A/N: Not a new chapter, sorry, but I found this buried among my drafts. It was what I originally wrote for the first scene of chapter 29 (The Deep End). I thought it was cute and figured I might as well share while you all patiently wait for silly slow ol' me.
With thirty-seven-year-old Ino...
"Naruto?" Ino called his name carefully when she finally found him sitting on a bench outside the hospital. He wasn't crying, so that was a good start. He did not look too depressed either, but more deep in thought. "Naruto?"
He looked up and grinned. "Hey."
"You're...okay?" Ino asked, confused. Shikamaru had made it seem that he was upset.
"Yeah," Naruto replied, "I mean, I don't feel great, but Shikamaru spoke some sense into me."
"Oh." Ino sat down next to him. Shikamaru had clearly failed to mention that part. But as the two sat in silence it sort of started to fall into place. Ino should have known things would not be quite the same as it had been in her dimension. Here, Naruto had clearly been comforted by Shikamaru, and her team mate must have really said something to shake Naruto out of his depressed state.
Her own memory of the event happening in her dimension, all those years ago when her real friendship with the blonde began, was slightly different. Shikamaru had found Naruto outside the hospital, in tears and could not calm the teenager down. Iruka had managed to stop him from crying, but it had been her to snap him out of it. How strange, up until now the events in the two dimensions had been very similar, but this was one of the first to have serious differences.
"Shikamaru needs my help with decoding a message from Jiraiya," Naruto stated, "I just needed to sit down to breathe for a while."
"I see," Ino hummed. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"For now," Naruto replied as he leaned down and rested his head on Ino's shoulder. She smiled when she felt his hair tickle her cheek. She was happy to know that he wasn't as shy around her any more.
"This is okay, right?" Naruto asked.
"Of course," Ino laughed. She reached up and patted his cheek, the texture of his whiskers felt rough under her fingertips. She had almost forgotten how strange they felt – she hadn't touched her Naruto's whiskers in a long time since it was a very sensitive and ticklish spot.
"Strange," Ino muttered.
"What is?" Naruto asked, lifting his head to look at her.
"Kaguya doesn't have whiskers."
"Who?" Naruto asked, blinking. He knew Ino had mentioned the name before, but he could not for the life of him remember which person in the other dimension Kaguya was.
"Our daughter," Ino explained. "The nine-tails was still sealed inside of you when she was conceived."
Naruto frowned. "You mean...he's not inside me in your dimension any more?"
"And I'm alive?"
Ino rolled her eyes. "No, Naruto, I married a zombie."
Naruto sat up and crossed his arms, in deep thought again. Ino watched him, worried that perhaps she might have said too much. Naruto might be a lot more open to her now, but he was still slightly disturbed by the fact that they were married. It was, after all, a big revelation.
"Did I die?" Naruto finally asked, looking her in the eye. Ino stared back, surprised by the sudden determination that she saw in his eyes. She could not determine where it suddenly came from, but he looked very serious.
"No," Ino replied, and that was all she was going to say. She knew there was no way Naruto had met his mother yet, therefore he did not know of the Uzumaki clan's strong life force and that they can survive a Bijuu's extraction. "Don't worry about it, Naruto."
"I'm not," he retorted, "I just wanted to know so I can be prepared. I can't die yet – have stuff to do. Gotta save Sasuke."
Ino smiled. "Yes, I suppose you do."
"I still think it's weird that he came back on his own in your dimension," Naruto pointed out.
"He's a weird guy," Ino hummed in agreement. "And his socks stink."
Naruto raised an eyebrow at that and then burst out laughing. Ino laughed with him, glad to see that he was in even higher spirits than before.