A/N: Hi, guys! This is chapter one of my new fic, and it's also the biggest undertaking I've ever, erm, undertaken, so I'm striving for perfection! If you see any typos, inconsistencies, or sections that read oddly, please don't hesistate to mention it in a review! Well, I won't ramble for too long, so... enjoy! :)
Disclaimer: I really don't own Naruto, I promise.
Naruto Point of View
"Can we go look at that skirt real quick, guys?" Sakura asked, pointing excitedly at a short jean skirt with a thick brown belt on display in the window of Rue 21. I took another slurp of my milkshake, which I'd gotten when we passed the mall's food court, and looked back at her with an eyebrow arched.
"You want that?" I asked incredulously while shaking my head. "The stuff in there is all junk, anyway." She pouted, but turned away from the store.
"Ugh, my feet hurt! You guys wanna just sit and talk for a while?" Ino suggested. We all agreed, and our group of juniors, which consisted of Sakura, Ino, Shikamaru, Kiba, Hinata, and myself, plopped down on a row of benches. I dug around in my milkshake with my straw while Shikamaru told some sort of joke – I wasn't really paying attention – and took another gulp. Mmm, it was so good. Milkshakes were almost as good as ramen! Unfortunately, I almost coughed it back up when Sakura and Ino both let out shrieks practically loud enough to shatter a window.
Looking up, I realized that I should have guessed right away what the source of the excitement was. Across from us, Uchiha Sasuke, A.K.A. the object of every girl at Konoha High's affection, was entering a music store with his friend, Gaara.
"He's just so hot!"
"Gah! I know! He has the best hair!"
"And have you seen his eyes?"
The two, who were big members in the unofficial 'Uchiha Sasuke Fan Club', continued to giggle and talk frantically about every aspect of the guy as if he were on display just for them. So, nothing new.
"I don't get it," I confessed. Ino and Sakura giggled again.
"You're just jealous!"
I frowned. "Yeah… not really, no."
The just shook their heads and laughed. I peeked around them at Shikamaru and Kiba, but they both gave me looks that plainly said that they understood about as much as I did. Hinata just looked down and smiled like she always did; she was a nice girl, but usually really quite. You never knew what she was thinking.
A few minutes later, after Sakura and Ino finally calmed down, we stood up and moved on, window shopping some more and walking into a few stores. Sakura shopped like there was no tomorrow. Hinata dragged us into the book store. Kiba tried to be funny and got yelled at by a mall cop. All in all, it was a pretty fun waste of 2 hours.
At around six, we started losing people. Ino had a headache, so Shikamaru opted to drive her home. I swear, those two were totally going to end up together. Kiba left next for his evening shift at Wendy's; hey, it was a job. Hinata started freaking out about her 7:00 weekday curfew, too, so she ended up leaving. Finally, it was just me and Sakura left. Sakura didn't have a license yet, so I let her finish up in Belks and then told her I'd give her a ride.
We had to do some serious rearranging in my trunk to fit all of her shopping bags, but we finally had them stacked nicely. She and I clambered into my front seat, and I pulled out smoothly.
"So, please explain to me," I began, "Why all of the girls like that Sasuke guy. I mean, he doesn't even seem to care that he has this enormous group of stalker girls, and he keeps almost entirely to himself. Where's the draw?"
She put a finger to her lip. "I don't know, it's kind of hard to explain to a boy. There's just a… kind of 'cool feeling' to him. He's also brilliant, and a really talented photographer, too!"
I snorted. "Sounds like a pussy hobby."
She frowned. "It's not!" She added, "And there's just something kind of fascinating and alluring about 'the guy nobody knows', you know?"
"No," I admitted frankly. "So, again, where's the draw?"
She scowled. "What's up with that? You don't even know him!"
"Neither do you," I pointed out.
"I thought so."
I'd never say it out loud, but I was secretly a little curious about Sasuke myself. What was his problem? He had a million girls chasing after him all the time, and he didn't even acknowledge that they existed! And what was up with the fact that he spoke to almost nobody? Did he think he was better than everyone else? That teme got on my nerves, and I hadn't even spoken to him yet!
