Piper: Hi guys. I know you probably reeeaaalllly hate me for not updating, but I've been so dicouraged with this story and I had been focusing on my story Price of Strength, but I think I'm probably gunna take that story down. I seem to have upset a lot of reviewers with a choice I made with MY own story, and I'm not going to keep writing for them if all I'm going to get is complaints about my plot every time I update. So I wanted to try my hand at this story again.

I don't own Naruto.

Chapter 22 - Threat

Sakura Haruno

Being back home where I belong was a good feeling, but it was also a lot of work. I was back to normal health once more, under the care of Konoha and then the Akatsuki once I had come back. However, after being home for close to a week and making up lost time with the Akatsuki it was time to start training again. I working with all the Akatsuki members once more with my training, and I was happy to seem improvements once more. I worked the most with my aiming, speed, sword skills, and my jutsu. I was absolutely thrilled to learn more jutsu from the Akatsuki, until Pein decided to work further with me.

"It's time we start working on your element," Pein said, circling me carefully around the training field.

My heart rate instantly picked up as my fear of lightning kicked in. I almost felt like running away from the orange haired man, but I knew that I could trust him. He wouldn't let me get hurt, even by my own hand. I knew that if I ever failed, the Akatsuki would have my back. I believed in them now, like I should've in the beginning. However, no amount of trust or hope could deter me from my life-long fear and I was still very hesitant to go along with what Pein had been saying.

"I had a scroll here with a lightning jutsu," Pein said raising the scroll clutched in his hand. "I want you to take it and begin to master it."

I blinked slowly. "Alone?"

He nodded. "Alone."

Fear settled into the pit of my stomach, icing it over with a creepy chill. I felt my whole body shake as I reached forward to take the scroll from Pein. I was hesitant, almost as if I expected the scroll to suddenly come to life and take a snap at my fingers with crackling, lightning teeth. I was a bit calmer once the aged scroll was settled into my palm, but I could still see my hand shaking back and forth. I opened it slowly, examining its contents and feeling my stomach fill with an uncomfortable pressure.

"You can do this, Sakura," Pein said slowly, standing over me and observing my reactions as I read over the scroll.

I looked up, surprised to see him standing so close to me. He was close that I could feel his body heat and the over-whelming size of his unleashed chakra. He seemed to realize that his power was smothering my own chakra a bit, and he buried a bit of his away, allowing my own chakra to expand a bit more comfortably.

Pein raised his hand, and I watched it carefully. I was a bit more nervous with sudden actions after my time in Orochimaru's presence. Especially after my long torture sessions with Kabuto. However, Pein kept his hand motions slow as he reached forward and trailed a finger across my cheek. My stomach was empty of all pressure, and was instead fluttering as though filled with a million butterflies.

He brushed back a piece of my messy hair, which was no doubt wild after the long training session we had before Pein had presented me with the scroll. I felt my face heat up, and my stomach was so twitchy and light that I would've believed that I was sick if I hadn't felt the feeling a handful of times before.

Pein seemed to contemplate something, before leaning down and pressing his lips to my forehead. I blinked a few times, confused and flustered. Then, suddenly, he was gone and I was left in the training grounds with only a scroll as my company. I was heavy with confusion, and I slowly settled myself onto the ground below. I unrolled the scroll, not know if I would be able to concentrate after seeing Pein's new attitude.

No Point of View

Pein settled himself onto his chair, refusing to admit that he felt a little bit flustered. He wasn't shy, no, never, but he didn't know how the little blossom would react if he suddenly started pushing his affections at her. Because he knew that once he started making his move, it would alert the others to his intentions and they, too, would begin to pursue the pinkette's attention. He didn't think she was quite ready for a pressure like that, not after what she had just gone through.

He would have to control himself for a little while longer. However, if another member chose to start the race then he would eagerly participate. He wouldn't allow himself to lose, oh no. But, he also had to take her preferences to heart. Some of the members wouldn't. They would force themselves at her relentlessly. They wouldn't do anything rash, or at least he hoped. But he knew that whoever she chose would be who she chose, and they would have to settle with it.

No matter who she chose in the end, he knew that he would still stand by her side. He wouldn't let another man get in the way of the friendship he held with her, even if the romantically relationship he wanted wouldn't happen. Pein wasn't a sore loser.

