I do not own Naruto.

This fic was adopted from alolha123.
The first couple chapters are all alolha123's work with only some spelling and grammar tweaks from me as well as a few added bits like clearing up some things that were not previously known in the manga at the time this story was posted. I hope I can do this story justice as it does present a lot of possibilities and looks like it could be a lot of fun to right. So for all those who read this story back then, feel free to check out the changes I made, scenes I added and what not.

This fic was adopted from alolha123.

22/06/13 Edit. Beta-ed by Jenny-Cat-Miaow

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no pairings in this fic.

Things as they are

Sasuke wakes up in a world that's just like his, only he's found himself in a role that's better suited for a certain loud-mouthed orange-clad idiot. It's with some measure of shock that he realises their roles have been switched . . . in more ways than what he likes. As things progress he realises that this world, whatever it is, is nothing like his own. AU. Time travel.

Chapter 1

He couldn't wake up.

His first thought was that he was dead, because he'd never had trouble waking up before and now he did. So therefore he was dead . . . or Kabuto had tried some half-assed experiment again.

His second thought was that he was asleep at Orochimaru's hideout, because that was obviously where he was supposed to be. Kabuto wouldn't dare try an experiment anywhere else either. In fact he was hardly ever allowed to experiment on the 'perfect vessel' so Sasuke had to wonder what this experiment was supposed to achieve for Orochimaru to have agreed to it.

And his third thought was the rational no, he couldn't be dead or asleep at Orochimaru's hideout because plainly, there was light shining infuriatingly at his eyes and neither death nor the hideout had sunlight. Well not anywhere he was going if he died, that was for sure.

He sat up abruptly, scowled at the light streaming in from the window, and promptly fell back onto the hard futon, covering his eyes with his arm and wishing the sun would go away with all his will. He was still, strangely enough, quite content to sleep the morning away.

And then froze.

Slowly, the wheels in his mind started turning like steady clockwork. Something was off here. Now, he asked himself silently, why wasn't he at Orochimaru's hideout? Racking his brain, he tried to recall the last thing he'd done. He'd fallen asleep, right? Yes, that was it. But he'd fallen asleep at Orochimaru's hideout. And, when he awoke, that dreary hideout was replaced by a bright, sunny apartment.

The irony of it all could not have been greater.

He wondered if this was all just a dream, and after a few seconds of silent contemplation, he surmised that if it indeed was, he would soon wake from it. It was not a genjutsu because he'd been trained to recognise the influence of one almost immediately, since Itachi was proficient at it.

Rolling over and finding that his sense of touch was unnervingly real, the black-haired teen surveyed the apartment with dull, disinterested eyes. It was sparsely-furnished but irritatingly messy. Wrinkled, second hand clothes littered the floor with a few other items that were not meant for the floor either.

Wondering silently in disgust whether the resident of this apartment—if there was one—knew the meaning of 'laundry' and even 'organisation', he pushed himself up with a grunt and dazedly stared at the opposite wall. For a dream, this was disturbingly realistic. Was it possible this wasn't actually a dream and he'd instead been abducted? The thought crossed his mind with a twinge of fear, but he shook his head.

Nah. Not possible. He must just be dreaming. For one thing, no one was stupid enough to steal from Orochimaru and kidnapping his prized 'pet' was as good as stealing. Secondly, no one was good enough to do it without waking Sasuke up and getting out of there alive. So a dream it was.

He leaned his chin on the palm of one hand and let his elbow sink into his knee. How did one wake from a dream? He wondered. Were you supposed to pinch yourself? It seemed so rudimentary that for a split second he dismissed it, but then the logical part of him reasoned that if a dream was basically a weaker, self-inflicted genjutsu, then pain would work.

So he pinched himself, and frowned as the surroundings remained the same.

Huh. Maybe he needed to pinch harder.

Bunching a small part of skin on his left thumb with his right thumb and index finger, he pinched himself harder this time, and still nothing happened.

This is strange, he thought while sucking on the bleeding thumb. (It was something he'd never done before and yet it seemed so strangely natural—not that he'd ever tell anyone that; besides, this was a dream so he could do whatever he wanted.)

