"Ah! Beautiful as always!" a plump woman in her mid forties held up a bouquet of sunflowers and inhaled deeply, "Thank you Ino-chan, you did a wonderful job."
Ino smiled and waved off the compliment, "Oh no problem at all Hinari-san. Thank you for your business."
"I don't know anywhere else to get such lovely flowers. Tell your parents tulips for next weeks order will you?"
"Yes of course....." Ino bowed respectfully to the older woman as she turned and swept out of the shop, "You old bat....."
Ino wrinkled her nose, "I spend almost everyday out on missions and Mom still expects me to help in the shop! I really need to get my own place!" She sighed and leaned over the counter, resting her chin in her hands, "I wonder if I can get a nice apartment on a Chunnin's pay...?"
She bowed her head in thought causing her long blond hair to flip over her shoulder, "Hmmm...."
The bell on the door of her family's shop jangled, cheerfully announcing the arrival of a customer. Ino sat up and smiled invitingly, "Good Afternoon! Welcome to—Oh! Hi Naruto."
Naruto walked to the counter, smiling pleasantly at her, "Hi Ino! Watching the shop today huh?"
Ino sat on the counter, putting herself at eye level with the blond, Wow he's gotten tall!
"Yeah, Mom wanted to go shopping so she roped me into taking care of things here."
Naruto shot her a foxy grin, "Well it's nice that you help your family out. Must be pretty relaxing compared to missions huh?"
Ino shrugged, "I've never really thought about it that way."
He laughed, "Yeah, I guess you must be sick of it huh? Sakura-chan tells me you work here a couple days a week."
Ino raised an eyebrow at her former classmate, "She talks about me? What a weird thing to tell you."
Naruto rubbed the back of his head and smiled sheepishly, "Actually, I asked her to fill me in on how everyone's been doing. It's hard to get together with everyone since we're all busy with missions, but I see Sakura-chan everyday. Sorry I guess I should have come to see you myself."
Ino shook her head, "Don't be sorry, things have gotten pretty noisy around here since you got back." she smiled, "How have you been Naruto?"
The other blond leaned on the counter and grinned, "I'm just happy to be home. I really missed everyone. Training was great, and I got a lot stronger, but even I want a break once in awhile."
Ino nodded, "I know what you mean. Some days I just want to tell the guys to stuff it!"
She grinned and Naruto laughed, "I can't imagine Shikamaru pushing you too hard. Does he even get off his butt to train?"
Ino giggled behind her hand, "I said the same thing to him when we were Genin. It's amazing, but he actually gets a lot done when he's motivated."
"Now that is something I would love to see! Invite me next time you train Ino."
"Sure! Maybe you can show us some of the things you learned while you were away! Anyway Naruto, what are you doing here?" she grinned and leaned closer to him, "Or did you just want to see me?"
Naruto blushed lightly; unconsciously leaning back to put some space between Ino and himself, "Ah, Ino-chan...."
Ino laughed and drew away from him, leaning back on her hands, "Naruto, you're such a kid! You're just too easy!"
Naruto pouted at her, "Ino! That's not fair! Talking to me that way...."
Especially when I could see down your shirt... his blush deepened, but he didn't voice his last thought.
Ino waved him off, "It was just a bit of fun. It's been a boring day." she winked at him, "Besides, a girl can't help but like it when her looks are appreciated. So really, what's up? You didn't come here for flowers did you?"
Naruto grinned, "Actually I did."
Ino's eyes widened, "REALLY? Who are they for?" she gasped, "Naruto! Are you seeing someone! Do you have a date!" she leaned over him, Maybe he finally noticed Hinata! Oh my gosh!
Naruto raised his hands and averted his eyes, 'I really wish she wouldn't lean over like that!'
"Hold on Ino! The flowers are for Sakura-chan!"
Ino stopped and sat back on her hands, eying him suspiciously, "For Sakura..? Naruto!" the young man jumped as she grabbed his arm, "Are you dating Sakura!"
