To Have and To Hold

Author's Note: This is a one-shot. It is fluffy. Enjoy.

There was the organ playing, there was the familiar sniffling all around him, and then there were the vows. Sasuke sat in his little folding chair in the meadow, uncomfortably stiff and displeased by the shackles round his wrist. Weddings were bad enough; having two ANBU guards as one's date made them nearly intolerable. The thing that killed him was that he had absolutely no desire to be here in the first place. When he could have been in his nice, quiet, peaceful house, he was instead in the prickling heat and bright sunlight, watching as an asshole that he had always hated—Hyuuga Neji—married a moronic girl that he had never bothered talking to—Tenten. He didn't even know her family name, as anytime that twit-like giggling approached him, he had learned to bolt to save himself from a migraine.

But part of Tsunade's plan for integrating him back into Konohan society was to have him attend all important social functions, and while Sasuke felt that could have been better accomplished without the two masked-nin on either side of him, he realized he was not even the most upset about this. The people who weren't sobbing their eyes out with joy for the Hyuuga prodigy and bunhead were sending him glares bordering on downright abusive. By the time the wedding had ended, Sasuke felt like he was covered with burn marks from the scalding looks from his former peers. At the displeasure of the ANBU with him, Sasuke decided to take matters into his own hands: either he was not going to any more of these fucking weddings, or those stupid ANBU guards were going to leave him the hell alone. They could hide and survey him from hidden spots if that was what got them off; he really didn't care.

Thus, with the ANBU in tow, he burst into the Hokage's office to demand a sliver of his god-given privacy. When he found Tsunade hidden by a line of empty sake bottles, he wasn't sure if his chances of success were greater or lesser for the woman's inebriation.

"Hokage-sama," he began imperiously. Tsunade raised her blonde head slightly with a groan, sake bottles clinking as they were knocked and shattering on the floor. Her hazel eyes, rimmed with red, trained on Sasuke before a look of disgust, as though she had swallowed a slug, dawned on her face.

"Not you again," she groaned, letting her head fall back onto her desk with a notable thunk. "What is it, Uchiha?"

"Either these guards hide during these weddings, or I don't attend them," he ordered, scowling at the Hokage, hands shoved in his pockets. One of the ANBU gave an awkward little grunting noise; it was the shorter of the two. Tsunade mopped her face with her hand in frustration.

"For the last time, Uchiha," she drawled with great condescension, "Attending the weddings is part of your reinstitution into our society." she paused to wait for him to protest, and when he didn't, she sighed. "But, Sakura has mentioned the ANBU guards garner unwanted attention. I guess she wasn't kidding." The woman let out a long-suffering sigh as she popped the cork on another sake bottle. Sakura? Sasuke thought in confusion. "All right. Fine. You don't need to go with the guards in uniform... Sakura, why don't you just escort him to all the weddings and events?"

Sasuke looked around to see where Sakura had been hiding: it wasn't unlikely that he simply hadn't noticed her, but pink hair was a bit hard to miss, and considering the frosty silence between him and the girl that had once been in love with him, it seemed odd that she had been in the room and he hadn't noticed. Next to him, one of the ANBU slid off their mask: it was a cat mask, painted with dark pink, nearly red designs. Sasuke's eyes widened when familiar but unfamiliar pink hair came free as the mask slid off, and jewel-like green eyes pointedly avoided his.

"It's got to be getting old to always have to go to these things in uniform," Tsunade sympathized, either completely missing or completely ignoring the obvious tension between the Uchiha and her favorite medic-nin. Sakura nodded vigorously, running a hand through her hair in an attempt to neaten it.

"I don't think Lee will ever forgive me for 'not being present' at his wedding," said Sasuke's former teammate wryly. For a moment, her eyes slid to Sasuke uncomfortably. "This will be less noticeable, I think."

"Alternatively, I could simply not attend them at all," Sasuke interrupted, narrowing his eyes. The truth was that the idea of spending that much time knowingly in Sakura's presence was not an inviting prospect.