Clumsily rising (hah! Since when did the great Uchiha Sasuke do anything but gracefully and fluidly?), he decided to change and explore this dream for the present. After all, he had nothing else to do. If pinching hard did not work, he would just stay in this dream for the present. Maiming himself was not something he wanted to do, because in this dream feelings were strangely intense, and a cut painful enough to release him would definitely hurt more than he cared to willingly experience. Besides, he was a patient sort of person. (He ignored that it was a statement that no one would be able to back.) He could wait until he woke up naturally. A dream was a dream. Why waste the opportunity to do whatever he wanted with no strings attached?

Waking up in the morning and changing his clothes was a habit he'd never lost, even after he had no one to remind him to do so. Being active was in his blood, and remaining in pajamas often resulted in sleepiness, something practically forbidden as an Uchiha.

So since this was a dream he might as well get moving and since this was definitely a dream he might as well use what was around him.

While carefully stepping over the various obstacles on the ground—not all of them were clothes; some were unidentifiable objects that lay here and there, and he was extremely careful to avoid them by a large margin—he crossed to the opposite side and opened the dresser drawer.

The teenager's frown twitched imperceptibly as the horribly clashing coloured clothes and the smell of food—food, imagine that in a clothes drawer!—assaulted his senses. Digging through the messy piles of clothes (even in a drawer they were not folded!), he picked out a threadbare, mostly-white shirt—there was a small brown stain at the left side, but it was at least cleaner than the other shirts—and some dark blue shorts one size too small.

It would fit, he mused, but not very comfortably. He wondered then if he could imagine things up in dreams (he'd never tried before, and after all, nothing short of the Mangekyou Sharingan would defeat Itachi in his nightmares and he doubted he could imagine that) and proceeded to try, but unsurprisingly nothing happened and he felt foolish for trying. But at least now he knew it wouldn't work rather than wondering if it would.

Crossing yet another sea of strewn clothes, he stepped into the bathroom and was slightly relieved to see that it was at least clean. A faint smell of some cleaner—was that bleach?—drifted through the air, and silently he wondered why this person's bathroom was so clean—except for the mirror, which was hardly a mirror due to some sort of whitish paste on its surface—while the rest of his apartment was messy. Ah well. It didn't matter, for the time being.

As he changed, he wondered whether in dreams, there was actually an owner to this apartment. Or, since he woke up here, was he the owner? No, he thought in disgust. Even my dream self wouldn't be so messy.

He pulled his shirt over his arms and found that it fit just right, even though it wasn't supposed to. Furrowing his brow in confusion, he then pulled on his shorts, which again fit. That was strange. Was his vision somehow damaged that he couldn't tell what would fit him and what wouldn't? Because he was absolutely sure that the clothes he'd picked out wouldn't fit. At least not comfortably. Slowly concluding that because it was a dream, and dreams were limited only by the imagination, he decided that it was probably possible.

However, a strange feeling came over him all the same. A sort of realisation that all was not as it should be. Steps were harder in that distances that he should've been able to easily reach were not so. The height of things was all wrong too. The mirror was too high, the set of dresser drawers even more so. Little things like that were starting to stick out.

Shaking it off with more quickness than an emotionally-stunted Uchiha ought to have done, he hoped this wasn't a nightmare. He'd only had nightmares about his clan's massacre, but every time he had it, it seemed more and more traumatic. True, this wasn't the scene for the massacre, but he wouldn't put it past his imaginative mind to find some way to warp this sunny atmosphere. Those nightmares only ever served as fuel to keep on striving for his goal, to never go backwards, never go back to the Leaf.

Since this was most definitely a dream, since it couldn't be anything else, he could use whatever he wanted no matter what it was. As such he reached for the toothbrush, but abruptly stopped. It was orange.

Suddenly, an influx of images of a blond dobe sprang uninvited into his mind. He reeled back, clutching his head. Why now? He'd never had problems with the colour orange before. It did remind him of the dobe, which was why he shunned the colour, but it didn't actually send him into headaches.

Taking a deep breath to calm his thudding heart, he swallowed and took the toothbrush again, glaring at it as if he was challenging it to send him into a headache again. When it didn't—it was an inanimate object, why on earth would he expect a sneering answer?—he brushed his teeth with calmness that betrayed none of his slowly ascending nervousness. This was so unlike any of the dreams (nightmares, rather) that he was almost expecting Itachi to barge in the door any moment. (Granted, that would be strange enough, but Itachi was unfortunately ineluctable in his dreams, a guaranteed presence sent to taunt him every night.)

