It had been another day of training for Uzumaki Naruto. "Heh! 'Training's what he calls it!" When Kakashi finally showed up, with another one of those idiotic excuses, after that it had been another one of those "teamwork-excercises" and to round it all off another lecture about the importance of chakra control. And once again Kakashi had been only looking in his direction when he did.
He was getting sick and tired of it. In Wave Country he had witnessed Sasuke's chakra control during that tree-climbing excercise, so he knew his wasn't much better then his own. Still, the Uchiha got nothing but praise from their sensei.

He passed Ichiriku Ramen and ordered his miso ramen to go. After paying he took his cup to the Hokage monument.
Sitting down in the lotus position with the cup in the middle of his lap he started meditating for a couple of minutes.
Slowly he reached a certain peace of mind. He enjoyed the silence in his head for a couple of minutes, breathing in the steam of his ramen. Then he startled analyzing his problem, picking it apart piece by piece.
He was tired of the lectures on chakra control and never hearing Kakashi complain about anyone else.
He was tired being told to look up at Sasuke and to try and be more like that stiffheaded and spoiled brat of an Uchiha.
The only solution to the problem he saw was to get better then him.
Not just a little better, a lot. He would have to beat him with a mile before anyone would recognize him for it.

But who could teach him ... Not Kakashi for sure, he didn't want him to know about this training.
Maybe Iruka would know a thing or two. He remember his former teacher to have given a few lessons about it.
Unfortunately he had dozed of during those hours. "I'll make sure not to do that this time"
With a renewed spirit he opened his eyes and started eating his barely warm ramen.

Iruka had just finished teaching class when Naruto ran into him at the entrance of the Ninja Academy.
He greeted his former student with a smile.
"Ano-sa, ano-sa, Iruka-sensei, I need a favor"
"Hello Naruto, what can I do for you"
"You remember those lessons about chakra-control"
"Hai. What about it"
"Well erhm ... I decided to start taking that seriously but ...", the blond genin scratched the back of his head,
"I forgot the technique you tought us to practice it"
The elder chuunin laughed a little as Naruto finished his sentence.
"Hehehe, guess I should have woke you before I started about an actual technique to practice it. It's alright, I'll show you"
Iruka jumped up and picked a leaf of the nearest tree and placed it on his forehead.
"The trick is to release just enough chakra from your forehead to make the leaf float above it.
Not enough and it won't move or fall back on your head, too much and it will shoot of your head and you won't be able to control it"
As Iruka finished his explenation he concentrated and made the leaf float a few inches above his head.

"Now you try it." He picked the leaf out of the air and handed it to Naruto.
Naruto pushed his head protector a little more up his head and placed the leaf on his forehead.
He concentrated his chakra to his forehead and when he released it the leaf shot up like a rocket, after about a yard the wind picked it up. Iruka snatched it and handed it back to Naruto.
"Hehe, just as I thought. You obviously use way to much chakra. That's okay, just keep practicing. I'm sorry, but I've got some tests to correct. Good luck on the training Naruto"
"He wait up!
The chuunin looked back at Naruto.
"What is it"
"How long does it normally take to master this technique"
"Oh, it shouldn't take you longer then a few days, a week tops as it's a basic technique"
"Ok, thanks Iruka-sensei!"

Naruto had been training his chakra control for 3 days now.
Mostly in his apartment as there wasn't any wind there and he could quickly grab the leaf as it flew out of his control.
He had improved greatly and could finally hover the leaf above his head, but he still found himself lacking a great deal of control. The leaf now hovered about 15 inches from his head, which was fine inside his room, but outside the wind would still get a hold of it.
Another 2 days later he had finally mastered the technique and he found his chakra control had clearly improved.
His other techniques seemed to have become less taxing and he could make more shadow clones with the same amount of chakra.

An idea popped in his head as he thought about this.
"Kage Bunshin no jutsu"
A clone appeared, holding his own leaf in his hands.
Both Naruto's pulled their head back and placed the leaf on their foreheads. The leaves once again flew high above their heads, but he managed to keep them steady none the less.
"Wow, this is more difficult then I imagined. ... But it's a good training non the less"
A few hours later Naruto managed to regain some more control. Exhausted, but satisfied he fell down on the bed and decided to use this excercise on a daily basis.

