A Lighted Candle

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

Kiba grinned his devilish grin with one fang sticking out the side and Ino's knees went weak and her stomach swooped.

"I'll be back in no time. It's just some silly mission; apparently it should be real boring. And anyways Akamaru's got my back and Hinata'll make sure I don't do anything too crazy. You've got nothin' to worry about." She rolled her eyes.

"I'm not worried." She said it with so much conviction she almost believed it herself. He laughed.

"Course you're not." She glared in mock anger before rolling her eyes again.

"Just try not to die."

"I'll do my best." He said winking as he turned away. Ino's heart thumped loudly as he disappeared with Hinata, Shino and Akamaru.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

Ino crosses off yet another day on the calendar in the kitchen. She closes her eyes and leans back against the counter and tries to tell herself that everything is fine. She tries to forget that he should have been home last week. She inhales deeply and smells the scent of the special dinner she cooked in case he came home today.

A knock sounds at the door and she quickly squashes down her excitement and composes herself. Then she walks to the front door and opens it. She tries to hide her disappointment when she finds Shikamaru at the door.

"Hey. What are you doing here?" He looks uncomfortable and Ino tries her best to quell the dread welling in her stomach.

"I...You have to come to the Hokage Tower with me. It's important."The fear threatens to consume her but she nods and grabs her coat and forgets all about dinner.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

"They found Shino nearly dead and brought him to the hospital, but there was no sign of the others. I've already sent out a search team." Tsunade looked up at the faces of the two people before her and sighed. "I'm sorry."

She looked at Naruto first. He looked like the whole world had caved in. And maybe his had. Ino on the other hand stood tall and resolute and kept her face completely neutral.

"Thank you Lady Hokage." She said before turning around and leaving the room.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

Ino did not cry as she made her way home. Nor did she cry as she opened the front door to her apartment or as she went about opening all the windows to let the smoke out. She didn't cry as she turned off the smoke alarm or when she turned off the oven or threw out her ruined dinner. She didn't cry as she brushed her hair or brushed her teeth or when she changed into her pyjamas. She didn't cry as she settled into bed and pulled the covers tight around her or when she closed her eyes.

She cried when she rolled over and smelt him. When she rolled too close to his side of the bed and his scent wafted over her, the dam inside her broke and she sobbed. She buried her face in his pillow and sobbed and breathed in his scent until she fell asleep.

She woke up on a soaked pillow that smelt only of salty tears and nothing else. Then she cried again.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

When Sakura showed up she was sitting on the sofa in one of his shirts sipping out of the mug she had bought him.

Ino could see Sakura flinch.

"Hey Ino. I was thinking we should have a girls' day. You know a shopping spree and then some pampering at the spa. I'll pay." Ino knew of course that Sakura was doing this in the hopes that it would distract her from Kiba's disappearance. It wouldn't but Sakura was trying. Ino nodded and Sakura looked extremely relieved.

As Ino had thought, it wasn't enough to distract her, but for Sakura's sake she pretended to have fun. After that all her friends tried to distract her. None succeeded but she saw how it hurt them as Naruto wallowed in despair. It was bad enough that she was broken, they didn't need to be.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

A warm breeze ruffled the trees and Ino pulled her knees up to her chest. Her eyes were closed as she took in the sounds of her surroundings. The rustling of leaves, the gentle lapping of waves along the shore near her feet, the wind whistling through the flowers and blades of grass. It was so peaceful.

She could hear the sound of footsteps and she didn't bother turning her head as the person drew closer. Temari settled next to Ino on the grass and put her arm around her shoulders. For a long time they didn't speak, they just sat in silence. Finally Temari spoke.

"I'm not going to try and distract you like everyone else. I know it isn't working. But don't worry, I won't burst their bubble. I just want you to know that I'm here if you need to talk about it. Or if you want a shoulder to cry on." Ino didn't speak but instead just laid her head on Temari's shoulder and cried.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

Ino's heartbeat quickened and her stomach began to swirl and she felt like she would be sick. Her feet flew across the ground, kicking up clouds of dust as she ran as fast as she could.

She had been leaving the grocery store when she saw him. There he was, casually walking down the street. She dropped her groceries and ran. She had to catch him. He was so close. She reached out a hand just as he turned around.

Ino's heart exploded and her stomach drooped right out as her eyes made contact with a pair of emerald green eyes that did not belong to Kiba. She stumbled back, her head swimming, her eyes blurring.

It wasn't him. Of course it wasn't. She had "seen" him more than a dozen times. Every man with brown hair suddenly became him. None of them even looked remotely like him but her twisted mind enjoyed tormenting her.

Every time her heart beat would race and her mind would sing with possibilities and then she would crash and burn. Every time she had to face the cold hard truth that it wasn't him. Every single time it hurt more and more until it didn't even hurt anymore.

And every time she fell for it because she wasn't willing to give up. Not yet.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

A happy couple walked by with their hands clasped. The girl's head rested on the boy's shoulder, her eyes closed and a blissful smile on her face. The boy smiled and looked down at her with so much love and devotion it was almost painful to look at. They were so happy. They were still lost in the thought that every day would be just as perfect as right now. No idea that that perfection was just a wishful fantasy.

One of them would probably cheat or break up with other because it was hindering their social life. Someone's friends would interfere and some new good looking person would cause jealousy. Tension would rise and fights would and then they'd break up. If they were lucky.

If they weren't lucky they would end up like Ino and Naruto and the countless others who met their fate. Those who would never get the closure of a break up or even a straightforward death. Cursed to forever wonder if they'd come home. Cursed to be forever plagued with grief and pain. Cursed to feel like a traitor if they ever manage to move on. Because they could still be out there fighting their way back.

