Those of you who found the poll in my profile, many months ago, will probably have been expecting this extra chapter to TTP. At the time I typed the last chapter I called it the last because, while I had the idea of creating Sasori and Sakura's children I wasn't sure if I could do it all that well, so said "this story is done" to ensure nobody would be expecting anything more only to be disappointed. I guess now, months later…I have. Did I decide to show their cute liddle kits or just give them more alone time for you to read about?

Meh. You'll find out.

666

November 24th, 6:01 AM

666

Was it wrong to regret your first time? Even when it had been with the only person you'd ever wanted to be with? Surely only if you were disgustingly, pitiably childish inside. Right?

Did it make you greedy or heartless when you wanted your virginity back? Was it wrong to think that virginity was what separated girls from women? Kits from adults? Adorable from attractive? Was it strange to think that sex wasn't casual, that it was something to be…embarrassed about, even a little frightened of, even after you'd already performed it yourself? And what if your lover found out these opinions and hated you for them?

The worries that would only haunt a kit, that would only haunt Sakura Hokage, drifted like ominous ghosts all through her mind. The most recent one stayed on and grew: What if Sasori woke and sensed something of her thoughts? What if he sensed that she regretted sleeping with him? He'd be—horrified, heartbroken, furious? Sakura couldn't guess how she'd get through the rest of the day with these thoughts distracting her, how she'd get through the rest of her centuries-long life!

The sun wasn't even up yet.

'My god…' she thought to herself wonderingly. She saw her tunic on the floor almost near enough for her tail to reach down and touch. 'If I get dressed right now and run, what will he think? What if he wakes up while I'm dressing? What will I say?'

She looked to the side and just a little ways up and found a familiar redhead laying on his back, surprisingly more than six inches away from her. She smelled his familiar cinnamon scent, tried not to blush at his un-familiarly naked body. (Also tried not to remember how much noise they'd made last night, failed, blushed, and pinned her felis ears to skull.)

A purposeful rustle of sheets. Not a sign of someone sleeping.

"You love me."

Mind awhirl, Sakura scraped together a plan to not let her lover know her previous embarrassing thoughts. She turned her head towards him, saw his eyes. They had always looked like chocolate but now they seemed to be, how to describe them—ah! Dark chocolate is what they resembled now, boiling with seriousness and pride and love so strong one could say it bordered on madness—as it had before. Sakura used his words to her advantage to further her plan. She made her own eyes contrastingly bright, wry and carefree.

"Is that news to you?"

"You love me."

"Of course."

His lips curved upward the slightest bit. His eyes remained the same. One of his hands lifted and two fingers flexed. Sakura was pulled closer to him with the force of a magnet and she half-heartedly cursed that "puppetry" he could do. The same hand that had executed his birth-given ability brushed a stray lock of cherry hair out of his kit's eyes.

"After you ripped my belt off—" Sakura had absolutely no recollection of doing that, but had something new to be embarrassed of now. She interrupted as fast as she could, "I don't remember doing that." Her most prominent memory of last night was laying underneath him. Even in the first stages when she required "guidance," even when he let her take the lead, he didn't allow her to lay on top of him. Somehow that memory was just about as significant as climax which had been, in her own inexperienced words, indescribably wonderful. But it's not as though she would say that aloud. "Also I don't think it's a big deal that 'newbies' would go crazy during sex. Honestly." The sound he made at that comment was something like a scoff. Awfully weird for one such as Sasori.

"If you're embarrassed, the best thing to do would be to say so."

"Curiously, that's not what I would think. In fact, I'd be inclined to turn away."

"If you turn away, I am inclined to move closer. Quite counterproductive."

"Only because you can't take a hint. I remember the days of subtle advances! Suddenly the soft and sophisticated aristocrat's movements are gone, and this occurs."

The last comment was meant as a joke but when he grasped her chin between two long fingers and forced her to look at him his eyes showed little humor. "I think you're regretting something."

Her hopes dashed, Sakura still struggled to hide the thoughts she'd had upon waking. "I think waking before sunrise is obscuring your logic, Your Majesty."

"Don't call me that." The command was stern. "Your feelings are in your eyes. So strong you can't hope to hide them." They both knew that had also been the situation last night but neither said it, for it was blazingly obvious. "You want your virginity back, I assume? You feel intercourse makes you adult but don't think you are ready for the adult's world?"

