Author's Note: Heeeeeeey, guys… It's… been a while… Before you start pelting me with rotten vegetables, let me explain! See, my computer crashed, which had a half-finished Deidara X Sakura chapter on it. That happened last summer, right after I lost my notebook that had all my chapter and story notes in it. Those, in addition to the fact that I'm a History major with an English minor (which means TONS of papers. Like. Tons. You just don't even understand how many papers I have to write ALL THE TIME) mean that I got kind of jaded about Narcotic. But I FINALLY got off my lazy ass and wrote a new chapter, which I dedicate to all my patient fans. You guys are awesome, and this is totally for you!

This chapter is the longest I've written yet, so I hope you enjoy it! It's PeinSaku, which… Holy hell… Was scary to write. I really, REALLY HOPE that I managed to keep him in character.

As always, thanks to mein beta, April. You are the bestest friend an aspiring authoress could ever have!



n, a large, powerful, or violent whirlpool

a restless, disordered, or tumultuous state of affairs

Pein X Sakura

Seven months at Akatsuki was enough time to show Sakura that the land of Rain certainly lived up to its name. The kunoichi stood at the large window at the end of the kitchen, a half-eaten rice ball clutched listlessly in one hand while she stared blankly out at the grey sheets of rain that blanketed Amegakure. Fat raindrops hit the window with a soft, steady rhythm that lulled Sakura into a state of half-sleep. She swayed suddenly on her feet, the kunoichi quickly regaining her balance and blinking her large, green eyes a few times to clear away the haze that had settled before them.

This rain is worse than any stupid genjutsu, she thought balefully, suppressing a yawn. And it never goes away!

The pink-haired ninja could count on one hand the number of times she'd seen a clear sky since she'd been in Amegakure, and the constant, heavy deluge that the hidden village endured had long ago begun to affect Sakura's mood. She found that she was always tired, and lately she had begun to feel a little depressed as well.

If I could just get a few days of blue sky and sunshine, I could shake this… this… Sakura wasn't sure what to call it. She sighed and brought the rice ball up to her mouth, leaning her forehead against the window and watching the people below scurrying from building to building while thunder rumbled overhead.


The kunoichi swallowed thickly at the sound of the deep voice behind her and covertly brought her hand up to her lips, trying to wipe away any stray grains of the sticky rice before she turned from the window.

The Akatsuki leader stood a few paces away, his steady grey-ringed gaze regarding her coolly from over the collar of his cloak.

"Pein," she replied, keeping her own expression blank. She refused to call him Leader-sama. He wasn't her leader, she'd told him. Her small attempt to get under his skin by dropping any sort of honorific didn't seemed to bother him, though. He never rebuked her, and never asked her to call him anything else. After a while, calling him by his name had stopped sounding like a barb, even to her.

The flame-haired shinobi regarded her quietly for a beat, and Sakura felt the nervousness and tinge of fear that always crept up on her in Pein's presence begin to gnaw at her insides. She reflexively clutched the rice ball tighter, the rice squishing between her fingers as she waited for him to speak.

"I wanted to know if the medicine I requested has finished brewing," he finally said, his deep voice rumbling through her like the thunder outside. His unblinking eyes remained fixed on her, and Sakura disliked the way his strange gaze had a way of making her feel pinned to the spot. Pein always appeared to be looking into her rather than at her, and she always felt uncomfortable when the Akatsuki leader's grey eyes were trained on her. It was one of the reasons she tried so hard to maintain a neutral expression around him; she knew that she had a bad habit of wearing her emotions on her sleeve, and she didn't like the thought of Pein knowing how easily shaken he got her.

"Yes," she said smoothly, proud of how monotone her own voice sounded. "It's in the med bay. I've diluted it and siphoned it into several doses for you. It's all ready to go."

"Already?" He sounded mildly surprised, which annoyed Sakura. Why would he ask if he didn't think I'd done it yet? "Do you mind if I accompany you back to med bay and pick it up?" He stepped up to her, the taller shinobi cornering her against the window.

