Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

The shrill sound of the whistle echoed throughout the cold natatorium walls.

The swimmers dove into cold water, their bodies adjusting to the sharp needles overtaking their bodies.

Better.

There was four swimmers in the water, it was clear that a blonde was in the lead.

Faster.

Naruto Uzumaki had only three thoughts in his mind at the moment.

Stronger.

He pushed his arms skillfully against the water, kicked his legs as fast as he could. He had to finish first, he had to push his body to its limit.

One more lap, come on, come on!

The adrenaline rushed through his body, it was fresh and pumping in his veins with each stroke.

Almost there, come on, I can do this!

His arms continued to stroke, going faster each time. His hands began to get sore, but he couldn't stop, he wanted to feel the burning sensation that he loved.

Ten feet away, come on!

Just as his hand was about to touch the edge of the pool, another shrill sound rang. He stopped and looked in front of him, he had been inches away.

Ugh I was so close!

Once again, the familiar sound of a whistle rang throughout the room.

He looked up to see the shadow of a grin on a man's face.

"Time's up Uzumaki, looks like you're out of shape. Don't forget your cap tomorrow or you'll give the team extra laps." A deep voice said. He could hear a collective groan around him.

"Aw come on coach, I was almost there by a second."

The coach gave out a hearty laugh.

"Oh yeah, tell that to the judges." The man said, rolling his eyes.

The blonde pouted, mentally kicking himself.

"Come on everyone, out of the water, class starts in 30 minutes!" The coach's voice echoed across the room as he got up and walked towards his office.

Naruto swam to the pool's stairs, thinking back on his routine. He got out, looking dizzily for his towel.

"Hey looser, nice leg work out there." A low, sarcastic voice said behind him.

Naruto turned to see the familiar face of his rival, Sasuke Uchiha.

"Hey Sasuke, didn't see you in the water." He groaned inwardly, turning back. "Well, at least I finished first, now who's dead last?" He said triumphantly, grabbing his towel.

"Hn." He heard behind him, Sasuke roughly bumped his shoulder on Naruto's as he walked by. Naruto scowled, walking behind Sasuke to the locker rooms.

The sound of cell phones turning on filled his ears as he entered the windowless room. Chatter soon followed, the opening and closing of lockers ringing throughout the room.

"Hey blondie! Where have you been? I called about 50 times!" Naruto turned to see Kiba, his hyperactive, dog loving friend running towards him.

Before he knew it, he had an armful of wet hyperactive boy.

"Woah there Kiba!" He pushed away. "Personal bubble, this big." He said spreading his arms.

"Ha, sorry man, I forget. I'm just so excited to see you, we have to hang out soon, I have loads to tell you! So where were you?" He said, grinning at the blonde.

"Oh you know…just went to visit some relatives." He quickly lied.

"Hope you don't mind me cutting in, but the bell is going to ring in about 15 minutes, if the coach finds out any of us was late, we'll have another hour of practice tomorrow." A boy with pale eyes walked by, his uniform immaculately in place. A crisp white towel was wrapped around his neck, his long hair still damp from the swimming session.

"Oh shit, we better hurry up!" A panicked mood went throughout the room. Naruto quickly put his grey towel around his shoulders, his Speedos went swiftly down his legs, fresh underwear replacing them. He quickly dressed himself in his school uniform; black pants, a white collared shirt and a tie bearing the school colours. There was just one thing missing…

Aw man, don't tell me I forgot it!

"Here." The blonde looked up from the mess he had made.

"I knew you would forget it." Kiba handed him a fresh white undershirt.

"Wow thanks, I owe you one." He said, putting the shirt over his head.

"Or a hundred." Kiba smirked at him and sat on the bench, waiting for Naruto to finish dressing.

Naruto quickly buttoned up his shirt, his tie quickly going into place.

"How do I look?"

"Oh, quite dashing." Kiba replied sarcastically. "Come on, let's go!"

They both grabbed their backpacks and their sports bags, and dashed towards the doors.

"First period, Orochimaru?" Naruto asked him as they made their way through the crowds.

