If Only…
By Rustic Diamond

Disclaimer: Nothing here belongs to me

Note: Manga spoilers! Don't read if that makes you tense up.

A/N: A random songfic I thought of while listening to this song at 5:30 in the morning. And a shameless plug - I will be continuing A Fool's Tear :) But I have to write a bit more before I will post the second chapter up...

Song: Don't Speak, by No Doubt

You and me
We used to be together
Everyday together always
I really feel
That I'm losing my best friend

I can't believe
This could be the end

It looks as though you're letting go
And if it's real
Well I don't want to know

Ino turned and look at Shikamaru, whose back was facing her. He's changed so much these last few years. It has been a full three years since Asuma-sensei's death, and it seems like he's finally letting go of their sensei's death.

He's been visiting Suna a lot more these days. Ino counted. Every three weeks, he would be gone to Suna, not returning until at least a full two weeks have passed. Every single time he comes back, he looks refreshed. Relieved.


She can't help but blame herself for being a bad friend. If she wasn't such a bad friend, would he have gone to Suna so frequently? Was she unintentionally avoiding Shikamaru?


Since Asuma-sensei's death, she found herself being attracted to Shikamaru. It was weird at first, and she chalked it up to her fulfilling her promise to her sensei. But she didn't treat Chouji like she did Shikamaru. She never did. It was not until a full two years later, on the anniversary of Asuma-sensei's death, that she figured it out. She loved Shikamaru.

That was a big revelation. Nobody knew of this revelation. Not even Sakura. Not even her parents. Needless to say, she found herself unable to look at Shikamaru in the eye for the next two months. He didn't ask if he had done anything wrong. He was being Shikamaru about the whole thing. He just ignored it.

Or so she thought.

It was at that time when he began his visits to Suna. At first, it was because of the Chuunin exams. He was a Chuunin examiner, and the exams were being held in Suna that year. He went because of preparations.

Then other "reasons" kept on appearing. Shikamaru wasn't a person to lie. He thought it too troublesome. He simply didn't tell the truth. There was a difference.

Ino growls. She remembers those days very well. She felt so alone, with him leaving all the time. She didn't have very many close friends, and her closest had been disappearing to Suna. Her rock of stability was gone.

And now he looks like he's finally let go.

"Oiy. Ino." His voice breaks her contemplation.

"Yes, Shikamaru?"

"I've got something to tell you. It's pretty important." He hesitated before speaking further. He wasn't sure how to approach this particular topic.

"Yes? What is it?" Ino was curious. He had called her out earlier, stating that he had something to say to her.

"Well… um…" Ino was surprised. Was this really Shikamaru she was talking to?

"Out with it… This isn't like you, Shikamaru." Preparing himself for Ino's outburst of anger, he told her his news.

"I'm going to Suna. For the next year." Ino was shocked.

"But… why? What kind of mission needs you to be gone for a whole year?" Ino demanded. She wanted an answer. Now.

"Um… it's for personal reasons." Shikamaru scratched the back of his neck. He was sure he was about to be blasted by Ino, and he held himself ready. But that blast never came.

"Per…personal… reasons?" Ino stuttered. Oh Kami. That was the first time he would be gone for that long, for that reason. She could only guess what… or rather, who, was the reason behind this.

"Yea… it's troublesome, but I have to do it." Shikamaru was shocked. Ino? Not bursting out in anger? There was something wrong. Something seriously wrong.

"Uh…. Shikamaru… I… er… have something um… important to do… I gotta go…" Ino ran out of the park. Shikamaru never saw the tears that were slowly falling from Ino's eyes.

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me cause it hurts
Don't speak
I know what you're thinking
I don't need your reasons
Don't tell me cause it hurts

'Oh Kami. He's going there for Temari. She's been the reason he's so happy when he comes back. Because of her. I cannot believe that he's going to leave Konoha for Suna for a whole year! On personal reasons too! The next thing I know, I'll be getting an invitation to their wedding. Oh Kami. How am I going to face him now, knowing that there will never be a chance between us? How can I do this? Asuma-sensei, how am I going to do this? Help me….'

It was at that moment that Ino bumped into Sakura. At the sight of her crying friend, Sakura rushed to right the girl.

