"He was the hero we didn't deserve, but he was the one we needed. Because he isn't the hero we need, but he is the one we deserve." Jim Gordon, The Dark Knight

Okay, first off, sorry for the long period between updates. About a month ago I moved from one apartment to another and in the ensuing chaos, lost my internet for a month. Also, I discovered never move using plastic bags. It never ends well. So now I'm living in a third of the space with an eighth of the charge.

See, that's the power of positive thinking!

However, is a way of easing the pain of not updating, (for you that is, because I have felt it too. My pain was more along the lines of withdrawal for my internet addiction.) I am going to let everyone have a say in who Ino's mystery guy is!

Great right? I thought so.

Now there are two way's this will work, the first is I have three choices for you: Shikamaru, Chouji, and Sai. The reasons for this are simple, I love crack pairings. With Shikamaru, he's smart and I think Sakura would be attracted to that. Chouji, because he's a nice guy and it would explain why Ino's team broke up. And Sai, because he's a cheap Sasuke clone that Sakura's shown interest in.

The second way is that you can offer someone else, along with a compelling argument that makes sense and that I can use. If you do this, and I like it, then I might just use it. The only ones who you can't do this for are Naruto, for obvious reasons, and Kiba, because of this chapter ruling him out.

Anyway, I hope to hear from you soon, because the choice will be made and revealed in Chapter five, so you have as long as it takes me to write Twelve pages in Word. It could take me two days.

Could take a month.

God I hope not.

The last thing is half way through I switched to 1st person. I did this because after reading all ten Dresden books I found I couldn't write in 3rd person. I hope you like it.

And as always, I don't own Naruto. Yet.

Chapter 3

Ino was going to kill Naruto.

Yes, it had been her idea that they have a picnic, but this wasn't exactly what she'd had in mind this morning, with Naruto's strong arms around her and her head pillowed on his bared chest. She'd thought they would find a nice spot under the trees, maybe by a stream they could go wading in, and an afternoon spent by themselves where she could grow closer to him.

She had not envisioned being left holding a picnic basket full of sandwiches and ramen while her savior brawled with Kiba Inuzuka and his dog Akamaru using an insanely over grown toad. As impressed as she had been when Naruto had brought the giant orange toad out, laughing and joking with each other like they were best friends, Ino realized that they probably weren't going to be enjoying the rest of the day.

After all, it wasn't like she wasn't used to comments like the one Kiba had thrown at her. And really, it was sweet of Naruto to come to her defense. She would have preferred he let it alone and let them go enjoy themselves, but Kiba had been like a dog with a bone, and Naruto wasn't ever going to back down from a challenge, even if it was right in the middle of the street in front of dozens of people.

And who cared if they destroyed countless objects in the process.

"Dual Piercing Fang!" Kiba roared as he launched him into the air with Akamaru, the giant white dog howling as they spun through the air towards Naruto.

"I'll teach you to call Ino-chan a slut! Gamakichi, now! Fire ball no jutsu!" Naruto shouted toward the spinning grey tornados, leaping on the giant toad's back and launching a fireball into the stream of oil the toad was spewing.

The impromptu flame thrower slammed into the twin tornadoes, causing Kiba and Akamaru to go flying and flames to spread everywhere. People ran screaming as stores burst into flame. Ino watched in horror, her rage at Naruto getting involved in a street brawl fading as she watched the destruction. The two young men were jounin, they'd been friends not two hours ago, and now they were tearing everything apart all because of her. Ino knew most girls would feel flattered to have the man they were attracted to rise up and defend their honor, but at the moment she only felt sick.

"STOP IT, PLEASE!" she screamed, the basket of food falling at her feet. Tears started to fall down her face as she raced in between the two men as they charged at each other. She watched in horror as the giant toad slashed at Akamaru with a sword, as Naruto was struck with Kiba's claws across his face and drove his foot into the other man's gut. Ino hated herself, hated that she was crying, hated that no matter where she went everyone suffered. The 

combatants flew apart for a second and she dove in, wrapping her arms around Naruto's chest and begging him to stop fighting because she wasn't worth it.

Then she heard Kiba yelling something to Akamaru and Naruto was pushing her away as the other man slammed into his gut. Ino didn't even notice the pain as she landed on her butt, her eyes widening in shock as she watched them grapple and trade insults.

"I don't see why you're defending that slut, Naruto, she can't be that great in bed," Kiba howled as he slashed with his claws.

