Just showing love to a great pairing that doesn't get enough attention. Hope you enjoy!

Once More, With Feeling

Sakura didn't know what she was thinking when she showed up on his doorstep. Maybe she did, but she couldn't quite acknowledge it, no matter how many times she'd tried to rationalize what it was that led her there on that ordinary spring afternoon.

The day was beautiful and it was just wrong to spend it indoors. Her impulsive decision to seek him out—an impulse she'd given in to more often lately—had already led her fruitlessly to all of his usual spots, so she knew he had to be at home. But the weather aside, the main reason she sought him out was simply because she wanted to see him.

Five years ago Sakura would never have thought she would enjoy spending time with Sai, but it was the truth. Some of her friends thought she was crazy or just plain weird for befriending the socially inept former Root agent. They didn't understand how she could like someone so blank, and when not blank, usually an insensitive jerk. She understood their perspective, because she'd once felt the same, but Sai had changed over time. Now she defended, told them he wasn't so bad once you got to know him. They still looked at her like she was choosing to hang out with a leper—as though his personality flaws were contagious.

Sakura didn't care what they thought. Once you pulled away all the layers of detachment and got to know him, Sai was an interesting person. It had taken a while to break past the walls created by the rigorous conditioning he'd undergone. His true character was obscured by a lifetime of confusion and isolation, resulting in loneliness and an inability to connect. What he needed was a friend who could see past all that to the real person inside.

Sakura had decided to be that friend and try to 'fix' him. It started as a mostly selfish thing on her part; she just wanted him to stop being so abrasive. What she discovered was that she liked teaching him, liked how he listened to her so intently and really made an effort. It wasn't long before she realized his infuriating fake smile only appeared when something irritated, confused, or angered him. He put on that disingenuous face to cover unpleasant emotions, which was a fairly normal reaction. It proved that he was never emotionless in the first place, just severely repressed, and he didn't know how to identify, catalog, or express his feelings. She wanted to help him reconnect to his buried feelings so they could function as a team. She wanted to undo everything Root had done to him and restore him to himself. Of course that was easier said than done, and their interactions often proved more exasperating than gratifying. Then one night everything changed.

They'd been on a mission, and on the last night before reaching Konoha Sakura couldn't sleep. It was Sai's watch, and she'd sat across the fire from him and tried to make idle conversation. Sai didn't know how to have idle conversation back then, and after several awkward failed attempts to chat she grew frustrated and snapped, "Ugh! You're so goddamn infuriating! You're impossible to talk to like a normal person."

She'd intended to continue criticizing him, but he'd turned to her with a frown and a troubled look in his eyes—a true spark of emotion. "Infuriating is when…you dislike something?" he'd asked.

"Yes, Sai. Infuriating is when something bothers you so much you can't stand it, when you want to tear your hair out because you just don't know what to do anymore," she ground out.

He'd nodded to himself, taken a deep breath, and said something that completely stunned her. "In that case, you infuriate me as well. You and Naruto. It bothers me that you don't like me. It bothers me, not knowing how to react or what is expected of me. It…infuriates me that I keep trying to fit in and never seem to get anywhere. And…I can't stand that all you ever see in me is Sasuke. I am not his replacement. I am myself, and if you were my friends I wouldn't throw you aside as he did. I want that…to be friends. This situation with our team has left me very infuriated. I do try, honestly…but I don't know very well how to express these things."

She'd stared at him in shock for a moment, and then dryly replied, "Well you're doing a pretty good job of it right now." Then she smiled, because finally, here was the real Sai. "And you're not a substitute, Sai," she'd assured. "I'm sorry if we've made you feel that way. I'll try harder, and I'll make sure Naruto tries harder as well. I'd like to be friends too."

Sai had smiled then, a real smile, and from that moment things were different. It became her quest to make him react like that again. Whether to elicit a smile or a frown, she pushed his buttons any way she knew how, to evoke some feeling and bring it to the surface. It worked, slowly but surely, and the more time she spent with him, the more she grew to enjoy his company. He was somewhat of a loner by nature, and much of his trouble interacting stemmed from the fact that he didn't like attention, preferring peace and quiet over social activities. There was an edge to him as well; a dark sense of humor with a twist of sarcasm, and a lot of the ruder things he said to people were deliberate and not innocent tactlessness. He was a bit of a jerk, truthfully, but at least it was real.

