A/N Merry Christmas everyone! I set this deadline for myself, I swore that I would get it out my Christmas, and I did! So merry Christmas everyone. This is the epilogue, the final, and I hope you all like it, despite the fact that it's really short, and maybe a bit confusing.

Also, to those reviews that I don't reply to, I'm sorry. But I swear I read them all and I love them all, so keep 'em comin'.

I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO IGNORE THIS ENTIRE EPILOGUE That is important. I know I made a happy ending in the last chapter, and if you like that ending, then just forget this whole thing. But if you want more angst and stuff, read this. But you may think of it as an ALTERNATE ending, not the only ending if that makes you feel better.

okay, now, on to the story.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of the characters.

It had always amused me to play with soap bubbles. It made me feel like a child again to hold them delicately on my fingertips and then to watch them float away. They were just fun. I blew one out of my face then, and pulled out the shirt I had been washing and dunked it into the fresh water to rinse it, then I hung it up to dry. It was one of Itachi's mesh ones.

I yawned and started on the next clothing item in the ever growing pile of laundry. It just never ceased. The men had been popping out periodically to drop off more. It was okay though, it was a nice day to be outside and I didn't mind much. Over the two months that I had been here though, I had gained a new respect for the servants over at the Hyuuga compound.

Two months, that's how long I'd been here. Two blissful and contented months. I had no idea if Konoha was coming for me, and somehow I doubted that they were. I was no Sasuke; the most that could happen was listing me in the bingo book as kill-on-sight. And believe it or not, I was feeling strong enough to at least be a bit of a challenge.

Itachi, Deidara, and Kisame had each put me through radically harsh training regimes and as a result, I was a fairly formidable shinobi. In fact, after I finished with this laundry I had a training session with Deidara. I had trained in my healing, too. Itachi had "acquired" some medical books for me, though I didn't ask how. I could spend hours pouring over those dusty tomes, just drinking them in. Even though Deidara thought they were boring. I tossed another shirt into the bucket of water. I had become the healer for this Akatsuki base, and I found it to be a rather satisfying job. I healed every thing from sprains and training accidents, to breaks and serious mission injuries. Though I had learned long ago to never ask how they had gotten hurt; I usually didn't like the answer. I didn't want to know about all their cruel, criminal activities. It just didn't suit me.

But despite it all, Kisame and I are happy together and every time I look in the mirror, I'm reminded of him by the scars stretching across my face. I didn't mind them anymore; they had become a part of me, like Kisame had. Kisame had, and to an extent, so had Deidara and Itachi, but the Akatsuki as a whole had not.

Kisame knew this, and maybe that's why I had never seen him as angry as when Itachi had mentioned, just in passing, that I should join them as their healer. Itachi hadn't down right asked me to, he had mentioned it only, but Kisame's reaction had been instantaneous. The table he had been sitting at flew across the room smashing against the stone wall.

"You have no right to ask that of her, Itachi," Kisame snarled, grabbing Itachi's neck and slamming his back against the wall. He held the younger man there, choking him violently. "She's not that kind of person and she'll have no part in what we do!" That furniture had shook from the impact of Itachi's body, and now I could see Kisame trembling with rage.

Suddenly, Itachi's eyes began to spin hectically and the sharingan in them seemed to morph and change. I was captivated by their dizzying movements when Deidara abruptly smashed into me, knocking me down and breaking my eye contact.

"Don't look him in the eye, Hinata," Deidara ordered in my ear. The absence of his usual "yeah" made me realize just how serious his demand was. I trembled, but otherwise stayed still obediently. We were lying on the floor with Deidara's arms around me keeping me sheltered and hidden. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping that no one would get seriously hurt.

Suddenly, the room went quiet for a few seconds, then Kisame dropped to the floor with a thud. Slowly, Deidara lifted his arms and helped me to my feet. I looked around to see Itachi standing away from the wall and a few feet from Kisame. Kisame let out a noise of pain and anger; a cross between a growl and a groan. Gradually, he forced himself to his feet. I wanted to go to him, but Deidara held me back.

