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Here be Monsters

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Here be Monsters

“Look, look, mommy! It’s a nymph!”

“Ai, honey, you can’t point fingers!”

“But mommy, mommy! She’s a real pretty nymph!”

“It’s rude to assume! I’m so sorry darling, don’t take it to heart.”

“It’s alright ma’am,” Sakura smiles, bright and polite, and hands the woman her pre-ordered delivery of fresh, A-grade Konoha produce. “Have a nice day!”

“You too, dear!” the young mother smiles right back and waves, one hand holding the delivery bags, the other perching a toddler on her hip. Behind her, the slightly older child is still looking at Sakura with wide, fascinated eyes, and as she turns to leave the little girl startles, jumps forward, waves her hands excitedly.

“Bye-bye, pretty nymph!”

“Ai! Get inside!”

Sakura waves at the little girl as she’s herded inside, ignores the way the civilian mother’s grumbling about assumptions and rudeness, and skips back towards her teammates, as if she hadn’t a worry in the world. She’s used to this by now, the assumptions. The wide, pleased smiles and empty compliments. In a world of myths and legends, Sakura wears the face of beautiful dream and weathers all that comes with it.

“Miss Fairy, Miss Fairy! Give us a smile!”

“Pretty nymph! Look, look!”

Sakura waves and smiles at the passing civilian children and tries so hard, with all of her trembling hands and hesitant heart, to not let Sasuke’s derisive snort hurt her. Naruto’s rumbunctious laughter nearly drowns it out, anyway, and the sound which used to be so grating and annoyingonly a few weeks ago is just slowly becoming background noise. Just more empty fawning, endlessly fanning the flame of her.

“Sakura-chan! You’re the district favorite!” Naruto yells loudly, as free-spirited, and wild as all other nine-tailed foxes are. Naruto hasn’t got nine-tails yet, only four ruffled ones, but his bravado is enough to make up for it. That, and the fact he is the very last fox left in Fire Country. He’s not even stable, not even a pureblood - his whiskers are on full display all the time and he’s absolutely shit at transformation jutsu, the bread and butter of his kind. Sasuke is pure-bred, of course. The last pure-bred Tengu affiliated with Konohagakure - but nobody’s supposed to talk about that. Nobody is supposed to mention there are other Tengu out there, affiliated and loyal to different countries and hidden villages, because those other Tengu do not have the Sharingan and that makes them… less. At least according to Uchiha drivel. Kakashi-sensei, too, is pure-bred and special, just like Naruto, just like Sasuke. He is the very last Ookami in the whole wide world, period. Nobody else exists and Kakashi-sensei hasn’t a mate or a wife or a lover. There will be no more Hatake after him, Sakura feels it in her bones and wonders if the world would cry over it, the extinction of a species.

The world wouldn’t cry over her, she thinks. Nobody cries over nymphs.

‘Nymphs,’ Sasuke had said once upon a time, before Team 7 was a thing, fresh after his families massacre, ‘are like cockroaches.’

This of course, opened the door for the other children to jeer, and leer, and be horrible as only children can, and it was brought on by an act of kindness. A nymph girl whose name Sakura never learned offered Sasuke chocolate because he was looking sad, and nobody that pretty should ever be sad. Eight years old Sakura had wilted like a stomped flower under the rambunctious assault of her classmates and hadn’t looked directly at Sasuke’s beautiful face for close to two months. She never called him ‘Sasuke-kun’ after that, either. His assumption had hurt more than the derisive comments he made, the way his black eyes immediately found her in the classroom, narrowed and seemed to curse at her, specifically. It hurt, it truly did, because Sakura was not a nymph. Or a fairy. Or anything of the sort.

Not even close.

Naturally in the years since then, Sasuke’s insults have multiplied and evolved along with his vocabulary and seemingly endless pit of hatred for absolutely any and every thing, other than the tombstones of his clansmen. As Team 7 was established, the insults became more personal, sharper, aimed and let loose with great accuracy. Sakura’s blood, Sakura’s face, her chakra, her body - even her shadow, that one particular time they’d had to catch a stupid cat for another D-rank from hell - all of it was faulty, lacking, unsatisfying. As Sasuke strove to tear her down, Naruto toiled to build her up by all means necessary. Loud, and bright and so, so warm. It would’ve been the greatest comfort for a nymph, like Ino. That sort of blind enthusiasm and devotion. But Sakura wasn’t a thrice damned nymph, she wasn’t.

“I should hope so,” Sakura tells Naruto with a huff of impatience. Flips her hair - pink, smooth, so very long - over her shoulder and takes a minuscule amount of petty joy in the way Naruto’s eyes follow it, the way even Sasuke looks a second too long as it brushes past her shoulders and comes to rest just over her ass. Her hair is beautiful, she knows.

Sakura is beautiful. A flower in full bloom, brighter than the sun, even at the cusp of fourteen.

It’s why everybody always assumed.

“This is a waste of time,” Sasuke says, as sullen as ever. His scowl deepens when Sakura doesn’t even look at him, doesn’t try to dissuade him from this dark mood. Even if she wants to, at least a little bit, she is not an idiot. Abuse mustn’t be rewarded and Sasuke has only ever graced her with negativity and hatred. Her mother taught her better, with her proud straight back and unapologetic sharpness. Her father raised her greater, with his adoration and near religious devotion to her mother.

She picks up the next delivery and sashays away, her hips swinging, her hair swaying, well aware that Sasuke’s still watching her ass and Naruto’s keeping his eyes glued to her feet. She knows that on some level, in their own ways, they want her - one had never kept it secret, shouted it from every rooftop since they were eight; the other is still fresh to the feeling, still disturbed by the discovery that girls are not infectious or disgusting, thoroughly sickened by the realization Sakura, whom he hates so much, is thrice as attractive as any other girl. Sakura knows all this, feels it on her skin like a coat of grime, not yet fourteen years old, and she revels in the fact this means her victory.

