Oi, I can't believe I'm actually doing this .... Ahem, anyway. This is a lead-in/prologue for a longer, multipart fic that's in the process of being written, in between other fic/art obligations, that's focusing on the four Kunoichi of the series (Sakura, Ino, Tenten and Hinata), and following them over a period of time. Over-all spoilers will be up to Manga chapters 219, possibly 220, if I don't have one section finished by the time that chapter's finished. Things will be assumed, in regards to certain events, even though the manga may prove otherwise as chapters move on.
Characters: Ino and Sakura.
Spoiler warning: Takes place around chapter 185 or so (Whenever the Rescue Rangers took off. )
If you're so inclined, Vienna Teng's Between is a good backgorund song for this, as well as the inspiration of the title!
Pride was a horrid thing sometimes. Especially for someone like Yamanaka Ino. She was self-assured. Confident. Always in control. But it had it's drawbacks, such as the stubborn pride that she constantly displayed. The stubborn pride that caused her to refuse to back down from practically anything once she jumped into it. It was the thing that got her most in trouble. But for once, she decided to swallow her pride, and do something she felt was something that was right. Pride kept a rivalry going for two years, because someone felt the crush over a boy was more important than their friendship, but Ino was willing to put that aside, finally. Now wasn't the time for that. She just hoped the other girl realized it as well.
"Sakura?" She hoped her voice sounded calm, assured. To her own ears, her voice seemed like it trembled with hesitancy, expecting to be turned away. In truth, she was. She didn't make any movement, just continued to watch the girl who sat on a bench before her. For the longest time, or so it seemed, she didn't move. Didn't do anything to acknowledge that Ino was there. That she just said her name. Then, finally, she tore her gaze from the ground, rather reluctantly, Ino noted.
"Hey, Ino," she greeted, never quite lifting her head in order to regard her friend. Ino tried to read more into the obvious mood of the girl before her, but she figured she might as well sit down as well. She didn't know why she was here, to begin with. Other than to talk.
Silence hung between the two, neither one actually speaking. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Ino focused on something on the ground, before she sighed. She didn't know what to say. She didn't know how to approach the subject. She was almost relieved to find she didn't have to.
"Are you waiting for word on Sasuke-kun, too, Ino?"
Emphasis on "almost". "Yes, and no." Her answer is honest. Ino was never one to lie. Exaggerate, yes. She did that often. But never outright lie. "I'm just here because we've got something in common. We can't be bothered by being rivals." We should be friends.
She wasn't expecting Sakura's weary eyes to narrow at her in temper. "What do you mean 'we have something in common'?"
There was a blink, and then Ino frowned. "For someone who had the top academic scores in our class, you sure are dense." Well, if someone else actually was motivated, Sakura wouldn't have that title. Ino leaned against the back of the bench and sighed. "You're just not worried about Sasuke. Naruto's going after him." She pauses, "My team went with him."
Apparently, the worried tone in Ino's voice did not go unnoticed by Sakura. "I know what you're thinking, Ino-pig." Ino suddenly regretted this entire mess. She did nothing but set herself up for a convenient target for Sakura to rant against. And here she was trying to be nice... "Everyone's blaming Sasuke for turning traitor," Well, not everyone, but speculation was running around, as rumor got out. As for Ino, herself, it didn't take her very long to get a rough idea of the nature of the mission from her teammates' parents.
"I never said that, Sakura." Keep your voice calm, Ino.
For a moment, Sakura seemed pacified. "He's just being manipulated...that's all. That's gotta be it. He wouldn't have done this otherwise." She looked up, and saw Ino's expression, which wasn't exactly supportive of the statement. "What? You don't believe me?"
"He's going to be blamed if anyone dies on that mission."
She was aware of the wide-eyed look Sakura gave her, but she wasn't going to be moved in her statement. It was true. She just closed her eyes, her temper already rising to meet whatever words Sakura was going to throw at her.
"What do you know?!" Sakura practically shrieked at her. Even Ino's cold gaze didn't stop her. "You don't understand him at all, do you? You never took the time to get to know him or anything!" She growled, and then looked forward. "I don't know what you're talking about. You can't even begin to know how I feel right now."
"Sakura...." Ino didn't know why what she said annoyed her. It wasn't the understanding part. Or getting to know him. It was something about not knowing how she feels. She wanted to go on a tirade. She wanted to yell and scream, anything at all. However, when she saw Sakura turn to glare at her, after calling her name, her response was as automatic as it was unexpected. Her hand moved out of it's own accord, and smacked the other kunoichi soundly across the cheek.
Again, there was that silence. This time, instead of being awkward, it was charged with both anger and shock. Ino couldn't believe she did that, but she wasn't about to take it back. Maybe it's what Sakura needed. Ino regarded the wide eyed expression of her friend, and she lowered her hand. "Don't ever accuse me of that again, Sakura. In case you forgot, while your Sasuke-kun is running to possibly the village's worst threat, both of my teammates are out there after him." She frowns, "You remember them, don't you? The lazy ass and the fatty?" She hated using those terms, but she knew Sakura used those terms at times, a feeling she had confirmed when Sakura turned her head away from Ino, a hand still resting against her still stinging cheek.
"But...it isn't Sasuke's fault," Sakura tried to protest.
"What about Naruto? Naruto's going after him. Aren't you worried about him?"
"Of course I am!" Sakura sighed, and closes her eyes. "Don't make me choose, Ino... It isn't fair."
Ino paused, and then glanced to the sky. Clouds moved across a deceptively calm blue sky. She had a feeling a storm was waiting just over the horizon. The clouds were what she focused on, though. For a moment, it felt like her chest constricted. "What will you do if something happens and Naruto is seriously harmed? Killed, even?"
Sakura's eyes squeezed shut. She knew what Ino was getting at. "I-I don't know, Ino-chan. Naruto... he's a really good friend but..."
"You love Sasuke." It was a statement. Ino's eyes never once left the clouds. "If anything happens to Shikamaru... or Chouji," her voice was filled with more conviction than ever, "I will never... ever... forgive him." She didn't need to emphasize who "him" was.
"Ino!" Sakura whirled on her friend, but she reined in any scathing remarks, the stinging on her cheek still there to remind her the last time she said something that was apparently the wrong thing to say. "You can't say that... It's not his--"
Ino cut her off, one of those looks that she was known for when her temper was being held in check by a forced calm focused on her, "Can you tell me that he wouldn't have gone, even without whatever 'manipulation' you're talking about? Are you absolutely sure that Sasuke wouldn't have gone under promise of more power? You know he wants to get even for his clan's massacre. Can you tell me, with any certainty, that he wouldn't have gone willingly?"
Sakura was silent... not really having an answer. Especially not with Ino saying she had to be certain of that fact.
Ino broke the silence again. "That is why I won't forgive him if my precious people don't come back."