Kakashi’s ninja hounds led the rescue squad to a thin river that separated them from an obvious cave with a large boulder blocking the entrance. Sakura ran forward and punched said boulder, shattering it into a billion tiny pieces, making Chiyo slightly and silently impressed. Inside were Deidara and Sasori, who had obviously been waiting for them. Deidara was sitting on a body, looking bored.
Naruto looked closer at the figure they sat on. The body was Gaara! He wasn't moving, and didn't look like he was breathing either. "About time you got here, yeah," Deidara smirked.
"GET THE HELL OFF OF HIM! I'M GUNNA KILL YOU!" Naruto growled as a red liquid started to seep over him. His eyes turned from blue to red, his whisker marks turned darker and his teeth turned sharper. The red liquid cloud was done covering him, and there was an evident tail from the back of the substance and fox ears on the front.
"So that's the nine tailed brat," Sasori stated the obvious. He was still hidden in Hiriko, but he saw Chiyo and by the way she was looking at him, he knew that she identified him right away.
"LET'S GO!" Naruto yelled at Sasuke, the liquid turning into a hard shell. The blonde could still be seen, but just barely, as he attacked Deidara. Sasuke put in a second blow and released his fire ball jutsu. The older blond didn't quite understand what kind of danger he was in as he made a clay bird and jumped on it, taking off with Naruto, Sasuke and Kakashi following him closely.
"Chiyo," Sasori snarled.
"What? No respect for your grandmother?" the elder crossed her arms.
"I don't like waiting. Shall we start fighting?"
"Absolutely. Sakura, you must fight too." Sakura nodded and got into a fighting stance. Chiyo pulled out two scrolls and summoned two puppets. One looked like an older Sasori, and the other was a brunette. They both looked like humans with obvious puppet features.
"Uh, Itachi, what do we do?" Amejisuto asked. There were no more people to fight, and the other girls completely ignored them as they rushed forward to attack the puppet.
"Let's go get Gaara somewhere safe," Itachi replied, quickly grabbing the dead body that the Akatsuki abandoned. They both ran out of the cave and to a meadow a few kilometres away. The brunette heard explosions and rocks breaking from where they left. Trying to ignore that, she put her head on Gaara's chest, listening for a heartbeat. As expected, there was none.
She started to tear up before trying to restart it by pounding on his chest. She even started trying to get his chakra paths working by transferring some of hers. Itachi held her back and felt his skin. "He's quite cold already, which means he's long gone," he whispered sadly.
Amejisuto stated to cry. She really liked Gaara; she wasn't scared of him like most people in Konoha still were, and her, Gaara and Naruto used to hang out a lot when Sasuke and her sensei were doing their own thing. Itachi's heart broke at the sight of his apprentice breaking down and pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her trembling body. She buried her face in his chest and cried even harder.
They barely registered time passing. When the other members of the retrieval group appeared, it seemed like they had been waiting for only a few seconds, but at the same time, a hundred years. Sasuke, Naruto and Kakashi looked worn out but not too damaged. Naruto was back to normal, but a bit bloody due to the hardened liquid that was now gone. They called it 'the nine tails cloak' since it was the demon's chakra surrounding him and giving him power.
Sakura and Chiyo returned not long after, both badly injured. Sakura had a deep stab wound in her side, in a place where it would be harder to heal, and Chiyo was limping and started twitching and breathing heavily. "She got hit by a kunai and refused to take the antidote since I needed it for the stab wound," the pinkette explained.
"I had to... Do something..." Chiyo stumbled forward and put her hands over Gaara's heart. "I knew Lord Gaara was dead, now I'm going to give him his life back." A faint green glow flowed from her hands. "I was saving this for Sasori if he ever returned, but he's dead now. I never thought I would be helping the younger generation, but it's your turn to shine," she said to Naruto.
