Disclaimer: I am not Kishimoto Masashi, thus, I am not the rightful owner of Naruto.


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A Welcomed Return

「butIdoLOVEyoU」

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Part II

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Sasuke did not respond.

How could he tell her that for the last three days he had kept to the shadows, tracing her every steps? Watching and keeping tabs on her as he familiarized himself with her daily routine. That while he'd thought long and hard about not returning to Konoha, her tear stained face, lurking in his mind's eyes, prompted him to return with all the haste of the wind pushing on his back. That while he hadn't planned to stay, one look in her direction had robbed him of his senses.

Sakura had grown beautiful—too beautiful in his opinion.

She was like temptress. Full pink and kissable lips, bright green eyes shadowed by long eyelashes, short pink hair that to this day made him want to run his fingers through, creamy white skin that more than once he wanted to paint a sinful pattern across her skin with just the tip of his tongue.

Unlike her old attire, which fit like a red neon sign over a long flat board, her body had filled generously, accentuated nicely by a red top with the same design of her old dress, and a short pink skirt over short black tights. The skirt fashioned as it was, with splits along the front, back and sides, served to remind him just how easily he could slip his hands between the partings and fill his palms with the nice curve of her backside.

No longer was she the shy and indecisive girl he remembers from memories past. Now, she stood taller, chin held high as her chakra crackled around her like a protective shield from the eyes that stared at her lustfully. For each set of eyes that stared at her, Sasuke swore to come back and chew off their heads. In fact, he almost wished she hadn't blossomed so beautifully. God knows how much trouble she'd cause him if—

No. I'm not making any sense, Sasuke thought, realizing where his train of thoughts was headed.

Sakura had asked him a question and well…how could he tell her of all those idiotic and bubbly feelings that currently plagued him? Feelings, he had once flayed from his heart after his brother murdered his clan. Feelings, of which, she awoke in him shortly after becoming a member of Team 7, and he desperately tried to deny.

Not that he'd succeeded at ignoring those feelings. His only failure in life.

The less his feelings for her faded, the more annoyed he grew. The more time he spent away from her, the more restless he grew. Such knowledge and awareness of her maddened him beyond his senses. She reduced him to a contradicting fool, always shredding his stoic composure to pieces.

Knowing that he loved another made him feel fragile. It reminded him of his parents and the years of torment he'd endured while giving chase to his brother. But it was a feeling he couldn't contain any longer.

These feelings of love for her, even if he said otherwise, always reminded him that his revenge hadn't been entirely about avenging his clan, no; somewhere along the lines his thirst for revenge had morphed into a growing need to protect her. Without his realization, she'd become a vital part of his life. And while he'd pushed her away, denied how deeply she affected his senses, his heart yearned for her. Deep in his gut, he knew that if he returned her affection, those that wanted him dead, those that wanted to use him, would harm her, tear her from his arms.

He simply couldn't endure that a second time.

Most of his sanity had gone with Itachi after his brother murdered his parents. There'd be nothing left of him if something ever happened to her, because of him, because of his selfish desire to love and be loved.

At least, he'd thought that the desire to love another was selfish—sinful almost—until now.

He found that he was like a kid who just couldn't let go. Always dreaming of the possibilities of living a quiet and peaceful life beside the person he chose. That, of course, was his biggest annoyance. His heart had settled on Sakura and wouldn't budge. If he had to spend his life alongside someone, he'd have chosen someone more …practical. He'd have chosen someone who wouldn't hurt easily with his careless words, and would understand his lack of affection. He'd have chosen someone he wasn't capable of loving, and thus fear losing. With Sakura, he couldn't afford to be callous. She was bright and full of life. She was loving and giving, he simply couldn't crush the light out of her. But he couldn't be without her any longer. He knew that if he allowed her any deeper into his being, he'd be unable to part with her, even if she demanded such freedom from him.

Such thoughts made him uneasy. But no matter how much his brain tried to rationalize with his heart, he was past the point of thinking. All he wanted now was to feel something that wasn't hate and shame. All he truly wanted was her. Although he feared that this sudden determination was brought about as a result of killing Itachi, he couldn't ignore that gut-wrenching need that rushed through him after seeing her again.

However, the irony of the situation was that while she'd spent her time chasing after him and he'd brushed her off, now that he was the one pursuing her, she called another man's name.

Sasuke glared at Sakura. The annoyance clearly showed on his face.

