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[personal profile] edellin
Title: Friends Charade 
Fandom: NARUTO
Couple/Major Characters: Kakashi/Sakura, Ino/Shikamaru
Rating: T
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Summary: Ino is suspicious of Sakura. She thinks Sakura is secretly  dating someone and she hasn't told her. Ino has to know if that's true and who that man is.

Note: Written for the Flower Challenge at the KakaSaku community. The aim of the challenge was to be assigned a flower and write a story inspired by the meaning this flower represents. My flower was Gardenia whose basic meanings are: you are lovely, secret love, joy, good luck, refinement and pure. (I mostly based my story on the meaning of "secret love")  Also fills prompt 19. "Fragmented Truths" for the 500themes community challenge and the "extortion" square on my H/C bingo card.

 

He was late.

He had never been late before during the month they were going out, despite being known for his tardiness, he had been uncharacteristically on time with her. And she had felt special; she was the one for whom he wouldn’t be late.

But he was late tonight. Very late.

Did anything happen to him? It was possible that he had been called for a mission suddenly and that was why he wasn’t here.

But he would have told her. He would have send for her so she wouldn’t wait in her house, dressed up – sultry and sexy – for him. She sighed and took off her black high heels and headed for her room while she removed the corset she was wearing. It was so uncomfortable to wear one and she had worn it for him, and waited in it for an hour…

…he lost his chance to see her like that. Because she was never wearing it again. Ever.

She quickly changed into the comfortable t-shirt she wore while sleeping and sat in front of the mirror and started scrubbing her face with a small sponge to removed all the make up she had worn for him.

Another thing he lost. She had spent two hours to get ready, to make herself desirable and different than the medic he knew during day and he didn’t come.

Twenty minutes later her face was clean – alas a little red from the scrubbing – and she went to her bed and lay there, hugging her pillow. She was a kunoichi, she knew that things didn’t go according to plan, not always at least. It was so easy for everything to go a little differently…

… this, alone on bed, was certainly not how she had envisioned this night to be.

~|~|~|~|

Sakura knocked Ino’s door and waited for the blond to open the door. She hoped that she was alone and that she wouldn’t walk in again on her and Shikamaru while Shikamaru “just happened to pass from her apartment a little earlier in the morning and was just leaving.” She couldn’t understand why they didn’t just announce that they were a couple.

Everyone knew.

The door opened with Ino wearing her short black nightgown and Shikamaru walking closer to her. “Well, I’ll be going now Ino,” he said and turned at Sakura. “Good morning Sakura.”

“Good morning,” she replied smiling at the brown-haired man as she got into the apartment and he got out of it. The moment the door closed, she turned at her friend with a teasing smirk on her lips. “Let me guess, he just happened to pass from the apartment earlier and came to say hi.”

Ino kept a calm face without displaying any emotion about the issue, “No, he had to give me a file for a mission. I have to interrogate later today someone and he brought me the file so I could prepare for the interrogation.”

“Aha,” Sakura said and followed Ino into the kitchen to have coffee. “So I guess I can’t stay long here? It’s my day off and I was thinking we could go at the center and look around, have lunch together and then go for a movie or go to the hot springs and relax.”

Ino shook her head, “Sorry, Forehead. You can stay and have an early lunch with me but after that I have work.” She handed Sakura the coffee and sat opposite of her. “You need to do more than work. I won’t always be available for you to spend your days off with,” she cautioned the other woman. “You need to date and find someone, otherwise you’re going to be very lonely in the future.”

“From what I know you are also single Ino-pig,” Sakura pointed out to her friend.

Ino took a sip of her coffee. “Yeah but I am generally dating… It’s been only four months since I was in a relationship, no matter how small or unsuccessful it was.” Another sip. “You have been single for more than a year. How many people have you dated since Neji?”

“Well… there was this guy at Suna…” she started saying…

Ino raised an eyebrow at her. “Yes… for the one month you were there and I know that you hardly had time for anything besides work while you were there. Grabbing a lunch quickly together between your half an hour break is not dating.”

