title: persuasion

pairing: SasuSaku; for now, anyway. Hints of other unimportant background pairs later.

summary: AU. Non-massacre. SasuSaku. It was, Sakura rather thought now, those two last words—"even me"—that had sent her feet walking out of the room without her even realizing it. Was he so promiscuous? More importantly, was she really so undesirable?

for: iz who asked, and pina who pushed.

notes / warnings: Again, this is ridiculous and late. Mostly because I am ridiculous, and almost-always late.

The plot's coming—this is the last filler chapter, I swear. I did include a nice little OTP moment though. :3

disclaimer: Neither Naruto nor Pride and Prejudice are mine; the former belongs to Masashi Kishimoto and Friends, and the latter, to...public domain, I guess. But before that, it belonged to the amazing Jane Austen.

It was, perhaps, an arrogance on her part, but Sakura had long prided herself on the ease with which her features seemed to school themselves into a mask of amiability under even the most taxing of conditions. The ability had probably not, as she had once hopefully surmised, developed as a natural consequence of her growth as a shinobi, but neither could she accurately classify it as a completely conscious affectation on her part. Her face, she decided, had simply—and gradually—learned to relieve itself of discomfort without her consent. It was almost entirely out of her hands.

Consequently, Sakura was unsurprised to discover—with the aid of the glass window at Konoha's newest sweet shop—that she was, at least outwardly, smiling serenely when one Uchiha Itachi arrived at their meeting place with one Uchiha Sasuke in tow. (Inwardly, she felt Inner Sakura's left eye twitch.)

"Hello, Itachi-sempai," Sakura said in greeting, pushing her now-lukewarm cup of tea to the side. "And hello to you too, Sasuke-kun."

Itachi—who had, upon seeing her, imperceptibly raised the corners of his lips in what could almost be called a smile—pulled up the chair directly in front of her, which left Sasuke standing awkwardly beside their table. To an outsider, he looked at once a part of, and implicitly excluded from, the gathering.

"I hope you don't mind the extra company, Sakura-san," Itachi said, by way of greeting. "I apologize both for my foolish little brother's impertinence, as well as my own inability to give you more notice of this slight change of plans. However, I must also confess that it was quite beyond my control: the moment that Sasuke discovered the nature of my appointment today—and particularly, the identity of the person with whom I was meeting—he insisted he be allowed to accompany me."

Sasuke emitted what Sakura could comfortably classify as a "growl" in response.

"I did not insist on anything! You all but dragged me here!"

"Details," Itachi said, waving the distinction away with ease. "It was not as though I trussed you up and pulled you along with me—you could easily have left at any time."

Sakura, who heard Sasuke's dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs keenly in his protests—and who was, truth be told, more than a little irritated with the way that the younger Uchiha had yet to acknowledge her presence—chose this moment to say:

"Please do not feel obligated to stay, Sasuke-kun. If there's somewhere else you need to be, or something else you need to do, feel free to leave. If Itachi-sempai will permit me to speak for him"—and a nod from her sempai insisted he would not mind—"neither he nor I would think you rude for it."

It was, Sakura decided, at once gratifying and trying to be the sole focus of Sasuke's dark eyes. He had yet to speak to her, had yet to verbally acknowledge that it was he who had, intentionally or otherwise, intruded on what was to be a meeting between two new friends. Moreover it was the first time she had seen him since The Incident in the mission office—The Incident which, she remembered, he had yet to apologize for. And then again, why would he? For all she knew, he had yet to be informed of her ill-timed entrance.

Sakura shook herself free from her ruminations just in time to hear the tail-end of Itachi's own assurances.

"...assure you that Sakura-san and I will be quite fine should you decide to leave. We have much to discuss, after all. And as you have repeatedly told me, you have no taste for the...offerings of this cafe. You've no desire for sweets of any sort, isn't that right? Hm?"

Though she did not quite understand what Itachi meant by that—and neither did she consider it her place to ask—Sakura did not miss the almost sly, side-glance that Itachi threw in her direction at those last words, and neither did she miss Sasuke's instantaneous reaction to them.

"I think I'll stay," he said softly, his fists clenched at his side. Without another word, Sasuke pulled a chair up to Sakura's left side. Unlike Itachi, who had pulled his own chair out as far as it would go in order to seat himself, Sasuke's movements were spare. He sat down in his seat with little aplomb, and despite his obvious desire to project an image of relaxed nonchalance, Sakura's eyes—long used to the enterprise of observing him—noted his stiff posture. Sasuke looked uncomfortable, and ill-at-ease. Sakura made yet another attempt to assure him that she would not take it as an insult should he decide to leave.

"Sasuke-kun, I know you weren't fond of sweets, and from what I can tell, this cafe has very little by way of real food, so if you're hungry, maybe you'd be better off finding Naruto and getting him away from all that ramen. It can't be very healthy, and maybe if you make it a challenge or something, he'll listen and eat something besides—"

"That idiot can handle himself," he said, not quite looking at her.

