AN: This fic is something that just came to me one day, and the idea's been stuck with me ever since. I decided to finally write it out as a gift to my friend Iia, who's also an author here on Fanfiction Net. It's her birthday today, so make her happy - read and review her awesome fics, Earlier Than Expected, and It's Called Icha Icha.

To Iia - happy birthday! I was going to make you avi art, but I thought that I might screw it up. I hope this makes you happy.

This is, of course, SasuSaku, with a smidgen of NaruHina, NejiTen, ShikaTem, and SaiIno. I prefer ShikaIno or InoShikaTem myself, but those are the pairings that Iia likes, so I might as well make a fic about them.


Ino's Love Thesis

By: Tenshi no Hana-chan


Disclaimer: Not. Own. Naruto.
Ino couldn't understand why, after two years, Sasuke and Sakura had never broken up.

They hadn't. Not once. Not even to take a breather. Not even over something huge like Sasuke's issues with his vengeance, or Sakura's all too long shifts in the hospital. No. They were going strong, just as they had been for the past two years.

She could hardly call their romance "perfect." After what she had seen happen since they were twelve, she had always thought Sakura's love was doomed from the start. It had started with the fangirls, and it would end with Sasuke's obsession over his older brother. There seemed to be no hope for it.

But a few months after Sasuke came back from his little jaunt outside the village, they had quietly gotten together, and until now, there were still a few doubters as to what sort of relationship he and Sakura had. That was because they hardly ever showed any sign they were in love with each other.

Ino knew that Naruto, being the ultimate witness to this relationship, believed in it wholly and couldn't see why others couldn't. "Really, Ino," he sighed when she pestered him about the matter like she often did. "They're not drifting apart or anything. They've been together for so long, and they've never talked about breaking up. It's pretty obvious to me they're staying this way for a good long time."

"Well, they never talk anything about it anyway," Ino pouted. This was true - despite Sakura claiming the flower femme was her closest female friend, she had remained resolutely mum about anything that happened between her and Sasuke. The only one who knew anything besides the two of them was Naruto, and even he knew only snippets of details.

And so, armed with all the knowledge she had gleaned from romance novels and self-help books, Ino decided to conduct a little study concerning her best friend and her ex-crush. It really was something that they had kept up with what they had, even without the common things that characterized a romantic relationship.

Such a study needed to be conducted with the proper scientific procedures.

Research Title: Ino's Love Thesis.

Objective: To observe Sasuke and Sakura's interaction and derive a proper conclusion as to their relationship, using the five romantic stereotypes observed from romantic novels and years of experience in the subject.

Data:

Romantic Stereotype Number One: There had to be red roses and chocolates involved, whether on Valentines or some other date.

In the two years Sakura and Sasuke had been officially together, Ino had not seen a trace of red roses or chocolates anywhere in Sakura's apartment, save for the ones that came from some admirer, which Sasuke eventually threw out without a word. Other than that, the only other "bouquet" she had seen was a glass bowl filled with cherry blossoms floating on water last spring. But come ON. Red roses meant passion, and cherry blossoms symbolized untimely death. As far as the language of flowers go, it was hardly a romantic present. Ino should know - she was the Femme la Fleur, after all.

As for chocolates, the two had never exchanged that, either. Sakura claimed Sasuke hated sweets, and Sasuke more often than not always gave Sakura a piece of candy or two, if only to help her not fall asleep during her shifts in the hospital or when on ANBU missions. It wasn't really out of any romantic feelings. As far as Ino knew, they failed that romantic stereotype.

Romantic Stereotype Number Two: To be considered "dating," a couple actually has to go on a "date."

Ino had had various boyfriends. She and Kiba had been an item for a couple of weeks, and she had somehow convinced a clueless Sai to take her out to dinner at least a couple of times. But whoever she dated, she insisted on one thing only: when they went out, it had to actually be "going out." Meaning, she wanted to be wined and dined like all the rest of womanhood.

Being wined and dined was probably as high on any girl's list as hers. Even Sakura's. But as Ino observed, Sasuke and Sakura had never been seen in some nice restaurant or vacation spot. Oh, Ino knew for sure Sasuke and Sakura traveled together, but it was mostly for missions. The blonde could swear that the two were much too work-oriented to even take a vacation, just the two of them.

And she was sure that taking Sakura out for a late dinner at the Ichiraku was not considered a date.

Romantic Stereotype Number Three: The girl has to be treated like a princess one time or the other.

Naruto spoiled Hinata whenever he could, even if the Hyuuga could pay for any expense Hinata wished to spend. Tenten could usually be spotted with some kind of new little trinket or weapon, courtesy of Neji's own pocket money. Even Shikamaru, the eternal lazy bum, emptied his pockets to buy one thing or the other for Temari when she came to Konoha.

Ino knew that Sakura probably got things from Sasuke - there had to be, for Sasuke was one of the highest paid shinobi under the Hokage's service. But whatever they were, Sakura never flaunted them. It was almost like she didn't want anyone to know that she was being treated like a princess. Girls, at some point, paraded around their newest stud or trinket - it was a kind of unwritten rule. Even modest girls like Hinata, or no-nonsense ones like Tenten or Temari loved the attention they would get when people learned their boyfriends had, once again, gotten something nice for them.