"Maybe if we're lucky we can sit all the way in the back." Kiba said, almost bumping into a purple haired girl.

They made their way to building 6 just on time, and much to Kiba's luck, there was two empty seats in the second to the last row.

They went to their seats, the bell ringing as soon as they sat down. The room went dead silent as soon as they heard footsteps from the teacher's office.

"Everyone to their seats, no more chatter." A cold voice was heard. Naruto raised an eyebrow, what chatter?

A tall , pale man with long hair walked in. "Now everyone look at the person sitting next to you. Take a good look at them, they probably won't be sitting there by the end of the year and you'll find you'll have a chair for your backpack." Everyone looked at each other oddly.

"You think I'm joking?" No one made a sound.

He walked slickly down the rows, making the students shudder as he walked by. "I've seen many smart kids make it this far to just throw it away because its their last year. Do not make that mistake. One semester, how well you do will affect your whole future." He said to the silence.

"Advanced Physics, if you thought last semester was hard, just wait to see what I have in store for you now. I'll assume that all of you can still read. As always, the principal makes us go over the rules and the blah, blah, blah…"

This was all Naruto heard, he was already looking out the window, trying to find a distraction. Before he knew it, a group of girls wearing track suits ran by, a pink haired girl in the lead.

Naruto smirked as he watched Sakura Haruno, one of his closest friends, run by. How they became friends was still a mystery to him, it had been hard to make friends in the beginning for him.

His first day at school had been enough to scare him…

SWIM TRYOUTS AFTER SCHOOL.

A young boy looked up at the black and white flyer on the board. He had been staring at the same flyer for over fifteen minutes, not sure if he had enough courage to go. Out of pure impulse, he headed towards the school's locker room.

He spoke briefly with the swim coach, a tall man with a beard and an unused cigarette in his mouth, who had told him to go change into his swim trunks and meet everyone out by the pool. He was pushing his backpack into an empty locker when all of a sudden he heard voices.

BANG!

'What the….'

"Idiot, what did you think, you'd be accepted here?" A mocking voice rang. Naruto walked carefully towards the commotion.

He heard another bang, this time accompanied by a grunt. He rushed towards the noise, he could hear someone's quick breathing. He slowly turned his head into the row of lockers.

The sight before him made his stomach turn. A young boy around his age was being held back by brunnete, there was another in front of them, with pale skin and dark eyes. What concerned him most was the boy, his lip was bleeding and his eye was turning an alarming shade of red.

He turned his heel to go get help, but it was evident that they had spotted him.

"Hey you, come back here!"

Naruto stopped in his tracks and remained silent.

"You saw nothing, understand?" His sinister eyes bored into Naruto's. He quickly nodded, trying not to show his fear.

The brunette haired let go of the other boy, who fell to the floor, shaking.

"Let's go Kankuro, they're waiting for us." The boy known as Kankuro nodded and spit on the other boy before following the other out the door.

"Don't bother showing up tomorrow, this was just a taste of what we can do."

As soon as they were out of the door, Naruto rushed to the boy.

"Hey, you ok man?" The boy was on the ground, shaking.

"Yeah," He said, coughing into his hand. Naruto grew alarmed as he saw blood on the boy's palm. "Looks like I'm going to have to find another school." He said, laughing bitterly.

"What are you talking about? You have to report this, they can't go around beating you up!" He said, helping the boy up.

"You must be new to the system. So you don't understand yet…, not that any of you actually care." The boy said, reaching for a towel to wipe the blood away.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm…I'm not like you, ok? I'm the poor kid, the 'scholarship kid'. They warned me this would happen, I was just too stupid to listen. So much for being smart, huh?"

"You're here on a scholarship?"

"Yeah, the fifth one in history, there's two of us this year. I wonder how the other kid is doing." Naruto gulped and looked away. "Yeah, me too. Listen, I can go with you to repor-"

"You really don't get it, do you? Their parents own this school, it doesn't matter what they do, everything would be covered up and it would be my fault in the end." Just then, Naruto noticed the boy's arm was bent at an awkward angle.

