Yo.

I know – I know. You wanna kill me. Yes, I understand. –rolls eyes- Allow me to explain?

Well, our internet totally CRASHED until just recently. As it turned out, the built-in modem we had in the computer totally fried. We had to get our entire motherboard fixed, which is always a complete and total pain. And now the C drive doesn't work, so I can't put songs on the computer or burn CD's. It sucks. Not to mention all the homework I'm getting for all the freakin' HONORS classes…

OR the new game that I got. –grins- Baten Kaitos Origins for the Gamecube. If you guys played the original Baten Kaitos and loved it – get this game. If Baten Kaitos nearly made me cry, this one HAS to be good too. XD

Not to mention that the main character has Sasuke's hair. XD I'm serious. When I first started playing, I'm just like, "HOLY SHIT! THAT GUY STOLE SASUKE'S HAIR AND DYED IT TEAL!"

And the graphics are BRILLIANT, as always. XD

I'll tell you guys everything else that happened in Treacherous Heart. With luck, I'll be updating THAT today too. But as I'm copying and pasting this author's note, I haven't even TYPED up the next chapter to TH, so no promises.

And I'm actually very proud of my control. If the review-whore inside of me had her way, this would've been up as soon as I finished it. But, I'm proud of myself, because I have written FIVE – FREAKIN – CHAPTERS! –screams hysterically- COUNT 'EM! ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE! HA! I RULE! –flops down-

But I decided to post it as an apology for taking so freakin' long with the updates, and because one of my friends at school read a modified version of it, and she absolutely adored it. So now I'm posting it. If it doesn't work out perfectly the way I'm planning – eh – I'll deal with it when I get there.

So… yes. Another story. I was actually sitting on this idea for a few weeks before I finally started writing it. It's when I'm imagining the very beginning – sentence by sentence – do I realize I need to write my obsession down on paper.

And yes – for a while, it was an obsession. For a couple of weeks, you couldn't get me off the computer.

Now, you can't get my hands off my wireless Gamecube controller. XD

I'll have you know I adore this story.

And I warn you now – it'll be LONG. Spell it! L-O-N-G!

Hope you love! (Not like, LOVE. L-O-V-E!)

You Found Me

Line One: Is This A Dream?

It was dark. He blinked to see another floating above him, a small smile on the other's face.

Before he could speak, the other beat him to it.

"I'm coming," the other breathed softly, their voice echoing. "I'm coming – don't worry. I'm going to find you."

He blinked.

"What –?"

BEEPBEEPBEEP

His eyes shot open as the alarm clock at the edge of his desk began to shrilly ring, his arms cushioning his head as he bent over the wood.

Weird. That same dream again.

Still groggy from sleep, he grabbed the ringing device and flung it at the wall.

"Fuck off," he muttered viciously, the venom ruined by the mumbling of sleep as metal crunched nicely against the solid wood wall. Blinking, he raised his head and looked up at the calendar pinned to the wall above his head.

"Tuesday," he stated blankly. Grunting, he made to straighten into a sitting position. "Recovery day from Monday my ass –"

His foot caught in the multitude of junk underneath his desk and he found that his rear had somehow drifted to the corner of the chair while he had been sleeping, and with a soft, groggy yelp, he fell to the wooden floor with a solid thump.

There was silence for a moment as he contemplated going back to sleep on the floor. Tuesdays were SO not worth this.

"Ow."

He could already tell it wasn't going to be a good day.

"Fuck."

Raising a hand to grip the edge of the desk, he pulled himself up just enough to rest his chin on the surface, closing his eyes and grunting pathetically.

Shaking his head to clear it, he managed to wrench his legs underneath him and stood up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

Taking his glasses from the desk beside where his alarm clock had been, he put them on and looked down at the papers on the desk he had – thankfully – not drooled on.

"Oh," he stated blankly. "I didn't get to finish the paper. Ugh." Sighing, he ran his fingers through his long hair, wishing that he had gotten the dates wrong and it was actually Saturday instead of Tuesday. Fighting back another sigh, he took the papers and straightened them so he could put them back neatly in a folder resting in his bag. "I guess I'll just finish it during break. I should have enough time."

Shoving the papers in the folder and then shoving said folder in his bag, he straightened and got ready for school.

After taking a shower and changing into the uniform, he snagged a granola bar from the kitchen and opened the door to his apartment, locking it behind him and heading down the stairs, bag and skateboard in tow.

Once on the sidewalk, he threw his skateboard down and easily jumped onto it, skating down the pavement effortlessly towards the school. Humming a song to himself, he glided along, his hair billowing behind him in the makeshift wind.

Winding around pedestrians, he pushed off the pavement to gain momentum as he neared the mass of stone buildings surrounded by dark red brick walls, flashing his I.D. at the security guards as he entered the gates, still on his skateboard.

Weaving through the teenagers that were being herded like cattle in front of the main entrance doors, his eyes never lit up for a second with the joy of seemingly gliding on air. The scene of fresh cut grass and newly trimmed hedges never entertained him.

In fact, they made him miserable.

