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               Sakura was an idiot.


               It had been there all along and she’d just never recognized it for what it was. She felt so stupid as she watched Ino laugh next to her at some story Kiba was telling. She was twenty-three. Why the hell did it take her so long it figure out?


               Ino glanced at her, laughter still on her lips and raised an eyebrow. “What is it?”


               Sakura’s eyes went to her lips and then instantly tore them away, looking down at the fingers Ino had wrapped around her drink. “What?”


               Ino leaned in closer to her, her voice almost teasing. “You look a little out of it. Drink too much, Sakura?”


               It was an escape route and Sakura grabbed it like a lifeline with shaking fingers. She dug into the pouch on her hip. “Yeah, actually, I think I’ll head home.”


               “What?” Ino laughed and reached out for her as she stood up from the bar stool. “Sakura, I was kidding. What’s wrong?”


               Sakura met her eyes, seeing concern taking over the mirth there. Her hand was so warm where it wrapped around her wrist and Sakura fought to not rip herself away. “Nothing, Ino. I’m just – I’m just going to go.”


               Sakura turned on her heel after throwing money on the table and walked away from the table, not even bothering to tell anyone else goodbye. She heard Ino call out for her, the sound of a stool scraping against the floor, and quickened her pace.


               She leapt to the rooftops as soon as she was outside and laid on the back of one hidden in the dark. She closed her eyes as she breathed out, listening to the sounds of the bar slip out into the night as the door was thrown open. She could faintly hear her name fall from Ino’s lips. “Sakura?”


               Sakura kept still, long enough for Ino to go back inside after not being able to spot her down the street. She sat up after a while then buried her face in her hands.


               She thought about how tight her chest got when she’d see Ino when they were growing up. The burning sensation in her chest as they argued. How they threw jabs at each other all in the name of some boy, some stupid rivalry, while they both knew that wasn’t ever really it. The weight she’d felt drop to her stomach when Ino started walking around in crop tops and mesh covered thighs.


               She was in love with her. She was in love with Ino and it had been etched so deep into her bones she hadn’t even noticed it until all these years later. She wondered if she’d even liked Sasuke when she was a kid or if she’d just used him as an excuse to get away from cocky grins and flowery scents. To find out who she was without her eyes trailing longingly after Ino. She felt like she’d at least liked Sasuke later on or maybe she’d just told herself that. She’d let go of her feelings so easily after the war, she wouldn’t be surprised.


               Sakura let out a groan and fell back against the rooftop, her eyes going to the moon above her helplessly like it could give her all the answers. It was silent and Sakura knew at least one thing. 


               She was such an idiot.




               Once Sakura had realized it, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She didn’t feel like herself and she was sure Ino was starting to get suspicious about how she was acting. How she avoided touching her. How she’d laugh nervously around her. How she couldn’t meet her eyes anymore.


               “Who’s my next patient?” Sakura asked the desk medic after she handed her a chart.


               “Yamanaka Ino. She requested you.”


               Sakura felt her heart stop and it must’ve shown on her face because the medic blinked at her. “Sakura-sama?”


               Sakura swallowed and looked down at the clipboard in her hands. “What’s wrong with her?”


               “Chakra exhaustion.”


               Sakura inwardly cursed. While she would always be worried about her, she didn’t want to see her. At least not here, in a small examination room, pressing close to her with her hands on her. If it had been anything else, she might’ve pushed her onto someone else. Though she supposed if it was something minor, Ino could’ve healed it herself.


               Sakura nodded at the medic, slipping a smile on to her face to ease the concern she could see starting to grow on the woman’s face. “Thank you.”


               Ino was laying in a bed, the sheets already pulled up around her as she closed her eyes. She looked like a mess. Her hair was in tangles where the ponytail had been taken out. She had scrapes along the side of her arm and blood splattered on her neck. Only Ino could make her skin look like it glistened with sweat.


               Sakura couldn’t help but still find her incredibly attractive. She ignored the thought and walked over to her bedside. It was better that Ino was asleep. She needed the rest and Sakura didn’t have to overthink every little touch she gave her.