“We kissed,” Sakura protested.

“Not even made out,” Ino answered back. “You just kissed before you left.”

“I think it was very sweet.”

“Yes, if it was possible for you to ever be back together. You hardly keep in touch now,” Ino noted. “And since that it’s been nine months.”

Sakura didn’t answer and just drank from her coffee. “I am a career woman,” Sakura simply told Ino. “I am married to my job.”

Now it was Ino’s turn to not respond. “Ok, that’s it,” she suddenly declared in a Naruto-like way as she got up. “I am going to find you, Forehead, a date and you will go to it.”

“No, Ino-Pig! I don’t want to,” she immediately protested. She couldn’t go on a date, not with the way things were in her personal life.

Ino crossed her hands across her chest and stared at Sakura in a way that she felt that Ino could read her deepest thoughts – something that she could literally do – and she knew that this was one of the moments that Ino changed from her happy, optimistic self to the cold, professional kunoichi that specialized in gathering information from others. Sakura called her the Interrogator Ino. It seemed like she was not the only one with a split-like personality.

“Why not?”

Sakura crossed her hands on her chest as well. “Because it’s not the time. I have things to do and there is no time for dating.”

“There will never be time if you don’t start and you will end up alone in the hospital, old and wrinkled and unloved,” Ino threw at her friend and Sakura went a step back. Ino could be very cruel sometimes. It was the worst type of cruelty; the honesty that hurt because it was the truth no one wanted to admit.

And Ino always knew that truth and was not above using it against others to make them talk. This was what made her so good at her job, not her bloodline limit and its advantages. It was her ability to observe and read so well between the lines when it came to the human psyche. She rarely used it against her friends. Rarely but not never. It was the first time that she had used it against Sakura.

The pink-haired woman knew that Ino’s intentions were good. The only two times she had acted that way with her friends was when she was playing matchmaker for Hinata and Naruto and when she tried to help Chouji to have more confidence in himself and ask a civilian girl out. She pushed Hinata and Naruto and pushed and pushed them until they did go on that one date that they were both afraid of going to but deep down wanted to. Now they were one of the nicest couples in Konoha, truly bringing the best out of each other.

As for Chouji, even though his attempt with the civilian girl, did not go the way he wanted to, he was now perfectly happy with a younger kunoichi and he owed it all to Ino’s pushing to try and get to know girls.  If he hadn’t tried that time, he wouldn’t have met the kunoichi.

Ino just wanted Sakura to be happy and find love in life, something that was important. Not necessary maybe but Sakura was just twenty-six and it was too early for her to give it up completely. Sakura knew that but there were things Ino didn’t know and she couldn’t know until it was time to learn.

“It’s just that… there are issues I need to sort out before I start going out again,” she finally said. “I am not saying I will never go out with anyone else again… It just would be futile to start dating if I don’t deal with them first.”

Ino nodded but kept her eyes locked on the face of the other woman. “Are they very serious issues?”

“Yes,” Sakura replied. “And very troubling.”

Ino went closer to Sakura. “Health?”

Sakura shook her head. “I am not dying or anything like that. It’s emotional issues.”

Ino nodded again. “Tell me when you have sorted them out… or if you need help with sorting them out.”

“I will, Ino-pig. The moment I am datable material I will be yours to use,” Sakura said and smiled, relieved at her friend. “So… where do you want to go eat this early lunch?”

~|~|~|~|

Ino said her goodbyes to Sakura and headed towards her office to work on the file Shikamaru had indeed brought to her just not this morning but last night. Her mind though was full of her talk with her friend. For some reason, Ino was certain that the issues Sakura had to deal were not exactly what she described them to be, personal, emotional.

It had stuck in her mind that Sakura was actually involved with someone, somehow. Secretely. At first she had immediately pushed away that idea because she knew that Sakura always confided in her about her personal endeavors but then, during lunch, she noticed that she acted exactly the way she did when she and Neji started having problems. Distracted, staring around and only half-listening to what she said and she did her absolute best – that was usually not enough for Ino – to show that she was excited about everything, even if she wasn’t.

