Ino couldn’t say for certain whether she’d always had a crush on Sakura. If that had been the reason why their friendship ending when they were kids had hurt so much. If it was why over the years, she’d found she didn’t even like Sasuke as a friend.
She couldn’t say one way or the other.
But there was this moment.
And after it, Ino didn’t think she could ever be more in love with anyone else.
Sakura was grinding her teeth together, blood on her lips and her fingers clutching at Ino’s sleeve. Her muscles were filled with tension and Ino could almost feel how badly she wanted to rip herself away from her to go back into the battle.
Ino glared at her, her fingers digging warningly into her side. “Dammit, Sakura, if you don’t let me heal you – “
Sakura’s eyes went back to her, her hand moving down to the one Ino had against the cut in her stomach. “Ino, save you chakra. I’ll be fine.”
“Sakura – “
Ino’s words were cut off as Sakura grabbed her shoulders and threw her behind her. Ino’s back hit the tree and she winced. She looked up to see Sakura grabbing a blade with her hand and then punching a man so hard in the stomach he flew through a tree before landing feet away in a heap of bloody limbs. Ino’s breath was still caught in her chest and she reached out for Sakura’s shoulder.
The woman turned on her with a strained smile. She raised her hand to hold her cheek and met her eyes, telling her softly, “Ino, I’ll be fine, okay?”
Ino sighed and gave her a nod, watching as Sakura left her side to throw herself back into the fray. Ino’s eyes lingered on her as she left the cover of the trees. There was always something so beautiful about the way Sakura used her body as a weapon, how she threw herself at people with a first raised and blood dripping from her knuckles.
Ino watched as she tapped the ground with her heel making three men fly into the air as the earth did her bidding, then turned towards the nearest enemy with a smirk.
Ino was panting, her legs weak and her hands sore by the time all the enemies were taking out. There were jounin lying on the ground all around, from either sheer exhaustion or injuries She searched around for Sakura to find her standing in the middle of the field, her head leaned back facing the sky as she breathed out. Ino’s feet dragged her towards her, a slow agonizing pace until she saw Sakura’s knees start to wobble.
Ino caught her just before she hit the ground, her knees scrapping against the unforgiving ground. Sakura’s eyes shot open when her arms came around her and met her eyes. She had a satisfied grin on her lips as she reached up for Ino. Her fingers brushed the dirt away from her cheek and she breathed out heavily. “Told you I would be fine.”
Ino rolled her eyes at her, her chest tight as Sakura passed out in her arms. Ino reached out for her chakra and used what she could without exhausting herself to heal the wound that was still on Sakura’s stomach.
She laid down beside her afterwards, needing a few moments before she even thought about trying to go back to camp. She wasn’t strong like Sakura and after how long that fight had been, she didn’t know if she could carry her. She didn’t feel herself lose consciousness, but she realized she must have when she woke up to Chouji shaking her shoulder.
He looked about as worn out as she felt and she turned her head towards the woman beside her, panic rising up her throat that she may not be there anymore. But Sakura was still there, sleeping soundly as Shikamaru checked over her before sliding her onto his back. He grimaced as he stood up and gave Ino a tired smile.
“Please tell me you’re not about to pass out again.”
Ino reached up for Chouji and the man pulled her to her feet. Ino swayed when her world was upright again, her head throbbing as she grabbed it. Her eyes went to the pink hair scattered over Shikamaru’s shoulder and felt her heart squeeze. She nodded after a moment of leaning against Chouji’s side.
“I’ll be fine.”
Ino didn’t think she’d ever be able to explain the feeling she got when she heard Sakura mumble her name in her sleep minutes later. Shikamaru assured her in a soothing voice. “She’s okay, Sakura. She’s right here.”
She also couldn’t explain the sudden need she felt as she grabbed Shikamaru’s shoulder and gestured to her back. “Let me take her.”
Shikamaru looked at her exasperated, ready to protest. “Ino – “
Ino glared at him and insisted, “I can carry her. Give her to me.”
Shikamaru sighed but moved Sakura off his back and onto Ino’s. Ino felt like she might collapse from the weight but after she gave herself a second and stood up straighter, Sakura didn’t feel so heavy.
