Steady Beat
Standard disclaimer is applied.
neon kun

Sakura entered the studio in Naruto's house. The sounds of instruments rang through her ears. Hinata smiled as she saw her friend; it has been a while and she couldn't express just how much she's glad that Sakura took her invitation. They have to do something about her being too busy all the time, she decided.

"Sakura!" she exclaimed. "Glad you came! Come on. They're starting practice and Naruto's extremely giddy that he gets to sing one song in their album."

"Hina, thanks for having me," Sakura grinned. "And I'm sure he is. Hadn't he been begging for this for a long time now?"

"Yes," she replied and took Sakura's hands and guided her towards the seats in front of the band setup. Sakura was faintly distracted by the room being wholly carpeted – walls included. Naruto took notice of her arrival quickly, despite the two girls being extremely cautious and quiet so as not to disrupt them. After all, Sakura reasoned, they can talk after practice and they'd have more material to talk about then. "Sakura!" he waved but the countdown of the drummer started and the guitars started strumming. The others must be that focused, she supposed.

It was a good melody, Sakura thought, and their tempo was incredibly synchronized. She had heard some of their songs before, this band, courtesy of Hinata and Naruto, and while the songs were incredibly good, they surely weren't this coordinated before. She felt her heart beat faster and couldn't help but fall in love with the melody before the vocals could even start.

Naruto's voice was on the higher pitch than their original vocalist, she quickly noticed. Nevertheless, it wasn't bad either. She could practically feel Naruto's passion and enthusiasm in every way he vocalized the lyrics. One look at Hinata and she knew the reason why Naruto had been so persistent in singing at least one song in their latest album.

A smile blossomed from her lips. There was just no way she couldn't be happier for this couple; Naruto was a bit on the slow side but he made her happy and they fit perfectly.

Her eyes traveled to one of the guitarist. His concentration was on his strumming and he had a smile plastered on his lips. She couldn't help but observe how deathly pale he was but she couldn't find any symptoms that could be proof he's suffering from any sickness at all. Was his skin that fair? Deciding that she nerved herself too much, her eyes shifted to the one playing bass.

Neji. Her mind instantly registered. She knew him since childhood, along with Hinata, his cousin. That, and one of their other close friends basically had a love-hate relationship with him. But that was a musing for another day.

It was a shame she could hardly see the figure behind the drums. Oh. Listening closely to his playing dawned a realization in her. He's the reason for the perfect tempo. His playing was just simply drawing their music to a perfect harmony and for an unfathomable rationale, her heart was thrashing behind her ribcage.

Her eyes widened when a small offbeat moment occurred and she was half-afraid they'd stop to acknowledge it, not wanting the song to ever stop at all. But they continued on as if there was nothing wrong. And she could tell that they also knew from how Neji's eyes sharply looked at Naruto. They were professionals, though, she reminded herself. While it took them a second to be offbeat, it only took them a millisecond to get back right on track. If in the middle of a surgery, a mistake happened, she knew she wouldn't stop to beat herself for it either. That was for later.

The song stilled to an abrupt stop and Naruto was grinning his goofy smile that won Hinata's heart.

"That was a good first full-song practice, don't you think, guys?"

And she thought they'd barrage him with that one second of error but to her surprise, they only shrugged. Neji offhandedly said, "I suppose so." Which only made things seem stranger when she knew Neji had a penchant for perfection.

From the corner of her eyes, she saw Hinata blushing and looking absolutely flattered. And Sakura still needed a moment to understand what exactly was going on.

Finally, though, Sakura was acknowledged by the rest of the band. Neji started it with a very dull, "Sakura. Good day. It's nice to see you again." All eyes turned to her after then and she felt squeamish.

"Uhm, hi," she said awkwardly, standing up and walking a step forward to be polite. "Thanks for having me."

"Nonsense," Naruto grinned. "You're welcome here anytime." Sakura smiled in return. She knew he had the best intentions but she had been so out of the social scene for a long time that she felt as though she has forgotten how to even make small talk. Thankfully, Naruto saved her yet again.

"This is Sai," he turned to the guitarist. "He's albino."

"Good day," he looked at her. "…ugly. And no, I am not an albino, dickless."

The room stagnated from the stuffy silence and Sakura's expression was indistinguishable. Naruto panicked. Hinata fidgeted. And Neji looked as though he wanted to hit his head on the wall.

"U-uhm, Sak—,"

That's when they heard the tom played and the cymbals sounded. The beat was short and was recognizable, often used when the punch line was delivered in comedy scenes at bars. The tension lessened but Sakura was still stiff from shock.