"Like you're one to talk, tell me, when was the last time your sister got off her hands and knees in those kennels of yours?" Naruto shot back as three more of his clones appeared and leapt onto the fighters. Kiba roared in rage and redoubled his efforts to injure Naruto.

Ino felt the glares focus on her and heard those who weren't too busy fighting the fires start to blame her for the young men's quarrel. Most of them were women, giving her disapproving looks as if she could stop this if she wanted to. But she couldn't, Naruto was too far gone into his fight with Kiba, and she didn't even know the Inuzuka well enough to dissuade him from hurting her hero.

She was sure they were just minutes away from Konoha's elite ANBU showing up and arresting them all when Ino recognized the tiny woman who had just wormed her way through the crowd, balancing a baby on one small hip and scowling at Naruto, who had just managed to get on top of Kiba and was currently pounding away for all he was worth.

"R-Rukia?" Ino asked uncertainly, causing the other woman to walk over to her and give her a smirk. "Well well, getting boys to fight over you, I am impressed," Rukia said with a light laugh. Ino slumped and shook her head slightly. "I-it's not like that," she replied, staring at the ground. She looked up as Rukia nudged her firmly with one shiny black shoe, and was shocked to see Rukia holding out her little boy.

"Take him, if I am going to have to go over there and break up that fight, I do not want him hurt," Rukia said firmly. Ino gently grasped the little baby and curled around him, holding close her chest as Rukia stormed over to where Naruto and Kiba were rolling around, wildly cursing and striking each other. Ino felt a twinge, remembering when she'd been that strong and confident in herself. If only-if only she hadn't slept with Him, if only Sakura hadn't taken it so personally, if only her parents or friends had trusted her, she might still be that way.

Maybe if she could stay with Naruto for just a little while, she might be able to be that strong again.

She watched as Rukia stopped just at the edge of the pile of limbs and angry voices, scowling down at the two men. Then she did something that would shock Ino for the rest of her life. With a sharp cry, Rukia lashed out with her foot and sent the two men flying apart to crash into a damaged storefront a good six feet away.

Naruto was the first to appear, his head popping out of the rubble like a gopher, irately glaring around for the source of the attack. "GAMAICHI, I TOLD YOU TO KEEP THE DAMN DOG AT BAY!" he roared at the toad, who was currently wrestling Akamaru. The toad rolled his eyes to glare at Naruto. "WHAT THE HELL DOES IT LOOK LIKE I'M DOING BOSS?" Gamakichi shouted back. Ino watched as Naruto stared at the two animals quizzically, her heart fluttering at how cute he looked as he tried to figure out what had happened. "WELL WHO HIT ME THEN?" he yelled, glaring wildly around in an attempt to find his attacker.

Kiba popped up next to him, blood gushing from a cut on his forehead. "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!" the Inuzuka howled. Naruto turned to yell something at him, only to go silent as a shadow loomed over them.

Ino was never really sure how Rukia could look so intimidating, considering how small she was, but even a good twelve feet away she felt intimidated by the tiny woman as she loomed over Naruto and Kiba. The looks on the two young men's faces probably helped with that. Ino could almost feel the relief coming from Kiba as Rukia focused completely on Naruto.

The tiny woman tapped her foot for a few moments, before shaking her finger at Naruto in that manner all mothers had used on naughty children since the beginning of parenthood. "Naruto, what do you think you are doing?" she asked softly. Ino thought it would have been kind of cute, if Rukia wasn't so damn scary. Ino watched as Naruto stuttered out about what Kiba had said, only to have the other young man protest Naruto's own comments. The two men started trading insults and almost came to blows before Rukia yelled at them to shut up.

Ino glanced to the side as a shadow fell over her and Rukia's little boy, jumping in surprise as she saw Gamakichi plop down beside her with the picnic basket in his hand. "Here you go," he said in a deep voice that rumbled the ground. "Oh, thank you," Ino replied, as she picked herself up off the ground and retrieved the basket from the toad with a bow.

Slowly, she picked her way through the rubble till she was standing next to Rukia. Naruto gave her a worried look, but instead of ranting at him like she would have a few months ago, she merely set the basket down and offered him a hand. The loud blonde took it and heaved himself out of the rubble, pointedly ignoring Kiba's angry shouts and Rukia's scolding.

I wanted to melt as he stared into my eyes. "I'm sorry about getting you involved in the fight, Ino," Naruto said softly, still holding my hand. I fought down a blush and shook my head, causing my ponytail to sway about. "No, Naruto, I'm the one who should apologize. You got hurt defending my nonexistent honor, so it's entirely my fault," I replied softly, afraid of what my voice would do if I spoke any louder.

