#24: Good Night

It was a mission that went horribly wrong. She tried everything in her power to save him, and considering she was the Hokage's apprentice, there was a lot she was able to try.

Still, for all of her wishing, and knowing what he had ahead of him, she couldn't save him.

Sakura pronounced him dead shortly before midnight.

A hearty, healthy cry filled the room just after midnight. Cheers and congratulations soon followed. She was exhausted, but there was a feeling of accomplishment as she gazed upon the face of her newborn son. She felt strange though. Even Shikamaru, who helped her with the whole labor, was displaying more joy at the birth than she was.

She blamed it on the odd feeling she'd had over the last few hours. Even as she cradled the newborn infant against her, something didn't feel right. She tried to smilem as she was truly thankful to have come out of such an ordeal fine and with a healthy baby, but she couldn't put her entire heart into it.

She couldn't stop anticipating something bad had happened.

A message arrived for her within a few hours, and she knew then that her feeling had been true. She looked into the eyes of her best friend and listened to the words with a detached expression. She could not bring herself to weep. Standing, she guided Sakura over to the bassinet and showed off her son.

She held the baby then, and didn't put him down for the rest of the night.

Despite her exhaustion and the fact she had a newborn, she asked her friend to take her to see him. Sakura protested only slightly, but after making Ino promise she wouldn't overexert herself, she took her where Ino wanted to go.

She knew it would be the last time she saw him, so Ino made sure to say good-bye then.

She didn't name her son right away. She wanted to make sure she had the right name for him. In her eyes, it had to be 'just right'. There was no pressure to name him during the few days she remained in the hospital, and no pressure during the services.

It was at the services that she finally allowed the grief to set in. Trying to take care of a child, Ino had distanced herself from her own grief, but hearing the words of the Hokage presiding, she couldn't contain it anymore. Fortunately, her father set aside his animosity for her choice of lover and was able to support his daughter. He even offered to take his grandson for a night or two, so she could have some time alone.

She declined the offer. In all honesty, her son was all she had left of him.

The first night alone in her own home was awkward. She couldn't get over the odd feeling of loneliness. It had been different when she was alone due to missions and the like. There had always been the knowledge that they would be together again.

But now, he wasn't coming back.

That night, she allowed herself to truly look at the life she had brought into this world. The red marks upon his face were just the start of the similarities the child had with his father, and she could already see how much the child would resemble him. Choking back a sob, she leaned forward and kissed the mark upon the baby's cheek. It was a small consolation that she would be able to continue an old habit.

A quiet goodnight was whispered into the darkness, and she cried herself to sleep.

The child remained nameless for nearly a month.

She was careful not to call him something that he would get used to, though she knew what the boy's family name would be, regardless of the fact she wasn't married. She wanted a good name for him.

"Can't take th' risk of you endin' up like my mom."

The words played in her head as she knelt before the memorial. Resting her son against her knees, propping him up in a sitting position, Ino watched him for a moment as his unfocused eyes tried to take in the world around him.

"Still ended up like your mom, anyway," she murmured in answer, looking at one of the more recently carved names on the dark marble.

She thought for a moment, then rested her hands on the tiny shoulders of the infant before her.

"I've decided to name your son, finally. The name I picked out should be fitting. He's stubborn like you, won't let something alone once it's caught his attention. He'll probably be rolling over soon because of that. And there's also this obsession with my breasts that goes way beyond normal." She gave a soft laugh, then bit her lip to help keep her composure.

She fell silent, feeling silly for having half expected the stone to talk back to her. The child made a noise and she glanced down. There was a smile, and she hugged her son. "C'mon, Kiba. Mommy's kind of hungry and we should go eat before Daddy start's bitching about how I need to eat more."

he child was scooped up and Ino turned to walk away from the memorial. Then she stopped, just for a moment, and turned back to lift her fingers to her lips and then press them against her lover's name.

"I miss you. See you around."

And without another word, she left.