Hey guys, sorry for the wait, but this chappy was REALLY hard to write. I had class all day today, so I apologize in advance if there are any typos or anything—I've looked it over twice, but if you spot anything, please let me know and I'll fix it. If anyone with good grammar and editing skills wants to beta the next chapter, please let me know:)

Thanks again for all your kind reviews and general awesomeness. I hope you enjoy the next chapter.

Please note: this chapter contains a sex scene. It's pretty tame, by fanfic standards, and was really difficult to write...more on that in the end note.

Onwards!


Chapter Two: Fighting with Flesh

And who knows if there will be any emotion involved in it at all, or if it will just be two shinobi fighting with flesh, instead of jutsu, for dominance.

Hinata is allowed to sleep in the next morning, and for that, she is grateful. It gives her time to nurse her hangover in silence. There is only Hinata laying in her bed, staring up at the gauzy canopy.

Eventually she rises, slowly, so as not to jostle her hair, and starts her morning routine. By the time she has washed her face and dressed, it is noon. Temari and Karin wait for her downstairs, both tapping their chopsticks impatiently.

"Good morning," Temari mutters, spearing her with a glare. Hinata gulps before she sits at the table, head bowed.

"Lay off her," Karin snaps at Temari, her red eyes flashing.

"I didn't say anything but good morning—whore."

"Tramp."

"Bitch."

"Why thank you," Karin says with a smile, digging into her bowl of noodles.

Hinata shakes her head and stuffs her mouth full of food. She wonders what it is like at the other okiya in the Flower District, but she supposes that they are all the same: filled with bickering, exiled kunoichi who pour tea with the same deadly accuracy they used to throw kunai.

"Stop brooding while you eat your food," Karin snaps at Hinata. "It makes you look ugly."

"Y-yes, o-oneesan."

"Too bad Karin looks ugly even when she's not eating," Temari simpers, talking with her mouth full.

Just then their okaasan walks in, smoothing down her long green kimono. As always, her eyes look sad and far away. When she shakes her head at the geisha's antics, her hair pin dangles pink clinking crystals.

"Guren-sama," Temari says, chagrined that their okaasan has caught her fighting with Karin again. "You look well."

Guren rolls her eyes at Temari, then ignores her. "Misaki. In my office. Now."

Hinata practically chokes on her noodles. Recovering herself as best she can, she rises on shaking feet and trots after her okaasan, slowing her pace only when Karin shoots her a glare to walk in a more dignified manner. She's careful to leave the door open a crack, otherwise, Karin will terrorize Hinata later for not letting her sisters eavesdrop.

"Misaki," Guren says, sinking down into her armchair. "Do you know why you're here?"

"N-n-no," Hinata stammers. She remains standing, tenting her fingers in apprehension. "Have I done something w-wrong?"

"Wrong? Heavens, no," Guren answers, playing with a hexagonal crystal on her desk. "I just wanted to let you know, there's a bidding war going on. You have three suitors who are vying to be your danna."

"Th-three?" Hinata squeaks. She can't even imagine who the third is.

"Mmmm. The Hokage's brat, Uchiha Sasuke, and Hyuga Neji."

"Niisan," Hinata breathes. He must be trying to save her. He needn't have bothered, she thinks. It's already too late for that.

"All three of them are loaded," Guren says, her black eyes sparkling like volcanic rock. "And what's more, all three of them will be attending a party at the Red Lantern tonight. How's that for luck?"

Hinata leans back on her heels, dizzy. "V-v-very a-auspicious," Hinata mumbles.

"You're to go to that party, and you are to drive up the bidding. Your sisters will help you," Guren calls, pitching her voice to carry. "If you can get one of them to promise a substantial monthly sum to support you…" Guren trails off, but her meaning is clear. The okiya will take a portion of what Hinata earns each month from her danna until her debt is paid off completely.

Then, she can leave everything and everyone behind her.

#

"N-neji-san," she says, speaking so softly he has to lean in to hear her, "you d-don't have to do this."

"Everyone else in the family may have given up on you," he hisses, "but I haven't. I'm not going to let you get entangled with either of these jerks. Naruto's nice enough, but he's got rocks for brains. And Sasuke…" he trails off, grimacing. "Sasuke's no good for you."