It was a stupid defense mechanism.

The problem was that this time she couldn’t approach the problem because there was no man officially to make Sakura feel like that. The fact that if there was a man, it was a man that Sakura didn’t want others to know she was involved with made things very tricky. Why didn’t she want people – or at least Ino, her closest friend – to know about her relationship with him? Was she ashamed? Was she forced? No, the last part was not possible. Sakura was not someone that other people could force around into doing things for them, especially sex. It was something she wanted, maybe she didn’t feel proud of it but she wanted it to a certain extent.

Neji? Her relationship with Neji was her most serious in her twenty-six years. Could she have rekindled her relationship with him and just didn’t want people to know. Neji after all was involved with Tenten now. It was not entirely impossible that he was cheating on her. Sakura had ended their relationship after all because she couldn’t commit to the kind of relationship he wanted to have, one that would lead to marriage and children and Sakura was not ready then for that. (His involvement with Tenten was also a weird one because she knew that the brunette was not very interested in settling down either.) Maybe Neji never got over Sakura and the moment she suddenly became available to him again, he went back into her arms. Ino had always believed that Neji hid behind his cold exterior a very emotional person. One that could not easily move on from anyone he had an emotional attachment to.

If it was Neji, then maybe Sakura was waiting for him and Tenten to officially separate to announce that she was with her old flame again.

But… she had seen Neji and Tenten together. They were good for each other. They were even better than Sakura and Neji together. And every time she had mentioned in the past about the two of them, Sakura had said exactly that. She had been not only happy but also encouraging for the two of them. She couldn’t be faking all that time… Ino would have noticed. She always did.

She walked quickly down the hall, leading to her office, saying mechanically good morning to all her coworkers she walked past. When she got into her office and closed the door she sat and opened the folder.

She had a lot of work. Both for this interrogation and for the one she had to indirectly do on Sakura.

She just had to know.

~|~|~|~|

Sakura opened the door of her apartment and was welcomed by a mysterious, delicious smell that had dominated her apartment while she was away. She went inside with a bit of caution and prepared mentally herself to see her mother cooking like crazy. Sometimes – for reasons that her mother herself could not explain – she got inside Sakura’s house – without having keys, a fact that made the intrusion even weirder because her mother was a civilian and civilians cannot get in and out of shinobi houses whenever they want to – and cooked. And not just one meal. She prepared food for ten people.

The good side of this was that it did not happen very often and when it did, Sakura had food for many days everyday she returned home. The bad side was that this sneaking up could lead in very uncomfortable situations. For instance, one time she was out with Neji and they returned to her apartment, very drunk and very horny, and while they were in the process of undressing each other, the moment they closed the door behind them, her mother appeared holding a fry pan asking if Neji had any cravings at the moment.

He did, but not for food.

In the end, the entire sex mood disappeared instantly and Neji ate and went home.

Her mother had not even noticed that she had intruded on them. That’s what it appeared to be at least.

Sakura opened the door of the kitchen opening her mouth to greet her mother when she saw a very, very different figure than her mother’s bent over the stove. And that figure – a man – was wearing her small, strawberry pink apron.

“Kakashi?” she asked in disbelief and approached him slowly.

The man turned and smiled at her. He was still wearing some layers of his mask but she could see quite clearly his facial expressions. Or maybe the fact that she had seen his face unmasked had given her the ability to read his expressions very easily. “Welcome home, Sakura. I hope you haven’t eaten. I prepared noodles with chicken and peppers.”

Sakura had eaten but she couldn’t say that to Kakashi. He had cooked for her. It was the first time and she didn’t want to spoil it.

“Why are you cooking?” she asked him after a brief moment of silence. All the years she had known Hatake Kakashi - had visited him in his small apartment, had been to numerous missions with him – she had never seen him cook. He had never even shown that he knew anything about cooking.

