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Fate, Don't Fail Me Now

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In the years following the birth of the Galactic Empire, official record would mark the Great Purge as a triumph.  The Ministry of Information depicted it as a cleansing of malcontents and applauded it for bringing safety to the star system after a decade of war. The COMPNOR’s posters leaned heavily on phrases like justice to the corrupt and traitors of the people . Flickering holo screens credited the Imperials’ most loyal enforcer as having personally secured the removal of the parasitic Jedi Order.

On the NewsNet, that enforcer would become synonymous with the might of the fleet. Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces. The Emperor’s right hand. A shadow in black and red.

There were few who remembered him differently. Who knew him as Itachi, the former pride of the Jedi Order, most skilled of its knights and desperately, painfully young. He had left them dead in the ruins of the Jedi Temple, sprawled where they had fallen, even the younglings. Every last one.

Well. Almost.

Missing from those confirmed dead, the records would not say, was a younger brother.

Sasuke was smaller, weaker. Soft-hearted and hardly a prodigy. Gone now, spirited away to the heart of a budding Rebel Alliance. Left with a tainted lightsaber, the memories of a slaughter, and the weight of a legacy on his shoulders.

The Last of the Jedi.

Sasuke wouldn’t have called himself a lonely boy. Loneliness was for children. For those without a goal, or a destiny, or a riddle to solve.

He didn’t know why he had been allowed to live. Maybe the enforcer had thought it amusing, or it was meant as a message of terror to be carried across the galaxy by the last surviving witness.

It wasn’t the love of an older brother. It couldn’t be that.

The Last Jedi was many things, but naive was no longer one of them.

To drive himself mad by dwelling would be a waste of time - everything was secondary to training now - but Sasuke dwelled. Alone in his room he ran his fingers over the smooth chrome lightsaber, or ignited it again and again to hear the heat crackle as it vibrated through his palm. It had cut down scores of friends and teachers, but Sasuke had only seen the aftermath - a carpet of bodies on the polished floor.

Five years down the line he would still wake up terrified of those burning eyes in his brother’s beloved face, hating them and everyone who expected him to restore the Jedi Order to glory.

Fear is the path to the Dark Side ,’ his Jedi teachers would have said. ‘Anger and hatred will take the very last inch of you.’

But most of the grand masters were long gone, dead in the Purge or deep in hiding. If Sasuke saw fit to burn his legacy to the ground and take his brother down with him, there was no one left to say differently.


The twin suns rose. Scorched the sand below. Set.

The seasons rolled on. Naruto Uzumaki wore his clothes thin, fixed his droids with callused hands, and brought himself to school. Failed out. Applied to the Academy. Failed out of that too. Worked. Sweated. Stared at the binary stars and dreamed that he was meant for more, for better, than dying there.  Swore that he would prove it someday.

He was twelve years old.

The days stretched monotonous on the moisture farms of nearly-Anchorhead. Surely there was no place in the star system as thoroughly awful as the the Tatooinian badlands. Riddled with crime and poverty, they also managed to be dull.

Achingly, frustratingly dull.

It was a day like any other - hot, tedious, dusty - when Naruto found the black-haired spacer boy and his two weirdo droids picking their way across the Dune Sea. An expert at making friends, he introduced himself by mocking the new but painful-looking sunburn on the boy’s nose.

“Says the colorblind desert rat,” said the spacer, indicating Naruto’s care-worn orange and white.

The boy was rude and dickish and claimed to be looking for a General Jiraiya Gama Sennin. The only Jiraiya that Naruto knew was a drunk old pervert out in Tusken territory, and if he was secretly a leader of the Old Republic, Naruto was going to laugh himself sick.

(He was. Naruto did.)

After that things got confusing. Naruto had signed up for the cash and the thrill of a new face, not this. Not the old man saying that his parents - that they -

“This one was your dad’s,” Jiraiya said, placing something cold and metal in Naruto’s hands. Lightsaber , he called it, but it felt alien. “And this one was your mom’s. They’d have wanted you to have them.”

The words rang with truth, but were hard to understand.

The sabers felt unbearably heavy as Naruto cradled them to his chest, pressed his face to them, and cried. They symbolized a thousand things - legacy and worthiness and destiny - but what they meant was that maybe his parents hadn’t hated him. Hadn’t left him alone on purpose. Could have even wanted him, once.

In gruff and halting tones, Jiraiya described a history Naruto had never known. Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki, beloved and respected master Jedi before the Purge. Cut down protecting their people after sending their son to safety. Cut down by Imperial Stormtroopers and a Sith Lord named Itachi.

“Who’s he?” Naruto asked, and didn’t know why the air stilled, why Jiraiya glanced at the dark-haired boy in the corner.

“He’s a monster,” said the boy, and looked away.


It took the trio half a day to reach Mos Eisley in Naruto’s beat-up speeder.

The spacer boy’s name was Sasuke and his ship was a YT-1300 junk bucket. He had parked it in a sketchy backlot under the name Kopikat7 and the guise of delivering - of delivering -

“You’re smuggling porn ?” Naruto crowed with pre-pubescent horror.

“It’s not mine , dimwit,” Sasuke snarled, turning pink under his sunburn. “I’m undercover . And it wasn’t my idea .”

“You’re a porn smuggler .” Naruto watched as crates of little orange books were lifted from the cargo hold.

“I am going to push you out of an airlock,” Sasuke said, “and the Force is going to thank me.”

“Well, if you’re gonna be a jerk we can just go to the Rebel base by our selves .”

“In what ship, genius?”

“Your ship, dickhead .”

“Who’s going to fly it, idiot? You?”

“You bet your ass I could. I’m an awesome pilot. I could fly rings around your face .”

Former General of the Republic Fleet and Jedi Grand Master Jiraiya Gama Sennin pulled a flask from his robe and swigged it like a child inhaling popcorn at a holo theater.


There was nothing but yawning black space where a planet should have been.

“It’s as if billions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and then were silenced,” Jiraiya had said, but Naruto neither heard nor sensed it. All he could feel was the void, the wrongness in absence of life here, as the ship drifted through the dust of a civilization.

Sasuke was quiet, blinking at the debris floating gently past the cockpit. Then he shook his head once, sharply, like a canine ridding its ears of water, and said, “There’s a girl crying.”


Princess Sakura was stunningly, mind-numbingly pretty. She stomped ahead of them in her white dress, barking orders as they ducked away from blaster fire.

Naruto was definitely in love.

“Get in, flyboys,” she yelled, Force-punching a hole in the wall and gesturing toward it with one imperious finger.

Naruto was going to marry her.

Sasuke just rolled his eyes at them and dove into the garbage chute.