It was obviously an indirect order. He wanted her back in the lab. The kunoichi felt her brow twitch in annoyance. "Not at all," she said smoothly, side-stepping the self-proclaimed god and moving toward the kitchen door, Pein falling into step behind her. The halls of Akatsuki headquarters were narrow and dark, and there was almost always the sound of a steady leak coming from somewhere in the building. It felt particularly suffocating with the immense pressure of Pein's chakra right behind her, and Sakura was happy when they reached the large med bay. She took a deep breath when she stepped inside the room, not realizing she'd been holding it in the hall.

The high windows let in a few rays of pale sunlight, and Pein flipped the light switch, bathing the dreary grey cement and linoleum room in washed out florescent beams. Sakura surreptiously tossed what was left of her rice ball in the bin and wiped her hand on her medic apron before approaching her lab table, where several small, green bottles were in a neat row.

Pein followed her and held one bottle up, inspecting it for a moment.

"I don't suppose you're going to tell me who those are for this time," Sakura wheedled, allowing her curiosity to get the better of her. Every few weeks Pein would ask for a concoction that was part soldier pill and part suppressant. It was the kind of the thing she would give to the ninja back home in Leaf, to help them stave off illness, except this brew was particularly potent. It obviously wasn't for Pein; the flame-haired nin was, as far as her medic's eye could tell, healthy as an ox. But this medicine was going to someone.

"No," Pein said simply, taking the top off of the bottle and peering at the noxious mixture inside. Sakura frowned.

"If someone is sick," she pressed, "I can heal them. I thought that was why you had me brought here in the first place." Her tone turned bitter and she recoiled slightly when Pein's attention left the bottle and returned to her. He gazed at her silently for a moment, as he often did, before answering in that deep, quiet voice.

"Of course I do not doubt your remarkable healing abilities, Sakura-san." He paused, the florescent lights illuminating the odd collection of facial piercings that adorned his face. "The person these are for, however," he recapped the bottle, still watching her with those unnerving eyes, "is not in need of your skills. I assure you, though, should he ever require them, I would trust no one but you to care for him."

Sakura wasn't sure she believed the Akatsuki, and her own eyes narrowed suspiciously as Pein slowly gathered the rest of the bottles, depositing them in one of the deep pockets of his cloak. She expected him to leave, but he lingered for a few moments, thoughtfully looking around the lab.

"Are you well, Sakura-san?" He finally inquired. The kunoichi blinked.

"Huh? I mean… Yeah…" She trailed off, uncertain. She wasn't sure what kind of answer to give him, honestly. Pein gave an almost imperceptible nod, before speaking up again.

"Is everything to your liking? The lab, your accommodations? Is there anything you need?" He was remarkably solicitous. Sakura regarded him warily. Shouldn't he have asked her these questions a few months ago?

"Er… Yes… the lab is very well stocked with supplies, and my room is… fine…" She trailed off weakly. Pein continued to stare steadily at her. "I guess a few days in a row without rain would be nice," she said, trying to sound light-hearted, "but that's not really something… that… you can control…" She actually found herself wondering if maybe he could control the weather after all. He did call himself a god.

"Hmm," Pain hummed, tilting his head to the side for a moment, his eyes half-lidded. Sakura stared politely back at him. "Well, if you do need anything, please tell me, and I will do what I can to acquire it for you. It is important that you feel comfortable here." Sakura was unsure what to make of that.

"Oh. Alright." The pink-haired kunoichi leaned against the lab table, watching the taller shinobi stride confidently out of the med bay, his cloak trailing behind him.

Twenty minutes later found Pein in his private quarters, the Deva Path walking slowly past the reposed forms of the other Paths to reach the large medical structure at the other end of the room. His grey eyes followed the odd tubes and wires that hooked up to the emaciated form of Nagato, his true body. The gaunt face slowly lifted until Pein saw his own Rinnegan looking back at him. Neither of them spoke. Speech was pointless as they shared the same thoughts. Nagato opened his mouth, and the Deva Path gently poured the contents of one of the bottles over his lips, watching his true self swallow with a pained expression before his head dropped weakly back down, his chin resting against his chest. Pein eyed Nagato's body critically, idly deciding that he needed to either increase the doses of medicine, or find some way to get more nutrition into the painfully thin form. Nagato shifted restlessly in his self-induced bonds, watching his Deva Path slowly remove the bottles from his pocket and place them, one by one, on the table beside him.