Because Sakura will only grow more beautiful, her grip on their meager hearts would only ever tighten, and neither of them will ever, ever, have her.

Sakura is no nymph.

Sakura keeps a grudge.

Team 7 gets their first whiff of something other in their midst when their first ever escort mission goes to shit, spectacularly and thoroughly.

The aftermath of the Naruto Bridge incident is… messy. Sakura is still young, only turned fourteen a month ago, and this is her first time letting loose. Sasuke and Naruto had been knocked out by that point - Sasuke by the masked boy’s strange ice jutsu, Naruto by overexertion after he grew an additional tail through sheer rage. Kakashi-sensei is still injured from that very lucky shot Zabuza, the man who smells like dirty blood, had landed on him. Lucky, because is Kakashi-sensei hadn’t been shielding Sakura he would’ve torn Zabuza to shreds easily.

“Run away, little nymph,” Zabuza croons and Sakura doesn’t even blink. She’s too used to the assumptions to be offended, but she feels disgusted by the way his eyes linger. “Run far away and don’t look back.”

“You should, miss,” the masked boy tells her politely.

“What are these brutes to you, anyway?” Zabuza leers. “What idiot brings a nymph out of the village?”

Kakashi-sensei is looking at her thoughtfully and Sakura stared right back at him.

‘Can I?’ her eyes ask. ‘Can I, sensei? I’m fourteen.’

“Such a pretty nymph, too,” Zabuza notes. “Prettier than you, Haku.”

‘You can,’ Kakashi-sensei’s eyes say as he shifts back a little, flattens himself on the edge of the bridge. ‘You can, Sakura.’

“I’m not a nymph, though,” Sakura says, and it comes out a purr. Her chakra rises, her blood stirs and she’s so, so pleased that they’re on water because isn’t this a sign from the universe? Zabuza may be from Mist, that masked boy may have ice in his veins, but Sakura is the vast ocean, is the depths of the seas.

“Please,” Zabuza snorts, derisively, but the masked boy flinches. “Only nymphs have ridiculous colors like you.”

“No, no, really,” Sakura assures and smiles. Zabuza’s eyes glaze over but the masked boy summons his eyes, senses the danger of the beautiful child - she’s fourteen, she is a child, fresh into her teens. The sea and the chakra and the thrumming blood of her veins only make her seem more heavenly, but they do not age her. “I am no nymph.”

The villagers rebuild the bridge from scratch. The original wood is too stained with blood and guts to use, it will inevitably rot quickly and the smell - the smell would never disappear. It’s carnage and it’s chaos, a nightmarish scene that makes Naruto retch when he wakes and witnesses the bare minimum of remains - Kakashi-sensei had cleaned up with his ninken, keeping his eyes on Sakura all the while. The Ookami is not afraid of her, but he is curious, something in him stirred. Kakashi-sensei always knew Sakura wasn’t a harmless little nymph, he could smell it on her upon first meeting. Now he knows exactly what she is, and he understands that Team 7 is not a training hub for Konoha’s most precious creatures.

It’s a contingency plan. A containment system.

And the threat is pretty Sakura, crying fake tears and wrapping up her teammates wounds, while hiding the blood beneath her fingernails and the little bit of Zabuza’s brain still clinging to her nape.

Sakura is made chunin shortly afterwards, a reward wiping out an S-rank missing nin, one of the Seven Swordsmen.

It’s a silent promotion. There’s no ceremony, no pomp. There isn’t even a flack jacket because that would involve explaining to her teammates why she’s promoted and they aren’t, would necessitate letting them in on her species and Sakura’s not interested. She’s used to their assumptions and there’s nothing in it for her if they learn otherwise.

If they stand corrected.

Instead, she gets a discreet pay raise, spends more afternoons with Kakashi-sensei training and finetuning her dangerous, dangerous self.

At fifteen, Sakura wakes up starving.

She eats three bowls of rice, two servings of miso soup, gobbles down three whole fish and still looks at her mother with a crestfallen expression, murmurs that she’s hungry, momma, and nothing helps. Her mother smiles, and its part knowing - part cruel, pats her on the back and congratulates her for maturing. She says nothing else, leaves Sakura to stew because there’s nothing to be said.

What Sakura wants, what she needs, what she’s hungry for, can’t be cooked up in her mother’s kitchen.

Sakura stays hungry for weeks, constantly chewing on one snack or another to the point it’s a miracle she’s not taken for an Akimichi bastard. Ino certainly raises the point, wonders about what the hell is wrong. Kakashi-sensei eyes her warily and pointedly keeps out of touching range, not that Sakura fully understands why.

Then… then he stumbles in on her training, extends an invitation with heated eyes and slacked jaws, and Sakura finally, finally finds what she’s been hungry for.

When Sakura turns sixteen, she decides that her favorite seat is on Neji’s lap.

It is best when they’re both naked, when his cock’s balls-deep in her, rocking and thrusting with bruising force, and his teeth are on her neck, possessively biting into her skin to leave every sort of mark. Neji likes it when people see, takes particular pleasure when her teammates see, that Sakura is taken. No body knows by whom, they are not quite interested in publicising it, but Neji enjoys it all the same. Sakura claws his back and arms to leave marks of her own, not to prove a point to anyone but because it eggs him on and when Neji loses his restraints her orgasms tend to blend together until she’s incoherent for hours.

Yes, it’s best when they’re naked, but Sakura likes how they are right now, too. With Neji’s arms wrapped loosely around her waist, with her ass planted firmly over his thighs, her own hands resting over his. His heart beats a slow, languid rhythm onto her back, and it speaks of comfort while the warm, not yet fully risen bulge below her whispers of something else. Occasionally, Neji’s lips press onto her shoulders and his nose swipes along her skin after, breathing and tasting her. It keeps him calm, and Sakura adores it.

Who else can keep a literal dragon calm, after all?