"Neji-san…" she mumbles, looking down at her clasped hands.

"At the very least, I'll drive up your price—the sooner you pay off your debt, the sooner you can be free. I'd pay it outright," Neji mutters, "but Hiashi has forbidden me. So I'll play this stupid, sick game behind his back, and—"

Hinata places a hand on his chest. "Enough. Th-thank you, niisan."

"Don't call me that in public," Neji whispers. "Someone might overhear. Hiashi has forbidden it."

Hinata sighs, then changes the topic. "How's Hanabi?"

Neji makes a face. "Ruthless. She's about to make jonin."

"That's g-g-great," Hinata says, looking off to the side. "And f-f-father?"

"He's in perfect health," Neji says, leaning against the wall and eyeing the other occupants of the Red Lantern. "Naruto is coming this way."

"P-please be civil to him."

"I will." Neji meets her gaze. "But I can't promise the same for Sasuke."

Naruto smiles a wide, nervous smile and starts babbling at Hinata. She smiles and crinkles her eyes to make it look like she is following him, but she can't hear the words, just the cadence of his voice like a gurgling stream. He takes a step closer to her, and his breath fans across her face. He smells like alcohol. Still, she smiles, while Neji glowers at Naruto.

Before Neji can speak, she takes both Neji and Naruto by the elbow and leads them to a table. Karin is already there, sitting at the head with Kiba, whose party this is. He has just made jonin, and as Hinata kneels by the low table, she congratulates him, her voice hardly wavering, though inside, her heart trembles.

"Well," Kiba says to her, his cheeks round and red, "I couldn't have done it without Hanabi. She's my teammate," he adds, as if Hinata didn't already know, "and we trained together like crazy. She's taking the test tomorrow, and then everyone from our old team will be jonin level. Pretty incredible, huh?"

Hinata nods, too choked up to speak. To cover her silence, she refills Kiba's cup for him, concentrating on looking elegant. She turns to fill Neji's cup. When she's done, his eyes flicker up to hers, and though she's smiling her taxidermic geisha smile, he sees straight through her. But there's nothing he can say, and nothing she can do. So she finishes pouring him his sake and she turns to Naruto, flashing him a large swath of wrist as she pours his drink in turn.

The men all clink their glasses in a toast, but Hinata can't hear them. She scans the room. Waiting for her prey. She catches Karin's gaze before they both bend down to serve another round of spirits.

When the door opens with a gentle chime, it's all Hinata can do to not to snap her head up. But it's not Sasuke. It is Kabuto, and on his arm is Temari, her golden hairpin flashing in the lamplight, but not as brightly as her burning green eyes.

Temari isn't allowed out of the okiya when Suna dignitaries are in town, not without supervision. Orochimaru knows they would steal her away from him. When Hinata catches her eye, Temari smiles, but Hinata knows it is really a grimace.

Hinata looks away quickly and answers Naruto's question, inclining her head as if she has been paying attention to him this whole time. On his insistence, Hinata pours herself a cup of sake and sips it delicately, minding her lipstick. It helps to settle her nerves; to ease the feeling of so many eyes on her.

Naruto makes an insipid joke and her laughter clinks like glass while her stomach roils. His eyes are bright and blue, like the sky, or the sea, Hinata thinks; if Naruto were her danna, she would never be unhappy. Not with a man like that supporting her.

Hinata's hands tighten around her cup. That's the way it is, she thinks, taking another tiny sip. The only training she's had is how to be a geisha—how to have men support her. She's an entertainer. An artist. An illusionist. The curse mark on her inner thigh tingles, and she admits that she is other things, too. Dark things. Best not to think of that now, she reminds herself.

The door to the teahouse opens, and in steps Uchiha Sasuke. He lets in a gust of air, and a chill runs down her spine. Showing no emotion, she rises to take his coat and shoes, murmuring a polite greeting, but when she meets his eyes, her words die in her throat. His eyes are burning, like he is being consumed with a black fire from within. He is giving her that hungry look from the day before—the way a starving man might eye a meal.

