Dear Ino…with apologies to the Fab Four

"Hey guys! What's up?" Naruto Uzumaki called out as he walked up to the surviving members of Team Asuma. The loud blonde had just gotten back from an extended S-class mission and was eager to catch up with all his friends. He noticed that the trio before him had seemed to be in heated argument.

"Let's ask him! Hey, Naruto!" Choji called out, waving to his friend. Shikamaru put his hands in his pockets, shaking his head and muttering the whole time. Typically, this would be a normal scene for Team Asuma, however, the female third of the team stood out like a sore thumb.

"What's up, Naruto?" Shikamaru asked as the blonde drew closer. "I think Choji's right, we should ask him! After all, he's been gone for a couple of months!" Ino's eyes grew wide at Shikamaru's statement and began to shake.

"Ask me what? Hi, Ino!" Naruto called out to his fellow blonde cheerfully, but was astonished at the state she was in. She was wearing a baggy pair of gray sweatpants, a matching baggy hoodie with the hood pulled up, and her long, beautiful blonde hair was loose and covering most of her face. He flashed her a big smile. "Whatcha been up to?"

"H-hi, Naruto," she said softly, sounding more like Hinata Hyuga than her normal self. In the blink of an eye, she vanished in a swirl of leaves.

"Well, that's a start," Shikamaru grumbled as he turned to the remaining blonde. "That's the most she's said to anyone other than us or the Hokage in over a month!"

"Yeah, I've always been able to get a rise out of her," Naruto grinned, then turned serious. "So, what's wrong with her? She was definitely out of sorts!"

"It's too troublesome to explain out in the open," the Nara genius sighed, looking over to his partner, who nodded in agreement. "Let's go get a drink and I'll fill you in…,"

"…so, not long after I left, Granny sent your team after Team Hawk?" Naruto asked in disbelief as he sat back and sipped his soda, while Shikamaru and Choji both nursed their beers. "That is so fu….,"

"…troublesome, I know!" The Nara agreed as he blew a long string of smoke. He crumpled the remains of his cigarette in the ashtray before continuing. "It was to be a recon mission only, just gather enough intel so you and Team Kakashi could make a strike and bring him back!"

"Those damn eyes of his," Choji grumbled as he flattened his now empty can and called for several others. "He spotted us from half a mile away and attacked! In the battle that followed, Ino got separated from us…,"

"She was pissed at Sasuke for betraying the village and went after him," the shadow master continued, his eyes downcast. "She was no match for him! He manhandled her pretty badly!"

"What? He didn't…uh…," the Toad Sage stammered, dread filling his heart over the fate of the beautiful kunoichi.

"No, but it wasn't from a lack of trying!" Choji growled, startling Naruto. "He cut her up and beat her badly! Bastard!"

"But Ino's a fighter, I'll give you that," Shikamaru added, his eyes filled with sorrow and pride. "The two of them kept jockeying for position to cut loose with their techniques. Unfortunately…the Uchiha was quicker!"

"Tsukuyomi," the Sage gasped, drawing sad nods from his friends.

"Yeah. By the time he was finished, Ino had collapsed. The bastard then started to try to have his way with her, but Ino woke up enough to put a kunai in his groin before he could even get his pants open!" Choji chimed in as he started on his third beer.

"That bastard!" Naruto seethed as he felt the anger and the power start to rise. Shikamaru gulped as the blonde's eyes flashed red for the briefest of seconds.

"Well, that seemed to piss the Uchiha off even more, so he pulled the kunai out of his groin and slashed Ino's face with it!" the pineapple-haired Chunin finished by downing the rest of his beer and called for another. "Do you know what the saddest part of this whole mess is, Naruto?"

"Not a clue," the jinchuuriki replied, trying to figure out a way to get back at Sasuke and to make it up to Ino.

"The fucking…*urrrrp!*…medic that treated Ino on the scene was some prick who was pissed at her for not going out with him! So, he did the least amount of work he could to close her wounds, so they formed scars all over her body! Tsunade and Sakura tried to fix them later, but it was too late!" the Akimichi grumbled again, clearly upset as he trashed yet another beer.

"Oh, wow, I bet Granny was pissed!" Naruto muttered, only for his two friends to nod their heads in agreement.

"She's got him cleaning out bedpans for the rest of his medical career! We wanted to do something about it, but the ….*burp*…Hokage won't let us!" growled the larger man as Shikamaru nodded his head in agreement.

"So, how's Ino doing?" Naruto wondered. Despite his former infatuation with Sakura, he had always had a soft spot in his heart for the pretty blonde kunoichi.

"Not good…not good at all! The only time she ever leaves the flower-shop or her house anymore is when she has a mission with us! Even then, she dresses like she was earlier," Shika muttered, his thoughts on his distressed friend.

"Yeah, she kinda looked like she was trying out for the part of Shino's girlfriend," commented the Sage, his mind whirling at a hundred miles an hour.

"The worst part is, she's lost all of the confidence," Choji added, now working on beer number six and starting to get a good buzz.

"Ino losing her confidence? Not likely! It's probably just hidden somewhere!" Naruto said with a grin as he stood up and threw some cash on the table to cover the drinks.

"No man, it's bad! Way bad! We were kinda having an argument when you showed up, that's why we were going to have her ask you a question…*blaaarrrrrp*" the largest of the group barked. Naruto looked at him rather quizzically.

"What was it?" he asked, staring Shikamaru straight in the eye.

"She was going to ask you if you thought she was still pretty," the Nara asked in monotone.

"What? What the hell kinda question is that? Of course she's still drop-dead gorgeous!" the Kyuubi container bellowed, drawing looks from the other patrons, until they saw who it was and quickly turned away. Anyone who could destroy Pein and Madara Uchiha single-handedly was someone they refused to mess with!

"That's exactly what she needs to hear," the shadow master smiled and turned to look at Choji, who was face down on the table passed out. A sigh escaped Shikamaru's lips. "Troublesome."

"Well, gotta go! Gotta few things I need to take care of! Later, Shika!" Naruto announced as he waved and then turned, bolting out the door in a cloud of dust.

"Later, Naruto!" Shikamaru waved back as he looked at the large lump sitting next to him, loud snores resounding throughout the bar. "Good luck!"

Tsunade had just finished all her daily paperwork and had just sat back to enjoy a nice cup of warm sake when her day was rather rudely interrupted by a very loud and somewhat annoying voice. If it wasn't for the fact she loved the owner of the voice like he was her own son, he would have ended up traveling through a wall at supersonic speeds.

"Hey, Grandma!" Naruto yelled as he burst through the doors into Tsunade's office, causing said Sannin to fall back in her chair and choke on the alcoholic drink she had been imbibing. After a moment or two of extremely intense coughing, the Hokage sat back up and glared at the sheepish looking Sage scratching the back of his head before her.

"What the hell do you want, brat? Give me one good reason why I shouldn't send you on a one-way trip to Suna courtesy of Air Tsunade!" she growled as she cracked her knuckles menacingly. Naruto visibly paled at the noise as it reflected and echoed off the walls of her office.

"Uh, well, you know how you keep nagging me about needing to take some time off after long missions?" he asked nervously. Naruto would usually ignore Tsunade when she told him stuff like that, so confronting her about it was just a bit embarrassing.

"Yes. What about it?" the Hokage growled, more than ready to send him to the moon, especially after the 'nagging' comment.

"Well, you see, this was kind of a long mission, so I was wondering about taking a little time off this time...heheh," Naruto watched the Hokage closely as she turned pale and her jaw hit her desk.

"Seriously? Why?" Tsunade sputtered, not believing what she had just heard. She was beginning to worry about her unofficial grandson.

"Yeah, seriously! It seems a friend of mine got hurt on a mission because of something I failed to put a stop to several years ago! She's recovered, mostly, but she's having a really hard time and I really need to go help her! So, can I, Grandma?" he asked, giving her his best puppy dog look.

"He must be talking about the Yamanaka girl! He blames himself for not stopping the Uchiha," she thought as his big blue puppy dog eyes wormed their way into her heart. "So, how long do you need?"

"Seeing how big a screw-up I am, about a couple of months. If that's okay?" he asked hopefully. Tsunade thought about it for a minute and then pulled a file from her desk.

"Well, according to your file, you've built up about two years worth of vacation time, so I don't see why not," the Hokage grinned at the look on the young Sage's face.

"Wow! Really? Cool! You're the best, Grandma!" Naruto yelped as he leapt over her desk and landed on Tsunade, giving her a bone-crushing hug. "Okay! Gotta go! I have some research to do! Bye!"

"Naruto? Research? Lord help us!" the last Sannin thought as Naruto leapt out the window and ran down the side of the building. "Go get her, kid!"

"Hello and welcome to Yamanaka's Flowers…oh! Hello, Naruto!" Mai Yamanaka called out when she saw her favorite customer walk in the front door. She had been extremely pleased years ago when she had discovered that the young man had a passion for plants and flowers when he came by and visited Ino one day.

"Hi, Mrs. Yamanaka! How are you doing today?" Naruto greeted brightly as he looked around the shop, hoping to spot Ino.

"Oh, I'm doing just fine, thank you! So, what brings you here today? Looking for some more of those Ice Dragon's Breaths you love so much?" she responded, only to see him shake his head side-to-side.

"Naw, I just came by to see Ino. Is she around anywhere?" he asked. A sad look overcame Mai's face at the mention of her daughter.

"She's upstairs, but I have to warn you, she's really not in the best of conditions right now," the elder blonde said as Naruto raised his hand.

"I know, ma'am. Choji and Shikamaru told me what happened, and I just came by to see if I can help. Besides, I missed my friend while I was out of town!" Naruto said with a crooked smile, which quickly spread to the lady of the house.

"Ino, dear, could you come here for a moment?" Mrs. Yamanaka called out, never taking her eyes from the grinning Sage. She knew that Naruto had a reputation for performing miracles without even trying. After a minute or so, footsteps were heard coming from the back of the shop.

"Yeah, Mom, what is it?" the solemn blonde asked as she stepped out of the back and froze at the sight before her. "Naruto?"

"Hey, Ino! How's it going?" Naruto asked as Ino shot daggers at her mother, who promptly disappeared behind the door Ino had just entered from.

