"I think this is kind of like, if you want to make communism likeable, instead of heralded by death camps and insane facial hair, make it sound economic reform and [inaudible due to loud people in the way]."

- The usual guy. I just liked the facial hair bit.

o.o.o.o.o

"Obito."

"…That tells me nothing." Sasuke stated, unimpressed.

Obito smiled, a wry smirk that twisted the scars on his face grotesquely, and chuckled. "I suppose not. I was declared Killed in Action several years before you were born, after all."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "And you never returned?"

Obito chuckled again, a dark sound that would have brought shivers to a man less composed than Uchiha Sasuke. "Well, I wasn't really given much of a choice. I was… well, I wasn't quite a hostage, but I do believe that calling myself a captive would be accurate enough."

"You obviously escaped." Sasuke pointed out. "Why not return then?"

Obito tilted his head. "Who said I wanted to return then? The day I escaped was the day I watched the love of my life be killed by my best friend. I realized a number of things that day, though I doubt you would understand, emotionally stunted as you are."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Stunted?"

"You're like a bonsai tree. Every time you try to grow a little, some dumba** comes by and cuts the branch off. Sometimes, you're the dumba**." Hidan explained, in his own peculiar way.

Sasuke stared at him, face blank.

Obito coughed, drawing the attention back to him. "In any case, there are a number of things you need to know. I'm aware that Deidara already told you that Itachi committed the massacre under orders from the Hokage, in order to prevent a war, but there's more to it."

"How much more?" Sasuke demanded.

"The truth about why the massacre was necessary. The truth about the Kyuubi attack. The truth about your former teammate. The truth about your former teacher and his team. The truth about the end of the world as we know it."

"It's the end of the world as we know it…" Deidara sang softly, quiet enough not to disturb the two Uchiha, just barely audible enough for Hidan to hear and hum along.

Sasuke swallowed. There was a lot there that Obito had touched on, and even if he couldn't pinpoint what, there was something in Obito's voice that showed just how important the information was, not just to Sasuke, but to everyone. Obito had information that many villages would waste countless Jounin to get a hold of. Obito had information on events that had shaped the world into what it was today.

"Well, little cousin?" Obito's voice was teasing on the surface, and there was a smirk on his face, but the hidden steel in both showed Sasuke how serious the situation was. "What's your answer?"

"…Tell me everything."

o.o.o.o.o

By the end of it all, the end of all the stories, the end of all the secrets, Sasuke was sure of eight things.

One, Obito was irrevocably insane.

Two, Itachi had every right to be called a hero.

Three, Obito had severely skewed priorities.

Four, Naruto was subject to way more secrets that had been kept from him than anyone had the right to be.

Five, Obito was f***ing delusional.

Six, Deidara and Hidan were likely insane as well, except for that they knew too much.

Seven, as soon as he got the chance, he'd kick the a**es of the Nidaime (death be d*mned, he'd do it anyway), Kakashi, Obito, Shimura Danzo, and whoever was left from the Kiri of the third war, because the Uchiha massacre was mostly all of their faults.

Eight… Obito really needed to get his head checked. Really needed to get his head checked.

Did I mention that Sasuke was thoroughly convinced that Obito was crazy?

Because he was.

"You know what all that means, un?"

Sasuke turned to look at the blond man, wary. "What?"

"We were wrong about the Yondaime Hokage. He obviously wasn't gay."

Sasuke felt his face lose all expression in order to convey his lack of amusement to Deidara effectively. Then again, the comment had lessened the tension in the area, causing everyone to become just slightly more relaxed.

"So, a**hole, can we let you go and not see you try to destroy everything again?" Hidan glared at Sasuke, but it wasn't as strong a glare as it could have been.

"…Yes."

"Good, un." Deidara came over and started getting rid of the ropes and seals. "I'll let you off with a warning because you had a pretty good reason to go all psycho on us, un, but do it again and I'll do two things. A, I'll beat the living c*** out of you, un. B, you'll be given kitty ears, and a tail. Hopefully a fluffy one, un."

Sasuke stared at him, not quite able to conceal the shiver that ran down his spine.

He didn't want to end up like Shikamaru.

No one wanted to end up like Shika.

Except possibly Sai.

But Sai was abnormal anyway, so he didn't really count.

"So," Hidan clapped a hand on Sasuke's shoulder, and Obito did the same from the other side, slipping the mask back onto his face. "Let's get back to everyone else now, shall we?"

Sasuke glared at him, Sharingan turning, and tried to shrug the arms off of his shoulders.

Needless to say, his efforts were in vain.

"Eh… un." Deidara nodded, voicing his approval. "I want to talk to the Konoha group anyway."

"Why?" Obito tilted his head in the bomber's direction.

"You know how there's a Kage summit coming up because you got Kisame to bring in the Hachibi, un?"

"It was just a tentacle." Obito admitted, but nodded.

Deidara shrugged, bringing his hands up and lacing them together behind his head, tangling them in the long hair that rested there. "Right, well, the point is that the villages are obviously going to try to bring themselves together to fight us, un. They don't know the truth about recreating the Juubi and what it might do to help save the world."

Obito frowned behind the mask. "You mean…"

Deidara nodded. "After they've all banded together, ready to join forces for the first time ever, un, we'll send the hostages in, as a bit of a 'sorry gift,' but not."

