Title: Bad Days
Theme: #3, Jolt
Disclaimer: I do not own "Naruto."
Summary: Ino fell in love with his smile, and with every hug, she promised to bring that smile back.
A/N: Someone requested a happy Ino/Sasuke fic, and, well, this is the best I could do. I just don't see Sasuke and Ino ending happily together so I can't write a happy ending fic without Sasuke being totally out of character. At least in this story, Sasuke doesn't die in this one. :)
Before the Uchiha massacre…
Ino Yamanaka tucked a loose strand of her short blonde hair behind one ear and clutched her books tightly to her chest. Her normally bright blue eyes were glazed over in morose thought as she sat against an old oak tree outside Konoha's Ninja Academy. It was rare to see the normally bubbling, outgoing blonde alone and upset, but there was no one around to particularly care. All of the other children had already left for the day and even Iruka-sensei had departed with that weird blonde kid nobody seemed to like. Ino hadn't really felt like returning to her family's flower shop where she knew she would only be bombarded by questions concerning her day and then her strange behavior.
The girl sighed and twisted a blade of grass between her fingers. She had had really no right to get angry at Sakura. Her best friend had been coming out of her shell more and more, becoming more talkative in class and not necessarily hiding behind Ino all the time. Maybe Ino felt she was being somewhat discarded by Sakura; after all, it was the young blonde girl who had befriended the bullied, shy Sakura, protecting her from the other kids who liked to pick on her. Now, it was as if Ino was losing her special position as Sakura's only friend and human shield, and Ino did not especially like that feeling. Today, she had been rather cruel towards Sakura because of her ill feelings and jealousy. Sakura had been blabbering nonstop about boys and boasting of her high test scores. As she excitedly told the others about her new fascination with Sasuke Uchiha, a polite, cute, dark-haired classmate, Ino felt her blood boil until she suddenly insulted Sakura to her face and said some nasty things to her Ino did not want to repeat. Needless to say, Sakura had been upset and she ran off with her new friends, tears pouring down her chubby cheeks. She avoided Ino the rest of the day, and the only time they had interacted, the pink-haired child had been cold and unfriendly. Ino's foolish pride had held her back from apologizing. Now that she was alone, the tears she had been desperately keeping in began to fall.
The loud sound of the academy doors banging open jarred Ino out of her thoughts, and a stab of fear went through her. She had thought everyone was gone, and she couldn't bear to let anyone see her in such a condition. She hastily wiped her eyes only to realize just who was leaving the academy so late.
Sasuke Uchiha leapt down the stairs, fingers gripping his shoulder bag tightly. He immediately caught sight of Ino sitting under the oak tree, trying to look nonchalant. Ino shut her eyes tight and tried to be invisible. Curious, Sasuke approached the young blonde, stopping a few feet away from the hunched girl. "Hey, hey," he called politely. "Um, are you alright?"
Ino gasped and her stomach clenched in fear. She unwillingly opened her eyes to meet Sasuke's innocent obsidian ones. "I'm fine," she intoned with fake happiness and gave the boy a small smile. She knew that if Sasuke was even half as good as everyone said he was, he would instantly see past her lies. She looked away and waited for him to make fun of her.
Instead, Sasuke merely crossed his arms and cocked his head. "You certainly don't look fine," he replied casually. He frowned thoughtfully and it looked odd on his youthful face. "Um, aren't you in my class? You're that girl whose friends with the pink-haired girl, right? I'm Sasuke Uchiha," He added proudly.
Of course Ino knew who Sasuke was. Who didn't? Every female in her class seemed to have a crush on him. "Ino Yamanaka," she muttered feeling small and insignificant. She squeezed her books tightly and still refused to look at the young Uchiha. "What…what are you do-doing here so l-late?" she stammered, sounding very much like that pale-eyed Hyuuga girl in their class.
Sasuke's face twisted somewhat into embarrassment as he admitted, "I was staying behind to research chakra control. I'm not really good at it."
"Won't your parents be worried?" Ino asked. She knew her parents were probably having a heart attack by now.
"No, not really," Sasuke answered, shaking his wild, black locks. "Half the time I wonder if my father even knows he has a second son, and my mother pretty much ignores me or doesn't care what I do. The only person who would actually notice my absence is my older brother, but he's on an ANBU mission right now…" Sasuke hastily shut his mouth and looked guilty as if he had said too much. Ino thought he had sounded rather bitter when speaking of his parents. "Sorry," Sasuke suddenly apologized for his rudeness.