Because she knew such information would never pass from him to anyone else, Sakura allowed her barriers to fall. Her tail curled as she said, "…Yes."

The hand that had brushed her hair back did so again for that naughty strand that wanted to cover up his precious one's eye. Some indeterminate amount of time later he murmured, "You're so young."

At this, Sakura raised a surprised brow, for she had always, flawlessly always, been the one to make a fuss about the centuries-wide gap in their ages. Sometimes she had said it playfully, but no matter her tone she had always meant it. All Sasori had ever done in response was tell her that age mattered little. This meant that he was taking the issue seriously for the first time in at least a decade, for the first time ever.

After, again, some indeterminate time had passed, he moved himself over her, tangling the sheets and coming close to exposing his lower half. Sakura wisely kept her sheet slightly above chest level and had one hand over it so he could not be naughty and rip it away suddenly. But there was no naughtiness in his expression now. "You needn't have such worries. You are new and young, and you need me to guide you." Within herself, Sakura both swooned and rolled her eyes. He did everything she could ever ask of him, and in doing so, treated her like a kit. "All your fears are normal, and if you have any others, I will help you conquer them. Even if you do not tell me what they are."

"True," she said, because there was little to say to a such a statement. "Because you'll always make your level of affection difficult to compete with. Same as I'll always keep some things hidden from you." Her eyes darkened with genuine apology and she put one arm over his shoulder. "I'm sorry. It's part of me to do it. I promise they won't be earth-shattering secrets."

"Mm." he said noncommittally, and nuzzled himself softly into her swan neck. "As it is part of me to feel complete with my kit. That, neither of us can hope to change."

Sakura put a hand on the back of his head and scoffed, "Gods, no."

"Tell me that, Sakura."'

"Hm?"

"Tell me you're mine."

"…I'm your kit."

And that made it painfully obvious for both of them. Not only had she said the wrong thing, she had paused before saying it and even wobbled the sentence, like she didn't believe it herself. The prince's eyes narrowed with dark curiosity and some warning. He moved his head closer, parallel, to hers. His breath flowed on her cheeks when he spoke. "You're mine, Sakura. Mine."

His mate's responding grunt was toneless and quiet and could have meant anything.

This did not make Sasori angry, but there was no amount of joy to be seen in his expression. With a curious growl in his voice, he said, "Why do you—"

"I don't feel anyone belongs to anyone; it sounds like a form of slavery to me." his pink-haired love interrupted. "I don't believe mates 'belong' to each other. They want to be together because it is their choice. I never believed I belonged to Tsunade or Shizune." Sasori blinked in surprise and his tail stopped its mid-air curve. "What's that look for? I stayed with Tsunade my entire life because she's my mother and I love her. Not because I'm wearing a collar with her name on it."

Having never heard such a theory before, being one of the few living beings on earth who had ever heard of such a theory, Sasori gazed into his mate's wild eyes. He searched there for a hint, for understanding. He saw only the determination and cleverness that had been in her eyes for years, that had been there since before she'd ever known him—before she'd ever known him… "How long have you thought this?" he asked.

"For as long as I can remember anything."

"The same amount of time that you've believed I am too old for you? The same amount of time you've believed eighteen is too young to be married?" Sasori recalled each and every one of her ridiculous theories that not even lunatics in the asylums believed.

"I think so, yes. I can't remember when I started thinking them, so they may have all come up at the same time for all I know!" The sentence ended with a little shriek. He'd surprised her with a violent kiss.

He had her head trapped between his hands, same as her body was trapped under his, and his fingers burrowing just under short waves of soft, cherry hair. She couldn't move and couldn't breathe and Sasori may not have cared. When he at last drew back for breath Sakura's eyes were wild and bright and shocked and he knew his were contrastingly dark with want, but he didn't dwell on this. His lips fell back down on hers almost aggressively. "Mine," he growled, and 'Mine,' he thought. Or did he only growl it? Or did he only think it, or do both? Did it matter?

Gods only know how long he did that. All that is known is that when he at last stopped, Sakura turned breathlessly to the side, cleavage-covering sheets (almost) forgotten, and listened to her mate quietly explain that he'd repeat that entire process again unless she admitted she belonged to him (but did not mention he probably would repeat it and add to it even if she did admit it).