"I'm tired of this argument. Get out of my office, Uchiha," Tsunade ordered before taking a large swig of her sake. Knowing that this was not a battle worth fighting, Sasuke swiftly turned on his heel and left the Hokage tower. He was aware that Sakura was walking a few paces behind him, but he chose not to acknowledge it. He and Sakura had been avoiding each other for eight years, which, considering all of the people and places they had in common, was highly impressive. Most of the others had gotten over their angst with him, and after several years in a tiny jail cell, alone, with very little food or water, Sasuke was willing to do the same for them. But somehow, he and Sakura had never managed to speak directly to each other.

At first it had seemed like an accident that would resolve itself eventually, but as time had passed, the silence had been perpetuated. Now they were in their late twenties and still acting like idiotic little genin, but Sasuke had no idea how to break the silence. He veered off down the road to the Uchiha complex, which was now, for the most part, a ghosttown. The other problem with these weddings was that they seemed to highlight Sasuke's other life goal that he was, at this point, unlikely to ever acheive. The Uchiha Complex would probably never house families ever again—at least, not any related to him.

"You can go home. I promise I won't lose my mind and start firing the chidori at anyone," Sasuke said to the air sardonically. "Besides, I'm sure there's another ANBU waiting to do surveillance when I get back."

He stood on the lonely dirt road, waiting for Sakura's response. He turned slightly to look over his shoulder at her.

"Well, you'd be right about that, sort of," she finally said uncomfortably, averting her gaze. For a moment, they simply stood there in the bright sunlight. Far off were the sounds of celebration; Neji and Tenten's wedding reception was evidently a happy one. Sasuke, looking on at Sakura, felt the beginnings of guilt and they forced him to turn away from her again. Clearly she'd been assigned to him, and he knew had he been in her place that it was an assignment he wouldn't have appreciated. She'd been forced to tell her friends she had missed their weddings, while she could instead act as his guard.

Would he always be filled with such guilt? He had been wracked by guilt as a child for surviving the massacre; now he was wracked with guilt for having survived the various traumas of his teen years. He had considered taking his own life, as now he had nothing left to live for, but deep down, he feared the afterlife. He was not a spiritual man so he did not know what awaited him, but his greatest fear was to be confronted by the souls of people he had once known and loved. He did not relish that idea, and it was this that kept him clinging to his pathetic life, ticking off the years with growing dread, knowing that he would have to die at some point. Everyone died.

"You don't have to do this," Sasuke finally said. He heard the crunch of dirt and stone beneath Sakura's feet; she had stepped closer to him. "I'm sure Tsunade will happily reassign you."

"I asked to be assigned to this post," Sakura confessed, and involuntarily, Sasuke's muscles tensed.

"Why? You despise me now."

She didn't respond, so Sasuke picked up his stride again, and though they did not speak, and though to the onlooker it would seem like he was alone, Sakura was jumping from treetop to treetop, following him home.

Naruto, unsurprisingly, had been the first person to welcome Sasuke back with open arms—no matter what his charges were. For this reason, Sasuke felt it wrong to miss his wedding. He had considered it but it all came down to the fact that he knew he wouldn't be allowed to miss it anyway, and Naruto would probably kill him if he did. Sasuke found himself standing outside his door uncomfortably the next weekend, wearing the same dark blue formal yukata he had worn to every one of these weddings, waiting for Sakura. Thankfully, Sakura was known for being punctual, and she had arrived exactly on time, looking even more uncomfortable in a pink and green printed kimono, hair ornaments clinking together in her hair and glittering in the sunlight.

"Y-you look handsome," she stammered in greeting. Sasuke stepped off of the porch of his building. He knew it was polite to return a compliment—his mother had taught him as much—but he couldn't find the words. It felt too intimate, to tell Sakura she looked nice, after the silence they had been enduring for nearly a decade.

