"No one expects perfection on the first try, Yamanaka!" Ibiki loudly scolded at the hospital ridden girl. Not that she wanted to hear it, practicing her chakra control while sitting on the bed.

"That's the issue, Ibiki-sensei!" She shot back, slamming her hand on the end table smashing it to pieces. She rather not live up to high expectations than to exceed low ones. Ibiki knew this, and continued to ignore her plea.



"Your hand is bleeding."

"Damn it!"

Healing her hand quicker than the injury occurred, he continued the conversation.

"Listen, Ino," He finally said her first name, and the tone put the blonde more at ease. "It was your first s-class solo mission, be happy that you survived at all. I don't think your father could take a stab like that after what happened to your mother recently." Sighing in defeat, Ino nodded just as she heard a knock on the door.

"Eh?" She glanced up to see Sakura and Naruto at the door, a fruit basket at hand.

"Hey Ino-chan!" Naruto hollered and waved, and Ino sweat dropped.

"I'll take my leave now." Ibiki stood up, let the two in and continued out the door.

"Hey, pig." The pinkette smiled brightly at said blonde. "We brought a get well gift." Ino tried to stand up quickly, but, much to her demise, Sakura pushed her down gently by her shoulders.

"So, you all heard about it?" She sighed as she looked at the cast covered broken leg.

"Duh, I'm your best friend!" Grinning, she forcefully shoved the basket in her hands. "It was a success, I heard!"

"Ino-chan, don't even think about becoming Hokage before me!" The whisker-streaked face stated seriously, just to get hit on the head by an apple.

"Wouldn't think about it, bonehead! That's your job!" Laughing, the girl took a hold of her crutches as she stood up, with Sakura's assistance.

"You know, due to the gash in your good leg, you should just use a wheelchair, Blondie." Throwing a fully fledged glare at the green eyes, she spat.

"No way am I going to go rolling around in the hospital until all my wounds are healed!" She turned to Naruto with a smirk. "Wanna go to Ichiraku? It's on me!" Naruto began to faint, if it wasn't for Sakura's fist.

"You idiot, it's a trick to sign her out of the hospital!" She hissed as Ino scrunched up her face.

"B-but… Ramen… free…" On the verge of crying, even Ino felt bad for using him.

"I've got more money than I know what to do with, I've saved up 3905000¥ (About $50,000) just on that S-mission and a couple of A's, along with the hospital work. I don't think any 17-year-old is supposed to have that kind of money sitting around." Sakura gawked; just how much did that S-mission pay?!

Sensing the tension, she continued to talk. "Naruto, will you please just sign me out? I know everybody else wants to keep me locked in here." Better blunt than none, right? After all, Naruto can relate to this situation.

"Sure thing!" He smiled, and put his thumb up before leaving the room. Sakura scowled.

"Honestly, it's like you two are on the same wavelength or something for the past couple of weeks." Putting a hand on her hip, she smacked her forehead. "It must be a blonde thing."

The heiress laughed, grinning as a nurse came up to the room with discharge papers, Naruto following in tail.

"I'm free!" She smiled to Naruto, who grinned. "Its ramen time!" The two exclaimed. Sakura shook her head.

"As much as I want to sit and watch you two eat out pig's wallet, I have to get back to work." They pouted as she left the room without an answer, but then turned back to each other.

"It's just us then."


"Want me to carry you?"


The two sat down in the empty stand. Putting the crutches aside, she greeted the older man.

"I'm treating this guy, so none for me, thanks." Naruto blinked and turned to her.

"You're not eating?!" He gawked. She sighed sadly.

"I can't eat anything heavy like that while I'm recovering." Looking defeated as a bowl was set down in-front of him, he pouted as he picked up his chopsticks. Ayame frowned and crossed her arms in a thoughtful way.

"How did you get wounds like that anyway?" Naruto asked between chomps. Ino looked down.

"I was ambushed by some ninja from an enemy village when I got the info I had needed. One had a blood justu, let's just leave it at that." Biting her lip, she was shocked as heat had reached her face along with a pleasant smell. She looked at the noodle-less soup.

"It's on the house. Custom made for ya, nothing heavy." Teuchi smiled at the girl, and she showed a very grateful look as he handed her a spoon.

"Thanks Teuchi-san!" Naruto exclaimed on behave of the fellow blonde. As she finished said bowl, she looked to see her friend was on his 6th. Shaking her head, she's glad she had plenty of money.

"Ino-chan," Naruto said as he finished his last bowl, "I gatta' tell you something." A bit more serious, Ino paid the bill and walked out of the shop with Naruto as curiosity nagged at her. The blonde raised an eyebrow. It was already dark out, and something tells her she won't like what he has to say. "You know how Sakura and I haven't been going on missions recently, right?" Blinking, she nodded.

"That's because we are resting to go after Sasuke." Ino gasped and her eyes widened.

"Are you nuts?! He tried to kill you!" Biting her lip, she looked at his serious face. "I don't want to leave him alone either, but why so soon?!" She was sure that her reasons where good ones, and she couldn't afford Naruto getting killed.

Since Asuma died, Shikamaru and Chouji had done their own thing, so much for the Ino-Shika-Cho formation outside of missions. Since then, it seems that Sakura and Naruto became closer, and Sai became an ANBU and really only remained in touch. Most of the 9 had become Jounin at 17, like Ino, Naruto and Sakura. Although, Naruto basically skipped Chunnin, not that he needed it.

"We planned on leaving tomorrow-"

"You want to go on a suicide mission when I'm still injured?!" She began to yell, luckily the street where, for the most part, empty. "Naruto, what happens if-" Warm arms engulfed her and she sighed into his shirt.

"I don't think I can truly get used to people caring about me like family, but, thanks." She heard his smile and dug her head into his shoulders.

"Icmphhuhgyuzhbaske. Shmelloe, Kruytche"

"What?" He asked.

"I can't hug you back. Hello, Crutches." He laughed, and let her go. "You better come back, alive, and not in my condition." She scolded him, and he waved goodbye as he reached her shop.

"As you command, princess!" He grinned and ran off, leaving Ino to sigh and smile at the sky.

"You are one big idiot, Naruto."