A/N: I'm sure everything in this fic will be contradicted within the next chapter, but oh well. Best post it before that happens, I'm not going to rewrite this. This fic was a request by fancy-tessen at the community naruto-flashfic on LiveJournal. (Just replace the hyphens with underscores. FFnet doesn't allow them.) The request was for PeinBlue, and of course we've learned Blue's name since then, so this is PeinKonan. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Property of Kishimoto-sama, though I would like to say that I came up with a paper-ninja almost exactly like Konan way before we even knew what Pein looked like. However, I know better than to argue for that in a copyright court, since I don't really have a case, heh.
--Staple Her Down--
Konan woke up to find the skin on her left arm peeling away. She sat up and stared at it dumbly for several seconds, in the early morning stupor of half-sleep.
It lasted until a drop of water fell on her arm. She blinked and glanced up. A large patch of the ceiling was soaked and stained with water. Another drop fell from a crack in the ceiling, and she jerked her wet arm out of the way before it could hit.
"Damn," she murmured, studying her arm and trying not to drip on any other part of herself. She hated water. This always seemed to happen.
She scooted away from the place where the water was dripping on the bed, and then said, "Pein?"
The man on the other half of the bed didn't stir.
"Pein," she said again, sharply. When he didn't stir, she kicked off her bed covers, twisted around, and kicked him in the side. "Pein!"
He instantly sat up, arms raised as if to defend himself. Mr. Never-lost-a-battle, ever alert. Eyes half-lidded, he turned to Konan. "Mwuh?"
"The ceiling's leaking," she said.
"This is the Village Hidden in the Rain. Of course the ceiling's leaking." He rolled over and pulled the covers back up.
Annoyed, Konan unpeeled the paper from bottom of her foot and reformed it into cleats, and then kicked him again. He shot up with a shout and fell off the bed. "What was—"
"The roof," she repeated, "is leaking. On me."
"Yes, I heard you..." Pein fell silent. "Oh. Oh! Sorry, sorry, I didn't realize..." He stood up and looked at the ceiling, "Oh, hell."
"That's what you get for your perpetual rain," Konan muttered. If he could stop the rain, why not do it more often? He was just showing off anyway.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll fix it," Pein said, as Konan got out of bed. "You aren't too bad, are you?"
Konan held up her arm for Pein to inspect. He winced. The skin was mostly pulpy papery mush. "Sorry," he said again.
She waved off the apology with her right arm and left the room, keeping a lookout for any more leaks. The first-aid box was in the bathroom.
"Where are my boxers?" Pein yelled. It seemed he was finally awake enough to notice he was naked.
"I don't know," Konan said. "Check under the bed." She located the first-aid kit and opened it. Searching through the contents, she frowned. They usually kept some spare paper in the box with paste, to patch up any of her injuries. The only paper left was a tiny sticky note that said "Pein, buy more paper:-)"
"Pein! Did you see my note?" she shouted.
"No. I almost never use the first aid-box. I've never lost a fight, remember?"
"Then how did you know the note was in the box?"
Pein didn't answer.
Konan sighed, snatched up the sticky note, and glued it word-side down over her mushy arm. It was a start, in the same way that putting a band-aid over a full-body burn is a start. "I'm going out," she said. "Turn off the rain, would you?"
"But the people will think something's happening," Pein protested.
Konan gave him a moment to reflect on his words. Let the village worry a bit, or make Konan melt in the rain?
Within a minute, the ever-present tap of rain faded away to nothing, leaving an unnatural silence in its wake. For a few hours, the world was strange, but safe.
"Thank you," Konan said. She found the thick stack of black and red papers by the exit of their dwelling, formed it into her cloak and clothes, and left.
Clouds hung unevenly in the sky, in some places thick and sickly green and in others thin enough that beams of sunshine pierced through, like searchlights hunting the village for missing-nin. Konan was careful to avoid the puddles as she walked through the streets, headed to Nihonshi's Paper and Parchment.
