Sorry it's been so long since I updated, my dear readers. This semester has been utterly insane. I'm taking 17 credits, plus working two jobs, so I have not had much time, energy, or inspiration to write. However, recent events in the anime (-spoiler-Jiraiya's death, to be specific-end spoiler-) has gotten me inspired again. Stupid Kishimoto-sama making e cry over a character I didn't even like all that much...

Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy this latest installment of LtWC (and remember what the story is about!).

NOTICE: Contains spoilers about Pain's background. If you are not up to date in the anime, consider yourself warned.

Disclaimer: Naruto is property of Masashi Kishimoto. 'A Little More' is property of Skillet.


Let the World Crash

'Oh, let the world crash,

Love can take it.'

Chapter Fourteen

It was a new moon that night, so only the stars shed light over the sleeping village of Konoha. The shinobi guards prowling about the borders of the village never noticed the five figures who slipped over one remote section of the wall and into the village. The small group clung to the shadows as they snuck through the deserted streets, their goal the Hokage Tower.

"Looks like Tsunade is working late tonight," Kakashi murmured, nodding his silver head toward the lit window of the Hokage's office.

"Tsunade-shishou working this late?" Sakura echoed dubiously, "She probably sent Shizune home so she could get herself drunk without interference."

Itachi stirred from his position in Kisame's arms, his weary gaze meeting Hana's concerned one. If the Hokage was drunk, then that would make accomplishing their aim all the more difficult.

"Hatake-san, perhaps it would be best to forget this plan..." the Uchiha suggested.

"We've come too far to quit without trying," Kakashi responded.

"But my presence will only serve as a reminder to Sasuke of the past," Itachi said.

The silver-haired jounin finally took the time to look away from his destination and study the black-haired missing-nin. His single eye widened, then curved in a smile as he barely withheld a chuckle. So that was it. The mighty Uchiha Itachi was frightened. Not of the Hokage, or even the villagers and his fellow shinobi...but of his brother. The two had not seen each other since the fateful battle where the truth of the massacre had been revealed, after all.

"This village is enough to remind him of that. Itachi," he pointed out, "Well, I'm going in."

He gave a two fingered salute before his body flickered into motion, leaping upwards toward the Hokage's open window. To his satisfaction, the blonde Hokage was indeed seated at her desk slogging through a mountain of paperwork and not a bottle of sake.

Her warm brown eyes widened when she sensed his chakra and her head whipped around to spot him standing on the roof.

"Kakashi! Get in here," she demanded.

He complied, closing the window behind him before turning to face her. His mission, he knew, would fare better if she had to drag the information out of him. Tsunade did not disappoint.

"Well?" she demanded to know.

"The mission was a success," Kakashi reported with a satisfied crinkle of his single exposed eye.

The Hokage's fist twitched when he didn't add anything else after a moment. Kakashi noticed the movement and tried to subtly shift closer to the window for an easy escape route in case she started throwing things at his head. It wouldn't be the first time she had done so.

"And?" she prodded.

"He, Hana, and Hoshigaki Kisame are waiting outside with Sakura-chan," Kakashi said.

"WHAT?!" Tsunade shouted, rising to her feet and slamming her palms down on her desk.

The paper-laden piece of furniture creaked alarmingly.

"You brought them here?" a beat then, "Sakura let you bring them here??"

"She was not told the truth...nor did I coerce her in any way," Kakashi added after seeing Tsunade's suspicious glance.

The Hokage was intrigued despite knowing that was what the Copy-Ninja wanted. After a moment, however, she sighed and sat back down.

"It's not going to work, Kakashi. Hana can be accepted back without much hassle as she has done nothing against this village, but Itachi...?" she trailed off, shaking her head.

Kakashi took a step forward, his single eye boring into hers.

"And just what has Itachi done against this village?" he asked intensely.

"He and Hoshigaki both tried to take Naruto," she said irritably.

Did she really have to spell it out for the jounin? But Kakashi was shaking his head.

"They did not succeed," he said.

Something in his voice made her wonder for the first time if that failure had perhaps been intentional of the Uchiha's part. She shook that thought away.

"The massacre then!" she exclaimed.

"You and I both know that what he did was under orders from the Sandaime Hokage," Kakashi said lowly.

"Are you suggesting that I tell the whole village the truth then? Sarutobi sacrificed his life to keep this village safe, but if i do as you're suggesting, then all they will remember is that he authorized the destruction of an entire clan by one of their own. I won't see that happen to my teacher's memory," Tsunade growled.

Kakashi turned away, his single visible eye sad.