“Just felt like it,” he mumbled and turned to look at her again. “Why, Sakura? You sound surprised!” he teased her.

Sakura smiled and crossed her hands on her chest. “Well I was expecting to see my mother and not you cooking in my kitchen.”

“Thought she sneaked into the house again?”

Sakura nodded. “And I still haven’t figured out how she does it. For one that was good at tactics at the academy, I find myself very lost with my mother.”

“Maybe Sakura you took your tactic talent from your mother,” he bemused and started placing the noodles, the chicken slices and the peppers on the dishes.

“Do you want any help?” she offered.

Kakashi shook his head and brought the two plates on the table. “You just sit and wait for me to bring everything,” he told her and lead her to a chair.

Sakura watched him as he brought the bottle of wine and glasses on the table and the salad he had prepared. He sat down and pulled his mask off.

They ate mostly in silence, it was only when they finished that he talked. “I was called by the Hokage last night. I thought it was something brief but it ended up taking hours. If I had known, I would have sent for you.”

“It’s all right,” she said. “I understand. I am kunoichi after all, the unexpected is the most stable aspect in our line of work. We never know what tomorrow will bring.”

“That was a poetic way to put it.”

Sakura laughed slightly. “We should try to make things seem better than they are so we won’t feel very bad. Still, I kinda miss that aspect of our job. I am working so much as a medic in the hospital that unless someone is dying, there is nothing different in our daily life. I miss the rush of danger and excitement I experienced on the battlefield.”

“I can take you for a mission if you want,” he told her. “Just so you can feel the rush…”

Sakura laughed. “We’ll see. But I am afraid if I go away for a week, the whole hospital will be in total chaos. Or maybe the whole village. Especially now, that Shizune is away on that medical trip to the land of Tea. There would be no one to replace me in the hospital and to make Tsunade-sama do her paperwork in due time. She’d forget something for sure.”

“Then we’ll go when she’s back.”

Sakura took a sip of her drink and looked at Kakashi with a careful eye. “You know today Ino was trying very hard to make me go on a date with someone. This secret relationship of ours has a fun side sometimes.”

Kakashi smirked at her. “You like messing with your friends, Sakura?”

“A little bit,” she confessed. “Although I think Ino now suspects something.”

Kakashi went closer to her and kissed her lightly on the lips. “They are going to learn about it one day. We have been seeing each other secretly for a little over a month.”

“I know and I want to but it’s weird… I feel that I can’t go and say to everyone. ‘Hi, wanna hear something new? I am dating Kakashi for a month now. Bye.’ It will be weird and so many questions will follow.”

Kakashi took her hands into his. “I didn’t say to do it that bluntly… we could do in a more subtle way.”

~|~|~|~|

It had been a week since Ino had last talked to Sakura. Since then, Ino had been thinking about Sakura’s reaction to her pushing her to start dating again. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she was that Sakura was indeed interested in a man or even secretly dating someone.

The question remained. Who?

It was early one morning that she was going at Sakura’s house when she saw a man jump out of a window, Sakura’s bedroom’s window. Unfortunately, she was not close enough to see who he was and just saw the figure from behind so she didn’t have a lot of clues about his identity.

But now she could be sure that this mystery man-lover existed. Sakura did have a lover and she hadn’t told Ino about him. For some reason, that didn’t make her mad, only determined to solve the mystery and victoriously announce it to her friend. Then she was going to be mad and demand an answer to why she wasn’t told about him?

She couldn’t address the matter immediately to Sakura because she knew that it would be futile. Her friend was going to deny it and insist that it was not her window the man jumped from.

Ino had to know. The only thing she knew about the man was that he was a shinobi, which did not exclude any man Sakura knew since her social circle consisted mostly of shinobi. The only civilians she was close with were relatives.

