Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Chapter one

Comfort and Flames

She found herself in his arms. It seemed like she was there every day. Not that she minded. The feeling of his arms around her made her feel safe, like she couldn't be harmed. Sometimes she wondered if she only chased Sasuke so she could be in Naruto's arms.

"What did he say?"

"What does he always say?" She responded quietly. She didn't mind being rejected. That's not what hurt her. The comments he made while he was rejecting her were the things that caused her pain. Naruto was always there to comfort her and she always found peace in his arms.

"I don't understand why you put yourself through this. He's a bastard, plain and simple, and odds are he's never going to be with anyone." Naruto said. It was the line he used every time Ino ended up in his arms. He desperately wished that she could be there because she wanted to relax with him but he knew that wouldn't happen. She only needed a shoulder to cry on and he knew that. 'What would someone like her want with 'dead-last'?' he thought to himself. Sasuke would be the most fitting partner for her. He was the best at everything while Naruto was the worst. "Nothing." He said, answering his own question.

"What was that?" Ino mumbled into his shirt.

"Nothing, Ino-chan. Just thinking out loud."

"I wish you'd tell me what you were thinking. I still can't do the Jutsu my father showed me."

"When you get it down then you'll know. Look at it as motivation." He said with a small smile. Ino could always make him smile. Even when she was in pain. The last part hurt him a little. He knew he shouldn't be happy when she was hurt but she never felt like she was in any pain when she was with him.

Ino snorted a laugh out. It was a pleasant relief from the sobs that she'd been giving off just moments ago. "Stay with me." She said randomly. It was the only thing she'd wanted to tell him for the past… she couldn't even remember how long it'd been since Naruto first took her into his warm embrace. All she knew was that his arms were as warm as his smile and both managed to sooth her.

"Don't I always?"

"All night." She whispered, snuggling deeper into his jacket.

"Your father could find me. You know how much he hates me."

"My father won't come in my room at night. Besides, I need someone next to me tonight."

"I could, Henge into Sasuke if you want me to." Naruto said, truly hating the idea. The only reason that he even offered it was because it might make her feel better and right now that came before his own personal dislikes.

Knowing that he'd be willing to do something like that brought a true smile to her face. "No. I don't want to think about him tonight. I want Naruto next to me." Before he could say anything else Ino pulled herself away from his chest and laid down on the bed that they'd been sitting on. "Come' on." she said quietly. She only hopped that he would be able to relax like this. She knew that he felt pretty bad about failing the exams while she passed. And he'd told her about his little adventure to the Kage office. Hell, he'd brought the scroll with him. she called and he answered. That was all that mattered.

Naruto eased himself next to Ino. Her hair fell everywhere so he had to be careful not to pull it out when he finally settled. He loved her hair when she left it out of the pony tail that she always had it in. she never wore it in any other style during the day and Naruto felt particularly pleased to know that he was one of the few who had seen her in this state.

When she saw Naruto settle down on the bed Ino rolled herself over and pushed herself back so she was flush with Naruto. She reached out and pulled the thin, purple, sheet over their bodies. Naruto's body would provide all the heat she needed for the night so there was no need for the thick blanket that she normally slept under. "Thank you."

"I told you before. Your word is my law." It sounded cheesy, even to him, but it was the truth of the matter. He'd do anything she asked. The only thing that would make him say no was if her command involved him setting aside his dream. He draped his arm over Ino's stomach and tucked her head under his chin. It was an extremely intimate postion but neither minded. This was how they both wanted it. Even if the other didn't know it.

"I'm not going to sleep much tonight."

"Then neither will I."

"No, no, no. Mizuki said that you would have to show him a Jutsu from that scroll. You need to train tomorrow. If you don't sleep then you'll never get it." she didn't want to be the cause of his failure.

I've already got one down." He said, surprising Ino a little. Naruto felt her small body tense a little which made him laugh. "I didn't think you heard me. You looked like you were asleep but I didn't actually think you were." Ino frowned a little. She didn't remember falling asleep but it made a sense. Her day had passed quickly, almost too quickly now that she thought about it. Naruto laughed again. "As I said earlier. I got the basics of a bushin technique. The scroll said it was called Kagebushin. The scroll said that it was a physical clone. There were a few different uses for it that were listed but I don't do half the things that were on it. The only useful thing that I read was…" he did a little throat clear "The Kagebushin are physical manifestations of the user that are held together by the users Chakra. Should the clone's Chakra capticity rise then, upon dismissal, the user will gain not only the memory but the result of the training." Naruto said. He had memorized that part from the scroll. To him, it seemed like the most useful function of the technique.

Ino's eyes widened slightly at the concept. "Can you make any stable clones yet?"

"I was able to make two before you found me. I haven't tried to make any more than that."