They had developed a real friendship, and sometimes when he looked at her, something in the depths of his dark eyes made her stomach clench in a way she refused to acknowledge for the longest time. And that was it, really; why she sought him out so often, why she made excuses to spend time with him.

Sakura couldn't exactly define what she felt, but she knew that it went beyond friendship. She was attracted to him, which was very foolish of her. The only person more emotionally unavailable had tried to stab her the last time she'd seen him.

It wasn't because Sai looked like him. In fact, his resemblance to Sasuke was the reason she'd denied her attraction since day one, not wanting to paste her lingering feelings onto the "replacement." But Sai was his own person, and getting to know him well only clarified that he held a place of his own in her heart. His aggravating personality had helped keep the traitorous thoughts away for a while, but eventually, as he opened up and their relationship evolved from strained to friendly, those thoughts refused to be denied. Still, she fought it, and so far she'd succeeded in keeping it inside. Casual flings with no emotional consequences she could handle, but her heart had been crushed too badly in the past to offer it again. The last thing she needed was another unrequited love.

Despite knowing he would break her heart if she let him, she still wanted to be close to him. She wanted to keep teaching him, even if it meant nothing more to him than casual bonding between friends.

And so she found herself here on his doorstep, not fully ready to admit why, just knowing she needed a little dose of his company.

The door pulled open, startling her out of her thoughts. She hadn't even knocked yet, but she hadn't exactly been hiding her presence either. "Hi," she greeted. "Are you busy?" He'd been painting; there were fresh paint stains on his fingers and forearms, and a colorfully splotched rag over one shoulder.

Sai didn't look surprised to see her; it wasn't unusual for her to drop by without notice. Never one for many words, a small but welcoming smile was his only greeting as he backed inside and held the door open for her.

Sakura followed him inside and across his loft apartment—sparsely furnished with only a sofa, coffee table and a writing desk, the latter two both covered in scrolls and self-help books, a tiny kitchenette, and no dining table. It would have been depressingly lifeless and bare if not for the multitudes of art supplies: brushes, paints, inks, charcoals, empty canvasses, half-painted canvasses, finished paintings, and several sketchbooks and other paraphernalia scattered everywhere in organized chaos. Dozens of paintings hung on the walls, many of them still unnamed. It looked more like Sai lived in an art studio rather than having a studio in his home. The bed with stark white sheets and a black comforter, which he'd left unmade, was the only indication that he did anything here besides paint. Adjacent to the bed was his main workspace, where three easels sat atop a paint-stained tarp, each angled to catch direct light.

There were many large windows at the far end of the loft, which was undoubtedly why he'd picked the place. All of them were open now, simple white curtains billowing lightly, letting in a pleasant spring breeze filled with the fragrance of pollen and flowers from the park across the street. That scent never failed to bring a smile to her lips, and she sighed happily. "What are you painting?"

"The view." He nodded toward the open window, the one overlooking the park. He'd painted that particular view many times, in every season and type of weather. She looked between his canvas and the window, saw that today he was painting the blooming sakura trees and the small clusters of people picnicking under them.

"It's lovely," She sat at the foot of the bed as he picked up his brush and resumed painting. She watched him for a while, listening to the soft sound of the brush scraping across canvas and silently marveling at how as always, his rendering skill was spot-on, brilliantly capturing the mood of the day.

"I haven't seen you wear that before," Sai remarked offhandedly, most of his attention still focused on his work.

"It's new," she replied, looking down and fingering the skirt of her white sundress.

"You don't usually wear dresses."

Sakura shrugged, then leaned back on her hands and crossed her ankles. "It's a nice day and I'm off duty, so why not. You don't like it?"

The brush paused against the canvas as Sai looked up. His dark eyes slowly roamed over her figure, appraising, and that funny feeling swirled in her stomach again when she noticed his gaze move past her dress to linger on her bare, outstretched legs.

"It looks nice," he declared evenly, "but it doesn't suit your tomboyish nature." He resumed painting.

Sakura momentarily entertained the idea of throwing a pillow at him, but he'd probably be mad if it ruined his work. "I can't wear combat gear all the time, unlike someone I know," she scoffed, giving his attire a pointed once-over: standard-issue pants and a snug, sleeveless black shirt she knew was from his ANBU days. She couldn't help covertly admiring his lean, muscled arms and the swirling tattoo on his left shoulder.

Sai glanced down at himself and shrugged indifferently. "I don't have many civilian clothes."

"I've noticed," she said dryly. "I really should take you shopping sometime."

