A/N: Just a one-shot idea. Time-frame would be shortly after Team Kakashi's first reunion with Sasuke after the time-skip.

Just Persuasion

I would lie for you,

Beg and steal for you,

I would crawl on hands and knees until you see,

You're just like me.

There stood Sasuke. In the middle of the dirt track with the hill rising behind him and the mountains behind the hill. He seemed taller and more imposing than even the distant, snowy peaks.

Sakura stood directly opposite him. Beneath her lay the town she'd just visited, a place that specialized in medicine which Tsunade had sent her to with some money and a list of items to purchase. Those items now lay scattered on the ground beside her, the basket carrying them having been dropped.

For a long time she didn't know what to do. She'd seen him coming down the hill toward her, and she'd seen his face and recognized those strikingly cold eyes and those even, well-bred features. She'd seen it was him but it hadn't twigged. She'd met him only a few short weeks ago, but the changes that she'd witnessed then had yet to register in her mind. To her, the image of Sasuke she held in her head was still twelve-years-old, and that person she had seen that day by Orochimaru's hide out who'd tried to run her through with his blade was a stranger. Someone who looked like him, but couldn't possibly have been. And it was only until he came within a few feet of passing her that her heart had leapt frightfully in her chest and the basket had slipped from her hand.

Recognition was hard and painful. Perhaps it had been so delayed because she had wanted it to be him so badly that she couldn't quite trust her own eyes. Now that she saw it clearly was her Sasuke, she wished so very much that it wasn't.

What was he doing here? Was Orochimaru and Kabuto nearby? Had he come to his senses and was coming home? What if he wasn't? What could she do? Sakura could run and fetch Naruto and the others to help retrieve him, but by the time she got to Konoha and back, Sasuke would have been long gone no doubt. It was a chance meeting. Sakura could have cried at how helpless she was.

He knew her. She could tell by the way he stared at her that he'd recognized her, wearing the same expression as the last time they'd come face to face after two and a half years. He didn't look much different from that time. The black and white sword was still tucked into his belt, but the jacket he'd previously had around his waist was now being worn, as the weather was a little cooler on this side of the Fire country.

When he took a step toward her, she had to restrain herself from stumbling back. The last time he'd made any kind of move in her direction, it had been to aim a sword through her chest. But all he did this time was slowly crouch down to pick up the fallen medication that she'd dropped. He deposited the little bags of herbs and bottles of pills back into the basket and straightened, holding it out to her. His expression remained neutral.

Sakura hesitantly reached out and accept the handle, her fingers briefly brushing his as she took hold of it. The contact was like electricity and the intensity alarmed her. She had often traded small, accidental brushes and touches with this same boy all those years ago, but nothing had struck her so deeply. One miniscule touch of skin and her very core was shaking.

Whatever her feelings for Uchiha Sasuke… they had not faded like Ino's. She'd never believed anyone when they had so easily defined her attachment to him as a mere crush, and she was right. No one knew how deep the longing ran inside her. No one understood how love could develop from so very little. She struggled to understand it at times as well, but in the end she was resigned to accept it. She loved this boy. She always had and she always would, no matter what he did. The quivering in her heart only confirmed it.

But then as simply as that, his gaze slid past her to the village below and it seemed as if she was no longer within his scope of existence. She might as well have just vanished for the way he so easily turned his attention from her. The dark cloth of his jacket brushed her bare arm fractionally as he moved past her, continuing on his way down the hill.

Maybe he hadn't recognized her after all?

Sakura, struck with the same old fear of inaction – of letting another opportunity slip by without at least trying – turned and called to him. "No, Sasuke-kun – wait – I-"

She cut herself off, not sure what she wanted to say or how to say it. The last thing she wanted to sound was desperate, but Sasuke hardly seemed to have heard her as he carried on walking away without a break in his stride. If she'd been Uzumaki Naruto, she would have shouted and he would have stopped and listened. But she was Haruno Sakura, and Uchiha Sasuke did not listen to Haruno Sakura. He barely even acknowledge her existence most of the time.

And it hurt. Because her feelings for him were just as real and intense as Naruto's. Why couldn't he see her like he saw Naruto? As someone worth acknowledging?

"Sasuke…" she called more softly. "Please. I'm your friend. Don't ignore me."

She deliberately left off the suffix she normally used, because that was what Naruto would have called him had he been here as well. Perhaps it was this that reached him, or maybe he heard something in her voice that made him change his mind, because he suddenly slowed to a halt and half-turned to regard her.

Never one to be too careful, Sakura kept an eye on his hands. If he even remotely twitched one of them towards his sword, she would be running away. But she knew on all levels of her consciousness that if this boy got it into his head to end her life, it would only be too easy for him to do so. Running away or staying to fight wouldn't make a jot of difference.

But now that his attention was back on her, she felt obliged to follow it up. "What are you doing here?" she whispered.

"I'm here for supplies," he responded evenly. Again, the sound of his voice shocked her memory, even though she'd heard it only a few weeks ago. It was deeper than it had been as a genin, smoother… even more unemotional and apathetic.

"Did Orochimaru send you?" she asked quietly.

"He doesn't know I'm here." Something about his posture relaxed. It was in the slight movement of his shoulders and the way his eyes became a little more hooded, as if a previous tension she hadn't been aware of in him had lifted.

"You… you've left him?" she said, eyes wide. She could barely even breathe for the hope bursting in her heart.

