Author's Note: In this fic, Sasori is still alive and Tobi is Zetsu's subordinate. He isn't a member quite yet. So this story takes place before Shippuuden.

Enjoy the story!

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto, but the plot is mine.

Everyone in Akatsuki knew it; even the entire shinobi world took heed.

The Akatsuki leader, Pein, was definitely someone not to be trifled with.

He was a dangerous man. He was even revered as a god in his village of Amegakure, a mysterious figure that the people worshipped as their savior from pain.

When he wanted something, his subordinates were to fulfill his whim, no matter how frivolous or bizarre, no questions asked. It was an unspoken rule that everyone obeyed. Of course, there were some complaints, but even those few members who dared utter grumble knew to get the job done in the end.

Even if they had to risk everything.

Even if they had to take desperate measures.

It was a gloomy morning. Dark clouds drifted above the Akatsuki hideout, leaving gray smears in their wake. The rains were coming, and by the look of it, they were going to be experiencing a large storm.

The Akatsuki members were all crowded in to a small, windowless meeting room. The fluorescent lights were garish, making them squint. The leader still hadn't arrived. Gruff grumbling rippled through the space. It was quite early still. Only minutes before, the members had been summoned from their rooms. The leader had ordered them all to assemble in the meeting room immediately.

"All right," Hidan grumbled, rubbing his eyes, "where the fuck—"

"Hidan-san!" Tobi interrupted cheerfully, holding up a giant plate of warm muffins. He was wearing a neatly ironed, fluffy apron. "Would you like an early-morning muffin? They're fresh out of the oven!"

"No," Hidan replied flatly. "I don't want your pansy-ass muffins." He slumped back in his chair and began swearing loudly. He had a ritual to do, and this was taking a substantial chunk out of his schedule.

"Does anyone want a muffin? I have lots!" Tobi called out, holding the tray over his head.

"I wish that the leader would get here soon," Kisame said to Itachi, looking at the wall clock. "We've been waiting for half an hour."

Itachi regarded him silently. He wasn't much a morning person. He slowly sat down in an uncomfortable chair, folding his hands. Squinting, Itachi put up a hand to shield his face from the light. It was hurting his sensitive eyes.

Kisame smirked.

"I told you not to use that crazy eye technique so much," Kisame stated matter-of-factly. "You need glasses."

Itachi looked at him blankly. Uchihas were too dark and mysterious to wear glasses. It would ruin the illusion of mystery.

"Seriously," Hidan was shouting at Tobi, "I don't want your goddamn muffins!"

"But Hidan-san!" Tobi pleaded, gesturing at the tray. "They're blueberry!"

In the corner, Kakuzu was wringing his hands. He had just entered a dress-designing contest, and was currently working a beautiful little number that he was sure would win. Kakuzu sighed. He could almost feel that lovely, cheap silk under his hands, his fingers making deft stitches in to the fabric. Looking down, he realized that his fingers were twitching.

"When will the leader be here?" Kakuzu complained. "I to attend to."

"Shut up, un," Deidara snapped, trying to fashion a clay bird. "I'm trying to create art here. Because art is a—"

"—bang. Yeah, I know the story," Kakuzu interrupted grumpily. Impatiently, he stared fixedly at the clock with great concentration. It seemed as though he was trying to have a twisted staring contest with the inanimate object.

"Don't you dare mock my art, un!" Deidara shouted, his eyes wild. "Or I'll blast you into the next century!" The mouths on his palms bared their teeth.

Sasori balanced on a small chair, fiddling with a screwdriver. He was making adjustments to one of his numerous puppets.

"Deidara," he said, his eyes still carefully trained on his work, "you wouldn't be able to recognize good art if it stabbed you in the forehead."

Deidara turned to Sasori, his eyebrows knit-low.

"What did you just say?"

"You heard me, big boy."

Zetsu sat immobile, watching everything with a hawkish gaze. His yellow eyes glinted.