"I see that you're beginning to break, Pein," A silky voice came from the shadows, making the ginger scowl.

The older-than-dirt-Uchiha never left him alone. He could hardly get any peace around with Madara snooping all over the place.

"What do you want, Madara?" Pein asked in an irritated tone, beginning to shuffle and look through papers on his cluttered desk.

"Sakura," the silky voice purred, making Pein stop everything he was doing.

Pein looked up, his eyes narrowed. It wasn't particularly safe for Sakura if Madara was in this "game". Madara was very sneaky, and his methods of playing the game could get her or others injured. Knowing the old Uchiha, he wouldn't play one hundred percent fairly, which means that all of the others would have to resort to tricks. The others didn't know that Tobi was Madara, but Sakura did. Madara had told him once that by the way the girl had acted around the masked nin that her knowledge of their world had allowed her to know that Tobi was Madara. So, he was free to be himself around the girl, which was a dangerous thought itself.

"Don't you dare hurt her, Madara," the ringed-eyed man growled threateningly, glaring at the foggy shadow in the corner of his office.

The old man clicked his tongue, and Pein could practically feel the smirk on the Uchiha's face. He was oozing so much arrogance and superiority that it was almost too suffocating to breathe without catching his ego.

Pein knew that his outward display of protective nature towards the girl hadn't helped his cause. It had probably made the game only that much more interesting for Madara.

"Now, now, Pein. I would never do anything to permanently damage something that belongs to me. Now, play with? That, I would do." The man's shadowy figure left with a fit of haunting chuckles that sent dangerous prickles running down the back of Pein's neck.

Pein stared at the spot that the man had been standing, hoping that he hadn't convinced Madara to start something that Sakura wasn't ready for.

It was dark, the only glow from a faint candle sitting on its hold across the room. There was a soft sound of rain coming from above on the surface, but the room was too deep under for the rain to be heard at it's full potential. The room smelled of death and the earth it was carved into. It was slightly damp, and the stones were covered with moss from the constant wet.

In the dark room sat a pale man, who hid himself further into the shadows. He didn't want contact with anyone, not even his most loyal servant. His newest body had just walked out of his service, right under his nose. Of course, the body still carried the curse mark and the man could pain him from afar, but the boy had just slipped out of his grasp. He needed the boy around him to complete training him for when he took the boys body. But, he was gone. He had ran back to Konoha.

Orochimaru let out a loud growl, smashing his fist into the wall angrily. It dented on impact, pieces of the old stone crumbling and rolling away. He was much to angry to care. He would bring the whole base down if he wanted to, which he felt like doing. He felt like brining the whole building down and slaughtering all the people in it, even if they were his own men.

All of his plans were beginning to crumble, and now he was no where near where he needed to be at that point in time. He needed to start strategizing more, instead of moping. However, he didn't know where to begin. He would need to start from scratch, and that would take so much more time to do.

As sat there, his head cradled in his hands, a small, white snake slithered into the room. It weaved through the pieces of crumbled wall that had spilled across the floor at a quickened pace and up the man's chair. It slithered up to his arm rest and into his loose sleeve, causing Orochimaru to lift his eyes from his palm. The snake began to crawl up his arm once it had settled into his sleeve. He watched its small body writhe up, its body bulging the material of his shirt sleeve. He was slightly amused by the small spy-snake that seemed so eager to speak to him. It determinedly slid up his shoulder and finally to his neck, which it coiled around to steady itself.

The snake raised on its coils, slipping underneath the curtain of his dark hair. He tilted his head, listening as the small one repeated the words it had heard. His eyes widened, the golden color of his eyes darkening as his snake-like pupil quivered. His lips began to quirk at the corners, before stretching out. The more he heard, the larger his grin got. Soon, the cheshire grin wasn't enough, and his shoulders began to quake as laughter began to stream through his lips, pure elation dancing on his sinister face.

Sakura Haruno

I had moved from the training room and into the base, settling myself onto the couch inside the living room. I was alone, the others either on missions or scattered throughout other positions of the base. I took solace in the quiet, and studied the scroll. I decided that I would work on reading and familiarizing myself with the hand signs and chakra positions that night, and then start practicing the next day. That way, I didn't over work myself and I got to put off facing my fear a little while longer.