I felt a tugging at my arm and turned to find Rukia reclaiming her son. "I suggest the two of you leave before the police show up, I'll handle everything," the tiny woman said firmly, waving the two of us off with a wave of her hand. I nodded and grabbed Naruto's hand, letting my savior drag me off, just as the police started busting their way through the crowds.

In moments we were flying down the back streets, Naruto laughing as he whipped us around corners and over stairs. I had to admit, it was pretty fun, ducking the people looking for us, until we made it into a secluded meadow. We collapsed on the ground, the picnic basket landing somewhere off to my left, breathing hard.

I closed my eyes as I lay back against the soft grass, letting the sun warm my fair skin. It had been so long since I felt that I could relax, let everything go, be at peace. I heard Naruto stirring beside me and figured he was going for the picnic basket so he could stuff his face. A tiny smile played at the corners of my full lips as I thought about how cute he was when he was stuffing his face.

So when I felt his strong arm wrap around my waist and pull me close to him so that we were pressed together almost intimately, I squeaked in surprise. I was sure my face was scarlet as I looked up at him, (when had he gotten so tall?) and caught his blue eyes staring down at me with several emotions I couldn't describe. He seemed almost as shock by his actions as I was, but didn't seem to want to let go. I didn't want him to. I closed my eyes and savored the feel of someone holding me and not judging me or expecting something I wasn't willing to give.

But then that damn voice in the back of my head started up, telling me how I couldn't ask him for this, couldn't let him give it, no matter how much he or I wanted something like this to happen. He was going to be Hokage, and that meant he had to marry a woman of status with a good reputation. At best, I only came from a clan of minor importance and my reputation was ruined. There wasn't a way to save it. Even if Sakura was made to admit her lies, they were too ingrained in the mind of our fellow villagers for them to change their minds about me.

Slowly, my heart breaking each second I move, I pushed myself off of Naruto and turned so my back was to him. Without looking I could tell he was confused. I squeezed my eyes shut in an attempt to keep myself from shedding even a single tear. I didn't know him that well. This could all be a trap. He could be seriously falling for me. I couldn't let that happen. Just a few years ago, I would have welcome having him as an admirer (or would have once I realized what a 

great, strong, powerful, mysterious guy he was). But now, I couldn't understand why anyone would want me.

I could and would care for Naruto, I would even love him, but I couldn't let him feel the same way about me. There was too much that he could, no, would lose if he did. So I swallowed the lump in my throat and turned my head to regard him over my shoulder, trying to look as much like my old stuck up self as I could.

It lasted all of three seconds before I saw the look of rejection of his face, realized that there hadn't ever been a woman to his knowledge that ever wanted to be with him, and the words died on my lips. The lump in my throat came back. I couldn't let him lose his dream because of me, but I couldn't break the heart of my savior. We'd known each other growing up, but I'd never really gotten to know the loudmouth blonde, just like he'd never really known me. But he'd so selflessly given of himself so that I wouldn't suffer anymore than I had too. He was the only one in the world who cared about me anymore. What kind of woman would I be if I repaid him so cruelly?

I looked down at myself, idly picking at the hem of my purple mini skirt that bared my long legs from mid-thigh down, watched as my breasts made the matching crop top rise and fall with my breath. I knew why he would want me. Even as much as I tried to play it down normally, I'd always known I was beautiful. It was what helped the rumors Sakura spread be believed. People didn't like others who were more attractive than them. They might desire them, hold them up as examples, but ultimately they wanted to destroy them. And when that opportunity came, they were like vultures on a carcass, each wanting their own piece of what remained.

And, as I looked down at Naruto as he lay there on the grass, upset with my rejection of him, I understood that people were the same with their heroes. They'd praise them, hold them up on their shoulders and parade them about proclaiming their gratitude, but sooner or later they would turn on them. Even before he took me in, I'd heard people saying things about him that weren't all too pleasant. I knew what it was like to be turned on and I wasn't going to do that to someone who'd helped me.

I don't think I meant to kiss him.

Or, maybe I did. I enjoyed it. A lot.

Even though I'd been living with Naruto for the past two days, it hadn't really hit me just what being a Sannin meant as far as physical condition. He'd removed his jacket since he'd ripped it up in the fight with Kiba and currently his chest was hidden only by a very tight, black shirt that clung to him like a second skin. My hands clenched that shirt as tightly as I could when I felt his teeth start to nibble at my bottom lip and I whimpered.