'Wow.' she thought silently. She wondered if Sasuke could even pull off one. She looked back to everything that had happened that day. She wanted to find something to change the topic of conversation. Not that she minded hearing about how Naruto was growing but she didn't want to talk about being a ninja right now. "You kissed Sasuke." Ino said with a small grin on her face. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't find a reason to feel anything other than peace and sometimes happiness when Naruto was with her.

Naruto turned red behind her. "That wasn't my fault. Besides, it was disgusting. Not only did I kiss another guy but it tasted awful. Have you ever had spoiled milk because I swear it's all he drinks."

Ino had to actually bring her hands to her mouth to keep from exploding. She knew if she laughed right now then her parents would wake up and find Naruto in her bed and then they would instantly assume that he was trying something.

"Something funny?" Naruto said, his voice maintained a calming tone. One she loved to hear.

"I think Sasuke is right, Naruto, you are a baka."

"Did it make you feel better?"

She hesitated a moment. His voice was hardly a whisper now. Just low enough for her to hear it. It made the question feel so… intimate. Sure, everything about their current situation was intimate but the thing that made it weird was that it felt… good. Like it was supposed to happen. "Yes. It made me feel much better."

"Then it's not an insult. I'd gladly be called an idiot if it made you feel better."

"No." she said as she brought her hands down and placed them over his, intertwining their fingers. "I don't like you looking like an idiot. I do love your sense of humor though."

Naruto suddenly felt light. He knew that he didn't have a shot at her but he would become as close as he could get.

"I'm still not tired, but we should really try to sleep. Team selection is tomorrow and I need to be up."

"I've got to get up too. I'm planning on getting there before everyone so I can show Iruka-Sensei my new Jutsu." Naruto took a deep breath and pulled together everything that he could find. He didn't know if it was courage or just stupidity but he pulled it together. "I would like you to be there too.", 'that's not what I wanted to say,' he thought.

"Why?"

'Okay, say it right this time.', "I… um. I want to impress you." he said, feeling kinda stupid for still not saying what he wanted.

"I don't think anything you do tomorrow will impress me." Ino said, killing Naruto's mood.

"Oh… I'd still…"

Ino silenced him quickly with a weak head but. Knowing that the attack did no real damage she continued, "This… right here." She pulled on his arm a little. Showing him that she was talking about their current situation, "I don't think anything you can do will top this." She pushed herself back a little more. Trying to close the non-existent space between them. She had no clue what had come over her. Maybe she'd finally had enough of Sasuke's insults. Maybe she'd given up the 'maybes' and let the comfort that Naruto gave her take her over. Maybe, and to her it seemed the most likely, Naruto was perfect. Kind, caring, completely and utterly devoted to whatever and whoever he cared for, and, above all, he made her feel like she didn't have to cover herself. It was like she was naked around him. He could just look at her and tell exactly what was wrong or in some cases, right.

"Sasuke."

"Hurts me." Ino said. She rolled over to look at his eyes. "You, comfort me. You hold me till I ask you to let me go and I don't know how many times you've had to bring me home because I fell asleep in your arms. Now tell me. Sasuke, who hurts me. Or you, Naruto, who basically gives me everything I need. Not want, need." She leaned closer to him. "Now you tell me." They were barely an inch away from each other, "Which one, holds my attention." She closed the last inch. Naruto relaxed into the sensation. It felt like his entire being had been forced to his lips and was slowly working its way back into his body.

When he had feeling back in his body he pushed away from Ino. "I'll do this. If it's to comfort you like I always do then fine, I can deal with that. I would prefer it be out of honest emotion though."

"Naruto." Ino breathed. She reclosed the distance between them. Her lips were against his but they weren't pressing against his. They were just there. "How many times have I asked you to stay next to me?" she pressed herself against him. Lips, chest, stomach, hips, thighs, calfs, and feet. All of her was against him. The only separation that was left was their clothes but neither was about to remove that barrier. Naruto returned the kiss. This was what he wanted but he doubted that it was real. He'd probably fallen asleep and woken up in a dream before he could notice it.

Ino was the first to break away. She inhaled sharply, trying to refill her lungs. "Sleep now." Naruto said. He was sure this was a dream and he wasn't going to get his hopes up by continuing this only to wake up and find that it wasn't real.

"But." Naruto lightly kissed her. This only added to the weight in his chest.

"Sleep. I always wake up first and I know that you'll enjoy waking up to my lips against yours."

That sounded like a great way to wake up. "Fine. Tilt your head up." he did so immediately and Ino tucked her head under his chin. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

(Mindscape.)

"Do you think that I don't watch my daughter!?" Inoichi yelled as he dragged Naruto into his own mind.

"Inoichi."