Once near the doors, he jumped off the board and slammed his foot onto the tail, making the wood buck up into his awaiting hand. Shouldering the board, he walked into the school.

"Another day, another eight hours of hell," he muttered grimly to himself as he walked through the nearly deserted hallways – seeking to get to his locker and to the classroom before the mass of students crushed him against the walls.

At least, that was the excuse he told himself as he popped open his locker and shoved his skateboard into it, hanging it by the front axel on one of the many hooks.

Opening his bag, he yanked out a binder, three folders, two spirals and two books, throwing them into the locker before pulling out a textbook, another binder (black this time) two folders, one spiral, and a different book from the neatly stacked mass at the bottom, putting those – minus the freaking heavy textbook – in his bag in place of the others he had taken out.

He surely WASN'T looking forward to that day. But then again, he never looked forward to schooldays. The only weekdays he enjoyed were those of holidays.

He had just closed the locker when a hand slammed into the locker next to him.

His aura turned dark.

Why now? Why so early in the morning? Why do they have to do this NOW?

"Hey Uchiha," the other teen growled. "Nice look you got today – did you do something different with your hair?"

Sasuke clicked the lock shut and dropped his bag onto the floor before looking at the other, eyes half closed and tired.

"Must you do this so early in the morning, Jirobo? Can't it wait until AFTER fifth?"

Jirobo grinned, and Sasuke then realized that the other three had appeared, circling around him.

Oh, just PERFECT –

"Why should it wait?" Kidomaru asked, silently laughing. "We always love spending time with you."

"Yes," Tayuya added. "We do. After all…" Sasuke glanced at Jirobo to see his eyes turn sharp. "Who wouldn't want to spend time with a FAG?"

Sasuke had enough time to think, Oh God not THIS crap again, before he was thrown against his own locker, Jirobo's face extremely close to his own.

"I'm supposing that you finished that essay for English, right four-eyes?" He asked. Sasuke blinked from behind his glasses.

Oh, SO original…

"No," he replied simply. "I haven't."

Tayuya gasped mockingly as Sakon's eyes narrowed. Out of his peripheral vision, Sasuke could see that a crowd was forming.

God it's too early for this –

"Really? The teacher's pet hasn't FINISHED his work? How unimaginable!"

I'm surprised you know that word, BITCH.

Sasuke grunted softly from the pressure being exerted on his throat by Jirobo's forearm and raised a hand, pushing at it weakly.

"Please Tayuya – imagine it. Now lay off, Jirobo – it's too early for this."

Jirobo grinned at him, teeth flashing. The stink of weed flooded Sasuke's nostrils, and he fought from wincing.

"Too early, huh? Awe – poor fag-baby," he cooed, releasing Sasuke's throat just barely before slamming him back against the locker again. "Then how about you give me your money?"

Sasuke blinked, bored.

"I don't HAVE money, you know that," he stated. Sakon rolled his eyes, setting a hand on Jirobo's shoulder.

"Enough of this."

Sasuke had no warning before Jirobo was pulled away from him and Sakon's fist had collided with his cheek, slamming the side of his head against the locker again as stars burst from behind his eyes.

Grunting, Sasuke fought to keep his balance as he brought a hand to his face, feeling the bruise forming as he dully realized that his glasses had fallen off to land onto his bag.

Well, at least they didn't break.

"Fucking drag queen," he heard Tayuya hiss before a fist had slammed into his stomach, making him fight the urge to double over.

"Crap. The teacher's coming!" He heard Kidomaru mutter. Curses issued out of the other three, and there was suddenly movement from behind them as the crowd scattered.

"Let's go," Sakon stated as Sasuke straightened, looking up to see the Sound Four glaring at him in hatred before bolting. The Uchiha turned his head to see Ibiki Morino waltzing down the hall, looking as if he owned the place.

Sending a swift thank you to whatever deity was up there, Sasuke crouched, sweeping the strap of his bag into his hold and bolting in a fashion identical to the Sound Four to his first class.

His cheek was throbbing like hell as he shoved his glasses back onto his face, cradling the textbook to his chest.

God I hate it here.

---------------------- --------------------- ---------------------- -----------------------

When he entered the Pre-Calculus classroom, he was the last person inside, and the chatter turned silent as he closed the door behind him. Gekkou Hayate looked from the dry-erase board to him.

"Very good, Uchiha." He paused to cough. "You're just in time. Take a seat."

Fighting back a sigh at the outbreaks of mutters caused by his reddened cheek, he shifted the strap on his shoulder and headed for his seat.

Dropping his bag on the floor next to his desk, Sasuke collapsed into his chair to nurse his bruised face, blinking as Hayate began to speak after the tardy bell finished ringing.

The murmurs continued to flow, many of them loud enough for Sasuke to hear – which he sadly knew wasn't by accident.

"I heard the Sound Four cornered him this morning."

"Yeah. I heard that too. They said he took the beatings like a little girl."

"Tsk. He's such a pussy. Not even a MAN!"

"Of course he's not a man! What kind of FAG can be a MAN?"

"Yeah! He's such a fucking drag queen!"

