Chapter 4: The Issue

Outside in the morning light of Konoha, Sakura wandered the streets having no idea where to go, but certain that she couldn't go back where she came from.

'What the hell was going on last night? Why did I do all that?' She asked herself. 'I should see Ino, I mean, I need to talk to someone about this. But how do I explain this? I mean... I did things I never thought I'd do. But yet...'

Afraid of where her train of thought was going, the pinkette hurried to the flower shop, wanting a second opinion more than ever.

When she got there the store wasn't open yet. Usually it didn't open until an hour after sunrise. Not too many early morning people needed bouquets or gardening supplies after all. So Sakura went around and saw Ino's bedroom window. Right away she scooped up some small chunks of gravel and threw them lightly at the window to try and get the girl's attention.

After three hits it worked and Ino opened the window. "You better have a good reason for trying to break my window Forehead."

"Trust me Ino, you want to hear what I need to talk about."

The platinum blonde looked skeptical but still curious. "Come on up, but be quick."

Sakura climbed up the wall and came in thru the window. Inside she saw Ino seated on her bed, dressed in a light violet almost lavender nightie that really made her look sexy. Legs were crossed so Sakura couldn't see her panties, but it was clear that if Ino was relaxing they would be visible.

"You always sleep like this?" Sakura asked.

"When I have the privacy of my bedroom yes. And I would be wearing my normal clothes if you had waited like a normal person. So what's this thing I want to hear?"

"I spent the night with Naruto." Sakura confessed.

The look on the mindwalker's face could best be described as 'Did not see that coming'. "You what?"

"After I slept here for my headache," Sakura starting, only now noticing that it was gone for real. "I blacked out for a moment then the next thing I know I'm heading to Naruto's place like there's nowhere else I'd rather be."

"What did you do when you got there?"

"I called him kun and asked to talk to him for a bit, I even ordered dinner for us both even though he was already making some for himself."

"Let me guess, ramen?" Ino interjected.

"That's not important. We sat down and I asked him why he wanted me as a girlfriend. He basically said just because I talked to him and that was it. I told him that wasn't really a smart choice, and that he really needed more reason than just that. But he seemed to resist the idea, so..."

"So what?" Ino asked, seeing Sakura was hesitant to admit the rest.

"I... this is incredibly strange, but I told him it would be a good idea to date more than one girl."

"You what?" Ino asked in disbelief.

"I don't know what I was thinking. At the time though it made perfect sense. Even when I think it over, I know it's completely crazy, but there's still a grain of truth to it."

Ino still was skeptical. "Really? Then tell me smart girl, how can dating more than one girl possibly be considered a good choice?"

"Think about it from Naruto's position-" Sakura started.

"Not interested, I'm asking about how this is good for the girls. I couldn't care less about how this is good for Naruto." Ino interrupted.

The way Ino said that made Sakura frown. "Ino, would you care to rephrase that? Because the way you said that makes it sound like you think Naruto's insignificant."

"What do you care? Haven't you always seen Naruto as insignificant?" Ino replied.

"That doesn't matter. He is my teammate and my friend. How would you feel if I said I couldn't care less about if Shikamaru or Chouji were happy? Huh?"

"Okay, point taken. But still, why would you, a girl, actually get the crazy idea that it would be okay for a boy, any boy, to two-time?"

"It wouldn't be cheating. It would be consensual open relationships." Sakura clarified.

"Wait, are you saying that Naruto should date more than one girl and each girl is aware he's doing it? And approving of it?"

"Would you rather he do it the other way?" Sakura asked.

"I personally don't care what Naruto does with his love life, just as long as he doesn't toy with whatever girl he's with." Ino proclaimed.

"Well think about this first before you start questioning his motives." Sakura warned. "The fact of the matter is Naruto doesn't know what he wants in a girlfriend. He knows what he wants in a friend, but not a girlfriend. Right now, his one and only criteria is someone who talks back to him. That's it."

Ino raised an eyebrow. "Meaning all he really wants is to not be ignored."

