((Here we have yet another excuse to put off writing my other fanfiction. This idea was sort of inspired by one of the future scenes I have planned for SNK, then it got a mind of its own and the rest is history. I'm really proud of this oneshot, it being my first try at angst. And let me tell you, it took a long time to write. I'm used to writing fluffy stuff, and that takes very little time due to its mostly nonsensical nature, but I had to actually THINK about what to write in this for it to flow smoothly. It gets a little philosophical near the end, so buckle up and prepare for a dizzy ride.))

TWO CHANCES MISSED

Bloodshot eyes as black as his mussed hair stared upwards at a gray sky. He couldn't tell if it was because of the excessive pollution or the damp, bleak weather that had plagued the city for over a month now, but it didn't matter. Nothing really mattered anymore.

He sat near the mouth of one of many alleyways, head leaning almost lifelessly against the grimy brick. The rest of him was equally as limp, one arm draped lazily across a knee bent slightly off the ground, sitting not much higher than his other leg. In his remaining hand rested a small pistol, which he brought slowly to his head, still not shifting his gaze. He remained still for a while longer, looking at the large form of the building that had managed to squeeze into the corner of his eye, pupils wide and unfocused until the first drop of rain landed on his cheek and broke his train of thought.

He eventually lowered the gun to his lap, but turned his head slightly to get a better look at the towering complex, precipitation dripping lightly on to his head and shoulders. 101 floors, with an average of fifty cubicles on each level except for the uppermost. He'd known that since he could remember, not that it did him any good now. Looking down at the pistol, he weighed his options: he could end it all right there, or continue running until he was found and killed. The former was much more appealing; if the Akatsuki had any say in it, he would be put through immense physical and mental pain until they put an end to his now meaningless life. But if he were to commit the deed himself, it would be quick and painless. He wouldn't feel a thing.

Just for once, he wanted to be able to control his fate. He hadn't had any control when, right in front of his eyes, his parents were tortured and killed by his own brother. He hadn't had any control when Itachi didn't stop at that, and continued to kill until there was nobody left. Nobody but him. Not even when the rest of the law-breaking punks his sibling had secretly been dealing with stole away with the Uchiha family's hard earned savings, shooting their way through hapless employees. That's why he hadn't protested when they offered to keep him alive if he joined them, to earn that control. The time had eventually come when he had obtained a certain amount of trust amongst the Akatsuki, and he had used that trust to return the favor to his brother. But now, with Itachi dead at his hands, he had quite possibly the most dangerous gang in the city after his life. He supposed he was risking it, resting so closely to where they usually hung out.

For the first time in an immeasurable amount of years, it would be his choice whether he lived or died, and his alone. Nobody else's. That seemed to make the decision for him, as he once again pressed the short barrel of the gun against his temple. But still he hesitated, contemplating. Was there anything still worth living for? Any family had been ripped from him a long time ago, his job following not long after. There was nothing from before those life-changing events that he had any desire to hold on to, especially the city; no matter how long he'd lived in the dirty, poor region surrounding his previous dwelling, it hadn't become any more comforting.

Far from it, in fact. When he was younger, he had just seen the slums as a place with no money or food, but now he knew well what atrocities took place outside the world of the wealthy. Rape and murder were daily occurrences, especially the latter, whether it be over cash or a simple personal dispute. Though there were many running businesses, they were equally as corrupt and immoralized as the men who owned them; women were more like objects, so he had discovered, from being at the rather famous Love Hotel almost every waking hour he wasn't doing something less legal. He refused to indulge in such a disgusting pastime, though. He had seen enough of the fancy brothel to last him a lifetime. Simply being as near as he was to it was enough to make him grimace.

He didn't notice his thoughts had wandered until he heard a sound through the graffiti-covered wall at his back. It was raining harder, and through the salty water that threatened to clog his ears he could make out the thick, jarring noise of a door slamming shut. Following soon after were sounds of a scuffle, a splash as something hit the flooded asphalt, and two voices. He could barely hear them, but unwilling recognition of the second voice made him bristle. He never wanted to see the person that voice belonged to again, but curiosity eventually won over and ignoring the sharp pang in his side as he stood, he edged along the front of the ruined building.

oooooooooooooooooooo

She fell to the ground with a shrill cry, abruptly becoming silent as the air left her lungs forcefully upon impact. Cold hands held her down, and though she struggled, they kept her wrists firmly pinned down near her head. Black rimmed eyes set in a deathly pale pace leered at her from close above, and her assailant's mouth was curved into a wicked smile as he tightened his grasp and loomed closer over her.

