Disclaimer: The delicious Deidara, and all of his co-stars sadly do not belong to me. I'll get over it one day.

A/N: Bad me! Bad! It's been a long time since this story saw an update… my sincere apologies to my readers, especially the 71 of you who have subscribed to story alerts! I feel so loved, guys… Now I guess I should start on that update…I owe you one.

Birds mounted the dusky sky by the panicked dozen as a piercing cry shattered the still evening silence. A wounded Akatsuki was jarred from his blissful unconsciousness; from where he lay, Deidara could feel his dripping blood run cold. He knew those vocal cords, and he knew what the person they lived in was capable of. Nothing but the deadliest force could coax such a piercing scream from the strong kunoichi.

Desperately, Deidara struggled to sit up. His weak body baulked at the effort, and his vision went fuzzy around the edges, but he persisted, struggling against the blinding pain. He didn't even notice that Konan has entered the tent until her small white hand pressed him back down again.

"No." was all she could whisper to him.

Suddenly, the tent flap flew wide open, and Deidara was staring at the bottom of a black cloak whipping around two white-bound ankles. Even in his agony, Deidara had to admit that Itachi knew how to make an entrance.

Without a word, Itachi marched up to Deidara's side and hoisted the invalid onto his back. Konan made a noise of shock and protest, but Itachi paid her no mind. He strode right back out of the tent, heedless of the fresh blood now dripping onto his shoulder.

Deidara managed a weak smile of gratitude. Had he been in Itachi's place, he probably would have left exploding roses to comfort the wounded. Itachi shifted as he started to run towards the source of the sound, and Deidara felt his delicate hold on consciousness slip. He had to keep his eyes open…if only to see her one last time…

Sasuke shifted the hands holding Sakura's wrists to cup both of her willowy limbs under one of his palms. With arm freed now, he had a hand to clap firmly over Sakura's mouth, stifling her screams.

"What did you do that for? Isn't this what you always wanted?" He asked her flatly. Though his voice was a trained monotone drone, the hint of a sick grin twitched at the corners of his mouth. Scowling up at him, Sakura vigorously shook her head as best she could. Sasuke chuckled humourlessly.

"That's a shame, little cherry blossom. I'm not finished yet."

Sakura writhed with newfound disgust. She squirmed until her muscles ached, but Sasuke seemed not to notice. He was picking up speed and force, and the pain was tremendous. Hot tears, made of nothing but rage, streamed down her face and slid between Sasuke's fingers.

"Relax, little whore, you don't have to worry about bearing a child by me. I can see the blonde dog has implanted his already." Sasuke's eyes spun red as he surveyed his victim's slightly protruding belly. Sakura trembled with rage.

Then, suddenly, it wasn't just Sakura that was shaking.

The twigs overhead danced under the weight of two unseen intruders. Lowering his burden onto a sturdy branch, Itachi watched patiently as a single drop of his companion's blood plummeted earthward, hurtling towards the hellish scene below.

Sasuke felt something wet land on the top of his head. Temporarily removing his hand from Sakura's mouth, Sasuke groped at the liquid in his hair and brought his red-streaked fingers up to his face for closer examination. Blood. It had to be.

Sakura and Sasuke craned their heads up to see Itachi staunchly glaring down at them.

Sakura was overcome with elation until she realized, with a gasp, that the blood had to have come from somewhere; the head of shaggy blonde hair nestled in the treetop seemed a likely candidate. Sasuke's grip had weakened and she tried to sprint up the tree to Deidara's aid, but Sasuke's fist clenched around her pale wrist, wrenching her back to the ground.

Sasuke stood, slowly, feeling the bones of his childhood friend knitting in his iron grip. He never broke eye contact with his hated older brother. Even when Itachi crouched, sprung, and landed silently on the grass a mere metre away, Sasuke's eyes remained fixed on that familiar face.

The only sound was Sakura's desperate sobs, and the faint scrabbling of her fingernails against the bark of the tree. Itachi was the first to speak.

"Let her go, Sasuke. You've done enough damage here."

"You bastard! You're the one who's done damage! Filthy murderer!" Sasuke half-screamed, half-cried back at his brother. Itachi did not flinch.

"Sasuke, you fail to understand." Itachi calmly replied. Without so much as a word, he dashed forward and tore Sakura from his brother's grip.

"Consider putting your clothes back on." Itachi advised as he removed his cloak and draped it around Sakura's shoulders. Sasuke was too angry to respond.

"The things I've done… the things I've been…" Hysterical laughter bubbled up into his throat "all in preparation… I've waited for this moment…. You… die…you… DIE"

Sasuke lunged at his sibling, who knocked Sakura off her feet and sent her flying out of harm's reach. The clash of metal on metal followed a split second later.

"Don't you know why I did this, Sasuke? Do you even know why you are angry?" Itachi asked, looming over his brother's smaller form. Sasuke snarled something unintelligible and leapt away from his brother, scooping his weapons pouch off the ground as he went. Throwing stars hissed as they cut through the air, but made only a dull wooden 'thunk' when they collided with the log that had once been Itachi. A whoosh told Sasuke that he was stupid to use weapons against someone of Itachi's skill.

"Have you ever looked into the mirror at your own hideous red eyes? Ever wondered what they really are?" Came a murmur in Sasuke's ear. His brother was, as predicated, right behind him. Sasuke did the only thing he could think of; he swung, kunai in hand, at the voice and felt his stomach drop when the weapon was quickly wrenched away.

"This is it, then." Sasuke snarled quietly "You win. You get to finish what you started."

"I will." Itachi assured him "And I'll start by doing this."

Sasuke braced himself for the sting of cold metal slicing through his neck, but felt only a solid thump as the dagger landed in the grass at his feet.

"Wha…?" he started, but Itachi had his back pinned against the tree before Sasuke could move. Naked, weaponless and helpless, Sasuke could only stare, bewildered, into Itachi's sombre black eyes.

"Now, Itachi, I will finish my life's work. It ends here, with you and for me."

A/N: I hope that was worth the wait! If you're really lucky, I might get another chapter up before the end of winter break. Keep your fingers crossed.

One other thing on the agenda – role-plays. Anyone out there like them? My friends and I have set one up, at pushback DOT proboards DOT com. Please, if you have a moment and you like to role play, check it out and consider joining. We would feel better about ourselves if you did.

And, of course, there's the matter of the delightful review button. Press it… you know you want to…. It's calling your name…