A/N: Payment ficcy for miriya in thanks for the "gimme a hug" Chouji icon (omfg the cuteness). ^__^ Thusly, inspired by it, it's Hug a Chubby Ninja Day! Set after the Sound's Four and assuming everyone gets out of the 190's alive. InoChou, because that's the way it wrote itself. Title stolen from miraiya. ^_~

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"Beauty Complex"

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Chouji's arms are big and warm and soft and (though she would NEVER say this out loud) Ino loves feeling them tighten around her. Because she feels like she can disappear in them and no one would ever find her and she'd never have to feel anything but warm and safe for the rest of her life.

Even if Naruto actually becomes Hokage and Sasuke actually smiles at somebody and the world continues to go to hell, Chouji's arms will always feel this way.

At least, that was what Ino thought yesterday.

Today, Chouji is standing in front of her and grinning so he won't have to cry, all muscle and sinew and (hot, a small, shallow part of her brain supplies, FUCKING hot and aw hell yeah baby, gimme some of THAT sugah) afraid.

He's afraid Ino will see him differently.

She does a little, but- well, that's who she is. And her opinion isn't changing just because of his body. There's something in his eyes that wasn't there the last time she saw him. He's got this different light there, a different confidence, a different fear.

Something happened.

Well, obviously (because something always happens), but not just the normal kind of something.

Something happened, and now she thinks he might not be the same Chouji anymore. He might not be the same, he might be someone else, he might he might he might he . . .

He's not Sasuke. He's not Sasuke and he never will be. He's not Sasuke, but . . . but he's Chouji. And Chouji is . . .

Chouji is big and warm and brute strength and- not like Sasuke whose beauty is almost effeminate- very handsome, very male.

Ino knows a lot of attractive people. She herself is beautiful. And Sasuke is beautiful and Neji is too, in a strange androgynous way, and Shino has a cold, chiseled kind of magnetism to him just as Kiba has a fierce, wild kind. Ten-Ten and Sakura are both cute, and beneath Hinata's shy and scruffy exterior Ino sees the potential for a graceful beauty a few years down the road, the same way she thinks Naruto could become rather attractive himself someday. Even Lee and Shikamaru have a certain charisma under the right circumstances.

Ino is an expert on beauty. It's important to her. What most people don't realize is that she sees it in everything. Presented with a dying rose, she would marvel at the grace its petals fell with. This is not a secret, but it is taboo. Taboo like saying "that word" or asking Shikamaru what he's thinking about. Their whole team knows it, but they don't talk about it.

That's the thing about Team 10. They don't like trouble, which is why Ino sometimes feels a little out of place there. Because she likes a good argument every now and then, but Asuma never notices and Shikamaru doesn't give a shit and Chouji is simply content. So if she tries to fight, nothing satisfying comes of it.

It is, to steal a line, so bothersome.

Bothersome like Chouji's too-thin arms that she can't disappear in anymore.

But his arms are big and warm and steel and, even if she can't disappear inside of him anymore, when they tighten around her she knows that his heart is the same.

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. : only the shallow know themselves : .