It was almost more than I could take! It had been close to three years since I lost my virginity, which hadn't been all that spectacular. Okay, let's face it, it was horrible and it had ruined my life. All the passions I felt for the boy I'd given myself to had never come close to this. I'm not sure when I did it, but when I pulled away from Naruto, breathing harder than if I'd just run ten miles without a break, I found that I was straddling him and wriggling about with need. I'd never done that before, even when I'd had sex that one time.

My head was spinning from more than just the lack of air.

I couldn't breathe.

I couldn't think.

But I could feel everything.

Every emotion I'd locked away in an attempt to keep from hurting when people shouted their insults or whispered their distaste. Every physical pleasure I'd denied myself since that fateful day when I'd given up the most precious thing I'd ever had. Once the rumors had started, I'd dressed down, stopped working to be pretty, and gave up almost everything that had made me, well, me.

And sitting there, on top of the man who'd been the first to protect me in forever, I felt it all come back. I wanted to be beautiful again, to spend hours making sure every part of my physical appearance was perfect just so the man I cared about would pay just a little more attention, so everyone who saw me with him would be jealous and respect him for catching such a beauty and making it his.

It wasn't some weird sexual kink. I'd never really been into domination and submission or any of that stuff. But the idea of being Naruto's, of everyone knowing I belonged to him mind, body, soul, heart, and every other particle of me, sent a wave of pleasure and desire and need and hope and despair and guilt and love through me at the speed of light. I looked down into his deep blue eyes and felt like I was floating in the oceans of the Land of Water.

I couldn't be that selfish, to make him give up those dreams of Hokage for stupid little old me.

I couldn't be that selfish, to make him give up the chance to throw everything away for a love he'd never known.

I couldn't make that decision for him.

He had to make it himself.

"N-Naruto," I whimpered, unable to make any sound that wasn't pathetic and full of everything I was feeling. "I-I, we, we can't do this," I said, tears welling up as I said the words that could, would, break my heart. "I can't let you give up everything for me. No one would let you be Hokage if you married the town slut. They'd never let that happen!" I felt the tears fall down my face, ruining the little makeup I was wearing and making me look all ugly. Some women are beautiful when they cry, but I'm not one of them.

I turned my face away from him as I released his shirt and sat up. I tried to ignore the feeling of his hard body under me, how it felt to have me kiss him, feel his excitement pressing up against short skirt. I felt him shift as he sat up and clenched my eyes harder, willing him to agree with me, stop right where we were and let me savor it for the rest of my sad life and watch him fulfill his dreams.

Then he brushed the hair away from my face and forced me to look him in the eye.

My hands clenched his shirt, determined to keep him close and push him away.

And then he kissed me, soft and long and deep. My eyes fluttered closed as I whimpered. It hurt, to be this close to him and know I had to leave him.

Then his arms wrapped around me and he pulled back slightly, leaving me breathless and about to cry. "You can't do this Naruto." I said softly, bowing my head and refusing to meet his eyes. "I know how people are, all their petty, vain, empty cruelty. They hate those who are different from them, who they see as better than them because of beauty or wisdom or anything else. I mean hell, people used to look up at me because I was pretty and strong and smart."

"But look at how they treat me now. All because someone they decided they liked better came along and made them think I was trash. I know you were alone as a kid, and that everyone picked on you. Yet as cruel as our classmates were when they were children, it doesn't hold a candle to the cruelty they shell out now that their grown."

I looked up at him at his handsome, concerned face and it took everything I had not to break down and beg him to take me and protect me for the rest of our lives. I refused to be that selfish. I forced him to let go of me and stood up, moving away slightly with my back to him.

"I owe you too much to let them do that to you, Naruto." I said softy, clenching my fists at my side.

I was giving up my dream.

I was giving up my heart.

I would never be Ino Uzumaki.

If I had to slap him upside the head a dozen times, or break my heart a million, I would never let him give up his dream.

I threw my head back and let the sun caress my face, imagining what it would be like to make love to him under this very sky. It would be wonderful, not like my first and only other time.

Not like that horrible mistake.

Not like the few moments of almost pleasure that had cost me my virginity, my life, my friends, my family.

