Lightning struck over the lush green forests of Konohagakure, illuminating the many structures and homes inside the village's gates with a very brief and eerie glow. Rain fell from the sky in a ceaseless assault, each drop plummeting to the earth with enough force to shatter glass. The resounding thunder echoed through the hills and forests, making the woodland creatures cower in fear, and the citizens of Konoha buckle down in their homes, barely withstanding nature's full wrath.
In other words, it was a hell of a storm.
Ino Yamanaka thought no different, as she curled up on her window seat, calmly watching the onslaught of the storm happening just outside her window. A single large, fluffy white blanket with brightly colored polka dots was draped over the blonde, and she was clutching onto a steaming mug of hot chocolate between her frozen fingers. The mug was radiating with delicious warmth, and the smell of chocolate from the drink invaded her nostrils, promising temptation and succulence. Bringing the cup up to her lips, the kunoichi barely suppressed a moan of pleasure as she tasted the chocolate on her tongue, the heat from the drink spreading to the tips of her toes. She was incredibly comfortable and perfectly content with sitting there after a long day of training, watching the rain fall onto the streets of Konoha. Currently, she was staring at the panel of her glass that composed her window, watching the water droplets as they splattered one by one on the pane, and raced each other down. It was very relaxing.
She glanced around her tiny apartment, and smiled in earnest. Her parents had really outdone themselves when they picked out the place. It was a surprise gift for her eighteenth birthday, and surprised the kunoichi was indeed. She had expected her parents to make her stay in the Yamanaka compound, like most parents did when their children became of age, but when she asked them about it-her mother in tears and her father with a small smile on his face-their only reply was "You're an adult now. You should enjoy it while you still can, before you have to take over the clan."
As an added bonus, her parents (hereby meaning her mother) had picked out all of her furnishings, drapes, carpets and even put some pictures of their family up on the wall. Ino didn't mind, although she had added some of her own décor as well. Her mom did a good job on the interior design, Ino thought. After all, where else would Ino have gotten her own craftiness in such matters?
She knew she was spoiled, but darn it! What is so bad about living comfortably?
Shaking her head, the kunoichi stared down sadly at her hands. Especially since she was a shinobi. She liked living it up, and she enjoyed it. She might have been seen by others as spoiled or a tramp or easy, but that honestly wasn't the case. Ino Yamanaka wanted things because she knew her life could end-rather abruptly, at that-because of her career choice. Ever since she was born (the heiress to the Yamanaka clan, no less) she had responsibilities, and one of them was becoming a shinobi. Although Ino didn't mind fighting for her village or putting her life on the line for them, that didn't mean that if she had had a choice, she would have became a kunoichi. She knew she probably would have chosen to live her life another way. In fact, she probably would have lived in her village as a citizen (as boring of a career choice that may be to some). However, all Ino Yamanaka really wanted in life was a chance to live life to its fullest, and to enjoy it-to start a family, fall in love, and grow old watching her kids grow up and die alongside her husband.
Really, was that too much to ask?
Ino pouted, still staring out the window. Geeze she was moody today. Stupid weather…
Thinking back over the course of the day, she remembered it had started raining when she and Chouji were walking home from training together. The two were talking and carrying on, making the occasional joke about their day or their teammate, Shikamaru Nara, who had been complaining about his assigned gate duty that morning.
"You should have seen him, this morning, Ino. It was great. He showed up at my house early to tell me he couldn't train because he had been assigned guard duty," the male chuckled, putting emphasis on the last two words, "I haven't seen Shika so worked up since Temari came to visit and made him 'get to know' her brothers while she went out with you girls. I swear every third word out of his mouth was troublesome."
Ino put her hand over her mouth to keep herself from laughing too loudly. She could so see that.
Unfortunately, neither of the teens had seen the dark clouds gathering quite rapidly while they had been talking, and just as Ino had opened her mouth to reply, an invisible curtain in the sky had opened, and rained plummeted to the earth, soaking the two teens.
