After fixing Deidara and herself an omelet, Sakura retreated back to her room for a nice hot bath. The bathroom connected to her bedroom was heaven in itself, what with its "natural spring" look and all. She grabbed a towel from her closet and almost ran to her beloved bath. Since it was a "natural" spring, the water was constantly warm, so she didn't have to wait for it to fill up. (She preferred not to busy her mind with how the water remained clean.) Before getting in the spring, Sakura tied her hair up in a sloppy bun and removed her tank and sweatpants. After she threw those back into her bedroom, she reentered the bathroom. With a loud, heavy sigh, she rested herself within the hot water.

She couldn't help but think of the door Tobi had shown her. It would definitely help when she needed to plan an escape after rescuing Naruto from his chakra cage. But that, she realized with another sigh, would be the hardest part. The chakra cage Naruto was sealed in was definitely harder than steel. She would know. She could crush steel without breaking a sweat. It irritated the medic that there was something her physical strength alone couldn't crush.

Sakura snapped her eyes open at that thought. Since when had she thought her strength to be superior to everything? This definitely wasn't a good way to think. This cage of Pein's, she noticed, was proof that she couldn't always rely on her fists.

So what she needed to use was her head… a genjutsu, more than likely. Though Pein himself had said only he could take down the barrier, he was a shinobi. Almost all shinobi saw themselves as invincible…

…especially a "god" with a superiority complex.

She needed to get back into Pein's study. Though, she needed to get there when Pein wasn't in the base… or Konan, for that matter. Konan was sweet, but… she would take Pein's side over Sakura's in a heartbeat.

Sakura's thoughts were cut short when she heard the distant sound of shouting. Sakura tried to get even quieter, if it was possible. For a few seconds she heard nothing.

And then everything exploded.

Sakura let out a high-pitched yelp as she felt the room shake around her. Shouts and screams were heard, even louder now, coming from close by. Before Sakura could react, her bathroom door had swung open to reveal a torn up, orange-haired shinobi.

"Anbu platoons… around fourteen..." he gasped out between breaths. He pushed his back up against the wall and shut his eyes, focusing the massive chakra flow around him as his hands moved in a flurry of hand signs. After making the final hand sign, he let himself slide to the ground.

The shaking stopped.

Sakura could only stare in shock as everything that had happened in the last ten seconds registered in her mind.

Then she looked down.

She gasped, a blush creeping up on her face. She quickly submerged herself to her chin, covering all her "special" areas.

"What the hell is going on?" she almost screamed.

Pein quickly placed a finger to his lips. "Don't yell. They'll hear you." Reluctantly, Sakura obliged. Something about him was different than she'd ever seen before.

He looked… serious… annoyed… like someone had stolen his favorite toy.

After a few moments of silence, Pein continued. "One of our supposed 'allies' leaked information to Konoha." Sakura could feel her breath hitch in the back of her throat. He noticed this, but didn't say anything about it. "As far as I know, no one has released information about your joining the organization, but news has gotten out that we have a new medic..." He looked Sakura in the eyes with a grimace on his face. "…a pink-haired medic."

Sakura smacked her head on the edge of the spring in frustration.

Why? Now Konoha thought she was a traitor! She would never be able to look Tsunade in the face ever again… or Ino, or Kakashi, or Hinata, or-

"They've come to rescue you."

Pein looked at the silent kunoichi. He hadn't planned on letting her know that Konoha thought Sakura was imprisoned within the organization (which she was). It would only cause future issues, and it would give Sakura a hope Pein didn't feel like crushing.

But he wasn't gonna' let her go.

Sakura couldn't breathe. Konoha knew? They were here to rescue her? What if they could save her? But, wait… she couldn't leave Naruto here. What if they were able to retrieve him, too? What if they could go back to their lives as Konoha shinobi? What if…

What if…

There were so many "what ifs," and it made Sakura's heart tighten in her chest. What if this was all a false hope? It was stupid to hope in this situation. Each member of this organization could easily take down a platoon of ANBU. And if they couldn't…

She stopped there. She didn't want to think about what could happen to the Akatsuki members. And it made her think…

Why did she care?

If the girl she had looked to as some kind of older-sister died, why should it matter? If the teenage artist that loved her omelets died, did it make a difference? If the mysterious boy who acted like a child and gave her a nickname died, would it even affect her? If…

If Pein were to die…

"Sakura."

Sakura looked up with clouded eyes.

He hesitated before speaking. "…Do you have any clothes in here?"

Sakura couldn't even summon the energy to blush. "No. They're… They're in my room."

Pein simply nodded and took his ripped cloak off. He threw it near the edge of the bath and turned around. Sakura looked down at the cloak, then back up to the Akatsuki leader.

Something wasn't right here.

She slowly grabbed her towel and stepped out of the spring. At the sound of shifting water, Pein visibly tensed. Yet, Sakura still didn't blush. After drying, she noticed that some of her hair had gotten wet when she ducked into the water. She wrapped the towel and her hair and pulled Pein's torn cloak tightly around her body. Half of the trail was gone, so one of her legs was visible up to her mid-thigh. Seeing as it couldn't be zipped up in its current state, Sakura removed the towel from her head and ripped a long strip of cloth from it. She used that to tie the cloak shut around her waist. She ran a hand through her short hair and sighed.