I pulled up in front of the Haruno residence a few minutes later. Sakura quickly gathered her purse from the front, and I helped her with her enormous load in the back. "Sakura, isn't there a limit on your credit card?" I asked as I hefted a heavy paper bag full of clothes onto the ground.
She shrugged nonchalantly. "Guess I'll know when I hit it, huh?"
I waved goodbye to her as I pulled out, rolling my eyes. Her parents were probably going to chew her out for spending too much again, but looking back at her enormous three-story house and her parents' three shiny new cars, I doubted it would be too serious of a problem any time soon.
When I arrived at my apartment building, I sighed heavily before getting out of the car. I trudged up the stairs to my floor, pulled out my keys, and threw my school stuff down on the couch without a glance as I made my way toward the kitchen to seek out my ever-delicious ramen. I selected a plastic cup from my enormous stockpile and added some water, then stuck it in the microwave. Easiest dinner ever.
As I turned around, I noticed a piece of paper lying on my counter. When I picked it up, I saw that it was a letter from my uncle Kakashi, who must've been by earlier. It read, 'Rent for this month is paid. Your dirty clothes pile is starting to reek; do some laundry. Everything else seems fine. Need anything, call me. –Kakashi'
Kakashi was my weird uncle who took me in after the deaths of my parents. I couldn't remember them, because they both died before I was even two months old. Kakashi was great, but he was always quirky and happy. He went about things in a strange way and had the uncanny ability to be late for everything.
He was the coolest adult on Earth.
He noticed about a year ago that I was becoming really independent, so he made me an offer; he'd pay for an apartment for me if he was allowed to have a key and to come check on me at any time. How could I refuse? So, now I had my own apartment, which he paid for and managed half the time. It was great.
When the microwave beeped, I let the steaming noodles sit for a minute while I dug out a fork and poured myself some chocolate milk. I never said that I ate healthy. I stuffed a big bite in my mouth as I walked into the living room and pulled out my pre-calculus book. There was a test Friday, and I had worked my ass off this year to keep my grades good enough. No way one stupid test was going to drag my C average down!
I stared at the pages for what felt like hours. Mr. Asuma had bombarded us with a ton of new material the week before, and I needed to know it all. Basically, I had tonight and tomorrow night to study seriously, because I was a slacker and had waited until Wednesday to get down to business.
I copied formulas over and over in an attempt to drive them into my mind, and I scanned pages countless times. Finally, when my eyes were so tired that they watered, I blinked repeatedly and relaxed against the back of my couch, groaning. God, I hated studying. When I felt myself falling asleep, I shook my head and grabbed my materials, shoving them back into my school bag.
I walked the short distance to my bedroom, threw on some pajama pants, and headed lazily into the bathroom. I leaned my head against the cold wall and yawned before brushing my teeth lethargically; they probably didn't get too clean, but I doubted that it would kill me.
I fell unconscious at about the same time my head hit the pillow.
The next day, Sakura, Sai and I were eating lunch together in a little group. Sai was complaining about an essay that Ms. Kurenai had assigned earlier. Out of the blue, the cafeteria erupted in squeals. This time, I didn't even need to look up to know it was Sasuke walking in with Gaara and Neji; this happened every day, for some reason I still couldn't understand.
"Oh my God, he's just… gah!" Sakura cried happily, her fists clenched and eyes squeezed shut in an elated smile. I rolled my eyes and turned to Sai.
"So, Sai… what are you doing in art class, dude?" Sai took art on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, and he was, hands down, the most incredible painter I'd ever met. He had this sketchbook he carried around with him, too, and it was absolutely full of sketches all the time. I think he probably went through one book per month at the rate he drew. He signed all of his pieces not with his name, but with his symbol, a little flower with rainbow petals.
Now, before saying 'that's gay', be aware that Sai is, in fact, gay. He thought that the idea of having a homo flower as his stamp would be funny, and I have to agree that the flamboyancy was pretty entertaining.
"Well, you know, I've been working on that big oil painting for a while now. The one of the different vases?"
"Oh, yeah!" I remembered the sketch he showed me; it was really pretty cool. "You'll have to show me a picture when you finish, okay?"