They were laughing as they made their getaway, sopping wet and stinking of the ship’s refuse. Still high on adrenaline as they turned into the docking bay and saw the Emperor’s enforcer run a red lightsaber through Jiraiya.

Naruto had never seen anyone move that fast, and at his side Sasuke was frozen in fear, in rage.

Then Jiraiya was gone, collapsed into a pile of robes, and Naruto was screaming.

It was his first time losing someone.

He’d never had anyone to lose.

The retreat to Yavin IV was silent, Naruto in mourning, Sasuke on edge of something hard to identify. Sakura piloted them home, her small hands steady on the ship’s controls, even though -

The boys would somehow forget, in the years to come, that Sakura had lost Alderaan.

The death of a mentor to a cold-faced Sith Lord overshadowed the horror, too big and impersonal to comprehend, of an entire planet’s destruction. They took the day’s tragedies as their own, as new crimes the Empire had to pay for, and new ways it had tainted their lives.

They forgot that it was Princess Sakura who had been made to watch the Death Star take aim and fire. Who had watched that beautiful shining world, where she’d taken her first steps and loved her friends and breathed the clean air, crack like a tiny fragile thing under the Empire’s hand. Who had thought of her father’s smile and her mother’s arms around her and cried, bitterly, alone in her cell before it opened to admit blond hair and blue eyes in a frame much too short to be a Stormtrooper.

Who had felt staggering loss and despite her anger never turned her back on the cause or reached for the Dark Side. Instead she had done her job, even as she watched her boys walk away from her, one after the other.


Central command on Yavin was teeming with busy officers and their prodding questions. Sasuke lead Naruto away to the primary flight deck, which bustled like a kicked anthill as pilots and deck hands prepped the fleet for assault on the Death Star. They stepped around fuel lines and shouting mechanics to reach a grey-haired man in officer’s uniform.

“Nope,” said the man.

“I’m a better pilot than half your fleet,” Sasuke said, glaring up through a full sixteen inches of height difference. “And you’re down nearly two damn squadrons after Scarif. Even this moron -” he jabbed a finger at Naruto “- is better than an empty wing in the formation.”

“Nope,” the commander repeated. “Get off my flight deck, you fetuses.”

“But handling a T-65 is easy ,” Naruto said, sensing insult. “Try the Dune Sea in a ninth generation pod when a Scyk herd are chewing on your engine wires.”

“We’re the only Force-sensitive pilots you have,” Sasuke interrupted.

The officer - Kakashi Hatake, by his nametag - glanced from Naruto, whose jaw was set stubbornly, to Sasuke. “You’re not pilots, you’re stupid kids. Itachi saw combat when he was a stupid kid, too.”

The words made Sasuke shut his mouth with an audible click , but Naruto just tilted his chin up. “If you won’t give us X-Wings, we’ll just take Sasuke’s ol’ bucket of junk!”

“Shit,” said Sasuke.

“‘Sasuke’s’ old bucket of junk,” Commander Kakashi repeated mildly, “is my bucket of junk. I won it fair and square from an idiot in green leg warmers. With only minimal cheating.”

There was a second of silence.

“So, X-Wings,” Naruto tried again. Then, seeing Kakashi roll his eyes expansively and turn away, “Jiraiya told me I was worth something. That - that this is my destiny, and I don’t know what that means, but I know that if you don’t let us onto that battlefield we might never get another chance to find out why.”

There was a short silence.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” said Kakashi.


They flew out in a pair of Green Squadron’s beat-up X-Wings. Kakashi was in the lead, his chubby droid swiveling its dome head. Pilots Sasuke barely knew, with names he’d never learned, filled out the ships around them.  

Naruto was a humming presence on his wing, clearly itching to engage after hours in the flight simulator. As the TIE-fighters came screaming down at them, Sasuke thought that it felt right , charging into battle with Naruto watching his flank. Then there were only screams and explosions and casualties.

A farmboy from Tatooine blew up the Death Star, as he was always meant to, with a one-in-a-million trench shot as their allies burned and died around them. Sasuke could feel the Force buzz metallic against his teeth as a cosmic hand guided the torpedo home. Whoops of victory were audible over the comm, and he pushed down a stir of jealousy, his senses -

- screaming alert alert alert as a modified TIE-fighter bore down with guns locked onto Naruto’s starboard side.

Sasuke could feel Itachi’s familiar presence in his gut, but for the first time since that day he didn’t feel hatred. Just desperation to keep his brother away from the boy who wasn’t his friend but, someday, might be. Except Sasuke was out of ammunition and smoking from his rear engine and he just -

- flipped -

- and the rounds hammered into him rather than Naruto, shrapnel piercing his flight suit, control panel smoking, blood in his lungs.

Good , he thought vaguely.

He could feel himself drifting. His comm was down, but in his mind he could hear Naruto, dim but desperate, screaming his name through the blackness of space.

Sasuke didn’t expect to wake up three days later in a bacta tank, Naruto and Sakura sprawled sleeping in chairs nearby.  Friendship was a waste of time, he’d decided long ago, but for a moment he wanted . Wanted to know what it would have been like, the three of them growing up at the Jedi temple side-by-side.


It took four years for Naruto, in skips and starts, to start catching up to his new friends.  It would have been significantly more frustrating if not for the fact that he did, for the first time in his life, have friends.

Princess Sakura, he was sure, was the most amazing person in the Rebellion or possibly the universe. She mourned her planet, cried with him when there was no one else to see, and then dried her tears and threw herself fully into the war. By  her next birthday, she was often gone on training sessions with the Rebellion’s hard-bitten General Tsunade, leaving Naruto to pine.

“Puppy love,” Kakashi coughed, nose buried in porn.

“Hormones,” said the general, before whisking her protege off to medical for another lesson.

Meanwhile Sasuke, with his stupid hair and aggravating face, was exactly the prodigy Naruto wasn’t. Lightning-quick with saber and plane, he seemed to breathe the Force, and to understand it like an old friend.

So Naruto struggled and fell on his face and swore as reality clashed with the dream of picking up his father’s lightsaber and taking to it like a bird to the sky. But he trained. Every day. His passion seemed to surprise Kakashi, who had a suspicious plethora of Jedi knowledge and often sat nearby, correcting them lazily.

Everyone agreed that he did better for having a challenge in Sasuke, who seemed to take pleasure in pinning him to the ground and grinding his face into the dirt.

“Hormones,” said the general again, which didn’t make any sense at all.


They celebrated Sasuke’s sixteenth birthday by pummeling the shit out of each other in an empty supply room, pride injured over some forgotten offense. The blue-and-white droid beeped insults at them before wheeling out of the room, skirting the waterfall of spilled mops and brooms with dignity.

