Title: Neither Here Nor There

Author: Scarlet Pencil

Pairings: Not set in stone, but it's leaning towards ShikaInoNaru.

Warnings: Probable threesome

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto; it is the property of Kishimoto.

Summary: Ino sees old blood inside the sewers of Naruto's mind. And she wants to know why.


Prologue: The Tip of the Iceberg

Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.
- Michel de Montaigne


"Shintenshin no Jutsu!" Ino cried, a satisfied smirk flickering onto her face. She saw Naruto's horrified look and heard Shikamaru's longsuffering sigh as his Kagemane no Jutsu held the blond in place, before she collapsed—

And there was that light feeling, that feeling that nothing in the world could harm her, that nothing mattered… No, one thing did matter, Ino reminded herself. Getting to Naruto and taking control of his body.

That was the real danger of the Shintenshin no Jutsu. It left a person completely disconnected from his body. If the user wasn't hell-bent on the goal of reaching the enemy's body, the soul could just float away, lost for eternity.

Ino, however, had always been good at keeping her mind on her targets. Within moments, the floating feeling was lost, and she felt the earthy pull of a body again.

Only… there was something wrong here. Ino looked around.

The form of the Shintenshin no Jutsu she had just used only allowed her to control certain aspects of a person's mind, the parts in control of movement and willpower. It wasn't supposed to put her into the memory section, and this had to be a memory she was in, albeit a creepy one.

Since when had Naruto been in a sewer as big as this? Ino wondered as she hesitantly began walking around. There were even lights in here… dim, flickering lights. Ino's eyes narrowed. No sewer system would leave the lights on unattended like that. People never walked through the sewers except to do maintenance, to waste so much electricity was impractical.

Which meant that this probably wasn't a sewer, then. Besides, a sewer would have smelled terrible, and this place…

Ino's breath hitched, and she seriously considered pulling on the shimmering line of chakra that bound her to her body.

This place reeked of blood.

Not recent blood, Ino decided as her curiosity overcame her and she continued forward. It had the sickly scent of decay to it. But why on earth would Naruto imagine something like this? This had to be an imaginary place; it was far too creepy to be anything else—

Ino froze dead still. A hot, humid wind blew past her, laden with the thick scent of the blood and something… else. She wasn't an Inuzuka, she couldn't smell much better than a normal person. But something in that breeze unnerved her.

"Whatcha doing?"

Ino nearly shrieked in alarm, but years of infiltration training choked down the sound. Instead, she turned to face the person behind her while whipping out a kunai. She didn't let down her guard when she saw who it was.


"I said…" The blonde boy was smiling at her; and right now, in this place, it was the creepiest thing she had ever seen. "What are you doing?"

"Ah… I'm taking over your body." Ino replied, deliberately keeping her tone nonchalant. "So we could win the sparring match." Internally, she was running over her list of options. She was a kunoichi, and one who specialized in information gathering at that. Unlike Naruto, combat was not her forte. Plus, Naruto apparently had the home field advantage. He didn't seem bothered by this place at all.

Naruto nodded. "You should leave," he said, still smiling. Ino felt, rather than heard, the sound of a large something not so far away from them drawing a rattling, menacing breath. And beating Sakura be damned, she was getting out of here.

As she pulled on the line that led back to her body and the sewer disappeared, Ino happened to catch a glimpse of Naruto's face. He was still smiling, but his eyes were… not sad, but resigned. The thought occurred to her that Naruto had to live with this place inside of him every day, and she shuddered.

Then she was out, in the sunlight and her own body. She opened her eyes slowly. Leaving Naruto's mind had taken a lot more chakra than she had anticipated.

"Are you alright?" She looked up at Shikamaru. He looked as unconcerned as ever, but she knew that the very fact that he had taken the time to ask meant he was worried. She thought about it, looking over at Naruto. He seemed to be perfectly fine, still held in Shikamaru's Kagemane no Jutsu. He didn't even spare a glance her way as he yelled encouragements to Sakura and Sai, who were dodging Chouji.

What was up with that weird mindscape, then? Why on earth would a cheerful idiot like him have something so morbid in his head?

"Ino?" Shikamaru prompted, frowning at her lack of response.

"I'm fine," she replied absently. Then, on a whim, "After the exercise, can we talk? In private?" Shikamaru stared at her, looking as if he was solving some difficult problem. Ino scowled at that. She was his teammate, not something to be analyzed.

Then Shikamaru nodded, sighing. "Fine, as long as it isn't too troublesome." Ino let out a breath she hadn't known she was holding, and wondered why she felt so relieved.

The alarm clock Kakashi had set on a rock suddenly shrieked, and the match finished. Shikamaru let go of his jutsu, and Naruto ran forward to his teammates. Ino watched as Sai greeted him and snorted as both Naruto and Sakura flushed red and started hitting the unfortunate guy. Loud chatter reached her ears as Kakashi tried to calm everyone down, while Chouji watched bemusedly.

The scene was perfectly normal.

"Are you coming?"

She looked up at Shikamaru, and grinned. "Yeah."

Ino knew instinctively that something big was up. And she was dead set on finding out what it was.