She sighed and knocked the door of Sakura’s apartment. She was just going to wait for the time being, until she was able to address the situation properly… Plus talking to Sakura when she thought everything was perfect with her pretty, little lie was the best way for her to reveal information about that lie without even knowing it.

The door opened and a slightly disheveled Sakura who was wearing her blouse the wrong way appeared. “Hey Ino,” she greeted her friend with a slightly curious look. “What’s up?” she asked the blond woman as she folded her arms over her chest.

“I came to see you,” Ino replied in an innocent voice. “Are you busy?” she asked after an emphatic pause. “Am I interrupting you from something important?”

Sakura immediately shook her head and laughed in that fake laugh of hers that she used when she was not telling the truth. “Of course not, I was just doing some reading.”

“Is it an interesting book?”

“For me, yes. For you, not so much. It’s a medical book about some new therapies that are being researched for the best use and creation of poisons and antidotes… and about how you can even use poisons for missions for the better performance of the shinobi,” the pink-haired woman explained with enthusiasm. Ino was sure she was reading a book like that… but not a few minutes ago.

“Figures you’d be so engrossed in it. So completely into it that you would wear your blouse the wrong way,” she commented as she pointed with her eyes the blouse on the woman. Sakura slowly looked down and realized that her friend was right.

“Oh… sorry,” she apologized and started to take off the blouse but Ino stopped her immediately.

“We are in the hallway of your building. Do you really want any person passing from here to see you undressing like that?”

Sakura blinked for a moment and then looked around. “Why are we still in the hallway?”

“Because you haven’t invited me in yet, Forehead,” Ino replied casually as she placed her hands on her hips. “Will you let me in?”

Sakura nodded and made room for the other female to get inside. “It’s a little messy because today is cleaning day and I haven’t started yet,” she told the other woman who was examining the living room of the apartment.

Sakura was a cleaning freak, needed things to be organized and in order for her to concentrate. She would never let her living room be like that in the first place.

She would never get her living room like that on her own either, Ino thought. She was certainly here with someone last night, and it must have been a passionate night.

Ino glanced at her friend that was quickly tiding up everything. “You know that I don’t judge you Sakura, right?”

Sakura froze and looked behind at the other female who sat comfortable in an armchair and crossed her legs. “What? Judge me about what?”

Ino smiled at the pink-haired woman and looked around at the room. “About the house… I don’t judge you about the state of your house,” she explained. “What did you think I’d judge you about?”

Sakura smiled at the other woman with a slightly relieved look in her eyes which did not go unnoticed by her best friend. “Nothing specific. I was just confused. Do you want coffee?”

Ino nodded. “The usual I drink.”

As Sakura went into the Kitchen, Ino stayed silent and waited patiently for her to return. She didn’t want to push Sakura too much. Contrary to popular belief, she was not the type of person that was meddling into anyone’s life shamelessly. However, Sakura was not any person and Ino would feel some shame if she overstepped the line…

… but she only wanted to help. She wanted to be sure that Sakura was not leading herself into another heartbreak for which she would need another year of her life to get over. Ino didn’t want Sakura to be alone. Sakura herself didn’t want to be alone, but she was also proud and took things very emotionally sometimes… She’d prefer to be alone than to be hurt… she could give up on love.

Or maybe the possibility of her finding love.

What would happen when she and Shikamaru became a couple officially and she would spend most of her time with him? It would be depressing for her to go out and nearly all of her friends to be in relationships… the only other person that did not have a significant other was Sai.

Maybe it was Sai, the mystery man? He was a very safe option despite his socially awkward character; he would be loyal, obedient and would respect – or fear – her….

Sakura returned and placed Ino’s cup of coffee in front of the other woman as she sat on the couch holding her own cup. “So… what’s new with your life?”

Ino took a slow sip of her coffee and examined her friend. Maybe Sakura needed a little pushing to reveal her secret boyfriend’s identity… or at least admit his existence. She needed to say something that would warm her friend on that idea. “Something quite… surprising happened yesterday,” Ino admitted hoping that her-just-thought-now plan could work. She was calm and composed as she talked, making sure that her tone did not betray any excitement or disappointment. She wanted to be as neutral as possible. “Someone I never thought would ask me out, did.”

