The Birth of a Rivalry

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Note: This might be slightly OOC on Ino's part, but I figured that since it was Sakura's idea to end the friendship over a guy who couldn't stand either of them at the time that would automatically make Ino the more sensible one in the situation.

11-year-old Sakura Haruno closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It had been a difficult decision, but she knew that it had to be done. She had to cut her ties with Ino before it was too late. Today was the day.

"Okay, I know I don't actually have any other friends, but I have no other choice," she tried to convince herself. "Best to just end it now before things get nasty…"

"Greetings, bestest friend Sakura," Ino Yamanaka smiled as she bounced over to the other girl. "I brought us friendship cookies!"

Sakura winced slightly at the affectionate greeting. Ino wouldn't be making this easy, would she? "Hi, Ino," she said, ignoring the plate of cookies Ino was holding.

"Aren't you going to take one?" Ino asked, sounding slightly hurt.

"I really shouldn't…" Sakura said uncertainly.

Then, Ino said the magic words. "They're fat-free."

"Hand them over," Sakura demanded.

Ino smirked. "I thought you'd see it my way."

"Mmm," Sakura said, taking a bite. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I think I love you."

"Because of the cookies?" Ino asked.

Sakura nodded vehemently.

"Choji made them," Ino said innocently as Sakura took a huge bite.

Sakura immediately started choking. "…You brought them for me."

"True," Ino nodded. "It is pretty amazing of me to share them with you, isn't it?"

Sakura looked guilty. "Ino, we need to talk…"

"Are you breaking up with me?" Ino asked tearfully.

"Yes, I-" Sakura stopped when she registered what Ino had just said. "Wait, what?"

"I bet it's because of Hinata, isn't she? She's ridiculously developed for our age and God knows the shy girls are always the kinkiest…" Ino muttered.

"Ino, I can't break up with you!" Sakura cried.

"So…you still love me?" Ino asked hopefully.

"We're not dating!" Sakura shouted, sounding desperate.

Ino blinked guilelessly at her then burst out laughing. "You should have seen the look on your face…"

Sakura growled. "Ino…"

"Oh, that reminds me! I made you a friendship headband!" Ino said excitedly, pulling said headband out of her pocket and holding it out for Sakura to examine.

Taking the headband in her hand, Sakura eyed it quizzically. "A friendship headband? Don't you mean a friendship bracelet?"

"Well, yes, usually," Ino admitted. "But I thought a headband would be more appropriate to remind you to be confidant and not to worry about your forehead. There's nothing wrong with it and at least you don't have a big nose. That's a huge turnoff."

"Ino…" Sakura trailed off, touched. "Thank you…God, I feel so awful!"

"Don't worry about it. You can always make a friendship bracelet for me or get your mom to make some of her low-fat cheesecake to repay me," Ino hinted.

"That's…probably never going to happen," Sakura said quietly.

"Moocher!" Ino accused.

"No, it's just…we can't be friends anymore," Sakura said firmly.

"So you are breaking up with me?!?!" Ino demanded.

"I'm being serious, Ino!" Sakura snapped.

"But…why?" Ino asked, confused. "We get along great and our last serious fight was over whether or not it's normal to have pink hair. Which, for the record, it's so not."

Sakura gave a long-suffering sigh. "I was born with pink hair, my mother has pink hair, all of her family has pink hair…"

"But…pink? Your families the only ones I've ever heard of having pink hair. Maybe it's a Kekkei Genkai," Ino suggested.

"That would be the lamest bloodline ever," Sakura stated flatly.

"At least it wouldn't kill you," Ino pointed out.

"Can bloodlines kill you?"

"Sure," Ino replied. "All the time. Not only do powerful ones make you a target, but just look at the Aburame clan."

"The Aburame clan?" Sakura sounded puzzled.

Ino snorted. "Civilians. Shino's family. I don't really know the details, but their bloodlines involved being in a symbiotic relationship with bugs that live inside them. Occasionally, a clan member has too many bugs inside of them and over time get eaten away from the inside."

"Eeeeeew!" Sakura screeched.

Ino shook her head pityingly. "Sakura, we're training to become vicious killers when we grow up. We're kind of going to face worse in our lives."

"But we're eleven!" Sakura protested. "We're not going to be facing anything worse than that until after we graduate!"

"Yeah, isn't it great how we both had such idyllic childhoods?" Ino asked rhetorically.

"Unless you count giant foreheads," Sakura muttered.

Ino rolled her eyes. "You could just get bangs again, you know. I wasn't against the bangs themselves, just your crippling shyness."

"And risk acne?" Sakura sounded shocked. "As if!"

"Point," Ino acknowledged. "But aside from that, isn't it great that we both had such nice childhoods?" Ino repeated.

"We live in Konoha. Why wouldn't we?" Sakura asked naively.

Ino shrugged. "Who knows? But, statistically speaking, I'm sure someone's childhood had to have sucked. Maybe they lost a parent or something."

"Oh, that would be so awful!" Sakura exclaimed. There was a thoughtful silence. "Weren't we in the process of ending our friendship?"

"Damn," Ino swore. "I'd hoped you'd forgotten!"

"Ino!" Sakura shouted. "It's not fair distracting me like that!"

"I'm a ninja-in-training, what do you expect?" Ino asked reasonably.

"…I don't know," Sakura confessed. "You're right, I guess."

"So why can't we be friends?" Ino inquired.

"Sasuke-kun."