This whole predicament was her fault, wasn't it? If she hadn't bewitched him, he wouldn't act so unlike himself. He'd have carried on with the weight of his shame, without hoping for a small ray of light in his dark and muddled world.

As if remembering he was more than annoyed with her, Sasuke placed a ferocious mask on his face. He knew he that his show of emotions wasn't making any sense to her, but he was too far gone to care anymore.

"You haven't answered my question!" He bit out harshly, nearly wincing at the force he used to yell at her, which, in turn, made him want to bash his head into a wall for having felt such a tender emotion. All the same, he knew that this method of being angry with her—or pretending to be angry just so he could sooth his ego—was his way of refusing to answer her question.

"I already told you that I was shocked!" While he'd seen her yell at Naruto so many times, he never would've thought she'd yell at him. It made lust stir in him knowing that she wasn't as fragile as he thought. She was fierce now; he could sense it in her chakra that pulsed hotly around her. She could withstand whatever he dished out, and the thought made him want her even more.

Sasuke took another step towards her, not that there was much room left between them. When Sakura attempted to shrink from his touch, he glared at her and the action stilled her.

"And what does Sai have to do with this shock of yours."

"I, ah," once more she looked around in that nervous habit of hers. "I thought he was playing a trick on me."

"Why?" He didn't blink once as he stared at her, searching for the truth. He didn't risk looking anywhere lower than her nose. If he remembered the taste of her, he wouldn't be able to control himself from lunging for her lips once more. When she opened the door for him and he saw her standing less than a foot away from him, he couldn't control the way in which he needed to hold her.

Sasuke watched Sakura timidly glance away. "I didn't trust it was you at the door." She whispered.

"No. Why if you thought I was Sai did you kiss me? Why would you cling and open yourself up to him?" This time, he did growl at her. He was one heartbeat away from desensitizing her lips of Sai's kiss, even if it hadn't been the other man kissing her.

Sasuke watched as a surge of annoyance blossomed on Sakura's face. "Shall I remind you that you were the one who kissed me?"

"And shall I remind you that you did not resist me?"

"I did resist you!" She told him as she roughly pushed on his chest to make her point. He, however, retained a firm grip on her throat.

"Not in the beginning you did."

Sakura looked incredulous. "In the beginning, as you say, you were the one who kissed me. Not the other way around."

"Well, if I kiss you a second time, and then a third and a fourth, would you resist me?" Sasuke was aware that the smoldering look in his eyes betrayed the look of anger on his face. When she roughly pushed against his chest again, he allowed her to escape him.

Shocked Sakura stared at him before turning on her heals and retreating further into her apartment. Sasuke did not miss the look of startled confusion on her face. He followed closely behind her. His fury at the thought of another man kissing her blinded him from his real purpose. He hadn't meant to argue with her, to upset her, but he hadn't expected to be mistaken for another man. He hadn't expected her to feel so emotionally detached with his return. Perhaps she'd lost interest in him, not that he could blame her. Six years had passed and not once had he promised to return for her when his quest was completed.

Sasuke ran a hand through his hair in frustration. Coming here was a mistake.

For all he knew she could be committed to someone else.

The thought washed over him like acid, and although a part of him protested that she was his, he didn't think he had the right to fight for her. He'd been horrible to her in the past. He was still an insensitive jerk for thinking that she would wait for him, that she didn't have the right to fall in love with someone else.

Sasuke glared at her back. This is why he didn't want to fall in love. Such whimsical feelings weren't eternal. Humans easily discarded their love for one another. They grew tired of each other, look what happened with his family.

Closing his eyes, Sasuke stopped in his tracks. If only I'd been honest with her from the very beginning. Even now, why can't I tell her that I need her? That there's a desperate need in me only she can fill?

Sighing, he watched as she stepped into her bedroom and grabbed the doorknob. Before she closed the door behind her, to shun him, he spoke up. "Forget that I ever came. And…I'm sorry if I disturbed you. If possible don't tell—"

"Of course." Sakura quickly turned around to grin at him. "Thanks for stopping by. And…uhm…I'm sorry for the awkwardness. I—I guess I'm still annoying, right?"

As if heaven and hell spun on its axis, Sasuke felt himself slipping in the dizzying movement. His entire being was washed in the hottest fires of hell, before a gentle peace settled over his heart. So simple and innocent, he thought as he gazed at those unshed tears glisten in Sakura's eyes. Lightening should just strike me where I stand.

