A Flower That Never Wilts
Summary: Ino is feeling down. With her parents gone and all her girl friends having found themselves a guy, Ino is getting lonely. Sitting alone in her flower shop while going on missions seems to be the way her life has set out. That is until an unsuspected meeting with the former, psychotic Kazekage changes her life forever. Gaaino or Inogaa.
AN: Just edited some errors I saw on the original piece. Will be uploading Chapter two within a few hours.
It was raining again.
Well. It was more like a downpour. One could barely see two feet in front of themselves the rain was so heavy.
She would later notice how the rain seemed to dampen business. Still she kept the shop open. Why? Maybe because when her parents left, they gave the shop to her. Like it was her civic duty to keep it open and running for them.
With a sigh, her blue eyes traveled over the little flower shop. Too much water can drown a flower, yet in her shop they still thrived. Roses, lily's, baby's breathe… all the flowers you can get in fire country set out on display before her eyes.
Ino looked miserably out the front window. Who was going to buy flowers in this weather? ' Why do I keep this up? Its not like I'm any good at running a business.'
Ino had learned that she was a pretty terrible businesswoman after she had acquired the shop. All she wanted to be was a ninja, but this was her parent's shop she was talking about. The flower shop had been owned and run by Yamanaka's for generations. Ino sighed. It was times like these that made Ino wish she wasn't an only child.
Maybe that was her problem. She just didn't care. Maybe that's why she worked alone. She never was nice to employees; they usually quite after a month. This left her to run the shop all by herself.
Yet another problem; she ran the shop herself. She had no time to get with friends anymore unless it was on a mission. And then, when she had that extra time after the mission, just wanting to hang with her girlfriends; Sakura, Hinata, and Ten Ten, they all had boyfriends to get home to. It was annoying to say the least.
Everyone she knew had someone, and she was left all alone.
Ino's eyes continued there journey around her shop before falling on a small clock placed on the counter.
"It's only 6:00" Ino sighed to herself. It was still an hour until the shop officially closed.
Looking back outside, Ino wondered if she should just close up early for today. It was obvious nobody was going to be coming in. There was a storm raging outside for Hokage's sake. Nodding to herself, Ino jumped from her stool behind the counter.
Straightening her violet skirt, Ino walked to the front door. As she reached for the doorknob, Ino let her eyes wandered outside. It was dark out, the storm blocking what was suppose to be a waxing moon. Ino sighed again, from the darkened windows of her neighbors, it seemed that she would once again be the last shop to close on the block.
As Ino let her eyes skim over the deserted street, a flash of color caught her attention.
Ino blinked. 'What is that?' About ten feet off from her shop window, Ino could make out the crimson color, illuminated by the flower shops bright lights.
Placing her hand over the glass to block the glare, Ino peered out towards the red thing, curiosity gripping at her mind. Squinting her eyes, Ino tried to get a clear look at WHAT was outside her shop. Lightning flashed, illuminating the street. In that brief second, Ino's shinobi skills came to life, her eyes focusing on the object before her.
A red and black blob was what she could see through the thickness of the rain. As the light left the street, Ino thought about what she was to do. Anything could be out there, even a person.
"Oh god, I hope no one passed out while in the rain" Ino wondered out loud.
It was a possibility. There could be someone dying out in front of her right at that instant.
With that thought, Ino made up her mind and decided to go and check out the mysterious blob. Quickly checking her kunai pouch under her skirt, Ino pulled a blade out, just in case.
Wavering only for a moment, Ino threw open the door, running into the torrents of rain. Within the first few seconds out there, Ino felt her clothes already becoming soaked. With a small frown, she hurriedly ran to the red blob.
Getting closer, Ino could make out the formed of a rather large body. Red hair was now laying flat on the person's head, and it's black trench coat looked completely soaked. A large puddle was forming around the person, pruning its outstretched hand.
Quickly making her way to the body, Ino discovered something rather peculiar.
There was a thin layer of sand surrounding the body. Ino felt her heart speed up, thumping under her skin in foreboding. Inching her way towards the red head, Ino knelt down to check their pulse.
"Still alive. Good" She commented absentmindedly.
