Author Note: Let's be honest here... the (unofficial and non-canonical) so-called Chapter 16.5 sucks. Even if it wasn't an appallingly bad piece of writing that doesn't even remotely read like it's supposed to take place in a virtual game world, the way the characters behave in it is so blatantly OOC that it's hard to see it as anything but a lemon fic with Kirito and Asuna's names slapped onto it.

I've always envisioned their first night together being very, very different. We're talking about a couple of teenagers in love with no sexual experience at all who've just been through a near-death experience, not a hentai doujinshi.

Then I saw this amazing piece of fanart. And that, along with a dear friend who loves the K/A pairing like I do, inspired me to fic.

www DOT pixiv DOT net/member_illust DOT php?mode=medium&illust_id=30033297
(Remove spaces and replace DOT with . to get the URL; FFN filters links.)

Asuna shivered. Despite the fact that she wore only the plain white undergarments enforced by Sword Art Online's «Ethics Code», it wasn't from the cold; the fireplace on the far end of her room was activated and radiated a comforting warmth that she could feel on her exposed skin. It was fake, of course—like everything else in this world, it was simulated by the game engine; the heat was an artificial sensation transmitted to her brain by the Nerve Gear her real body wore. She knew this intellectually, but although the fidelity of the simulations in SAO varied from detail to detail, the simulation of temperature was indistinguishable from the real thing.

No, what raised goose bumps on her skin and sent an involuntary shiver rippling through her was the touch of the person sitting beside her on the edge of the bed as he reached over and brushed a few locks of chestnut-brown hair away from her cheek, allowing him to see her face and the blush rising there.

It was such a light, tentative touch; for all of Kirito's frightening competence at swordplay and survival, it was easy to forget that he was just a boy her age—possibly even younger. As she turned to look at him, her eyes met his, and she saw on his face that same gentle smile that she'd fallen in love with so long ago. She reached up and caught his hand, pressing it to her cheek as she closed her eyes and leaned her head into the touch.

"Is this… is this okay?" he asked, his voice betraying his nervousness.

Opening her eyes, Asuna looked back up at him with a smile and a fleeting touch of amusement in her expression. She'd misunderstood him earlier when he asked to spend the night with her—he'd only meant that he didn't want to be apart from her, that he wanted to stay in the same room. She'd been angry when she found out how wrong she was, but she knew the anger was mostly borne of embarrassment.

But out of that confusion had come the truth: she did want to spend the night with him, in every sense of the phrase. They hadn't spoken of love after their near-death experience that day, but she knew it was there—knew it as surely as she knew anything else in her life. She'd promised to protect him, and he'd offered her his life—and the kiss they'd shared afterwards had communicated everything that needed to be said.

Well… almost everything.

He'd asked her a question, and she was still staring silently into his eyes. She could see the worry begin to seep into his face, a concern that perhaps they'd misunderstood each other yet again—even though they were alone in her house, sitting on her bed in their underwear. So in lieu of words, she took his hand that she'd pressed to her cheek, and moved it down to rest upon her breast instead. As his eyes widened, she heard a sound that was almost like a choked-off gasp as his breath caught in his throat, and she simply nodded once.

Without taking her hand from his, Asuna reached up with her other and opened her game menu. Her hand trembled as she scrolled down and went into her «Settings» menu, touching a well-hidden option that she'd never even tried selecting before, not even when she was alone. A soft chime sounded in her ear when she answered Yes to the confirmation dialog, and for the first time in her two years in the virtual world of Aincrad, she felt the touch of air on parts of her body that had always previously been covered. She felt another touch as well; as soon as her bra disappeared with an electronic shimmer, Kirito's hand was on her skin there, resting on the firm curve of her breast. She sucked in a breath sharply at the heat of that touch, a flush rising to her face, and she looked over at Kirito with her lips parted slightly. He looked almost frightened by what had just transpired and the way she'd reacted to it, so she gave him a soft smile to show that it was okay, and leaned towards him.

When their lips met, everything else in the room disappeared. The Death Game of SAO vanished from her awareness, as did the lingering fears from earlier in the day and any concern for where this night might lead them. She knew where it was going, and that was what she wanted—and more than anything at that moment, she wanted his lips to never leave hers. Her skin burned where it touched his, heat moving across her back as he wrapped his arms around her and on her chest where it pressed against him. She let out a soft sound from deep in her throat and opened her mouth to him, tongue tentatively searching until it touched his for a moment before darting back in as his kiss moved to her cheek and then her neck.

Asuna didn't notice exactly when they eased back onto the bed, she only knew that at one point they were still in a sitting position, and the next time she had any awareness of the world around her they were both lying next to each other on top of the covers, still kissing and hesitantly exploring each other's bodies with their hands, soft caresses that drove her into a state of mind where she could barely think, could barely register anything other than her sense of touch and the emotions that flowed through her. At some point during all of this, Kirito must have managed to get his own menu open and toggle «Ethics Code Off», because when she slid a hand down his slender back it touched nothing but skin no matter how low she went.

In the midst of all this, the thought came that she wanted to be touched again—touched more. One of her hands quested for his, and she brought it back up to her breast again, encouraging him wordlessly. Asuna moaned into his mouth as he gently squeezed it, thumb brushing across one of her nipples. She almost complained when he pulled away from the kiss, but all complaints vanished from her mind—along with everything else—when his mouth went to her other breast, lips closing on the erect nipple and tongue tentatively flicking out as he sucked on it. She cried out, and had to hurriedly press his head back to her breast when the sound made him stop, looking up with fear in his eyes as if he thought he'd hurt or upset her.

