Title: Bitter Refuge
Characters / Pairing : Sakura, Pein, Konan. SakuPeinKona
Rating: M
Summary: God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight. A revolution begins in the soul. Sakura rebuilds what the careful shattered shards of her hope in someone who has no place in the new world. Vestiges of days gone by, it is up to them to rebuild the world of tomorrow.
Notes: 4/1/09: Holy moley its done. Made for a fic swap between me and SilverStarShine94. She asked for PeinSaku, and here it is, PeinSaku. Beta-ed by Jinkle Byrne. -pets- Love ya Jinklebob, because she did more then just beta-ing, she put up with my bitching and whatnot. So this muthafucka is long and more then anything I've ever written and the whole reason I've been absent the most while. Oh yeah and I graduated highschool... that'll be the other part of my absence. Enjoy. Music: The Killers new ablum 'Day & Age'. 20/5/11: I am editing all the mistakes in this, adding in the deleted line breaks (oh FFN, why must you hate everything?) Roughly 2 years later, I am still so proud of how much people connect with this story. You make it worth it, you really do.
standard disclaimer applies.

&the world turns and we go on -

- beginnings and ends, ends and-

- lessoned learned and the wheels-

- made in the image of -;

-He has such powerful eyes.-

She watched him when he wasn't looking, only for seconds and before he could catch her.

He was the type of man that prostitutes made eyes at and mothers guarded their children from. That respectable fathers locked their respectable daughters away from - despite that, those respectable daughters opened their windows and turned not so respectable: just for him.

But Sakura had no respectable father and threw away the little respectability she had for a boy with yellow hair, whisker marks and far too much courage and a man that was never really a boy whose dark eyes and dark hair always shone, no matter the light. But they were gone now and she didn't care for respectability anymore.

No, Sakura cared for working to 9 to 5 shift watching a man with orange hair and all those piercings. His coming was always sporadic and she could never predict it. But she preferred it like that.

She couldn't count days till he came. Instead, she'd hold each day in hope.

It was a nice kind of feeling.

She felt guilty too though; he'd often come with a woman with blue hair and such delicate fingers that seemed to move more than necessary (but it still made Sakura hopeful, because if he liked girls with odd hair, she still had a chance…).

But despite her musing, she'd watch, hitting the buttons on the coffee machine, and always making a point to deliver it herself - just so he would look up at her, so openly blank - just so she would smile.

She just saw herself reflected back in those flat staring eyes and she'd go on her way.

It was just a chance for her to try and care again.

The first time they spoke, was when he was paying, and he had politely pointed out that she had miscounted the change. She was flustered enough just by speaking to him but the mistake that she had made caused her to break eye contact and she began to recount the change as quickly as she could. She was almost done when his hand stopped hers. She froze.

"You gave me too much." She could feel him peering into her face.

"I- I'm sorry. You know, most people, they'd just take the extra money, um…" She couldn't look him in the face - she was so sure that it would hurt her.

"I'm not most people,"

That was enough then. He was more than human and that was enough. She turned her face up and the blank eyes were smiling.

Behind him the woman appeared and Sakura saw matching flat gold rings on their fingers. She flushed and counted the correct change this time, forcing herself to focus. She gave him the money with the same smile and took a deep breath.

"Sorry about that," Sakura said shakily.

The woman behind him gave a slight tilt to her lips. "It's alright. We won't bite. Don't be afraid."

Sakura smiled - she was such a nice woman, now that Sakura had talked to her. Not really that expressive, much like her husband… Sakura swallowed and leant on the counter.

The siren rang and Sakura turned her head, "Shit, this is the third time this week." The customers all moved around restlessly.

She looked back; he was trading looks with the blue haired woman. Sakura smiled. "If you two want to get out of here through the back before they come in, you're welcome to. Nothing like these ugly bar-checkers to ruin a date."

"A... date?" he stared at her.

The woman spoke over the man. "Thank-you," Her voice was so smooth.

Sakura flipped up the counter top up, making way for them to come through. She took them to the back exit and staff entrance. She pulled the key from the side door to open it. "Here you go."

Pein touched her wrist, calling her too look at his eyes again. "Who are they coming to check?"

Sakura smiled, "me."

The woman raised her eyebrow, "Why you? Are you delinquent?"

Sakura shook her head passively, "No, I'm ex-gun fodder."

The couple looked surprised, both in their expressionless ways. Sakura lowered her head and pulled her short hair up, showing the bar code and her legion's emblem and rank marker below it. Her breath caught when she felt fingers touch her neck, cold and calloused. She shuddered. "You were in the Konoha legion?" he asked, his fingers tracing the two swirling patterns. "ANBU?"

"Yes," she murmured, biting her lip, "before the…"

His hands retreated and she straightened herself.

"… Before the… I was one of the survivors." No one spoke of what happened to the Konoha legion, partially because no one really knew and those who did knew it was just so… Sakura cleared her mind and smiled. "That was a long time ago. Look, I've got to go. The bar-checkers obviously need to check me again and everyone knows they hate waiting…"

She held the door open for them, that little bit of old heartache burning in her eyes. The blue haired stopped by her on her way out. "Konan. My name is Konan."

"I'm Sakura."

"We know… and Pein." He indicated to himself.

Damn name tags. Her mouth opened to sound his name, sighing it under her breath. They brushed past her and she closed the door and locked it, putting the key back on its hook. She went back to main lobby.

- I'm not crazy but I hear those voices at night-

- they were just as real-

- as when I first heard them when I was just -

- He has a plan for us all -

Only sometimes.

She led the checkers back to out of the customers' views. She dropped her head and they buzzed over.

It was the same as every other time but it hurt no less.

The old tin-can robots that had been made after the rebellion of the Suna unit to scan for memories came in to check on all Vets. A thin blade was inserted into the bar code that was attached to the memory section of the brain. The blood trickles down her neck and Sakura's life trickled - literally - before her eyes.

'-Naruto, get out of the way-!' Ten years old and counting

'-Sasuke-kun, d'you want to walk me home…?-' Eleven years old and still not knowing any better

'-Please - I want to go with you guys -' Fifteen years old and a still-God attitude

'Sasuke-kun, stop it, I'm not -' Sixteen years old and not understanding why

'-Sakura-chan, don't -' Still sixteen and the worlds thrown back in her face

Seventeen years old and skin sliding against skin, hormones and heat and lust andandnd-

'Naruto if we go, we might-' Eighteen years old and death's no stranger; death's a viable option

'- You've been assigned to squad leader Kakashi -' Eighteen years old and giving a life away

' - Sakura what are you going to do-?' Eighteen years old and no life to question, and no idea

' - I'll abort it, doesn't matter Sasuke-kun, I'll have others, don't tell Naruto or Kakashi -' Nineteen years old and making mistakes already

- Skip a few years, dead and fighting, dead and walking, dead and laughing-

- Still dead- still trying-

' - You've been assigned to fight- whole legion is going- orders- Tsunade-' Twenty-two years old and going to the front lines.


' - NARUTO-'

' - SAKURA- '

' - CHAN- '

Twenty-two years old and seen too much, hero - hero - hero. Not even dead anymore, beyond dead - Got the blood on her hands and already a veteran of the war. Dead and the enemy bastard looks the same.