"Uh…hi…Naruto," she replied shyly, her eyes wide and searching for an escape route, only to discover that she was trapped. So she stood in the corner, partially concealed by some tall plants. "Um…okay, I guess. What….what are you doing here?"

"Well, I just got back from my mission and I wanted to catch up with all my friends, and to find out what had been happening in the village since I left," Naruto said happily while mentally assessing the situation. Being at home, Ino had felt safe enough to shed her bulky clothing and was now wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. While never taking his eyes from her face, he noticed the fine white and angry red scars that crossed over her arms and legs. She had half her face hidden behind her long blonde hair, so he couldn't see what damage had been done there.

"Um…okay…but why come see me?" she asked quietly, her eyes darting about as she chewed her lower lip. Ino looked like a frightened rabbit that had just been cornered by a hungry wolf…or maybe a fox. She held on to herself, constantly crossing and re-crossing her arms in a poor attempt to hide her shame.

"Well, you're my friend, and who else besides Ino Yamanaka would know all the gossip…err…news in the village?" the Sage replied, and was rewarded by the smallest ghost of a smile that appeared on her lips, only to vanish just as quickly. "Ino, are you okay? You look a little pale!"

"I'm…I'm okay, Naruto," she said sadly, knowing full well that he was about to mention her scars. "I'm fine…really."

"Are you sure? You look awful damn thin!" Naruto stated, his eyes showing concern for the kunoichi. It was obvious that she hadn't been eating, and looked to have lost about fifteen pounds. "You're not on one of those silly diets again, are you?"

"Huh? No," Ino answered, thrown off track by his question. She had been preparing herself for him to mention the scars, but he seemed oblivious as usual. She didn't know whether to punch him or kiss him for it. She swallowed hard when he took a few steps forward and reached out, taking her hand. "I-I-I've kinda had a rough time recently, I just haven't felt like eating much."

"We can fix that! Tell you what, I'll take you out for ramen, my treat! Then you can tell me all about what's been going on in town!" he said happily as he began to lead her toward the door. They were halfway there when Ino's eyes snapped open wide and she dug her heels into the floor to stop them. "What's wrong, Ino? Come on, ramen waits for no one!"

"Stop, Naruto! We can't go outside!" the blonde mind-walker begged as she reached out and began to pull on his hand with both of hers, bending over almost double to keep from being dragged outside. "No, no, no, no! Naruto, please stop! I can't! Please stop, please…no?" Naruto's heart broke when he saw the unshed tears in her eyes. Going outside without her protective cover was a very frightening prospect for her.

"Okay, Ino, just relax! We won't go outside, but if the blonde won't go to the ramen, the ramen will just have to come to the blonde!" Naruto announced just as the shop door opened up, revealing a Shadow Clone of Naruto carrying a box from Ichiraku's.

"Hey, guys! Lunch is served!" the clone announced as Naruto reached over and took the box in his free hand while still holding Ino's hand with the other. Grinning like a fool, the clone dispersed while Naruto looked around the shop for somewhere to sit and eat.

"Well, I guess we can pull up a few bags of fertilizer and eat," he said, tongue-in-cheek. Ino looked at him for moment before rolling her eyes.

"Disgusting. Follow me," she sighed, leading Naruto by the hand out of the shop. She knew her mother had locked the door from the shop to the house, so she took him through the greenhouse and out into the backyard, where a nice patio table and several matching chairs stood.

"Wow, this is great! Ramen and fresh air! There's nothing better!" Naruto beamed as he opened the box and pulled out a regular sized bowl of ramen for Ino and two large bowls for himself. Ino snorted as she took a seat and pulled one of his large bowls toward herself and began to eat. Naruto bit his tongue to keep from smiling at her, so instead, he threw out a fake pout.

"You should always ask a lady what she wants when you take her out, and I want a large ramen!" Ino said as she dove into the bowl before her. A little of the old Ino was starting to come back out.

"Last time I asked a lady that, I got slapped and thrown out of a bar!" he retorted, causing Ino to sputter a bit around a mouthful of noodles. This time, his grin escaped, drawing out a smaller, but similar, one from the young kunoichi.

"Pervert," she muttered before she began to regale Naruto with all the goings-on in Konoha since he had left for his mission. For the first time in over a month, Ino felt a little like her old self again. It was like old times, and Naruto made her fell comfortable and safe. The entire time they talked during lunch, he never once looked at the scars on her body. His eyes were either glued on his ramen, or looking into her light blue orbs. She was grateful, but couldn't understand why he did so.

"You're not staring at me. Why?" she asked softly, causing his confused face to snap up from his last bowl of ramen, a lone noodle hanging from his lips. She didn't sound angry, just confused and anxious.

"Ino, I know that you're a gorgeous lady, but if I don't watch my bowl, I'll end up with noodles everywhere!" he answered honestly. He smiled mentally as he watched a full body blush cover the pretty lady before him.

"N-no, I-I mean, why aren't you staring at my scars like everyone else does?" Ino stammered sadly, the heat still in her face from Naruto's compliment.

"Look, I know what it's like to be stared at…it's happened to me my whole life because of my tenant," the Sage explained, his eyes looking so sad that Ino wanted to reach over and hug him. "It's not a nice thing to have to go through. To put it bluntly, it sucks! But to tell you the truth, they're barely noticeable. Shoot, I probably wouldn't have noticed them at all if Shikamaru and Choji hadn't said anything…they told me all about the mission."

"They did? Why?" she asked, feeling just a little betrayed. Suddenly, Naruto's Sexy Jutsu form was sitting in front of her, fully clothed. Thankfully.

"I got them drunk and took advantage of them!" the faux-female said before turning back to his normal self. Both blondes laughed long and hard before Ino reached over and took the Sage's hand.

"Seriously, Naruto, thank you!" Ino said, enjoying the blush on the Toad Sage's face. "I think that's the first time I've laughed since I was injured!"

"It's not a problem, Ino! Anything to help my friends," he replied as he patted her hand. The two locked eyes and smiled warmly at one another. "Now, what was this about Iruka and Anko getting caught in the Hokage's office…."

And so the scene played out, day after day for the next four weeks as Naruto would come over and spend most of the day with Ino, much to the kunoichi's pleasure. They would just sit and talk, or sometimes Naruto would help her around the shop, or she would help him with some of his studies and research. A couple of times, Ino helped him work out some of the more difficult plot points in his latest Icha-Icha book, to which he promised to give her some credit in the book. She blushed brightly and gave him a kiss on the cheek as thanks.

Over that time, Ino and Naruto had become closer and closer to one another, as is want to happen when two hurting individuals spend large amounts of time with each other. Ino's feelings for the wacky blonde had seriously deepened as she came to know the Sage, realizing that his happy go-lucky exterior merely masked a loving, kind heart that had been hurt deeply by events in his life. Despite the pain he felt, he always looked out for others and went out of his way to take care of them. No matter how hard Ino fought it, she felt her heart getting closer and closer to him. Ino was falling hard for the Sage.

Naruto, for his part, was doing everything that he could to help his friend out of her shell. He never lied to her, nor did he ever fill her with false flattery, he spoke nothing to the truth. He stayed with the injured blonde as much as he could, holding her hand and leading her down the path of healing. He felt her pain, and saw that she, like he, hid that pain behind a mask. The outgoing, boisterous, down right loud kunoichi was just a mask, and that mask had been shattered by Sasuke's attack, leaving behind the scared, self-doubting young woman that Naruto was currently trying to heal. That self-doubt immediately set up a shell to protect the kunoichi from the rest of the world and it's stares, the horrible eyes that bored into what she had thought was her weakness. The Sage saw the beautiful heart the Ino had, and he was so happy to see glimpses of the beauty as he spent more and more time with her. It was that heart, and the beautiful woman it was attached to, that Naruto was beginning to fall hard for.

It was their shared pain that was a common link for the two of them. Ino's pain had obvious reasons, but it wasn't until they got drunk one night that that she was finally able to learn of his true pain. It was the same pain that she had, one that had haunted her everyday since she was old enough to understand it. It was the same pain and fear that her injuries had amplified by an enormous amount. It was the pain of being alone.

"Youse so lucky, Ino…*burp*… youse gots peoples that's loves youse…gots a momma and a daddy! Me…I gots no one! I gots no parents…no family…no girlfriends…no nothing," he muttered miserably that night, the seven empty bottles of sake a testament to how much they were drinking. "I gots no senseis, either…both croaked!"

" At leastest Koko…Kaki…Kakashishi comed backs to life. I've got…*hic*…no sensei. Mine died," Ino slurred, her head just minutes from hitting the table, some unshed tears in her eyes, "I got no boyfriend…I gots nobody to care fer me!"

"Dat's bullssssssssshit, Ino," the drunk Sage replied, his eyes just a little crossed. "You gots me! I care for you lots!"

"Awwww, dat's sweet," the mind-walker tried to coo as she reached out to pat his hand and managed to miss it by only a foot, knocking over an empty bottle.

"Peoples in dis village hates me, my bestest friend leaves us to join a pedofloo…a pedofly…a freak, da girl I useded to loves never loves me, and da girl who says she loves me runses off with a flea-butt…fleabag!" Naruto complained as he downs half the eighth bottle of sake and passes it over to Ino.

"Who did youse useded to loves?" Ino downed her part of the bottle before dropping it in her lap. She kept trying to focus on Naruto, but he still remained fuzzy looking.

"Don't know…think she had pink…*hic*…hair," Naruto scrunched up his face in concentration, which made him look like he had constipation instead.

"Ah…yes…pink hair…must be Tenten," Ino replied, pointing in the air. "Hey, didn't youse useded to go wif Hina…Himana…Hinomo…the Hyuga chick? Why did youse nots go outs no more?"

"We brokes up?" Naruto asked sadly, before his eyes shot open wide, "Oh, yeah! I think she likes wearing flea collars, or somethings abouts fleas…I'm not too sure…,"

"Damn, what a bi…a bi…a bullfrog!" Ino tried to hold on to her chair as the world swam by, but she was slowly losing the battle. "Why woulds shes leaves youse? I mean, you sweet…funny…cute…you so fine!…and youse probably hung like… a ho…a hor…a hamster!"