"Argh! What the hell?" The blonde angrily cried, as water soaked her perfectly straightened hair. She threw her hands up over her head in a futile attempt to protect it, and cried out, "Chouji!"
Instantly, the jounin had the blonde's hand tightly in his grasp and pulled her underneath a stone rain shelter that they had (miraculously) been passing at the time. As soon as they were out of the rain and under the safety of the shelter's roof, the two separated each picking at their drenched clothes as if it would help dry them off. Chouji hadn't seemed to mind his clothes being entirely soaked, but Ino collapsed to the ground, legs crossed, and buried her hands in her face.
"Why," the blonde whined, obviously near tears, "does something seem to happen every time I try to spend a little extra time on my appearance so I can look good? I put on a brand new white blouse? Naruto runs into me with a box of beef ramen. I re-paint my nails? Tsunade-sama puts me on trash duty with a couple of genin. I get a pedicure? I'm assigned a mission to the land of freaking Rocks, which is a six day run from here and it totally ruins it. And now this! Seriously! Why?" At this point, and despite the blonde's efforts, her sobs broke loose, and she finally let out her tears of frustration.
Her crying seemed to bother Chouji more than her current appearance, because as soon as she had started crying he was down on one knee and pulling her into a tight hug. He had tried to console her, muttering to her words of comfort, but she only cried harder.
Ino sighed, pulling her blanket closer. She was still incredibly cold, but sadly the blanket didn't even come close to providing the level of warmth that Chouji could…
Ino blushed and ducked her head down, taking another sip of her cocoa. Why did she just think that? Sure, she had a teeny tiny crush on him, but that wouldn't have brought on that thought, right?
"Damn hormones," Ino mumbled under her breath, and as another resounding crack of thunder echoed throughout the village she sneezed. With that action, a thought suddenly came to mind: she could possibly be getting sick from getting drenched in the rain earlier. The blonde's eyes narrowed and she muttered even more darkly, "and damn storm."
A knock came at her door rather abruptly and Ino threw her head back and groaned in exasperation. Damn it, she was comfy! In a huff, she ripped off the alluring and warm blanket she had previously been curled up under and quickly set down her cup of hot chocolate. The pounding on the door became more frequent, and Ino yelled "just a minute!" while quickly reaching for a hairbrush. She hadn't combed it since she had when she'd dried if off to take a shower earlier. Taking a quick look in the mirror, she frowned at her wavy, brushed through hair. Maybe she could-
The pounding became louder still, and Ino grumbled in annoyance as she lurched toward the door. Seriously, what an asshole-
The door was jerked open by the blonde to reveal none other than Chouji Akimichi standing in the doorway to her apartment (soaking wet from his traveling through the rain to get there, no doubt), and then his lips were crashing down on hers in a fierce embrace.
Ino's body went rigid with shock. What the hell was going on? One second she had opened the door, and the next she was in his arms and he was kissing her as if his very life depended on it. Speaking of which…
He was still kissing her fiercely, even though she wasn't responding to it. It was like he was trying to make her kiss him back. Rather than fight it, Ino closed her eyes and relaxed into his tight hold. She knew she wasn't going to get out of this kiss any time soon.
As if he had heard that thought, Chouji suddenly jerked back, tearing away from her as if she was on fire. His face was flushed, his eyes barely focusing on anything as they darted around the room anxiously. It was almost funny, actually, Ino thought to herself. For some reason, a flustered Chouji was…cute.
Pushing her thoughts aside, Ino let her shocked expression fade, and instead an uncharacteristic expression of utter seriousness crossed her face. She slowly started, "Chouji, why did you-", but was cut off by a heavy sigh from the Akimichi jounin, who finally let out the long breath he had been holding. He collapsed onto her couch, burying his face in his hands. Silence followed, and Ino received no answer. Soon enough, her limited patience ran out, and she opened her mouth to say something to try to draw an answer from him, eyes narrowing in annoyance, before she was cut off with a small, pleading voice begging for a moment. "I promise I'll tell you, Ino," the lost man said dejectedly, "but please. I just need a minute."
