-30-"It's about time you got here, forehead. I was about to give up and change my order to go."
Sakura flopped down into the chair across from her and grimaced. "Sorry. I stopped by the hospital after giving my report and got caught up in surgery."
Ino lifted a brow. "Ouch."
"Yeah." She gave a weary smile. "But I'm off for the rest of the afternoon. In theory, at least."
"Right. We'll, I've only got time for lunch. I'm running the flower shop myself this week. Which is fine, if fairly boring. Shikamaru is covering for me right now."
Sakura lifted a brow. "Shikamaru?"
Ino smiled serenely. "Yes."
Sakura grinned. "I thought Chouji and Shika had sworn off babysitting the shop for you after that time Gai and Lee went in looking for flowers."
"I blackmail them into it occasionally." Ino said with a shrug. She took a sip of her tea and smiled. "You missed all the excitement you know."
"There was plenty of excitement in Sand, Ino."
"Right." Ino dismissed her words with a wave of her hand. "Crazy Kazekage, Jounin fighting in the heat, sand everywhere it’s not supposed to be; besides the potential for ogling men in those very attractive Sand Uniforms, that's not a job I would have wanted."
"Probably why you weren't invited!" Sakura teased.
"Invited! Ha! That was a mission, not a pleasure vacation!"
"It had its bright points." Sakura argued, eyes scanning the menu.
Sakura didn't bother to look up. "No."
"You're no fun forehead. No fun at all."
"I don't know why you're bothering with the menu. I ordered for you already. Should be here soon."
Sakura huffed and shut the menu. Ino just grinned.
"I figure if I keep this up you'll eventually show up on time. It's my new strategy."
"I show up on time!"
Ino pursed her lips. "I suppose. Usually only when it involves your precious team, although if I had to choose between Sasuke or Naruto ordering for me I'm not sure who I would pick."
Sakura smothered a laugh. "Yes. It's a choice between bland, boring but nutritional or exciting and the chance of ruining my stomach lining."
"Or Ramen," Sakura agreed with a smile.
Ino paused and narrowed her eyes. She paused only because the waitress dropped off their lunches. Taking her time, she broke her chopsticks open and stared at her.
"Something happened between you and Naruto, didn't it?"
"Ha! I knew it!" Ino's smile was triumphant. "Shika owes me money."
She waved her hand looking smug. "Tell me everything."
Sakura crossed her arms. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Ino waved a piece of beef around like it was a Kunai. "I saw Naruto this morning. Kurenai roped him into baby-sitting Ayumu and they stopped by to see Shika. He bounced. Granted, he always bounces around after a mission, but this bounce is more of a "pretty girl likes me" bounce instead of his "omg, I just got the best ramen ever" bounce."
"… You catalogue his bounces?"
"Shika figures the kid has enough luck to actually make it to Hokage. I figured I might as well start getting used to trying to read his body language now while I can. Before he is obscured by a ridiculous cloak and hat."
"Naruto is going to be Hokage," Sakura firmly told Ino, staring her down. "Believe it."
Ino laughed. "Now you're even sounding like him!"
Sakura stuck out her tongue. "Oh shut up."
"Your distraction isn't going to get you out of this conversation. What happened?"
Sakura glared at her before giving in. There really was no hope for it. "I kissed him."
"We'll it’s about damn time!" Ino said looking satisfied. She popped a mouthful of vegetables in her mouth and fairly vibrated with satisfaction. When she swallowed she shoved a chopstick at her. "He's been moping after you for years, forehead!"
Sakura dragged her chopsticks through her lunch. "I know he had a crush on me as kids… but saying 'years' is a bit much, don't you think?"
"Ha! Don't be an idiot! You've spent your entire career too focused on one thing or another to really pay attention to that boy. Man. Future Hokage! He. Is. In. Love. With. You." Clearly satisfied with her speech and picked up her tea and smirked.
Sakura shook her head and stared down the street. "Maybe."
"There is no maybe, forehead-girl. Trust me. I know these things." She paused. "And speak of the devil…"
Sakura turned and blinked. Naruto was walking down the street with Ayumu on his shoulders. Both were working their way through cups of instant ramen. Naruto was going to have to wash his hair soon if the mess along Ayumu's front was anything to go by.
"You know, forehead, if you don't want him, I think I'll take him." Ino teased. "My grocery bill would be cut in half with all the ramen."
Sakura was only paying half attention, as Naruto looked over in their direction at that moment. His face lit up as he saw her and he waved, careful not to overbalance the ramen cup on his head or the child on his shoulders. He stood easily in the crowd, uncaring that he was blocking several civilians from the store’s entrance, happy and content to just stand there and watch her.
Right up until Ayumu spilled his ramen. Jerking forward he yelped as the hot water rushed down his neck and hopped around as he got a good grip on Ayumu and lifted him from his shoulders. The little boy was laughing and grinning and soon Naruto was laughing with him and pulling noodles from his shirt. Her chest tightened at the picture he made. It was just so… so… Naruto.
A slow smile curled her lips. She was such an idiot. "You know what Ino, I think you're right."
Naruto shook the last of the noodles out of his shirt and swung Ayumu back onto his shoulders and pointed in their direction waving. The little boy waved, his smile missing teeth and as large as Naruto's. The realization that she wanted that – Naruto, ramen and messy little boy all – wasn't as startling as she thought it would be.
It was amusing, really. That it would take a mishap with ramen for her to realize what was going on. Ino was right. The smile on her face widened as Naruto sauntered off, exaggerating his walk, knowing that she was watching.
Turning her eyes back to her friend, she sighed. "I'm really in love with that idiot."