Author's Notes:
Look! I updated! THAT'S what happens when I stop ignoring it. Huh. Who'd have thunk it? :) Anyway, time-frame wise, this chapter was happening at basically the same time as the previous one. This is the morning after chapter eleven, and remember that Sasuke and Naruto took something like two days to reach Orochimaru's hideout, k? :) Continuity is very important to me.

Who's more delusional, you, me, or the invisible man sitting in between us? n_n

Chapter Thirteen. A Form of Pleasure.

Sakura Haruno woke to the pleasurable sensation of Neji Hyuuga's hands dancing over her already sensitive skin. He was kissing the back of her neck lightly, the warmth from his body spreading over hers; her back against him, she reflexively moaned, earning herself a hard love bite that she knew would be there for days.

"Neji," she purred.

He was painfully hard the moment she said his name; he'd woken with the same deep seeded desire that had brought him to his knees more times during the previous night than he could honestly remember. He kissed the love bite he'd left on Sakura's shoulder as she reached between her thighs to stroke him, telling him without words what she wanted. They were perfectly positioned, he could slide into her if he wanted to, but Neji was taking his time. He teased her, his hand snaking under her knee, and lifting her leg then coiling it back and over his hip. Sakura gave a soft moan as he took advantage of the access the position afforded him, his fingers finding her slick heat.

She was just about ready to growl at him, verbalise some form of threat if he didn't take her then and there, when he started to inch into her. The growl that slipped past her lips was different to the one she'd been entertaining. Neji didn't move immediately, stopping to savour the moment, fully seated inside of her. But again, he didn't give her a chance to berate him, rocking against her as he continued to stroke every inch of her he could reach. No words were uttered – none were needed. The unspoken understanding was being realised, and Neji closed his eyes, just enjoying the ride.

When she finally started to clamp down on him, he was in heaven and heaven had a name; he whispered it over and over, not pausing or slowing in his ministrations. His fingers were coaxing her muscles into wanting spasms; her body shuddered, and he followed soon thereafter when she felt him pulse inside her.

And Sakura cried out, always the more vociferous of them. She pulled away immediately, realising too late that a cramp had developed in her leg; she hadn't felt the pain until now. She groaned and leant backward into Neji's chest, too tired to even open her eyes.

Meanwhile, Neji was coming back to earth, and he was feeling guilty again. Last night, he'd wanted to tell her he knew about Sasuke, but kept using his hormones, that needy look on her face and his desire to keep her close to him as excuses. But what he really needed, was to get this off his chest.

"Sakura?"

"Hm."

And there it was again: his hesitance.

"Neji?" He didn't respond, so she rolled over to face him; the naked emotions on his face were all she needed for confirmation and she frowned. "Are you okay?"

Neji sighed, playing with the edge of her hair. "I overheard you and Hinata-chan at the hospital."

He expected her to snap at him; anything other than the blank look on her face. She was freaking him out. But Sakura wasn't sure what to say to that. Was he worried about what had happened, or the implications? She hadn't allowed herself the time to worry as much as she should've. Sasuke was going to come find her, that was evident, judging by the type of person he was, the resources at his fingertips and what little her shishou had told her about him.

"Everything?" She asked softly.

He nodded.

Sakura inhaled deeply. "And?"

He lowered his hand from her hair, placing his fingertips at the pulse point above her sternum. It was a mark of how much she trusted him that she was calm in the face of this Byakugan user. He could easily incapacitate her. "Do you have feelings for him?"

It was such a stupid question, considering what the Uchiha had done to her, but he'd heard the strained concern in her voice when she explained to Hinata what had happened. He needed to know.

"Sasuke…" Sakura drifted off for a moment, and then shook herself. "I don't know what I feel about Sasuke, or what he did to me – I just know that he's not like anybody else and I can't compare him to you. It wouldn't be fair."

That made sense. He closed his eyes, resting against her pillow and started to count his breaths.

"Neji?"

He opened his eyes. "It's okay."

Sakura didn't believe him, but let it go. "Naruto's a whole other story though: the Kyuubi I mean." She grunted. "Same thing I guess."

"Neither Hinata nor myself believe that," Neji said.

"Why?"

"It doesn't make sense," he added. "If Naruto is the Kyuubi, then why hasn't he attacked Konoha yet? What's he waiting for?"