"Thanks. You look nice," he finally said flatly, avoiding her eyes. Together they walked in painful silence towards Naruto and Hinata's wedding.

"At least the weather is good today. I thought it was going to rain. It rained yesterday, you know," she babbled nervously as they approached the setup outdoors. Naruto was standing with Tsunade, who would be officializing the ceremony. Naruto was beaming, and positively radiating a happiness that Sasuke doubted he had ever felt in his life. "Oh, Naruto-kun looks so handsome!" Sakura squealed, momentarily dropping her facade. As they approached, Sasuke tried to look away, but Naruto jumped up and down, waving to them, and when their eyes met, the smile that Naruto gave them was so infectious that Sasuke's lips twitched.

"Idiot," he muttered under his breath, and Sakura lightly smacked his arm with her fan. It seemed almost reflexive, and they both seemed to have noticed how, for just one second, Team seven had really been reunited. Then it had passed and they had taken their seats, sitting uncomfortably stiffly next to one another, waiting for the ceremony to begin.

"T-think you'll ever get married?" Sakura's voice was high; she was nervous. Her eyes were fixed on the platform where Tsunade and Naruto awaited Hinata's walk down the aisle.

"Doubt it," Sasuke deadpanned, following Sakura's gaze. He resented Naruto's happiness, in a strange way. Somehow he knew Sakura did too, though he could not pinpoint how he knew. There was something about how she was carrying herself that told him. "I assume you are? Girls love weddings," he said, making a stab at conversation.

"I think you need a potential husband to marry," she said dryly. "Oh look, it's starting!"

Hinata was the stereotypical glowing, blushing bride. During the ceremony, tears were streaming down Sakura's cheeks, ruining her makeup. Sasuke was unsure of his obligation: did he comfort her? Was he expected to do something? He looked around, trying to copy what other men were doing for their dates, but everyone seemed to be crying together, holding hands, and sitting very close. He and Sakura were probably the only ones sitting so far apart. He fisted his hands on his knees and decided to pretend he hadn't noticed her tears.

At the reception, Sasuke hung by the wall, looking on as people danced and laughed together. He didn't drink, which in any case would have made for a long night around so many drunk people. Sakura mingled, but he did not miss how she managed to keep an eye on him. Not that it was difficult—he had not moved once from his spot on the wall except for the obligatory congratulations due to the newlyweds. Probably a toddler could have done just as effective a job. Still, as Sasuke watched Sakura dancing and talking to their old schoolmates, he was filled with a weird sense of wistfulness.

The lighting was low; she had grown into a pretty woman. Not beautiful by any means, but there was something in her smile that hooked him. She'd achieved a lot, and because they had once been so connected, he felt a sense of pride for her. She was no longer someone easy to poke fun at; she was no longer a silly little girl with a crush. Ever since his return, her actions towards him had always nonplussed him. He'd expected her to be the first to welcome him eagerly.

But perhaps neither of them had forgotten her attempt to kill him; others could get past it but they never seemed to have really grown beyond that point. She'd seen the worst of him and he knew she was disgusted by it. Now she was approaching him, and he noted that she too was completely sober. I guess technically she's still at her job.

"Sulking by the corner as usual," she teased him, though her tone was one of forced lightness. They stood there uncomfortably amidst the dancing and laughing, and for a moment, felt isolated from the rest of the world. "Is it hard? Being back here with everyone?" she suddenly asked. Sasuke let his eyes travel to hers. Some of her rather short hair had come free of her elaborate hairstyle, and he could picture her sitting in front of her mirror that morning, as she must have done, twisting it around the necessary pins.

"Is it hard to have me back here?" he parried, raising his eyebrows at her. He saw, in the dim lighting of the bar, her jaw tighten. "There you go," he added in response.

"Come on," she said finally, "Just dance for a bit. It'll make Naruto happy, and you owe him that much."

