No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world. - Aristotle on loneliness

"If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you." - Winnie the Pooh (Who knew the pooh bear could be so wise?) on humanity

"It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get." - Some dead guy explaining hate

A cold wind blew through the bright, autumn night. Festive decorations strung from street to street, lightning the usual pitch black sky with their joyous color. Red, green, brown, orange, countless lights of many colors ranging from many shapes and sizes could be seen. Banners, pictures, dolls and more decorated the houses.

A large sign hung on top of the main doorway with words in black "Peace and Unity" written in the center. Yes, this was a sign of peace. One, Naruto Uzumaki had finally triumph over Akatsuki and brought all five ninja nations into a peace agreement. Disarmament is no longer a dream, but a reality. Within months a festival was planned, and the night is the big night.

Yet, Naruto Uzumaki couldn't find any reason to be happy. He let out a sigh of defeat as his legs moved him forward in tow of Gaara.

"For the first time, in a long time, the people truly have something to celebrate. All thanks to you." Gaara turned with a slight smile to his friend. But the sand jinchūriki and current kazekage immediately frowned at his friend's composer, "You're not your usual self."

"Hey Naruto!" A familiar voice called out. His eyes perked up recognizing his teammate's voice and turned to see Sakura and Ino. "I've been looking for you. Let's go dance. They're having a contest over at the square."

"Not interested." Naruto blew her off.

"Hey now, come on." Sakura winked, "Who in their right mind wouldn't want to dance with a pretty girl like me."

"I appreciate the offer but you should be dancing with your date, or did your date bail on you again?" Naruto shook his head, "Look sorry to snap but I got somewhere to be. I'll see you later Gaara." Naruto turned and slipped his hands into his pocket before slipping away from the group.

Sakura stood there dumbfounded, barely able to comprehend her teammate's actions. Something was definitely bugging him, her instincts told her that much, but what?

"What the hell is his problem? Everyone's celebrating his victory and all he can do is just mope around?" Ino placed her hands on her hips, clearly pissed. If she was mad, she couldn't understand why Sakura wasn't when she had been the one on the receiving end of his anger. "Arg, that punk! I'm going to go give him a piece of my mind. He'll be lucky if all I do is knock out his teeth!"

"Ino wait!" Sakura reached out for her friend, but it was too late. The long haired blonde stormed off after the celebrated hero.

Ino quietly followed Naruto through the forest, making sure to stay far back enough not be noticed yet close enough not to lose his trail. At first she planned on jumping him from the get-go, but upon noticing where he was heading she chose to follow him instead. This was definitely not in the norm.

After half an hour of traveling, she came to a small clearing with what looked like a tombstone. On the tombstone was a kunai laying on its' side, with two more in front of it stuck in the ground forming a triangle. "What is this?" She whispered to herself.

Her keen blue eyes focused on Naruto's form as he reached for the kunai laying on the tombstone and sat it upright to match the others. "Ero-… Jiraiya…" He corrected himself. "The perverted sage from Konoha, Master of the Toads, Teacher to the greatest shinobi Konoha ever produced…"

"I…" His eyes drifted down to his hand. Rage and sorrow crept into his very vessel, glaring the changed hand. His anger, at the world, the past, future, everything… it burst in a loud shout, "Why couldn't you be here!"

"You were supposed to watch over me!" He shouted at the top of his lungs, "Be there for me when I became a hero; when I become hokage! You're to teach me to control this curse!"

He dropped to his knees as tears began to fall, his voice cracking under the pressure of guilt and sadness, "You're supposed to be there when I get married and pat me on the back to tell me how proud you are of me when my first child is born…"

Ino's heart sank, and all anger she had for the jinchūriki vanished into thin air. "Poor Naruto…" She whispered.

"Now your gone, just like that… and I don't know what to do. The people… they call me a hero and say they love me…" Demonic, teary eyes looked up at the stone, "I hate them! How can they just go from hating me one second and saying the love me the next just like that?"

Ino quietly stepped out of the shadows, hands cupped close to her lips as in a prayer, truly, the first time she could ever remember she was felt so out of place. "Tell me!" She heard Naruto shout again before breaking down in sobs, "What am I supposed to do?"

Delicately she got down on her knees and placed her hands on his back and shoulder. Her voice smooth and tender whispered into his ear, "Live."

His red eyes looked up, tears pouring down his puffy cheeks. Her breath nearly left her lungs at the sight. She had heard of Naruto's unique condition, and how Naruto's emotions controlled his power, but never had she laid eyes on him in such a state. The eyes, though demonic, she could see it all. Rage, sorrow, confusion… the young hero was truly at his worse. Only once had she seen him in such a sorrow, and that was when the great Lord Jiraiya had lost his life in battle.