Neji presses his lips to her shoulder again, and this time his tongue swipes across her skin between them. Discrete but unmistakeable. Sakura leans her head back, gives him her neck, and doesn’t care they are only a little bit off the beaten path of Konoha’s parks. The sun is warm, the breeze is soft. There is the crisp smell of autumn in the air and Neji has been gone for a month on a mission with his team. A month too short, a month too long. He came back with nothing of Sakura’s on him, and with Tenten’s eyes observing his tall, broad back with a little bit too much interest. Sakura had already decided to ravage every bit of his skin so that she is unmistakeable, so that no one ever dares fantasize of him again.

Dragons do not share, and neither does Sakura.

“You taste the same, but different.”

“You were gone a month.”

Neji sighs, nuzzles closer to Sakura, and scrapes his teeth a bit harder on the column of pale flesh. His teeth sharpen with whatever it is he’s thinking, and he draws blood, licks it off repeatedly, sucks, leaves a purpling stroke behind.

“I should finish on this pretty neck,” he murmurs and Sakura snorts. “They can’t ignore the scent then.”

“Should I rub mine all over yours, too?” Sakura suggest and Neji shudders. Of course he does, the debauched pervert, and Sakura is proud, proud, proud because she made him this way. She ruined him, with small hands and not-yet curved waist, at the tender age of fifteen deep in the woods of Konoha.

With gasping breaths and wandering hands she ruined him. With biting teeth and clawing nails, with hot tongues and hotter sucks, she broke him down and built him up again - the same, but different. Before Sakura’s vicious kisses, before her scalding touch and bottomless appetite, Neji belonged to the Hyuuga. Then he met her again after she had bloomed, after he could fly and gorged up a special little pearl anyone would kill for. He witnessed her under Kakashi-sensei’s training, all violence and blood, sharper than a blade, colder than a blizzard. And as Sakura stopped and Kakashi-sensei lunged to shield her - because secrets are secrets and Ookami protect their pack well - Neji was all hers.

“You’re a tease,” Neji accuses.

“I’m sixteen,” Sakura replies easily and shifts, turns so that she faces him, her dragon, and rubs their noses together. “I’m young, and hot, and bothered.”


Sakura leans her head and licks his jaw, allows her chakra to trickle out just so, likes it when Neji shudders, swears to herself that one day she’ll make his groan, and moan, and maybe even scream her name. She’s territorial like that.

“Maybe, I’m not a tease,” Sakura suggests and very deliberately grinds down.

Neji hisses this time, sinks his fingers into her hips and clamps his teeth onto her collarbone - and they aren’t even naked, he’s not even fucking her yet, and Sakura is drunk, drunk, drunk with power -

“Maybe, you’re not enough,” she gasps out just as his hips push up and suddenly - suddenly she’s thrown off her favourite seat. “Hey!”

“Say it again,” Neji growls and Sakura’s indignation turns to confusion at his tone. She look at him, all affronted, but Neji’s agitated. His Byakugan is out, directed at her and making her feel small, which she doesn’t like. His chakra rises and it’s angry, she can feel the lightening alignment of it at the back of her tongue and it prickles.

“Say what again?” Sakura huffs, bravado in the face of danger.

“I am not enough for you?” Neji demands and he crawls towards her, but there’s nothing sensual about it. It’s dangerous and it would’ve been threatening, too, but Sakura knows too well that she can take him, if she wants. That Neji would never hurt her, no matter how she hurts him. She feels it in the marrow of her bones.

“You know it was a joke,” Sakura says instead of huffing, because she doesn’t want to fight. She likes it peaceful between them unless they’re fucking. They’re not fucking now, she wants her seat back, wants hugs, and kisses, and lingering touches. He’d been gone a month, she missed him.

“All jokes contain a core of truth.”

“Are you - oh, my God, Neji. No.” Sakura rolls her eyes at him. When he doesn’t settle, only pushes her down, a hand on each side of her head and face scowling, she feels the smallest twinge of guilt. She reaches her own hands up, traces his pretty face, lingers with her fingertips against his lips. “I am a tease, it’s in my nature and my bones, Neji, but I do not share. Not even myself. You’re enough, you’re more than enough, you are perfect, perfect -“

“You are a greedy, vile thing,” Neji grunts but his Byakugan has already receded and there’s no sharp edges left to him. Only adoration, only softness, in every atom of his being.

“I am, I am,” Sakura agrees, because she really is quite greedy, and the things she does to him - at night, in broad daylight, in private and not so much - some of them are truly vile, a mark of how perverse he’d become for her. All for her, and only her.

“But you are mine,” Neji continues and presses their foreheads together.

Sakura tenses and stares and says nothing - because this is unexpected, this is meaningful. They kiss and they fuck, they cuddle, and argue, and caress, but they don’t lay claim. At least they hadn’t , not yet. For a year they never spoke of it, left the silly tags and meanings elsewhere, focused on breathing and being. They do not claim because dragons do not share. When dragons claim, it’s absolute and all consuming. They only ever claim once, only ever love - truly love - one person. Dragons mate for life.

“I am yours,” Neji continues in a whisper and Sakura feels like she’s witnessing a miracle, an act of the divine - and weren’t dragons worshipped as gods, so very long ago?

“My dragon,” she murmurs, and it comes out thick and wobbly, just like her heart feels right now. Thick, wobbly, and stuffed to the brim with something warm, gooey, like oozing decadent chocolate. Sweet enough to die for, sweet enough to kill for. “My old god.”

“My little terror,” Neji echoes and it’s a nickname only her mother ever used, but it sounds so naughty from his lips, so right. “I love you.”

Sakura shudders all over and clings to him, like a spider monkey, like a koala bear. Wraps him in her arms and legs, hides her face in his chest and breathes him in, imprints him into her very soul because Sakura - Sakura mates for life, too. Sakura only truly loves once, too.

I love you,” Neji says again, a little louder, and if the first time was a prayer, then the second is a declaration.