"Yeah, I think they broke it too." He watched speechlessly as the boy walked out the door.

Maybe that wasn't the only thing they had broken.

"Naruto? Earth to Naruto!"

"Huh?"

"Come on, the bell just rang." Kiba's voice broke through his thoughts. He looked around, the classroom was almost empty.

"You're lucky Orochimaru loves you, he'd probably give me detention for a week if he saw me daydreaming."

"Ha sure, maybe he'd back off if you flirted with him."

"Man, that's gross."

"Well, it worked for Sasuke."

Kiba rolled his eyes, they walked out the door and into the chaos of the hallways.

"Later." They both said, going separate ways.

Naruto looked down at his schedule. Why they even bothered to print out the same schedule again was a wonder to him.

AP Physics- Orochimaru

AP English - Kurenai

AP Calculus - Umino

AP French- Shizune

Lunch

AP Art- Kakashi

(On/off) Athletics Swim- Asuma

English had been a bore, Kurenai had also gone over the rules, and given them a thick Hamlet assignment to work on.

Before he knew it, Naruto found himself in third period.

He sat down in a seat next to the window, he took out his notebook and began working on the problem on the board.

He had only been working for about 10 minutes when he heard his name being called.

"Naruto? Can I see you for a minute?"

Naruto looked up from his work. "Of course, Mr.Umino."

"Follow me." Naruto gulped, was this about the prank they had pulled on Sasuke?

He walked over to Mr.Umino's office, wondering what he would say.

"Naruto, I hate to say this, but looks like there won't be a spot for you on the swim team this year."

Naruto's eyes widened. "What? What do you mean?"

Mr. Umino sighed and began slowly. "Your grade in this class is not acceptable for someone like you. I know you're smart, but with the way you're going, there's no way you can pass this class. If you quit the swim team, it'll allow more time for-"

"No, Mr. Umino, you don't understand! I need to be on the swim team, the scouts are coming to the final meet-" Naruto's voice grew panicked.

"Naruto, your grade in this class simply doesn't allow for it. I won't allow you to waste your potential." He said, his voice raising.

Naruto took a deep breath, "Please, Mr. Umino, isn't there anything I can do? Extra credit or something?'

"You know I don't give out extra credit." He said, pointedly.

"Please, this is something very important to me, please."

"Let me guess, your parents are making you pay for your tuition in college, so now you need a scholarship?"

"Yeah, something like that." He said, not quite meeting his teacher's eyes.

"Well if you really want to keep your position on the swim team, I'll give you this month to get your grades up. After that, if you haven't improved, I will talk to Asuma about this."

Naruto sighed. "Thank you! Trust me Mr. Umino, you won't regret this." He said, smiling.


Okay, okay, calm down Uzumaki, we can figure this out. The blonde thought to himself. He walked slowly to the double doors, trying to solve his dilemma.

What to do, what to do…Okay, I could get a tutor… Naruto winced, just thinking about how much a tutor cost made him uneasy.

I could just…what? Not sleep? Yeah I could try that... Naruto mentally kicked himself, who was he kidding? He needed those few hours of sleep.

Kiba? No, he already has a tutor…

"Naruto! Earth to Naruto!"

Naruto looked around, his eyes met a pink haired girl waving her hand at him. She was sitting on a bench under the shade of a tall tree, alongside was Kiba, already digging into his sandwich.

"Hey guys." He said half heartedly. "Sorry, just thinking about something." He said, sitting down next to Sakura.

"Don't think too hard, you might hurt yourself." The pink haired girl said, smirking.

Naruto rolled his eyes. That was Sakura for you, she could be as sweet and sarcastic as her bubblegum pink hair, yet if you got on her bad side, well…you don't want to know.

"Here I brought you lunch, the line was full." Sakura pushed a tray towards him.

"Thanks Sakura, I'll pay you back." Sakura shrugged him off, and began to eat her sandwich.

"So tell us, what exactly was your oh so great mind pondering?" Kiba said through mouthfuls.

"Mr. Umino called me into his office today, he said I can't be on the swim team unle-"

"Wharf?! Hir canf foo dat!" Kiba said, clearly outraged.