Sex is rarely like it's portrayed, at least not the first time. It was hot and sweaty and messy and embarrassing. When Tenten had told me and the other girl's of the rookie nine what it had been like, she'd claimed it was all candles and romance and soft touches and tender sighs. She'd made it sound glorious and wonderful. And maybe for her, it had been. But it wasn't for me.

I'd regretted it almost before it was over, and not because of the pain. It hadn't hurt that much, my lover had tried to be as gentle as he could. But it had been his first time too and neither of us knew what we were doing other than what we'd been taught by our various teachers. I'd known all sorts of seduction and sex techniques, but I'd forgotten them all by the time we were ready to truly start. It had been clumsy, and neither of us could look at the other the same way ever again. Sometimes that's good.

That time it wasn't.

I don't think I could just have sex anymore. I was more than willing to turn around and make love to Naruto. Hell, I wanted to do that more than anything. Because, becauseā€¦

Because I was falling in love with him like I'd never been in my life.

I shivered in the warm air as it struck me.

I loved Naruto.

But I could never be with him.

Tears started to stream down my face again as I cried.

I think it might have been hard to admit that, but it was harder to lie myself.

Sex was meaningless to me. Fucking in simple animal passion didn't excite me. But the idea of giving myself completely and selflessly to Naruto made my heart beat faster and my body quiver with desire. I refused to let it show, but having him so close to me was unbearable.


I heard him call my name as he stood up. The soft sounds of his clothing as they adjusted on his massive frame that dwarfed me, the rustle of cloth as his hands brushed loose blades of grass from his person. I stood frozen.

I wanted to run away.

I wanted to run to him.

I wished my ankle would stop hurting so I could run anywhere.

I wished my ankle would give way so I could never leave here.

I almost broke when his fingers brushed my shoulder.

I came closer when his hands came to rest on my hips.

I reached the edge when he drew me close, pressing his heavily muscled chest forged from years of fighting against my small back.

I broke apart into a million tiny fragments of Ino when he embraced me and whispered in my ear.

"Ino, you've given me more of my dream in the last two days than anyone has in my life."

My legs gave way, unable to support me. My mind broke apart at his touch, at his words, at the shear music of his voice.

"I don't fear the villagers' words or deeds. I know of their cruelty as well as you do. You say they hate you because you were their idol, the thing they could never be but were forced to desire by their own weak hearts. I know of that hate already, because a part of me is something they fear the most. My very life is a reminder of the fear of the inevitable end they almost were destroyed by." He said softly, and even as I sagged weakly against him I looked up at his fearful, lovely face.

"W-what are you talking about?" I asked brilliantly. I do that sometimes, when I'm at my worst. People used to think it was cute. Now they just laugh at me for being another dumb blonde.

This time it was Naruto who drew away from me, bringing new tears to my eyes at what I thought was going to be his rejection. I steeled myself, better now than after I had completely given myself the hope of something more with my savior.

"I'm the container for the Nine Tailed Fox, the Kyuubi that almost destroyed our village and killed the loved ones of so many people."

He looked at me sadly and moved like he was going to leave. "I understand if you want me to go. There aren't many people who see me as someone other than the Kyuubi, and I understand if I scare you because of what I am." He said, turning his back on me. I watched as he crouched, preparing to leap away into the trees.

I don't know where I found the strength, or how I pushed aside the pain in my foot that had come rushing back. All I know is that I jumped just as he was about to leave and managed to get my arms around his broad chest. I grabbed my wrists and held on tight, refusing to let go despite his attempts to remove my grip.

"Ino, just let me go, you deserve better than me!" he shouted and I felt the same pain in his cry as I felt in my heart.

"No way in hell, you fucking bastard!" I yelled back, burying my face in his shirt, soaking it with fresh tears. "You are the greatest thing that has happened to me in years, and you deserve better than me, not the other fucking way around! So if you are going to leave me here than do it by telling me I was right about giving you up, that I wasn't going to sacrifice my happiness for nothing, because you deserve better than me, because you can't have your dream disappear because of me! Not because I deserve better, but because you do!"

He froze and I tightened my grip on him till my large breasts were crushed painfully between our bodies. "Naruto, you deserve everything you want after what you've gone through. I remember when you lost Jiraiya-sama just after Asuma-sensei was killed. I saw how hard it was for you and I've always cursed myself to not going and talking to you about it, especially after you helped to avenge my sensei. Watching you fight the bastard that had helped kill him was the most impressive thing I'd ever seen! You are the greatest shinobi and the best person I've ever met. I don't care if you have a demon sealed inside you! You are one of the most loving, caring, honorable people I've ever met, and if that is because of what you hold than I'm grateful for it. You deserve to be seen as a hero, not as a monster!"