Sasuke couldn’t explain his increasing temper. It was the heat, he thought, the muggy air spilling in from the jungle outside. Or it was frustration at seeing Naruto, a farm boy from nowhere, displaying more talent every day and a trajectory set to overtake Sasuke’s own.

They stared at one another for a moment. Sasuke was sprawled on his ass amid bottles of floor cleaner, his shirt stuck to him in the humidity. 

Naruto made an aborted movement as if to help him to his feet. Instead he bent over and kissed Sasuke once, awkwardly.

Get up , Sasuke told himself as Naruto pulled back, wide-eyed. Shove him and walk away . Naruto’s lips had been warm, but it had been a very bad kiss. A terrible kiss. If their rivalry extended to this, Sasuke was clearly the superior kisser. He should probably prove that by -

The proximity alarm sounded, emergency lights flashing.

“Possible Imperial contact. All pilots scramble. Possible Imperial contact.”

Sasuke heard a mental howl of outrage that wasn’t his own, but pushed to his feet and ran toward the flight deck without another word.  He arrived to find it in chaos.

“- be ready to go as soon as Blue Leader sounds the alarm. Get clear and get those steps off, let's go! These are Imps, not a godsdamned drill, where the fuck is Green 03?"

“Slow,” said Sasuke, taking his helmet from the mechanic and strapping it on. “As usual.”

Deck hands were running between the ships with fuel lines and gear, droids chirping frantically as they followed their pilots.  The scouts were already engaged, as was Yellow Squadron as the first alert fighters on standby. They were getting pummeled heavily now, as the rest of the force struggled to roll out.

Sakura was already in her X-Wing, pink hair covered by her helmet, expression set. She’d left the Alderaanian guard beyond the bay doors, disapproving but unable to forbid her from entering the action. Kakashi’s squad of four was invaluable in the air.

Naruto ran onto the deck with seconds to spare, orange flight suit half-zipped.

Sasuke smirked, pulled his canopy down, and followed the team into the open air.


For the next two years they Didn’t Talk About It.

The Alliance moved bases to Hoth. The death of Jiraiya, and the destruction of Alderaan, passed their sixth anniversary. Naruto’s nightmares slipped quietly away. Itachi remained beyond Sasuke’s grasp. Sakura happily continued to wipe the mat with them hand-to-hand. The three of them were permanently assigned as Rogue Squadron. Pilots died. A new generation filled their spots on the roster, young and angry. Some came from slave planets, their marks branded in plain sight. Others were captured Imperials who had decided to throw their lot in with the Rebels after a long, passionate, slightly incoherent lecture from Naruto.

“I remember you,” Sasuke said with narrowed eyes as he passed by one such group the cantina. “You almost shot me down five times last week.”

“Your boyfriend’s disquisition was stupid but convincing,” said the red-haired ex-Imperial. He had kohl-rimmed eyes and the slightly unbalanced aura of someone shaking off decades of brainwashing.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Sasuke snarled, food sliding amok on his tray as he marched toward the door.

There was a short silence at the table.

“Uchiha definitely wants his dick.”

Which was ridiculous. Neither of them wanted the other’s dick.


They screwed for the first time in the aftermath of a planet-side ambush.

Pilots did, sometimes. It capped the adrenaline rush. Or the grief. They had been outmanned and outgunned and now most of Blue Squadron was a smoking wreck on Vrogas Vas. The two young commanders sleep-walked through debrief and stumbled back to empty barracks at dawn, hands all over each other.

Much like the mission, the sex went fine until it didn’t.

“Wait,” Naruto said, pulling back. His brow was furrowed and his hair mussed from Sasuke’s long fingers. “What do you mean, you’ve ‘ never done this before ’?”

Sasuke snorted and tugged him closer again. “Like you have?”

“Well yeah ,” Naruto said.

The room was silent.  There was a flush across Sasuke’s cheeks now. Not arousal, like before, but embarrassment.

He shoved Naruto’s hand away from where it had been picking at his half-stripped flight suit. “You know what, forget it.”

“But you’re EIGHTEEN,” Naruto shouted, ducking out of the way as Sasuke took a swing at him. “That leaves you and - you and - and Lee as the only virgins in the fleet.”

Sasuke shoved him off his lap. “Fucking forget it,” he repeated, moving to stand.

“No, no, Sasuke, just, everyone always says how stupid handsome your face is,” Naruto said, grin not fading. He put his hands gently on Sasuke’s shoulders, keeping him down. “You could have anybody -”

“I wasn’t interested,” Sasuke said, skittish.

When Naruto dipped down again it was slow, lips warm at the corner of Sasuke’s mouth, fingertips resting lightly behind his ear.

Sasuke tilted against the kiss and bit down on the offered lip, slowly easing into the chair again. His hands clasped a jaw and slim hips, fingers sliding along that taut waistband and slipping inside.

Naruto groaned, eyes closed.  “I’m gonna suck you off,” he announced as if remarking on the weather, and slithered off Sasuke’s lap onto the floor.

The sight of him kneeling, open-mouthed and still sweaty from the battle, did something embarrassing to Sasuke’s brain. He tugged Naruto’s shirt off - some stitches popped in the collar - Naruto’s kyber bead necklace swung down to hit his tanned chest - threw the shirt - it landed somewhere on the desk beyond -

Then Naruto was pawing at Sasuke’s flight gear and pulling it down, swearing as it got stuck on his clunky boots. Impatient fingers unlaced them and flung one boot away. The other was still on, suit scrunched in a tangle above it. Sasuke extracted his bare foot and planted it atop Naruto’s shoulder. Warm breath ghosted over his dick. His leg shook and he shoved one hand against it, squirming.

“Pretty,” Naruto mumbled to himself. Then his mouth was hot and warm as he gave little kitten licks up the length of Sasuke’s cock.

Sasuke let out a mortifying whine and knocked his head back against the wall. “Shit. Shit. Do - something,” he said, thumping his heel against Naruto’s shoulder blade. A heady loop of pleasure was painting the room in prism colors and he couldn’t tell which was his, the warmth under his toes or the pressure on his shoulder or the sensation on his dick or the taste in his mouth.

“Yeah, yeah.” One of Naruto’s hands kneaded Sasuke’s chilled thigh, the other curled in the dark hair at his groin, and then -

Wet heat. Sasuke bucked involuntarily. Naruto choked and turned away, spluttering. They glared at each other, the connection broken.

“Just do like Kakashi says -”

“- I am not thinking about Kakashi while we fuck -”

“- chill out a little, meditate or something.” Naruto wiggled his fingers. “Use the Force.”