Sakura nodded. "Exactly. So I told him that was not enough to base a relationship on. But Naruto doesn't exactly have the social network you and I have so his options are greatly limited outside of myself."

Ino nodded. "So... you came up with the idea of rather than dating you, he should explore his options as a way of testing the water to see what kind of girlfriend he really did want. And it would be more... advantageous for lack of a better word, to do some with several at once rather than one at a time?"

Sakura slowly nodded. "You're almost right. You're wrong on one aspect." Ino looked curious. "I... I say I'd be willing to date him too in this."

That was something Ino hadn't seen coming. "So... you've finally given up on Sasuke?"

Sakura hesitated. "Maybe I have. I mean, I'm not getting any younger after all. And Naruto's not all bad when you think about it."

Ino rolled her eyes. "Boy, you must be really desperate if you're thinking that."

Sakura got mad. "Well who are you to judge me? You've led on lots of boys over the years, making them think they could win you over from Sasuke but once the fun was gone you dropped them. Heck from what I hear you're leading on Chouji right now."

Ino glared at her debatably best friend. "And you can throw stones? You who led on both Naruto and Lee all this time?"

"I think Lee's gotten over me. I mean, when was the last time you saw him try to woo me over?" Sakura pointed out.

Ino crossed her arms. "So now you've got to do something before Naruto gets over you too?"

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, I actually do want to be with Naruto instead of just use him?" Sakura asked, close to exploding.

"Do you?" Ino asked plainly.

That simple question completely defused Sakura's rage, leaving her with just confusion. Did she really want to be with Naruto now? Had she fallen for him without realizing it and last night was really just her acting on those desires she hadn't acknowledged?

Sakura closed her eyes. "Look, the point is last night I was acting strange. It was like I was in control, but at the same time not in control. Almost like... I don't know how to explain it. You're the one who comes from a family of head doctors."

"We're not psychiatrists Sakura. At least I'm not. My best guess is from just what you've told me, it would sound like last night your subconscious took over, acting out on the desires your conscious mind doesn't know you have."

"But if that's true, why now? What could have caused such a thing?" Sakura pleaded.

Ino shrugged. "I have no idea. My dad's the one to ask, but he's busy all day. I can talk to him when he gets home but it's likely he can't see you until tomorrow at the soonest. Even then I don't want to promise anything. He is head of the clan, he does more than just attend meetings you know."

Sakura sighed. "So all I can do is wait and hope this doesn't happen again. Tell me, have you ever heard of something like this happening before?"

Ino thought about it. "Not off the top of my head. But when I was in yours I saw something that wasn't quite natural in there. Who knows, maybe that other you is tired of being a background character and is trying to get out."

"Gee, that makes me feel better. A hidden personality wants to become the dominant one." Sakura replied sarcastically.

"Oh I wouldn't worry about that. Things like that only happen in stories." Ino comforted. "I think if anything last night you just gave into impulse and now that the impulse is over you can't believe you actually did that."

'So either way, on some level of my mind I wanted last night to happen?' Sakura asked herself.

"Boy, I bet this is going to hurt like hell when Hinata hears it." Ino thought out loud.

Sakura tensed and got in the platinum blonde's face. "Ino, if you only listen to me just once in your entire life, let this be that time: Do not say a word of this to Hinata. Let me be the one to tell her instead."

Ino was caught off guard by this. "Umm... somehow I think you telling her is only going to make things worse."

"I know that risk, but there's something I need to tell her." Sakura insisted.

Ino then recalled something from earlier. "Wait, you mean you want to tell her your idea of Naruto dating more than one girl? You really think that she might agree to that?"

"Do you really think Hinata wouldn't even consider the idea?" Sakura countered.

"It's hard to say. She never gave up on him and still isn't able to speak to him coherently. But you know what they say about quiet ones. I think she'd just as likely try to beat the crap out of you for taking him from her and cry and feel she lost her chance." Ino confessed. "Although, if you presented her with an opportunity like that, I doubt she'd believe you, but she'd at least give you a chance to explain your idea."

"That's what I'm hoping for." Sakura said. "While I'm here, I might as well extend the offer to you."