Same as you, same as what you'll end up.

'- You've been awarded the Fourth's cross-'

- Twenty-two years old and already gone.

-Twenty-three years old and just human- forgetting why…

-Twenty-three years old and remembering how to hope in flat, powerful eyes…

The data blade slipped out, the blood gushed and she pretended that her tears were from that. She felt it trickle. The bar-checker bots droned that her systems were normal, no rebellious thoughts - data saved and departing premises. Sakura sighed and pressed her hand to her neck, the blood sticky and not warm any more. She went about finding a tissue and a band-aid to stop the bleeding. She looked down and cursed: there was a tiny splotch of red on her white work shirt. She pouted.

Sakura dragged her feet back to the front counter, white bandage now on her neck. People stared, they always did. It made them edgy - not edgy enough to leave - but people like her were still thought of as such. They were spies without having the conscious decision of - but still they were.

Tagged and Barred. That's what they called it. Once she'd been so proud of it - to serve, too. She pulled in a breath and went about making more coffee. Her regulars felt sorry for her, so she wouldn't lose any service that way. Most people pitied, feared or hated her.

She smiled. Better days, much better days. Before, when she was adored for those marks. Before was not now. She poured the frothed milk. There were two sorts like her: the delinquents, or the army. Delinquents had just the barcode, and were checked upon weekly. Army had the bar code, legion emblem, their rank, and were checked upon randomly. She'd work for hers, so hard, following her boys. She swallowed. Her neck throbbed again.

"Is your neck okay?" Sakura looked up at the little girl, just a little taller than the counter standing on tiptoe, her tiny fingers clinging to keep balance.

Sakura nodded, pushing a cup forward for another waitress to take. The little girl pushed a handful of coins forward.

"My neck is fine - well, not yet but it'll get better."

The little girl nodded. "Mum wants a cappuccino please and can I have another coke?" Sakura nodded, took the money and counted it quickly.

"Why do the bots want to check you?" She asked as Sakura poured the coke into the glass for her. Sakura could see the gap of a missing front tooth.

"'Cause it's what they were told to do."

"But why you?"

"Because I'm dangerous," Sakura laughed, "Well, not really, but they think I am, because I was in the army."

The little girl's eyes widened and her mouth dropped in wonderment. "But you're a girl!" she squeaked.

"Mmhm, but I was very tough - am very tough. You have to be, and tough girls go to the army."

"I'm not very tough…" The little girl sighed, like it was a great burden.

"I also went for people I loved. I had to be tough to help them and protect them - people who are tough are strong as well, because they are fighting for something they love, and I learnt that from someone I loved very much."

"'Loved'? Why not 'love'?"

"He's gone now."


"Here's your drink, and there are different kinds of tough… you'll find yours." She pushed the two drinks into the girl's hands, who wobbled a bit but managed to carry them both back to her table.

Sakura lay in bed, unable to sleep. She hated the bar-checks; they never failed to make her restless with her own misery.

(- "Sakura-chan, wanna go get ramen with me?"

"Naruto, not interested. How many times do I have to tell you?"-)

She sighed and stuffed her head into her pillow.

(- "Sasuke-kun-"



They rolled over her and, unable to take anymore, she sat up in a huff, switched on her lamp and looked around her room. There was no Sasuke lying next to her, no Kakashi watching from a corner over with his book and no Naruto snoring, mumbling about how soft Hinata-chan's hair was- amongst other things. The light dispelled the memories, but she knew as soon as she turned it off, her mind would play tricks of battles and blood and laughter.

There would be no sleep tonight, so instead she rose, pulled on her boots and got an over jacket, took her keys, locked the door of her apartment and headed out. The wind bit. It was curfew, but she knew the patterns of the guard bots, and she could hide from them - she hadn't been in the army for nothing.

Navigating the bots, she went to the park, found a tree and climbed her way up. The bots wouldn't find her; she could wait till the curfew lifted in the morning and go home.

They were there the next day and she could have screamed in relief. In fact when she saw them, she told one of the other waitress on shift to take charge for the moment and headed outside, leaning her head on the brick wall, dry sobbing in relief. The memories of last night had damned near killed her. He was a clean memory and she headed back in, pressing her back straight and her smile strong.

She beamed at them, so hard she could swear her face was cracking. It must have shown; Konan frowned in her quiet way. "The usual then?" Sakura asked, her hand resting with a pen on her note pad.

Konan nodded. "Green tea."

Pein murmured his drink and Sakura wrote it down - he never had the same drink, always different. She put down the card number down, about to pull a way when Konan touched her hand, "Did you not sleep well?"

Sakura gave a slight shake of the head. Konan had such grace - to be touched by her shocked Sakura; her hand was so cool and smooth, calloused by cold. "No, after the checkers, I always get… restless… it's hard after they…" She gulped.

"Konoha legion." Pein said softly, "Your nightmares…" he paused and looked in her eyes, "… must be incredible."

Sakura swallowed hard, looking for a word, something, anything. Her mouth opened and closed. Finding nothing to say, she pulled her hand away and walked as fast as she could toward the counter, around the back and to the back courtyard again. She pressed herself hard up against the bricks, the cold dry smell filling her nose as her neck prickled. She sighed, resting her full weight against it.

"That can't be comfortable."

Sakura would have jumped if she'd been anyone else. Instead she rolled back to look, blinked slowly at him and let out a long breath.

"You speak of my nightmares… like…"

"Your nightmares are not so different. They are the same as the ones that reek through this whole city- this whole country."

Sakura dropped her eyes when he walked closer, and stared at the boots he wore; black lace ups.

"Not mine," she said. "There is no longer anyone alive that's seen what I've seen… they're slowly getting rid of us, wiping as from their dirty conscious. I know why the checks are more regular. They're going to call me up soon, I know it."

"It won't always be this way," he was firm, the same voice he said everything in - it was never unsure, never faulted.

She blinked. "They weren't always this way either, and one day things'll go back and then they'll turn bad again. This life is a cycle." she sighed.

"But it's time for this part to-"

She stepped forward, pressing her hand to his mouth, covering it totally. "Whatever you are part of- shut up about it to me. I'm a fucking spy - one barcode memory swipe and they know everything I do. So shut up!"

She took her hand away. "Its probably best if you don't come around anymore," she muttered, tucking her hands into her pockets.

But we still fear what we don't know-

- It'll end sometime-

- when you've got nothing left-

-you find something new to-

- it's all to hope for, to dream for, to wish for, to die-

Instead of turning away, he grabbed her arms, tugging her forward, pulling her hands out of her pockets. He looked at them long and hard, and Sakura looked at him. Her hands were soldier's hands, covered in lines, both her own and the marks of her life. He drew out her fingers.

He nudged at a particular scar. "You were married." Never a question.

She shook her head. "No, engaged, promised and - "

There wasn't a need to say more.