Flustered, Hinata takes his arm and leads Sasuke to the table, then pauses, unsure of where to sit. If she takes a new seat by Sasuke, she will slight Naruto and Neji; but if she takes her old seat, then she will leave Sasuke sitting alone. Her eyes flicker to Karin, who nods her head towards Hinata's original place. Hinata bows her head. After pouring Sasuke his sake, she glides to sit next to Naruto. When Karin spears her with another look, Hinata leans on Naruto's arm and asks him to tell another joke.

The tension in the room mounts after that. Every time she laughs at one of Naruto's ill-concieved jokes, or leans on his arm, she can feel Sasuke's eyes boring into her. And though this is The Plan, Hinata's guts twists, and she has a leaden, sinking feeling in her stomach.

To make it worse, when she glances at Neji, she sees that he is glaring daggers at Sasuke. But Sasuke ignores him. He only has eyes for her, and the weight of Sasuke's stare makes her skin prickle.

Just when Hinata thinks that the pressure is too much, and the room starts spinning, Karin calls for Hinata and Temari to perform with her. The guests roar, with Kiba roaring loudest of them all, eyeing Karin lasciviously. Hinata smiles a soft half-smile, happy that Karin has another client.

Though she and her sisters have practiced this routine all afternoon, Hinata still feels her heart beating irregularly. Karin kneels with her shamisen, tuning it softly, and Temari kneels beside her, her hands folded in her lap. Hinata poses and waits for Karin to play.

The twangy sounds of the shamisen ring out to a fast-paced tune as Temari sings in a thin, reedy voice. Hinata performs the dance called Crossing the Wintry Creek. She stands on tip toes and lifts the hem of her kimono—never higher than her knees, but enough to elicit shouts from the audience. It had been Karin's idea to start with a racy dance. When Hinata looks up through her lashes to see Sasuke scowling down at her, she wonders if it was such a good idea.

When the raucous applause dies down, Hinata takes out her fans from her long sleeves and waits. The music starts up again, stately and slow. Hinata moves like a fallen blossom drawn by a swirling current of water as Temari sings the words to The Breath of Spring. She sings it with such sincerity and sadness that Hinata's eyes mist with tears, and the force of Hinata's own longing is drawn to the surface.

She closes her eyes and dances along to the quavering sound of the shamisen and Temari's voice, and for the first time, she realizes that while she has a ticket to her own freedom, Temari and Karin will never be free. Though they each have many clients, no one from Konoha would trust either geisha enough to become their danna. And without that kind of financial support, they will be stuck in the okiya until they die.

Hinata's dance of hope becomes a dance of sorrow. She has a fleeting thought that maybe she can buy an okiya of her own—buy Temari and Karin's freedom herself—but then, Hinata's curse mark tingles again, making her pause in her dance.

Maybe Hinata is fooling herself.

Maybe Orochimaru will never let her, or any of her sisters, be free. Maybe she was a fool to trust Orochimaru's word in the first place.

With that, the music ends, though the strings still reverberate chillingly in the hushed room. Hinata crouches in her final pose, her fans going still and heavy in her hands.

The room is filled with clapping. Hinata raises her wide, shining eyes. She sees Sasuke, who is looking at her, as if for the first time. He takes a long, slow drink of sake, eyeing her over the rim of his cup. Everything else in the room fades away. There is only her, and Sasuke, and the darkness that settles around them like a thick mist.

Then the moment is over. Sasuke looks away, and Hinata finds her seat again, the noises of the teahouse receding to a dim roar in her ears. The door to the teahouse opens and shuts with the wind, though no one enters. The shudder of the door slamming shut sounds final, like her fate is being sealed in the chilly winds of spring.

#

"Congratulations," Guren says, presenting Hinata with a new kimono. She takes it in shaking hands and reads the note from Sasuke. The words don't say much, but the calligraphy rolls like waves on the sea in the breath of a storm. She gulps, and runs her hand over the thick brocade on the blue fabric. The silk is soft and exquisite. It must have cost a fortune, Hinata thinks sadly.

