Speedy update? Hah! Well, because im on a vacation. :) Anyway, I would like to tell you guys that this would be the last episode of this fanfic of mine. :) However, don't worry, because there's another NaruIno cop story on the way. I just hope that you'll show the same enthusiasm you did for Wedding Sniper. Keep hittin that button below! Thanks!
It'd happened too fast.
On the count of three, Naruto had expected to hear Ino's shot, and by four, he figured the sniper would come out from the cover to take aim at her. By five, Naruto was supposed to have already fired a deadly shot that would keep Ino out of harm's way.
He was wrong.
Things didn't happened as planned.
Ino fired. He'd heard that all right. But then, the sniper fired, too. Immediately. Not a second later as he should have done.
A thousand thoughts went through Naruto's head. None good. This was what he feared most. Not losing a promotion. Not blowing a case. But losing Ino.
He couldn't lose her.
"Say something!" Naruto demanded into his communicator. And he held his breath.
Those two words were the most welcome two words he'd ever heard. Naruto leaned his shoulder against the building and let it support him.
"He missed," Ino added. "I'll try again – "
"No! He'll be looking for you! He aimed right at you, Ino, and that means he's not hiding behind the ventilation shaft but he's crouched down in front of it."
"Okay," and she repeated it. "So how about this? I strip off the dress and toss it into the parking lot. It's big enough and light colored enough to make a great distraction. When he fires at it, I'll shoot to draw him out, and then you can do your thing."
He didn't have enough breath left to ask about that, and from the ragged pauses in her own breathing and the sound of tearing fabric, he could tell she was already getting out of that dress.
Naruto moved into position.
"On three," Ino said. And she didn't hesitate long enough for him to change his mind.
A blast of sound. From Ino's gun. And once again, the sniper fired right at her without so much as lifting his head. But this time, Naruto did see the barrel of the rifle.
"Talk to me Ino," Naruto barked.
Not one word.
"Talk to me!!!" he repeated.
"She dove into some shrubs," Naruto heard someone say through his communicator. Not Ino. But Chouji.
"Is she all right?" Naruto immediately asked.
"Hard to say."
Not the reassurance Naruto needed, especially since she wasn't giving him that reassurance herself. He consoled himself with the possibility her communicator had been damaged in the fall.
"How about you?" Chouji again. "You have a visual on this sniper?"
"If I did, he'd already be dead."
But what Naruto did have was the next best thing. He knew the sniper's position. If he aimed just below where he'd seen the rifle, the he could perhaps kill him before he did any more damage.
First though, he had to make sure Ino was all right.
"Ino?" he barked. "If you're there, please talk to me."
The next few seconds dragged into an eternity.
"We'll keep monitoring this line, and I'll do some adjusting to see if we can increase reception so we can contact her," Chouji explained. "We're assembling a team to go on the roof, but we're still a good ten, maybe fifteen minutes out."
At the moment, ten or fifteen was a couple of lifetimes. They didn't have lifetimes.
"Make sure that masonry fence is covered," Naruto insisted.
"It is. Don't worry. If this guy tries to get down, he wont get far."
Maybe. But it was a risk Naruto didn't want to take. He wanted to end it here and now – after he made sure Ino was safe.
More seconds. Long ones. And just when Naruto was ready to break into a run and check on Ino, her voice came through the communicator. Naruto, can you hear me?"
"Loud and clear." Thank goodness. He was glad he was still leaning against the wall. "I thought I'd lost you."
"No way. My communicator fell off, and I had to find it. Are you okay?"
"I am now. Stay put. I'll get this guy."
"Wait. Just please don't do anything dangerous, although I know that it just will be." And she knew she was right. There was nothing they could do about it.
"Just remember, stay put." Naruto ordered.
"Naruto, I'm in love with you," Ino blurted out.
Okay. So he hadn't exactly been expecting her to say that. And she likely didn't know her brother and heaven knows who else was listening in on their conversation. Naruto didn't have to inform her of that, or time to respond.
He saw the rifle again, and he automatically zoomed in on it. He took aim. Shut out everything else. His focus pinpointed to that one spot.
And he fired.
The sounds of the city and the nearby street slowly began to penetrate his consciousness. He shut them out as well, all the sounds, all the flurries of movement on the street, and Naruto concentrated just on that one spot on the roof. A sign of activity, any activity, and he'd fire again.