Grabbing the person by the arm, Ino tried to lift them up, but she didn't expect their great weight, causing her to become off balance, flipping the person over before dropping them back to the ground. Ino could distantly hear the rumble of thunder through the torrents of water as she ran her eyes up to the persons face. Her eyes widened and Ino jumped up. Staggering backwards, Ino felt her lungs constrict as she attempted to contain both her surprise and fear.
Coal covered eyes, pale skin, red hair, and the ghastly scar of 'love' on his forehead all lead up to one individual. Sabaku No Gaara: The Kazekage of Sand.
Catching her breath, Ino tried to rationalize why the Kazekage was passed out in the rain. Nothing came to mind. HE was the Damn Kazekage: feared leader, once possessed by Shukaka, psycho! What was he doing in the rain outside her shop?
Taking another glance at him, Ino felt her heart constrict, a different emotion coming into play.
What was she doing, just standing in the rain as "Gaara of the Desert" was dying in front of her.
Quickly making up her mind, Ino walked back over to the read head, reaching down to one of his arms as to pull him up.
For such a small guy, Ino now knew he was quite heavy.
"Must be all the fuckin' clothes this guy wears. Not to mention that he is completely soaked!" Ino mentally commented, a bit bitterly at that.
Leaning him onto her, Ino reached around his body to the strap that held up his metal chest plate. As Gaara's chin began to dig into her shoulder, and his body weight was bending her backwards, Ino frantically searched for the buckle. Finding it, Ino unfastened the buckle with the skill that only a ninja could have, and she pulled it lose, relishing in the loud clank that permeated the air as the metal plate crashed into the concrete road.
Ino was relieved to find that Gaara did become a bit lighter without his armor, and she was finally able to pull him onto her back.
Securely on her back, Ino begun her trek back to the shops open door. Her skin chafed and became sore as it rubbed against her wet clothing. Ino knew that she should have worn her ninja outfit today.
Making it through the front door, into the light, Ino fell flat onto the hard tile floor, her body smashed by Gaara's bigger one. Struggling for only a bit, Ino was able to slide herself from under the Kazekage, thankful to how easy it was to wrench her body out because of her wet clothes.
Picking herself up, Ino walked around Gaara to the front door. She had to slid the red head a bit further into the shop before being able to close the door. With her key still in the lock, Ino twisted it till she heard the click of the lock and popped it out before pocketing it.
With that done, Ino turned her back to the wall, slowly sliding down. What was she to do?
Her apartment was located a floor up above the flower shop. The only way to get there was by a long and twisting staircase. She would have to carry Gaara of the Desert and all his wet clothes up the stairs. 'Damn'.
"Hmm. Maybe I could take off that big trench coat he is wearing", Ino mumbled out loud.
It was a logical choice; being probably the biggest and heaviest piece of clothing the Kazekage happened to be wearing.
Crawling over to the red head, Ino proceeded to unbutton his long black jacket. It was harder than anticipated, and quite time consuming, being that he must have had around twenty, small gold buttons on the thing and that each were quite snug in there holes. Ino must have spent a good three minutes on the first button itself.
Looking up into Gaara's face, Ino could see him involuntarily shiver. "This isn't going to work", Ino concluded, becoming concerned as she saw him shake a bit more violently.
"Shit! What to do?" she mumbled, fingering the kunai she still held in her hand. Looking down, it was obvious.
Ino laid the point of the kunai at the top of the collar of Gaara's Jacket. Skillfully placing it at the stitch, Ino slowly brought the knife down Gaara's body, cutting easily through the tough cloth.
"You just have to find its weak point", Ino recited from a lecture Asuma had once said, so long ago. Ino was happy she was listening that day.
Ripping what was left of Gaara jacket from his body, Ino felt ready to carry him up.
Standing, she once again grabbed his arms, hoisting his body onto her back. With a forced smile, Ino walked to the stairs of the building.
It was an old spiral staircase, most probably built when Konoha was first formed. As she climbed the stairs, Ino found it a bit annoying that each step of her foot would cause a 'squeak' to wail from a board.
The higher she climbed, the more Ino began to fear that the staircase might not be able to hold their combined weight. She had always been the only one to have to climb the stairs in her family, since she used to live in a bigger house with her parents a few streets down. But, being the person she is, Ino always flew up the stairs, never really touching the boards with a lot of weight. Because of this, she never really noticed how rickety the stairs were, until now.