"Dat's me…stud hamster of Konohe…Konichi…Konohaha…the damn village hidden somewhere!" Naruto announced before confusion swept over him. "Why is we drinking again, and why is there frosting on youse face?"

"Ain't sure…youse broughts da booze…and da cake…an sumpin else…," she replied as she put her head on the tabletop, right into a plate with a leftover piece of cake on it.

"Oh yeah! It's yer birfday!" Naruto yelped, causing Ino's head to snap up with a huge wad of frosting on her forehead.

"And presents! You gots me presents!" Ino chirped as she jumped out of her chair and promptly fell to the ground before crawling over to the very large stack of gifts that Naruto had brought her. She grabbed a big purple teddy bear the Sage had given her and sat there, hugging the huge thing. Ino had told her parents that she didn't want a party, so with Naruto being who he was, showed up in her backyard with a cake, sake, and presents he and their friends had gotten for her.

"Happy Birthday, Ino!" Naruto said as he crawled over and sat on the ground next to her. "You is eighteen now! Now, you can drink, you cans vote, you can lives on yer own, you can get laid without nobody going to jail…"

"Hmph!" Ino snorted as she laid back on the soft, carefully groomed grass, holding her bear and watching the stars swim by. She could swear the world was moving under her. "Nobody would wants to touch me! I'm fat, and ugly, and looks like a scratching post!"

"Quit it! You is not fat, you're a very beautiful and…hold on a sec," he said in as stern a voice as he could muster, which wasn't much, as he leaned over Ino and licked the icing from her forehead, "…a very tasty woman! Any dude would be so lucky to be with you!"

"Bullshit," she muttered, her eyes closing as the ground became much more comfortable, "You can't name one guy in this vill…vill…town who would want to touch me now!"

"I would," he answered softly as he laid down on the ground next to her. "It would be an honor to be with you, Ino!"

"You're so sweet, Naruto," she smiled, a warm feeling that had nothing to do with sake followed through her. "So, tell me, what would you do if you…had the chance?"

"Let's see," Naruto said very slowly and deliberately as he concentrated on his words, doing his best not to slur them, "First thing I would do is wrap you up in a hug and hold you very gently, then I'd kiss those perfect lips of yours before I'd start to nibble on your neck…,"

"Mmm, sounds good so far…what else?" Ino asked, with a blissful smile on her face.

"Then, I'd very slowly start to take your clothes off your delicious frame until I can see every part of your perfect body and worship at your feet…," he continued, his own eyes closed as he pictured everything in his mind.

"Pervert," Ino giggled, drawing a snort from the Sage.

"Hey, you asked! Now, where was I? Oh, yeah!" he continued, painting his portrait for the drunken mind-walker. "I would gently place you on the bed, on your stomach, and begin to rub your back, sprinkling kisses all over, doing the same with your beautiful rear-end and sexy legs. I would then roll you back over and kiss your neck as I massage your perfect breasts…"

"Ooo," moaned Ino as she felt her heart start to race as the words drifted through her alcohol soaked brain. Her nipples began to harden and she started to rub her thighs together, wishing that right now, it was something that was really happening.

"Yeah, then I'd start to kiss and suckle your breasts while I start to rub my hands all up and down your sides and over your thighs. I'd then start to cover you in kisses until I reached your silky thighs, then I would gently lift each leg and start to kiss them from your knees until I …."

"Hang on…wait a sec…," Ino interrupted, her brows furrowing a bit though her eyes were still closed, "That is a scene from page sixty-nine of your next book, remember?"

"How can you remember that exact page of the book? It must have made a good…*burp*… impression on you!" he smirked, causing Ino to blush a bit. Naruto could swear that he could feel the heat coming from her face.

"Uh…well…that's nots da point…" she murmured drunkenly, the sake really taking effect now.

"Just who do you think I was thinking about when I wrote it?" Naruto replied as he turned his head and looked at the beautiful woman beside him. Her hair had fallen from her face, and he was now getting his first look at the angry red scar that ran from just below her earlobe to halfway down her jaw. He reached out and held her hand.

"So…so if I'm da Princess, how do you know that I sha…" she stammered, her face flushing with embarrassment as sleep struggled to overtake her, the image of the Princess from the book firmly planted in her mind.

"Just a lucky guess! It was fifty-fifty shot, either you do or you don't," he finished as he closed his eyes, falling into a deep slumber.

"Naruto!" a shout could be heard over the loud banging that was erupting from the other side of his door. "Naruto! Get up and open the fucking door!"

"What the hell?" he muttered as he groggily sat up, the pounding on the door matching the pounding in his head. He knew he was going to have one hell of a hangover this morning when he and Ino were awakened by the first light of the dawn shining on their faces. Still slightly inebriated, they both turned and smiled at one another before Ino stumbled into her house to go to bed while Naruto staggered down the road to his own apartment. "Who is it?"

"It's me! Sakura! Open the damn door, it's an emergency!" the pink-haired medic yelled. "It's about Ino!"

"What? What's wrong with Ino?" Naruto bellowed as he sobered up immediately and yanked the door open in the blink of an eye, startling the medic.

"Eep! How did you move that quick?" Sakura squeaked as Naruto grabbed her hand and pulled her into his apartment and slammed the door. She stood there transfixed at the sight of Naruto clan only in his boxers, his sculpted chest and abs glistening with sweat. The only blemish she could see was the fist-sized scar left over from his battle with Sasuke.

"That doesn't matter! What's wrong with Ino?" barked the Sage, snapping Sakura's mind back to the present problem.

"Well, she came in to the hospital this morning to get some medicine for a hangover, and I was so happy to see her without all the bulky clothing that she's been wearing lately! Believe it or not, she just had on a long sleeve shirt and some nice jeans…," Sakura went on and on about how good Ino looked until an irritated cough by the Sage stopped her rambling.

"The point, Sakura!" he growled, startling the young woman.

"She ran into that same medic that messed up her wounds," Sakura sighed as she remembered the scene. "He looked at her and laughed, calling her 'an ugly fucking whore that nobody will ever want', and that he was glad he was the medic that treated her. She ran off crying, and after I backhanded the bastard, I followed her…"

A blast of Killer Intent blew through the village of Konoha, dropping people like flies and causing even seasoned shinobi to stagger and fall to their knees. The civilians never knew what hit them, but the shinobi knew what happened, and they felt sorry for whomever had just pissed off Naruto Uzumaki.

"I gotta go see her, make sure she's alright!" Naruto growled as he threw on his clothes faster than Sakura thought humanly possible. Just as he grabbed his battle cloak and began to run out the door, Sakura put a hand out to stop him.

"Naruto, she doesn't want to see anyone right now!" the medic explained about how she had followed Ino home, but Mrs. Yamanaka told her that her daughter didn't want to see anyone right now, not even her favorite Sage.

"Damn! Not good, not good at all!" Naruto grumbled as he stalked over to his desk and began to rummage through the stacks of parchment he had scattered everywhere.

"What are we going to do? We need some sort of plan!" his teammate whined as she walked over next to him and picked up a sheet from his desk. It was covered in an intricate design with scribbled notes on the side. "What are these?"

"Hmm, it's between these two," Naruto mumbled to himself, seemingly oblivious to the medic's questions. "This one may fade over time, but this one won't. It's just…applying it will be a bit different than usual. Well, this one it is, then!"

"What are you on about?" Sakura seethed, not liking being ignored. Naruto tossed her an irritated glance.

"I'm a Seal Master, Sakura, just like my mom and dad" Naruto responded like he was talking to a small child, "And these are seals! Now, don't worry about Ino, I have a plan! There's just…a few things I need to attend to before I start!" With a devious grin, Naruto grabbed Sakura's hand and pulled her out of the apartment behind him, shutting his door on the way out.

"Lady Tsunade?" Shizune asked as she walked into the Hokage's office just in time to see Tsunade place a parchment into an envelope and seal it, stacking it in a small pile of similar envelopes on the side of her desk.

"Yes, Shizune? What is it?" the busty blonde asked as she sat back and sipped some sake from a small cup.

"Do you remember that medic that screwed up Ino's wounds? Hirusai?" Tsunade nodded her head, indicating that Shizune should continue. "He's just been brought into the hospital. ANBU found him pinned to the Main Gate by four kunai, one through each hand and foot!"

"You don't say," Tsunade hummed as her apprentice continued with her report.

"It gets even stranger, you see, he had a seal carved into his forehead, and every time he would try to scream or raise his voice, the seal would activate! It sends a wave of pain throughout his body as well as silencing his voice!" Shizune reported as she began to pace the office. "He also has seals carved into his hands and feet where the kunai had penetrated, keeping any healing chakra from affecting the area. The wounds will just have to heal naturally!"

"How terrible!" Tsunade mumbled, trying to keep a straight face. Shizune's eyes narrowed a bit, knowing that her master was keeping something from her.

"Yes, but to top it off, there was a large fox-head carved into his chest, and it appears that the seal on his head keeps it from healing as well! Also, he kept mumbling about fangs, claws, and red eyes! I wonder if we should get Naruto in on this to check out and remove the seals?" the younger woman asked as she continued to watch her boss. Something flashed briefly across Tsunade's eyes as she leaned further back in her chair, as if contemplating the situation.

"Are any of those wounds life threatening?" the Sannin asked, drawing a negative response from her apprentice, "Well then, I see no need to involve our Seal Master! Patch him up, send him home, and terminate his employment! Before you say anything, Shizune, I recently became aware of recent misconduct by this individual and I refuse to condone it!"

"You already knew all about this didn't you?" Shizune asked accusingly. Tsunade's face showed mock indignation.

"Shizune! Do you really think I would condone an attack on a citizen of Konoha if I had prior knowledge of it?" Shizune snorted in disgust as she spun on her heal and stormed out. The second the doors slammed shut, a hidden panel behind Tsunade slid open as Naruto stepped out. "The fox head was a bit much, don't you think?"

"Naw, the bastard deserved worse than that," Naruto growled as he reached out and took the small pile of envelopes from her desk. He knew that his handwriting was horrible, so he asked his adopted grandmother to write out some very important items for him. He flashed as smile as he jumped out the window, "Thanks, Grandma!"

