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?

notes / warnings: Hello all! Long time no see! Fandom has been abuzz with recent SasuSaku-related developments of late, and, coupled with the timely occurrence of SSM 2014, I was inspired to continue this piece. SasuSaku still rules my shipper's heart. :) This chapter though...I should warn you all that it jumps from srs business to total crack with very little transition time in between.

I've also gotten myself a tumblr—blanket-fictions—so feel free to drop me a line if you feel so inclined. I'm happy to flail with you.

Finally, I particularly enjoyed writing the first part of this chapter. Sasuke, Sasuke, Sasuke...

He will learn.

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

In the days and nights that followed, Sasuke thought deeply on the happenings of that evening with Sakura. She had, without his permission, become a topic to which he returned, over and over, in the solace of his own mind. Gone was the two dimensional portrait of the girl who followed him with blind devotion, who loved him without reservation—had loved him without reservation.

(The distinction was yet unclear, and perhaps, worth investigation.)

In place of the static image, Sasuke was presented with an ever shifting, infuriatingly fluid notion of the woman he knew as Haruno Sakura. He had already come to terms with her skill on the battlefield, and her expertise in medical techniques. She was formidable, to say the least, and her prowess had grown by leaps and bounds since they first began as shinobi.

Her fury, her indignation, at the market had been another revelation, another matter altogether. He, Sasuke reflected, had been the object of her ire before: a misplaced or untidily written mission report here, an honest constructive critique at the training grounds after a spar there (and she should have thanked him for the advice, really). So he had missed two or three mandatory physicals; so the pediatrics ward still cursed him for the burn marks in Rooms 2048-2054. These had always been minor offenses, brushed off with a mumbled apology. And she had accepted them—accepted him—with little more than a few hours' worth of sulking.

But that—that explosion at the market, when he, had done nearly nothing at all to merit her disdain! Why, Sasuke thought, his own indignation rising, he had only ever meant to accompany her on her errands.

So, he had been a bit forceful. Perhaps, he had rushed her a bit. He had only wanted to ensure that she gotten the rest she needed after the spar they had. Had she penalized him for his, admittedly, heavy-handed appeal? Had she seen only his execution, and overlooked his motive?

Sasuke had always known Sakura to be reasonable, level-headed, and rational. It was one of the traits he found so compelling. This occasion had forced him to reevaluate that particular principle, a concession to the ever-increasing notion that Sakura was not at all the woman he thought her.

And that spiel at the end, about the thrice-damned mission that had started this whole mess. Evidently, Sakura had not the pleasure of understanding his motives, and his desire to keep her from the fate that awaited the kunoichi assigned to that mission.

Sasuke scoffed. If Sakura viewed his justifiable actions as an—assault on her skills as a kunoichi (to say nothing of what she evidently viewed as a slight against her womanhood), then she had absolutely, positively, completely and utterly missed the point.

Three weekends after The Confrontation, breakfast at the Uchiha residence was interrupted by the ill-timed arrival of a Hyuuga branch member dressed in a melange of cool-toned neutrals, punctuated by a particularly regal shade of purple concentrated on the pillow he was holding in the palms of his hands. Upon that velvet, well-stuffed pillow, rested an envelope, dyed in robin's egg blue, and embossed with a slightly off-center Uchiha crest.

Sasuke, who had been summarily elected to open the door, was nonplussed, and did his level best to hide it.

"What," he intoned, none too politely. His slice of Mother's tomato frittata was cooling with every passing moment, and the urgency with which he wished to return to the breakfast table was matched only by his supreme irritation with the peon who dared interrupt his feast.

The Hyuuga bowed smartly, upsetting the jaunty angled way he had chosen to wear his Konoha forehead protector.

"Good morning, Uchiha Sasuke-san. My name is Hyuuga Noritaka. I hope I find you well rested on this early Saturday morn. On behalf of House Hyuuga, I wish to convey my greetings to your family."

"Aa," said Sasuke, who was only barely resisting the urge to lean against the doorframe. "Is that envelope for—"

"This envelope," interrupted Nori, "is your precious invitation to the Hyuuga's annual Rememberance Gala. It is, as you must know, having attended it several times yourself, a social event commemoration of the sacrifices made by our village's people during the Great Shinobi Wars. For one splendid evening, all the noble houses in Konoha gather under the auspices of one roof to dine and dance and discuss all the happenings in the village. This year, I'm told will be quite the party, but I'm sure you know all about that already, since you're—"

"I'll give it to my father," Sasuke said blandly, shutting the door in one smooth motion.

His frittata had waited long enough.

"Who was that at the door, Sasuke-kun," Uchiha Mikoto asked upon her younger son's reentry into the dining room. Itachi nodded at him briefly, before redirecting his attention to his breakfast. The newspaper at the head of the table did not so much as rustle.

"Some Hyuuga," Sasuke replied blithely, tucking into his slice of frittata with a restraint he—and only he—thought admirable. It was as delicious as ever, and only slightly les "He brought your invitation to the Rememberance Gala. I left it in Father's study."