Smiling like a happy kit, Sakura refused.

Her punishment is not appropriate to be elaborated upon here.

666

November 24th, 8:01 AM

666

Because some fool dependent on opium had stolen some valuable golden-hoofed mares and been clever enough to hide the evidence and been accepted as "not guilty" and charged again and trialed over and over again for stealing more and more golden-hoofed horses that it was eventually decided by the Gathered Judges of Fell's Court of Law that the prince himself would listen to and give a verdict on the case...said prince had to get out of bed and leave his lover naked and fatigued as a starved slave in the wee hours of the morning.

When Sakura woke up and found herself alone the first thing she attempted to do was grab her black bra and fell out of the bed directly onto her face. She realized that the rumor she'd heard for years was true.

Sakura had spent half the night and part of the morning in the throes of passion. Now Sakura could not walk.

But of course, it was made a new goal—to replace the one she'd had in mind since age seven—to spend the rest of the day walking around. Sasori would see her walking, know that by all laws of physics she shouldn't be walking, and be mildly pissed that an entire night of his efforts on her body showed nothing, and he'd have nothing to show off what a literal beast he'd been the previous night. After some ten minutes, her legs were fully mobile again and there was only a menial "unfamiliar" sensation in her stomach area which could easily be ignored. Now, where to go now that she was no longer a virgin? Hm.

Hinata would blush too much to talk of sex, and her mother and aunt would do nothing but squeal like Ino had in the olden days, and ask how many decades of waiting they had to spend before being rewarded with grandchildren. Shino wouldn't really understand, being male, Tenten would probably hold her calm even at this news (maybe that made Tenten the best choice…?) and the other friends she had in the royal city weren't nearly as close as her special circle. Then who…

Kiba. She and Kiba had always been determined and devil-may-care like herself. He would…hopefully…understand.

She'd thought that all through her walk through the city, all through her greetings to residents who waved at her and said good morning, all through saying hello to Kiba's mother—his father being a victim of black fever when he was an infant—going up to his room, finding him asleep, closing and locking the door and then blowing into his felis ear to wake him up. She clamped a hand over his mouth and stared down at her oldest friend with dark and serious eyes. "I don't know who else to talk about this with. I don't even know if I should talk about it."

"You an' the prince had crazy rabbit sex last night?"

Like the innocent she still was, Sakura stared and blinked.

"You did, you did, oh gods above! I was making a stupid guess, but I'm right, aren't I? Hey, did it hurt? Hinata's drilled it into my brain that penetration hurts all women."

While Kiba stood up and made his bed and brushed his teeth, Sakura explained that the pain would probably be distracting if one was human, but a felis woman could handle it if she bit her tongue a bit. Yes, Kiba, climax is just as good as they say, no, it doesn't mean whores are justified in their profession; yes, I was very embarrassed flaunting my bare body; yes, the amount of wetness involved is almost unbelievable, the weaker folk could drown; oh, gods, I know, that part was weird!

After the two old friends had sorted out all the sexual rumors they'd heard (eavesdropped) when they were children, Sakura artfully switched the subject over to the relationship between her two best friends. Kiba was eager to give her any information she wanted, seeing as he thought her help in the courtship was as good as required by law.

"Shino will be my best man if you'll be my bridesmaid."

"Kiba, I think the wife gets to choose the bridesmaid."

"Well, who do you think she's gonna choose? Us three are like freakin' Siamese triplets! We were even when you lived over in Konik…uh…what's that area called again? I know the town was Morgan—"

"Twilight Wood, dumbass."

"You're hurting my feelings! Mother! Sakura's hurting my feelings!"

On it went.

666

November 24th, 9:57 PM

666

"I'm trying to read."

"Hn."

"Your Majesty, may I continue reading my book?"

"Certainly."

"Can you move to my side and not in front of me so your arms don't block my view?"

"No."

"I can't read if you're sitting in front of me trying to feel me up."

"The term is 'pet.' To pet someone implies affection."

"I'm at a very intense chase scene! Can I just finish it undisturbed, this half-page?"

"The book won't run away."

"Neither will you!"

"True as well."