"Now, now," the young man said in an amused voice, smile widening into a grin as he kept from laughing. "Hold still, and make this easier for the both of us."

At that, she began squirming fearfully, knowing well just what awaited her should she fail to escape. She squeezed her eyes shut, intent on not accidentally making eye contact. If he caught her in that frigid, petrifying gaze of his, there was no getting away from it.

She felt warm breath against her cheek and flinched, instinctively turning her head to the side. Dirty, salty water filled her mouth and nose and she choked, pale emerald orbs flying open in surprise. They narrowed as a clammy hand lashed from beside her head to her neck and her free fingers clutched a wrist, trying in vain to remove the hold on her throat. The hand snaked its way up to beneath her chin, jerking it to look forwards and up towards its owner. Struggling to breathe and avert her vision, she drew her legs up in an action of defense. But that only proved to show off her thin legs, barely hidden by the thin garment she wore in the first place.

A knee brushed against her calf and she panicked, bolting into a sitting position before being forced down again. Her eyes caught in those of the man pinning her to the ground, she froze, becoming rigid. He began to chuckle, a high sound, teetering on the edge of insanity. She tried to move, to scream for help, but all she could do was stare terrified up at him, rain falling on to her face and into her open mouth. She felt him remove his other hand from her wrist, moving it instead to the rim of her pale pink slip. She still didn't move, breathing raggedly against the choke-hold he had her in, free palm facing upwards by her head, the other closed weakly around his wrist.

She came to her senses when a finger brushed against her hip, inching the smooth material higher, little by little. Fear replaced logical thought and one of the legs bunched up against her sprang out, catching the man hovering over her square in the face. He staggered backwards to his feet with an agonized and outraged bellow, and she barely had time to sit up before he drew a revolver from his jacket, pointing it at her forehead. He sneered with an ugly grimace, blood that bubbled and popped when he breathed streaming from a broken nose. Once more, she found herself unable to commit any action aside from staring in horror up at her tormentor.

"That's enough, Sasori."

A strong, serious voice echoed from the mouth of the alley. There stood a tall man in his early twenties, holding a cocked pistol level to the chest of one of his sworn enemies.

oooooooooooooooooooo

He held the gun steady, unhesitating. He would have already pulled the trigger, if it weren't for the presence of another individual sitting stiffly in her fear a small ways away. She was small, skinny, and pale; he probably wouldn't have even noticed her, if she weren't at the tip of the weapon belonging to one of the many who sought to kill him. But aside from that, there was another feature that stood out particularly.

In his lifetime, he had seen many colours of hair. Brown, black, orange, blonde, and the occasional bright dye-job. But only once had he come across someone with that particular shade.

A little girl, no older than five, clutched her father's hand tightly. She had to reach up to get it, being a small child for her age, and only because she was so tiny and prone to get lost in the crowds of a subway station did she hold on to it so desperately. Large, green eyes roamed shyly to those passing by, who more often than not didn't pay any attention whatsoever to the girl. Seeing this, she looked up at the one she feared being separated from, who noticed her worried gesture and smiled reassuringly. She beamed back up at him, a big, gap-toothed grin plastered across her face.

He, having grown up under the impression that family was nothing more than financial advisors or co-workers, was confused at such an exchange. Why was she smiling? Did she gain anything from it? If so, then what? Noticing her parents' shabby clothes, he looked down at his own formal suit. At only eight, it had already been forced into his mind that money came first; apparently, a rule which didn't apply to many other families. Still, it made him curious. What was there to be happy about?

Then again, at such an age, he wasn't an expert on the subject.

Something he hadn't noticed before was the little girl's dress. While her family's clothes were worn and patched, hers looked almost brand new. White clothes had a tendency to get dirtier faster than any other colour, yet hers weren't stained or faded. Great care must have been taken to keep the garment clean. Once again, he found himself confused by the dynamics of the small family. It made absolutely no sense from a financial standpoint to spend all of your money on one frilly little dress, so why had they?

