"This whole thing is stupid," she muttered to herself and completely ignored the crutches leaning by the door. There was no way she was walking with those. She would rather limp the whole way to meet Temari. Not to mention skimming on the drugs Tsunade prescribed her. There was absolutely no chance she was going to walk around like a zombie.
Who am I to be complaining? she thought and looked up at the peaceful sky. All the Suna nin have lost their home and their Kazekage is struggling to make this work. I have to get a hold of myself and concentrate on getting better already!
It was easy enough to spot Ino in the bustling streets of Konoha. Temari had been on the lookout for her, of course, but that bobbing blonde ponytail could only belong to one person. It was nice to be able to sit down for a bit, have a nice talk with a friend after returning from a mission. When Ino drew closer, Temari waved and called out to her.
"Stubborn, aren't you?" she remarked. It was, for her, a standard greeting. Somehow, she had never quite mastered the art of 'Hello' and 'Good day.' Instead, she dove straight into conversation, figuring that those kinds of pleasantries were obvious and inane.
She detached herself from the doorframe of the dumpling shop where she had been waiting and placed her hands on her hips, regarding the younger girl with a raised eyebrow. "What happened to your crutches? Aren't you supposed to be using them or something?"
"Would you have used the crutches? I don't think so," Ino brushed past her after giving her a reassuring, confident smile and sat down, albeit a bit more painfully than she would have liked. Still, she did it with the same flair and finesse she did everything with. "I'm fine, anyway. Those medics just want an excuse to touch me," one small hand brushed away some stray from her face.
The fishnet cuffs she wore on her wrists looked looser as of late, probably because she had lost a good few pounds in the hospital. As much as Ino claimed to want to lose weight and diet, she never actually stuck to anything and basically ate whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.
The waitress had already brought them tea which Ino poured for herself and Temari. Her hand shook around the kettle and for one moment she thought she was going to drop it all over her lap. Luckily she caught it with her other hand quickly and put it down as if nothing happened. "I'm starving. I've been too tired to cook lately and Shikamaru-well, as far as being a roommate goes, he sucks at cooking and cleaning."
It was easier to concede the point. Ino was right after all, Temari wouldn't have used the crutches on pain of death. She'd often used her fan as her crutch. She patted the large metal tessen that she'd set leaning against the table with one hand, as if to make sure it was still where she had placed it. It really was a bulky weapon to tote around, and while she had graduated to a smaller and more easily concealable fan, Temari occasionally liked to bring out her old one just for old times sake.
"He's a lazy one, that boy," remarked Temari of Shikamaru. "He's too busy moaning about women's work and how men can't lose to women to actually bother to do that kind of thing himself. Probably out staring at clouds more often than not."
Her sharp eyes had noted the wobble when Ino lifted the teapot, and just how much thinner Ino was than usual. Ino was naturally thin to begin with, but now that she was sick, she looked borderline skeletal. Something would have to be done. "If you were starving, we could always have gone for something more filling than anko, you know. Ichiraku Ramen's right across the street, or you can always come over to my place and I can make dinner."
Ino waved one hand carelessly. "I'll be fine. I have some stuff in the refrigerator I'll warm up later. The anko is pretty filling anyway, with all that bean paste. Too much of it makes me ill," she lifted up the cup and took a small sip of the hot liquid. "Please don't even talk to me about his laziness or I am going to throw this cup at the wall. You should see the paperwork that filled up while I was in the hospital. I had to throw a pan at him to get him to finish it up."
Not like she had much of an appetite lately. Whatever herbs she did take from the medics (only if the pain was debilitating) made her feel nauseous more often than not. Her teammates were starting to notice and loomed over her constantly to make sure that she was eating things. She was sure she would be back to her old, comfortable weight in no time. "How are things going with you? Better?" Temari had been in charge of helping build some new homes for the Suna nin last time she checked.
"Tch. I guess you could call it that, now that the housing situation has been more or less settled." Being in charge of building homes for a displaced people hadn't exactly been a glamourous position, but Temari hadn't become a kunoichi for fame or glory. The refugees were still her people, after all, and when she was given responsibility, she did it to the best of her ability. She had done the best by them, of that she had no doubt.
There had been a few more missions here and there since that project had wrapped up. With so many extra Suna ninja not really doing anything, Temari was sure that both the Hokage and Kazekage (it was still bizarre to her to refer to Gaara as such) were trying to figure out a way to integrate them into this new... society, or whatever it was that they currently had.
She set a stick of dumplings on Ino's plate. "Eat. You're so thin, you'll need to get on a diet for people who actually want to put on weight if this goes on. Shikamaru's not been looking after you properly, has he? Tsk. Men."
The dumpling was as delicious as always and Ino was happy to find that some things in this world never changed. Taking a big bite out of one, she made a noise to indicate both its deliciousness and disagreeing with Temari's statement. "Domestic stuff isn't exactly his forte. He burned cereal once, I swear. Luckily Chouji is an amazing cook. I'll gain ten pounds in no time with him around." Ino dabbed the side of her mouth with a napkin. "I'm not that thin anyway. It's what happens when one is forced to eat that disgusting hospital food."
