Disclaimer: Naruto isn't mine. Sasuke isn't mine. Neji isn't mine. The word "kunoichi" (and those it refers to) is (are?) not mine. If there's anything I've forgotten, chances are it's not mine either.

A/N: …Um. Well, I was just playing some Sims 2, minding my own business, and then this happened. I don't really know how else to explain it. Takes place in…um…I guess a random Chuunin Exam, but not the first one? I dunno. Interpret the time period however you want.

To fans of Necromancer, don't worry, it is NOT NOT NOT on the back burner, in any way, shape or form. This is just a brief interlude. Promise. n.n;




Uchiha Sasuke does not like Hyuuga Neji. As their gazes briefly lock from across the room, that much is very clear.

Simultaneously, eyes of black and eyes of white both narrow with discontent. Another stone is added to each of the invisible fortresses they've built to keep the other away.

His eyes have changed, Sasuke notices. Just a little. A bit of the haughtiness has worn away, making room for a steady calm that seems to pulse throughout his body, not unlike the way Sasuke's curse seal likes to creep through his own body when the need is too great. No, now it's only gray-white calm, framed by the quiet arrogance that comes with the knowledge of one's own potential. Sasuke has seen that look before. He sees it every day.

But there's something else too, behind it all, a muted wariness; he knows what today is. Sasuke is starting to doubt that any villager doesn't recognize this day as the anniversary of the Uchiha clan's demise.

That wariness makes it clear that the two of them won't be fighting today.

Only once have they ever done so, in the real sense of the word. They have butted heads before, yes; Sasuke knows no other way to interact with Neji, and he doesn't doubt that the feeling is reciprocated. But only once, on a cloudless night that found both of them in foul moods and with little patience, had it ever come to blows.

Sasuke doesn't really remember what triggered it, or even how they ran into each other in the first place. All he can associate with that night are muscle and breath, and the hot, blind sensation of channeling every dark thought he'd ever had into a barrage that would have ended in death for a weaker opponent, and the pulsing exhiliration that encompassed him when Neji fought back with equal fervor, white eyes flashing through every shadow with the intensity of channeled hate, and the wrenching in his chest when the sight of those eyes struck a chord, both driving him forward and frightening him back at once.

He doesn't know how it would have ended if their senseis hadn't intervened, no doubt able to sense the spikes of chakra they were emitting with every strike. He doesn't remember wondering why even through all that, the curse seal remained silent.

But he does remember that he didn't stop shaking until well after they had parted ways.

Afterward, from the eager whispers that seemed to follow him wherever he went, Sasuke found the general opinion to be that the Last Uchiha and the Hyuuga Prodigy were bound to do this eventually, because they're just too much alike.

Sasuke doesn't agree.

Because as the days went by, amongst the usual fawning over by the kunoichi of his team, and the occasional narrow-eyed glance in passing from the kunoichi of Neji's team, Sasuke slowly began to realize what had changed. Before, he had seen Hyuuga Neji as little more than competition, their relationship as little more than mutual annoyance.

But now he understands that that isn't the case at all. Finally he can pinpoint what it is that makes his pulse quicken and his muscles go rigid every time they lock eyes like this.

Hyuuga Neji scares him.

He scares him because the story of his family is the story of Sasuke's family, the way they once were. A powerful clan. A famous clan. Quietly flawed but outwardly perfect.

A clan that has produced a genius.

A genius who rejects the very core of the beliefs that make the clan what it is.

A genius whose hatred for the clan is strong, and whose potential is even stronger. A genius who all claim is without limits, and who is just damaged enough to make that a terrifying thought.

Neji's story is Sasuke's story, told from the other side.

That is what Sasuke saw in a glimpse on the night they fought. That is what he sees now, in the charged silence of the testing room, while they wait for the rest of the genin to finish their paper exams so they can move on. That is what makes it hard for Sasuke to hold his gaze, especially today, of all days.

There has never been doubt that the houses of Hyuuga and Uchiha will stand to be compared. Outsiders contrast them as ice and fire, light and shadow, hope and despair. Of the remaining Uchihas, Hyuuga Neji also has a counterpart. But that counterpart is not Sasuke.

And Neji is the first to look away, because he knows this very well.




Written/revised in approximately an hour and a half to two hours. (Yeah, I know, I'm slow. ;P) 771 words. I'm gonna get back to Necromancer now.