He brushed past that to the tips of her fingers, then back up, to her wrists, bringing it right up close to his face, his breath hitting her skin, warm against the cold. He was intent on examining her but was stopped by the sleeve of her jacket. She tugged her hands away and he stared at her with his head tilted to the side, those eyes so close and calculating as she tugged the jacket it off, falling to the ground in a crumbled mess, black cotton against black tar. He stared at it and then back at her bare arms and shivering shoulders. He tugged her forward when she raised her hands again, leaning forward.

Sakura was shocked at how, despite all this closeness, gentleness and warmth it all was, there was nothing sexual to it. He was just looking at her, inspecting her, seeing her. She shivered again and he stopped, his breath hitting the curve of her shoulder. He dropped her left hand and began to look at her right, ending at the same place.

"Pein?" she murmured. He dropped her other hand.

"You bare the marks of the empire… all over."

"Not the empire: my choices and my life. I'm proud of them."

She took a step back from him and picked up her jacket, pulling it on and then close, warming herself up.

"When I get called up again," she whispered, "can you look after my café for me?" she smiled a bitter half-smile. "I really have worked hard on it…It means a lot to me, even if you just sell it to someone else, I just don't want it trashed or… you know."

Sometimes Sakura acted like any other twenty-three year old woman. She pulled on clothes only fit for whores, found a club and threw herself into it.

It surged. She was one of many, not apart. Bar codes didn't show up in the dark, she was no white light inker, she blended and mixed and no one cared that she was seeing them. Someone was touching her stomach, their hand in her hair, their lips on her neck and that was enough - connected and not apart and it was enough. The mass moved and she saw perfection. Any good-looking boy was all that she needed, who maybe had dark hair, or maybe blue eyes.

It'd be flashes, of moments and proper consciousness. The rest was a blur. There was someone biting her shoulder...

-cannot stop myself -

She dragged herself forward, the hair wasn't light enough for blue eyes but she pulled closer anyway, her fingers biting into skin, pushing herself against someone who was warm and harder then she could be -

-cannot help myself-

Who ever he was, was growling into her chest as he nipped and bit. She gasped and threw her head back. Maybe she moaned, maybe she didn't, but it didn't matter. Her brain was going fuzzy, dragging steps lead her through someone's corridors of a hotel. Door by door by door she giggled and tripped, and he wasn't much better.

-don't want to help myself-

She coughed, gasping, stars in her eyes and the man was leaning against her, she groaned and sat up, hiding her face in her hands. He - whoever he was- groaned and rolled away. Sakura stood up, still coughing; this room stunk of smoke and sex. She'd told herself she'd stop this. She gathered her clothes as the man passed out. She went to him, and rolled him over. He was drunk, and throwing up in his sleep could be dangerous. She frowned, how many times had she - shut down, cancel that data.

-forgiveness of him-

She pressed her arms against the wall, still coughing, hacking her lungs up. Her knees shook and she couldn't stop. Her lungs hurt and she thought she might just throw up; but instead she pressed a hand to her mouth and hacked. Something more solid than drool slid out of her mouth and down her chin into her hands. Sakura took in the deeper breath she couldn't before.

There was a hand on her shoulder, Sakura turned, eyes watering from the effort. Dark lidded eyes and blue hair stared down at her.

Sakura tried not to touch her; the mucus covering her hand was thick, black and staining her fingers.

"Sakura?" Konan had the same expression, lips turned slightly.

"I'm sorry," she kept coughing, pressing her hands up against the wall to protect herself, a sticky black hand print left as her hand moved. Spittle hit the wall in the form of tiny little black dots.

The last of it gone, Sakura breaths echoed loud, her whole body moving in the effort to get back what she hadn't been able to draw properly.

"Sakura?" Konan repeated, the hand firm and cool as Sakura imagined it.

"I'm sorry, it was the- I mean I was here with a-" She flushed; she couldn't bear those sins. "Its an after effect of the checks - some chemical in the system. I'm not exactly sure on how it works, but it's some toxin that builds up in the lungs. It always purges a week later…" She rolled onto her back, not caring that her hair was going into the mucus, "So dizzy…"

"So you're fine now."

"Yeah, its just… it gets harder… cop out every time… part of their dirty tricks, no bar checks when your in the army, doesn't, get ya when you're…" she coughed, not so wet or deep, but from a sore throat. Konan knelt in front of her, legs either side of Sakura's own outstretched ones, pressing against her hips. She slipped her hands under Sakura's arms to rest on her shoulder blades. Sakura blinked in her stupor. So warm and close; it was there and was going through her scant clothing inside her sore body, filling her up.

Konan pulled Sakura up with on single smooth motion, still holding her close.

"I know which rooms are empty," Konan murmured into her ear, slowly adjusting her grip, "you can stay there till I come back for you."

Sakura was in a dizzying half sleep again. Her fingers clutching at the hotel sheets that weren't clean or soft or home but far away and scratchy enough to remind her of other things that stung inside.

She was whimpering without tears, biting her lips but no blood would come. She wanted it to, just to make sure it was all real.

She heard the sound of the door click and she raised her head.

"Are you feeling better?"

Sakura nodded, awkward as she was lying down.

"You don't look it."

"You got me..." Sakura muttered, trying not to be as sarcastic as she felt.

Konan pressed her hand to her brow, "Is this normal?"

"Damn, you sound like a field medic… and no, its because the checks have been so close together - three in a week…"

Konan pressed something cold to her face, wiping away. She pulled it back and Sakura saw the dirty make up marks of her face on the cloth

"Do you do this for Pein?"

"Never, Pein… is not like us. He is more than us."

Sakura opened and closed her lips, seeking something, and Konan, knowing and acting upon it moved forward, with a different cloth, dripping water into her mouth. Slowly, but surely and it was enough.

"I might be able to walk now," Sakura murmured.

"It's light outside now, I brought you in here when it was dark."


"I brought you in here at three this morning. It was night but now my shift has ended and now that it's light, I have to take you to Pein - he has an offer for you…"

-its when you've been standing still-

-too long-

-that the sky light-

-will define me as a traitor-

- he does not toy with -

Konan kept a firm hand around her waist and did not let her trip as she guided her. Sakura clung for what her pride could afford.

Sakura sighed when she came back to the café. Her fingers digging into her purse for the keys, she flicked her locks.

She slipped into a chair and felt the tension in her legs build till they trembled. Sakura ran her hands up her thighs, pinching and massaging feeling back into them, still making weak noises of protest from her lungs, she had just finished when Pein stepped in.

He walked as she new he always had and always would: so cold but warm closer by.

- better to be at the right hand-

-you will be persecuted-

-your beliefs will destroy-

-He will always give us a choice-

"Sakura." There was really no need to say her name but she craved for him to say it again. Just once more...

"Yes, Pein?" She brought her hands away from her legs, and sat up straighter.

"Your legs… Konan called and told me you were sick." The same way he said anything; so true.

"Its from the checkers, it's a chemical they inject as well. You have got to hack it up and it gets harder the more it is - and with them doing it so frequently…"

"If there is a way around it, would you take it?"

"What's the catch?"

Those flat-line lips looked like they might of moved in amusement if he had been anyone else. "Spoken like a true soldier."

"No soldier, just common sense."

"Yes but you were once, your involvement would of left you with knowledge?"