“You can’t use the Force to have sex .”

Naruto opened his mouth and then closed it again, squinting like Sasuke had just told him to solve the FTL equation from memory. Then he sat back, closed his eyes, and Force-shoved Sasuke back against the wall.

Sasuke stared at him, stunned and disoriented and ridiculously hard. Naruto was grinning, smug and far too pleased with himself, so Sasuke lifted one hand and ripped that stupid orange flight suit down with the flick of a finger.  

“Sasuke,” Naruto said urgently, standing there like a moron in boots and boxers.

The room smelled like ozone, the Force like a breathing presence between them. Blood rushed with power and exhilaration - dizzy with arousal - air too warm -

Sasuke . The word hummed with the bright, familiar touch of Naruto’s mind enveloping his own.

They swayed together drunkenly, too out of breath to kiss. Sasuke mouthed at Naruto’s cheek, hands moving rough and restless. Hazy thoughts of arousal and whispered praises filtered into his mind.

The rest of the morning came in flashes. Quiet murmurs. A slow daybreak. Bed. Naruto bracing himself over Sasuke, panting. The kyber necklace brushing their chests.

The Force hummed Light and pleased around them.


Naruto nearly died in a whiteout snowstorm – typical – and Sasuke had to drag his smelly, Tauntaun-covered hide back to the base.

He woke after two days in the bacta tank, lucid and clear-eyed and completely convinced that Jiraiya’s ghost had appeared in the snow and told him to go train on Dagobah with a pair of frogs.

So that was a little weird.


Grand Masters Fukasaku and Shima were very small, very green, and very unimpressed.

Naruto’s training passed in a blur of sweat and aches. Simple tasks fell apart under his hands. He lay down each night exhausted and woke unrested.

Alone in his mind, cut off by distance, his dreams and meditations were preoccupied with nightmares of the Alliance under siege. He woke gasping to visions that felt tangible and left a burning pain in his chest. Visions of a dark-robed man locked in combat with him on a frozen planet. Of them lying broken together on the ground, severed forearms bleeding into the snow. It had to be the Sith Lord who hunted them, but it hadn’t looked like Itachi, it had looked more like….

Naruto shifted in his lotus pose.

“Your mind wanders and the Uchiha boy occupies your thoughts,” Fukasaku scolded with a rap on the knee. The argument was now an old one. “Thoughts of him are better left alone.”

“He’s my friend ,” Naruto said, brow furrowing before smoothing again. 

“There is much anger in him,” came Shima’s voice, “like his brother. If he gives in to hate -”

Naruto felt his last tendril of calm slip away. “Sasuke is nothing like Itachi. He would do anything to defeat his brother!”

“Anything.” Fukasaku nodded. “He corrupts the Will of the Force with his rage. If he chooses to seek the quick and easy path to power, it may even lead him to the Dark Side.”

Sasuke, the comforting presence in his mind and on his wing. Sharing lunch in the cantina, moving to protect him in battle, pressing wet kisses down his spine, smirking after a mission gone well, sparring with him in the early morning hours.

Sasuke, dead-eyed, gripping a red lightsaber. Bearing down on Sakura. Stepping over the bodies of fallen Jedi.

“It won’t happen,” Naruto said, detangling his limbs and moving to stand.

The old frog looked grim. “You cannot escape your destiny.”

Naruto didn’t know how to explain that destiny didn’t matter, the Force didn’t matter. How far Sasuke fell didn’t matter. Naruto would always be there to bring him back from the edge. To bring him home.

“It won’t happen because I won’t let it,” he said.


The Cave was choked in fog.

Air in this hollowed rock was different from the filtered sunlight of Dagobah’s surface, and the uncanny sentience of its flora. It grew cold only a few steps from the vine-covered entrance, and the sound of the outside world was muted. Naruto could hear his own breath, his own footsteps, and nothing else.

Nothing moved as the light dwindled, as if someone had pulled a shade across the sun. Then at his back, suddenly, a presence. Dark Energy from the Force swept up to meet him, Dark and ancient, like a great grinning beast. It roiled like a tangible thing, curling in the pit of his gut.

A test , the grand masters had said, but the fog was growing thicker and conviction was easier under bright lights and watchful eyes. Here he was alone, alone alone alone .

There was a flicker like sunlight at the edge of Naruto’s vision. His kyber necklace burned. The Darkness in the Cave recoiled.

The man had straw-bright hair like Naruto’s own, his Jedi robes embroidered with a pattern of flames licking up the back.  The woman beside him was radiant, her hair long and red. They looked like legends, the both of them. Like people who had once sat on the Council and earned their peers’ respect.

Not people with a son like him.

I’m sorry , he tried to say. The words stuck in his throat.

“We’re so sorry, darling,” Kushina said. Her smile was gentle. Her eyes crinkled like his in the corners. “We’re so sorry that we were never there for you. We’re sorry that we couldn’t protect you.”

Naruto caught his jaw sagging.

“We know you must blame us for everything you’ve suffered. We understand.” Minato was looking him in the eye, hands hovering just above his shoulders as if wishing they could embrace. “But we love you, Naruto. We loved you from your first breath and we love you still.”

“Dad? Mom, Dad, I don’t blame you,” Naruto said, choking. “I’ve never blamed - I love you so much.”

“We have so many things to tell you.” Kushina was crying, openly and freely, like her son. “So much we wish we could teach you, but we don’t have time. Trust the Force, trust yourself. Don't be a picky eater! Study hard….”

“Don't let the bastards take an inch of your integrity,” Minato said quietly, “and don’t stop until you reach your goals.”

Kushina’s glowing palm rested, almost tangible, above his hair.  “We are so, so proud of you.”


It was the first time in his life that Naruto knew - knew despite misgivings, despite warnings - that everything was going to be fine.


Sasuke came back from Bespin two steps from comatose, staring at nothing as he was wheeled into medical. A droid poked at the bandages where his left hand used to be before his brother sliced it off.

When Naruto tried to gently meet his mind with his own, there was only a wall of blank silence.

“He knew he wasn’t as strong as Itachi yet,” Sakura explained in an undertone. “General Tsunade says it was just... crippling, the realization of how far he has yet to go.”

When Sasuke woke up properly, started eating and talking and looking at people again, he was different. He stopped flying with Rogue Squadron and started to train, obsessively and alone. His long-faithful blue-and-white droid first squealed recriminations, then spent some days burbling sadly at him. Eventually it quieted and left, taking up residence with Kakashi, whose words had fallen on equally deaf ears.

