Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto nor any of the characters therein.
Author note: This is exactly what I pictured the first time I heard Taylor Swift's, Speak Now. There are no lyrics in this fic, but I thought I should share my inspiration.
Ino had not awaken yesterday morning with plans to ruin the wedding of one of her best friends. In fact, she hadn't wanted to wake up at all. Her plan, at that point, was to sleep the entire weekend away. She didn't want to help at the shop, seeing as the majority of the space was filled with flower arrangements for his wedding. She didn't want to go shopping because she knew the stores were filled with the latest wedding fashions and the last thing she wanted to see was satin and silk and white making other people happy. She didn't want to go out to eat on the off chance that the bride, or groom for that matter, was having a "last day of freedom" get-together. In fact, Ino realized, the groom was probably having a "last day of freedom" get-together at every restaurant in town. So, taking a page from Shikamaru's book, she stayed in bed. It wasn't too bad, really. Her room was all soft and pink, but in a mature manner. Most people were surprised when they came into her room because they, for some reason, always assumed it would be predominately purple and adolescent. Her bed was big, her sheets were a cool, high thread-count, cotton, and she had enough pillows of different varieties that she was comfortably supported no matter how she lay. She began her in-bed weekend by staring at the ceiling for half an hour. Then she rolled to her side and looked out the window. She had fallen asleep in her clothes and had also obviously forgotten to close the window shade, so it was easy to see the sky from her bed. Her window was big enough that her view contained a large portion of the sky and Hokage Summit. Still, she got bored of that rather quickly. The sky had nothing to offer but sunshine and happiness and what appeared, to her, to be the blessings of Kami upon her friend's pending nuptials. Closing her eyes, she rolled away from the window and the offending weather and thought a little more about her plan for the weekend and why the nice weather would irritate her quite as much as it did.
It wasn't that she didn't want her best friend's wedding to be amazing and perfect. Was it?...actually, it was exactly that. And, was he even one of her best friends anymore? How long had it been since they had actually talked? Sure, when they were on missions they talked about the mission, and when they bumped into each other they exchanged pleasantries, if they were around others, but, they never talked anymore. Not like they used to before THAT day.
"Chooooooooooojiiiiiiii! Choooooojjjjjjiiiiiii!" Ino was hollering his name and gesticulating wildly just to get his attention... just to get his attention away from the barbeque stand he was currently drooling over. Eventually the burly, red headed guy seemed to hear the verbal assault, and, realizing it was Ino, greeted her with a huge smile followed by a big bear hug when he reached her side.
"I was wondering if you would get here in time." Ino playfully smacked his large arm. " You were the one who said he would treat me to lunch and some shopping." Ino put her hands on her hips and pursed her lips. "I swear, you're getting as bad as Shikamaru in your timeliness. At least he has a reason for being late all the time... I mean, all the time that that Sand ninja is in town." Ino prattled on and on at Choji, not letting him get a word in, but Choji wasn't trying to speak anyway. The prattling on and on was her way of coping with stress and embarrassment, and Choji knew this. He was kind and patient, and more than content to listen to anything Ino had to say.
Ino was, once again, recovering from heartbreak. When this happened, she always turned to her teammates, Choji and Shikamaru. They weren't neccassarily her teammates anymore, but the guys had been by her side since she was little and they, Choji more so than Shikamaru, always knew how to comfort her. Today, though, it was just Choji. Shikamaru was off being the Sand ninja's "guide", although Ino thought she should know her way around after coming to Konoha for three years as Suna's ambassador. Though her lazy friend denied any interest in the blonde, foreign woman, Ino knew otherwise. Because of Shikamaru's guide job, Ino didn't bother to call him. She was content to call Choji and let him do all the comforting. When Ino heard him pick up on the other end of the phone she said, "Choji, I need you tomorrow. I've been dumped again". Choji didn't threaten, or bombard her with 'told you sos', or question who, or how, or why; he quietly listened. Then he promised her lunch and shopping, his treat.