"You come to mock me?" He tried to sound defiant, but his voice wavered under such emotional stress.

"No." Ino rested a hand on his cheek, "Your eyes…" Naruto quickly averted her gaze. "Ocean blue to firey red… I'm jealous. Either way you have beautiful eyes."

Naruto stood up silently, Ino doing the same. Cold, near infinite long moments had passed. Ino swore time had stood still as she watched Naruto stare at his demon enhanced hand. "You hate the villagers for what they did. For how quickly their hearts changed when you used your powers to save them…"

Ino circled around him so she could make face to face contact… only he was anything but interested in looking at her. Taking the initiative, she reached down and grasped the clawed hand, "And you have every right… but…"

"They hated me, shunned me, made my life hell… and when they couldn't do anymore, they turned their kids against me." Naruto snapped, red eyes meet cerulean blue, "How can I not hate them!" He ripped his hand from her.

"In the end… because of them… because of this…" He raised his demonic hand up and closed the fist slowly, cracking knuckles, "I'll always be alone. They say they love me… but deep down they still hate me. They still fear me… I'm still just a monster to them!" Naruto shook his head, "I want to leave! Go back out into the world with the pervy sage! Meet people who don't know me and my curse… maybe then… maybe then I won't be so alone…"

Ino didn't know what compelled her, but body quickly closed the gap and arms flung around the jinchūriki's body. "Don't talk like that! People don't hate you! Because… I don't hate you." Her head found rested on his shoulder as her embrace tightened.

"You wouldn't understand. I'm alone here! I'll always be alone! In the back of their minds they'll always only see me as that damned demon! I'll always only just be a…" He struggled for the words to come out, but Ino quickly interrupted him before he could finish the sentence.

"…human." She stepped back, their gaze met, sea blue locked onto crimson red, the confusion clear as day in his eyes. Her hand gently caressed his cheek as red, tainted eyes slowly began to fade, replaced by the blue they sought to hide, "Lord Jiraiya would be proud to know how far you've come along, and if he were here today, he'd have one thing to say to you."

A thumb gently rubbed the scarred whiskers on his cheek, "It's time to let go of the hate. You're not alone, Naruto; not anymore."

She didn't know what compelled her. Slowly she closed the gap, and ever so gently their lips met. Her hands slid down into his with fingers interlocking. Her heart beat faster than ever before, and an unusual heatness found its way to her cheeks. This was different, different than any boy who took her out on a date or any boy she found herself head over heels crazy for. It all seemed so… genuine.

As their lips separated, she rested her forehead onto his, "You'll never be alone, not with me here."

"When?" Naruto asked in a near whisper.

"A year ago, right after you helped us avenge Asume-sensei. I heard that man call you a jinchūriki. I asked Sakura about it, but she wouldn't tell me until I explained to her that I heard what was said and knew what a jinchūriki was. Ever since then I've saw you in a new light and had this strangest crush on you… until lately." She answered honestly.

"Lately?" He replied, his mind quickly switch to flight. He feared the worse, and honestly, he had prayed that by some miracle he'd disappear. Anywhere would be fine, but not there, not now.

"I thought I had a crush on you… but I was wrong." His breath escaped his lungs as his feared proved to be true. "It's not a crush… it's love. It just took me awhile to realize it."

"Love?" He repeated back almost as if the word was foreign to him. The girl nodded with a small blush. "You're in love with me?"

"I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it." Ino said sternly. "I know I'm not Sakura, and I know you're not in love with me… but I want you to give me a chance. You're not alone anymore Naruto. I'm knocking on your door, been so for awhile now. Now it's time for you to let me in."

Nervously he bit his lip, his mind processed all that was happening. He couldn't believe it, never in a million years had he ever considered a girl like Ino to fall head over heels for him. But… what should he do?

Yeah, he had a small crush on her in the academy, not as big as his crush on Sakura but it was still there. The girl was definitely cute, and over the past few years he grew to know her quite well, mostly thanks having a mutual friend in Shikamaru and Chouji. Honestly, he never even dated someone so he didn't know what or how to act if he were to be her boyfriend. What did she expect? What if he messed up?

Ino was nervous, real nervous. The idea of being nervous before tonight had been a laughable subject with her in her younger days… yet here, as Naruto stood there in deep thought, her body shivered in anticipation.

"I…" she heard Naruto begin, "I'd like that. I do like you, but I don't know what to do, how to act. I've never really dated someone… the whole concept seems surreal to me."