"She'll not join," Kisame managed to order steadily, standing straight but using the wall for support. Finally deeming it safe, Deidara let me go, and I hurried over to him. I could see that whatever Itachi had done, it had exhausted Kisame, and I didn't want him straining himself just to keep his pride intact. Itachi nodded.

"Fine. For now, at least, she'll be kept innocent and in the dark." There was a note of sarcasm in Itachi's voice and he threw a condescending glare Deidara's way before sweeping out of the wrecked dining room. Deidara made a loathing and disgusted snort and stalked out of the room himself, presumably to find Hitomi as he often did when upset. I meanwhile tended to the wounded Kisame and asked no questions. I knew that it wasn't something he would want to discuss.

I could still remember the fight clearly in my head. Sometimes I puzzled over Kisame's instant protectiveness, but I suppose when I thought about it, he made sense. He didn't want to lose me, and he didn't want me corrupted, because in a sense, that would make him lose me, too.

And then there was my past as well. Were I to join the Akatsuki, there would be no going back. I could never go back to living in Konoha or any other hidden village. If something happened to Kisame, I would have no more reason to be an outcast, and then I'd have no where to go. I'd have to no one to go to.

As I hung up a pair of pants, I fondled the ring on my finger. Twisting it around. I barely ever took it off, only when I was training. It was my link to Kisame, and Neji as well. I wore it on my ring finger, though I was careful to keep it off the wedding one. I wasn't married, though maybe some day… a girlish fantasy perhaps, I admitted with a sigh.

We were doing things right though. Kisame and I. I'd taken a leaf out of Hitomi's book and gotten my own room and bed, instead of sharing with Kisame. It preserved my decency. One of the advantages of living in the side of a cliff face was that there was always room for expansion, if only you had the means, and Deidara had the means. He had blasted another cavern into our net work of caves, near Kisame's. Hitomi had decided against even living at the base. She said it was "living in sin" and was improper before marriage.

I let out a giggle, her good word was somewhat soiled though, due to the fact that she had recently become pregnant. Pregnant! She and Deidara were going to be parents; the fact was shocking. But despite the obvious drawbacks of being an Akatsuki father, I thought that Deidara seemed rather excited at the prospect of being "daddy." However, Hitomi still had not been told of the three men's profession, and this was causing some tension in the base.

Itachi was utterly disapproving, and some times I wondered to what extents he would go to resolve the matter. He and Deidara had grown increasingly hostile, to the point where I was afraid to be in the room with the two of them unless Kisame was present. Deidara on his own seemed agitated as well, which was strange, considering how he usually could hide any unpleasant emotions with ease.

I pinned it all up his fretting over Hitomi and his unborn child, but sometimes I wondered if there was more to it…

I reached for the last shirt absent mindedly, but was jerked out of my thoughts by a large hand snatching it up just before me. I blinked, dumbfounded for a moment, then looked up to see Kisame laughing at me. I grinned back happily.

"Well this is a pleasant surprise," I noted teasingly, sitting down on the grass. I watched Kisame plunge the dirty clothing into the soapy mix and begin to scrub it. "And here I was thinking you hated laundry."

"I figured I should help do my part," Kisame said, finishing with the scrubbing and moving on to the rinsing. I laughed at his mocking attitude, but didn't reply. I liked to just watch him sometimes. I loved him so much, and the more time I spent with him in such a peaceful environment, the surer I was of that fact.

"Shall we?" Kisame had hung the pants up and now held his hand out for me to take. With the laundry done, I was glad to oblige. I took his hand, and he abruptly pulled me up into his arms. He wrapped one around my waist and pressed his lips to mine. He kissed me gently and briefly, then released me to blush myself into flames. I was yet to get used to his quick, and sometimes public, displays of affection.

"Y-yes, we shall," I said, finally regaining my composure. He took my hand and we went back into the cool base. It was fairly quiet with Deidara gone to buy, or steal, something and Hitomi at her house. We went to the kitchen and Kisame sat down as I began to fix something up for lunch. Cold cut sandwiches and fresh lemonade sounded perfect for a nice day like today.

