A/N: At last, the KibaIno story for the New York Society series. I know a bunch of you are Chouji/Ino fans, but I'm afraid I just can't get into that pairing. The dynamic Kiba and Ino's personalities provide is just something I enjoy writing more. I hope you can enjoy this fic anyway.
Written for 50 Alternates, using the prompt "city."
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am not making any profit from this fan fiction.
Worth The Aggravation
Ino Yamanaka was sexy, graceful, and she smelled good; three pluses in an initial evaluation. Chances were, too, that she was very professional in her work. Otherwise it would be unlikely that she was considered by all the proper authorities the top model in the country.
However, Kiba Inuzuka reflected with an air that was nearly brooding, she had the inescapable minus that she was a freaking bitch.
"Tell me again," said the woman of the hour to Asuma Sarutobi, captain of the NYPD's investigation unit, "why I need additional security?" The upward inflection that finished her demand was executed with a slight toss of her blond head, presumably to try to cast off the chief's impressive height in comparison with her more normal stature.
Asuma took a good long drag from his cigarette, whether to alleviate a particularly bad nicotine pang or to postpone responding, Kiba could not be certain. At any rate, he was apparently not bothered by the 'no smoking' sign on the wall of the airport exit where they stood waiting for a taxi driver to finish loading Ino's rather excessive luggage into his cab. Around them, passengers-to-be and new arrivals bustled, the majority obviously annoyed by their unmoving state in the mostly mobile crowd but none directly commenting on it due to Asuma's starched uniform and gleaming badge. It was just as well – the better to distract them from the identity of his conversation partner.
At last exhaling a long trail of gray smoke, Asuma smiled, and Ino wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Because you have a bad habit of dismissing your standard guys, and your agent is sick of it."
"And why," she went on, shifting her perturbed gaze from Kiba to his companion, "is it necessary for that to be here?"
At the retorting growl, Inuzuka placed a soothing hand on the head of the very large, pale brown canine at his side. "I train the police dogs," Kiba said in the beginnings of temper, "and Akamaru here is my partner."
"Not fond of people, are you?" she queried archly. There wasn't a note of genuine interest in her voice, but cool distance in her ice blue eyes.
He showed her teeth, but the effect was more of a grimace than a grin. "Only a few."
"Officer Inuzuka is young and promising," interpolated Asuma with a tap to his cigarette to rid it of ash buildup. "You have a lot in common, Ino."
"I don't like dogs."
"That doesn't matter. Point is, you want to do some work in the city. We can't have a repeat of what happened last time or your father will kill me barehanded. So either you accept the trained professional I've assigned to your safety or you turn around and hop a jet right back to L.A." Another smoke cloud filled the air. That and Asuma's casual tone of voice did nothing to diminish the seriousness with which he spoke. "You're an adult, Ino. Your call."
Kiba watched the fashion supermodel fold her arms, hip cocked, frost-pink fingernails drumming. It wasn't hard to deduce that she was upset by the ultimatum. Akamaru's tail began to wag.
"Fine," she huffed after a measure of internal debate. Her sharp gaze arrowed to Kiba. "But if you even think about taking advantage of this situation, I swear to God I'll have you fired, arrested by the guy who sits in the desk across from you, and your dog sent to the pound...all within one hour."
Kiba bristled, several choice words coming to mind, but bit down on the inside of his cheek to maintain his cool. Starting to follow her toward the waiting taxi, he aimed a mutinous glare at Asuma.
The captain only raised a hand in farewell, beaming facetiously. "Welcome home, Ino."
She didn't take kindly to the notion that she was incapable of taking care of herself. That more than anything was why she tried to get by in her working years without having to feel like a child that required constant supervision.
Ino also didn't take kindly to the way her current supervisor shoved her into the cab the second she stepped off the curb at the airport exit. She hadn't even gotten so much as a glance at the city yet; arguing with Asuma took all of her attention. Even more shocked was she when the enormous dog, Akamaru, leapt onto the back seat with her as Officer Inuzuka slid into the front.
"Excuse me," she began, the startle she took making her voice shrill.
"He clearly won't fit in the front," the policeman fielded immediately. "And it's not like he's gonna run beside the taxi."
