Chapter 12

Ino had been in very much deep thought since her 'big' mental question, after invading Ravens mind she had answered a few things about him that she always wanted to know. Unfortunately the answers just brought up more questions. Inevitably leading to her feelings for him, 'Am I in love with Raven?'

Ino couldn't think, all that went on in her mind was those 6 words, repeating over and over again.

Ino was jogged out of her mental breakdown however when Raven walked close up to the tent door and asked her in a cheery sounding voice, "Ino, sorry if I'm waking you. But would you like some breakfast?"

Instead of answering out loud though, she just pulled the tent door aside and shook her head.

Crawling out of the tent, she slowly brushed her hair free from dirt and started walking off. She needed to go home, maybe have a shower, think some things through and put some new clothes on. After all the clothes she'd been wearing was the same ones from 2 days ago.

"Was that a headshake or a nod?" Raven asked to her retreating back, however Ino didn't hear him, she was already repeating the words over again.

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Raven was very much confused. He gave up his bed, showed her nothing but kindness. Even offered to share food. But she was silent, distant and seemed to be in perpetual deep thought.

He was happy that she wasn't crying, wasn't yelling, wasn't screaming and slapping him. She wasn't even ignoring him. And yet she seemed like she wanted to be around him, like she wanted to talk to him, like she wanted to embrace and be with him.

Every time he tried to get her to open up a little, she sent out mixed signals. Sure he had been back only 3 days. But in that time he'd been freed of charges against konoha, re-made friends with Tenten, gotten started on building a house, sparred against Lee and had Ino stay in his tent.

Shaking his head Raven sighed deeply, "I'll never understand women."

"It's not possible." Came a familiar voice. Looking around Raven quickly looked upwards in the tree and noticed Dochi. The dog faced ANBU from before.

"Inu-face!"

"Inu-face?"

Smiling happily, Raven pointed to the mask. "Your mask is designed like a dog."

Nodding in return, Dochi jumped down from the tree branch he was perched on. Landing almost silently on the floor a few feet from Raven.

"What are you doing here? Thought you was on holiday?"

"Nowhere in konoha I haven't been and any place worth interest is more than a days travel."

"What about Suna? That's only 3, surely for an ANBU you could make it in a day easy."

"And what do you suggest I do for a single day before making my way back?"

Opening his mouth to reply Raven realised he was stumped. "Don't know, never been."

Stretching for a few moments Dochi sat down on the spot and relaxed against the tree. The same spot both Raven and Ino had sat at. "I guessed that."

"Oh? And how did you guess that?"

"You suggested it."

Laughing sarcastically in response Raven slowly sat down, in front of the tent door and to the side of the tree.

"So, had a visitor?"

Nodding slowly Raven poured some more water into the kettle, throwing a few more sticks on the fire to be sure too.

"Yup."

"A girl?"

"Yup."

"She your girlfriend?" Dochi asked while raising his eyebrow, though the action wasn't seen through his mask.

"Yu-wait no!.. I mean, no she's not my girlfriend."

"Sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. I think I'd know"

"Ok.."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Means ok."

"Ok then."

"So, I see you've been working on something." Dochi stated while motioning to Ravens foundation.

"Yup."

"What ya working on?"

"A building."

"Well I guessed that, what kind of building? A house?"

"Yup."

"You're building a house?"

"Yup."

"By yourself?"

"Yup."

"…"

"…"

"Want some help?"

Raising an eyebrow Raven was slightly confused, why would an ANBU offer to help build a house? Shaking his head for a moment to clear his conspiracy theories Raven smiled. "That'd be very helpful. But first I need some more food."

"You like ramen?" came Dochi's quick reply.

Raven just nodded, he had after all just eaten one moments ago.

"Follow me, I know a good ramen place in town. It's called Ichiraku's. Pow goes there sometimes with his team mates." He explained while standing up, brushing dirt of his uniform.

"I know the place, but its in town." Raven just stayed on the spot, not moving or anything. If he went he could bump into someone who hadn't given him a chance yet. Or worse.

"And?"

"No one in town likes me, the only reason I was able to get the stuff I got now is because an old friend of mine owns a shop."

"So, no one will serve you, huh?" Dochi asked, hiding his emphasis on the word 'you'.

Shaking his head Raven frowned slightly. It was upsetting to say the least, sure he'd left everyone, but people that didn't know him shouldn't care. They didn't lose any friends, they only lost one persons business.