"Not to mention the fact that he's a total geek."

"Right? Tsk – the glasses are so dorky."

"Well, glasses fit for a dork."

"(giggle) Haha! You're right!"

Sasuke fought down a sigh, and idly imagined what would happen if he turned around and flipped those girls off.

"Just because I have long hair doesn't mean I'm gay!" He imagined himself roaring as the girls cowered in fear. "Now go dance on a pole, you fucking sluts!"

He sighed again and copied the notes Hayate was writing on the board. There was no way he would do that. He didn't have the courage. It had always been that way. Ever since THAT day…

No – don't think about it –

"So, Uchiha, in seeing this equation, what do you think the answer would be?"

Sasuke blinked and looked up at the board, studying the numbers.

"The answer would be somewhere in the imaginary plane, seeing as how when you simplify the equation, you would get negative square roots," he replied, resting his chin in his hand and contemplating taking a nap. Hayate nodded his head in approval as the other students exchanged dark glances and started muttering again. Hayate– with a small smirk – looked back over to Sasuke.

"So Uchiha, what do you think the answers are?"

Sasuke blinked, and the teacher could tell he was doing the math inside his head, the dark obsidian eyes sparkling from behind the lenses of the glasses.

"The roots would be i-root three, two-i-root seven, i-root ten, and two-i-root two," he replied, wondering if Hayate was going to give him homework.

The teacher smiled.

"Very good!" He coughed before resuming the smile. "You obviously understand the concept! Now, Sakura…" he continued on with the lesson, and Sasuke caught the people around him casting him dark glances, which he dismissed with a mental shrug. He didn't care. They couldn't get mad at him for naturally being smart.

But of course they always found a way.

The flurry of spitballs proved THAT to him. He hoped that he had slipped underneath the desk inconspicuously enough.

"All right!" Hayate's loud exclamation made the attacks suddenly stop, allowing the Uchiha to cautiously seat himself back in his chair. "You will be doing page seventy-one, numbers one to thirty all, due Thursday."

There was a collective groan as he began to cough violently. Who cares if Hayate had given them two days – thirty Pre-Calculus problems were hard, man!

As they opened their books and began to work, Hayate walked along the rows of students.

Sasuke took his time on the first problem as the teacher walked down his row, wondering what would happen.

As expected, a small yellow sticky note somehow appeared by his right elbow – which was resting on the desk as he wrote with the attached hand – as Hayate passed, and Sasuke slipped it into his fist before anyone could see it, looking up quickly enough to catch Hayate's wink before the teacher turned back to resume walking. Glancing around to see if anyone was looking at him suspiciously, he peeked into his fist to read the note.

"1 to 30 odd, for understanding the concept! Congrats for being smart!"

Beneath that was a friendly smiley face, along with Hayate's initials. Sasuke fought down a smile as he carefully tore up the note, shoving it into his uniform pant pocket before going on to number three.

Being ridiculously smart had its perks after all.

-------------- ----------------- ----------------- ------------------ --------------

Biochemistry had passed uneventfully, leaving Sasuke free to finish the essay he had been working on in the library during the break between second and third.

He had just finished proofreading it when the same hand from earlier slammed onto the table next to his paper.

"Amazing." He wanted to say. "You've actually ENTERED the library. Don't they have a rule against letting stupid people in?"

But he kept silent as Jirobo leered down at him.

"I see you've finished it," he breathed to the Uchiha, the smell of weed replaced by the completely obvious minty scent of mouthwash. Taking his other hand, he began to pluck the paper off the table.

Sasuke placed a finger on the paper to stop him.

"It's in INK, Jirobo," he stated. "You can't claim it's yours."

The other sneered down at him. Sasuke fought against coughing.

"How the hell are you even TAKING Honors English, anyway?" He wanted to ask the teen.

Probably bribed the counselor. He mentally answered his own question.

"It's called White Out, idiot," Jirobo snarled. Sasuke fought against rolling his eyes.

"Wow. Did you figure out something like that existed all by yourself? And who are you calling an idiot when YOU'RE the one trying to cheat?" Sasuke wanted to snap. He even felt his mouth begin to open, but the words died before they even reached his throat. Disappointed in himself, he lowered his eyes.

He could never have the courage.

He fought against a sigh and took his finger from the paper.

"Whatever. Do what you want," he replied.

You're so stupid, he'll figure out what you did the moment he lays eyes on the title. Che – idiot.

Jirobo smiled toothily.

"I'm glad you see things my way," he stated sweetly, taking his oh-so-precious time to take a fistful of Sasuke's hair and yank, nearly pulling it out by the roots and making the Uchiha fight down a yelp. Slamming Sasuke's face down onto the table, he turned to leave, the Uchiha's essay in his hand. "See you in English."

With that, he left.

Sasuke remained from where Jirobo had made him kiss the wood, staring blankly at the polished surface.

My life sucks.

--------------- ----------------- -------------------- ---------------- -------------------

It was Athletics now – it seemed like the only time Sasuke could run loose was during the exercise period.

He was the first one in the locker room, taking his clothes from the locker and changing in the very back corner. For some reason, changing in front of others frightened him.