               She rested her palm against Ino’s forehead, her chakra softly glowing where she touched her. Ino shifted against the bed a second later, a soft whine in her throat. Sakura felt her heart squeeze when she opened her eyes to meet hers. She gave her a tired smile and closed them again. The plea in her voice would haunt Sakura’s dreams. “Sakura…”


               “I got you, Ino,” Sakura found herself assuring her softly, her chakra slipping through Ino to soothe what pain she could. It must have been the right thing to say as Ino quickly fell back asleep.


               Sakura let out a breath and tried to focus on her examination. It was one of the worst cases she had seen of chakra exhaustion and Sakura felt some panic for Shikamaru and Chouji. How did Ino get this bad? Were they okay? Had they even been with her?


               Sakura shook the thoughts away and started marking things down on Ino’s chart. She would be fine, and Sakura needed to focus on that thought alone. There wasn’t much she could do for chakra exhaustion, except to watch over her and make sure her levels were increasing at a healthy rate. Sakura leaned against the bed, her hand falling from Ino’s forehead to her cheek. Sakura watched her breathe out as she stroked her thumb across her cheekbone. Her eyes traced over her face, her eyelashes, her lips, the upturn of her nose. Sakura didn’t know how long she stared at her, mesmerized by the way Ino seemed to lean into her touch in her sleep.


               The door opened and Sakura nearly jumped out of her skin. Her hand left Ino, a mixture of guilt and shame coating her ribcage as she looked over at the doorway.


               Shikamaru stood there, looking worse for wear, with exhaustion in his eyes. He gave her a small smile, his eyes flickering to Ino on the bed. Sakura found herself asking as that familiar panic came back. “Chouji?”


               “He’s fine.” Shikamaru assured her with a dismissive hand. “Ino just overdid it. Though, can’t say I’m too mad at her. She did more than I asked, and it probably saved our asses.”


               Sakura felt herself smile, looking back to Ino. Her fingers itched to reach back out to her, and she turned them into a first in her lap. She forced her eyes back to Shikamaru as he stepped over to them. “You alright?”


               He shrugged. “I’m fine.”


               Sakura sighed and stood up from the bed, even though it felt like it ripped something from her. “Well, when you feel less than fine – you or Chouji – let me know so I can look over you.”


               Shikamaru rolled his eyes at her, but there was some fondness in his smile as he moved to a chair by the bed. He raised an eyebrow at her as she went to the door. “You leaving?”


               Sakura nodded and didn’t turn around as she grabbed the door handle. “I’ve already checked her over. She’ll have to stay a few days, maybe a couple weeks. I’ll come check on her again later.”




               Shikamaru found her on the top of the hospital and Sakura bit the inside of her cheek, having an idea of where this conversation was going to go. She was leaning over the edge, enjoying the breeze on her face and the coffee in her hand that had gone lukewarm a long time ago.


               He came up beside her and dug out a cigarette from his vest. He held it up to her before he lit it. “You mind?”


               Sakura smiled and shook her head. “It would be nice if you quit altogether, but no. I don’t mind.”


               Shikamaru rolled his eyes at her as he lit it, probably tired of her and Ino nagging him about it. He was quiet for a moment, just smoking beside her, but Sakura knew him well enough. The way he shifted his weight back and forth between his feet, an anxious tick he probably didn’t even realize he had.


               “Sakura, are you alright?”


               Sakura gave him a confused look and took a sip of her cold coffee. It was bitter and she set it aside instantly after, a gross taste on her tongue. “Yeah. Why?”


               “Ino said you don’t come to see her.” He kept the air casual, but she could feel his eyes latched on to her expression through his peripherals.


               Sakura sighed and shrugged. “I check on her when I can. Shikamaru, I have a lot of patients. She’s well – “


               “Don’t give me that,” he cut her off with a sigh of his own. Sakura closed her mouth and was silent as he took another drag from his cigarette. “Look, I won’t ask. But whatever it is – whatever fight you had that Ino doesn’t even remember – just let it go, alright? You should see the way she looks up at the door when it opens, hoping it’s you.”