Taking a step towards her, Sasuke cursed his stubbornness, his unwillingness to be honest with her about a part of himself he'd kept from her. He also cursed himself for not having the guts to reach out for her and never let go.

He was a coward, he understood that.

While he had the determination to kill his own brother, he hadn't the galls to grab love with his own two hands. If he blamed it on his parent's murder, and his fear of losing another loved one, then he was making excuses for himself. This way of claiming to protect her by not telling her how much he loved her, was his way of hiding how weak he was, how little faith he had in himself about protecting someone with his own hands.

What shamed him most was the fact that because of the damage he'd done to her, she could not accept that he was in her home. She had to pretend to not be affected by his presence, and smile and talk to him as though they were accustomed to seeing each other on a regular basis, when in fact, she wanted to cry. He said he needed her, but instead of assuring her that it was him in the flesh, he was picking a fight with her, looking for even more excuses as to why he couldn't tell her what he felt for her.

I'm annoying, remember? I guess I'm still annoying, right? It was her secret way of reminding him that he hadn't loved her, of asking him if that was still the case.

How could he not see the way she wore her heart on her sleeves? Why was he so selfish to assume that he was the only one who desperately longed for her? After all, she'd been the one brave enough to tell him she loved him. She'd been the one to tell him she would wait for him, and if he didn't mistake that look in her eyes, she was still waiting, even if she didn't trust the reality of his presence.

Damn it all! Sasuke thought as he shrugged off what little remained of his ego and sent it crashing to the waves. If he listened to it any longer, he'd only drive an irrevocable wedge in a relationship he had yet to form with Sakura. He knew that if he ever wanted a moment to live, he had to start by accepting that he loved her.

Just how stupid and insensitive can I be?

When he took a second step towards her, Sakura took one back. He could sense her hesitation and he didn't blame her for it. Not once had he given her hope that anything could be between them. But now, he was intent on remedying that. He only hoped he hadn't lost his chance while he'd denied himself a chance to truly live.

"Don't run from me Sakura." He told her as he walked in her direction and she continued to shuffle backwards. She shook her head 'no' and before he could reach her, tears came streaming down her face. Lunging for her, Sasuke pulled her around the waist and into his arms.

"Please don't cry." He told her as he brushed the tears away from her face and felt his heart break at the face of his own cruelty. He felt her tense in his arm and all too soon she was fighting his embrace. With what little strength she had in her arms, she pushed against his chest, her hands forming into claws as she scratched him wherever possible.

Sasuke allowed her to rally against him, but not once did he contemplate letting go of her. Although he'd taken all the wrong turns to end up at this point, he'd waited so long to hold her. It was time he fought for her and laid his demons to rest. It was time he loved her as fiercely as she'd done so for the last few years.

Crushing her against his chest his arms wrapped protectively around her and cradling the back of her head, he murmured soothing words into her ears.

"Ssh. Don't cry. I won't leave. I'll stay here with you. So don't cry."

The cold fingers wrapped around his heart ebbed away, his heart sinking as her small frame shook against him and sobs wracked through her, rising in pitch the more fervently he whispered in her ear. Hesitantly, her arms circled around his back and her fingers clutched the back of his shirt. Her face pressed further into his chest as she hid her tears from view. She seemed to mumble something to herself as he reassured her that everything was alright.

He soothed a hand up and down her back. "I'll stay. If that's what you want, I'll always stay by your side." His lips pressed behind her ear, where the dizzying smell of lavender and sunshine was strongest. "But know that I'm going to love you because it's what I want to do."

Sakura hissed in a breath and attempted to reel from him, but he gripped her around the waist, his fingers digging into the soft flesh of her hips. The look of surprise in her wide, teary eyes as she looked up at him nearly blinded him from his purpose. When she opened her mouth to speak and a hiccup interrupted her, a fierce shade of pink illuminated her face. To hide her embarrassment, she used the insides of her wrist to wipe her tears, in the process shielding her face from view.

Sasuke thought it was the most adorable thing he'd ever seen. He was helpless against the smile that tugged at his lips.

Smiling at her, he lifted her face to his and rested his forehead against hers. That touch alone made her flinch and shrink into herself. Sasuke followed her movement until he nearly toppled over her and she had to grab his shoulders to keep from falling backwards on the floor. Again, she opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off.

