note: I know I said 'never again'. I know.

Her father looks ashamed, but she knows her mother suffers the worst—even under that iron mask.

Uchiha Fugaku narrows his eyes, looks her over like he can measure her worth in those three seconds alone. Sakura swallows but refuses to look away.

"We will finalize the papers tonight."

Sakura's father breathes a sigh of relief, there's the shuffling of clothing and paper and the dull thud of the heavy oak chairs sliding back across the carpeted floor. The two men in the room stand, shake each other's hands. Sakura sits just long enough to catch her mother's eye—dark green, green like moss, not the green of Sakura's own—and wonders what she is apologizing for.


She'd been thirteen then, used and bargained away to keep her family's pride intact. I'm a cliché, she remembers thinking after walking out of Uchiha Fugaku's office on the forty first floor. She knew of her future husband—quiet and serious but good, capable. Sakura had wondered if their marriage would be cold too, and how many more years she had left before she became Uchiha, before she became theirs.

The Monday afterwards she found Sasuke after fourth period biology and said, very casually, "So I'm engaged to your brother."

His expression had almost made it worth it.

But the best laid plans and Murphy 's Law, they still apply even if you're Uchiha, and in the end Itachi's gone, Mikoto's dead, and Fugaku passes her down the line to his second son.

It's Sakura's wedding day and the first time she's seeing Sasuke in a year—the first time she'll say anything meaningful to him in two. She'd been picked up by an escort of Uchiha at eight in the morning, a hand-off from her mother like a package. Make me proud, she'd whispered, and Sakura wishes her mother hadn't, because she's already halfway terrified and that doesn't help at all.

She looks at herself in the mirror, the bride with the beautiful dress, the glowing skin and the perfect hair, and sees her reflection as everything people will come to expect from her in the future. The weight of the trailing veil bows her head, and one of the women helping her clucks, tips her chin up and warns her to not falter again.

"You are Uchiha now, and Uchiha never look down."

Sakura wants to laugh, because looking down on others is something that the Uchiha have always done. She thinks about how nineteen years ago all she'd ever wanted to do was marry Uchiha Sasuke, how she'd been convinced that it was the greatest love in the world. Seven years old then, and it'd taken her nearly a decade to realize that reaching him was something that she would probably never be able to do.

Sakura doesn't want to marry Sasuke, not like this; but if this is the best ending that they'll get—she'll make do. She has to, because it's never been her choice to make.

She's walking down the aisle, rose petals crushing beneath her feet, and Sasuke is a dark blur on the other side. The lights, the crowd, the organ music in the background—none of it feels real to her; it's an out-of-body experience, and Sakura can't shake the numbness in her hands or the buzzing in her head. Years and years of building herself up, of college and medical school and residency, of making friends and making a name for herself, all of it to culminate to this.

The organ grinds to a halt, and Sakura looks up as a pair of hands lifts her veil. The minute their eyes meet, the second she sees herself reflected back in the black, she's not the bride anymore; just herself, Haruno Sakura staring back scared and alone, stripped of everything but her insecurities.

Sasuke's always been good at that.

It makes her wonder why he'd chosen her at all.

They're quiet on the way to the airport. Sasuke doesn't touch her, but he does sit next to her even though there's plenty of room in the limo.

"I—Naruto's been doing well."

He considers her for a moment before replying, "And you?"

Sakura blinks, opens her mouth and closes it again. And her?

She's been great, had actually been part of a fascinating case study on the effects of utilizing hormones and specific enzymes to regulate genetic abnormalities before being pulled from the project to marry someone she hasn't seen in a year. How about you, Sasuke-kun?

She thinks she could've said that to him two years ago, with a raised eyebrow and snark coloring her voice. She thinks she could've teased him. She might still have been able to if she'd never crossed that line.

But she had, and now here they are; so.

Sakura had been with him when he heard the news. They were in his room and working on their respective projects, the comfortable quiet punctuated every now and then by her asking a question and his answering.

There'd been quiet knock and Fugaku on the other side of the door. Sasuke had gotten up, and in the space of the minute, minute and a half that it took for his father to say whatever he had to say, Sakura watched as Sasuke changed: the telltale rigidity of his spine, the slow rise of his head and the way he'd looked at his father's retreating back, the blankness to his eyes when he turned around again.

Sakura hadn't known what was wrong, but she'd known exactly what to do: take his hand—cool and rough and so much bigger than hers— without a word, and sit.

They've been friends for a long time, and she has loved him, Sakura thinks, for even longer. Different kinds of love, with varying strengths, but love nonetheless. From loving him as an idea, as her prince, as something that Ino couldn't have to loving him as a person, a friend, and then the wild wanting as she grew older, the kind of thing she tried to attribute to growing up and out and his own dark, good looks. It all settled into a sort of love that she would rather ignore: a quiet thing that meant she would always be aware of him and where he was, his voice and the way he took up space in a room.

Even when she had been engaged to his brother.

Even when so much of their friendship had hinged on the fact that Sakura would never, ever be one of those girls.