Halfway up the stairs, Ino felt the rumble of a groan before the sound hit her ear. Gaara seemed to be getting worse and Ino didn't want ANYTHING to happen while she was on this staircase. With a bit more energy, Ino pushed herself up the last few steps, ascending to her home.
Flinging open the door, the blonde kunoichi barreled through, dropping the red haired man from her back to the linonium flooring of her immediate walkway. Closing and locking the door, Ino wavered a moment before turning her gaze to the still passed out Kazekage on her floor.
He was now shaking violently, his hands balled up into tight fists.
Ino used her intuition, rationalizing that she had to get him out of those wet clothes before she did anything else. With his coat already taken off, all Ino had to do was peel off the black tee-shirt and pants he was wearing. The shirt came of easily, as did his shoes, and Ino found herself wondering what the ruler of Sand would be wearing under those black trousers of his.
"I wonder if he wears boxers or briefs" Ino pondered for a second, letting her hand waver over the zipper of his pants. Looking back up to his face, Ino decided that he looked like a boxers man.
Grabbing the hem of his pants, Ino pulled them down… and then promptly pulled them back up. Turning beet red, Ino ran out of the living room and down the hall to her own room. Stopping at the doorway, Ino found herself yelling in her head, "HE GOES COMMANDO! OH MY GOD!"
It was a possibility that she had never considered. "I guess it sort of makes sense, living in the desert and all", but still, who would have thought that Gaara of the Desert, leader of Sunagakure, went commando in public.
Fully calmed down, Ino peaked back over to her living room, seeing the shivering form of the Kazekage on her floor.
"What am I doing? I can't be acting like some wimpy teenage girl on her first date. Right now, the Kazekage needs me!" Ino mentally berated herself.
Running to her closet, Ino searched for a pair of boxers. For the last few years, Shikamaru had been leaving clothes at her house in case he needed to stay to hide from his girlfriend, Temari. That sand ninja had quite the temper, and was the only person to this day that could trigger such fear from Shika with a simple word.
Coming up with nothing, Ino found herself becoming frustrated. What was she to do?
Thinking quickly, Ino ran to her small hallway closet, grabbing an extra blanket. With cloth in hand, Ino then ran back to Gaara.
Her nervousness gone, Ino once again pulled the Kazekage's pants down from the hem. Throwing them off to the side, Ino drew the blanket back over Gaara, rolling him up tight in the fluffy mass.
With his wet clothes gone, Ino picked the red head up, finding him to be much lighter without his heavy, wet clothes. Setting him down on the couch, Ino found herself at a lost. Pacing about her living room, Ino wondered out loud what she was to do.
"What to do? What to do? Erg! I'm not a medic! …Wait a second! SAKURA! I can call her up and tell her to take care of him!"
Running to her phone, Ino quickly dialed up her pink haired friends number.
"Bring… Bring… Hello?"
"Hi! Sak-", Ino couldn't finish her sentence.
As the light flickered off, Ino found herself staring out into the darkness, phone in hand and knee's shaking.
Slamming the now dead phone down, Ino missed the receiver and let the phone crash to the floor. Ino threw herself onto the couch, depression starting to sink in again.
"I knew there was something I hated about thunder storms", Ino absently thought as she stared out the window. "What is a girl to do?"
Feeling a vibration to her left, Ino turned her head, to see the shivering form of Gaara.
"Ah! What am I doing? The Kazekage is sick and I'm moping!"
Wringing the material of her skirt, Ino thought for a second. "I should probably move him to my room. It's usually warmer in there", Ino rationalized.
Pushing herself up and off the couch, Ino looked down the hall to her room to find it pitch black. "I guess I should find some light first" Ino murmured.
Furrowing her brow, Ino walked to her kitchen. There, she felt her way around, on the walls of the room. Reaching the counter, Ino realized that she had placed any and all sources of light, made especially for these emergencies, in the cupboard farthest away from the door, by the fridge and under the counter.
"Why is it that I suck so much at organizing", Ino angrily whispered to herself. She really had to rearrange her house when this was all over.
Reaching the cupboard by her fridge, Ino bent down, retrieving some candles and matches her parents had given her when she moved out, and into her own place. "Good thing I never threw these out", Ino commented as she pulled out two lavender candles and a box of wood matches.