Pein left the room and headed toward his large office several floors up, stopping before the window and gazing out over the hidden village he'd sworn to protect. He had found Sakura like this not one hour ago, and he wondered if they had seen the same thing when they looked out at Amegakure. Did she see the smiles on the citizens' faces, even as they braved the rain, day after day? Did she see a village enjoying a renaissance, lush with the new wealth and happiness that Pein's leadership had brought them? Somehow, he doubted she saw anything but the grey skies. He tried to look at it from Sakura's perspective for a moment. Dark clouds, dark buildings, dark umbrellas in the streets. Incessant rain. He supposed that it could seem gloomy to an outsider, especially one from the land of fire, where the sky was always clear and blue, where the buildings were low and the village shambled out over a large area – so unlike the tightly packed hidden village of rain, which built up rather than out.

He wished the leaf kunoichi had a better understanding of Amegakure, and of Akatsuki. She had fought him, tooth and nail, the first few months after she'd been recruited. He admired her spirit, her will of fire. Her strong will reminded Pein of his own convictions. Sakura's beliefs were wrong, of course, but he approved of the way she stuck to them. Eventually, he hoped that he could sway her to seeing things his way. She was a prize as Akatsuki's captive medic, but she would make a formidable ally in the war that would eventually come.

Pein was sometimes surprised by his desire to explain things to the Sakura. He had never told her what Akatsuki's mission was, but the medic nin was quite perceptive and he knew that she had accumulated several pieces of the puzzle during her time here. Right now, she knew that he was after the vessels of the tailed beasts, but eventually she would figure out what his plans ultimately were. Would she fight him then? He hoped not. He did not want to hurt her. Despite himself, he found that he liked the pink-haired kunoichi. The Akatsuki leader was mildly alarmed by the strength of his admiration for the leaf nin. If he was honest, and Pein was always honest, he was actually a little afraid of what these feelings meant. He was a god, certain of himself and his path. It had been so long since he'd felt uncertain about anything that the confusion he sometimes felt about Sakura caught him completely off guard. He did not understand what it meant, and he found it worrisome. He could not deviate from his path.

His grey eyes slanted up toward the sky, and he watched the rain fall, his lips curving downward thoughtfully.

The next few months passed with agonizing slowness for Sakura. Every day was nearly identical, the only differences being the faces that showed up in the medical bay, where she spent several hours every day. She hadn't seen Pein often since Zetsu had returned from whatever mission he'd been on about a month ago. The dichromatic Akatsuki generally brewed the medicine that Pein required whenever he was at the headquarters, which was fine by Sakura.

Sakura knew that winter had arrived when the constant downpour that blanketed Amegakure turned icy. It never turned into snow, much to Sakura's disappointment. Snow would have been a break in the monotony, and snow was fun. You could go out in snow. You could build snowmen and have snowball fights. All you could do with rain was either get drenched or avoid getting drenched. No, there was no snow. Instead, the rain became sleet, and the streets of Amegakure became dangerously icy. Mush accumulated on the roof of the Akatsuki building, and Sakura stomped in it like a petulant child, splashing the icy concoction in a wide arc around her, while her exposed toes became damp and chilled. She held an umbrella over her head as she took a deep breath and filled her lungs with frigid air. Sometimes, she had to get out of the dark, cramped halls of the Akatsuki building, even it meant braving the tempest that constantly brewed outside.