"Hinata, sit down," advised a cold voice was the door way. It turned around in surprise at the sudden intrusion. Itachi was standing in the doorframe, looking just slightly distressed. To somebody that didn't know him well, he looked as cool and collected as any day. But after so long around him, I could hear it in his voice, and see it in his posture. I glanced at Kisame, and he looked concerned. He looked at me and beckoned for me to leave what I was doing, and come sit beside him. I did as I was told and he slipped a protective arm around my waist.

"Itachi, are you sure she-"

"This is important, Kisame. Hinata needs to know, too," Itachi cut off Kisame smoothly. I threw a look at the older man. He had this thing where he didn't like me to know what was going on. I wasn't sure why, but I figured it had to do with how protective he is. "Now, this information can either be extremely relevant, of life or death importance, or it may never matter. Either way, it would be best, I think, for you to be informed."

"Itachi, what have you done," Kisame asked in a tone that was just slightly accusatory, Itachi was verbally dancing around the subject. I knew that Kisame cared about Itachi's well being though, and so I could tell that there was a note of concern as well. Itachi perhaps a bit unhappy with the indictment had adopted a superior posture, one that made everyone around him feel looked down upon. I saw it as defensive.

"Hinata, you have a sister, am I correct," Itachi asked, dodging the question. I frowned at his inquiry, completely confused at where this was going. But I nodded warily none the less. "Her name is Hanabi; she is only about fourteen right about now, yes?" I nodded again. Did this have something to do with Hanabi? Was she coming for me? I hadn't told her anything, she knew only what Neji, Kiba, or Naruto had told her, and I didn't know how much that was. I began to worry again about Konoha and my family and friends, two topics that I had barely thought about these last couple months.

"Does this have something to do with her," Kisame asked cautiously, voicing the question that I just couldn't. I bit my lip and glanced up at Kisame apprehensively. He just tightened his arm around me in comfort. Then I turned to Itachi and his pretty Sharingan. I liked looking at his eyes. Even though they were dangerous weapons, I trusted Itachi not to use them on me, rash as that may be. But despite looking at something so familiar, my stomach churned with worry over my sister.

"No. It-"

"Then why are you bringing her up," I snapped, though my voice was relieved. Hanabi wasn't an issue. She was probably safe at home with only minimal issues to distress her. My immediate issue wasn't so small. I hadn't meant to interrupt Itachi so rudely, and for a moment, I thought he was going to get mad at me. I drew back, frightened, but Itachi just sent me a reprimanding look and I kept silent.

"You have a younger sister, you should-"

An earsplitting scream accompanied by a deafening explosion suddenly ripped though the air, cutting off Itachi mid sentence.

Kisame grabbed me immediately, pulling me into his chest, sheltering me as dust and stone chips rained down on us. I let out a yelp of fear and buried my face in his shoulder. When the air cleared, I lifted my head to see that Itachi had already run from the room, heading outside. In a flash, Kisame and I were right behind him.

The moment I stepped outside, I knew the sight would never leave me. It was chilling and heart wrenching. It would haunt my dreams for years to come. Trees had been ripped from their roots by the force of the explosion. There was no wild life in sight. Bits of clay that hadn't detonated in the reckless show of rage still peppered the ground.

And never was there a man so broken, so utterly crushed. His hair had come loose of its pony tail. Burns and scratches decorated his skin. His blue eyes were dull, yet somehow still burning with passionate anger and sorrow. And his face was twisted into the most wretched expression of grief and fury.

Deidara knelt at the epicenter of the explosion, cradling Hitomi's lifeless body.

"H-how," I finally gasped breathlessly as the three of us stood in astonishment, watching the blond man and his slain lover. Her skin was white, her eyes had been closed, and her hair hung limp around her face. There was a red blossoming over her chest, revealing the cause of death. None of us moved. Kisame's face was still frozen in horrified shock. Itachi though, didn't look as surprised as the rest of us, merely remorseful; though it was a strange expression on him. Deidara finally turned his head up to look at me, shaking it slowly.