"No problem," came Dochi's reply, "Follow me." And with that Dochi started walking off into town.

Raven stayed where he was to begin with, but had a strange feeling Dochi had something up his sleeve. He really didn't want to cause any scenes, but if he wanted help to finish the house before his partner arrived, he'd need the food in town. Fast food was cheaper and much tastier than CIY food. CIY being Cook-It-Yourself.

Either way Raven looked at it, he had to be logical. If he wanted the house finished. He'd need to eat better food. Simple as. So stumbling to his feet, Raven ran to catch up to Dochi, before slowing down and just following a few steps behind.

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Once Ino had made it home, she was instantly barraged by questions from her parents. In Ino's opinion, her dad had no right to talk about it. Always getting drunk at the bar and even ending up having to stay over at either Shikamaru's or Chouji's houses. Then it being her job have to pick him up in the morning.

Her mother was another story.

Ino felt very bad for yelling at her the other day before storming off and then to make it worse she went and stayed out all night. After her mother shooed her father away, she was escorted up to her room, ordered to sit on her bed and explain.

"Okay young lady, ready to explain?" It wasn't so much a question, as it was a demand. And Ino's mother could be scary when she wanted to. Usually she was the sweetest and most innocent person around. But when she needed to, unlike her father, knew when to be serious.

Ino stayed quiet for a moment, though not because she was outright ignoring her mother, or brooding over the 6 words that just wouldn't leave her mind. No, Ino was staying quiet because she didn't know how to start off the explanation.

"I'm assuming you want me to start you off, or make a more specific question." Her mother asked coldly, Ino looked up at her for a second in confusion. Ino's mother hadn't inherited the ability to use the families jutsu, so instead she decided to specialise in the flower selling business. So hearing her mother practically read her mind confused her.

"I don't need to be able to read your mind to know what you're stalling for. I'm your mother after all." Sitting down on the bed near her daughter she sighed and took a deep breath.

"Where did you go after you stormed off?"

Ino looked up into her mothers eyes before sighing, "I didn't have anywhere in mind when I went, I just walked off to wherever my feet took me."

"And where did they end up?"

"…" That was something Ino didn't want to have to explain to her mother however, so just stayed quiet.

Sighing she continued to the next question. "I know you didn't stay at Sakura's. I called up her mother, she explained that you wasn't there because your friend was doing a night time course at the hospital with Tsunade Sama." Looking deep into her daughters deep blue eyes, she continued, "So where did you sleep last night?"

"A friends," Ino purposely left her answer vague, that way her mother wouldn't be able to tell she was lieing. Raven was a friend. So she wasn't technically lieing.

But her mother just gave her a glare, a glare that said 'tell me now or face never going out again'.

Ino hated that she'd have to explain more, the more she said the more chances her mother had of figuring it out. However before she could explain her mother interjected.

"I'll make it easier for you. Was it a female or a male friend?"

At this Ino was totally out of luck, if she lied, her mother would know instantly. If she told the truth she'd be forced to explain it all. Unless..

"A boy's." Ino answered. But Ino's mother sensed something in the answer. Also being the girl's mother she had more information that her daughter had. That was the benefit to being a stay at home mother. All women talked.

"And who might this boy be?"

'Dammit!' she had no other choice, she had to attempt to lie, "Shik-" however the moment her mother heard the first 3 letters, it was over.

Silencing her daughter with a cold stare and a cough of her throat, "Ino, I do not believe it. I would not believe it if I had not heard it with my own ears, you was about to lie to me!"

"What?" Ino was scared and panicking on the inside, while trying to stay calm on the outside. But it was failing miserably. She knew she'd lost the moment she lied.

"I've spoken to the Nara family already, Shikamaru and his father happened to leave for their fishing trip yesterday evening."

Ino was beaten, she couldn't think of anything else to say, and the realisation dawned on her. The realisation that she would have to explain to her mother, everything. And that realisation made her cry. She had trouble accepting it herself. How would she talk to her own mother about it.

Before her mother could make any more comments or questions, tears were flowing down her face, tears that hadn't budged in over a month. Tears that burned like fire but felt like ice at the same time. Tears that she was shocked as to how fast and how much so quickly.