"Are you sure—"

"Do you want me to leave," Sasuke asked gruffly. "If you do, then just say so. It's annoying when you babble like this."

Sakura was too surprised to be hurt by his curt words. "I was just trying to make sure you really wanted to be here, that's all. You look like you're being tortured, and I know that this isn't your kind of place. You've never been much for frou-frou pastry shops, and I was just—"

"Things can change," Sasuke said. His earlier gruffness had disappeared, and he was looking at her again, this time with an emotion that she could not quite place.

Sakura was confused. It had been a little less than a full week since the last time she had seen Sasuke, and a little over two weeks since she had last seen him eat a full meal (tomatoes and onigiri in a bento that his mother had made for him). Even then, at that last meal, Sasuke had been disdainful of Sakura's artfully crafted leaf-shaped mochi. "Not in so short a time, Sasuke-kun. Are you telling me you like sweets now?"

Sasuke sighed in a manner that suggested his irritation.

"I don't dislike sweets, Sakura. I simply choose not to indulge in them. They provide no sustenance; they are, as foodstuffs go, useless, and the problems they result in—obesity, tooth decay, just to name two—are, in a word, annoying."

"And you actually think about these things," Sakura wondered aloud. "I mean, really truly contemplate them. Like on any ordinary day, you sit there, munching on your healthy balanced meal of rice and pickles and grilled fish, you are contemplating the evils of delicious syrup-soaked dango? And have you ever actually tried sweets? Or are all your prejudices based on nutritional facts?"

"You mistake me, Sakura. I don't actively think about the disadvantages of any particular food group," Sasuke said, almost wearily. "And, no, I have never had any occasion—or desire, or reason—to try sweets."

"It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first. (1) In other words, in order judge sweets as unappealing, foolish little brother, you must first have had sweets," Itachi said, earning himself a glare.

Sakura nodded in agreement. "Very wise, Itach-sempai. And, Sasuke-kun, if that's so, if you don't actively think about the evils contained in say, strawberry-frosted cupcakes, then what stops you from eating them in particular? The mere possibility that they'll somehow impede your performance as a shinobi of the Leaf? No one, I'm sure, has told you to go and throw yourself face-first into some innocent bystander's delicious cupcake batter, but what stops you from enjoying cupcakes in moderation?"

Itachi—whom, Sakura was afraid to admit, she had nearly forgotten about during the course of her exchange with Sasuke—cleared his throat meaningfully.

"Yes, Sasuke, do tell—what keeps you from having some sweet sugar every so often? Personally, I am of the opinion that such an aversion is indicative of a tendency toward the unnatural. On the other hand, I am, as you know, partial to dango—hanami is my favorite time of year—and thus, by my own estimation, perfectly normal," he said, thoroughly enjoying the growing pink flush on Sakura's cheeks almost as much as he relished the nearly homicidal rage in his baby brother's eyes. "But right, I've gone ahead of myself—why is it that you turn down Mother's desserts, Sasuke?"

"Clearly, you've neglected to wash the inside of your ears again, niisan," Sasuke snapped. "As I said earlier, the merits of sweets are not a subject that I've ever truly thought about at length. However, I am not unwilling to try sweets at some point in the future—it is merely a matter of timing."

"Well," Itachi drawled, again giving Sakura that curious sideways glance, "there are some sweets here. That is, at this moment, we are in a present that lends itself to the sampling of sweets. Why not try some now?"

For a moment, there was total silence. Sakura eyed both brothers with ill-concealed apprehension, ready and willing to separate the two should the conversation—which had, in her opinion, been going so well until just a few minutes ago—degenerate into a brawl. Or, Sakura corrected herself wryly, considering Itachi's high-falutin' language, it would come down to katana-at-dawn, or something equally ridiculous.

Finally, Sasuke broke the silence. "I," he said through gritted teeth, "am not ready to have sweets, yet." His eyes were fixed on Itachi's smirk. Then, he released the tense breath he seemed to be holding. "But, I will someday. Soon."

For the second time that day, Sakura found herself on the receiving end of Sasuke's gaze. She had an inkling that there was a veiled conversation she had not been privy to, a subtext underneath the brothers' words that she could not decipher. It was maddening, but it could not be helped. For now, Sasuke, it seemed, was waiting for a response.

"I'll be waiting for that day, Sasuke-kun," Sakura said, with a bright smile. She found herself hoping that that had been the right thing to say, and it seemed that it had been, for in the next moment, Sasuke turned to her and said:

"Sakura...thank you."

(1) Chapter 18, or thereabouts.


Sasuke is SUCH the drama queen, no? So am I.

Please let me know what you think! :)