Unfortunately though, the men of the Sound Four were always right behind him.

A wolf whistle erupted to the side of Sasuke, and he looked up to see Jirobo, Kidomaru, and Sakon walk into the row of lockers where Sasuke was just slipping his arms into the gym shirt's sleeves, about to pull the garment over his head. Kidomaru leered at him.

"Well, looky-looky – looks like little faggot actually has some muscles."

Sasuke's expression of boredom didn't change.

"Is that really the BEST insult you can come up with?" He wanted to ask. "After all, HOW many times have you called me that? Not very original, are you?" But he knew that doing that meant getting a black eye, so he stayed silent. It was easier that way – to just sit back and take it. It was so much easier than fighting back. Just let them do what they wanted, and they'd eventually go away.

"Yes, shocking, isn't it?" He agreed dryly, pulling the shirt down and straightening the hem – which fell past his hips. The gym shirts had always been too big on him.

Jirobo sneered at him.

"Cocky today, aren't you?" He snarled. Sasuke didn't blink.

"No. Just sick and tired of you bastards being so annoying." He ached to badly to snap something – like Jirobo had said, 'cocky' – back, but he didn't breathe a word. He thanked God that he had managed to put his shorts on before the three teens had made an appearance. Who knows what they might've tried then.

Instead of speaking, he took off his glasses and slipped around the three to head back to his locker as the tardy bell rang.

For the second time that day, he was shoved into an uncomfortably cold wall, Jirobo's sneering face inches from his own.

"Why don't you answer me when I'm talking to you?" The other snarled dangerously. Sasuke merely blinked.

"Because every time I talk to you, my I.Q. drops ten points," he wanted to snap back cynically. "Now get off me, dammit!"

But he stayed silent. He always did.

"You have three minutes, gentlemen!" The coach called from his office. Jirobo shot the cubicle a nasty look before glaring back at Sasuke, reluctantly letting him go.

"See you in the gym, faggot," he hissed, shouldering past Sasuke with the other two following him to their respective lockers.

Sasuke didn't answer. Instead, he opened his locker and put his uniform and glasses inside, snapping the blue door shut before pulling on his shoes.

The first one finished, he exited out the back door of the locker room into the gym.

A few of the girls were already dressed – many of which he didn't know. Regular P.E. was mixed with Athletics third period, so Sasuke saw some overweight teenagers mixed in with the fit ones.

He really didn't care about obesity though – as long as they didn't assist in making his school day hell, more power to them with whatever they attempted.

Third period, okay. As soon as this class is over, school is already halfway done – cool. I can do this.

He walked over to the bleachers and sat down, crossing his legs Indian style and watching idly as the students entered.

The female coach – Anko Mitarashi – entered along with the male coach – Kotetsu Hagane after a few minutes, chatting with one another and probably discussing the Plan of Pain Anko was going to use on the Athletics kids.

Sasuke was able to take it though. Being physically fit had its advantages, after all. Even if his version of physically fit meant he was at least a third smaller than the smallest male in his class.

So he weighed below one-twenty – big fucking deal. At least he didn't weigh two hundred – like Jirobo.

But then again, weighing two hundred pounds just MIGHT help if you're on the football team…

Sasuke was brought out of his revere by Anko's whistle.

"All right, you maggots!" She called to the Athletics' kids. "Line up! It's time for roll call!"

Sighing, Sasuke stood and walked over, taking a seat on his spot on the basketball court.

After checking roll, Anko explained what they were doing today – running laps, like always. Sasuke rolled his shoulders nonchalantly as the others groaned. At least it wasn't something that required actual orders from the brain – like soccer. He wasn't in the mood to use his brain – it felt fried enough as it was.

Get me some extra-crispy brain, chef! He thought grimly.

With running – you just worked your legs and ran in an oval all day – nothing hard about it.

Sasuke was probably the only person who was happy to be in gym that day. Running meant he didn't have to spend any time at all with the Sound Four – except for those multiple times when he would run past them on the track as he sought to finish his laps. Anko had begged him multiple times to be on the Track team (or maybe even Cross Country – what, with his amazing endurance) but Sasuke had turned her down. He was in Athletics because it was one of the two classes that he could release all his frustration – all those feelings of sheer, utter hopelessness. Track would mean after school practices, which meant more time at school, and more effort.

Hell no.

So he allowed himself a small smile as he stretched, his small frame giving him the flexibility to rest his forehead against the floor as they stretched on the court, his legs in a wide 'V' with the backs of his legs against the chilled, smooth wooden surface. He moved through the multiple stretches in blissful thoughtlessness, his mind thankfully blank.

Yes – gym – at that moment – was nice.

After stretching, along with thirty crunches and push ups, they headed to the track.

As soon as Anko blew her whistle as a sign for them to start running their ten laps, Sasuke immediately broke into a dash, easily passing even the top people on the Track team.

And he stayed that way for a good while – finishing up six laps – a mile and a half – with energy to burn.