"Dammit, just—stop that! Here, out of the kindness of my heart, I'll move." And Sakura, presently trying to enjoy herself in the library the royal residents of the castle had been collecting for and polishing for centuries, plopped into her mate's lap. Said mate was very happy, pressed the female's back tighter against his chest and sat in the leather-skin couch for about four pages. When Sakura began the fifth page, he grew tired of having his kit and his lap and doing nothing about it. Since he was in a more innocently playful mood than was typical, Sasori looked to where her pink tail dangled over the edge of the couch, and used his own to flick it back and forth.

"Excuse me. Trying to read."

"I'm bored."

"You're bored?" It was such a…a Deidara thing to be bored! Nine days out of ten, any member of royalty didn't have time to waste being bored. If the prince of Fell found time between his various trips, council meetings, bill signings and political wars, he did not grow bored; he grew impatient with the dullness of time. And if he was bored, something had to be done to change that before pigs took flight. "Well...would you still be bored if I described the dream I had about you?"

Now, as the knower of everything, I can tell you exactly what the prince assumed the dream had been like. He was quite wrong, I can tell you.

The innocent moved herself from her mate's lap to face him. Her tail curled ominously like a scythe over her shoulder. "Someone was harassing me: one of those types of men who uses people, and threatens till he gets what he wants. He groped me in public—like I was his whore—and because he almost always did it in public, I almost always told him no, with as little violence as possible. And one day when he'd had enough to me telling him off, he grabbed my arm and tried to force me out the door. When I got his arm off, his nail scratched me and I began bleeding. You saw this small cut, found out its origin, and you killed him." The lack of any reaction was disturbing, so Sakura went on, hoping to get one.

"He was in a room with two other men, playing a card game, and you suddenly came in. There was a knife there in the room and you used your puppetry to throw it at him. It stuck his arm straight to the wall, and you got another knife, I don't know from where, and stabbed and stabbed till I couldn't see his face through all the blood on it. From the angle I saw—dreamed—I couldn't see your face through any of it. If you looked furious or blank, I didn't see." His brow might have lifted a millimeter through it all. Perhaps.

"Sasori." They both understood the importance in that: Sakura hardly ever addressed her mate by name, so that when she did, that in itself would be special praise. "You're showing a strange lack of reaction. I expected a little surprise when you found out this wasn't a sex dream."

His tail didn't even twitch. "There's nothing to be surprised about. If someone attacked you, I would murder them." Only now did Sasori show a little surprise. "You look so shocked."

"You'd kill someone…because they bothered me?" she almost stuttered.

"Someone like that man—absolutely."

"With a knife?" she asked a bit fearfully.

"With my claws. So long as he dies." Inwardly deciding that she'd rather not discuss this at all, Sakura set her book down on the chair and started to leave. She made the foolish and quite avoidable mistake of walking past the prince, who grasped her arm as she started to go by. He probably felt the rush of air near his hand, which was her own spare hand almost moving to rip his away, but stopped. "You're afraid of me."

Since she may as well fear the wrath of a scared Hinata, Sakura had to laugh. Instead of denying, though, she moved her trapped hand closer till she touched the prince's cheek, and left it there for him to press against like an affectionate cat. "Then I suppose my next goal will be to contain your murderous rage when I devote my time to helping Kiba advance on Hinata."

"Don't make jokes about this subject." he said warningly.

For Sakura, this was just an invitation to rile him up more. "Don't let your firewood burn before winter, old man."

"Don't quote me phrases I taught you, little one." The puppetry was alive again, pulling Sakura—with some decent grace, one could say—onto the prince again. He stretched his body and set her on his stomach to straddle him—a technique she'd been taught the night before. "If you are wanting my attention—" he paused to pull her by the shoulder down to him "—there are better ways."

Perhaps there would have been a reply to that. We'll never know. Sakura didn't dare try to speak when the prince's velvet tongue attacked the collarbone that her tunic left slightly vulnerable. It started low and traveled up until a satisfactory mew fought its way out of her mouth. Sasori's tail played the game as well, sweeping softly up from the edge of the large satin sofa till it found Sakura, and slowly caressed every lithe feature of her it could reach. Merely to release some tension in her arm, and for once not out of instinct or habit, Sakura moved up a bit and was pulled down again. Twin fangs nipped her cheek as consequence.

