[Oneshot][Preseries] Ino and Sakura go for a walk and run into someone unexpected. No real drama; there's no "general" genre
A/N: Something that bugs me about my fanfiction rÃ©sumÃ© is the amount of romance that I've written and have ideas to write. Even more frustrating is that whenever I plan Naruto fic that involves Sakura or Shino, the idea of them as a couple wiggles in somehow. Automatic insertion of an OTP isn't a problem I've ever had before. In an attempt to remedy it, I decided to devote myself to at least one genfic involving interaction between the two of them. This is the only plot bunny that would take my bait
Burning brightly, the sun was accompanied by only a few cottony clouds in what was otherwise a clear sky. The air was calm almost to the point of lethargy, only an occasional breeze breaking the stillness. Birds flitted and sang while squirrels scampered about looking for nuts and berries. All in all, it would have been just short of cruel had Inoichi insisted that Ino stay inside rather than go out to play with Sakura after a day at the Academy. Not being one to practice cruelty towards his only daughter, Inoichi had gladly sent Ino on her way with a warning that she was to return home before dark.
Since dark wouldn't come for several hours and such an example of a day was not to be wasted in the square, Ino and Sakura had set out for the forest, their destination being the fields of wildflowers that grew there. They walked along a well-blazed trail, looking around to try to spot any deer that hadn't been frightened off by the scent of human.
"So much for rain today," Ino said as she smiled confidently at the calm blue sky through the thin canopy of tree branches. "At this rate, we'll be lucky if we get a sun shower."
"I'm glad, Ino-chan," said Sakura, walking a step behind. "It's really pretty out. I would hate if it started raining all of a sudden and ruined it."
"No rain is what would ruin it," Ino pointed out. "Imagine if it never rained and everything got dried up. It wouldn't be very pretty then, would it?"
"Oh!" Sakura blushed, ducking her head and wringing her hands. "I didn't mean... I just meant that I would hate if it rained /today/."
"Of course, Sakura-chan," Ino said with a sly grin, putting one arm companionably around Sakura's shoulders.
Peeking at Ino from the corner of her eye, Sakura allowed a small smile of her own. Ino winked and gave a quick ruffle to Sakura's hair before pulling her arm away and running ahead a bit.
"I-Ino-chan!" cried Sakura, covering her head with her hands as if to protect it.
Ino smiled playfully and sing-songed, "Catch me if you can, Sakura-chan!"
Starting slightly with realization, Sakura smiled widely and hurried to try to grab hold of Ino. Laughing, Ino dodged Sakura's hand and ran, quickly gaining a clear lead. She looked back over her shoulder, encouraging Sakura to try again.
"I'm gaining on you, Ino-chan!" Sakura warned with a giggle, hurrying to catch up.
"Never!" Ino answered melodramatically, adding a sinister chuckle just for fun.
Impish giggles and friendly taunts were thrown back and forth, filling the momentarily still air. Dirt was kicked up along the trail as Ino slowed and sped teasingly. Behind her, Sakura ran and lunged like a kitten attempting to catch hold of a string that dangled just too far out of reach.
"Come on, Sakura-chan, you almost had me that time!"
Already starting to gasp for her breath, Sakura set her eyes in determination and made another wild try at the back of Ino's orange shirt. She was so focused on this one goal, she failed to notice the tree root that Ino had jumped over. Sakura caught her foot in the arch of the root, falling flat on her face.
"Sakura-chan?" Ino jogged back to bend over her prone friend. "Heh, clumsy. Are you alright?"
Not answering, Sakura kept her head down as she slowly pushed herself up and dusted off her blue t-shirt. Her bottom lip trembled and she could feel tears pooling in her eyes though she did her best to keep them back. Sakura hated to look like the awkward child she knew she was, especially in front of Ino. Without meaning to, Sakura let out a short sniffle.
"Sakura-chan?" Ino knelt and put one hand on Sakura's upper back, looking Sakura over with concern. "Are you okay? Did you cut yourself or anything?"
Sakura wiped her eyes quickly and shook her head, finally looking up to offer Ino a smile.
"I'm okay, Ino-chan. I just got some dirt in my eyes."
For just a moment Ino looked unconvinced, and Sakura tensed with the fear that Ino might yell at her. But then Ino rolled her eyes heavenward and shook her head. With a sigh, Ino stood and offered a hand to help Sakura, which Sakura gladly took.
"What am I going to do with you?" Ino asked. Sakura ducked her head and blushed, answering with a quick shrug. "Oh, well. Look, we're already there."
Looking ahead, Sakura saw that, indeed, they had arrived at the edge of one of the largest fields that the forest had to offer. Only a few yards away, a thick bed of wildflowers spread like a quilt over the soft spring grass of the expanse of open land.
