Disclaimer: I, of course, have no rights to any of the characters mention in said story; they all belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
At sundown, Haruno Sakura was looking into the mirror at the face of a stranger. Her eyes had been outline in dark green kohl lending a hint of the unusual sparkle to her eyes. Rouges were applied to her cheeks and lips to simulate a healthy color.
It had taken all of her best friend, Yamanaka Ino, and her soon to be related-by-blood, Hyuuga Hinata, combined skills to create a semblance of her normal face to which the makeup had been applied. They had done her strawberry blond locks in a coiffured hairstyle and added wooden kanzashi in the shape of the flower of her namesake. She supposed she was beautiful.
"Where did I put those earrings?" Ino fretted as Hinata tied the obi. Hinata finished tying the obi; Sakura stared bemused at her image. The homongi was everything she had hoped, was this what a princess looked like? It was a light pink with a splash of rainbow colored wildflowers, flowing over the shoulders, seams and sleeves.
"Perfect," Ino announced, standing back from her as Sakura admired the flat golden earrings she had pinned in her ears.
"I think so, too." A soft, placid, male voice said from behind them.
Sakura turned. Resplendent himself stood her betrothed in a solid black kimono, Hyuuga Neji. He and Sakura stared at one another. He was a handsome man with gentle lavender eyes that conveyed respect and supremacy, his hair was a river of dark russet silk tresses wrapped at the ends while a few shorter strands fell over the front of his shoulders.
He was lean and tall, a few inches over six feet. She supposed herself lucky to be marrying such a beautiful polite man, most arranged marriages ended with horrible men whose façades of smiles masked their dark hearts. Sakura could learn to love this man, that much was obvious, but of course, she had hoped long ago that when she did marry she would have already been in love. "Are you set? Let me escort you to the gala."
He held his hand out to her, shyly she rested her hand in his palm and he closed his fingers around hers and led her alongside him. She could hear the soft giggles from Ino and much to her surprise, shy Hinata.
Together they entered the great hall, all eyes on them. She felt a little flustered with the way they applauded, giving a quick cheer for the engaged couple. Rock Lee approached them with a dazzling smile, his hand extended for Neji's hand. "Congratulations, Neji-dono, on marrying an angel such as this sent to you from the heavens." his hand then swept up Sakura's and he pressed it to his chest.
Searching for the right thing to say to his outlandish proclamation she drew a tight smile and bowed her head. "Thank you, Lee-san." Her eyes fluttered shut while recovering her hand.
"An exquisite couple," Lord Jiraiya observed as he and his Lady Wife Tsunade approached them, dressed in the finest silk kimonos that Sakura had ever seen, beautiful in colors that reminded her of the fading sun. "The girl outshines the stars."
Sakura was not use to so much attention, she was originally from Hoshigakure and though the villagers thought her pretty, they never overly complimented her the way these villagers did the day she stepped into Konohagakure, "T-Thank you, Jiraiya-dono."
"Look at her, Jiraiya; you're making the poor child tremble."
"Nonsense, koishii, I'm merely complimenting the girl. Whatever winds your Otou's soul rides on, Neji-sama, I know he looks on his son and is proud." Sakura had never seen Neji look as distressed as he did whenever someone mentioned his murdered father. Her hands had a mind of their own and soon found her fingers curled around his arm, her viridian eyes filled with concern.
His lavender eyes opened again and he smirked at her and rested his hand flat against her back, excusing them with a stiff bow. "Are you all right, Neji-dono?" she asked as they made their way outside to the gardens.
"You don't need to concern yourself with my past, we're going to walk into the future together." she gave him a blank stare and he turned and faced her, his hands cupped her cheeks and he tilted her head back, her eyes flew shut as his lips met hers in a sweet, enticing kiss. It lasted all but five seconds, enough time to make her dizzy and her face a brighter red than the rouge.
"Neji-dono…?" she whispered as he dropped his arms to his side.
"Please believe me when I tell you that when you become my wife I will take care of you and love you like no other." she swallowed around the lump lodged in her throat, what could she say to him, to that? She could be happy with Hyuuga Neji, his eyes never betrayed his words, and he would always take care of her and treasure her. She just wanted to be happy and maybe with him she could… just maybe.