Ino blinked. "What? You mean date Naruto? No, no no no."

Sakura mildly narrowed her eyes. "You don't have to say it like I'm telling you to go streaking you know. What exactly do you have against the idea anyway? What exactly is so terrible about Naruto that you can't see yourself, or even me for that matter, wanting anything to do with him?"

"What's the long term appeal? I mean, yeah even if he does has everything you want in a personality and good for a laugh, that I will admit, but once the novelty fades he'd be doing the same thing over and over again. After all, look how often he goes to the same ramen store and wears the same outfit. I think doing the same cheap stuff over and over again because it's all his budget can handle will get annoying sooner or later, even if he's a nice guy."

Sakura's expression didn't change. "In short, he can't cover your expenses, so you'd rather focus on a guy who can."

"Not the way I'd put it but I won't argue the sentiment." The blonde mindwalker replied.

"Sounds to me like you want a wallet more than you want a boyfriend." Sakura accused.

"No I want a boyfriend, I just prefer one that actually has something to offer besides just personality." Ino countered.

"Even so, it sounds like you want a guy to spend a lot of money on you before you decide if he's worth keeping or not." The pinkette noted.

Ino frowned. "Don't make me sound like a gold digger or a hooker."

"I'm not, but a gold digger does judge a man by his wallet, and a hooker at least only asks a man to spend money once."

Ino frowned more and looked like she was tempted to slap her friend for that cutdown. "You really think I'm that shallow?"

"If you want to prove me wrong, go on a date with Naruto without focusing on how much he spends on you." Sakura claimed.

Ino blinked but did not stop frowning. "You know what? I just might, just to prove you wrong."

Sakura didn't look comforted. "On second thought, maybe Naruto's better off not dating a girl who's just trying to prove a point."

"First you want me to date him, now you want me to stay away from him. Make up your mind Forehead." Ino challenged.

"If you aren't even going to entertain the idea of a chance of a long term relationship, just a pity date or two and then call it quits, then do both of you a favor and not bother." The pinkette stated, getting up to leave.

"Hey don't get mad at me just because I don't see a point in committing to something before it even starts." Ino chastised.

Sakura stopped by the bedroom but didn't look at her friend. "That didn't stop you from pursuing Sasuke." She then walked out, leaving Ino unable to retaliate.

Later that evening Hinata was on her way home. She had been out training with her team and on stand-by in the event a mission came up. They had gotten none, and now with the sun down it was unlikely they would. Not impossible, but they wouldn't be first choice for being given the assignment now that they had been active all day.

'Naruto-kun, was there something bothering you today?' The shy girl asked herself as she headed home. Earlier during one of their breaks she had noticed her blonde love interest watching her train while trying not to be seen, and when she had looked right at him he got nervous and left, as if afraid to be seen by her.

The irony of the situation was so funny that Hinata might have laughed if the situation wasn't also so incredibly uncharacteristic. Heck if it weren't for the fact she had her byakugan on at the time, she might have presumed it was an impostor.

'What was he doing? Why did he look afraid of me? Did I do something wrong?' She asked, berating herself. 'I knew I should have reacted differently when I saw him again the other day. Why must I be so shy in his presence? Why can't I just take a chance?'

"Hello Hinata. I've been looking for you."

The Hyuuga heiress stopped and looked ahead of herself, seeing Sakura standing before her with her arms crossed behind her back. "Sakura? What do you mean?"

The pinkette smiled in a way that wasn't as comforting as she might have intended it to be. "I've got a proposition for you. How would you like to get Naruto-kun to fall in love with you?"

"What?" Hinata asked.

Sakura nodded. "You heard me. I think it's high time our favorite blonde boy got a real girlfriend. There's a problem though, he doesn't quite know what he wants his girlfriend to be. Just say the word, and I promise you will get your chance to prove yourself to him."

The offer was everything Hinata wanted it to be, but it was too good to be true. "What's the catch?"

Sakura's smile now looked like she was silently chuckling, in a devious way. "The catch? The catch is simply this: I get to date him at the same time."