He put his hands over hers and gave some of his chakra, seeing as Chiyo looked too weak. Amejisuto was still sniffling, but had stopped crying. Itachi was still holding her, earning weird looks from Sasuke and Kakashi, but the brunette didn't care. She stared intently at Gaara, praying for him to breathe again. After a few minutes, he started coughing and sat up. Naruto cheered and helped him up, and the elder fell over.
A few tears formed in Sakura's eyes as Naruto also tried to wake the old woman up. "Man, she must be so tired. We should go back to the village and get her an antidote," he smiled. "Wake up Granny, Gaara's alive! You did it!"
"YOU IDIOT!" Sakura yelled, punching him. "How can you be so dense?!" Naruto looked around at everyone, who had their heads down in mourning. "She... She gave her life to bring Gaara back with a forbidden jutsu.”
Amejisuto pressed closer to Itachi and bit her lip to keep from crying again. Her ears tuned in to the sounds of the wind. Even nature was mourning the great sacrifice.
A backup group got to the field consisting of Temari, Kankuro, the old man, and other Suna ninja. "Gaara! You're safe!" Temari and Kankuro ran and hugged their brother before looking down at the old woman with questioning expressions.
"Chiyo has died," the redhead reported. "Let us all grieve and give a prayer." The Suna squad joined the others and bowed their heads. They carried her body back to Suna where the whole village could mourn the loss of their elder.
"Fix it faster! It hurts if you do it slowly!" Deidara complained as Kakuzu sewed his arm on. "Stupid Kakashi and his implanted mangekyo sharingan. I'm lucky he only got my arm sucked into another dimension rather than my whole body like he thought, yeah."
"Yah, you're lucky, but you won't be if you don't shut up and stop breaking things. I'm tired of putting you back together," Kakuzu growled, cutting the thick cable that acted as veins in his body. He used them as sewing threads since he had great control over them, and ended up being the one in the organization that somehow got pinned to fixing everyone. He would charge them first, of course.
"It's too bad that Sasori got killed. He was a good addition to the Akatsuki," Pain said as he entered the room. "Deidara, from now on, you will be partnered with Kisame. Next time, be careful." Pain and Kakuzu left Deidara alone in his room.
"Now who will I bicker with about art, yeah?" Deidara mumbled sadly to himself, already missing his friend.
"So, how did your mission go?" Mikoto inquired when her children and Amejisuto walked through the door.
"It has been an exhausting week filled with sleeping on the ground, seeing a few dead people, and crying," the young girl yawned, trudging to her room.
"Our mission was three days running there at high speed, hunting down the Akatsuki, seeing a dead Kazekage, not being able to help anyone fight, watching an elder die to save the Kazekage, and three days running back," Itachi explained quickly before heading to his own room.
"Ameji cried a lot and Itachi was acting weird," Sasuke informed, grabbing a glass and filling it with lemonade.
That sparked the mother's curiosity. "What was he doing?"
"Ameji was friends with Gaara so she was crying a lot, and when I went to them with Naruto and Kakashi after our fight, Itachi was hugging and comforting her. I've never seen him do that before." He got slightly concerned for his mother when she started dancing and squealing around the kitchen. He slipped off to his room before she could notice he was gone.
"Itachi, can I come in?" Amejisuto knocked on the Uchiha's room door.
"Just a minute," he called. He released the genjutsu that would trap intruders other than his mother and brother and opened the door. His apprentice looked extremely tired and was almost falling asleep while standing. "You should sleep."
"I tried, but after group missions like that, I always get adjusted to having more people with me. Usually my mom does this but… Can you sleep in my room just for tonight?" she asked awkwardly. Itachi smiled lightly and nodded, following the brunette to her room. They crawled into her large bed and before her head touched the pillow, the girl was asleep. She had a death grip on his arm, keeping him close. Itachi found himself falling asleep quicker than usual too, going into a peaceful rest.
Mikoto peeked in and softly ‘awed’. “They make such a cute couple,” she squealed once she closed the door. “I can’t wait till they admit their true feelings.”