"If you want," he answered easily.

Sakura smiled. "So why aren't you painting from the park, instead of in here?" she wondered. "It's too nice a day to spend it all indoors."

He shrugged. "The view from the window is an ongoing theme. Why aren't you outside?"

"I was. I had lunch with Ino and then she ditched me for her latest fling, so I went looking for Naruto but he only wanted to train all day. So then I came looking for you."

"So I was just an afterthought."

She knew by the slight smirk on his lips that he was only teasing, but she still felt the need to defend her motives. "You know I like hanging out with you."

He turned away for a minute to add more colors to his palette. Sakura scooted across the bed to the headboard and leaned against the pillows, set an elbow on the windowsill and rested her chin in her hand as she gazed out. From this angle, she couldn't see what he was working on anymore, so she contented herself with watching the village activity below.

A few minutes of comfortable silence passed, filled only with the sounds of the moving brush and the faint din of life from outside the open windows. She closed her eyes to better enjoy the sunlight on her face. "The spring fireworks festival is tomorrow night," she said, without turning away from the pleasant warmth. "Are you going?"

"I haven't thought about it," he replied. "Are you?"

"Mm. Probably."

"Maybe we should go together."

Her eyes flew open, and she turned her upper half to fully see him. "Going to festivals together is the kind of thing people do as a date, Sai."

Without any significant change in facial expression, he still managed to regard her rather sardonically. "I'm aware of that, Sakura. But if we're both going, and will likely end up spending time together at the event anyway, wouldn't it make sense to just go together?"

She couldn't really argue with that logic, and it wasn't as if she was against the idea of a date with Sai. That was the problem; her motive for accepting wasn't on equal ground with his motive for asking.

"Besides," he continued, "I've never been on a date, and the fireworks festival seems like it would be a good first attempt. Unless you already have a companion for the evening?"

"No…." she admitted slowly, still trying to wrap her head around the fact that Sai was actually asking her out.

"…Then should I interpret your dubious reaction as a 'no'?"

"That's not it," she assured. "It's just…do you have any idea what a date entails, Sai?"

"I've read about many aspects of the subject; giving flowers, dining together, holding hands, kissing, the definitions of the three 'bases' and how to reach them… not that I would expect to do those things with you."

Sakura laughed, but couldn't help imagining what it would be like to do any of those things with Sai. However, his words were clear enough; he obviously had no intention of being anything other than platonic. Still, it was better than going alone. "Okay, sure."

His smile was a little fuller than usual, and she returned it, though inwardly she wondered what she was setting herself up for. Sai resumed painting again, and she continued people-watching from the window. It was quiet for a good while, and Sakura easily lost track of time as she let her mind run blank and absorbed the sun in simple contentment.

Eventually, Sai's muted sound of irritation pulled her out of her daze. "What is it?" she asked, turning to see him.

He shook his head, staring at the canvas in frustration. "It's not right."

"What's not right?" Curious, she got up and crossed over to see for herself, though she knew she probably wouldn't see whatever minor thing his artist's eye was dissatisfied with. What she saw when she moved around the easel made her eyes widen in surprise.

Sai had added her to the painting. Though she'd been sitting at a different window, he had superimposed her over the scene of blossoming trees to seem as if she gazed out upon her namesake, her pose perfectly captured, a peaceful, day-dreamy look on her face. She looked beautiful, better than she actually did, and it gave her a quiet thrill to think he saw her that way.

Before she could ask, he explained what he saw wrong. "I can never replicate the color of your eyes, no matter how often I've tried."

The way he was looking at her made her heart thump against her ribs. Surprised by his implication, she softly asked, "How often?"

He looked away suddenly, back to the canvas, and paused uncertainly before replying, "Over there. The one on top." He tilted his head toward the table behind her.

Moving to the table, she picked up the sketchbook that sat atop four or five others and opened the cover. Her jaw went slack in awe as she paged through. They were all of her. The drawings depicted her in a wide range of scenarios; sparring with Naruto, laughing in a place she recognized as Ichiraku, focusing intently as she worked on a patient, biting her lip anxiously, chewing her thumbnail, pulling her hair up into a ponytail, and many more. Dozens of images, some only sketches, some fully detailed works of art, mostly charcoal or ink work, with a few colored pieces here and there. Her eyes were colored in every picture, in different shades of green as he tried to match their real hue. Some of the scenarios she remembered, and knew he'd drawn her without her notice, some were most likely recalled from memory, and others appeared to be from his imagination. She looked beautiful in every single one, even though she knew she'd looked like crap in at least a few of those cases. This pretty girl in all the pictures was how Sai saw her, and he'd spent countless hours capturing these images on paper. The revelations of this sketchbook left her stunned.