"I really hope this works," the Hokage muttered as she took another sip of sake, "She was showing so much progress…"

The next morning, Ino sat in her room as the sun shone through her window, casting it's warm rays upon her mostly hidden face. It reminded her of the previous morning when she woke up next to Naruto in the backyard, the conversation from the night before still fresh in her mind. Neither Ino nor Naruto had said anything about it, but the smiles they had given each other said everything.

"He really is such a sweet guy," she said softly as a ghost of a smile played across her lips for the first time in almost twenty-four hours. "Kind, considerate, funny, cute, gotta killer body, and is as loyal as can be! I wonder if…what would it be like…would he…,"

"You're an ugly fucking whore!" that vile voice rang out through her mind, causing the smile to drop instantly.

"But he….he….he makes me feel warm, important…like I actually matter to someone! It's like…he cares for me, not how I look!" she muttered, only to hear that mocking laugh in the back of her head.

"You know, I'm glad I'm the one that treated you that day, bitch! All you had to do was go out with me, but you rejected me instead! Now, nobody will want you! You're an ugly fucking whore that nobody will want to touch!" the hateful words rebounded across his mind. Tears filled her eyes as she curled up in a ball on her bed and tried to shut out the rest of the world.

"Ino, dear?" her mother called out as she opened the door to the stricken blonde's room and saw the mess of a daughter lying on the bed.

"Yeah, Mom?" she croaked, trying hard to hold back the sobs that threatened to escape. Her mother went over to her and rubbed her back, trying to soothe her heartache.

"It's not going to help you any by staying up here all alone, you know?" the elder blonde said softly, "Why don't you call your friend, Naruto, over? I'm sure that he can help, and I know that he misses you! You two have seen each other every day since he's gotten back."

"Get real, Mom," Ino sniffed, her voice filled with bitterness and sadness, "I'm just an ugly fucking whore! Nobody would ever want to be seen with me!"

"If that's what you think, then I believe that you are doing yourself and Naruto both a great injustice," her mother replied, upset at how far Ino had been set back. "Has Naruto ever acted like he's ashamed to be seen with you? Has he ever treated you like a whore? Has he ever shown you that he only cares for you because of your looks?"

"No," she sniffled, but the doubts still lingered. Her mother sighed wearily.

"Well, anyway, I need you to get up in a little bit and come help me in the shop, okay? Oh! By the way, somebody gave this to me for you," she added as she handed Ino a small envelope. With a kiss and a squeeze, Mai Yamanaka got up and left her daughter to herself.

"I wonder who sent me this?" the young mind-walker asked as she sat up, carefully opened the beautiful envelope and pulled out the ornate parchment within. The message, however, confused her a bit:

Dear Ino, won't you come out and play?

Dear Ino, greet the brand new day!

"That's weird! Who would send me a letter like this?" she wondered until she heard a tapping at her window. Looking up, she spied another envelope. Crossing the room quickly, she opened the window and reached out to grab the envelope.

"What is going on?" Ino asked as she opened the second envelope, only to find a similarly strange message:

The sun is up, the sky is blue

It's beautiful, and so are you!

Dear Ino, won't you come out to play?

There was only one person she knew that was weird, but sweet, enough to write her something like this. "Naruto," she sighed.

"You rang?" the Toad Sage chirped as he magically appeared on her windowsill. Ino grinned sadly as she gazed into his bright blue eyes. "It's a great day today! Come on out, I got a really cool place to show you!"

"You're so sweet," the kunoichi replied as she reached out and rubbed his whisker marks, evoking a purring sound from Naruto, "But I'm not feeling too good today, and I'm supposed to help my mom in the shop. I'm sorry!"

"Aw, come on, Ino, please? We didn't get to spend any time together yesterday! Please? I'll even treat you to some ramen, all you can eat!" Naruto begged, his goofy smile still on his lips. Ino almost gave in but thought better of it, still smiling sadly.

"Not today, Naruto. You really shouldn't waste your time on me, go find someone out there who's less…damaged," Ino choked on the last word, the closed the window with the Sage still sitting outside. The young kunoichi retreated back to her bed while Naruto weighed his options.

"Well, I knew this wasn't going to be easy," the shinobi mused, truly dreading what was to come next, "I guess I'll just have to resort to Plan B. I just hope that the fleabag was right when he told me about this…HEY INO!"

Now, there are three things in life that Ino Yamanaka truly hated. The first was being called a dumb blonde, after all, she got really good grades in the Academy so that stereotype was dead wrong. The second thing was being called a useless fan-girl. Sure, she had been an Uchiha fan-girl back when she was younger, but those days had long since passed, and she had never been useless. The third thing in life that Ino hated with a passion was something Kiba Inuzuka had learned about much to his great pain and peril. It was a gross, stupid, immature prank that sets Ino off like a matador waving a cape in front of a maddened bull. It was something that Naruto's shout had drawn her attention toward, her jaw dropping and her vision going red with rage.

Naruto Uzumaki, Toad Sage of Konoha, son of Minato Namikaze, container of the great and powerful Kyuubi no Kitsune, was doing his best impersonation of Pressed Ham on Glass.

"NARUTO!" Ino bellowed as she charged toward her window, causing said shinobi to scream like a girl as he leapt off the roof, pulling his pants up at the same time. He landed lightly in the street and stood there waiting for her.

"I'm gonna fucking kill you!" the rather upset blonde yelled as she slammed the window open and leapt out toward the street, not even realizing that she was clad only in the loose t-shirt and shorts that she had been sleeping in that morning.

"You're gonna have to catch me first, slowpoke!" Naruto teased as he took off down the road, one very pissed-off kunoichi hot on his heels. The chase led through the town, over the village walls, and deep into the forests beyond.

"You are so dead, Uzumaki!" Ino seethed, never quite able to catch up with him enough to dish out the punishment she believed he so richly deserved. Suddenly, in a blink of an eye, the Sage vanished from sight. "What the hell?"

Ino stopped in her tracks, finally realizing what had happened. She followed Naruto deep into the woods, and now she had absolutely no idea of where she was. A small gust of wind chilled her a bit, causing her to realize that she was out in the open and didn't have her scars covered. He had taunted her to get her outside, and it worked. She took the bait.

"That bastard," she muttered, getting just a bit panicky when another envelope appeared in front of her, hanging from a bit of ninja wire. Ripping it open savagely, she read what was inside:

Dear Ino, open up your eyes!

Dear Ino, see the sunny skies!

The wind is low, the birds will sing,

That you are part of everything!

Dear Ino, won't you open up your eyes?

The stress of being lost, coupled with her panic of being outside, and mixed in with the sweet words in Naruto's letters were beginning to get to Ino. Glancing up, she saw a small path that led to a gap between the trees that held so much more light than the rest. With tears in her eyes, she shuffled up the path, and just as the pathway began to open up, she saw another letter. With just a little more care this time, she opened the envelope and began to read, the words confusing her more than before:

Look around, look around, look around!

Rather baffled, Ino looked up from the letter and her jaw dropped. There, before the startled blonde, was the most beautiful clearing full of flowers that she had ever seen. The clearing itself was huge, and the flowers were of every color and style imaginable. The mind-walker began to walk forward, her rage, panic, and humiliation forgotten as she walked amongst the little groups of Nature's beauty. A cluster of tiger lilies here, a group of violets there, roses, daffodils, petunia, mums, daisies, salvias, marigolds, carnations, the list continued on and on.

Reaching the center of the clearing, Ino saw a wooden post with a sign nailed to it, another envelope sitting on top. Not knowing what to expect, she opened this one up, and it turned out to be a repeat of the first two:

Dear Ino, won't you come out to play?

Dear Ino, greet the brand new day!

The sun is up, the sky is blue,

It's beautiful, and so are you!

Dear Ino, won't you come out to play?

"Well, I see you made it!" beamed a happy Naruto as he walked out the of the trees and toward the blonde kunoichi, who just stood frozen until he got up close.

"Why? Why, Naruto?" she asked, tears streaming down her face. "Why would you humiliate me like that? I thought you really cared! You know how I feel about people seeing me, and you got me out here in my damn sleep clothes! You….you…you sent me those letters, telling me that I'm beautiful, but I'm not! I'm an ugly fucking whore, damn it! An ugly fucking whore!" the hysterical blonde began to collapse to the ground, but Naruto caught her in the instant between seconds.

"Ino, please, I'm sorry!" he said as he sat down on the ground, holding the young Yamanaka in his lap. "I never meant to humiliate you, or upset you, I promise! I just wanted to get you out here and see what I had for you! This is your place, see the sign?" Ino looked up, still sniffling, and saw that it plainly said: 'Ino's Meadow'.

"Uh huh," she replied numbly, her mind not able to make sense of anything at the moment. "How?"

"I bought the land a while back, and the past month I've been buying flowers and planting them in nice little groups. Then, I painted seals on all the surrounding trees to throw up a genjutsu so that only you and I can find it! That way, you can come here anytime you want and nobody will be able to see or bother you!"

"Oh, okay," Ino replied softly, giving him a gentle smile, "Thank you, Naruto! You really are the sweetest guy I've ever known!" She enjoyed seeing the blush light up his cheeks when he realized what she had just said.

"Uh…well, I'm not done yet!" the Sage announced with a smile as he took her hand and raised it to his lips, stunning the young kunoichi. Ever so gently, he kissed the scar on the back of her hand, then took his finger and traced an intricate, yet invisible design over the entire scar. With a small burst chakra, the scar completely vanished!

"Oh my god! Naruto! How did you do that?" Ino squealed, ecstatic that the back of her hand was now totally unblemished.

"Simple…err…not really ," Naruto explained as he scratched the back of his head, "You know how Tsunade hides her true appearance behind a genjutsu? Well, this is nothing like that! Hers can be dispelled, but this can't! I've actually sealed away the scar!"

"Wow! Really? So…it'll never come back?" Ino inquired, watching him nod his head in agreement. She then cocked her head in confusion. "That's great, but why did you kiss it beforehand? Not that I mind…I mean."

"Well, this seal is kind of unusual," Naruto began, still holding her hand, "For one thing, it's ancient…very ancient. It took me weeks to find it in the Hokage's library, and it turns out that it actually came from my mom's village. You know how sometimes, parents kiss their kid's wounds to make them better? All that dates back to this seal…,"

"Okay," Ino said, remembering all the times she had hurt herself, she would run to her mom or dad to get them to kiss it. "But, why?"