They began walking again, Shikamaru massaging his shoulders beside her. She felt Sakura’s arms tighten around her neck and hiked her up more around her hips. She bit the inside of her cheek as her legs protested each step.
Shikamaru gave her a knowing look later that she chose to ignore.
Ino had only heard about it because she ran into Naruto at the market. She hadn’t even realized their team had gotten back from their mission. She was at the hospital minutes later and walking into Sakura’s room.
Tsunade was there, probably finishing up a tongue lashing if Sakura’s kicked puppy face was anything to go by. She glanced at her when Ino walked in and raised an eyebrow. “Ah, Ino, here to yell at her, too?”
Ino chuckled as Sakura glared at her and crossed her arms over her chest. “Depends.”
Tsunade looked back to Sakura with a sigh. “I’ll come check on you later.”
Sakura mumbled under her breath, “I don’t need you to.”
“What was that?”
Tsunade rolled her eyes at her, giving Ino a brief smile before leaving the room. Ino walked over to her and Sakura leaned back against the pillows. She had a pout on her lips that Ino found infuriatingly adorable. “Ino, if you’re just – “
Ino cut her off with a sigh and sat down on the edge of her bed. “I’m not here to scold you, Sakura.”
Sakura relaxed a bit at that and looked over at her with a smile. Ino moved to lay down beside her and said, “I will ask you why you keep pushing yourself so hard, though. Medics are supposed to be on the floor not in the bed.”
Sakura stretched out beside her and Ino hated the purple bruising under her eyes. She waved a hand with a sigh. “I couldn’t just – everyone was tired, but they were fine. They didn’t need me as a medic, they need me as something else.”
“You love to complain about how reckless Naruto is, but you’re just as much of an idiot as he is,” Ino teased her.
Sakura laughed and hit her shoulder. “Hey!”
Ino grinned at her and watched as Sakura bit back a smile. They were quiet for a moment and Ino felt her chest tighten the longer she looked at her. She had to drop her eyes to the space between them as she said, “Sakura, I’m just worried you’re going to end up killing yourself if you keep going like this.”
Sakura’s voice was small as she turned on her side towards her, surprise evident in her tone. “Ino.”
“You don’t have to do everything by yourself you know.” Ino didn’t look at her as she said it but then she felt Sakura’s hand on her cheek and looked up to see the same smile from that day, only less tired.
“Okay, Ino.” She closed her eyes and leaned her head against hers. “I’ll try harder.”
Ino huffed and rolled her eyes. Was she even listening to anything she said? She smiled all the same, feeling like she’d get there eventually. “Alright, Sakura.”
Sakura sighed and her voice was so soft when it left her lips to lay between them. “Stay for a while, will you?”
They were on a mission and Ino had never been more thankful her and Chouji had chosen Sakura as a replacement for Shikamaru when he was unavailable.
She muffled a scream into her arm as tears poured hot down her face. Chouji rubbed her arm soothingly from beside her as Sakura glanced at her with hard eyes. “Don’t you dare pass out on me, Ino.”
Ino could only nod as Sakura poured more chakra into the gash across her chest. She resented every ounce of chakra she took from Sakura but knew she wouldn’t have lasted this long without it. The wound burned and Ino was becoming surer the blade that had stuck her had been coated in poison. Her chest shook as she struggled to get the words out, her fingers in a death grip on Sakura’s arm. “Sakura – Sakura, there’s – “
“I know, Ino.” Sakura interrupted her, glancing at Chouji. “Chouji, give me your canteen. It’s the best we got right now.”
Sakura’s hand was on her cheek and Ino both loved and hated the instant comfort she felt from the familiar touch. “Ino, this is going to hurt. But I’ll check over you once we get to the village, okay?”
Ino nodded and felt fear claw at her insides as Sakura told Chouji, “Hold her down.”
Chouji’s hands were on her shoulders and Ino closed her eyes as Sakura passed the water through her chest. She fought to not bite into her arm as she muffled her cries. Sakura only stopped once she ran out of water, an angry set to her mouth as Ino met her eyes. She glanced down at her chest and looked over at the shirt she’d torn to shreds when she’d seen the amount of blood coloring the fabric.
