The Plan

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto...

Note: This fic is set roughly a month after Sasuke left in the manga, except he never left, really...

Epilogue: One Final Plan

By Alden

It was a few days after the confrontation between Sasuke, Sakura, Ino and Naruto. Naruto and Ino hadn't seen a trrace of the rest of Team 7, and were content with that. Currently, they had a few weeks until the end of their punishment, and couldn't care less. They spent most of their time training and goofing off together. Sometimes, Chouji or even Shikamaru might show up (Ino couldn't realise what inspired him with the energy to make these trips, but she was glad it happened). Hinata even dropped by, looking sad, but smiling, and offered the two a jar of her ointment. Naruto ended up inviting her to train with them, and Hinata tactfully accepted. The three had a good time, trading blows and laughs. Hinata, who'd come as a figurehead of sorrow, was almost smiling as she left.

They'd decided on a training schedule: Three hours of physical training (Usually 5:00-8:00 am), then a short break (8:00-9:30am). Then, they'd have sword training (9:30-12:00) until lunch then stop to eat (12:00am-2:00pm). Then, they'd work on basic jutsu (2:00-4:00pm). For half an hour (3:00-4:30pm), Naruto would let Ino practise Shintenshin on him. Then, Naruto would break off to work on Kage Bunshin, and Ino would wander off and socialise (4:30-6:00) until time for dinner (6:00-7:00). Finally, wthey would go out again and work on swordplay again, until bed (7:00-9:30). And so their day would go.

That is, until Ino had an idea, one day...

---

-Kage Bunshin Practise Time-

"Naruto!" Ino yelled, running over to the private clearing in the forest they trained at, pulling a grumbling Shikamaru behind her.

Naruto, who'd been standing, facing the other way, turned. Actually, it was four Narutos who turned to her, looking at her annoyed. "What, Ino? I'm busy!"

"I've got an idea!" She yelled, stopped and throwing Shikamaru onto one of the seats of the table they sometimes used for lunches that stood nearby.

Then, irritated, she walked up purposefully towards the Naruto she knew was the right one, wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him soundly on the lips. His own arms, that had been awkward at first but now moved confidantly, wrapping around her torso.

After a second, he let go and she stepped back. Naruto's eyes were brighter, and his mouth pulled itself into a grin. "Wow... I don't think I'll ever be able to get used to that, Ino..." he said, smiling,

"Is that a challenge? Now sit down..." Ino laughed, stepped closer. Shikamaru cleared his throat and just shrugged. Although the two hadn't shown much to the public, he'd seen the two alone and was already used to it. He had an idea that he was the only one who knew how deep their relationship was. The most Ino'd done in public was kiss Naruto on the cheek, and Naruto hadn't even done that to Ino. But their closeness, the relaxation they felt with eachother, was a good hint.

Ino pulled Naruto over to the bench and sat him down beside Shikamaru. "Okay, guys, I have an idea. It'll take a lot of work, and planning, but it'll get us really well trained up and get recognition from everyone else, too!"

Naruto's ears perked up, and Ino grinned. "You know the festival coming up, in two weeks or so?" At their nods, she continued. "I knwo we're only at wooden swords, but I was thinking we might do a sword demonstration, since the samurai aren't coming this year..."

"Ino!" Naruto sat up. "That's an awesome idea! But... We're not good enough for a demonstration..."

"Well... If we repeat the same moves, over and over again, we're sure to have it done by then! We'll just have to lengthen our hours, shorten other training, etc..." Ino smiled, and slid a revised schedule across the table to Naruto and Shikamaru.

--

Physical Training (4:00-8:00)

Break (8:00-9:00)

Basic Jutsu (9:00-10:00)

Shintenshin (10:00-10:15)

Kage Bunshin (10:15-11:00)

Sword Training (11:00-12:00)

Lunch (12:00-3:00)

Practise (3:00-11:00)

--

Both just looked at the sheet, dumbfounded.

"Uhhh... Ino... We're having pretty much a whole day of training with only a few hours of sleep..." Naruto said, his eye twitching. "I don't think we can do that. I don't think I could do it, let alone YOU being able to..."

"That's why I lengthened the lunch period. So I can grab two hours of sleep at lunch. You might want to, too..." Ino suggested, pointing it out on the sheet.

"But.. this is impossble, right, Shikamaru?" Naruto looked hopefully at Ino's teammate.

"Yeah... Unless you already have the fight choreographed. Then it'll be fine..." Shikamaru's eyes widened. Suddenly, he realised why he'd been dragged along. "No, no Ino, I'm not choreographing your fight..."