One of her hands dug into thick fur to retain as much distance between model and mutt as was possible (about four inches as a result). "Was there a reason you couldn't offer me the passenger seat?" Ino did her best to ignore the chuckle the cab driver emitted, not bothering with discretion.
Dark eyes met hers from beneath an overlong fringe of dark brown bangs. "Gotta make sure I have a good vantage point, for shooters and such. Right?"
Akamaru panted. Ino stifled a groan when a dribble of droll landed wet and warm on the back of her hand.
"Where to?" the driver finally asked, his need for humor abated.
Ino opened her mouth to reply, but Kiba beat her to the punch.
"NYPD headquarters." This time he didn't bother to look at his charge for her reaction. He must have known it would be a mixture of agitation and surprised curiosity. "I've got something to take care of. I received a text message while I was picking up the princess here."
The something, it turned out, was a woman with long brown hair, ripped jeans, a tube top, and a sheepish grin. She had been held at the station and, judging from her relieved expression, had been waiting for the officer.
"I'm sorry, Kiba!" she exclaimed as soon as he was in view. "How was I supposed to the know the guy didn't have spyware? Or that some of his spies were the cops?"
"As a hacker," Kiba said in obvious aggravation, "aren't you anti-spyware? And what is this, Hana, the fourth time you've been caught?"
"The third!" exclaimed Hana Inuzuka, giving her hair an indignant flip.
Frowning, Kiba waved off the officer keeping an eye on the hacker (and did not miss that he was most likely the one to execute his arrest should Ino Yamanaka have reason to make good on her earlier threat). Ino looked on, astounded, as the scene unfolded. "We won't charge you – this time. It's not like you have any money."
"Well, I do now. Guys pays big bucks to access the hard drive at the Pentagon." Hana grinned broadly. "Just kidding!"
"You let people like that go?" demanded Ino. "How corruptedare you?"
"I'm not corrupt, I'm her brother." Kiba snapped his fingers, and Akamaru was at his side. "Which might mean the same thing," he muttered under his breath before escorting Ino out of the station, where she was getting some suspicious looks and more than a few speculating whispers.
When they made it to her building on the upper east side, Ino found herself once again squeezed between Akamaru and a hard place – namely, Kiba's chest – in the elevator. And as they were heading to the twenty-second floor, it was going to be long ride up.
Ino relaxed her shoulders in an attempt to show how indifferent she was to the state of things, yet her legs, which Akamaru's tail rhythmically thumped, remained locked.
At this proximity, Kiba, by the rapidly flaring nostrils of his dog, was able to make an amendment to an earlier observation of her. "You smell too good," he said, sounding louder than he really was, cramped in with Akamaru, the model, and the many suitcases Ino had brought with her.
Startled, Ino jerked her head to the right in order to hook him with a "what the hell" look at the apparently random comment. As it was, she succeeded in looking only generally perturbed, as her long blond ponytail whipped the police officer in the left side of the face. "Excuse me?"
Kiba mentally affirmed that he hated hearing those words from her, and she had thus far uttered them only twice. He resisted the urge to reach up and rub at his assaulted left cheek – not because he minded her seeing the reaction but because such a maneuver would most likely result in his hand grazing her rear, and he didn't want to suffer her indignant screeching (and she probably would screech) in this lack of space between them. He preferred a slightly stinging cheek to a burst eardrum any day.
"You smell too good," he repeated. "Or rather, you smell too much. It throws off Akamaru's nose. So you'll have to stop wearing perfume around us."
"How good is he if he can't operate around someone wearing perfume?" Ino asked, her eyes narrowed.
"To be more specific," continued Kiba, indulging her question, "he has trouble with closed-in areas like apartments and condos. He's bred more for street work. Your scent only makes it worse."
There came a heavenly ding, and the elevator doors parted smoothly. Ino, hands full of suitcases, left Kiba to grab the remaining three, and proceeded down the well-lit corridor with its intricately-painted walls to a set of double doors on the north side of the building. Managing to dig out the key from the depths of her purse, she called back to him, "Well, fortunately he'll only be here during your working hours. I'm sure he'll tolerate the circumstances for that long."
Kiba's lips grew thin. "Actually, that's not it." He followed her into the apartment, which was truly more of a penthouse, after sending Akamaru a sympathetic glance. He told himself he was not instantly impressed by the state of the art appliances among the décor that spoke of class.