"Briefly," he conceded, looking away into the trees. Clearly he didn't see her as any kind of threat or he wouldn't have dared take his eyes off her. "Orochimaru is controlling. He doesn't like me leaving his premises without an escort, but he won't dare punish me when I return."

When I return

Sakura's heart sank. "I see," she whispered, looking at the ground. "So you're just sneaking out?"

His voice was toneless. "Essentially."

"But why come here?" she asked, frowning. "Where are you going?"

Sasuke didn't reply.

Sakura scrutinized his profile, noting some of the changes in his face that she'd missed in their last chaotic reunion. His jaw line had hardened a little, gaining definition like the rest of him. There was hardly anything childish or boyish about him these days, and he looked far older than his fifteen years.

Oh, what she would give to have him home again. To be a team again. It would never quite be the same as before, but god, they would all try so hard to and make it work.

"Sasuke," she breathed. "You realize this is your chance? You can come home with me now – there's nothing to stop you. No one will be angry with you… well, Tsunade might want a few words, but I'll be there for you. So will Naruto. And Kakashi-sensei."

The incremental tenseness returned to his shoulders. He leveled a cool, critical stare at her, making her wonder if instead of a heartfelt plea, she'd just been making fart noises with her armpits at him. "That can never happen," he said coldly. "Not until I kill a certain man."

He turned and resumed his path toward the town. Sakura's breath hitched unevenly in her throat.

No… she couldn't let him just walk away. She'd let him do it twice to her now, and the pain was almost unbearable. She couldn't let him go without trying everything in her power to convince him to come home. Not only for herself, but for Naruto. She would never be able to look Naruto in the eye again if she let his best friend walk without doing her best to get through to him.

"I would do anything for you, Sasuke!" she called, feeling tears sting her eyes. "Anything! I said it before and I still mean it now! God, I would kill for you if you asked me to!"

He stopped, but only to throw her a carefully schooled glower of annoyance. "You have nothing to offer me, Sakura. I said it before and I still mean it now," he said, echoing her very words.

"That's not true," she whispered, shaking her head as she crossed the distance between them with stunned steps and eyes that were too cowardly look any further up than his chest. "Things are different now. We're not the same as before."

But her movements were too threatening. She hadn't intended him any kind of harm, but Sasuke had always been paranoid about people getting too close to invading his personal space. Before she even realized what was happening, his sword had been unsheathed and was pressing tightly against her throat.

Fear spiked unpleasantly up her spine. Sasuke was a solid force behind her, encompassing with his arm over her shoulder, holding his blade steady over her pulse. She swallowed as delicately as she could, wondering if this was it. If this was where she was destined to die, on this cool September day far from home at the hands of the one person she loved more than anyone else in the world. The one person who didn't even deserve it.

"What I offered still stands," she murmured. "I would offer you anything, Sasuke-kun. And there are some things you'll find no one else can offer."

He said nothing for a moment. "And that is?"

Sakura closed her eyes, gathered strength and courage before slowly turning in the circle of his arm. She was liable to have her head sliced off by doing such a thing, but she made sure her movements were slow and obvious, without any hint of deceit or sly-handedness.

Looking him directly in the eye, so close now that she could feel his cool breath powdering across the bridge of her nose. "What do you think?" she whispered harshly.

His breathing stopped. She wouldn't have known if she hadn't been standing so close to him. Something entered those hard, dead eyes. A flicker of confusion, unease, or possibly something else conflicting. His gaze which had been steadily boring into her eyes now roamed her face, as if questioningly, and she didn't miss the brief glimpse he cast down her front.

"It's been nearly three years since I last knew you," she said softly, eyes wandering purposefully over his mouth which was nothing more than a grim line. "Have you even been with a girl in that time? Does Orochimaru give you freedom to do things like that?"

Sasuke's gaze had grown distant, like he was looking through her rather than at her. The sword hovering at the back of her neck dipped a few inches away as his arm relaxed.

"Haven't you ever thought about it?" she asked, licking her dry lips and willing herself not to tremble with nerves too obviously. "I know you're an avenger, and I know you have dedicated yourself to this one goal, but you're human too. Just a human boy. You must have wondered… right? What it would be like to be with a girl?"

That was a swallow. That was definitely a swallow. His expression remained unchanged, but she knew she was having an affect on him. She'd had these extra-curriculum classes with other chunin kunoichi nearly a year ago, learning how to handle men with confidence and charisma. But it was her own experience that she drew from now. How many times had she fantasized and dreamed about wooing Sasuke with mere words alone? Practicing pouts in front of the mirror and learning how to angle her eyebrows just right to attain the perfect beseeching look was finally paying off.

"Do you think about girls?" she asked, leaning in a fraction closer and angling her head up so that her lips were scant few centimeters from his. "Do you dream about them and wake up in the middle of the night aching for one? Have you ever ached for me, Sasuke-kun? Have you ever… touched yourself thinking of me? Because I have. You're the only one on my mind when I… come."

Dirty talk wasn't exactly her specialty. Her voice shook ever so slightly as she spoke, and she hesitated to speak about such things so boldly. If he rejected her now she would be forever humiliated, but somehow she already knew she had him.

"Let me do this for you," she whispered, slowly leaning her forehead into the crook of his neck, letting her lips brush the soft skin of his throat. "Just this once. If I can never give you anything else, just please let me give you this?"

"This is a trick," she heard him breathe.

