A white, blinding light swirled in front of Kakashi. He felt a strange combination of numbness and euphoria. He couldn't remember anything, where he was, or how he'd gotten there. Only that blinding light. I'm dead. A steady beep sounded as his hearing came back. So maybe I'm alive. His memory followed. Orochimaru, the bombs, Sasuke. The red-headed puppet master standing over him, tending to his wounds. Then the world went black. Did Orochimaru escape? Is Sasuke okay? Did Sasori make it out? And Itachi? What if the Uchiha made a last attempt to save Kakashi and was lost in the explosion? The beeping intensified along with Kakashi.

Kakashi? He knew that voice. He'd heard it before, but it seemed so far away. Ka-shi. Are ... alright? A shadow interrupted the light, followed by another. He opened his eyes a little more, trying to adjust to the bright room, only to see brilliant, crimson eyes. Hidan.

Oh, God, I'm in Hell... Laughter echoed the room, and he realized he must have been speaking aloud. He then saw Kisame and Kakuzu in the room as consciousness came back to him. Kisame came bearing a shark-like smile, full of jagged teeth. Kakuzu looked indifferent, which was about as happy as he ever looked, so Kakashi wasn't too disappointed. Hidan was plotting mischief; Kakashi could tell from the way he was smiling maliciously while staring off into space.

Kakashi smiled. "Hey Kisame, Kakuzu..."

"It's about time you woke up. Pein said we couldn't go home until he was sure you'd be alright," Kisame said.

"I'm so glad you're concerned about my well being," Kakashi muttered. "... Where's Itachi?" he asked thoughtlessly.

"Oh, yeah. You wake up after a week of near death and coma, after we save your life..." Hidan ranted. "And all you can think about is fucking!"

His little spiel was followed by appalled gasps, and Kakashi realized there were Konoha citizens in the room. He couldn't see who it was, not yet being able to turn his head.

Kisame laughed. "Hopefully he's sleeping like we told him."

"But he's probably harrassing the woman leader to get his younger brother out of jail," Kakuzu added.

Kakashi took a second to comprehend who "woman leader" was. "Wait. Sasuke's in jail?" he asked, as shocked as his weak body could manage.

Kisame punched Kakuzu in the arm scoldingly before saying, "Don't worry, he'll be fine..." An obvious lie.

"Can I go see him?" Kakashi asked, eagerness painted plainly on his face.

Kakuzu shook his head, "No."

"You should probably regain the ability to walk first," Kisame added.

Kakashi sighed. "Good point." He glanced down at his unresponsive limbs. "When will that be?"

"Never!" Hidan laughed evilly.

Kisame shook his head. "It'll be a few months until you're back to normal, but you should be walking by tomorrow, or as soon as the muscle atrophy wears off."

"But you can't have sex ever again," Hidan mocked.

Kakashi looked to Kisame, who stared at him stupidly for a second before saying, "Uh... he's right, no sex. Ever." Kakashi then turned to Kakuzu who rolled his eyes.

A terrified nurse walked in. Her shaking hands held Kakashi's chart protectively in front of her as she timidly focused her stare from Kakuzu to the ground. Kakuzu beamed, seemingly pleased with himself. Tsunade followed the girl, staring the Akatsuki members in the eye and daring them to stare back. They did, of course. "Out. All of you," Tsunade roared. "I need to talk to him privately, then he needs rest."

The Akatsuki members filed out. Genma, Asuma, Kurenai, and Gai emerged from the other side of the room, following the others out. Asuma stole a glance at Kakashi, and Kurenai managed a small wave. But the wall was already set in place between them. Traitor or not, Kakashi was never going to be accepted again. He watched forlornly as they left.

"Kakashi?" Tsunade asked. Her usually controlled disposition gave way to sympathy. "How are you?"

Kakashi managed a meek smile. "I'm fine."

The Hokage returned the smile warmly. "I've talked with the council. They've agreed to let you be reinstated as a Leaf jounin. Your apartment is still available. You can move back in as soon as you're released from the hospital."

Kakashi's face went from happy to unsure to morose. "What about the Akatsuki? You're not going to arrest them, are you?"

Tsunade laughed. "No. They kept their promise."

Kakashi looked at her dazed and confused. "What's going to happen?"

"Well, we negotiated a treaty with Pein," Tsunade began. "So long as they keep their noses clean, we'll take no action against them. Of course, the members will have to report to me, confirming that they're staying out of trouble. And they agreed to take on S ranked missions for us."

Kakashi couldn't breath. "Seriously?"

Tsunade nodded. "And Itachi can visit whenever he likes."

The Copy nin tried to hug her, but his exhausted limbs got only a few inches off the bed before Tsunade was telling him to rest. Then he was just fighting her so he could go see Itachi and Sasuke.

"What about Sasuke? Orochimaru was practically holding him prisoner, he shouldn't have been arrested," Kakashi said.

Tsunade sighed. "Don't worry, he'll have a fair trial. It won't be hard to convince the jury that he was persuaded by that ... man. You'll probably be called to witness."

Kakashi nodded.

"Itachi and Sasori are waiting outside," Tsunade said. "I promised I'd let them see you for awhile. Then you need to get some rest!"

Kakashi nodded, silently begging Tsunade to leave so he could visually confirm Itachi and Sasori's safety. She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder before walking out the door. Kakashi watched Itachi come in. The Uchiha was at his side in an instant, wrapping the Copy nin in his warm embrace, holding him like he was afraid to let go. "I thought you were dead."

