A/N: Hello, everyone and welcome to my tenth attempt at writing fanfiction. If you read my last fanfic you probably voted on what this one should be (actually you probably didn't since I only got 12 votes, but you get the point). Just so you know the results were as follows: Choice 1 (Ino X Hinata): 4 votes, Choice 2 (Sakura X Ayame): 5 votes, and Choice 3 (Yugao X Temari): 3 votes. It was close, so I'm a little worried that some of you may be disappointed. I actually expected it to go in the favor of choice 1 since 2 and 3 featured very minor characters ,but I guess you guys wanted a reprieve from me constantly writing Hinata, or you hate Ino, or you all just really love Sakura. I don't know, but I'm really not disappointed. I think this fic will turn out great. This fic is yuri, so there will be girl/girl stuff, don't read if you hate it. And as a note, this fic takes place post-timeskip but with Ayame and Teuchi as the only workers at Ichiraku, so I don't know exactly what's up, it's just better that way. Anyway, enough of that; please enjoy.
Disclaimer: Reading this fic may result in cravings for ramen (and I don't own Naruto).
Sakura Haruno was content as she walked briskly down the busy Konoha street. At her side was Naruto Uzumaki, her energetic, simple, yet kind teammate and friend. Ever since Naruto's return to Konoha, she and him had enjoyed a new understanding and closeness different from the days of their youth. This new bond was something Sakura cherished despite the fact that it meant eating a lot of ramen.
Naruto and Sakura were soon upon their destination, the local ramen shop, Ichiraku Ramen. Naruto entered excitedly shouting as he did, "Hey, old man! Give me some of the best ramen ya got."
Sakura gave a soft look of embarrassment as she found a seat at the ramen bar. The ramen shop's owner, Teuchi, smiled at the sight of his regular customer replying in an enthusiastic tone, "Naruto! Good to see you kid! You want your usual?"
"Yeah, you know it." Naruto replied smiling as he took in the smells of the restaurant.
"And how about you, Sakura? Same as usual for you as well?" Teuchi turned his attention to the girl as Naruto sat in the seat next to her.
Sakura gave a hard nod and a smile as she thought to herself: had she really been here enough times recently that they already knew what she wanted.
"Alright. Ayame you know what to do." Teuchi called out to his daughter, a young, pretty girl, around Sakura's age who worked at the ramen shop.
"Right!" Ayame shouted back with enthusiasm as she went to work preparing the order.
In a few minutes the food was brought out. Naruto was presented with a giant bowl filled to the brim with ramen and various toppings. Sakura's order was comparatively small, sparse serving. "Here you are. Enjoy." Ayame chimed as she presented the fruit of her hard work.
"Look's delicious." Naruto replied with his mouth watering before diving in to the bowl and attacking its contents like an animal.
"Yeah, thanks Ayame." Sakura said with a smile before taking a bite herself. It was good as usual. Ichiraku ramen always seemed to be made with love.
Teuchi looked around the barren shop, letting his smile fade momentarily before addressing his sole customers once again, "I guess I can always count on you guys for business. Not many people are out to eat ramen in the middle of the week like this."
"Yup, as long as I'm around, you guys'll always be gettin' my business." Naruto pulled away from his ramen momentarily to say while still chewing. He swallowed his ramen before adding with determinant strength, "And when I'm Hokage, I'll make sure everyone knows about this place."
"Boy, doesn't that sound great." Teuchi responded in a kind way with a laugh, "It'll be nice being the favorite ramen shop to the Hokage himself."
"Sorry to bring down the mood, but it'll be awhile before they let an idiot like Naruto be Hokage." Sakura shot in teasingly.
"Hey, Sakura…" Naruto said giving her a harsh look.
"I think Naruto has a good chance of being Hokage." Ayame asserted in a friendly way, "He's kind, strong, and really cares about people. And he likes ramen."
"Yeah!" Naruto said pointedly at his kunoichi companion, "See, at least some girls see my charm."
Sakura shook her head and Ayame laughed. Teuchi soon started back into the conversation, "So Naruto, it must be getting tough lately. I've heard you've been doing some real dangerous work lately."
Naruto turned to look at the old man while subconsciously directing ramen to his mouth. "Yeah, the missions have been intense." He said in a serious tone, "But it's just like making ramen, it's my job so I have to do it. There are people who depend on me."
