Pick Your Battles

It's a skill everyone needs to have, and a skill Ino is determined to teach to Naruto. Of course, her reasons for doing so are not entirely selfless... Naruto/Ino NaruIno

"But Sakura-chan..."

The pink haired medic sighed in exasperation. Naruto just didn't get it. It wasn't that she disliked him. Heck, she was one of his closest friends. But she just didn't want to go out with him. Something that Naruto had failed to learn over the past 5 years.

"NO! I'm trying to be nice about this Naruto, but I don't want to go out with you. I'm fine with being just friends, if you'll just stop bugging me about it, okay?"

Naruto's face scrunched in frustration, and Sakura was sure that he was refusing to understand. They went through this every day, and even though it was really annoying, Sakura just couldn't bring herself to word her rejection in language strong enough to get the point across. She liked Naruto, and didn't want to hurt his feelings. She just didn't like him that way.

She decided to end it for today. "Look, Naruto. Can't we just be friends? I really do like being around you, when your not pestering me for dates. And I'm supposed to be going to help shishou in the hospital now, so if you'll excuse me..."

Sakura stood up from the counter of Ichiraku's, left enough money to cover her ramen and a healthy tip, and walked off in the direction of the hospital.

Naruto watched her retreating back with a hopeless expression. Sometimes it seemed like he was never going to succeed. But he had to! He couldn't give up! That was his nindo, yeah!

Leaving a significantly larger pile of money that Sakura's, to cover his 5 bowls of miso ramen, Naruto wandered in the general direction of his house. There was no hurry, since he didn't have anything to do after dinner tonight. Training had come earlier in the day, and Kakashi had firmly impressed upon his mind that he must rest if he wanted to get stronger. So no more training for today.

Naruto wandered along the busy streets, watching people coming home from working, going out to dinner, playing in the street, and conducting last minute business. He saw shops switch their signs to 'closed' for the evening.

It was getting dark. Maybe he should just get home and go to bed. Then he could start training extra early tomorrow, and impress Sakura-chan enough to...

But probably not. No matter what he did, she never changed her mind. Naruto heaved a heavy sigh, looking out at the sunset as he continued down the darkening streets.

Naruto just barely stopped himself from running into someone standing in his path. "Hey, Ino, I almost didn't see you there."

The blonde kunoichi flashed him a bright grin. Naruto felt uneasy. She had been a lot more friendly of late. According to Shikamaru, that probably meant that she was leading up to some big favor that Naruto would find rather unpleasant.

"Hey, Naruto. What's going on? You looked kinda sad, for a moment."

Naruto twisted his face into his foxy grin, squinting his eyes shut. "Just thinking! Even I do that sometimes, you know!"

Ino was skeptical, but didn't allow it to show on the outside. That grin might have fooled her years ago, but she knew Naruto well enough to tell the difference between his happy smile and his hiding smile. And that last smile was definitely covering something up.

"Did you get rejected by Sakura, again?"

The abrupt twitch of Naruto's face told her the answer even before he muttered in the affirmative. He immediately brightened up again, his eyes squinted shut once again.

"But I'll impress her tomorrow with my super-cool new jutsu that Ero-sennin's been teaching me! And then she'll go out with me for sure!"

"Naruto, you need to learn to pick your battles."

The orange-clad ninja just stared at her as if she had sprouted horns. "What?"

Ino explained carefully, slightly gratified that she had gotten him to drop the fake smile already. That was way sooner than she had done so before. Maybe tonight...

"You need to pick your battles. You gotta learn how to recognize when victory isn't possible. You've come a long way with your nindo of never giving up, but there are some times when it's more stupid to keep trying."

Ino wasn't sure that he got it, and his confused look, combined with his next statement, only confirmed this. "I haven't been in any battles, recently. But then next time..."

Ino shook her head. While his expression was rather cute, she was slightly put off that he wasn't getting the point.

"To be more specific, Naruto, I think you should stop asking Sakura out."

Naruto's eyes grew wide. "What?! But..."

Ino cut him off. "Just listen to me for a second, alright?" Naruto nodded slowly. "Sakura has said several times that she just wants to be your friend. She has turned you down every time you've asked her since the day you met her. It wasn't just Sasuke. She just doesn't see you that way."

Naruto was silent for a moment, and Ino grew hopeful. Maybe he would see what she was getting at?

"So I've got to make her see me that way before she'll agree to go out with me?"

Ino rubbed the bridge of her nose. This was going to be difficult. She should've known. Naruto wasn't the sharpest kunai in the set, and he didn't want to change his mind about this. Of course he would be difficult.

"What I'm saying, Naruto, is that she's not going to agree. Ever. She grew up with you. Your practically the brother she never had. She doesn't see you as a guy, she..."


Ino quickly cut her mind off from its current tangent of how Naruto would prove he was a boy, and managed to keep her blush to a minimum. She couldn't start thinking those things, or she would get distracted.

"What I meant, Naruto, is that you are like family to her. It just doesn't seem right to her to date you. It would be like dating her dad."

Naruto slumped a little, and looked at the ground. Ino had to restrain herself from reaching out to comfort him, because she knew he wouldn't take it the right way. Yet. But if Ino did this right...

"Besides, Naruto, there are other girls out there, you know. And they don't all think of you that way." Ino hoped she wasn't being to forward, though she crossed her arms under her chest to make sure he was very aware that she was a girl.

Naruto missed it, still looking at the ground. "What? But Ino, I don't really know that many girls."

"Start with the ones you do know." Ino flicked her head to one side so that her long, blonde ponytail was now draped over one shoulder. She moved slightly closer.

"Hinata is already dating Kiba, and Tenten's dating Neji. Moegi is to little, granny Tsunade is too old, Hanabi's too mean, and..."

Naruto suddenly found himself unable to speak when Ino closed the distance between them, grabbed his head on either side and kissed him full on the mouth. After a few seconds, she pulled away and looked him straight in the eyes, never letting go of his head. She was not going to let him look away and when she had something this important to say.

"I'm single, I'm your age, and I like you, Uzumaki Naruto."

Naruto was too stunned to utter anything intelligible, so Ino cut off his stuttering voice in another firm kiss.

After almost a minute, when Naruto had started to respond to her, Ino pushed back away. "Do you get it now, what I said about picking your battles? You have to choose to fight in battles you can win."

Naruto grinned, his true, happy, lopsided smile that made Ino's heart to somersaults within her, before his expression became a little more... hungry.

Ino's breath came in short little gasps as Naruto leaned in very close. "You just want me to pick you." His breath tickled her lips, making her face flush.

"Y-yes, I do."

"I win."

So did Ino.

Eh, not great, but hopefully the more I write, the better I will become. At the very least I can flood ffnet with mediocre one-shots and get my name out there.

Let me know what you think.