Inspired partly by #52 of the 52Flavours theme (To the last syllable of recorded time) and an old challenge I've seen around some Naruto fics (Any ninja that has ever said 'I love you' eventually has to say 'good-bye'). I was feeling odd when I wrote this, so my apologies. Funny how my very first attempt at ShikaIno would wind up so depressing. Ah well, hope you all enjoy it anyway.

By Jonah

It was the beginning of their end, and the end of their beginning.

"I love you."

It was less than a whisper, a mere exhalation of breath, but that was all the breath he could afford. She shifted beside him, her body jerking weakly as she let out her own puff of breath in what should have been a dry chuckle.

"Figures," she'd managed weakly, her voice hoarse and barely able to rise over the wind that stirred around them. "Figures you'd only say it now…"

His eyes, which had been closed for over a minute, fluttered open at the sound of her voice. He tried, but couldn't see her through his peripheral vision and he wished, not for the first time, that he'd been able to block that shot to the neck so he could see her properly, take in her beauty just one last time.

"Sorry," he found himself saying, and tears gathered in his eyes. They blurred his vision and stung his eyes but he couldn't find the energy to blink them away. "Sorry…"

"S'alright," came her voice again, like a beacon in the darkness. Her breathing grew ragged, and her voice trembled as she choked on her tears and regret. "I kind of knew…"

Vaguely, he heard a faint rustling beside him and soon, she was closer. Not by much, but by enough. It was remote, but he could sense her aura, her will and determination, grow that much stronger. Her fingers, cold and sticky from blood and dirt, brushed against his and he grasped at it with an energy unknown to him. He could feel his life, his spirit, evaporating and misty like the clouds he liked to watch so much. She was dying too, possibly faster than he and, with his last drop of strength, he clutched her hand, squeezing it gently. He felt her react, lightly squeezing back.

"I'll see you there, huh?"

He smiled, a tiny quirk of his mouth. "Yeah…"

Then she was gone, and he was left, clutching at her cold, frail hand. He finally blinked, and tears fell down like blood from a wound.

There were no clouds that night.

Review please?