Disclaimer: looks at self in mirror I'm neither Japanese nor male, so it's a good bet that I don't own Naruto or any of its characters.

Warning: This fic contains manga spoilers and implied character deaths.


Having and Wanting

Pein lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. His partner, the Akatsuki's blue-haired kunoichi, lay beside him. Her azure hair was plastered to her forehead with sweat, and there was a tiny smile on her lips. From her slow, rhythmic breathing and the low level of her chakra, he could tell that she was already asleep. He was very much aware that he should be as exhausted and contented as she was, that he should be drifting off to sleep himself. Yet sleep would not come. Despite the silk sheets, the down-filled pillows, and the beautiful woman beside him, he was restless.

Silently, he rose from the bed and pulled on the pants he usually wore under his Akatsuki cloak. He crossed the room and pushed open the sliding door that led to the balcony. The night air was cool, and a light breeze ruffled his hair. From here, he had an excellent view of the city. Its many lights were like sparkling jewels, and he could hear the sounds of conversation and raucous laughter from the few people who were out this late. On the horizon, he could just barely see the smudge of smoke that marked the location of what was left of Konoha.

After several failed attempts to capture the Kyuubi jinchuuriki, the Akatsuki had decided to get serious. Instead of sending out yet another two-man team, they had all gone after him. Although it was the most powerful of the five major shinobi villages, Konoha had not been able to stand up to the combined power of the remaining members. Pein himself had fought and killed the legendary Jiraiya, and his partner had dealt with Tsunade. They had found Kakuzu's body stored in Konoha's morgue, and Pein's partner had laughed. "They actually think he's dead! They don't know that he just goes into stasis if all his hearts are destroyed—Pein, bring me the heart of that guy you just killed." So Pein had retrieved the heart of the ninja who'd been guarding the door, and his partner carefully cut open Kakuzu's chest and slipped it inside. Immediately it began to beat again and Kakuzu's eyes flew open. They had rescued Hidan as well—Zetsu had taken care of that task. The newly revived Kakuzu had stitched him back together. By that time, most of Konoha was in ruins, and the little bit that was still standing was promptly demolished as Hidan exacted revenge for his imprisonment.

The rest, as they said, was history. They had captured the Kyuubi jinchuuriki, extracted his demon, and used the combined power of the nine bijuu to fuel their conquest of the world. And now, here they were in their new headquarters—a manor that had once belonged to the Daimyo of the Fire Country. Staring towards the distant ruins of Konoha, Pein felt unsettled. Many times, he had imagined how he would feel at this moment. He had always assumed that he would be exultant, overjoyed, with a pleasant sense of accomplishment. Yet he felt none of those things, and he didn't know why.

Troubled, he re-entered his room, then exited into the hallway. He strode down the hall, not aiming for any destination in particular. At this late hour, all was silent—until he passed the door to a parlor and heard the soft sound of a page being turned inside. Pein turned towards the door and saw a young woman curled up in an armchair, a thick book on her lap. He recognized her immediately.

Being a group of missing-nins and criminals, it perhaps wasn't surprising that none of the Akatsuki members were exactly what you'd call expert housekeepers. The fact that none of them had yet poisoned themselves with their attempts at cooking was a constant source of amazement, and their base had always been cluttered and messy because no one could be bothered to clean it up. Although none of them had been willing to actually do anything about this situation, they were perfectly willing to complain about it, and Kakuzu had finally caved in and hired a housekeeper just so they'd all shut up. The girl they'd hired had been sixteen at the time, and was now approaching her twenty-third birthday. She was so engrossed in her book—the final installment in her favorite series—that she didn't even notice him standing in the doorway. She had been reading the damn thing pretty much nonstop all day; she had somehow even managed to cook dinner and read at the same time. Now, her face was alight and her eyes were wide. When did I lose the ability to feel such simple joy? When did I become unable to forget the rest of the world and lose myself in something enjoyable?

Pein left the doorway and continued to wander the halls. Everywhere, he saw reminders of Akatsuki's triumph. Piles of money, neatly stacked by Kakuzu. Sets of priceless art objects and exquisite jewels (also precisely catalogued by Kakuzu). All the spoils of conquest. To see the evidence of his success should have given Pein pleasure, but it didn't. On the contrary, he felt…almost disappointed.

Eventually, Pein's meandering brought him to the front door, and he walked out into the night. The two guards outside stood to attention and bowed deeply from the waist at the sight of him. "Good evening, Leader-sama!"

Without acknowledging their greeting, Pein surveyed the gardens that surrounded the grand house in which the Akatsuki now resided. Under the moonlight, the graceful trees and colorful flowers were serene and peaceful. Pein walked out onto the surface of the koi pond and turned his face up to the sky. Countless stars sparkled overhead. They were reflected in the dark water of the pond, so that the koi which gathered curiously around his feet seemed to be swimming through space. We've won. The world and everything in it belongs to the Akatsuki. The goals we've pursued for over a decade have finally been achieved. So why do I feel so…empty?

In the silence of that night, with his eyes fixed on the infinite sky, Pein hit upon the answer. He was bored. Now that he had everything he could ever want, there was nothing left to strive for. Pein's quest had provided him with a goal to pursue, and that goal had driven him for nearly his entire adult life. Without it, he felt adrift and purposeless.

Pein trudged back through the gardens and into the mansion, again ignoring the guards' greeting. The halls were quiet, except for the murmuring sound of Hidan chanting a late-night ritual. The servant he'd passed earlier had fallen asleep in her armchair, and her book fell out of her lap to hit the floor with a thump. If he concentrated, he could sense the chakra of the other members—an impression of overwhelming power laying dormant for the moment. Overall, there was an atmosphere of calm and satisfaction. In his unhappiness, Pein was totally alone among his comrades.

Finally returning to his bedroom, Pein felt a chill draft coming from the balcony door that he had left open. In response to the cold, the blue-haired kunoichi had pulled the blankets up around herself so that only the top half of her face showed above them. On the bedside table, the petals of her ever-present flower ruffled in the cool breeze. Pein closed the door and slipped back under the covers. What do I do now? Am I going to feel this way for the rest of my life? Will there be new challenges for me to meet, or will I just fade away like some elderly civilian? Some type of nocturnal bird sang soothingly outside the window, and Pein's companion nestled against the warmth of his body.

And still, sleep would not come.


A/N: This fic was inspired by a quote from (and I know this is going to sound like a strange inspiration) the original Star Trek series (which I also don't own): "You may find that having is not, after all, so pleasing a thing as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." I think it was Spock who said it.

Oh, and have I mentioned that PeinBlue is my new favorite pairing?

Reviews would, as always, be greatly appreciated!