Ino looked incredulous. "Sasuke-kun told you that he doesn't want us to be friends?"

"Well…no," Sakura answered.

"Then what's the problem?" Ino demanded.

"I have a crush on him," Sakura explained.

Ino still didn't get it. "So do I. So does every girl in our class. Well, except for Hinata. She likes Naruto."

Sakura's eyes bulged out. "Why?!?! He's just so…Naruto!"

Ino shot her a 'no, really?' look. "He wouldn't annoy you nearly as much if he didn't like you," she pointed out.

"He's asked me out every day since he transferred into our class! Does he have any idea just how annoying that is? Seriously, no means no," Sakura declared hypocritically.

"Almost as annoying as it is when Sasuke-kun turns us down every day," Ino agreed, somewhat self-aware.

"Too true."

"I think a lot of it is the fact that Hinata's method of liking someone seems to involved a lot of stalking and Naruto's the only one dense enough not to notice. Shikamaru probably wouldn't tell her to go away as it's too 'troublesome', but watching him lying around watching the clouds or playing shogi can't be very much fun," Ino decided.

"You think that's why she likes him?" Sakura sounded dubious. "Because he's an idiot?"

"Well, what else could it be?" Ino asked.

"I don't know…he's loud," Sakura suggested lamely. "Shy people like that, right?"

"Who's knows?" Ino shrugged. "You were the shy one, remember?"

"Yeah, but that was before I hit puber-" Sakura smacked herself on her very self-conscious forehead. "You're doing it again!"

"Ninja!" Ino sing-songed.

"You like Sasuke-kun and so do I," Sakura brought the conversation around to its original purpose.

"We've already established that," Ino pointed out. "Why can't we be friends again?"

"I just told you why," Sakura said, exasperated. "We both want to date him!"

"But…Sasuke-kun's not actually given any indication that he's even remotely interested in girls," Ino reminded her. "For all we know, he could be gay or asexual."

Sakura gasped, horrified. "Take that back!"

"I'm sorry, that was uncalled for," Ino apologized dutifully.

"If we were friends, we would have to hold back for each other's sake," Sakura clarified her reasoning. "This way, we can give it our all and hope to land Sasuke-kun."

"Even though he's not interested in anyone yet?" Ino asked skeptically.

Sakura nodded firmly. "If we waited until then, our resolve might weaken and some other girl might get a foothold!"

Ino stared at her. "Like who? I don't think Sasuke-kun even knows who any girl besides the two of us and Hinata are."

"Why Hinata?" Sakura sounded curious.

Ino shrugged. "He said he likes her because she's quiet."

"She is SO lucky," Sakura said jealously. "And if we don't enter the competition, some other girl could get Sasuke-kun to remember her!"

"Whatever happens, I kind of doubt he'd ever be willing to have any kids with you," Ino said bluntly.

"Why not?" Sakura asked, offended. "It's because of my giant forehead, isn't it?"

Ino threw her head back in annoyance. "Oh, for the love of God, Forehead Girl, not everything's about your stupid forehead!"

"Then why did you call me 'Forehead Girl'?" Sakura asked suspiciously.

"Because you obsess!" Ino shot back.

"Why wouldn't Sasuke-kun want kids with me someday then?" Sakura demanded.

"You mean other than the fact that he doesn't like you?" Ino countered.

Sakura was unfazed. "Minor setback."

"You have pink hair," Ino said simply.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Sakura said calmly.

"You're okay with that and yet you have such forehead issues…" Ino muttered.

"I knew I wasn't the only one to notice!" Sakura cried.

Ino rolled her eyes. "Everyone in your family who has pink hair has pink-haired offspring, no matter what color the other parent's hair is."

"So?" Sakura didn't get it. "Does Sasuke-kun not like pink or something?"

Ino opened her mouth, then closed it again. "I…don't know."

Sakura gasped. "This is an appalling lapse that must be rectified immediately!"

"The minute we're done with this," Ino concurred solemnly. "And I just kind of think that pink hair would clash with the Sharingan."

"The what?" Sakura asked blankly.

"Could you make it any more obvious you come from a civilian background?" Ino asked mockingly.

"Seriously, what's the Sharingan?"

"It's the Uchiha Kekkei Genkai," Ino explained. "Among other things, it turns their eyes red."

"Is it permanent?" Sakura asked worriedly. Red and pink didn't always go well together, after all.

Ino considered. "No, I think they just use it in battles."

"Then I'm sure it will be fine, Ino-Pig," Sakura said smoothly.

"Ino-PIG?!?!" Ino shrieked. "Where did that come from?"

"You called me Forehead Girl," Sakura said defensively.

"Because you're obsessed with your forehead," Ino reminded her. "How do I resemble a pig? I'm on three diets!"

"I…don't know," Sakura confessed. "But I will continue to call you that anyway."

"You are SO mean!" Ino complained.

"Get used to it," Sakura said frankly. "We're not friends anymore. We're rivals. Love rivals." With that, Sakura strode dramatically from the room.

"What was that all about?" a voice wondered vaguely.

Ino looked around and soon spotted Shikamaru's tell-tale pineapple head lying on the floor on the other side of the room. "You've been here the whole time?"

"Moving was too troublesome," Shikamaru explained.

Ino shrugged. "Sakura doesn't believe friends can compete so we're 'rivals' now."

"She's going to really suck as a ninja, isn't she?" Shikamaru was incredulous.

"Meh. She'll get over it. Probably…"

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