"Oh," was all Ino could say. It seemed like the oh-so-perfect Uchiha wasn't as perfect as Sakura thought. For some inexplicable reason, Ino really didn't seem to mind. "I'm sorry," she murmured.
"S'okay. Enough about me, though," Sasuke said with a wave of his hand and offering her a gentle smile. Ino thought he had a really nice smile. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong with you?"
Ino was rather surprised he could just completely turn the corner with his emotions like that. It apparently wasn't okay as Sasuke had said; talking about his parents must have really been a sore spot for him. Nevertheless, Ino wasn't going to make the friendly boy dwell on hurtful topics. So caught up in her thoughts and unused to such compassion she barely knew what she was saying until she blurted, "I've had a bad day." She instantly lowered her eyes, ashamed.
However, Sasuke did not insult her. Instead, a wave of empathy washed across his face as he responded, "Yeah? Bad days happen to everyone, but it doesn't make it feel any better, especially when it's happening to you." When Ino failed to reply, Sasuke sighed. "Don't let it get to you too much, 'kay?"
Ino stiffened, forcing another plastic smile as she swept to her feet. "I guess," she said slowly. "I've gotta get home. My mom's probably throwing a fit." She turned to go then paused with her back to him. "See you later, Sasuke."
She had to get out of there, feeling far too vulnerable before her classmate. The blonde hurriedly began to leave only to be stopped when a voice called out, "Ino!" A pair of small yet strong arms encircled her from behind, catching the young kunoichi-in-training off guard.
"What…what are you doing?" Ino managed to sputter as Sasuke gripped her tightly in a warm embrace. His shoulder bag and her books lay crumpled on the ground.
Sasuke moved his head to one side to rest his cheek against her blonde locks. "Sometimes, when I'm sad, my nii-san hugs me and I feel happy again," Sasuke answered brightly. "It's cuz I know that no matter how messed up things are now, I've got someone who cares about me more than anything, and together we can make things better."
Ino swallowed and couldn't hold back her tears. She didn't even know Sasuke that well except as her classmate, and with one simple hug, he showed her that it didn't matter. "Sakura can't stay mad forever, you know," Sasuke spoke again, jarring her back to reality. "Just tell her you're sorry for whatever you did, and I'm certain she'll forgive you. She probably already has. After all, you're her best friend."
Ino started, wondering if perhaps he could read her mind. How did Sasuke know what happened today? She looked back, the sides of their faces touching and said, "How did you-"
The dark-haired Uchiha merely smiled, and the words died in her throat. It didn't matter. Sasuke was right. After a moment, she felt him shift and he whispered into her ear, "Feeling better?"
Actually, she was, despite her heart beating rapidly in her chest. Ino nodded, and Sasuke slid off of her. She watched him quietly as in one smooth fluid motion, he picked up his bag and swung it over his shoulder. He beamed at her brightly, and the blonde felt a warm tingle across her face as she couldn't help but blush. Ino really liked that smile. "Well, we both better be going. I'll-um-see you in class tomorrow, right?" Sasuke waved a cheerful goodbye and began heading home in the opposite direction.
Seeing her opportunity walking away, she yelled out, "Hey, Sasuke!" Her male classmate cocked his head and slowed down to indicate he was listening. "Thank you," she murmured much softer. Her companion heard, another grin stretching her cheeks, and flicked his hand in acknowledgment.
As the young boy disappeared, Ino, too, began heading home. However, her mind was not focused on her melancholy day, but rather with a polite, dark-haired genius from the famed Uchiha clan. Her heart danced and flip-flopped as she thought of Sasuke. She felt bad for getting angry at Sakura's new obsession with Sasuke Uchiha. Her pink-haired friend had obviously seen something in the young prodigy that Ino had failed to acknowledge until this point. Of course, it was certainly going to complicate things in her and Ino's friendship.
"Sasuke-kun," Ino rolled the name in her mouth, savoring its sweet sound. She'd have to keep her eye on this Sasuke Uchiha.
It was almost two years later since the incident. Ino Yamanaka ran a hand through her slightly longer blonde hair as she departed the ninja academy with Sakura. Although classes had gotten out some time ago, she and her pink-haired companion had stayed after to study for an upcoming test, or, rather, for Sakura to help Ino study. It was ridiculous. Sakura must have read her textbooks three times every night; she was a virtual walking encyclopedia of ninja knowledge.