Sakura got promoted to General. Naruto took over as Commander. He got a new wing man, an ex-Deathtrooper named Sai, and barely saw Sasuke unless the under-manned fleet was calling in emergency pilots.

Except when the nightmares leaked through, images of red eyes, a lake of fire, and slaughtered students lying scattered across the bloody grass. Fukasaku’s warnings rang in his head as he woke choking on a Dark, swirling fury that wasn’t his own.

They only had sex again once.

A post-mission argument in the darkened hangar bay turned childish, the way it hadn’t since they were young. Sasuke tinkered with the wires of his weathered X-Wing console as Naruto gesticulated, shouted, then stomped up the cockpit ladder to loom and gesticulate some more.

“Get out,” Sasuke had said, not glancing up from his busy fingers. He was still annoyingly beautiful.

Naruto looked around. The hangar bay was empty. “Hey, budge up. I dare you.”

Sasuke’s hands stilled, then snapped the dashboard panel back in place. “No.”

“Double dare you.”

It was cramped and hot inside the little ship. The canopy barely covered them both and they were crushed chest to chest, short on leg room. Stuck between hard chest and harder control yoke, Naruto fumbled until he got a hand on the seat’s controls, shoving it back and giving them inches more space. Sasuke was looking up at him, eyes dangerous. When pale fingers slipped into Naruto’s jacket, it was less urgent than it used to be, but still familiar. Slowly, deliberately, the back of his knuckles brushed against Naruto’s abdomen.

Naruto settled more firmly onto his lap, limbs flailing as he pulled his own jacket off, knuckles barking against the glass. He was flushed already, red blooming from his cheeks down to his chest. They fumbled until his shirt rucked up just enough to get his pants open, dick slick with precome, curls at the base of his cock damp with sweat.

They were squashed in tighter than any bunk, the air turning balmy like a greenhouse. A perspiration-damp tip of fringe caught at the edge of Sasuke’s lip.

“Someone’s going to hear.”

“Don’t fucking care.”

Sasuke let out a breath as they pulled open his flight suit together and kicked his pants down to his knees. Naruto’s hands slid up those slick thighs, fingers hard. He leaned forward with a whine and pressed open kisses against Sasuke’s mouth, one hand slick around the both of them, the other moving to splay out wet against the fogged glass of the cockpit canopy.

The tiny space was humid, plastering hair against his forehead and shirt to chest. Naruto laughed, unable to help the joy bubbling up through the absurdity, and even Sasuke smirked, pressing his fingers against the sides of Naruto’s grinning mouth and lapping into it. His fingertips brushed their tongues, and he shifted his left hand around to Naruto’s waist, pulling them tighter against each other.

They didn’t have any lube besides vaseline from the emergency medkit, and their fingers tangled as they half-prepped Naruto together. The blank wall that had separated their minds since Bespin seem to buckle as Naruto sank down, gasping a little at the stretch. He was shaking slightly, Sasuke realized, or maybe that was him - their hands were intertwined in Naruto’s shirt, against his dick, brushing the sweaty, toned stomach visible about his beltline.

At some point the laughter had died. They stared at each other, quiet, breathing each other’s air.

“Move,” Naruto said finally, fingers clutching at Sasuke’s shoulder, his hair, the back of the seat. His head dropped back as they rolled their hips together, lips wet and parted.

There was no room for their usual acrobatics, but Naruto’s hips felt sweaty and warm and good under Sasuke’s hands. His vision was filled with blond hair curling against damp skin, so he leaned forward and licked against that arched neckline, tasting salt, biting down.

Naruto yelped and grinned again, a hand striking out randomly. It barked against the canopy. “Fuck, fuck, fuck -”

He felt half delirious amid the heat and sensation, the headiness of Sasuke being inside him, moving in him, the burn in his thighs - he could stay here and they could be this way forever, they could -


It didn’t last.

Another team of rebels died bringing them information on another Death Star.  While Naruto lead the strike mission from the sky and Sakura disabled the satellite from the ground, Sasuke confronted his brother in the Emperor’s throne room.

He walked away from the encounter alive. Itachi and the Emperor did not. His lips were sealed, his official report blank. In the following weeks, sometimes his fingers flashed in front of his face like he was batting a phantom presence away from his forehead. Something that only he could see.

The Alliance rebuilt its forces, set its sights on Jakku, and crushed the Empire into the sand. In the space of a day the war was over.

It seemed like peace, for a while. An era of safety to seek out young and old Force-sensitives and start rebuilding what had once been. It lulled the budding New Republic. Distracted them.

Naruto would later wonder if they had created the First Order in their complacency. If by downplaying the threat he had failed to notice the Supreme Leader’s personal interest in Sasuke. If he would have noticed that Sasuke had started hearing whispers in his head, had the two of them still been sharing the same bed, the same mind. 

On Sasuke’s part, he plunged into secret research, prodded on by the mutterings in his dreams. He obsessed on the idea that a shadow figure in the Republic had ordered the Jedi massacre. That the Republic’s own officials were responsible for the Purge. That one man, sitting pretty in comfort and power, had had his fingers in many pies for the last decades. That his brother….

His brother. His brother. His brother, who he’d killed with his own hands.

He feared what he’d find, and fear was the path to the Dark Side. Fear lead to anger, anger to hate, hate to suffering.

But he had been suffering for near a lifetime now, and this was all he had left.


A year passed. Then two.


The First Order attacked the school amid a Padawan initiation, and when they left, Sasuke left with them.

Naruto would later think that if he’d been smarter, faster, he would have realized that they couldn’t have burned a path through the planet’s defenses and into the compound without inside help. If he hadn’t been so stupid, so trusting.

The visions had shown it a hundred times in a hundred ways, but how it happened was like this: 

The Jedi initiates standing back-to-back, fending off the Knights of Ren with a ferocity that would do their master proud. Naruto chasing after the retreat, yelling I loved you , I still love you and come home . Sasuke, eyes blood-red, saying that he would finish what his brother had started, and driving Itachi’s red lightsaber deep into Naruto’s chest.

They parted there, Naruto bleeding into burnt earth, and Sasuke walking away.

They didn’t reunite until they were nearly thirty.


The village was a tiny one outskirting a desolate stretch of badlands. Usually quiet, it now swarmed with First Order troops. Its hardy, hospitable people had been herded into the town center at gunpoint.

Naruto’s T-70 was a beauty of custom painted black and orange, or had been, before it exploded. The information he’d come to receive was gone, and he was kneeling weaponless before the Order’s chief enforcer.  Things, Naruto reflected, could have gone better. On the plus side, he knew who to blame.

“You look real dumb in that mask,” he said loudly, “but at least it hides your stupid hair.”