A ninja leaned against the wall behind her, sheltered from the elements by a low overhang that the protected the door that lead back into the building. A ninja always followed her whenever she went outside, a mark of Akatsuki's continued distrust of the medic nin. Sometimes it was another Akatsuki member, and sometimes, like today, it was one of the odd shinobi whom she believed must come from the same clan as Pein. There were several shinobi that she had seen around headquarters that shared the Akatsuki leader's strange, grey-ringed eyes, flame-colored hair, and strange piercings. Sometimes, one of them would follow her when she went outside. Today, it was a tall shinobi with very long hair and weird plug-shaped piercings that went through his sinuses and cheeks. She had tried to speak to him before, but the shinobi appeared to be either mute or under orders not to speak to her.

"Your piercings are interesting," She'd said baldly, standing toe to toe with the silent shinobi. He'd blinked at her, one eyebrow arching. "Do they hurt?" She'd inquired, the medic in her intrigued by their purpose. Sakura'd decided that they had to be more than merely decorative, since Pein and all his… relatives? Subordinates?... had them.

The silent shinobi's lips quirked minutely upward and he'd shaken his head "no". It was really disconcerting, even his facial expressions were like Pein's, though she wasn't sure she'd ever seen the Akatsuki leader smile.

"Are you Pein's brother?" She'd peered up at the shinobi, her green eyes hard as glass. The silent shinobi had seemed to hesitate, canting his head to the side. Sakura was determined to wring something out of him though, so she pushed on. "Well, you're at least related, right? Are you from the same clan? Cousins or something?" She'd thought of Hinata and Neji, and how the two Hyuga cousins had looked almost like siblings.

The shinobi blinked again, and then slowly nodded in the affirmative, his lips curving upward even further.

"I knew it! Do you have a name?"

The shinobi looked taken aback, and his lips moved, but no sound came out. After a moment he sighed and leaned back against the wall, regarding Sakura with those odd grey eyes, just like the leader's, and shrugged one shoulder.

"Hmm… Fine. I'll call you Pein number two, then!" She'd smiled teasingly before leaving the overhang to go splash in the icy-mush puddles like a child. If she had looked back, she would have seen Pein number two's mouth opened in a silent laugh, his smile actually reaching his eyes.

A loud whoop reached her ears and Sakura looked up in time to see the blond Akatsuki, Deidara, drop down from a large clay bird, landing a few from her and sending a large splash of ice-cold water all over Sakura. The pink-haired girl went still, her eyes darkening as slush soaked through her medic apron and freezing water trickled down her legs. Deidara grinned cockily at her, his blue eyes gleaming playfully.

"Hah! You should see your face, yeah! You look like one of my bombs – about to explode!"

Sakura dove at him, red-faced and furious, though her punches had no chakra behind them and Deidara dodged her easily, letting her swing at him for a few minutes before he grabbed her wrist and pulled up against his side, laughing as she yelled at him to apologize.

"Deidara! I'm soaked through and freezing now, idiot!" She stomped on his foot, and the explosives nin winced, his laughter dying in his throat.

"Hey, hey, that hurt! Alright, I'm sorry, okay?" He grinned and tucked her against his side, his eyes appraising the leaf kunoichi. Sakura seemed oblivious to the way the blond Akatsuki was looking at her, but Animal Path wasn't, as the silent Path watched the exchange between the two nin.

"You're damn right you're sorry," Sakura groused, pulling Deidara's Akatsuki cloak around her shoulders as he held it out like a peace offering.

"Why are you out here anyway, un? It's freezing!" He gave her a sly look. "Wait… you were waiting for me, yeah?"

"You wish," Sakura groaned, elbowing the blond. He smirked, backing up a couple steps before following the kunoichi inside, the nin only taking a moment to cast a suspicious glance at Animal Path, before returning to taunting Sakura, Deidara echoing the kunoichi's warm smile as she shook her head ruefully at the blond.

Animal Path watched Sakura's expression carefully, a frown on his lips.

In his office several floors below, Pein's expression mimicked that of Animal Path's, his pierced lips curved downward as he looked up, staring out the window at the falling sleet.