"Then you will make the living suffer for the sake of the dead," he stated.

Tsunade bristled with anger.

"Don't start with me, Hatake! You are the one who has done nothing but try to kill yourself out of a misplaced sense of guilt over Uchiha Obito's death," she hissed.

Kakashi froze. It was true that, even all these years later, his actions were motivated in a large part by his old comrade--his habitual tardiness and his devotion to his team to name only a few. He suspected that the residual guilt he felt over the part he had played in his best friend's death had played a large role in his ability to awaken his own Mangekyou Sharingan. But try to kill himself because of that? His eye narrowed, mask hiding the way his lips had pressed tightly together in anger.

"This is not about me," he growled.

"Then do not try to make it about me, either, Hatake Kakashi. This is about Konoha and its citizens, and I do not believe it is best for them to allow the elder Uchiha back. If you keep them out of sight, then they can stay and rest for a few days. But then I want them gone," she stated.

Kakashi vanished with a poof of smoke. He reappeared next to the small group, his defeated slouch telling them of the results of his meeting more eloquently than his words ever could.

Sakura glanced from her frustrated sensei to Kisame. The shark-like nin shrugged in response to her questioning glance.

"Knew better than to get my hopes up," he said pragmatically.

Her eyes dropped next to Itachi. His expression was closed off, aristocratic features composed once again in the Uchiha mask. However, after days of watching his open affection for Hana, the sudden return to being stoic told her more than he would have liked. As for the Inuzuka...the brown-haired woman looked crushed. She should also have known better, but despite that had been unable to keep herself from getting her hopes up.

"She said she would take Hana back," Kakashi said softly.

Now everyone was looking at the brown-haired woman

"Hana?" Itachi whispered.

She forced a laugh, but when she looked over at the Uchiha, her strained expression truly softened. She reached out taking his hand.

"I told you already, Ita-kun. I don't belong here anymore. I belong with you," she said.

He returned her smile with a tiny one of his own, the tension leaving his weakened body as it was replaced by a surge of relief. Sakura officially could not take it any more.

"It's not fair! You shouldn't have to spend the rest of your lives on the run from hunter-nin. That's no way to raise children!" she exclaimed angrily, "I'n going to go try to talk to Tsunade-shishou."

"Children?" Hana echoed faintly.

Kakashi shook his head, watching his irate student stalk away. He did not want to be around to watch those two indomitable women going at it. Not when super-strength would no doubt also be involved.

"Let's go. We do have permission to let you regain your strength before moving on," he said, leading them in the direction of his apartment. It was going to be a cramped few days having four people living in the small space.

"Children?" Hana repeated.

Her brown eyes were fixed on the side of Itachi's face, but he was doing an admirable job avoiding her gaze. Thankfully, the darkness of the night hid the faint blush which had crept across his high cheekbones. However, he and Hana both knew that, if he had not outright denied the idea then it was one he had been considering. The realization made Hana blush as well. Having Uchiha Itachi's children...

"Come along, little Leaf," Kisame said in his deep voice, chuckling as he walked after Kakashi.

None of them had any idea that events were soon to be swept out of their hands.

.oOo.

"Ano...Sakura-san?" the pink-haired medic looked up upon hearing the timid voice.

She smiled at the sight of Hinata, some of the left over frustration from her confrontation with her shishou last night ebbing away. She pushed aside her paperwork and motioned for the girl to come in.

"What is it, Hinata-chan?" she asked.

"I know you don't typically do patient checks anymore...but I have one patient that needs special attention and I have to leave early today for a date, so I was wondering if you would mind checking on him for me?" the other girl said quickly, running sentences together in her nervousness.

Sakura gaped at the shy kunoichi.

"You have a date?!" she said.

"Yes...with Naruto-kun," Hinata whispered, blushing.

"That's great!" Sakura exclaimed with a grin, standing up to hug the other girl, "I can't believe that he finally noticed you. I'll definitely take on that patient for you."

"He's in room 257, and this bento is for him since he won't eat hospital food," Hinata said as she set a small box on the corner of Sakura's desk, "Thank you!"

The pink-haired medic jotted down the room number so she would not forget, casting one glance after the Hyuuga heiress as she left the office. Had she not been entirely certain that Hinata was completely incapable of scheming, she would have been certain that there had been a smirk of triumph upon the lavender-eyed kunoichi's lips as she closed the door behind her. But this was Hinata, so she pushed the flicker of suspicion out of her mind and returned to her paperwork.

