A/N. Oi! I know I'm probably going to get a lot of flames for this, but hey! It's not like I care. :)
Eh, I know not a lot of people like Sasuke/Ino. I didn't really approve of it either, but after reading one fanfic about that pairing, I started liking it! xD
I don't know...I think this pairing is cute because they know what it's like to lose someone they love. I guess they could be able to understand each other...or something like that. Don't pay me any attention! x3
Okay, anyway, the beginning is when they were younger. In the end, they're older. Okay, I know it's obvious, but just making sure. xD
Anyways, I know a lot of people are going to flame and say "Ino/Sasu! It's supposed to be Saku/Sasu! EW! YOU SUCK!" Like I care...
But still, read through and give a review. I'll accept anything but flames, so read, review, and enjoy. x333
Yamanaka Ino used to be surrounded by many girls and boys who admired her. But now, those girls and boys no longer followed her around anymore. But she was never alone because she was always in the company of a girl with large eyes of emerald green and short hair that was painted with the color of cherry blossoms. And that was precisely her name. Sakura. Haruno Sakura.
That was before their friendship ended.
Their friendship started when Ino found Sakura crying all by herself one day. Uchiha Sasuke could always remember that day...
He had been passing by that day, but the instant he spotted those two girls, he hid from view with the fear that they were his fangirls, but his curiousity and interest kept him rooted to the spot so he could watch them closely.
He had recognized both of them immediately. Haruno Sakura was constantly teased because of her rather large forehead, and could always be found crying by herself somewhere. Yamanaka Ino, on the other hand, was extremely popular and admired, and was always happy, for she was always in the company of at least one person or so.
Sakura was sitting on the ground, burying her face in her arms and sobbing her heart out. Ino was squatting before the crying girl, inspecting her intently.
"...Hey, aren't you the one everyone teases about because of your big forehead?" Ino asked. Sasuke frowned, expecting her to smirk smugly next and tease Sakura about her forehead. The jeers that people shot at Sakura bothered him. It wasn't that he liked Sakura, but he still thought Sakura was a person and should be respected. Sasuke was surprised to see sympathy in Ino's orbs of blue.
Sakura sniffled, looking up in surprise and confusion. "W-Who are you...?"Sakura inquired softly, a look of fear on her face, as if she thought Ino would taunt her about her forehead.
"Who, me?" Ino smiled a bit. "Oh, that's easy. My name is Yamanaka Ino. Who are you?"
Sakura didn't answer for a moment. Finally, she managed to speak up. "M-My name...is S-Sakura..." she stammered timidly.
"Huh? Hello, I can't hear you! Let's try that again. Who are you?"
Sakura's fists clenched slightly under her chin as she shut her eyes tightly and shouted loudly, "My name is Sakura!" The tears continued to stream down her face.
"That's better!" Suddenly, Ino poked her forehead gently with her finger. Sakura opened her eyes and stared at Ino in surprise and puzzlement. Ino smiled.
"So this is the famous forehead, huh?" Ino asked, continuing to press her finger against Sakura's forehead. "Whoa, it is really big! So is that why you hide it behind your bangs?"
Sakura remained silent, looking as if she were going to burst into tears again. Ino brushed the bangs off her forehead with a small smile.
"It just makes it worse. It makes you look like a sheepdog!" Ino continued in a kind voice. Sakura made a small sound, trying to stifle her tears as she trembled. Ino cocked her head, her eyes softening.
"So you're Sakura, huh?" Ino murmured thoughtfully.
"Uh-huh..." Sakura sniffled.
Ino removed her hand from Sakura's forehead and began to walk away. She turned around. "Hey, you know what? I've got something special for you. Come back here tomorrow, okay?"
"U-Uh...hm...?" Sakura looked up in shock. She watched Ino walk away hopefully, traces of sadness lingering in her green eyes.
Sasuke turned and walked away, telling himself that he would visit that very place the very next day.
He went there the next day and hid where he had the previous day. He had just come in time. Ino had just arrived, walking towards Sakura with a triumphant smile on her face. Sakura looked a bit doubtful and afraid, standing there with her hands clenched slightly under her chin.
Sasuke then noticed the long, dark red ribbon that hung loosely in Ino's fingers. His eyes slightly narrowed in surprise and puzzlement as he watched Ino expertly tie the ribbon into Sakura's hair in such a way that her bangs parted, exposing her forehead. Ino stepped back to admire her work.