He rubbed his eyes and flinched as a sharp pain attacked his left eye. More annoyed than hurt, he rubbed the mirror with a nearby towel to inspect his eye. (He hoped that a capillary hadn't broken—how would he use the Sharingan then?) When the mirror had cleared somewhat, he leaned in to stare at himself.

Not at his eye, per se. At his whole body.

Had he grown… shorter?

His complexion had always been pale—even as a child, his mother worried whether her youngest was constantly ill or not—but now, it was inexplicably toughened, as if he'd trained outside for hours and hours. (He had never trained so hard that his face became hard like this before! Even to defeat his brother because Orochimaru would usually force him to rest for his own good, or rather Orochimaru's.) Most of his baby fat was gone, but some around the cheeks remained—like he was about to enter adolescence instead of being in it. His eyes were wider and more innocent looking. They had not yet been tainted with the sights of war and death. Fewer creases were between his eyebrows than when he'd last checked.

It was like… well, he was twelve again . . . only he wasn't the same as he remembered he should be.

Man that was a scary thought.

But, this was just a dream, wasn't it? He thought as his breaths rushed out, matching his thudding heart. Anything could happen. And if his sadistic mind wanted him to relive his Genin days… well, this would be the age to do it.

After finishing cleaning up and putting everything back in their respective holders more neatly than he'd found them, he crossed the perilous, obstacle-ridden floor to the adjacent wall, where a messily marked calendar hung off of a pushpin that seemed to defy all laws of gravity, with it hanging so precariously out of the hole in the wall. – he was momentarily taken aback by the fact that anyone who lived in an apartment this messy would actually bother to keep a calendar – snatching it and effectively uprooting the poor pin, he stared at the calendar with disbelief.

It was the day for his Academy Graduation Exams. This couldn't be happening.

He had just gone back three years in time in this dream.

Giving an annoyed huff, he dropped the calendar on the floor since the pushpin was useless and the addition of the calendar really wouldn't make much of a difference to the rest of the mess on the floor and stood there, wondering what he should do. It was a dream, wasn't it? Nothing he did really mattered at all. And if he experienced the past, so what? It couldn't be as bad as Itachi and that night. For once, he might actually like what he dreamt. It was different at least. Not the same torturous events that had plagued his sleep for years. It was almost a relief.

Crossing the floor again—having resigned to his fate in cleaning up this horrid mess later since he was stuck here for now—he opened the fridge and was completely horrified to see a few rotting vegetables, some sealed container of refrigerated moldwhat on earth was that doing there?!—and a carton of milk, which he pulled out before pushing it back in with distaste on his face. It had expired two years prior to the present date. He wondered if there was anything edible at all.

Opening the pantry beside the refrigerator, he was slightly less surprised at the contents. It was mostly empty, except for a large—and that was an understatement—pile of neatly-stacked instant ramen packages. It was like being in Naruto's apartment, he thought dryly. Never mind the fact that he'd never actually been in his blond teammate's apartment.

Although he disliked ramen for a number of reasons—one of them being that they strongly reminded him of his Genin days and especially of the dobe—there was nothing else to eat, so he took one out, filled it to the line with hot water, and let it sit. The smell of ramen soon permeated the air and, unable to resist his growling stomach, he sat down and began to eat hungrily yet with some manners as his mother had drilled into him until he could do it without thought.

It was better than nothing, he supposed. But he could taste the cheap ingredients put in there. What brand was it? He took a quick glance at the side. Oh, a generic brand. Resuming his eating, he mused that thought. Now, why would this dream have the cheapest of the cheapest foods? He'd at least assume his mind would always want the best, as he was an Uchiha.

This really was Naruto's apartment, he thought, and then snorted. Of course. Only Naruto would have such a messy apartment.

After finishing his ramen with surprising alacrity, he glanced around, at a loss for what to do next in this dream while waiting for himself to wake up. Although he wasn't exactly fond of his graduation day, he supposed he could humour the dream a bit more. If he felt like it later, he would join the others for the test; however, if he didn't feel like it… well, it was only a dream. Failing the test because of absenteeism wouldn't bear much weight on him … yet it would be shameful as an Uchiha. Still, a dream was a dream.