He nodded and grinned. He was getting better about expressing emotions, which was great for him. I used to hate the guy, simply because he was just too horribly indifferent about everything. Then, one day last year, in science, I finally spoke to him. He was socially awkward to the extreme; I think somebody said he actually had something called Asperger's Syndrome. He was really withdrawn and isolated, but it was sad, because he was too nice a person to just be all by himself like that.
As we slowly became friends, he was a lot more comfortable with expressing himself freely and did well in most social situations. He was a favorite among my other friends, as well. Big groups made him nervous, however, and parties were pretty much living hell for him, but he was getting better.
Towards the end of lunch, Lee came over to us. "Hi, Sakura-san!" he cried as he sat next to her. Lee was really into that Japanese anime stuff, and for some reason, he felt the need to attach an honorific onto certain people's names.
She looked his way with an expression of disinterest on her face. "Oh. Hey, Lee… wait, what was that, Ino?" She picked up her tray and wasted no time in getting away.
Lee sighed sadly and propped his chin up on one arm. "Naruto," he began. "Why doesn't Sakura-san seem to like me at all?"
I smiled at him. He was a nice person, and it was a pity that Sakura resisted him so much. "Oh, don't worry, Lee," I assured him. "Sakura's just thick-headed. She really does think your sweet, I can tell; she's just caught up in some Sasuke-related fantasy."
He looked up. "You think I have a chance?"
I nodded. "Of course! One of these days, she'll realize that you're a great guy; you've just got to keep working at it."
He sat up a little straighter, a grin on his face. "Arigatou, Naruto-kun," he said before standing up to dump his tray. The bell was about to ring, anyway. I picked up my own lunch and headed for fourth period with Sai.
Sai Point of View
I sat a little ways away from Naruto in English. Miss Shizune droned on and on about Charles Dickens, and I sighed and buried my head in my hands. This was, undeniably, the most boring class at Konoha High.
I looked over at my blond friend to find him studiously scribbling notes in his atrocious handwriting. A small smile came to my lips as I watched. Naruto was always so driven; maybe that was one of the reasons I liked him so much.
I'd had a crush on Naruto since last year, when he dared to become close to me. I guess it's kind of like a fairy tale, when you look at it. I was depressed and alone, and then my figurative 'prince' came in and rescued me. I know it sounds stupid, but that's always been my favorite way to describe the situation.
The more I got to know Naruto, the more I realized what an amazing person he was. He was funny and compassionate and extremely determined, no matter what he was doing. His personality was flawless; I doubt that there's a person on this Earth that could dislike Naruto after getting to know him. He was everything that I wished I could be, but that didn't make me jealous. Rather, it made me admire him for those qualities.
I guess I've just… always viewed him as perfect. He was perfect, and kind, and empathetic, and always willing to help out. There's never been another person I've been so close to, and he's one of few people who, in all honesty, didn't give two shits about my sexuality, lack of sociability, or any of my other prominent flaws.
It was nice just being around him, and some day I was going to tell him just how much I liked him. That is, if I ever stopped being a coward.
Naruto Point of View
I glared into the cold eyes of Kiba as I dribbled toward him with the ball between my feet. He stood, poised to defend, as I rapidly advanced across our tiny makeshift soccer field in the park. Just before I was about to shoot, I saw a smirk on his face. What could he mean by that…?
Shikamaru was suddenly right on top of me, trying to swipe the soccer ball away. "Sai!" I called frantically. "Look right!" He turned just as I passed the ball up to him, and with one touch sent it flying past Kiba and into the goal.
"Owned!" I cried as I shoved Shika away teasingly. He looked a little discouraged, and it felt oh-so-good to rub it in!
Finally, he punched me in the arm. "Shut up, you idiot. You're only winning by one." I cheerfully ignored the comment as I walked over to Sai.
"Great shot, man!" I said enthusiastically. He smiled modestly.
Kiba rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, victory for you guys. Now let's take a break; I'm beat." We all nodded. Our heavy breathing proved that Kiba was not alone.
I lowered myself into the cool grass and reclined with a sigh. The sun was setting in the distance, and I sat comfortably as I recovered, observing all of the different hues cast in the clouds as the sky turned bright orange. A soft strumming sound reached my ears, and I turned in the direction it was coming from.