"Like I said, it's an unusual seal with several restrictions. First off, the chakra must pass through the lips to a bodily fluid. That then is used as the ink for the seal. Normally, if the wound was still fresh, I would have used your own blood, but instead I had to use the saliva from my kiss." Ino looked at her friend, shocked to hear him starting to sound like Sakura in his explanation. Her eyes threatened to glaze over as he continued.

"Second, the seal has to cover the entire scar for it to work….so the kisses may get a bit sloppy, sorry," he apologized in advance, while Ino felt her heart begin to race at the thought of Naruto kissing her all over her body. "That's when the chakra pulse is used to set the seal. Third, all the scars must be sealed within an hour of the previous one, so that gives us plenty of time between each scar if we need it. Lastly, and most importantly, we have to get all the scars in one go-around. Once the seals are set upon you, and the time limit passes, that's it! The seal can never be used on you again. I don't know why, but that's what the texts said. That's probably why the current treatment that Tsunade uses came into effect: it lacked those restrictions. So, let's start on the easy ones first, then we can go from there, okay?"

"Oh…okay," Ino replied nervously, thinking about all the locations on her body where the scars lie. Naruto quickly moved into action, and within just a few minutes, had sealed all the scars on Ino's arms. The kisses had left her feeling flushed as goosebumps covered her arms.

"Sorry about that, must be a bit cold…heheh…alright, you may want to sit down for this part," the Sage recommended as he helped her to sit down on a blanket that he had laid out upon the soft grass.

"Naruto…thank you," Ino said shyly as her fellow blonde just smiled at her before starting to seal the scars on her legs. If the kisses he had given her on the arms were enough to give her a stomach full of butterflies, the ones he was placing on her legs were driving her wild! When he kissed and sealed a particularly large one on her inner thigh, she unwittingly unleashed a moan of ecstasy. Naruto suppressed the grin that tried to form on his face at the sound as he continued to work his magic.

"Okay, Ino, that's the easy part! Now for the embarrassing bit, I need you to strip down to your undies so I can get to the rest," Naruto announced, a slight blush coloring his cheeks, causing his whisker marks to stand out even more. That, however, was nothing compared to the blush that was currently covering Ino's entire body.

"Um…I can't, Naruto," Ino stammered, the heat still rising from her skin in embarrassment.

"I promise that I'm not going to do anything perverted, I just need to get to any scars you may have on the rest of your body. If we don't do it now, I won't be able to do it later!" he explained, trying to reason with the nervous blonde.

"I know, it's just that…well…," the kunoichi looked shamefaced, the blush still refusing to leave her body.

"Come on, Ino! I promise I'm not trying to peek at you! Tell you what," Naruto quickly removed his cloak, vest, and shirt, revealing a body Ino could only dream about. "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours!"

"Naruto! That's not funny! N-now put your…clothes…Oh my God! What happened to you?" she gasped when she saw the ugly, twisted scar on Naruto's chest, right near his heart.

"This? This is where a man I considered my brother put his fist through my chest," The Sage replied a bit sadly as he turned around to let Ino see his back. "See, I have a matching one where his fist went all the way through me!"

"Oh, Naruto! I'm so sorry!" sobbed the young woman, feeling really silly about her scars when her friend obviously went through so much more to gain his. "Why don't you fix them with that jutsu?"

"Shh, it's okay! That happened years ago!" Naruto reassured as he wrapped the crying girl up in a hug, trying his best to comfort the pretty young blonde. "I keep them as a reminder."

"Of what?" she sniffed as she gingerly reached out and touched the one on his chest, the tips of her fingers sending a shiver down his spine.

"Of my own mortality, of the fact that I can be beaten, of the fact that I have unfinished business," the Sage replied as he reached out and touched the side of her face. "Now, are you going to strip down to your undies, or do I have to take off my pants and parade around in my boxers?"

"I can't…really!" Ino squeaked, but before Naruto could protest, she continued on. "These are my sleep clothes, so…uh…I-I don't have anything on underneath!" She looked down at the ground, her face doing a good impression of a stoplight.

"Oh…Oh! Uh, well," Naruto stammered as he looked around for an idea. "Okay, tell you what! I'll turn my back and you can take your clothes off, then lie down on your belly so I can get to the ones on the back. We'll…uh…just have to take it from there."

"What if someone sees us?" protested Ino, feeling like the eyes of the world were watching what was going on.

"Genjutsu seals, remember?" he countered, pointing to the trees surrounding the meadow.

"Oh. Okay, just don't peek!" she barked, causing the shinobi to grin as he turned away. She was beginning to sound like her old self again. After several minutes, she called back out, "Okay, you can turn back around now!"

When Naruto turned around, he was astonished, to say the least. Before him, lying facedown and as nude as the day she was born, lay the ultimate expression of female perfection. Despite the many scars on her backside, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Shaking his head violently to clear his thoughts, so that no problems would arise, Naruto quickly knelt down beside Ino and began his work.

"It doesn't look too bad, does it?" she worried as she turned her face toward her friend, only to see a bare leg. "Naruto? Where are your pants?"

"Relax, Ino! I still have my boxers on," he reassured, which was kind of a disappointment for the kunoichi. " I just kinda figured that what's fair is fair! After all, why shouldn't we both be a little embarrassed?"

"Yeah, why not?" Ino smiled, knowing that Naruto had done that for her. However, after having been lovingly kissed on her limbs many times by the nearly nude Sage, Ino was having other thoughts and feelings bubble up from deep within her being, so…she decided to take a chance on something. "But, if you really wanted to play fair…you'd drop the boxers as well!"

"That's the Ino I know and love," Naruto laughed, shocking the young mind-walker, as he stood up and disappeared for a minute before returning to where he started. "Okay, I guess we're ready to start now! Just do me a favor, please? Don't point and laugh!"

"Did…did he really say he loved me?" Ino thought desperately as she felt him kiss the top of her right collarbone and trace a seal over the scar located there. A jolt of electricity ran down her spine at the contact. "Does…does he really feel the same as…me?"

"Oh crap! Did I really say that out loud?" Naruto worried as he moved to the next scar on her back, this one on her right shoulder blade. After spending the past six weeks or so with his fellow blonde, he had gotten to know the real Ino. The loving, sweet, somewhat shy and insecure girl that hid below the loud and cheerful exterior. Within the first week, he had fallen head-over-heals for her. "Okay, okay! I gotta concentrate, damn it! I can't let my…interest…show!"

The two blondes managed to stay cool and collected the whole time that Naruto worked on her back…barely that is, at least until they reached the area below her waist. She had a few scars on the back of the thighs, which were difficult enough for Naruto to treat and remain calm, but he managed to make it through without any problems…arising. However, the long red scar on her left buttcheek was enough to almost do them both in.

"O-okay, there's only one left, Ino. It's on your rear-end, and…uh…well…," the Sage stammered, his embarrassment mirroring her own.

"It's alright, Naruto," Ino sighed, her skin beginning to flush as a thought crossed her mind, causing the kunoichi to smirk. " Go ahead…kiss my ass!"

"You know," Naruto laughed, causing Ino to do the same, "I've had tons of people tell me that, but I never knew what they actually meant!" While Ino was still giggling, he leaned over suddenly, planting a big wet kiss on her butt, drawing a loud squeal from Ino. In a flash, the scar was sealed. "Alright, your back is done, now for the …uh…difficult part. I'll…um…close my eyes so you can roll over, okay?"

"You promise not to look?" Ino asked nervously, to which her friend agreed. Slowly, the shaking blonde turned over and laid flat on her back, her skin creating a new shade of red as a full body blush covered her from head-to-toe. She was pleased to see that Naruto had kept his word and had his eyes closed, but…when she got her full look of Naruto nude, her jaw dropped open.

"Oh my god! He expected me to laugh at that…uh…him?" she thought astonishingly as she did her best to calm her breathing and heart rate. After a minute or so, she called out to him. "Okay, you…uh…can look now."

Bright blue eyes met light blue orbs as Naruto gazed down upon the beautiful face of the woman he care so very deeply for. He smiled gently, causing Ino's nervousness to vanish as a smile graced her lips as well. Ino was pleased that he didn't immediately start looking her body up and down like a piece of meat. Rather, he continued to look upon her face, and the emotion Ino saw on his face was one she really couldn't identify because she so rarely saw it...but it made her feel warm inside nonetheless.

"Okay, are we ready?" he asked gently, his eyes never leaving her face.

"Thank you, Naruto, for everything you've done for me…and for not being a pervert," she said as Naruto began to scan her body for scars. There were several small ones on her torso and thighs, but she knew that there were two scars that she knew they both were going to cause trouble.

"You're welcome, Ino. Anything for a friend!" the Sage replied as he began to seal the smaller scars. After a few minutes of this, Ino asked him a question that had been haunting her since she was a pre-teen.

"I'm…I'm not too fat, or too ugly, am I, Naruto? Please, you're my friend, tell me the truth," she pleaded shyly. Despite how confident Ino had always seemed, in reality she was very insecure about her looks, which is one reason she was always dieting and reading every fashion and glamour magazine she could get her hands on. She got worried when she saw a grimace cross his features.

"Ino Yamanaka," Naruto stopped working on her scars and looked her dead in the eye, "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met or seen, and trust me, I have met a lot of gorgeous women! And that's either with or without the scars! One of these days, you're going to realize just how beautiful you are." Ino smiled as a blush caressed her one more. The kunoichi reached out and took the young demon container's hand.

"Thank you," she beamed while Naruto smiled at her and began to work once more.

"Of course on that day, you'll probably never have time for a loser like me," he mumbled sadly as he finished up the last of the small scars, leaving only the two remaining problem areas. Ino was shocked at what Naruto had just admitted and was about to protest when he continued. "Okay, now we're at the most difficult ones. I'll work on the uppermost one first…I'll be as careful and as gentle as I can, okay?"

"Okay," she agreed, blushing from knowing what was about to happen next. "I…I trust you, Naruto."

"Thanks," he said softly with a smile on his face as he examined the scar and tried to control his…anatomy. The scar ran from the nipple of Ino's left breast down to her cleavage, leaving a long, jagged red line that marred her beautiful skin. "I'm sorry about this!"

