Disclaimer: For the whole story. Don't own, don't sue.
Summary: He betrayed Konoha, defeated his brother, killed Orochimaru…and was dragged home. As punishment, his chakra highway has been sealed and existence as a civilian has been forced upon him. Recuperation wasn't supposed to be easy, but life had left him behind. The world kept on turning. The sun kept on shining. The metronome kept on beating.
Metronome: Chapter 1
He had done it. Killed his brother. Obtained enough power to defeat Kakashi. Survived it all. But at what cost? He had betrayed his village. Betrayed his friends. Attacked them with the intent to kill. Did he really…did he really expect everything to be the same when he returned? For Sakura to welcome him back with open arms?
Did he expect Naruto to grin at him, call him 'teme' and challenge him to a fight? Did he expect those looks of admiration from other villagers for being the child prodigy he had become? Did he expect to not be punished? To suffer no disgrace for committing the worst of all crimes for a ninja to commit?
But he still…he still didn't expect this.
Sasuke tried to call his chakra to his fingertip. Just a little would have left him elated. But there was nothing. Sweat beaded his forehead as he strained for a trickle of chakra. Just a trickle. Just enough to give him hope.
The tips of his pointer and middle fingers jabbed hard into his body, the pain overwhelming. Hundreds and hundreds of times, striking each chakra hole and sealing it up forever. One last sharp pain, and black bled his vision out.
He had gained power, yes, but as a result, he was now nothing but a chakra-crippled ex-ninja, never to touch a weapon again. Never to feel chakra flowing through his body like a drug.
"Your punishment, Uchiha Sasuke, is to be kicked out of the ranks of ninja and to have your chakra holes sealed. This will ensure the village's safety, blocking the cursed seal as it would have no reserves to feed on, and it will protect our ninja secrets, for if you are ever captured outside our village, few techniques will be revealed. Of course, you will not be allowed to leave Konoha unattended. You will complete civilian schooling and become a model citizen of Konohagakure. Be grateful you're not sentenced to death."
This was death. All his life he had strived for power, and to have it snatched away from him mere months after he had reached it was all too cruel. With a loud cry of frustration, he punched the door, wincing when a dull ache pulsed through his knuckles. No chakra to automatically heal it.
Sasuke stormed through the large, empty house to the front door where his backpack sat, grabbed it, and made his way to school. High school.
The classroom was loud and noisy, sweaty and hot. Summer wasn't yet over, and humidity had overtaken Konoha at just eight in the morning. He sat in his usual seat at the back of the room, ignoring the whispers of giggling fangirls and the absent remarks the boys made about him.
But today would be different. Because—
The door slid open and the class quieted slightly, expecting only Noku-sensei. Accompanying him, however, was a pink haired kunoichi, shuriken and kunai holster on either thigh, a medical pack strapped to her waist and twisted to her back, scrolls filling the several pouches in the dark green jounin vest, and the most cherished hitai-ate wrapped around a well formed but still delicate bicep.
Sasuke watched her enter, his eyes never leaving her form.
He wasn't aware that he had spoken her name, but it had been so long since he had seen her.
Everything had changed when he returned. Naruto, despite his unnaturally quick healing abilities, was still bedridden after having brought Sasuke back. He had never expected Sakura to abandon him. He had never expected her to excel in medical, tactical, and diplomatic missions. But then he had never expected her to amount to anything, had he.
No doubt she was here to check on his progress, see if he was a "model citizen of Konoha." He nearly snorted in derision.
Sakura made her way to the back of the room, the opposite corner that Sasuke sat in, and made quick handseals to pull a genjutsu around her, diverting attention away from her. She hadn't disappeared, hadn't faded into the wall—she just made the students' eyes pass over her as if she were unimportant and uninteresting.
Sasuke turned his attention back to the blackboard. After all, he was a model student and citizen.
There was a crowd around her and her face was cold, emotionless—something he never thought he'd see on Sakura. But he was around, and she seemed to freeze whenever she sensed him.
"Are you a jounin?"
"No ANBU is permitted to reveal their status."
"So you are!"
"How many missions have you been on?"
"I don't count."
"Do you do diplomatic missions or assassinations?"
"Assassinations are mainly ANBU. I am a medical ninja. Diplomatic missions, high rank missions I am not permitted to speak of, and I occasionally join the Tactical team in planning missions."