He couldn't find anything to say to that. He allowed her to drag him out to the floor, resenting her every step of the way. Luckily everyone else was so caught up in the festivities that no one noticed they had begun to dance. Sakura rested her arms on Sasuke's shoulders. The intimately close way they now stood frightened him; they moved stiltedly to the music. Sakura's words were still stinging like salt on old wounds. His guilt returned afresh and he was not sure he could bear it.

"You think you're so damn holy, for sacrificing your time and guarding me," he finally began in a low voice. His guilt was painful now, like it was choking him. Sakura looked up at him in surprise. "You know what? Don't fucking criticize me. I'm doing my penance, and if it's not good enough for you, then go fuck yourself," he hissed defensively, hating how obvious it was in his words that she had injured him. He waited for her reaction.

"I didn't mean it like that," she finally said in an unsteady voice. "I just meant—"

"You try being completely despised everywhere you go for eight years, then we'll see how you feel, going to these things," he continued. Repressed anger was leaking out of him.

"Maybe if you made an attempt to socialize once in a while, it wouldn't be so unpleasant," she countered hotly, pushing her hair out of her face and only succeeding in mussing it further.

"You ignored me," said Sasuke, not sure why he was accusing her of such a thing. It seemed childish.

"You ignored me! And for the record, I didn't ignore you. I volunteered to take the post of guarding you. I've been keeping an eye on you for all this time."

"Spying on me so you would feel justified in not just confronting me?" he said coldly. Sakura's cheeks flushed.

"You're still the horrible asshole you always were."

Before Sasuke could retort, she stormed away. Sasuke thought it was better this way; otherwise he might have said some highly unkind things. Feeling he had spent enough time here, Sasuke decided to take his leave. His stomach was tied into knots from his argument with Sakura, and he was grateful to step out into the cool night air and be alone again. Would she follow him home? He couldn't be sure. Sakura was devoted to her duties, but she was also ruled by her emotions. He could not predict her next move, but he hoped he would not have to see her again for a while. His wounds were still stinging; he thought they had healed by now but she had successfully ripped them open and poured salt and lemon on them.

Halfway home, he heard a choked, muffled sob coming from above and, with a loud sigh, he stopped.

"Sakura, forget what I said," he said into the air. "Just go home; I'm sure I'm within sight of the next guard."

"I'm the only one tonight." Her voice was small, teary. Sasuke scowled.

"You're an idiot for setting it up that way. Any misery you bring on yourself for this is your own fault." He continued walking again, even when he heard her drop down next to him and match his stride.

"I could say the same about you," she countered with a sniffle. Sasuke rolled his eyes.

"Don't bother lecturing me; I've heard it a thousand times before. I've paid for my crimes and now, I'm just waiting until I finally die. I do not need your morals or reprimands."

"Waiting until you finally die? After all the sacrifice people have gone through to assimilate you back here?"

He did not reply; assimilation seemed impossible from his angle. Perhaps people had stopped protesting the Hokage's decision against his execution, but they'd never accept his presence completely. "You're a selfish person."

"And you're a naive person."

"Perhaps I am," she admitted. They walked together in silence in the night, listening to the rustling of the leaves and the ribbiting of frogs. Their argument had stung, at first, but now Sasuke was beginning to feel a bit better. They'd both said their mind now; perhaps the venom had been let out of the wound. "I'm sorry," she finally sighed. In his peripheral vision he saw her rub her face much the same way he'd seen Tsunade do the same thing. "You're right, actually. I took the post because I was curious about you. I wanted to see how you'd changed. But I was too afraid of...well, everything, to just talk to you."

That was the thing about Sakura—she always apologized. It irked him, how she would always then ruin his righteous indignation by making him feel like a shitty person with her apologies.

"Had I changed?"

His question hung in the air; now they had reached his home. He saw Sakura draw in a breath.

"Yes...and no. You still eat tomato onigiri—do you realize how weird that is? Tomatoes do not belong in onigiri!" This was not what he had been expectng at all and he stared blankly at her in surprise. "And you're still annoyingly neat. Like, I'm neat, but there's neat... and then there's obsessive. You have never once missed a day in making your futon."