“Take him onto the ship,” Sasuke said. 

“You’re a dingbat,” was the retort, as they lead him away in cuffs.

Around them the villagers were quiet, clustered, scared.

“Orders?” asked the Captain, blaster aimed at the cowering crowd.

“Leave them,” Sasuke said, sweeping by onto the ship. “They’re not worth the effort.”

Naruto was gone from his cell before Sasuke even got to interrogate him, zooming through the sky in a stolen TIE-fighter with a handful of the First Order’s best men at his side.

Upon hearing the news Sasuke went quiet for thirty-nine seconds, then asked, “He compelled them with the Force?”

“Er, no sir,” said one of the remaining soldiers. “We’ve reviewed the security footage, and it appears that he, er, spoke to them for about twenty minutes about,” she looked down at her notes, “overcoming obstacles through the power of the heart, the payoff of honest hard work, and fulfilling your goals by becoming your best self.” She looked up. “Then about half the barracks got up and left with him.”

Fuck.


There were a few moments in time that were seared into Princess Sakura’s memory. Her first trip off-world, her first meeting with the Rebel Alliance’s spymaster, her induction into the Senate. The first time her mother taught her her to braid her hair. The pride and laughter in her father’s eyes. The explosion of Alderaan. Their revenge on the Death Star. The Jedi school in flames, tears in her eyes as she begged Sasuke to come back. Naruto, waking up after weeks in bacta, blue eyes dulled and one hand clutching the place where Sasuke had carved into his chest.

“It was supposed to be better this time,” Naruto had said. “With the new Jedi Order. No more slaughters, no more people like me or Gaara or Sasuke. We’d take care of each other.” He was bent nearly double in the med bay, fingers gripping his own hair.

“This is on Sasuke and the First Order, not you,” Sakura had replied, utterly aware that it would give him no comfort.

Naruto had just shaken his head. “He said it was our fault. The Republic. He said we’re all culpable, and that he’s going to finish what Itachi started.”

“....Hmm,” Kakashi had said, like he was hearing something they weren’t.

Senator Danzo was an unassuming man. He’d been injured decades before in the war with the Separatists, and bore his bandages with pride. He was a member of the old guard. A man of influence before the Empire, and even more so after it.

Sitting across from one another in the Council chamber Sakura wondered what he made of her. Still young, still small, and wearing her Jedi training gear rather than her Senatorial robes.

“You understand, of course, why we cannot offer you our sanctioned support,” he was saying. “For the security of the New Republic, ties with your Resistance must be… unofficial.”

Sakura stilled her fingers on the arm of her chair. The wood had been cracking underneath them. “For the greater good?” she asked, and for just a moment, the air was still. It choked her, like the smoke had on the day Sasuke had left, like it must have consumed the Jedi temple on the day of the Purge.

“For the greater good,” Danzo acknowledged at last.

“One more thing,” Sakura said, and she flipped through the files in her lap before extracting one bearing a painfully familiar name and face. “In your experience, and your expertise. This was once one of our own, and he seems to have a particular grudge against the New Republic. Against some members of the senate, in fact.”

“His brother,” said the other senator dispassionately, “was convicted of crimes against humanity at a much younger age. I’ve never seen the like… so many dead children, and all the fault of the Dark Side.”

“So this is him and his Knights of Ren,” said Sakura, looking at the photos. They were grainy, black-and-white, snapped from afar. They still clearly showed the black robes with red clouds that Itachi had worn once. The Knights were not Sith, Tsunade had assured her, but something like it. “You’re sure they’re following in Itachi’s footsteps?”

Danzo tilted his head to one side. “I understand that Sasuke Uchiha has said as much himself.”

“Strange that he went from wanting vengeance against his brother to wanting to copy him. You’d think something had changed.”

Silence. “The Dark Side is powerful and tempting, of course.”

Sakura smiled. “I’m sure it is.”


There was a single thing that Sasuke Uchiha had yearned for, had dreamed of, since leaving the New Republic behind, and that was Danzo Shimura’s death by his own hand. The council pleading for mercy, the senators’ faces as he made them beg the same way they had made his brother, his young brother, walk into a Jedi temple with a red sword.

He could see it, when he closed his eyes. See Itachi on the Death Star, face uncovered for the first time in over a decade. Blood leaking from his mouth and eyes, fingers shaking just an inch from Sasuke’s forehead.

The whole Republic could burn, and the galaxy with it.

There was only one test he had left to pass before he could truly embrace the power of the Dark Side. Before he could purge himself of the connections that tethered him. He’d failed it once already -

Naruto limp under him, Itachi’s saber burning in his hand. Not sure if his former friend was alive or dead, not sure if he’d passed the test, or if he’d wanted to.

But that connection was truly gone now. The weak, foolish boy who’d once felt it was dead. Sasuke had killed him. Seeing Naruto again, it wasn’t - it hadn’t….

Sakura crying as he walked away, the school burning.

It meant nothing.


When he exited the ship to see a wall of armed guards, Senator Danzo looked - to Naruto’s immense satisfaction - genuinely surprised.

“What’s all this about?"

“Hands where we can see them,” the guard said with more calm than Naruto could have managed. “You’re under arrest, sir.”


The Supreme Leader was disappointed, which was not uncommon. He listened to the General’s blatherings with pointed attention as the man outlined each and every one of Sasuke’s supposed failures.

“So the Jedi escaped,” said the Supreme Leader, “and now a scavenger village knows of our plans.” He peered down at Sasuke from his high throne. The mask that covered most of his twisted face partially obscured his voice as well, but his intent was clear.  “The Resistance has been allowed to interfere for far too long. The fools in the New Republic must be destroyed before further damage is done.” That great shrouded face turned toward the General, who stood even straighter under the attention. “Prepare the weapon.”

“You promised that Danzo would die by my own hand,” Sasuke said, a feeling he didn’t understand spreading through his limbs.

The painted face blinked slowly at him. “And so he shall. Our sources say the senator has departed from Hosnian Prime. Without the protection of the Galactic Senate, he will be ripe for your slaughter.”


The smell of oil and fuel hung heady over the flight deck.

“Is that your T-65?” Sakura’s voice from behind him came as no surprise. This was one discussion he wasn’t running from. “I thought you retired it.”

“Yeah, well.” As Naruto scrubbed, the bird’s engine gleamed. “Those jerks blew up my T-70, didn’t they.”

Most of the old ships had been retired, but with the Resistance in dubious financial and legal standing, they’d held off on scrapping some of the best. His long-faithful, now-gleaming orange X-Wing with its black starbird had been among them.