I don't know why, but I just kept running into that Uchiha everywhere, didn't I? He was sitting on a park bench not too far off with Gaara, who was apparently trying to teach him some chords on the guitar. Amused, I watched as the redhead played a perfect chord, then handed his guitar to Sasuke. Almost as soon as he'd grabbed it, Gaara shook his head and readjusted his fingering. I smirked, perhaps a little pleased that there was something that guy couldn't do right off the bat.
I had to stifle a laugh when Gaara took the guitar back altogether, leaving Sasuke looking defeated. Gaara started to play something I didn't recognize, and I looked away, having lost interest.
I jumped when I heard a beeping sound next to me a few moments later. I was even more surprised when I rounded to find that Sasuke was crouching in the grass next to me, fiddling with his fancy camera. I managed to find my voice, but only after several seconds had passed.
"Uchiha… Sasuke? What are you doing?"
With a single glance upward, he murmured quietly, "Adjusting the contrast. Now shut up and go back to the way you were sitting." I was caught off guard by his commanding tone, so I just blinked and stared for a moment more before doing as he said.
A few seconds later, there was a shutter sound, and he stood up. I, too, pushed myself up to a standing position. He was beginning to walk away when I called, "Hey! Uchiha!"
He paused and slowly turned to face me. "Yeah?"
I wore a confused expression as I asked, "What was that all about?"
Sasuke shrugged. "I have to take several pictures with human subjects for my photography class. The way the lighting was when I happened to look over here was very picturesque, and I was inspired."
"Can I at least see it?"
He nodded and gestured for me to come stand with him. I didn't expect much; there was no way this guy could be as good as everyone claimed. He was probably just a poser, and the girls made him out as this prodigy just to create one more reason to worship him.
Then he pulled up the picture, and I realized that that theory was null and void.
It was obviously me sitting just off to the right, but you couldn't see my features; rather, it was my dark form from a side view, with the setting sun in the background illuminating the tops of several far-off trees and the grass. The colors were almost entirely black, dark green, and orange-yellow, and the dew in the grass closest to the camera when the shot was taken was clear and added to the beauty, but didn't distract.
It was an amazing photo. No way I'd ever let Uchiha know how much I liked it, though.
He hit the off button on the camera, and the screen went black. I looked at him to see if he'd speak again. After a moment, he quirked his head to the side a little and shrugged again. "Well… thanks," was all he said before heading back over to his friend.
Kiba came over to me and looked after Sasuke before asking, "What was that?" I just shook my head.
"Nothing important. Come on, let's finish our game."
Later that night, when I was supposed to be studying, I found that I couldn't concentrate. Damn that Sasuke; he wouldn't leave me alone! I was trying to focus on my pre-calculus, but my mind kept drifting back to the short encounter I'd had with him at the park earlier.
I don't know what held my interest. I guess it was that I'd been a little surprised by the way he acted; he wasn't really stuck-up like I'd expected. He actually seemed okay enough to me, which irritated me to no end. Now, not only did he have girls professing their love for him several times a day, but he also wasn't a total asshole? That wasn't how things were supposed to work! He was supposed to be a jerk, a teme!
And what was with that innocence? He acted like he walked up to people he'd never spoken to before every day and just randomly snapped a picture of them!
Then again, I'd learned from Sai that the artsy types could be a little out there, so maybe he actually did do that.
"Ugh!" I cried in frustration as I slammed my pre-cal book shut. If I didn't do some studying soon, I was screwed on the test tomorrow! "Okay, Uzumaki," I told myself. "You're going to learn this stuff if it kills you!"
I stayed up for a little while longer, but even after my little pep talk, I still managed to fall asleep on my couch. You know, naturally. So, it was no surprise that I was sweating bullets when Mr. Asuma started passing out test papers in second period the next day. I think he noticed this when he placed my test on my desk, because he gave me an encouraging look before moving on.
When the man had finally made his rounds and all of the papers had been handed out, he took a quick glance at the clock before saying quietly, "You may begin."
With trembling fingers, I picked up the two sheets of the test, which had been stapled together, and began to look over them. I groaned inwardly and lost any shred of confidence I had when I realized that close to half of this stuff might as well be in a foreign language. I'd just have to guess.