There was a grunt from behind the newspaper, which Sasuke chose to take as his father's indication of gratitude.

"Fugaku! You might at least use proper words to say 'thank you'."

An aggrieved sigh later, Uchiha Fugaku deigned to lower his newspaper below eye level, before surrendering to his wife's gimlet stare and folding it up for good.

"Thank you, son," he said gruffly. "Did Hiashi send out for liveried pages again?"

"Cheerful Branch members," Sasuke replied curtly. "There was a violently-colored velvet pillow. It was all incredibly priggish."

"Sasuke," his mother admonished. "That was both inappropriate and unkind. The Gala is the most important social event of the season, and the Hyuuga are only giving it the pomp and circumstance it deserves."

Sasuke, who had been mid-bite, looked abashed, but Itachi spoke before he could say a word in his defense.

"You musn't blame yourself, Mother. It certainly isn't your fault that our little Sasuke-kun grew up a heathen with no manners to his name. We all know you tried," Itachi soothed.

"Sasuke," Fugaku said, interrupting his older son's teasing, "if you have a moment after breakfast today, there's something important we need to discuss."

It was not a request, and all present at the table knew it. Mikoto gave her son a reassuring smile, but Sasuke, who favored his mother, could read the strain in it. Itachi looked blank, the teasing light gone from his eyes, though he shook his head almost imperceptibly; Sasuke wondered what their mother knew that her sons didn't.

"Of course, Father," he said instead, as he pushed his plate away.

The hunger pangs, so insistent during his conversation with Hyuuga Noritaka, had all but disappeared at his father's subtle demand.

Sakura was having a Wonderful Day, relatively speaking. Her morning rounds had been uneventful, the new pair of sensible pumps she had spent half her salary on last month had finally been conquered, and, given the speed with which she had gotten through her paperwork, she was on track to leave the hospital, not just on schedule, but early.

There was, as had been the norm of late, the matter of Sasuke to consider, but for the moment, Sakura pushed all thoughts of him out of her mind.

She had whiled away her days since The Confrontation (as she had taken to calling it in her mind) caught between the borders of Remorse and Pride. In his own way, Sasuke probably thought he was being kind, escorting her home after a night out in the shadow of the market tents, and under the stars.

Sakura remembered suddenly, the grimace of pain on his face transforming into a look of challenge after she had caught him off-guard during their spar. Naruto, she thought distantly, would have been shocked, even cowed, by the strength behind her hitshe still yelped when she used full-grown trees as projectile weapons during their own spars. Sasuke, on the other hand—Sasuke expected her strength, prepared for it, had never been surprised by her progress. It was, she supposed, something of a compliment—even if he did not seem to think much of her sex appeal.

But, she decided firmly, she would think of him another time.

When she got to the cafeteria line, Sakura found herself deciding between kitsune udon and tonkotsu ramen for lunch. She chose the latter with nary a second glance at the former and walked with with measured steps toward the cafeteria table that she, once again, found herself sharing with an enigmatic Uchiha.

Regrettably, it was not the one constantly plaguing her thoughts.

"You do realize," she began wryly, "that you are willing subjecting yourself to eating hospital food when there are other—potentially less gag-inducing—options to be had? There is no dango within the four walls of this hospital, and I know for a fact that the sweet shop you like so much is debuting a few new flavors today." She took a bite of the naruto floating in the broth, and looked at Itachi with speculation in her eyes.

Itachi, who had apparently though he was being subtle when he gave her sweets-less meal a look of unmasked disdain, did not immediately react to her teasing.

"There are," he said decisively, "other compensations to be had by eating lunch here."

He ran a hand through his long, and today, untied hair, and smirked. Sakura heard a few nurses from the Radiology lab sigh longingly, a few tables behind. One had given up all pretense of eating, apparently content to swoon over the Uchiha heir for the rest of her lunch hour.

"That one has your fanclub calendar hanging in her locker," Sakura said, as she sipped at her broth. "You know, the one where they edited it to look like you were wearing a blindingly neon man—"

"I know the photo of which you speak," Itachi said in a manner that effectively closed the Subject.

They let the conversation drift to other, less naked, topics.

"There will be a gathering of Konoha's clans three Sundays from today." Itachi said. He looked vaguely ill at the realization. Sakura, for her part, smiled politely at the non sequitur.

"How nice," she said aloud.

"Not really," Itachi said. "It is only another gathering at which my father can publicly challenge Hyuuga Hiashi for the title of 'Most Pompous Ass in Fire Country'. At my last count, they are evenly matched."

Sakura wondered what she could or should say to that, but Itachi did not give her a chance to open her mouth before he continued.

"The only thing I can think of, that might make the evening more palatable, is having a companion with whom I can ignore everyone else."

There was a sudden, pregnant pause.

"Haruno Sakura, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the gala?"

Oh mai.