Characters: Konan, Nagato, Yahiko
: She will go home.
: Nagato x Konan, Yahiko x Konan
Author's Note
: Damn it.
: I don't own Naruto.

The frog suits were—she has forever maintained—not Konan's idea. By the time Jiraiya pulls them seemingly out of nowhere, all three of his students have become verily convinced that the climate of Ame no Kuni has succeeded in driving their sensei batty, and this is just the final nail in the coffin for Konan, who, out of the four of them, is the closest to having her feet firmly on the ground.

Nagato and Yahiko go along with it, but Konan has to grit her teeth not to protest at donning the body suits. The thought of her and her teammates and sensei hopping around in green linen drapery is what ends up racing through her mind as the rain pounds around Konan, diluting the fresh, black flow of her life's blood.

Images and memories chase each other like children at frenzied play across the wilting plain of Konan's mind, wild and disjointed, but still so terribly vivid and agonizingly real.

Wooden tablets turned over, over and over again. Until one day, when one is never turned over again.

Wars are fought in the space of hours and days, gutter and sputter and die and are then resuscitated, candles brought to flicker and flame anew. Men with greedy eyes and bodies smelling of eastern leaves trample over the land, trying to put their stamp on everything and win at any cost, including the lives of the people whose land they fought on. Konan, Yahiko and Nagato join this war with steel in their hearts and spines.

Childhood flies away in a flurry of rushing blood and adrenaline and hormones. As her muscles harden to be a warrior woman's, Konan's own instincts lead her to conflicting feelings about her two closest companions. Yahiko invokes the rushing of blood and animal feelings, pained feelings deep in her chest, and Nagato inspires devotion, unwavering like the path of a great river cutting through the land.

Yahiko dies, and Konan brings the iron curtain down on memory after that. The darkness that follows is still a living presence, and she fights against its sentience stubbornly. Even dying, she will not give ground to it.

Oddly, at the last there is no regret. Konan lies on the ground and remembers her words and wonders, disinterested, why she isn't more worried. Her anxieties, she supposes, must be flowing out on the tide of her blood, just like all her burdens and earthly bonds.

There's so much more that needs to be done. So much more that needs to be fought for, fought against, wept out, bled out. So much more that needs to be fixed and bandaged and resuscitated (though not wars and never wars; Konan will never sit by and watch a moribund war be brought back to life again), but won't be now, or maybe won't be. Perhaps the future generations will find themselves equal to the challenge ahead.

When Jiraiya's still with them (was it really so long ago?), he tells his Ame students that when they lay dying, earthly concerns won't seem all that important anymore. Konan wonders if this is Jiraiya felt when dying at the bottom of a lake, light all around, tingling, feeling as though the world can all go and burn, but he wouldn't care.

Madara is the name of a stranger now. Konan wouldn't know it if asked, and it's certainly not important anymore.

The Fourth Great War? But there are only three, she maintains. When did we erupt into a Fourth?

Maybe it's simply better this way, that she's not thinking of what she did wrong anymore, not thinking about how all her inactions have left her damned, but that Konan is thinking of all the people she will see again after she is dead.

She can have some pained affection for two of the comrades she gains after Madara's Akatsuki forms. Itachi is just a misguided child, if a dangerous, murderous one, and when his mask occasionally slips and cracks, Konan is wounded by the child, pale and cold and utterly tortured, she sees underneath layers of peeling paint. Sasori has neither trusted nor particularly like Konan since she recruited him, so many, many years ago, but Konan can't help but to feel sorry for him and what he's lost, what drove him so far out of his mind with grief and anger and pain that he sought to extinguish the light of all emotion by fashioning a new body for himself, all made out of wood and senbon. It didn't work, of course.

But more importantly, it will be a reunion between herself and Sensei and Nagato and Yahiko; Yahiko in particular, who has been dead for so long but remained a shadow of her life, never leaving, with Nagato's eyes in his corpse.

The old era will fall with the last of the Akatsuki, the old Akatsuki, the good Akatsuki before Madara took it in his hands and twisted it beyond recognition.

The new era will dawn with the twilight of God's paper angel.

The wooden tablet, covered by vines and ivy, will be turned over one last time.

And, at last, she will go home.