Running meant no mingling with other students – no interaction with people who hated him. Sasuke enjoyed that – enjoyed being left to his own devices, his own thoughts, his own skills. He detested games – when he had to rely on others – when he had to trust others in order to be successful.

Who needed that?

He finished the ten laps with five minutes left before they had to go in to change, so Anko allowed him to go to the locker room early. Fighting down a pleased smile – he felt like he was weightless – he spent three of the five minutes doing some extra stretching in the locker room to avoid cramping before changing back into his uniform and departing for his next class just as students began filing in.

The men of the Sound Four didn't get a chance to pin him – to make a fool out of him – and Sasuke spent two of the six minutes of passing period to go to the library to turn in a book he had previously borrowed, a slight smile on his face. The librarian gave him a sweet smile as he departed.

It was amazing how gym could make him feel like a sun had burst into existence in his dark world.

But rain always found a way to block out the sun.

------------ ----------------- ---------------- --------------------- --------------- -----

English was forth period. Sasuke was sitting in the very middle of the room in his assigned seat, waiting for the teacher to show himself as student filed in.

No one spared him a glance – it was as though he didn't exist. He ignored them as much as they ignored him though – simply out of habit. It was jealousy, he kept telling himself. It was jealousy that kept making him hate coming to school – it was jealousy that made awful rumors about him spread – it was jealousy that made them corner him to make their fists meet every inch of his body they could find – it was jealousy that made him sit all alone against a tree at the far corner of the clearing during lunch – it was jealousy that made them hate him.

It was jealousy that made him feel so alone.

But he was used to it by now. He had always been alone – at home and at school. Why should jealousy – this never-ending flow of animosity, from all around him, burning him away slowly but surely (like a fire that warmed you while it slowly killed you from the inside out) – change anything?

He told himself it didn't, because it didn't.

So what was this ache in his chest?

The tardy bell rang, and the teacher still wasn't there.

He was never there on time.

And everyone in the class knew it.

It was Sakura who spoke first, flicking her accursedly annoying pink hair back over her shoulder.

"SO," she began loudly, bringing the chatter down to a near silence. "I heard that you got into a fight, Uchiha," she hissed out the name like a dirty curse word, making Sasuke's hands curl into fists underneath the desk as he forced his face to remain blank.

"Go rot in fucking hell, you SCANK!" He wanted to yell. "NEVER SPEAK LIKE THAT ABOUT MY FAMILY! THEY WERE SURE AS HELL A LOT BETTER THAN YOURS!"

Which was true – everyone knew. Sakura's mother was a local whore who had been impregnated by one of her clients. The man had vanished, and Sakura – by all technical terms – was a bastard. Everyone was aware of that.

But yet she was on the Student Council. She had been Homecoming Queen the year before, and she was captain of the cheerleading squad.

Life just wasn't fair.

"But I heard it wasn't even a fight, Sakura," Ino – Sakura's blonde best friend and archrival – piped up, smirking. "I heard that dear little Uchiha –" she spit the name like a curse word as well, making Sasuke wish nothing more than for lightning to break through the ceiling and fry her fucking mouth off. "–did nothing to defend himself."

"That's because he DIDN'T," another girl by the name of Kin added smugly. "I was there, watching everything. He took all the blows like a little girl."

"Like a faggot," her best friend – Zaku – hissed, grinning like mad. "He would've been beaten down to the floor if that stupid asshole Morino hadn't popped up."

Sakura laughed icily.

"Yeah!" She exclaimed. Then her voice grew lower – more taunting. "Whatever happened to the might of the Uchiha clan, hm? What a shame – the last remaining member is such a pussy." She sighed dramatically, shaking her head with a smug smirk on her face. "You must shame them so much – I'm sure your family was expecting so much more than a long-haired fag to continue on their bloodline."

Sasuke grit his teeth.

Stop talking about them!

Ino scoffed.

"Don't forget Sakura – he's gay – he CAN'T carry on the bloodline."

Sakura laughed softly, even though she had been fully aware of this fact this entire time.

"Oh yes – you're right, Ino! Of course he can't. Poor Uchiha clan. What will become of that famous family now?"

YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THEM!

Sasuke's fists were clenched so hard that they were shaking – his nails so close to breaking skin, so close to drawing blood.

SHUT UP!

He ached to open his mouth – to scream at them, to rage and roar and yell – to tell them that just because he had long hair didn't mean he was gay – and to never, EVER, speak of the Uchiha clan like that again.

But he stayed silent. He didn't even open his mouth to even try and he cursed himself.

I'm such a coward.

Ino sighed dramatically as well – in a direct imitation to Sakura's before.

"I don't know, Sakura. I'm sure they're sobbing in their graves right now. Whoever heard of such disappointment of an heir?"

Sasuke swallowed thickly, closing his eyes.

Shut up please God make them SHUT UP –

"Awe, what's a matter?"

Kin's voice was suddenly closer now, and Sasuke could feel that knot in his stomach growing tighter and tighter with each moment, and he wished he could reach inside his gut and yank it out to shove it down the girl's throat. Sakura, Ino, Kin – he didn't care which. As long as one of them died from choking on the blasted thing – he couldn't care less.