As the weather grew colder and the sleet turned into hail and then, finally, into snow, Pein began to find his mind wandering. It would happen at odd times, like when he was going over paperwork or listening to mission reports. But mostly it would happen when all six paths closed their eyes and Nagato was left trapped in his own body, tethered by tubes and wires, unable to sleep. When he grew weak from his restless shifting against the medical contraption he had trapped himself in, he would close his eyes and think back to the events of the day and go over his progress and his plans. But this was when his mind wandered most, when he deviated from the path and found himself in dangerous territory.

And it almost always centered on Sakura.

He dreamed about locking her away. Putting her in the highest room in the tallest tower and throwing away the key. He wanted to place seals all around the door so that only he had access to her. He would station his six Paths around her prison, like some twisted variation of the story about the dragon guarding the maiden that he had heard in his youth. And inside the tower, inside the locked and sealed room, he would be with her. Not as Pein, but as Nagato. In his dream, Sakura would not be repulsed by his weak, wasted form. She would let him lay his head in her lap and would stroke his hair and smile at him in that same, warm, unguarded way she had smiled at Deidara. Sometimes in his fantasy she would touch him, and he would touch her and… he never finished those thoughts. For some reason those thoughts embarrassed him. Those thoughts felt like he was somehow invading Sakura's privacy. The entire dream made him feel ashamed. His desires for Sakura were selfish, and he was not a selfish man. Pein had always felt things very deeply, though, even if few people could read his emotions, and no matter how he berated himself for these thoughts or how he resisted admitting these desires to himself, in the end there was no denying them.

He would avoid Sakura after having these dreams, instead throwing himself more than ever into his work, further developing his plans to bring peace to the world. He was a god. His path was certain. There could be no deviations.

But if he was honest, and Pein sometimes had trouble being honest now, then he'd realize that the reason he avoided Sakura was because he was afraid that she would somehow see the thoughts he'd had about her, and that she would suddenly be the one judging him, rather than the other way around.

Spring was rolling around when the sky cleared for the first time in months. A clear azure color devoid of a single grey cloud stretched endlessly, as far as the eye could see, while the sun, visible in the vast expanse of clear sky, shone brightly down on Amegakure. Pein stood in front of his office window, staring out silently, watching the streets below as people abandoned their umbrellas, turning their faces to the sky and smiling. Children ran around picking the wildflowers that had pushed up through the ground, the snow nearly melted by now. The flame-haired Akatsuki leader contemplated his path, then carefully removed his cloak, draping it over his chair.

Sakura was in the indoor training arena, kicking the ever-loving hell out of a training mannequin, her fists and feet glowing with mint green chakra. With a yell, she executed a vicious roundhouse kick, obliterating the wooden doll. There was a loud cracking sound as the mannequin fell apart, and the pink-haired kunoichi stood over it, breathing heavily and pushing her sweaty locks back from her face.

"Hah!" She crowed, "That's what you get, you –"


The medic nin quickly shut her mouth, her cheeks flushed in embarrassment at having been caught gloating. Pein stood casually in the doorway, his hands in his pockets, and his unnerving grey eyes pinning her to the spot.

"Er… Hi."

Pein nodded to her, his gaze drifting over to the shattered mannequin before going back to hers, a smile on his lips.

"Sakura-san, will you please come with me?"

"Oh-" He was through the doors before she'd even finished, "kay…". The leaf nin sighed and followed after him. He led her up the stairs and toward the roof, which Sakura found odd. Maybe he wanted to show her something in Zetsu's greenhouse? When he opened the door, she squinted, turning her face away from the bright sunlight. After a moment, half-blinded by the sun's rays, she followed Pein outside.

The air was still crisp, and it was really too cold to be outside without some sort of jacket or cloak, but Sakura didn't even notice the nip in the air. Instead she was looking up at the blue sky, her eyes wide and her lips slowly curving into a smile which grew larger and larger as seconds ticked by.