"I believe you," she said in a voice not her own and he caressed her cheek and she blushed again, lowering her head, she felt self-conscious under his intense gaze. She knew that there was another woman in his heart before she came into his life, thrust on him against his will and that woman was not too far from the gala. In fact, she was talking quietly with Hinata. Neji stayed faithfully by Sakura's side, talking with all those who attended the gala.
Sakura surveyed the woman, her hair was the same color as Neji's but her eyes were the color of copper, and she was beautiful with a cool temperament, a strong, proud woman who could not tear her eyes from Neji, even when he clasped Sakura's hand. Sakura could sense the distress in Lady Tenten's dazzling eyes when Neji's fingers squeezed Sakura's hand.
However, to Sakura it felt as though he were clinging to her like an anchor to his ship, to keep him grounded in the presence of his first love. "Neji-sama." he turned his gaze from the group and Sakura saw a beautiful woman with ebony hair, sable eyes and pallid skin. There was only one word to describe her: breathtaking.
She wore an ivory kimono with golden threads stitched into the fabric like a river of gold; and accompanied by a towering man with raven hair with strands of silver and deep worry lines under his eyes, a frown marring his otherwise mature and handsome features.
"Mikoto-dono, Fugaku-dono," He bowed his head and lifted Sakura's hand.
"So this is your bride, she's beautiful, what unique hair, pretty just like a cherry blossom." To have a flawless woman such as she describe her as beautiful made Sakura blush intently under the appraising glance.
"I've just finished speaking with your Oji-sama and he tells me…" Lord Fugaku's voice faded in Sakura's ear; she did not indulge or have any interest in politics, even though the world was changing dramatically.
While her betrothed and the elders indulged in mind-numbing talk, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked back and saw the mischievous smile of her best friend. "Come quickly," she whispered to Sakura. Excusing herself, she hurried away with Ino.
Ino had her running, she almost tripped on her one of her zori, "Ino… what's going on?" gasping for breath and giggling Ino instructed her to keep her voice down.
"Look over there." Sakura peeked behind the hedges and saw where Ino discreetly pointed. There were two of them, one was sitting on the stone bench near the pond, elbows on knees as his thumbs cradled his chin and the other stood behind the bench, the paper lamps and the bright moonlight highlighting their features.
"Uchiha Itachi, eldest son and Uchiha Sasuke, youngest son of Uchiha Fugaku and Mikoto." Uchiha Itachi had soot black hair and his features mirrored Lord Fugaku, he donned a simple black kimono similar to what Neji wore.
Uchiha Sasuke however had all the lineaments of his mother, soft, supple… beautiful. He had limpid obsidian irises, black hair with blue highlights that picked up in the moonlight and stuck up in the back. He was wearing a silk blue and white kimono with scant white flower patterns on the sleeves and hem of the kimono.
"Close your mouth," Ino giggled, "You're an engaged woman." She latched her hands around Sakura's shoulders and turned her away from the Uchiha sons. "My family is just as respectable as yours, I'm hoping perhaps my Otou can persuade Uchiha Sasuke's Otou-san to arrange our marriage." she sighed at the thought, resting her forehead on Sakura's shoulder. Sakura peeked over her shoulder; the older Uchiha was approaching them.
"Good Evening, Uchiha-san." she bowed and Ino looked up and backed away and both girls faced the Uchiha, but Sakura's eyes bypassed him and straight to the somber looking Sasuke. She bowed politely and Itachi chuckled while Sasuke crossed his arms over his chest.
"Are you going to say something, Otouto?" Itachi asked, looking back over his shoulder. Sasuke's dark eyes met with her bright ones and he closed his eyes.
"Congratulations on your engagement, Haruno-san." he grunted before leaving all three alone.
"Sorry about that, it was good to see you again, Sakura-dono." and just like the wind in the trees the eldest Uchiha was gone. Sakura nodded and turned to see the look on Ino's face, the accusing pastel blue eyes and the gapping mouth accompanied by a small twitch.
"I-Ino, you're scaring me."
"You know them?" Ino inquired as Sakura went to go sit on the bench near the water. "Sakura…! You know them?" she demanded sitting down indignantly next to Sakura.
"Well, from the way you were describing Sasuke-dono and Itachi-dono you seemed to know about them too." Sakura stated dusting off the stone bench and picking up a fallen twig and tossed it into the water, watched it splash then float along the surface.
"Yes, I know about them, I don't know them personally." she seemed flustered at the very idea that Sakura could know such a pair of handsome brothers. "So…" she pressed, her eyes filled with curiosity and determination. "What is Sasuke-dono like, tell me." Sakura lifted an elegant eyebrow.
"He's rude, arrogant and sadistic. The first words he ever spoke to me were words of malice, but if you want a loveless marriage then by all means!" she rose to her feet and left Ino to sit alone, to ponder Sakura's sudden outburst.
Sakura shook her head as she disappeared from the crowd, away from the maddening talk and soft wispy music of the string and wooden instruments. She was not lying when she told Ino that she had met the head of the Uchiha clan's sons. There was also truth to her first encounter with the youngest Uchiha. He was indeed arrogant and condescending.
He openly mocked that the Uchiha clan was luckier than that of the Hyuuga clan who would allow a woman like her to enter their clan, he implied her stupid, then 'corrected' himself and deemed her unintelligent. She touched her lips at the memory, she had never wished so hard to be a man so that she might retaliate with her fists or a sword.
Feelings changed over time and her feelings changed for him not too long ago, that day would always be clear to her, as if it happened moments ago. Hinata and her younger sister had taken her out to the market and not before too long; she had lost sight of the pair of them.
She found the early morning to be the best time to go shopping in the market, she wore a simple kimono, light and easy to walk in, her hair pulled back into an elegant bun and festooned with small diamond flower hairpins.
Hinata and Hanabi went with her and were busy admiring the wooden dolls on display and briskly talking to the stallholder. Sakura wandered over to the food stand, wondering if they had something delicious for her to nibble on as she headed back home, she closed her pink and white flowered parasol.
Sakura handed over a few ryo and took her bag, Hanabi had more bags then either she or Hinata, speaking of the Hyuuga sisters, where had they gone off too?
Sakura wondered around the marketplace, she had no idea where the two could be, she started calling out for them, but ended up with nothing, she turned into an alleyway, but turned around when she noticed it was a dead end. "What's a pretty thing like you doing in a dismal alley like this?"
Her apple green eyes widen, the first one was handsome with light brown hair collected in a short ponytail, wearing a blue and brown kimono. "Please excuse me; I have to find my friends."
"We'll help you out, what do they look like?" The second man asked, grinning like a crazed man. He was portly with an oily face and straw-like graying brown hair. He smelled like cattle as if he had been hanging around a field all day.
"Yes, maybe we've seen them." and then the first man touched her, took her hair between his fingers and pressed the strands to his nose, inhaling sharply. "She smells beautiful, Hikura and feels as soft as satin," he commented as he pressed the tips of his fingers against her cheek and dragged them down to her chin. She was in trouble, there were people passing just beyond her reach, but these men blocked her way and she could not seem to work her voice.
"Does she taste sweet, that's the question." the portly man lunged at her, caught her by the chin and snaked his tongue out to lunge it in her mouth, which he had successfully parted by grabbing her jaw tightly.
"Please! No!" She cried as she was pushed against the wall, he missed her mouth, catching her cheek as she turned her head roughly, he was pulled off of her abruptly and was tossed to the side, he tripped over his own feet and swirled around, landing on his back. The other man blinked and stepped away.
"Disgraceful swine, men like you are worse than scum, I should slit your throats just for touching a woman without her permission." Her fingers curled into the palms of her hands as she stared up at Uchiha Sasuke, his hand at his lapel, holding the hilt of a wakazashi. "But I'll be giving you the option of running away. Are you ready? One… two…"
Quickly grabbing his fallen comrade, they both ran past him and disappeared in the morning crowd. "Worthless dogs- Are you all right?" he asked in a gruff voice, not really seeming to care if she was hurt at all. She nodded slowly and then looked down to see that her kimono had ripped at the collar. She could not let Neji see her like this, he would get the wrong idea and…
"What- what are you doing?" Sakura asked. She noticed Sasuke's hands at the tore material of her kimono, a flower bud in his hand.
"Be quiet." he barked, pinning the flower to her hem. "Do you want people thinking of you as licentious?" she shook her head as he pulled back, admiring his handiwork. "Hn, it goes well with your kimono." She swallowed hard as their eyes met; she knew that she should not be doing what she was about to set into motion but…
Her kiss on his mouth was as swift and as starting as the sudden squall darkening the azure sky. However, before he could reach for her, she was gone.
Her thoughts fled from her when someone grabbed and pulled her sharply. Caught between two dark houses she looked up to a face illuminated only by the moon. His arms wound around her tightly and she had never felt as safe as she did in this embrace. He bent down to kiss her and she pulled back. "Wait, Sasuke-kun, not here."
"Yes, here." he sighed, trying to catch her lips with his again.
"Someone might see." his hand caressed the back of her neck, trying to pull her close as she jerked her head back, not wanting to leave his arms, but not wanting to blemish either of their good names.
"Let them see, I don't care if anyone knows about us."
"Sasuke-kun, don't say things like that."
"Just be quiet." Thoughts seemed like the cherry blossoms too swiftly torn away from their branches when his lips touched hers in a particularly aggressive and possessive manner. His kiss awakened all her senses: touch, smell, sight, taste and sound.
His touch was like fire and ice, his warm body, cold fingertips.
The heavy scent of cologne, her head was spinning. The overpowering scent of Sasuke's cologne filled her lungs.
His dark eyes, it was like nothing she had ever seen before, passion ablaze in the depths of those impenetrable black irises before they closed and his softly chapped lips planted firmly against hers.
His tongue darted in her mouth, caressing her palate, her tongue, the serrated edges of her teeth, she could taste his cologne, and the warm sake he had been drinking; it enticed her.
She could hear his agonized groan as he bit into her bottom lip, making her whimper at the dull pain before he pulled away. Every sound from him, heightened to her ears; his quicken heartbeat, his ragged breathing, his fingertips were pressing into the back of her neck as he rested his forehead against hers.
He had to kiss her again, he was… addicted. "Stupid girl," he heaved, pressing his lips against hers, "getting inside my head, getting me all worked up." she blinked as his tongue traced over her swollen lips. "Put your arms around me," he commanded, noting that she had kept her arms to herself during the whole kiss.
"Sasuke-kun…" He buried his face in the junction of her neck as her arms wound tightly around him. He breathed her in scent and kissed her exposed neck.
She tilted her head away to give him more access to her perfumed neck. "Can you get away later? I want to do it tonight." he sighed along her skin, making her dizzy again.
"T-tonight?" she fisted the front of his kimono and buried her face against his neck, inhaling his scent. She was not exceptionally keen on men who wore such strong cologne, but she knew that she would always love his scent. "I thought we would wait until the next night."
"I can't wait that long, I saw him kiss you," his grip tightened and he pressed his mouth against her jaw, his forehead pressing harder against her temple. "I've tried being patient; I can't do it anymore, we'll go before a kunnushi. Meet me tonight, I'm not asking you Sakura."
"Sasuke-kun, I can-" he ravaged her lips, biting onto her bottom lip, with serrated teeth, enough to draw blood. His tongue lapped at the warm metallic, copper taste of her blood and his fingers worked slow, long and wonderful circles on her back, pressing her closer to his solid frame.
Finally, he pulled away, his fingertips pressing lightly against her contracting throat. "I'll be waiting for you, don't make me break in and take you." she reached up and brushed away a few silky blue-black strands from his eyes. He was so damn possessive and in its oddity, she found it thrilling rather than unnerving.
Even with his hard, shadowy eyes, she could see the possessive and obsessive love he had only for her and she knew that within her lucid eyes he could fathom the sole, unadulterated, love she held for him in return.
Who would have thought that she would actually be able to fall in love with her rescuer, who would have imagined love would spawn from dislike? He kissed her again, still hungry, but painless. "You have to… be mine," he heaved, caressing her face and she stared up at him, running her tongue over her wounded bottom lip. "You have to."
She nodded her head slowly and kissed him again as his fingers entwined with hers. "Tonight, my name will be the same as yours."
"Aa." he drew in a deep breath, his chest swelling with pride at the thought of her officially becoming Uchiha Sakura, his wife.
She pulled back and his grip on her hand tightened as she continued to step away, her eyes never leaving his. He furrowed his brow as she continued to back away, their arms extended. "It's okay, let go, Sasuke-kun." he shook his head. "Let go," her voice as soft as the twilight, "someone might see." his fingers slowly unwound but he still would not release of her hand.
Her fingers slid along his palm and pressed against the tips of his fingers and she disappeared from his sight. He drew his hand back close to his chest as he formed a fist. She would be his by daybreak; no one would stop him not even…
"Otouto, come, we're leaving." Sasuke's onyx eyes flashed over to his brother, running an indignant hand through his hair he stepped out of the shadows and caught sight of his parents bidding farewell to Sakura and her betrothed. He felt his fingernails bite into the skin of his palm, enough to leave marks.
His hand was slightly caressing the small of her back and it took all of Sasuke's willpower to not lunge at the smug, Hyuuga bastard and bash his skull in for touching what was rightfully his! He watched his mother press a kiss to Sakura's cheek and he amusingly wondered if she knew she was kissing her soon-to-be daughter-by-marriage.
It was obvious that his mother was immediately keen on Sakura even though she had never met the girl before. The corner of his lip curved upward at the thought.
"I know that look," Sasuke broke from his thoughts, his eyes leaving the pretty scene of mother and beloved together. Itachi was staring hard at him. Their dark eyes clashed, Sasuke surveyed his older brother with distaste. "Whatever you're thinking… it's best to forget about it," his voice was stern, commanding… a male Uchiha trait.
"You stopped playing concerned nii-san long ago, Itachi. Why start now?" Before either of the young men could utter another word, their mother twined her arms around Sasuke's and pulled her youngest son away, chatting about the events of the gala and how she wished it was one of her son's, he pressed his temple against hers and left the Hyuuga estate with father and brother and guards in tow.
"I'll escort you back to your room." Neji's voice broke her trance as she watched the Uchiha insignia on Sasuke's back fade from her view; she turned to see lilac eyes staring down at her. Everyone was bidding them goodnight, she watched his attention drift as Tenten and her handmaidens left the estate.
"My attendants and I can go back alone." He looked down at the sound of her meek voice and he shook his head with a thin smirk.
"I'll take you." he led her away as the last of the guest departed, her attendants a few feet behind. When they reached the branch house, he walked with her down to her room. They faced each other for a few moments as her attendants awaited the time when they could go to bed.
It was inappropriate for an unwed woman to be alone in the presence of a man, even if it was her future husband. "Good night, Sakura-chan." he whispered against her cheek, a soft kiss lain to her cheek before he left her. Each of her attendants bid her a good night and entered their rooms.
Sakura slid her door shut and lit a single lantern and incense stick. She knelt at the small shine at her desk to the Lord Kami and pressed her hands together, muttering a quick prayer. Her eyes fluttered open and she rubbed them as the incense smoke burned her eyes and nose.
She rose and began to untie her obi, her eyes stared at the uchikake she would have worn to her wedding with Neji, it was beautiful and part of her wanted to wear that gown, but Sasuke would never allow her to wear a dress meant for another man. Therefore, she convinced an attendant to buy her another one just in case something happened to that one.
"This is absurd," she cursed herself as she unpinned her hair and ran an elegant silver comb through her pink tresses. She coiffured her hair again and stuck in silver kanzashi and her auspicious jade hairpin given to her by her mother before she left for Konohagakure.
She washed her face of the makeup and then applied a soft tone, earthy tones. She applied a soft pink to her lips and light green to her eyes with a brush of mascara and a muted bronze to her cheek. "Baka… baka…" she muttered as she examined her face, pressing her lips together to thin out the lipstick.