"You watched me do that?" Sakura blushed immediately.

"Well, no, but I'd always look in, to make sure you weren't...I don't know, plotting or something."

"Plotting?" The disbelief was evident in his voice.

"Well, that's the thing about you that changed," she explained a bit desperately. "You never brood anymore in your house. You're always...fiddling with stuff." She frowned. Sasuke assumed she had seen him doing work around his family home; it had become his occupation to try and rid it of all evidence of the massacre. Along the way, he'd found a lot of memory-provoking objects. "Like I've never seen you just sitting around. It's not a bad thing...I just was surprised."

She stared at him expectantly, waiting for him to react. Sasuke shrugged. Her glib tone had lightened the mood, somehow.

"You've changed a bit too," he agreed mildly after a long silence. "Mainly in that you haven't once attempted to blackmail me into dating you. I appreciate the change; all of that running away from you was exhausting."

Abruptly Sakura seemed to realize he was joking and she laughed. And then his lips were twitching as he tried to hold back laughter, and then he was laughing with her.

"And you haven't once called Naruto dead-last. I think he also appreciates that."

"I'll have to revive that tradition. He looks too happy," Sasuke said with an evil smirk and that had Sakura giggling again.

"He does look happy, doesn't he? He deserves it. He really does." Even though her tone was light and her eyes were still sparkling with mirth, Sasuke did not miss the note of melancholy in her voice. He understood how she felt and there was no need to comment on it.

"Hn. Yeah," he finally agreed, looking down at the dirt, awkwardness descending on them once again. Even though the nature of their friendship—or lack thereof—was so strange, Sasuke realized that this was comforting. Laughing with Sakura was nice and unexpected, and the emptiness of his home no longer seemed inviting when her soft laughter was out here in the night.

"I should probably let you head to bed. It's been a long day," Sakura said finally. "I have to change, anyway."

"Ah. Well..." he paused uncomfortably and then shrugged. "See you around, I guess."

Sakura smiled genuinely at him and it felt like a light had been switched on and he found one of the corners of his mouth curving into a tentative half-smile.

"You're also still the handsomest guy in Konoha," she confessed quietly. "That hasn't changed one bit." She surprised him by brushing his cheek with her knuckles, and she turned away. Sasuke's heart seemed to hurt as images of what might have been seemed to flash before him.

"You're still kind of cute, even when you're annoying. No, especially when you're annoying. That hasn't changed one bit," he told her retreating back. He watched her pause, stiffening slightly. After all the pain that had passed between them over their lives, this moment seemed penultimate. Would she come back, or would she go home and change out of her yukata? Sakura turned to look at him over her shoulder, the moon reflected in her wet eyes.

"You thought I was cute?"

"...A little, yeah," he admitted, looking down at the dirt again. He heard her wipe her cheeks.

"Did you think that girl—Karin— was cute?"

Sasuke swallowed over a lump in his throat and he raised his eyes to look at Sakura again.

"I never thought about Karin one way or the other. I was too far gone when I met her," he answered truthfully. "I thought of no one but myself and Itachi."

Sakura was staring back at him, and she turned to face him again.

"This is pretty rude, but do you think I could...perhaps... stay a while?" she asked in a wavering voice. Sasuke shrugged, feeling the blood rush to his face. "Since I'm just going to be coming back here anyway," she added in a rush.

"Why not," he finally asked rhetorically, and turned to head up the wooden planks to enter his home. He heard the clapping of Sakura's lacquered zori as she hastened to follow, and he reflected on how nice it was to have her chasing after him again. Then again, she had never really stopped, had she?

The Uchiha house was dark inside, and smelled of the strong cleaning fluids that Sasuke had been using on certain surfaces. He flicked the light on and gestured for her to follow him into the kitchen where he could make her some tea. The silence between them was uncomfortable again and he longed to hear her laughter like they had outside. In the house, it was oppressive.

