Takes place after the Sasuke retrieval mission, in the three months before Naruto leaves on his training mission with Jiraiya.
Chapter 1: Good Intentions
"Speech" - talking.
"Speech" - Naruto's thoughts.
"Speech" - Ino's thoughts.
"Speech" - Kyuubi talking.
"C'mon forehead girl, cheer up!"
The remaining members of Team 7 and most of team 10 were gathered at the Ichiraku Ramen stand, Naruto's idea to boost Sakura's spirits, for the pink-haired girl had fallen into a funk ever since the failed mission to retrieve Sasuke. Chouji and Naruto were having an eating contest after getting released from the hospital that morning, while Sakura and Ino watched their teammates make fools of themselves, Naruto's favored tactic for bring a smile to his friend's face. It worked on Ino at least. Shikamaru hadn't yet returned from yet another Chunin mission, so this sufficed as entertainment when she didn't have him to order around. While Chouji's appetite tended to piss Ino off, she couldn't help but giggle in amazement at the sight of Naruto easily outpacing the fatass. Team 7 was still better it seemed, though she'd never admit it to Sakura.
"I'm ok, Ino-pig. Thanks for trying though."
"Ahhh, I win! Don't worry, Sakura-chan, I'll keep my promise, that's my Ninja way!" mumbled Naruto through the last mouthful of Ramen. Even Sakura couldn't help but smile for a second before smacking him off his stool.
'On the ground, in pain, but mission accomplished and I won,' Naruto thought to himself, a black eye starting to stand out on his face.
"Use a napkin at least, idiot," Sakura scolded.
"Sakura, have you ever stopped to consider all those blows to the head are why he's such a moron?" inquired Ino.
Sakura stuck her tongue out in retort, while Ino helped Naruto back on his feet, still wondering to herself why Sakura's violence was always directed to the loudmouth. Sure he may be obnoxious, have horrible fashion sense, (though orange was secretly her favorite color), but he was honest with his feelings, which was more than she could say for Sasuke. Her opinion of the Uchiha had since fallen drastically since the news that he had betrayed his home and tried to kill his own teammate. She had been a smart enough girl to move on after that, since most of the energy she devoted to being a Sasuke fan girl had been for the benefit of getting Sakura out of her shell in the first place, and she constantly regretted how they thrown away their friendship over a boy, especially one like Sasuke. He had long since bored Ino, despite his movie star good looks, and with the most recent events, she wouldn't trust him to be alone with her in the same room ever again. Naruto, on the other hand, continued to impress her ever since the Chunin Finals, and she had heard rumors from Asuma-sensei and Sakura that Naruto had apparently taken a Chidori to the lung during the retrieval mission and healed before even returning, which amazed her all the more. Not that she'd show it or anything, she had a reputation to uphold.
"Sakura-chan, why don't we go train? It always cheers me up," quipped Naruto, once the swelling had gone down, breaking Ino out of her musing.
"Yeah forehead girl, we haven't sparred in a long while, I might just take you down this time..." taunted Ino, knowing just what buttons to push.
"You're on, Ino-pig!" Sakura spat, her misery quickly giving way to killer intent.
"Ino, I just ate!" complained Chouji.
"We win, and you get free barb-" Ino was cut short as Chouji grabbed her by the arm and started down to the memorial training grounds, with Sakura and Naruto in hot pursuit.
An hour later, both Kuniochis were locked in a dead heat, catching each others punches, with no sign of an advantage on either side, while Naruto managed to out pace Chouji.
Naruto's tactic as always was to use Kage Bunshin and lead Chouji around till he exhausted himself. Once again he wondered why the Hokage considered his most useful technique forbidden, since it was dead useful, especially with his formidable chakra reserves. Even so, he could feel himself starting to move more sluggishly, a sure sign of depletion after so many clones. Chouji however seemed to have increased his stamina as well since the exams, and the recent ramen had been a boost to his energies. If this fight kept up, Naruto might have to call on Kyuubi to replenish his power, something he didn't often do unless lives were on the line. Chouji had noticed his low energy too, and performed a Meat Tank hoping to run Naruto down and claim victory over the former dead last, not to mention impress Ino.
It worked, up to a point.
Naruto realized just how dangerous a rolling fatso can be, and in his panic at just how fast Chouji was closing, he can be excused from rational thought for the moment. One memory surfaced at that moment, how Kyuubi's powers enabled him to do a Rasengan one handed against Sasuke, and since Naruto needed the extra time to carry out the inklings of an idea, he decided to give it a try.
"Hey Fur ball, lend me your power for a sec!"
"The fat human looks tasty. By all means whelp, I could use something besides all that damn ramen you guzzle!"