Finding and pulling on some shoes that were at least half-decent, the black-haired boy strode out the door with a distinct calmness around him.

With a casual indifference perfected years ago Sasuke started to walk down the street.

They were staring at him.

Not really an accurate statement. Stare just seemed so harmless. The looks that shot in his direction didn't seem harmless and promised anything but 'harmless'.

He'd noticed it quite a while ago, but still he wasn't used to it. People had stared at him in the past before, but that was because he was the 'oh-so-famous last Uchiha', and those stares were different, kinder and sympathetic with just a hint of pride. These ones though . . . They were trying to be discreet, but some weren't doing as good as a job as he knew they could be doing. It was as if they were mixed between staring and pulling away.

A mother pulled her child away from him, and he watched them leave his sight with feigned disinterest on his face. Now, that was interesting. Why would they be afraid of him?

He'd watched Naruto receive stares like these once, while they were walking in the village. Of course the dobe had never noticed them—or at least, he hadn't shown that he was aware of them—but he had noticed. It was something that puzzled him enough, but his curiosity was not enough for him to actually search the answers out. Now that he was getting the same stares… well, he wondered. This dream was confusing. Was this supposed to hurt him, like all of those dreams about Itachi and the massacre and etcetera did? If so, it wasn't working. He'd never really cared much for what the people of Konoha thought.

Or, there was something worse about to come up. He braced himself mentally for whatever was going to come—this was like the calm before the storm, after all. Something always happened. It had to. Itachi would come, he always did.

Another family pulled away from him. He laughed silently; it was as if he'd changed places with Naruto! The solitude was actually quite refreshing. No simpering shopkeepers trying to gain his attention. No sympathetic attempted heart to hearts from concerned mothers. NOT A SINGLE FANGIRL IN SIGHT. It just might be better for once.

He didn't feel like taking the graduating test, so he turned left at the intersection right before the academy. They wouldn't miss him, after all. They had never had. Besides, all of this old Konohagakure was simply a figment of his imagination, and he could do whatever he wanted without fearing the consequences. He was free, finally. He just hoped the calm would last long enough for him to wake up and he'd never have to find out what the storm part was.

Making a few turns around and about to survey the area, he walked up to a vegetable stand that he'd visited regularly during his time in Konoha. The owner was an old lady friend of the Uchihas, so he was often given them free. Although he didn't care for gifts because of his last name, he often just accepted it and left. After all, he'd been taught that it was rude not to.

Mm. The tomatoes here were just as ripe as they had ever been. Licking his lips, he reached out to take one, but suddenly an old, sere hand swatted his away. Startled, he glanced up at the woman, who had an odd expression on her face which he'd never, ever seen her with before.

"You thief!" she accused, her screeching drawl grating against Sasuke's nerves. "You just think you can take whatever you want from my stand? You're a no good, dirty little runt! Tryin' to steal my tomatoes, eh? I'll show you what you get—" she raised a hand to slap him.

Shocked far beyond words, Sasuke just shook his head and raised both of his hands in defence. He hadn't even been allowed to attempt to buy anything! She'd just assumed he wouldn't pay —never mind the fact that he had just been thinking about how he had never had to do so— He glanced around at the other surrounding people, surely they wouldn't let this pass! Yet with a sinking heart he realized that they were not only watching it happen, but watching with contempt! He hadn't deserved this, had he? Surely not!

"You must be mistaken!" he protested, but another bystander pulled him away from her.

"You!" the man said harshly, "Get outta' here!" He threw Sasuke to the ground with surprising force. "And don't come back!" he yelled after him.

Utterly bewildered, Sasuke dashed along the street. He had meant to pay for the tomato, honestly! But somehow, things got mixed up. Why had that woman—that woman, who had always given him a free tomato with a smile when he stopped by—gotten so angry at him?

No. It wasn't anger. It was something far deeper.

He let out a breath that he didn't known he'd been holding. So this was it. This was how his cruel, cruel mind was going to torture him. By making him disliked—rather, hated!—by the people who he knew.

