Such a Charming Veneer

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

A/N: This fic is anywhere between marginally and completely out of character in regards to Pein. It was written very early on in the series, when Pein's personality had not been developed much, if at all.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy. I also hope the lack of periods doesn't scare you off. One-sentence stories are hard to make interesting!

#01 – Walking

He was a walking tackle box with all those stupid rings in his face, Sakura observed as Sir Akatsuki Leader was escorted to the maximum-security prison compound, one ANBU official on each arm as well as several others surrounding him; but then again, when he didn't even glance up—just stared straight ahead with unblinking eyes—the thin barbells running through the bridge of his nose looked rather…endearing.

#02 – Waltz

He had this certain way of walking—this bit of grace in his step that was somehow masculine and the sway of his arms and the casual puff of his chest—that made Sakura want to just study him for hours and hours and hours behind a one-way mirror or something, because it was almost like he was waltzing; it was a little bit after she noticed this trait in him that Shikamaru approached her, giving her a lazy look and an even lazier comment: "You know, he never used to do that until he noticed you were watching him."

#03 – Wishes

For all the wishes that Sakura could have chosen at the moment, she didn't choose the most obvious one—that Sasuke would return and he, Naruto, and she would all live happily forever; no, instead she chose one that was slightly selfish, but damn it, if anybody deserved to be selfish, it was Sakura: "Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight: Please make Sir Leader stop giving me those really sexy stares, because he's my patient and he's the enemy and Ibiki would kill me if he saw me blushing for that bastard!"

#04 – Wonder

She really had to wonder sometimes if those exact same stares were actually meant to affect her at all, and if so, whether it was supposed to be negative of positive; one day he would come back from his interrogation session—beaten—bloody—bruised—and would just look at her, strange, calculating eyes locked firmly with hers, conveying no emotion whatsoever, until she looked away forcibly, and the next day he would stare at her with such rage that she could swear she tasted it.

#05 – Worry

"Don't worry," she murmured under her breath, a small smile painting her lips as she took his hand and healed the puncture wound there, "Ibiki won't kill you if you give up information, okay?" before she finished up and smoothed her thumbs over the newly healed wounds that left minimal scarring; he'd turn his head and scoff quietly at this, but Sakura didn't miss the way he pouted out his lower lip as he tried to hold in the reddening of his cheeks—she thought it was nice to not have some emotionless, stick-up-his-ass patient once in a while.

#06 – Whimsy

He was whimsical when he wanted to be, especially when he didn't realize that she was watching him from the security cameras as the guards led him into his room; he'd sigh deeply, throw up his hands, collapse on his bunk, and quote random literature to pass the time; Sakura particularly liked it when he took on different accents for the different pieces of dialogue, because it showed how little all of this "torture" had affected his actual character.

#07 - Waste/Wasteland

She didn't speak with him often, but when she did, he always offered such engaging conversation, speaking about the wastelands he'd seen in his travels, how badly the citizens in the poorer, smaller countries were treated, how many of Konoha's traditions and beliefs were just fanciful misconceptions concocted by minds that were obsessed with order and the ability to bind; of course, Sakura didn't agree with most of what he said, but she listened intently on anyway, nodding here, throwing in her side to the debate there, and he never got angry, just…thoughtfully frustrated.

#08 - Whiskey and Rum

She wanted to learn more about this Sir Leader—he was so intriguing—so she went out to lunch with Ibiki, sharing whiskey and the occasional rum, exchanging thoughts on his process thus far, and Ibiki actually commented that if he went on being even mildly cooperative, he might be downgraded from maximum-security to close-security in due time; Sakura decided not to tell her newest patient just yet, because she wanted him to see at the end of the road what ends his good behavior brought him to.

#09 – War

There was an interesting war of emotions that flitted across his face when she smiled, greeting him with a cheery, "Hello, Pein!" the next morning; she worked with a hum on checking him over, making sure his chakra was still drained, making sure he had no secret jutsus or anything hiding up his prison-issued sleeve.

#10 – Weddings

"So have you ever been married?" she asked through the speakerphone quite a time later, probably about a week, if she had to estimate, and he shook his head after taking a bite of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich; he carefully finished chewing before looking up at the big black box on the ceiling where she sat, squinting into the big black window, almost shouting, "I've never had the time to contemplate it."