Four days later seven more clones had joined in on his little excercise.
He was feeling more confident in his newfound control. It had already paid itself off.
There was nothing like an army of clones to help out harvesting crops or babysit a small bunch of kids.
And although the jounin hadn't said anything, he was sure Kakashi had noticed something.
He found it time to move on. He had already tried combining the exercise with the tree-climbing, but stopped trying since he kept hitting his head on the ground.
He needed something new. Something ... bigger.
Iruka was out of town this week as he had gotten a mission to Hidden Gras Village.
He decided to head for the town library.

He never imagined the library to be so huge.
Racks as high as the ceiling were stacked with scrolls.
The problem wasn't finding an interesting jutsu to learn, there must have been thousands to chose from.
The problem was that he didn't know which one would serve his purpose. He had tried talking to the cleric, only to got turned the cold shoulder.
"What the hell is it with these people that they hate me so much! I bet they wouldn't act like this to their precious Uchih..." An idea struck his mind. He looked for a quite place near the entrance and created a clone. The clone immediatly performed a henge and before Naruto now stood the Uchiha he had grown to despise so much.

"Oi dobe. You got the scroll"
"Don't call me that, you bastard"
"So you got the scroll"
"Gomen, couldn't find it"
The clone gave a look of annoyance and walked towards the cleric who had noticed the conversation of the two.
Naruto soon followed.
As the clone Sasuke reached the cleric he asked him for a technique that would improve their chakra control.

"I've got just the technique for you Uchiha-san. However, it might be a bit to much for your teammate here"
"I asked you for your advice in a technique, not to insult my teammate"
"Offcourse, gomen sir. You might find the waterwalking jutsu appropriate. You can find it in the water department, first rack on your right, third shelf"

Naruto and his clone walked over to the scroll and studied it for a few minutes.
"This should be easy, plus the worst thing that could happen is to get some wet clothes"
After placing the scroll back and leaving the library Naruto dispelled his clone and headed for the river"
"Hehehe Uchiha, you've finally proved some use."

Naruto had followed the river for a good end until he finally found a spot where the water was calmer and shallow enough to his liking. He stood there silently for a moment, studying the gentle flow of the liquid surface. Then he calmly rolled up his pants until he had uncovered his knees. His control might have improved over the last week, but he wasn't foolish enough to think he would succeed on the first try. It had taken him a week to gain enough control to walk up a tree, and this wasn't simply sticking to a surface, this was creating a stable surface to walk on.
"Well, at least this time, the chance of hitting my head to the ground will be minimal."

With that thought he began channeling his chakra to his feet.
He hovered one foot over the water and immediately violent wrinckles started disturbing the calm surface.
"Wow, that can't be good! Hmm, must be overdoing it again"
He lessened the amount of chakra and instantly the water stopped its wild flow.
Putting his foot down on it, he broke the still surface and felt his foot hitting the riverbed.
"This might be trickier then I thought..."

Several hours had gone by and Naruto was steadily finding his way towards the surface of the water.
Since the water was shallow enough to stand in, he figured he could work his way up so he wouldn't have to get in and out of the water all the time. He was meditating, forgetting about the outside world, trying to find peace with himself, letting go of all conflict, feeling the water at his legs, flowing through his toes, he tried to become one with it. And slowly he managed to slightly control his altitude. "Time does not matter, only with patience will I achieve my goal." Repeating this thought for an indeterminable time he finally reached the surface. The water now carried him like the earth had before. Slowly he opened one eye, as if when he would look he would ruin the magic. When he saw his feet were no longer underwater he couldn't but jump and shout over his victory.
Upon landing he immediately fell through the water and fell ungracefully on his ass.
His face still held a grin to them tough, if he could do it once, he could do it again, right?

Fifteen minutes later he had reached the flowing surface once again. This time deciding to hold himself still for a couple of minutes until he had calibrated his chakra some more. Then he slowly tried lifting his foot, seeing if he had to readjust his chakra flow if he did. Luckily he didn't have to. Grateful and relieved he started walking around slowly. It was not long before he felt confident in his newfound skill and started playing around with it. He had spend about fifteen minutes skating across the river. When his stomach began to growl he decided to head for Ichiraku, he was tempted to run to the center of the village across the water, but decided not since he wanted to keep his extra trainings secret.