The people she passed deferentially lowered their eyes. They all knew to respect the Akatsuki cloak, even if not all knew every reason why. Personally, Konan hated the obsessive respect. She wouldn't be able to put up with it at all if she wasn't with Pein.
Sometimes, she wondered why she had agreed to do this with him. Sometimes she wondered if it had been worth it, tearing down their own village and building it anew. Sometimes she considered running away.
Suppressed thunder hummed between the metal buildings of the Rain Village. Konan took a giant step over a tiny puddle, walked beneath the canopy of Nihonshi's shop, and went inside.
Mr. Nihonshi was sitting straight up behind his counter, looking expectant. His old face stretched in a cheerless grin as Konan came in. "Good morning, Konan-sama," he said. "I thought you might be stopping by."
"Is that so?" she asked, not turning towards him but towards the back of the store, where he kept his highest quality paper.
"I couldn't think of any other reason for Pein-sama to stop the rain," Mr. Nihonshi said. "Nothing else is going on between you ninja right now, is there?"
"I don't think that is your concern, Nihonshi-san," Konan said. It didn't take her long to locate the paper in her skin tone, but she lingered for a moment, looking over the other colors. A shiny, gold paper caught her eye, like the elaborate decoration of a precious gift to a lover, or the reflective foil of the wrapper from a snack. She reached up to brush it with her uninjured hand. It was smooth, slippery. Beautiful, she thought. But what occasion would she have to wear it?
"Is there anything else you need help with, Konan-sama?" Mr. Nihonshi asked.
"No, thank you," Konan said. She grabbed a stack of her regular paper, along with a bottle of black ink to paint on her nails, and took them all to the counter.
"No pay," Mr. Nihonshi said, without even looking at her items.
Konan pulled 2000 ryou out of an inner pocket of her cloak. "Take it."
"No pay!" he repeated.
Konan formed a kunai with the skin of her right arm, and held it up to Mr. Nihonshi's throat. He gasped quietly and tried to lean back. She followed his movements with the weapon. "You are not that generous," she said. "Take it." Civilian though he was, Mr. Nihonshi knew manipulation. She wasn't going to let him worm his way into the Akatsuki's good graces without a better offer than some free paper.
"I-if you insist, Konan-sama," Mr. Nihonshi said, reaching out with a trembling hand to accept the money.
Without another word, Konan picked up her purchases and hurried to the door. Mr. Nihonshi tried to speak as she left, "As always, a pleasure to do bus—"
The door fell shut before he finished.
She hated the aura of dignity and superiority that surrounded the Akatsuki, the senseless show of respect that those she met performed for her. She wasn't something to win the favor of, like a particularly expensive prize. The only one who treated her like an equal human in this village was Pein. He was also the only reason she stayed.
Perhaps, she mused, as she often had before, perhaps it would be best if she left him behind and started again. Pein was only one person, and Konan couldn't survive with only his contact, cooped up indoors with him to protect her body from the rain. She didn't really need his protection. She could head north to Rock Country, where the rain was sparse, or even to Wind Country where it never rained at all. Nothing was keeping her here.
But even before her thoughts reached the inevitable end of the cycle, she knew how it would end; she couldn't leave Pein. She had argued with herself over this point for years, sometimes spending weeks gradually coming to consider escape and then, just as gradually, resigning herself to the knowledge that she would never actually do it. Now, she had done it so many times that she could have the whole debate with herself in a matter of minutes.
Even so, she never deceived herself about her place: next to Pein. Not in Akatsuki, but only beside Pein. She wore their cloak but didn't associate with them, didn't care about anything outside her village. And that was why, in the end, she knew she would never leave.
The village, for all its faults, was her home.
As Konan walked through the streets and around the puddles, smothered thunder rumbled from the storm Pein held back, for her.