The girl was looking at him. He hadn't noticed in his thorough appraisal, but she seemed equally as puzzled about him as he was about her. Their eyes met, and as the train he and his parents were to board pulled into the station, something else about the child jumped out at him. Her hair, framing a round face with rosy cheeks and tied with ribbons in pigtails, was a very odd colour. He doubted a five-year-old's parents would dye her hair, making the pale shade even more enigmatic than her smile or dress.

As he was ushered aboard the train, only one word (a fairly strange one, considering his normally serious mindset) registered subconsciously.

Pink.

"You've got balls showing up here, Uchiha."

He was jerked back to reality by a voice. To those who didn't know the speaker personally, by the way he shifted his weight to one leg and tilted his head to the side slightly, he appeared casual. But knowing better, the dark haired man kept his reacclaimed guard high. The short, gun-slinging gang member was ten times more liable to snap and shoot somebody at a single wrong word than to let himself go unanswered. So he said nothing, instead focusing all of his caution on the revolver.

Once again, he felt his eyes roaming to the distressed girl at its barrel. "Woman" hardly described her; though he was sure she was older, she had the figure of a fifteen-year-old, and looked about as tall as one. Though her eyes had changed since the last and only time he'd come across her. No longer holding the unconditional happiness and carefree gleam he had seen so long ago, they were wide and scared, desperately resting on him. The skin around them was darkened, from either lack of sleep or food, the latter of which explaining her thin limbs. It made him sad for some reason, how much somebody could change. Heck, he was a perfect example of that.

It was odd. Just moments ago, he had been contemplating ending his own life under the assumption that nothing was worth living for, yet there he stood, ready to save somebody else's at unknown costs. He barely even knew the girl; he honestly doubted that she remembered him at all. But he had a strange motivation not to let her be killed. There was nothing else he had to protect. Nobody close, nothing precious. Only this girl he had spotted at a subway station, over a decade ago.

A sudden movement in the corner of his eye made him jump. Sasori had placed a hand in the pocket of his jacket, and he had a feeling he knew what lay hidden behind the heavy synthetic material. He heard a clicking noise and immediately looked to the revolver, its wielder taking a step back and smirking. The malevolent look he cast multiplied tenfold from the blood still pouring down his face in rivers, dripping and getting lost in the swirling and rapidly elevating layer of water on the pavement.

"Fine then, don't answer me," he hissed, grinning viciously the whole time. Taking another step back, he whipped out a second gun and squeezed the trigger, holding it level to a pair of onyx eyes. "It's not like anything you say will make a difference anyways."

Anticipating what would happen if he didn't act right away, the man opposite him pulled back on the trigger of his pistol just as a loud BANG echoed from in front of him. He could see the bullet moving towards him as if in slow motion, cutting through the raindrops like a knife. He moved too late, arm jerking slightly from the shock of his own gun going off, almost entranced by the surreal vision. Then pain brought the gravity of the situation crashing down on him at a sickening speed.

Teflon-coated metal pierced through an old wound, savagely tearing the scar tissue into naught but a few flakes of raw skin floating in an endless sea of red liquid as he dropped to the ground from the impact and agony. Nearby, another figure toppled with a choked gasp. And in the midst of it all sat a girl, no younger than eighteen, staring in horror at the nauseating amount of blood spilled in a fateful few seconds.

oooooooooooooooooooo

Her hand flew to her mouth in shock and fear at what had just happened. She wanted to move, to scream, to run, but all she found herself capable of was trembling idly by the two men who had barged into her life so suddenly. One, shuddering in rage and pain, victim to the suffering he had forced upon countless others that lay dead at his hands. The other, lying prone, wet and silent, resigning to the fate of a hunted man.

He looked familiar, the quiet one, she found herself thinking. Dark and serious. She'd seen many men of that description in her life, but they had all turned out to be brooding drunkards with too much spare time and hair gel. Lots of people like that, trying to be suave and cool and attractive, showed up around where she lived. They had all come to the city looking for fame and fortune, but all they'd gotten was drinking and gambling problems and debts up to their noses.

Her family had been no different. Good people, tired of a mild country life, fleeing to the big city. At first it had been astounding; the bright neon lights, people all over, buildings that blocked out the sky. Then it became tiresome. Wherever you looked, there were people asking and begging for money. Cripples in wheelchairs, scrawny men playing instruments, trampy women and girls dancing for money.