Sakura lets out an odd sound, something she’d never made before, and kisses over his heart. She’s sixteen, freshly so, but he is in her blood, and he is in her soul, and will stay with her forever, and ever, and after that. Until the sun explodes, and the moon corrodes, until mountains crumble, land drowns, and the world is only water. Her water, his sky, and eternity between them.

“I love you,” Neji says again and this time it’s a vow, solemn and serious, a dragon’s unbreakable promise and Sakura looks up, eyes glittering, opens her mouth to speak her own -

A branch snaps.

Two heads turn, perfectly in sync. One face with Byakugan blazing, the other scrunched into a furious hiss. A matching Byakugan stares back at them, and Sakura knows - just as Neji knows, because he jumps to his feet, cradles Sakura to his chest, lets his chakra flow aggressively - that though Hinata is kind and soft, she is not different from the rest and she will not let her cousin, her near-brother, choose a nymph.

‘I am not a nymph,’ Sakura thinks, sorrowful.

‘You are mine,’ Neji’s fingers say, digging into her and pulling her so close no one would be able to tear her away.

The thing is nymphs aren’t even particularly common.

In all of Konoha, there is only one shinobi clan made of nymphs, the Yamanaka, and the entire civilian sector sports just three such families. Nymphs are natural healers, and seducers; born to be mothers, and fathers, and teachers. They are soft, tender, beautiful. Usually, they would be treated as pretty baubles, treasured for their positives but of course kept caged by the fact they are just that - beautiful toys, very little more. The Yamanaka are only special because their high nymph empathy evolved into kekkei genkai.

Still, most families would proudly take in a nymph. A nymph guarantees children, healthy and well raised, because nymphs are dedicated like that. Sure, they are flighty things, their attentions, and romantic affections breezy, unstable, impermanent. But for their family? For their family nymphs are the steadiest of trees, the most bountiful of fields. Nara, Inuzuka, Aburame, Akimichi - they all marry nymphs and think nothing on it. The Yamanaka, too, welcome new nymph blood quite happily.

The Hyuuga are not the same, of course. No, a clan that dares to seal up its own members, dares to try and cage dragons - to discriminate against dragons - is beyond such things.

Sakura doesn’t struggle when two scowling Hyuuga women drag her out of a civilian tea shop. She knew this would happen, tasted it in Neji’s parting kiss three days before, awaited it anxiously as he failed to return. Her pliant surrender makes the women scowl deeper and Sakura takes note, writes down her grudges, promises they’ll learn. She makes a list - every Hyuuga they pass that glares, or scowls, or mutters ‘nymph whore’ under their breath is marked now, marked to carry her ire once she decides to let it free. And she will let it free she has no doubt.

Neji didn’t come back to her. Her beautiful, strong, seventeen-year-old dragon. Someone will pay for it.

“What is the meaning of this?”

And of course, of course Hyuuga Hiashi has no idea. He is obsessed with letting Neji be, determined to make up for his mistakes, drowning in his guilt every second of every day. The rising storm of Sakura’s anger quells just a little bit because at least this man has nothing to do with whatever the Hyuuga have cooked up.

She’s kneeling on tatami mats, her head shoved down by the blunt edge of a tanto. Her pink hair, still so long and shiny, falls around her like a curtain and though she’s not trembling - she’s not afraid of these worms, they are not real dragons - she knows she looks pathetic. Because she’s small, because she’s soft, because she’s more beautiful than a dream. Because pink, and green, and cream have condemned her to this fate and it used to set her off, but she doesn’t care anymore - she doesn’t, she doesn’t, Neji loves her pink, and green, and cream.

“This dirty nymph seduced Neji!” a gnarly voice announces dramatically, and of course it’s one of those sickly, disgusting elders.

Sakura forces her head up, uncaring that the blunt blade isn’t so blunt at all, and it cuts into her skin. It stings, blood pours, but she still levels a look of hatred onto the elder that lounges before her like a king.

‘A king of nothing,’ she thinks venomously and knows the old coot sees it in her eyes. She can tell from the way he bristles and springs up onto shaky feet.

“It is rude to assume,” Sakura says darkly, just as the door to the stuffy room opens and someone’s thrown inside, like a ragdoll. “Inbred maggot.”

“Nymph whore!” the elder rages and lifts his cane, probably to strike her - but whoever’s been thrown in lunges at Sakura first, covers her with their own body and the cane hits their back -

‘Neji,’ Sakura thinks.

“Neji,” Sakura says, as if his name is sacred and to her it is.

“What have you done to my nephew?!” Hiashi rages and Sakura registers the smell of blood, the wet squelch the elder’s cane makes as it descends again and again - until Hiashi interrupts, shoves the lunatic away.

Neji’s skin is too warm, his eyes are glazed over. He shakes and trembles against her, and Sakura easily shoves the stupid woman who’s supposed to restrain her away, wraps her arms around him and then -

And then she sees red. Red, like Neji’s bare back, covered in cuts and lashes. Red from blood, yes, but also inflammation. No one tended to him, no one protected him. Once again the thrice damned clan mistreated him, abused him, and this time they did it because of her. Because a year ago Neji saw her in the woods, and Sakura with her greedy little hands decided to take what he offered through his heated eyes. Because Neji was hers, and she was his, and he loved her.

In the morning the Hyuuga are short one elder and fifteen people, and not one of the dead is in one piece. Most of them don’t have a big enough part left for a proper funeral and Sakura doesn’t apologise. No one asks her to, either.

Now the Hyuuga bow their heads in deference as she passes by, let her storm through corridors, slam doors and cabinets as she pleases. They are ever watchful, somewhere between reverence and fear, as Sakura exists among them, comes and goes at her own leisure. She is the mate of their ideal heir, the strongest among them, the truest dragon. It gives her power and leverage and a place at the very top, equal only to Neji and those who share his blood.

It helps that Sakura herself is the stuff of legends, and nightmares and the deepest parts of the world. The Hyuuga know this now, learned it through spilt blood and broken bones, and they tremble in her wake, thank every god in existence for bestowing her upon them - a blessing on their kin, a blight on their enemies.