"I think you got him," Ino said into the communicator.
"So do I. Maintain your position just in case."
And if the sniper was indeed dead, then it was all over.
"Please tell me you weren't hurt," she demanded.
"I'm fine. You?"
"Just a scratch or two."
Naruto cursed. "Our definitions of scratches aren't the same." He'd have a medic check her out ASAP.
She paused and Naruto could hear her heavy breath. Or was it his? "It'll either be Karin or Tomoyama on that roof," Ino said. "Because I think all of this was done to cover up the first shooting, those first two murders."
So Ino had come up to the same conclusion he had. Not surprising at all. Either Tomoyama had wanted to get back at his ex or else Karin had wanted to eliminate the happy groom. It explained the reason the first shots had been accurate. Either Karin or Tomoyama had fired with intent to kill. Everything else had been sloppy, a dangerous façade designed to mask the killer's motive.
Tonight had been to eliminate Ino and him because they'd obviously gotten too close to the truth.
Heck, the sniper had almost succeeded.
"We have a visual of the body on the roof," Chouji said through the communicator.
It was the only green light he needed. Naruto turned to find Ino.
She found him first.
He'd hardly gotten to the back corner when he almost ran into her. They skidded to a stop. Stared at each other. There was indeed a thin scratch on her chin, but other than that, she was fine.
Ino launched herself into his arms. He was right there to catch her.
And kiss her.
It was probably their shortest kiss ever.
"Sergeant Uzumaki?" someone immediately called out. It was Shikamaru. He was already on the scene, and after another glance, Naruto realized he wasn't the only one. At least half a dozen other officers were there as well.
With the wedding dress thrown over his shoulder, Shikamaru approached them and handed it to Ino as she eased out of Naruto's embrace.
"The press is here," Shikamaru said.
Which meant there'd likely be pictures. She put on the dress – probably because it beat the alternative of being photographed in her slip.
Her friend gave her a warm hug and whispered, "Good job." Shikamaru said the same to Naruto before they were interrupted for an update on Kabuto. The man was alive and would be taken to the hospital.
The routine chaos started. The inevitable aftermath of a violent crime. There was the wail of the ambulance coming for Kabuto. Shouts. Orders. The smell of gunfire and leftover adrenaline. It wasn't surprising Naruto soon found himself engulfed in it.
A medic pulled Ino aside, checking her scratch, while Chouji came over the communicator with an update of his own.
"The sniper's Dr. Tomoyama," he heard Chouji say. "And he's DOA. Good shooting, Uzumaki."
So it was really over.
Well, except for one not so minor detail. There was Ino's comment about being in love with him.
That required Naruto to take a deep breath or two.
Now that they weren't in a life-and-death situation, he wanted to get her take on it. Maybe it'd been the adrenaline and fear talking and not…
Hell, he didn't even want to finish that.
Naruto turned to find her, but she'd already disappeared into the gathering crowd of officers and medics.
Ino cranked up the music as loud as she could stand it. Nickelback did their part, Chad's gritty voice belting out the words to "Burn It To The Ground" as her running shoes pounded against the sidewalk.
She ran fast. Much faster than her usual Sunday morning pace from her apartment to her parent's home. She pushed herself hard. Harder. Until her muscles protested. Until her heart pounded.
But it still wasn't fast enough.
The thoughts she'd been trying to keep at bay caught up with her, and no matter how much she kicked up the pace, no matter how high she cranked up the volume, the thoughts just kept coming.
Thoughts of a killer and his victims.
Naruto and she had stopped Tomoyama Kenji. A cold-blooded killer who according to his own computer diary had refused to give up the woman he loved or go to jail for murdering her. He'd been willing to hurt or even kill others to cover that crime, and by Tomoyama's own admission, he'd wanted Naruto and her dead after he became suspicious of them.
But in the end, Naruto and she had prevented Tomoyama from killing others – including Yakushi Kabuto. He was alive and recovering in the hospital. Hisagi Karin, Hiruko Sasori and the other Perfect Match clients were all safe, as well. Heck, even a lot of the paperwork for the case had been finished.
The only thing missing was Naruto.
They'd spoken of course. Briefly. In the halls at headquarters as they were shuffled from one interview to the other. She'd had time to give him back his grandmother's ring and little else since a great deal of the past day and a half had involved hours of separate sessions with Internal Affairs and supervisors.