"I never told her why, yeah," Deidara murmured so quietly that had we not been ninjas, we wouldn't have been able to make out what he was saying. Neither of us replied though. What could we say to him? "I told her not to come here alone. Not unless I was with her, yeah. But I never told her why." His voice was soft, mournful, but deep down there was an under current with the hard edge of rage.

I saw Itachi shift from foot to foot almost imperceptibly. He was uncomfortable, nervous even. I had to wonder about that.

"Why wouldn't she disregard me, yeah," Deidara continued. I turned my attention back to him. He hadn't moved, just his lips. "With out even a good excuse, she had no reason to think she should be afraid, yeah. I should have told her perhaps. And the baby," Deidara groaned, heart broken as he lay a hand on Hitomi's still flat stomach. "But then…" His eyes suddenly turned focused, and they bore straight into Itachi, burning with hate. "This isn't my fault."

"Deidara, I gave you warning. I told you-" Itachi began calmly and coldly.

"TELL THEM," Deidara suddenly screamed. I gasped and took a step back. The sound echoed off the cliff face, and the leaves on uprooted trees shook with the deafening sound. "Tell them what you did, or rather what you didn't, yeah."

"Itachi," Kisame asked, finally finding his voice again. I turned to the Uchiha, looking for an answer. He looked as composed as ever, though maybe just a bit unhappy with how things were turning out. He was Uchiha Itachi, he didn't get shaken up. Or so I thought.

"Hinata," Itachi suddenly said, turning his head to stare at me. I jumped in surprise at hearing him address me. I had nothing to do with this. I didn't manage to say anything, and I just stared back at him. "You're a kind person. You don't kill very easily. My view then is probably hard to understand. But think about you sister, think about Hanabi."

I thought about her. I thought about her laugh, and her smile. I thought about her determination and how hard she worked, despite the fact that she was practically a prodigy anyway. I thought about how I'd just left her in Konoha, not thinking about what might happen to her. I thought about how much I still loved her.

"You've had your tough times," Itachi said, breaking me out of my reverie. "You've been pitted against each other. There's been times when she's hated you. She wanted to kill you. But we didn't want to kill them. It wasn't right. They're the younger ones, they can't understand, it's not their fault. Sometimes we have to teach them a lesson, but it's always for their own good. He's still young, he's still learning. I'm his older brother. I have to protect him, help him see-"

"Spit it out Itachi," Deidara yelled, standing abruptly and flinging a kunai at his feet. It stuck in the ground, quivering, in front of a visibly distraught and nearly shaking Itachi. But Itachi didn't have to say it. Gathering my thoughts, I activated my Byakugan. I understood. I knew what had happened. I heard Itachi say he had beaten him, hurt him, and warned him never to come back. I heard Deidara scream at Itachi again. But I was focused on something else. I was focused on the figure in the distance, highlighted in my vision of blues. I could see him; I could see his glowing eyes. Itachi finally replied.

"Sasuke-kun's back."

A/N *Cue dramatic credit music, dun dun dun....!

Yup, it's a cliffhanger, I just couldn't help myself. I told you I have that long plot line, well, I decided that maybe I'll jsut make a sequel, though don't be expecting it out anytime soon. I desperately need a break from this pairing.

If anyone is confused, its basically that Itachi couldn't bring himself to kill Sasuke way back then. He'd only hurt him and sent hi packing, then lied about killing him, hoping he wouldn't come back. But he did, and he killed Hitomi on her way to the base. Itachi had already warned Deidara of Sasuke being alive because he knew that it would put Hitomi in danger. That's basically what happened.

So there it is guys. It's all over. All done.

But yeah, I still need crack pairing ideas. No yaoi or yuri please, and also nhing with Hinata or Kisame in it. Other than that, please give me ideas.

And please please please please review at least on this very last chapter. Good bye guys, and maybe this time I won't see you next time.

I love you all.