Time slipped away from her and it was already dark by the time she looked up to stretch and saw the forlorn box on the edge of her desk. She had completely forgotten about Hinata's patient! Rising to her feet, she quickly snatched up the bento and went racing down the hallway. Several minutes and a flight of stairs later, she burst through the door to room 257. She was panting for breath and her short hair was all disheveled as she bowed toward the single bed and its occupant.

"I apologize for my lateness!" she exclaimed, feeling like a bumbling first-year medic again.

"Sakura," the bed's occupant said softly and she suddenly felt even younger.

Her head shot up, wide green eyes locking with Sasuke's amused onyx stare. Caught in that look, she felt twelve and helpless--and utterly smitten--all over again.

"Sasuke-kun," she whispered.

How was it possible for him to be even more handsome than she remembered? Though...he did look eerily similar to his older brother, she noted, although his features were cast from a slightly more delicate mold than the sharp lines of Itachi's face.

"Where is Hinata?" Sasuke asked, snapping her from her trance.

"She's on a date with Naruto, but she gave me this for you," she said, stepping forward and holding the bento out to him.

He took it eagerly.

"Good. Her cooking is much better than the hospital slop," he said, breaking the chopsticks and starting to eat hungrily.

Because she absolutely refused to stare at him while he ate like she was still that naive, love-sick little girl, Sakura instead went to the foot of the bed and picked up his chart. She paged through it, scanning the improvement in his stats.

"You seem to be doing a lot better," she said.

Sasuke had been taking advantage of her distraction to study her, recalling Tsunade's words to him. He could tell from the way she had reacted to the sigh of him that she still had feelings for him. Yet the way she had moved past it to focus on her job also showed that she had matured. He quickly returned his attention to his food when she spoke.

"Hinata has really helped," he agreed before taking another bite.

Sakura felt a vein in her forehead twitch as the clipboard in her fingertips groaned under the pressure she was exerting on it. She had mentioned that Hinata was on a date with Naruto, right? No, she was not going to do this again. Itachi had asked her to give Sasuke a second chance, but she refused to throw herself at him the way she used to when they were younger.

"Well, Hinata will be in again in the morning. Have a good night, Sasuke-ku...Sasuke," she corrected herself, setting the clipboard back in place and turning to leave.

The Uchiha set down his chopsticks, dark eyes widening slightly at his opportunity to get reacquainted with Sakura slipping through his fingers.

"Wait...aren't you supposed to check my vitals?" he asked.

She actually glared at him before stalking deliberately back to his bedside. His chains rattled as he lifted his hands to unbutton the top few buttons of his hospital gown. Though her gaze remained professional, he was pleased to note that her calloused hand trembled as she reached it toward him. She set it gently over his heart, the green glow of medical chakra quickly surrounding her fingertips. She pushed it into him and he felt the sensation of tickling warmth as she probed. After a moment, she pulled it back into her. Sasuke almost missed the warmth. He caught hold of her wrist before she could remove it.

"Sakura...I'm...sorry. I was an idiot," he admitted quietly.

She stared at him in utter shock, green eyes wide. He softened his grasp on her, but continued to hold her gaze. Hinata had gotten him this chance. He was no going to let it slip away. He was opening his mouth to add something when she beat him to it.

"Say that again," she said.

Sasuke blinked and repeated, "I'm...sorry?"

"The second part," Sakura clarified, a rather good imitation of his own smirk crossing her lips.

It was the former missing nin's turn to scowl at her.

"I was an idiot," he said grudgingly, "Can you forgive me?"

Her smirk softened to a hesitant smile before she managed a small nod. He had to really mean it in order for him to put up with her teasing like he had.

"I can do that," she told him, pulling away and going to the clipboard to write in her observations.

It wouldn't be easy for them after the way he had treated her three years ago, but this was a start. They would have to see where their relationship would go from here.

.oOo.

The next dawn, the sun rose upon two motionless figures standing before the massive open gates of Konoha. The two chuunin guards jumped in fear as both figures released their chakra, which they had been keeping suppressed to avoid early detection. Izumo was the first to recover, stepping out from behind the desk to confront the Akatsuki members. While they were matched in numbers, two against two, all four knew that the gatekeepers were so outmatched in power and ability that it was laughable.

"What do you want here?" Izumo demanded of the black-cloaked nin.

Pein tilted his head, the strips of cloth hanging from his bamboo hat sliding across his face to reveal his eyes. Before he could stop himself, Izumo took a step backwards at the sheer intensity of that strange purple gaze.

"I desire to speak to your Hokage," Pein stated.

Izumo glanced over at his partner Kotetsu, who nodded and vanished in a poof of smoke. He turned back to the two Akatsuki.

