Ino spent almost all of her time at Kiba's bedside, waiting for him to regain consciousness. A week and a half had passed but he still showed no signs of coming out of the coma. The medical staff reassured her that his life was not in danger. His body was simply struggling to repair the damage around the fragile nerve cells of his brain. Once the connections would be repaired then he would find the force to return to consciousness. The problem therefore, lay not in the fact that he would eventually recover but the time that it would take.
Ino found it impossible to believe them, despite her own medical training. Seeing him lying motionless only meant imminent death as far as she was concerned. Kiba was a young man always so vibrant and full of life. She found it nearly impossible to believe that he could be just lying there, unmoving; despite her pleas for him to show some sign of his former self.
On the eleventh evening Tsume walked into the room to find Ino in her usual state of vigilance. She knew that it was unhealthy for the girl to continue tormenting herself like this. It would be best if she returned to work in the clinic where she could take her mind off of Kiba's current condition.
A quick glance of the girl's face nearly startled the mother. Ino had not been eating or taking care of herself like she should but now after nearly two weeks of worrying, the physical repercussions were showing in her newly sunken features. This worried the mother. What if what she had felt a while back was true? She approached the young kunoichi and searched for the tell–tale scent she had almost certainly picked up on before. Yes, there was no denying. She took the girl's chin in her hand and peered into her large sky blue eyes now encircled by dark rings from lack of sleep and malnutrition.
"Ino, you have got to stop sitting here and pining. You're wasting away into nothing. You know that Kiba would not want to see you like this. Besides, we need to talk. Come back with me to the house and I'll make you a proper meal."
Ino would have liked to protest. What if Kiba came to and she wasn't there for him? Taking another look at his fragile, motionless figure she realized that would hardly be the case and too weak to argue with Tsume, she allowed herself to be led out of the hospital room.
After a few sips of soup Ino felt ill. It wasn't only that she had no appetite since Kiba's accident but when she did try to eat her stomach quickly rebelled. She could barely keep anything down.
Tsume took a seat in front of the girl, coaxing her to eat. "Do you want to tell me about your argument with Kiba the other day? I still haven't figured out how it ties into his fight with Shino."
Ino explained about the arranged marriage and how Kiba had learned about it from her father. Even she hadn't known he knew until, through a bit of cross examining of her dad, she discovered that he had been by the house while she was in the shower. She had left in tears and started spending her days and nights at Kiba's bedside- too furious to return home with her parent and too embarrassed to seek asylum at the Inuzuka's place.
"You know our door is always open to you, Ino," she took the girl in a warm embrace, "but you still haven't told me what you two were originally fighting about. You didn't come back that last night and Kiba was visibly upset even then."
The mind user admitted to how she had used her family jutsu to spy on her boyfriend, her head hung low in shame.
"Now I understand, but please continue," Tsume urged.
"Well that's it, really."
"There are no other problems between you two?" Tsume suggested.
"Should there be?" Ino's eyes widened in panic. Had she missed something?
"Oh my! You don't know do you?" She had read the innocence in the girl's eyes and went on to explain. "But don't worry. I'll go to speak with your father myself tonight. I think I know how to handle him. You just eat up to get back some strength and we'll head over to the hospital together tomorrow morning."
Ino gave her a quick nod and appetite or not she wolfed down the rest of her meal, her mind racing.
Inoichi jumped at the knock on his front door. Could that be…
"Ino, you don't have to knock…," he was cut short as he swung open the door to find Tsume standing there. "Oh, it's just you. What do you want?" he asked curtly, returning to sit on the couch where he quickly picked up a bottle of liquor he had apparently been nursing for most of the day.
Tsume was surprised by the run down state of the place but even more so by the run down state of the head of household. She sighed and took an uninvited seat next to the Yamanaka.
After such a cold welcome, she decided to get straight to the point. "You need to break the marriage contract with Shibi."
"And who are you to tell me what I should and shouldn't do for my daughter?"
"How about her future mother-in-law who seems to have more respect for her true feelings than her father does."
"If you came over just to insult me or to try to make me change my mind then you can leave now," he warned.
"Trust me. I won't keep you much longer, but just know that you'd do best to sober up some. I don't think you'll want your future grandchild to remember you like this."
Inoichi looked quizzical. It took a few seconds for her words to sink in. "I-Inos's pregnant?" No, this couldn't be true. This was obviously a ruse on the dog kunoichi's part. "Look, I know you want Ino for that cur of yours but I won't fall for such a lowdown trick."
"No matter what your past problems are with me, you should know that I would never lie about something this important. I'm taking her to the hospital tomorrow for tests, if you don't believe me."