Temari disagreed with Ino's self-assessment, but instead, asked, "When do the medics say you'll be up and about and ready to do missions again?"
She took a bite of the dumpling, nodding at the creamy red bean centre. Yes, there were few things in life as good as sipping tea and eating some anko whilst talking with a good friend. Her finger traced a line along the wood grains in the table.
"The medics don't know anything. One week they tell me one thing, the next another. I'll just ask Hokage-sama what she thinks the next time I see her. Since she is the best medic, she'll give me the best opinion!" Ino huffed and took an angry bite. Stupid medics. Stupid protocol.
What if they never let her back on missions? What if she were doomed to paperwork for the rest of her life? No, she wouldn't think like that. She had to think positive! She WOULD go back to work and soon!
Temari could literally see energy vibrations emanating off Ino. The girl was really just too restless, but she was in that stage where doing too much would just exacerbate her injuries and lengthen the healing process instead. Still, she could sympathise. She'd always hated having to sit around waiting to get well while others actually went out on missions. It was aggravating, especially the feeling that you'd never get well enough again to do something worthwhile.
"You could always get Shikamaru to play shoji with you while waiting. Get your mind off your injuries."
"Are you kidding me? I always end up throwing the board out the window whenever we play. He beats me in all of five moves, ten if he's trying to win the slow way. It would only aggravate me," Ino leaned her chin in her hand, looking up at the older woman. "I've been busy with the flower shop lately, though business is kind of slow. I guess it's good that death rates are down, but it's bad for business!"
Of course, no one was getting married or giving their girlfriends flowers either. How depressing. "I'd even take doing paperwork for fun."
Temari laughed. That sounded just like Shikamaru and Ino. She cupped her tea and sipped, inhaling the fresh-brewed scents of it. Ah yes, this definitely hit the spot just right. Tea and anko was where it was at. "Sounds like things have been pretty slow for you, all things considered. Tch. it's been going around, looks like. What about that girl you always hang with? The medic-nin." She frowned, brow creasing, fishing for a name that somehow seemed to be eluding her at the moment. "Sakura, was it? Is she out on a mission or something then?"
"Something like that," Ino answered smoothly, though her eyes darkened with worry. How long had it been since she was gone? Naruto didn't specify how long it had been, but it had been days since he came back from his mission.
The reply caused another raised eyebrow, but Temari didn't question her further. When one attained as much experience as she had, it became easy enough to know which questions were worth pursuing and which ones were the 'if I tell you I'll have to kill you' sort. This one seemed to be more of the latter than the former, so she forged onward to other things instead.
"Sometimes I forget just how humid Konoha is compared to Suna." She turned her blonde head to look out of the shop. It always seemed to startle her just that little bit to look out and see greenery, to wake up in the morning and feel the weight of water vapour hanging in the air. Suna had been so dry, so crisp, so... gritty. It had been different. She lifted a hand to rub the nape of her neck. "There are a lot of trails and such around here to walk around and such."
Ino snorted in a very unladylike manner. "Yeah, you can tell by your hair how humid it is. It's even more unruly than usual," she joked. As soon as she made the jab about her hair she thought of Sakura and all the jabs they made at each other about looks, boys, and all the rest. Worry gnawed at her insides and she chewed the inside of her cheek nervously. Was it really nothing? Was Naruto just being dramatic? She really didn't know.
"The flowers here are nicer than desert flowers, I think," she said absently. "You should come by the shop and see."
"It's a toss up between unruly hair or getting sand in it just walking out the door," Temari remarked laconically. Hair was hair. It was a bother to look after whether in Suna or in Konoha. She preferred to keep hers long enough to tie back without getting annoying wisps flying in her face, and short enough to make caring for it a simple task in the mornings.
"I've been by your family's flower shop," she pointed out. Mostly, though, she tried to stay away. Temari and plants just didn't mix somehow. Probably her desert upbringing or something along those lines.
"Have you? I didn't realize," Ino didn't even know what she saying. Everything was so... wrong. So off. "I can't just SIT here!!"
Saying that Ino was a trifle upset would probably qualify as an understatement, and seeing her current state, Temari had a hunch about what it was that had set her off, but nothing too definite to confirm her suspicions. The matter in question, however, seemed to be the sort of thing that was a Konoha-matter, and not something lightly shared with somebody from Suna, no matter how close a relationship the two allies had forged thus far. As the daughter (and now the sister of) a Kazekage, Temari understood such matters only too well.
Moving to a quieter place might be a good idea, she decided, where Ino's exclamations wouldn't draw quite this much attention. Hauling the girl back to the rooms she now shared with her brothers didn't seem like a good idea. For one, they were neither of them from Konoha, and for another, they were male. In other words, they would be useless and only serve to get in the way. She wasn't about to take Ino back to Shikamaru's, either. The whole point of today was to get her out of that apartment, after all.