Somewhere in the midst of showing his love, Sasori moved upwards until he was sitting, and kept his lover straddled in his lap as she had been for the last few minutes. He forced their lips together again, and this time Sakura found the trembling courage to kiss back. What Sakura assumed was a horrified pause was actually a shiver of surprise and pleasure. Regardless, she stopped and hoped she hadn't done something wrong.

To give his opinion on this change, the prince took his lover's hand and slid it up under his shirt. Sakura had the impression that she was welcome to move lower if she so pleased. She also had the impression that when the door opened across the enormous room, the prince was quite angry.

"Hey, Sas, me and Kakuzu were wondering why in the hell Noriker's embassy—"

With an effort against the force that tried to pull her down, Sakura peeked her head over the top of the couch. Far off she spotted two of the prince's advisors. Hidan, the felis who liked to keep his feline ears hidden in his hair, was a religious zealot who had a special arrangement with the local government that allowed him to murder criminals for his god. Sakura knew him well, since she had forged the ("prince's") royal signature that allowed him to use the criminals. The other, Kakuzu, she was less familiar with, but it was to him and his nearly-fatally-injured, stitch-wreathed face she spoke now.

"I'm sorry, this is about the worst time and place you could have picked. Come back later—don't!" She clamped a hand over Sasori's mouth, sensing he was about to make an unwelcome remark or noise to the newcomers. "The last one wasn't to you two—" Kakuzu was already smirking and pulling Hidan back. One of Hidan's feline ears popped up out of his slick hair as he realized just what he'd interrupted.

When the door closed Sakura removed her hand. "They come in, they can obviously hear, and you just keep going?" Sakura tried to pretend she didn't feel his tail teasing hers, but it drifted away soon enough.

In her eyes, the aroused and loving way his hands caressed her face was of much deeper significance than the smirk. She felt the dark presence of him around her just as she had in the parlor the day before, and felt instinctively that if it grabbed onto her now, there would almost certainly be no escaping it. So she asked now: "If I cheated on you—" And the crimson tail that had been about the inch up her shirt halted. Sakura froze with fear, and stayed so even when his eyes read that it was a question born of curiosity. "Would you kill him?"

The answer was a quiet and firm, "Yes," and then a descent into feeling and soul deeper than the ocean.

666

November 25th, 2:09 AM

666

The dream was awful.

As an omnipotent god of the dream realm, Sakura Who Was Really Sleeping shivered in her slumber. It was strangely realistic, with herself, her mate, their lives, and even their personalities all featured. Featured also was the death of all these things.

The first thing one would see in this dream would be Sakura, bleeding, wounded, panting and probably ill as well. She dragged herself up a dim hallway with torn wallpaper and ripped floorboards. Her shirt was a thin, breathing, red one meant for pleasant outdoor activity by a female of lean and thin proportions. It was expensive and practical and had been a gift to her. This shirt was bloodstained and contained half a dozen holes near the right hip which failed to cover wounds.

Worse still were the numerous, slitted wounds in her arms which indicated she had been cruelly stabbed multiple times in each one. Each breath expelled more blood from her mouth, each step made her sway on her feet and each change in light dilated her unusually dark eyes.

The Sakura in this dream found an end to the dim hallway. It was not far from a pair of elegant double-doors that had been slashed and torn at by felis claws. One door lay half-askew and the other open as it would be for a guest. Outside, dawn was coming. Just inside the mysterious building, Sakura lowered herself against the wall near a half-dead body.

It was the body of her mate, which she had dragged to this entryway by herself not long ago, so that he could be found and healed as soon as possible. His body, too, showed signs of a long and eventful battle, but it seemed he had taken more substantial wounds, for he lay on his back and could do little more than keep his eyes open.

He had the strength to move his head to look at her, though, and spent all remaining power in staying conscious. Sasori took in the wounds on her arms, her four bleeding ears, each angry red cut, the entire shaking, poisoned body. Sakura saw him looking at her in this way. She saw herself reflected in his dark chocolate eyes.

Sakura, within the dream, leaned her head back and exhaled slowly, jaggedly, and said to the ceiling above, "It's okay. It's okay." The building's charred roof above her eyes swam and swayed, and pain was again bringing her numb arms to life, yet refusing them movement. She stared down at her mate and saw his eyes had widened some. Did he know? "It's okay." she told him with one of her sweet, brilliant smiles.