Question after question was fired off at her, and she answer smoothly, though frigidly. The same as Sasuke had done when he first arrived.
"Did you know Sasuke-kun when he was a ninja?" a simpering, female voice asked.
Sakura glared and the crowd's clamor died down. The girl shrunk back, realizing that she may have asked the wrong question, and she averted her eyes to Sakura's black painted toenails.
Huh. So she was ANBU. All high ranking ninja seemed to paint their nails black, be they S-ranked missing-nin or ANBU. Some kind of trend in the upper ranks of shinobi.
Her voice was soft, sweet, and deadly. "Yes, I did. I was on his genin team."
No one spoke. Questioning was over.
"So the denominator is—,"
The door slid open and a silver topped head popped in. "Yo."
Sakura's genjutsu was let down and she placed her hands on her hips, frowning at the newcomer. "Kakashi! You're four hours late!"
Kakashi blinked. Sakura grinned.
"Nice job. You made it on time."
Sasuke couldn't help but glance over at his two former teammates, sharing a book of Icha Icha Paradise. How odd it seemed that both she and Naruto had formed a strong obsession for all of Jiraiya's perverted series, as he had found when the book fell out of Naruto's pocket during their fight. Well, every high ranked ninja had their little quirks—Kakashi, Jiraiya, Naruto, Sakura, and supposedly Ebisu and the Sandaime Hokage just had more…perverted ones.
He remembered how he had been as a jounin of the Sound. He had grown fond of carpentry, always seen whittling some knick knack or another around a camp fire during the few missions he was allowed out of the village.
Sasuke looked down at his hands as he imagined holding a knife in one and a block of wood in another. Too bad it wasn't possible anymore, seeing as how his hand had been torn up in his fight with Naruto. Twelve chidori. Far more than his maximum. It still hurt to grip a pencil.
He had woken halfway though the operation, green light filtering in through his slightly lifted eyelids. There was no feeling in his right arm and slight discomfort in the rest of his body. It was nothing he couldn't deal with, but he still shifted slightly, trying to get into a better position.
There was a hiss of anger from above him and he cracked his eyes all the way open, squinting in the light. Sakura was glaring at him slightly, her forehead beaded with sweat. "Uchiha. Don't move, or else you'll smear the seals. Then your hand will stay in this mangled form forever."
His gaze shifted to his arm, which was splayed out away from his body, and he stared impassively. It was blistered and tattered. Bits of skin were still crumbling off as they had been burned to a crisp. He could see his blood pulsing under the thin layer of regenerated cells. Pulse. Pulse. Pulse.
The rest of math class passed without incident. Just one more class until the end of school. As Sasuke changed into his PE clothes, he listened to the other boys around him talk about their two ninja visitors.
"Haha. That ninja girl was hot!"
"What's with the mask?"
"Did she have Icha Icha Paradise sticking out of her pocket?"
"I know the guy did."
"I couldn't find them in the classroom. Like, I knew they were there and I think I saw them, but I just couldn't find them."
"Yeah? Me too!"
"Some type of illusion, probably."
"Wonder what else she could do with that illusion."
Sasuke didn't notice his fists clenched tightly until the chatter died down and one boy tentatively asked him, "Er, Sasuke-san. Are you…alright?"
He stared at his shaking fist and slowly pried his fingers apart. Sasuke placed his shoes back into the locker and slammed the metal door shut, swirling the lock on it to a random number. "I'm fine."
Why did he feel this way?
'Because they were insulting my teammates.'
They weren't his teammates anymore. He had betrayed them. Sasuke brooded over these thoughts as he stretched for class, ignoring the piercing gaze he felt drilling a hole in the back of his head. At least it was nice to know that a few of his ninja qualities stayed.
"Line up with your team! Captains today will be Yoku and Naomi!"
There was an odd number of people, so the winner of the coin toss could have first choice and one less person, or one more person and second choice. Naomi won and automatically chose first choice.
With a sigh, Sasuke heaved himself up from his place on the floor and made his way over to the petite brunette. Absently, he noted every person on each team. A tall, dirty blonde named Yasuo was giving him a dirty look, obviously jealous at the attention Sasuke got from his crush.
There was a shrill blow of the whistle, "BEGIN!" and the game started. The team dispersed, some students scrambling for the ball and others running to opposite ends of the court, waving their arms or blocking their opponents. Naomi had gotten hold of the orange ball and she quickly passed it to Sasuke, who caught it and began dribbling—favoring his left hand.