My pencil was clenched tightly in my fingers, moving occasionally as I came to a problem I was sure of. When all of those were done to the best of my ability, I double-checked them before moving on and trying to make sense of the problems I didn't know. I ended up picking most of my answers at random. Yeah, like I said before, I was totally screwed.
Finally, after seventy long minutes in the stuffy room, the bell rang throughout the school that signified the end of second period. I sighed and dropped my head onto my desk. I definitely didn't do well.
After I dropped my test onto the pile on Mr. Asuma's desk, I walked out into the hall, popping my knuckles and hoping that, by some miracle, I didn't flunk. Sakura walked up to me as I made my way toward third period, which she had with me. "What's got you looking so worn out?" she asked, concern evident in her tone.
"Pre-cal test," I explained. She just nodded.
"You did fine, I'm sure," she told me, but I could hear the hollowness in the statement.
We took our seats as we entered Mr. Iruka's history class, and I continued to complain. "I mean," I whispered as he began to lecture. "It was all that new junk that he taught, like, last week!" She squeezed my shoulder.
I laughed under my breath. "You can say that as many times as you want, but there's no way I'll believe it. And I was so nervous that I held my pencil too tight, and I'm pretty sure that my fingers are going to fall off!"
"Oh, you poor thing!" she said in a false pitying tone. I smiled a little, but when I looked up, I saw her gaze drifting toward Sasuke. All of a sudden, her eyes narrowed into slits, and I followed her stare until I saw the source of her agitation.
Elaine, some blonde girl on cheer squad with her, was sitting right next to Sasuke. "I'm going to kill her! Trying something like that…" Sakura muttered countless more threats under her breath, and I began to feel a little concern for the other girl. When I was actually starting to be a little afraid of this side of Sakura, and waved my hands in front of my body and tried to calm her down.
"Look, look, Sakura! He's not paying a bit of attention to her! Sasuke wouldn't go for a girl like that, anyway – she's a total ditz - so don't even bother getting worked up over nothing!" She seemed to become a little calmer, but I could hear her teeth grinding. In an effort to distract her from the situation entirely, I thought up a story as quickly as I could. "Did I tell you that I ran into Sasuke after school yesterday?"
She turned her keen gaze on me. "Really?" she asked, her tone beginning to sound normal.
"Yeah! He took a picture of me…"
By now, I had her hooked. She was a sucker for any story having to do with Uchiha, so I relayed the entire encounter for her. She seemed pretty fascinated.
"Oh! So you did get the chance to talk to him? What was he like!"
I shrugged. "All right, I suppose," I grudgingly admitted. "I still don't get his fangirls, but whatever."
She grinned. "And you said he pretty much sucked at guitar?"
"Yep!" I replied happily, smiling at the memory of Gaara's hopeless attempts to teach Sasuke. "No, I mean, he really sucked."
She shook her head. "You should be ashamed that that makes you so happy."
"I can't take anything you say about that guy into consideration, though, since you blow off every single guy that approaches you because you're trying to save yourself for the one and only Uchiha Sasuke," I retorted. As I said Sasuke's name, I made big eyes and batted my eyelashes, imitating her.
For that, she punched me in the arm – hard. "Ouch!"
"Oh, just start taking notes, stupid."
Lunch passed without any interesting developments – unless you count Kiba trying to stick his fork up his nose 'interesting' – as did fourth period. As we were let out from Mr. Jiraiya's class, though, I was surprised to find Mr. Asuma walking toward me from down the hall.
"Hey, Mr. A!" I said happily when he was close enough to hear me over the roar of two hundred juniors changing classes. "What's up?"
He looked at me solemnly. "Naruto, I was wondering if I could talk to you for a second. I'll give you a late note for your next class." I had an ominous feeling about this, but I nodded and followed him into a mostly-empty hall.
"Naruto, I wanted to have a talk with you about the test this morning," he told me as I leaned against the wall.
The first thought that crossed my mind was, oh, shit! "Y-yes? What about it?"
"Well… you made a grade that came as a surprise to me." He handed me my paper. On the front was a big red 'D-'. I groaned, disappointed in myself.
"I'm such an idiot!" I cried, letting my arms and the test drop to my sides.