And after just a second of her tears cascading down her face, a hand gently cupped her cheek and pulled her close into a hug. Her mother wrapped her arms around her and held her tightly, rubbing her back gently in the way only mothers could.

Ino had enough of lieing, the tears was proof of that, she was tired of all the defences that she put up, tired of the reputation she'd built up and was too stubborn to change. Ino was tired of holding back the tears. Tears that were finally being let loose.

Panting for air in-between sobs of uncontrollable sadness, Ino explained where she'd been, who was back, what had happened, what he'd said, where she'd slept, how she felt, how he was kind to her and how she couldn't figure out if she loved him or hated him.

After a long explanation and a moment for her to catch her breath, her mother got a tissue and wiped away the tears that still dared to stain her daughters face.

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Walking down the street made Raven feel uneasy, it wasn't helped any by the amount of people that occasionally started talking about him once they assumed he was out of hearing range. Either that or they in truth didn't care if he could hear them or no. either way he was uncomfortable.

Dochi hadn't said anything the entire time they was walking, instead just looking straightforward.

It wasn't until they reached the end of the road that the ramen stand they was heading for, that Dochi decided to start talking.

"You got measurements planned out for that house of yours, or are you just making them up as you go along?"

"well I don't have measurements, but I had a rough design laid out in my mind."

"you ever built a house before?"

"Can't say I have."

"can you draw your 'design' down on paper?"

"I guess I could. Though my drawings aren't that great."

By the time Raven made his attempt at being funny, they was at the front of the building. Raven noticed two figures already sat down and two empty seats, before he could finish turning towards Dochi, he was already sat down. Leaving the last seat for Raven, taking a deep breath Raven pushed the flap aside and stepped in.

The moment he stepped inside he wasn't sure why, but he swore he was going to be attacked or kicked out. But no attack and no raised voices came. Silently Raven took in the smell of the ramen cooking, the aroma of fresh cooked noodles, pork, miso, eggs. Not to mention the heavenly scent of the soup that the ramen was floating in.

Taken in by the smell of the food Raven didn't even hear his stomach growling, which was so loud everyone in the stand turned around to look at.

Quickly sitting down as to hide his features from the staring eyes he was surprised to see the owner walk over with a smile on his face, "Welcome, what can I get you both?"

Dochi went first and ordered a shark fin ramen special, with extra noodles. Giving Raven enough time to look at one of the menus in front of him.

Skimming it over quickly, Raven looked up towards the owner who was waiting patiently. Realising he hadn't heard himself be acknowledged he bowed slightly, "Excuse me, I got lost in thought. Can I have Three bowls of miso pork ramen please?"

Noticing a smile and a nod from the owner Raven couldn't help but also noticed Dochi looking his way, turning to face him Raven blinked a few times before voicing himself, "What?"

Raven almost smiled when he saw Dochi's head tilt to the side, obviously realising he hadn't voiced his question yet. "Three bowls?"

Blinking again Raven copied Dochi and tilted his head to the side, "what about it?"

"why three?"

"why just one?"

"you know what I mean."

"yea, and you must already know. Why would I order three?"

"you really think you can manage that much?"

"yeah, why not?"

shrugging his shoulders, Dochi laughed before turning back towards the back, watching the owner and his daughter work together to make their orders.

Soon enough Dochi's order was delivered, followed moments later by Ravens first bowl. Dochi started tucking in straight away, a feat which Raven wasn't sure how with his mask on. While Dochi tucked in, Raven placed his palms together and silently said thanks for his meal, upon finishing his words he broke his chopsticks and dipped it in his bowl.

Taking hold of his noodles with his chopsticks, Raven blew on the food before taking it in past his lips. The moment the food connected with his tongue, he was blown away by the flavour.

If one was going to betray and leave konoha then if one wasn't loosing friends and family. Then he or she was loosing the option to eat that wonderful food.

Enjoying the flavour for as long as he could he eventually swallowed, enjoying the filling feeling that came along with it. It was strange, he could eat tons of fruit, multiple pots of instant ramen, drink tea and then have some bread and still by hungry. But just a single strand of noodles from Ichiraku was able to give him a sense of filling himself.

Quickly devouring the rest of his bowl, Raven didn't even realise that his second bowl had arrived until the third one plopped down at its side. Gulping down the broth like soup Raven openly said thank you before moving onto number two.