Sakura dug in her pack for some gauze and gestured for Ino to sit up. Ino did so, her chest aching with the movement, but Chouji’s steady hand on her back helped. “This should be enough to wrap your chest. You’ll have to just wear your vest over it. We don’t have anything else to cover you without our packs.”
Ino wasn’t modest and the air was warm, so she didn’t really care outside of not having some protection. Sakura wrapped her up and then left her side to peak around the edge of the cave they’d concealed themselves in. “They’ve probably pulled back their forces to guard the property. I think we should try for an escape now.”
Ino looked at her incredulously as she slipped her vest on. “Now?”
Sakura nodded, giving her a smile as she turned back to them. “It’s our best bet, Ino, and we weren’t born to die here. We’re leaving now.”
Ino snorted. She didn’t think Sakura was born to die anywhere. She was born to keep moving, to keep fighting, to drag her bloodied body across a battlefield with a kunai in her mouth. Scars decorated her body and she passed out sharp smiles along with all her punches.
Sakura was born to do anything besides give up.
Sakura stepped back over to her and held out her hand. Ino marveled a little at how Sakura always felt like a lifeline when she reached out for her. Sakura pulled her to her feet and the faith in her eyes was the only thing that made Ino wipe at her stained cheeks and turn to Chouji. “Chouji?”
Chouji grinned at them both and got to his feet. “I’m all for it. Let’s go.”
Ino had accepted her feelings for Sakura a long time ago, had held them close to her chest with loving hands all these years. At this point in her life, she didn’t care if Sakura felt the same back. She was just happy to have her in her life, that Sakura let her be there.
But sometimes, she felt like Sakura was watering that small plant of hope in her chest that she loved her back.
Sakura reached out for her hand as they were walking, never faltering in her story as she laced their fingers together. Ino felt her heart go erratic and looked over at Sakura as she slipped a dango ball into her mouth. “And then they told me – “
Ino shrugged it off but couldn’t stop the happy blush on her cheeks. She didn’t think anything of it. She probably does this with Hinata too.
Ino had dragged Sakura to go swimming with her and a few of their friends. The woman needed to relax every once in a while and if it was up to Ino to make sure she did, she’d take the job on with gritted teeth.
There was a nice area just outside the village, a waterfall with a big pool of water that led to the river. She could hear Kiba and Naruto laughing as they jumped off the cliff and into the water, the splash barely grazing her toes from where she laid spread out on the grass. Sakura was beside her, close enough to reach out for, and Ino felt so content with the sun beating down on them through the leaves.
She peaked an eye out over at her after a while and was surprised to find Sakura’s eyes already on her. When she followed her gaze to her chest, she felt herself blush and flirted with her, “Want to take a picture, Sakura?”
Sakura rolled her eyes at her and moved closer to her, almost hovering over her. “I wasn’t staring at your breasts, Pig.”
Ino raised an eyebrow at her, a smile on her lips. “Then, what were you – Sakura!”
Sakura had casually laid her hand across the space between Ino’s breasts like it was the most normal thing in the world. Before Ino could comment further Sakura was smiling sadly, her fingers tracing the light scar. “I thought this would fade away.”
Ino let out a breath, reeling from her imagination having gone wild – thought could anyone blame her? It was a little sweet and more than ironic that Sakura cared so much about the scars she had when the woman herself was covered in them. Ino willed her heart to calm down and reached up to hold Sakura’s face. Sakura’s eyes went to hers and Ino watched as pink gathered in her cheeks as she snapped back to the present, probably realizing what it looked like she was doing. Her hand was warm against her and Ino tried to not think about it as she teased her, “You know I think you’re as much of a pervert as your sensei is.”
“I am not.” Sakura scoffed with a laugh. “I was just – “
“Sakura! Stop feeling Ino up for a minute and come jump with me!” Naruto called out to her from the water and Ino couldn’t stop her laugh as Sakura’s blush deepened.
Her hand slipped away from her as she stood up and started walking over to the side of the waterfall. “I wasn’t feeling her up, you pervert.”