She put on her best cold expression. "What do you want from me?"

"What I want…"

She looked away. He wasn't going to finish, more intent to stare upon her and forgive her. She was weak and that look reminded her of too many people. "What do I get out of this?"

"We can make the bots stop checking on you."

Sakura gasped a little, flicking her head around too fast, making her nervous and sick with anticipation. "Impossible."

"Not anymore."

"You still didn't tell me what you want."

He moved to take the seat opposite her table. The empty café looked out onto the grey street where no one walked without running.

"What I want is change."

"I told you-!"

He reached over and silenced her mouth with his hand. "I speak and offer truth now." She stared wide-eyed; when he spoke she'd always listen. "The world is ready for change, and I intend to bring it."

Sakura shuddered at the words, true and… not.

"You have contacts and intimate knowledge of the armed forces, you know…"

She nodded, drawing her mouth back to speak. He released her.

"I left the army after Konoha. I've no idea how much it's changed since then." she paused before adding, whispered and broken, "It's been three years."

"Ah, and how many times have you relived it in those three years?"

He knew and she couldn't stand it, he knew and he wasn't close enough, he knew and because he knew she cried.

"How can you fix me? It's always worse after they come…"

"We can't remove the barcode. Instead we remove you from their systems completely - you'll have never existed."

Sakura swallowed - never to have existed? How long had she been hoping to disappear… to run the café and never be checked…

She gulped. "Do it soon, they'll be coming around again soon - this conversation can't have happened." She gripped his hand, as hard as she would grip her weapons. He didn't wince and she didn't let go. "Do that for me, and I'll serve you, as much as it scares me. I'll do it."

"Don't be afraid."

It was enough and she let go, her legs stumbling to the room she had set up out the back.

She rose in the morning to find a small note plastered informing her of a time and place to meet. She had her shower, dressed and pulled on her white apron over her black pants. Twisting her hair up, she went to work.

Her body still ached, but it was faded now. She did her usual rounds.

Halfway through the day Konan appeared. Sakura took her to the back, and they sat on Sakura's bed. Konan took the other woman's hand, thumb resting on her wrist, "Sakura, you seem to be in better health."

"Yeah, it always…" she tightened her grip on Konan's hands, fear seizing her. "Can he really do that? Is Pein speaking the truth? Tell me it's what we are meeting for tonight, or I'll kill myself. I won't be the one to ruin you, I'll do it, if I have too." She began to cry, pressing Konan's hand to her face, kissing it. "If you can't- if it's just to get me on your side I was already on it, just if you can't give me the word, I will-"

Konan opened her fingers, spreading them over Sakura's mouth, silencing the words that threatened to overcome them both. Sakura continued to cry, every bit broken and shattered as the tears that fell on Konan's dress. She pressed her face to Konan's neck to smother the sound.

Minutes passed and Sakura pulled herself away, not even bothering to wipe her tears.

Konan took her hand again, pressing her lips to it. "Pein can do it, I swear it. There are plans for you - you don't need to die yet." She kissed Sakura's hand again, rose and then touched her lips again to Sakura's brow, "Remember tonight, I am sure you can avoid the bots."

-it's quiet now-

-just got to-

- it's when we strive that we -

-he will count thee amongst his -

Sakura pulled her coat close, licking her lips. 2 a.m was a cold time of night in this place that never seemed to warm up. She dodged through back alleys, half as long, but she'd be shot on sight, or if they were real men instead of bots, raped. The place was next to a brothel, down dark steps with cheap neon lighting that made her skin look sickly. At the bottom of the stairs she found a bar with the same cheap lighting, and upon not seeing Konan or Pein she took a seat at the back of the room, eyes down. She stared at the table that looked like it had been cut to pieces at some point and then stuck back together.

She didn't know how long she had been sitting there, eyes turned down, no drink ordered, just waiting, 'til someone sat next to her.

"Your Sakura-san, un?"

Sakura looked up at the speaker and then nodded.

"Thought so, you looked the same as you did then, un."

"How can you tell? … Wait we've met before?"

He put his hand forward; Sakura took it, giving it a firm squeeze. "Deidara, un. Iwa legion."

"Sakura Haruno, Konoha legion."

"I know, un."

"So Pein sent you?"

"Yeah, un. Lets go." He jerked his head and he stood, she followed. They went behind the bar, through a black door, down more stairs and into a room that was more a cave posing as a cellar… and an underground base too, by the amount of weapons and other devices scattered around. Deidara nodded to her and went off somewhere else. Alone and trying not to be intimidated by the stares she was getting, she squared her shoulders and gritted her teeth. She had taken four steps forward towards Pein - who had yet to acknowledge her staring at a map with a proud back, arms locked behind him, every inch a commander - when she was waylaid by a hand on her arm.

She looked down first at the hand on her arm, long fingers, bony and pale, she followed it up to purple eyes and white hair. Their was a cock-sure grin on the man's face.

"If your Pein's contact, he better get a new one. Pink-haired girls don't last here."

Sakura raised her eye up. She should of known: men didn't like women in the war games. She'd do the same that always was, same that had always had to be done with these things - because none of them would accept her 'til she did. She took the hand in her own, not having the strength to flip him, but instead very slowly pulled it up, watching his face contort with the pain from the pressure she applied, her nails pressing into his wrist.

"Under my hand, is the lower part of your radius and ulna bone," she began, cold clinical, "These sit with your carpals to make the joint, your carpals are, in order: Scaphoid, Lunate, Triangular or Triquetrum, Pisiform, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate and the Hamate. The smallest of these is the Pisiform, its name means 'pea' in Greek, for it is just that small." Her voice held the smirk she didn't let show, "Yours currently rests under my thumb." She twisted her hand a little, pressing her thumbnail into the arm. Her warning given, she dropped his hand, which he pulled to himself, glaring at her. She took a breath, shaky and long, "I did not survive the massacre of the valley of the end to be told I am incapable and weak."

He snorted, "Everyone knows that the only people to survive that were deserters."

She took a step toward him but he didn't move. Instead, he sneered. She raised a hand to point into his face, "Don't you ever speak of that-"

"Sakura, that's enough." She swallowed hard and took a step back; Konan's touch to her back was there to halt her.

"Pein, you said you could wipe me from the systems. Once that's done, tell me what you need to know," He nodded to her as he walked to the other side of the room. Sakura followed him closely, almost crashing into him when he stopped. He turned and pointed to a red haired man, who Deidara had gone to sit next to when he had left her. Konan gestured to a chair beside him.

"This is Sasori. He can hack the systems." Pein was looking over Sasori's shoulder. Sasori was chewing on a toothpick. He blinked slowly, and Sakura got the feeling he was ripping her apart with his mind.

"Drop your head…?"

Sakura did so, Konan pulling her hair up. She heard Sasori's murmur of surprise, "ANBU eh?"

There was a clamor then. It seemed every man in the room ran to look. Fingers were pulling at her hair, nails on her skin. She shivered: it had been a while, but she knew she had to let them look. Their voices mixed, murmuring and comparing. "…Hey look, her hair is natural!"