As he reached the village he could not help but notice the cold stares.
'You always have hated me, you have always detested me, but now at least I know why you do. I know you all have suffered more then I can image. That what I felt when I thought Sasuke had died on the bridge could not come close to what some of you have had to endure. But why can't you understand that I am not him'
The thoughts went throug his head as he ran further down the village.
He felt the cold stares following him everywhere he turned, their icy gazes peering into his back, hate burning in their eyes. He had learned to cope with them, but he still wished that for just once he could walk around without all the hate pointed towards him.

He rounded the last corner for the Ichiraku stand. Immediately he was pushed away by a horde of crazy fangirls, screaming the name of his rival.
His muscles tensed when he heard the name. He turned his head towards the goal of the wild horde just in time to see his teammate run off.
"Fuck you Uchiha, you fucking spoiled bloodline brat! Soon I will surpass you, and when that day comes we'll see how much they love their dear Uchiha." He clenched his fist hard enough for his muscles to shake his arm and let out a growl.
He tried shaking it of as he continued to one of the few places in the village where his company was welcomed.

"Oi Naruto! Where were you man, I was expecting you 3 hours ago"
"Sorry Ichira-san, I was training by the river. Guess I got a little carried away"
"Hehehe, when don't you get carried away? Anyway, what can I get ya"
"Well I do feel like chicken tonight"
"One chicken ramen coming right up." The old man smiled and turned to the pot of boiling water.
"Hey Ichi, can I ask you something odd"
"Haven't heard much else from you kid. What's on your mind"
"Well, it's kinda hard to find the right words ... It's ...", the blonde paused for a long time.
"Kid, why don't you just mindlessly blurt it out like you seem to do everything else"
"Hey!" Ichira just grined at the boy and give him a wink. He put the bowl of ramen on the counter and leaned a little closer.
"Look, Naruto. You've been a customer longer then I can remember and I doubt that your question would stop me from welcoming you here. So if you've got something on your mind just speak up and I'll see what I can do for you"
The blond smiled when he heard those words. He stared into his ramen bowl for a few seconds, pondering over his old friend's words.

"... Promise?", Naruto looked Ichira deeply in his eyes and saw nothing but honesty when the man answered "On the face of the Fourth", holding his hand to his chest and pointing towards the Hokage monument.
The young genin smiled again, then he took in a deep breath of air to built up his courage.
"Do you know why the people of the village hate me"
Ichira sighed and looked down. His face showed shame and disappointment.
"Hai ... but unless you want my head chooped of and put on a pike I can't tell you why"
Naruto however didn't look sad or disappointed. He knew why, ever since he graduated from the academy.
He remembered that day like it was yesterday, as it was one of the happiest of his life.
Finally he had figured out where all that hate came from, and those whiskers. It also had been the first time that someone had stood up and vouched for him. Iruka had saved his life in more ways then one.
"Thanks", he said, then turning his head back to his ramen, indicating he didn't want to discuss it any further.

After finishing his meal he had returned to his house as it was getting late.
He had been training so he wanted to get some rest. On the way he he almost ran into his ravenhaired teammate.
But as the two's eyes met however a multitude of girls's screams filled the air.
Naruto witnessed his rival's appearance suddenly exchanged for a log of wood right before being jumped by 6 girls.
As he looked at the faces of the adults who were nearby the event he saw nothing but smiles on their faces.
Smiles that rapidly turned to sour disgust as they saw him standing there.
Angry he took to the rooftops to escape their stares.
"No matter what I do or how good I become, they'll never recognize me for what I am. I'll be never given the instant respect that they grant their precious Uchiha." He spat out the last 2 words.

When he arrived at his apartment he was to angry and pumped up from jumping houses and thinking about his teammate.
Normally he would calm his temper by meditating on the ceiling, today however he just didn't feel like it.
So he summoned up a kage bunshin and made it perform a henge, making it look like Sasuke.
"You think you're so big. Everybody thinks you're so fucking great! And no matter what I do that view will probably never change. You'll always be their Uchiha prodigy and I'll never be anything but a fucking demon in their eyes"
He just stared at the clone then in an instant Naruto had plunged his fist in the clone's face.
When the smoke cleared however, it was not the orange clad, golden haired genin who stood there.
It was his darker, onyx eyed teammate that was standing in his room.
"So be it. They like their Uchiha so much, I'll give them all the Uchiha they want!"

