you think me that weak-willed?"

"No, in another life, I think you'd make a good ally. Maybe even a friend." for a moment, he wondered if his fellow blond would give it a go. "But not here. You're too crafty by half. I can't trust you not to stab me in the back."

...then why come here at all?"

"I wanted to get the measure of you. Each of us lives dependent and bound by our individual knowledge and individual dogma." Naruto pulled a pebble from the ground and tucked it into his fist. "That's reality. However," his free hand dipped down yet again, retrieving a second stone. "You see one side. I see the other. One's reality might be another's illusion. We all live inside our own fantasies. For instance."

He held up the leftmost stone. Followed by the right. Zeke squinted at them. Each were utterly indistinguishable from the rest.

"What do you see?"

Zeke frowned. "Rocks...?"

"Rocks, he says." Naruto sighed. "Honestly. Why do I bother?"

"You believe that what you're doing is good." he opened his hand and offered him the left stone. "That your actions here will save the world. You believe that you are right. That you are just, and any actions taken toward the pursuit of your goal, your dream, are just. I see that as evil."

He flung the pebble into the fire. It cracked against the heat.

"Conversely, I've done horrible, terrible things to protect those I love." Now came the right hand, bearing its own stone. "I've killed...so many people. I think Pixis and Erwin might be afraid of me." a rusty chuckle escaped him. "In truth, I can't even remember how many I've slain. You see that as evil. It may well be. I can no longer tell."

He dropped the tiny rock onto the path and ground it underfoot.

"You are!" Anger slipped its leash and with it, Zeke burst to his feet. You're a monster!" Spittle flecked his lips as he brayed at him. "Demon! Devil! Disaster! This world would have been better off without you!"

Naruto blinked. "The same could be said of you."

...huh?"

"Everyone feels the same pain when losing something dear. A man I once fought told me this." blue eyes rose to meet his, cold and hard. "Looking at you now, I can tell. You and I have both experienced that pain, each in our own way." his head shook, causing his unruly hair to conceal one eye. "You strive for your justice and I strive for mine."

Quick as a flash, Naruto stood, ramming his forehead against his.

"We're both just ordinary men, Zeke. Men who have been driven to seek vengeance in the name of justice." That visible blue orb pierced him, condemning and saluting him in unison. "And if one comes to call vengeance justice, such justice will only breed further vengeance, and trigger a vicious cycle of hatred."

"..."

"I've made peace with my demons. But here?" he stepped forward, forcing him to reel back or be run down. "Its not possible. So I will kill. I will rip and tear so the rest won't have to. I will bathe in blood so that others might remain clean. I will do what must be done to keep this island safe, with or without you."

Zeke recoiled. "What does that make you, then?!"

"A hero? A villain? Who can say?" slim shoulders rolled in a heavy shrug. "They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same can be said of perspective. History may not paint a flattering picture of me, but I'm fine with that."

"You're not giving yourself enough credit, Naruto."

"Oh, for the love of...!" said blond sighed and pulled away as a fresh figure approached the fire. "Annie! I told you to stay with the others!"

Zeke went still. "Annie?"

She looked good, all things considered. Better than good. Positively glowing, really. Wait. Zeke frowned. Could she be? No. Surely not. His scowl deepened as the girl stepped up beside Naruto. She confirmed his secret suspicions as she leaned against him. He didn't miss the way the whiskered warrior moved to shield her with his body, nor the way his arm curled about her waist...protecting her stomach. An ember of anger ignited in Zeke's chest. Treacherous bitch. Had she really spread her legs that easily...?! She was safe. Happy. Protected.

The sight reminded him of a feeling he'd long forgotten. "You...filthy traitor!"

"And what of it?" A light, lilting laugh burst from her lips. "I prefer to be on the winning side...among other reasons."

She didn't deserve to be happy. She didn't any of this!

He lunged forward with a roar.

Naruto whistled sharply.

A fist smashed into Zeke's face in the same instant that someone swept his legs. He'd only just begun to pitch backward when clenched knuckles barreled into his bearded visage. The impact sent him crashing backwards into the campfire. Flames seared his back as he thrashed his way free. Fine! They wanted to play that way, did they? He tumbled into a roll, hissing with pain and raised his hand to bite down...!

Something slammed against his back, bearing him down to the ground.

Another caught his arms and locked them behind his back.

A third grabbed him by the neck.

"Now, now~!" a woman's voice sang, all but purring with glee. "That wasn't very nice~! You're being a very rude guest~! It would be a shame if you lost your head...

"Don't kill him, Hange." Naruto clicked his tongue before. "That's not the way we do things. Same goes for you, Marco. You too, Mina. Let go of him."

"But he attacked you!" The madwoman sitting on his back actually whined. Whined! Like some petulant child! Surely you won't mind if I just take a sample?"

