Disclaimer: Did you really think it would have changed since the last time? I don't own Naruto.
"They all say they're gonna be there, until they get their 'real' family." – Janice, Friends
Friends with Benefits
A few days earlier--
There was a light tapping at the doors to her office, and Tsunade called out a distracted, "Come in," as she sifted through the towering stack of papers on her desk. The door opened slowly and a moment later she heard it click shut softly.
"You wanted to see me?"
Tsunade looked up finally at the emotionless voice and regarded the man in front of her with wide eyes. He was drenched from the rain, like he'd just walked walk all the way there without bothering to be quick about it or stay under the relative cover of the shop awnings. His golden hair seemed to have lost its shine as it hung limply in front of his eyes, droplets of water clinging precariously to the ends. "Naruto? What's wrong?" she asked concernedly, motioning him toward a chair.
Naruto sank into the chair, his head falling forward to rest against the palms of his hands. "…Ino…she's pregnant…"
Tsunade's golden eyes widened again in surprise. She cleared her throat and began uncertainly, "Well then. I suppose…congratulations are in order? Though you may want to at least pretend to be engaged before you tell her parents…"
Naruto raised his gaze from the floor to glance at her with narrowed eyes, a hint of his usual spark present before it was quickly extinguished. "I don't think I'll have to worry about that. She said she's considering an abortion…" he mumbled in a broken tone.
Tsunade stared sadly at the dejected young man sitting before her that she had come to think of as a much younger brother. She'd known about his relations with Ino almost as soon as they'd begun, and she'd expressed her displeasure at the kind of relationship where everything was physical. Jiraiya, of course, had supported the idea wholeheartedly. Tsunade had known, though, that in that kind of situation, no matter what he told himself in the beginning, Naruto would end up with feelings for her other than what Ino was looking for.
And, just as she'd predicted, not three months later he'd come to her and confessed that he'd fallen for Ino. It just wasn't possible for Naruto to spend so much time with someone, especially in such intimate proximity, and not become attached. He craved attention and affection, and he was far too trusting. It was just his nature. Thankfully, Sakura had mentioned that Ino had been starting to develop similar feelings for Naruto, though she seemed to be denying them almost effortlessly as far as Tsunade could tell.
Their relationship was already complicated enough. And now Ino was pregnant, befuddling things even more. If Ino had an abortion now, how would Naruto take it exactly? It might just be too much for him.
Naruto inhaled deeply in an attempt to collect himself and sat up straight in his chair. "You wanted to talk to me about something?" he asked pointedly.
Tsunade sighed. "Yes, and who knows? Maybe it'll cheer you up." Naruto raised an eyebrow questioningly, but Tsunade could tell that he wasn't nearly as interested as he normally would have been. "I have a meeting with the Elders coming up," she continued, "And they've been pressuring me to nominate a candidate for Rokudaime so that whomever I choose can start learning the ropes and be prepared to take over for me when I decide to step down. I just thought I'd inform you that I'm putting you name forward."
Naruto gaped at her, and Tsunade was glad to note that her news seemed to have banished his depressing thoughts for the time being. "M-Me!? Rokudaime?"
"I didn't stutter, did I?" Tsunade returned.
"But—I mean—me?—are you sure?" he asked uncertainly.
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Do you really think I could do it, though? Do you think I'm ready?"
Tsunade frowned. "Why the sudden lack of faith in yourself, brat?"
"Sorry, today's just been…overwhelming," he muttered. "I feel like I totally screwed things up between me and Ino. I just, you know, want to think before I act so I don't mess anything else up."
Tsunade nodded in understanding and said delicately, "Well, ultimately, it is Ino's decision whether or not to have the abortion, but it's not set in stone or anything, right? Take some time off, clear your head, then sit down with her and talk everything out. And maybe mull over the whole Rokudaime bit while you're at it."
Naruto looked away sheepishly, but nodded.
"It's not like I'm going to step down tomorrow," she added in a reassuring tone. "I'm just naming you the official Rokudaime-to-be. We'll make sure you're perfectly capable of fulfilling the role before I hand over the robes. Which reminds me, you might also want to consider taking on a genin team."
Naruto quirked a small smile before standing up. "Thank you," he said sincerely.
Tsunade dipped her head back down to start sorting though more papers in order to hide her own smile. "Yeah, yeah. Now get out of my office, brat. And don't worry about things with Ino. You'll sort it out somehow. Luck is always on your side, ne?"
Ino plopped down in the middle of a field of flowers, regarding all the colorful petals surrounding her enviously. "You flowers have it so easy. All you have to do is stay rooted there, photosynthesizing and looking pretty. You don't have to worry about falling for an idiot that knocked you up and then totally shattered your heart," she complained.
She pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her head against her thighs. "How the hell did this happen anyway? Naruto was just supposed to be someone to have some fun with. My heart shouldn't feel like it's been ripped in two just 'cause I saw him on a date with another girl. We're friends…with benefits. He can date whoever he wants. I don't care."
"I love you, Ino."
Those four words flashed across her mind for the thousandth time and she felt tears building in her eyes. That was what confused her most about all this. Why had Naruto said that? Had he really meant it? Was it just one of those heat-of-the-moment things? Why did her heart beat so erratically every time she relived that moment?
Ino lifted her head, propping her chin on her knees as she watched the wind rustle the leaves of the bordering trees and sway the flowers to and fro in a mocking air of carelessness. "You know, when it all started, that first time we kissed, I promised myself that it would all just be physical, a way to relieve some sexual frustrations. But, in spite of how much I told myself to only get involved physically, I still somehow managed to fall for him," Ino confessed with a sad smile. She let out a brief, bitter laugh. "I couldn't help it. Baka-Naruto. It's all his fault."
Naruto stood at the edge of the flower field, shifting his weight from foot-to-foot nervously. Now that he'd actually found Ino, his resolve to spill everything was wavering. She was crouched down in the middle of the meadow, fingering the petals of a purple flower delicately. Her bangs were hanging in front of her face, effectively blocking her face from Naruto's view, but he knew Ino well enough now to know that she was upset and on the verge of tears.
When he realized this, he forgot about all of the things he was supposed to say and started towards her with no other intention in mind besides keeping her from crying and making her smile. She ignored his presence until he was standing right beside her, and still she only glanced in his direction.
"Ino…" He tried to think of something to say to comfort her, but nothing sounded right in his head.
"I came out here so that I could have some time alone to think," she muttered. Naruto just stood there.
"About the abortion?" he asked a moment later, recalling what he'd come to talk to her about. Ino quickly stood and brushed the dirt off of the back of her skirt, her back turned to him. "Are you really going to go through with it? 'Cause if the reason you decided to have an abortion was 'cause you're scared to raise it by yourself, you don't have to worry about that. Honestly, I don't know much about babies, but I'll find some books on it or something, and I'll do whatever you want me to do. I'll go out in the middle of the night to get you ice cream and hot sauce if you get a craving for it. Hell, I'll get Chouji to teach me how to cook, then I'll make you anything you want. You won't have to do it alone. I'll help you with everything…if you want," he proclaimed incessantly to her back.
"They all say they're gonna be there, until they get their 'real' family…" Ino mumbled without turning around to look at him.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Naruto asked, his brows knitting in confusion. Ino shook her head and then started walking away. "Hey!" Naruto shouted after her, while he jogged up behind her and reached out for her arm desperately to stop her.
"Just drop it, will you?" she snapped.
Naruto let go of her arm as a frown marred his features and his hands clenched at his sides. "Is this something to do with that perfect couple crap?" he demanded.
Ino glanced back at him over her shoulder. "What the hell are you on about?" she asked irately.
"You! And the confusing shit you say!" Naruto growled. "All that "Congrats! You two are perfect!" crap you were spewing before. Hinata's nothing like my perfect person, you dumbass!"
"Then who the hell is!?" she spat back at him, rounding on him with her eyes narrowed dangerously.
"Why do you care!?"
With that said, Ino turned to continue stomping off and Naruto began shouting indignantly at her retreating form. "My perfect person is a total bitch, always yelling and arguing with me over really stupid shit! And she's totally stubborn and a spoiled brat! And when she doesn't get what she wants from me, she uses this cheap jutsu to force my body into submission, which would actually make for some hot sex but—"
Ino whirled around on him again. "I can't believe you have the audacity to go around causing Kakashi-sensei and Jiraiya-sama perverts when you're just as bad as they are," she interjected with her fists resting on her hips agitatedly.
"And she never fails to tell me when I'm being a pervert," Naruto continued without missing a beat, "Though that makes her a total hypocrite 'cause we both know she was thinking the exact same thing."
"That may be true, but I'm none of those other things," Ino argued.
"Well, then who says I was talking about you?" Naruto shot back childishly.
Ino raised an eyebrow, "Oh? I never thought of Forehead as the kinky type."
"Me neither," Naruto admitted, having been successfully derailed from his previous train of thought. "You think she'd be up for a threesome?" he added contemplatively, which quickly earned him a hard punch to the gut.
"If you're done being a pervert, I'll just be leaving," she deadpanned as she turned back around.
"Wait! I'm not done yet!" Naruto ran around so that he was in front of her, effectively blocking her progress from the field.
"You have more perverted dribble?" she asked scathingly.
"No! Well, maybe… I'm not done saying what I came to say!" Naruto replied.