Her expression turned pained. "Sasuke-kun, you know me. I know it's been so long, but you still know me. I'd never do something like that to you." Except… she would, in a heartbeat. Because she would do anything to bring him home to Konoha, even if that meant tricking him or beating him to within an inch of his life, she would do it.

But this was no trick. Just persuasion.

It was all she could do.

Sakura carefully leant back, looking up into half-closed eyes. "I'll do anything you ask, Sasuke-kun," she whispered. "Whatever you want."

Suddenly he took a step toward her, expression set as he grasped her wrist tightly with intent. Sakura moved back sharply, but didn't try to recover her hand from his grip. "But not here," she said firmly. "I-If we're going to do this, we do this in a proper place. There'll be a lodge in the town where we can get a room."

He didn't trust her. She could tell by the way that he looked at her that he thought she was leading him into a trap. But after a moment he just released her wrist and gave a slight nod as he sheathed his sword again. "Agreed."

Evidently he'd decided it was worth the risk. Besides, any trap that she set probably wouldn't pose much of a threat to him anyway. It was likely he still thought of her as that weak twelve-year old who wasn't good for anything but crying and standing around. He didn't know how hard she'd been training over the last few years, and he certainly didn't know that she could tear a sizeable crater in that very road with just her pinky.

But cracking rocks with little fingers wasn't going to be much help in this situation. No matter how much she'd improved, she was still nothing to this boy. If she could get through to him with her fists, she would have happily done so. But if she wanted to live, she had to appeal to the sliver of humanity that still resided in his heart. The part of him that was still a fifteen year old boy with the same hormones as any male his age.

"Come on," she said, turning back the path she'd already traversed and started towards the village again. Sasuke fell into step, walking just one pace behind what would be considered beside her. He wouldn't walk alongside her, because that would be almost too familiar, as if they knew each other.

Sakura's fingers twisted anxiously around the wooden handle of the basket she clutched, feeling her heart thundering in her chest as if she was sprinting rather than walking at such a leisurely pace. She didn't dare look across at Sasuke, but she knew what she'd see there anyway. Coldness. Detachment. Distrust.

They were so far apart, considering what they were about to do.

They reached the base of the hill and the trees began giving way to sporadic houses and huts, until eventually the road smoothed out into paving and the outer edge of the market could be seen. That was where Sakura had spent the morning, scouring stalls for the various items on Tsunade's list and haggling to get the lowest price possible. She'd felt so energized earlier, talking to so many different people and bantering playfully with the sellers. She'd never thought for a second that she would see Sasuke that very day. Now all the cheer she'd felt then had evaporated, and she felt as cold and empty as Sasuke looked.

They passed a lodge, but Sakura didn't point it out. She wasn't ready. It was too soon. She didn't want to pipe up and say 'Hey, is that where you want to do it?' the same way she used to ask 'Hey, is that where you want to get a bite to eat?'

Nothing seemed right anyway.

It was Sasuke who eventually stopped. "There," he said evenly.

Sakura followed his gaze and nearly blanched.

That little shit hole? Sakura took in the dilapidated entrance of the inn he'd pointed to and quickly looked around for something more suitable. "What about that one over there?" she asked, pointing to one with a flower trellis running up the side.

Sasuke gave her a plain look before moving silently towards the inn he'd selected. Belatedly Sakura realized he wouldn't go with what she suggested, on the offchance that she really was leading him into a trap. So she resigned herself to following him, her heart breaking at how utterly… wrong this whole idea was.

Her first time was supposed to be romantic and full of love and ultimate trust. But instead it looked as if it would be taking place in a rundown lodge with a guy who still didn't particularly like or trust her.

The clerk at the reception desk was old, wearing glasses with a large nose perched on top of a dark, bushy mustache. He looked as if he was wearing one of those joke glasses with a fake nose and plastic facial hair, but no, it was all real. And there was nothing even remotely jovial about him as he looked at them over the top of his newspaper. "Can I help you?"

"We… uh…" Sakura didn't have the courage to look the man in the eye, so she looked at the scratched desk instead. "We need a room."

"It's thirty for a night," the man told her, putting down his paper and adjusting his glasses.

Sasuke's arms were folded as he spoke. "We won't need it more than a few hours at most."

The clerk frowned at him, then switched a more detestable look on Sakura. "I don't give rooms for whores to do their business."

Sakura felt as if she'd been kicked in the stomach. "We'll pay for the night," she said thickly, taking some of the coins out of her pocket that was all that was left of the allowance Tsunade had given her.

"I said," the clerk repeated slowly, as if she was exceptionally stupid. "I don't give rooms to-"

"Do you really think a whore would be the one paying?" she snapped back, slapping the money down. "Please. One room for the night."

Unhappy, but defeated by her logic the clerk scooped up the money and pointed down a corridor leading off the foyer. "You can take room twelve. No noise after midnight and you have to be gone by ten tomorrow morning."

"That's fine," Sakura muttered, head down. She took off down the corridor with Sasuke close behind her. Between room eleven and thirteen was a door with a '2' on it. Sakura guessed that was it and stiffly pushed it open. As soon as Sasuke was inside with her, she slammed it shut and leant on it, trying to calm her breathing.

The room was dark and smelled ever so slightly musty. The window was blocked off with slatted shutters that cast long strips of white light across the sheets on the bed. Thin shafts of light revealed the dust that swirled thick in the air.

No one had cleaned in there in a long time, and Sakura was fairly sure that the bed sheets hadn't been changed either.