Ino and Naruto and those like them were cursed but they wouldn't say so. They would say they were lucky because their loved ones were coming home.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

Ino sat on their bench in the park as a warm breeze ruffled her hair. It was their bench for many reasons. It was not their bench because it was where he had first asked her out, that had been her kitchen. Well if you listened to her. If you listened to him he'd say he never asked her out and she just forced him to take her to dinner. It was not the place where he had first said I love you, that had been her couch.

This bench was the place where they had officially decided they were a couple. They hadn't actually decided that after the first date or first kiss or first make-out session. No, it had been right here on this bench when they had accidentally ran in to each other. She could remember her giddiness.

This was also the spot where she had first encountered his incredible jealousy and territorial nature. He had gone to get her ice cream from the vendor across the path (it was no longer there, it actually made her feel old) when some man had sat next to her and started flirting. Kiba had dropped the ice cream and rushed over and punched the guy in the face. She had freaked out, but really how she would have loved for him to punch someone right now.

This was also where he had asked her to move in with him. It had been casual, so casual you would have thought he was commenting on the weather. She hadn't even realised what she was agreeing to until he had started talking about how she was only allowed to bring her couch because the rest of her furniture was ugly.

This place was special to her and that was why she sat there and held up a candle. It was a symbol, a symbol that said that she was still holding a candle for him, that she still believed. She held it up and whispered ever so softly.

"Come back Kiba. Come back."

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

It's been so long now and she really doesn't even want to know how long it really has been. There hasn't been any search teams in months and everyone has given up. There are plans for a memorial service. A service to honour the brave dead.

Because it has been so long that they are believed dead. Hinata, Akamaru and Kiba. Well, believed dead by almost everyone.

She stills holds to the belief that they will come home. And she is the only. All their other friends have abandoned all hope, their families have accepted the "truth" and even Naruto seems to have given up.

Naruto, who is broken and in pain and who no one can save. She will not give up. She will not because she is afraid to be like Naruto. A broken empty shell.

But most importantly she will not admit defeat because she still has hope.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

Ino sits on their bed and looks through old photos. Old pictures that help her remember. Old photos that bring a smile to her face. It isn't a real smile. It is only the ghost of a smile but it is all she can give.

A heavy, deep knock resonates through her and she looks up. She sighs and debates whether or not to answer it. She knows it will be Sakura or Shikamaru or Choji, once again asking her to reconsider going to the memorial.

The knock sounds again and she forces herself up to answer it. She slowly drags her feet through the apartment before finally stopping in front of the door. She sighs again before opening it.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

"Sorry. Lost my key." Her eyes widen and her mouth opens ever so slightly as she recognizes that voice. Her eyes meet his and she is sure she is going to die. He smiles that smile, the one that drives her crazy and opens his arms for a hug. She stands frozen for a few seconds and then she slams the door in his face.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

"Hey! I know I've been gone awhile and have grown this sexy beard but I'm sure you can still recognize me!" She doesn't answer. Instead she presses her back against the door and takes shallow hurried breaths. He is alive. He is alive and standing right on the other side of the door. Her knees give out and she sinks to the floor and starts to cry.

"Ino? Ino you still there?" His voice sounds through the door and she sobs harder.

"Hey, hey, hey don't cry. Shhh, don'tcry. Everything's okay. Come on sweet cheeks, I love you." When her only response is to cry harder still, she hears a pained sigh.

"I can leave if you want. I'm sure I can force Shino into giving me a room." She still doesn't answer and she can hear him getting up.

"Alright bye bye blondie. Love you." She can hear his footsteps in the hall and panic suddenly assaults her chest. She leaps to her feet and fumbles with the doorknob. When she finally forces it open he is at the end of the hall.

And every night she sits on that bench and holds her little candle in the air and whispers his name to the wind.

"Kiba Inuzuka! Where the hell do you think you're going? You've been gone for almost a year and now you're just going to leave? What kind of a crap ass boyfriend are you?" His eyes widen and she continues.

"Do you have any idea what it's been like for me? All this time? Your memorial is tomorrow!"

"Oh yeah because it was all sunshine and roses where I was!"

"Don't you start yelling at me now!"

"Why? Because I go through hell to get back to you and then I should just lie down and let you berate me! You should know me better than that!"

"Dog breath!"

"Drama queen!"

"Stupid, conceited asshole!"

"Superficial, vain airhead!" Their faces are only centimetres apart now. Both are flushed with anger. And then simultaneously they close the gap and crush their lips together.

Fire and electricity explode through her as she wraps her legs around his waist. Her fingers tangled in his hair and one of his hands cradles her head and the other clutches her waist.

They kiss and kiss and kiss until they can't breathe. She presses her forehead against his and breathes in his scent. She starts to smile.

"I missed you so much. You have no idea." Her arms tighten around his neck as she replies.

"Oh I think I do."

"I love you wiggles." She smiles at the silly name he gave her what feels like decades ago.

"I love you too, noodles. But I'm so not digging the beard. You are so shaving that when I'm done welcoming you home."

"The beard's hot and you know it."

"Yeah, sure dog boy." And then their laughter rings through the halls, because they were so happy and because he really was stupid if he thought that beard was a good idea.

A.N. Okay so this turned out to be way longer than I thought it would be! But I actually like it! While writing this I was listening to Airplanes by B.O.B. featuring Hayley Williams and it really put me in the right mood to finish this. So please read and review!