Title: The Significance of Flowers
Author: Serendipity1
Rating: PG-13
Words: 1082
Summary: Ino knows the language of flowers well.
Author's Note: Okay, redbrunja, this plotbunnying thing has got to stop. You must use your powers for Good! (I'm a serious artist, man. I can't deal with all this fic influx. Not to mention it keeps me up at night. XD) And somehow it ended up all serious and femmeslashy. I blame the lack of sleep. And other things. Yes.

Flower arrangement was a perfectly practical skill for a kunoichi to learn. Most of the boys never picked up the art, but the girls spent childhood with mothers and teachers learning the ways to arrange them in aesthetically pleasing compositions, as neatly beautiful as a perfect stroke of kanji. Aesthetics were only a small part of the skill, though: the larger part was the language, the words each blossom spelled out. The meanings behind a pink rose coupled with a white one, a rhododendron for danger, a gum cistus blossom sent by a doomed friend. An elegant and subtle way of communicating messages, kunoichi to kunoichi. The men were either disdainful or wiser than most.

Ino just happened to be more knowledgable than your typical girl, what with the flower shop. Floriography had been like second language, plants with their healing properties and individual voices. Like words, or songs. It was only natural to view a flower bed and see messages of love and peace, or an herb garden and see medicines as well as meanings: lusty dill, rosemary for remembrance, and the strong-smelling herbs to ward away evil.

She wove the meanings into every bouquet requested of her, wanted or not. Coral roses for Anko, purple hyacinths for the men who had recently screwed something up with their girlfriends and wanted forgiveness.

And it was a way to speak to Sakura without actually having to talk to her. Their game, for a while, when they couldn't stand to see each other's faces without thinking of a challenge and something that couldn't be called a friendship. Flowers were a safe way to say things- words cut and stumbled and hurt even when they hadn't been meant to. They'd tuck nosegays behind doors and into desks, cut single blooms and leave them in books or on chairs. Words of forgiveness, anger, cruelty exchanged without a single sound.

It was as if they couldn't hurt each other without the closeness of spoken conversation, that speech itself was the painful part of an insult.

Or the kindest part of a loving thought.

The first message she'd given her was days after Sakura had cut off all ties: a zinnia, tucked neatly behind her desk. Thoughts of an absent friend.

The first message she'd received had been a striped carnation delivered to her house.

I'm sorry. I can't be with you.

And she'd cried. Not much. Maybe not enough to be thought of as crying: the burn in her eyes, the wet glaze that made her blink too much and swallow oddly and twisted at her heart like a fist clenching it tightly. And then she'd severed her ties as well, because she'd never been one to continue something if it was a hopeless cause. Heartbreak wasn't supposed to be quite that easy. In a girls' world, best friends leaving meant the end of an age. Sasuke wasn't worth it, really, but if Sakura wanted it this bad: she'd show her. There was no way she was going to lose her for nothing, for no one. That seemed logically wrong somehow- she wasn't meant to want Sakura as much as Sasuke, was she? (as much? no, more.)

I'm sorry. I can't be with you.

That had all been so stupid, in hindsight. She'd never got to ask Sakura her opinion on it, though. Had their friendship been worth less than Sasuke-kun? Worth less than some arrogant jerk of a boy who had ended up facing them on the opposite side of a war?

Ino hadn't told Sakura that she'd already won a victory over her the moment she'd cut her away.

But she seemed to like statements by cutting, by showing her back, by watching her through determined green eyes that never quite got it. Ino was simply a wall- not advancing, not attacking, but standing her ground against that endless need to prove, against Sakura and everything that threatened to bring her to the ground. Of course she couldn't know. It would mean yet another victory for her, and another time in Ino's life in which she got to watch Sakura's retreating back.

In the end, she thought, everyone walks away.

And then, years later, there was Uchiha Sasuke, impassive eyes and expressionless face, watching the flowers she selected for him so he could hand them over to Sakura without a second thought as to what they might say.

"Pick whatever you want," he'd said, sounding bored.

She selected a white carnation from the vase, trimming it neatly of excess leaves. "You don't think it matters which?"

"Sakura likes flowers," he replied. "Is there a difference?"

Not for the first time, Ino considered the difference between the cosmos flower and the cherry blossom. She'd seen them together, before, of course. Ino watched as Sasuke touched Sakura like he was expected to, walked beside her and carried her groceries, and maintained the distance of a perfect gentleman. Unsmiling, unstirred. The barest of breezes passing through their lives.

And Sakura's belly round with child.

"No," she said, To you, maybe not."

She filled the vase with white carnations and Queen of the Meadow, a silent reproach. And a zinnia, to remind her old friend she was still waiting for their next dinner date. She'd arrive, of course, angry at the implications, enraged at the accusations. They fought more often these days, but not with flower messages and not with weapons and fists anymore. Clean methods of aggression out of the question, they resort to words, raised voices, and old hurt.

"Why can't you just leave it alone?" Sakura asked.. Her voice was more weary than sharp these days, but her eyes were just as strong, just as compelling as they ever were. "Are you still holding a torch for him? It's not a contest anymore!"

"It was never about him to begin with," she said, and her tone had all the sharpness either of them needed, "Never to me."

Sakura sighed and it was the sound of things breaking, of steel slicing through hair. "I just can't understand you anymore."

She laughed, dry and cynical. "Forehead, you never did."

A yellow daffodil meant love that has no chance of reconciliation. She grew them in the window box in front of her room, and told her friends their more well-known meaning: "There is sunshine in your smile," and sunshine was far from her mind when she touched their petals before leaving her room. Flowers kept their secrets well.