Closing the book and holding it to her, Sakura turned to the artist with a look of quiet wonder and slowly crossed the distance to stand beside him again. "Sai…these are beautiful. I had no idea…"

Her words died to a whisper as he reached out and twisted a lock of her hair around his fingers. He watched his own actions as if uncertain of what he was doing, but after a moment his hand awkwardly fell away.

"Being around you always makes me realize how much I still don't understand," he said quietly, looking out the window at nothing.

Sakura hardly dared to believe this was happening, and her words came out as little more than a whisper. "Like what, Sai? What do you want to understand?"

He turned to her, his dark gaze intense. "Why I'm always thinking of you when you're not with me. What I feel when you are with me. Why I have impulses to do things with you that I don't have with anyone else." He touched her hair again, and this time his knuckles softly brushed her cheek. "Is this what's known as…desire?"

Sakura briefly wondered if she'd dozed off by the window and this was all a very nice dream. Sai was attracted to her! He wanted her, the same as she wanted him. No, she corrected, it wasn't the same. Sai was a young, healthy male, and his repressed hormones were finally coming to the surface. She was the only female he really knew and spent any prolonged amount of time with. For him it was purely biological, which was why she should put distance between them right now and explain the nature of his urges. She knew this, yet she couldn't make herself back away and say the words. The expression of undisguised longing in his dark eyes had her spellbound.

She wanted this. Even if it didn't hold the same meaning for both of them, she couldn't deny that she wanted to give in to her desires. She'd never thought it would happen because she hadn't believed that Sai could ever think of her this way.

Her prolonged silence seemed to make him doubt himself, and he uncertainly took a half step back. "I'm sorry. Am I being inappropriate?"

"No," she breathed, closing the distance between them again before she even realized it. "It's okay, Sai…I want…" She set the sketchbook aside and took a slow, deep breath, "I want you to… I want to help you understand."

Her fumbled words sounded almost ridiculous to her ears, but Sai didn't seem to think so. He looked nervous, probably more nervous than she was, as this was all new to him. They were so close she could feel the heat between them, but still he didn't touch her; his hands hovered at his sides as if he was unsure what to do with them. She gazed up at him and raised her palms to his chest, silently telling him she wanted him to touch her as well.

"Sakura…" he murmured, "I don't know what to do. I don't want make you angry."

"I'll let you know if I don't like it." Her fingers curled slightly into the fabric of his shirt, feeling the firm muscles beneath. "Just do what you feel. Forget what you've read in those stupid books…just let go and be yourself. Don't hold back."

Almost too slowly his hands rose to her face, fingertips brushing feather light across her skin. They touched her hair, threaded into the strands, trailed downward to brush the tips from her neck. The back of his fingers ghosted lightly across her skin and she closed her eyes as a faint shiver ran down her spine. All the while Sai watched her, watched his own actions with rapt fascination.

"Your skin always looks so soft," he murmured, close enough now that his breath fanned lightly against her hair. The tips of his dark hair tickled her cheekbone as he lightly pressed his nose to her temple. He stayed there, breathing her in, as slender fingers slowly explored the length of her collarbones out to her shoulders, carefully teasing under the straps of her dress. "You smell like springtime."

Her breath caught when she felt his lips touch her neck. His breath was warm as he very softly rubbed them against her skin, not really kissing, just…discovering. She tilted her head for him a little as he moved upward to the underside of her jaw. He spoke broken whispered murmurs against her skin, his lips moving ever closer to hers, "Want to…kiss you…." She turned her face to his, inviting, breath shallow with anticipation, eyes fluttering nearly closed as they fixed on his mouth. "Don't know…" his lips ghosted over hers tentatively, testing, the air between them nearly electric, "like this…?"

His kiss was a little unsure, to be expected, so Sakura gently took the lead. She slanted her mouth more fully against his and her hands eased around his neck, drawing him closer. He responded eagerly, holding her shoulders tighter as he experimentally moved his lips with hers.

After several moments Sai broke away with a soft exhale and gazed at her intently, trying to gauge her reaction. "Was that right?" he asked softly.

