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When Blossoms Bloom

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     Ino didn’t know she loved Sakura the moment she saw her. The girl's soft pink hair and meadow green eyes stirred some emotion in her, and Ino thought the urge to protect her came from a wanting of friendship. The multitude of bouquets that were made late-night in her mother’s shop that was later torn apart due to their inadequacy was a celebration of their friendship and rivalry, not love. Their friendship was a sort of love, but it was platonic friendship love, not romantic, weak-in-the-knees love.

     She liked Sasuke. Well, she was supposed to like him. Everyone liked him. It was *weird* not to like him, and she wasn’t weird, so she liked him. And, because of who she is, she liked him the best. She did her best to let that be known, to promote her over-the-top love for the guy she barely knew a thing about.

     Yet, Ino finds herself here, daydreaming in her mother’s shop about her. They have just become Chunins, thanks to the benevolence of Lady Tsunade, and working with Sakura to train and take the exam has been nothing short of a dream. Seeing her grow into a beautiful human being both inside and out was somewhat bittersweet, all the memories of them as children flooding her. She knew the girl she befriended all those years ago was going to eventually find herself, but it was hard knowing Sakura wouldn’t need her anymore.

     A silent tear rolled down Ino’s cheek as she thought about what she told Sakura all those years ago.

     I believe you have the potential to bloom into something even more beautiful than the cosmos.

 ~~~

     Ino was humming to herself in the shop, thinking about her later visit with Sakura. She thought about what happened days ago and decided it was a sign that she should see Sakura outside of the hospital. They haven’t sat down and talked in what seemed like years, i.e. two weeks, and Ino thought a late dinner at the barbeque place was the best. Her stomach was in knots over the meeting, however, but it was too late to cancel. Besides, now that Sakura had extreme physical strength, she didn’t want to risk falling victim to one of her punches, like Naruto so often is.

     I should make her a bouquet, Ino thought as she sat idly as no one was coming in. It was already late in the day, and people don’t really pass by for flowers on a Wednesday. Coming out from behind the wooden stand, she surveyed the flowers her family has just gotten in. This was like second nature to her, and she went to grab the Cosmos, for obvious reasons, Parrot Lilies, a symbol of friendship, Pink Carnations, love of a woman (as a friend!!), White Heather, wishes will come true, and Gardenia, secret love and joy (but mostly joy!). She put them all together but was disappointed with the arrangement. It looked undecided and embarrassing, really. Ino couldn’t put her name on this, much less give it to Sakura.

     Completely occupied by her arrangement, Ino didn’t notice Sakura walking into the shop. Sakura was released from her rounds a little early, her replacement coming in early for once. Since she had the time, Sakura wanted to meet up with Ino at the shop. Sakura wanted to take some flowers to work tomorrow, the last time she brought them in and placed them by the patients’ bedsides improved their moods greatly.

     Seeing that her entrance didn’t disturb Ino, she quietly walked up to her to watch what she was doing. Sakura has been around Ino long enough to have a good idea of what each flower means and being a little nosy, she wanted to see who she was making it for. She saw the Pink Carnations and Cosmos and knew it had to be a practice bouquet for Sasuke. But then Sakura saw the White Heather and the Parrot Lilies, something that Ino has given her in all bouquets since she can remember. A faint blush spread across her face. Ino couldn’t be making this for her… Could she?

     Sakura shook her head at the absurd thought. Ino liked, rather loved, Sasuke. And Sakura was her best friend, she was probably misremembering the flower meanings. She laughed it off, and that seemed to cause Ino to come out of her stupor with a blush on her face.

     “How long have you been standing there?” Ino said instead of a greeting.

     “Long enough to figure out that you were making a bouquet for Sasuke and me,” Sakura replied, winking, playing off her emotions.

     “Well, actually…” Ino fidgeted.

     “Actually?” Sakura has never seen Ino at a loss for words.

     “It was just for you.” Ino was looking at the red roses next to Sakura instead of looking her in the eye.

     “But… The flowers..?” Sakura’s heart was pounding.

     Ino cleared her throat and looked Sakura head on. If she was going to do this, there was no way she could back down now. “Okay Billboard Brow, this might be hard for you to hear, but someone as beautiful as me might be in love with someone as hard as you.”

     Sakura huffed. It was like Ino to end a statement like that. But… “What about Sasuke?”

     “I acknowledge that I have to compete with him to get you to like me too, Sakura.” Ino sounded kind of annoyed. She shouldn’t really have to compete with Sasuke since he wasn’t there, but she couldn’t force Sakura into liking her either.

     “No, but, you liked him?” Sakura was still confused, which only seemed to annoy Ino more.

     “Yes! Because everyone liked him, so I had to too!” Ino exclaimed exasperatedly.

     Sakura started laughing.

     “What’s so fun, huh?” Ino said. “I’m trying to confess my feelings here, and you’re laughing?!”

     It took a couple of moments for Sakura to calm herself. “I only liked Sasuke because you did! I thought any guy worthy of your attention was a guy I can get behind liking.” It’s true. Sakura liked him because it was the thing to do. She did what everyone else did and only fought because it was a reason to talk with and tease Ino.

     “... Really?” Ino said, slightly dumbfounded.

     “Yes, really!” Sakura said, stepping closer to Ino and the bouquet, around the stand. “Now, did you really mean what you said, about liking me?” Her voice lowered.

     Ino leaned in so that she was barely a breath away from Sakura. “Do you want me to tell you, or show you?”

     “Show me,” Sakura whispered.

     Ino leaned in and kissed her, softly at first, cupping her cheeks. Sakura ran her fingers through Ino’s blonde hair, appreciating that she let it grow so long. Showing that she wasn’t the fragile girl before, she deepened the kiss, pushing herself onto Ino. A soft thud was heard as Sakura pushed Ino into the wood panel of the wall. Sakura broke away as she felt Ino shudder underneath her.

     Holding Ino’s chin, Sakura gave her a devilish grin. “How about we skip the food for now? We can get breakfast tomorrow morning.”

     “That sounds like a great idea,” Ino said, breathless.

     Sakura leaned in to kiss Ino again, but Ino held her finger to the other’s mouth. “How about we take this to my room?”

     Sakura nodded. Ino grabbed her by the hand and lead her upstairs.

     Sakura, you've blossomed into a beautiful flower...