"Have them explain…" Hidan started, comprehension dawning.

"Toss in little red-eyes here as well, un…" Deidara pointed at Sasuke.

"And Hozuki, they know he was taken by Orochimaru by force, not willingly…" Obito continued, excitement barely heard in his voice, but there.

"And if we can get that little b****, what's her name, Karin to somehow get the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki on her side by explaining that they're from the same clan…" Hidan continued.

"And a note from Nagato, explaining the same thing, maybe with some input from Konan, sent to the Toad Sage…"

"We could get the entire Elemental Nations on our side if we do this right." Obito concluded, watching Deidara closely. "You're good at wide-scale manipulation, Deidara. Not as good as I am, but good."

"You do realize that the chances of all of those working are next to none, right?"

"Shut up, brat, and just trust your elders." Obito smacked the back of Sasuke's head.

Sasuke rubbed the back of his head, biting down a snarky reply.

P***ing off three S-ranked ninja was not a good idea.

Even if one of them had decided to put his façade back up and was now chasing after a butterfly.

o.o.o.o.o

"Wait, Kisame-sempai got tricked by a tentacle?" This was the first question blurted out by Suigetsu.

"…Really? That's what you're surprised by?" Hidan stared at him. "Jinchuuriki have weirder techniques than Kekkei Genkai users. Get used to it, brat, 'cause it ain't changing any time soon."

"Well, yeah, but he's working with Sasuke's older brother, right? And that guy's a genjutsu genius, so even if sempai didn't see it, why didn't Itachi?"

"Itachi wasn't there." Tobi said, and there was amusement in his tone, even if he was still in his childish mode.

"…What? Why not?" Sasuke shot him a suspicious look.

Tobi shrugged. "Itachi-kun's gotta get bed rest, 'cause he's super sick and Sasori's a mean doctor."

"…Wait, what kind of sickness are we talking about here?" Karin demanded.

Tobi stared at her for several seconds, and then shrugged. "Tobi doesn't know! Ask Deidara-sempai!"

All eyes turned to the blond, looked up from where he was digging through his clay pouch. "Uh… I think Sasori no danna said something about his lungs. Pu… pulm… pulmonary edema, I think?" Deidara thought it over, but Karin's muttering distracted him.

"If it's got to do with the lungs and is severe enough to keep him from going on missions, then pulmonary edema would make sense, but only if it was in an advanced state, though I suppose there could be other sicknesses influencing the…"

We'll leave Karin to her geeking out. It's better this way.

"Let me get this straight." Neji started, pale eyes staring around in the blandest, and thus most unnerving, manner possible. It was mildly effective. "Uchiha Itachi is suffering from an illness and has been for how long?"

Deidara thought it over. "A couple years, un? And it's only been getting worse, un. Danna didn't take him off missions until a few months ago, un."

Neji frowned, and then asked the question that was slightly more specific. "Is the illness fatal?"

Deidara glanced at Hidan, and then Tobi, and then turned back to Neji. "It… might be? I'm not sure, un, but I think so."

"So Uchiha Itachi has been suffering from a fatal illness for the past several years, his health degraded to the point where he is no longer allowed outside of your base for missions, and yet he has still been able to avoid capture, and you still insist that he could defeat Uchiha Sasuke in a straight fight?"

"…Yes."

"Sounds like a bada**." Suigetsu commented, slurping from his bottle and encountering the strange noise that comes from a straw sucking in only air and trace amounts of liquid. He glared down at the bottle. "D*mn it."

"My brother is dying?" Sasuke demanded of the Akatsuki members, only one of whom had the decency to even pretend that he was embarrassed.

Then again, the one in question was Tobi, so the embarrassment may have just been in place to mock Sasuke.

"Well, yeah." Hidan rolled his eyes. "Everyone dies sometime, brat. Get over it."

"Un." Deidara nodded, and then grinned, sunny and bright. "And if all else fails, un, Danna can just turn him into a living puppet and keep him alive like that!"

Sasuke looked sick at the suggestion.

"Excuse me," Sai began, butting his way into the conversation. Around him, several people braced themselves for the inevitably inappropriate comment that he would probably make. "But why do you care? I thought you were quite eager to kill him. Why would you not be happy for the playing field to be leveled even the slightest bit?"

Everyone stared at him. Not only was the comment not inherently insulting, but he had raised a good point as well.

Deidara chuckled. "Well, looks like it's time for some more explanations, un, ne?"

Tobi clapped his hands delightedly.

Then he spun in on his eye and disappeared.

"…That b****rd. He left us to do all the explaining."

"Shut up, Hidan, un. Just think of it as a chance to mess with their heads just by using the truth, un."

"…Huh. You're right. This'll be fun."

o.o.o.o.o

A/N: Bah. Some of this seems a little rushed, but I think I did okay.

So, this is a little short and kind of drags on, but I wasn't exactly feeling very inspired. My grandfather died on Tuesday, and I couldn't attend the funeral because it was a trans-Atlantic flight away and I have my IB exams to do, so… well, I'm kind of depressed at the moment. Don't take it personally if I snap at you for some reason.

By the way, new contest on my DA account. The theme is strange relationships, so if you want to use one from GC, go ahead.

Ja ne,

Phoenix.