Silently, Ino conceded. Almost regrettably she watched her fearless teammate, who had stepped in front of her so many times on the battlefield to take hits for her, nearly lose control of himself and fall apart. Ino was incredibly worried about him, but she knew she couldn't ask. He had asked for time to collect himself, and she would give him that. Directly pressing him for answers seemed not only wrong, but inappropriate, as she saw his shoulders slumped over in an indirect display of regret. What did he regret though, kissing her? At that thought, Inner Ino shrieked at his stupidity…honestly, how could he be so stupid? How could she have not liked it? She'd been harboring this crush on him ever since they had become jounin-when she had become both mature enough and old enough to see who he really was. It was one of her biggest regrets, not being able to see Chouji as the man he was until now. She was always such a bitch…so clouded by appearances and little things that didn't matter. A sudden thought nearly crushed the blonde. Was that was this was about? He regretted the kiss because of the way she had treated him in the past?
Suddenly the need to comfort him was overwhelming.
"I'm in love with you." He stated bluntly, as he finally let his large hands slide from his face. His eyes were devoid of all emotion, trying to keep out the hurt Ino could see nonetheless pouring through him.
Ino's mouth hung open at his admission-she truly didn't know what to say. "Chouji…"
He suddenly stood up and turned away from her, heading toward the door to make his exit, "I always have been. I just thought you should know" he said softly, before turning the knob and pulling open the door.
A hand came crashing onto the door at that moment, slamming it shut. Ino stood there next to him in the doorway, her eyes blazing. "You won't even listen to me," the blonde screamed, "how are you supposed to know my answer if you won't listen to me?" She closed the distance between the two in a furious move, and took his face in both of her hands. "I love you too," she whispered, a mixture of love, annoyance, and lust reflecting in her eyes, before she stood up on her toes and kissed him passionately.
For several seconds, nothing much happened. Chouji had stiffened with shock in response, and remained completely rigid for several seconds before finally responding to her kiss. He fervently returned the enthusiasm she had been trying to convey while he was still frozen with shock, and she could feel him pouring everything he had into this kiss. Ino moaned at the feel of him drawing her lithe body even closer, pressing her against his chest as he cradled her head gently within his hands. He slowly brought one hand around to cup her cheek, and the other almost immediately started to entangle itself in her long, unruly hair. This kiss…this was more than a kiss. This was pure, unadulterated passion.
Ino ended the kiss by drawing back, panting and trying to regain her breath. She could see Chouji trying to do the same, but the hungry, lustful and love-filled expression in his eyes had not yet gone away. If possible, it had actually intensified. He was leaning on one side for support, his hand on the door. It was obvious that he was trying to keep himself from falling over, and she didn't blame him. She felt like she was about to fall over too.
Of course, right at about that moment, her knees chose to give out and she was sent crashing to the floor. She could see Chouji lunging for her out of the corner of her eye, but there was also an inexplicable darkness seeping around the edges of her vision. She was having a hard time staying conscious, and her eyes started to roll to the back of her head. She only barely registered that she was being held in Chouji's arms, or that he was screaming her name in a deep panic when she finally blacked out.
Several hours later Ino awoke to utter darkness, and she resisted the urge to panic. Had she gone blind from her…whatever the hell it had been?
She remembered falling to the ground, and she remembered being kissed by Chouji-damn, that was a hell of a kiss-but beyond that she remembered absolutely nothing. Speaking of which, though, where was Chouji? But most importantly, why couldn't she see anything?
She tried to sit up, but her body was too weak to do so and it groaned in protest. She fell back down in a huff, frustrated at her weakened state, and slowly tried to lift her right arm.
'Yes!' She inwardly cheered, as she succeeded in lifting it. However, she found even that simple action left her nearly drained of energy and she started to really get worried. What exactly was so wrong with her whereas she could barely lift her arm?
She mentally encouraged herself to bring her arm up to touch her face, and found that it worked, although she was still physically drained. Her fingers traced around her eyes, and found a cloth stretched out over them.
'Thank god,' the blonde inwardly breathed a sigh of relief, 'for a minute I thought I was blind!'
