All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.

{Dubcon warning}

Pein's eyelids lowered with fatigue, having grown dry and gritty from long hours spent poring over reports and information. Words had turned into inky blobs on parchment, now, but Pein's work was never finished, neither inside nor outside. He raised his calloused fingertips to his temples and pressed, trying to stave off a headache. From somewhere out in the base, he could hear Hidan and Kakuzu arguing. Their voices often echoed down the hallways during times they couldn't get along, which was often. Pein heaved a weary sigh, but his frustration had waned some months ago. His organization was elite, functional, and so long as the two-man teams worked well in the field, he didn't care about their time off it. His job was to lead the Akatsuki, not to control every aspect of his subordinates' lives. If anyone wanted to do that, it would be from the shadows.

After all, Pein was only a decoy, and when the master pulled the strings, Pein moved in accordance.

A shadow moved from the corner of Pein's gaze, and he fought the urge to turn and look. The door opened for only one other person aside from Pein, but his paranoia would never waver. He remained silent even as the sound of steady footsteps approached him, their quiet echoes resounding off the stone walls sent a shiver down his back. Weeks had passed since he'd last seen this particular visitor. Each time, Pein couldn't tell if he felt relieved or dreaded the sight. Nothing made him feel such a way, Pein feared nothing and no one. Yet, when the shadow stopped behind him, Pein's heart skipped a beat in his chest.

"You're late," Pein said, as if time mattered. Time was of no consequence, not to him. A quiet laugh answered Pein's words, and he couldn't help the way his body stiffened. The body standing behind him leaned, until Pein felt a broad chest against his back and a pair of pale hands rested against his desk. It was a meaningless gesture, Pein was sure it was only done to read the documents he had splayed across the wooden surface; but still, his shoulders shuddered in another shiver.

"I apologize to have kept you waiting," a smooth voice replied, and it certainly held no lack of amusement. "I got caught up with a few things, I'm sure you'll understand. Or are you incapable of controlling a few wayward soldiers?"

Of course, Pein understood. Every detail, every inner working, every goal, he understood. He wouldn't allow for any implication otherwise. "Understand or not, this is your plan, and your people," Pein spoke in a cool voice, "I suggest you learn how to better manage your time." Pein had ambitions of his own that would play through among the greater scheme, and he didn't always appreciate getting treated like he was nothing but a doll to speak through. The moment he had finished his sentence, however, the sour taste of regret coated his tongue. Rarely was he so brazen when speaking to his superior; going so long without having to must have tested Pein's diffidence. After all, Pein had to stand tall in front of the world, only to then turn from it to bow down.

Sinking to his knees, Pein thought, wasn't as reprehensible of a challenge as it should have been.

It happened fast, Pein hadn't even had time to prepare himself for it. Slender fingers buried into his hair and tugged his back, the pain sharp and unyielding as it forced him to expose his throat. Pein's eyes opened, for if he had the brass to disrespect his leader, then he should have the same to look him in the eyes. The cool, deep crimson eyes Pein's gaze met with were unnerving, as if they could see straight into Pein. "I don't take kindly to your attitude, Pein."

Pein swallowed and his throat bobbed. He noticed those eyes slip down, watching the movement, before the older man continued. "Be careful, Pein. I may not be so lenient at your next indiscretion, is that understood?" he warned in unwavering clarity.

The blood in Pein's veins froze into ice, so cold that it burned. Never would he dare to disobey, he knew better, and the consequences didn't need spelling out. He had yet to push his superior so far, yet to feel the man's wrath. Well, not when said wrath directed at him. Pein closed his eyes and drew in a breath, his tongue peeking out to wet his lips. "Yes, Madara-sama," he murmured, reverence coloring his tone. If you fear a man, you respect a man—and Pein wasn't sure if one could outweigh the other.

A hum came from above, as if to approve Pein's words. A pair of soft lips grazed across the ginger man's throat then, smooth and cool against Pein's skin as it warmed. How desperately Pein wanted to lean into the touch, to invite it, but that wasn't how it worked. Madara was the one in control, everything was at his whim, including Pein. A hint of Madara's teeth grazed against Pein's pulse, sharp and dangerous as he drew a gasp from Pein. Madara exhaled an amused chuckle against Pein's neck before he pulled away, his grip on Pein's hair loosening. Pein was almost disappointed.

"Shame I have to take my leave," Madara started, "I trust you to take care of your duty, Pein." The underlying threat in Madara's tone was crisp and clear as day. Pein nodded his head in a respectful bow, and he didn't straighten until several seconds after Madara had vanished, leaving the room silent and empty. Pein had earned Madara's faith, and he didn't want to lose it. Losing it meant disappointing Madara, and that was unacceptable. Pein prided himself on his skills, both on the field and controlling it with puppets of his own who were none the wiser. No, Pein wasn't the mastermind, but the foundation supporting it. And, if Madara wanted to, he could shatter Pein completely.

Pein's shoulders sagged as he collapsed against his desk. Power was a dangerous, unpredictable thing. An attractive thing, all the same. Madara was tiers above the people around him, and as lightning strikes a lightning rod, he felt empowered by those drawn to them and who gave their everything to him. Pein might shatter in his hands, crushed by raw strength, but would Madara put him back together? Or, was Pein but a pawn in a board with hundreds of already broken pieces?

Why did getting broken sound like such an alluring fate?


This is a very short chapter, I apologize! The original was only in one part, but I felt like two chapters suited it better and? Idk why?