"Yeahhh," she breathed, already eager to connect to those full, soft lips again. He was a naturally good kisser, and she knew he would be even better with a little more practice.

Sai wanted more as well. His eyes had returned to her mouth, and he lowered his head again until his lips hovered just above hers. "Can I…?"

Sakura answered him with a kiss, linking her arms around his shoulders. He was more confident this time, enthusiastically exploring more of these new sensations. His hands moved over her shoulders, trailed down her sides and wrapped around her waist, pressing her closer. She leaned into him with a breathy sigh and took initiative to deepen the kiss, lightly touching the tip of her tongue to his bottom lip. Sai gave a small inhale of surprise that shifted to a sound of eager assent, and the next time she did it, he tentatively met the tap of her tongue with his own. He quickly grew bolder, learning from her moves as their passion grew and demanded more, and when his tongue entered her mouth fully it sent an electric jolt all the way to her toes.

Oh yes, she hazily thought, definitely a natural.

Their kiss grew more heated, yet their actions remained unhurried. Every brush of Sai's lips, every glide of his tongue, every touch of his hands held a sense of discovery, and as much as Sakura wanted to ravish her sexy teammate, she willed herself to be patient and let him learn intimacy at his own pace.

He was a fast learner, and it wasn't long before he broke away from her lips to kiss other parts of her that he'd explored, trailing across her jaw and down her throat. She curled her fingers into the hair at the base of his neck and tilted her head back to give him more access. His hands began to explore other parts of her as well, slowly caressing her bare upper back, the curve of her waist, the swell of her hips. And then he dared go lower, and she had to smile a little when his hands slowly, almost cautiously, slid over her rear. Her amusement at his boldness was suddenly wiped away along with the rest of her thoughts when his teeth grazed the tendon in her neck, then gently nibbled the sensitive spot below her ear, eliciting an erotic shiver.

Sakura loved what he was doing but wished he would do more, and then it occurred to her that due to inexperience he wasn't going to go any farther than she allowed. If she wanted to go further, she would have to lead the way.

Slipping her arms from around his neck, she ran her hands over his chest, feeling hard muscle beneath her touch. Like most shinobi, Sai had a fantastically toned body, and she couldn't wait to run her hands, lips, and tongue over all the places that would make him pant and moan, feel it pressed intimately against hers. She had wanted him this way for so long, and had thought about being with him more often than she'd like to admit. He wanted her too, and now they were here together and Sakura had no intention of stopping.

Turned on by her own thoughts as well as his passionate ministrations, her hands slipped under the hem of his shirt, feeling their way up his chest again, taking the fabric up as she went. She drank in the sight of his lithely muscled torso, ran her hands over pale skin and wondered how she ever managed to keep a platonic relationship with him for so many years. She began trailing open-mouthed kisses along his jaw, playfully taking his earlobe between her teeth and smiling at his sharp intake of breath before she continued down his neck. He liked what she was doing very much, by the way his breath quickened and his grasp tightened on her hips. Her fingers trailed over the smooth ridges of his stomach until they reached the waistband of his pants and began to quickly undo the buttons.

Sai stilled suddenly, and she looked up at him. His dark eyes smoldered with lust, but a trace of uncertainty had returned as well. He had at least some idea of how this went, but knowledge and practice were not the same thing, that all the books and secondhand information in the world couldn't accurately prepare you for some experiences. Sakura realized she needed to control her wanton urges and take things slowly, because this would be his first time. She wanted to make it an unforgettable experience for both of them.

"Do you want to keep going?" she asked softly.

His response was a sort of half-dazed movement vaguely resembling a nod. "I didn't expect…Sakura, you want to…?"

Her lips smoothed across his jaw again. "Yes," she whispered. "I want you, Sai. I have for a long time."

Any response he might have given was cut off by her kiss. She pressed herself against him, felt the warmth of his body seep through the thin fabric of her dress, and sighed blissfully when his arms wrapped tightly around her. Instinct seemed to lead him as he fingered the back of her dress and slowly began to open it, button by button. His lips found her neck once more, kissing a trail across her collarbone to her shoulder as he eased the thin straps down with only slight hesitation. Sakura encouraged his actions by lowering her arms and letting the dress fall to reveal her lacy, mint green bra.