"What do you mean?" Ino had set her suitcases a few feet inside the living room given way to by the entrance, prompting Kiba to do the same. He watched Akamaru shut the doors with a front paw. His charge was barely paying him any attention now, preferring instead of focus on the gift basket that had been left on the glass and iron coffee table in front of a green, suede-covered sofa.
"I mean," Kiba said, "that we won't be here for just working hours. This is no nine-to-five job." Ino's eyes darted to his, twin points of blue on brown. "Akamaru and I'll be staying here, in this place, as long as you're in New York."
Apparently Captain Sarutobi had failed to debrief this woman on the full extent of Officer Inuzuka's assignment. Kiba could have committed murder one.
"But why? How do you expect me to...what the hell does Asuma think he's..." Kiba was relatively sure he might see her pop a blood vessel. Akamaru panted excitedly. "You don't belong here!" Ino blurted at last.
Kiba folded his arms and assessed her with an expression that suggestion simmering under the surface. "No kidding. I'm bred for street work, too."
Yamanaka opened her mouth to no doubt snap back something witty, but her cell phone rang and she jerked the device from her purse. "What?" she seethed into the phone without bothering to check the caller's identity. "Ah, Shikamaru. I was hoping you were my dad... No, I'm planning an argument that will last for hours. You've done prosecution, what's the best way to threaten an agent with job insecurity?" She blew out an impatient breath, then ran a hand through loose strands of hair that had been freed from her ponytail. "July...damn, I have no idea what's happening in July. It sounds possible – for me, that is. Just a sec."
She hit a button on her cell phone, then set it on the coffee table, taking a moment to pierce Kiba with a resentful glare. "Okay. July."
"Maybe," came a voice from the activated speaker phone. Kiba listened to the man talk with the initial suspicion he had been trained to experience. "It all depends on schedules, really. There's either this case that has to be resolved or that show that has to reach the end of its run. I'm starting to think Temari and I were never meant to get married."
Her back was to the policeman, so Kiba could not see Ino's grin. "You could live in sin the rest of your lives. I'll still be your friend. Besides, after the press mob at Sakura's wedding, I'm not sure I'm ready for another big bash."
"Thanks. Chouji, however, is dying to cook for this wedding, and I'd regret not giving him the opportunity. Talk to your dad – we both know you're not gonna switch agents – and get back to me about July. Then go to that Uzumaki's restaurant Chouji's at. He'd like to see you, and you'd like the food."
"Say hi to Temari. I might come see a show while I'm here, I don't know. We'll have to see."
"Story of your life," Shikamaru conceded dryly before there was a dull noise and the call was terminated. Ino gave a low laugh as she went to her phone and shut the lid.
Having been on good behavior by remaining silent while she talked, Kiba now asked, "Who was that?"
"It's not any of your business," she informed him icily, proving how adept she was at altering between moods instantaneously.
"It is because it's my job to ask. Who was on the phone, Ino?"
She glanced at him again, maybe because he hadn't said her first name yet or because his tone left little room for flippant remarks. "Shikamaru Nara, one of my oldest friends. Okay?"
"Nara," he began, "with—"
"With Hyuuga & Nara. That's right. He and his partner, Neji Hyuuga, are the biggest firm in New York, blah, blah, blah, everyone knows." Ino threw herself down onto the couch and crossed her legs. "And they're my representation. Fantastic, huh?"
"Great," he agreed unenthusiastically.
"So let me get this straight." Regarding him with an upturned chin, she said, "You and your dog are to live here in my home for the duration of my stay in the city. Is that correct?" At his nod, she proceeded. "And you have been assigned to be my personal bodyguard for my every waking moment, inside and out?"
"Also your every sleeping moment."
Her lip curled but her face was too pretty to be marred by it. "What, are you going to stand in the stall when I enter a public restroom?"
"I can understand why you're not thrilled with the situation. I can think of a number of cases I'd rather be a part of." Kiba patted Akamaru's head, as though they together shared this current misfortune. "But I don't deserve this mind abuse of yours."
"This is my life you're invading, Officer Inuzuka."