When she looked back up to Pein's figure, she noticed a deep red splotch on his side. Worry instantly crossed her mind. "You were injured?"

Pein jumped suddenly at the sound of her voice, and he hesitated before nodding slightly.

He still didn't face her.

Sakura sighed heavily and walked over to him, bits of the long cloak trailing behind her. "Show me." She set a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to turn him around, but he made no motion to move. Sakura felt her annoyance tick. "Pein, turn around. If you let the blood dry on your shirt, you realize how back that's gonna hurt peeling it off?"

In one swift movement, he pulled his shirt over his head and threw it a few feet away. Sakura glanced over at it.

Great... It was getting her nice white tile floor all bloody.

She looked back at Pein, who still didn't turn to face her. "Pein, why won't you look at me?" She slapped him lightly on the back of his head, which he continued to ignore. With a growl of frustration, Sakura used both hands to grab on one shoulder, and spun him around with a hard pull. "Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

He looked at her.

Boy, did he look at her.

Gray met green.

Sakura couldn't blink.

His eyes, which held the Rinnegan, held so much more than just a kekkei genkai. There was something in them that she couldn't quite place. The look her gave her was… depressed. If she didn't know any better, she thought he would start crying right then and there. "Pein…"

He closed his eyes and bent his head down. "I thought you wanted to heal something."

Sakura didn't know what looked more painful, his injury or the look in his eyes.

She looked down to observe the deep gash in his side. It looked like it was slashed open by a tiger, for it had several claw marks through it. "What did this?"

He looked down to his side, as if seeing it for the first time. "I don't know. I didn't…" he paused to inhale quietly, "…didn't see."

Finally having enough of this, Sakura grabbed hold of his chin and tilted it up so his eyes met hers again. "Tell me, Pein." She gripped a little harder than necessary. "Tell me what's going on with you."

A flicker of annoyance flashed through his eyes. "Let me go."

"Not until you tell me what the hell is up with you."

"It's not something I can just talk about, okay?" he swatted her hand away with his own. "I'm not one of you goody-goody leaf-nin. I don't do this feeling shit." He glared at her, but for some reason, Sakura could see that it didn't really touch his eyes. He was annoyed, yes, but he wasn't as angry as he tried to appear.

"Pein…" she softened her voice so as to not irritate him.

He turned his head, not looking her in the eyes.

Sakura sighed and went back to work.

It was deathly quiet for twenty or so minutes- and for Sakura, this was way too long. She looked up every now and again to look at Pein's face. Within a few minutes, his angry looked was replaced with that depressed look again. After five more minutes, the injury was almost completely healed. She leaned back away from him, observing her work. "It will be sore for a few days," she said, "so don't strain it. It needs time to heal naturally."

He didn't acknowledge that she had said anything.

Sakura leaned up against the wall so that she could get a good look at his face.

"I don't know what it is I've done to make you hate me." Pein visibly tensed when she said that, and turned his head to look at her. When he didn't say anything, Sakura took this as a sign to continue. "Well, sure, Konoha-nin just broke into your base to get me and you were injured in the progress, but you never seemed like the type to hold a grudge for something like that." She looked him in the eyes again. He still held that pained expression, yet he wouldn't say anything. With another sigh, she spoke again. "But I don't hate you, Pein. Believe it or not, I actually trust you. You've saved my life before, and I haven't forgotten that. I never forget a favor." She reached out to grab one of his hands, which was surprisingly cold. "I don't really know what to say to you." She traced her thumb lazily on the back of his hand.

"I just…" she searched for a word, and grew frustrated when she couldn't find one. "I just need you to tell me what you're thinking!"

She dropped her head and looked at the ground, fighting off the churning in her stomach.

She froze when she felt the cold hand within her own move. When he pulled it back, she didn't know what to think.

She felt tired.

She felt defeated.

That hand cold hand placed itself under her chin, and tilted it up. A little surprised, she looked up with little hesitation.

"I don't hate you."

Her eyes grew wide as he leaned in to place a soft, chaste kiss on her lips.


Tada~! Cliffy :D

I'm sorry. I had to do that. This is also a little late… sorry about that. I had major writer's block for this chapter. This is to make up for the lack of PeinSaku in previous chapters. After all, this is a PEINSAKU story. Sorry… I love Deidara, Tobi, Kisame, Itachi, and Hidan, but I was going through a PeinSaku phase when I started this story (: and that is how I'll finish it!

By the way, people have been asking about the whole Tobi and Madara thing.

THERE IS NO MADARA IN THIS STORY. No Obito, either.

Tobi is just Tobi.

Deal with it ;)

And thank thank thank thank thank you for the reviews! I wouldn't have written this chapter without them! Your encouragement is greatly appreciated! (:

And for those who either favorited or subscribed to this story...

i know you did it. i get an email every time one of you subscribe or favorite me ;) that means i know when you don't leave me a review! Let's fix that, shall we?

Bye~ see you in chapter 17 (: