"Anything else you may need, Uchiha-sama, please don't hesitate to call," the pretty porter smiled at Sasuke. The prince shut the door of the massive mansion suite in her face. Sakura winced.

Cloud Country was nice. Sasuke wasn't. In fact, he looked downright murderous. The black-haired prince all but stormed into the next room where Sakura reclined on the couch, her bare legs slung casually over one of the armrests, her elegant wedding dress already rumpled. He sat down on the recliner beside said couch and closed an eye, the other trailing over her body almost analytically. And then Sakura realized that this was a honeymoon. The first night of a honeymoon. Like, right. After. A wedding.

And she almost had a pulmonary embolism.

That, she did not want to do. Not with him, and definitely not right now.

"No," Sakura pushed herself up on her elbows and almost snarled at him. "Not after what you did to Tenten. No."

"There are certain things expected to occur this week," he told her apathetically. "And for your information, Neji says they're fine."


The prince glared at his new wife, and was a little surprised to see her glaring right back. After a few moments he scowled, before turning his head and closing his eyes. Sakura was almost relieved, leaning back and staring at the ceiling. The trip was long, and she was tired. But for some reason, she could not sleep, and she definitely did not want to sleep in her wedding dress and makeup, on the couch. Problem: the door to the bedroom was behind Sasuke. And Sasuke looked a little pissed.

Plus, she didn't really want to go anywhere near whatever heart-shaped bed the massive hotel had provided. Slowly, the silence became suffocating and Sakura could swear the awkwardness was eating her alive.

Say something.

Silence. Sakura rolled her eyes and sat up.

Well…I guess I should say something. Jeez, our marriage is going to be one heck of a hellhole.

"So...um...Sasuke…" she said lamely.

He looked at her, his gaze piercing. "Hn."

Well that was interesting. Incoherent phrases. Great start, don't you agree?

"Well...what do we do now?"


"Ok, sorry. Dumb question. Um…" She looked at him hopefully. There's got to be one thing Sasuke could do that would initiate a conversation of some sort. Unfortunately, the prince seemed capable only of grunting:


"Okay...never mind.?"


"You know, I'm mad at you. I just don't seem like it because you are not being an evil son of a bitch at the moment."


"You really shouldn't have told Neji about Tenten."


"It was a horrible thing to do. You could have ruined their relationship. You could have started a war. You could have--Uchiha Sasuke, are you listening to me?!"


"Sasuke, I'm serious. This is serious."

"You're annoying."

Sakura blanched. "What--you--you stupid, moody, spoiled brat! I bet you don't say anything because you're too dumb to come up with a coherent sentence!"

He was glaring now. Progress!

"You did it to make yourself feel better, didn't you? To belittle someone else and make them suffer, you liked that, didn't you? You--"

"Shut up, woman. You don't know what you're talking about."

"You bet your royal ass I do."

"You're annoying."

"Oh, real original," Sakura considered stopping before she got too big for her britches, but Sasuke's irritated growl was too much to resist.

"What, so now you're a dog, too?"

He stood up and advanced on her. Almost instinctively she leapt from the couch, backing away. Probably won't do me much good, he's a foot and a half taller than I am…Oh crap, Sakura. Not good, not good, not good.

"Hey Sasuke…um…"

To hell with this. What's he going to do, kill me? She held her ground, staring at him defiantly. Suddenly, he reached forward, grabbed her shoulders and shoved her against the wall, their faces inches apart, his snarling, hers stubborn. Then, his face was gone from her view and her feet were on the ground, with something warm on her neck.

Sasuke's spiky black locks were tickling her nose as he...ack! He was nuzzling her neck! Not good, not good, not good. She tried to shove him off but he just growled at her forcefully and pinned her hands to the wall. She whimpered. His fingers were like fire and sent shivers through every fiber of her being. Her nerve endings were burning with it as he planted small firm kisses all the way along her collarbone. This was new. She hadn't known he could be gentle.

It didn't last very long. His hands now moved from where they held hers to wall, and began roughly pulling her dress off, layer by layer. At any other time Sakura would have protested but as Sasuke began to kiss first her neck, then traveling up to her mouth to kiss her more deeply than ever, she could only submerge to his will.

Their tongues met in a wild dance of passion. Sakura wound her arms around his neck, holding him there and pulling him in deep. Sasuke peeled off the last layer of her dress leaving her exposed and shivering slightly, ripples of goose bumps spreading across her skin, in only her underwear. His hands pushed her into him by the small of her back then slowly began to venture up and down her down curves.

Sakura reached down and began pulling off Sasuke's shirts. They fell on the floor at their feet beside the pile of ruffles and lace that had been Sakura's wedding gown. He reached for his own belt, quickly pulling it off along with his pants. He bent down tasting her neck as she shivered, still pressed to the cold wall.

But he only pushed her into it harder. She could feel his excitement pressed against her. Their bodies rubbed against each other, exchanging body heat as their kiss climaxed. Suddenly Sasuke pulled her in again, the kiss deep and longing. He wrenched her from the wall, throwing off her balance a bit and breaking the kiss.

"Sasuke…" He used the fact she was off balance to push her to the ground, though by some miracle she landed on a bed of ruffles that was her dress. Sasuke pushed them aside impatiently as he lowered himself onto her. He once again kissed her mouth then let his tongue travel down to her chest, which sent shivers of pleasure rippling through her body, then down to her stomach.

His hands traveled with his mouth, and then as he began giving her stomach small kisses downward they pulled off her underwear, then his own. Sakura stared at him for a moment before Sasuke pulled her up to kiss him again. Now panic began running through her mind. Will it hurt? Will I bleed? I-AH! But her thoughts were interrupted as Sasuke slid himself in slowly. At first not all the way, but then with a hard, quick thrust that sent a sharp pain all through Sakura's body he slid all the way in.

Sasuke began going in and out methodically, grasping Sakura's hips and pulling her into him more and more, his thrusts getting more and more aggressive. Sakura gasped and moaned, her hands running through Sasuke's hair, over his chest. She couldn't get enough. One moment of pain and now she couldn't get enough. She pulled him close wishing for him to go deeper, to fill her completely. She never wanted him to stop.

Then with one particularly deep thrust Sakura was sent screaming and moaning louder than ever. Her hands twisted in her own hair then flew to her sides, trying to clench onto anything as waves pleasure washed over her.

Sasuke continued for a few more thrusts and then followed Sakura into that sea of shaking pleasure. Panting he pulled himself out and lay next to his new wife. He wrapped his arms around and held her close, feeling her bare soft skin against his own. He put his mouth to her neck and kissed it softly.

"That was…unexpected," Sakura lifted a white arm and lay it across her forehead, peeking one green eye at her husband.

The prince snorted, before relocating his discarded shirt and pulling it on rather haphazardly. Gently, he pulled Sakura up from the floor and carried her in the ruined dress trailing on the floor behind her.

"What're you doing?"

"I'm assuming the floor would be an extremely uncomfortable place to sleep."

"Oh. Right."

He set her down on the, as Sakura had correctly hypothesized, heart-shaped bed, lined with lilies. Absentmindedly she brushed the big white flowers off of the coverlet before relentlessly burying her small body into the warm down blankets. Sasuke vanished, before reappearing from the bathroom door with a cool towel and a brush with which he wiped her face gently clean of sweat and makeup and wrestled with the knots in her hair. Sakura giggled into his stomach, wondering if the cold prince of Honoo had ever before cared to ensure someone else's comfort before.

Sakura drifted in and out of light sleep for a while, and dimly recognized the sound of the shower and Sasuke emerging once again from the marble bathroom in a halo of light and steam. Then there was a pressure next to her and she guessed she could sleep now.

Before her eyes finally drooped shut, Sakura managed a coherent phrase.

"You really shouldn't have done it…"

Sasuke didn't move. "Which one?"

When she didn't answer, he look over and found that she was already asleep, her lashes casting shadows on her thin cheekbones. Without another word Sasuke turned off the lights with a flick of his hand and sunk down beside her.


Sakura had woken the next morning the teeniest bit sore, and didn't think much about it. After grumbling a bit about her own personal hygiene, she proceeded to desert the bed and march towards the bathroom. A bath had already been drawn, with lavender bubbles and rose petals, and Sakura didn't give a thought to Sasuke's absence when she dove in.

When her hair was squeaky clean and her skin smelt like a greenhouse, Sakura reluctantly pulled a soft fluffy towel from the chrome-and-glass rack beside the giant pool of a tub and wrapped herself up quite comfortably. The towel smelled like honey. I guess everything in this country is scented.

After toweling her hair and blow-drying it to poofy, curly perfection, Sakura exited the sliding glass doors of the bathroom and wandered cautiously into a second door, across from the suddenly made bed. To her relief it was what she thought it was--a walk-in closet--and the curiosity of the organization of her clothes which had just recently been in her massive entourage of valises dawned on her. With a shrug, she found a light blue sundress. It was very simple, with a boatneck lined with white silk ruffles and clusters of smooth white tulle under the full ballerina skirt. Donning it, she pulled up her big hair into a ponytail with a white ribbon and walked out of the bedroom, venturing back into the main living room, bumping into Sasuke along the way.

"Oh, hi."

Sasuke cocked his hip and stared down at her, thoroughly unimpressed. Sakura ignored his glance.

"Where were you?"

"I had business to attend to," Sasuke replied. "Breakfast?"

"Yes, please."

A piece of stylized paper and a fountain floated from somewhere beyond the living room door and landed in Sasuke's hand. He scribbled something on it, shrunk it, and it poofed out of existence. The prince turned and walked away from the couches and the flat-screen a door, and Sakura followed. He led them to an airy library-like room, with one wall facing outside made entirely out of glass. Sasuke slid the glass door open and walked out onto a white dining patio.

"What business?" Sakura questioned when she was seated, careful not to crush the tulle holding up the skirt of her dress. Sasuke shrugged.

"Neji sent another missive."

"About what?"

Sasuke rolled his eyes and handed her a small piece of paper from the breast pocket of his black, silver-pinstriped shirt. Sakura snatched it with thin fingers and examined it curiously.

"Missive/Honoo to Cloud 8:25 am, Crown Prince Hyuuga Neji of Haku to Prince Uchiha Sasuke of Honoo:


Jiraiya sent doves to Dream. The queen is offended. Naruto is laughing. On your territory. He's starting a war, and it's not going anywhere near Kusa. The funds from your duchy at Takanari are now being reallocated to Naruto's conscription efforts. Just intercepted declaration missive from Naruto to Queen Yumi. He tried to time it to hit her in the face when she woke up. Enclosed.

Enjoy your honeymoon.

Missive/Missive/Honoo to Dream 8:20 am, Crown Prince Uzumaki Naruto of Kusa to Queen Yubisuke Yumi of Dream,

Hey Yumi-baa, you old hag! I think it's about time someone told you your hair looks like a rooster on crack but by now I guess no one can save that pile of decay. Your face is as bad as your fashion sense. I don't know how you haven't been assassinated yet. I don't know you haven't gotten blown up yet, you're so stupid. Birds will not ruin those leathery lumps you call a complexion. And they're from Kusa, not from your red sector where all your prostitutes and your serial killers are--don't even try to deny its existence. West Dream has to be the shittiest shit hold I have ever had the misfortune to smell, like, phew, beer and farts and B.O.! Anyways they don't have Ebola and they don't have avian flu. Do not refer to yourself in third person. Your fifty years too much epic fail to start that. They could build monuments to your self-centeredness and I'm sure millions would be willing to build your face out of piles of poop because that's what you smell like. Your stupidity frightens me. Hopefully you will die soon and Hikari-chan can take over because she can rule a country better than you if she were blind mute lame deaf and in a coma. And hey, I can help you with that.

I announce a Declaration of War, officiated and set 12:22 pm, signed Crown Prince Uzumaki Naruto, Kusa.

May my birds eat your innards and not get massive diarrhea."

Sakura blinked.

"I shouldn't be surprised he writes like this. But I am."

Sasuke shrugged.

"Did you stop it?"

"Yes. Naruto is writing an apology letter as we speak and Queen Yumi has abdicated. The coronation ceremony for the matrilineal line of Dream is due to start in fifteen minutes when Princess Yubisuke Hikari is to ascend and take over."

Sakura's eyes widened, and darted to the large gold clock in the library beyond the glass wall.

"And you accomplished all this…before ten?"

Sasuke shrugged again, but this time he looked just a little smug. Sakura blinked in slightly frightened awe, before regaining her composure.

"Did you do all that--stuff, too?" she waved her arm at the elaborate glass bedroom door.

"No," Sasuke replied, "Shadow maids."

"I haven't seen any maids."

"They're called shadow maids for a reason," he retorted, as the glass door slid open and two covered trays floated into the patio. Plates were set by invisible hands onto the wicker table and Sasuke nodded at the invisible owners as they floated away.

"Shadow maids?"

"Yes." Sasuke uncovered one of his plates and raised an eyebrow at the elaborately over-made croque-monsieur. "Adept at basic ninjutsu. They serve the higher levels of society. You'll never see any of them."

With a contemplative nod, Sakura picked up her fork and dug happily into her multi-berry mousse cream crêpe. After a few contented delicious bites, Sakura paused, and straightened.

"Hey, Sasuke. Can I ask you something?"

"You were already."

Sakura ignored this. "I've been wondering, ever since…I guess since I got to Honoo. Why do you hate Itachi-san so much?"

She hadn't expected him to be so calm in the face of her inquiry. He didn't miss a beat, continuing his bite with utmost calmness. Almost contemplative, like he himself was not quite sure of the answer when presented with the question. Sakura had the distinct feeling he had never been questioned about this particular resentment before.

Finally Sasuke spoke.

"He is my brother. It is my duty to surpass him."

Sasuke didn't look like he meant to share more, so Sakura decided this was a good place to stop and consume the rest of her crêpe. Besides, he had actually answered her--that, for the time being, was more than good enough.

After breakfast he took her to the river, where they had a picnic and hired a boat for a small float down the stream to town center. The entire week was filled with activity--canoeing, shopping, operas, plays, horseback riding, cruises, circuses, elaborate dinners--and it made Sakura feel like he was courting her all over again.

At the end of the week she was a little put-down when he told her they would be moving from Cloud country to her home country of Mizu. She knew Mizu--she had lived there for most of her life. Sasuke seemed to recognize her reluctance and assured her that they were going to Mizu tourist country, not the capital where she had lived (princess or duchess, it was correct that she had lived around the center of Mizu). She finally decided that if Sasuke was bothering to take her there it couldn't be all that bad. Gauging from the continuous stream of elegant dates he had taken her on in Cloud, there was probably a lot of things worth doing in Mizu. Besides, Sakura hadn't ever ventured much out of the duchy at Mizuki. It was about time she got to know her country better.

By the time they were ready to leave she was almost excited.


Sasuke had begun staring down the receptionist and Sakura was getting a bit nervous. She almost admired the man. He's been holding up pretty decently for about five seconds…six…seven…eigh--"Sir, I'm sure we can find a more acceptable room. Excuse me for just a minute, Uchiha-sama, ma'am."

The hotel receptionist almost ran down the hallway. Sakura leaned out the doorframe, sighed and frowned.

"You didn't have to do that."


"This room is fine."


"Say something, will you?"



He shot her accusatory finger his Patented I'm-Uchiha-Sasuke-And-I-Can-Behead-You-With-One-Look glare. He seemed to forget the fact that Sakura lived with Tenten and had become sufficiently immune to patented royal glares.

"I did not realize when I married you that you would be so annoying."

"The bastard talks," Sakura threw her hands in the air at Sasuke's scowl, directing her comment to thin air. "And here I thought he was defected."

"Woman. Save your mouth for other things."

Sakura stared at him, eyes wide and face flushing a deep crimson. Sasuke almost smirked.

"You--you--shut up, or I'll castrate you with a fork!"

Sasuke snorted and turned his head with a hint of a grin.

"Where is that man?" he snapped.

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Probably wetting himself in a back closet somewhere. Seriously, Sasuke. The poor bellboys."

The prince of Honoo glared at his recent wife, found it ineffective, and redirected his glare to the doorframe. Lesser wood would have burst into flames, but a luxury hotel like the one they were currently standing in, one that catered only to nobility, would obviously have construction materials worthy enough to withstand the many withering glances that such people would no doubt constantly direct at it. The deluxe suite the newlyweds currently stood in was about half the size of a football field, awash in silk and satin all dyed creamy champagne, the eyelet lace curtains floating lightly by the massive bay windows and washing the room in a gentle afternoon light. The door to the bedroom looked tempting, and despite her sworn hatred for her new husband, three nights of hot, screaming orgasms over and over called for some much wanted real sleep.

"By the way," Sakura said quickly, averting her eyes, a blush creeping up to her cheeks, "I still hate you."

The black-haired prince turned and raised an eyebrow. Sakura was certain she had never seem most of his adorably normal facial expressions before and was still keeping a counting tally of how many times her heart stopped beating every time he displayed a heretofore undiscovered contraction of his facial muscles.

"You shouldn't have told him," she rambled on, twiddling her fingers on the skirt of her crimson chiffon gown. The dress was high-necked and sleeveless, with a mass of ruffles coming from one shoulder down to the waist, where a thick wine-colored belt cinched in her waist before the fabric billowed down to the floor. Sasuke's eyes traveled down to where the hem of Sakura's skirt floated lightly in the breeze, before turning back to glare into the empty hallway.

"That's not my problem."

Sakura's head snapped up, and her eyes flashed. But before she could once again start the futile argument, a tall man in a neat, elaborate, expensive-looking black suit elegantly and gracefully melted into existence at their doorway. The man had dark blue eyes, and long, silky-looking black hair falling almost to his waist. He had a thin, pale, aristocratic face and a dignified bearing, with an air of delicate strength. His hands were clasped behind his back, and he wore a kind smile on his face.

"Your Highnesses," the man bowed, and Sakura watched in jealousy and wonder as his perfect raven hair slid like water over his shoulder. He straightened and nonchalantly flicked the locks back around his neck.

"I am Soen Azuma, I own this hotel--or rather, the land. I understand that our dear Yuichi has offered you an unacceptable room?" the black-haired man leaned inwards and examined the perfect suite, before tutting with a dramatic tilt of his chin. "Oh dear, oh dear. I completely understand. Please come with me."

Sakura chanced a nervous glance at Sasuke and noticed a slightly amused look on the prince's face. He seemed thoroughly undisturbed by this beautiful, flamboyant man, and, with a hand on his wife's waist, followed the owner.

"What of our luggage?" Sakura ventured cautiously.

"It has been dealt with personally," Azuma turned and shot them a charming smile, waving an arm to the slightly curving, chandelier-lit hallway. "Please, this way."

Azuma turned to a golden filigree lever and pulled it, and the massive elevator immediately shot up to receive them. The mirror doors bounced open with a cheerful ding! as the contraption arrived, and Sasuke did not waste a moment in accosting the large white cushioned settee at the back. Sakura followed, shooting the glass wall beside the settee a rather apprehensive glance. Azuma stepped in courteously after the royals, and pressed a finger to a lighted gold button, smiling kindly at them. He stood by the panel and observed the gold-framed mirrored walls with unreasonable realistic interest.

When the elevator began climbing smoothly, Sakura was immediately enraptured with the scenery of the waterfalls of Mizu tourist country. From the steadily climbing glass elevator, one could see every single one, separated by forests and massive pieces of land on one side, and further to the east, the beginnings of a rich, luxurious town in which only upper-class citizens of the county resided.

"Uchiha-sama," Azuma said suddenly in a pleasant voice, "You are the prince of Honoo, aren't you?"

Sasuke opened his eyes and considered the man for a moment before nodding curtly.

"You must know my sister, then," the manager smiled kindly. Sakura was confused, but Sasuke's light squeeze of her hand signaled his wish for her silence. She complied rather reluctantly.

"I'm afraid I'm not acquainted with any of the Soen family at court."

Azuma looked surprised for a minute, before chuckling.

"I'm sorry. My sister and I do not share a last name. Are you familiar with Tachibana Kiama?"

Sakura could swear she just had a coronary.

"I am," Sasuke replied slowly, his voice betraying no hint of interest. The pink-haired princess, however, was piqued. Narrowing her eyes, she noticed the graceful curved neck, elegantly pointed chin that were familiar traits on both said brunette and her cousin Tenten. But nothing else possibly hinted a resemblance between the two.

"Is she doing well?" Azuma was smiling pleasantly at the ceiling. "I'm afraid we do not see each other often."

Sakura cut Sasuke off before the black-haired prince could snub the manager again. "She's very sweet," the pink-haired girl said quickly. "I'm sorry, I did not recognize you as a relative of Kiama-san."

"Curious," the tall man looked slightly unsettled for a split second before his face melted back into that smooth smile. "It had been said that we are very similar. Kiama and I are of different fathers; mine died when I was very young. Still, when we were small we were often told how very much we resembled each other. Our fathers were both dark-haired, and our mother is both dark-haired and blue eyed."

Sakura cocked her head, curls falling to one side. Before she could speak and dive further into Kiama's family history, however, Sasuke decided to rejoin the conversation, looking a little more interested in their banter than he had been seconds before.

"Then you are Archduke Soen Azuma?"

Azuma nodded cheerfully as the elevator climbed to greater heights. "Yes."

"Sakura," Sasuke's attention was now fixated on his wife. "This is your great-uncle's grandson. I don't suppose you are acquainted."

"No," Sakura was surprised, but nonetheless smiled prettily for Azuma. "This is a pleasure. I'm not very familiar with my more distant cousins, I'm afraid…I was frail as a child and was not often let to roam."

Azuma looked thoroughly unfazed by her lame excuse, and Sakura was certain he would have known whether or not she was legitimate--heck, judging by the man's age he would probably have been maybe ten when she was 'born'. But Azuma smiled and nodded politely to his 'cousin' with an agreeable, "Yes, a pleasure."

Sasuke's eyes stayed on the Archduke for all of three seconds, before he appeared to lose interest and look away. The elevator dinged to a stop almost the exact same time, and Azuma stepped forward.

The elevator faced a solitary set of carved double doors down a short length of a hallway. Azuma led them towards the door and presented Sasuke with the key.

"This is our greater penthouse suite," the black-haired man said conversationally as Sasuke unlocked the door with a flick of his wrist, "Your luggage has been placed inside. There is a private elevator inside to reach the second floor; your living spaces."

Sasuke nodded silently and swung open a door, ushering Sakura inside. If the previous suite was amazing, then Sakura didn't really know what to think anymore--except that this room was probably the size of her old summer house. The pink-haired girl looked backwards to the door briefly before her eye caught a pool towards the left. With a completely enchanted gasp, she scooped a handful of red chiffon up in one appendage and began exploring the massive suite, catching only snippets of Sasuke and Azuma's conversation.

"Missive, om Pri…about now," Azuma's voice floated up to where Sakura was timidly ascending a set of stairs to a small day pavilion above the sitting area. She turned and looked down just in time to see a tiny white square of paper pop up in front of Sasuke's face. The prince's hand darted out immediately and snatched it from the air, and Sakura paused, before dismissing it and hopping up to the pavilion. A few more quiet whispers were heard, before Sasuke's clear, crisp dismissal was heard:

"Thank you, Soen-san. Please give my regards to your wife, Duchess Kanae."

Sakura dipped her head down over the glass railing and saw Azuma's slightly shocked expression. Within a split second his expression had regained its normalcy, and the black-haired Archduke swept a bow. The smile on his face as Sasuke turned and closed the door was decided cooler--and more nervous--than any she had seen that day.


"I am pooped," Sakura declared as she plopped down on the massive double-king sized bed in the middle of their even bigger suite bedroom. Sasuke entered the white doors behind his wife, an eyebrow raised, preoccupied with peeling a black blazer off his shoulders.

"Pooped?" he questioned sarcastically.

"Pooped," Sakura repeated, flipping over on her back and grinning. "Tired. Drained. Exhausted. Beat. Fatigued. Sleepy. I want to sleep."

Sasuke's other eyebrow raised as he ran an eye over the yellow Athenian drape dress currently pooling around Sakura's thin form.

"A swim in a waterfall really worn you down this much?"


"You weren't even swimming in the current."


"It was a waterfall pool. There were coral reefs surrounding the top. There was no current. You just sat there."

Eyelashes batted.



Sasuke rolled his eyes and turned to the gold filigree mirror to pull off his cravat when another missive popped up in front of his face. Sakura sat up curiously as Sasuke snatched the floating paper from its floating position in front of his nose, and Sakura realized that it wasn't just the tiny square of paper, the missive was actually an intricately folded note compressed to the size of a coin. She rubbed a tired eye as Sasuke did some weird motions with his hands and the paper began slowly untucking itself, finally smoothing down into a creased but rather reasonably sized piece of paper. Sasuke put it back in the air and Sakura's curious surprise it stayed stationary, floating there, as Sasuke skimmed it and untied his necktie. Her curiosity steepened as Sasuke's face almost lighted up--well, as lit as Uchiha Sasuke's face could get--and before she had chance to purloin the note it burst into flames, the ashes disappearing into thin air.

"What was that?" she questioned, rubbing her ankle as Sasuke whipped the black tie off from around his neck.

"We're going home a little early," he said sternly, before adding a, "If you don't mind."

"Why?" Sakura questioned, examining a spot on her leg that she had scratched at the waterfall.

"Neji sent a missive," Sasuke sighed, walking over and falling down backwards onto their bed. With an instinct developed over the recent week and a half, Sakura immediately reached out to his closed eyes and ran a finger over his eyelids, before brushing a few stray strands out of his face. Sasuke opened an eye and gently captured a few of Sakura's fingers, running the tips of his own over them, rubbing circles almost unconsciously as Sakura sat beside his head, watching his eyes.

"Why?" she finally repeated after a moment of silence.

He kissed her fingers. "There's someone I want you to meet."


Their return to Honoo was a pragmatic affair--short, too. The newlywed couple had been invited warmly back to the castle and given an entire wing of the main royal estate. Accompanied by Tenten and Neji, Sasuke took Sakura to see his land outside of the capitol city. They traveled by train to each massive piece of land Sasuke owned, all rolling, grassy hills and massive manor estates, before the whirlwind couple finally ended their travel and resumed life, much more subdued, at Court. Living with Sasuke instead of Tenten and Ino took a bit of adjusting--she missed her sisters more, and saw much less of them, both being infinitely busy with their own hectic schedules and love lives. But Sakura adjusted much faster than her husband had expected, and was praised for her impressive ability to adapt. Sakura had only raised an eyebrow at the weird comment, before shrugging it off as another one of Sasuke's abnormalities.

Sakura had noticed recently that Sasuke, big surprise, again did not look pleased. With each passing day the glower he had began pasting onto his face grew darker, and he often ended evenings with a deep furrow between his eyebrows. When she finally dared question, he frowned and glared at the window.

"He's late."


"He was supposed to be here last week," Sasuke seethed, completely ignoring Sakura's question. The princess rolled her eyes.

"Whoa, boy. Don't get your panties in a bunch."

Sasuke shot her an incredulous look before scowling and vanishing out the bedroom door. Sakura watched him leave, shrugged and began combing out her long pink hair, prodding no further. Besides, it was interesting seeing Sasuke get so frustrated over someone's lateness. She felt quite compelled to meet the man who could turn her cold-as-ice-hard-as-stone husband into an angry fretting child by being late to some clandestine meeting.

Finally, two weeks after they returned from the honeymoon, Sasuke arrived in their suites rather hurriedly, followed by several giggling maids, and vanished into his closet. Sakura had been having the royal equivalent of a slumber party for the much needed bonding time with Ino and Tenten the night before, and the nest they had made was still lying in a heap. Sakura snuggled comfortably into the warm masses and looked up from the combined mountain of blankets and pillows when he barged in.

"What's going on?"

"He's here," Sasuke's head popped out of the doorframe for a split second, a ruffled shirt and a set of tails visible. "Get dressed, hurry."

Sakura plopped her head back down into the big soft fort.

"Five more minutes?"

Sasuke stepped out of the dressing room, booting out the still giggling maids and frowning at the sisters as if he had just seen the massive mess of soft things they had made on his bedroom floor. After a few contemplative, analytical looks at Sakura's tall pile of blankets, Sasuke shook his head.

"I'm sending Ayame and Kikumo in right now," he said sternly. Sakura groaned, sitting up and rubbing the chicken's next of her hair. Sasuke smirked.

"I'll be back for you in half an hour. Be ready."

With that, her snooty new husband let in her bloodthirsty ladies' maids and left the three girls to their own devices. Sakura grunted as she pushed herself out of the bedspread fort, and reluctantly let herself once again be dressed by other people.

She found again minutes later that it was vastly more impressive and definitely more preferable than dressing herself. It was nice not having to tie your own corset. Or pick out the right gown for the right occasion. Sakura decided it was better to leave these things to people who were trained to do them and stood obediently stock still while her cheerful ladies-in-waiting darted around perfecting her appearance.

Sakura met the dark-haired prince outside exactly half an hour later, dressed in a lavender dress with a bubble skirt to her thighs, under which massive amounts of gold chiffon puffed the skirt out and fell to her knees, creating an artistic pouf. The dress was cinched at the waist with a golden obi belt tied in a thick, asymmetrical bow, while pink silk orchids pierced the center of the bow and were skillfully fixed onto the dress to the shoulder. Her hair had been straightened and fastened in a simple, sleek ponytail at the back of her head, embellished with fresh orchids. Her shoes were golden pumps, sitting at a slightly comfortable three and a half inches.

Sasuke had nodded slowly when he took in her appearance, obviously signifying his approval of her attire. Sakura had thought that an occasion he had fretted over so much would require more sophisticated dresses, but apparently this was good, seeing as how Sasuke himself was clad merely in black pants, a white ruffled shirt and a simple pinstriped vest. The tails were nowhere to be seen.

They promenaded to the third drawing room, almost identical to the one where Sakura, Ino and Tenten had found Kiama almost a month ago, with the exception that the room was embellished with massive bay windows and lacked shelves of books, instead having seating sets of curving couches and wooden tables positioned in circular arrangements all around the room. Sasuke strode with purpose towards a recliner facing one of the windows, where a shock of silver hair poked out from the back of the seat. And, once again giving Sakura the healthy equivalent of an aneurysm, Sasuke promptly once again made funky symbols with his hands and blew fireballs at the man.

The silver-haired visitor had been under the pretext of dozing with what looked like an inappropriate book covering his face, but leapt out of the seat and dodged Sasuke's offense immediately. He was dressed in a black turtleneck sweater and white pants with a bottle green blazer, but upon further examination there appeared to be some sort of weirdly shaped mask covering the lower half of his visage.

"Hey, kid," the man gave him an eye-crinkle, which Sakura did not doubt would be a fond grin if his mouth were visible.

"You're late," Sasuke snapped, depositing Sakura gently on the adjacent couch. Instead of sitting down beside her, Sasuke plopped down rather unceremoniously on its armrest.

"Sorry," the man once again crinkled his eyes, this time rather mischievously. "I was delayed by a band of yakuza. They had kidnapped the princess of Rock, you see, and as a faithful ally of that superb country I do not doubt King Fugaku would have at all discouraged my attempts to rescue the fair lady--oh, is this Sakura-chan? She's a cute one."

Sasuke looked displeased, muttering something under his breath that sounded slightly like "hentai", but Sakura smiled sweetly.

"Yes. Yama--um, Uchiha Sakura, pleased to meet you. Forgive me, I'm still not quite used to it yet."

"I doubt many women of your status would want to get used to being this kid's wife," the silver-haired man leisurely ducked another fireball, "I'm Hatake Kakashi, I trained Sasuke, ever since he was a cute little boy this tall. Well, I'm not sure if the word cute could ever be used to describe this one…" Sakura blinked. Fireball number ten, and counting.

"Were you at the wedding, Kakashi-sensei?"

"Sorry, no." Kakashi looked thoroughly affectionate as he reached forward and ruffled a glowering Sasuke's hair. "I was attending other matters."

"Oh," Sakura paused, before smiling politely. "Then if you would excuse me? I'm sure there are many things you would like to discuss?"

Kakashi looked mildly surprised. "Yes, actually. That's why I came, Sasuke…thank you very much, Sakura-chan."

Sakura took this as her definite cue to leave. She stood and curtsied politely with her head bowed, before turning and promptly making a beeline towards the exit. As she retreated, Kakashi's voice floated in its mellow tones towards her ears.

"I heard Orochimaru was here, Sasuke…I told you…"

"Yes, I know," came Sasuke's irritated rely. "I don't know why you all keep thinking I'm going to…"

But Sakura never heard what exactly people thought Sasuke was going to do because she shut the door firmly and courteously behind her. Usually curiosity would get the better of her, but the sudden shift from amusement to seriousness in Kakashi's face she glimpsed before she departed was enough to tell her this wasn't something she should intrude upon.

Besides, it was about the perfect occasion for her to get some me-time.


"I think it's about time," Tenten told her sister flippantly over her shoulder as she brushed her long hair. It lay in pincurls, scrunched up tightly to her shoulders, and she was in the process of combing the curls looser. Ino looked up from her magazine, perched on the edge of her sister's bed, and shrugged.

"Yeah," the blonde exhaled, closing the magazine and carelessly throwing it over her swinging feet, "I guess."

Tenten turned from twirling the last curl around her finger and faced Ino.

"I hope I'm doing the right thing," she frowned, picking a strand of hair off her sage green couture dress. With a twist of her lips Tenten stood, glancing at the clock.

"It's about four, knowing Sasuke-kun, he should be about brooding in his study right about now," Ino offered helpfully, chucking a gold necklace at Tenten. The brunette caught it around one finger and fastened it around her neck, glancing at the pleated hem of the skirt of her dress absentmindedly, running a finger over her bare knees. Her blonde sister beamed and swung her long legs over the bed, standing and smoothing her sky blue frock as Tenten walked past.

"Do you want me to go find Sakura now?" Ino questioned.

Tenten sighed. "Yeah," the brunette nodded decisively. "Keep her with you."

"Are you leaving now?"

"Yes, I guess."

Tenten took a deep breath, and wondered why she was making such a big deal out of a simple revelation. Then again, it wasn't simple at all. This could mean a life, at the worst. She wasn't well acquainted with Sasuke and for all she knew he could be a loose cannon. She wanted her sisters safe when she dropped the big one.