That was enough. Sakura jerked up, hoping to hit someone in the face on the rise, but sadly didn't. They glanced at each other. "So you really were at the battle of the valley of the end?"

She nodded. Sasori cleared his throat, "You're cleared."

Sakura's head jerked, "What?"

"I just needed your numbers to find you, then it was a matter of two code breaks and you're gone. You don't exist anymore."

Sakura took a deep breath in, her fingers started shaking and her head fell back, hitting the wall with a loud smack. Her hand rose to her chest over her heart and she gripped through the cloth, fingernails digging into skin. She waited for something - she didn't know what (bots to burst in red code alarms screaming, something, something…) - but instead she coughed, and then she coughed again, then she couldn't stop. She fell off the chair. The men took a step back and Sakura felt herself throw up, all over her hands and legs. It was black and sticky and thick. She raised her hands to her face, to her lips, they came away covered, it was all coming out and all coming up and she couldn't stop. She scrambled forwards and looked up. Those powerful eyes were staring at her; she lunged for his legs curling up around them. Her skin was on fire.

"I don't exist." She mumbled, her breath coming hard, "I don't- I don't- I don't- Five years eight months three weeks ten days fifteen hours since The End, ten years seven months three weeks nineteen days fifteen hours since I joined Konoha- I don't- I don't-" She pressed her face into his legs, wailing as the plague left her.

Her vision spiraled, her grip lessened and then her mind was blissfully alone.

She was slung over a bunk when she woke, arm off the bed, knuckles grazing the ground. It took her a split second before she realised what she had woken up from: instinct kicked in and she was informed of someone touching her. She slammed the owner of the arm too the ground. Panting and gasping, she looked down at the person she tackled. Fine features looked up at her and she gasped and scrambled back.


-it's when we are forgotten -

-the sky burns-

-forget it-

- what was done, said and destroyed-

-his empire will rise from the ashes -

"You know me?"

She blinked, mouth wide as she tried to find the words, "I know… I know your brother."

-Every time you loved and -


"We… we were Team 7," Suddenly she scrambled to her knees. "You fucking bastard, you fucking killed Sasuke,"

"Actually," he began, "I was trying to kill you, but on orders. It does not matter now, we're on the same side this time."

Sakura screwed her face up, she could feel people watching her and it was making her only more eager. "Sakura that's enough." Pein's voice was hard and Sakura dropped the tension filling her body. "Sakura, come. I must tell you the information we need to know and who you think will assist us."

Two days later Sakura pulled on her old boots and arm guards. Konan was leaning against the wall as Sakura pulled pieces from her kit to put back on before she traveled.

The last piece was the breastplate; and with Konan's help she clipped the two pieces over her shoulder. The white armour was scratched and so old, dirt and blood encrusted. She stretched her fingers out, watching old leather crack, and then pulled it into a fist. She punched forward, feeling the armour shift with her. She went through an old drill then, feeling her body shift and pull in ways it hadn't done in a long time. Back when it was honourable to be a soldier.

It ended with a high kick, normally aimed for some one's neck.

Laughter echoed out from the street and she dropped her leg, stretching and shaking her limbs out. She looked at Konan who had a slight twist of approval to her lips, "You really were ANBU."

Sakura snorted. "What did you think I got the tattoo from? Sleeping with commanders?"

They both laughed. It was the traditional way to the top.

Sakura licked her lips and picked up the backpack, "You sure you can look after this shop?"

Konan nodded, "I've had to do many things in my time following Pein - running a café is the least of them."

"Right, Kakuzu said the West Konoha Legion was current stationed at Rivermouth, I'll be going there - Ibiki Maruno is captain. He was a strong supporter of Tsunade and he's our first most likely ally. His troops are loyal to him not the empire. I gave Pein all the details on his status. I will be at the most two weeks." She muttered her mission details to herself over again. Konan nodded; it was as she had been instructed.

"If he doesn't side with us, I'll kill him." She bit her lip.

She raised her hand to Konan's shoulder. "I swore I'd never put this on again, but… well, irony is a bitch." Konan laughed quietly, bracing her opposing hand on Sakura's shoulder, "Kakashi used to say that you must always protect your friends, and people who didn't were worse than trash."

"Kakashi sounds like a great man."

"They all were. Naruto, Sasuke and Kakashi… So strong, and such amazing honour and dignity in most things. I wanted to make them proud and the last few years I don't think I have… but now I can again; you and Pein, you're giving me a chance."

"You are honourable, Sakura."

"So I hope. So I hope. See you again this side or the next, Konan."

She dropped her hand, climbed up her bed to the window, crawled through it and set out, straight off into the night.

Maruno Ibiki sat at his desk, eyes turned down, sifting through paperwork, reports after reports.

"Sakura, how long are you going skulk in that corner?" he said without looking up.

Sakura took a step forward.

"Ibiki-san, it is good to see you again."

"I would say the same but I'm not. What are you doing hiding in dark corners with ANBU get-up on? You always hated it more than anyone else."

Sakura coughed, "That's not the issue at hand. Ibiki-san, how are the armies loyalties, and how are yours?"

Ibiki grinned. "You never did beat around the bush," Sakura pulled up her mask, raising an eyebrow, taking further steps into the light. "Impatient as always. You are much like her, you know."

"I'm not here to talk about the past, Ibiki. It's time for the future. You know what I am here for - you keep your ear to the ground closer than anyone else."

Ibiki laughed louder than she ever recalled. "Of course I know, I never thought you'd sign up with him though - well not so much him as with Itachi."

Sakura gritted her teeth, restraining the hiss that bubbled up. "I signed up because I want retribution for what happened, so I ask again, how are your loyalties?"

Ibiki sat back in his chair then, raising his hand to his face, letting out a long sigh, "What your asking is difficult. I'm not so influential as I once was, you know."

"But you can't deny you've been wanting to fix the balance after what happened. Ibiki, do I need to remind you about your brother? How he was-"

"Enough." That was the Ibiki Sakura remembered.

"I know what you ask, but the men don't know what's happening in the cities, how-"

"Would they follow you?"

"… Maybe."

"Maybe is not good enough. Why, don't they love you anymore?"

Ibiki dropped his head. "I told you I am not so influential anymore. Kabuto, my appointed second in command is far more popular, for that he is a slimy slick bastard. He heals them for lower fees, generally makes himself look like a nice guy. I don't know how many are with him."

Sakura took the seat in front of his desk, resting her arms on the armrests, fingers curled around the edge.

"Is it like this for all the legions?"

Ibiki nodded slowly, "All the commanders that are left alive and were loyal to Tsunade were given new second in commands. Charismatic bastards the lot of them - they win over the men easily."

Sakura rubbed her forehead, "This is more complicated then I thought."

"But if you are starting what I think you are starting, the soldiers need to know what's happening in the cities, because they have no idea what's going on at home."

"Is there some way…?"

"I know who is loyal to me. I can give them what you pass on to me - if that starts whispering, their loyalty to the Empire will fade."

Sakura nodded, "That's a start, but are you on our side?"

"I'm on nobodies side. I can't be until I have a better grasp of what's going on. Though, you seem to be doing well - I take it that it was your lot who blew up the mounted cities guard stables?"