Sakura thought about that, closing her eyes as she tried to remember every instance of her limited contact with Naruto Uzumaki. The first thing that popped into her head was the fight that had killed her temporary squad. She lifted her head to look Neji in the eyes. "I think you're right. He has control of the Kyuubi chakra, that's for sure, but he never sounded like anything other than human."

"Do you think he can be saved?" Neji asked, not wanting to ask the same thing about Sasuke, for multiple reasons.

"I don't know, maybe." She nuzzled his chest again, inhaling his scent and closing her eyes, intoxicated by the aroma that was Neji Hyuuga. "I really wouldn't know."

"Hinata used to have a crush on him."

Sakura's eyes snapped open and she sat up, staring at Neji. "Are you sure?" He nodded and she groaned, falling back on the bed and stretching her body, trying to relieve the tension from her lover's confession. "Why didn't she tell me?"

"Hinata keeps things she feels she can't do anything about to herself."

"Yeah, I guess."

Sakura looked down at herself as Neji rolled towards her; she hadn't realised the sheet had slipped off of her body. Neji ran his hand over her stomach, tracing her abdomen as though sketching the outline with his forefinger. A sudden thought struck her: a mental image of her stomach swollen, and the size of a miniature whale. She wondered if she would make a good mother, but the thought left her head the next moment as Neji's hand became a little more adventurous.

And she obliged him, climbing on top of her Hyuuga lover and immediately grinding against him.

In her desire to be with Neji, she'd forgotten to do a birth control jutsu the night before, but she wasn't going to stress over it, since the contraceptive drugs Sasuke had been giving her were still in her system, and would be for another few days, maybe a week. Strange: thanks to Sasuke, right now anyway, she had nothing to worry about.

–XXX–

The days since Sakura's return saw a sense of normality restored, even though the preparations for bolstering Konoha were under a thin layer of purposeful deception: the Hokage had shaken up the assignment of missions and guard duty without giving the Shinobi the full details. Still, rumours were abound and no-one ever took anything for granted anyway. But right now, she was taking advantage of her recent success. It was about time she got down to some serious business.

This lot wasn't a bad catch; Tsunade had confiscated alcohol from a number of ninja in the building last night who were looking to start their evening celebrating several hours too early. Everyone knew she loved her intoxicants, and that she would probably end up drinking them herself, but couldn't complain because she was their Hokage. She wasn't a drunk, at least she didn't think so, and it was insulting; the rumours about how long it would be before she could keep doing this before she ended up in the hospital were out of control.

She had her apprentice back, Sakura was safe, and she wasn't letting her go again anytime soon, at least, not until Sasuke Uchiha could no longer be a danger to her.

Tsunade shivered at that as she stared out her window, watching the people milling about on the streets below. Rape was a far less occurrence in Shinobi circles than most people believed – civilian or not. Their lifestyle was dangerous, but the threat of death, capture, and torture came with the job. Non-consensual sex did not. And on the rare occasion it did happen, the results (whether it was the victim or perpetrator) were wide and varied.

The Hokage had not told the elders or anyone outside of those who needed to know that Sakura had been raped (to her count, four people other than Sakura knew; Hinata being the only non-medic).

Tsunade watched for a few more minutes before a familiar chakra signature caught her attention. She hadn't seen him for months. The man was nothing if not delinquent when it came to reporting in.

"Jiraiya," she said, turning away from the window, swivelling in her chair to look upon the familiar figure standing two feet away from her desk. "Long time no see."

He smiled. "And you haven't changed a bit."

"I know."

"You still don't compare to…" He drifted off as she narrowed her eyes at him, and cleared his throat. "Uh, I mean to say, sorry I didn't report in when I got back. Beauty called to me and I was its helpless slave."

"You really need to stop doing that," Tsunade said.

Jiraiya grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, sorry 'bout that. I was looking for the hot springs and got all turned around."

She frowned at him. "You did not." He just shrugged and she let it go. "If you're here about Naruto and Sasuke, you can forget it – they're planning an attack on the leaf and I'm not going to pretend otherwise to make you happy."

"Nah, I don't expect you to."

"Then I'll ask you Jiraiya, why are you here? You're supposed to be spying on the Akatsuki, not sneaking into my office."

"It wasn't sneaking."

"You didn't knock."

