intraspective: (gazing down thoughtfully)
[personal profile] intraspective
The trip to Konoha had been blissfully uneventful and a tension that Ino hadn't even been aware of drained away as the day had gone on, which almost, but did not quite, eradicate the peculiar feeling that she was on vacation in truth and not… home.

It was nice to see her parents, however, and Ino pretended that she didn't notice the way her mother frowned at her appearance or the glances over her head between them (at seventeen, Ino was resigned to never getting to be taller than they were) and concentrated on enjoying just being at the shop and explaining to Zack what each flower was and what it meant when combined with other flowers.

That was a topic that kept her well entertained until supper, wherein the talk had turned to more general matters and Ino found herself trying to stifle yawns over her rice. Zack's dietary habits earned her a raised eyebrow, when Zack wasn't looking, but were handled otherwise without comment for which Ino was grateful for.

All the gratefulness in the world, however, was going to keep her awake long once they'd retired from the table to the living room and had settled themselves on the couch. It wasn't more than a few minutes before she was fast asleep.

And that, all unknown to Ino, was when her father set his tea down on the coffee table and gave her boyfriend a blue-eyed glance that verged on hostile.

"So," he said, "my daughter."

[NFB, for ze puppy, la la la!]

Date: 2010-12-24 12:32 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Hmmmm)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
Truth be told, Zack had been waiting for this. It was bad enough, wasn't it, being the odd-man-out in Konoha. There wasn't anything quite like being the boyfriend to add tension between himself and Ino's father. Add to that the fact that Zack would have been shocked if her family hadn't noticed something was amiss with Ino lately...

He met the man's look evenly, with blue eyes that were set firm and not about to glance away, not for so much as an instant. This was not the same puppy who had been interrogated over a broomstick in the shop, months before.

"Your daughter?"

Date: 2010-12-24 12:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
Inoichi studied the boy in front of him. Older gaze, cooler eyes. He'd carried himself differently all through the day and Inoichi had been making a study of how humans acted for many years now.

"My daughter," he repeated, voice entirely even, utterly bland. "The one who has lost weight, lost sleep, and was as jumpy as a feral cat today." And who happened to have fallen asleep against Zack.

Inoichi was not best pleased, no.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:38 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Back)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
And Zack didn't blame him one bit. He didn't look away, however. No matter how much he wanted to stare down at his knees, he wasn't going to let himself look away.

"A couple of months ago, she stumbled across a group of remnants of an enemy nation's army when we were visiting my home." He squared his shoulders a little. "They were talking about plans to come after and kill me, sir. So she took care of them."

And that much, he could say with pride. That was his girlfriend, doing what she saw needed to be done.

"Unfortunately, that... made her into a target. The other week, some far higher-ranking individuals of the same army grabbed her, while I was out on a mission."

He tapered off, looking down at Ino, that guilty frown working over his mouth as he reached to gently smooth some hair out of her eyes. He wasn't even going to consider being shy about it. They belonged to one another. Let Inoichi think what he might.

"It took me a few days to get her back. They were... rough."

Date: 2010-12-24 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
The glance, the touch, those spoke of permanence. Inoichi would be lying to himself if he pretended that didn't distress him on some level but that, that was a minor thing in comparison to the rest of it.

The words of cruelty done by others.

"How rough."

It wasn't a question. It was a demand.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:40 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Yuhhh-huh.)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
Zack pulled in a long, slow breath, and then he exhaled it all at once and shook his head.

"As rough as they wanted to be." Which answered nothing at all. "Her hands suffered the worst of it. She was hospitalized for a couple of days, one of our Turks gave her a healing potion for the more serious injuries. I didn't think she was going to make it, when I found her."

When he'd turned into a human lawnmower and plowed through the Wutai like they were nothing more than weeds.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
Didn't think she was going to make it.

Inoichi was well acquainted with each and every one of those words and they still took a moment for him to make sense of them when applied to Ino.

"Most of our abilities are based around being able to use our hands." If ice air could waft from a voice, the room would be frozen. "Clever of them."

That was not a compliment.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:42 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Hrm.)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
Zack didn't suspect that it was.

"Wutai is home to a good many ninja," he explained, his mouth running on autopilot while he looked down at Ino, his mind suddenly not so much in the conversation as it was a million miles away, in a cave, worrying that the Turks couldn't possibly arrive in time. "The Crescent Unit consists of samurai, but... They were the country's elite, before I lost them their war."

Date: 2010-12-24 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
The boy went distant and Inoichi marked exactly when. That sort of disconnect, of being not quite there was obvious when you knew how to look.

"Tell me about the war," he said, his voice firm but not sharp. Get him talking about something else and then he'd angle the conversation back around to his daughter. Inoichi was by no means done probing what had happened to her but there was no point in asking questions when the boy wasn't even there.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:44 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Look Down)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
Zack shrugged his shoulders a little.

"I don't know what it was about," he admitted. "ShinRa invaded Wutai, and they put up a fight. It's been going on for years, and ShinRa finally won a little more than a year ago, because of a successful raid on their fort on Mount Tamblin. I fought down an officer there before finishing the job. He'd be the one who started this whole 'get revenge on Zack' thing."

Shouldn't have left him alive. Shouldn't have. But he did. Again and again.

No more.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
"Why did you leave him alive?"

It was… a question that, Inoichi reflected, he'd very rarely had to ask in his business.

Usually it was the other way around.

Why did you kill them? Who sent you? What was your mission?

Date: 2010-12-24 12:45 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Seriousface)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
The corner of Zack's mouth twitched.

"My job wasn't to kill him. My job was to incapacitate the troops so that we could occupy the fort." He sighed heavily, looking up at Inoichi. "I know it was stupid to leave him alive. He was laying on the flat of his back, defeated, and he told me to finish him. I didn't. So he said he'd have my head, and I told him that I'd be waiting."