What should he think? What should he believe?
"If you won't make the effort to put a stop to this silly marriage idea of yours," she continued, "then I will take it upon myself to announce the news to Shibi and if he's as stubborn as you are (which I highly doubt given the circumstances) then I won't hesitate taking the results to the Hokage herself.
Inoichi was speechless. It was as if his whole world, all of his well-laid plans had been overturned in just a matter of seconds. He had lost his wife and now he had most certainly lost his daughter.
Tsume stood to leave. She turned back to give him and the house one more pitiful look. "You have got to pull yourself together Inoichi. Stop dwelling on the past and start thinking of the possibilities for a bright new future. There is a new generation on its way," and she exited the house, leaving the mind user to ponder his situation.
The next morning at the hospital, Tsume felt it would be most appropriate to let Sakura run the tests. As Tsunade's assistant she could serve as a support and back-up witness to the results if she really did have to go as far as to speak with the village leader.
Sakura did her best to contain her shock when she learned why her best friend was there. She knew that she had to keep a façade of professionalism, despite running a pregnancy exam on Ino.
The tests were definitely positive and she did have to break out of her doctor's mask for one squeal of joy over her friend's state.
Ino had mixed feelings however. This was something that she needed to be able to share with Kiba. What if he didn't share her same enthusiasm? She shared her concerns with Sakura.
"Don't worry, Ino. I know that it's going to be tough for you with Kiba still out of action but do you really think he'd be anything but pleased?"
"Well, we're still kind of young."
"Not really. Lots of us girls settle down by the time we're twenty-two," Sakura said, thinking more of her own predicament. How long would she have to continue to wait for Sasuke? "I mean, do you really see yourself with anyone else, ever?"
"No," Ino quickly admitted.
"I'm sure that Kiba feels the same way. So you got started a little early in the baby department but in another two years it was bound to happen anyways."
"Yeah, yeah… I guess you're right. Thanks Sakura; but I'd better get going. I promised Tsume that I'd start back up at the clinic instead of worrying over Kiba all day long but I do want to check in with him before I leave."
"I understand. I'll walk with you. I'm headed over that way right now myself," Sakura suggested.
Sakura hugged her friend good-bye at Kiba's door and watched through the glass window as she went to sit beside the unconscious man she loved more than anyone in the world. She could tell by Ino's gestures that she was announcing the news to Kiba whether he understood or not. She tried to imagine what it must feel like to be in such a predicament- having to simply wait and wait, all alone, not knowing how long it would take. She knew that Ino would wait a lifetime, if that's what it took, for Kiba to wake-up to be with her again. Sakura sighed. So why was she simply settling with Sai, living a lie? She was certainly not happy and watching Ino stand by her man, despite all of the uncertainties, only reinforced her feelings of self-loathing. She took one long, last look at the couple through the glass pane and decided there and then that she was breaking up with Sai and and that she would request a solo Sasuke retrieval mission in hopes of being with the boy.
Half a year had gone by and Sakura had still not returned from her search. Ino was visiting with Kiba as she did every evening to recount to him the day's events and her preparations for their child.
This evening Shino and Hana walked through the hospital room door, hand in hand. Ino had long since forgiven the bug user for his role in Kiba's accident. He had still never found the courage to back out of the wedding on his own by confronting his father but did come to congratulate her and to apologize personally when he learned that she was pregnant and that the marriage arrangement was therefore officially off. He admitted that he was quite relieved to not to have to marry her and during a rather uncharacteristically sentimental discussion, spurred on by all of the previous events, he admitted to seeing Hana in private. In fact, her late hours were mostly due to secret meetings with Shino who feared that she was just trying to be nice and that their relationship would never amount to anything beyond friendship. Plus she was older and quite attractive. He never dared to think that she could actually fall for a guy like him; but as a vet who had dealt with dogs and their ticks and fleas, Hana turned out to be quite an appropriate match. She was not disgusted by the prospect of waking up every day with a bug wielder and intellectually, despite the age difference, Shino definitely shared the same level of maturity as she did. When Ino learned of his feelings, she played matchmaker, dropping subtle hints to Hana at the clinic until the older vet realized that he was in fact interested in taking their relationship to the next level. They had been officially dating for about three months now and Shibi was already looking forward to working out a new marriage contract for his son. Only this time, both parties would be happy- none happier however than Tsume who was finally about to marry her oldest child off after years of worrying what would become of her.
Ino rose to greet the couple when Kiba stirred.
All three gathered round to see if this might be the moment.
Kiba's eyes opened slowly. He batted his lids a few times to clear his vision and to adjust to the light, however low it had been set.