I slaved over the scroll, absent mindedly pressing my hands into hand signs without feeling, adding no chakra so that I could just continue to go over the hand signs. I was submersed in my learning, that I couldn't hear the door open. Feet, light and silent like feathers, stepped across the room and behind the couch. I hadn't noticed until their shadow breached the over head light, casting darkness over my scroll.

My shoulders tensed, and I jumped out of my skin. I turned quickly, and found myself staring into the swirled, orange mask of Tobi. I blinked up at him, waiting for the familiarly cheerful, childish greeting he usually yelled at me before tackling me. However, something was different. The man stayed quiet, and instantly I knew that I wasn't dealing with Tobi. I was dealing with Madara, who seemed ready to speak with me outside of his persona.

He reached a gloved hand forward, running it through my choppy, pink locks. I blinked a couple of times, confused yet terrified. I knew what Madara was capable of, and I had been so careful around him at the beginning but had allowed myself to become comfortable with the Tobi facade that he put on. I didn't know if I could trust Madara like I had Tobi, even though they were one in the same. Tobi was innocent and trustworthy, while Madara was dangerous and unpredictable.

"Madara," I said lowly, but his fingers continued to run through my hair.

The single eye hole of his mask was dark, but seconds after speaking his name I saw sharingan light up within the shadows of it. The comas spun around lazily. I averted my gaze from them, just as a precaution. I heard him chuckle, deep and as smooth as silk, from behind his mask. His fingers trailed through the ends of my bangs, lightly brushing against the side of my face. When he got to the bottom of my face he curled his finger around my chin, tilting my head up a bit more.

"Come with me, please, Sakura-chan?" He spoke, his tone a bit teasing as he used his Tobi nickname for me.

I swallowed thickly, and rose from the couch. I slipped on my sandals, which had been laying discarded on the floor in front of me. Madara watched as I did so, and I felt the pressure of his gaze beating down on me. I turned, and so did he. He ghost out of the room, his cloak billowing gently behind him. I swallowed a deep breath and followed behind him closely, not wanting to anger such a powerful man.

He trailed through the base, knowing his path easily. I was still finding myself a bit clueless to the endless halls of the base, but I was getting much better upon my return. However, I was hardly concerned with getting lost at that moment. I was more or less terrified of what Madara was leading me to and why he was leading me there in the first place.

I took in a breath through my nose, finding comfort in the familiar smell of the base. Having a base in the land of rain left the smell crisp and fresh, like a fresh wind carrying along the loving rain. It was so homely that it helped me find and inner peace, able to detach myself from the current situation for just a few more seconds. I could feel myself relaxing more and more, just keeping a lazy gaze on the back of Madara's cloak as he led me and let my feet take lead.

Soon, however, panic erupted when I found that we were at one of the entrances to the base. There were quiet a few different ones, but I was familiar with this one because it led to the back of the base where the training grounds were kept. Madara opened the door and held it, motions for me to go out before him. I brushed past him, my shoulder rubbing lightly against his chest as I passed. I shuddered at the unintended contact, but waited for him to exit and lock the door before he knelt down.

"Get on my back," He ordered smoothly, looking up at me from his position on the ground.

"I can walk-" My protest died when I saw his sharingan spin in a more threatening manner, and I quickly settled myself onto his back. My legs looped around his waist and his hands gripped the backs of my thighs. I was blushing brightly, and was happy that he couldn't see my face as he ran to the edge of the training grounds and jumped into the trees. We had a protective barrier about a mile into the forest, and once we reached it Madara passed through easily, the usually invisible shield rippling with a white-filmy color as we passed through.

I was terrified now, seeing that we were truly out of Akatsuki territory now. I kept my arms around his neck, trying to calm myself so that I didn't go into a complete fit of terror. I was reliving flashes of my stay in Orochimaru's base, and I could a sickness touch the back of my throat. I didn't know if Madara was trustworthy, but that fact that I was receiving no information on our traveling location made me feel like I was in the clutches of something horrible.

The further we got from the base, the louder my heart beat. I was truly terrified for the first time since I had gotten back to the Akatsuki.

Piper: I hope this is satisfactory for you guys! I apoligize once again for the wait. I'm going to try my hardest to start updating this story again. Thank you for your support.

Please review!