               Sakura felt something grip her heart tightly and she let out a breath, guilt coating her throat. “I don’t – I’m not mad at her.”


               Shikamaru shrugged and put his cigarette out on the ledge. He put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a gentle shake. “Okay, then, just forget about whatever it is that’s bothering you.”


               Sakura looked at him to see a kind smile and could only nod back at him, thankful he wasn’t pushing it. He nodded back at her and then left her to her thoughts.


               She didn’t know how long she stood out there, staring down at the fading cigarette bud. But eventually she let out a breath and forced a smile on her face, feeling her heart break a little.


               She could forget it.


               For Ino.




               Ino’s eyes did brighten when Sakura entered the room and Sakura accepted the guilt in her chest was going to eventually cement itself to stay there forever. Ino immediately hid it though, giving her a roll of her eyes. “About time you came by. I was starting to think I was going to have to have a heart attack for you to come see me.”


               Sakura smiled at her, offering her a shitty excuse, but one she knew Ino wouldn’t argue with. “Sorry, Ino. It’s been busy lately, with the new genin teams just sent out. I get a sprained wrist or broken arm like every five minutes.”


               Ino gave her as smile in return, going along with the obvious lie. She looked down at her lap, playing with her fingers. “I imagine.”


               Sakura felt her chest tighten and ignored it, walking over to Ino’s bed. She grabbed the brush from the roll away tray and gestured for Ino to turn. She laughed softly and teased her, “Whoever cleaned you up did a horrible job.”


               Ino snorted but moved so Sakura could sit behind her. “Maybe you should’ve done it yourself then.”


               Sakura just agreed, knowing she deserved the snide remark. “Probably.”


               She brushed Ino’s hair, the golden locks slipping through her fingers as she dragged the brush down. Ino sighed contently as she did it and Sakura felt herself smile. The room was quiet, and Sakura felt absorbed in her task, brushing her hair even after all the tangles were gone. Ino didn’t seem to mind.


               After a moment, Sakura’s fingers started mindlessly braiding her hair into long pigtails. Her voice was unintentionally soft when she asked her, “Do you have any hair ties?”


               Ino was just as quiet and told her, “There’s a couple behind you.”


               Sakura pinched the ends as she leaned back for the hair ties on the table, then tied them off. She cleared her throat and then patted Ino on the shoulder. “All done.”


               She was surprised when Ino leaned back into her and Sakura’s hands came up to hold her arms. Ino had a relaxed smile on her face with her eyes closed and Sakura felt her heart skip a beat. She didn’t comment on the closeness and asked her, “How’re you feeling anyway? You know you impressed me with how badly you managed to deplete all your chakra.”


               Ino chuckled and turned her head into her neck, her breath ghosting across her skin. “I hope I always impress you.”


               Sakura rolled her eyes, that familiar tightness in her chest, and shifted Ino to lie back down against the pillows. She stepped off the bed and pulled the sheets back over Ino. Ino turned her faced into the pillow and Sakura brushed her bangs out of her face. “Just rest, Ino. I’ll come back.”




               Sakura told herself she forgot about her feelings for Ino.


               And it was a total lie because she was constantly reminded about them, despite how hard she tried to ignore them.


               Sakura should’ve sparred with someone else, but her and Ino had always sparred together on the rare occasion their teams trained together. She also should’ve insisted on doing an all-out spar instead of taijutsu without chakra, but they were sharing the training ground.


               Sakura had the upper hand from being close combat when Ino was mid combat. But Ino made up for it with her speed, her defense better considering Sakura usually didn’t avoid attacks and just turned them on themselves. Sakura still won the match though.


               She had Ino pinned to the ground, her knee between her legs as she leaned over her with her wrist in a tight grip as she pinned them above her head. There was an angry set to Ino’s brows as she panted below her, and Sakura felt a smirk on her lips as she looked down at her. Blue eyes glared back up at her. Sweat matted her hair and her skin was flushed a delicious pink from her cheeks down her neck to disappear into the collar of her shirt.