"They're so pretty," Sakura said. "And there are more than last time. Come on, Ino-chan, let's go pick some!"
"Hold on," Ino said as she took hold of Sakura's arm. Then she squinted out at the colorful carpet as though searching for something. All at once, a wide grin lit up her face.
Ino held up her hand for silence, then quickly motioned for Sakura to follow her. Carefully, almost on tiptoe, Ino edged closer to the flowers. Uncertain but curious, Sakura followed Ino's lead, always just a step behind and holding onto Ino's arm. Ino held a finger to her lips to show Sakura to stay quiet and wiggled her arm free of Sakura's loose hold. Sakura watched as Ino bent cautiously to pick up a stick from the ground and then stood back up just as cautiously. Ino glanced at Sakura over her shoulder, her eyes dancing the way they did when she knew a secret. Before Sakura could go about trying to determine it, Ino flung the stick out towards the flowerbed.
Sakura gasped and jumped back as the flowers seemed to come to life before her eyes and take flight. Blinking, looking again, Sakura realized that it was really a flurry of butterflies, rightfully startled from where they had rested.
"They're as beautiful as the flowers," Sakura breathed in awe.
"At first I thought the wind was blowing the flower heads," Ino said as if answering a question, catching Sakura's attention, "but then I realized that the movement I saw wasn't right for just a breeze to be blowing."
"Oh," Sakura said quietly, nodding. She hadn't noticed anything wrong at all, and the fact that Ino had caught on so quickly mad her feel very small. But then that was why Ino was her idol as well as her best friend, wasn't it?
Suddenly, Sakura caught sight of something at another edge of the field that Ino, looking in a different direction, didn't seem to notice. Losing it a moment later and not sure what it could be, Sakura nervously tried to get Ino's attention.
"Ino-chan," Sakura whispered. "Ino-chan, I think there's something over there!"
"What?" Ino asked as she followed Sakura's line of vision. "Did you see a deer?"
"I don't- /Yah/!" Sakura yelped and shot both hands up to her head, having felt something moving in her hair. Ino, who had snapped her attention back to see what was the matter, burst out laughing, pointing at something over Sakura's head.
Flustered, Sakura whipped her head around to see what Ino was pointing at. Seeing nothing behind her, she looked up, and was surprised when she saw a big butterfly fluttering frantically away from her. Not even bothering to blush from humiliation, Sakura watched it in fascination. It was dark blue and looked like velvet. As it flapped its wings, it caught rays of the sun and reflected them, almost seeming to sparkle, reminding Sakura of the beautiful sapphires hidden deep in her mother's jewelry box.
"Are you alright?" Ino asked with a chuckle, pulling Sakura back to reality.
"I-! When-? Why did it-?"
Ino chuckled again, then gave another light ruffle to Sakura's hair while saying, "It probably thought it had hit a jackpot and found the flower of the century."
Sakura's eyes widened as she reached subconsciously at her short hair and the ribbon that kept it out of her face. She looked longingly at the butterfly as it settled on a blossom on a tree branch overhead.
"Do you think I hurt it?" Sakura asked Ino.
Ino looked up at the butterfly thoughtfully and said, "I don't think so. Butterfly wings are really sensitive, but it looked like it was flying alright."
"I wish we had brought a net with us," Sakura said mournfully as she looked around at the other dozens of butterflies that still fluttered as though nervous of settling back down.
"Yeah, me too," Ino agreed with a pout. "Maybe we can come back another- hey, look! Somebody left one!"
Sakura looked where Ino was pointing and sure enough she could see the handle of a butterfly net leaning against a tree just a few yards off. Ino hurried to get it, but Sakura hung back and looked around uncertainly as if she might be attacked at a given moment.
"I don't know, Ino-chan," Sakura frowned as Ino trotted back to her, net in hand. "We don't know who it belongs to."
"What do you think, that it might be some evil troll's and he'll gobble us up if he finds out we used it?"
"It's not as if we're going to hurt it," Ino rolled her eyes. "Do you want that butterfly or not?"
With a blink, Sakura looked up to see that her pretty little friend from earlier was still resting on the same branch, opening and closing its wings methodically.
"Well, I guess we're just going to catch a butterfly with it," Sakura conceded. "We won't break it or anything."
"Exactly," Ino smiled, moving to stand at the base of the tree. "Now, you climb up on my shoulders and get it."
"M-me?" Sakura asked with wide eyes. "But, Ino-chan, you're much better at this kind of thing than I am!"
"But I can't stand up on your shoulders," said Ino. "That's why you'll have to do it. Besides, it landed on your head before. Maybe it will come closer so you can net it."
Still not altogether sure of what she was about to do, Sakura walked over to where Ino was standing. Perhaps it was standing right beside the tree instead of a few feet off from it, but the branch where the butterfly perched suddenly seemed much higher. Sakura gulped and sweat began to bead on her forehead.