Sakura was under Ino's classification of "no-nonsense." The Yamanaka girl promptly labeled her the epitome of that said classification - under no circumstance did Sakura ever wear jewelry. Not even if Sasuke had given it to her.

Romantic Stereotype Number Four: There had to be some obvious form of "Public Display of Affection" somewhere.

In the two years Ino had seen them, probably together on the streets or in some shinobi structure, the only type of touching they had ever done was the medical kind, when Sakura healed Sasuke's various wounds. Not once had she seen them holding hands, kissing, or even just staring into each other's eyes. It was definitely not minding her own business whenever she tried to catch them in some kind of act, but there was no business of theirs for her to actually mind.

Sure, Sakura liked hugging Sasuke whenever she could, but as far as Ino could see, Sasuke had never responded in any kind of way. He hadn't hugged her back, or even just patted her on the back. Sakura was doing all the work for both of them. It was pretty disturbing, for Ino at least.

Romantic Stereotype Number Five: There ought to be an exchange of "I Love You"s.

"I love you."

"I love you too."

That was the typical exchange between two lovers. It was universally known fact. Sometimes, it wasn't as if any two people meant it, but it was still pretty much standard procedure for a couple to do this exchange.

"I love you, Sasuke-kun."

"Aa."

This was a typical exchange between Sasuke and Sakura. Not once had anyone heard Sasuke say "I love you" back to Sakura, but the pink-haired medic nin never seemed to mind. Ino could probably confirm another fact from that observation alone - that Sasuke's vocabulary was limited to noncommital grunts and a few shinobi terms.

Conclusion: Based on the data above, it is concluded that though Sasuke and Sakura may claim to have a "romantic" affiliation with each other, romance in their relationship is non-existent and therefore cannot be called "dating."

The results of the study, of course, was unacceptable to Ino. Her skills were needed to intervene in Sasuke and Sakura's relationship. She knew what the problem was too - Sasuke didn't seem to know anything about cultivating a relationship with any girl, and Sakura let him do as he pleased.

Ino knew that the problem had to be solved at the root, but she didn't want to have to talk to Sasuke, the perpetual iceberg. This left her only one other option, which was to talk to the easiest way into the avenger's psyche: Haruno Sakura.

"Hey, Sakura," Ino called to the pink-haired kunoichi one afternoon. Said kunoichi was busy writing down hospital records in her little office in the hospital, and looked up to see Ino peering down on her.

She smiled. "What's up, Ino? Need anything?"

"Well, I wanted to talk to you," Ino said, sitting down on Sakura's desk. Sakura blinked up at her, and Ino gave her a stern look. "About Sasuke."

Sakura looked a bit startled. "What about him?"

"To tell you the truth, Sakura," Ino began, "I conducted a small study about you two. Your relationship, I mean."

Sakura raised an eyebrow. "A study," she repeated.

"Yeah," Ino replied. Sakura watched her amusedly, and Ino blushed. "Well, don't laugh! I'm being serious!"

"And?" Sakura pressed, lacing her fingers together and resting her chin on them. "To what conclusion have you come to, Yamanaka-sensei?"

Ino poked the breadth of Sakura's forehead. "I have concluded that... your relationship needs help."

"I don't get it," Sakura said, looking skeptical. "In what aspect does our relationship need so-called help?"

"Well," Ino said, beginning to enumerate, "First of all, you never receive red roses or chocolate from him. Secondly, you guys have never been on an actual date."

"We go out," Sakura mumbled under her breath.

"Yeah, to the Ichiraku," Ino said accusatorily. "Has Sasuke-kun ever taken you to a posh restaurant? No? I didn't think so. Thirdly," she said loudly when Sakura opened her mouth to interrupt, "you don't allow him to treat you like a princess, or if you do, you never flaunt it."

"Am I supposed to?"

"YES," Ino said exasperatedly. They had a lot of work to do, she decided. "My fourth observation is that not once have I or anyone else seen you holding hands, hugging, or kissing in public."

"We do hold hands," Sakura protested. "And besides, what's the point of doing all the rest in public?"

"Exactly my point," Ino said, nodding knowingly. Sakura looked rather blank. "And lastly, he has never told you he loves you, has he? Whenever you tell him you love him, all he does is grunt. And that, Haruno-sensei, is how I came to the conclusion that your romantic relationship with Uchiha Sasuke is relatively non-existent."

Ino finished her panel defense, and her "panel" stared at her quite blankly. "Well?" Ino pressed. "What do you think?"

"What do I think?" Sakura asked quietly, staring at Ino with wide eyes. The blonde cocked her head to the side, prompting her.

Sakura's gaze softened, and soon, she was laughing quietly. "Oh, Ino," she said gently, "thanks for thinking about my well-being so much. I didn't know you cared."

"Of course I do!" Ino huffed. "You're my best friend!"

"Well, there's only one statement I can provide to improve your study, or perhaps to provide you with a topic for a new thesis," Sakura said, standing up and gathering her things to begin her hospital rounds.

"And what's that?" Ino asked, raising a finely shaped skeptical eyebrow.

Sakura smiled at her from the door.

"Love isn't just about all that - it's all that, and a lot more."

And on that enigmatic note, she waved goodbye and left.

Ino stared in her wake, but soon, a smile spread on her perfect lips.

That was certainly a better thesis topic than the last one.


AN: Okay. That was done in about three hours, with the help of my twin, Yummei-chan. I hope I did well. Tell me what you think!