Sakura couldn't fight the grin on her face. Ibiki grinned back.

"Alright, before you start telling me what's going wrong in the city so I can exaggerate it and spread hideous rumours, I know who you can go to for supplies."

Sakura sat up.


"Nara. He's been stealing all sorts of weapons for a long time, organizes raids on the armoured trains and has them stored up in the Snow Territory's mountains. I am fairly sure it's Nara. They say who ever this bastard is has spiky hair. It's most likely to be him."

"Shikamaru's still alive?" She sat up straight.

"So it seems. He hates the Empire now, but he refused to go quietly so they took him and Temari to the camps and well… what they did to Temari… it was…"

Sakura nodded, eyes slamming shut at the thought.

"He went berserk in the camp, took out the whole camps guards, picked up Temari's body and bolted. She's buried somewhere only he knows. He was reported dead to make sure no one else got any ideas. Now he's hell-bent on messing up things as much as possible, but his communications are limited. Talk to him, he might be able to help you."

Ibiki's smile took a sardonic twist and he leant forward, clasped hands resting on his desk, "Right. Now, give me the fuel for the flames."

Three days later she returned, ready to file her report to Pein, only to be told that he was busy, so instead Itachi took her report.

Sakura still wanted to hurt him, to maim him, but her respect and want of Pein was too much. "That's all that has happened, and tell Pein when he reads it that I need to find Nara."

Itachi nodded, "Sakura," She stopped her turn away to look back at him. "You want vengeance, that's why you are here." Sakura nodded. "If that was so, you would have no hesitation in killing me."

Her eyes narrowed, "What are you getting at?"

"There must be some other reason."

"… Pein." Itachi's eyebrows rose. "You saw what I hacked up. I was dying and he saved me. I don't exist anymore, but instead I found something better then existing, now… now I hope."

She turned away, took a step forward, only to crash into someone. She looked up. There were the eyes that she would see even now when she closed her own. He stared for a minute at her. Eons passed. Then, he sidestepped her and kept walking to take her report from Itachi.

It was only after that she blushed, that she realised what she had said, and it all had sounded. She blushed but she didn't care that Itachi thought that, it was that Pein had heard and knew she would do anything.

-of desire, of all things-

-we live, we breath, we hold our heads up high-

-its not what we want-

-he holds our hopes and fears-

Sakura pined. She would sit and watch and hope, and there would be Pein next to Konan. The way he brushed her arm, the way his hand would rest on her back. Then how Konan would brush against her, mimic his gestures, act his movements on her. It brought tears to her eyes because she simply wanted to be closer and have him stare at her and she could walk into his light. But she couldn't, so instead of straying on the edges of him, of the casual glance she would give to his feet and the silent homage she would give while he looked up and out, she took courier jobs, tracking and hunting down loyal members of the emperor's court, and from Ibiki she learnt the names of others dissatisfied.

It was creeping and growing; the whispers were no longer whispered. The soldiers grew discontent and Sakura breathed freer air. Something was lifting and moving with her, no longer controlled by black ink.

She could tell it was showing. The glances cast on her by men with more than idle curiosity and were closer to lust, like it had been once, when she was unstoppable and in an unstoppable team.

It did not matter. There was only one man she wanted and he did not want her. Instead she took Shikamaru as a lover - his hands were rough and skilled. It worked, because she knew he saw Temari and she saw Pein in those fleeting moments of perfection. Replacements worked for them and they were so inconstant with each other that when Sakura ended it, he was not bitter or not understanding.

She ended it purely because she knew Pein knew. He'd look at her, look at her neck and she could feel where Shikamaru's tongue had rolled over her skin and she'd flushed so hard she'd felt almost sun burnt.

He saw too much and she could have almost hated him for it. He knew, and worse, he knew for he was human. It made her want to throw up in disgust of herself, because she'd learnt so many hard lessons in life she shouldn't be anymore.t. They'd taught her everything she knew, they'd done so much for her, and she had kissed them goodbye sometime ago - when she was covered in her comrades' blood.

He was beyond her, so she clung to whatever they didn't have.

Sakura pulled her feet up out of the bath water. She and Konan sat on opposite ends, completely comfortable in each other's nakedness. Sakura washed her razor off in a separate bucket beside her, and then brought it up to her leg again to run it over her shin. Konan did so likewise.

Sakura swallowed hard, "Konan…" Konan looked up, mildly interested. "Are you and Pein lovers?"

Konan might have giggled if she had been any other woman, "No, not for a very long time. But when were much younger, yes."

"Oh so… so you're not?"

Konan shook her head, smiling in that almost faraway kind of way, "No." Sakura fought the smile that threatened to spill over her face in relief. "I assume you like him then?" Konan leant forward to peer at Sakura, razor pointed down, her slender fingers twisted around it.

"Well its just, he reminds me of… and I was…"

"Who does he remind you of?"

Sakura cleared her throat and rinsed her razor again, "All of them - Sasuke and Naruto more so. Sasuke-kuns's silence and Naruto's determination." She gave a smile for those memories, "You should have seen those boys fight, Konan, it was the most amazing thing you had ever seen. The power they threw into things, night and day and every punch could have killed. But it was so controlled at the same time. You always knew that they'd never do it," She giggled, ducking her head, letting her hair fall down and hide her, "But in some things Sasuke-kun's determination was much the same, especially when- " she pressed her hand to smother her giggles. Deidara, Pein, Itachi, Kisame and Sasori were next-door drinking, probably, "- when he wanted my clothes off, he wouldn't stop, even if I killed him for it after." Konan was smiling slightly wider at Sakura's reminiscing.

She waited 'til Sakura had finished shaving her legs and dumped her razor in the bucket to get out and come to Sakura's side. "Here, I'll wash your hair for you," She murmured quietly. Sakura nodded then slipped into the water fully. Her head and shoulders above water, Konan's hand came up, winding her fingers loosely in Sakura's hair, pushing her down until she was fully submerged.

Konan's hand pulled her up and Sakura gasped out the breath she had been holding, feeling the sunlight hit her face. The relief spilled out in that one tumbled moment.

In the longest time Sakura thought, Pein touched her again, it was light and she could hear the hallelujah in her heart.

It was so small it might not have ever happened, his arm skimmed along her back, he was reaching for a file as she organised his neglected desk. She stilled totally, not daring to look. His arm moved away, he went to the door and Sakura went about her business.

There were a few more touches after that, and Sakura reveled in them. They were like the first, mistakes on his part. But Pein never made mistakes and Sakura knew so.

The first one that was more, that was not something she pushed down and that meant something was when he reached up to tuck a loose piece of hair back behind her ear. He leant close, like that first time, so close and still so beyond what she was, for he and Konan were - are - would always be - his nose grazed her cheekbone and she shuddered.

And he was gone.

Deidara caught her arm one day, pulled her into a chair beside him and grabbed her wrists. She stared at him, not afraid but beyond confused.

"They sent me to ask… what happened." No need to ask who had sent him, she did get along best with him when she wasn't arguing loudly that he was too girly.

She sighed, "Deidara…"

"No, you know all about us, we told you, un. Why not share it back? Do you know how you look when it's even briefly neared, un?"

