Author's Notes: I wanted to try my hand at some KibaIno. This has seriously been in the works for a good two months, and I'm THRILLED that it is finished. It's just a lightly-angsted fluff piece. But I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. That is all.
Out Of Your Mind
It started when Hana insisted he go to the florist shop and buy their mother some flowers when Tsume came down with a cold. It wasn't a serious illness, and she was up and training the youngest breed the very next morning, but Kiba had done as he was yelled to.
He had never stepped inside the florist shop. As a kid, he had believed that if he went within a certain distance of the place he would somehow get girly and a fate like that was deplorable when you were growing to fight with a freaking ninja dog. Once he was a graduate of the Academy, however, he realized that Chouji and Shikamaru spent a decent amount of time inside the place waiting on their kunoichi. Figuring that since they weren't girly, it must be safe for him too. Kiba stopped crossing to the other side of the street every time he had to walk past the Yamanaka business.
On the day of his mother's cold, Kiba went inside bravely, if somewhat hesitantly. It had taken nineteen years of his life, but he had finally entered the place. He was about to buy the first thing he set eyes on when the daughter of the family came out from the back.
Ino's gaze landed on him in a way that, for an incomprehensible reason, made him stand up straighter. She looked more different in here than he had ever seen her. Among soft petals of vibrant color, her appearance seemed somehow brighter. Her eyes were bluer, her hair blonder, the skin he could see practically glowed in the warmly lit room.
He stood still, waiting. Kiba didn't know why he stayed that way, but he noticed in the pause that she was startled by his presence, as though this was the very last place she would ever expect to run across her. And in reality, it probably was.
Her eyes eventually dropped from his to the bunch of blooms he held loosely in his left hand, and she forewent greeting in favor of, "Oh, Kiba! Did someone you know die?"
Surprised, he took a half-step back. "No," he retorted, caught off-guard and not liking it. "Why the hell do you ask that?"
"Well, you're holding lilies," she stated flatly, as though it explained why her eyes were so wide.
Annoyed, he demanded, "So what?"
She raised an eyebrow, less shocked now. "That's the grieving flower. I thought that was fairly common knowledge. What did you need flowers for?"
The tone of her voice wasn't offensive, he knew, just curiosity coming out in a rather harsh way. Defensiveness got the better of him anyway, and Kiba immediately rose up. "Can't I buy some damn flowers?"
"No! I mean, well, yes, but I just didn't…" She stopped speaking – babbling, really – and lowered her eyes to the counter that separated them. As though suddenly remembering she was working in her family's store, Ino straightened her shoulders. Her tone came out far more pleasantly when she regained the gumption to look at him. "Can I help you?"
Instant businesswoman, he noted. He briefly wondered if that's what she would have been if not a ninja. Clearing the thought away, he gave an impatient nod. "Yeah. My mom's sick. It's a cold," he added when the first vestiges of concern sprouted on the other Chuunin's face again. Despite being in the same generation with six years of field work between them, Kiba did not know Ino very well. They had never been on a mission together, and Ino was never there when he hung out with Shikamaru and Chouji. He didn't want to see her upset when he didn't know how to deal with it.
Her face cleared at once, and she smiled. It dawned on Kiba that she had never smiled at him. He had seen her smile, of course, but it had been for others. It was a first, he being the recipient of that simple curve of lips.
"Well, I'm glad," she said, her voice conveying exactly that. "Now, instead of lilies, why don't you bring your mother some azaleas? They're so much more appropriate…"
Kiba bought a bunch of azaleas. When he left the shop, he realized he was not girly, completely unharmed, and pretty much the same person he had been before entering.
Then he remembered Ino's smile, and that last notion wasn't quite so strong.
It was a year later that he found her, sitting alone on a hill outside of the main part of Konoha, watching the sun go down and twirling a daisy from a patch growing wildly between her thumb and forefinger. The gold burn in the sky cast a shine over her so it seemed she emitted her own light at the curve of her shoulder, the line of her neck, the bend of her knee.
Kiba was momentarily trapped where he stood, watching her watching. Befuddlement gripped him. His vantage point behind her didn't give him a view of her face, but her posture – slouching shoulders, spine bent toward her propped-up leg – told him that something was awry. It wasn't until he felt Akamaru's tail beating against the back of his thighs that Kiba was snapped out of his trance.
He gave the dog a scratch behind the ears, then tapped him on his head just so in a wordless order for him to stay. Not knowing why, the Inuzuka made his way down the hill, stopping three feet behind the oblivious woman.
"A little early in the week for mission reflection, isn't it?"
Ino turned around at the sarcastic question, and the equally sarcastic smile that had been on his face disappeared. There was a lusterless expression that completely diminished any light he had thought she exuded. "Not all of us reflect on missions all the time."
He couldn't tell if she was speaking generally or insinuating that he was a workaholic. Kiba decided it had to be the latter, since the former was improbable. Habit made him keep his wall up anyway, and he stuffed his hands into his pockets as he barked out a laugh. "Yeah, I can see where you'd get that, working with that lazy guy on your team."