"Let's go some place quieter where we can talk in peace, Ino." Temari gestured to the waitress for the bill, indicating that they wanted the rest of the anko boxed up as she set money down on the table. There were those paved paths by the canal, and benches too, if memory served her right, she hadn't been by that area in a while, but they were close enough, just a couple blocks around the corner. "We can go talk by the canals. Get you out to see some sky and sun, instead of staying cooped up indoors."
Ino liked to be outdoors. She was born to be under the sun and the sky with the flowers. She couldn't just blurt out what Naruto had told her to Temari, even she had a sense of propriety. But Temari WAS Gaara's sister, it was only a matter of time before she found out anyway since Sakura was lost in Suna. Her head and her side were burning and for a moment she forgot how to breathe. Sakura was so important to her, what if something had actually happened?
"I can't stand anymore," Ino gasped and collapsed right on the wooden bench just as her knees gave out. This was too cruel. Why wasn't anyone DOING anything?
Tch. And they said that men were stubborn. Temari sighed, eyeing the younger girl critically. Well, her colour was high, and her legs were shaking. Other than that she seemed fine. She was probably winded, overexerted herself walking around without crutches. Were women in Konoha always this... idiotic? "You're tiring yourself out. Can't keep worrying over something you have no control over," she said philosophically. "Work on getting better first, then you can do something other than loll around all day watching others go on missions."
Temari set the box of anko down next to Ino, and then sat herself. It was nice here down by the canals. There were lots of trees and the breeze was warm and balmy and carried with it the scent of flowers and dew, vastly different from the sand encrusted winds that howled across the deserts of Wind.
"Thanks for the words of wisdom Temari," she said through clenched teeth, "but if I wanted to get advice I'd open a fortune cookie." Her leg was starting to throb and damn it, why couldn't she be better already? She was ready to run through the forest and countries to go look for her friends if the Hokage let her. Ino hated to wait. Patience was a virtue that she did not have. "Stop reminding me. I know it sucks, okay? Try living this sort of immobile life."
She would have to pump Naruto for more information it seemed. Ino would never be able to sleep at this rate. Not until Sakura was back in Konoha.
Ino's irritation at her situation only served to amuse Temari. Schadenfreude, perhaps. "Did you think I haven't been in your situation before?" They were both ninja, after all, and injuries and down time were part of the job. One just had to take such things in stride. It was tough, but there were so many other things one could do instead. Grumpy sick people were always so annoying to be around, but they were friends after all, and putting up with Ino's bad humour was just another part of their relationship. The girl was just too impatient.
Temari opened the anko box. "You never finished the anko. Here." She shoved the cardboard container onto Ino's lap. "You're not only worried about your health just because you're going stir crazy. It's something else, isn't it?"
Ino hesitated for a moment. "Sakura's gone. She was... abducted somewhere in the area where Suna was. They don't know who did it," she quickly stuffed a pastry in her mouth to keep her voice from shaking. "But it's fine! She's strong, so I'm sure she'll be okay! I'm not worried at all!"
Well. That explained why Ino was so worried and impatient. Temari had the feeling that nothing she said would really make a difference. Helplessness was something she despised the most, and feeling that way when a friend was in dire straits simply sucked the most. Wordlessly, she placed a hand on Ino's shoulder, more as a form of commisseration than anything else.
After a while, she said. "I'm sure that Tsunade-sama will send people out to retrieve her. If Suna's aid is called for, I know that we will definitely send help."
"Suna's aid," Ino laughed bitterly and sneered. "There is no more Suna Temari. I don't even think any of you, except maybe you and your brothers, will even be called to action anytime soon. No one knows where anyone stands on anything. I HATE this! I don't know ANYTHING anymore! This is ridiculous!" Ino threw her hands up and immediately regretted the action. There was no reason to take her anger out on Temari but it seemed like the world was turned upside down.
"I have to go," the anko was completely forgotten. "Thanks for the food."
So this was where it stood then. Ino's injured and frustrated. She's worried over Sakura and can't do anything. She's taking out her anger on you. Temari calmly repeated those words in her head, but there was a growing anger at the insult that Ino had given to Suna and to her. It was a low blow, all the more infuriating because there was truth beneath those furious words. It is a bad thing to hit an ally. Do not hit the injured Leaf ninja. Control. Remember that no matter the situation, a shinobi must keep emotions on the inside.
Suna's relationship with Konoha was more important than petty insults mouthed by a girl who was injured and suffering emotionally. She was the oldest sister of the Kazekage. She was the daughter of the previous Kazekage. She would not give in to her emotions and give Ino a good, hard slap, no matter how much she wanted to. Her hands were clenched so tightly in her lap that her short nails were digging into her palms. Coolly, she replied, "You're welcome." She did not mention the insult; if she did, she would not be responsible for her actions. "Get well, Ino."