Gradually, it had begun to frighten her. Her parents had always shooed the bad, scary people away from her, but as she grew older it became more difficult. Time only brought more debt and poverty, and if you were anything less than filthy rich you were scum, something the higher-ups would sneer at and shove by, not worth their time. But once the government finally decided to do something about the alarming amount of homeless people, it was far too late. People had gotten angry at being neglected and grown violent. Riots started occurring, and when an official was killed in the chaos, the di was cast.

She had just turned thirteen when the government retaliated. Any uprisings were stamped out immediately with incredible force, and the death toll rose at an alarming rate. Those who rebelled were killed, and their comrades, in desperation, counterattacked. Both "sides" continued to tear at each other's numbers until there was nobody left to fight. Her parents had been among the unfortunate few to ignite the situation, and were killed in a police raid early on into the conflict. They'd told her in kind voices that it was to protect her, but she'd seen the cold hatred in their eyes as she watched them plow through men and women alike, gone mad from starvation.

Anything that happened between that cold afternoon and waking up on a shabby, moldy bus stop bench was a blur. There'd been nobody there to explain to her where she was and why, just a few crows perched on the dead branches of the shriveled oak tree behind her. She remembered getting up and feeling dizzy, then wandering around the city in only her favourite sundress and a blanket she'd been wrapped in while unconscious before finally collapsing in front of a building with big neon signs all over the front of it. And there she had lived until now, cleaning up lavishly decorated rooms for small rations of food and ratty clothing. If she had found herself in front of any other building, she pondered, she would probably be dead. But then again, she wouldn't have been in such a precarious situation.

A cold hand grabbed her ankle and she screamed, trying frantically to kick it away from her. Sasori grinned, tightening his grip. Slowly, clenching his teeth in a sinister smile, he started to pull her towards him across the wet ground. Panicking, she looked around desperately for something to hold on to, eyes falling on the man laying still nearby. At first, no sound came out as she tried to call to him. But as she felt the skin on her legs tearing as she was dragged at an antagonizingly slow pace over old pavement, her hand made its way shakily to his shoulder, trembling fingers closing around the material of his jacket.

She tried to shake him awake, but all her heavy arm could manage at first was a small shove. Again, she tried to speak, but her dry lips felt as if they were glued together by some unseen force. Breath coming in short, frantic gasps through her nose, she pushed against his limp arm harder. He stirred, cringing, but then all of a sudden a sharp yank on her ankle broke contact and she lost balance, falling against her shoulder into the dirty water.

oooooooooooooooooooo

Forms flickered into view, blurred, then became completely dark again. Why was he still alive? He could feel the blood coursing from the bullet wound in his side, yet no pain came. It was cold and warm, wet and dry, dark and light, all at the same time. He supposed his nerves were shorting out, closing themselves down with the rest of his body. It was just a matter of waiting for the end, everything fading to black or white or whatever colour your eyes made up when you died.

But if he was that close to the edge, why had he woken up again? There wasn't anything left he had to accomplish. Sasori was dead, and there was no way he could wipe out the entire Akatsuki organization in his state. He couldn't even get up. So what was keeping him alive?

He felt something touch his shoulder and linger there, sending pins and needles down the heavy limb. Though barely noticeable, the presence was desperate, begging him to come to it. Such a feeling aroused discomfort, and instincts made him flinch; he had never been partial to human contact, and knew no other way of dealing with it. He had a suspicion that whatever called to him silently wasn't human, however. There was someone very eager to get back at him on the other side. Itachi, dragging him to whatever hell he had planned. It was no matter, though. He'd stop feeling it soon.

As predicted, the feeble pressure vanished from his arm in a short moment. But though the feeling was gone, the impression it had made was not. Still, a sense of pressed urgency remained. His calm, collected, efficient brother, getting impatient? Such an outlandish thought amused him.

I'm coming already, oniisan.

A full-throated laugh assaulted his ears, the vocal cacophony inducing another cringe. Had he said that out loud? But that voice was...

Shit!

His eyes snapped open grudgingly, and muscles screaming, he bolted upwards. Sure enough, there lay Sasori propped on an elbow, a meager few feet in front of him and very much alive. Pale, ghostly amber eyes turned on him as he struggled to support himself on palms immersed in precipitation, assessing his every shaky movement with a wide, bloody grin all the while. And being dragged on her side through the water was the pink-haired girl, clutching a bruised and bleeding shoulder. Her gaze was fixated on the wall behind him, either in some sort of trance or desperately trying to ignore all that was happening around her.