"There! See? What an improvement!" Ino exclaimed. "You look a lot better! You can keep that ribbon."
"U-Uh...thanks...but..." Sakura hung her head and mumbled something.
"What?" Ino cocked her head, her hands on her hips as she gazed at Sakura through slightly squinted eyes.
"M-My...forehead..." Sakura managed to muster, sadness and embarassment evident in her small voice. Ino's smile faded, and her brow furrowed as she frowned deeply.
"Oh, come on!" Ino scolded, holding her finger up as she gazed irritatedly at Sakura, yet in a kind way. "I'm telling you, the more you try to hide it, the bigger deal you make of it!"
Sakura's eyes widened. "And your face isn't that bad!" Ino continued. "Actually, it's a pretty good face! You just gotta be more confident!"
Ino then took Sakura's hand and led her away. Sasuke, surprised at himself, followed. Ino and Sakura stopped in a playground, where two other kids were playing. The two looked at Ino and smiled.
"Hi, Ino!" one of them greeted cheerfully.
"Hey, who's she?" the other asked, staring at Sakura. Sakura averted her eyes and moved a bit closer to Ino, her cheeks tinted with pink from embrassment and shyness.
"This is Sakura," Ino introduced happily. She turned to Sakura quickly. "Come on, don't you want to say hello?" she whispered.
Sakura timidly retreated behind Ino, peeking out slightly with a shy smile. "U-Uh...hi..." she greeted softly. Ino smiled with pride and bliss, looking over her shoulder at Sakura.
Sasuke watched them talk for a while before walking away. He needed to get home. But he told himself he'd keep a sharp eye on the blonde girl with blue eyes, Yamanaka Ino.
Then Sasuke met Sakura. Ino had been introducing Sakura to everyone in the village, and when Ino came up to him to introduce Sakura, Sasuke ignored the stares and shy smiles Sakura shot him. He only looked at Ino for a moment before turning and walking away. He could see it in her eyes for that moment...the kindness, the sympathy, the warmth...
That was what attracted him to her.
A few days later, Sasuke witnessed Ino defending Sakura when a group of girls were teasing her. He remembered the strange warmth in his heart as he listened to Ino talk about flowers.
Ino had compared to Sakura to a bud that would open when it was ready, yet when it did, it'd be beautiful.
Ino had compared herself to a flower that had already blossomed. And Sasuke thought that was true.
Ino was beautiful, inside out.
He was enraptured by those locks of blonde that framed her oval-shaped face. But he was most captiviated by her smile...and those eyes.
Those eyes. Those glimmering orbs of blue that always sparkled with a happiness that made him feel a sizzling warmth run through his body.
But what he loved more than her outer beauty was her inner beauty.
Her heart, her soul...was beautiful.
Later, he overheard Sakura telling a couple of girls that she had a crush on him. One of the girls remarked that Sakura was coming out of her shell, but Sasuke was surprised to see Ino look away rather angrily and say, "Sometimes, I wish she'd get back in..."
Sasuke was concerned when he saw the bitter sadness in Ino's eyes. Days passed by. Ino wouldn't speak to anyone. If she did, she spoke little, and she spoke in a low tone.
Sasuke understood though. Ino loved both Sasuke and Sakura. Friendship and love was at stake, and Ino didn't know which to choose.
Was Ino angry at Sakura for liking Sasuke too? Or maybe she was afraid...afraid that she'd lose her chance to win him over. Or maybe she was afraid that Sakura would compete against her for his heart.
Ino clearly wanted to keep both friendship and love. But Sasuke thought she was a fool to think she could keep both. Friendship and love was like a package. Either you get both...or you lose both.
Ino should have known it was going to happen. She was going to lose more than her chance to win Sasuke's heart. She was going to lose...Haruno Sakura.
She didn't keep friendship and love. She lost both. And Sasuke thought that was the most tragic, saddest thing he had ever witnessed.
"Ino..." Sakura looked straight into Ino's eyes, without fear, without happiness, without any love or sympathy for her best friend, the one who had brought her out of her shell.
"I heard you like Sasuke too. From now on..." Sakura turned her back on Ino, who was staring in horrifed sadness and shock. "...we're rivals."