"You're to meet him in his apartment. Tonight," Guren says, her dark eyes inscrutable. "You'll receive further instructions from Orochimaru-sama later this afternoon. You are dismissed."

Hinata leaves her okaasan with a bow, her mind whirling. At the rate Sasuke has agreed to pay to her okiya, Hinata will be free in just a few months. That's what Hinata tells herself as she clutches her kimono and retreats upstairs.

As she approaches her room, she hears muffled whispers inside:

"…And Kankuro agreed."

"He did?" The more shrill voice belongs to Temari. "Thank the gods… Maybe I'll get out of this hell hole after all. Orochimaru—"

As soon as Hinata enters, they stop speaking in hushed whispers and stare at her. Hinata stands still for a moment, regarding them. She lays her new kimono reverently on her bed, then knees on the floor near her sisters, her head bowed.

"Thank you both for your h-help last night," Hinata whispers, forcing herself not to fidget.

"Nice kimono," Karin calls, her voice even. "From Sasuke, I assume."

"Y-y-yes, oneesan," Hinata mumbles. She doesn't miss the way Karin's red eyes flash.

"I can't believe the amount he's willing to pay for you," Temari calls, sounding bored, but Hinata can tell that the tone is an affect. When she looks up into Temari's eyes, they seem sad, like a deep green sea untouched by sunlight.

"It's outrageous," Karin mutters. "Hinata has become the richest geisha in all the Fire Country overnight."

"It's o-only because my o-o-oneesan is so k-kind," Hinata stutters, her eyes welling with tears.

"Oh shut up," Karin snaps. Hinata looks up into Karin's eyes, which look about as sad as Hinata feels. Hinata bursts into tears.

"Oh gods, you'll ruin your makeup," Karin says, her voice going soft. She grabs a cloth and drapes it around Hinata's neck, lest she get makeup on her kimono, then awkwardly pats Hinata's back.

"I'm s-s-sorry," Hinata stutters, her lungs aching. She wishes there was more that she could say—more that she could do for them—but there isn't.

"I can't watch this," Temari says, striding out of the room, her yellow robes swishing behind her.

Karin leans forward on her knees and stares at Hinata for a long time. Hinata hiccups and her tears fade. "Come on," Karin says, sounding tired. "I'll help you reapply your makeup."

#

Hinata walks with aching slowness up the steps to Sasuke's apartment. She assumes that he has bought it specifically to meet with her, as it is in the center of town, far away from the Uchiha compound. When she reaches the front door, she doesn't knock right away. Instead, she fingers her hair ornaments, crystals clinking in the silence. The ornaments dangle from a wooden pin, which conceals a hypodermic needle inside.

Slip it out while he's having his way with you, Orochimaru had said with a long, sideways grin. Then, at just the right moment—ku, ku, ku—stick it in his carotid artery. Hinata didn't need to ask which moment Orochimaru had been talking about.

Hinata drops her hand to her side and bows her head. She had asked Orochimaru, her voice shaking, if the green liquid inside the needle was a poison. His amber eyes had widened at the question, then crinkled with laughter.

Why do you want to know?

I—I don't want to k-kill him.

Ku, ku, ku. That's not your decision to make. Nevertheless, the needle won't kill him. A wide smile, glinting teeth. But I just might.

Hinata stares at the door, still lost in thought. It used to be, in the times before Orochimaru, that a geisha and her danna had a joining ceremony, similar to a marriage. A pledge of trust. A pact, a contract, a bill of rights. Hinata read about it once, in an old book. These rites are no longer practiced in Konoha; men want their privacy, don't want the rest of Konoha to know when a mistress is taken. And Orochimaru isn't known for keeping his promises, anyway.

Hinata nibbles her lower lip at that thought. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she lifts her hand and knocks softly on the door. Instead of hearing the sound of her knuckle rapping on the door, she hears Orochimaru's sibilant promise: If you can do this, consider yourself a free woman—earlier than planned. Hinata hadn't asked what would happen if she failed. Her curse mark burns at the thought, but she doesn't dare clasp a hand over it. The front door eases open on silent hinges.