Hinata trembles and scowls and disapproves - because she was not there, away for a mission when the clan received their enlightenment, but no one shared it with her. Hiashi orders her to shup up only once, sharply, harshly, and asks Sakura is she’d like to maybe, please, come live in the compound.

“It is only right,” Hiashi says. “You are Neji’s.”

Neji is outside, gliding through the sky, all shimmering scales, fur and sharp claws. His much sought-after pearl is no longer shining in his jaws or claws, it is in Sakura’s chest, visible between collarbones, embedded in skin and bone because Sakura will never risk losing it, and because she’s proud to be his. But just as much as she belongs to her dragon, gave herself over willingly, he is hers.

“What will the village say,” Sakura asks calmly, her tone nonchalant but her eyes cruel as they flick to Hinata. “A nymph in the Hyuuga compound.”

Hiashi laughs himself hoarse and has her things brought over within the day. Hinata never looks her in the eye again.

When Sakura is several months past seventeen and the village is just starting to notice she spends an awful lot of time with Hyuuga hovering over her, she makes jonin.

Sakura tears Sasori of the Red Sand apart on her way back to Konoha from a simple solo information gathering mission. She brings him with her, broken into pieces, along with his vast collection of dolls and whatever genetic material can be collected from the last Lamia of Wind Country. There’s not a scratch on her and it’s impossible to cover up this promotion, jonin don’t just stay on a team they’re not training, it’s a waste of manpower and Konoha, for all its flaws, is never wasteful.

The Hokage stalls the announcement, makes her wait for weeks and weeks, until Naruto and Sasuke complete the official examination. Team 7 becomes a special taskforce, used for specific missions and assignments, all of them far from Konoha. It is rarely sent out, rarely employed. Most of Sakura’s time is spent on solo or duo jobs, part of the regular jonin rotation schedule, and she barely works with her old teammates anymore, with the exception of Kakashi-sensei. They are a well oiled machine of murder and mayhem and chaos.

She says good riddance, keeps meeting up with Kakashi-sensei for their training as much as he’s willing to offer, and settles into her freedom. She meets up with Ino more, jokes with her old civilian buddies, throws depraved comments at Anko and Kurenai just to see Asuma’s scandalized expression, and she loves Neji. She loves him every day, sometimes hard and others soft, and she never stops, never. Ino sees his pearl in her one night, when they’re having a sleepover in the nymph’s new apartment, and all she has to say are good things, dreamy sighs about how hot Sakura’s old god is. They exchange some jokes, Ino tries to pry out juicy and lewd details, Sakura ends up tricking her oldest friend into an empty debate about the benefits of fellatio over masturbation.

Ino always knew what Sakura was, never confused it for a second. She knows what the pearl means, and she adapts to it so easily, as if it had always been this way. Sakura swears that should she have a child, when she has a child, Ino will be the godmother.

Team Guy and Team 7 meet at the gate, each returning from a different mission.

Neji kisses Sakura hard, hot, and entirely inappropriate for the place but she hardly cares. She wraps her arms around his neck, digs fingers into his hair and licks into his mouth with all the enthusiasm of a thirsty, so thirsty, monster. She doesn’t notice when Tenten drops her equipment, doesn’t care when Naruto yells loudly for Neji to back the fuck up, doesn’t even twitch when Lee starts crying in both joy and pain - he’s happy for Neji, but heartbroken over Sakura. It seems a reasonable reaction, she’d not seen Neji in a month, only had his shirts and sheets for company for the past two weeks.

“Sakura,” Kakashi-sensei says dryly and that makes Sakura stop, pull away, blink innocent eyes at her scowling captain. “Public decency is a thing.”

Fuck the public,” Neji whispers into her hair and Sakura snorts, nuzzles into him with a bright smile.

“Sorry, Kakashi-sensei,” she says and closes one eye when Neji peppers her face with kisses. His pearl throbs against her ribcage and she feels so whole, so happy, to be with him again.

“You’re dating Neji?” Naruto whines, “seriously?!”

“No,” Neji says harshly, a growl in his voice as he straightens, takes Sakura’s bags for himself and then quickly wraps her in his arms once more.

“What do you call this, then?” Tenten asks, and she sounds a little hurt but not too much. When Sakura looks over, Tenten winks at her, all playful and teasing, and Sakura smiles back - this is no friend lost, not over this. Tenten is a Tanuki, after all, and her heart is almost as flighty as Ino’s.

“Mate,” Neji croons, happy and proud.

“Mate,” Sakura agrees, her smile all teeth and her eyes full of dark promises.

“Nymphs don’t mate,” Sasuke says, cold as ever but with an edge of sharpness. Jealousy is heavy in his voice and his eyes. He’s looking at where Sakura and Neji touch, and there’s possessiveness there which Sakura is not alright with. It’s uncomfortable, it’s insulting. Most of all, it’s inappropriate and unwelcome and she’s done, done, done -

“Why does that matter?” Lee asks curiously, unaware that he just ripped an age-old band aid that festered and molded into the skin of the wound it was supposed to keep clean. Sakura busies herself with straightening out Naji’s hair, decides Lee might as well do this for her. “Neither Neji, nor Sakura-san, are nymphs.”

The silence is thick, the tension can be cut with a knife. Sakura knows her teammates are staring, she feels it on her skin, but she doesn’t react, doesn’t look over. She will not give this to them, never. They assumed. They decided. They never asked and it was years too late -

“I want to lick your clit until you scream,” Neji whispers and it’s barely audible, so close against her ear she shivers - but not only because of his warm breath. It’s the heavy current of want, and need, and passion in his voice that absolutely wrecks and distracts her, each and every time. “Maybe I’ll suck it, too. And bite it.”

Kakashi-sensei makes a disgusting sound, the only one who’s hearing is sharp enough to catch the lewd words.