After a few minutes she leaned towards the floor and used the wall to guide herself down slowly and not fall. Her near-useless arms bled profusely on the silken, torn rug on the floor and she looked her mate in the eye again. "It's…okay. Everything will be okay," she told the redheaded man. His eyes stared and his breathing quickened in horror; contrastingly, Sakura wore a small smile and with each passing second her eyes turned more peaceful.

Sasori watched the beautiful light fade from her eyes; the hours following that event were undeniably the worst of his life. Sakura woke up when those hours had ended.

It had been she who had brought them back up to his chamber (he wouldn't go there himself; a cat-and-mouse game was required to get him out of the library) and she was glad this was so. Completely naked in a room where no fire had been lit that night, in November, it was colder than she liked. Suna meant "desert" in ancient Fellan, which suited its fiercely hot summer days and freezing nights. It must be said, though, that it wasn't only the cold that shook her.

Her dream had not been a prophetic one. But its realism had stunned her—her dreams were always made of nonsense—and now she felt the warm breath of her lover on her ears and wondered if she should scoot herself closer to him. Sakura did a double-take on that, and had a whole new storm of thoughts, circling around one central idea…

Apothecaries and healers around the world agreed that a felis' heart was proportionately larger than a human's, and legend said that this allowed for more emotion to filter through. It meant, allegedly, that humans were incapable of feeling the same pain a felis could, and also were incapable of understanding (unless through experience) the depth with which their brother species could and would show its love.

Sakura, a member of the "brother species," was embarrassed that she probably did not understand it herself. She knew that she would not resort to such a thing if Sasori unexpectedly died. Could he say the same?

666

December 31s, 7:46 PM

666

The day of judgment had come. It was one of the things Sakura had wanted to avoid as a child, one of the driving forces behind her childhood goal. The parties.

By default, honestly, members of any royal family were required to both host and make appearances at populous and sophisticated gatherings, complete with musicians playing quietly in corners, ice sculptures standing guard over tables, gowns as expensive a dozen racehorses, polite chatting about nothing, and a depressing lack of fun things to do. Rumors and then gossip and then official news had spread across the continent that the prince's kit had at long last become his mate (a few years late, some said) and his councilmen and advisors were given the task of creating a social gala that would make this fact open and public as possible.

The last bit was the only comfort Sakura could have: it was public. Anyone who could make it to Fell's royal city on the last day of the year was welcome to attend and enjoy themselves, though their dress was to be strictly formal. And well-dressed farmers, weavers and horse breeders were bound to be better company than well-dressed politicians.

Presently, Sakura was riding in the fields towards the city, atop her favorite family horse, Foxtrot, her mother and aunt behind her on Maraconn and Camille. It was nighttime, the city was full of lights and anxious, excited people, all in their best clothes.

Tsunade and Shizune were in matching green dresses and bracelets. Sakura, in black knee-length gown and pink slippers that had been selected for her out of the blue, felt ostentatious and flashy. The pink sash that tied into a small bow around her waist was meant to be feminine and eye-catching, but Sakura wasn't sure if she liked it. At least it wasn't strapless, she told herself again and again.

In fact, she told herself this so many times she hardly noticed the countless people gazing at her as she rode up the street to the castle. A makeshift stable had been set up in the middle of the streets for the hundreds of horses people used to transport themselves to the city, and Sakura and her family parked theirs in the first open spots available, exactly where royalty should not be putting their horses. Sakura looked to her family for reassurance but didn't get anything but a violin shoved in her face.

"You know you're expected to play," her mother reminded her. "And the Song of Storm has to be played at least once. Musicians will be hearing it tonight and taking it all across the continent."

"Of course, we're not trying to pressure you!" Shizune giggled.

Her niece snatched the violin and bow, stuffed them into the family's most presentable (least wrinkly and almost seamless) satchel. Foxtrot tapped his soft muzzle on her bare shoulder and the pink-haired felis ruffled his mane before ascending the castle stairs with dozens of others. She passed familiar faces and non, and swore she saw a familiar face from Twilight Wood as she passed through the castle's enormous, open doors. Within them were all stereotypical, fancy party articles, common folk in fine dress, and more. She was enraptured, though, with the glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling, of stallions and panthers and warriors, that had been fitted with candles inside them to create godly lights.