"I know you've endured a lot because of me. I also know that I've betrayed your trust and if I could, I'd give anything to go back and fix things. I-I didn't want to hurt you. I—,"

"Why?" Sakura cut him off. "Why are you saying all of this to me?" A soft whine accompanied her voice as even more tears spilled from her eyes. "It's not making any sense. You left so long ago and now that you've returned I don't understand why you hold me like this. Or why you kiss me. If it's pity, I don't need it!"

Sasuke took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes. The little boy from his past peered up at him, with imploring eyes and bloodstained cheeks, in a silent plea asking him to never love again, to never hurt for loving someone. His heart was of stone, and only when he thought of Sakura did he feel the thundering rush of blood flow through his veins, awakening his dormant heart. If he didn't tell her how he felt, he'd forever remain of stone.

Swallowing against the lump that formed in his throat he reached for the courage to speak the truth.

"It's because I want you, more than I let on." Slowly opening his eyes to look at Sakura, he noted that even more tears rained down her face. Gently, he ran his thumbs down her cheeks, but the dam had broken and the tears continued to flow freely from her eyes.

Reading the look of disbelief in her eyes, Sasuke quickly secured a hand behind her head, to hold her in place. Before she took to the hills, he was going to pour out his heart to her. Afterwards, if she wanted to trample on his heart, he would let her. Honestly, he deserved no better than scorn. In the time they'd spent together as Team 7 he'd called her names, mocked her strength and constantly refused her warmth. Of course she wouldn't believe anything he had to say. Of course she didn't believe this was him—trust—it was him. He wasn't acting like his usual self. The boy from his youth would've brushed her off completely. But the man that he was now needed her. While in the past he would've thought this a weakness, he didn't care anymore.

He wanted her. Without her he was lost. A lost soul stranded at sea.

"I know I haven't given you reason to believe this to be true." He rushed on to say, his heart rattling against his ribcage as the look in her eyes grew distant. "But in the beginning, when thoughts of you kept me up at night I thought it was because you had everything I wanted: a warm family, love and security. When my heart contorted in pain at the thought of you, I was stupid to think I was envious of your bright laughter and your somewhat naïve perspective. I mistook feelings of love for envy. Because of my own lack of experience and emotional detachment, I was mean to you when what I truly wanted to do was keep you to myself. For so long, I ran from the truth. I thought I didn't need love. I thought I was protecting you." Again he rested his forehead against hers. He closed his eyes, to shield the desperate yearning from her curious gaze.

"Sakura, I—," He paused because saying those foreign words sounded so strange in his head.

"I love you." He let the words hang in the air before he took a deep breath.

"I like you. I want you. So much that I don't know what to do."

Sobs escaped her lips and Sasuke buried her face in his chest. He wrapped protective arms around her, all the while wishing this wasn't the last time he held her like this. Lost for words, he let her cry. When she didn't seem to quiet, he lifted her, without warning, and gently settled her on the bed.

Her bedroom was small. It was dark.

A body length mirror was propped up against the far right wall, stationed in front of a small window, the only window in the room. A big wooden armoire occupied much of the left wall. A little ways from the mirror sat a desk, pilled with numerous scrolls and medical books. The bed itself was also small. A thick and light blue coverlet tangled with white sheets. While the night was chilly, he didn't think she needed to sleep under so many layers for warmth.

Kneeling in front of her, he clasped her hands in his. He didn't know what to say, what to think, as he absorbed the nakedness of her bedroom's white walls. Needles pricked his eyes and he felt his heart shriveling as eternity seemed to pass and the tears continued to rain down her face. She fought a small scuffle to free her hands from his, but he did not allow it. He needed to touch her for as long as possible. So that if she asked him to leave her, he could at least take with him the memory of having held her hands.

If only I told her sooner. He told himself, knowing he'd been making a fool of himself by denying that he liked her. Why did I have to be so darn stubborn?

Even now he couldn't help feeling like what he was doing was stupid, simply making a spectacle of himself. His mind yelled at him to get back on his feet and walk away. He was Uchiha Sasuke and he did not bow before another's need.

But these are my needs. However late I may have been in realizing I love her, this is something I truly want, to love her and have her look at me as she did in the past.

Like her knight in shining armor.

He wanted to be that for her, he wanted to protect her. Giver her everything he hadn't in the past. He wanted a future with her. He knew he didn't deserve to have it so easy, but he wanted so much to be with her.

