Here I am again. Writing my third story in two days. I guess I must be more bored than I originally thought, since I was planning to not write any more until the three days elapsed and I could post my first two stories. But that obviously isn't happening, so here's another story. This story is going to be much larger than my other two. In other words, this is going to be several chapters long (don't worry, I'm still working on my NaruSaku piece). Anyway, this time it is not NaruHina (gasp) but NaruIno. Well, at least that's what I'm planning on it being. It might go in some other crazy direction, but I don't plan on it.

Oh, and this is an AU fic, and thus, the characters might be a bit OOC. Normally, I don't really like them (unless they are really well done, like the AU's on my favorites list), but in this case, it was the only way I could do what I wanted with this fic. In this Alternate Universe Naruto was successful at retrieving Sasuke, Gaara was made Kazekage almost immediately upon returning from the Chuunin Exam, and Naruto and Sakura already know everything that they would have learned during the time skip in the manga.

One more thing. If you can't stand seeing Sasuke being portrayed in a negative light, please leave now (or at least to flame me for it).


Chapter 1:

London Bridge Isn't The Only Thing Falling Down

Ino sighed as she finished cleaning up the mess she had made behind the counter of the family flower shop. She really needed to concentrate on the here and now, instead of on Sasuke, who was still lying in the hospital, or she'd end up breaking more than a single vase. Once she was done, she double checked everything and closed up the shop for the night. Heading home, she smiled as she thought of her plans for the next day.

It was almost one month after a half-dead Naruto dragged back an even worse off Sasuke. Naruto had healed completely in about five days, and had been released in a week, quickly going back to his normal schedule. But Sasuke, though his wounds were fully healed, had not woken up. All things considered, he should have been perfectly fine, but it seemed as though his mind had been left behind when Naruto had recovered him. Ino still didn't know the details, but apparently Naruto and Sasuke had fought at the Valley of the End, and Naruto had barely won.

Naruto. He was certainly an interesting character. One month ago she wouldn't have had a single nice thing to say about Naruto, except for that he was honest…as far as she could tell, anyway. But now, though she still didn't know him any better, was intrigued, and had to stop herself from jumping into arguments in Naruto's defense. And if it wasn't for the fact that she had no real evidence that showed Naruto in a good light, except for the fact he brought Sasuke back instead of killing him when he had the chance, though not many people believed that Naruto could have killed Sasuke, she would have jumped right into the arguments. But, since she'd probably just make a fool of herself, she held her tongue.

All this thinking about Naruto…why could she not stop thinking about Naruto? It was Sasuke that she should be thinking about! Sasuke was the one in the hospital, the one who needed the attention, but Naruto was the one in her mind day and night. It scared her more than anything else, even more than seeing Sasuke right after Naruto had brought him back and collapsed onto the ground, that she was suddenly so worried about a boy that she had hardly given a second thought to before. She needed to talk to someone, but there was no one to talk to, but Naruto himself, and she wasn't willing to do that. Sakura was refusing to leave Sasuke's side, which seemed to be hurting Naruto for some reason. He couldn't be that attached to her, could he? And then there were her parents, who got either angry, flustered, or annoyed when she brought up Naruto, for some reason. Shikamaru was no good, since he was on some mission or another, and wouldn't be back for at least another week. Everyone else she either didn't trust enough to talk that deeply to them, or didn't know Naruto that well.

Ino sighed again as she got into bed. Maybe the party tomorrow would take her mind off of things. Everyone who was available from the three rookie teams was coming, and so were Neji, Rock Lee, TenTen, and the team leaders. Thinking that, Ino froze. Naruto-kun would be there, if he remembered. Crap, maybe she wouldn't be able to forget about him after all. Wait, Naruto-kun! Since when did she call him Naruto-kun? Damn, things were getting worse. She definitely needed to talk to someone. And with that thought on her mind, she drifted off to sleep.


Naruto's Apartment

Naruto sighed deeply as he waited for his cup ramen to cook. Why did if have to take a whole 3 minutes? That was practically forever? Once it was ready, he dug into it and let his mind wander. Soon, he was thinking about the whole mess with Sasuke, like he always did ever since it happened. Although to most people, he seemed to have gone back to his normal self, anyone who really knew him would be able to tell something was wrong. Which is why he had been avoiding everyone who could tell that, like the Hokage, Iruka-sensei, and Kakashi-sensei.