"That's the spirit!" Teuchi said with a hardy laugh, "Though I'm guessin there are more people depending on what you do then on my ramen."
"Well I depend on your ramen." Naruto said defensively.
"Then I'm glad to be here when you need to be fed." The old man gave another chuckle.
"What about you, Sakura? Is your ramen good today?" Ayame started in turning her attention to the other girl.
"Oh, yes, thanks. It's wonderful as usual." Sakura replied with a beaming smile.
"I'm glad. I bet it's nice to have such a peaceful evening date like this." Ayame said with a slight romantic tone.
"This isn't a date." Sakura said giving a look of insult.
"Oh, really?" The other girl said apologetically.
"Who'd want to date Naruto?" Sakura said with an indignant laugh.
"Hey…" Naruto said glaring at the kunoichi.
"Oh, so you're still interested in that other boy then." Ayame said softly, "The one that left the village."
Sakura's face turned to a frown as she forced herself to remember Sasuke, "No, I'm not interested in that either." She paused before adding somberly, "He's still important to me, but forgiving people is hard…"
"But enough about that." Teuchi said forcing his way into the conversation as he noticed the distraught looks developing on his customer's faces, "I'm sure we'd all rather talk about something else."
"Yeah…" Naruto said cuttingly, obviously still feeling that Sasuke's departure from the village was his failure.
The conversation was dropped in favor of lighter fare as the two enjoyed their ramen. Sakura was forced to wait as she watched Naruto devour several more helpings of ramen after his first. Finally after Sakura reminded him that he had to pay for this, Naruto proclaimed himself to be full. Content, the two shinobi stood to leave the restaurant.
"Thanks old man, Ayame; that was great." Naruto stretched as he spoke enthusiastically, paying Teuchi for the meal as he did so.
"Thanks a lot, kid. Glad you enjoyed it." The old man replied graciously.
"Yeah everything was great. Thank you." Sakura added thankfully giving a wide smile to the two of them.
"Thanks a lot for the business, and come again soon." Ayame said with a wave as the two found their way out the door.
It wasn't even a week later the next time the pink-haired kunoichi found herself staring at the structure of the Ichiraku Ramen Shop. Since Naruto's return, this had become the restaurant at which she would dine most often. Since his return she would eat here at least once a week without fail. It didn't surprise Sakura that she had come back to Ichiraku, it surprised Sakura, that this time she was alone.
She wore a smile as she entered the small building and took a seat. Teuchi turned to her from another customer, "Hey Sakura." He said with a beaming smile, "Where's Naruto?"
"I'm not always with him, you know." She said with a blush, "I do things on my own sometimes as well."
Teuchi gave a laugh before taking the girl's order. Ayame cooked the ramen and it was soon presented before Sakura. "Here you are, Sakura. Enjoy." Ayame gave her professional smile as she placed the bowl before the ninja.
"I think this may be a first though, I can't seem to recall you coming here on your own before." Teuchi said, returning to his previous thought. "This a special occasion."
"Tsunade-sensei's been training me in a new medical procedure so I couldn't make it home for dinner tonight." Sakura explained simply.
"It's amazing that you are so close to the Hokage." Ayame said wistfully.
"You think so?" Sakura gave an embarrassed smile.
"Oh yes." Ayame started enthusiastically. "You are all so amazing. I can't help but admire you all."
"I'm not that special." Sakura replies still blushing.
"Oh but yes you are." Ayame continued enthusiastically, "There are things you can do, that I could never even dream of doing." Ayame's tone settled to a soft melancholy as she continued, "I'm just a normal girl, all I can do is watch; watch and dream."
"You may not be a ninja, but you're really great Ayame." Sakura replied defensively, "You're really special too."
"I'm just a girl who makes ramen all day, Sakura." She responded with a downtrodden refrain in her speech.
"But Ayame," Sakura started in a soft tone, "think about all the people you've served ramen to. Over time some of the most amazing people in the whole village have come here to eat your ramen." Sakura adjusted her tone to amore happy, energetic tone in hopes of cheering up the other girl, "And it's been your ramen that has given them the energy they need to do amazing things."
"You're right. We all play our own parts." Ayame's face picked up with a slight smile. "Mine just happens to be making ramen and just watching and listening to he stories of all the amazing people who stop by."