"Then say it already!" Ino bit out.
"I can't just say it, though."
"It's one of those things where you have to wait for the perfect moment," Naruto tried to explain.
Ino stood waiting for him to continue, tapping her foot impatiently. "I don't have all day, you know."
"Gah!" Naruto exploded, "You're totally ruining the ambiance!"
"What the hell are you talking about!?"
"The mood! You're totally screwing it up! The perfect moment could have been ten seconds ago, but you had to go and make it an unperfect moment!"
"Will you just spit it out already!?" Ino growled.
"Does this seem like a perfect moment to you!?" Naruto demanded in reply.
Naruto looked like he was about to pull his hair out in frustration as he yelled, "I love you, dammit!"
The shocked silence that followed his confession grew more and more uncomfortable steadily as Ino gaped at him. "Don't feel like you have to respond or anything," he muttered sheepishly, looking to the side.
"I—I—" Ino stuttered. I know. And I--
"You really don't have to say anything," Naruto cut in with a reassuring smile. "Relax. I just…needed to tell you. And I wanted to say, that I'll be here for you, no matter what."
Ino suddenly came crashing back down from floating in the clouds as the ridiculousness of his statement struck her. "No matter what?" she repeated incredulously. "What about missions? You can't just quit taking them to look after me and a baby. And then what if something happens to you on a mission? What'll I do then?"
"Nothing'll happen to me, I promise."
"Don't make promises that you can't keep!" Ino ordered.
"Besides," he continued, ignoring her interruption, "I've been thinking about taking on a genin team anyway. That would keep me around the village most of the time and away from the really dangerous missions…probably."
"But what about—"
"Stop with the technicalities, will you?" Naruto beseeched with a slight frown. "Everything will be fine. Trust me. And stop worrying about that 'real' family thing. Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to have a real, flesh and blood family. But I only want to have one if it's with you 'cause you're my perfect match. You're my only one, Ino."
Ino ducked her down as a blush crept up her cheeks. "If I have this baby," she began firmly, "no matter what—I don't care if you're in the middle of Snow Country, on the brink of death with no hope of making it back—you have to swear that you'll always come back. I can't do this alone."
"Cross my heart and hope to die."
Naruto laughed lightly. "I promise," he said with a wide, honest smile. And then he kissed her because the sun was setting just behind her and the light was making her glow ethereally and she was smiling beautifully and he just felt like he should because it just seemed like the perfect moment.
She didn't pull away. In fact, she leaned into him and kissed him just as passionately as he was kissing her and Naruto knew that that was the perfect moment where nothing else existed—there was just him and Ino and their baby, just him and his family.
"So what are we going to name it?" Naruto asked as they made there way back toward the village with his arm looped around Ino's waist. "I've always been partial to Ramen."
Ino punched his shoulder not-so-lightly. "That's not a name, baka."
"It can be if I say so," he retorted and stuck his tongue out at her childishly.
Ino shook her head exasperatedly and looked forward toward the bright lights that were being lit along the streets as the sun continued to set. "Naruto?" she asked softly, still looking straight ahead.
"I love you too, just so you know," she confessed, glancing at him out of the corner of her eyes with a teasing smile. The next thing she knew, she was pinned against a nearby tree and Naruto was kissing her in that way that she absolutely loved—that way that made her knees turn to jelly and her mind go completely blank and her heart pound against her ribcage painfully.
They pulled apart for a breather and Ino found herself wondering if they were ever going to make it back into the village at this rate but not really caring anyway because the cloud of confusion that had been muddling her head since she found out she was pregnant and all her doubts were finally gone. She knew what she was going to do now. She was going to have this baby and start a family with Naruto. And she finally knew what she and Naruto were. They were in love. And as far as she was concerned, that was the best label in the world.
I had no choice but to hear you
You stated your case time and again
I thought about it
Your love is thick and it swallowed me whole
You're so much braver than I gave you credit for
That's not lip service
You're the best listener that I've ever met
You're my best friend
Best friend with benefits
What took me so long
I've never felt this healthy before
I've never wanted something rational
I am aware now
I am aware now
You've already won me over in spite of me
And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault
-selected lyrics from "Head Over Feet" by Alanis Morisette
A/N: Hmm…it got awfully sappy there at the end. –cringes- I can't believe I actually wrote all that. Someone shoot me now, please. Anyway, yeah, that's the end. But then again, not really. This is like the fic that never ends, as it seems. I just keep getting more and more ideas for what to write, so…once this fic has accumulated…say, 50 more reviews, I'll start posting a sequel. So, if you would like to see a sequel, review! And if you have any ideas or requests for what should happen with Naruto and Ino, please share! Well, that's about it.