Right then, an extremely anxious voice sounded from across the room-from her doorway, Ino accurately guessed-and it very rapidly got louder until it was right next to her face. "Ino," the owner of the voice breathed a sigh of relief, and a great deal of worry escaped from their tone, "thank Kami!"
Of course, Ino knew it was Chouji without ever hearing his voice. She could tell by the chakra signature, but it wasn't like he needed to know that. She opened her mouth to speak, but her throat was raspy and dry, and she barely produced a sound. He had apparently heard her airy attempt at trying to speak, because within a millisecond of her attempt at trying to speak, he was sternly asserting himself to her, "Don't say anything-save your voice. I'll be right back with a glass of water. There's tea boiling, so I'll bring you some in a moment, okay? You just stay here and rest." She could feel something touch her cheek-his hand, she guessed-before she felt his chakra signature leave the room in a hurry. She could easily tell that he was anxious to get back into the room with her; he didn't want to leave her alone. Her cheeks started to tinge a brilliant pink at that thought. He really did love her, didn't he? She had never had anyone other than her parents care about her like that before, and the thought was…stupefying. She had never thought of herself as anything close to worthy of this treatment, especially since she had treated Chouji so horribly in the past, but it was obvious that he cared nothing for that now. He probably would have done this for her even back then, even when she was still a bitch to him, and cherished every moment, whereas if the situations were reversed and he was sick, she would have done it but bitched the whole time. Of course, now Ino would take care of him and show him the same care and tenderness that he was showing her, but she knew that if she was still the young girl that she had once been, she would have hated the very notion of taking care of him.
God, she had never hated herself more.
At this point, Chouji came back in the room talking softly, "Ino, I brought your glass of water, and the tea will be done in a moment. Do you feel like eating something, or do you think you-" She could practically feel his entire body freeze.
In a second, he was kneeling on the bed next to her with both of his hand cupping her cheeks. The cloth was ripped off of her face, and she hesitantly opened her eyes so she could give them a chance to adjust to the light. When they had, she looked up and saw a completely terrified Akimichi.
"I thought I had helped," he agonized, and she could practically see the pure dread in his eyes, "I did everything she told me to, everything, exactly as she told me to do it, and you still have a fever…Kami-sama I'm such an idiot! Ino, I'm so sorry-"
Ino tried to swallow what little saliva she had in her mouth, and barely managed to choke out, "Chouji-"
His eyes widened in realization, and he reached over to the bedside table and grabbed the glass of water he had retrieved, all the while apologizing because he hadn't given it to her sooner because of his foolishness. Ino resisted the urge to roll her eyes, and he gently reached his hand behind her head and tilted her head up so she could drink. She could plainly see that he was focusing his attention entirely on her in order to ensure that he wouldn't accidentally drown her. After a few sips, she made a noise of protest, and he immediately pulled the cup away and carefully let her head fall back onto her pillow. She closed her eyes in bliss, savoring the connection she had with him at this moment.
"Ino, I'm really sorry-" he started apologizing again, ruining the blonde's peaceful moment.
She slowly opened her eyes to gaze at him, and spoke, "It's okay, Chouji. Quit apologizing already." Already she was feeling much better and she was finding talking was much easier.
Slowly, Chouji nodded his head, a stray lock of his red hair cascading down his face as he bowed his head in what appeared to be defeat. Before Ino could say anything, though, he straightened back up and carefully sat on the side of her bed so that he could still be near her, but not as close as he was a moment ago. "How are you feeling?" He asked timidly, the back of his hand brushing over her cheek. His expression gave away only an incredible amount of concern, but he managed to keep everything else hidden away. There was more to this than meets the eye, Ino knew, but he was doing a fairly decent job of hiding whatever it is that was bothering him.
"Better," she honestly replied, "although I'm pretty drained I suppose. What happened, anyway? The last thing I remember is us kissing, and then I blacked out."
She almost giggled at the slight blush that came over his face at the mention of the kiss they had shared, but forced herself not to for his sake. She didn't want to embarrass him. He was really trying his best for her-she could plainly see that-and she didn't want to tease him about things right now. Besides-her inner giggled-she could always do that later.