Now Ino and Choji were sitting at a table in his favorite Bar-B-Que establishment. It was a small place with a long L-shaped barbeque bar that was lined with high stools where the patrons would sit for a quick, hot, delicious, lunch. There were four small tables that filled the room surrounding the bar. One table, near the entrance, could seat up to four people. One of the tables could seat three; this was was situated near the single-stall restroom. The other two tables sat two, both of them along the back wall opposite the short side of the L-shaped bar. Ino and Choji sat at the table in the back corner, it being the perfect place if Ino accidentally cried or became overly emotional. Ino's eyes began to crinkle with mirth while Choji expounded on the wonders of grilled meat.
"You know, many food historians believe that Bar-B-Que comes from a French term meaning 'from tip to tail'. Well, I think that's a perfect definition of what I'm willing to eat " Ino laughed at the dreamy look in Choji's eyes, as he shoved his mouth full of barbeque, then she took a bite of her salad.
"You know you should eat more" Choji offered, a thoughful look in his eyes.
"Don't start, Choji. It takes a lot of work to look like I do. I train everyday, I have to watch what I eat, I moisturize, face masks, hair treatment, manicures, waxing...being a Shinobi takes a lot out of a woman and it takes a lot to put it back in. You have no idea how much I want to chow down on that barbeque right now, but I would have to exercise at least three extra hours just to burn the calories off. Besides, I'm not going to attract a lot of men if I get chunky." Ino crossed her arms and pouted at Choji, waiting for his sympathy. Instead, Choji exploded, pointing his chopsticks at her, "And a FAT lot of good being thin has done you so far! Did you forget why we are here today?! Did you forget another moron was only interested in your body and dropped you when you wouldn't give into him?! How is being thin working out for you?! Do you really want to keep attracting the bunch of losers who only like women for their bodies?! You're a beautiful woman, but you're also smart, intuitive, kind, helpful..GAH!" Choji made a garbled sound of frustration. "You have too many qualities for me to list, but, you're also stupid. Stupid for selling yourself short, stupid for thinking thin is something all guys look for, stupid for letting yourself get swept up in romance with those losers, stupid for not seeing what's in front of you..." Choji snapped his mouth shut and stared. Ino stared back at him, but with her mouth hanging open in a most unladylike manner. She was shocked. Choji, her sweet, patient, tolerant team-mate had exploded. At her. And it appeared he had more to get off his chest, but was holding back, probably because he didn't want to get kicked out of his favorite barbeque restaurant. Ino was about to retort when Choji grabbed something on the seat beside him and held it out to her. She looked at the small, red box in his hand, then up at him. He was angry. His face was almost as red as the box. But he was giving her a peace offering. At least that's what Ino thought the gift had to be. Then Choji took a deep breath, realigning his face into something more gentle and concerned than the angry, out of control one he had moments before, and began to speak, "I had planned on giving you this after we went shopping, but I realize it's now or never." " Ino," Choji looked at her intently, "you deserve more than this", his right hand swept around, trying to include her, their surroundings, and the present emotional state she was in, all in one motion. "You deserve more than a shopping trip and some salad after a guy treats you bad. I'm tired of seeing you like this, of sweeping in and putting a band-aide on your emotional wounds. I'm tired of being the guy you come to after the other guys are no longer good enough. I'm a good shinobi, I make a good wage, I have my own place now that Shikamaru has 'moved out on his own', I love you. I want you to marry me and then the only time we'll go out shopping and eating is on our dates." Choji shut his mouth abruptly and held the red box nearer Ino's face. He didn't even open it.
For the first time in her life Ino was speechless. The confession of love and the subsequent proposal floored her. She stared at the box and then at Choji, then back at the box, then back at Choji. His face was expectant. This obviously wasn't something he was going to be patient about. He wanted her answer now, and she had no answer to give. Suddenly, she was angry. This was too much for him to throw at her, especially when she had thought this was a fun, little get-together with her teammate and friend. She couldn't flip the attraction switch. Ino squeezed her eyes together and tried to picture Choji as a husband, no, wait, HER husband. She wasn't ready for a husband, let alone a Choji husband.