"That's my girl." Teuchi added with a smile as he served another customer.
"Yeah," Ayame flashed a smile as she spoke, "When I think of everyone who's tried the ramen me and dad make, all the important faces, Naruto, Kakashi, Master Jiraiya, the third Hokage, and the fifth Hokage, you, and all the other wonderful people I've met, I have to realize that I am a part of all this, and that should be enough."
"I bet part of you still wishes you could be like me though." Sakura added with a small laugh.
"No, not really." Ayame chimed back.
"Why not?" Sakura asked with a hint of surprise, "Didn't you say you dreamt about it?"
"I have dreamed about becoming more involved with your world, but I wouldn't want to be a ninja myself." The ramen girl said with a distant smile, "I'm not strong enough for that sort of thing, and I don't think it would suit me."
"Then what was your dream?" Sakura asked in curiosity.
"To have, a brave, strong, and handsome shinobi sweep me off my feet and make me his forever." Ayame declared in a boldly romantic tone displaying a slight blush.
"That's the last thing we need..." Teuchi shot in with a laugh.
"I doubt that dream is out of your reach." Sakura said assuredly, "You're great Ayame. You're enough to make any guy, ninja or not, smile." She concluded unaware that she herself was smiling brightly.
Ayame blushed as she took in Sakura's kind words, "I-I wouldn't be to sure about that," she gave a sigh before saying, "I don't think I have much chance, when there are girl's like you out there."
"That's nice." The kunoichi replied her own cheeks now showing redness, "But, shinobi lead dangerous lives. A girl like you is more reliable." Sakura gave a pause before adding, "Besides, you're prettier than I am."
"I-I'm not." Ayame asserted at once struggling a bit for the words, "You're very beautiful, Sakura."
"Thanks." Sakura gave another smile before saying "Personally, I think, you could have your pick from just about any guy our age. Anyone would love you."
"Y-you think so?" Ayame started in a meek response, "You're very kind."
"Is there anyone in particular you like, Ayame?" Sakura asked, interested.
Ayame took a moment to think before replying, "No, not really." She pause a moment more before adding a breezy tone, "I mean, you and Naruto and everyone else I meet here everyday are so interesting, but I don't think I've met any guy who I have a real interest in yet."
"Oh, well I'm sure you will." Sakura smiled as she responded.
"And you will definitely find someone special as well, Sakura." The ramen girl said with certainty.
"You're probably right." Sakura gave a soft laugh, "After all, I'm good at making such great friends." She nodded in Ayame's direction.
Ayame continued to smile graciously as Sakura finished the rest of her ramen. She paid Teuchi for the meal before getting to her feet.
"That was great. Thanks for everything." Sakura called in the direction of the shop owner.
"Thanks a lot, as always." Teuchi responded enthusiastically.
"Bye Sakura, see you soon." Ayame said in a friendly tone as Sakura walked toward the exit.
"Yeah, I'll be back again soon." Sakura called out knowing it would be true.
As Sakura journeyed home she began to recount the evening in her mind. The details of the breakthrough new medical treatment she had learned from Tsunade earlier that day had faded near entirely. Now all she was thinking about for some reason was ramen. She had enjoyed that evening at Ichiraku more than just about any other, despite the fact that she had went in alone. She could only marvel at how different the presence of Naruto made conversations. She began to wonder why she had gone there in the first place. It hadn't been too late when Tsunade had released her; if she had hurried she could have made it home in time. Ramen had never been something she absolutely, really loved or craved. Perhaps she went to Ichiraku out of custom. Perhaps it was for the atmosphere. Perhaps the gossip. Sakura felt her heart beat rapidly as she continued to think; perhaps it was for her.
A/N: I'm sorry if you were expecting a chapter the size of one of the ones from my previous story. No, I can't make them so freakishly long with this one. As you may have noticed, I have revamped my style a bit here. I have tried to spruce up the details a bit and make the dialog a bit more complex and stuff. Tell me how I'm doing with that. I kinda like writing a minor character like Ayame. I'm able to take more liberties with her character and stuff. As it is, in retrospect, I'm glad this one won my vote. Writing Hinata again wouldn't have been as fun and it would have been more difficult to make a minor character convincing in the lead role as I would have had to do with Yugao. Anyways, I hope you think this is alright so far. If not, I can only tell you that it will probably get better.