"Oh… It's a gorgeous day," She breathed. Living in Fire Country, Sakura had taken beautiful days like this for granted. Never again. Like the flower she was named after, Sakura closed her eyes and basked in the delicious golden rays. She forgot about Pein for several minutes, and the flame-haired Akatsuki did not bother to remind her of his presence, content to watch her soak up the sun.

It wasn't until several minutes later, when Sakura opened her eyes again, that she remembered why she was on the roof. Embarrassed by her wool-gathering, she turned toward Pein, smiling sheepishly.

"Sorry, I haven't seen the sun in forever. I might have gotten a little carried away. What was it that you wanted to show me?"

Pein watched her quietly for a moment, and Sakura found that without his Akatsuki cape, Pein somehow looked smaller. Less intimidating. She found that she could actually meet his gaze with some confidence. Finally, he spoke, holding out his hand and uncurling his fingers from his palm.

"This…" He said quietly. When Sakura's brow furrowed, he tried again. "You said that you wanted a day without rain." He gestured upward. "Here. I am giving you a blue sky." He gave one of his rare smiles.

"Oh," Sakura replied, surprised. She looked up at the sky again, then smiled uncertainly. "Wow, I remember. That was a long time ago." She couldn't help grinning, or gently ribbing the Akatsuki leader. "Some god you are. Took you a long time to clear the skies."

"I am a god of peace, not of the heavens," he replied solemnly, "but I have given you what you asked for." Sakura smiled at him and Pein faltered, the shinobi uncertain how to continue. He had never done this before. This was not something he had come across, on the path he had chosen.

"Sakura-san," he began, his voice quiet. The pink-haired medic was still smiling, and back in his private quarters, Nagato's jaw clenched and he moved restlessly against the chakra bonds. Pein dropped his hands to his sides, his confidence faltering momentarily.

"Hmmm?" Sakura hummed dreamily, too distracted to give the powerful shinobi her full attention. Pein's Rinnegan narrowed and he took a step closer to her, his voice calm but resolute.

"I want you."

Sakura looked up at him as though she had not heard. She tilted her head to the side, then back. "Hmm…" She licked her lips nervously. "What?"

"I want you," Pein said again, his voice quiet but clear.

Sakura continued to watch him, clearly bemused. "Want me to what?" she tried, certain she wasn't hearing things correctly. Pein took another step toward her and, though alarmed, Sakura held her ground.

"I want you," he said for the third time, gently gripping her shoulders. "Just you."

Sakura stared at him, bewildered, letting his words sink in. Pein did not press forward, the self-appointed god allowing her time to consider his words.

"What do you mean," she finally said, her words coming slowly. Pein blinked, he had thought that his meaning had been clear, but then he had never had a conversation like this.

"I desire you," he said after a moment of consideration. "I think about you…" He trailed off, unsure of how specific he should be. He certainly did not want to frighten her unintentionally. "I… crave your attention…" He looked into her eyes, Sakura's gaze suddenly glassy. Pein very slowly lifted his hand, his fingertips very lightly pressing against Sakura's cheek before trailing down along her jaw, "I… hunger for your touch…"

Sakura sucked in a breath and Pein went still, studying her silently, waiting for her to respond.

"But…" the medic nin trailed off, her eyes searching his face. "But… You… had me kidnapped from my village!" She accused.

"Yes," he replied, nodding.

"You… You want to kill Naruto… You tried to kill Gaara!" Her eyes flashed angrily.

"Yes… The lives of the many outweigh the lives of the few… I want to bring peace to the world."

Sakura struggled against him, "But… I don't agree with your ideals. I don't agree with your plan to achieve peace!"

Pein regarded her thoughtfully, his two steel-grey eyes calmly locked on hers. The tempest of emotion within him whirled about far below the surface, while Sakura's expressions were mercurial, rapidly changing and easy to read.

"Yes," he said calmly, "I know." He paused, the corners of his lips turned downward into a frown. "That does not change the fact that I want you."