"What's the matter, Ino?" Sakura asked. She had not seen Ino cry like this for a long time; not since Asuma's death. This was weird indeed. Ino liked to vent through anger, not tears.

"It's… It's… Oh, I can't say it here…" Ino choked out. Sakura, understanding, led her to the closest place where they would have privacy – her house.

As the two girls stepped into Sakura's house, Ino collapsed into a crying heap. Gently guiding her to the couch, Sakura ran to prepare some tea, and placed a cup in her friend's shaking hands.

"Tell me what happened, Ino."

Ino told her everything, from the moment she recognized her love for Shikamaru to what happened that very afternoon. Sakura was at a loss. What could she do? There wasn't anything the kunoichi could do.

"Oh, Ino… Come here" Sakura wrapped her friend in a hug.

"Sakura… It hurts. It really really hurts. Every single word he said to me this afternoon broke me a little more inside. I can't stand this…"

Our memories
Well, they can be inviting
But some are altogether
Mighty frightening
As we die, both you and I
With my head in my hands
I sit and cry

It has been 49 days, 17 hours, 36 minutes and 52 seconds since he left through the gates of Konoha. 49 days, 17 hours, 36 minutes and 52 seconds since Yamanaka Ino's heart had finally broken into thousands of little pieces. Every single waking moment, she would remember their genin days, when they were all relatively happy. She then remember their Chuunin exams. That was when he first met Temari. That was when Ino's future flew out the window without her knowing it. She would remember her pride at Shikamaru being the only one promoted to Chuunin. She would remember her worrying about him when he went to go retrieve Sasuke, only to come back with his team broken.

And again, all she could do was curl up and cry.

Sakura came to visit every day, making sure that she at least ate one meal. She trained harder than before. Every morning, she would go to train thinking that if she was stronger than Temari, then she would be able to get Shikamaru back from her. It would hit her, every day after her training, that it would never happen. She had already lost ages ago.

Then she would go back home, curl up with her own photo of team 10, and cry.

Whenever she was walking around the town, people would point at her and whisper. She never knew why. She ignored them, no longer caring what people thought of her. She was growing thinner, her bones started jutting out from beneath her skin, and her hair kept on falling out. But she didn't care anymore. The one who she needed to care didn't anymore. He was in Suna.

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me cause it hurts
Don't speak
I know what you're thinking
I don't need your reasons
Don't tell me cause it hurts

It's all ending
I gotta stop pretending who we are...
You and me I can see us dying...are we?

Elsewhere, in the middle of the desert, Shikamaru woke up in a sweat. He just had the worst nightmare possible.

Ino was dying. And he couldn't stop it.

He was sure she was healthy, living her life, yelling at Chouji for eating too much, having her petty fights with Sakura over that traitor Uchiha, and life would be normal.

He couldn't help caring though. It was hard leaving her behind a month ago, without being able to tell her of his mission. He was going undercover, and couldn't tell the woman he loved the most what he was doing.

He knew she was still alive. He was sure that if she died, he would feel it. His heart would feel it. He trusted his own instincts. They've never failed him before.

Shikamaru fell back to sleep, knowing that Ino was alive in Konoha.

What he didn't know was his instincts would, for the first time, fail him.

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me cause it hurts

He received a letter from the Hokage three months later, demanding the status of the mission. He had successfully completed the mission scheduled for 10 months in half that time, and was prepared to return to Konoha, his own letter to the Hokage sitting on his lap. What startled him was the Hokage's urgent tone. He wondered what was wrong. Setting off for Konoha, he looked up to the sky, and whispered.

"Ino, my love, I'm coming back to you. Right now. Wait for me, will you?"

The mood in Konoha was somber, and as he made his way to the Hokage's tower, he was met with somber looks from the residents. Looking up, he saw a sea of black-clad ninja.

A funeral.

Shikamaru had a bad feeling about this particular funeral. He ran the rest of the way and burst through the doors.

What he saw would be scorched into his mind forever.

A coffin lay in the centre, cosmos flowers placed all around. A picture of the fallen shinobi was upon the altar.

A picture of his beloved.

He fell to the floor, his heart breaking. She never knew how much he's loved her since their childhood. He cursed his cowardice. Now she would never know.

Please review! R