She rose to her feet and grabbed the simple white and silver kimono, slipping it on while she opened the drawer containing the datejime after she tied it on she set the white maru obi around her waist and set to work tying it. Her fingers ached by the time she fastened the damn sash, it had been too long since she had to tie her own obi.
Turning to the extended mirror, she gazed at her reflection, simple and marrying the man she loved… that was what she wanted, but she was dishonoring her clan by taking this risk. "Okaa-chan, Otou-san, forgive me." she opened the shoji screen window and hoisted herself up, careful not to damage the dress.
She hurried to the gate under the watchful eye of the moon, her breath nearly stolen from her as she saw him standing there in his own kimono and black and white striped hakama. He looked wonderful and the closer she got the more of his cologne she could breath, it made her dizzy with anticipation. He extended his hand for hers and she reached for him, he tugged her close, he wanted to kiss her, but she jerked her head back. "No."
"Yes." She giggled as his lips sought her perfumed throat.
"Sasuke-kun, stop, wait until we're married then you can kiss me all you want."
"I'll do more than kiss you," he vowed against her neck, making her sigh with delight as his fingers danced along her back. "I can't stand it, you're so beautiful," she pressed against him, her hands sliding along his taut back under the fabric of his kimono.
"Then you best get me to a kunnushi." she whispered against his neck, suddenly he swept her off her feet and looked down at her toes.
"Are you going to marry me barefooted?" he queried, raising a dark brow.
"Don't be ridiculous," she chided, lifting the zori to his eyelevel. "I plan to marry you in a civil manner, even if it is iniquitous."
"Don't say that again." She buried her face against his neck as he started walking.
"But it's true, Sasuke-kun… my parents promised me to Neji-dono, but I love you. I'm so glad to have met you, Sasuke-kun."
"Don't cry… my wife doesn't cry." That was his way of telling her he loved her too, but just once she wished he would say those trying three little words. One way or another she would get him to say it, be it as the priest joined them in marriage. She would even settle for it when he made love to her for the first time.
She fixed her sandals on her feet and hiked each tabi before hurrying over to Sasuke and the kunnushi. Flowers adorned the steps and incense were lit, scented smoke laced in the air as the kunnushi began the ceremony. She could not help but smile, her hand gliding towards his. He squeezed her hand lightly as the kunnushi offered them a blessing. Then while performing the san-san-kudo, she knew she was his wife, she was Uchiha Sakura.
"Come here," he commanded when they were far from the jinja. She pressed her hands flat against his and examined the way they fitted together, his hand was larger than hers but it felt as though they were meant to only hold hers. "You're my wife now and I will not share you with another man."
The possessive fire was back in his eyes, straining his voice. She dropped her arms back to her side as his hands cupped her face, his lips a breath away from hers. "We're leaving here tonight," he said and her eyes widen, he chuckled, she thought he would keep her in Konohagakure where her so-called intended was awaiting her. "Don't look at me like that, I'm serious, we're leaving."
"Where are we going to go?"
"Otogakure, it's not too far from fire country." he began removing the pins in her hair until her hair cascaded, framing her face and splaying over her shoulders. He set to work on her obi, getting her out of that kimono was his top priority. He kissed her and she pulled away.
"Sasuke-kun, I don't know about this."
"Trust me." she nodded as he pushed the kimono off her shoulders, exposing her to his eyes. She closed her eyes and drew in a breath at the sudden expanse of cold air kissing her skin, making every fine hair stand on end. "I'll take care of us… remember, I love you." her eyes opened and he pressed his lips against hers, removing his own kimono.
"I love you, Sasuke-kun. I'll give you a family that loves you."
"You don't have to promise me anything, Sakura, having you is enough." Sasuke kissed her shoulder as she wound her arms tightly around him, her fingers threading through his hair. It was bad, she was really crying now and he brushed away her tears, chuckling softly at her silliness as he lifted her feet off the ground, his face buried in her hair.
A/N: This was the single hardest story I ever had to write, I had no knowledge of the Meiji era or traditional Japanese weddings so a lot of research was called for and of course this story took about eight days to complete and five rewrites so I hope you like it cause, whew! And I learned a lot. Yay! Knowledge!