At first she does not see Sasuke's face. He is like a dark ghost, bathed in shadow, until he opens the door further and his profile catches the lamplight outside. She sees Orochimaru in his face, the shadows playing on her imagination. She shivers.

"Come in," comes his dark, rumbling voice. Sasuke sweeps aside and Hinata enters the dim candle-lit room. The floor seems to shift under her, and the walls move. Dizzy, she steadies herself against the wall, knowing that it is only an illusion from the low light; that she of all people should be able to see through illusion.

"Are you all right?" he murmurs, taking her arm.

"F-fine," Hinata says. She wants to say more, but her tongue becomes thick in her mouth.

Sasuke gives her a sharp look before seating her on the couch. He sits down next to her, but they do not touch. Hinata is grateful for that, though she knows it is foolish. He will have to touch her, later. And she will have to touch him. And who knows if there will be any emotion involved in it at all, or if it will just be two shinobi fighting with flesh, instead of jutsu, for dominance.

Hinata's eyes adjust to the darkness. She sees the opaque outline of a teapot sitting on the coffee table. Mustering all of her artistry, Hinata rises on steady feet and takes it in her hands, pours the tea, a simple action she's done so many times before. She doesn't have to tell her body how to bend, how to pour, how to flash a sliver of pale wrist. She hands Sasuke his tea and their fingers brush, making her heart beat irregularly in her chest.

She sits, perched on the end of the couch, holding her hot tea in her hands. She wishes she could sit on the floor in the traditional style. The floor cannot hide things like the voluminous cushions of the couch can. She imagines that there might be scrolls, microphones, or weapons ensconced behind the backrest. He knows that she has come here to destroy him. He must know.

Hinata takes a long sip of tea to steady her nerves. She mustn't act foolish. Even if he does know, it doesn't matter.

Failure is not an option.

She will win her freedom.

"Sasuke-danna," she says at last, when Sasuke does not break the thick silence, "thank you for the kimono. It is beautiful." She runs a hand down the side of her blue kimono, the silk soft under her touch. But Sasuke doesn't follow her gesture. He stares steadily into her eyes. She gulps.

"So. I'm your danna now." It's not really a question. Hinata isn't sure how to reply.

"Y-yes, Sasuke-danna..." Hinata clutches her teacup and falls silent.

"I know Orochimaru is up to something," Sasuke mutters. "I can't believe that you would throw yourself at me—that Karin would deign to help you throw yourself at me—if you weren't under orders to do so."

Hinata's mouth goes dry. She takes another sip of tea, then clenches the cup tightly in her hands so that she will not tremble.

"I admit, Sasuke-danna," she replies, "that my okaasan ordered me to pursue you. But I d-don't know anything about O-orochimaru's plans." That's true enough, Hinata thinks. She spreads one of her hands wide, palm up, in her lap, a sign of surrender. "I j-just want to obtain my f-freedom."

Sasuke trails a finger down Hinata's jaw. Hinata doesn't breathe. Her wide eyes look up into Sasuke's, but she looks away quickly. Who knows what he can see, with or without his Sharingan, if he holds her gaze for too long. He leans in so closely, his breath fans across her face. Then, just as quickly, he leans back, and stares at her, as if she's a new kind of weapon he's not sure how to wield.

"You don't know what you're in the middle of," Sasuke says at last. "Orochimaru is a dangerous man."

Hinata titters at that, a strained, hysterical sound. She breaks off abruptly and eyes Sasuke. "Yes," Hinata whispers, "I know."

"What do you know?" Sasuke asks, leaning forward again until his nose almost touches hers, his eyes glinting red.

Hinata looks away from his menacing gaze and stares down at his lips, pressed into a thin line. He wants to know what she knows. How mundane, predictable. Banal. Does he want to know how it feels to be sold as chattel, to be used, and cursed, forced to bend to the will of her master? Her anger boils like lava roiling under the crust of the earth.

She meets his gaze then, rutilant as it is, without fear. Anger gives her strength, eats her fear like a flame consuming its wick. "I know what it means to suffer—to be owned," she retorts, her voice raw with emotion. "That is what I know."