All routine. All part of the checks and balances to make sure deadly force had been warranted.
Not that anyone had ever thought differently. Tomoyama had had to be stopped.
The interviews were just time-consuming square fillers. But now those interviews were done, the squares had been filled, and Naruto still hadn't contacted her.
Ino ran harder.
The night of the shooting, she'd told him that she loved him – on an open communicator, she'd since learned. Her friends and probably plenty of other people had heard her, so certainly Naruto hadn't missed it. Or maybe he had. Maybe he'd wanted to miss it.
And maybe the excessive endorphins from the run were simply making her crazy.
She slowed into a cooldown, hoping it'd cool her thoughts. It didn't. The 'I love you' she'd told him kept resounding in her head. An 'I love you' that was real, and yet it hadn't been said to her in return. No amount of running could take the sting out of that. She felt as if her heart were breaking into a million pieces.
Ino did some extra minutes of cooldown to give herself time for a serious attitude adjustment. That didn't work, either. Since she felt on the verge of crying, she cut through the backyard, hoping to sneak into her parent's house and grab a shower before the rest of the Yamanaka clan as well as her bestfriends Shikamaru and Chouji, showed up for Sunday brunch. Of course, she didn't hold out much hope but at least that way she could cry in private.
"There you are," her father greeted before Ino even got through the door.
Not that a greeting in itself was unusual, but her father wasn't cooking. He wasn't even wearing his 'Kiss the Cook' apron, and there wasn't so much as a whiff of waffles and bacon.
Ino turned off her music, slipped off her headphones and peered past her father into the sprawling kitchen. Her family was already there. Both Chouji and Shika as well as his daughter, Kumiko. With the exception of Kumiko, they were all staring at her as if she had the answers to questions that she didn't know had been asked.
"Aunt Ino!" Kumiko shouted.
"Hey, Kumi-chan," Kumiko bolted for her, and Ino scooped her up in her arms, giving her a full circle spin around. She planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek. A kiss that earned her a giggle.
"Any idea what's going on?" Ino whispered to Kumiko. Not that she expected an answer from a two-and-a-half-year-old.
Kumiko cupped her small hands around her mouth and tried to whisper back. "It's a secret."
That didn't narrow it down much.
"Mom," Ino greeted, giving her a kiss on the cheek as well. There wasn't a strand of her mother's sandy blonde hair out of place, and she'd already applied make up. Hardly her normal Sunday routine.
Her mom brushed her fingers over the scratch on Ino's chin, issued a disapproving grunt, and that's when Ino noticed she had no megamug of coffee in her hands. Definitely abnormal. The woman stood shoulder-to-shoulder next to Shikamaru and appeared to have been waiting for her.
"What?" Ino asked cautiously. "Did something go wrong with the Tomoyama case?"
"Everything's fine," Shikamaru started. "The last few ends were tied up when Karin volunteered to go back into therapy for her relationship issues."
"Yeah. Therapy with a shrink who doesn't m-u-r-d-e-r people," Chouji added, obviously spelling it out since Kumiko was listening. "Oh, and Kabuto wanted me to tell you how sorry he was about the incident in the hall at Perfect Match, and he wanted to thank you for saving his life."
Nothing wrong with any of that – which only made Ino more suspicious. "So if it's not the Tomoyama case, why are all of you staring at me?"
And then it hit her.
"Wait, does this have anything to do with the investigation into the favoritism allegations?"
"No." Shikamaru assured her. "The chief decided to terminate the inquiry for lack of evidence."
In other words, Naruto intervened, and justice had been served. "So if it's not that or the Tomoyama case, then what is it?"
Her best friends exchanged a couple of glances, lifted eyebrows and other assorted facial gestures before Shikamaru extended hi hand to her. "Congratulations, Sergeant Yamanaka."
It took several moments for that to sink in. "I got the promotion?" she gasped.
Somehow, amazingly, Ino had forgotten all about it.
The hugs started. Ditto for the excited kisses and well wishes from her parents. Ino braced herself for the flood of joy, the rush of success. And it happened. Sort of it. But it was more of a trickle than a flood.
"What about Naruto?" she asked. Kumiko wriggled out of her grip. "Did he make lieutenant?"
Chouji and Shikamaru traded another of those ocular volleys, and these time they included Ino's parents in the raised eyebrow exchanges.