Tsunade rested her hand on her daughter's shoulder. For a few moments mother and daughter watched the glass carvings while the musicians in the south corner played a soft, nearly tearful melody. They could only stare so long before Tsunade ended the fine moment by speaking. "You should go find your mate. You know everything in here is for you."

"He does too much." Sakura smiled.

Her mother slapped her on her bare back, laughed, "Get used to it!" and whisked away. Left alone wearing an evening dress and carrying a violin in a bag, Sakura stood there and didn't really know where to go.

The first hour of the party Sakura did nothing but drift and admire the sculptures. She was interrupted by some group of people or other every thirty seconds, naturally, sometimes politicians and sometimes tourists and sometimes old friends. Half of them realized she was carrying her violin and asked for a quick demonstration. She met Hinata once and the two of them even formed their own concert when some families from the eastern tip of Caspia asked for Sakura to play "the prince's song". Since that was hundreds of miles away, Sakura obliged and played the song, and added in a second, so-far-unnamed piece. For this song, Hinata provided breathy, angelic vocals.

Let us not forget the many children who flocked to Sakura and let her know they all wanted to be musicians like the beautiful princess when they grew up. Sakura confirmed the rumor that she was a very accomplished trickster, and promised if they stuck around till midnight, she'd show them one of her greatest tricks of all.

It was much more fun than Sakura expected. Parties open to the public were infinitely more fun than those open only to stuffy, lying aristocrats. It was nearly ten o'clock in the evening when she saw Sasori for the first time that night, and she saw his hand before any other part of him. She had just bid farewell for Shona and Tao, two tailors she had met years ago on her journey to Morgan, when she felt long, cool fingers touching her hair and furred ear.

"Where have you been?" he asked.

Sakura paused to feel the soothing pleasure on her sensitive ears. "Oh, everywhere. You know me." She turned to face him, and was a bit stunned by the perfectly-painted claws and flattering black tunic he'd chosen to wear tonight. It wasn't that he went around scruffy and ungroomed normally, but perhaps he'd spent a bit of extra time doing…something…tonight.

His hand moved slowly down her face. "You're pleased with the way I look?"

"You look excessively attractive tonight. I have no idea how you did it." He blinked twice, apparently not expecting a compliment so blunt. Sakura took the opportunity to distract him. "Did you know there's going to be a star shower tonight? The first of its kind in a hundred and forty years."

"You think I chose to host the event tonight because it's the last day of the year? Have I not told you how insignificant that is to me?"

She smiled a bit. "Well it's quite significant to us young'uns, and lots of humans, too…and I like stargazing. In fact, I'm going outside to watch for when it starts. If you wanna come, then come." Predictably, Sasori followed and gave a brief listing of the ladders placed along the walls of many buildings in the city for people to climb and stargaze upon. The ladders were, of course, for humans. Most felis who wanted rooftop seats merely had to give a good, strong jump. This is what our handsome prince and young pinkette did. Staff members and advisors from the castle kept curious onlookers a few buildings away from them. Sakura did not like this forced isolation at all and was about to say so when the first star was seen.

She stared wide-eyed at the sky like she had done when she was a kit. Having not seen a real star shower in over three years, Sakura watched the first speeding white missile with her cherry lips parted in awe.

Its followers came slowly but surely. For some three minutes there was a real, never-ending shower where the stars shot through the night a dozen at a time. Sakura was not the only one close to tears upon seeing such beauty, even when the stars became less frequent. The pinkette became conscious of nothing but the wonder of nature above her. When Sasori's tail touched her back and he said her name, she almost chose to ignore him, but ended up giving a distracted, "Hnnh?" He touched her again. Said her name again. She tried not to look annoyed when she turned to look at him.

Any annoyance she felt faded away. Again she wondered what in the world he had done to make himself so ungodly beautiful tonight (indeed, beautiful, for "attractive" was not powerful enough.) Perhaps his eyes reflected a falling star. Perhaps they shone on their own.

"Will you marry me?"

Up front and without introduction: how this question traditionally was for their species, as well as without a ring (which was a silly human thing, anyhow). But this question was directed at Sakura Hokage, who tended to dislike all responses and concepts traditional and ancient. So of course refused to respond in the traditional and ancient way.