"It's a nice night out. We could take the tea out to the porch—" Sakura suggested and Sasuke agreed immediately. After it had been steeped, they sat down on the wooden planks, staring out into the night, their legs inches from each other. "Your house feels so lonely. I don't know how you can stand it," Sakura said before blowing on her tea. Sasuke shrugged.

"It always was a big house," he replied, remembering how, even as a child, it usually had felt austere and uninviting, with its polished surfaces and gleaming decor.

"You still want to revive your clan?" she asked, her tone a bit sardonic. Sasuke flinched.

"Wanting something and making it happen are two different things. I don't think I will ever see Uchiha inhabit this complex." He could not keep the bitterness out of his voice.

"I used to dream that you'd ask me to help you repopulate the clan," Sakura confessed, laughing a little. The sound warmed him. "In my fantasies, you'd tell me very seriously that you had always loved me and thought me the ideal woman for the task."

Sasuke found himself smirking. He could easily picture genin Sakura with her chin in hand staring out the window, imagining her wedding.

"You would never be the ideal woman for the task. You think too much. The ideal Uchiha matriarch is quite, obedient, and willing to stay at home with the kids all day and cook for her husband." He remembered his mother and felt the usual stab of melancholy, which was alleviated by Sakura's laugh.

"Yeah, I was just a kid though and thought I wanted nothing more than to be a domestic goddess. Like you said: wanting something and making it happen are two different things. At the rate I'm going, I'm going to die alone," she joked, laughing harder as she spoke.

"Me too." Sasuke's lips curved into a grin. "Maybe we'll have to start buying those stupid Icha Icha Paradise books like Kakashi sensei."

"Oh, kami, no. You know, that creep still rereads those old things? After all this time you'd think he'd get tired of them."

"I mean if they're that engaging, maybe I will check them out..." Sasuke chuckled as Sakura whacked him more heartily with her fan. After lapsing into silence again, he heard Sakura draw in a deep breath, and he knew something big was coming.

"I-I have a favor to ask," she said finally, turning to him slightly. Her cheeks were red. "I just need to know something that I've been wondering about, and I don't think I'll ever move on if I don't know. And I...I need to move on. We're almost thirty now."

Sasuke waited with bated breath. "Could you kiss me?" she finally stammered, not meeting his eyes. "I just want to know if...well, you know what I mean. It doesn't have to be a serious kiss or anything. I just have to know."

He did not wish to kiss Sakura; he got the sense that it would open a can of worms that he did not want to be opened. Still, the way she put it, she was right: she did need to move on, and if he could do that for her, he'd be giving her back a little bit of the comfort she had given him tonight.

"Alright," he said finally, and set his cup down next to him. Hesitantly they turned to each other. Sasuke wished he had brushed his teeth after the dinner at the reception, and worried that the angle wasn't right. Sakura twisted to meet him, and then he pressed his lips against hers gently.

Maybe it was that they were both lonely, or maybe it was genuine feeling, but the kiss deepened. Sakura's fingers twined in Sasuke's dark hair and he onto her upper arms, their torsos twisted awkwardly towards each other. Sakura tasted like green tea and her light floral perfume was pleasant. Her lips were soft and her eyelashes fluttered against his involuntarily as he leaned forward, feeling her sigh into the kiss. He told himself to pull away, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. What if she had learned that she was no longer in love with him? Maybe things would be better, but likely, they'd be more awkward. He didn't want that. He realized, as they slid down to the wooden porch, Sakura uncomfortably but satisfyingly pinned beneath him, that he wanted to hear her laughter more often. Her presence was warm.

Neither made any move to stop as they each realigned their bodies; Sakura's legs dangled off the side of the porch and Sasuke's knee rested in between hers as he felt her tongue rub against his lips experimentally. This whole thing was a strange, awkward, but gratifying experiment. He had never dreamed that kissing Sakura might feel this good. He opened his mouth to her, relishing the slickness of her tongue against his.