"No. We're not going to main him...unless he does something foolish." a hand waved. "You can experiment on him all you like if he tries again."

A boot descended, kicking Zeke somewhere most unpleasant. "Awww, but what if he doesn't?"

"Then you'll probably stick me full of needles again."

"Aww, you say the nicest things, dear!"

Naruto coughed.

Zeke's stomach plummeted out underneath him, even as his captors let them up. He'd thought them mad before but this...this was insane. Had they been this crazed to begin with, or had this Devil made things worse? Had he infected them with his own brand of lunacy?! Bloody blasted monsters! It would've been better if they were never born...!

Annie slipped forward before he could. "You know, there was a time when I feared you. Now you just seem...

She leaned forward, lips brushing his ear.

...small."

"Alright, you've had your fun." Naruto nudged her away before Zeke could manage to retaliate. "Go back. I don't want you anywhere near him. We can't take any chances."

"Fine, have it your way." she laid a quick kiss on his cheek. flicked one last glance over her shoulder and sashayed away.

"She's going to be the death of me someday." Naruto sighed. "Well, if Hange doesn't manage it first...

A demented giggle answered. "I heard that, Naruto!"

"You were meant to!"

Only then did he look back.

"Right, then. We've said our peace. Run, Zeke. Run far away and never return." he pointed over the horizon. "Run to your home. Here and now. Tell them to stay away."

"Why...?"

"Hmm? Why am I sparing you?" Naruto tilted his head. "Isn't it obvious? Pieck asked me to. She couldn't bear to be here,

You started all this. You." a finger poked his chest. "So here we are. This is your last chance. Run to your superiors and tell them what you saw here today. Tell them to stay away." that same sunny smile flashed out again, but it seemed sharper somehow. "Because if they don't? I'll give them hell. Have you seen what an angry biju can do? No?. Its not pretty. So run. Or...

He offered him a knife.

...you could transform and fight me. Your choice." he flipped it in his hand, proffering the hilt. "Who knows? You might even get lucky. But if you fail...

Zeke knew threat for what it was. If he lost, he'd be dragged back and devoured. They'd have another titan on their side. Did he dare...? There was a third option. If he struck hard and fast, there was a chance. Admittedly a slim one, but a chance nonetheless. He could get him before he transformed. Couldn't he...? Warily, he eyed the knife.

"May I see Eren? Before I go?"

"No." Naruto shut him down instantly. "You should know that, if you resist, you've been promised to Erwin."

Zeke stilled. "...what?"

"Erwin." the young man continued amicably. "Commander of the Survey Corps. He's rather eager to meet you. I'm sure he's wondering what it must be like, being a titan."

Despite lanced through Zeke, a sword tearing through his courage. And with it? Fear. He was alone. Outnumbered. Fear became despair. If he returned to Marley alone, he'd surely be slain and replaced by someone more pliable. And with his death, his plan would come undone. If was doomed one way or the other, then why not go out on his terms? He couldn't possibly pretend to ally himself with this lot and betray them down the road; that option had already been denied to him.

What did he have left, then? Spite?

"You and I never should've been born." he murmured forlornly. "If we hadn't, neither of us would have to suffer like this...

For a moment, those blue eyes softened. "It ain't a sin to be born into this world, Zeke."

He shook his head. "Sometimes it is."

The knife came down.

Naruto swore softly. "Idiot!"

A fist thundered into Zeke's jaw. His world went black.

A/N: Feels...right, as we near the ending to this story. I started this tale so long ago; only feels appropriate to end with with the manga.

Almost done!

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review...Would You Kindly?

And since many begged for them...fine. Previews have returned. For now.

Have to keep things interesting here, eh? Now then, only one chapter left! Then we hit the epilogue

TIMESKIP AHOY!

(Preview)

"Dad! You're back!"

Naruto laughed and swept his son into the air.

"You're getting so big, Boruto! I was only gone for a few months!"

Annie sighed softly, but there could be no hiding her motherly smile. "Don't look at me. He's takes after you."


The fleet struck in silence...or so they thought.

"Hello~!" Hange waved at the battleship. "Good evening~! Welcome to Paradise~! Nothing personal an' all, but we really only need one ship. So...the rest of you...

She raised one hand to her mouth, grinning from ear to ear. Beside her, Erwin did the same.

...would you kindly die?"

They bit down hard and the world became light.


"Long live the Queen!"

Historia flushed to the very roots of her hair. Ymir laughed with her.


Eren sighed. "Sorry, Falco...


"Hello, Ymir. Meet Ymir. Now lets talk about how to end this curse of yours."


"LIGHT 'EM UP!"

Seven bolts of light descended from the heavens.

"Hello, Warhammer...and goodbye."


"You call me a monster. Maybe I am...but I don't have anymore pity to give." A golden hand rose. "Lets end this, Kurama. Tailed Beast Bomb. Full power."

There were no survivors.

R&R~!