Sai couldn't help but stare, and Sakura had to smile, finding his fascination endearing as well as flattering. She took his hands and guided them to her waist, applying slight downward pressure. Taking her cue, he slowly pushed the fabric over her hips until it fell to a pool at her feet. And then he stared some more. His thoughts were clear in his expression, and though she felt a little self-conscious at the way he studied every detail of her nearly naked body, she couldn't help but smirk at his obvious approval. "Still think I'm ugly?"

"You were never ugly," was his soft, immediate reply. "I only said that because someone told me women don't want to hear what you really think. For a long time I didn't understand. But Sakura, the truth is you've always been the most beautiful girl I know."

His dark eyes slowly rose to her face, and the expression in them made her heart quiver. "Sai…" Not knowing what else to say, she kissed him again, soft and sweet and filled with all her pent-up feelings. He reciprocated with equal tenderness, touching her face and twining his fingers into her hair as she caressed down his chest and stomach and finished opening the front of his pants. She slid them over his hips and leaned into him again, and with so little between them she could feel his arousal hard against her abdomen.

She held his slender hips and began to lead him backward, and he followed easily, shinobi nimbleness preventing any stumbles as they reached the bed and crawled upon it together. On their knees, their height differences lessened, Sai's hands roamed past her hips to caress her thighs as he trailed open mouthed kisses down the plane of her chest. She twisted her fingers into his hair with one hand, raked her nails lightly down his shoulder blade with the other.

Her eagerness emboldened him, and there was no more hesitation in his actions as he did what natural instinct impelled, exploring the soft curves of her body with his hands and mouth. Deft fingers unhooked the clasps of her bra without trouble, even though he'd probably never done such a thing before. The lacy garment fell away as he lowered her to his bed, and Sakura tried to look more seductive than self-conscious as he gazed upon her revealed breasts. The crisp white sheets felt soothing and cool against her flushed skin. The undisguised lust in his dark eyes aroused her as much as his touch did.

Sai hovered over her and captured her lips in a passionate kiss. He was really getting the hang of this. He moved to her throat again, tasting her heated skin, and when his hand found her breast she arched into him encouragingly. When he experimentally brushed the pad of his thumb over a nipple, it elicited a pleasured gasp.

It made him pause and lift his head slightly, misinterpreting the sharp intake of breath. "Was that wrong?" he whispered tentatively.

His breath against her ear caused another delicious shiver to run down her spine. She quickly shook her head to assuage his concern.

His lips curled into a pleased smirk. "You liked it?"

"Yes," she sighed, arching her back invitingly. "Keep going."

Sai resumed his exploration, discovering all the places that made her shiver and sigh. He learned that if his tongue delved into the hollow of her throat she would tug tighter on his hair, and if he grazed his teeth over her collarbone her nails would dig into his shoulders. When he trailed heated kisses over the flat valley between her breasts her breath would quicken noticeably, and when he was drawn by pure primal instinct to take her nipple into his mouth and run his tongue over the hardened peak, a deep, sensual moan escaped her parted lips. He learned very quickly what got the most heated reactions from her and continued to do them until she was panting and writhing beneath him. After paying equal attention to both breasts he kissed down her smooth stomach, pausing to dip his tongue into her navel, eliciting a giggly gasp from his lover, which brought a smile to his lips before he continued downward.

He toyed with the lacy edge of her panties, fingers slipping beneath and pulling down. He cast her a hesitant look, silently asking if this was what comes next, if it was okay. Sakura smiled softly in answer and lifted her hips a little to assist him. Slowly, he eased them down her legs, trailing his fingertips along her smooth skin as he went.

Her heart fluttered in her chest as she watched him gazed upon her body in all its nakedness. The lustful look in his eyes boosted her confidence, but it didn't keep the blush from tinting her already flushed cheeks as his hands caressed feather-light over her knees and down her thighs, slowly spreading them apart. This wasn't her first time, but she had never been viewed like this before, with such fascination. No one had ever touched her with such a sense of wonder and worship. Sakura may have been the one to initiate this, but she was no practiced seductress, and Sai's reverence almost made her feel virginal all over again.

When he touched between her thighs a wave of pleasure coursed through her body and she let out a soft, breathy moan. By now Sai had learned that that sound was a very good thing, and it encouraged him to repeat the action, stroking the sensitized flesh until the slick moisture of her arousal coated his fingers. Her hips lifted of their own accord, seeking more of his touch. He wasn't giving her enough. She needed more of him, all of him. She'd promised to take things slow, but this was driving her mad!