He stopped, a sudden thought coming to mind. Well, good thing he didn't actually have that many people who he really knew, he thought dryly as he then continued on.

"Sasuke!" A voice called out as he stopped from his depressed walk. Who could be calling him now? Could it be another of the dream's tortures? But… why did that voice call him so familiarly? Few people called him that. And he didn't really care for it, either.

He turned around, and promptly blinked in confusion. Iruka-sensei? Then, his expression hardened. He'd unknowingly made a U-turn and somehow travelled back to the Academy. What would his former teacher do to him now? "Iruka-sensei," he said evenly, betraying no emotion.

"You were supposed to be in the class thirty minutes ago!" the Chuunin yelled, grabbing the front of Sasuke's shirt.

Startled at this utterly audacious act, he glared at his teacher. "So?" he shot back.

"Don't play games with me!" Iruka yelled. "You're going to miss your graduating exams!"

"And what if I don't want to graduate?" was the irked response. He'd had enough of this dream already.

Iruka's mouth fell open slightly as he processed the statement. Brushing his hand off, Sasuke pulled away from his teacher. Surprisingly, Iruka's words came out much softer than he'd expected. Almost disappointed, really—though the disappointment held no weight on his shoulders. As heartless as it was, Sasuke had never really cared for his Academy teacher; but the words themselves shook him into silence.

"You gave up on your dream?" Iruka asked, a light in his eyes dimming.

And Sasuke honestly didn't know why that bothered him, because it shouldn't have and it had never mattered before. Not when he answered Iruka indifferently when he'd been asked about the massacre, not when he'd shoved a fangirl off of the roof he was sitting on, and not when he became more closed and cold. So he didn't answer, settling for an expression which would've looked pretty impressive had his lower lip not unknowingly stuck out, making it seem more like a young child's pout.

"You… don't want to be Hokage?" Iruka frowned.

This time he did respond. "H-Hokage?!" Sasuke spluttered out indignantly, caught off guard. "Why would I want to be that?"

Almost immediately as he said that, he regretted it. Iruka's eyes lit with a light of utter shock, and then suspicion, and then finally disappointment. "Did… something happen?" the Chuunin asked gently.

"No," Sasuke all but spat out. Nothing, except that he'd woken up in a weird place and people he thought he knew were suddenly strangers.

Slightly put off by the viciousness in the younger shinobi's tone, Iruka adopted his usual serious face again. "Well, you should go in anyway. I don't believe that you don't want to become a shinobi—so head on in and you can thank me for it later." And without any room to protest, Iruka shoved Sasuke towards the Academy door, a mere twenty feet but almost an eternity away.

"I don't want to go," Sasuke gritted out forcefully as he tried to resist Iruka's surprisingly strong grip. He was the personal student of Orochimaru, so why couldn't he resist this lowly Chuunin?!

Iruka said nothing as he carted the protesting boy to the Academy.

Sasuke stopped thrashing around as soon as they entered his old classroom. It brought back memories which he'd rather not remember—seeing as they would only pour guilt on his conscience—but some part of him said yes, this is right. Everything was back to… well, when it was normal.

He hated himself for liking it.

Why would he care, anyway? Hadn't his choice been Orochimaru, and hadn't he known that things could never go back to normal, no matter how much he wanted it later? Not that he'd wanted it before he'd had this dream. He just knew he could never have it again. Hadn't he abandoned this life for power?

Dazedly, he barely felt Iruka's final push into the room and cheery, "We'll be starting the exams in a few minutes, so stay here!" as he practically stumbled to the desks. He felt a few pairs of eyes on his back, and though his sometimes overly-cautious senses twitched, he ignored them as he surveyed the room. All of the Rookie Nine were here—of course, where would they be otherwise?—and with a nervous lurch he saw, among the brown and blond and black hairstyles, a head of cherry pink.

"Sakura," he whispered quietly to himself. She hadn't noticed him yet, and he honestly didn't know if that was good or bad. Their last meeting hadn't exactly been pleasant.

Then, turning, he saw, with another lurch in his stomach, a mop of familiar blond hair. He saw the crystalline blue eyes that he hadn't seen since that meeting at the hideout, where his Team sans Kakashi, sporting two new members had shown up unexpectedly and, he saw—

He was frowning.

Naruto was frowning.