Naruto had awoken early that day. There would be a lot to do and little time to do it.
After finishing his breakfast he headed for the library and checked out a book on fire jutsus.
He also took a book about the most prominent clans in Konoha. After that he headed towards the Uchiha mansion and spyed on his teammate for a few hours.
He had changed his appearance to one of the girls that jumped him the other day and hid somewhere outof sight.
Figuring Sasuke would discard him as more of an annoyance then a threat, should he spot him.

Naruto was taking notes on the Uchiha's movements, analyzing his teammate as he was practicing against the dummies in the courtyard. After an hour he began seeing through the motions and started to see some logic behind his movements.
But then it seemed that the show was over as Sasuke went back indoors.
He looked at his watch and noticed he had to leave as training would start start soon anyway, he remarked to himself, remembering his sensei's habit of unpunctionality.
The man was even late when they received missions for god's sake.
Naruto cursed him for it then more then usual, as they had to make up for it by working harder and/or longer as the result of the hours of wasted time.

"Ah well, at least nobody will ever trick me into not eating breakfast again"
He came out of his hidingplace and started reading up on some of the fire jutsus.
As he flipped through the pages he noticed that the techniques depended little on precise chakra control.
He cursed himself that he had never started learning them sooner. They seemed rather basic and a lot of them weren't nearly as complicated as he had thought them to be.
Before arriving at the bridge he put the book back in his backpack.
Sakura and Sasuke had already arrived at the bridge and were standing on their usual positions.
For Sakura that position being in a five yard radius near Sasuke, desperately trying to make some way of conversation.

Naruto casually greeted them and took a seat on the railing.
He plugged in his left earphone and put on some music. Over the last few weeks Naruto had grown extremely quite during these waiting periods compared to his usual loud self.
Both his teammates found themselves happy with this change of behavior. Especially Sakura was pleased with this change of events as she was tired of being asked out by the loud blonde. Today however she was not spared of questions.
Naruto had been observing Sakura's futile attempts of asking Sasuke out and then suddenly broke his silence.
"Sakura, can I ask you something?"
The pink haired kunoichi was a little surprised by the calmness of his words.
"Nani, Naruto"
"Why do you even keep trying? You know he's never gonna go out with you. Looking at the way he runs away from girls I wouldn't be surprised if he would rather date me"
This earned him a death glare from both his teammates.
"I wasn't even finished yet," Naruto had raised his voice to break of Sakura. "Why do you even like him? Can you tell me that? Your entire life he hasn't said a single friendly word to you. Or to anybody as far as I can remember. Now you may answer"
"Well, then that's probably why I was asking. However you don't seemed to have an answer either."

Sakura fumed anger as she was dumbstruck to answer. Naruto just stared in her eyes, waiting for a reply that would never come. Sakura simply turned her back towards her teammate and walked back towards the object of her affection. Naruto now plugged his other earphone is his head, grinned and took up a lotus position again the bridge railing.
They all waited in silence for their sensei.

Training had proven to be somewhat more of a challenge as Naruto had tried to keep observing Sasuke. Even harder was trying to follow him home. Every street corner he crossed he had used another henge. The last few streets Sasuke had started to turn his head every now and then. So he decided that he had seen enough for the day being. He had his own personal training left to do anyway and he could use all the time he had.

He headed for the river and started jogging over it's surface, looking for a quite spot to practice the new jutsus he'd acquired. After about 20 minutes he had found a suitable spot, about a mile behind the training areas. There was a spot where the river was fairly wide with a rock formation that would keep him from view. He took the book from his bag and continued reading where he left off. He started to like that librarian more and more.
He wouldn't give Naruto the time of day, but for Sasuke .
When he went in this morning he was posing as him with a quick henge and asked if he could provide him with a good book on fire jutsus for his teammate, if possible something he could use as well. The book he received must have reflected the librarian's opinion on both him and his teammate. It started for complete beginners and ended with some chuunin level techniques. He didn't know whether to feel insulted or pleased, since it was exactly what he needed.