Please God make them go away –

"Awe – poor wittle faggot – are you crying? You wanna run home and snuggle up with your teddy bears and rainbow pillows?" Kin cooed mockingly from above his head. He didn't chance opening his eyes and looking up at her. He could feel the corners of his eyes burning and he didn't want to open them – to open them meant letting all that rage and sorrow loose in a wave of salt water and that was the last thing he wanted – that was the last thing he needed – to show them that they were affecting him – to show that the years of torment and taunting were finally starting to get to him.

Because they weren't.

Dammit you fucking teacher where the hell ARE you –?

A fist found its way into his hair.

"Well, faggot?" He heard Zaku's snarl from above his head. "Aren't you going to answer her?"

The knot in Sasuke's stomach tightened unbearably as he just sat there in silence, cursing himself for his cowardliness and begging for it to end.

Please God make it stop –

"If you exert any pullingpressure at all on Uchiha's skull, Abumi, I will fail you in English for the year and personally make sure you're expelled right on your overconfident, cocky little ass."

The teacher's calm – and how calm it was told Sasuke that he was pissed – drawl snapped the students out of their taunting mood as Sasuke's eyes snapped open, and the fist instantly shot back away from his hair as Zaku grumbled from behind him.

Sasuke fought against the urge to leap from his chair and tackle the English teacher in a hug. No need in making the student body think he was weirder than he already was.

Thank you, Shiranui –

Genma didn't even glance at the Uchiha as he stared at Zaku, his toothpick dangling haphazardly between his teeth.

"Good. Now go back to your seat. Kin, Ino, Sakura – that threat goes for you too. I will not have any abuse happening in my classroom when I am not present. Do it again and I will escort you to the gates and gleefully kick you out myself. Do you understand?"

There were murmurs of 'yes' among the three girls. The teacher's gaze traveled from the three to the rest of the class.

"The same goes for all of you. Everyone in this class is equal, and I refuse to let you degrade a fellow classmate, no matter how horribly jealous," he spat out the word like it had a bad taste. Sasuke had to fight down a smirk while the students around him visibly tensed, "you are of him. NOW," he cleared his throat and relaxed. "As you all know, the essay on the book you've read is due today. Pass them up to the front."

Sasuke was acutely aware of the shuffling of papers around him, and how he didn't – couldn't – move to get anything out. To busy his hands, he unzipped his pencil bag and pulled out a pen, doodling on the cover of his English journal to pass the time, occasionally passing along papers as they came to him from behind.

His gaze drifted to the right, and he – by some sheer stroke of bad luck – managed to catch Jirobo's eye as he passed up a five-page essay – HIS five-page essay – to the person in front of him.

Smirking, Jirobo winked at him.

Feeling sick, Sasuke turned away.

After a minute, Genma walked up to the people at the front of the rows and began taking up the papers, scanning over the names.

He came to Jirobo's row before Sasuke's, and he read over one essay.

"Jirobo, you get a zero on the essay," he stated simply.

Sasuke fought to keep his jaw from dropping in awe as the other exploded.

"WHAT? WHY? I DID THE ESSAY!"

Genma clucked his tongue.

"Yes – you might have, but THIS isn't it. Does The Fanatical Errors of a Sardonically Obsequious Woman sound like a title YOU would come up with?"

Jirobo's jaw dropped as Sasuke fought down a smirk.

See? I told you so. He thought smugly.

There was silence for a moment, and Genma smiled sweetly.

"I thought so. You're given a zero for attempting to cheat. Besides," he glanced down at the paper disapprovingly. "White Out on regular lined paper is so freakishly obvious. Uchiha," he motioned to Sasuke with the paper. "You might want to write your name in the top left margin." He handed the paper to the first person in Sasuke's row. "Please pass that back," he told the girl. She did so, and Sasuke received the paper in a few moments. Fighting down an insane grin, he took his pen and neatly signed his name in the appointed place. Schooling his features, he handed the paper back, and it was passed back up to Genma, who took it with a smile from behind his mask. "Very good! Thank you!" He finished collecting the essays, and sat them in a pile on his desk. "I will return them to you in four days. And Jirobo," he turned to the teen. "You're being given a week of detentions. It's obvious you forcefully took the paper from Uchiha, seeing as how he would never willingly help a person who assists in making his life a living hell." Ignoring the teen's outraged protests, he moved to the dry-erase board as Sasuke mentally worshiped him. THANK YOU! SOMEBODY UNDERSTANDS! "Now, I have an announcement for all of you." He turned to look at them, setting the marker down as if a thought had just occurred to him. "We have a new student today – one that has just moved about a month ago from Atlanta. Please welcome him."

He motioned to the door, and Sasuke suddenly realized that a blonde boy had been standing there that entire time – watching everything.

The Uchiha felt his face flush, and he immediately ducked his head behind the person in front of him to hide his burning face.

Oh no – he saw everything! He must think I'm a total weakling!

Well, you are. That annoying little voice breathed to him. Only because you allow yourself to be.

Furious, Sasuke crushed that voice underneath his mental foot, schooling his face in reality before raising his head again to study the newcomer.

