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Game Face by Hito Rasu

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Story notes: Runaway plot bunny
Chapter notes: This takes place ten years after the conclusion of Game.Set.Match. so Ino and Sakura are in their late twenties.
Game Face

Ino had a secret. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a secret per se, but it was definitely something that she didn’t want too many people to know about. When she was little, it wasn’t really a problem, but the more she advanced with the mind-transfer jutsu the worse it became. Really, Ino couldn’t help it. People were literally open books to her and she had always been curious by nature. So by default, Ino had become a master eavesdropper.

This wouldn’t be a problem if this secret wasn’t compounded by Ino’s not-so-secret temper. Instead of gathering intel, processing it, and then coming to the most rational conclusion, something that Ino could do in her sleep when she was in mission mode, Ino had a tendency to…well, overreact. The first time Sakura had noticed this was when she was the unfortunate recipient of an Ino-style meltdown. Things were said and feelings were hurt, and it was a month before Hinata felt it was safe to visit the apartment again, despite Ino’s profuse apologies. ‘Really,’ Sakura had thought at the time, ‘after all they had been through, she couldn’t believe Ino had thought Sakura and Hinata were having an affair. As if! Just because she and Hinata had been sitting on the couch and reciting Kiba’s latest attempts at poetry (he was going through his artist phase) didn’t give Ino the right to barge in there and break Hinata’s nose.’ The nose had been fixed but it was too late, Sakura knew Ino’s secret.

Now, ten years later, Ino was once again indulging in her greatest vice. Not that the past ten years had been eavesdrop-free (she still had the scar from that broken beer bottle) but aside from some minor upsets and some major groveling, Ino thought that she had been well on her way to outgrowing this rather unpleasant habit. But the opportunity had presented itself so flawlessly, and her alibi for her present location was solid. If anyone saw her, Ino could claim to have left some papers in her classroom. On a six month leave of absence after being injured on a mission, Ino had been reassigned to teach for a term at the ninja academy. Up until this point, the experience had proved to be slightly boring and mundane. In fact, if it wasn’t for the perk of being able to follow a “normal” schedule provided by a job with regular hours, Ino would have given the experience up as a lost cause.

However, today was about to change everything. When she had heard the voices coming from the classroom an hour after the last bell had rung, Ino was startled. Upon recognizing the voices of three of the eleven year old boys in Iruka’s class, she knew exactly what had happened. Iruka-sensei had always been one to motivate his students, and Ino guessed that the boys were staying after to practice some new jutsu. Ino would have continued walking by if she hadn’t heard the words “hot” and “Yamanaka.”

Ino had another secret, which was really a not-so-secret secret. Ino was vain, borderline narcissistic. So when her eavesdropping was compounded by her vanity, she quickly stopped and moved closer to the closed classroom door.

“Yeah…I guess she’s okay…what do you think, Mioki?”

“Hold on, Transform…(poof)…There, did you see?”

“I still don’t think you’re doing it right” said the third voice.

Mioki, the second voice responded, “Well, what was wrong?”

“You got her body shape all wrong,” piped up the first voice, “and you need more, you know, curves.”

“Try again,” ordered the third voice.

“Okay, Transform…(poof)…Well, what do you think?”

“Definitely sexier, that’s for sure. And you finally got the hair right,” added the third voice.”

“Hey, I don’t see you trying to have blond hair.”

“Why would I want it? Anyways, no one is every going to believe it’s her.”

“But,” said the first voice, “it has to be. Ino-sensei is so pretty.”

“Yeah,” said Mioki, “the sexy-no jutsu that Konohamaru taught us is supposed to be about someone beautiful.”

Out in the hallway, Ino was rethinking her role at the academy. There was a difference between being a teacher and being The Hot Teacher. She could get used to this. Scooting closer to the door, Ino strained to hear more.

“I know that,” said the third voice, “I just think that maybe we could try someone else.”

“Why?” asked the first voice.

“Well,” said the third voice, “Don’t you think that Ino-sensei is just a bit…old?”

“Oh,” the other two said in unison, finally understanding their friend’s reluctance.

“Yeah, she is old.”

“Way old. In fact, I think she’s almost as old as my mom,” said Mioki.

“No way,” said the third voice, “Wow. That is old.”

Ino had heard enough. Deciding it wasn’t a good policy to beat up Iruka’s students, she started to walk down the hallway again. Unfortunate, before she left hearing range, she heard Mioki say “I know, what about Sakura-sensei? I see her at the hospital sometimes and she always looks nice.”

“Yeah,” said the first voice, “Plus, she looks way younger.”

“Yup,” agreed the third voice sagely, “way younger.”


Later that Night

Sakura wandered into the apartment and set her keys on the table. Heading into the living room, she immediately knew something was wrong.

“Ino,”

“What?”

“Why are you sitting in the dark?”

“Because.”

“Okay. What’s with the bathrobe?”

“Nothing.”

“And uh…are those…fuzzy pink slippers?”

“…Maybe.”

“Are you mad at me?”

“Yes.”

“Did I do something to make you mad at me?”

“…Not exactly.”

“Whatever, I’m going upstairs to change and when I get back we can talk about this.”

Five minutes later, Sakura headed down the stairs and sat next to Ino.

“Sakura?”

“Mmm?”

“What’s with the bathrobe?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“And the uh…fuzzy slippers?”

“Fashion statement.”

“Uh huh.”

“Hey, Ino. Wanna know a secret?”

“Fine.”

“I worked a twelve hour shift today and my feet are killing me.”

“That’s not a secret,” Ino said, desperately trying, and ultimately failing to stay mad.

“No, but at the end of the shift I looked so out of it that one of the patients suggested that maybe I was getting to old for the rigors of hospital work.”

“That’s crazy! How old was the patient?”

“I think she was six.”

“And she said ‘rigors of hospital work’?”

“Not exactly, it was more like ‘you look old, this place makes people tired’.”

“Well, if you’re old then I’m old.”

“I sure feel old.”

“Too old to fool around?”

“I think I can expend some of my energy trying to recapture my youth.”

“Hah! As if you could actually capture me.” So saying, Ino jumped off the couch and sprinted up the stairs.

Sakura followed at a more sedate pace. It was true that she was tired from her shift, a shift that had started well before the sun was even up, but she hadn’t been so tired that she hadn’t stopped by the academy earlier that day to pick up Ino. Mioki sure had a big mouth, a trait that seemed to run in the family if his little sister was anything to go by. Ino had her secrets, but Sakura was allowed to have a few as well.
Chapter end notes: Please R and R. I love your comments!
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