As Sasuke surveyed the room with a disinterested eye, Sakura surveyed him out of the corner of hers, wondering if he was really as calm and collected as he looked, because Sakura felt like a nervous wreck on caffeine. He moved across the floor with the kind of lazy grace of a seasoned fighter on guard, the boards barely creaking beneath his feet.

Ever so casually he sat down on the end of the bed and bent to undo the fasteners on his open-toed boots. Slipping them off his feet, he set them down next to one of the bed legs in such a neat obsessive compulsive move that was so Sasuke it hurt. He'd always been like that. Every bandage had to be tucked in perfectly with no snags, and every cup of tea had to be stirred the same way the same number of times every time. It was so familiar it stung her eyes, making her take a deep breath to steady the turbulent emotions brewing in her chest. A lump had formed in her throat, making it difficult to swallow, but her mouth was so dry anyway that it hardly seemed to matter.

He finally lifted his head to look at her, dark eyes even more intimidating in the dimly lit room. "Well?" he said softly. "Have you chickened out yet?"

Terror rose anew, but she didn't let it show on her face. Instead of replying, she simply pushed away from the door, set down her basket of medication on a nearby chair and moved towards him with limbs that seemed to be weighed down with some of Lee's training weights. She stopped directly before him, standing between his legs with her knees touching the mattress. Ever so slowly she lifted a hand as if to brush the hair back from his face.

His hand snapped up, catching hers tightly and restraining it. Sakura frowned in confusion, but from the way Sasuke stared at their joined hands with an equal touch of confusion on his face, he'd reacted instinctively. It was merely reflex.

Gradually his hand loosened and dropped, allowing her to reach out all the way to brush her fingers lightly over his cheek and temple, through his hair to trail off down the side of his neck. His hair felt different than it used to. It seemed courser and less cared for. She knew this because there had once been a time when he had been wracked with such terrible pain during the chunin exam that he'd sought out her hand and her lap. She'd sat with him then, trying to help him through the ordeal with whispered comforts, stroking his silky locks away from his sweat-soaked face soothingly. She repeated the action now, wondering who exactly she was trying to comfort – herself or Sasuke?

Considering the reason they'd rented this room in the first place, Sakura felt it was well within her right to kiss him. It seemed like nothing now. Years ago she would have had endless headaches trying to devise ways of stealing that one elusive kiss from Sasuke. Now that very kiss she'd searched endlessly for was just the first small step to something much bigger and scarier. It was hardly worth even thinking about.

With one hand on his shoulder she bent down slightly, angling her head to bring her lips gently against his. For a moment she thought he would accept. But at the last moment, he jerked his head away and Sakura ground to a halt.

She pressed her lips together and purposefully pulled her hand away from his shoulder. "Sasuke-kun, if this makes you uncomfortable we don't have to-"

"No kissing," he interrupted flatly, giving her an even look. "I don't care what else, but no kissing."

"Right," she murmured, hurt. "So we can fuck each other but we can't kiss."

"Exactly." But he wasn't looking her in the eye anymore.

Sakura straightened with a shaky sigh. "What do you want me to do, Sasuke?" she asked quietly, feeling lost and defeated already.

He looked up at her, head tilted slightly to the side. His gaze lingered on her face for a moment before dropping to her red vest, and he seemed to deliberate carefully before meeting her eyes again. "Take your vest off." It was more of a challenge than anything else, testing her to see how far her courage would take her before she snapped and ran away.

Well, that wouldn't be happening. Her courage went deeper than he would ever fathom or believe.

Unfortunately, those extra-curriculum kunoichi classes hadn't taught her anything about stripping in a sexy way. The only way she knew how to undress was the way she did at the bathhouse, undoing hooks and buttons in a quick, no-nonsense fashion. She unzipped the front of the vest stiffly, and shrugged out of it, letting it fall onto the floor as if she was just getting ready for bed as usual. The room wasn't particularly warm, and she had to fight the urge to rub her arms and shiver on the grounds that it probably wasn't particularly sexy.

"I guess you want me to take off the chest bindings as well?" she said dryly, pulling loose the tucked-in bandage tip and started unwinding it as fast as she could. It was best just to get this part over with.

Sakura wasn't an exceptionally self-conscious girl, or at least not when it came to her breasts. She knew they were a decent size, considering she was constantly overshadowed by Tsunade. But for what they lacked in size they made up for in perkiness, something the other women bemoaned when she went to the bathhouse for a soak. "Oh, to be young with tendons and ligaments like steel!" they would say, making Sakura blush and duck under the water modestly even while being secretly pleased.

But this was the first time she'd let a man see her. She was surprised at her lack of embarrassment. Even when the chill of the room sent gooseflesh sweeping up her arms, causing her nipples to tighten and pucker automatically against the cold, she felt nothing. No excitement. No humiliation. Nothing.

She watched Sasuke's face, waiting for some kind of reaction, trying to figure out if he liked what he saw. He was frowning but she couldn't tell what that meant. The silence wrapped around them, settling on the room like another layer of dust. Sakura shifted and pushed her shoulders back. "You can touch them if you want," she offered hesitantly.

When he did nothing she braved a small tsk of impatience and reached down to drag his hand off his thigh and pushed it firmly against her breast. For such a cold person, his hand was unbelievably warm, sending another shiver of conflicting temperature through her. There was a moment of awkwardness where Sasuke didn't seem to know what to do, and then watching her face carefully, he began to squeeze gently, rolling his thumb around the stiff nipple.