He kept laughing, and her eyes curved – downward, though, not in amusement. Ino craned her neck so that her face was still directed toward him but she wasn't actually looking at him. It was a polite trick, though Kiba did not know her for a polite woman. He wondered if she was like that to all the strangers she encountered.
It confounded him when he felt somewhat unnerved by the fact that they truly were strangers.
"What are you doing out here all by yourself?" she asked, the tone light but bereft of cheerfulness.
"I could ask you the same thing. And anyway, I'm not alone." He jerked his head toward Akamaru's tail wagging form atop the hill. "We like walks."
She did turn away from him now. Feeling challenged, Kiba moved closer, lowering his long body into a cross-legged position at her back. "Come on, Ino. What's got you looking so down?"
"You have about as much subtlety as Naruto," came the frosty, impulsive response. Kiba grinned.
"It's about all I've ever needed."
A breeze came through. It lifted her hair, and the strands drifted back to brush against the right side of his neck without her awareness. Kiba's blinked at the unexpected sensation of blond silk touching him in something like a caress. He could only think that she smelled of violets, didn't just dress like them.
Suddenly desperate to ease the discomfort that probably he alone felt, Kiba said the first thing that came to his stuttering mind. "You're not bumming yourself out over Shikamaru, are you?"
He saw her go rigid, the muscles in her shoulders visibly clenching. She allowed several moments to pass by without the smallest of sounds, and the unusual silence made him regret his bold question. At least, Ino gave a brief chuckle. "What would make you ask something like that, Kiba? You know I'm in love with Uchiha Sasuke."
That name, so rarely voiced for so many years, took Kiba by some surprise, and his eyes narrowed. "Good choice."
She whirled around, hair flying, at his openly bitter tone. "Sakura thinks he has reasons. So then why shouldn't I—"
"Sakura knows him. She was his teammate. You think you know him because you know Sakura, but who was the one he said goodbye to when he left that day?" He didn't mean to hurt her, didn't mean to outright badmouth a former Leaf shinobi, but a blend of irritation and confusion loosed his tongue. "Why the hell did so many of us go out and almost get killed for a guy you thought you loved when we were twelve?! And you've been around Shikamaru and everyone's seen it—"
The eyes with which she stared at him did not appear to be the eyes of Yamanaka Ino. Then again, in the time between now and the day he had carried azaleas from her family's store, he had purposely paid more attention every time one of the shinobi on her team made an offhand comment about her, or whenever he heard someone mention the Yamanaka daughter in the street. He knew her now, not well, but better. And every piece of information said she was temperamental, but cheerful. No one had seen her cry since Asuma's death four years ago.
His fault, Kiba realized. Appearances aside, she was a kunoichi. She had seen just as much as he had. No Konoha ninja was without depth.
What got to him the most was that she wouldn't say anything to him. Ino only stared, straight into his gaze, as though he had stunned her with nothing more than the timbre of his voice.
All too quickly, she recovered. Rising to her feet with alarming swiftness, she simply walked away. Her violet scent swept over him as she passed by, the memory of her hair's softness like a dagger in his head.
And pathetically, he thought, he could not find it in himself to call out to her. He observed her until she was too far up the hill and down the street for him to see her anymore. It wasn't until Akamaru came and bumped against his side that he could so much as gather his wits and head for home.
Time and work did its job. Over the next year, he and Ino were assigned to as many as four of the same missions. Kiba got to see firsthand the way Ino's mind transfer jutsu operated. It was truly a horrific power; Ino did a full scale of tasks with her victims. Under her influence, Kiba saw competent ninja do everything from report failure to their bases to cause themselves fatal injury.
It was taxing on Ino as well. She needed time to shake off prolonged connection. When it came to mind transfer, she had to trust wholly in the abilities of her teammates to take care of her body. Kiba had been terrified of what could happen to her consciousness if an enemy killed her physical form while she was still performing a mental infiltration. But no harm besides one broken finger ever came to Ino, credited often to the fact that Kiba kept Akamaru guarding her body when she was outside of it.
Through their teamwork, the two of them developed a relationship. Over campfires, in the presence of others, they would talk and get to know each other. It was a slow process. Kiba and Ino were one of the few pairs who had not spent time together as children. Hazy memories of long-ago Academy Days were not sufficient. They had shared frustrated recollections of them both fighting – and losing to – a member of Team 7 during their first Chuunin Exam.
Eventually, it came to a point when they were friends – unexpectedly close friends. In Konoha, if they both had time off, they would most usually be together walking Akamaru or discussing anything and everything that came upon their minds. Kiba found it strange for awhile that he could speak so easily with her, and he felt Ino was caught off-guard by it too. But both shrugged it off and gratefully accepted the companionship.