"They're a bunch of idiots, aren't they?" the black half of his face muttered.

"Be quiet," the white half of his face retorted. He looked around to make sure that no one was listening. Then softly, he said, "I agree."

"Godammit, Tobi! For the last time, I don't want a muffins! Leave me the hell alone!" screamed Hidan, flinging his arms in the air. "For the love of Jashin, Tobi! For the love of Jashin!"

Tobi looked crestfallen. "But Hidan-san…"

The noise in the room crescendoed. Amid the clinking of Tobi's muffin tray, Hidan's loud cursing, and various simultaneous discussions and shouting matches, nobody noticed the quiet click of the meeting room door.

Suddenly, they became aware of a powerful presence. It became deathly silent. The leader was standing on a small podium, staring at the members with unsettling eyes.

"Good morning," the Akatsuki leader said pleasantly. He wore a mask pulled up over the bottom half of his face.

Quiet mumbles of greeting floated around the room.

"You all are probably wondering why I have requested your presence this morning," the leader said, his voice slightly muffled.

He was met with intent stares.

"I am here to deliver you directions for a very important mission," he said, tugging uncomfortably at his mask. "You will not fail. Because if you fail"—here he took a dramatic pause—"I will kill you."

The room was silent.

"You see, the Akatsuki is widely feared. Our enemies and allies know that we are elite ninja. Our skills and feats are truly recognized, but beyond that, there is another asset that we possess. An asset that instills more fear than any jutsu. Do any of you know what I am speaking of?"



The leader looked out as his followers and was met with a plethora of confused looks.

He sighed.

"How can I explain this? You see, our appearances are the first thing that an enemy sees, before any attacks can be unleashed. Our appearance gives off a first impression."

The leader began to pace.

"We are an evil organization. So it would make sense for us to have the appearance of an evil organization, would it not?"

There were fervent nods.

"I must admit something to all of you. You all do carry unique appearances that do give off an air of unmistakable evil." The leader paused. "Well—most of you." He glanced over at Tobi, who was sporting a frilly apron.

The Akatsuki members were shocked. The leader rarely ever complimented them.

Hidan puffed out his chest, full of pride.

Kakuzu glanced at the clock.

Kisame cracked a toothy smile.

Itachi frowned, squinting at the blurry mass that he knew must be the leader.

Deidara smirked, as the mouths on his hands beamed in delight.

Sasori looked up from his puppet project.

Zetsu cocked his head to the side, surprised the leader's kind words.

Tobi clapped his hands together, smiling widely behind his mask in utmost glee.

The leader held up a hand.

"However, I felt as though my appearance was inadequate. Thus, I had a...slight modification done two days ago."

The members held their breath as the leader slowly pulled down his mask.

Once again, there was silence, pressing heavily into their shoulders.

The Akatsuki members looked at each other, unsure of what to say. Zetsu gathered his courage and spoke up.

"Leader-sama," Zetsu said, confusion slipping in to his voice, " a piercing?"

"Not just a piercing," the leader said, motioning at his slightly puffy face, "I got eighteen piercings!"

A thick silence hung over the room. Several members clapped their hands over their mouths, trying to stifle their laughter. The leader folded his hands over the podium, blatantly unaware.

"B-but Leader-sama," Kisame said, clearing his throat hastily, "what does this have to do with our mission?"

"Ah yes, Kisame," the leader said, oblivious to the muffled chuckling of his followers. "The mission."

"You see, my fellow Akatsuki members, numerous piercings come with many risks. For example, a piercing may become easily infected, resulting in scarring and damage."

The leader lowered his voice.

"This is your mission. Several of my piercings have become terribly infected. I need all of you to split up and search for the secret to clearing the infection. Murder, steal if you have to. Because if you fail the mission,"—the Akatsuki leader narrowed his eyes—"I will kill you."

Author's Note: Hope you liked the first chapter! Please review!