EPILOGUE

0 seconds before the wedding.

Ino was lying on the grass, greeted by a cloudless blue sky. No noise bothered her except for rustling of some leaves and birds chirping. She could see what Shikamaru saw in this place: like you were in your own private world. You felt safe.

Thinking about Shikamaru made her feel a dull ache, but no more. Maybe she was already healing.

I mean, I realized I'm in love with a guy I've known my whole life 3 weeks before his wedding. No wonder this is what I get.

She thought this was funny and began to laugh so hard she started to cry.

All of a sudden, she heard a distant voice yelling her name. Panic seized her. She didn't want Sakura or Chouji or her mom or anyone to see her right now. She scrambled to her feet and half-slipped, half-sprinted down the grassy slope. But the other person's footsteps still followed behind her.

Shit, couldn't they get the hint?

"INO! IT'S ME!"

She froze. No, it wasn't him. Definitely not.

For one, there was no possible way Shikamaru could ever - or would ever - run that fast.

And second, he would never ever strain his diaphragm to yell that loud.

And third: he's standing at the altar, not here.

"I'm not marrying Temari."

She covered her ears, not wanting to believe it. "Stop it."

"She was right. I have to stop lying to myself. Lying to you."

"What are you talking about!" she screamed.

"There's only been you, Ino."

He said it quietly; she almost didn't hear him, since he had respected her wishes and kept a distance between them. Ino wrapped her arms around herself shakily. He was probably a mirage or a hallucination that would melt into nothing as soon as she turned around.

"I'll go," he said hoarsely, taking her silence as a leave-me-alone. Grass rustled as he began to walk away.

Ino pressed her hands to her eyes. I'm scared.

All the more reason to run.

So she did - she ran and ran, legs flying from underneath her.

He turned just as she caught up, his eyes widening in surprise as her fingertips grazed his shoulder, then his cheek, and -

Oomph.

Home.

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