Ino found her slumped over her desk when she’d gone to look for her. Sakura hadn’t shown up their friends’ night out at the bar and Ino had been wondering – worried – where she was since she’d told her she could come. She was asleep, her head pillowed on her folded arms, and for all practicality, dead to the world.
Ino felt herself sigh, though she had a small smile on her lips as she walked over to her after closing the door with a soft click. She put a hand on her shoulder and leaned down. “Sakura, you need to wake up.”
Sakura mumbled and turned her face more into her arms. Ino bit back a laugh, her hand moving to rake her nails up and down Sakura’s back. She tried to cajole her, “Come on, Sakura, wouldn’t you rather sleep in a bed?”
Sakura shook her head, still mostly asleep and continuing to act like a little girl. Ino draped herself more over her back and leaned over to see her face. “Am I going to have to carry you home?”
It was barely a whisper but Ino heard her hum, “I like it when you have your arms around me.”
Ino bit the inside of her cheek as her heart swelled in her chest and looked down at her. She had a content smile on her face and Ino didn’t think she would ever ache for anyone the same way she did Sakura. Ino took a steadying breath as she brushed Sakura’s hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. Sakura let out a soft sigh that was only her name. “Ino..”
Ino smiled and couldn’t think straight as she leaned down to press a kiss against Sakura’s cheek. She moved her hands under her arms and persuaded her to get up. “Come on, sleeping beauty, I’ll carry you home.”
Sakura was barely conscious as she stood up, leaning on to Ino heavily before Ino moved her to her back. Ino felt a thread of worry lace itself through her ribs and asked her, hoping for an answer but not expecting one, “Why are you so tired?”
Sakura mumbled tiredly into her hair as she wrapped her arms snug around her neck, “Surgery… long… here all last night.”
Ino rolled her eyes at her, though fondness won out over concern in her chest. “You’re such a workaholic.”
Ino laid Sakura gently down in her bed, slipping off the outer layer of her clothes and headband before laying down beside her. She’d almost fallen asleep when she felt an arm wrap around her waist to pull her closer. Sakura’s sigh tickled her neck as she leaned her forehead against her. “Thank you, Ino.”
Ino had made her breakfast in the morning and they’d move to the couch to enjoy the rest of their coffee. Sakura leaned her head against Ino’s shoulder as she took a drink. Ino smiled into her mug, her arm slipping around Sakura’s waist. Sakura sighed and then put her mug on the coffee table in front of them. She laid back against Ino even as she said, “I have to go back to the hospital soon.”
Ino shook her head, a sly smile on her lips as she looked down at her. “I already sent a note that you were taking the day off.”
Sakura had the nerve to look offended and Ino tightened her arm around her when it looked like she wanted to bolt. “What? Ino, you can’t just – I have patients to see and there’s – “
Ino shut her up by slanting her lips over hers. Her heart was erratic in her chest, but she had a smirk on her lips when she pulled back from her, Sakura’s eyes wide as they stared at her. “I think you need to relax.”
Sakura laughed softly and it sounded almost nervous. “Ino – “
Ino set her mug down beside Sakura’s and turned back to kiss her again. Sakura hummed against her and Ino guided her on to her back as she moved her lips with hers. Sakura’s lips parted when they broke away for air and Ino slipped her tongue into her mouth. Sakura moaned into her mouth, her hands coming up to twist into Ino’s hair.
Ino pressed closed to her, her hand sliding to the smooth skin underneath Sakura’s shirt. She loved how Sakura’s lips chased after hers when she moved her mouth down her jaw to her neck. Sakura let out a soft sigh beneath her and she started to protest, “Ino, I need to – “
Ino picked her head up to press a kiss near the corner of her mouth. She kissed her slowly, feeling lost in the feeling as Sakura’s fingers clutched at her. She leaned back after a moment, then met her eyes and almost shivered from the want she saw there. She raised an eyebrow at her and asked her with a leer, “Do you want me to stop?”
Sakura bit her lip and breathed out after a moment, “No.”
Ino’s lips went back to her neck and she promised her in a low voice, “Don’t worry, Sakura, I’ll help you relax.”