"Don't stop," she gasped. "Please, Kirito-kun… don't… don't stop… what you're doing…" She wove her fingers into his soft black hair as he resumed, grip tightening every time he teased her with his tongue with growing confidence and assurance from the way she reacted. She could feel his erection where it pressed against her thigh as he laid next to her, and was too aroused to be embarrassed as she reached down to touch him there, fingers gently closing around his cock and exploring something she'd never touched before. The touch made him tremble, and he actually bit down lightly on her nipple in surprise, drawing a groan from Asuna that was too erotic to be mistaken for pain or dismay.

It certainly wasn't the first time Asuna had been aroused in her life, and she had sometimes touched herself when she was alone until she was too embarrassed to continue, but never before had she felt the way she did with Kirito in bed with her. She could feel how wet she was, and for a moment she felt a spike of fear: if they went all the way, was it going to hurt? She knew that it was supposed to the first time, but none of the girls in her guild had ever said anything about that part of it when talking about "doing it" in SAO.

And then another wave of pleasure ran through her body as he suckled at her, and she didn't care anymore. This was what she wanted. This was who she wanted it to be with. And when Kirito stopped what he was doing to gaze into her wide eyes, leaning in to kiss her, she reached down and closed her hand around him again and gently guided him to where she wanted him to be, opening her legs to him and sighing as she felt his weight and warmth settle onto her. Their lips touched again, opened to each other, and then she felt his breath on her cheek as he spoke.

"Asuna… are you sure? Is this what you want?"

"Yes," she said immediately, her breath coming in short gasps. "I love you, Kirito-kun. I need to be with you… like this. Please…"

It was the first time she'd ever said those words, said them in that way… and she didn't know how he was going to react. There was almost enough time for her to worry despite the blinding fever that conspired to keep her from thinking clearly, but after what seemed like an eternity she heard the words she most desperately wanted to in all the world.

"I love you, Asuna." Four words. Four simple words, but they filled her with a warmth that even the coldest regions of Aincrad couldn't dispel, a rush that by itself nearly had her teetering on the edge of something she'd never felt before. And then her mouth flew open wordlessly and her eyes went wide when she felt him begin to slip inside her, her entire body shuddering as her arms tightened around Kirito and pulled him as close to her as she could, crushing her chest against his and setting her nipples on fire as they pressed against his skin. She raised her legs and locked them around his back, encouraging him with her heels as he moved within her. There was no pain, although a part of her knew that this probably wouldn't be the case in real life—only a slight discomfort as her body accommodated itself to his, a sensation that was completely buried beneath the dizzying pleasure and overwhelming surge of love that she felt, and soon even that discomfort ceased to be.

It was so beautiful that she wanted to cry, and only a distant part of her mind kept her from doing so out of the fear that he'd notice and stop, thinking that he'd hurt her. Kirito bent to take one of her nipples into his mouth again as his hips rhythmically drummed against hers, and she seized his hair in her hands and pulled his head back up so that she could have his lips on hers again, muffling her cries in the kiss that followed.

Asuna could feel a building tension within her, something that pounded through her like a heartbeat that grew in intensity and made her extremities tingle, her toes curling almost like fists as she ran her heels up and down the backs of Kirito's thighs. And then the wave crested, a blast of light shooting through her mind and something almost like a seizure taking over her body, ripping a scream from her throat as she thrashed her head from one side to the other and sank her nails into her lover's back, hips bucking against him. So intense was the event that ripped through her then, she almost didn't notice the noises he was beginning to make or the way the rhythm of his strokes became ragged as he began to throb inside of her. And then, just when she thought she could feel the aftershocks of her orgasm begin to ebb and return a semblance of coherent thought to her mind, a second wave of tremors spiked through her body as she felt Kirito explode within her in the most intimate sensation she'd ever known, incandescent heat flooding through her entire being as he cried out, buried his face in the crook of her shoulder, and collapsed against her in shudders.

In the stillness that followed, there was no sound other than the crackle of the virtual fireplace, the extremely faint sounds of the night life on the floor where she lived filtering through of the window and the gradually slowing breaths from the lover in her arms. Neither of them spoke. Her skin was slick with sweat, and Kirito's weight was a comforting warmth on top of her, one she didn't want to ever leave. Slowly, wearily, her legs slid down to either side of his, and she felt his head move as he turned to kiss her neck; she tightened one arm around him and sought his hand with the other, lacing her fingers into his. Eventually they rolled onto their sides, still pressed closely to one another, and she felt a different kind of warmth close around her exposed skin as Kirito pulled the rumpled covers over them both.

She wanted to say so many things after sharing her body and her love with someone for the first time. Her heart was filled with an indescribable fullness, and there were so many questions she wanted to ask. Was this merely something he'd done because of the tragic events that had transpired earlier in the day? Was this only for tonight, the feelings from the times they'd shared over the past few years magnified by a fear of being alone tonight and gratitude for saving his life? The arm she had thrown around his back clung to him tightly at the thought; unaware of what triggered the gesture, he made a small noise and snuggled more closely against her, his cheek resting on her breast.

It had to be more than that. "My life belongs to you," he'd said. "I love you," he'd said. These weren't idle words. They couldn't be something you said to someone if you were just planning on sleeping with them and moving on. She hoped—she prayed—that it was more, that it was something enduring. She wouldn't regret what she'd done either way—but the thought of losing what she'd found in Kirito was nearly unbearable.

As Kirito drowsily drifted towards sleep, Asuna reached up and slowly stroked his hair; he made another quiet noise of contentment and smiled. It had to be more than just this once. Perhaps in the morning they'd talk about what had happened between them and come to a decision; perhaps the decision had already been made and she didn't know it yet.

But Kirito was asleep in her arms, and for now that was enough. Anything else could wait until the morning.