Sakura raised her eyebrow in curiosity at that. “Really? Who?”

“It’s not generally uncommon but it can be pretty uncomfortable if things go on and then the two people break up,” Ino continued not revealing who the man that had asked her out was. The more mysterious his identity was, the more it would serve Ino’s plan.

Sakura leaned closer to Ino.  “Were you asked out by someone you know very well?”

Ino wondered if maybe she should use her relationship with Shikamaru for her means. If Sakura found out that Ino was lying, it would be troublesome. Plus, it would make her suspicious. On the other hand, if Shikamaru learnt that she had used their relationship to extort information from her best friend about her sexual life, then he would be upset – as upset as Shikamaru could be at least. But he didn’t have to know if she didn’t tell, she would just say that she wanted to tell her best friend that they were going to be an official couple…. Or she could just not say a name to Sakura… but that wouldn’t do because she wanted her to reveal what she knew as well. “Someone I know so well that you could say we are practically like family. I totally didn’t expect that someone to feel like that about me,” she replied not having made up her mind yet.

“He never showed any interest before?”

Ino shook reluctantly her head. “Not exactly… He was interested in someone else, as far as I knew and I never thought of any of his actions as flirting… it was just two people that had a very close bond but not a sexual one.”

Sakura narrowed her eyes slightly, probably trying to think of who that person could be. “Are you interested in that man?” she queried after a small pause.

“I could be… but there are more issues to resolve before we can consider being together… implications and consequences… what people would say…”

“Were you asked out by someone older that we know? Like a teacher?” Sakura asked in suspicion. Ino was for a moment surprised that her friend asked that question. Could it be that her secret man was older than her… one of the older jounin teachers that were teachers of their generation? It was entirely possible. The most interesting information came from questions and not from answers, as long as one could read between the lines. And Ino could.

Ino slowly shook her head. “No, it’s Shikamaru,” she finally revealed and she saw Sakura sigh in frustration as she folded her arms over her chest.

“Of course Shikamaru is into you,” the pink-haired girl said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Come on…. You are also into him and we both know it. Gosh, I can’t believe I got so worked up about you going out with Shikamaru,” she muttered under her breath.

“Is that so?”

“Yes, that is so,” Sakura answered in a mocking tone. “You were so angry when he was going out with Temari and actually didn’t let that jounin half a year ago talk to him. What is that behaviour called if not being into someone so desperately but also being in denial so badly?”

“Firstly, Temari was not good for Shikamaru. Their relationship was very troublesome and you know how Shikamaru hates situations that are troublesome. He was also more attached to her than she was to him. She was going to force him to move to Suna… thank God the two of them decided to break up because of how unconventional their relationship was. Second, that woman was a slut and Shika was terribly emotional because he had just broken up with Temari and needed to be protected from vicious man-eaters like her. I was simply being a comforting friend by getting rid of an annoyance for him.  I was just being a good friend,” Ino answered, defending her past action. Although Sakura was not wrong. She had been possessive of Shikamaru a lot time before she realized she had feelings for him.

“Yeah… right,” Sakura told her. “Just like Shikamaru just happens to pass by every morning I am visiting you,” Sakura added as she smiled at her friend. “I am happy for you Ino. I am sure you two will be happy together… you are so unlike but yet so alike at the same time… in the most unconventional way.”

“Oh shut up,” Ino snapped and took a sip of her coffee. “You know that now that we are a couple – and hopefully will be one for a long time – you need to find someone so we can double-date? Or triple-date with Naruto and Hinata?”

“I told you that I need to sort some things out before I am able to date again.”

“And the process of sorting these issues out is a very long one, I know.”

Sakura smiled mischievously at her and drank from her cup. “Well, not that long.”

Ino smiled at that. It was progress, a slow one but a progress nonetheless. 

 

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