Countering the piercing stare with his own, he made no move to conceal his actions and dove for his gun discarded off to the side. The individual opposite him's sinister smile widened, drawing his own weapon in a flash and pointing it at the young woman in his grasp. Without a hint of qualm, he pulled the trigger, just as a second bullet pierced his windpipe. Red fluid gushing from the fatal wound thickly, he slumped on to his side without a sound, malicious grin still plastered across his face as death came quickly.

The dark-haired man's heart nearly stopped when he heard the bloodcurdling shriek, deaf to the gunshots preceding it. He didn't feel the skin around the wound in his side rip further as he staggered to his feet, only to drop to his knees after a small distance from dizziness. The girl in front of him lay curled up, face half submerged beneath the filthy layer of water on the hard ground, eyes closed tightly in a futile effort to escape from the pain that tore at her small body. Breathing heavily from the lightheadedness brought about by loss of blood, he slowly seized her shoulders and turned her on to her back to get a better look at her gunshot injury. She struggled weakly, screaming fearful protests, and he realized who she thought he was.

"Calm down," he coaxed quietly, fighting against the eternal slumber that beckoned. She relaxed slightly, green eyes opening a crack, and he continued, "I'm going to try and get the bullet out."

She shook her head in desperation, scrunching her brows and clenching her fists. At a loss for what to do, he moved one of the arms bunched up against her chest to the side, trying to take as much care as possible. She tensed and grasped his wrist, but he had already seen the damage. The thin undergarment she wore was stained crimson, blood pooling from a small, circular rip a small ways from her left armpit. All he could see was that same deep shade of red; the bullet was too far in to make out.

He inhaled sharply and she must have heard it through the pouring rain because, in a barely audible voice that cracked slightly, she asked, "I'm going to die, aren't I?" Tears brimmed in her eyes, and soon they were streaming down her pale cheeks along with the heavy raindrops. Shivering because of the cold and grief, she squeezed his hand tighter, beginning to sob softly.

His chest constricted, and a completely alien feeling took over. It was as if something was inside of him, pulling at his heartstrings until they became as taught as a bow. He had felt sadness before, but nothing as jarring as this. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he gave a simple nod, unable to put such an answer into words.

Her chin quivered and she buried her forehead in the back of her hands, still tightly clutching his. Such an action was almost too much to bear, so blinking away any emotion dismissively, he offered in almost a whisper, "I'll stay with you, if that's what you want." She nodded in turn, closing her eyes.

A frigid wind blasted through the alley from above, blowing raindrops into his face. And though he could feel her palms sweating from prolonged contact, the girl was beginning to grow cold. So in an action he wouldn't have even considered half an hour ago, he started to take off his jacket, noticing a catch in her deep gasps for breath. Realizing he would have to let go to get his other arm free of the water-retardant material, he paused, unsure. But a moment later, with no other alternative, he slid his hand gently from hers so he could completely remove the coat.

"Don't go," a small voice said, laden with pain. He looked down to see the girl studying him sadly, fingers curling around the fabric of his jacket. He shrugged the article of clothing off his shoulders, ignoring the chill that met his bare arms and laying it across her front. Maneuvering his hand behind her back and grasping her shoulder, he slid his other forearm into the crook of her knees, slowly beginning to stand. His own knees wobbling under the weight of another person, he straightened as best he could.

"I said I wouldn't," he replied, beginning to walk out of the alleyway. She closed her eyes again, exhausted and relieved.

"Where...?"

"Someplace dry."

oooooooooooooooooooo

The walk through the rain was long, once the two found themselves on the sidewalk running in front of one of the main roads. With no roofs overhanging the path, raindrops pelted viciously at their heads, blowing every which way from strong gusts of stormy wind. And the occasional car sped by, eager to get out of the poor, dangerous neighbourhood, sending sheets of water spraying from deep puddles near the curb. The man did his best to shield the being under his care, but regardless of any effort, they both ended up a considerable deal more wet than they had been in the alley.

Any unwealthy or homeless people rushing by paid no heed to either of them, either in too much of a hurry to escape the weather or witness to too much suffering or tragedy to pay it any mind any more. And he paid no heed to them; all of his concern was focused on the young woman, tiny in his arms, as limp as a rag doll. He had to pause once in a while to check her pulse, and only continued on when he was sure she was breathing, slow and laboured as her breaths came.