She was his better half and he'd been an idiot for not realizing it sooner. He'd called her weak for not having the physical strength required of a shinobi; he'd thought himself better than her in his stupid decision to not envy her, but all along, she been stronger. She had truth and a fierce and loyal heart. He only hoped that as a result of his cruelty, he hadn't shattered her valor. Anyone could gain strength, but that innate ability to love unconditionally and to never shy from the truth was something that wasn't acquired through hours of practice.

She was beautiful, both inside and out and he'd give his very breath to hear her say she loved him.

Just once, he thought as he gazed up at her.

He brought a hand to her face; with the back of his knuckles he caressed her cheeks. "Sakura, don't cry. I'll go if that's what you want." He glanced away. "I can also erase all traces that I was here, if that makes things easier for you."

His words stopped her from crying. Rubbing her eyes she gazed down at him, her eyes wide in even more disbelief. Before he had the chance to blink, she lunged into his arms. The force sent him sailing onto his back with Sakura sprawling on top of him.

"Don't go. Don't go," she said fervently, as she pushed herself onto her hands and knees to loom over him.

"I don't know what to make of any of this," she began, her voice catching in her throat. "But whatever it is, even if this is an illusion, don't go. I've waited for so long so just please don't go."

Boring his gaze into her sea foam green eyes he told her, "When I left I thought you'd be safe here. I thought nothing would harm you, that nothing would change your sweet innocence. But all along it was me destroying you with my cruel remarks." He lifted his hands and pinched a few strands of her pink hair in between his thumb and finger. Without much encouragement, she nestled her cheek into his hand.

"When I left, I wanted to tuck you away in a place only I knew of, where nothing and no one would harm you. I left because I wanted to protect you, to preserve your innocence. I thought that if I left, Itachi wouldn't destroy Konoha. I thought that if I joined Orochimaru I could lure the threat elsewhere, that I could gain the strength I needed to avenge my family. I was convinced that Itachi would seek me out, but for so many years he kept his distance. For all that time I spent away, I wanted to see you. Yet, at the same time I battled a war with myself, trying to convince myself that I didn't need love, that I didn't need you or anyone else. That what I felt for you at the time was only a weakness that would hinder my goals."

His hand drifted back down to his side. "You may think this is all an illusion, but I swear to you that it isn't. I'm here because I wanted to see you." He grit his teeth. "When you said another man's name the jealousy that burned through me threatened to shatter my senses. It may be pompous of me to expect you to wait for me after all this time, but just thinking that another man has touched you when I have not…I—I—I'm sorry." He said at last, sitting up to cradle Sakura in his arms.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He whispered repeatedly in her ears as she wrapped her arms around his neck and held him tight. There was so much he wanted to ask forgiveness for, but even if he wasn't listening to his ego anymore, if he gave his reasons for asking for forgiveness now, he'd become less of a man by crying in front of her. Instead, he relished in the furious thundering of his heart which threatened to break free of his chest when Sakura slid her arms around his neck and embraced him as he did her. Softly, her fingers ran though his hair. She whispered in the crook of his neck that he didn't need to ask for forgiveness.

"We all make mistakes," she said, calming the fragile being within him that hid in the shadows of the darkness that bled through him. "There was just so much neither one of us understood back then. It's not your fault so please don't ask for my forgiveness, because there isn't anything to forgive."

A shuddering breath left his lungs. Really, she is simply too kind. How could there not be anything to forgive after the way I treated her?

Pulling from him slightly, Sakura searched his face for understanding. Sasuke hoped she could read the remorse that burned in his eyes. He didn't want to hurt her any more than he had. In fact, he wished he could bear all of his heart to her. He truly, from the bottom of his heart, regretted hurting her.

"But if you leave me a second time," she said, a smile brightened her features. "I'll hunt you to the end of the world and make you want me."

Sasuke stared at her. He searched her eyes for the truth, and all he saw was determination and the adoration he'd missed all these years. "This is too good to be true." He told her, his hands lifting to settle on either side of her face. Sakura placed her hands over his.

"Like a dream," she said. Rapidly, she blinked back the tears in her eyes and Sasuke felt a rumble of laughter bubble in his chest. Here was the woman he needed, the one he'd shun in his youth, smiling at him from ear to ear. Willing to accept his confession and have him in her life. For the first time he began to truly understand why she'd been so hesitant at the door. This really was like a dream, but he was more startled to realize just how easily a dream could turn into reality. All he needed to do was hold out his hands, secure his arms around her, and she was his.