               Sakura felt her mouth go dry as her eyes lingered on her, becoming more aware of how close they were. How the fall and rise of Ino’s chest made her breast graze her own. The leg she had trapped between hers that was pressing against her thigh. How delicate Ino’s wrists felt in her hand. The tight muscles where Sakura’s fingers were digging into her side.


               She watched as Ino’s glare faded, a different set of emotions swirling in her eyes as she met hers. Sakura felt her breath catch in her throat, her heart racing from more than simple adrenaline.




               How many different ways was Ino going to say her name over their lives? How much more could this woman haunt her dreams than she already did?


               Sakura snapped herself back to the moment as Ino’s tongue darted out to lick her lips. There was a question in her eyes and Sakura was terrified to hear it.


               She was off her in a second, standing more than a few feet away from her. Ino sat up, raking the hair out of her face into a mess of a ponytail. Sakura’s breathing was still ragged as she looked at her.


               Fuck. She barely managed to not let the word escape her mouth as it ran on repeat through her head.


               “Sakura – “


               Sakura turned away from her, her eyes searching the field desperately. She caught what looked like the end of a spar between Naruto and Shikamaru, then instantly headed towards them. She called over her shoulder in a shaky voice that she hoped Ino would blame on physical exertion, “Good spar, Ino.”




               Sakura walked into the living room after changing to see Ino still applying her makeup. She chuckled as the woman looked over the dozens of lipsticks she had laid out on her coffee table along with bags of makeup. Sakura had done her makeup in a matter of minutes, but she wasn’t about to complain. Ino had fun dolling herself up and it wasn’t like Sakura could say it didn’t pay off.


               Ino glanced at her when she walked over to her and then did a double take, her eyes falling to Sakura’s chest. Sakura looked down subconsciously at herself. Sakura only had a couple buttons done near the bottom, the shirt creating a deep plunge where it was tucked into her pants. “What? Does it look bad? Should I button it up more?”


               When she looked back to Ino, she had turned back to the coffee table. Sakura had to have imagined the lowness in her voice as she replied, “No. You look great.”


               Sakura smiled, feeling a light blush in her cheeks and went to sit beside her on the couch. She watched Ino grab a dark lipstick and grabbed her hand, shaking her head. “You should wear a red one, it’ll match better.”


               Ino dropped the lipstick and Sakura picked up a different color. She raised her hand to pinch Ino’s chin and turned her face towards her. Sakura’s eyes wandered over her face, the blush on her cheeks and the glittery eyeshadow, then back to the lipstick in her hand. She let go of her face, secretly enjoying how obediently Ino stayed put, and took the cap off the lipstick.


               She grabbed her chin again as she dragged the lipstick across her lips. She pulled back to look at her face and nodded. Her voice was soft as she spoke, “Yeah, that fits better.”


               Ino smiled and then parted her lips, an unspoken hint for Sakura to finish. Sakura did her lipstick, conscious of Ino’s eyes on her face and how she was only a few inches away from hers. One of Ino’s hands was resting on her thigh and Sakura could feel the heat of it through her pants. Sakura felt like she held her breath the whole time and was relieved when she finally finished.


               She leaned back from her, her lungs begging for breath when Ino smiled at her. Sakura smiled back and nodded towards the mirror on the coffee table. “See if you like it.”


               But Ino didn’t reach for the mirror and grabbed Sakura’s hand instead. Sakura watched with bated breath as Ino kissed the back of her hand, some amusement in her eyes as she looked up at her. She glanced down at Sakura’s hand afterwards and hummed thoughtfully, “Yeah, that’s a pretty color, Sakura.”


               Sakura felt her skin flame and took her hand back as gently as she could manage before standing up from the couch. She glanced at the clock on the wall and found her voice again as her heart threatened to beat out of her chest. “Well, we should get going soon.”