Applying pressure to his shoulders, she moved him off her. He pulled away quickly, possibly thinking he'd done something wrong. The truth was he was doing it too right, and she was at the point where she didn't want to fool around anymore. She pounced, pushing him onto his back and hovering over him, answering his surprised look with a predatory smirk. She kissed and nibbled a moist trail down his chest and stomach, leaving little red marks on his pale skin. She grasped the waistband of his boxers and removed them with a few slow, gentle tugs, leaving him as naked as she was. Her eyes were automatically drawn to his exposed manhood, and widened slightly. He was large, at least larger than anything she'd personally seen before. And she'd seen more than a few, being a medic. It made her slightly nervous, but at the same time…aroused and little excited.

Slowly, she closed her fingers around his length and gave an experimental stroke, too focused on what she was doing to see his eyes snap closed in pleasure, but she heard the small pant that escaped him. She leaned over him as her actions continued, fascinated by the open chain of expressions on his normally stoic face, and it wasn't long before she felt drawn to kiss him again. Their tongues glided lustfully, and Sai arched up into her touch as the hand not gripping the sheets came up to hold the back of her head, fingers weaving through her hair tight enough to send delicious tingles down her spine. When she gently squeezed him his pleasured pant broke their kiss, her name falling in a whispered groan from his lips.

Releasing him, she moved her thigh across his and straddled his hips, eyes closing with a soft moan at the first full contact. He was hot and hard beneath her and she rubbed against him a little, watched his head tilt back against the pillow and his lips part in a silent moan. Her lips brushed over his again. "I want you now, Sai."

He gave a faint nod of eager assent, but he wasn't as confident as he seemed. "I've never done this before."

"I know," she whispered, a soft smile on her lips. "We'll take it slow."

"I've only read books," he added needlessly, voice strained by lust. His hands reflexively grasped her hips and pressed her harder against him.

Sakura had to smile a little. "It's nothing like the books. What you're already doing is just—mnh—perfect."

But Sai being Sai, he couldn't help but ask questions at all the wrong times, even though at the moment his brain function had been reduced to minimum. "Um—"

Sakura shut him up with another slow grind of her hips. "Stop talking," she murmured against his mouth. "Do you trust me?"

"Yes," he whispered instantly.

Tenderly she kissed him. Their bodies aligned, she carefully sank down upon him, very slowly, for both her partner's sake and her own. Sai's head fell back and a low groan escaped him as gripped her hips almost painfully. Sakura bit her lip at the penetrating stab of intense sensation, both pleasure and a little pain as she adjusted to his size. For a long moment she didn't move, not wanting to overwhelm him. Then she rocked her hips forward once, then again, eventually settling into a slow rhythm. It was hard to restrain herself and hold back for him. From the intense, almost pained expression on his face, it was all he could do to hang on for the ride. Being his first time, he probably wouldn't be able to last long, and she didn't want to end things too quickly by overstimulating him before she reached her own release. That didn't seem like it would be a problem; she could already feel herself racing rapidly toward the edge, and it seemed like no time at all before the tight coil building within her snapped. Fire lanced through her body in intense waves and she sank against him, arms on either side of his head, her brow nearly touching his as she ground out her release with a heady cry. The pulsing contractions of her orgasm sent him hurtling over the edge as well and his strong hands drove her down onto him, thrusting up into her with a guttural moan.

Sakura collapsed against his chest, breathing just as heavily as he was, their hearts pounding together as they came down from the rush. It was a long minute before she found the strength to move her watery limbs and slide off him. She rolled onto her back beside him and closed her eyes, utterly sated.

It was completely silent, save for their breathing and the faint rustle of breeze through the window over their heads. She glanced at him. The look on his face could only be described as 'whoa', but she couldn't find it in her to smile because that was when the reality of the situation hit her.

She had just had sex with Sai, her teammate, her friend, the man for whom she harbored secret feelings. She'd taken his virginity. She didn't regret what happened; in fact, she felt closer to him than ever. That was the problem. She didn't think she could handle being his casual bed-buddy, not when her feelings were anything but casual. She knew she couldn't go back to being "just friends" with him again either. She should have thought things through before giving in to her baser desires. Suddenly she felt like crying.

But then Sai turned to her, supporting himself on his elbow as he gazed down at her, and she forced a smile for him. He smiled back, and then kissed her so passionately it made her wonder if maybe she worried for nothing. It couldn't be that simple. Idealistic things like that just didn't happen, especially not to her.

"You're right," he said softly, when he pulled back, "it's nothing like the books."