"It's okay," she whispered, her heart racing as the butterflies returned in full force. Despite what people thought, she had never had a man touch her like Naruto was about to do. "J-just be careful, alright?"

"I will," the Sage reassured. Despite the fact that he wrote the Icha-Icha series, Naruto had never before been with a woman in anything like this sort of situation. Willing his body to behave itself, he carefully reached over and gently moved Ino's breast over to the side. Now that he had full access to the angry red scar, he bent over and kissed it squarely in the middle, drawing a gasp from the young mind-walker. Naruto then quickly drew the seal , ending it on the nipple before placing his entire hand on her breast and sending the chakra pulse through the seal. Ino's body stiffened at his touch, her nipples hardening involuntarily as a small cry of ecstasy escaped her lips as his chakra electrified her young body.

"Wow!" she gasped, fireworks still shooting throughout her body. The sexy blonde was becoming aroused in the extreme. "That was….wow!"

"Right! Now…uh…we…uh…need to get the next one done," Naruto mumbled as he moved further down beside Ino's body until the next scar was squarely in his sights, and he blushed redder than a lobster in a boiling pot of tomato juice . The scar started at the top of her thigh, worked it's way inward and upward, and ended within a half an inch of a very private area that no one had ever been allowed to explore before. "Damn that bastard! I'm gonna kill him!"

"Is…is everything alright?" Ino asked nervously, her mind screaming at her body's reaction to Naruto's presence. The young blonde knew exactly how close that scar came to her…Sacred Gateway. "Oh God! Please don't let him notice, please don't let him notice, please don't let him notice….."

"Um…um…uh…yeah! I…uh…need to spread your legs a bit…Oh God, I'm so sorry to have to do this to you, Ino! I-I-I really don't mean to invade your…uh…privacy!" Naruto blushed like crazy, the whole time thinking to himself, "I gotta concentrate! I gotta concentrate…oh lord, she's beautiful…NO! Stop it! I gotta concentrate, I gotta…Holy Shit! She's aroused! Lord, I just wanna…No! No! Stop thinking that way, you damned perv!"

"It's…It's okay, Naruto," Ino replied shyly as she reached over and held his hand for a minute, causing the two blondes to look deep into each other's eyes. "I trust you, just…be careful, okay?"

"Okay, Ino," he answered softly with a gentle smile…one that matched Ino's own. Gently pulling her legs from each other, Naruto bent down to start sealing the scar, but the scent of her musk was driving him wild. Something primal awoke and howled to be released…and it wasn't the fox!

Ino just about jumped out of her skin when she felt Naruto's lips touch the junction of her leg and pelvis which happened to be the exact center of her scar. His hair and face brushed up against her Celestial Treasure, causing an 'eep!' as well as a moan to escape her lips. Right now, she wanted so much more than a kiss…she wanted Naruto to mount and ravage her right then and there. Unconsciously, she spread her legs even further apart as his fingers began to dance over the scar, drawing the intricate seal while driving the young mind-walker insane with desire at the same time. However, the true magic happened when Naruto placed his hand on the scar which, of course, touched her very private area as he sent out the chakra pulse to lock the seal for eternity. Ino screamed as she achieved the first real climax of her young life!

"Oh my God! I'm sorry, Ino! Did I hurt you? I swear, I didn't mean to," a very worried Sage asked as he looked down upon the blonde beauty, her breathing ragged and her skin flushed. "Crap! I must have screwed up! I need to get you to the hospital!"

"NO! No, it's okay! In fact…it was wonderful!" Ino gasped as she lay there panting. She giggled in her mind, the fact that Naruto was such an innocent when it came to women and sex despite continuing his sensei's very successful novel series that dealt with those very same issues was rather funny. It was just another of a long list of things that had caused her to fall in love with the blonde Sage in the weeks they had spent with each other.

"Are you sure? I mean…you screamed, and your whole body arched and went stiff, and you got red all over and…oh…oh! Naruto blushed from head-to-toe as he finally figured out what had happened to his friend…the very same friend he had grown so close to over the past month and a half. He had these feeling beginning to well up inside him for Ino that he really couldn't identify, never having experienced true love before in his lonely life. It was confusing…what he had felt for Sakura and Hinata paled in comparison to what he felt for the beautiful blonde who was currently laid out before him.

"Yes, I promise I'm okay! I just never…uh…well…," Ino stammered as the blush that had been caressing her body since all this had started refused to leave. Sitting up, she reached out and took his hand. "Why are you so worried about me?"

"B-because I care for you so very much," her fellow blonde replied as he reached out with his other hand and caressed her cheek before sliding her hair back behind her ear. "You, dear Ino, are so much more precious to me than anyone else is or ever has been before! When you're happy, I'm happy! When you're hurt…I hurt! When I'm not around you, I can only think about the next time I get to see you.…you fill my thoughts all of the time!"

"Really?" Ino gasped as she closed her eyes and moaned into his touch, their shared nudity and the resulting embarrassment totally forgotten. Naruto had described exactly the way she felt about him. It was love…but she could see the confusion in his eyes. Knowing his background as well as she did, after all they got to know each other really well over the past six weeks or so, she realized that the blonde before her had never experienced real love, despite being the living embodiment of said emotion.

"Yes, really! It's just so hard to describe…or even put a single word to it. That's why I did all this…to make you happy! Well, I did have to piss you off to get you down here," Naruto grinned, earning a chuckle and smirk from Ino, "But do you know a secret? Whenever I looked at you, I never saw a scar or any other imagined imperfection you think you have! All I saw was my beautiful blonde friend who was hurting badly…who was lonely…and who has a pure heart and soul! That's the Ino I love so much!"

Ino gasped once more as her eyes grew wide. Despite the fact that the Sage before her couldn't consciously come up with the word for what he was felt, it came out so naturally when he spoke from his heart. Naruto loved her! He felt the same emotion that she did! She was so happy a small tear appeared in the corner of her eye and slid down her rosy cheek.

"Hey, are you okay? I-I didn't say anything wrong, did I?" Naruto stammered softly , fearing that he had hurt her with his words. Ino just smiled and shook her head.

" No, Naruto…you didn't say anything wrong, I promise. In fact, I think you said everything beautifully! I'm okay, I promise!" she reassured him, watching the bright smile come back to his face.

"Alright then…so this is the last one?" the Namikaze asked as he gently touched the angry red scar that ran down her jaw. Ino nodded as Naruto maneuvered into position, not ever realizing what he was doing. He straddled her leg, his knee so close to her Heavenly Gate that she could feel the heat radiating from it. It drove her insane, as did the fact that his nude form was pressed up to hers as he bent his head forward to kiss the side of her face. That was when Ino made a decision that would change their lives forever.

Naruto's eyes grew wide in shock and wonder as Ino turned her head, causing their lips to meet for the very first time. Slowly, his eyes closed as he and Ino melted into one another as the kiss grew in size and intensity. With their lips completely molded to each other, their tongues snaked out and began to dance as Naruto wrapped his arms around her small waist while she wrapped hers around his neck. Within moments, Naruto had Ino lowered to the ground and gently lay upon her as they continued a make-out session to end all make-out sessions.

They finally broke the kiss as Ino gasped and moaned wantonly. Naruto began to kiss, nibble, and suckle on her neck while his knee pressed up against her sex. It was more than the young blonde could take as she began to gyrate her hips, rubbing her most sensitive area on his leg and wishing that it was his hardened member that she currently felt pressed against her thigh. Just as it was beginning to get too much for the both of them to control themselves, they forced themselves apart and looked deep in the other's eyes. Naruto had left a trail of hickies in Ino's neck just as she left a very damp spot on his leg.

"Wow! What.…what just happened?" Naruto panted, still holding his body above the prone form of Ino. He noticed that her real smile had returned, as did the sparkle in her eyes that had been missing since before he had returned.

"Something that I had been wanting to do for a long time now," Ino whispered with a bright smile, knowing full well that there was much more that she wanted to happen, too.

"You too, huh?" Naruto grinned causing Ino's heart to leap with joy. He had wanted it, too! Naruto slowly sat back up and pulled Ino back up with him, much to her disappointment. "Okay, let's see about taking care of that last scar."

"No…don't," Ino said softly but firmly as she placed a hand on Naruto's chiseled chest. He looked at her quizzically. "I-I want to keep it."

"Why?" he asked, confusion clear on his face.

"As a reminder," she replied, reflecting on his words from earlier. "Of how my vanity forced me to go into hiding. Of how my anger and my pride took me into a situation that I couldn't handle. Of how easily I was beaten despite how highly I thought of my skills. Of how a good friend took time out of his life to help heal me…of how that friend became the man I love!"

"Are…are you sure, Ino?" the Sage asked, a full body blush very evident as her words sank into his thick skull. "I-I-I mean about the scar! Once the time limit expires that's it."

"Yes, I'm sure," she replied gently, holding his face, "About the scar and about loving you. I just wish it wasn't so long, or so wide, or so red…the scar! I mean…."

"Ah. Well, there is something I can do about that…the scar, I mean," he smirked as Ino playfully slapped his shoulder, blushing brightly. "It might sting a little but it will help. Do you trust me, Ino?"

"I trust you with everything, Naruto," Ino answered, drawing a smile from the Sage as he leaned back and made a series of hand-signs. Placing three fingers at the top of the scar, closest by her ear, he slowly drew them down the length of the angry red line. Naruto was right, it did sting some…but it was nothing she couldn't handle. Within a few seconds he was finished.

"I hope that didn't hurt too much," he said as he inspected his work and nodded to himself, pleased. Ino reached up and felt for the raised lump only to discover that it was gone.

"What did you do?" she asked, perplexed. "I wanted to keep that!"

"It's still there, Ino. I just did what you asked," he explained, trying to calm the upset girl. "It's a technique I learned from the toads. With one finger, I excised the old scar while closing and healing the wound with healing chakra from the other two. The scar is still there, but now it's very, very thin and white in color. It's barely noticeable at all!"

"Wow! Really? Thank you!" Ino chirped as she wrapped her arms around Naruto's neck and began to kiss him passionately, to which he responded in kind. After several minutes of heavy tongue-dancing, Ino made up her mind to her next course of action. Slowly laying back down and pulling Naruto along with her, she looked up into his bright blue eyes, seeing a mixture of love and confusion.

