Alright, so that interlude might have to come later.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.


Sasuke sits silently as he watches Iruka lecture about some of Konoha's history.

He cannot truly bring himself to truly pay attention to the words leaving the man's mouth and only picks up the most salient details— the ones most likely to appear on exams. He knows— better than any other student in the room, most likely— that even knowing the history of a place has its uses.

Lately, Sasuke has found that in the Academy— separated from the stimulating presence of his family— he feels empty. He feels desperate and abnormally empty as if a pit is growing within him, yearning. But there is nothing. So even as this weight within him expands, searching and hungering, it devours him. Eats him from the inside and he can only watch placidly as the day passes him by.

Truly, there is nothing he enjoys less than his time at the Academy.

(Every moment stings like sand blown against a knee that's been scraped raw, blood bubbling out like tar.)

If this world was right, nobody would look upon this mask of his— understand what it is— and look pleased. Nobody would look at him and think, "Ah, as expected of the Uchiha". Nobody could watch, day in and day out, for days and weeks and months and then not say a word.

Every day, he is reminded of this world's horrid status quo and every day the same things are happening over and over, repetit ad infinitum.

This world is so horribly, horribly wrong—

(Well, it's not as if it's ever been any better— both Here and There. Despair on all sides.)

Sasuke does not shudder when he finally releases his breath but it is a near thing and he has to manually force his body to breathe properly lest he chokes. Refocusing his attention he finds that the class is being dismissed for lunch. His stomach churns at the thought but it is a thing easily disregarded— easily pushed aside. He grabs his bento and— with sure steps that belie his turmoil— makes his way out of the classroom.

Before he truly comprehends it, he is settling at the base of a tree. The shadow it casts almost seems to have a weight of it's own and Sasuke can not help but relax the smallest bit if only because it provides the illusion of solitude.

He opens his bento and the ghost of a smile washes over his face. He takes up his chopsticks slowly, intent on savoring the moment— this very brief peace.

He doesn't get a chance to take a bite.

Sasuke looks up for the source of this new interruption— and he's not irritated because he has truly come to expect interruptions— and his mask returns all over again.

(His 'dislike' comes rushing back.)

He does not profess to know the true workings of the Academy but he knows enough. The weak get thrown out like so much garbage— early on until all that's left are the ones that are useful— and the strong grow stronger. And if you're too weak to handle 'a bit of roughhousing' then surely you can't become a ninja, right? And if the weak are punished for being 'lesser' than the supposed strong, what does that say? It says, "You're weak and I'll do as I please because you can't stop me." "I'll do as I please because you're garbage." "I'll do as I please and do to you as I please because you're an insect, because you're filth, and because you're not worth the dirt I step on."

(It says, "You are nothing.")

And everyone will say that it can't be helped, that they'll grow out of it, or that they just don't get enough attention or some other worthless rubbish. And that's wrong.

Sasuke knows— knows that the kind of person who would harass somebody harmless, somebody they believe unequal, with numbers resembling the beginnings of an alleyway beating will never change. He knows that scum who can only pester you when they have their friends at their backs are the type of people who will always be scum.

Sasuke watches Ami and her goons standing over a crying Haruno Sakura and that torrential, black feeling slowly returns and for a moment— a moment— he wants nothing more than to—


They're screaming.

The girls are screaming.

Screaming and sobbing over Watanabe Ami.

Ami's own voice is nothing but gurgles— viscous sucking and abnormal moisture.

Sasuke stares at his outstretched hand and vaguely— vaguely— recalls the feeling of cold, sharp-edged stone clenched in his fist.

(He's long gone before anyone thinks to search for the culprit.)