Ino watched Sakura walk away, her blue eyes full of so many emotions at once it hurt Sasuke to look into them, even from his distance. He saw everything and felt everything - the anger, the sadness, the regret, the dumbfounded confusion, the horror, the anguish...
Ino was no longer the happy, popular girl she had once been. The world seemed to have turned its back on her. As the days passed by, Sasuke watched Ino retreat into her shell, her world of empty loneliness.
Sasuke wanted to comfort her so badly. But he didn't.
Hey, why should I care...? he had thought to himself when he was spying on Ino one day. She was sitting by herself under a cherry blossom tree, her arms hugging her knees to her chest, her blank eyes of azure blue staring ahead. She looked so empty, as if she didn't have a soul anymore...no emotions...nothing.
He should have comforted her. But he didn't. It was his stupid pride.
A part of him wanted to scream out, "Get over it! That Sakura girl is gone! She's never coming back!" The other part of him wanted to console her and tell her it'd be okay.
The two parts of him clashed in a fierce battle. None won. So he didn't do a single thing. But maybe if he did, Ino would have loved him.
But he didn't.
And Ino hated him.
Sasuke knew what it was like now. He now understood Ino's pain.
The world turned its back on him too. He lost the only people he ever loved. The Uchiha clan. His clan, his family, his life. The ones he loved. They left him. No, they didn't leave him. They were taken away.
They were taken away by Uchiha Itachi.
So was this how Ino felt, her best friend taken away by the boy she loved?
Sasuke now understood. Ino lost Sakura to Sasuke...and he, Sasuke, lost his family to Itachi, his brother...the one he had once loved.
Sasuke was intrigued how Ino had the strength to go on and be happy once in a while. But he still saw the pain in her eyes every time she looked at Sakura or him.
Everyone knew - or thought - that Ino liked Sasuke, like every other girl in Konoha, but Sasuke knew. Ino hated him. Ino hated him for taking Sakura away.
The only reason why Ino hugged him every time he was in sight was to prove to Sakura she wasn't going back on her word.
"I swear, Sakura, I will never lose to you, no matter how hard you try."
Losing to Sakura wasn't going to be an option for Ino, Sasuke knew. He was the main reason for their competition, and Ino wasn't going to lose him to Sakura, even if she hated him.
What Ino had said about her being a bloomed flower and Sakura being a bud was still true. Sakura had bloomed into a beautiful, firm flower, just as Ino predicted. But Ino was still the more beautiful flower.
Ino would wither and bloom through the days that passed. She would wither and bloom in her struggle for hope...hope that she can find happiness.
When she withers and becomes greatly sad, Sasuke could still see traces of determination to fight for hope through her pain and suffering.
When she blooms and becomes happy, Sasuke could see that she has found her hope for that moment, and struggles to keep it within her where it won't fade away.
"Sasuke..." Ino murmured, her arms gripping on him firmly as she pressed herself to his back. She smiled, pressing her cheek into his hair.
Sasuke did nothing. He just stood there, allowing Ino to embrace him tightly. He could tell Ino was trying to find the words to cooe into Sasuke's ear as soon as Sakura came along and balked at the sight of seeing Ino hugging Sasuke.
Whether the words Ino would speak were true or not, it didn't matter. He understood it all.
Sasuke would never say anything to Ino though. He didn't need to.
Sasuke turned his head and crystal orbs of glimmering sapphire met piercing eyes of ebony. As they stared into each other's eyes, they understood.
No words needed to be spoken. They could read each other's soul just by looking into one another's eyes.
Words were harder to understand. Sometimes, they couldn't be understood at all. So, they settled on a silent way of communication.
Ino could see the pain that she and Sasuke shared in those orbs of black. Sasuke needed someone...a friend...someone to love. She had lost both friendship and love, and she had tasted the pain. She knew what it was like, and she understood.
Sasuke could see and understand what he saw in those eyes of blue. Sasuke was the only thing Ino had left to remember of Sakura. Sakura had been more than a friend; she had been like a sister. Ino had lost Sakura, and now she needed someone to fill up that emptiness in her heart which had once been filled with the love from Sakura. He knew how she felt, and he understood.
And so, Sasuke allowed himself to be taken by Ino. Those hugs were going to be a good start.
And if he was lucky, someday, the future wouldn't be of any struggling or competition or anger or revenge. Sasuke could just imagine it now...the smile Ino would wear when her heart was full of happiness...happiness that she had regained both friendship and love.