"Damn right you are, Nara Shikamaru, or I'll wait until this thng's over and make your life hell..." Ino smiled sadistically, and Naruto twitched, inching away.

"Eugh, so troublesome... Fine, then, I'll make you up some fancy moves to impress people with..."

"And, of course, you're going to have to be here to show us..."

"No way am I gonna do that. Practise your own damn fight..."

"It's only three o'clock to eleven! Eight hours! After or before that, you can sleep, eat, you can even hike to Wave Country. Just as long as your here to help us get it right."

"You're a woman. You'll never be able to do it." Shikamaru rolled his eyes. Hike to wave country, of all places? This girl was insane...

"You chauvanistic bastard, Shikamaru, of course I can! If I can't, I'll give you 700 yen! And if you do this to the end, I'll give you 500!"

Shikamaru paused. He needed new shogi pieces, after Chouji accidenally ate one, and Ino ruined another three in a fit by putting them in Asuma's ashtray and letting him set them on fire by accident. And his Go board was in rough shape... And a pillow for outside might be nice... Saving up was a good option...

He snorted. "Fine," he said, grabbing the schedule and holding out a hand for something to write with. Ino handed over a pencil, and he flipped the paper over. He started to write...

-----

Ino and Naruto just wandered off, after a few minutes of Shikamaru making complicated figures and lines. The streets were busy, but they still maanaged to get to Ino's favourite restaurant. The tables were set outside, on the grass, and you went in the little building to place your order, and waited for it there. Then you brought it out to eat. Not like Ichiraku, Naruto always complained, where you jsut sat down and ordered.

Both sat down at one table, across from eachother. Then, Ino said, "Your turn, Naruto..."

"Okay, okay, Ino... What do ya want?"

"Lean salad, Naruto, like always. Hurry up so we can get back, Shika might be done by now!" Ino said, annoyed with his hopeful glances whenever he asked what she wanted, how his eyes would tremble to lie on her stomach dejectedly when she answered him.

She sighed, and put her head on the table, nd wondered - What were Sasuke and Sakura doing right now? Ino felt sort off lost without that feeling of purpose. beat Sakura, get Sasuke! Sakura had won... And the only thing Ino was sad over was that most of her recent interaction with Sakura had been because of thir rivalry. Did that mean they had nothing between them, anymore?

Then, Naruto came out bundled with a LOT of food. Ino frowned, and narrowed her eyes in annoyance. "Naruto, what's witth the pigging out? Ad where's my salad? Did you for-"

"Ne, Ino... I just thought you might take a break from your diet. You're too thin for a shinobi, you need more muscle. And depriving yourself of anything that might make tyou grow a bit doesn't help. So... Come on, eat a bit?" Naruto sat down, and pushed half of the food towards her. It was a well-made meal, there was no doubt about that... Actual soup, cheesebread, and a sandwich...

"Eugh... sure..." She looked at him and smiled. "But... I don't feel like I'm good enough..."

"S'okay, Ino... Chasing after Sasuke for years would leave anyone feeling bad about themselves..." Naruto said, picking up a fork. "Itadakimasu!"

"Itadakimasu. But Naruto... I want to be the best I can.. for you..." Ino looked down. Of course, she had no self esteem in her looks. She wanted Naruto to think a relationship with her was worth it...

"Ino... All I need is you to be you!" Naruto looked at her annoyedly. "No crazy diets, or screaming about Sasuke... All I need is you!"

Ino frown broke, as she smiled widely. 'Now I know why 'cliche' things are used so often...they fit!' she thought, 'But...'

"Ino..." Naruto was having trouble wording it, but he knew that she needed a confidence booster. "You're probably the prettiest kunoichi I know! Okay, so your Shintenshin isn't the best thing for heavy battles, and you're just learning to use swords, but hey, Ino, you don't need to be more 'cause I'm starting to feel blessed I have what you are! I don't think you could be better, really..."

"Oh, Naruto!" Ino smiled. "You're great, you know that?"

"Eh?" Naruto looked surprised. "Well... Let's eat, okay?"

"Yeah," Ino nodded, and both started to eat.

-----

The days passed, slowly for Ino, quickly for Naruto. Both were afraid they might not be ready for the big day, and Shikamaru wasn't much help when it came to calming them down.

"Don't worry if yousvcrew up, people are expecting it..."

"Oh shut up, Shika...Let's try this one again, Naruto!

-

"You'll make it... I hope..."

"Eugh, Shikamaru! Naruto, give it one more try!"