"Call me Kiba, dammit. Because," he went on, heatedly now, "whether you like it or not, I've been given the task to protect you as long as you are within city limits. I will stay with you, I will guard you, I will even follow you on dates – I suggest you don't go on any, by the way – because those are my orders. Trust me, I'm starting to get a lot more upset about you than this. But you agreed to the deal, and now I call the shots. So deal with it."
Ino's lips parted.
"And you will call my dog 'Akamaru.' Got it?"
She was fuming, he knew, without the signs of a woman who had been brought to a boil – but fuming all the same.
At last, Ino found the calm to reply, "Fine. Kiba. Do me a favor and put those suitcases in the first bedroom down the hall to the left. You can have the one to the right. Akamarumay sleep out here. And for Christ's sake, if he makes a mess, you will be paying for new carpeting or whatever else."
"He's very well-trained," Kiba assured her with forced placidity. "And suitcases, sure."
"Good. Now, if you don't mind..." She rose, quickly and gracefully, from the couch. "I've got jet lag and I have to be on Fifth Avenue at five o' clock in the morning. Good night."
Kiba watched her bolt from the room, only to hear a door snap shut seconds later. With a sigh, he hefted the first round of suitcases to deposit them in her room while she was making use of the bathroom, then get the hell out of her way once he was finished.
Ino was having trouble sleeping, something that drove her crazy when she was in the middle of a work season. The makeup crew gave you odd looks if you came in with bags under your eyes.
She didn't know why she was so unsettled. She'd had a wonderful shoot that day, atop a skyscraper roof, posing for an ad – for perfume, incidentally. The Empire State Building had been in the alignment, emphasizing a lovely day in May. A giant fan had been blowing her hair, accentuating her naked back. It had been a topless shot, her arms folded across her front with her tanned back to the camera, which she looked at flirtatiously.
Ino had also engaged in a rousing yelling match with her father, and even though daddy knew best, it helped to heighten her energy level with the adrenaline rush and made her practically glow for the shoot. Kiba, she estimated, had watched the events with due fascination, but he also seemed to grow bored standing on the sidelines with Akamaru.
When her top came off the first time, she had looked at him in time to see his dark eyes go quite wide, and the grin she gave him was caught on camera. It was that photo, she had learned, that was going in the final ad. She didn't tell Kiba about it.
Her bed was lusciously cool, covered in satin, and still she felt like she was burning up. It was, if she was honest with herself, not unlikely that she was horny. She hadn't had sex with anyone in close to six months. But the likelihood of her wanting to sleep with that mangy – and that was precisely the word for him, Ino was certain – was practically non-existant. Even if he did have expressive eyes, a full mouth, and a spread of muscles the thin T-shirts he preferred to wear did absolutely nothing to hide.
Damn. Ino threw off the covers and let her bare legs breathe. It reallywas hot. Pressing a hand to her forehead, she slid to the floor with intent to get a drink of water and check the thermostat.
When she opened the door of her bedroom, waywardly thinking that Kiba slept across the hall, she let out a long scream.
There was a loud thud from the police officer's room, followed by frantic barking from the living room, and then Kiba was in the hallway with her. They were quite the pair, freaked out and poorly clad as they were; Kiba wore boxer shorts and Ino only a long nightshirt.
It was not her state of undress that caught Kiba's attention but rather the increasingly bright and growing ball of flame shivering from what appeared to be a stainless steel waste basket at the end of Ino's kitchen counter, in view from the hallway.
Kiba exclaimed a string of creative curses, dashing into action simultaneously. Akamaru lunged over, sniffed and barked, and rather than seizing the fire extinguisher right behind the refrigerator two feet away, Kiba covered the waste basket with the nearest object he could find – in this case, a vintage umbrella stand found beside the hall entrance.
Ino watched, paralyzed, until Kiba lifted the umbrella stand off of the waste basket. In the light of only a bathroom fixture that had bee left on, she saw ash and smoke fly up from the contents of the waste basket, which the now-extinguished fire had been steadily burning.
"What," Ino began, but she had to swallow in order to ask properly. "What happened?"
Kiba took a whiff of what looked to be charred filings among blackened paper towels in the waste basket. "Zinc," he told her curtly. "Wet zinc. Someone went to the trouble of sneaking in to hurt you indirectly."