Sakura's next tremble had nothing to do with the cold now. She was quite unprepared for the tingle of awareness that made her breasts ache and tighten even further. She'd never thought they were particularly sensitive to touch, and hadn't expected to get much out of Sasuke feeling her up. She'd only invited him to do so because she had thought that was the kind of thing boys wanted to do.

But now as the rough pad of his thumb – much rougher than it used to be – was tracing the edge of her sensitive nipple, occasionally flicking over it experimentally, she had to bite back a sigh. It wasn't that his touch was inducing electric pleasure exactly, but she certainly felt something that made her tense shoulders loosen up a little. She would have closed her eyes, but there was still a strong sense of reason within her that told her not let her guard down around this person, even if he was the love of her life.

"What else do you want me to do?" she asked him in a voice barely above a whisper.

"Your skirt…"


This was where Sakura began to get self-conscious. She was wearing her street clothes, consisting of her vest and an ordinary black skirt with no shorts beneath. And she knew that as soon as the skirt was gone, he would ask her to remove her panties, and then she'd be virtually naked and Sakura didn't really like the idea of Sasuke being able to see her. There.

She rallied her nerves and touched a hand to his shoulder. "You have to take off your coat first," she told him.

Sasuke's hand dropped away from her breast, and he was watching her face with an intensity she neither understood nor liked. She felt as if everything she said to him was being taken as a challenge. That there was nothing even remotely pleasant or romantic about what they were doing… that they were just fighting a different kind of battle. But at least it was a kind that Sakura had a chance of winning.

Slowly, he stood up. With Sakura standing directly between his legs, his body wound up dragging up against hers as he rose. The rough fabric of his dark overall scraped against her breasts and her breath hitched at the pleasant friction and the feel of his hard body pressing against hers. He towered over her more than he used to, and she stepped back a moment later than she should have, giving him room to move.

She kept a wary eye on him when he grasped his sword and pulled it free of his belt. He laid it down on the edge of the bed as a clear indication that he would not be putting it out of his reach. If she did anything he didn't particularly like a little later on, it wouldn't be too difficult to take up his sword and slit her throat.

Bit of a mood killer, actually…

The knot of Sasuke's belt was dealt with abruptly, and after a few sharp tugs he dropped it onto the floor beside her vest. His coat followed a moment later, leaving the familiar white shirt beneath that gaped open almost invitingly. He moved, about to remove this as well, but Sakura stopped him with a cool hand against his chest, directly over his heart. "Let me," she told him softly, spreading her fingers over his smooth, warm skin. She could feel his heart beating beneath her palm, but it felt distant and slow, like she could plunge her fist into his chest right now and not be able to find anything.

She stepped toward him again, close enough for her breasts to brush against his bare skin as she dipped her head forward to press a soft kiss to the base of his throat. It was a slow and cautious touch, testing to see how much he was willing to let her do. She lifted her hands to reach under his shirt and clasp his shoulders, pushing the loose fabric from his frame.

It felt awkward. It would have been a lot better if he'd let her hiss him on the mouth, because then she could imagine them both being swept along by the moment without needing to think or deliberate every move she made. She was embarrassingly self-conscious, waiting for him to snap and tell her about something else she wasn't allowed to kiss or touch.

It happened when her fingers moved lightly up his left shoulder toward his neck. His arm snapped up and she found her wrist locked in a painful squeeze. Her head jerked up, alarmed. "What?" she asked.

"Don't touch the seal," he said shortly, the warning clear in his eyes. "I don't know what kind of sealing methods Kakashi may have taught you since that time."

Her eyebrows pinched together and she tore her hand back. "Kakashi-sensei didn't teach me anything after you left," she ground out. "And if there's anything else you don't want me to touch, you might as well tell me now. I'm doing my best, Sasuke…"

His hand lowered back to his side, but he said nothing. Sakura took this as assent to continue, and cautiously reached out to spread her hands over his chest and down to his hips. "I want to make you happy," she whispered, closing her eyes as she stepped forward. She pressed one kiss to his chin and another under his jaw before pressing her forehead against his right, curse-free shoulder. "Even if it's just for a little while. I'll do my best."

He smelt different too. Three years ago she hadn't thought much about it until he'd disappeared from her life. She'd found herself going through the possessions he'd left behind at his house, and had often sat for hours at a time just holding an old shirt of his and breathing in that warm, familiar smell.

He still smelt like Sasuke, but now there were other things on his skin. Things she didn't recognize that made her uneasy, things he'd picked up from living around Orochimaru for so long. She could smell dank empty dungeons when she pressed her nose to his skin, and the cold dryness of snakes and their shed scales. But underscoring it all was a new presence that nothing could cover or change.

The smell of masculinity. The proof of the man.

Sakura kissed his collarbone and dared herself to let her tongue dart out to taste his skin. Salty, and slightly smoky, as he'd been hanging around open fires recently. She moved her head lower to a flat, male nipple and hesitated only a moment before leaning forward to drag her tongue slowly across it. She felt more than saw Sasuke's breath hitch, and suddenly his hand was resting tight on the back of her head, as if debating whether to pull her away or not.

Emboldened, Sakura did it again, closing her lips of the pebbling nipple that she had never have guessed was quite so sensitive. She teased the other one with the tips of her fingers, amazed to feel his heartbeat quickening under her touch.

