Author's Note: The conclusion…enjoy!

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.


The conference room was strangely silent as a gloomy procession of Akatsuki members filed in. There was an adequate reason for this unsettling hush, however. Though no one had publicly announced it, it was clear that none of the pairs had successfully completed the mission.

And in the Akatsuki, failure was met with dire consequences.

The leader stood behind a handsome podium at the front of the room, Konan at her place beside him. Once again, a mask was pulled over the bottom half of Pein's face in a way that was blatantly reminiscent of the meeting that had started this entire fiasco.

His subordinates settled down in the folding plastic chairs and waited. There were many audible creaks as members shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

Pein cleared his throat. The squeaking immediately ceased.

"I'm sure all of you know why I've called you here today," he began in his muffled voice. "I'd like to talk about…your mission."

It was deathly silent.

"It has come to my attention that all of you have failed the assignment." The leader tapped his fingers on the podium. His eyes were steely.

Several members gulped

Pein's voice grew dangerously soft. "Do you know what that means?"

No one dared reply.

"Failure," Pein said harshly, "results in torture." He smiled beneath his mask. "Death."

Tobi whimpered. He wasn't the only one.

A pregnant silence pressed down upon the room as Pein carefully surveyed his listeners. His face was made of stone.

The leader suddenly leaned towards his subordinates from over the podium. Almost as if an invisible force was pushing them, his audience shrank back.

"But this time," Pein said in a hoarse whisper. "There has been a…strange turn of events."

It was as still as a graveyard. And at that moment, many Akatsuki members were wondering if the area was to become the site of one—one occupied by their own corpses.

The leader hooked his fingers around the corner of his mask. Tobi clapped his hands over his mask and peeked between his fingers, while Kisame nervously ground his teeth. Hidan slouched down into his chair, jostling Kakuzu, who wore a grimace, beside him. Zetsu closed the eye on the white half of his face as his other half strained to get a better look. Deidara clutched at Sasori's sleeve while the latter swatted his partner away. And Itachi pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, vaguely wondering if he had astigmatism.

"...Behold."

Pein suddenly pulled the cloth down to his neck. There was an audible gasp. Several hands were flung over hearts.

"Leader-sama…" Tobi was awed. "Your face doesn't look like a gigantic balloon anymore!"

"And you look evil!" added Kisame earnestly, gesturing to Pein's numerous piercings.

Itachi adjusted his new glasses for a better look.

Pein gestured to Konan, whose expression was unmistakably bored. She looked down at her nails. "You have Konan to thank for your lives," he said. "She is the one who found this miraculous product that cured my infection."

He whispered something inaudible to Konan. Sighing, she held up a large bottle for all to see.

"Isopropyl alcohol!" Pein announced. He nudged Konan. "Tell them where you found it, Konan."

She lifted her head. "The convenience store. The grocery store," she said unenthusiastically. "…Everywhere."

"Yes!" the leader was enthusiastic. It was almost frightening to see him in such a mood. "Every month from this point onward, we're going to put aside money to buy this wondrous item…in bulk!"

Kakuzu held his head in his hands.

"This calls for a celebration, un," Deidara called out.

"Let's bake the mini pizzas," said Itachi rather dully.

Hidan was on his feet in a flash. "Fuck yeah!"

Everyone scrambled for the door except for Kakuzu, who was still trying to cope with the leader's latest change to the budget.

After all, mini pizza was truly a cause for celebration.


Epilogue

Konan lingered in the conference room for a few more moments, savoring the peace and quiet. She could vaguely hear the clinking of plates from somewhere downstairs, accompanied by excited chatter. All of a sudden, Pein's voice rang out above the rest. He was calling for a toast.

A tiny smile graced her lips. Konan began to head for the exit to join everyone, but something bright caught the corner of her eye.

A mirror. Curious, she approached its polished surface. A pair of heavy-lidded eyes was reflected back; she dropped her gaze to her smile echoed in the glass.

Next to Pein, Konan had to admit, she felt somewhat…ordinary.

An asset that instills more fear than any jutsu.

Was her appearance lacking?

She tilted her head to the side, examining her face. Immediately, she realized that there was something missing.

Perhaps she needed a...piercing?


Author's Note: It's done! I feel a little sad, seeing as this was my third fan fic ever, and my first multi-chapter one at that. But the end of this story is also a blessing—it means that I can start another!

I have a plan for a cracky multi-chapter drabble collection (all linked together by a very cracky premise), which I hope to start as soon as Finals Hell Week is over. And I have a few oneshot plans too, so…stay tuned!

Thank you for reading! And thanks a million for all of the support!