In the bathroom, Konan send the black paper cloak off of her and stacked it up on the floor so she could tend to her arm. All it took was a little glue on her arm, and then a piece of paper wrapped around it, and so on and so on with more and more layers like papier-mâché. Soon, she only had to barely lift a sheet and it attached itself, conforming to the shape of her arm, wrapping around her hand and fingers. When she was healed she found her paintbrush, opened the new bottle of ink, and painted on the shape of her nails.
It's not bad, she thought, standing and surveying the result in the mirror. She almost looked human again.
She heard the door open. "Konan? Is that you?"
"I'm in the bathroom," she called. The door shut and the telltale tap of rain returned. Pein had let it fall again.
"How's your arm?" he asked, coming in. He barely seemed to notice that her clothes were all in a neat stack on the floor next to the sink, in the same way that she only idly noted that he had changed bodies while he was out. They knew each other so well that such things didn't even register between them.
She held it up for him to examine. He took it in his hands, gently, even though he knew how strong she was; the fact that she was made of paper made people automatically assume that she was more fragile, more easily bent and damaged and torn, even when they knew better. "I'm sorry," he said. "The leak is fixed now."
"Thank you," Konan said. "I'm fine."
For a moment, Konan was acutely aware of their imbalance. She wasn't wearing a thing while he was fully clothed, and somehow, in her mind, it put him a bit above her. She summoned her black papers and clothed herself. "I'm going outside for a bit," she said. By that, of course, she meant she would go out to the architectural cave at the height of the building they lived in, with enough of a roof to protect her from the rain but still let her see the village. Watching the village without having to interact with it was the easiest way for Konan to associate with it.
She slid around Pein and started up the hall, but he grabbed her shoulder. "Wait—Konan."
She stopped and turned to look at him, arching an eyebrow curiously.
"I... got something for you while I was out," he said. He refused to meet her eyes as he reached into a pocked of his cloak and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. He unfolded it and held it up for her to see. "I thought you'd like it."
It was the paper she had seen at the store, the gold one, shiny and slick. "Thank you?" she said. "But why..."
Before she could finish, Pein cleared his throat self-consciously and got down on one knee. He lifted up the paper like an offering, grinning awkwardly. He didn't grin very often. "We've never really done this officially," he said. "A ring wouldn't really work for you, since you'd drop it every time you had a battle, but you could always make one with this."
"Oh," Konan said, softly. There was nothing else to say. Pein was looking decidedly nervous now. His arms were lowering, slowly. Konan thought that at any moment he might take the paper back, apologize for such a silly idea, and hurry away to stroke his ego. It would be so like him.
Before he could, Konan reached out and took the gift, feeling it for a moment between her finger: paper skin on paper metal. And as Pein watched with a horrified, petrified expression on his face, she pinched the edge of the paper between her fingers and tore it in half.
"I..." He couldn't get anything else out. He just stared at Konan with the most betrayed, tricked look she had ever seen. She hardly noticed it. They hardly saw each other physically at all anymore.
Silently, Konan rolled up the first half of the paper and twisted it around the forth finger on her recently mended arm, until it figured out that it belonged there and twisted itself around her finger into a simple band. She took Pein's arm as gently as he had taken hers earlier, and wrapped the other half of the paper around his finger, coaxing it into a ring as well. He was still stunned enough that he barely even moved.
"You needed one too," she said.
"Oh," he said. "Yes, of course. I should have thought of that."
Konan laughed softly. Brilliant as Pein was at politics and warfare, some things were just beyond him.
"Come on," she said. "I could use some company outside. Go with me." They were always watching the village anyway. This didn't really change anything. The ring was a nice gift, but it didn't alter their lives. It was just something else that attached Konan to Pein, to the Village Hidden in the Rain.
And deep down, she was glad of it. For all her doubts, she was glad to have something to keep her from being blown away like an empty wrapper in the wind. As long as something was holding her in place, she was never lost.
She led Pein to the roof, the paper wedding ring on her left hand brushing the metal Akatsuki ring on his right thumb, so they could watch over the village they had built together.