Sasuke's coldness had only ever run skin-deep, she knew that. At the core of his being was a volatile, overly-emotional and out of control boy. He kept passion and rage locked inside him, perhaps even deeper now than he used to, but she could feel it there. The simmering heat that burned inside of him, threatening to bubble forth under just the right amount of provocation.

It wasn't always a good passion. In fact she was sure that it was this intensity that had led him to make so many irrational choices in his life. But right now she needed it. She had to bend it to her will somehow and make him see the kind of things he was forfeiting by staying with Orochimaru.

When Sasuke released her head and slid his hands down her back to fumble with the waistline of her skirt, she knew what he wanted. She straightened quickly, chewing her lip and looking at the floor. "I can do it," she said quickly, feeling self-conscious.

"No," he cut her off before she could move. "Let me."

Sakura had no choice but to stand there impassively as light fingers swept the circumference of the waistline. His eyes bored down into hers, looking unusually smug for such a blank, detached expression. Within seconds those fingers located the button that held the fabric together, and with a deliberate jerk, he tore it open.

There was no point in raising a fuss. Not unless she wanted to die for it. The button clattered and skittered away across the floor and Sasuke bunched the material of her skirt in his fists. He tugged her toward him first, making her front bump his lightly before pushing the skirt inevitably to her knees.

Her panties snagged slightly and almost came down with them. Automatically she yanked them back into place, but probably not quick enough to keep Sasuke from glimpsing that soft thatch of pink curls she didn't really want him to see.

With the skirt gone, kicked away onto the mounting pile with the other clothes, Sakura was virtually naked except for the scrap of cloth she called 'panties'. She wished she'd had the mind to wear a slightly better pair that day. If only she'd known that morning when she got up that she'd be attempting to seduce an Uchiha that very afternoon. The pair she had unwittingly chosen instead were old and slightly gray, if not a little loose. There was a cute picture of a cartoon kitten on the front with the embarrassing tagline of 'Pussy'. When she'd bought them over two years ago, she'd thought what the hell. No one would ever see them anyway.

It was funny how things worked out.

Sasuke stepped forward, his hands moving around her back to cup her bottom and pull her firmly against him. Fingers moved in a restless massage against the soft flesh of her rear, squeezing and kneading in a way that made her swallow hard and lean her forehead against his collar. He seemed to be getting bolder in his moves now, not needing her prompting to initiate some sort of contact. The possessive and brazen way he touched her made her want to melt, or maybe just push back a little into his hands.

Nearly all her life she'd craved some kind of contact of this boy. Now she was getting it. And more of it than she had ever realistically imagined.

She felt a tad lightheaded as she lifted her chin to whisper in his ear. "What do you want me to do?"

He turned his head to press his cheek alongside hers. The feel of his breath puffing against her ear and throat sent shivers cascading down her spine, but that didn't prepare her for what he said.

"Suck… my cock."

Sakura's breath froze in her lungs. The blunt words echoed around her brain like shuriken bouncing and rebounding off the walls of her skull. She'd vaguely expected that she would have to do something like this, but to actually hear it commanded of her…

She hadn't even kissed him yet.

Her silence was too drawn out and eventually Sasuke shrugged. "I guess you've changed your mind," he said blithely, reaching for his boots.

"No, I was… just…" She didn't know how to finish that sentence so she just left it hanging. Placing shaking hands on his shoulders, she hinted for him to sit down on the bed and flexed her fingers over his taut muscles as she tried to work up the courage to move them lower.

"I've never done this before," she felt the need to tell him, as she had a feeling this was probably where she messed up big time.

But Sasuke's face did not do 'sympathetic' and 'understanding'. He just waited for her to get her act together.

Sakura took a shaky breath and licked her dry lips before slowly sinking to her knees, hands braced tightly on his knees. He watched her with scrutiny, and she couldn't be sure but she thought she saw his hand twitch towards his sword. Now, especially, he would find it difficult to trust her. He was about to be placed in a rather vulnerable position.

"It's ok," she said softly, talking mostly to herself. "I don't plan to bite it off or anything."

At least as long as he didn't make her jump or anything…

Her hands were running across his inner thighs, trying vainly too soothe and arouse. There wasn't any noticeable bulge between his legs and for a moment she worried if he simply didn't find her desirable enough to get aroused at all. But maybe he just hadn't had enough stimulation. So far their awkwardness hadn't made the job particularly easy or comfortable – hardly the passionate act that she'd always envisioned.

She looked up once into half-lidded eyes before gathering her courage and reaching forward to tug at the button closing his pants. It came loose easily and she parted the folds, automatically expecting to be greeted by underwear.

But he wasn't wearing any.

Taken off guard, she could only freeze up and stare. But what had she expected? It wasn't like Orochimaru was going to buy Sasuke underwear on a regular basis, was it? Um… bad train of thought.

Before she lost her nerve, Sakura dipped her hand into his pants and pulled him free with as much care as possible. She didn't know how sensitive or tender this part of the male anatomy was and she didn't want to hurt him accidentally. She was awed at the feel of him. Soft and almost velvet like. Her touch was hesitant and gentle as she tried to figure out what he liked or didn't like.

A hiss of breath told her she'd found the right pressure when she began to squeeze him gently and his hand snapped out to catch her shoulder. He was growing more erect the more she handled him and she glanced up briefly to see him watching her movements intensely. His breathing seemed a little shallow.