He eventually stood in front of a small bar, barely noticeable amongst the larger, taller buildings on either side of it. An overhang consisting of only ribbed wire and the plasticky material hanging loosely off of it went as long as the establishment, and jutted out a foot or two so customers could dry off before spending their life's savings. There were still a few puddles around the tattered welcome mat and raindrops dripped steadily through any holes in the overhang, but it was the best he could hope for as, unable to go any further, he collapsed against the brick wall and slid to the damp ground.

What he was doing was irrational in every way, shape and form, the man contemplated, trying to catch his breath. He could see blood soaking through his jacket, making shallow pools before they joined into one large stain. The girl was going to die soon, and he'd known that was to be the outcome from the start. He hadn't thought anything through when he'd agreed to stay by her. Either way, somebody would be dead because of him, and he was starting to think he'd have preferred not to walk a mile in the rain to ease that person's passing.

Yet even considering just leaving her on the side of the road to die alone filled him with guilt. He didn't know why; he barely knew her. She didn't even remember him, he realized, though he wasn't surprised. Nothing really stood out about him. And he supposed she had been young when they met, not old enough to recall things clearly later on. It made perfect sense, but he still felt somewhat let down.

That was it. The feeling he'd gotten when he thought about that day at the subway station, when he thought about her. He felt as if they should have known each other then, like she should have remembered him. They'd gone their separate ways that one day, not knowing or caring if they would see each other again, and he was at fault for not saying a single word to her. There was a gap between his birth and adulthood, just a blank space where pleasant memories had never had the chance to exist. And there he stood, longing for them a decade too late.

He wondered what would have happened had they spoken. Maybe they would have learned something about one another, or about themselves. Perhaps nothing. He'd missed the chance to know, the chance at something to look back on, and he regretted it profoundly now that there was nothing he could do about it.

That's what the girl was, a reminder of things that could have been. And soon that memorial for all of his stillborn memories would be gone, leaving him once more with only thoughts of what he'd missed. He had let opportunity slip through his fingers for a second time. That's why he'd acted as he had, to preserve that opportunity. But it was fading further and further from sight, and was just beyond his reach. There was very little time before it disappeared completely.

Beneath a layer of heavy material, the deathly thin young woman awoke. She could feel her head cradled in the crook of an elbow, and her feet were touching the cold pavement. Shivering as chills rocketed up her legs, she hunched her shoulders slightly and closed her eyes tighter, cringing further as her chest constricted to the point at which she could barely breathe. Her throat was sore from the effort of inhaling and she coughed, scattering red flecks over the already drenched coat that covered most of her body.

She knew her face was beginning to heat up before she felt a hand briefly on her forehead, checking her rising temperature. It was getting closer. Her time was nearly up, and she was scared. Would it be unbearably painful, or would she just fade away quietly? Not knowing what to expect was frightening. How long would it be before it was over, and she wouldn't have to think anymore? Beginning to tremble, the girl felt sad and frustrated and terrified all at once.

Before any tears could spill, a picture came flying out of the darkness and into her vision. A young boy with cold, dark eyes and hair, mouth drawn into a serious line. He looked pale, but not unnaturally so; a complexion obtained from many hours inside. His suit was finely pressed and tailored, adding a professional look to his no-nonsense glower. In his hand was a metal briefcase, undoubtedly filled with paperwork and financial records.

As soon as the image had appeared, it was gone. And instead of feeling sad for herself, she felt sad for the child. He'd looked so lonely and bitter, with nobody beside him. But why had she gotten that quick glimpse of a little boy she hadn't even seen before? Although something did seem similar about him...

And then suddenly she knew. Her eyes eased open, the sleepy gray hues of the city making it hard for her to stay awake. She didn't focus long on the city, however, craning her neck slightly to look up. She ignored the stretching, teasing pain in her chest and glanced upon the face of the man whose arms she resided in, almost disbelieving.

His vision was trained steadily forwards across the street, through the thick sheets of rain pouring down on to the ground and buildings. And though concentrated as he seemed, she could tell he was daydreaming; people and cars would pass by, sometimes giving curious looks, but he would just continue staring into the distance with that serious expression. It was remarkable how little that had changed. She was positive they had seen each other once before, but nothing came up when she tried to remember. The answers were right in front of her face but just beyond her sight, taunting and dancing away when she reached blindly for them.