We stood there for what felt like hours, neither of us moving. Then I felt his hands shift from trying to pry me off to simply holding me there. I didn't look up from where my face was buried in his back, and he didn't turn around to face me, but I could tell as something in him changed.

Do you really mean that, Ino?" he asked softly and I nodded into him. "I do, Naruto, more than anything in my stupid, fucked up wreck of a life." I replied.

"So you don't want me to leave?" he asked timidly.

"No, I never want you to leave me!" I replied hotly.

"Even knowing what I am?"

"Did you, when you heard what I was supposed to be?"


"Then you have my answer. I don't want you to leave Naruto. I want you to stay, and let me repay you for all the good you've done me. I want you to let me stay with you, let me take care of you. I'll cook and clean and make sure that every night you come home knowing that there is someone who is waiting for you that cares very much. I'm never going to become a medic nin at this point thanks to Sakura, and I probably have lost any chance at being a professional Shinobi at this point. But I can at least give you a part of your dream, and maybe someday have a chance to live mine." I said softly and Naruto finally twisted around in my grip and smiled down at me.

Then he kissed me again, but there wasn't the pain of regret this time, because I knew I wouldn't have to give him up. I was still a hindrance to his dream, with my reputation for being the town slut, but just maybe I could change that. I looped my arms around his strong neck as he gripped my waist and pressed me closer.

Tears fell from my eyes, but they weren't tears of sorrow. I wouldn't let him proclaim me as anything close to him just yet, but soon, maybe. I'd go see Tsunade tomorrow, and get my medical records cleared. That would be a start.

Then I stopped thinking as he deepened the kiss.

When we broke apart, he picked me up like I was his bride and carried me over to the abandoned picnic basket, where he sat down with me on his lap. I snuggled against him, giggling slightly as he pulled out food and took turns feeding both himself and me. When we left here, things would have to go back to the way they had been, but for now I relaxed slightly and felt true pleasure for the first time in what felt like forever.

He used chakra to heal my ankle again from where I'd twisted it getting away from him. In return, I flashed him a lot of my pale legs without seeming to mean to, and made sure I was as pretty and attention drawing as I could be with my bloodshot eyes and tear streaked face. I think it worked, because Naruto cleaned away the signs of my tears as best he could, and he couldn't keep his eyes off of me.

I was giddy as he held me close with one hand and devoured the food I'd painstakingly made with the other, complementing my culinary skills every few bites. It was so nice to be 

appreciated by someone again that I didn't complain when he got food everywhere. In fact, it took all my control to keep from drifting off as I imagined him licking me clean of all the crumbs and condiments.

When he actually did lick some ketchup off of my cheek from the sandwich I was nibbling on, I almost fainted. I might not be that keen on sex for the same of simple pleasure, but I was a young woman who had been either blessed or cursed with an over active imagination and a libido to match.

Hey, don't look at me like that, if you'd had a very emotional day with where you were about to give your hero in an act of selflessness, only to have him turn around and almost do the same thing, then confess at least a part of your feelings and find out that the man who had started to take over your dreams was willing to make at least something of a life with you, you'd be in the same state I was.

But even heaven as to end at some point in time. We'd laid there after we finished eating until the sky started to grow dark. I was resting against Naruto's side, playing with the fabric of his shirt, my head on his shoulder and his arm around my back. Glancing up at the sky I sat up slightly, fear pooling in my belly.

I looked down at my hero and wondered what would happen when we left this tiny piece of paradise. "Naruto, I think we should keep this between us for now. I'm going to try and salvage something of my life before I let everyone know how I feel about you, and I want you to let me at least lose some of my reputation before we decide what we are." I said softly.

He looked up at me with understanding, if saddened, blue eyes. "I understand Ino." He said, stroking my cheek with the back of his fingers. I leaned into his touch, moaning slightly. "Thank you, Naruto." I said, grasping his hand and kissing the knuckles. "I don't want to be any more of a burden than I have to be, because I want to see you realize your dreams. I promise you I will do everything I can to make sure they come true." I continued, shifting so I was kneeling next to him.

"Thank you, Ino," he replied, sitting up as well. We shared one last, long kiss, before we got up and packed everything away. Tomorrow was going to be hard, I knew that much. Hell, the rest of my life was going to be hard. But with a little luck, I wouldn't be alone.