"Tch," Sasuke says, still holding her gaze with his red eyes, "you geisha are all alike. Self-centered. Narcissistic. It's like no one else suffers besides you."

"I can't visit my mother's grave without sneaking into the Hyuga compound," Hinata whispers, "because my father has disowned me. And yet, he still owns me."

"You only know how to talk about yourself," he snaps.

"I s-speak about w-what I know," Hinata says, looking away. She slides her facade back into place, like the wall that conceals the entrance to Orochimaru's layer, grating closed along the stone until secrets are obscured.

She must focus now on seducing Sasuke. It's dangerous to show too many emotions, and yet, she felt that she had to show some—to offer some kind of truth to satisfy him; some vulnerability to draw him closer.

"You're not the only one who's suffering in this village," Sasuke hisses. "It's because of Danzo, and Orochimaru—the way they run our underground intelligence systems. I'm this close to incriminating them both," he says, resting his elbows on his knees and staring at her intently. "That's why you're here."

"Why?" Hinata replies, her voice smooth and without inflection.

"To spy on me. Find fodder to accuse me of something." Sasuke sips his tea, his eyes never leaving hers. "Think before you act—that's all I'm asking you to do. This is bigger than you or me, Hinata."

Hinata turns towards him with a start, almost dropping her teacup. "D-d-don't c-call me th-that," she stammers.

"What? Hinata? That's you name," Sasuke says, rising. He walks to the open window and looks down at the street. A gentle rain begins to fall, pattering on the roof and dotting the glass.

"My name is Misaki," Hinata says, slowly, so that she will not stutter. Sasuke has left his teacup on the table. As she bends to pour for him, she nudges her sleeve to fall at just the right angle, letting pale white powder fall into his drink, like snow. It is a substance without taste or smell. Unlike poison, which ninja are trained to detect, it is just an aphrodisiac—a strong one that Orochimaru has given her specifically for this mission. It will make him helpless. At least, that's what Orochimaru had said.

Orochimaru works for Danzo, Hinata reasons. Danzo works for the Hokage. If they are accusing Sasuke of treason, then she will believe them, regardless of Sasuke's ridiculous accusations. No one is more loyal than Orochimaru, Hinata thinks to herself, though the voice whispering in her head isn't her own. I will follow Orochimaru's orders, or suffer the consequences. I will live and die by his wishes.

Live and die.

Live and die.

That's a good girl, Misaki-chan. Hold still now. Breathy, sibilant laughter in her ear. I own you, Misaki-chan.

Yes.

You belong to me.

Y-yes. She shivers. A long fingernail running down the length of her naked body.

You belong to me.

Hinata blinks. Somehow, she is standing with Sasuke by the window ledge, handing him the cup of tea. "Your mother is dead as well," Hinata murmurs. Sasuke takes the tea from her outstretched hand without touching her. "We have that in common, at least."

"My mother was murdered," Sasuke snaps, "as was half my clan, by my brother." He growls. "It's not the same thing at all."

Hinata turns to look out of the window, watching the rain fall, the streets turning slick and glinting in the orange lamp light. The Uchiha massacre. A night when Itachi's bloodied sword was stopped only by the Fourth Hokage himself, though Itachi got away, somehow. She wonders if he will ever return, and hopes that he does not. Hinata presses her fingers to the window pane.

"What will you do, Sasuke-danna, if you find your brother again?" she whispers.

"That's none of your concern," he grunts, turning away. She tilts her head and regards his back, wondering what secrets he holds inside those dark, smoldering eyes. She watches him as he drains his teacup, then slams it down on the windowsill. Hinata is surprised that the cup doesn't break.

She knows that it is a risk to speak when not spoken to, but she has to do something—anything—to complete her mission. She glides away from the window and undoes her obi, slowly, so that the long red sash hisses against the silk of her dress.

"Don't bother," Sasuke snarls. "I'm not going to—"

"I'm not a-a-asking you to," she says, her voice quiet but cutting. "I want to show you s-something." She nudges her kimono open and withdraws a bare arm. She offers it to Sasuke, who takes a step back, as if it is a snake that might bite him. Keeping her face smooth, she traces a line around her upper arm, pale blue ink inscribed with the Fourth Hokage's insignia. Sasuke's eyes flash red as he comes forward to inspect the mark.