Naruto waved his hands, "No, no! Nothing like that! Today's her birthday so I thought I would do something nice for her!"
Ino let out a sigh, slightly disappointed by his answer, "Oh I see. That makes sense. Do you need help picking something out?"
Nartuo shook his head, "No thanks Ino. I'm getting her daffodils, they're her favorite."
Ino slid off the counter and began gathering the flowers, "You actually know what her favorite flower is?"
Naruto grinned, "Well, whenever I'm in the hospital that's what she brings, and during one of our missions she told me and Sauske that she likes them."
Ino watched him from the corner of her eye, surprised by the revelation, That had to be at least three years ago and he remembered....
She walked back to him, lowers in hand and leaned on the counter then smiled at him, "I'm impressed Naruto."
"Huh? With what?"
Ino shook her head and poked him in the ribs, "You remembered that, I bet that Shikamaru and Chouji don't know what my favorite flower is. They could learn something from you."
Naruto furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, "You want me to tell them what you favorite flower is?"
Ino rolled her eyes, He's really dense.
"That's not what I meant! You don't even know that. How could you tell them?"
Naruto frowned, "Yeah I do."
Ino's jaw dropped, "What!"
"You like roses. I heard you telling Sauske about it a long time ago." he tilted his head in thought, "Unless you changed your mind."
Ino gaped at him trying to pull her thoughts together; Naruto still seemed confused by the whole conversation and had settled to twirling a kunai in his hand, trying to distract himself.
After a moments Ino pulled herself together; she smiled and pushed her self up on her toes to look him in the eye, "You know..."
He stopped playing with the kunai to look at her; she grinned mischievously at him, "I could really fall for a guy like you."
Naruto had to grab the counter to steady himself, "WHAT?"
Ino laughed, "Girls like strong, sensitive guys Naruto. You're just the right mix of both. If only you weren't so loud you'd be perfect!"
Naruto stared at her, not sure if he had heard her correctly; his mind worked desperately to get a handle on the unfamiliar situation. "Uh, ah-- Ino, I thought you liked Sauske!"
Ino frowned and shook her head, "I thought I did too. It was just a school-girl crush." she shrugged, " After he betrayed Konoha I just didn't feel the same way about him." she looked up into confused sapphire eyes.
"I can't be in love with someone who would betray his closest friends. Besides, he never cared about me.."
I'm not sure he ever cared about anyone...
She began arranging the flowers that she had gathered, "I didn't want to see it."
Naruto frowned; feeling guilty for bringing up old wounds, "Ino I'm sorry, I didn't know what to say...."
Ino smiled at him, "Don't be sorry. I got over him a long time ago. People change."
Naruto laughed half-heartedly, "Yeah... they do..."
Ino cut a piece of pink ribbon from a roll under the counter and used it to tie a bow around the flowers; then she held them up and smiled at her handiwork, "Here you go. Specially made just for you."
Naruto took the flowers from her; closing his eyes as he inhaled the light fragrance, "It looks great Ino-chan. Thank you!" he used his free hand to reach for his wallet, "How much do I owe you?"
Ino smiled and patted him on his shoulder, "Don't worry about it Naruto; it's on me."
Naruto paused, "Are you sure that's okay Ino?"
Ino grinned "Yeah sure!" Naruto still seemed uncertain, so she patted him on his shoulder once more, "How about this? If it'll make you feel better, you can bring me flowers on my birthday."
Naruto grinned at her, "Alright! I'll remember that." He turned to leave, "Well I better get going, I have to meet Shikamaru in about ten minutes. Thanks you're the best!"
She laughed, "Anytime Naruto."
He waved to her and turned to leave, but when he reached the shop entrance he turned and looked back at her, "Oh, Ino! I almost forgot."
She looked up at him, "Yeah Naruto?"
He grinned; "When is your birthday?"
Ino laughed, "That's right I never told you! September 23rd."
Naruto nodded and repeated the date to himself to commit it to memory, "Okay, I'll see you later Ino!"
She laughed and waved at his retreating form, "Bye Naruto! Welcome home!"