"Ew, Kiba!"

The messy haired teen practically choked on his sandwich. "What do you mean you can't be on the swim team? You have a better chance than Sasuke to be team captain this year!"

"Ugh, I know! It's just, well he basically said that my grades weren't good enough and he thinks if I quit the team then I can have more time for school." He said wearily.

"He does have a point, I mean, what exactly do you do after school? You're always so tired around this time of year." Kiba looked at him pointedly. Naruto avoided Kiba's gaze and began to open the wrapper on his sandwich.

Sakura took a quick look at Naruto. "What you need is a tutor Naruto." She said, before Naruto could answer. "I would tutor you myself, but I don't think I'd be that good. You should get that guy, what was his name Kiba?"

"Which one?" Kiba said, confused.

"The one that put up flyers about a week ago, you were going to look into him."

"Oh! That Sai guy! Sasori said if I still needed a tutor to go to him, since Sasori graduated and all."

"Ugh I'm not sure, I mean, my parents probably won't like it, they'll think I…"

"Come on, it won't hurt to try it out. My parents are going to hire someone anyways, so it's no problem!"

Naruto looked down at his untouched sandwich. "Yeah I guess it couldn't hurt."

"I'm going to go look for him." He said, throwing his lunch into his backpack.

He threw his backpack over his shoulder and waved goodbye to them. He headed towards the library, where else would a tutor be?

As Naruto climbed the staircase he couldn't help but think of how much this was going to cost him, his money supply was already a bit thin, he couldn't afford to…

Naruto winced as he felt a heavy blow on his shoulder.

"Watch where you're going, idiot." He heard a cool tone say. Once again he turned to see the face of Sasuke, the idiot who wouldn't let him be.

"Maybe if you knew where you were going, you'd probably know one end of the pool from the other." He said, trying not to rub the ache in his shoulder.

"You better watch your back Uzumaki." He said venomously.

"Whatever." Naruto said, turning towards the library. Naruto laughed to himself, that was all Sasuke was, all bark and no bite.

He walked into the bright room, the room was filled with the sounds of keyboards clicking and the sound of pencils meeting paper. The walls were lined up with endless bookcases, this was pure heaven for bibliophiles.

He looked around the library, hoping there was some sort of arrow pointing towards this 'Sai' character. He went around the room, walking towards the study tables. There was a pale boy with short dark hair surrounded by piles of books. There was a flyer on top of the piles of books that read:

NEED A TUTOR?

LOOK NO FURTHER!

PRICES VARY FOR THE VERY BEST.

ASK FOR SAI.

"Um, Sai?"

The pale boy looked up from his notes with a vacant expression on his face. "Yes?"

Naruto wasn't sure what it was, but something made him uneasy about the pale boy. "Er…I was wondering, about the tutoring…"

"Oh yes. You would like to sign up? Any questions?" He said, his face never giving off any hint of emotion.

"I was actually just concerned a bit about the prices, er…my mother just wanted to know so she could…write a check and all." He said rather quickly.

"I charge depending by subject and times." He said, his eyes lingering on Naruto. "Also the pace you learn at." He added.

"The pace?" Naruto questioned curiously.

"Yes, you see, if you're a complete idiot I might charge more to relieve me of stress."

Oh that's nice…

"So tell me…" Sai said, looking at him questionably.

"Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto." He added quickly.

"Take a seat Uzumaki. We have time to discuss this a bit further." The boy said, moving his books to the side as Naruto sat down.

"So what do you need help in?" Sai took out a black notebook and began to scribble.

"Calculus." Naruto sighed.

"Ouch, high up in the scale, are we?" He continued scribbling.

"Ok, if we meet here everyday after school, and I'll assume that your learning pace is average…" He trailed off as he continued to scribble. "I'd say about 200 a week."

"Oh wow." Naruto whispered.

"Not going to be a problem, is it?" Sai said, raising an eyebrow.

"No, I'll have my mom write you out a check." He said, smiling nervously.

"Meet me here after school today, I can evaluate you to see if I can tutor you or not."