"Chakra restraints," Sasuke murmurs.

"I have one on the other arm, too," Hinata says, pulling her arm forward to display her other cuff. "I cannot use chakra unless I'm on a mission."

"Why are you showing me this?" Sasuke snaps. "Are you trying to seduce me? It's not going to work."

But Hinata sees the way sweat is beading across his forehead, the way his pulse quickens—she can feel heat rising from his finger pads. "Do you know what it's liked to be owned, Sasuke-danna?"

"I—"

"Let me show you something else," Hinata says, withdrawing her arms. She takes her kimono, still draped on her shoulders, and lays it gently on the couch. Then she turns back to Sasuke and hooks her finger into the opening of her under robe, and parts it, until her clavicle is bared. Sasuke gulps and looks away.

"I'm not—"

"It's another seal," Hinata says, edging towards him. "You are my danna, now. You should know who owns me, besides you."

"No one owns you," Sasuke snarls. "No one—"

Hinata pulls her robe apart so that the space between her breasts is bared. "My father wanted to put this seal on my forehead, but of course, Orochimaru wouldn't let him ruin my face. They placed it over my h-heart instead."

Sasuke's fingers move, as if they have a mind of their own, and trace the design in the air, hovering just above her skin. "The branch seal," he says, slowly, his eyes lingering on her cleavage.

Hinata takes a deep breath. This feels so forced, like a scene out of a bad spy movie; a chapter out of one of Jiraiya's pornographic novels. Who else could have scripted this but Orochimaru? Though the pity-strip-tease and party drug had been Karin's suggestion, to use as a last resort.

Hinata's not supposed to show Sasuke her curse mark—it's supposed to remain a secret, dusted over with waterproof foundation and a touch of concealing chakra, but Hinata is feeling petulant and rebellious and angry at her master. What does it matter if she reveals this last humiliation to her danna?

He'll probably be dead, soon, anyway.

So she props her leg up on the low table, nudging the tea cups out of the way with her toes. Slowly, like a curtain being blown back in a breeze, she lifts the hem of her robe. Sasuke's gaze is fixated on it, follows the slow revelation of ankle, calf, thigh. He takes an uneven step towards her. She takes his hand and places it on her inner thigh.

"There's a g-genjutsu h-here," Hinata whispers, her throat dry. "Dispel it."

His chakra crackles along her leg like static electricity. He brushes away the white powder on her leg and looks at the curse mark, a swirling tattoo of three concentric circles, like a bull's eye.

"What is this?" he says, tracing the circles with his finger. Hinata clenches her teeth.

"Orochimaru's mark," she says, shivering when Sasuke's hand lingers. "He owns me." He places his whole palm on her leg, covering the mark, and looks up at her, his eyes glinting.

"No one owns you," he growls, burying his face in the crook of her neck.

"No one o-own me but y-you, you mean," Hinata whispers, feeling his hot breath on her neck.

"No." Sasuke pulls back, then leans his forehead on hers. "You make your own choices." Then his hands are on her body, and she is closing her eyes, imagining that she is somewhere outside of herself, anywhere but here. She waits for teeth, the whip of a tail, scoring marks of fingernails raking across her back, drawing blood, blood, her blood dripping from fangs—

It doesn't happen. Sasuke gathers her up in his arms and carries her into the bedroom, her white robe trailing out behind her where it hangs from her shoulders. He places her on the bed reverently, like she is made of breakable glass, then he takes a step back.

"I shouldn't do this," he says, his eyes darting back and forth.

Hinata forces herself to shrug. "Why n-not?" she whispers, looking down at the bedspread. "I w-w-want you to."

Sasuke brings his face close to hers. "…You do?"

Hinata swallows thickly. She pushes the edge of her robe off of her shoulder, rolls over onto her side, and looks up at him through her thick lashes. It is a critical moment. Hinata almost hopes that he will regain his self-control, that the drug will lose its effect. It doesn't. He stumbles forward and brushes his lips with hers.