There were a few awful, uncertain seconds when she did nothing but stare. Sasori must have guessed at what she was planning when she gathered her legs and tail up under her; he completely allowed himself to be pounced upon.

"Yes! Yes! What took you so long?" There were few occasions where she had held him so tightly, shown her affection so openly—marriage proposal was known to do that to love-shy souls. The prince absorbed every scrap of it possible, and then a bit more. The nearby onlookers who guessed what had happened and cheered and whistled hardly seemed to exist.

Within herself, a dozen other emotions forcibly mixed with Sakura's joy. Fear—did this mean she was a step closer to suicide should he die before her? A dash of shame—she'd spent over half her life trying to avoid this, and no matter how much mother nature didn't give a damn, that annihilated plan would stay with her till she died. Excitement—as a queen, she could do almost anything: behead any criminal she deemed heinous without the waste of a trial, eat Tenten's gourmet food every day of her life, hold a knife to the prince's throat and not be charged with treason! And of course anxiety—would he want a ridiculous, extravagant wedding like her mother was bound to want? And would she be respected and admired by the people, as her mate was?

Sasori read every one of these things in her eyes.

Sakura moved to lie next to him and kept one leg brushing against his. She alternated between watching the remainder of the falling stars and turning to the right at the prince. He kept his eyes faultlessly on her, she noticed. "What?" she grinned. "Did you think I'd say no? I considered, just to see your face when I did…but decided not to."

A claw painted raven-black moved a strand of hair from her face. "I love you."

"Yes," she said back very dreamily. Without looking she touched a hand to Sasori's face and caressed the skin. He closed his eyes and purred in delight at being petted. "Don't go getting sexed up yet." Sakura muttered. "You still have to say goodbye to your guests at midnight. And I promised a lot of people that at midnight I'd show them my greatest trick ever. And after that I have to take my horse home. Then I'll return." Already the love-happy Sakura had retreated.

"What trick shall this be?" Sasori asked when at last he had stopped purring.

"You haven't seen it yet. Nobody has. I've been saving it for months. I promise it'll be my greatest triumph!" At the last sentence she shot a finger proudly to the heavens.

And an hour or so later, she did indeed perform her greatest triumph. The shower had ended and the guests returned to the castle parlor to bid farewell and goodnight to everyone they had met tonight. Sasori put on a practiced, striking and wise face as he gave the formal goodbye to all that had attended the party. Sakura played the song she was obligated to play in front of uncountable people, and it was suggested by more than a few audience members that they get a last treat for the night, and a few different things were meant by this. What was received by the people was an announcement by the prince himself that his mate had accepted his hand, and a not-quite-brief kiss between them that, many saw, the prince did not want to end.

Following the kiss, Sakura was left standing with her mate's right hand in her left, and her violin and bow in her own right. She took a step back from him and turned to face the vast crowd standing under the glass statues. Knowledge of her "greatest trick ever" had spread to almost everyone, and now all eyes and ears and even some tails stood at attention in anticipation of it. Sakura smiled and gave a small, devious laugh.

Then, suddenly, in a blink—she disappeared.

Not even Kiba Inuzuka could get her to tell him how it had been done.

666

I could have made the last three paragraphs like three pages long. Since it's late and Bleach is coming on in like two minutes, I decided to end it quickly. Comments? 1.) The last bit about Sakura's disappearing act was fun to think up. What is she capable of at eighteen, when she snuck into an armored castle with a fucking giraffe at age eight?

2.) And of course I had difficulty writing the proposal, and the beginning scene. (Oh, God, the beginning scene!) I tried to avoid cheesiness, naturally, but of course it's still there. Then again, this is a medieval fairytale; you should be surprised such cheesiness came into the story so late.

3.) The dream Sakura had leaves open many paths for the plot to follow. I have a couple ideas. I could continue this, perhaps say the dream was prophetic after all. Maybe Sakura goes to great lengths to keep it from coming true. Or maybe it all ends here and Sakura just had a bad dream (a dream which ended in Sasori committing suicide, if you didn't get that.) Whatever happens, I guess I'll always leave this story open for continuation. I could end up putting in ten pages of fluffy romance whenever the hell I feel like it, or giving it another arc. Don't expect anything too brilliant...too soon.

Ta…Storm