In a matter of minutes Raven had finished all three bowls, and was rubbing a healthy bulge around his stomach. Dochi finished only a second later and turned towards Raven with a air of shock.

"You finished three bowls before I could finish one. What are you? Some sort of machine?"

just as Raven was about to grin and laugh, the owner came back over and smiled from ear to ear.

"I'm glad you liked it so much. It warms me to the soul to see my food appreciated so much. Is there anything else you'd like?"

grinning just as wide as the owner, Raven quickly ordered another two bowls. Sitting in silence for a moment or two Raven took the opportunity to look around.

from where he was sitting, Raven was unable to see the customer next to Dochi as he was being guarded by a tower of 13 bowls. While Raven was also unable to make out the person next to that one he was sure it was father and son from the brief words he picked up.

Before he could investigate further however his next bowl arrived, wasting no time Raven thanked the owner and started on bowl number 4.

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After Ino had cried in front of her mother, and explained everything, she quickly grew tired. Without having a chance to say or do anything else, her mother quickly ushered her into bed, kissed her cheek, closed the door and left.

Despite how tired she felt after the crying, she hadn't long ago been asleep. So she knew she'd be unable to sleep so soon. Besides, she needed to change her clothes, have a shower, have something to eat and figure out her feelings.

Pushing back her covers, Ino swung her legs over her bed and stood up. once up, she walked over to her wardrobe and pulled out a similar set of clothes to the ones she was wearing, thinking for a moment though she put them back in and looked for something else.

For someone that used to pride herself on having all the fashions available and being the prettiest kunoichi around, she couldn't find anything that suited her mood. To Ino her normal purple clothes said she was; confident, elegant, beautiful, intelligent and strong.

But she didn't feel anything like that. She was confused and depressed. She didn't feel pretty, elegant, strong or smart. She was just 'bleh'.

The only piece of clothing she had that fit her mood, was a grey dress with monochrome flowers on it. In fact it was Ino's grandmothers, she decided she wanted Ino to have it when she passed on. Ino had only wore it once but it captured her mood at the moment. Colourless, confused, miserable.

Placing said item of clothing on her bed, Ino walked into her bathroom and turned the shower on. Closing and locking the door, then disrobing and climbing in to clean off all the dirt and grime she'd accumulated over the last two days.

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A while had passed and Raven and Dochi were still in the same spot, Raven had gone through another sixteen bowls, totalling at twenty. Dochi had decided to make the most of it while he was there and had managed another three bowls, equalling a total of four.

Nowhere near Ravens feat, but still good for someone that didn't eat that much in 3 meals. Looking at Raven for a moment Dochi shook his head, "Does your bottomless pit ever stop?"

"Yeah, just not yet is all." Raven replied happily while finishing off the broth of his last one.

"Well I'm sure the owner appreciated the business and I'm sure you have regained enough chakra from that feast. So come-on, before we start loosing light." Dochi stated while placing some money down on the top and walking off back to camp.

Grabbing some money out of his pocket Raven placed it down bowed and said thanks then ran after him. Not even paying attention to the father and son that was still there.

"Hey wait up!"

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After her shower Ino felt very much more refreshed. She always did after a shower, sure a bath felt nice every now and then but she preferred showers.

Drying herself off with a towel, then wrapping her hair in a separate one she opened her bathroom door and made her way onto her bed. Grabbed her hairbrush, Slowly she untangled any knots, smoothing her semi dry hair out till it was silky to the touch.

Putting some underwear and one of her bra's she quickly put them on before heading towards her bed. Taking her dress in her hand she held it up against herself while looking in the mirror. It was still the grey dress she'd picked out. And despite feeling a lot better after the shower, she still felt confused and depressed.

Slipping the dress on, she brushed out the wrinkles, strapped a kunai pouch to her ankle and unlocked the door. After unlocking the door Ino made her way downstairs and into her kitchen. Sitting herself at the kitchen table.

In the kitchen Ino ran into her mother, who was humming a soft tune while doing some dishes. "Mom, can I have something to eat please?" Ino asked in the sweetest voice she could muster. Which snapped her mother out of a daydream and to start the dishes at a faster pace.

"Of course dear, what would you like?"

Just as she was about to open her mouth, she realised she didn't know what she wanted. Thinking for a moment she nodded her head at her quick decision, "can I have a sandwich?"