Mr. Asuma shook his head. "No, Naruto, you really aren't. You have to work hard, but you're not an idiot by any means. That's why I wanted to talk to you; this semester has been so good for you! I thought you'd do so much better. What happened with this?"
I sighed. "Some of that newer material you taught… I just don't get it! I tried to study, but it doesn't make any sense."
He nodded and made a 'mm' sound, then looked off as if thinking to himself. When he turned back to me, he had a small smile on his face.
"I'll tell you what, Naruto. I know that you want to improve, and I've always seen a tremendous work ethic from you, so here's what we'll do. I'll let you re-take the test next Friday, and we'll average these two grades together. How's that sound?"
"Ah—Mr. Asuma! You're, like, the greatest teacher ever!" I cheered excitedly. He chuckled and ruffled my hair.
"I expect you to do much better if I give you this opportunity, okay? You should probably get a tutor for the next week, just to make sure, but it's up to you." I nodded, still smiling.
I followed him back to his classroom, and he jotted a quick note for my next teacher before sending me on my way. As I neared my next class, I thought about possible people who could tutor me.
Shikamaru was smart; he was the brightest out of all my friends, in fact. He took pre-calculus in first semester. He'd be a slack tutor, though. That lazy bum. Kiba… yeah, Kiba stopped caring about grades a while ago, so it'd be totally pointless to ask him. Sakura had cheer squad almost every day after school, and she was in trig, anyway. Sai, Ino, and Hinata were all also in different math classes. So, by the time I handed my teacher my late note, I had exhausted all possibilities of my friends helping me out on this one. Nice.
Who, then? I didn't want somebody I'd never spoken to before, but nobody in particular came to mind. I'd have to think on this one.
I was giving Sakura a lift again, and we were walking across the parking lot towards my car. She was telling me about lip gloss or something, I don't know. I looked around, and my eyes landed on a certain raven-haired photographer moving toward his blue Civic. Suddenly, inspiration struck. Sasuke was supposed to be some sort of genius, wasn't he? And he took pre-calculus!
"I'll be right back, Sakura!" I announced before hiking my bag higher up on my shoulder and running to catch him, leaving her standing in the middle of the parking lot, looking very confused.
I caught up to him a moment later, panting and a little out of breath. "Uzumaki… Naruto, is it? What do you want?" I held up a finger as I wheezed for a second, doubled over. It was a big parking lot! When I finally caught my breath, I looked up and met his almost-black eyes.
"Hey, I wanna make a trade." He looked totally lost, so I continued. "You took my picture for your photography thing, right? Well, I want you to tutor me in pre-calculus."
Now, he just looked incredulous. "Okay… how is one picture a fair trade for tutoring for… how long?"
"Just 'til next week. See, Mr. Asuma is gonna give me a retest on that pre-calculus test we had today next Friday, and he suggested I get a tutor, and, well, you're smart, so…" I trailed off. He looked a little bored.
"Uhh… I'll pay you. A lot."
He sighed. "You don't have to do that… just, here."
He took out a piece of notebook paper, tore it in half, and sifted around in one of his book bag pockets. "You have a pen?" I pulled one out, and he jotted something down on the paper. When he handed it to me, I realized that it was his cell phone number. "Call me later, we'll work out a schedule." I nodded quickly, and without another word, he walked the last few steps to his car.
I returned to Sakura, who immediately asked, "What was that about?"
"Asked him to tutor me." I explained my retest situation as we hopped into my car. When she saw the paper in my hands, she inquired as to what it was.
"Oh. Sasuke's number," I replied nonchalantly. Her eyes bugged out of her head.
"What? I've been trying to get that since freshman year! Can I…" she broke off as she reached over for the paper. The look on her face was a little creepy.
"No, Sakura!" I said, swiping the paper away. "I won't give you Sasuke's number."
She slumped in her seat, and I laughed as we pulled out onto the street.
A/N: So, what did you think? Was it good? Bad? Horrible? Interesting? Boring? Tell me! Any question you have will be answered, as I reply to all of my reviews, as well. And, once again, please don't hesitate to mention any flaw you noticed in your review (which I hope that you leave, as I love them so!)
I'm thinking that updates will be around once a week, but if I get a good reaction I may bump it up to every four days - it all depends on you guys!
Well, thanks for reading!