"Call Kiba," Tenten said slowly, straightening and heading for the door, "Just in case Itachi was right. We have ANBU here. Station some right inside the door. You guys should be able to hold out. And I'll tell Neji to come over on the way, you will be safe."

"Tenten, it won't be that serious."

"You don't know that."

Ino's brow furrowed. "Ten, I'm coming with you," the younger sister said suddenly, a frown on her lips. "From what you're saying there is high risk here. I'm lot letting you go alone."

"No," the brunette princess countered immediately. "You have things you need to do. Besides, I'll be fine." Tenten's stiff features softened into a smile. "Besides, this is my problem. It's been my problem so long it's almost my responsibility now."

"I guess…"

Ino looked extremely reluctantly. Before her sister could protest any more, Tenten flew out the door and slammed it shut behind her.


Sasuke answered the door on the second knock.


The boy actually looked confused. Tenten could swear she had never seen a shred of emotion on the black-haired prince's face before.

"Is Sakura here?"

"No, I think she's in the library."

"Good. I need to talk to you." She paused. "May I?"

"Of course." Sasuke stepped back and allowed his sister-in-law into the reception area of his castle residence, before closing the door behind her. She waited until he was done, before stepping forward and seating herself on a chintz chair in the adjacent living room.

"I apologize if I am intruding," Tenten offered, sweeping the skirt of her dress under her knees to prevent wrinking. Sasuke shrugged.

"It's nothing. But…"

Was that...he was nervous! When had Uchiha Sasuke ever been nervous? Was Sakura a god or something?

"Do I…am I supposed to call you nee-san now?"

If not for the gravity of her mission Tenten would have doubled over laughing hysteria. But she was conscious of the reason for her presence she was, of course, First Princess of Mizu, and was raised better than that. Instead, she maintained a straight face and replied noncommittally, "Not if you do not want to."

Sasuke looked extremely relieved, before he realized the shift in his expression and corrected himself with a sterner, visibly cooler visage.

"May I inquire of the reason for your presence, Tenten-san?"

Okay. Tenten took a deep breath. Here goes.

"You asked me, a while ago, to discover the secret of your brother's weapon, the Mangekyou Sharingan."

Sasuke straightened visibly, all energy now obviously focused on the discussion on hand.


"I told you I did not know."

"Yes. Also true. Is this going somewhere?"

She paused.

"I lied. I do know what it is. In face, Itachi-san told me. Himself."

Sasuke stiffened, before his eyes became cold and calculating.

"Why are you telling me this?" he questioned cautiously. Tenten thought about that for a moment.

"I'm not quite sure," Tenten admitted slowly, "I…I am of the belief that it is more fortunate for the future if I provide this information than if I detain it."

"Then by all means continue."

Sasuke's onyx orbs were now fixed on Tenten, and the princess felt some of her resolve melt into dread and fear.

"Itachi-san told me, you have to kill someone to attain it."

The prince's flippant snort half disgusted and half frightened Tenten. He waved off the fact with an impatient, "Of course. I knew that."

Tenten stopped talking. That this boy who had just married her cousin blew off so lightly the concept that he would have to kill a fellow human being to enhance a genetic trait was abominable to her. Sasuke however, did not in any way relent.

"That's not all, is it?" his voice cut into her contemplations. "I know I don't just have to kill someone. I tried that already."

The brunette's blood ran cold and she tried not to shiver and the sharp flash of something up her spine. She was of half a mind to just stand up and run screaming out of the room, but that little voice of conviction popped up in to the back of her head--so familiar, so coaxing, murmuring reassurances to her. It was intoxicating, and Tenten felt a queer strength build up like a wall in her chest.

"So who is it?" Sasuke leaned back in his chair, his eyes probing her, obviously both keen and expectant. "Who do I kill for Mangekyou?"

Tenten…Tenten, it won't hurt…it won't hurt at all…what could he do, what could he possibly do? Her mind felt hazy. All she needed to do--no. She had to say it. Or Sakura…

Tenten straightened and finally met Sasuke's eyes, with a cold determination that surprised the prince. To his knowledge this girl had never had such an expression in her eyes before--not this expression of cold alien indifference. Especially to a death. But before Sasuke could contemplate this any further, the brunette answered his probe with a frigid, detached voice.

"The one you love most. You must kill the one closest to your heart."

Sasuke's face contorted into rage, furor, hatred--fear. And before Tenten could manage another coherent thought, Sasuke hand moved, a slight flick, a jutsu she should have been able to counter but for the curious cloud in her mind. Her eyes went black and her mind went blank. The princess fell off her chair into a soft heap on the floor as the massive double doors into the wing swung closed with a final click. Then she was gone.


Sorry for the big break, guys. This was supposed to be up last week but my beta died...so I added like five more pages to it. :D. Also, the semi-smut part is written by my buddy luvless191, because I cannot for the life of my bring myself to write it and I figure thered' be a riot if I didn't out one in...so yeah. 50 percent of section one belongs to her.

So I want to know...do you want longer chapters with a longer wait or shorter chapters for a shorter wait?

Format of the title's off. I'll change if when Documents let me and stops killing all my docs.

Much love and free hugs, please review!