“‘Sides,” Naruto said, still not looking at her. He stood, wrapping the oily cloth round and round his fingers for a moment before speaking again. “‘Sides, if I have to see that bastard again -”

“What?” Now Sakura sounded angry. “You want to make sure he recognizes you before he shoots you down?”

He looked at her finally. She didn’t look angry, really. Those were tears of honest grief, not fury. She just looked sad, and tired. So, so tired.

“I can’t not try,” was all he could say. “I can’t. If he’s really gone, if he’s lost….” There was nothing to tell that they didn’t already both know; no words that could mean more than the years of history weighing heavy between them.

When they hugged, it felt like the first cracks of spring in a year of frost.


“The architect of the original,” the General had said once, gloved hands running lovingly over the blueprints before him, “was a genius. He died a traitor’s death, of course, but that mind… unmatched.”

Sasuke had barely heard him, eyes locked on the half-finished construction plans. They blurred before him, numbers and figures fading to the memory of empty space where Alderaan had once been.

For the first time in years, he thought of Sakura. Thought of a twelve-year-old girl powering through a space battle with tears in her eyes, her home planet utterly destroyed. She’d still found time to comfort him, to comfort Naruto, after Itachi killed Jiraiya. Tried again after Bespin but he’d brushed her off, he’d….

Weak and sentimental were the words any master of the Dark Side would have used. Foolish, to be distracted by such memories.

Now Sasuke found himself distracted again. It would be forty-four minutes until the weapons charge was complete. Then the nearest sun would be dead, and the nearest planets turned to dust.

The young technician at his left glanced at him. “You don’t want to see the General’s speech, sir?”

“No.”

The General, a bland man of middling talent and a taste for power, was planning to stand at his stone pulpit and preach one of his mad sermons to the troops as Starkiller shot fire into the sky. It would be his usual fare, Sasuke could tell; all about glory, and power, and vengeance against the Galactic Senate.

And the rest of the Hosnian System….

“Cockroaches,” the tech was saying in satisfied tones. “Degenerates. An honor to watch them be wiped from the galaxy, sir.”

The Hosnian System. Five Core World planets along the Trade Spine. The embodiment of everything he wanted destroyed. Population ignorant, and necessary collateral.

Necessary collateral. For the first time in years Sasuke considered the Jedi younglings, the ones whose deaths had plagued his every dream for near on a decade. He thought of himself at age twelve, throwing his X-Wing in front of Naruto’s and taking a fatal number of hits because he’d finally known what it meant to have something to die for. Something to kill for. Something he desperately wanted to keep alive.

The Hosnian System. Population of over thirty-eight billion registered sentients.

These were not the people he wanted to kill. The thought rang surprisingly clear in his head.

It was not much. It was hardly anything.

An inch of integrity , the grand masters used to say. The difference between the two sides of the Force, if only a Jedi could find it within themselves.

Just an inch.

“Technician.”

“Sir?”

“You will jam our communications channel to the Supreme Leader, then contact Hosnian Prime with instructions to begin evacuation procedures.”

“I will jam our communications channel to the Supreme Leader,” the technician repeated, “then contact Hosnian Prime with instructions to begin evacuation procedures.”

Sasuke nodded, then turned on his heel and walked briskly out of the room.


“General Haruno? A message was just received on Hosnian by the Republican Starfleet. I think we have a situation, ma’am.”


Twenty-five minutes until the charge was complete. How long did it take to evacuate an entire planet? Days, Sasuke suspected, if the entire population had immediate access to space-worthy transport. Maybe weeks if they didn’t, and the casualties resulting from the chaos of a mass exodus….

The general was where Sasuke had expected him to be, standing windswept and nauseatingly excited on the bridge of the base.

“General.” Sasuke beckoned him slightly away from prying ears. “A message from the Supreme Leader.”

“We’ve received no -”

“You will give the order for systems control to put the weapons charge on hold,” Sasuke said in low tones, and paused. The urge to say, ‘ then you will handcuff yourself somewhere stupid and humiliating, like the toilet, ’ was strong. As was the urge to make the man fling himself out of an airlock, but Sasuke couldn’t afford the attention that would bring. “Then you will walk toward the Oscillator Hallway.”

“I will give the order for systems control to put the weapons charge on hold, then walk toward the Oscillator Hallway,” the General agreed, and turned to do just that.

It was highly satisfactory, but Mind Tricks didn’t last forever, and Sasuke needed a backup plan.


“We’ve gotta hit the thermal oscillator hard and fast,” Naruto shouted across the flight deck. The fuel lines were attached, all squadrons scrambled; they were minutes from launch.  “Starkiller is draining the Hosnian sun. When it’s gone the weapon will fire, but as long as there’s light, we’ve got hope.”

“Do we know who gave the warning?” Sai asked in low tones.

Naruto’s eyes met Sakura’s across the hangar. Her jaw was clenched but she looked sick, and had since confirmation of the Order’s new superweapon. Her lightsaber was clipped to her flight suit, because if the informant wasn’t Sasuke, if he was content to let the Order destroy a whole planetary system….

“We’re not sure.”

Sai sighed. “I have a bad feeling about this.”


Twenty-five minutes and holding.

“Guards,” Sasuke snapped, and half of the barracks snapped to attention. Too many to control though the Force at once, but being second-in-command made this all so stupidly, stupidly easy. “We have reports of sabotage. The general may be attempting to render the oscillator unstable. Captains, search the ship and deploy squadrons to detain him if he is found anywhere suspicious.”

They filed out instantly, and Sasuke took half a second to breathe. But he didn’t have time. Not now.

The First Order had learned from the mistakes of the Empire. The circumstances surrounding the destruction of the Death Star were declassified now, and even children learned about Erso’s sabotage and his daughter’s suicide mission. There was no longer an easy point of sabotage; the main reactor was unreachable, there were no kyber crystals to remove as a power source, and the targeting and computing systems had backups of their backups. But there was one single area of instability. He could use that.

“Sir,” came a slightly panicked voice over the comms. “Sir, we are attempting to hail the Supreme Leader about the situation but there’s something wrong with the communication channel.”

“The general’s fault, most likely. Have they found him yet?”

“He was caught in the Oscillator Hallway, sir. He seems dazed - it looks very serious. If he’s attempted sabotage -”

“We’ll figure it out later. Throw him in the brig. I’ll inspect the oscillator myself.”

It was a gloomy, cavernous structure. The interior was shadowed and unguarded.  Sasuke had never viewed it in person before - only the blueprints, out of curiosity - but he was his father’s son, his grandfather’s grandson, and Itachi’s brother. Mechanics was in their blood, like the Force, like flying. Disrupting the containment field wouldn’t be easy. Not only was it massive, it was already holding a dangerous amount of unconverted energy. Blowing the entire thing to hell would be easier than simply rendering it useless, but acquiring explosives might take time he didn’t have.