The fact that he had, quite literally, no experience came back to him. It wasn't something he had ever been bothered by, but now he worried that it showed. He hated not being good at something, but luckily, Sakura seemed equally as inexperienced. Had she been, even subconsciously, waiting for him? The thought warmed him and he abandoned his self-consciousness as he gripped her hip with his hand, elliciting a moan from her that made his skin prickle with goosebumps.

Forgetting their tea, Sasuke picked her up and somehow they made their way inside, breathless, into the outer corridor of the house. The only sound was the creaking of floorboards mixed with their panting and moans. Sakura's hair ornaments slipped free from her pink locks and fell to the floor; they moved away from the door to avoid stepping on them and instead Sasuke pinned her against the opposite wall. Their kimono were constricting, however, and soon they stopped, reaching an uncomfortable fork in the road: if they continued, they would not likely stop. But to continue, they'd have to remove some clothing. It had come time to make a decision.

Unexpected desire was clouding Sasuke's brain; he did not want to let Sakura leave. "Stay," he said against her lips. Sakura drew in a shuddering breath.

"It can't be just one night, Sasuke," she whispered. "I can't hurt myself like that."

It was not a difficult decision to make: Sakura's presence in the house seemed to light the house up. After so many years of being by himself, Sasuke had had time to think on the benefits and drawbacks of loneliness. Seeing Naruto slide the ring on Hinata's finger had awakened somethign in him that he had thought was dead. Still, it was hard to commit to something, even to Sakura, who had proven she would walk to the ends of the earth for him. Her devotion, even after all this time, was soothing. The one person he had thought would never forgive him had loved him all along.

"I mean it," he said finally. "Besides, you'll be here anyway, right?"

No more words were needed. When they walked into his room, Sasuke's blood was thrumming in his veins. He stood behind Sakura, untying her obi with clumsy fingers. He wished he knew a little bit more about what they were about to do, but at the same time, it was unspoken but known by both that they were both new to this. Even if he didn't know, Sakura would not care; she would continue to accept him as he was. When her obi came off, finally, she turned and let him slid her kimono, and then her underrobe, off. Her skin was unbelievably pale, but in the bit of moonlight he could see scars—some big and jagged, others tiny and mostly faded—even whiter against her pale skin. When she slid his yukata off his shoulders, he watched her eyes rove over him, probably also noting the many scars he had acquired over time. Their lips met again and now no barriers separated them; Sasuke slid her down onto his futon as they kissed and trembled against each other.

"I'm a virgin," she whispered as her leg curled around his hips. "J-just so you know," she added awkwardly. Sasuke hated to admit to lacking in any area, but at the same time, he wondered how she would react to knowing he was too. His hand gripped her thigh as he kissed her more deeply, reveling in the sensation of the heat radiating from her hips. She wanted him, she loved him, and she always had.

"Me too," he confessed quickly. Her eyes widened in surprise, but the kiss they shared after that was much more powerful than the others. Her lips over his curse seal made him gasp in unexpected pleasure. It was her hands that guided him inside of her, and as they arched against each other, his guilt began to ebb away. Sakura would forgive him no matter what, and it seemed time to forgive himself.

Much later, they lay tangled in the sheets, each staring out at the night sky, dotted with stars. To think that all these nights, he had already spent them with her nearby, made him unable to stop himself from grasping her hand in his.

"You looked really beautiful tonight," he finally admitted out loud. He heard Sakura draw in a breath of surprise sharply. "I'm glad you're here."

Maybe he'd have a family after all. But for now, as he lay curled against Sakura and drifted off to sleep, he thought that this was more than enough. To have acceptance and forgiveness from her was consoling but her expectation that he grow and change was strengthening. She loved him for who he was, who he had been, and who he could be. Now Sasuke was beginning to understand how Naruto could seem so damn happy at his wedding. He had been feeling this.