"Er…ok then." Naruto said slowly, awkward silence falling between the two of them.

"…Well I better get going, I'll meet you here after school?"

"Yes, don't be late, I charge extra by the minute."

Naruto laughed, picking up his books.

"I'm serious." Naruto's smile faded as he walked away from the library.

Naruto sighed as he walked to class. With tutoring, the next few months were going to be rough on him. He had made it this far to keep his secret…now there was only half a year to go, he had to do whatever he could to get that scholarship.

He walked into the classroom, his eyes overlooking the magnificent art room. There wasn't a space on the wall that wasn't covered with sketches or artwork from students, and occasionally, a rare sketch from Kakashi.

"Hey Kakashi." Naruto waved hello to his teacher, who was currently working on a complicated painting set on the floor.

"Yo." He said, his eyes never leaving his art work.

Naruto went to his usual seat, he knew Master Kakashi wouldn't go over the rules like the other teachers. Kakashi was…different.

Naruto set his bag down by his chair and went over to the racks full of canvases, looking for an obnoxiously yellow one.

Once he found his canvas he quickly went over to the stock room, hoping the yellow pain the had hidden was still in its spot.

He frowned once he realized the bottle must have been discovered.

Hmm…ok if I was a bottle of yellow paint…where would I be?

He went outside to the classroom, which had now rapidly filled up with students. It wasn't loud like Naruto's other classes, it was…calm.

Everyone had an escape in this room. It was a chance to be yourself and express yourself through different media. You didn't have to be good at it, Naruto of all people knew that, you just had to enjoy yourself.

Plus, Naruto really liked the smell of paint.

Yellow paint, yellow paint, yellow paint….

His eyes scanned the classroom quickly, hoping the bottle would jump into his hands.

Aha! There it is! He went to the front of the class. The bottle was sitting awkwardly on a desk that was occupied by a boy with a dark jacket and red hair.

"Hey!" Naruto said, facing the boy. "Er, do you mind if I borrow this? I'll bring it back." He smiled at the boy.

The boy shrugged, his eyes not drifting from his sketchbook.

Naruto swiftly took the bottle from the table and walked back to his desk. Weirdooo…

Naruto looked down at his canvas, and sighed with contentment. He squirted a blob of yellow paint onto his palette and began to work.


Naruto jumped, surprised by the sound of the bell. He had gotten so immersed into his painting that he had lost track of time. He didn't want to look at the clock, he knew he was going to be late.

Damn it, how much does he charge for being late… He pondered as he put his supplies away.

He ran to the library, almost knocking by an innocent bystander.

Sai was in the same seat as he had been in at lunch, in fact, most of his books were still in the same place. It was as if he hadn't moved at all.

"Shall we get this started then?" Sai said as Naruto approached the table. "Oh, you're five minutes late by the way." That's 20 dollars."

"What?!" Naruto exclaimed loudly. Part of him hoped Sai was joking.

"Shh!" He heard voices say around them.

"I said I was serious about this, you should be too." He said, taking out various notebooks and a very complex looking calculator.

Aw man…twenty dollars…that's like two weeks of food already…

"Let's see, we can start on mathematical inductions, if you can't do this..." He paused. "You're hopeless." He added with a smile.

"Er…actually, that's something I'm really not-"

"Ok, so here's this worksheet, I'll be back in 5 minutes." He swiftly got out his chair and went over to the back of the library, and out of sight.

Ugh! What the hell is this… He thought as he looked down at the worksheet. He took out his pencil and began on the worksheet. What…none of these are equal to each other, stupid Sai is probably laughing at me right now…

"Done yet?"

Naruto jumped, had it been five minutes already?

"None of these equations are equal to each other." Naruto said, exasperated.

"You have to do the first proof…first." Why did Naruto get the feeling that he had said that with a smirk?

Naruto looked down at the equations to see that Sai, that jerk, was indeed correct.

"Maybe not completely hopeless." Sai said below his breath, sitting down.

Naruto opened his mouth to protest, but was immediately interrupted. "Ok, since these are already factored, what do you do next?"