Eventually, the girl buried the bottom part of her face underneath the sopping jacket on top of her. She found her eyes slowly closing, and felt lightheaded. Street lamps and car lights blurred into confusing blotches of colour and energy, a thundering drum would beat behind her eyelids, then everything became clear again. Words welled up inside her then died in her dry throat, lacking the strength to manifest.

She could tell she was on the knife's edge, dangerously close to falling into oblivion. But there was something she had to ask before it was too late, and she absolutely refused to die until it had been said. So taking a deep breath and fighting to keep her head from spinning, a tentative question struggled weakly from her mouth.

"Have we met before?"

The stormy-eyed man blinked, surprised, then looked down at her. At first, his expression was unreadable, but then an emotion started seeping through the old mask. Slowly and carefully, the corners of his mouth began to turn up into a small, wistful smile. He looked so sad and so happy at the same time that she nearly couldn't take it, swallowing a lump in her throat.

Eyes shining as if she'd just figured out a deep, meaningful secret beneath the two of them, he answered softly, "At a subway station, thirteen years ago."

Her bottom lip quivered before she could stop it and her eyes burned, vision blurring as hot tears cascaded down her cheeks. She wanted to apologize for forgetting him, but no sound came out except for muffled sobs as she buried her face in his chest. Feeling his hand remain around her shoulder, joy and sorrow swirled around together until they became one heart-rending emotion pouring down her face and soaking into his shirt. She was so happy she'd finally found somebody, that she wouldn't have to be all alone anymore, but it was all for nothing. She was too late, and all she could do was cry harder as the clock ticked down.

Neither of them knew or cared how much time passed. It could have been a second or an eternity that they remained close, huddled under the overhang of a pub, shielded from the pouring rain. Her head tucked under his as her shoulders shook with grief and happiness, both completely oblivious to any vehicles or people hurrying by. Seconds, minutes, hours flew by as he held her awkwardly against him. No words were exchanged, one unable to produce them, the other unable to form them in his mind. And it was alright, because no words were needed.

The wind grew stronger, whipping their wet hair and clothes about them and scattering raindrops everywhere. As the storm worsened, the girl's breathing calmed and quieted. But still she stayed close to the one protecting her, peaceful despite the powerful gusts toppling garbage cans and tossing cardboard boxes. Eyes tired from crying, she closed them, relaxing her taut muscles previously strung from pain. And he remained still, holding true to his promise. If this were to be his last vow, he would do all in his power to fulfill it.

There was nothing left for either of them but death. She awaited it, he contemplated it. He had been too late to protect the one thing reminiscent of all he had never had, she had been too late to realize the one thing reminiscent of all she had ever lost. The two completed each other, and if one of them died, the equation would fall apart. But for now they were whole, if only for a short while.

Time was up.

She could feel every heartbeat resounding in her seemingly hollow chest, slowing reluctantly as the last of her blood began to leave her body. And he could feel her breaths become shallow, feel her fist tighten in his. There was nothing either of them could do but wait for those last few moments together to come to an end. Suddenly finding it harder to breathe, she pulled away from him, leaning back against his arm. He understood, moving slightly so that she fell into a reclined position. There was more silence for a minute or two while they listened to each other's quiet breaths.

Face gaunt and pale, the girl's emerald eyes opened once again as she heard a deep voice resonating from the man she leaned against. He sounded as tired as she felt, tired of pain and sadness, but still maintained a soft tone as he spoke of one last request from her.

"We've met before. But that time, I didn't ask your name."

Smiling exhaustedly, she looked up at him, using the last of her strength for a whisper of an answer.

"Haruno Sakura."

Rain began to spill from a large hole in the overhang above them, the thin stretch of plastic hung by a thread that subdued it no longer present. Water mingled with the tears that dripped from both of their faces. And he gave his own name in return, voice steady and strong.

"Uchiha Sasuke."

Sakura smiled once more before blinking, slowly, then closing her eyes completely. Her last few breaths were calm and deep before they stopped altogether. She looked absolutely serene, pale skin illuminated by an almost ethereal glow from the street lamps as they flickered on and off in the storm. Unmoving and silent, she was beautiful. And gone forever.