"Ready?" Ino asked. Sakura nodded in response, lying if she ever had before. Ino pushed the handle of the net into Sakura's hands, now clammy and shaking, and crouched down to cup her hands for Sakura to step in. "Let's go."
"Let's go," Sakura said to herself under her breath, stepping into the stirrup Ino had made of her hands. She almost screamed when Ino started to hoist her up, but caught herself when she realized that she was moving quite slowly.
"It's okay, Sakura-chan," Ino said, sensing Sakura's apprehension. "I'm not going to let you fall. Just step off onto my shoulders now."
Nodding again, just then noticing that Ino was all but standing strait, Sakura carefully put one foot squarely on one of Ino's shoulders, grabbing hold of a low-hanging branch to keep her balance. Ino grunted softly as Sakura's weight rested on her shoulders and held on to Sakura's ankles for support.
"Can you reach it?" Ino asked, unable to see.
"I think so," said Sakura.
Sure enough, it seemed that the neck of the net would be just long enough for Sakura to catch the butterfly. Taking a deep breath, holding on to her support branch so tightly that her knuckles turned white, Sakura slowly reached out with the net. The butterfly didn't seem to notice. Soon, the net was right beside the butterfly, and Sakura couldn't help but feel proud. Maybe she wouldn't botch this after all.
Her hopes were shattered when the butterfly finally started to react, moving to take off. In a mild panic, Sakura swung the net in an attempt to catch the butterfly before it was too late. There was instant when she thought she had it, but it tried to escape through a narrow opening between the rim of the net and the trunk of the tree. Afraid that its wings would be injured, Sakura moved the net to give it space to flutter. This opportunity was grabbed immediately, and the butterfly made haste to flutter out of the net and away from the tree.
"Oh, no!" Sakura said, trying to get the net under the butterfly and catch it with an upward swing but failing. "Ino-chan! It got away!"
"Hurry and get down," Ino ordered. Still holding Sakura's ankles, she pushed away from the tree and out from under Sakura. She turned quickly, letting go of one ankle to grab Sakura's leg just above the knee and repeat the action with her other hand and Sakura's other leg. When Ino held her firmly, Sakura let go of the branch she'd been holding to slide down to the ground by guide of Ino's hands.
"There!" Ino pointed and Sakura quickly caught sight of the butterfly as it examined other trees as prospective resting places. Sakura's face fell when she realized that it was looking to go higher now, far above anywhere Sakura could reach just by standing on Ino's shoulders.
"I lost it," said Sakura mournfully. "I'm sorry, Ino-chan..."
"Don't give up so easily," Ino said, tone just short of harsh as she watched her prize flit about so high out of her grasp. "Look, it's coming lower again. We'll stalk it and catch when it comes close enough to us."
Ino's features softened when she looked over to Sakura's expression, one of a child who had brought home a failing grade report and a suspension notice in the same day. Poor Sakura just worried too much sometimes.
"Hey, come on," said Ino with a playful elbow nudge. She smiled at Sakura when Sakura finally faced her. "It's not the end of the world, you know. You can still get it."
"But... I almost did," Sakura admitted, looking away in shame. "I was afraid its wings would be crushed the way the net was held against the tree, so I let it go."
"That's good," Ino insisted. "We don't want a dead butterfly, do we?"
"Alright then. Now, let's get it- alive and undamaged."
"Yeah," Sakura smiled up at Ino. A moment later she started, realizing that neither of them had been keeping watch over the butterfly. Looking around frantically, Sakura asked Ino, "Where did it go?"
Ino, also realizing the mistake, tried to spot it up amongst the high branches where she'd last seen it. At last she found it, flying in a more open area but still near the field border, and quickly pointed it out to Sakura.
"Hurry," Ino said. "Let's not lose it."
"Right," Sakura agreed, gripping the net tightly. She was determined not to lose it again.
The two girls scrambled quickly after their prey, keeping a careful eye on it and looking for any opportunity to try to catch it again. It almost appeared that it was trying to throw its pursuers off the way it flew out towards the open then back by the trees. At last, it seemed to be descending.
"I think it might land on the ground somewhere," declared Ino excitedly. She frowned. "It's going behind that tree, though. If it flies into the forest we'll lose it for sure."
Sure enough, the butterfly was flying closer to the ground now, and was definitely making to go around a thick tree that stuck out awkwardly into the field. Determination overriding any worry at the butterfly getting away, Sakura hurried ahead, net ready.
Turning around the bend of the tree, Sakura gave a gasp, hopping back a pace. Ino, just behind her, bumped into Sakura and nearly knocked them both over. Then she saw what Sakura had seen and immediately became defensive.