"Kiba? Kiba? Can you hear me?"
He turned stiffly to focus on Ino's silhouette. At first he thought that he was seeing double and blinked again. Her shape had definitely changed. That was when he realized that she was quite pregnant. For a second he was stunned and then he heard his sister calling out to him. He turned to look and once again thought he was seeing double until he realized that Shino was in the room as well. Then a sad feeling gripped him as all of the memories of what had happened came flooding back. Of course Ino would be pregnant. She was marrying Shino last time he remembered of course; but how long had he been out of it and what a fucking arrogant bastard his ex-friend was to come and rub his defeat in his face while he was still down. He started to speak, but found that his mouth was too dry to spit the hateful words that stuck in his throat.
"Shhh, Kiba. Take it easy, sweetheart. Don't try to talk just yet. Let me get you some water," Ino offered and went to fill a nearby glass.
Kiba glared at Shino, hoping that his stare would produce the damage he still wanted to inflict on the boy but couldn't be sure he even noticed through the dark, opaque lenses he wore.
"Here," Ino returned with the water. "Let me help you; but promise to drink slowly," she helped to prop him up.
'Why was she being so nice, like a daunting wife, if she was married to Shino?' he wondered. Now in a sitting position he could see that Hana and Shino were holding hands. Wait, what the hell was going on?
Ino must have read his quizzical look as she followed his gaze to the other couple. She gave him a loving kiss on the cheek. "I think we have a lot to fill you in on," she beamed, overjoyed to have him back.
Firstly, Kiba could barely believe that he had been unconscious for six months. Even more difficult to comprehend was all of the events that had transpired in that time. Shit, he was going to be a father in just a couple of months! Large tears began to roll down his cheeks.
Suddenly, Ino was frightened. "Please tell me those are tears of joy Kiba," she begged.
"God, Ino, I love you so fucking much," he struggled to speak before he broke down and wept. His declaration had barely been audible but not an ear in the room had missed those words and there wasn't a remaining dry eye amongst them.
Once word of the birth reached Inoichi even he had to give in. He waited for the first few weeks of non-stop visits to die down to go to see the new baby.
He stood for a long time on the front porch, hesitating to knock, when Kiba ran up behind him accompanied by Akamaru. He had been out training, re-building the muscle he had lost while in the coma. He hoped to be back on missions within a month. It would be tough to leave Ino and the baby behind but he had a family to provide for now. This wasn't the time to sit back on his haunches and relax.
Akamaru growled at the visitor. Inoichi looked tired and worn. He seemed to have aged ten years since Kiba had seen him last. It was difficult not to pity him.
"Now, now, Akamaru, let's not treat Grandad with disrespect no matter how much he hates us. Not everyone can be a dog lover you know."
Kiba opened the door and entered before him. "Ino, Ryouken, you have a visitor," he called.
"Not so loud, honey. Ryouken's asleep," Ino shushed him going to welcome him back home with a kiss. "Who's the visit-," she stopped short catching sight of her father in the doorframe.
"I-Ino," Inoichi started, fearful of her hesitation; but was relieved when she ran to throw herself into his arms.
"Daddy," she sobbed. "I've missed you so much." After almost losing Kiba and still caught in the glow of new motherhood, she realized just how important family was and she needed her father back in her life, no matter how bad their past conflicts had been. "Come see your grandson," she said, leading him in from the foyer.
Kiba arrived with the baby cradled in his arms before they could even make it into the next room.
"Did you get him up just for that?" Ino scolded.
"No, I swear. He was already awake," he defended; but she knew it was highly doubtful. She had just laid him down for a nap not ten minutes earlier. Kiba just couldn't help playing the proud father who wanted to show off his son.
"So, I have a grandson!" It was Inoichi's turn to beam. "Can I hold him?" That was the moment when the cold, protective wall around his heart came tumbling down. He looked up from the beautiful child to the smiling, happy couple and realized that Kiba had done well.
Tsume returned with an arm load of groceries. She invited Inoichi to stay for dinner and he kindly took her up on the offer. He enjoyed himself immensely, remembering the feel of a happy household, a feeling which he had denied himself for far too long. After that day, he would become a rather stable presence on the Inuzuka compound, often coming around to see the baby or simply to have tea with Tsume whose company he was apparently enjoying more and more with each passing day. Even Kiba began to joke that his father-in-law might soon become his stepfather; but most importantly, they were all finally laughing. Despite Inoichi's original fears of losing his daughter to a worthless dog, he found himself a member of a whole new, steadily growing pack.
It had been a damn long journey since Kiba and Ino had battled it out for the title of team leader but no one doubted their teamwork in the end.
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