Sakura frowned at him, the protests dying on her lips. She tried to think for a moment, examine her own feelings toward the pierced shinobi. She hated what he'd done to her, taking her from her home, her friends, and her responsibilities. She strongly disagreed with whatever his plan was; she knew it involved killing innocent people and that could never be justifiable, in her mind. She should hate Pein, just on principle, but found that… she couldn't. She didn't. She found him intimidating, yes, but not nearly as frightening as she had a year ago. She found him intelligent, eerily so. She found that… she enjoyed most of their conversations, when he wasn't being elusive and dodging her questions. She admitted that she admired his dedication to his cause, even if she didn't agree with it, and to his position as the leader of Akatsuki and Amegakure. She had never seen him fight, but knew by the deference the other Akatsuki members paid to him and by the sheer pressure of his chakra that he was a powerful shinobi. She respected and admired that; she knew it took hard work and dedication to become strong, no matter what your bloodline or clan.

Sakura gazed up at Pein, taking in his wild hair, grey eyes, and intricate piercings. She could admit that he was striking, and attractive, and that there was something that about him that seemed to draw her in. But did she desire him?

"Pein," Sakura sighed, looking uneasily over the rooftop. The windows of Zetsu's greenhouse glinted merrily in the sunlight. "I… I don't know…"

Pein was a god. He would not give up. He carefully grasped her chin and turned her back to face him. She wouldn't quite meet his eye.

"You don't have to decide how you feel right now," he said softly. "I simply wish for you to think on what I have said, and I hope that…" He swallowed thickly, his eyes searching the kunoichi's face for… something… He wasn't sure what, but he thought he might see it, or something close to it. "I hope that you might one day feel the same. Don't be afraid, I would never push you into something that you were not willing to be a part of."

Even he could hear the hypocrisy of his words. She hadn't willingly come to Amegakure, to Akatsuki, to him. But he did hope that even if she could not support his cause, she could grow to return the feelings he had for her.

Sakura looked up at him, a slight furrow between her brow. Without thinking, Pein leaned in and smoothed it away with a kiss. His lips trailed downward; like a dam breaking, he could not stop himself. Pein kissed Sakura's cheek, her chin, and then her lips. He meant to keep it light and chaste, but Pein, who was usually so in control of himself, was suddenly lost. His kiss was hard, bruising, and demanding. Sakura groaned softly and the Akatsuki wrapped his arms around her and held her against him. He kissed her again, and again, until Sakura was gasping for breath. She did not struggle against him, and did not turn away. When he came back to himself several minutes later, Pein carefully pulled away, his grey eyes now dark, his gaze lingering on Sakura's swollen mouth. She looked back at him, her green eyes glassy and dazed, but no protest in them. Taking a shuddering breath, Pein carefully traced Sakura's lips with his thumb, his mind a whirl of thoughts and emotions.

He realized that one day, and it would have to be soon, because Pein was an honest man, he would take Sakura down to the room where the Six Paths resided. He would take her to see himself, to see Nagato, his body imprisoned by tubes and wires. He would explain to her why he had made the choices he did, and he knew that even if Sakura did not agree, she would not judge him. He pulled the petite kunoichi a little closer, knowing that he would be allowing her into his little circle at last. She would join the ranks of Konan and this body… the memory of Yahiko, as one of those who were special to him. One he would protect. One who was under his guard.

But she wasn't ready for that today. Slowly, Pein released the kunoichi, taking a step back and steadying her. Without a word, he left Sakura to her thoughts, basking in the sun on the top of Akatsuki's roof while he made his way slowly downward into the bowels of the dark building, where his true self waited, trembling. Where the other paths slumbered dreamlessly, their grey eyes always open.

I am a god, Pein reminded himself. I have chosen my path. Deviations could not be allowed, but the path could be altered, could be curved. Without a doubt, his path now included a pink-haired medic nin who smelled like spring grass after the rain.

So, this chapter ended up including much more introspection into Pein's character than Sakura's, but I don't know whyyyyyy! It just happened that way! Also, Pein does not lend himself well to humor, so that's… conspicuously absent from this chapter.

Oh, sweet baby Jesus, I really hope that I got Pein in character. He is SO SCARY HARD to write!

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