Ino healed herself quietly, unable to find the courage to speak out through the unapproachable aura around her blond haired teammate as he sat silently in mourning over the now cold body of his oldest friend. What words of comfort could she say? He had killed Sasuke to keep the Uchiha from killing them both. Would it sound more coarse if she thanked him for it? All she was left was a fear of her beloved's feelings that tried to keep her from feeling so buoyant about her narrow escape of death. Soon, all too soon darkness was creeping into the valley, the night was approaching, and they needed to get somewhere safe. Just because Taka's threat had been removed didn't mean other Akatsuki weren't in the area. Sooner or later more experienced members would begin looking for Sasuke and his little band, they needed to move. Suna was closer. Gaara and Bi could help keep them safe until Konoha could send reinforcements. Necessity overruled kindness and her own guilt, she squeezed his shoulder.

"I'm sorry Naruto, but we need to go. Now." He didn't move. "Please Naruto, We need to get to help. We're sitting ducks here." No reaction. Tears filled her eyes at his broken state. But softly crying out to him was Sakura's bit, she was Yamanaka Ino. A slap brought his eyes focus and clarity to her face. "Wake up, Naruto-baka. I need you here. I need the man I fell in love with here." He... twitched at that. Why not say it. She meant it. She wasn't going to just say it then step aside and let his sadness and anger run over her confession. It just wasn't her way. "We need to move before someone worse shows up. I don't want to stay here... please." She finally was at begging him when he stood with a resolute look to his face. Slowly, almost hesitantly he picked up the figure of his 'brother' .

"Ino. I need to take Sasuke back... I..." He trailed off looking distant once more. She understood.

"You need to fulfill your promise. I understand... Naruto." He smiled though there was no warmth in it.

They rose and began turning back towards Konoha.

"Ino." She paused a moment when he called out to her. "About what you said... Can I... talk to you later about it?" Ino nodded but a small pit filled her stomach.

He had said the same to Hinata just before he broke her heart.


Naruto just went too far for me to enjoy anymore and RL has left me with no interest in trying to keep writing in this fandom. Therefore, this fiction is as finished by me as it every will be, and any one may continue should they wish. PM's are always welcome if you would like to know where I was heading with the story. Adoption papers are a go.