Pulling her face closer to his, Sasuke kissed her lightly.

At first she stiffened and tried to shy away from the warmth of his breath.

"I love you," he said against her lips and she sank against him. He would be lying if he said the words spilled easily from his lips. Those three words alone made his insides trembled, and he hated to think it was out of fear.

Gently, Sasuke coaxed her mouth open. Because he kissed her at the front door, he was aware that sliding his tongue along the roof of her mouth made her knees grow weak. Exploiting such knowledge, he flicked his tongue against hers, before he ghosted his tongue against the roof of her mouth. The caress elicited a moan from her, granting him deeper leverage as he swiftly plunged his tongue into her mouth.

She tasted sweet, like honey, and the taste made his mind heady.

Without warning, the need to devour her was upon him. He'd wanted her, since the moment he caught sight of her strolling around the streets of Konoha. He'd wanted her even more when she opened the door and her lovely face peered up at him. The burning urge to hold her against him, flush and naked, singed his nerve endings.

Have to have her. He thought urgently as his hands fluttered down her arms. His strong fingers brushed against her ribcage, lingered along the underside of her breast, and moved along her back, to her shoulder blades. Further up his hands went, until one hand was gripping her around the neck.

His lips lifted from her briefly. He stared at Sakura for all of three seconds before he swopped down once more. His wicked kiss disarming any resistance from her.

Sakura made soft mewling sounds as his tongued graced against hers. She didn't fight his hands when again they began to roam her person, to press her intimately against his growing erection.

"Feel me." He said against the corner of her mouth, his tongue darting out to taste her there. "All of me." Taking one of her hands, he brought it to his chest, asking her to sink soft hands into the heat of his hard chest.

Obligingly, she raked her finger nails against hard muscles. The caress made them both groan. Spurred by his invitation, she circled an arm around his neck and pressed her mouth firmly against his, hoping to devour him in the same way he did her. Her other hand traveled down his chest. Her wrist bumped against his erection when she reached the hem of his shirt to let her hand disappeared underneath the material of his black shirt. Digging his fingers into her back, Sasuke did his hardest to not grind himself against her or growl in satisfaction as her palm seared against the corded muscles of his abdomen. Deftly, her nimble fingers caressed up his chest, tracing every hard and smooth plane and memorizing his scars with her touch alone.

Dropping his head into the crook of her neck, Sasuke inhaled her feminine scent. He hadn't expected her to smell of lavender. Cherries and strawberries were scents he'd always equated with her. But still, she smelled heavenly.

Like home.

Running his lips against the underside of her jaw, he slipped his hands into the partings of her skirt. Kneading her ass, he pressed her more intimately against him.

Without reservation she locked her legs around him and offered him her neck when his lips kissed along her jawline. Accepting her offering, he kissed a trail down her throat.

Blinded by his desires, he softly bit and licked his way to her shoulder. With his free hand he held around her ribcage, his thumb rubbing back and forth against the underside of her breast. When she pressed herself against him, he circled a hand around her breast and gloried in her moan and her nipples that hardened in his palm. Rubbing the bud with his thumb to a hardened peak, he used his teeth to graze the fluttering of her pulse at the base of her throat. Again, she moaned softly and her nails bit into his back.

Sasuke peered at her. At the flush, that tinted her beautiful face and her lips swollen from his kisses. The breath sawed in and out of her, and her nipples strained against the material of her white shirt. Her legs felt like velvet wrapped around the hard steel of his body. And her core, positioned over his hard length, burned against his sensitive member.

Moment of clarity vanished as soon as Sakura dropped her head forward. She stared at him, like a seductress hell-bent on staking her claim. Her tongue darted out to lick her lips before she brought her face to his, the determination to kiss him once more radiating in her eyes.

"I'll always love you," she spoke softly against his lips, lone tears sliding down her face as she peered up at him.

"Forever and always," Sasuke said, tears of his own mirroring the look of hope in her eyes. Bringing her left hand to his lips, he kissed her ring finger. A silent promise that she was his for the short eternity they had on earth, a promise that he would cherish and love her with all of his being.

Forever and always, he thought once more as he settled his lips over hers.

Sakura giggled and he was helpless against her contagious laugh.

†End.