Sakura throws a quick apology at him, nearly squeaks out empty, unconvincing excuses, and promptly drags Neji away. He is looking at her with unmasked hunger, everyone can see it. The bulge in his pants is better disguised, covered by the loose Hyuuga clothing, but it rubs against her ass as they walk all the same and Sakura’s about to die. She’ll die if he’s not in her within the next ten minutes, she feels it in her bones -

Neji changes course, drags her into a deserted, gated training field, presses her against a target dummy. He doesn’t even strip her properly, just falls to his knees, throws a leg over his shoulder and tears her shorts off. Sakura doesn’t have the time to feel affronted, not really, not when he immediately dives in - his nose against her clit, his tongue lapping slow and hard against the length of her. Embedded in her ribs, his pearl pulses and suddenly she’s not as desperate as she was a moment ago, because this throb is familiar. Frightening. Something she’d been fervently fighting and avoiding for awhile. It sets fire in her bones, clenches all her muscles, licks heat into her bloodstream and Sakura is not having it - no.

With a hiss she kicks Neji away, scampers to straighten out her qipao dress - black, because she’s no longer a child, and bloodstains don’t stand out as much on black. Neji stares at her, dazed and confused, his eyes glazed and his breath coming out in pants. Sakura’s acutely aware of the fact he’s only slightly more restrained than he was a moment earlier, with hit tongue up her cunt, so she does the only thing that’ll wake him up. She bends at the waist, connects her eyes with his, takes a deep breath and slaps him a-la-Ino, making sure it’ll leave ringing in his ears and an imprint on his face.

It works, of course.

Neji snaps to attention, jumps to his feet and crowds her with his larger body immediately. He’s invading her space, plasters her to the training dummy again, and an outsider would think he’s threatening her. That he’s retaliating for the kick and the slap. Sakura sees the way he’s shaking, smells the sweat on his skin, and knows that’s not it at all. Neji’s building up to a frantic apology, terrified out of his mind because he’d nearly done the unthinkable to her - his mate, his mate - and it makes him sick. It makes Sakura pretty darn nauseous too. She was only nineteen, after all. Quite happy to let him fuck her anywhere and anyway he likes, but not at all willing to take up any sort of responsibility behind sating his carnal curiosity and desire.

And Neji, the damned brute, was in heat.

 She should’ve suspected it when he’d shoved his tongue down her throat in front of outsiders, and then swore in public not even a moment later. PDA wasn’t high on Neji’s list of tolerable activities, though eh certainly liked to mark, and Neji only ever cursed when he was strung to the point of exploding. When Sakura tied him up, rode him slow, got up at the last second and distracted him. He was a Hyuuga after all, restrained and polite, trained to maintain perfect control. Except for when he was with her, alone, with no body watching. Or, alternatively, when he was in heat.

Usually, Neji would keep well away from her. He’d lock himself up, spend the week of fever biting his sheets and working his hands raw - alternating between them because nothing would really sate him, no true relief would come unless he came, inside her. It was a pesky thing, his heat. Once every four months or so it’ll descend on him out of nowhere, no signs that it was arriving nor any warning that it was about to end.

The first time, Sakura was on a mission away from Konoha and was rather surprised when Neji, nearly unhinged, descended on her route when she was just two days shy of Konoha’s gates. He sought her out, followed the pull of his pearl to his mate, and nearly wrestled her to the ground in the middle of the main road, in broad daylight. Sakura still didn’t know how he’d managed not too, probably because he was as freaked out as he was horny, with it being the first time his body demanded procreation from him. Sakura sedated him, dragged his ass back to Konoha and deposited him by Hiashi’s feet. They’d never come face to face during his heat again. Not even once. If the Hyuuga were confused about it, they didn’t dare ask why their Heir’s mate wasn’t round with child yet. Neji’s scowl, deep and dark, was enough to deter any would be interlopers, and those who were slightly braver didn’t dare look Sakura in the eye long enough to ask her.

“Back off,” Sakura says tightly.

“Can’t,” Neji replies, and it comes out as a groan.

He’s flush against her; his arms cage her in and his forehead’s pressing down on hers. Sakura can feel his heart beat frantically in his chest, is nearly burnt by the steadily rising temperature of his skin. His erection is distracting, it rubs against the apex of her thighs, perfectly aligned despite their difference in heights. Neji’s torso is longer than hers, but Sakura’s legs make up for it. His hips buck, uncontrollably, and rub her at the exactly right spot once, twice, at the third time Sakura hisses and grabs at him, her fingers sinking harshly into his skint o stall his movements.

“Stop,” she orders.

Sakura,” Neji almost whines and it throws her off enough to actually look up at him, rather than over his shoulder. “Mate, mine.”

“Neji,” she warns. “I will hurt you.”

“Yes,” he agrees and something behind her cracks. He’d broken away some parts of the training dummy and she wouldn’t be surprised if it saddled him with blisters. “My vicious, delicious,” each word is pronounced by a thrust of his hips and Sakura isn’t quite sure how one of her legs ended up around his waist, or when exactly his pants got shoved down just enough. Still, he’s not in her, only rubbing against the outside, clearly struggling for any semblance of control.

He slips, the head of his cock nudges harshly against her clit and Sakura moans.

“Oi! Get away from Sakura-chan, ‘ttebayo!”

‘Yes, please,’ Sakura thinks viciously.

Neji’s nearly unrestrained amorous mood flips to murderous as soon as Naruto’s voice disturbs them. Sakura doesn’t know if she should be glad - his lack of control is testament to the fact he would’ve fucked her into submission, would’ve knocked her up their agreement to wait notwithstanding, would’ve hated himself afterwards but not regrated it. Frankly, she wouldn’t have regretted it either, been plenty angry bot not necessarily regretful. Now it was off the table completely. Now, Neji wasn’t pressing his cock into her, breathing down her neck and murmuring half-lucid thoughts against her skin. No, now Neji was wrapped around her tightly, his scales almost too hot to touch, two giant claws on each side and massive maw positioned just above and over her in a threatening, aggressive crouch.