They have their own private jet.

Well, of course they would have their own private jet. It's the Uchiha—nothing but the best for the governor's son and his new wife.

Sasuke and Sakura sit across from each other, still in their clothes from the reception. The top two buttons of his tux are undone, and the bowtie hangs loose at his throat. She looks at the pale skin, the shadow in the hollow of his throat, and imagines dipping her fingers there, leaving a kiss, leading the line down south.

"If you're not sure, we can still annul the marriage."

It takes a second for Sakura's scattered thoughts to catch up to his words, "But my family—"

"It's fine. Your father has reformed; I'll make sure his secrets stay his own."

She doesn't know what to say to that, except why tell her now if not to air his own regrets?

(But she loves him, and love is sometimes selfish.)

Sakura makes sure she's looking at him, right into his eyes as she says, "I'm sure."

Even though she isn't, she isn't sure at all because this is the worst way possible to marry the man you love, and she's not sure she can live up to Uchiha expectations, she's not even sure if she wants to. She's already taking an extended leave from her residency for this, for him, for the Uchiha and their skewed sense of opportunity and for her hapless mother and father, and she sort of knows that this is all wrong, that one of the hallmarks of an unhappy marriage is an unequal one.


Even if she actually believed him, that he could override his father and set her own family free, she would stay with him. Because he'd been given a choice, and he'd chosen her, and Sasuke doesn't make choices that he doesn't believe in.

They stay at a big house by the French coast, high enough on rocky bluffs that impracticality would have made living there impossible if it weren't for the helipad on the roof. Her room—their room—has a big bay window overlooking the water, and Sakura is kneeling on the window seat like a kid, bare knees pressed to the expensive silk upholstery, trying to make out the bottom of the cliffs and the crashing waves.

Sasuke makes a half amused noise behind her, and it's almost as if they're teenagers again, him shaking his head at something she's done or said.

"Sasuke, aren't you ever afraid that the house is going to tip over the edge? Sasuke-k—?"

She doesn't have to hear his footsteps to know that he's moved closer, that he's so near now that just a careful inch or two separates their bodies. Sakura quiets, freezes, stops breathing. She hears his exhale and then, one word: "No."

Sakura doesn't know if she moves back or if he's the one who closes the distance, there's only that indefinable something that's filled her chest ever since she was young expanding, expanding until it feels like it's going to break her ribs, split her skin and seep through her pores—she doesn't even know what to call it, love or another name more primal, but she just knows that it's what propelled her all those years ago and what's propelling her now to push closer, to bite back a low sigh as her hands grip his shoulders through the layers of fabric and he slides down, down, pressing her back against the cool glass.

She thinks she might be repeating his name, like a mantra, like a prayer, but she's not sure, she couldn't separate the sensations if she tried. There's Sasuke's mouth finally slanting over hers, and their hips pressing together, the pressure there, the wetness of their kisses, the taste of his skin under her tongue, and then they're stumbling to the bed, and his weight over her, the quick way he gets rid of their clothing, and the feel of him, all of him skin to skin—

Sudden and quick and nearly violent, without warning—that's how they come together, and that's so like them, so like this marriage even though they've both known for years, and he's the one that said yes when Fugaku asked him, three years after Mikoto's funeral and a week after Itachi's gone, if he wanted to honor the deal with her parents, if he would take her as his wife; and Sakura still has no idea why, because he's never shown the slightest inclination of looking at her the way he does now, and if his eyes had ever lingered she's never known.

And now she's Uchiha. Now they are husband and wife.

Sakura wakes up before first light.

She leaves the warmth of the their bed, untangles herself from Sasuke's long limbs and wraps a thin robe around her body, nearly stumbles in the dark on her way to the same window where they'd kissed. The stars are unbelievably bright here, away from the lights of the city, and Sakura watches them, opens the window a crack until she can hear the lull of the waves below. A cold wind blows in, chases shivers down her skin, but a look over her shoulder and she sees Sasuke, still sound asleep.

She remembers him as a light sleeper, as someone who would wake at the slightest shift, and wonders what's changed, if marrying her had tired him so that he would sleep like the dead.

Will this be their marriage? Something heavy and draining that will exhaust him—exhaust the both of them? She hopes not—hopes that the fact of her love will be enough for them both.

Sitting here, cross-legged and looking at the stars, Sakura feels so, so young; twenty six and still too young for marriage, too young for any sort of lifelong commitment.

But he's Sasuke, she's Sakura, and she has belonged to him since they were seven years old, and at least in the eyes of the public, in the eyes of whatever god he may or may not believe in, he belongs to her now, too.


They are married, she will try to be the perfect wife, and they will make do.


note: But they're just so damn easy to write for!—or so my thinking went. Nope, in reality my Sasuke/Sakura skills are so very, very rusty. Um, will be a three-shot (probably), and things will get less confusing as we go? Hopefully? As always, thank you so much for reading, and any and all concrit, thoughts, or suggestions offered would be great.