Pein and Konan were out and she couldn't go running to them.

"How could you possibly want to know? How could want to hear about it?" She snarled.

He smirked, "Don't hide behind that, un. We are just curious and nothing you can say will shock us."

They were all listening, quiet and their movements minimal. She sighed, touching her forehead to his and then pulled back, letting him keep his hands on her wrist, "How much do you want to know?"

He grinned widely, "Every sordid detail: from the men you fucked to the children you killed."

Sakura glared, hard. But Deidara was unrepentant. She shook her head and rolled her eyes.

"That's a really long story… right. Okay. Well um, I suppose, God, how to do this so it isn't boring…?"

She swallowed.

"When I was four, I met Naruto Uzumaki…and Uchiha Sasuke." she glanced up, Itachi was polishing a gun. She licked her lips and kept going, "We were good friends - more than that. I'd follow them everywhere and they'd follow me anywhere. Even into the girls bathroom once because someone was teasing me and I was crying… even if Sasuke-kun pretended he didn't care."

So it began. She couldn't remember some things, and others came back in perfect detail, and could say in retrospect Naruto had almost gotten them killed too many times climbing electric fences into construction sites, hell, once even into a army training ground.

From there she went to the army, joining underage. Barely seventeen.

Some things she didn't tell them, they were too close or they truly wouldn't have been interested in them or were simply too personal. She kept those she knew they'd like.

"Wait, let me get this straight, your first battle, you only won because Naruto tripped your own standard bearer, un?"

Sakura snorted, "Yes, we dressed the same so they didn't know who they were fighting anymore and accidentally turned on themselves."

Deidara laughed and she heard Kisame snickering somewhere behind her.

"At this time I am guessing you were sleeping with Sasuke, un?"

Sakura flushed, "Well yes."

"Bet I could do better, un."

Sakura gaped and hit him across the side of the head.

"What was that for, un!"

"He's an Uchiha, like anyone could do better then Uchiha's. Their goddamned life goal is to grind everyone else into the dust."

"Tch, tell me about it," They both looked of at Itachi who was looking smug as all hell.

"Now do you want me too finish or not? I've got more to go."

Deidara nodded, quietly muttering that Uchiha's couldn't be good at everything.

Then there was no happiness. She then explained of the events that followed, Sasuke, Naruto and Kakashi's deaths, the blood that made rivers run red.

"I never believed that so many died…"

Sakura nodded. "Corpses, horizon to horizon. After that I respectfully discharged my self, skulked around till I found what to do with myself… or well, until Pein found me."

Sakura lay back on her bed with head staring up at the swirling ceiling fan, fingers curling around the thin cotton.

She waited.

She took a deep breath.

She turned her face into the pillow and she sighed.

The world wasn't changing fast enough and she was getting pulled into a revolution.

She sighed and dragged her eyes back up to the fan. It kept turning, and Pein was right. Things would turn again - now, or because of now, or because of tomorrow, they would turn.

Deidara burst into the room, panting and gasping. They all started up, going towards him.

"Ibiki-" The silence burnt in all their throats as hard as Deidara was breathing "- he's been killed. They found out but couldn't execute him publicly so they slit his throat."

Sakura gasped, pressing her hands to her mouth, stumbling back, "N-no, not Ibiki… he can't of… he was the only one who…"

Pein turned and gripped her shoulders, "Sakura, did Ibiki know where Shikamaru was?" She nodded. Pein closed his eyes, bitters rendering him brittle, "Then Shikamaru is probably dead." Sakura nodded again, legs shaking. He continued, "Two days from now, we will go and check."

Sakura took in her breath.

"It's really gotta suck," she heard Deidara mutter when she walked by, Konan's careful hand on her back, "When you are the only one left."

As Pein ordered, two days later, they set out. Sakura went through every back way she knew, fear of what was chasing them choosing their own path. A week of traveling, they arrived and Sakura nearly threw up for the smell of death that clung.

They entered and careful steps forward they saw the first corpses, all black with rot. Steps after that led them to Shikamaru's office. He lay slumped over his desk, charred remains of secret files all around him, and tightly clutched in his right hand was a slightly singed photo of Temari. Pein stood at the door, imperious to the smell and the sight of those who crossed the empire.

Sakura touched her hand to Shikamaru face, hiccupping with the tears. Leaning over, she kissed his brow softly, taking the photo from his grip and tucking it into her pocket.

"Sakura, we must leave. Check he hasn't hidden anything first."

She went to the compartment under his desk, but nothing but air tumbled out. She shook her head and went to his side. Pein sent Sakura outside, arriving ten minutes later, out of breath and ordering her to run.

They were half way down the hill when there was an almighty boom and a tongue of fire flared out from the entrance. Shrapnel rained down and Pein stopped, opened his arms wide and looked to the sky and what he had created.

-everything you loved-

- every time you -

-pray for peace and-

-and he will rise-

-again, please, oh God, again-

She could probably blame Kisame, Deidara and Hidan for this. She was half drunk, slung over Pein's shoulder, giggling ridiculously at nothing.

She didn't know if Pein was amused or annoyed, but either way he was keeping her walking in a straight line. Once back in her café, she went to the counter and dove for the melting moment biscuits in a fancy display case. She sat down on the ground and stuck her legs out.

After finishing two, she leant her head back, idly brushing away crumbs from her mouth. Pein held out his hand and pulled her up, he was stronger then she realised and she ended up thrown against him. Her face tilted towards his, and then his lips were upon hers. Her hand rose from his to grip into his shoulders.

She pulled away, gasping, he leant his head down to her neck, his breath hot and leaving her far too warm for a city that was stuck in a perpetual winter of its own misery. She shoved him back, angry and hurt and wanting, oh so wanting. Her feet tripped over each other and they hit the ground. Their lips caught again and groaned at the cold floor on his skin.

"Forgive me," Sakura mumbled as she kissed down his neck. His hands were running over her back, tugging at her shirt. "I've… I've…"

He tugged her up, kissing her so hard she might of choked for how good it felt. She was getting dizzy, her mind was stopping and she'd wanted this for so long. He pulled away staring at her, "You are forgiven."

Sakura sighed.

-bless your body-

She wasn't quiet sure how she made it to her bed, but she was there and he was taking off her clothing, reveling in each part of her exposed skin. He was so careful and each part of her seemed to be treasured to him.

"Sakura, Sakura, Sakura…" He whispered to her and he ran his hand up the inside of her leg. She whimpered and thrashed her head from side to side as he ran his fingers over her most sensitive places. He rose his free hand to still her head and kissed her again, slow and almost painful from every bit of emotion in it. Her fingers gripped the white sheets; her legs slipping and twisting desperately around his as his slick fingers slid in and out. She threw her head back to-

- and then we will see that-

She was so lost that she wasn't aware anymore what he was doing. He was her light, her anchor, he was her - oh god, oh god - she felt her nails digging into skin. He was inside her now, so complete. She could see it now, that iridescent perfection that she hadn't felt for so long.

-bless your soul-

"P-Pein, please, please, I…"

"Ask me, and I shall deliver."