"NO! You do not mean this!" Ino found herself yelling, albeit quietly, at Choji. "We're teammates, we're friends, we are not in love with each other. Oh for Pete's sake! We're only 18! What 18 year old gets married! Why did you do this Choji? Why would you ruin a perfectly good lunch date by doing this? You've only made matters worse and confused everything. Why would you think I would say yes? You're not my type, you're not into me, not really, and I'm certainly not into you.. I mean, look at you, you're...you're...FAT!" At this Ino's eyes widened and she clamped her hand over her mouth. She had gone too far. Ino turned her head and cowered, waiting for the explosion that would come from calling Choji fat. She waited and waited, letting what felt like an hour pass when it was probably a few seconds. The explosion never came. Ino gave a little cry when she turned her head back toward Choji, finding him weeping silently with tears streaming down his face. He sat the red box on the table, and, through his tears, said, "you're wrong. I love you. Always have." At this, he stood up and walked out the door. And that was it. He never talked to her again. At least not in the lifelong friendship way they always used to have.
Ino sat up abruptly when she remembered the red box. That day she had stealthily removed it from the table, paid the bill for both her and Choji, slipped the box into her purse, and walked silently home. She had tried to return it to Choji some months later, but he glared at her and told her to do what she wanted with it because, "it only makes sense if it's both of us".
Ino turned her legs until they were hanging off the side of her bed, the fabric of her flannel pants twisting around her calves. She sat like that for a moment trying to remember where she put the little, red box. She had been crying too hard the day she tried to return it, and, in a flash of rage, threw it in a trash can on her way home. Moments later, she whipped around and began attacking the trash can while looking for the offending little, red box. She found it stuck under a banana peel, which disgusted her a little. Pushing past the shiver that the slimy banana peel gave her, she picked the little, red box up, put it back in her pocket, and returned home. When she was in her room, she opened her desk drawer and sat the box inside. And, as far as Ino knew, it was still there. She jumped up from her bed, stumbling a little in the rush to her desk. Ino opened the drawer, which turned out to be filled with all sorts of junk. In it was a mess of earrings and necklaces, old keys, rubber bands, pens, scraps of paper that must have meant something at one time, and, way in the back, shoved to a corner, was the little, red box. Ino's hands shook as she removed the box. "What am I going to find", "what will this mean?" was all that ran through her head. She sat the box on top of her white desk and stared at it. Kneeling on the ground, Ino crossed her arms in front, laid them on the desk, and laid her head in the crook her arms made. She stayed there for a few minutes, looking at the box and how beautiful it looked with the green of the trees and the blue of the sky as its background. "Maybe this is what the good weather's for?" Ino thought. Taking a deep breath, Ino grounded her emotions somewhere deep inside of her. It was time to open the box. She grasped the bottom of the box with her left hand, and, with her right, slowly opened the lid, the hinge making a creaking sound, probably because it hadn't been opened in two years. Her breath caught in her throat. The emotions she thought she had grounded rose up in a fury that could have consumed her like Naruto's Nine-Tails Chaka used to consume him. It was the ring. It was causing everything to tip and turn and be what it possibly couldn't have been before. "Amazing". The ring was beautiful. It was made of white gold or platinum. The ring itself was carved and etched and patinaed in such a way that it looked like the elves of great literature would have been the only ones who could have made it. On one side of the band was a boar with small blue gems for eyes. Ino had never seen a boar be so dainty and beautiful, everything about it was fluid and motion and grace. On the other side was a butterfly with red-brown stones set in it. The butterfly, unlike most, was strong and sturdy and resilient. In the center was a cushion-cut citrine, probably a carat or two. She should have known Choji wouldn't have gone with a run-of-the-mill diamond for an engagement ring. Upon seeing the ring, Ino knew. She knew Choji had been telling the truth when he said he had always loved her. She knew she made a big mistake two years ago when she said no to him. She knew what he meant when he told her the ring only worked if it was the two of them and no one else, The boar, Ino, stubborn, bull-headed, noisy, brash; The butterfly, Choji, patient, delicate, bending to the will of the wind. Together though, together, like on the ring, they could be what the other was not. They could be that for each other. Ino slipped on the ring. It fit perfectly and felt perfect. It had found its home on her left hand and she had found a bit of joy that had been missing for two years. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she was hit with wave after wave of her blindness and stupidity. She cried silently for awhile, still kneeling in front of her desk, still with her head cradled in the crook of her arm. A flash caught her eye and Ino realized it was the reflection of light off of the one of a kind engagement ring that meant everything and nothing at the same time. Ino stared at the ring, seeing the tiny reflections of the world around her in each facet of the stone. And that's when she decided to ruin her best friend's wedding.