The boy was a blonde blue-eye, those oceanic orbs wide and curious as he scanned the classroom. The other's face was tan with three whisker marks on each cheek – his body lithe in the uniform, and soon whispers of how cute he was fluttered like butterfly wings among the female populace of the classroom. Immediately, ignoring the comments, Sasuke thought that the black and silver uniform looked absolutely drab on such a bright figure. He thought the other would look better in something loud and vivid – like orange.

Then he wondered if there was any possibility of the newcomer speaking to him.

Immediately, Sasuke dismissed the thought. Of course he wouldn't – as soon as he took a seat, notes would fly at him, telling him not to speak to the 'loser fag with long hair and glasses' – Sasuke was sure of it. They did it to everyone, so by the time fifth period rolled around, the newcomer was scared to even look at him.

It was just jealousy, Sasuke told himself.

It's such a shame though. He found himself thinking. He really IS cute.

He gave a soft, grim smirk.

Well, at least I can't deny being gay. He thought, mentally forcing out a laugh.

Genma resumed speaking.

"This is Naruto Uzumaki," he told the class. "He will be in our class from now on. Treat him well. Now, Uzumaki," he gave the boy a warm smile before scanning the room. "You will sit next to…"

There was only one empty seat left in the classroom.

And that seat was right next to Sasuke.

"Next to Sasuke Uchiha. Uchiha, raise your hand."

Silently, Sasuke obeyed, and Naruto – flashing the class a bright smile – walked over to sit beside Sasuke.

Genma smiled at Naruto. "Now, Naruto – you don't have to worry about the essay the class just turned in today, but make sure to pay attention from this point on, all right?" He turned to the black board. "Now, on the lesson for today…" he began to talk about the book they had just finished, speaking about Archetypes and Cultural Universals.

Sasuke allowed himself to drift off, idly doodling in his notebook while stealing glances at the blonde beside him. He knew that Genma wouldn't call on him for the entire class period – seeing as how the man had walked in just in time to see the Uchiha's hair nearly get yanked out of his skull.

A note was passed over to him. Blinking in surprise – seeing as how he hadn't passed notes with someone for nine years – he picked it up and discreetly unfolded it.

"Hey! I'm Naruto! Pleased to meet you!"

Fighting down a smile, he glanced over at Naruto – who was grinning at him – before replying in his own crisp handwriting.

"And I'm Sasuke. Nice to meet you too."

Checking to see if anyone was watching – he slipped the note back.

As it turned out, someone HAD been watching.

Sakura – who was sitting behind Naruto, reached over his shoulder and snatched the note from his fingers, tearing it up into pieces before shooting Sasuke a glare.

Rolling his eyes and scowling – I should've never replied to the note, damn it all, now she's going to be on my case for weeks – Sasuke settled back into his chair and continued to doodle, ignoring Naruto's dumbfounded face.

It was nice thinking that Sakura and her pack of bitches would give him some breathing room, but it seemed that it really was just wishful thinking.

Once a bitch, always a bitch.

The good mood that gym had given him had just about dwindled down to absolutely nothing. He could almost hear that annoying little chant –

"Your life is a living he-ll! Your life is a living he-ll!"

Sasuke's grip on his pen tightened.

Dammit, I know! Shut up!

That tight knot had appeared in his stomach again.

Thirty minutes passed before the bell was about to ring.

"Your homework will be to pick out a fantasy novel you wish to read for your next essay. It must be over four hundred pages. I expect a title and author by Thursday. See you tomorrow!" Smiling, he waved everyone off.

Quickly, Sasuke grabbed his bag and bolted, wanting nothing more than to curl up against his favorite tree and draw.

My life DEFINITELY sucks.

He pretended not to notice those wide blue eyes watching him.

-------------- ---------------- ------------------ ----------------- ------------------- --

"Hey, Sakura." The girl looked over at him as they made their way through the lunch line. "Who was that guy you didn't want me to talk to?"

Sakura's normally pretty face twisted up in a scowl.

"Oh, HE'S only the geekiest, weirdest, weakest drag queen this school has ever seen!" She replied scathingly. "No one likes him!"

Naruto blinked.

"Why not?" He asked.

Ino gawked at him.

"Did you not hear what Sakura just said?" She asked. "Sasuke Uchiha is a freak – everyone knows that! He's top of the class, and has no social life whatsoever! He's incredibly Emo, and all he does is do homework, ride his skateboard, work or draw! He has no friends, AND no family! He's a LOSER! He lives all by himself in a wrecked apartment, in the rundown part of the city, and the only way he's managed to survive is what little money his family left him and the two part-time jobs he works at! This is a prestigious school – only the best and the richest can come here!"

"His family used to be the richest in the area," Sakura continued. "But there was an accident nine years ago that left him an orphan, and he's been taking care of himself ever since. They tried to put him in an orphanage AND foster homes both, but they say that the faggot's too fucked up in order to live with other people. No one talks to him or even looks at him, and he's the chief target for bullies, because he never defends himself whatsoever! You're better off not having anything to do with him!"