"I don't know if I could kiss some unfamiliar guy even if to obtain vital information as Miyuki-sensei said in class today," Sakura said conversationally. At nine, Sakura thought it was taboo to kiss guys because they could very well likely have cooties.
"Well, sensei did say it was a kunoichi's duty to complete her mission by any means necessary," Ino responded with a shrug although she didn't particularly like the idea anymore than Sakura did.
Sakura's jade eyes widened, making her seem even younger. "You mean you could do it, Ino-chan?" Ino did not comment, as Sakura's admiration towards the blonde reached new heights. Then, the pink-haired girl's face twisted into a grimace as a new though dawned on her. "I don't think I could even kiss anyone else in our class, let alone some stranger…well, except for Sasuke-kun, of course." Sakura's eyes shone as she mentioned their enigmatic classmate.
Silently, Ino agreed with Sakura, although she didn't dare admit it aloud. Sakura did not know of her blonde friend's feelings towards a certain dark-haired Uchiha., and Ino hoped to keep it that way for as long as possible. No need to strike up a rivalry that would threaten to tear their friendship apart. Besides, Ino really did not know what exactly it was she felt towards Sasuke: be it love, lust, or just understanding. Nevertheless, thoughts of kissing Sasuke Uchiha did make a faint tinge of pink color her cheeks.
Luckily, Sakura failed to notice. The girl's eyes were on the setting sun, and she suddenly stopped in alarm. "Sakura?" Ino asked in confusion.
"Oh, no!" Sakura yelped aghast. "I promised my mother I'd be home early today. She'll be worried sick." She sent a sympathetic look Ino's way. "I'm sorry, Ino-chan, but I really have to get home."
Ino relaxed and smiled. "Sure thing, Sakura," she replied. "Thanks for the help, and I'll see you tomorrow." Sakura had already taken off, but she gave an enthusiastic wave and yelled out goodbye.
The blonde girl sighed and turned away, not needing to be home immediately. She frowned when she thought she saw something. Ever the curious kunoichi, Ino approached the other side of the school near the practice fields. She nearly fell backwards as five shruiken blazed past her to thud into their respected targets. Four hit the mark right in the center while the fifth was a couple of millimeters off. A howl of frustration turned her attention towards the direction the shruiken had come from.
Sasuke Uchiha stood looking annoyed as he glared at the fifth target. There was a cloth around his forehead that he was using to blindfold himself. Ino did not know whether his anger was directed at her or himself, but there should have been no reason for him to be so upset. If he had thrown those shruiken blindfolded and got results like that…no wonder he was at the head of their class.
"Er, Sasuke-kun?" Ino questioned gently, and he turned his dark gaze to her. Ino was startled at how different he looked from the little boy she had met two years ago. Gone was the sweet, friendly boy who had comforted her; all that was left was an embittered, antisocial shell. That beautiful smile of his had been virtually nonexistent since the murders of his clan and family. "What are you doing her so late?"
Sasuke merely snorted and crossed to the targets in quick strides, yanking the shruiken out. Ino watched quietly and then said, "That was really good, Sasuke-kun. You are awesome." It was a typical fan girl statement, but Ino couldn't stop the words from flying out of her mouth.
The Uchiha paused over the fifth target and glared at it in distaste. "Obviously not good enough," he sneered. He walked past Ino without another word, sliding the blindfold over his eyes. In a quick, graceful motion, he leapt up and twisted throwing the shruiken again. This time, however, he threw ten shruiken, and while seven hit dead center, two landed off the bullseye slightly and the last one missed the target completely. Sasuke clenched his fists and snarled; it was simple to see his anger was getting the best of him.
Swiftly, Sasuke crossed over and Ino followed, helping him collect the stars. She looked at the shruiken cupped in her hands and murmured, "Hey, Sasuke-kun? How long do you plan on staying here?"
"As long as it takes," Sasuke snapped at her, holding out his hand to her. Hesitantly, she handed over the shruiken, and the boy snatched them up. She watched him throw the weapons three more times. Sweat had begun to collect on Sasuke's brow, and he panted slightly. His aim was good, but each time it was just not good enough.
"Er-maybe that's enough for today," Ino said slowly. "I mean, there's always tomorrow."