They went out together on a summer evening to see a lunar eclipse on the same hillside where Kiba had first approached her before they had started to get the same missions. There was comfortable silence between them in Akamaru's absence. Kiba had left the big dog at home for once. Ino lay on her side as Kiba stretched onto his back to watch as the planet's shadow began to fall over the moon. Before long, a gust brushed over them and Ino involuntarily shivered.
"Hey, Ino, you cold?" he asked casually.
She gave a short laugh. "Stupid, I know. For some reason, I can ever get cold in seventy-degree weather."
"That is stupid," he agreed even as he sat up. Kiba efficiently unzipped and stripped off his customary jacket, them half-tossed, half-placed it over her. Ino grinned as she drew her knees up and curled beneath it.
"So tell me the truth," she said, gaining her gossip-time voice. The tone had irked him at first, but now Kiba was amused. "There are limited choices here, so who was the first girl you kissed, Kiba?"
He lifted an eyebrow at her. "Way to pry."
"It's not prying when you grow up together."
With a smirk, he returned his gaze to the moon with its crescent-like shadow above. "Hinata."
"No, it wasn't!" came the scandalized reply.
"Yes, it was," he smiled. "But…not romantically. She was training under a waterfall and swallowed a bunch of water. I had to pump her stomach and give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."
"Wow. You're a singular person," she teased. "Who else can say they've kissed a Hyuuga?"
"Okay, she can too."
"How about you?" Even as he asked, Kiba felt he already knew the answer.
"Oh God, it was a long time ago. I think we must have been thirteen…" Ino's voice lowered to a whisper, as though she were divulging a fact she hoped would stay secret even after revealing it. "Shikamaru."
Her indignation would normally have made him laugh, but somehow he could not stand the image of her kissing the Nara man. Even though she said they had been young, the picture in his mind was very current. "Because the whole prepubescent thing carried over."
Ino's eyes went suddenly blue as ice and just as cold. "You better have a good reason for saying that, Kiba."
The world around them grew darker and seemed to shrink as the moonlight dimmed and dimmed.
"Are you going to deny it? You're on the same team, you have been for years. Shikamaru has looked out for you whenever you use your jutsu, and you two trained together even when Chouji wasn't available. It makes sense." Kiba and Ino locked gazes, but only for a moment. She lowered her head, blond hair falling forward to shield her face from his intense eyes. "There's nothing wrong with feeling for someone. And I know you feel for Shikamaru. It's hiding those feelings that is disgraceful." A bitter edge had entered his tone and refused to dissolve. "You care about him. Hell, you may even be in love with him."
"What, Ino?" he snapped. "Gonna tell me you love Uchiha Sasuke again?"
"No!" Her head rocketed up, and she glared. He inhaled sharply; there were tears glittering in her eyes like jagged diamonds. "So what if I loved him? He never loved me! He and Temari got together and they are the worst together, they scream and shout…and they argue all the time about nothing. And he told me, Kiba, he told me himself he doesn't think he knows how to live with her anymore!"
Stunned, Kiba only observed her, but his eyes were narrowed.
"And he told me…" Ino sniffed. One of her slender, scarred hands had curled around a sleeve on his jacket. "Shikamaru told me he couldn't live without her either."
The anger had ebbed, gave way to heartbreak. Or what he thought was heartbreak. "So you'll cry over him forever?" he asked quietly.
She gave a chuckle. "What? I'm hurt, moron, I'm not destroyed. We're twenty years old. Surely I'll find someone who wants me before too long."
The words slashed through him like a newly-sharpened katana. "You think no one wants you? What kind of crazy…"
He wasn't sure what he was trying to say. Kiba only realized that he was moving, crawling over the grass toward her as the eclipse reached its height. The shadow covered the moon fully, and the two on the hill were plunged into black.
In the same instant, one of Kiba's hands closed over one of Ino's shoulders, and his lips caught hers in unthinking haste. He felt Ino gasp and stiffen beneath him. His other hand got lost in her hair, and he briefly recalled the way he had thought it silk the last time they had been here together.
When the kiss ended, both were gasping, and Ino stared up at him with wide eyes. Only his thick coat separated them. Kiba squeezed his eyes shut to keep out the confused regard she bestowed on him. But then a cool hand passed over his taut cheek, and he opened his eyes once more.
"Kiba…" Wonderment filled her face, though it this lightlessness it was difficult to make out her expression. "Are you…"
Yes, he wanted to say.
"Are you crazy?"
"I want you," was all he could manage. "Even if you think no one else does. I have since I first saw your mind transfer jutsu in action, the time I first admired you." Remembering his own words, he said, "I'm not going to hide from you, Ino. I can't."
Her eyebrows flew upward. After many silent moments, however, she smiled. Her arms slowly came up to wrap around his neck and bring his lips within a couple scant inches on her own. "I think you're out of your mind."
His usual grin alighted on his features. "Or better yet, out of yours."
"Oh, no." Giggling lightheartedly, Ino's fingertips ran over the back of his neck and made him shiver. "Not mine."
As they met each other midway for another kiss, the eclipse continued, and pale moonlight burst through the darkness.
Perhaps they were both out of their minds.