Lighting two candles, Ino ran from the Kitchen, placing one on the coffee table in front of the couch and another down the hall, by her bedroom door. Running back to the living room, Ino leaned onto the couch arm, staring at the shivering man on her couch.
Taking the time to look at him, Ino felt her heart constricted with compassion.
"He probably never had to deal with such cold weather", Ino idly thought. It was true to her knowledge though. From what she heard, the Kazekage had only ever visited Konoha from late spring to early fall. She had never once seen him during the colder, winter months. It was the start of true winter in Konoha now and Ino wondered if he had known that.
With enough of a rest, Ino took one last look at the red head, before picking him up and placing him on her back. Down the hall they staggered, Ino growing tired from this strange little excursion.
Ino had never really needed to carry people during her missions as a ninja. That was usually Chouji's job, now that she thought of it. Maybe she should have trained her body a bit more on the physical side.
Finally at the doorway to her room, Ino struggled through, her legs now screaming at her for not training enough. Making her way to the back of her room, and to her futon, Ino was able to drop Gaara down before collapsing to the floor.
"Man! I'm going to have to train with Sakura more often" Ino angrily muttered, pushing herself back up. Panting, Ino staggered towards the futon, looking down at Gaara. With a small smile, Ino fell to her knees, reaching over the futon towards the red haired Kazekage. Tugging at the covers on her bed, Ino pulled them from under Gaara and proceeded to tuck the red head in.
Pulling back, Ino took a second to gaze at Gaara. He was still shivering.
A frown formed on her face as she realized that the move to her room had done nothing to improve Gaara's health. Reaching over, Ino placed her hand on Gaara's forehead, only to roughly pull it back. He was ice cold, like a dead body, and Ino started to freak.
Jumping up, Ino panicked. "WHAT DO I DO!" she yelled to herself, pacing back and forth. God! The Kazekage could not die here.
Images began to form before Ino's eyes as she panicked. Temari and Kankuro's anger when they found out that she, in a way, had killed their little brother. Naruto, Sakura, Shikamaru, hell, even the Hokage, Tsunade herself, and their shame and disappointment all flowed into Ino's head. Depression from the loss of a dear friend was evident in their eyes.
The papers reading, "Kazekage Found Dead at the Yamanaka Flower Shop: Investigation Under Way".
"ARRGG!" Ino yelled, pulling at her hair. In the middle of her breakdown, a small sound brought Ino back to the realm of the living.
Turning to face her futon, Ino once again saw the pain-ridden face of the Kazekage as he shivered in her bed. It was the type of image that cause Ino to pause midway through her terror filled panic-attack.
Taking a deep calming breath, Ino tried to think of the best solution to her problem. Gaara was ice cold and violently shivering. What was a good way to heat someone up?
Thinking back to another lecture Asuma-sensei had said long ago, Ino tried to remember what she did when there was no outer heat source to warm someone up.
"Let see. Since he isn't generating enough heat himself, and the power is out, and I can't create a fire in my own house, that leaves… HELL NO!", Ino yelled, a bit of panic still in her system.
The only way she could remember to warm someone up was… the body heat of another. Looking back down to the shivering Kazekage, Ino was torn. "DAMN!", she yelled. Ino was pissed off if she ever was. Let just say that if she believed in fate, she would have given it the finger right about now.
Staring back down at Gaara, sick and needy, Ino reluctantly gave in. Slowly, she began to strip. Stopping at her undergarments, Ino mumble something about not needing to get indecent before leaning down onto the futon. Slowly, Ino slipped under the covers and towards the passed out red head.
He was cold, but that was to be expected. Knowing that he needed heat, Ino pushed herself up close to Gaara, Goosebumps rising on her skin from contact with his cold skin. She almost forgot he was naked under there, but the thought that he could get to sick if she didnt help was what kept Ino close to him, making sure that he got the heat he needed.
As the night continued on, Ino felt Gaara's shivering recede . It was comforting, as he began to heat up, no longer the living ice pop, but still a way to go until he became of the normal human temperature.
Cuddling up to the unconscious red head, Ino felt her eyelids begin to close. Stifling a yawn, Ino subconsciously clutched onto Gaara, closing her eyes as she let the dark veil of sleep cover her.