Aburame Shino, that weird kid from their Academy class. The quiet guy who always seemed to have a bug buzzing around or crawling on him. Right now, he had the very butterfly that Ino and Sakura had tried to catch perched placidly on an outstretched finger of an outstretched arm. His other hand was tucked into his coat pocket, and it occurred to Sakura that she'd never noticed him take his hands out of his pockets before except to take tests.
As she was prone to doing in the face of people she didn't know well, Sakura huddled up and ducked her head so she was looking at Shino through her bangs. She moved her hands uncertainly along the handle of the butterfly net in place of wringing them. Standing just behind her, Ino stood tall, one hand placed protectively on Sakura's shoulder as she looked with a frown upon this intruder.
For several abnormally long minutes, there was silence between the three of them. Barely noticeable, a few drops of rain fell in a polite sprinkle even as the sun reached out from behind a light cloud to caress those below; the sun shower Ino had predicted.
"That's my net," Shino broke the silence.
Hearing his voice, surprisingly deep for his age and just a bit muffled by the high collar he wore, Sakura jumped and even Ino started. It wasn't what he'd said, for his words had been simple and nigh toneless, but the fact that both had just realized they'd never heard him speak before. When the initial shock passed and Sakura grasped what had been said, she blushed deeply and held the net out for him to take, apologizing profusely.
Ino, on the other hand, was quite annoyed. Her stomach churned sourly at the sight of Shino having done what she'd wanted to so effortlessly, and at Sakura being so upset when they'd been having fun just a short while ago. Spurred by this frustration, Ino felt like being unpleasant.
"Well, you obviously don't need it," Ino said rather nastily as she titled her head and looked at Shino down the end of her nose. That was when she realized that Shino hadn't yet taken the net from Sakura, who was still holding it out. Ino said to Shino sharply, "Are you going to take it or aren't you?"
"But I don't need it."
Growling, hating to be toyed with- especially in monotone- Ino wrenched the net from Sakura's hands and tossed it carelessly at Shino's feet where he glanced at it without a word. Sakura gasped and got even redder in the face, almost matching her hair ribbon.
"S-sorry," Sakura sputtered, referring Ino's behavior as well as the unpermitted use of the butterfly net. "It was just laying there and we were going to be careful with it-"
"You shouldn't chase butterflies," Shino cut off Sakura's ramblings.
"Hm?" Sakura asked, finally looking up at Shino.
"You shouldn't chase butterflies," Shino repeated. "You're supposed to stay still and let them come to you. Sometimes they stay on you, even when you move."
Demonstrating, he moved his hand in a slow, wide circle. Sure enough, the butterfly stayed where it was, its only movement the methodic opening and closing of its wings. Sakura watched with fascinated awe, but Ino was in no position to be impressed. For her money, this kid was making fun of them. Ino didn't take kindly to being teased, and took even less kindly to people teasing Sakura.
"Well, /excuse us/," Ino said, taking Sakura by the upper arm to lead her away. "I'm sorry you had to share space with such ignorance. Let's go, Sakura-chan."
"But, Ino-chan," Sakura said in a whisper as she was tugged away from Shino by the arm, "he's always studying bugs. I think he would know."
"Sure he knows," Ino said, not bothering to speak quietly like Sakura had. "That doesn't give him the right to rub it in our faces. And catch our butterfly while he's at it."
Sakura wasn't so sure that was what had happened, but didn't say anything more. Ino usually knew better than she did, and was probably right. But... Glancing over her shoulder at Shino, who stood perfectly in place where he'd been left, and the butterfly still sitting calmly on his finger, Sakura almost put up an argument, no matter how half-hearted it might have been, against Ino. For just a split second before being pulled away by Ino, she'd been certain that Shino was going to hand the butterfly over to her.
Getting the feeling that Shino was looking her in the eyes from behind his glasses, Sakura blushed and started to say something- thank him for the advice, bid him a good evening, simply say she'd see him in school the next day. But Sakura's voice lodged itself in her throat and her entire vocabulary hid when, through wide eyes, she saw the butterfly on Shino's finger finally take off, only to be caught in a spider's web moments later, the fat, hairy resident of the web springing into action at once. Shino glanced up the happenings just above him, and then looked back at Sakura, and that feeling of eye contact was reestablished. This time, Sakura had no interest in saying anything. She only turned away, stricken, to go along more cooperatively with Ino.
"What's the matter?" Ino asked, sensing that something was wrong in the way Sakura tensed and paled.
"N-nothing is the matter," Sakura assured with a half-hearted smile, hurrying along the way Ino was leading. "Let's just go, uh, find somewhere else to play, Ino-chan."
Whew, just about lost face at the end there, and added a crush. You can totally see where it almost happened, and there isn't even nearly as much Shino as I had originally planned, and it's much shorter than I'd intended, but I'm reasonably satisfied with this little bit of nonsense regardless.
Praise appreciated, concrit treasured, flames raspberried