The lull of drumsticks being placed on the snare reminded her to breathe and she turned to the drum set where the drummer stood, finally enabling her to see just what kind of man coordinated their instruments in unity.

He was tall, a bit pale and handsome with dark hair that had always been a signature trait of Sakura's taste in men. The second longer she looked, she forgot to breathe again.

"If she punches you, Sai, just know that you deserve it," he said. His voice was low and rich and she hated that she was sounding like a fan girl what with her noticing every little detail about him and at every passing minute. "Let's pause a bit. Naruto, switch instruments back when practice resumes."

Naruto, grinning for nth time, saluted. "Gotcha. Oh, yeah, hey, bastard," he called out to dark-haired man. He walked over to the front. "This is Sakura, Hinata's best friend," he gestured towards her, carefree then back to the dark-haired man. "Sakura, this is bastard—I mean Sasuke. He's our primary vocalist."

"Nice to meet you," she said automatically. He nodded. And with a point of comparison with Sai as point A, she found this polite.

Sakura retreated to her seat, dismissing the rudeness of Sai and just relishing the fading tension. What were the odds that the first time in months she ever went out of her way to do something not work related and she's insulted by a stranger? She shook her head, trying to forget.

"He doesn't mean it, Sakura," Hinata's voice was cautious but soothing. It must have worried her nerves.

"It's fine," she replied although a bit hoarse than she intended to. "I'll just… where's the comfort room?"

"Oh, it's a bit far from here," Naruto replied, hearing their conversation. At the same time, Sasuke made a move, saying he'll grab a drink in a mutter. "But hey, bastard can show you."

Sakura tried her hardest not to conjure incredibly disturbing thoughts from that. Sasuke merely shrugged but he didn't refuse whatsoever and she took it as a sign of good will and character (this, again, in association with Sai).

She stood and followed him wordlessly to the halls. Naruto's home was a mansion. That's what you get from being the son of a high-ranking politician, she supposed. Not to mention their band was gaining popularity steadily, which also in turn meant steady flow of cash.

"He doesn't mean it," Sasuke said out of the blue, surprising her and making her jump a little.


"Sai," he bit out. "What he said. He doesn't mean it that way."

"In what way?"

"Sai has a retarded habit of nicknaming people he just met."

"Oh. But… well, I'm not saying I'm pretty—,"

"You are," he cut in and there goes her heart having a drum solo. "—in his eyes."

"What?" And there goes the silence behind her ribcage.

He sighed, seemingly frustrated. Or just unsure of how to say what he wanted to say altogether. "Sai calls people the opposite of how he sees them."

It took Sakura a few moments to take that all in. Then her face reddened, suddenly recalling something. "Oh, god. Are you serious?"

"Is it so hard to believe?" he asked. "I think you are, personally."

Sakura stopped in her tracks. "No, it's just that—," The recollection earlier disappearing in a puff of smoke at that exact moment. "Can you repeat that again?"

He turned to her, stopping, and smirked. "I believe I just called you beautiful."

She couldn't hide a smile. "I didn't peg you to be a sweet talker."

"I'm not," he said, shrugging, but smirked yet again. "But I don't think I can lie against the truth."

She shook her head. His flirting was decent, she supposed, and she found that he at least say the right words. "Brownie points to you for that."

When they were about to resume walking, the recollection came back to her like a fan hitting her head and Sakura couldn't help but ask.

"About Sai calling them people the opposite of how he sees them, uhm," she paused for a bit. Sasuke merely raised an eyebrow. "Is that really true?"

"…yeah?" he answered, hesitantly only because she looked troubled. "Sakura, what's up?"

"Does that, uhm," she tucked a stray hair behind her ears and looked away hastily. Not caring for the overuse of uhms in her sentences and not even bothering more than she could hide the blush on her cheeks. "Does that mean Sai actually thinks Naruto is well-endowed down there?"

Notes: Aha, I am not sure how I ended up there because I was pretty sure I was going for a music-centered fiction.

Regardless, I did enjoy writing this with a very minimal editing. I'll probably get back to fixing this. But wait!

IMPORTANT NOTE: In a day or two, when I have the time, I'll be cleaning up the fictions I have left. Most likely, I'd be deleting fics. I already did for some.

And from now on, what I post here, I'll be posting in LiveJournal (it's neonkun) and (neon kun). And from time to time, they'd probably be different versions. What I upload here may not have the same ending with the one I'd upload in LJ or in Figment. So I can experiment.

Didn't upload this as part of Little by Little because I don't consider this as a drabble. Or whatever my logic is. But! I hope you liked it.


neon kun