So, really, he'd been cocky. He wouldn't deny it if he was accused of it.

"This was... I think it was October, last year. I always expected them to keep it between them and me. It's not their style to drag in people who aren't involved. If I'd known that Ino was involved the last time I'd run into them, I wouldn't have hesitated to finish them off."

There was more Combat Mode in those words than he cared to admit. It was useful, being able to shut down those parts of him that cared, all on a whim. He just wished now that he was better at making use of it.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
"Never leave an enemy alive when you're facing them," he murmured, "for they will come and stab you in the back."

He'd learnt that well enough, Inoichi supposed, with a half-lidded glance at the picture his daughter and this--man, he supposed, though boy felt more fitting. Bias, Inoichi thought, letting the silence grow, was nothing he was immune to.

"Do you value your life so little that you'll have them come after you again and again?"

Until, of course, Ino had gotten involved.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:46 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Seeeerious)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
"It's not that," Zack replied, shaking his head a little. "I respect what they stood for. Even as a defeated nation, Wutai deserved people who cared enough about it to do what needed to be done in order to rebuild after a long, drawn-out war that almost destroyed their way of life. ShinRa wouldn't do that."

He drew in a deep breath, and then shrugged one shoulder, the one farthest from Ino.

"I gave them too much credit. Wutai doesn't need military elite. Not if they care more for revenge than for the well-being of their home and their culture."

He just wished that it hadn't been such a hard-learned lesson.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
"An enemy that swears it will come after you is not one that sounds like they will not."

Inoichi studied him with cool eyes.

"You learnt that." Unspoken went the word 'finally'.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:48 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Worried)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
Zack winced, and he nodded a little.

"I'm so sorry," he murmured. "Ino never should have gotten involved. This is my fault, I know that. If I'd just gotten rid of them when I had the chance..."

They could have come after him again and again and again. He wouldn't have cared.

But they went after Ino, instead.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
Because going after a weakness was usually good strategy. Usually.

Love was a weakness and a strength all in one and the only way to determine which it was in a situation was to examine the particular circumstances surrounding it.

"Apologies and guilt do not change the past."

Date: 2010-12-24 12:49 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Scars)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
Judging by the trail of bodies that Zack had left behind, love hadn't turned out to be the weakness, in this case.

"I know," Zack replied. "But this is something that I need to apologize for anyhow. I have to own up to this. I'm not going to risk it ever happening again."

And if that required a little guilt and a few scars, then so be it.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
"The father in me," Inoichi said, leaning back and looking up at the ceiling. "Says that there's no apology strong enough."

Not when it came to 'Ino' and 'she might not make it' being in the same sentence.

"The shinobi in me," he continued, "says your price has been paid."

In her blood.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:50 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Breathe In)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
"Too steep," Zack murmured, sounding all but numb. "It was too steep."

He had to sound numb. If he didn't go blank, then he'd crack. And Ino's father was not somebody that he particularly wanted to crack to. And this was something that he couldn't even plaster the happyface on for. There was nothing happy about this, except, perhaps, for the fact that he'd made it in time. And even then, only barely.

"I don't know what to do for her," he added, looking down at her again. "Potions are easy. Injuries like that, they heal and they're gone. But this doesn't end at injuries."

Date: 2010-12-24 12:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
Inoichi simply nodded, his point made.

"How has she been?"

Date: 2010-12-24 12:51 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Thoughtful)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
"Staying awake all night, jumping at shadows," Zack replied, sighing a little. "Attacking anything that strikes her as a threat."

He'd heard the radio broadcasts. He could draw his conclusions from there.

"She does a little better when she knows I'm around, I think. But I can't be there all the time."

Much as he wanted to.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
"She's scared," Inoichi murmured, "and you saved her."

That, at least, made sense.

"Were the two of you planning to stay here long?"

Date: 2010-12-24 12:52 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Take A Seat)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
"I don't know," Zack admitted. "We've got another week and a half left for our winter break, and I'm just kind of following Ino around in the meantime."

It was the puppy in him.

"I don't think she knows where she wants to be right now either, really. But I'll be there while she figures it out."

He lifted his chin a little at that. Even the ninjas of Konoha would have a hell of a time getting Zack to leave, if Ino decided that here was where she belonged.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
He lifted his chin and Inoichi arched an eyebrow.

"And if she decides to stay here? On a permanent basis."

That Inoichi didn't think she would, though she might surprise him, was left unspoken. It was a question he wanted an answer to.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:53 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Headtilt Pout)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
"Then I would find some way to prove that I'm worth keeping around," Zack said, simply.

Either that, or he'd set up camp in the woods. He was a stubborn thing when he needed to be.

The thing was, it was starting to look more and more as though they wouldn't miss him back home if he left. Midgar didn't need Zack. SOLDIER didn't need Zack. Ino did.

Date: 2010-12-24 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thought-seeker.livejournal.com
That earned Zack a thoughtful glance. Well, he'd known Ino was head over heels for the boy on a level that Inoichi had to admit he was a bit--sad--about, because it meant she wasn't just his girl any longer.

It was gratifying to hear that the one his daughter had given her heart away to was as loyal as all that.

"Well enough," he murmured, giving little indication of what he was thinking. "Ino will have her chance to rest and--" Inoichi looked at the boy, "--you might have the chance to pick up a few new things."

Date: 2010-12-24 12:54 am (UTC)
puppy_fair: (Nod and smile)
From: [personal profile] puppy_fair
"Thank you, sir," Zack said, bowing his head just slightly. "Gods know, I still have a lot to learn."

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Yamanaka Ino

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