As he made his way down the court, the girls squealed in admiration, the boys trying to steal the ball. Just as he reached the basket and was about to shoot, a heavy body rammed into his side, throwing him skidding to the ground. Pain exploded in his arm and lights danced before his eyes.
His teammates were enraged at the act of hostility by Yasuo and immediately began calling the foul to their coach, crowding around Sasuke. His eyes were clenched and his right arm was convulsing with pain. His heart was racing and his breath was quick.
With a calm face, Sakura picked Yasuo up by his shirt collar and held him as high as her arm would allow. He was shaking, sweat rolling down his cheeks in terror and exertion as he stared at the icy kunoichi in front of him.
Sakura tightened her hold and flung Yasuo at Kakashi, who had just spoken her name, confident that he would catch the impudent boy. She knelt by Sasuke's form and took his arm, frowning as heavy bruises were already beginning to form. Finally, she sighed and performed a long string of handseals before painting another seal on Sasuke's arm with a pen she had whipped out from her holster, and letting forth green, healing chakra.
His body calmed as the pain was removed and Sasuke nearly wanted to laugh at the irony of his situation. Twice in just three months he had found himself lying on the ground, looking up at Sakura as she healed him, when countless times in the years they had been together, she had always been behind him, being protected. Oh how things had changed.
"Uchiha. You shouldn't be so reckless in your condition. Your arm still needs to heal, and it will never be up to your previous standards again." Sakura's voice was quiet and she slowly stood up, dusting her black jounin uniform pants free of dirt.
Sasuke shakily pushed himself up, cursing himself for feeling and showing such weakness, and he saw that Yasuo still seemed terrified. The bastard deserved it, anyways. Their PE teacher rubbed the back of his head and told the rest of the class to continue their game, sending Yasuo to the principal's office and sitting Sasuke down on a bench.
"Sit today out, Uchiha. If you feel better, you can play tomorrow."
Sakura and Kakashi appeared next to him, Kakashi with his eye curved up in a smile, and Sakura with her head buried in an Icha Icha Paradise book next to Kakashi. "Mou, Kakashi! Violence is so much more interesting!"
Kakashi rolled his eyes and hit his student on the back of her head with his hand, "You're too violent, Sakura. Paradise is about the twists in life, the romance, and above all, the drama!" Sasuke could've sworn that Kakashi gave a Gai-pose, but he refrained from speaking. How quickly their demeanors could change.
"By the way, Sasuke. Naruto is awake now."
Kakashi peaked over Sakura's shoulder at the smut she had propped open in her hand.
'He didn't say Naruto wanted to see me.'
"You should see him,"
'He hasn't asked for me.'
"So…" Kakashi was still the only one talking, "How have things been going, Sasuke? Sakura?"
Silence. Kakashi nudged Sakura with his foot in a friendly manner, turning into the goofy man he had been during team outings three years ago, instead of the battle hardened ex-ANBU he was.
Sakura shrugged, shutting the book and stretching her arms up, slouching on the bench. "Nothing much, Kakashi. I've been over at the Hyuuga's lately. It seems that one of Neji's cousins from the Main Family has gotten sick in her seventh month of pregnancy. Nothing too wrong with it, though, and I'm sure things'll turn out fine. If I can't fix it, Tsunade-shishou will be able to. No worries."
Sasuke listened to the boredom in Sakura's voice. So she was important enough to be called to the Hyuuga's Main Family's aid? 'I shouldn't underestimate her. I fought her.'
"And you, Sasuke?"
"We have a math test tomorrow."
His news sounded so bland next to Sakura's. Next to a shinobi's.
"As for me," Kakashi continued rambling on, "I've been to see Tazuna again. You remember him, ne? Built the Naruto Bridge! It seems that Wave Country has become pretty prosperous over the years. Oh, and Jiraiya has gotten a contract for Icha Icha Paradise to be adopted to a TV series. You see Sakura? Icha Icha Paradise, not Violence."
Sakura rolled her eyes.
Sasuke felt even more isolated than he had before. Everyone had moved on. Everyone had become better. And he was stuck as a civilian, preparing for a Calculus test.
A/N: Hm. Probably a Sasu/Saku pairing if there's going to be one. I'm not too fond of those pairings, though. What pairings do you want? Tell me what you think. Should I continue? Should I delete it from my computer forever and ever and ever?