How he could sound so controlled even now, even when she was…

… Even when she, she - oh god, oh God -

"Real!" She gasped when he hit something so deep inside her body she arched up, "… Give me something real."

He buried his face into the crook of her neck and something changed. Suddenly everything was obsolete and she'd never believe in anything -ohgodohgodoh- but him ever again.


-in the dark-

There was no aftermath, just his glow. He was still on top of her and she didn't want him to move, to go, to leave her. Everyone could wait. She kissed what she could reach, feather light, down his face and shoulders. If it had been any other time she might of cried, but all she could do now was pull him close and wait for the end because this wouldn't work and this couldn't last forever.

He was, Sakura sighed, only human after all.

When she woke, she was surprised he was still there. He never seemed the type to stay - he was too fast for that. Instead he simply continued the night's activities and sometime when he started again she told him to stop because the café had to open soon and she couldn't do that if she was here in bed. He seemed to understand that and let her crawl out of the covers, sheet wrapped around her and shivering.

She made her way to the shower and when she came out he was sitting dressed on her bed. "I changed your sheets." He said in the same even way he said everything. She looked beside the bed, and as he said, there was a dirty pile of sheets on the ground. She couldn't help it. She laughed. He raised an eyebrow.

"I've never had a man that changed my sheets after sex."

The other eyebrow rose.

"It's not really done that often… I mean I didn't expect you to still be here still."

"I said I wanted change."

She laughed again. "Aren't you taking it a bit too literally?"

"It seems like your afraid to have someone care…" He stood up, standing in front of her now, hand to her face, "You don't have to be afraid."

"I'm not afraid that you care, I'm afraid of…"


"That you make every action before this merely a step, and that it had no meaning except to be this, to work towards this and that when this happens… it'll never be again."

He kissed her sweetly then, his piercings brushing against her lips in such a way that she didn't realise in last night's desperation. "Pein I lo-"

He pressed his fingers. "You can't, it's not possible. Just be devout. You can't love what isn't always there."

-Up above, the world so high-

-there's no reason now-

-to ever stop-

-stay don't leave-

-He will always move in the strangest way-

It was so soon. She could feel it - they all could. Despite the set backs, despite some that had been killed, it was beginning. Deidara had set a series of bombs through the governmental buildings.

The world looked happy. Too happy.

She read those newspaper articles calling these new Revolutionists crazy, that things weren't perfect but they weren't bad.

They had done so much and it simply wasn't enough. Neither had the Empire, and no one could see what was coming.

It became obvious when she was confronted about it, "You're part of them new age ones aren't ye?"

Sakura looked up, "I… don't know what you are talking about." The man was at least ten years older than her.

"Ye, see ye skulking around back alleys…"

"Well, I do have some shady friends…"

"That's not it," he stated. "I know what ye're about and ye're a damned idiot."

Sakura gasped, "And who are you, judge and jury?"

"No, but that doesn't make ye any less of an idiot. People are happy and why don't ye leave it at that?"

She choked, "Can't you see what's going to happen?"

The man sneered, "No and yer just seeing things yerself."

Sakura promptly kicked him out.

She paced around her room for a good hour, and still she didn't know where to stand.

When she mentioned it to Pein as they lay in bed together, he closed his fingers around her own and kissed them very gently. "I know," Then he kissed her, "I know."

She sighed and rolled him back, catching her legs around his.

They'd found a new man amongst Ibiki's men. He was young, and full as much disgust and hope as they were - however it was not Sakura that met him. No, it was Pein himself. The man called himself Tobi.

Sakura often had the guilty pleasure of spying on Pein and Konan, though some part of her knew they probably knew too and she was at some status that it didn't matter. It made her heart flutter because, in a way, their intensity that was some of her was some part of them.

It was such a simple thing to. Konan would stand on tiptoe and press a kiss to his forehead, and he in reply was press one to the base of her neck. They would then stand and breath. They had always been there for each other since time began and she would fly when he would work. She would be evanescent and he would be solid and they would swirl around each other.

They did not break the tradition on the night before their great accomplishment, except Konan spoke a name so quiet that Sakura almost missed it between Hidan's bawdy calls in the background.


Pein shook his head and it would probably be the greatest mystery she ever had about him.

The night sky is alight and it doesn't even seem like night.

Her breathing is too fast as she watches from her café shop, knowing she will be safe. Bomb after bomb goes off and her fingers twist and turn.

Her conversation with Konan last night had ended the role she was supposed to play.

(- "Sakura, you can't come. I will take your place."

"What? No! This is what… I've got to follow."

"Not this time, Pein said you give too much, and now is the time for you not to give."

"No, I've got to, you can't fly a helicopter."

Konan smiled. "I've done many things in my life following Pein. Besides, you must take a break." She stepped forward and pressed a hand to Sakura's stomach. "For this one."-)

So now she waited, her eyes turned towards the heavens and she waited for her hope to come and go. For this beginning to end. She sighed and remembered - but they were so different from the nightmares of old. Now they were softer dreams that left her sleeping at night.

She watched only in seconds and he wasn't looking.

-in the name of

-the father, the son-

-Rhyme and Reason-

Konan was caught and executed two weeks later.

Public execution. It was announced and Sakura was the last to arrive to that crowded square. Konan didn't see her in the mass of people; instead she was saying something to herself, eyes turned towards heaven. In her hands was a piece of paper; she was folding it, quietly and methodically. The noose was put around her neck and she made the last fold and put it in her hair. The noose was tightened and Konan smiled, like Sakura had never seen.

But Sakura knew why.

-It started with a lowlight-

-our purpose is so-

-it is done-

-the sky was-

-he is always with us-

She never learned the full details, but the same thing happened that she knew was true of Pein - he'd never be captured. He died, they said as legends grew. He died, arms spread wide as they filled him with bullets and then he fell off the building he'd been cornered to the edge of. They said that then, then he looked like… like… like he could fly, and as Konan crashed her helicopter so they couldn't capture his body, he could of ruled the world… some said he did now. His body charred and perfect.

-time has no season and-

-this is true beauty-

-held in his eyes-

Konan's body jerked, her legs thrashing for a moment and then she was still. There was a breeze and the flower was knocked from her hair, hitting the ground. Sakura stood there for hours as the people dispersed slowly and surely. When there was no one left, Sakura went forward, climbed over the fence around the gallows and went to Konan's swaying body, taking her cold hands and kissing them. She then picked up the flower and climbed back over.

When she returned to the other side, there was a dirty looking girl with white blonde hair staring at her, her nose was red and her eyes just as bad. Sakura went over to her and the girl stood stock-still. Slowly, she fixed the flower in her hair and then gave her some money. The girl ran back behind a corner and pulled out two boys who seemed to be hiding. One had bright yellow hair and the other pitch black. When the little girl pointed to Sakura, they looked up. Sakura waved at them, the three children waved back. Sakura turned and went on her way.

(- "Mummy, why am I called Nagato?"

"It was the greatest mystery I had of you father, so I give it to you."-)

&the world turns and we go on-

-beginnings and ends, ends and-

-lessoned learned and the wheels-

-made in the image of-;

-He had such powerful eyes.-