"Zinc powder. When it's wet, it ignites. Someone placed it, dry, into the trash can here, then covered it with damp paper towels – taken right from your roll, it looks like."
She recognized the hearts and stars pattern, barely discernible in its state and this lighting. "Who was it?" Ino could speak without trembling now.
"Dunno." Satisfied that the danger had been evaded for now, Kiba turned to her, loose bangs messy from sleep and falling in his eyes. "Got any enemies?"
"Probably only someone wanting to smoke you out." Ino leaned against the wall to her left. "Someone doesn't like you being here."
In spite of the current scenario, Kiba's mouth quirked. "I don't think you know enough about chemistry to do this stuff."
"I didn't do it, of course!" she shrilled. "Besides, I..."
He kept looking, his gaze solemn now. Even Akamaru was still, studying her.
"I'm glad you were here," Ino finished quietly, damning the unusual heat that filled her face. To lessen the tension, she added, "I would have thrown more water on it or used the fire extinguisher and made it worse."
"Well..." Kiba made as though to put his hands in his pockets before realizing he didn't have any. A small look of embarrassment came over his own face. "I'm gonna put a call into the office, let them know about this. It's only three AM and you don't have anything on your schedule until six tonight. Why don't you go back to sleep?"
She was far too jittery to think about sleeping right now, but Ino didn't want to let him know that. Casting a look at the patiently waiting police dog, she smiled. "Does Akamaru like scrambled eggs?"
She didn't notice, of course, that this was the first time she had smiled – a real smile, not a teasing grin - in his presence, and so Kiba was affected in a way he hadn't anticipated. "Yeah. I mean, not too many, he'll be sick."
"Okay." Moving past him, she flipped on the kitchenette light, then went to the fridge and began pulling out an egg carton. "Hey, Kiba, why..." She paused, trying to find a way to pose the question delicately. "Why did Akamaru not pick up on the smell of the zinc? I didn't wear any perfume today."
Kiba moved behind Ino to reach for a hanging skillet above her head, attempting to be helpful. The action brought them into such sudden propinquity that Ino nearly dropped the single egg she pulled from the carton. He angled an unidentifiable expression toward her, his lips unsettling close to her cheek.
"Guess your natural scent smells too good for him, too," said the cop casually, with the slightest of catches in his breath when she shifted and her hip grazed his. He quickly set the skillet on the stove and secured some distance.
Ino's smiled remained. "How about it? Scrambled eggs?"
"That depends." The mood was far lighter now. "You got ketchup?"
"Yeah. It's real good on eggs."
"That's—" Ino had almost said "insane" but stopped herself. "That's something I'd be willing to try," she amended.
Kiba produced a small smile of his own before leaving the room to make his call to the station.
She was disturbed by the latest events, yes, but with Akamaru standing beside her – as though waiting for the next incident – Ino had to admit to herself that she felt much safer. And Kiba...
"By the way, Ino." Kiba was at the mouth of the hallway. She looked back at him, loose blond hair mussed and flying about her shoulders, one hand on the heat knob of the stove. "I'm not going anywhere. Me and Akamaru, we don't get smoked out."
Ino cracked an egg and grinned.
She had always liked adventurous guys. Maybe this one was actually worth the aggravation.
"Hey, Kiba," she said when he returned and eggs were scrambled. "You know how I'm meeting my friends, Sasuke and Sakura, for dinner tonight?"
"Yeah." He sat at her table. He had politely not bothered to give himself an advantage by donning any more clothes.
"You have to come with me, don't you?"
"Everywhere but the bathroom."
Sitting herself, she placed the egg-full skilled between them and dug in with a fork. On the floor, Akamaru was lapping at a smaller plate. "Would you be my date?"
His eyes grew perceptibly wider, a comical thing, as his mouth was already full. He was, no doubt, recalling his advice that she not date while he was her security. Swallowing, he aimed a half-suspicious, half-appeased look at her glittering blue eyes.
"All right," Kiba agreed after several moments of deliberation. "Who knows, you might be as much fun as you look in those swimsuit commercials you do."
Ino's slapped the ketchup bottle between them. Kiba's hand came to rest there, challengingly, but also with a bit of the protectiveness he had been so reluctant to give before.
"Much more," she declared.
She loved being home in the city.