"Ino, are you okay? I mean, it's been a tiring day and all…," Naruto asked, concerned for the woman he loved. It was at that moment that he consciously made the connection between the warmth in his heart and that mysterious, four-lettered word that he had always been searching for his entire life.

"Yes, I'm more than okay," Ino replied with a sultry look in her eyes, one that caused Naruto to want to melt into a puddle of goo at her feet. Ino felt his hardened member rubbing against her lower belly as he knelt down between her legs and it was driving her absolutely insane with desire. Without conscious thought, she spread her legs even further and pulled her knees up to allow him access to he deepest regions of her body. "Make love to me, Naruto. I love you…I want to be with you…I want to give myself to you…to feel you inside me! I want you to be my first and only!"

"Ino," he replied sadly, the love in his eyes mixed with sorrow, "I'm sorry, but I can't! God, I want to…but I can't!"

"B-b-b-b-b-but why? Why not?" the blonde beauty gasped as tears formed in her eyes and began to run from the corners down into her hair. "I thought you loved me! Th-th-th-the other night you said you wanted to be with me…that you would want me! Was all that a lie?"

"Oh God! No, Ino, it wasn't a lie!" Naruto protested, his heart ripping to shreds at the sight of her tears, tears that he had caused. "I do love you! And I want you so badly it hurts! It's just…it's just I made a promise to myself…."

"What kind of promise?" Ino sobbed, causing the Sage to feel lower than dirt, "Am I not good enough for you?"

"It sounds stupid…," he replied, feeling the tears welling up in his own eyes. Ino could tell that, despite the pain in her heart, he wasn't purposely being mean or hurtful and that whatever the promise was it was hurting him as well.

"Tell me…please?" she begged, wanting to share his burden despite the fact that he had just rejected her.

"I swore to myself…especially after spending so much time with Pervy Sage… that the only woman I would ever be with would be my wife," the Sage answered bashfully, knowing that it would sound silly to the stunning blonde that was currently laying beneath him. Ino gasped, thinking about the same promise she had made for herself when she was younger. Of course, at the time she thought it would be Sasuke Uchiha, so she had kept herself pure throughout the years even after her feeling for the bastard had died out.

"It…it's not stupid, Naruto," Ino whispered gently, knowing her heart was about to break at the next words out of his mouth. "You promised yourself it would be Sakura, didn't you?"

"No," he croaked, "I swore it would be the woman I loved! And….and I love you so very much! I-I've never felt like this before…but I can't do that to you! You're so beautiful, so loving, so caring…you can do so much better than idiot like me! You deserve so much more than I can give you….you need someone who's kind, considerate, intelligent, good-looking, and who can fulfill all your needs. I can't be selfish and burden you with all the crap in my life!"

"I already have someone like that in my life…and he's hovering above me right now," Ino answered softly as she gazed up at the blonde god she had grown to love. "You loved me despite all my faults, all my blemishes, and all the crazy stuff I seem to get myself into! I can be myself around you…I don't have to try to be little Miss Perfect with you.…you let the real me come out and be proud of what I am! I don't care what kind of crap you go through…just let me go through it with you. Please?"

"Ino…I can't do that to you! You know what it's like to have everyone whisper about you…it would be worse if you were with me," Naruto protested. "Despite all I've done for the village, there are still a lot of folks out there who can't see past the damned fox! They'd call you vile names…cast rocks at you…refuse you service in restaurants…charge you double in stores…"

"Marry me," the mind-walker whispered, a small smile on her face as the shock of what she had just said reverberated through her mind. She didn't know when she made up her mind that she wanted to spend the rest of her days with the Sage, but deep down, she knew it was the right thing for her and the blonde man she loved.

"Huh?" Naruto asked, his mind not even registering the fact that Ino wanted to marry him.

"Marry me," she whispered again, her eyes sultry and her voice inviting.

"Do you understand what you'll be getting into if we get married?" he asked seriously, only to see the love in her eyes continue to grow.

"I don't care. Marry me," she whispered a third time, then smiled when she saw the joy on his face and the smirk on his lips.

"Don't you think we're doing this backwards?" Naruto commented as the smile on Ino's face grew into a smirk to match his own. "Isn't it supposed to be: date, proposal and then sex instead of: proposal, sex, then date?"

"Well…nobody ever accused us of being boring, now have they?" she answered back, happiness flooding her heart as she knew deep down what was coming next.

"No, they haven't," the blonde shinobi replied as he looked deep into the eyes of the woman that he loved. "Ino, would you like to be my wife?"

"Yes!" she chirped as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down into a monster liplock. This continued on for many, many minutes until Ino felt her fiancé reposition his hips, her eyes flying open as she felt the tip of his member slowly slip into her warm being. Her eyes rolled back into her head as the immense pleasure she was experiencing coursed through her young body. She gasped and bit Naruto's lip when he slowly broke through her hymen. Naruto kissed her tears away as the pain slowly subsided, allowing the two blondes to truly become one…..

Thirty-five years later…..

Ino Uzumaki Namikaze smiled as she re-read the letters Naruto had sent her that one day, so long ago, when they had discovered and consummated their love for one another. To this day, everything that her husband had done to heal her physically, mentally, and emotionally still sent a wild thrill through her heart.

She blushed somewhat when she remembered the look on her mother's face when the two of them walked back to the flower shop hand-in-hand, Ino with a slight hitch and limp in her step. Her mother knew exactly what had happened and jokingly asked when the wedding was going to take place. Naruto had to pick up and take his future mother-in-law inside and lay her on the sofa when she fainted after Ino had told her in six months.

The mind-walker placed the letters back in the box she kept all her important memories in. Looking down, the glint of the small silver band drew her attention. To others, it was a plain little thing, hardly worth being called a wedding ring. To Ino, however, it was worth more than the greatest treasure trove in the world. She recalled how Naruto had worked so hard to make enough money to buy it for her, but she blushed again when she thought about how they had to move the wedding up three months when she discovered that she was carrying Naruto's child.

The look on his face when Ino told him the news was indescribable as sheer love and joy seemed to radiate from the formerly lonely Sage. She had been worried at first about telling him, but it quickly vanished as he lifted her up and spun her around in his arms before giving her a rather passionate kiss. That might have led to more if Tsunade hadn't cleared her throat to remind them that they were standing in the middle of the Hokage's office, debriefing the last Senju on his latest mission.

Ino could have sworn that she saw steam rising up from Sakura's and Hinata's ears at that rather public display of affection, as well as the news of her pregnancy by the jinchuuriki. The three of them were in the office getting their hospital assignments from the Hokage when Naruto had arrived, and Ino being Ino couldn't hold the news back from him one second more. The Sage immediately began to harass Tsunade for even more missions so he could get a decent place to live for his family-to-be. Everyone looked at Tsunade strangely when she began to snicker as she tossed Naruto a set of keys as well as several scrolls that contained his inheritance from his parents and his godfather. Ino smirked as she remembered the blush that overcame the Hokage when Naruto tackle hugged her in thanks. Sakura and Hinata both stood there in absolute shock as they discovered just exactly who his parents were and how badly they had screwed up in dumping him like a hot rock.

Naruto had offered to get her a huge gold ring with a big diamond instead of the little silver band, but Ino had vehemently refused, sending him a glare that could fry Madara Uchiha as she told him that no other ring could ever replace it. Ino smiled when she thought about her husband's reaction to their new home. She had never seen Naruto Uzumaki truly speechless before and it was a sight to behold.

Reaching down, she pulled several photos from the treasure box and remembered back to their hastily thrown together wedding. Naruto, Shikamaru, Choji, and Iruka looked so handsome in their formal kimonos, as did her father when he walked her down the aisle. Naruto had naturally asked her teammates as well as their former sensei to stand with him, while Ino had asked Sakura, TenTen and Shizune to act as her bridesmaids. Sakura wasn't too happy knowing that Naruto wouldn't be there to wait upon her hand-and-foot anymore, but Ino refused to allow her sulking to ruin their big day. Lee and Neji were their as well, acting as Sakura's and TenTen's escorts to the wedding.

Notably absent were Kiba and Hinata, despite the fact that the majority of their clans had attended. Hiashi was pleased to see the son of his former teammate had finally found some happiness in his life, but he wasn't too pleased to see how close Hanabi and Konohamaru were acting. The blonde frowned a bit when she recalled the rumors that Hiashi had disowned Hinata over her treatment of the Namikaze clad head and her choice of the dog nin as her mate. Unfortunately, the rumors were true and when Hinata and her children left Kiba over how he abused them they had nowhere to go. Naruto, with his big and forgiving heart, gave them a small house on the corner of the Namikaze compound. Ino was extremely skittish about that at first, but after she and Hinata finally sat down and talked her fears were laid to rest.

Ino chuckled as she thought about the time little Minato first came face-to-face with Hinata's eldest daughter, Hitomi. The little Hyuuga girl began to act exactly like her mother used to around Naruto when they were younger. Minato, however, refused to allow her to remain in her shell as he quickly took her hand and showed her around the property and to meet his brothers and sisters. A happy tear slid down Ino's face as she looked at one of the pictures from Minato's and Hitomi's wedding. It was hard to believe it had been fifteen years since those two had tied the knot, but she was so happy for them…and for the grandchildren they had given her.

Setting that one aside, the blonde then reached in and pulled out the family portrait they had taken not too long after she had given birth to their last child. Naruto looked hotter than hell in his Hokage robes, which still causes her to blush to this day. Ino was standing at his side, holding little Kushina who was only a few weeks old at the time. The rest of the kids were gathered around them: Minato (their eldest), followed by Jiraiya and Tsunade ( the twins), Kakashi, and then little Asuma.

Next came the shots of the extended family: Jiraiya standing next to a gorgeous redheaded girl, who just happened to be his wife and the eldest daughter of Gaara no Sabaku. Many folks thought their marriage was a political one, but Ino and Naruto quickly reassured everyone that wasn't the case, despite the treaty both Kage's had signed afterwards. A picture of Tsunade the younger dragging Tsunade the elder out of a bar, feet first, was next. Ino felt so proud of her daughter becoming the top medic in all the Elemental Nations, surpassing even her mentor and godmother, the last Senju. Ino couldn't help but grin thinking about how her daughter had breathed new life into the Hyuuga clan with her marriage to Neji's and TenTen's son, Kaji. Most of the clan actually began to act like normal human beings…and all because Tsunade had the same power her father had to change people for the better.