It was like a drug. Never in Sakura's life had she affected him in any way as much as she was affecting him now. One mere brush of light fingers and a gentle squeeze and his teeth were clenching against the barely perceptible noises in the back of his throat. He enjoyed it. The hardening length in her hand proved as much. And it was this knowledge that gave her a small smile of triumph. It felt good to have even this small amount of power over him.

There was only so much she could do with her hands, however. He'd asked her for oral stimulation and she was expected to give it. She chewed her lip anxiously as she debated the request. He was certainly bigger than he had been a moment ago. Four or five inches had become six or seven, and she was pretty sure her mouth wasn't big enough to fit more than one or two.

She had to try though.

Her body seemed to move of its own accord, as if she was merely a passenger residing in her head with no control whatsoever. Dampened lips brushed the tip of his erection and she distantly heard another soft hiss as the hand on her shoulder wound its way through her hair to the back of her head. She pressed a kiss to the length, soft and slow, still testing the waters. Sasuke's hand tightened almost painfully in her hair and she felt him twitch under her hands. One lick along his slit and a heavy tremor ran through his body.

This was even better than before. His responses were more intense, and more earnest. She let instinct guide her as she ran her tongue over him again, slower than before, starting underneath his head and swirling around it. He was as hard as rock now, but still smooth and hot to the touch, and she could feel his hips tensing beneath her forearms.

Taking another firm grasp of her courage, she went for the kill and took him into her mouth. Her tongue stroked over him as she bobbed her head down as far as it would go, before pulling back and repeating the motion, ending with a gentle suck. Sasuke flinched beneath her and let out a throaty groan, pure and suddenly quite young. Sakura dared to look up for a moment to try and gauge his expression, but his head was thrown back and his eyes were closed, brow pinched in either intense pleasure or pain. Probably the former, since the hand on the back of her head was eagerly guiding her movements.

It was incredibly arousing to see him in such an unguarded moment. He seemed such a cold and distant person now, it was simply heart-stopping to see him surrendering to something she could give him. She concentrated on her movements, following the rhythm his guiding hand set as she stroked him with tongue, lips and hands. She could taste the precum, earthy and salty and completely male like his smell. Embarrassingly, she was drooling, but Sasuke didn't seem to notice or care, and at least it served to ease the friction of her hands where her mouth couldn't reach.

She continued, even as her jaw began to ache and her neck started to get a crick, she went on pleasuring him. It was like a drug. Hearing his soft, restrained moans and unintentional gasps was giving her a high. The completely honest response of his body made her feel hot too, and she felt the delicious beginnings of arousal curl in her belly and settle between her legs. She could feel herself getting wet as her panties grew damper. She was almost as slick as he was, and her mouth began to move in a bolder pattern over him, her hands pumping in time.

His hips suddenly gave a hard jerk and Sakura nearly found herself gagging on his member. She coughed and spluttered, drawing away in surprise, wondering if he had come already. But that didn't seem to be the case, and before she had a chance to recover she found herself hauled up by her arms and dragged into his lap.

No words were exchanged between them as he roughly pulled her hips forward till they met his. Her breath hitched at the feel of his stiff erection pushing insistently along the seam between her legs and she couldn't help but roll her hips gently to feel more of him just as he ground his hips against her. It felt too good. Every push and thrust excited that small bud of her sex that sent pulsing ripples of pleasure all the way through her body, leaving her clutching his shoulders with shaky hands.

But the biggest aphrodisiac was simply watching his face. Watching the small grimaces of pleasure that fraught his features every time she rubbed against him.

It was her making him feel all this. No one else could give him this feeling. Not Naruto. Not Orochimaru. No one but Sakura. Naruto held the power of friendship over Sasuke, and for Orochimaru he held merely power. But only Sakura could offer this physical pleasure – the comfort one body could provide another. With simple touches she had lowered his guard more than anyone else ever could.

She so very much wanted to kiss him. But she feared that would spoil the flow now, and so settled for just the contact between their legs. If it carried on much longer she would orgasm right there on his lap from the friction alone. Her core ached, demanding for something to penetrate it and drive her over the final edge.

She didn't even need to ask.

Another vulnerable moan tore from Sasuke's throat as he pressed his face against her shoulder. "I need to fuck you," she heard him say through gritted teeth. "Now."

Sakura could barely even speak. She ran her hands through his hair and over his back and nodded her dizzy agreement.

The next moment she found herself pinned to the bed on her back, the pitifully weak mattress coils sinking easily beneath her. The shafts of light spilling from the window shutters ran across her torso and stomach, highlight her skin in a soft gold. It was soon blocked by Sasuke's body as he suddenly loomed over her, supporting his weight with the elbow digging into the mattress near her shoulder. His other hand was between their bodies, pushing and tugging her panties aside before guiding himself to her entrance.

It was all happening way too fast. She wanted to reach out and tell him to stop or slow down – she was a virgin after all. But she knew he wouldn't even if she asked, and she was probably as ready as she would ever be in any case. The hot, slick tip of his erection jabbed at her entrance, and with one feral sounding grunt he thrust into her.

The air left her lungs in a rush at the sudden stab of penetration. She expected pain, but there was none. There was only the instant and near overwhelming sensation of being so completely full, and it was such a strange sensation that she writhed beneath him, trying to get accustomed to the discomfort. She felt as if she was a ship without an anchor, like she needed something to hold onto that was momentarily escaping her.