Everybody knew Hyuuga were dragons, it wasn’t a secret, but Hyuuga didn’t go about showing it outside the clan compound. So it’s somewhat reasonable that Sakura’s old teammates pause and stare, momentarily taken off guard by the rapid and rare transformation. It took all of three seconds for a violent tremor to shake Neji’s body and his skin to rip, to let out the divine beast it held captive.

With her disheveled state smack between his front claws and under his jaw, Sakura imagines she makes quite the picture - if the way the unwelcomed guests look at her is any indication. Their lust comes to an abrupt halt when Neji snarls, his claws digging impressive dents in the dirt of the training grounds, but it’s Sakura herself that cools their passion completely. Her qipao’s front is torn, her collarbones and shoulders exposed, and Neji’s pearl glistens in the sun. But from this angle, in this form, Sakura’s mark on the massive dragon is equally as visible. Just as his pearl has sunk into her skin, and muscle, and bone, so is her own pearl embedded on his brow.

“What the fuck -“ Naruto begins, scandalized, but he has already crossed every red line Neji has under normal circumstances. His eyes lingered too long on Sakura’s bare legs, on her exposed cleavage. Trailed too slowly up the column of her neck and watched her swollen lips with too much want. Sure, now Naruto looks at Neji’s glittering brow, now he tries to wrestle himself under control, but the smell of his lust and desire is too thick in the air.

Sasuke’s blazing Sharingan, still watching Sakura with a possessiveness he has no right to feel, is the last straw.

The Hyuuga dragon lunges as thunder claps around them and lightening strikes, divine punishment for those who would encroach on the heavenly beast smack in the middle of his mating dance, at the very peak of his heat.

Sakura smooths down her skit, picks up her discarded shorts and makes herself scarce. If her old teammates make it out alive they’re luckier than leprechauns, but she doesn’t think they will. She still feels their eyes on her ass, hears Neji’s infuriated snarl and decides it’s as good a day as any for a sleepover at Ino’s.

Dragons spit out their pearls, a product of chakra that naturally comes into being when they mature. Neji’s pearl is like lightening, is glows in the sun and it radiated heat. It’s all his power, all his soul, all his life condensed into a beautiful round thing the size of a slightly larger egg than what could be found in stores. To gift it to his mate was the surest sign of love, the oldest tradition of his kind and clan. It was a mark of a bond deeper than even marriage because nothing could take apart a couple bound by a dragon’s pearl. He’ll find her anywhere; she’ll locate him even half a world away. When Sakura breathes her last, so will Neji. When Neji dies, Sakura will live on, and his pearl will become hers.

Such was the love of dragons.

Sakura’s pearl is… different. She’d meant to create it, had gone against her very nature to do so. Her mother hadn’t been pleased, not until she personally saw Neji’s pearl nestled in her daughters flesh. Theirs was a greedy species; though they only loved once with all their being, they prioritised themselves above all else, even children. Children can be had with any willing partner. Heir life was their own singular treasure. Still, a dragon’s devotion was no small thing, and so Mebuki agreed to let her daughter do as she pleased.

Sakura had gathered all her strength and all her weakness, had submerged herself in her bath for hours as she did, breathed water into her lungs and breather out blood. She thought of all the times Neji fed her what she wanted, what she needed: his sweat, his sperm, on occasion his own blood. He gave her all of it, from the time she was fifteen, and never hesitated. She remembered the first time she’d sunk onto his cock, fifteen years old and brimming with instinct, taking what she needed from the amazed, not yet grown dragon below her. Remembered how he gave, how he threw his head back as he unloaded in her that very first time and didn’t flinch when her teeth sunk into the column of his throat, said nothing when he could taste his blood in her kisses after. Sakura thought about how he gave her his pearl after Hinata found them, how he deposited it in her hands and said nothing, how he guaranteed no harm would come to her even as he left himself open. She thought about how much she loved him and how he made her soft, and with all those thoughts filling her up Sakura did the one thing she’d not consciously done since she’d woken up fifteen and starving.

Sakura cried. A single tear that became an oval pearl, glows in lavenders and pinks and blues, like the sunset over the vast ocean, feels cool and smooth to the touch like soothing waves. Though it had no chakra and wasn’t tied up to Sakura’s life, the pearl still represents all of her, is a product of her - something she’ll never make again. Priceless, singular.

She gave it to Neji the next day, put it on his brow and he all but devoured her after.

There’s tension in Team 7, not that Sakura cares.

After Neji’s memorable heat-driven eruption nearly a year ago, and the very public, very thorough thrashing he’d delivered to Sakura’s teammates there was not one shinobi in Konoha who was unaware of their relationship. Most civilians knew about it, too. It was rather hard to miss since Sakura wore the Hyuuga emblem on her back now, rather than her father’s clan mark.

They hadn’t married, but it was hardly necessary, all things considered.

Naruto still choked whenever he glimpsed the mark and Sasuke glared, offended and infuriated. Sakura made it a point to rub it in their faces. She had nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to apologize for. They were the idiots, and even if they weren’t - they never seriously tempted her.

She’d considered Shikamaru once upon a time, before Neji and her were… reacquainted. The Nara heir was just her type: smart, sarcastic, probably a beast of a sexual partner, if Ino’s giggled commentary was to be believed. Sakura had also, very briefly, entertained the thought of slipping between the cracks of Sasuke’s pathetic armor and taking what was left for herself. It would’ve been worth it, and he hadn’t the strength to resist her for long, had she decided to do it. She wouldn’t have settled for him, would’ve spat him out after she was done taking her dues, but it would’ve been the experience of his life. She’d even debated trying to land Gaara for a night or two. She was hungry, then. Would’ve  hunted for any worthy prey.

Lucky for her, Neji found her first.

