Metronome: Chapter 2

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'Why is she here again?'

The pink haired medic stood guard over the classroom in the same corner she had stood in the past week, her sharp green eyes darting over the smut she held in her hand. Though Sasuke was positive she sensed his eyes on her, Sakura continued reading, ignoring his gaze.

Did he want her here?

'Yes.'

A soft whisper in his mind. An unanticipated answer. An honest feeling in his chest…he just wanted everything back to the way it was before. Having been left completely orphaned at the mere age of ten, his heart had grown cold and bitter—revenge became the only thing worth living for.

At age thirteen, he had experienced something new. Something fresh. Something good and pure. Not perfect. Never perfect. But that lack of perfection—a perfect silence that reigned at the Uchiha complex—was what made it worthwhile. The flaws of being a human, not an avenger.

And at age fourteen, he had abandoned the one thing that could've saved him. He left his village, yes. His "home". He left his possessions and his memories. But above all, he had left his friends. Thrown away what he cherished the most—not that he had noticed that when he left.

'Friendship is weak. Emotions are weak. Revenge. I am an avenger, and I will not be weak.'

How wrong he had been. The years dragged on and he grew in power, both from his own doing and that of the cursed seal, and this second wave of loneliness was even more powerful than the first. The pit of emptiness he felt growing in the back of his mind was pushed aside, and he had not acknowledged it until he saw Naruto and Sakura, Jiraiya and Tsunade. That rescue had been unsuccessful.

He shoved the feeling further away, despite having recognized it. Then there was another rescue attempt by Naruto and Sakura, Shikamaru and Neji and Lee and Kiba and Shino, Jiraiya and Tsunade. Failed. By now, Sasuke learned to just ignore it. He knew it was there—it threatened to swallow him whole. He refused to let it interfere, so he had fought harder than ever. The mission failed.

Add Gaara no Sabaku to the equation and switch the mission type from 'retrieval' to 'termination' of target, and it was still a failure. Sasuke had been captured (more so to honor Naruto, who had been severely wounded, than for the value of Sasuke's life) instead of killed.

Upon waking, Sasuke had sighed in relief, believing the past few years to be a nightmare—some horrible play of his imagination. But as he lifted his hands to his face and felt the light stubble that had grown, dread began to accumulate in the pit of his stomach.

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Sasuke clenched his eyes shut, slowly moving his hands from his face. In the soft morning light, the terror displayed on his once impassive face seemed out of place. He finally forced his eyelids open, part of him screaming for him to shut them again, and he raised his shaking hands to eye level.

They were rough, slim fingered, and most definitely not thirteen years old.

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The hole was too large now to push aside, too empty to ignore as well, and he felt himself teeter on the edge of it when Sakura had ignored him during his check up the first time she saw him in Konoha. Full realization of what he once had—and what he had tossed aside—finally dawned on him, and regret washed over him.

Funny things they are—regret and understanding. Neither had come to him until after it was too late, and now he had to cope. Alone.

So yes. He did like Sakura being there, if only for him to try and regain some sense of stability. She had always been there during their days as Team 7, and her absence had long grated on him until it become undeniably clear that she had become a constant in his hectic life. Familiarity was what he needed, but the warmth it once held had dimmed and faded.

Sasuke shook these thoughts from his head and he glanced at the clock. Absently, as he scribbled more notes into his notebook, he observed that Kakashi would arrive in around twenty minutes, climb through the window, and take out his own perverted book to read.

Sasuke had yet to talk to either of his old teammates (excluding the brief conversation they had had during their first visit), and a part of him felt drawn to them. The rest of him—the disgusting, cowardly, dominant part—was too scared to do so.

Just as he was about to (try to) ignore his former teammates' presence and absence, Kakashi poofed into the classroom with no regard for the teacher. He rushed to Sakura who had let down her genjutus, and whispered to her in urgent but hushed tones. The students' eyes all darted from the whiteboard to the corner of the room, all curious to see what was going on.

Before he realized what he was doing, he stood from his seat—only the cold hand of Kenji, the only boy who understood him somewhat, stopping him from walking to the two shinobi in the corner of the room.

Sasuke glared at the chestnut haired boy then glanced back at Sakura, a frown forming on his face when he saw her stumble into the wall, her book falling from her hands. Kakashi watched impassively, offering no comfort to the shocked kunoichi.

He was in shinobi-mode.

Sasuke watched as Sakura's back slid slowly down the wall, her vest painfully loud in the now-silent classroom. Her hands clenched her thighs, her fingernails digging deep into the tough, black fabric of her jounin uniform, and her head slowly raised. Her gaze shifted from the ground to sweep across the room, eventually landing on Sasuke.

Every little movement in the classroom seemed glaringly noticeable at the moment, but Sasuke found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the burning hate that Sakura was now directing at him. Every fiber of her being emanated a killing intent so strong he wanted to recoil in his chakra-less state.

Without another word, she and Kakashi disappeared from the classroom in quick blurs, the only indication of them having moved at all (besides their disappearance) were the curtain blinds rustling slightly. She had even left her book.

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Pain. That was the only thing that registered in Neji's mind as he slowly regained consciousness. His mind was hazy and his limbs hurt. That was all. However, his ninja training kicked in and he began pushing his senses, remaining perfectly still even as he did.

'Hard surface. Possibly rock. Cool, humid climate. A cave, or possibly underground cell. Stench of sulfur—'

"Awake already, Hyuuga? You remained motionless even though you heart was pounding and I see that you feel tremendous pain, but I suppose that being a ninja comes first no matter what, no?"

Neji recognized that voice, and as much as he wished it were a bad dream, he slowly opened his eyes to confirm his fears. There was little light for his eyes to adjust to, but even then his eyes hurt and his head spun. Little explosions rocked his stomach and a long gone fear came back, as did his memory of how he had gotten himself into this situation.

"Kabuto."

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Sakura paced in her office. A rare gust of summer wind blew her papers off her desk and she bent down irritably to gather them. 'What do I do!' She placed the papers back on her desk and put a vase on top of them to hold them in place.

"What do I do!"

Sweat rolled down her cheeks and she felt it sliding down her body. It traced patterns on the cloth of her uniform

He ran his fingers down her back, slipping inside her shirt where she felt the heat of her body contrasted by his cool palm—

Sakura gripped the vase and flung it at her door. Water splashed and the powder that the porcelain had been reduced to floated down. There was a tentative knock on the door and she readied a decorative plate. The handle twisted and opened to reveal a Branch Member Hyuuga.

"Sakura-san. Mikomi-sama requires your assistance. It seems as if she's gone into labor."

Sakura's eyes slanted and Kira, though a Branch Member, was still a Hyuuga and returned her gaze. "And has the Main House begun arranging for the rescue of your close cousin, Kira-chan?"

Kira's eyes flashed uncertainty and that was all the prompting Sakura needed before she hurled her plate at the Hyuuga. "Then don't come back until you either have a real answer for me or Hyuuga fucking Hiashi here to speak to me! NOW GET OUT!"

Kira quickly bowed and closed the door, hurrying out to the receptionist as fast as she could. Coming upon Shizune (who was carrying an enormous crate of sake), she quickly requested that the medic come to check on Mikomi.

Sakura sighed and fell forward onto her knees, rubbing her face with calloused hands. 'What do I do now, Neji?'

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A/N: version 2 ! I thought it was much better than the first chapter 2, and it covers what I want it to, which is why it's so short. I'll try to get chap 3 out asap!