"She is being informed of your presence. Please wait here," he said.

If they wanted to enter Konoha, though, there wasn't really much he could do to stop them. Thankfully, Pein only nodded and tucked his hands together within the sleeves of his cloak. Beside him, it was all Konan could do not to shift uneasily. They could both feel the chakra signatures converging upon the gate. It felt like every member of Konoha's ANBU was being called out to face them. Though there was no sign...

There it was. Jiraiya's distinctive chakra signature was finally approaching, along with a similarly powerful one which must be that of his former teammate and current Hokage. Sure enough, the white-haired sannin soon came into sight at Tsunade's side. Behind them was an old man and an old woman, Mitokado Homura and Utatane Koharu. Both councilors were scowling darkly. At the very rear of the group was Danzou, his lined face impassive.

The massive concentration of ANBU operatives which had gotten into place before their Hokage appeared remained in hiding, knowing full well that the S-class missing nin would surely be able to sense their presence and hopefully take it as the warning it was meant to be. If they tried to attack Tsunade, then the two Akatsuki would pay dearly for it.

Pein waited until the delegation had halted on the other side of the gates, only a few feet of empty space separating them. He slowly reached up and pulled off his hat, hearing a rustle beside him as Konan did the same. His eyes, however, remained fixed on Jiraiya. He watched the sannin's dark eyes widen, flickering back and forth between them.

"Konan...Nagato," he said softly.

Tsunade's head snapped toward the man beside her, wide amber eyes clearly showing she recognized the names of Jiraiya's former students. Her gaze quickly returned to the two Akatsuki, even more wary than it had been before.

"...I heard a rumor you had been killed," Jiraiya added.

"Not yet," Pein responded blandly. He paused, eyes shifting to Tsunade as he got down to business, "Your village has something I want."

The busty blonde stiffened. Ignoring her councilors, she snapped, "We are never going to hand Naruto over to you."

Pein restrained a smirk, keeping his face expressionless.

"I want Inuzuka Hana," he said.

He watched as dumbfounded looks crossed each of their faces. It was Danzou who spoke next, smug satisfaction in his voice at the knowledge that Hana was a pawn who could be sacrificed to keep the Akatsuki happy, while the Hokage dared put their village in danger by refusing to give up the Uumaki brat.

"Inuzuka Hana has become a missing-nin. You will not find her here," he said.

Pein could not hold back his smirk then, his gaze knowing as it rested on Tsunade.

"Is that so?" he asked.

Tsunade's hands clenched into fists as she glared at him, drawing curious looks from all those about her. Ah...so not even her old teammate knew she had given the fugitives temporary asylum.

"Izumo!" she barked, her eyes not leaving Pein's face.

The startled chuunin turned to face her.

"Yes, Hokage-sama?" he asked.

"Go tell Hatake Kakashi to bring his guests here," Tsunade said.

"Y-yes, Hokage-sama," Izumo stammered, confused but hurrying off to obey her orders anyway.

The group surrounding the Hokage burst into furious whispers as they waited. Her councilors were clearly unhappy with Tsunade and expressing that view forcefully. That was why Pein had made certain his village regarded him as a god. There was no questioning the demands of a deity, after all. He glanced once in the direction the chuunin had scurried off to, then settled back to wait. Konan's reassuring presence remained close by his side.

Everything was going according to plan.


Dun dun dun! Sorry, couldn't resist adding sound effects. :) Can't promise when the next chapter will be up, but hopefully it will be soon.

Questions for this chapter:

1. Do you think Tsunade should have sacrificed the Sandaime Hokage's reputation by telling the truth about the Uchiha massacre so that Itachi could rejoin the village?

2. Any ideas on how this story could end? Pein-sama is not telling me his evil plan to save the world (10 points to whoever gets the song reference), so your ideas could have an impact on the way this story wraps up!

Review Responses:

Dragon Jadefire: I have no idea what OTP stands for either. Anybody else able to inform us clueless people?

RozenMaiden14: I really hope you didn't cry for Deidara until this update. That would be a long time to be crying!

KibaCanLickMe: You are a genius. It did indeed turn out to be too much to fit into one chapter, so I am hoping for just one more chapter. But we'll see...

Thanks to Misaki Kasumi, baby-dr3a, Rising Twin Dragons, Tamar, Cheese Maiden, NeverGoodbyeRoxas, Rokhi,and oxygen deprived. I hope you guys are al still reading and enjoying it. And I'm glad more people like Sasuke-kun after the last chapter! I hope you continue to like him after this one. ;)

As always, please leave me a review to let me know what's on your mind!