Naruto could hear the demon's chuckles even as its power began to flow through and around him. Forming a crimson Rasengan in the shortest time yet, he sprung into action and drove his hand and the miniature typhoon into the ground, hoping the explosion would knock Chouji away and cancel his jutsu.
Ino had just about used up all of her chakra to no avail defending against Sakura's strikes, thankful the girl hadn't yet developed her new sensei's strength. She had just enough energy to perform a single Shintenshin, though at the moment she had no idea what she could do with it, except get Sakura to bang her head against the tree and knock herself out maybe. She just hoped it worked this time, since Sakura seemed unable to break free last time without Naruto's urging, and she had no intention of meeting whatever that thing in the pink haired girl's head anytime soon. However at the precise moment she finished her hand seals, an explosion seemed to send Chouji barreling into Sakura, knocking her over. Ino looked in horror to see she had a direct line of sight with...Naruto, who had red tendrils of wispy chakra surrounding him. That looked familiar…
'Yay, it worked,' was the last thing that went through Naruto's mind the moment he heard, "Ninpou: Shintenshin no Jutsu!" and saw Ino look right at him with wide eyes before slumping to the ground, and his vision went blurry, then red, then loud rumbling and finally darkness.
"Wake up, Naruto!"
"Ow, my head, don't shout so loud."
Naruto was no stranger to pain, and his head felt stuffed with cotton. He opened his eyes to bright light, but surprisingly, the owner of the voice didn't appear to be present. He looked up.
"The hospital again, how'd I get here?"
He slowly turned to the side, and as his eyes fell upon the motionless figure of Yamanaka Ino lying in the next bed over, the memories of the previous fight slowly came back.
He looked down to see Sakura blinking away sleep from her chair between the beds, her eyes slightly bloodshot as though he woke her up from her only rest in days.
She looked frazzled, as though she spent the night in a tumble dryer.
"Of course I am, didn't you shout at me to wake up?" he asked.
"No, I was dozing here, I've been worried about you two since the explosion."
"Yes, at the end of the sparring match Ino used a mind switch jutsu meant for me, I think it hit you, then chakra exploded around you and the shockwave knocked us all. Chouji and I came to soon after, but you both have been out since yesterday. Tsunade-sama says there doesn't seem to be anything wrong though with either of you, except Ino doesn't have any brain activity, as though she's still using her jutsu, except she's not using any chakra." Sakura explained, tears starting to form in her eyes as she turned to look at her former best friend.
'So she's not hurt, yet in a coma,' Naruto thought to himself.
"No shit. I'm also freaked out here. " He heard that voice again. It sounded familiar.
'Kyuubi?' Naruto asked inwardly.
"Huh? Kyuubi? Wasn't that killed years ago?" It certainly echoed in his head like Kyuubi's voice normally did, except it didn't sound like the demon.
Naruto was puzzled. He certainly didn't see anyone else talking to him, and no one was in the room, except Sakura, who was staring at him with a bewildered look and...
'Oh crap. Ino!'
Genius he was not, but even Naruto could put two and two together.
"About time you figured it out," rang the haughty voice of the other blond, rather loudly.
'How'd you get in there?'
"Forehead girl just explained, whisker face. She was knocked out of the way at the last second, and my Shintenshin hit you by mistake," Ino explained.
"I got that much, but why haven't you gone back to your body?"
"Beats me, I'm just trying not to panic." accompanied by what felt like a worried shrug.
"I believe I know. Whelps, deal with the pink haired female, and then come to me." came the demon's voice, although Naruto still preferred Ino's, shrill as it was.
'Now that was Kyuubi.'
"He sounds grumpy. Wait, why in Kami's name is there a demon in your head Naruto!" inquired Ino, her voice getting shriller by the second.
'I think he's upset that he didn't get to eat Chouji.' explained Naruto, a bit disoriented carrying on multiple conversations in his head now,whichwasringing again with her shrieking.
"I don't know where you get your ideas from... You should tell Sakura something though. I want answers, but she needs reassuring first. Don't mention that I'm in here until we know what's going on."
"She'll be ok, Sakura-chan," turning his attention back to his teammate," If you get us a bowl of Ramen, Ill have an explanation, I think."
She gave him a strange look for a split second before accepting.
"Hai. You must be really hungry, Ill try and sneak some by the nurses." she excused herself and left. Once she was out the door she wondered to herself.
Like it? Hate it? Too bad, its my first one. Before you argue in favor of it being NaruHina, be warned I'm into odd pairings, and this one's planned as a NaruIno, whether romance or just friendship I haven't decided yet. And no Shonen-ai!