One look would have been enough to tell any one of them that Naruto was having a hard time coping with everything. Sakura-chan was refusing to speak to him, never once thanking him for bringing back Sasuke. Heck, she was even refusing to see him. Though that wasn't surprising, since she wasn't seeing anyone, expect the Hokage, who was the one treating Sasuke. But it still hurt. Part of him had been hoping that if he made good on his promise to Sakura-chan, that she would pay more attention to him. No good. Not even a glance, save for when she had seen him dragging Sasuke back into the village. But what really hurt was Sasuke himself. He was Naruto's best friend, he had even said that Naruto was his best friend, and he had tried to kill him!

As he thought this, Naruto absent-mindedly felt the scars running across his chest, reminders of the fact that Sasuke had plunged two chidoris into him.

Naruto probably could have gotten over that, if Sasuke had just woken up and explained things. Or at least woken up. Though he wouldn't admit it to himself, or anyone, he was worried about Sasuke. If he never woke up, it would be his, Naruto's, fault. Then Sakura would hate him forever. And that was more than Naruto could handle.

Naruto finished his meal, tossed the empty cup aside, and headed for his bed. Maybe he shouldn't go to the party tomorrow…


At The Party

Things were going about as well as they could be expected to. Choji pretty much had a monopoly on all of the snacks, Neji was being his usual brooding self, and Kakashi had his nose buried in one of his Icha Icha Paradise books. But what was really surprising was Naruto, who was being almost completely silent, alone in one corner. More than once, Lee, Kiba, and even Hinata had tried to talk to him, but he just continued to stare off into space. No one had any idea what to do. Ino was just content to let him sit there until he decided to go home. But there was a problem with that plan. Naruto wouldn't go home. Even after everyone else had left and Ino had cleaned up what was left of the party, Naruto was still sitting there. Sighing, Ino walked over to him and gently touched his shoulder. "Naruto?"

Suddenly, Naruto spun around at her touch and hugged Ino tightly to him, burying his face in her shoulder. This surprised her, but not as much as the realization that Naruto was crying into her shoulder. Naruto, the unshakable pillar, the one who never gave up or lost faith was sobbing his heart out.

Carefully, so as not to disturb Naruto, Ino sat down on the couch and pulled Naruto into her lap, gently holding him as he soaked her shoulder. Tentatively, she spoke. "What's wrong, Naruto?" But Naruto didn't answer. Instead, he just shook his head and continued to cry.

After a very awkward hour, in which Naruto just continued to cry and Ino tried to comfort him, Naruto finally spoke softly. "Everything is wrong. Everything." "What do you mean by that?" Ino was confused. How could everything be wrong? Normally, she would assume that he was just exaggerating, but for some reason, he seemed to be telling the absolute truth. "I mean, everything is wrong. Sakura-chan is refusing to see anyone, and seems to hate me now for some reason. Sasuke still hasn't woken up, and I'm really worried. But the main thing is that, well…" Naruto took a deep breath before continuing, and slid off of Ino's lap onto the couch. "When I went after Sasuke, we ended up fighting. I expected that, but I didn't expect exactly what happened. First, he told me that I was his best friend, then…then…then he tried to kill me! All those wounds, none of them were from the sound nins. Every single one of them was from Sasuke." As soon as he finished speaking, he collapsed against a very stunned Ino and began to cry once more.

Ino was stunned. She knew that Sasuke had fought Naruto, but that he tried to kill him? And that every one of those horrible wounds Naruto had returned with came from Sasuke? She felt herself collapse against Naruto, just as he had collapsed against her, and began to cry as well. Everything she had known seemed to be falling apart. Suddenly, Sasuke was no longer someone she idolized. No, he was now someone she feared and hated. To say that Naruto was his best friend, then try to kill him? That was horrible. And Sakura hating him? Come to think of it, she had given that impression when they had tried to get her to go home to sleep. But why? Did she blame Naruto for what was happening to Sasuke? If she did, then she was even stupider than Ino had thought.

Neither of them knew who started the kiss, but they both knew that it felt right. After a while, they broke the kiss and looked into each other's eyes, neither one speaking. Instead, they understood each other perfectly, just from the other person's expression. It wasn't really love, per say, more like a deep understanding with mutual feelings, but it was definitely what they both needed. Soon, both exhausted, they fell asleep on the couch, pressing against each other, Naruto's arm wrapped protectively around Ino's waist.

Ino's parents were livid at the sight. How dare that demon lay a hand on their daughter! If it weren't for the fact that Ino looked so peaceful in her sleep, they would have woken them both up and yelled at them. Instead, they simply headed for bed, intending to yell at Ino and that demon boy in the morning.


See you in Chapter 2! Which might actually be written before I can post this .