The next photos still got her head shaking to this day. It seemed that there was just something about the Uzumaki-Namikaze clan doing it's best to bind itself with powerful families without even trying. One picture was of Kakashi and his date, Mai, daughter of Temari Nara. The two always seemed to fight like cats and dogs, but it was just their way of showing affection for one another, it seems. It was what it would have been like if Naruto and Temari had ever dated, and it was during one particularly nasty argument that Kakashi proposed, much to everyone's surprise. Even more so was when Mai accepted and then slapped the crap out of him before bursting into tears as she accepted. The two of them held each other afterwards and the rest was history. They still fight some, but Ino always believed that they did it so they could makeup. She and Naruto had six grandkids from those two alone. Kakashi the elder always gave his namesake an eye-smile and a thumbs-up every time he saw him.

As for Asuma…well, it still hurt her thinking about what happened to him. Even as a little boy, he fell head-over-heels for Hinata's youngest daughter, Mariko. Unfortunately, Mariko acted just like Sakura used to about Naruto. She always enjoyed the attention Asuma gave her, but she was abusive to him and dismissed his feeling for her. Hinata tried her best to get through to her youngest, but it was just too much fun for the young Hyuuga to resist. Naruto, Ino, and other kids used to do everything they could to cheer Asuma up every time she shot him down…however, just like his daddy used to do, he'd put on his happy face and tell everyone that he was alright. Ino learned years later that the only time he'd ever let his guard down around was with his best friend, a shy little girl named Akiko Umino, Iruka's and Ayame's daughter.

Tears steamed down Ino's cheeks as she gazed upon the next captured memory. It was of Asuma in a hospital bed, with Akiko sitting next to him holding his hand. During a C-ranked mission Asuma's team was ambushed by several hunter nin from Iwa seeking vengeance upon the heirs of Minato Namikaze. Mariko and Akiko both got knocked out, but Asuma fought like a demon unleashed to protect his teammates, destroying most of the enemy shinobi. However, when the last surviving hunter turned his attention to the two fallen girls, Asuma got between them and the nin taking the attack meant for the girls. Despite two crushed legs courtesy of an earth-style jutsu, the young Namikaze used his wind blades to slice the hunter nin to ribbons, literally. It was thanks to their sensei, Kakashi the elder, that Asuma made it back alive. She remembered him saying something about déjà vu and getting too old to look after hardheaded Namikazes.

Mariko and Akiko both cried over what had happened, and the young Hyuuga apologized for everything she had ever done to him. Yet, she still broke his heart when she finally got him to understand that she didn't love him the way he wanted her to…but that alright since Akiko loved him more than words could say. The two were married a year later after Asuma's recovery. He was no longer an active nin, but he did become an instructor at the school teaching teamwork and wind jutsus. Ino had two grandchildren from them with a third on the way.

The next photos in the box still set Ino on edge, even after all these years. The first was a crater where Iwa used to stand. Naruto's anger over what happened to his son was so great that he did something that he never thought he would do: he unleashed the Beast. After assuring that all the civilian women and all the children were evacuated from Iwa by his use of his Shadow Clones, Naruto activated his Kyuubi form and nuked Iwa …destroying every last building, monument, and shinobi that existed there before storming off to the palace of the Earth daimyo. Imagine the look on his face when a full grown Kyuubi no Kitsune stared down at him and told him in no uncertain terms that Iwa was gone and if anyone tried to rebuild it , all of Earth Country would follow suit. Iwa became a cursed name and land for all the Elemental Nations, but Naruto had Konoha help build a small village several miles away from the crater for the survivors. To this day, Naruto refuses to speak about Iwa.

The next photo in the line up was something that always causes Naruto to laugh whenever he thinks about the incident…but it still pisses Ino off. It showed Ino Namikaze and Shion of Oni Country trying to kill each other when the latter showed up to get Naruto to carry out his promise to help her create the next generation of priestesses. And he did just that…by introducing her the Rock Lee. Believe it not, the two fell head-over-heels with each other which, to Ino's mind, was very, very strange indeed! The two blondes had a long talk about their favorite Sage which just happened to be the same talk she had with Princess Koyuki when she came nosing around for Naruto several months later.

The blonde kunoichi grimaced as she stared at the next photo in the group. It was the image of Kiba crucified to the main gate of Konoha as a warning to anyone who thought they had the right to abuse their spouse or kids. Ino recalled the day the dog nin stormed into the family compound and demanded to see Hinata and the children. When Ino and Hinata confronted him, he slapped Hinata and tried to do the same to the lady of the house only to get tackled by Minato, Jiraiya, and Tsunade. After throwing them off of himself, he tried to go for Ino again until his hand was caught and crushed to pulp by an enraged Toad Sage. What Naruto did to Kiba was too much to think about…but domestic violence in the village fell to next to nothing afterward.

The last photo of the group was one of her favorties. It showed Naruto in his Hokage robes standing next to Kakashi Hakate, Sakura, and Sai with the bound form of Sasuke Uchiha before them, kneeling on the ground and being held up one-handedly by Naruto. One of the Uchiha's eyes had been gouged out and several seals were carved into the skin around the remaining eye to prevent the traitor from activating his bloodline. Naruto had kept his promise to Sakura by bringing him home and his promise to Ino by punishing him for his wrong-doing. Of course, Ino got her shot in ( specifically, to his nuts) as Sasuke glared at her, pissed off that he could see no evidence of the beating that he had given her.

Sakura and Karin, now a kunoichi of Konoha, got their licks in as well before being artificially inseminated with the Uchiha's seed as part of the Sharingan Restoration Project. Upon pain of death, Naruto decreed that the Uchiha name would die with Sasuke, who to this day still rots in a tiny cell in the lowest levels of ANBU headquarters. In total, twenty women gave birth to twenty-six possible Sharingan users, and the mothers and their children were moved to the old Uchiha and were given, ironically enough, the name of Senju. Tsunade loved this and spent as much time with her new 'grandbabies' as she could. Ino smiled at the look of happiness on her face when the elder Senju saw all the little babies.

"Ino? Are you home, babe?" she heard her husband of thirty-five years call out as he came home from work.

"I'm in the living room, dear," Ino called out as she watched Naruto walk in and hang his battle-cloak up on the nearest wall hook. "How was your day?"

"Sheesh…don't ask," he mumbled as he came up behind her and hugged her before kissing the top of her head. "Konohamaru visited me and Asuma at the Academy today. He told me that he was burned out and wanted to retire! I mean…damn!"

"He's only been Hokage for the past five years or so," Ino commented, a look of confusion on her face. "Why would he want to quit so soon?"

"Hell, I don't know," Naruto sighed as he sat down in his easy chair. "The way he was talking, it sounded like he and Hanabi were having some problems. He asked me if I would take back over after he steps down! I've only been retired for five years after over twenty on that job…why would I want to take it back?"

" 'Retired' my shapely ass," his wife smirked as she started to repack the box. Naruto smiled and agreed that after thrity-five years, she still had a shapely ass. " You couldn't retire and stay still if your life depended on it! What was the first thing you did when you stepped down? You took over the Academy and fired all the teachers!"

"Just the crappy ones, my love, just the crappy ones. I kept Iruka and hired Tsunade, Shizune, Kakashi, Kurenai, Gai, Anko, your dad and you. I think I came out with the better end of the deal, personally," the Sage smirked as he watched her put the letters in the box before closing the lid. "So…taking a stroll down Memory Lane, are we?"

"Yeah, it's something I do every once in a while," she blushed. His smile still caused her to light up like a Christmas tree even after so many years of marriage. Getting up, she crossed the room and settled herself down in his lap. "So, are you going to step back up?"

"I don't know yet," he sighed, wrapping his arms around his beautiful wife. She purred as she snuggled into his embrace.

"Do you think Minato is ready yet?" his wife prodded, not really wanting her husband to take back up such a stressful job. The shinobi and kunoichi in the academy were turning out so much more talented when they graduated under Naruto's guidance and she really didn't want things to backslide.

"Probably. I'll kick it over with Ko tomorrow and see what he thinks," Naruto replied, holding his wife tightly. He may technically be the strongest shinobi in the village, but he was tired. Glancing down at the letters, a question came unbidden to his mind. "Ino…you don't ever regret…hooking up with me, do you? I mean…our courtship was rather…bizarre, to say the least. You could have had any guy in Konoha…many who are better men than me…so why me?"

Ino looked into her husband's eyes and even after so many years, she could still see the scared orphan looking back at her. After giving him a deep, soulful kiss, she looked him square in the eye and gave him a honest answer.

"Other than spending half our food budget on ramen…no, I don't regret it!" she smiled as she stroked the whisker marks on his face, earning a deep purring sound that came from deep within his broad chest. "Why you? Because you're the man I fell in love with and whom I love more and more with each passing day. I will admit, our courtship was weird…but we're shinobi, so would anyone believe that anything that has to do with us would be anything close to normal? I got the man I wanted…no regrets."

With a kiss, Ino got up from her husband's lap, picked up the box from the coffee table, and proceeded back up the stairs to their bedroom. Naruto was so entranced by watching his wife's sexy rear-end as she walked off, he failed to notice a small handsign she performed. Soon, a small sheet of paper began to float down from the ceiling until it caught the Sage's eye. Reaching up, he snatched it from the air and began to read it. Within the space between heartbeats, the Toad Sage of Konoha disappeared in a cloud of dust. The poor abandoned sheet of paper once more began it's descent toward the earth, finally landing on the spot so recently abandoned by the nin.

Emblazoned on the poor parchment were eight words:

Dear Naruto, won't you come up to play?

The End

A/N: I hope everyone enjoys this little (Little?) one shot. I was inspired to write this by one of my favorite Beatles songs, and it grew from a little idea that I started to write up at work on my lunch breaks into something that looks like Godzilla after a nuclear reactor meal! This story has been finished for almost a year now, it just took me a long to to get around to typing it up. Have no fear, though, I'm still working on To Live is So Much Harder ( which is about 2/3 finished) and I swear…I'm still working on Father and Music of the Night! Thanks for reading!-Lord Talon