Kakashi smiled, kissing Itachi's cheek. "You can't get rid of me that easily," he said, smiling.

Sasori scoffed. "Get a room."

Itachi laughed. "We have a room. You're intruding."

Sasori ignored him, turning to Kakashi. "It's about time you woke up."

Kakashi rolled his eyes. "You know, Kisame said the same thing."

"Of course he did. Kisame had to deal with brooding Itachi the whole time you were napping..."

Kakashi smiled. "Sasori..."


"Thanks for saving my life."

Sasori smiled. "Don't mention it... Ever." The puppet master said his goodbyes and left Kakashi and Itachi alone.

Itachi crawled into the bed and lay next to Kakashi. The Copy nin rolled onto his side, resting his head on Itachi's shoulder before falling into a deep sleep.


Three days later...

Kakashi walked through the woods of Konoha, just happy to be breathing fresh air. Tsunade insisted he stay in the hospital to make sure his injuries were completely healed. But even he knew the only reason she really wanted him to stay was so she could inspect his new Mangekyo sharingan. He pulled at the collar of his jounin's vest, noticing for the first time how uncomfortable it was. And, walking through this forest, he realized how alone he was.

"Watch out for the snake..." a voice drawled.

Okay, maybe I'm not alone... Kakashi mused. He heard rustling in the brush beside him and watched a snake slither back into the forest. He turned to the Akatsuki leader. "How long have you been there?"

"For however long you've been wandering around..." Pein replied.

Kakashi saw him now, sitting on a tree branch, completely relaxed against the large trunk. "Is there a reason you're stalking me?" Kakashi asked, partly joking.

Pein smirked. "I find your aimless wandering to be fascinating." He walked lazily along the branch and gracefully jumped down to Kakashi's side, having no concern for the laws of gravity. "What's troubling you?"

Kakashi shrugged. "...Nothing."

"Let me guess," Pein said, ignoring him. "You wish to return to your ranks among the Leaf shinobi, but fear leaving the Akatsuki ... and Itachi."

"Hn," Kakashi replied. "Watching me walk around is one thing. Reading my mind..."

Pein scoffed. "As if I'd need to utilize my mind reading abilities to figure out something so blatantly obvious."

"Am I that predictable?" Kakashi sighed.

"No... But I would be offended if you weren't even a little sad about leaving the Akatsuki," Pein replied.

Kakashi smiled at the joke, but it quickly vanished. He gazed at the gates of Konoha as if they were his very own prison bars, and it suddenly seemed so real. "What should I do?"

Pein stopped him, and Kakashi realized it was Konoha's boundary line. All he had to do was walk away. "I'm afraid this decision is yours."

Kakashi sighed. "The only reason they want me to stay is to keep a check on you."

Pein nodded.

"But they also want me to be the peacemaker. So, it would be better for everyone if I stayed."

Pein nodded.

"Especially for Sasuke." Kakashi paused, waiting for Pein to give him an answer, but it never came. "I have to stay, don't I?"

"Kakashi," Pein said. "You have given your life for us, and for that I owe you my undying gratitude." He handed Kakashi his Akatsuki hitai-ate. "You'll always be an Akatsuki member, even if you live in Konoha."

Kakashi ran his hand along the scratched surface. "Where did you find this?"

"It was buried under Otogakure. I thought you might want it."

Kakashi smiled. "Thank you."

Pein nodded. "I'm afraid Itachi has a mission tomorrow."

Kakashi grimaced.

"...So I suggest you spend tonight with him instead of wandering around, brooding."

He smirked, but Pein was gone before he could say anything. Instead, he decided to take the red-head's advice and rushed back to his apartment. Just as Pein predicted, Itachi was waiting for him. The Uchiha lay across Kakashi's bed, in nothing but his Akatsuki cloak. "I almost thought you were lost," Itachi complained, licking his lips seductively just to taunt Kakashi.

Kakashi shed his clothes on the way to the bed, littering them carelessly on the floor. Itachi wrapped his arms around the Copy nin's neck, bringing him into a deep kiss. Kakashi fell into Itachi's warm embrace, never wanting the Uchiha to let go. Their bodies entangled. Kakashi wrapped his legs around Itachi's waist, pulling them closer together. He felt so much more alive when Itachi was inside him. His body trembled with anticipation. And suddenly, he didn't know where Itachi ended and he began. He grabbed the Uchiha, wanting to taste his soft lips one more time before being filled with Itachi's warm seed.

Itachi fell into him, his head pillowed by Kakashi's shoulder, before they both fell asleep in each other's arms.

Kakashi woke up still wrapped in bed sheets. Itachi had snuck out during the night, but the sweet smell of sex still lingered. He pulled a sticky note off his forehead, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes to read the elegant script. Kashi, don't worry, the mission won't take long. Please take care of my brother. Love, Itachi. Kakashi smiled, trying not to think of Sasuke as he peeled the other sticky note off his nether regions. I know, you love me too...

End. Of prelude.

So here's the dealio... I know I haven't answered all the questions. My answer to those questions... are in the sequels... *laughs evilly*

I'm trying something new with the sequels, and I'm not entirely sure if it will work. So, I'm going to start a plotline and the first few chapters of each story, and that might take awhile. In the meantime, I'll start an "Ask Akatsuki and/or Naruto characters" to keep myself and you wonderful reviewers entertained.