It had been an hour at most. How much of Hosnian Prime could possibly be evacuated? One percent? Less? Zero, if they hadn’t believed the message.

A red warning light swirled to life over the door and alarms sounded throughout the base. 

Too fast , he thought, they can’t have realized yet .

Enemy contact, ” droned a voice. “ Resistance fighters on radar, repeat, enemy contact .”

Shit , Sasuke thought, ripping the nearest wall panel open with the Force. He eyed the exposed circuitry, pulled out his lightsaber, and plunged it into the sparking wires.

The Force was humming like he hadn’t felt it in years.

There was a flicker out of the corner of his eye. A spark from mechanical malfunction, he thought. But then just briefly, like a mirage, he thought he saw -


The planet was cold and crusted in snow. It wasn’t the howling wilderness that Hoth had been, and tall green trees rose out of the sloping hillside. But it was cold, and Naruto pulled his cloak more firmly around the flight suit as he jumped down from the X-Wing.

“Stay,” Naruto said firmly to the blue-and-white droid as it beeped at him disapprovingly.

In the skies above, the generals were only minutes from engaging.

“Naruto, if you find him,” Sakura said over the comms, then paused. “...Well. You know.”

“I know,” he replied, turned off the headset and trudged toward the only door in sight. It was frozen shut but only lightly guarded, and soon he was inside and slipping down the staircase. Naruto could feel Sasuke’s presence somewhere here. He followed that connection, padding quickly through the dark corridors unseen, the Force aiding his way through the shadows.

There were alarms blaring, and at one corner two members of command seemed to be arguing with one another.  The run passed like a blur until he could hear his pilots directly overhead, hammering at the oscillator from the air. The room was cavernous, dark, and lit with red from below. There was only a narrow walkway around a drop to a fiery death.

Standing by one wall, lightsaber held loosely in his grip and body shrouded by a black robe, was Sasuke.

Naruto’s heart made a particularly loud thud , the way it always had, and probably always would.

“It was you,” Naruto said.

Sasuke ignored him. The walls in front of him were ripped to pieces, protective paneling on three levels hurled away, massive sections of the mechanics behind gutted and smoking. Wires trailed from the base’s innards to the sword in Sasuke’s hand.

“Sasuke,” Naruto said carefully, “is that about to blow?”

Sasuke said nothing, head turned to stare at something only he could see.

He tried again. “We’ve arrested Senator Danzo and his whole council is pending investigation. Did you know that? Sakura issued the warrant and marched him into a cell herself.”

“See,” said an unknown voice. “It’s done. You’re free.”

The figure was barely corporeal, flickering in and out of existence. Long hair, Sith robes, tired eyes. Sasuke was staring at the Force Ghost of Itachi Uchiha like he was waking from a dream.

“Yeah,” Naruto said slowly. “Yeah, Sasuke, you’re free.”

“I’m not with the Republic,” Sasuke said, eyes finally flicking in Naruto’s direction. “I’m not theirs anymore. I can’t be. I won’t be.”

“You’re not theirs,” Itachi’s spirit agreed quietly. “You’re a Jedi, like your brother before you. And you’re strong enough to turn from the Dark Side, if you want.” Ghostly fingers reached out, swiping almost playfully against Sasuke’s forehead. “I’m proud of you, and I love you. No matter what you choose.”

Then the ghost light flickered and died.    


In the blinding push of the snow, Naruto looked like a mirage. He walked ahead, planting his feet with ease, black and orange robes billowing around him. His lightsaber was new, one that Sasuke hadn’t seen before, different from the one he’d clashed against so many years ago. It was brilliant orange, warm like sunlight as it lit their way into the forest.

The ground beneath them shook, and the sounds of chaos in the sky intensified as Rogue Squadron made a final pass on the oscillator. Sasuke wondered which ship was Sakura’s, and if she’d ever know that she helped him save billions of lives. The very planet would begin to crack apart soon.  How much time might it take to reach Naruto’s ship? Sasuke was doubtful they had long.

“I recognize these woods.”

“Mm?”  Naruto turned, questions clear on his face.

“Nothing.” They’d fought here, he now realized, in one of his many nightmares. If things had gone differently, he’d have battled Naruto to a standstill, until Naruto struck him down with a blow across the -

Naruto reached out, almost trance-like, and trailed his fingers lightly from Sasuke’s right brow, over his eye, and down to his cheek. His fingertips felt almost intangible in the biting cold.

“Yeah,” he finally said with a nod. “Yeah, I saw it too.”

Sasuke jerked his face back out of reach. “I’m not coming with you.”

A mulish expression crossed Naruto’s face, and for just a moment they were children again. “The planet’s about to blow, you idiot.”

Sasuke shrugged. He didn’t have the words to explain that he couldn’t go back to the New Republic, back to their friends in the Resistance. Maybe not ever, but certainly not now.

Naruto just looked at him, lips pursed like he was holding in a mountain of expletives, before turning and stomping further into the forest. “C’mon,” he shouted over his shoulder. “I’ll drop you off somewhere.”

We won’t both fit in your fucking X-Wing , Sasuke wanted to say, but they both knew through significant trial and error that that was a lie.

“I’m not getting in your -” his words were cut off by a squeal and a series of utterly furious beeps. His droid, the old faithful blue-and-white that he hadn’t seen in nearly a decade, was sitting in the back of Naruto’s ship. It hurled another slew of profanities then fell silent, allowing Naruto to gently dust snow off its dome.

The bird wasn’t a T-70 like had exploded on Jakku, or a T-85 like the actual Republican Starfleet flew as standard. It was smaller, scuffed, out-of-date. The old white and orange T-65 that Naruto had first flown against the Death Star. That Sasuke remembered seeing on his wing, dead center under a TIE-fighter’s guns and he’d just moved , because in that moment the only thing that had mattered was keeping Naruto alive.

Naruto looked back at Sasuke, grinning. His nose was red from the cold and there were snowflakes melting on his eyelashes.

A thousand years, a moment, a decade flashed between them. Two jaded warriors kept apart by a hundred wrong turns and bad mistakes. Two boys, aged twelve, standing on the dusty Tatooine dunes, no idea of the road that lay ahead.

“C’mon,” Naruto said again, tilting his head toward the ship and its pouting droid. “Just come with me, yeah? Where we go next doesn’t matter. You don’t have to go back, we don’t have to….” He trailed off. “Just come with me.”

And Sasuke did.