"You…collapsed, and then you passed out," Chouji choked on the first part, as if he had been trying to swallow a rather large lump in his throat, "beyond that I didn't know anything. I was trying to make sure nothing was seriously wrong with you, and that you were still breathing. When I was satisfied you were okay, I still had you in my arms, but I called Tsunade-sama for help to see what I could do. I explained what had happened to you and she told me to keep you warm and give you some herbal tea when you wake up, because you probably got sick when we were out in the rain earlier."
Ino's eyes narrowed. Stupid storm…she knew it would make her sick! Wait, though…how would that have explained the blackout?
As if reading her thoughts, Chouji gave her a small, knowing smile and grasped her hand tightly within his own. "Tsunade-sama said that due to your sickness and our…erm…activities prior to your blackout. She assumed that it was just too much for your system to handle, and your body just sort of decided to…shut down, I suppose. She said you should be fine after some rest and some tea." He smiled once again and continued, "Thank god she was there, too. You look so much better than you did a few hours ago when you blacked out. I didn't even know it was possible for my heart to actually stop from fear, but it happened when you collapsed. She could barely understand me on the phone. Eventually she had to scream at me to calm down and stop babbling." He chuckled and raised the hand he had been holding to his mouth, and pressed a light kiss on it. Then he pressed kisses on each of her knuckles and went on from there until he switched hands, and Ino, still too weak to do anything, just closed her eyes and leaned back into her pillow, enjoying his touch.
She was almost back to sleep when she heard his voice address her again.
"Ino?" He whispered, not loud enough to wake her, but loud enough to get her attention if she was already awake, "If you're awake, I have your tea."
She hummed and tried to get up, only to find herself being pushed back down by a set of larger, stronger hands. His breath tickled her ear as he said, "let me", and he placed his hands on her sides and gently pulled her up to a sitting position. He handed her the teacup to see if she could hold it on her own, and she could see that he was delighted when she managed to hold it by herself and take small sips. A warm, relieved smile spread across his face, and he readjusted to where he was now sitting next to her. She took several slow, long sips from the teacup and lowered it, sighing in content. She already felt much, much better.
Gently, she lowered her hand and balanced the teacup on her leg, hand still cupping it to keep it upright. She brought her steady gaze back up to the Akimichi male, and gave him a sweet smile that radiated warmth. She knew that he would understand what she was trying to tell him. Above all, she just wanted him to know that she was thankful for his help and care.
"Ino," he breathed, staring into her eyes, and his own eyes betrayed his expression of love, warmth, and worry. Ino really had no other choice, honestly, as she leaned forward, closed her eyes, and molded her lips over his.
A groan and an intake of breath sounded from the male jounin, as he slowly encircled his hands around her lithe body and eventually settled on grasping her upper arms. His lips slowly allowed themselves to move, and he leaned closer into the blonde, pressing himself even closer to her. Ino resisted the urge to moan at the contact, and instead settled for reaching her free hand up into his red locks, running her fingers through his hair. She could feel his shudder at the contact, and his lips pressing even harder into hers, desperately and hungrily deepening the kiss.
The two were so lost in one another, that neither heard the pounding on the door, or the creaking sound of it opening a few minutes later when no one came to open it. Footsteps echoed throughout Ino's apartment, and neither of them noticed anyone's presence in the house until Ino's bedroom door opened and quickly slammed shut. Startled at the noise, the two teens immediately broke apart, faces flushed from their recent activities and a little bit of embarrassment. Chouji got up from Ino's bed, gently releasing his grip on her, and made his way toward the door to see who had interrupted them. A sudden thought popped up into his head-someone had broken into Ino's house just now. Chouji instantly went into a rage, and tried to control his shaking body as he stomped out into her hallway. They had better have a damn good-
He turned the corner that led into her kitchen and saw none other than his best friend Shikamaru Nara standing there with a hand placed upon his forehead, sighing in annoyance.
"This is so troublesome."