During this time, they had gotten their food and were walking to a certain table the girls obviously always sat at.

Naruto's aura darkened when he spotted Sasuke sitting against a tree at the far edge of the clearing – far away from anyone else as he did something in his notebook.

"Don't call people that," the blonde muttered. Sakura blinked at him.

"What?" She asked. Naruto raised his head to glare at her.

"You heard me! Never – EVER call ANYONE a faggot again – you understand?" He hissed dangerously, his eyes flashing. Eyes wide, Sakura numbly nodded.

Still seething for some unknown reason, Naruto waltzed off – straight towards Sasuke in a sudden act of rebellion. Sakura and Ino gasped.

"No! Naruto, DON'T!" They cried.

Sasuke was in his own, blissfully thoughtless world when he heard someone walking towards him. Immediately dismissing it as Jirobo or some other Sound member, he didn't think more of it until he realized that they never bothered him during lunch.

Wow. I wonder if English pissed off Jirobo THAT badly. He thought idly as he continued to sketch. The footsteps were closer now, and they were lighter-sounding than Jirobo's. Blinking, Sasuke raised his eyes and looked up to see the blonde he had met earlier, a tray of food in his hands as he looked down at the Uchiha.

They merely blinked at each other before the blonde grinned down at him.

"Hey! Can I sit next to you?"

Sasuke had enough sense in him to fight down a blush as he looked up at the other.

Is this a dream?

"Uh…" he was at a loss for a moment. His aura turned dark as a thought occurred to him, and he scowled at the ground.

"Didn't Sakura and Ino tell you all about me? About how I'm such a freak and that you shouldn't come near me?"

Naruto blinked before grinning again.

"Yes, they did!"

Sasuke looked up at him, eyebrows furrowed darkly.

"So why even waste your time coming over here?"

The blonde blinked again before smiling and sitting down next to the Uchiha. Instinctively, Sasuke scooted over so they weren't touching. If Naruto noticed this, he didn't show it. He was still smiling.

"Because I'm rebellious like that!" He laughed, scratching his head sheepishly. He opened his eyes and surveyed Sasuke. "Besides, is what they say true?"

Sasuke bristled in rage before he calmed himself and looked away.

"Who cares what I say? Even if I deny it to be truth, the entire school will say otherwise."

Naruto cocked his head, his eyes narrowing.

"You don't care that they're telling lies about you?"

Sasuke began to seethe again.

"Even if I DID care, that doesn't stop them from telling lies! So what's the point of getting mad about it?" He snapped.

Naruto's voice had gotten decidedly lower.

"You seemed to care when they were making fun of you in English class."

Sasuke felt himself flush.

So he DID see –

Then he felt rage boil up again.

"So what?" He spat, bristling. "Did you come over here just to throw that in my face?"

Naruto's eyes widened and Sasuke was tempted to say more – anything to get that blonde away from him. Better to be alone than to have things change – he hated change.

But something in him cried out to the blonde – cried out for the blonde to help him – and that part overruled the common sense of scaring the blonde away.

So he stayed silent.

Then Naruto's eyes narrowed.

"I'm sorry," he breathed to the Uchiha, making Sasuke blink. "I'm sorry they do that to you – no one deserves that."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed.

"I don't need your pity," he snapped bitterly. Naruto gave a grim smile.

"No, you don't," he agreed.

There was silence between them for a moment, and then Naruto grinned, holding up his roll to the Uchiha.

"You need food!" The blonde exclaimed, making Sasuke tempted to do a backwards face-fault from shock. "Would you like my roll?"

Sasuke blinked, mentally sweat-dropping. And here he had thought the other was intelligent.

He looked at Naruto – grinning, stupid-looking Naruto – before managing a weak smile. Slowly – against all instinctive urges to slap the blonde's hand away and start blurting out nonsense in scientist-lingo to scare the other away, he reached up and gently took the roll from Naruto's fingers – as if afraid it might explode.

It didn't.

Slowly, Sasuke bit into it as the blonde next to him took this as a token of acceptance, and he settled down next to the Uchiha, making his self comfortable as he started chatting about something absolutely unimportant. Sasuke listened with one ear, trying to remember when the last time he had actually eaten something during lunch had been.

Hmm… seven or eight years ago, I think.

He had stopped eating lunch because the muttering and physical abuse in the lunch line was just too much to handle – that and buying an entire meal would be a waste of time and money. He didn't eat a lot at all, so a roll, a side, and half of the main course would probably just go to waste. And bringing lunch would just be a waste of time anyway – he barely had enough food as it was at home.

So he settled with a roll he had received from a blonde, loud, 'rebellious' newcomer named Naruto Uzumaki as that SAME blonde chattered away next to him, looking completely at ease with the fact that he was sitting next to the most repulsive teenager in school.

Please God don't let this be a dream.

Sasuke fought down a smile.

Maybe… my life doesn't completely suck after all.

End Line One: Is This A Dream?

Minus A/Ns, this chapter clocks in at twenty-two pages.

I'm so excited to see what you guys thought!

Please review!

Ja ne!

DDB