The book was simple and to the point, the introduction was only a page long and thereafter immediatly followed by a simple technique.

"Technique #1: Breath of Flame.

A simple technique used to introduce students to the principles of fire jutsus.
With this technique a small flame is produced from the mouth, varying between 10 and 30 inches.

Then followed the further instructions of molding chakra, making seals and releasing the molded chakra.
It took Naruto only a few minutes to successfully execute the technique. He played with it for a couple of minutes to test his level of control. When he was satisfied he moved on to the next one, which handled the spitting of very small fireballs.

He kept repeating this process for about 2 hours, after successfully having learned 6 minor techniques. Skipping a few pages ahead, he noticed that Sasuke's favored Grand Fireball and Fire Flower techniques were only a few pages further. They would have to wait though. He was hungry and on a tight schedule. He performed what had become his trademark seal. Three shadow clones appeared next to him.
"Backup team reporting for duty sir"
He saluted to his crew and stood for them.
"Clone nr 1, your job is to search the forest for fruit, vegetables or any other source of food"
"Sir, yes sir"
"Clone nr 2, step forward. Your mission will be to supply us with firewood, afterwards you will assist clone nr 1 in his job"
"Aye ay sir"
"Clone nr 3, you and me are going fishing. You will search the river upstream, while I will be looking downstream"
"Yes sir"
"Alright, report back here in fifteen minutes."

Upon return Naruto brought 3 fish with him. Being able to walk on water definitely had advantages. His upstream colleague returned moments later with a single fish. Clone #1 had done a fine job. Dry wood and leaves were already piled up, ready to be sparked on fire. He returned with his partner, both holding their hands full with berries. They placed their findings on the towel Naruto always caried in his bag and disappeared, while the last clone gutted the fish and spiked them on a stick.
Naruto himself lit the fire with one of his new techniques.

Hinata had spend the rest of her day on her studies on medical plants and wandered in the forest behind the training areas in search of herbs. She was just on her way home to get a bite to eat until she recognized the smell of roasting fish in the air. The smell was strong, indicating someone must be cooking not far from here. For some reason her intuition told her to check out the source. After a few minutes she came upon a rock formation.
Some smoke was coming up from behind it. Silently she moved closer towards the rocks. When she took a peek behind she let out a small gasp and a whispered a quiet "Naruto-kun" as she recognized her crush sitting by the fire.
A slight smile came across her face as she continued to watch him.

He was sitting in the lotus position some distance from the fire, upwind so the smell of fish wouldn't be all over him. His face was pointed upwards. Suddenly he seemed to grab something above his head and looked at the fish. He was definitely holding something in his hand since he had raised it and was looking as if inspecting something.
Hinata leaned closer to the rock surface to get a better look on the object he was holding. She must have brushed against a loose rock or something because the next thing she heard was the sound of rock falling on rock.

Naruto looked up at the sudden noise.
"Shit, someone's spying on me. Goddamit, who, and how much have they seen? I have to find out"
He stood up and moved as fast and silent he could towards the point of the sound's origin, hoping the intruder hadn't already fled or didn't hear him coming. Instead of running around the rock to see behind the corner he jumped on top of it and simply looked down at the voyeur.

Hinata nearly fell back from surprise as she heared him. She should have run, she still wanted to, but she couldn' would he think of her then. What should she do? What should she say?
"Uhm.. hello Naruto-kun"
I'Naruto-KUN ? That's a first.'/I He knew Hinata from the academy. He had always found her a little ... weird, but something told him she was a nice person.
"You hungry"
"Eh.. nani"
'Why would he ask me if I'm hungry? He must know I was watching him, why would..'
"Are you hungry? I'm making dinner, but I'm not a real fish lover. Besides, we're both genin, we should get to know eachother"
'Is this really happening? Naruto-kun asking me to have dinner with him. Please don't let this be a dream'
"I- I'ld l-like that, Naruto-kun"
"Ok then, hurry up, I think my fish are burning."

They weren't.

Athor's Note:

A hearthy thanks to Fixing for sending me a lot of corrections