               Ino laughed softly from the couch, picking up the mirror. Why she didn’t just do that in the first place instead of driving Sakura’s nerves up the wall, Sakura didn’t know. “The wedding doesn’t start for another two hours.”


               Sakura teased her, just to have some sense of normal back, “Yeah, Pig, but with how long it takes your ass to get ready – “


               Ino threw a throw pillow at her.




               The whole time Sakura had been avoiding touching Ino, Ino seemed to be touching her more. She was driving her insane and Sakura was starting to wonder if the woman was oblivious in all this. If she knew Sakura’s heart skipped a beat whenever she grabbed her hand. If she could see the heat in her eyes as her stomach flipped when Ino slid a hand across her thigh as she leaned over her.


               Sakura hadn’t even been aware of the man approaching her, nor how he was about to sling his arm over her shoulders. But she figured it out when Ino glared behind her and she heard her smacking the guy’s hand away. She cocked an eyebrow at him, and Sakura heard someone tsk near her ear. It all happened in a matter of seconds and by the time she turned around, she could only see the back of a jounin vest disappearing into the crowd of the bar. She felt an arm wrap around her waist and then she was pulled against Ino’s side.


               She looked back to her, seeing the frown on her lips as she took a drink from her glass. She had that lipstick on again and Sakura noticed how it stained the glass when she set it down on the bar counter. She had her hair down, flipped over to one shoulder and Sakura had been finding her eyes lingering on the bare skin of her neck all night.


               Her hand was warm, and Sakura felt dizzy when her fingers slipped under her shirt to hold her side. Her grip felt possessive and Sakura’s heart strained to think of it as something else. Ino looked more pissed off than Sakura thought was warranted – guys hit on them all the time when they came here, and she didn’t think it had bothered Ino before?


               Sakura bit back the word jealous and teased her, “Feeling protective tonight, Ino?”


               Ino rolled her eyes at her, her grip loosening but not leaving her side. “Well, who the hell does he think he is coming up and grabbing you like that?”  


               Sakura felt warmth gather in her chest and smiled at her as she leaned her head in her hand. “Well, with your arm around me like this, I don’t think anyone else will bother me the rest of the night.”


               Ino smiled, a spark in her eyes, as she leaned closer to her. Her voice felt sultry and Sakura fought back a shiver as she asked her lowly, “Do you mind?”


               “Never,” Sakura answered far too honestly but couldn’t regret it with the way Ino grinned into her drink.




               Sakura felt like Ino was flirting with her. She couldn’t be sure, worried it was just her imagination running wild, seeing what she wanted to see. But she couldn’t help but wonder, phantom touches burned into her skin, the way Ino looked at her sometimes, a challenge in her eyes.


               Sakura debated about it for a few days but decided there was only two ways to figure it out: ask her or flirt back and judge her reaction. She as sure as hell wasn’t going to do the first one. She could play off the second one if it came down to it, so Sakura went with it instead.           


               She started out small, lingering touches that could be passed off as innocent; grabbing her hand as they walked down the street to lead her over to a restaurant, holding her hips when she moved around her, brushing her hair back when it fell into her face. Ino didn’t seem to mind them, the surprise in her eyes lessening each time Sakura did it. She always had this smile on her face when Sakura reached out for her, something affectionate and almost satisfied.


               Sakura felt drunk off the possibilities and couldn’t stop touching Ino after that.




               It felt like a game almost and Sakura would never forget the moment that silenced any doubts she had that Ino felt the same.


               Ino was about to give one of her employees at T&I a promotion and wanted to bake a cake to celebrate for whenever she told them. It was sweet and incredibly ironic for the director of Torture and Investigation to be so soft, but it was also so Ino. The woman had always been a beautiful mix of edges and curves from her sharp smiles to the curves of her hips.


               Sakura offered to help her with it, and it was how she found herself in Ino’s kitchen with flour on her arms. Baking had been one of the few things Sakura could bond with her mother over growing up and she had a knack for it even if she was a little helpless with anything else in the kitchen. She’d shown Ino how to make the icing and watched as Ino swiped a finger in the bowl. She pursed her lips and told her, “I don’t know, Sakura. I think it’s a little too sweet.”