"Er…I'm not really sure…we haven't-"

"Wrong answer." Sai said, his smile still intact.

Man this guy is weird, how am I supposed to learn?

"You have to do the first proof, how do you do that?"

"Um…" Naruto looked hard at the equations, he'd never even seen these before! "I suppose it has to equal to something to make it true?"

"Make both sides equal then." His face impassive once again.

"But…there's two variables in this-"

"Stop interrupting and do it."

He looked up at Sai, though hoping for a bit more guidance. "I knew it." Sai sighed dramatically.

"What?!" Naruto asked, confused.

"You're a complete idiot." He said, rather loudly.

Naruto could feel the blood going to see his face.

"Well maybe if you showed me how to do it, I'd actually learn something." He accused.

"Are you questioning my tutoring techniques?" Sai's eyes narrowed.

"And what if I am?"

"Whatever. Just make it equal to one already."

"But I don't understand, and you didn't give me any other equations…"

"Make X equal to one." A cold, lifeless voice said behind them.

Naruto turned back to see the red headed boy from his art class. He was…surprisingly scary when you saw him up close.

"Sabaku, thank you very much for spoiling my student. Now please, run along." He said, waving him off.

"You two are making too much noise. Especially this one." His eyes glared at Naruto's back.

"Oh! I got it!" The blonde said triumphantly, holding his paper up to Sai's face. Sai's eyes quickly scanned the paper to see that Naruto had proved the equation correctly.

"See? I told you I just needed a little guidance."

"I'm sorry Uzumaki, this isn't going to work out. You're too much of a pain to teach." Before he knew it, Sai was putting his books into his backpack, motioning to leave.

Um…what the hell?

"Maybe the great Sabaku here could teach you." He said as he headed towards the exit, his voice strangely filled with a hint of venom.

Once Sai was out of sight, the red headed boy began to leave, Naruto acted on impulse. He took the boy's hand, not sure if he was doing the right thing. The boy quickly pulled his hand away, his face completely blank. Naruto didn't fail to see the moment of shock that had gone through his face.

"Er…'Sabaku'? I'm sorry, but do you think you could help me out with this?" Naruto asked shyly.

"No." The boy said, walking away.

Naruto quickly grabbed his bag and began to follow the redhead.

"Come on, please? I normally wouldn't ask a stranger unless I was-"

"Desperate?" The boy looked up to meet Naruto's eyes. Naruto quickly looked away, daunted by his gaze.

"-in a great need of help." He finished slowly. The boy began to gather his things into his backpack.

"I'll pay you!" Naruto said quickly.

"I don't need your money." He said, his voice giving off a hint of annoyance.

Oh, obviously Uzumaki! Naruto thought, mentally slapping himself.

The red head began walking out the library, clearly wanting to get rid of him.

"Please, I'll do anything!"

The boy remained silent as he walked away, the sound of his footsteps filled the corridor.

Naruto tried to catch up to the taller boy. "Anything you want, or any-"

"Stop it already!" Naruto came to a sudden halt, the red head's face was inches away from his, his dull green eyes glaring holes through his. Naruto took a step back and looked down, he decided that his shoelaces had become quite interesting at the moment.

He heard the boy sigh, he looked up to see him rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"Look," He heard him sigh. "I just don't have time for this."

"Oh…I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have bothered you, I don't even know your name…I'm sorry." He apologized, he put his backpack down, arranging the papers that he had hastily put in his backpack before.

He heard the sound of footsteps retreating.

"Monday after school." He heard a deep voice say.

Naruto looked up to see the boy standing at the end of the hallway, looking at him. "Wha...really?!" He grabbed his backpack and walked quickly towards the boy.

"Thank you, thank you!" He exclaimed.

"Oh wait! Monday after school…that's…" He looked up to see the boy glaring at him.

"A great time! It's perfect!" He said smiling at the other boy.

"Don't be late Uzumaki."


Authors Note: Hi there! It's been a while since I've posted something here. I thought I'd give this a try. Review if you like. Critique/suggestions/thoughts/questions are welcome. :D