She found it when he drew out slight to thrust back in, just as hard as the first penetration. Sakura moaned aloud and angled her hips to receive him better, as she caught hold of the sudden lash of pleasure that flooded through her at the rough friction inside of her.

His hips rolled against her again and this time she rolled with him, gripping the back of his neck as helpless, pleasured whimpers escaped her lips, high and sharp. She could feel his hot breath puffing damply across her throat and shoulder as the one hand that wasn't busy supporting his weight was hooked beneath her bottom, pulling her hard against him with each thrust.

Sakura was in heaven long before she orgasmed. The knowledge that it was Sasuke that was doing this to her, who was settled so deeply and intimately inside her body, was the final nail in the coffin that bore her childhood crush for this boy. This was truly love. Because only love could drive her to do this. Only love could forgive him for what he'd done and then make her open her arms to him like this.

The knot of pleasure was winding tighter between her legs, stoked each time he pumped himself against her. His speed was picking up and his breathing was almost as erratic as hers. Each thrust brought a moan to her lips and all too soon she could feel herself nearing the end.

She had to tell him.

"I love you," she gasped, shuddering and rolling under the press of his body. "I love you so much. Oh god, I love you- please – please-"

His hand left her hip to close firmly over her mouth. He didn't want to hear her professions, but that didn't matter. It didn't make them any less true or him any less aware of them. And suddenly she didn't care whether he loved her back or not because the knot inside her pulled taut and snapped apart.

Sakura arched with a sharp cry against his hand, her body wracked with such intense pleasure that her mind seemed to melt. Her hips moved restlessly against his, trying to hold onto the feeling and extend it. For those brief seconds everything seemed perfect.

And then she found herself spent, lying on her back in a bed with a boy who didn't care about her grunting and heaving over her, slacking his own lust.

He lasted only a few more moments before his body went rigid and his hips drove down into hers for a final time, tense and grinding. She felt the wetness of his release and wondered how exactly she was going to ask the chemist back in Konoha for morning after pills without him thinking it was necessarily for her, lest the rumors begin to spread.

The moment Sasuke finished he rolled off her and onto his back beside her, trying to catch his breath. Her gaze was drawn to the hand spread across his stomach and noted belatedly that he hadn't even taken off his arm guards. Or his pants. Or her panties. The latter of which was now thoroughly stretched out of shape and sticky with both their fluids.

It seemed that no sooner was the act over then Sasuke was a million miles away from her. In reality he was only a few inches to her right, but emotionally… he might as well have been on the other side of the world. She couldn't think of what to say now. They'd gotten as close to each other as it was physically possible for two people to get, but she felt like she was lying with a stranger.

Sex was supposed to be between people who loved one another. Who cared for each other and wanted to show it. Perhaps in the back of her mind she'd thought that one could not come without the other – that love and sex always went together.

And just when she was beginning to think she'd gotten it all wrong, Sasuke pushed himself upright and turned toward her. His movements were sluggish, and his eyes nearly closed, making her wonder if he was actually asleep. He leaned over her, elbows braced to either side of her head.

And then he kissed her.

For a moment Sakura was too shocked to respond. Sasuke's mouth ground against hers, his tongue tapping her shocked and unresponsive lips. The world and linear time ground to a halt till all that was left was Sasuke and Sasuke's kiss.

Sakura didn't dare question it beyond that. Timidly she responded, moving her mouth in time to his as she slipped her hands around the back of his neck. Her fingers danced unknowingly against the curse seal on his left shoulder, but he didn't seem to notice. The kiss consumed them both, and even though it was clumsy and inexperienced, for a moment the passion was there to make up for it. It was there and not even Sasuke could deny it now.

She could have gone on kissing him forever, tasting his warmth and feeling his imitation of affection. They'd had sex a few moments ago, but it seemed now they were making love. And all too soon they needed air and the kiss ended as abruptly as it had started.

Sasuke's forehead rested on hers, his face turned slightly away as he tried to catch his breath. Sakura's hands wound through his hair, embracing him, trying to pull him into her. "Come home with me," she pleaded softly, but without any real conviction. "Just come home…"

His breath evened and after a moment he lifted his head to look down at her. "Sakura," he sighed, with a touch of an ironic smile that she could have sworn she'd seen before. Then he muttered two words that almost killed her. "Thank you."

The tears welled in her eyes, unbidden, and she closed them in an attempt to save face. He was leaving her again, exactly the same way as before. Kind words that belied the enormity of what she had offered and what he had refused.

She opened her eyes to look at him one last time, and to her bitter misery she found herself staring into a pair of swirling red eyes. The darkness wrapped around her like a warm, reassuring blanket, and the last thing she was aware of was the imprint of his hand upon her cheek.

When she awoke, he was gone.

She didn't bother to sit up and search for him; he would have been far away by then, just as before. For now it would probably be best to simply return to Konoha and report the sighting of one Uchiha Sasuke.

But she knew she wouldn't.

It would kill Naruto to know that Sasuke had been so close to Konoha and that he'd missed another chance. It would kill him if he ever found out what had happened between her and Sasuke…

She would wait out the night and return in the morning. If Tsunade asked why she was so late, Sakura would just say that she'd made some friends and been invited to a party or something. No one ever had to know what had happened. She would keep it to herself.

Just another secret to lock inside her heart.

Violate all the love that I'm missing,

Throw away all the pain that I'm living,

You will believe in me,

And I can never be ignored...