               Sakura hummed and Ino dipped another finger into the icing. Before she could bring it to her mouth again, Sakura caught her wrist and wrapped her lips around Ino’s finger. Ino took a sharp inhale, her eyes fixed on Sakura’s lips as Sakura dragged her tongue across Ino’s skin. When she pulled away, Ino had a lovely blush in her cheeks.


               Sakura smiled and turned back to the counter, reaching for the mixer again. “I can fix that.”


               When she glanced at Ino a few seconds later, her blush had only barely faded, and she was combing her fingers through the end of her ponytail nervously. Sakura bit back a laugh, her heart swelling in her chest, as Ino smeared sugar into her hair.




               The tension had built between them so badly, Sakura started to feel heat climb up the knots in her spin any time Ino’s fingers brushed her skin.


               Sakura had been washing dishes at her sink after they’d had dinner when Ino came up behind her and wrapped her arms around her waist, pulling her back to her. Her voice was as innocent as always. “Want some help?”


               Sakura swallowed and shook her head. “No, it’s fine.”


               Ino nodded but didn’t move away from her, her fingers sliding back to her hips then dipping into her loose pants. She ran her nails along her hipbone, trailing up her skin and Sakura more felt herself lean back into her than consciously choosing to do so. Sakura bit her lip and kept her eyes on the plate in her hands instead of the sight of Ino’s hands underneath the waistband of her pants.


               When Ino’s fingers started playing with the lace of her panties, Sakura bit back a moan of want. She felt breathless as she said her name, not even knowing what she was asking for. “Ino.”


               Ino laughed softly against her and Sakura could feet her breath on her throat as she tucked her hair behind her ear. Her hands left her panties to trail up her sides an under her shirt. “What, Sakura?”


               Sakura’s heart had turned into a hammer in her chest and her mind felt fuzzy as she leaned her head back. Ino’s lips brushed along her throat but never applied any pressure. When her fingers inched closed to the space between her breasts, Sakura let out a breath and dropped the plate in her hand to clatter in the sink.


               Ino jerked from the sound, her eyes leaving Sakura to look at the sink. Her attention was instantly brought back to her, though, as Sakura turned around in her arms and grabbed her face. Sakura kissed her hard, all the want she’d held back for who knows how long spilling from her lips. A gasp escaped Ino’s lips and then she was kissing her back just as hard, her arms holding her tightly to her. Sakura could barely remember to breathe, her mind completely subdued by Ino, the feel of her lips, how her fingers dug into her skin, the way she breathed against her.


               Sakura licked into her mouth and Ino moaned. Then, Sakura couldn’t think about anything besides hearing that sound again. Her hands moved down to the backs of Ino’s thighs and gripped them tightly before hiking her up to her hips. Ino groaned against her mouth, locking her arms around Sakura’s neck and wrapping her legs around her waist. Sakura carried her and laid her across her kitchen table.


               Ino’s fingers were twisted in her hair, her other hand on her back pressing her close to her. Sakura left her mouth to kiss along her jaw and down her neck, her hands slipping under Ino’s shirt to the skin there. Her teeth grazed the skin of her neck and Ino let her head fall back, a sweet sound escaping her lips.


               Sakura’s mouth had reached her collarbone and her hands were on the zipper of Ino’s jeans when she heard a breathy laugh. She smiled against her before lifting her head, her voice more than a little breathless. “What?”


               Ino met her eyes and she looked so beautiful with her flushed cheeks, laughter on her tongue. “Are you about to fuck me on your kitchen table?”


               Sakura looked down at her, her shirt pushed up over her breast and the button on her jeans undone. She was breathing harder than normal, her tight stomach rising and falling with her chest. Sakura liked how her lipstick was smudged and how if she reached down for her wrist, she’d feel her pulse racing. Sakura smirked as she met her eyes, feeling heat grow in her stomach.


               She grabbed Ino’s legs and dragged her to the edge of the table then raised an eyebrow. “Do you mind?”