That was impossible—a contradiction in itself—because Naruto never frowned.


Sure he snarled and sneered at his enemy during battle but this was not the battlefield and there was no enemy in sight. This was the genin graduation exam!

The last time he'd seen the dobe, he'd been too shocked at just seeing Sasuke after so long that he hadn't been able to do much but Sasuke had felt the power that he radiated. Had the dobe been prepared he just might have been able to succeed in his goal to bring Sasuke back to the Leaf.

Now though, he was like a brooding genin, slightly above average.

Come to think of it, Naruto had this expression on—some expression that Sasuke himself had used during his Academy days. An expression along the lines of, 'I could be doing better things, like training.' That just didn't happen either. Things like that were what Sasuke was supposed to do. Not Naruto. Never, never, never Naruto!

So why on earth was it happening?

Suddenly, he realized something. It was minor, but nevertheless annoying and since it was his dream world it sort of took preference, and that added to the previous frustration of Naruto's behaviour grated on Sasuke's nerves. Barely suppressing his anger, he walked directly up to the blond and rapped the desk to get his former—future?—teammate's attention. "Dobe," he snapped, "you're sitting in my seat." Not that he particularly cared what seat he sat in, it was just a habit that he rather liked sticking to, dream or not.

The room stilled suddenly, and all eyes were on the two.

Naruto slowly raised his head, a simmering light in his eyes that promised grave harm to those they were focused on and stared at Sasuke. "What did you say?" he asked in a clear, concise, infuriatingly cool manner that was also never associated with Naruto.

"I said, you're sitting in my seat." Sasuke repeated a bit more forcefully.

"No, I'm not."

"You're not." Almost a question but not quite there. He didn't want to give the dobe the satisfaction.

"That's right."

"You're wrong."

Naruto cocked his head slightly, the hard gaze never wavering. "No, I'm not."

Sasuke copied the blond, cocking his head as well. "You are."

Silence reigned in the room—not a single person stirred. One could almost see the electric sparks flying between the two's eyes. If it weren't for the irritation he was currently feeling, Sasuke might have even found this situation slightly funny.

"I know I'm not wrong," Naruto said quietly but firmly, "because I've sat in this place for the last four years—" he leaned forward— "Dobe."

Sasuke's eyes grew cold—How dare he say something like that!—and he opened his mouth to respond, before suddenly shutting it and settling for simply glaring at Naruto. Irritation was now simply too mild a word to use to describe what he was currently feeling. A dream was a dream and like all dreams something just had to interrupt. Iruka was approaching the classroom, and if he saw them arguing matters would only become more… troublesome, for the lack of a better word. "Fish-cake boy," Sasuke muttered under his breath before walking around the desk and sitting next to Naruto who seemed to be ignoring the muttered statement, probably having sensed Iruka as well.

Discreetly watching the bystanders' shocked expressions, Sasuke could only wonder what on earth he had gotten himself into. He leaned back as Sakura—as he had expected—stomped over to him and demanded loudly for him to move so she could sit next to her Naruto-kun.

Wait, what?

Whoa. Rewind. What had just happened? If he was one to wear his heart on his sleeve then he'd have shown his shock but as it was he wasn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve so he managed to keep the perplexity he was feeling from his features.

Sakura? Asking him to move so she could sit next to Naruto?!

That just didn't happen. A lot of things that shouldn't happen were happening though and Sasuke was liking this less and less. Where was his big brother when he needed the murdering traitor? He'd be almost glad to see him, even if he did walk through that door and start killing every person in this room. At least the dream would be over and he could then wake up and get back to his training.

He stared at the ranting Sakura out of the corner of his eye. Still, no expression crossed his features, but inside an overwhelming confusion had taken over his mind. On one hand he was contemplating Naruto's density for ever having had a crush on Sakura. Now that he saw Sakura from the dobe's point of view, he had to conclude that he was if possible, even more of a dobe for ever having a crush on the pink haired kunoichi.

On the other hand . . .

Sakura was asking him to move so she could sit next to Naruto. This wasn't just his imagination. —Or was it since it was his dream?

Watching her with a bland eye and having had enough of the high pitched screech, he said shortly, "Sakura, if Naruto actually wanted to you sit next to him, he'd ask."