She’s sprawled by the fire, absently studies her cuticles and wonders if she should grow out her nails again. She’d use them to claw at Neji in bed and he’ll like it, which is as good an incentive as any. Across from her, Naruto is sending her sad longing looks that don’t even register, and Sasuke’s glaring at the flames with enough intensity to, well, burn fire, if it was at all possible. Kakashi-sensei is lounging to her right, unbothered, uncaring and very much absorbed in her Icha-Icha, thanks. Every fiber of his being demands that he is left alone, so Sakura is trying to decide when she should bother him, picking out the moment that would annoy him most. Kakashi-sensei’s pupils dilate just so, and it’s time.

Sakura sighs, leans back on her arms and looks up at the night sky.

“Sensei,” she drawls, and the title is only a little bit playful. Kakashi-sensei was her teacher, earned the title with fierce lessons and unwavering protection during her childhood. “Must we drag our feet?”

“Yes, Sakura,” Kakashi-sensei says, doesn’t even look up from his smut to answer her. “It’s an important A-rank.”

“I can be quick,” Sakura complains. “Then we’d have the week off, sensei. It’ll be fun.”

 “Keep your fun to yourself,” he instructs dryly.

“But sensei, it’s from page ninety-five!”

Kakashi-sensei throws the book at her and grumbles about disrespect, boundaries and rude little shits he’d brought up all on his own - and where’s her gratitude?

“You didn’t raise me, sensei,” Sakura chuckles, thoroughly amused.

“Close enough,” he gives her an absolutely disgusted glance. “I don’t need to know about what your deranged dragon likes -“

“He’s not deranged,” Sakura defends immediately, her hackled properly up and bothered.

“Right, sorry,” Kakashi-sensei rolls his eyes. “You’re the deranged once, and Neji’s just jumping through hoops to the beat of your war drums.”

“Yes,” Sakura agrees. “Glad you understand.”

Kakashi-sensei snorts, Sakura bares her teeth in a wicked smile. A moment later, their quiet camp is invaded by - miracle of all miracles - their assassination target. All according to plan, of course. Kakashi-sensei was very particular about his traps and Sakura laid out the breadcrumb trail meticulously, this time.

Naruto and Sasuke jump to their feet, determined to act, but Kakashi-sensei doesn’t even bother raising his head. Sakura’s already moving before the brutes know what’s hit them. She’s fluid, like water, and fast - so fast even the Sharingan would have trouble keeping up. Her pristine trimmed nails sink into throats and rip them out, grab for visible joints and dislocate limbs easily. Soon, there’s blood and gunk under her nails, and there’s blood in her hair and on her skin, but Sakura hardly cares - this is her element, this is her fun.

The only think Sakura loves more than sex is death.

It takes her five minutes, one minute per assailant. Four of them are torn to bits, unrecognizable, and Sakura licks a stray drop of blood that landed on her lips. Their main target’s on his ass before her, trembling in a poll of his own piss, and Sakura almost cackles - but she’s not quite that crazy. It’s her last mission, she wants to make it count. Wants to savor it.

“Hello, little man,” she purrs and his trembling stops. She’s too beautiful to terrify him for long, and it only takes a second for him to consider it must’ve been a fluke, a genjutsu - no way someone so frail looking, so delicious, could tear grown ass men, adult ogres, to bits.

“Sakura,” Kakashi-sensei cautions. “C’mon, don’t make a mess. It’s your last mission.”

“What do you mean, last mission?” Naruto demands, waking from his stunned stupor. He’d never seen Sakura, the real Sakura, before, but he’s easily distracted, already over it and onto the next subject, too entrenched in his fascination and long-standing obsession. Sasuke hadn’t ever seen her either. This was just a little glimpse, but it’s enough for the Uchiha Tengu to shed whatever desire he’d felt and replace it with a strong aversion. Horror, even a tinge of personal fear. Sakura savors it.

Its about time the arrogant shit learned his place around her. Fucking birds.

“Hmm?” Sakura puts a kunai through the target’s chest and lets Kakashi-sensei wipe her hands clean with a towel he whips up from only God knows where.

“What does Kakashi-sensei mean, when he says this is your last mission?”

“Ah, that,” Sakura shrugs and puts her clean hands over her stomach, pats it fondly once, twice. Grins and sighs simultaneously. “Retirement calls. Can’t traipse around the country of murder sprees looking like a whale, can I?”

“As if he’d let you,” Kakashi-sensei rolls his eyes. “Nesting dragons are a menace.”

“Only because you’ve never handled a mating dragon,” Sakura teases and Kakashi-sensei makes a face, absolutely scandalized. “Come on, sensei. I’m twenty-two. I’ve had him for seven years. You were there.”

“I ran for it the second you started making eyes,” Kakashi-sensei corrects stubbornly. “I don’t want to know how you made your little bun in the oven, Sakura. Tell that to Ino.”

“Why?” Sakura leers. “So that she can teach you?”

Kakashi-sensei, unimpressed with her cheek and unsurprised that she knows, rolls his eyes. As soon as Ino lured him to her bed, after years of trying, she’d reported to the Hyuuga compound and gave Sakura a very detailed, uncalled for description of how many ways she’d fucked the last Ookami, and how many times he’d fucked her right back.

“I don’t need to be taught,” Kakashi-sensei snorts.

“Oh? So if Ino says she wants to open her very own bakery -“

“Sakura,” Kakashi-sensei gives her a genuinely irritated look. “Do you honestly think she’s not?”

Sakura considers it. Really thinks about it. Remembers that even though she’d only succeeded in her seduction three months ago, Ino had spent the last two weeks before this mission in Kakashi-sensei’s apartment. That Ino had walked on very wobbly knees for longer than that. That Kakashi-sensei read his Icha-Icha with a sort of renewed fervor.

“Well then,” Sakura grins. “Guess you’ll be the godfather, then.”

Kakashi-sensei ruffles her hair, then scowls at the bloody mess his hand becomes.

“You really are a nightmare.”

“I’m mermaid,” Sakura insists. “Some would call us the nymphs of the sea.”

“Only idiots would, honestly.”