Jiraiya opened his mouth to rebuke that statement, and then shut it just as quickly. Technically, she was right. Not that he would admit it. "You really should have more chairs in here," he said instead, ignoring her original question and looking around her office. "Just some home comforts, you know, and some of those little‒"

"Jiraiya."

He smirked. "What can I say: I come bearing gifts."

"Sake?"

"Better."

She frowned. "Somehow, I doubt that; Sake, unlike pills or healing chakra, eases my headaches."

"Until the inevitable hangover."

Tsunade groaned, leaning back on her chair. "Jiraiya, please."

Jiraiya pulled a satchel out of his bag and opened it. "It's the new bingo book – it would seem our old friend has been removed from the mist version."

"Give me a look at that."

Jiraiya tossed it over, and she scanned the book quickly, not finding Orochimaru's name; her scowl became more and more pronounced as she failed to find it.

"You know what this means?" She asked, handing the book back.

"We now know where Orochimaru's newest ally is from."

Tsunade smiled mirthlessly. It didn't mean the Mizukage or feudal lord of that region were affiliated with Orochimaru, but they couldn't ignore this. For all they knew, Orochimaru had bribed some high level official who had the daimyo's ear. Or all three could be in on it together. The idea, no matter how far-fetched it sounded, was enough to warrant action. She couldn't go up to the Mizukage and ask Mei "are you skivvying for a great big, dirty snake?", but she could do the next best thing.

"Well, we have to assume that that snake would know I'd see this book eventually," Tsunade said. "So it might not mean anything." She sighed. "I'll send a team within the day."

Jiraiya nodded, but didn't leave as he normally would once his business was complete. The less time he spent in Tsunade's presence, the less likely he'd do or say something to incur her wrath after all.

"Yes Jiraiya, was there something else?"

He frowned, interlocking his hands. "Uh, I did actually come here because of Naruto and Sasuke too."

"I've already given you my answer on that front, don't make me knock you through that wall, Jiraiya."

He chuckled nervously. "Oh, I know how to take 'no' for an answer from you." He ignored her look of disbelief. "I was offering my help to you actually."

"Really? I thought you weren't looking to have Naruto hunted and killed."

Jiraiya winced at her casual reference to what she believed to be the imminent death of his godson. "I would rather sacrifice myself, Tsunade. But at the same time, I can't sit around and wait for him to attack Konoha."

Tsunade sat up straighter in her chair. "You have details on this?"

He shook his head. "Nothing my last communique didn't already state: that forbidden scroll is definitely going to be a problem, and my sources tell me that it can only be activated by an Uchiha, as the third suspected years ago."

"Get to the point, Jiraiya."

He looked down at her hands as Tsunade fingered the incident report in front of her; Jiraiya cricked his neck trying to see what it was. All he caught was the first line: it was dated for four years ago.

"Is that what I think it is?"

She nodded, but didn't elaborate.

Jiraiya cleared his throat. "I know what you think of my godson, not that I can blame you, but I'm not here to sell him out any more than I would sit on the sidelines and watch Konoha burn. I hope you can at least understand that."

"I do Jiraiya, I really do. But this conversation is going to end very quickly and painfully for you if you don't get to the point."

The last time he'd seen Naruto and Sasuke, Jiraiya had failed to stop them and they'd slipped past both him and Itachi in the confusion after Naruto broke through the seal he'd put on him to hold the Kyuubi chakra back. His godson had not only learnt to control Kurama's chakra, but also circumvent the more traditional ways of suppressing the beast's power. He couldn't in good conscience, keep that from his Hokage.

"I'll help you find them," Jiraiya said finally. He held up a forefinger as though for inspection, and her eyes fixed on it, as he grew eerily serious. "On one condition."

–XXX–

A/N I wanna say "I'm going to update soon" but I gotta get my head around where I'm up to with my other "active" fic, Fallen, then I'll know where they both stand against each other in terms of updating. Not to mention my brain keeps saying "write more SasuSaku you bitch" over and over the bloody thing, and I don't want to: not yet. *sobs hysterically* Gotta stop thinking, or distract it with candy… either one. I don't consider this fic either SasuSaku or NejiSaku, btw. Not 'till the end. And that's my secret thanx very much. ;P
Anyway, next chapter is going to be fun: lotsa running around, kicking arse... 'Till next time, love, and review! ^_^