Sakura's mouth opened and closed like a goldfish's.

Returning his attention to the empty front of the class, he mulled over his situations. This was a strange dream, he thought, where Naruto was him and he was Naruto and Sakura was obsessed over his teammate. When am I going to wake up? He wondered silently.

"But Naruto-kun didn't ask you, either!" Sakura finally protested.

He again glanced at her. "You took a long time to respond for someone who is supposed to be so smart. Besides, he's not telling me to get lost." he remarked.

As she was about to erupt, Iruka walked in briskly, so she left to some other seat, fuming all the way. But it wasn't like Sasuke really cared, anyway. She'd gotten better over the years or so he'd heard, but he'd left Konoha before she'd really become powerful, and besides—his ties had been cut long ago.

Iruka sternly commanded, "Everyone, back to your seats now!" Though the command was redundant, since everyone was pretty much seated anyways except for the few that had gone to talk to friends on the other side of the classroom.

However, not brave enough to cross their admittedly fearsome sensei, the idling students walked back to whatever seat was theirs. Or open.

Sasuke did not miss the look of surprise that cross the chunin's face when he noted that Sasuke was sitting next to Naruto but he didn't dwell in it and the surprise was quickly covered up with a cheerful smile that made the sensei so likeable.

"Now, it's time for the graduating exam!" Iruka announced. He then proceeded to explain the tests, rules, and whatnot as Sasuke tuned him out having heard it all before. He'd paid attention the first time but he wasn't about to do that again. It had been a tiresome test of his patience that was for sure.

Why am I here again? He complained, resisting the urge to smack his head on the table.

When his name was called for the ninjutsu part of the exam, he walked into the next room with a cool—but bordering on annoyed—gaze. Oh yes, he thought, irritated, I'm here because Iruka-sensei thought I should be in the exam instead of wandering off. He scowled. What a complete waste of time.

The genjutsu had been laughably easy, in fact he'd chuckled a bit. The written exam had been ever more hilarious and as such Sasuke had made sarcastic remarks to just about every question, wondering the whole time whether he'd get marks for creativity. He had also placed his own genjutsu on the paper, just to see if the other sensei would see through it. So far it looked like they hadn't.

Iruka and Mizuki sat behind an elongated desk which had many rows of gleaming hitai-ates on it. Motioning to start, Iruka said, "You may begin. Please create at least four bunshin."

This was too easy. Was it a joke? It seemed like the whole test had been one so far and he'd expected something a little more, well more. He supposed that he kept forgetting he wasn't technically a genin.

Sasuke tensed, but created the seal and spoke, "Bunshin no jutsu," and four bunshin—two on each side—appeared. They were perfect, as expected from an Uchiha and were near impossible to tell from the original without touching them. He figured that most of the kids at the Academy could at least produce something for the bunshin exam. Hell even Naruto could, even if they never looked right.

But Iruka and Mizuki were obviously surprised.

In fact, they looked like gaping goldfish at the moment.

Large eyes, open mouthed that also seemed to want to open and close but not quite managing it.

"W-Well," Iruka stuttered, having a hard time finding his voice.

One of Sasuke's eyebrows rose. He had done what they had asked for. Was that so… unexpected? Why had they even asked if they thought he wouldn't—or couldn't—have done it? Was this another part of the test?

He cleared his throat, and Mizuki wordlessly held out a hitai-ate to him. Walking forward, he took it, and left the room. An interesting fact to note, but not something that particularly caught his curiosity, was the look of disappointment and loathing in Mizuki's eyes. He shrugged it off as inconsequential. This was only a dream after all. Still it made him wonder what had happened to Naruto the first time he'd failed his exam. After all he'd come back the next day with a headband so something had to have happened and something told him Mizuki had something to do with it.

How his unconscious mind knew that was a mystery to him.

As he and the next person in line passed each other in the hall, he stared at his hitai-ate. It would be useful, he mused. He hadn't had one in such a long time that… it would feel… His thoughts trailing off into silence, he lifted the headband and tied it around his forehead almost out of reflex. It felt restricting, like a chain to this village. When he had the chance, he would take it off and draw a line through that symbol, for the second time.

He'd abandon this village again and he wouldn't look back, not for a moment.

But this was just a dream, wasn't it?