Hinata starts at that, pulls away quickly. "Wh-what are you d-doing?" she asks, her eyes wide.

He makes a tsking sound and covers her mouth with his again. Hinata realizes that this is her first kiss. Tears blur her vision. She wonders if this is how people touch each other when they are in love—soft skin pressed to skin, this steady, gentle movement against the sheets. For the first time while being touched, Hinata doesn't fall into memories or hear Orochimaru's voice in her ear. There is only their skin and the fall of her tears as Sasuke kisses her.

"Why?" Hinata gasps when Sasuke trails his lips along her neck.

"Why what?" he says into her neck, his breath tickling her skin.

"Why k-kiss me?" she says in a small voice, her eyes squeezed closed. Why make this more difficult? she asks, silently.

He brings his mouth to the shell of her ear. "Because I want to." He finds the trail of tears coursing down her cheeks and kisses them away, then finds her mouth again.

For a moment, she closes her eyes and she imagines that he loves her. What a thing, to be loved; to be touched like this. She hadn't been expecting him to be so gentle—it's not the drug. It's him. She kisses him back, feeling her heart breaking open like a dam. Her tears pour down her face.

Sasuke draws away. "Why are you crying?" He looks into her eyes, and the breath hitches in her throat. She must not let him see her secrets. She closes her eyes and she draws his head forward, until it rests on her neck.

"I'm…f-fine," she breathes. "Please—d-don't stop."

This time, when he kisses her lips, she does not kiss him back. She must not. Her heart thunders in her chest. She wishes that she did not have to do this. She wishes that she could have the capacity to kiss this man; that she did not have to be selfish, and self-serving; that she was not owned by people who want Sasuke dead.

She forces herself to take deep breaths to calm herself. Sasuke rests his face by the side of her neck, breathing in her ear, like the sigh of the ocean.

She will finish her mission.

She has to.

She trails one hand, lazily, to rest by her hair. Pulls out the wooden hairpin with slow precision. Lets it rest gently in the palm of her hand. Sasuke doesn't notice. For all that he's a jonin, and head of the police force, with red eyes that see every movement and memorize every jutsu, he is under her spell, now. He only has eyes for one thing.

Her back arches. He pants. Grunts. She wraps a leg around him, knowing that it won't be long now. He shivers, then shudders. With ninja-precision, she unsheathes the needle. Just as she's about to slam it down into his carotid artery, Sasuke growls, clutches her arm and pins it behind her head. His eyes spin red and black, spearing her with a glare, but Hinata won't give up—she can't, not when she's this close.

With an animal snarl, she activates her own jutsu, veins bulging in her eyes. She can see his chakra network outlined in shimmering blue meridians, and she twists in his grip, her fist tight around the needle, but he holds fast. He's still inside of her—she can't gain any purchase with her legs, splayed open. She mews when Sasuke's crimson eyes whirl into view, feeling the heavy threads of genjutsu falling over her. That's when the adrenaline hits.

Her curse mark burns on her inner thigh, then activates with a jolt of chakra. The genjutsu is dispelled. With a roar, Hinata throws him back—he hadn't been expecting her to overpower him, he isn't prepared. Before he can recover, she jabs the needle into his neck, pushes the plunger down.

"F-forgive me," Hinata whispers, blinking the tears out of her eyes.

Sasuke looks up at her with a snarl. He convulses, this time from pain, not pleasure. He looks up into her wide, white eyes, still shimmering with tears, and his gaze goes red again, boring into her.

The world around her fades, from darkness into bright light, and for a moment, Hinata thinks that Sasuke has killed her with his glance alone.

If looks could kill, Hinata thinks, grimly. She deserves to die, she thinks; at least, death will set her free. So she opens herself up to the light, and floats towards it, leaving her naked body behind.

She sees a figure moving towards her, and wonders if it is her mother, come to bring her home. Or, if it is a more sinister entity, a demon come to cast her into the fires of hell.

She wouldn't be surprised, either way.


endnote: Yeah. Really hard to write a sex scene from the perspective of someone who's been raped. It really wasn't meant to be very sexy... It took me weeks to iron out this part of the chapter.

As always, thank you for reading, and please review;)