Sakura had to laugh a little. "No, it isn't. Which books would those be, out of curiosity?"

"Kakashi lent me one from his collection once."

She rolled her eyes. "I should have known."

It was quiet between them for a moment, and when Sai's arm slipped around her waist, she snuggled a little closer to him.

"I didn't know you wanted me in that way," he said, a wondering smile on his lips.

"I've learned to hide most of my feelings over time," she replied, keeping her tone light. She absently traced the curved red lines of his tattoo.

"Except for anger," he pointed out.

She chuckled softly despite herself. "Yes, except for that one." She watched his hand as he lightly ran the backs of his fingers across her stomach.

"You shouldn't hide your feelings," he said. "Your wide and erratic range of emotion is what makes you fascinating and beautiful. At least to me."

She looked up at him, eyes softening. "You really think that?"

"Yes," he answered easily, forthright as always. "And besides, such hypocrisy from you is unappealing."

Her mood rapidly sank. "What the hell does that mean?"

"You always tell me not to cover up what I think and feel, yet you do it yourself?"

Sometimes his shamelessly candid way of speaking could be so frustrating, and right now it was the last thing she wanted to hear. She really didn't feel like explaining this to him. "It's a different circumstance, Sai. Sometimes people withhold their feelings because they don't want to get hurt."

Sai stared at her for a long moment, and she could see the thoughts spinning behind those dark eyes. His understanding of the nuances of human emotion may be limited, but he was far from stupid. "You think I would hurt you?"

A soft, weary sigh escaped her, and she closed her eyes. "I think you would…even if it's unintentional."

His fingertips lightly brushed her cheek, but she didn't open her eyes. "I would feel bad if I did," he said quietly. "I like it when you're happy and smiling."

Sakura was touched by his words, but thought their sincerity was too naïve. Suddenly their closeness was a little too much and she sat up, pulling the sheet over her chest. "You don't understand, Sai. It's more complicated than that." She ran her fingers through her mussed hair and sighed heavily. "I know what we just did was only a…a learning experience for you, and that's okay. I wanted to help you understand this part of human feeling. I…I wanted to be that person for you. But I also know it wasn't the same for both of us, because you don't feel that way about me—"

"What are you talking about?" he interrupted, sitting up behind her. "And why are you so upset?" His arms slipped around her waist, holding her in place as he rested his chin on her shoulder. "Don't go. I don't want you to leave."

"I wasn't going anywhere yet," she mumbled, trying her best not to curl back against his solid warmth.

"No…" His lips pressed to her soft skin. "I meant that I want you to stay, like this, with me. You think I can't possibly have a romantic interest in you beyond sex, because I'm emotionless? You know perfectly well that's not true, Sakura. In fact, at the moment I find you a little irritating, because you obviously weren't listening before when I told you that I feel differently with you than I do with other people."

She turned in his arms, skeptical and filled with hope at the same time. "Really?"

He tightened his hold around her possessively and nodded. "It was stupid of you to assume things on your own without asking, don't you think?" She smiled sheepishly, and he gave her a pointed look. "When have I ever lied to you about anything?"

"Well, you did call me an ugly hag…"

"That doesn't count," he said simply.

She gave him a mild scoff, though at this point she was grinning. "Says who?"

Sai's only answer was to kiss her, and they slowly sank back to the bed together. Her heart felt like it was flying, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and returned his kisses passionately. Her own insecurities had prevented her from seeking happiness for so long, but now, she felt like she could take a chance with her heart again. And this time, she felt optimistic that the results would be different.

"Does this mean we're a couple now?"

Sakura laughed, and gently smoothed his tousled hair from his face. "I'd like that," she said softly.

"I would like it too," he said, and grinned boyishly, full and open and warm, and the way it transformed his handsome features nearly took her breath away. He was gorgeous when he smiled like that. Then and there, it became her new mission to bring out that smile more often.

They were content to lay together quietly for a while. But eventually Sakura's overactive mind started to turn, and she angled herself to see his face. "So what now?" she asked sweetly. "Do you want to maybe go out and enjoy what's left of the day?"

Sai thought it over a moment, and nodded absently. "Alright." Then he shifted over her, trapping her beneath him, and the look in his eyes told her his plans didn't extend past the edge of the bed. "But first I think I'd like to practice more."

Sakura giggled softly. "I think that's a fantastic idea," she purred, and pulled him down to meet her in a kiss.

The End