Sasuke hissed in exasperation and glared at her angrily. "Tomorrow?" he seethed. "Tomorrow just means another day that man is walking around still alive and another day where I'm not strong enough to kill him!"
The blonde girl took a step back, fear stirring around in her heart. She had never seen so much raw anger and pain in one person before. Sasuke gripped a shruiken tightly in one hand, rivulets of blood leaking through his clenched fingers. Ino glanced away, biting her lip.
The whooshing sound of flying shruiken caught her ears, and she winced as Sasuke let out a breath of irritation. He collected his weapons, but as he returned to his location away from the targets, Ino felt compelled to rush after the tortured boy. She latched onto him from behind, arms wrapped around him in tight embrace and tears leaking from her cerulean eyes.
Sasuke stiffened at her touch, and he demanded, "What in the hell are you doing, Ino?"
Ino swallowed and clung to the boy. Her face brushed against the dark fabric on his shoulder, and his black locks tickled her cheeks. "Someone once told me that whenever he was upset, his nii-san would hug him and he would be happy again," she whispered her voice soft like snow.
Sasuke was silent for a long time. He did not relax into her hug nor did he pull away, and his eyes were black, emotionless voids that stared forward into nothing. When he at last spoke, his words were harsh and tired. "Whoever told you that was a naïve fool." There was a pregnant pause. "A gullible idiot who would believe anything his 'so-called' lying older brother would say."
"I guess that makes me a naïve fool for believing him, too, huh?" Ino asked sadly. Her grip loosened on the boy, but she did not let him go completely.
"I guess so," Sasuke mumbled quietly.
Ino released her classmate, falling back to the ground. Her arms dangled helplessly at her sides, and her head bowed, blonde bangs concealing her face. She watched Sasuke morosely from beneath her hair as the young avenger stood away from her, glaring at some unseen ghost. "Sometimes…sometimes bad things happen, and there's nothing you can do about them," Sasuke's voice was faint and nostalgic. "And you realize the world isn't quite as black and white as you thought."
Ino said nothing. She observed the broken-hearted little boy before her and remembered their previous conversation. Her mind dwelling on his words, she had to wonder what upset him more: losing his clan or losing his older brother? She was fairly certain she already knew the answer.
Her heart clenched as she contemplated the boy's utter despair. All she wanted was to see those innocent coal eyes and that amiable smile. Hey, hey. Are you alright? And yet, she knew he'd never be that happy child ever again. She looked away, turning her back to the boy unable to endure the waves of sheer loneliness emanating from his body. Was this love? Ino, despite her young age and lack of experience, somehow knew that it was. And she hated it. Hated it for hurting so much and not being able to soothe Sasuke's pain or her own.
"I'm sorry Sasuke-kun," she whispered with every intention of leaving him to his mental and physical self-induced torture. Even she, the ever hardcore kunoichi, could not bear to see such raw emotion.
"Me, too," Konoha's last true Uchiha murmured so softly Ino almost didn't hear. But before she could walk away, Sasuke called out, "Ino?" She stopped as he waited a beat and then said, "Thank you."
Those words. That tone. Ino blinked swiftly, thinking the scene very familiar, and turned to glance back at the Uchiha. However, his back was still to her, shoulders slumped and body weary. For a moment, Ino swore she had heard the old Sasuke, the Sasuke she fell in love with that day two years before. And just like that her heart swelled with hope.
"You're welcome, Sasuke-kun," she responded, a smile growing on her face as she momentarily forgot about her anguish. Sasuke glanced back at her, but he did not smile. This was not the Sasuke whose dancing grins, comforting words, and protective hug made her feel good about herself again. No, it wasn't the old Sasuke, but he was in there somewhere. Buried deep within the recesses of his heart and if she would only dig down, maybe she could bring him back out.
"I'll see you tomorrow!" she waved as he nodded and returned to shruiken practice. As she walked off the practice field, she smiled confidently to herself. The old Sasuke was in there somewhere. Behind her, she listened as Sasuke threw the shruiken again. This time there was an almost musical thud as each star-shaped weapon thudded into the center of each target.
Ino clenched her fists tightly. Maybe it was her impulsive love talking but she vowed to fix things. To see once more the Sasuke that grinned and maybe could have loved her back. She'd live to see Sasuke smile like he had before the massacre. She'd make Sasuke happy again…
…No matter how many hugs it took.