"Told you," Chouji assured them.
"Told them what?" but Ino wasn't entirely sure she wanted to hear this.
Chouji shrugged as if the answer were obvious. "That you're in love with Uzumaki Naruto."
She huffed. A short burst of air that hopeful was a vague enough reaction so she wouldn't have to out-and-out lie. She didn't want to discuss this with anyone until she'd had time to…heck, she didn't even know what she wanted to do about it. Sulking, maybe even crying, was a distinct possibility.
"Well, are you?" her mother asked, staring at her with eyes that were a genetic copy of her own.
Ino went on the offensive. Not with her mother. But she aimed her offensive attention at Shikamaru. "Did Naruto get the promotion or not?"
"He got it. He'll be put in charge of Special Investigations."
But the answer didn't come from Shikamaru. Ino's gaze flew across the room, to the adjoining family room.
And there he was.
Lieutenant Uzumaki Naruto.
Sitting on the sofa.
He got up, slid his hands into the pockets of his great-fitting jeans and ambled toward her. "Congratulations, Sergeant."
Now here was the rush, and the rest of the room faded away. "Congratulations, Lieutenant." The platinum blonde managed to say.
"Naruto dropped by to bring back my wedding dress," her mother explained, causing the room to reenter the fringes of Ino's consciousness. But even that couldn't get her attention off the hot-looking man walking toward her. "You left it at headquarters the night of the shooting."
"ONE of the reasons I came was to return the dress," Naruto clarified. "I'm also here to ask Ino about something."
From that look, the question wasn't about Tomoyama or a report. Her heart landed in the vicinity of her knees.
"Oh yeah?" Chouji commented. He nudged Shikamaru with his elbow.
Naruto nodded, without taking his eyes away from her. "I wanted to ask her to marry me."
Well, more like an avalanche.
Ino was sure her family was doing a lot of glance exchanges, elbow nudges and the like, but she didn't care. Naruto was going to ask her to marry him.
"And what do you think she'll say?" Chouji again.
Naruto stopped right in front of her. "I'm hoping she'll say yes once she knows I'm in love with her and that I want to spend the rest of my life with her." He hooked his finger into the waist of her running shorts and pulled her to him. He touched his mouth to Ino's.
She felt that simple kiss from head to toe.
"I'm positive she'll say yes," Ino smiled.
"Positive?" Naruto questioned, the corner of his mouth lifting.
"It's a sure thing."
So this was what it was like to be totally in love. Sweet heaven. There was nothing like it. Not the thrill of an arrest, not the promotion. Not even the badge. Just an overwhelming sense that everything was right.
The room went silent. For a moment or two. Until her mother squealed. A second wave of congratulations, hugs and well wishes started, and she found herself in some very loving arms. Including Naruto's.
"You knew about this?" Ino whispered to Chouji and Shikamaru, noting that both were grinning as much as the others. "And you guys, approve of it?"
Shikamaru shrugged. "Hey, as long as he makes you happy, then we're fine with it."
Ino hugged her two best friends. After several more minutes of celebrating, Naruto asked if he could have just a few moments alone with his wife-to-be.
As soon as the couple were given their own space, Naruto never once let go of her. "Are you upset I chose a public proposal?" he asked.
"Are you serious? Of course, not!" Ino told him.
"Well, I thought it was only fair after your public announcement on the communicator." Naruto kissed her fully on the lips.
Ino winced, but that public announcement would save them some time. Everyone at the headquarters probably knew how she felt about Uzumaki Naruto.
"I'd like to invite your family to the wedding," she said while she could still speak. The kiss he gave her seriously put a damper on what was left of that particular ability. "Any objections?"
He shook his head. "None. Knowing you, you'll be able to talk them into coming."
Between her father and her, it was practically guaranteed.
"It'll be a new beginning," Naruto took her hand and slipped his grandmother's ring back on her finger. "A new start. A new life. Oh, and lots of great sex."
Ino ran her tongue over her bottom lip and felt a nice jolt when she tasted him there. "Great sex, huh?" she smiled. "But you left something out – the happily ever after part."
"I didn't leave that out," Naruto laced their fingers together. Drew her against him. "With us, happily ever after is a given."
Yes it was.
A true perfect match.
And Naruto let her know with a long, lingering kiss.
There! Finally done! I am expecting reviews, alright? :)