-

"You guys suck at this..."

"SHIKAMARU!"

Needless to say, he wasn't very encouraging... But the two struggled on. And on. And on... Finally...

----

"INO! It's the day! We're doing the sword thing today!" Nauto yelled happily. He'd woken up an hour and a half ago... and been out of the shower ten minutes. Ino, however, had gotten up ten minutes ago... and had gotten out of the shower five minutes ago.

"I know, Naruto! We have to get out there and practise!" she yelled through the door. "Once I get everything packed up, we can go out and get ready! Hopefully, they set up our area for us..."

The two had gone to every length tomake it work. Ino had even gotten together samurai costumes and decorations, signed up for a field big enough, and ordered dull swords that seemed sharp from afar. She'd gotten everything together. Naruto was amazed at how calm and collected Ino could be.

"It's from the kunoichi training," She'd said, "We had to learn dance, and setting up, 'events'. All part of being women in disguise... Well, I've always thought of it as horrid sexism, but now I see it also helps prepare for situations like this.. "

Well, Naruto was glad because he knew he'd never have been able to think it up. He enjoyed the idea of this sword thing, because not only did it help show off Ino's new training, it showed his own. It wasn't a demonstration showing what to do... It was more like a timed, choreographed fight that the audience would enjoy...

They'd trained rigorously every day for two weeks, and neither was completely sure in their abilities. But they had a feeling that the moves were imprinted into their body memory and reflexes, and they knew that if they did it right it would be wonderful.

---

"Hey Sasuke! Let's go to that!" Sakura and Sasuke were walking through the festival, Sakura hugging Sasuke's arm. The actual festival lasted a week, and this was only the first day, so most people cecked out the 1-day only things first. The event indicated on the sign was one of these.

"Sword Demonstration!

First Day Only! Watch to swordsmen fight against eachother in this tightly choreographed fight!

3:00-- (Indeterminate)

100 ¥"

"Looks interesting..." Sasuke mused. "Sure!" The two walked down the path that led to the seat, paid the ticketer 200 ¥ and made their way to their seats. "We're a few minutes early, but I'm sure we'll need early seats..."

There were a bunch of seats left. Bothexpected this... Most people came in the last ten minutes, afraid they'd miss it if they didn't go in then and there. Sure enough, a flood of people came in within the next few minutes. The two just ignored them, and scanned the area. It was a field, with a few (stratigically placed?) trees, other than that, not much. They guessed it was up to the performers to dazzle the spectators

Sure enough, after ten minutes, someone walked into the field. A girl, about their age, in samurai gear, walked in from the side. Her long blond hair flowed out from behind the helmet she wore, her hand stayed on the sheath at her side. The other side, also, has a sheath and sword.

Another, a guy about their age, came in from the other side. His hair wasn't visible, nor any other defining features. Sakura wondered where these two had come from. She didn't know any samurai were in the village... Then, a man (The announcer, she guessed,) walked out of the forest on the other side of the field.

"Ladies, and Gentlemen! Shinobi, samurai and villagefolk alike! What you are about to see is being performed for the first time in front of an audience, and quite possible the last! Now, I announce to you... Kitsune to Nobara no Mai!" The man yelled, raising a fuist and yelling the last few words. The audience cheered.

"Oh my god..." Sakura whispered to Sasuke as she recognised the man. "That's Ino's dad!"

"Mhm?" He looked at her out of the side of his eyes.

"I know you don't care, but I find it interesting..." Sakura said. "Now shhh, it's about to start."

Both samurai took one step to the side, still facing eachother, glaring at their opponent. Then drew their swords, and again they stepped, and again, this time more quickly. They continued, until they seemed to be a circular blur. Finally, one shot out of the circle, aimed at the other. It was the girl!

CLANG! The two swords met, with an enormous sound as the both opponents struggled to take control of the melee. Then, the girl jumped back, and the boy crouched to avoid falling. He stood, supported by yhis sword, then ran towards the girl. He made a quick hand seal around the katana in his hand.

POOF! The girl was surrounded by the other samurai, as he split into a number of sword wielding attackers. The girl just put her swordless hand onto her other sheath, and drew her other sword. She seemed to look around at all her opponenents, and gesture with one hand. Sevent enemies surrounded her in a circle.

CLANG! CLASH! The group was a blur. the one guirl was fending off seven enemies with two swords. Then, she stuck her sword through one.