"Don't you dare call me by my name, Demon." Inoichi spat. He'd watched the events unfold from his own little hiding place. He'd heard about the scroll being stolen and the Hokage had ordered them to find Naruto. Ino was the first thing that came to mind. He didn't care if he had to disobey orders from the Hokage he was going to check on his daughter. If the Demon brat was on the loose then she was going to be safe.

"Is it wise to call my vessel a Demon while the monster that makes him one sits behind you?"

The new voice made both Naruto, who knew only that he'd been pulled into his own mind by Inochi's Jutsu, freak out. His gaze shifted to the cage that resided behind the blond man. It was huge, he thought, larger than the Hokage tower. He could only see two large, red, eyes behind the cage. The sight might not have scared him. There was one small problem though. The eyes were staring right at him. "What are you?" Naruto asked. Using the calm voice that Ino had taught him.

"This man wants your head for touching his daughter like you did." Kyuubi said, making no attempt to hide his amusement.

"This is the boys mind, demon. The mind is my battle ground. It'd do you well to watch your mouth while you speak to me here." Inoichi threatened. His gaze locked with the foxes.

"Do you think your pitiful techniques will do anything to me or the boy? As long as I'm in him then nothing you can do will touch him." Kyuubi still sounded amused. The human that stood before him was making a threat. A threat that he couldn't back up with actual power. "Shits like you are the reason that I detest humans. Thinking that you're all powerful. There is only one human, alive that I respect, and the only reason I respect him is because of a dead-mans wish." Kyuubi shifted his massive eyes to Naruto. "You better thank me boy. If I wasn't in your head right now then the shit over there would be able to kill you."

Inoichi saw red as the fox used its own nickname for him. "You think I can't kill this boy, this… Demon?" Inoichi chuckled as he started to gather Chakra.

Kyuubi's eyes widened as Inoichi started the hand seals for a Jutsu that he recognized, "Damn it." Kyuubi growled. "Kit." Naruto instantly looked up thinking that this was the foxes name for him. Kyuubi had an evil grin on its face. "If you fuck this up then you're stuck on your own. So you better try hard 'cause I don't feel like die'n just yet." Kyuubi laughed as Naruto spit up blood.

Naruto dropped to his knees as his body seemed to light on fire. He felt the blood forming in places it shouldn't. His lungs, Throat, he could even feel it seeping out of his eyes. It ran down his face in the place of the tears he felt coming. He couldn't hold them back as the fire covered every inch of his body. He forced his head to look up at the monster before him, "what the... what are you doing." He forced out.

Inoichi finished the hand seals and forced his hands to the seal that was placed on Kyuubi's cage. "Die. Both you monsters…Die." He watched as the seal shattered.

"Fire of hell. Rise from the ashes of the master and pass to the son. Burn down the walls of humanity and from its ashes, build the walls of the blood. Father and son, bound by blood. Burn the blood and seal the father. Join… join as family… as kin… as son" Kyuubi chanted quietly. To Inoichi it sounded like a whisper as the fox repeated it over and over. To Naruto is sounded like a scream. His entire body still felt like it was on fire and he'd yet to get an answer as to why it was burning. The only clue he had was the foxes chant. Finally the chants ended and the pain flared inside Naruto's vains, "Leave or die. You, Inoichi, have this choice."

Naruto's body was thrust forward, into the air. All the pain that wracked his body seemed to concentrait in his chest. "the seal is broken. Without your support the boy will die from my Jutsu." Inoichi said, "and you with him."

"WRONG!"

A blood red line of flame shot from Naruto's chest, pircing through Inoichi and slammed into an invisible wall where the seal had resided. The flame ripped itself from Naruto's chest, leaving him with no feeling in his body at all. He was surprised that his vision remained. He watched as the flame jumped through Inoichi and condensed on the cage. The cage started to melt under the flame. It took a few seconds but you could clearly read the Kanji mark for 'seal' being burned into the cage.

"This seal can never be broken be a Jutsu or living attempt. Only in the event of your death will it shatter and set me free." Kyuubi looked from the parylized Naruto to the blond man that stood in front of his cage. "Little shits still alive. Hmm… I guess it's best to leave him alive for the time being. The blond female wouldn't be pleased if her father suddenly died."

Naruto held his eyes open. Even resting them for a second would result in him drifting away from the reality that he was in He opened his mouth to ask the only question he had on his mind. A guteral noise rose from his throat. He tried again and was still unable to produce words.

"Rest for now. Tommorow the implications of tonights survival will take full effect. I'm sorry that things had to happen this way but the second he broke the seal you became completely vulnerable. You would have died. I did what I did to protect you and myself remember that. I did protect you."

Naruto's eyes began to blur as Kyuubi spoke. He didn't want to close them but found it impossible to keep them open any longer. "Kyu…" he couldn't finish as his world went black.