Patience was never a problem for me, it was a gift I'd been born with along with my strategic mind and my bloodline limit. I don't mind waiting for the things I want; on the contrary, I think waiting makes it all the more enjoyable when you get what it is you're waiting for. There is, however, a difference between a patient man and a foolish one. A patient man waits in hopes that his patience is rewarded. A foolish man waits while already knowing that his time is going to waste. Back then, I was afraid to be foolish.

She was always squealing over him, that Sasuke. It made my blood boil. I tried, for years, to get her to give up on him. To make her open her eyes and see that there were real guys out there. Guys who cared about her; guys worth her time. Guys like me. She chose to stay blind. Not surprisingly, the day came when that conceited jerk left town. Ino cried her heart out, and it was then that I gave up. I finally accepted that I couldn't make her love me anymore than she could make him love her.

After that, I tried to forget her.

As the only chuunin on the team, I took on more and more missions and duties seperate from the team. I made sure to be as far away as possible from her as often as possible. And then one day Tsunade-sama suggested that mission in Sunagakure. It would be a two year mission, my longest to date, and I would be the only Konohanin working with the sandnins. She was more or less renting me out. I remember, I hesitated only a moment before I accepted it, and the Godaime received my eagerness with a suspicious lift of the eyes. Indeed, it was out of character for me.

I didn't say goodbye.

Sometimes I was paired with Baki, and sometimes I was with Kankuro, but more often than not my duty was to assist Temari in her A-ranked missions. She was already a new jounin and Gaara, who was in the process of being sworn in as Kazekage, didn't want his overconfident sister to get herself killed. Frankly, I was shocked that he cared. At any rate, I had to get used to this bossy, sadistic blonde shinobi. It was tough at first because we argued a lot, you could say we had our differences in who had the best plan of action. Her plans always involved a little bit of time and a lot of chakra. Mine were more time consuming, but had a higher survival rate. There was no compromising with that woman because no matter whose plan was evetually chosen, she always deviated from it anyway. Never once have we returned from a mission without blood stained on our clothes and caked onto our skin.

She's the high thrill type, that woman, and sometimes the self-satisfied smirk she gives disturbs me. She's the most troublesome woman I know, and I guess in some twisted way, that's what drew me to her. She bows to no one except her brother, and she takes whatever she wants without asking. It shouldn't have surprised me, that day, surrounded by thirty or so corpses of our enemies. It shouldn't have surprised me that she kissed me, but it did. She seemed to have mentally declared me hers after that, because she directly threatened every female who ever looked at me since that day, shinobi or not. Kankuro laughed once when she kissed me in front of him. It was a week and a half before he could walk again.

Despite how much we argued, I liked being around Temari, as long as I was near her no other blonde could dominate my thoughts. I was happy with her, I think. I was happy until my mission ended. I had decided I was going to stay in Sunagakure for a while longer when Tsunade-sama summoned me home. I came, unwillingly and bruised in many places, compliments of Temari. Back at last in Konoha, the Godaime herself breifed me on the issues our village was facing with the Akatsuki. She immediately placed me on a team that included Asuma-sensei and we wasted no time pursuing our targets. I was relieved not to have to see Ino, but that relief was short lived. Our mission failed in the worst of ways and I was reunited with her under less than joyful circumstances. We vowed revenge, the three of us, our bond stronger than ever before. I even rethought living in Sunagakure when I learned of Kurenai's condition. We were lucky, we didn't have to wait long to avenge Asuma-sensei's death, the chance came and we grabbed it without hesistation.

The problem came after that.

After our little victory, we settled back into old rountines. But Ino wasn't they way I'd left her. She was calmer, more humble, and had matured in more ways than one. She was still moody, but some things never change. The feelings returned. I felt guilty, and resorted to once again avoding her as I did before I accepted the mission in Suna. Ino must have noticed, because not long after I started avoiding her did she start turning up everywhere I went, made it impossible to avoid her. Instead of confronting me and yelling like she would have years ago, she would meet me with smiles and a gentle voice. I began to look forward to her arrival. At first, I thought she came to me for comfort, to ease the pain of losing our instructor, but then I started to pick up on all the little signs. The soft look in her eyes when she looked at me, the way she lingered in my arms after she awoke from her jutsu, even the way she called my name. I knew then, and for the sake of Temari waiting back in Sunagakure, I tried to ignore it. Everytime I turned away when she looked at me so serenely; everytime I moved whenever her body innocently brushed mine, pain would grip my chest.

It both angered me and saddened me that the girl I'd always loved finally loved me back. I didn't tell her about me and Temari; I was suffering enough for the both of us, I didn't want her to experience what I was experiencing. Ino spent more and more time by my side, perhaps hoping I would notice her underlying affection. When I continued to ignore the subtle clues, she put it out in the open. "I like you, Shika." Just like that. Troublesome. I'm not sure what changed then, but my guess would be that I led her on. I had trouble ignoring her as it was, when she confessed I think something in me broke. I couldn't deny her anymore. I couldn't break her heart. I couldn't do that to her. Or me.

I realized then that I love Ino more than anything or anyone, anywhere.

That's why I'm here. That's why I'm lying awake here, hating myself, while she sleeps wrapped up in the sheets beside me. That's why every night I pray that someday Ino will forgive me. That's why I know now that I'd made the gravest of miscalculations that day two years ago. That's why I also pray Ino will find someone better than me who will have more faith in her than I did. That's why I pray she'll never forget me, because I can't stay. A telegram came to Konoha this morning. Temari's pregnant.