POOF! It disappeared in a burst of smoke. The girl dcked and jumped out of the fray. The group descended again. The cloud of smoke reappeared, and again she jumped. Four more times she did this, until there was only one left. The two stepped back, once, twice, then went into a full rush, swords outstretched. Finally, at the clash, the girl swung down and stabbed her sword... right through her opponent.

"Oh!" Sakura let out a little gasp. What had she done to her opponent!? But... There was no blood...

POOF! The other samurai disappeared. The girl stood, and looked around confused, and a shape appeared from the forest, a foot outstretched kicking away her swords, and landing on he when she fell.

"A real samurai wouldn't be caught by such a trick... Obviously amateurs..." She heard Sasuke mutter, even though his eyes were still focused on the fight.

He trapped her, now. He had each knee trapping one of her legs, an arm holding hers down... And his sword in his mouth, laying across her neck.'

The audience went wild.

----

"Game's over, Ino..." Naruto mouthed, over his sword.

"Uh hunh.. And we did it without a hitch. You were brilliant, by the way. All eight of you," she smiled. Then, her father came out and announced the end.

He threw the sword away... And, as they were getting up, he pulled her closer... and kissed her, right on the lips. Ino was surprised, seeing as he'd been the one afraid to do anything in public, but glad. Then, they stood in front of the crowd, and pulled off their helmets. The applause continued, loud as ever, as the two walked over and reclamied their swords from the ground.

"Hey, that's Naruto! And Ino!" Sakura yelled, drowned out by the noise of the cheers. "Yeah, Naruto! And Ino! That was awesome!"

Thw two exited the scene via the path, as Inoshi started yelling out stuff about the dance, like 'Choreographed by Nara Shikamaru' and 'Refreshments will be served! Courtesy of the Akimichi family!'

The last thing the two heard as they left was applause.

---

That night, however, Naruto wasn't feeling as cheery as he had that afternoon. "I'll be sad to go... But I can't stay here, living off of Yamanaka-san's kindness. No, the only chance is to go..." He said, packing his new clothes into a box and remembering.

"OH! This one'll look great on you!"

"Ino... It's too tight!"

He sighed... And when they had raen togethewr, one of the nights...

"You dribbled ramen stuff all down your shirt. Good thing my parents are out..."

And their training...

"Naruto! Watch it, I want to keep my head!"

Naruto just couldn't hold it in any longer.Living in a real house with a real family who cared about him, with Ino, with all of this... It just wasn't fair. He couldn't contain his tears, and when Ino knocked on the door, she had to let herself in

"Naruto..." she said, and he quickly sat up to dry his tears... No way was he letting her see him that way. "Naruto, can I come in..."

"Sure, Ino.." he said, finally rubbing the last tear from hisface, even though the mark of one who'd been crying was left on his face.

"Naruto... you've ben crying..." Ino looked at him sadly. "You... you're going tonight, aqren't you? Couldn't you stay, just one more day?"

"No, Ino... I couldn't ask you guys to keep me for any longer than you need to..."

"Naruto!" Her voice brought his head up, to look at her. "We want you here! We don't want you to go live in that hoel of an apartment, with those pervy old women and a roof that leaks! We want you here, safe... with us! We havent't had guests here since I can remember, so we don't even need tohis room! Just... just stay..."

"Y-you mean it, Ino?" He looked at her, hopeful.

"Mum asked me if I wanted to ask you to... And dad said yeah... So..." She was interrupted as Naruto jumped off the bed and hugfged her. She wrapped her hands around him, and hugged back. "Naruto... you're staying with us now... Good ending, right?"

"Yeah..."

"So... you wanna unpack everything?"

"Sure..." And with that, the two started to rip open the brown boxes as if they were Christmas gifts, determined to finish as fast as they could...

And that was the end... of their story... Unknown to them that someone else's story had started, and was intertwined with their own. But that is a different tale...

---Ende---

Breaks out into tears Wheaaaheaaah! My first finished story! It's so... sad... Oh well, these two got a happyy ending, and I'vedecided: There will, be indeed, a sequel... or two.. but won't directly deal with Naruto and Ino. Actually, one of the main characters has the same problem Ino and Naruto had uin the beginning of Plan: The one she likes is otherwise accounted for, and she's left. So what's going to happen?

Well, you're gonna find out... in Thinker and Dreamer, second in the Forgotten trilogy! But for now, I will disappear for a while from this series, and work on some other fics...

Until next fic!

Alden, Rare Pairings Advocate

(P.S. - The trilogy, as planned now, doesn't really have any big time jumps... Do you think there should be a fourth book, at the end, showing them as adults? Tell me what you think... Bye!)