Finally turning around from her dishes to face her young daughter she had to make a double take, it had been a very long time since she saw Ino wearing that. Though to be honest it had been a long time that she'd seen her daughter wear anything other than her favourite purple combo.

"Ino, your wearing mothers dress." Though the way in which she said it sounded more like a question.

Nodding in reply to her mother's statement she looked up at her face, noticing the confusion she'd caused by simply her change in clothing.

"Any specific reason for wearing that instead of your usual clothes?"

"Felt like it." Came Ino's solemn response, though the apathy wasn't present on her face, just her tone.

"So it doesn't have anything with that boy and our little talk earlier."

"Mom! No, I just felt like a change."

"Ok, fine. Whatever you say sweetie, so what do you want in your sandwich?" she asked with a smile on her face. In honesty Ino's mother was slightly happy that her daughter was having a little bit of a bad time. Not because she liked seeing her daughter upset, Dear god no. That would make her a very bad mother. No, she just remembered how happy she had seemed when they were together before. And the possibility for them to be together again was a wonderful prospect.

"We have any chicken left?"

But Ino's mother just nodded with a smile, a little bit lost in thought about seeing a smile on her daughters face again.

"Can I have a chicken sandwich and.. A cup of tea?"

With a large smile and a nod Ino's mother got to work, zipping around the kitchen like a master. Turning their electric kettle on, spinning and dancing her way towards the plate rack to grab a dish she'd just washed. Towelling it dry and placing it down as she opened the fridge door by smacking the side of her hip against it. Getting the chicken, butter and bread out ready and closing the door again by spinning around it and hitting it with her other hip.

Ino couldn't help but inwardly smile at her mothers actions, she knew something was up. Her mother hadn't been this happy in a long time, since before Raven left.

"Mom what's got you so happy?"

"Me? Happy? I don't know what your talking about." She lied out her teeth, of course she couldn't tell own daughter about her imagining being a grandmother. She'd get upset or angry at the idea.

"Mom. I know something's up, tell me."

"Nothings up, why must something always be up?"

"Mom, you're a worse liar than dad."

"Zuki is a ANBU, she doesn't lie, she just deceives."

"What's that got to do with it? You're avoiding the question now! What's up?"

"Sky?"

"Mom."

"Fine I'm happy, can't I just be happy?"

"No, you're a mom."

"Oh so that means I can't be happy?"

"No bu-"

"There, you just answered it yourself. Now eat up."

Before Ino could realise what had happened, her mother had placed her finished sandwich on the table in front of her.

Sitting in silence for a moment glaring at her mother, Ino slowly started eating her sandwich. After a few minutes she finished her sandwich and sighed deeply. 'That hit the spot.'

"Thank you mom, I guess I'll be off n-"

But Ino was quickly interrupted, "Wait, you haven't had your tea yet."

"Oh it's ok, I'm not thirsty anymore."

"Well I'm guessing you also don't want some advice about that boy then?"

At that Ino was silenced for a second, "What advice?"

"Well you said you didn't know whether you love him or not."

"Yeah and?"

"Well I know a sure fire way to tell if you love him." Ino's mother said in a sort of smug 'I-know-something-you-don't-know' way.

"What? What way is that?" Ino asked while leaning forward in her chair.

Smiling happily Ino's mother was instantly pleased with herself, she'd gotten the most action out of her daughter yet.

"Kiss him!"

"Kiss him?" at this Ino's face blushed.

"Yup, right on the lips."

"Mom!"

"What? You don't believe me?"

"Of course not," her blush was getting brighter by the second, "How can you tell from a kiss?"

"You'll just know."

"Yeah right."

"Yeah really, it's how me and your father got together. I interrupted him while he was with his friends and outright kissed him."

"Eh? Right in front of his friends?"

"Yup. And I knew instantly he was the one."

"How many guys did you kiss?"

"One."

"One?"

"Yeah, just your father. When I worked up the courage to kiss him, I just knew no other man was the one. It was just him."

"So I just kiss him on the lips and I'll know?" she asked while pointing her finger to her mouth. By this time Ino's mind was imagining herself kissing Raven, right on the lips. Her blush was definitely not going to fade anytime soon.

"That's right, you'll know without a doubt."

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Back at Ravens camp he had a sudden fit of sneezes.

"Someone must be talking about ya."

"Yeah I guess, I wonder who it is and what they're saying?"

"Beats me. Now come on, lets get some more wood."