Sasuke had no time to mourn the loss as half a dozen people stepped from around a street corner, shouting and brandishing firearms when they saw him. He slowly moved himself from underneath the dead girl and stood, unaware of the blood spurting from the enormous wound in his side. Laying her down gently, leaving his jacket stained and sprawled on top of her, he turned to face the group of men as they called insults and profanities his way. He'd left his pistol in the alleyway, he noticed dismissively as the remainder of the Akatsuki stationed themselves in a line across from him. No matter. It had been his plan to die anyways, no matter how it happened.

Six men of varying heights and ages stood with their fingers on the trigger of their guns, jeering and mocking. But he was deaf to their taunts, glaring fixatedly forwards. Staring death in the eye, daring it to make its move.

And it did.

Gunshots sounded throughout the empty street for minutes, then it was completely silent.

((Kind of funny that I thought of how the story would end before even starting to write it. I DO have sort of a continuation of this idea planned, but it's likely you won't be seeing anything of the sort until I finish SNK. There were a lot of times in the process of thinking of what to write that I completely blanked, so I tried to picture what would happen in my mind as a scene. And naturally, nothing in my imagination comes without background music. If you can't find these songs, feel free to e-mail me and I'll send them to you.

Track #1: "Opening", Mike Shinoda

This actually doesn't have a place in the story, but I'm a sucker for string instrumentals. It's meant to lead into the next track, and I think it accomplishes that well. Found on the Linkin Park album, "Reanimation".

Track #2: "Lamentation", Yuki Kajiura

I'm sure some people would find it sappy, but I absolutely adore this track. It's probably the most moving song on the whole Xenosaga Episode II OST. It starts off with some sort of piano-chime-music box sounding thing playing the main tune for a few seconds, then the piano joins in and eventually fades into the background as the strings take over. Then there's a pause, then the same motif from the very beginning plays with percussion in the background, and it gets orchestral again. A bamboo flute or some breathy sounding wind instrument appears here and there to add dramatic effect, then eventually it all goes back to the opening tune with a few notes on the string instruments to emphasize the sadness of the song as it ends. Not a very short one, coming in at around five minutes, but if you appreciate classical music then you'll love this. Is meant to play from the very beginning and ends just before Sasuke's flashback to the subway station.

Track #3: "The Image Theme of Xenosaga Episode II #Piano-Ver.

Certainly nothing spectacular compared to "Lamentation", but I intended this track to be atmospheric and I think it works. It starts off a little odd, with echoes of female chanting overlaying each other, and then a very simple piano motif that I could play with my eyes closed starts up. This goes on for around a minute before the chanting stops, there's a pause, and the piano continues in the same tune, only stronger. Finishing at about the three minute mark, this song is simple but kind of has a reflective air to it. Which is exactly why I stuck it in the subway flashback scene.

Track #4: "The Oath", Shiro Hamaguchi

Those who have played Final Fantasy VIII should recognize this song. I'm not even going to attempt to describe it musically, because there are so many crazy things going on that I can't remember a few of them. But I know for sure that it starts out softly with brass instruments playing the main melody, then the strings come in and take over for a while. The tune is very simple, but it's serious and dramatic. Close to the end when the melody repeats itself for the last time, that one drawn out note before the song rises to a forte is when Sakura gives her name. She dies when the strings quietly play the last part of the song. This song was originally on the FFVIII OST, but then Shiro Hamaguchi orchestrated it for the FFVIII: Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec album. You're looking at another five minute song, here.

Track #5: "NTERMSHN" (or something like that), Mike Shinoda

Another little half-minute track from "Reanimation". This one is basically just the piano motif from "Opening" continued, with some weird ambient sound effects at the end that lead into the next track. It's just a little something to conclude the story on a melancholy note before the main theme.

Track #6: "Hanabi", Ayumi Hamasaki

Heh. For those who think Ayu sounds like a chipmunk, have fun with this song. Her voice, I think, is very mature for the time at which she recorded this. The tune is slow and sad, and once again there are those music box sounds present as most of the background music. I can't really describe this one well, you'll have to listen to it to get the fullest effect. The lyrics match very well too, I found. (Go to http colon slash slash ayu dot primenova dot com and look under the lyrics section to see what I mean.)

I think I've put off doing my homework for long enough, so bye for now.))