"It's okay Naruto. We can take it one day at a time until you decide. But don't keep me waiting too long." Ino beamed him a fake smile to hide the pain. The answer definitely wasn't the one she had been expecting. Defeated, she brushed by him toward the city.

Surprisingly a hand reached up and grabbed her by the arm, "Let me finish." Naruto chuckled.

Blue eyes locked onto blue eyes, and Naruto smiled, "I don't want to be alone anymore. But at the same time the idea of me being in a relationship scares me. What if I mess up? What if you get hurt because what I am? What if…"

A finger silenced his lips, "You worry to much. Just kiss me." Ino giggled and silenced his lips with her own before he could protest. Warm, calloused hands snaked around her curvy figured and held her body close to her own. "If anyone asks, your officially mine." Ino teased in-between kisses.

Sakura pushed through the crowd of people with her mind on a mission. She hadn't seen hide nor hair of Ino, so she figured the kunoichi had lost track of her teammate, not that it was surprising. Naruto's ability to disappear and lose people when he wanted to was legendary.

The grand finale was getting close, and she wanted to spend it with him. He had been acting strange, and she began to fear for his safety. Emotionally he put up a strong front around people, as if the world was a giant joke to him and he had nothing to worry about. But she knew that deep down sat a lonely insecure boy who's lack of human companionship ran deep.

Unlike most nights, tonight she refused to leave him alone. However, no one knew where her quarry had gone. "Haha seriously, can you believe it?" A loud, boisterous Kiba could be heard over the crowd. "Who knew Naruto had it in him?"

Sakura's ears immediately picked up on the name and picked up on the direction of the noise. Delicate but strong hands pulled her through the crowd until she came to a table with Shikamaru, Shino, Kiba and Lee crowded around.

"Naruto's going to be getting lucky tonight." Kiba began to sing. "Lucky tonight, lucky tonight. He's getting luuuuuckeh tonight!"

Shikamaru rubbed his temples while letting out a grunt of annoyance, "Kiba, she's like a sister to me. That's sick." Sakura swore she heard a troublesome escape the chunin's lips.

"What about Naruto?" Sakura questioned while her rock hard eyes stared down onto Kiba.

"Oh nothing. Just that Naruto's going to be shagging your best friend tonight." Kiba howled in laughter.

"Ahem." Shino cleared his throat. "What Kiba means to say is that he saw Naruto and Ino on the Hokage Tower."

Sakura knew it was wrong, but her curiosity got the better of her. "It's for his sake!" She argued with herself mentally. "He's my best friend so it's only natural that I should spy on him to make sure he's okay!"

Quietly she snuck to the roof of the tower, making sure to hide as much chakra as she could. Releasing the chakra from her feet, she immediately dove behind cemented room that housed the stairs toward the floors below. Her eyes scanned the building for any trace of the blonds.

On the other side sat Naruto and Ino. Naruto's jacket was draped around Ino, with her head leaning against his shoulders with his said shoulder's arm snaked around her. Her hand settled onto his with a sigh of happiness escaping her lips as they watched the festival below.

"Let it go." A voice spoke out. Quickly and defensively Sakura spun around in surprise with her hands ready to pound the intruder. Her gaze locked into one she recognized.

"Gaara?" She said in disbelief.

"You've had your chance for years. Now it's time to let it go." Gaara advised.

Sakura let a tear slide down her cheeks, "It hurts, y'know? I've always cared about him but I never realized how much until seeing him with Ino…"

"To be in love… I won't lie to you and say I know where you're coming from." The stoic kazekage responded.

Sakura wiped her tear away, "Right now I want to jump over there and throw Ino as far as I can and tell Naruto how I feel…"

"They say love is a selfish emotion."

"But… I know it wouldn't work out if I did. Naruto isn't that sort of guy. He deserves happiness, and if Ino is who he wants, I'm going to respect it, even if it hurts." Sakura forced a small laugh to escape her lips to cover the pain, "Wishing for bad things to happen right now so I can take Naruto for myself… I'm a horrible person."

"No, it makes you human." Gaara response stunned the pink haired girl. Silence fell amongst the two as they looked at the newly formed couple.

More tears silently fell, "I guess you're right. I just have to accept things the way they are. No one deserves to be alone, least of all him."

~ The End

A/N: Well, I'm back. Just got me a new computer, and life is beginning to slow down so what's better than to kick things off with a one-shot. Expect updates soon on my story Eavesdropper to anyone who's a fan of it.

Got this idea from the Manga. When Naruto goes to train in order to control his tailed beast with Killer Bee and Yamato, Naruto confronts his inner demons toward his hatred and anger toward Konoha and how its' people were able to just suddenly accept him after he fought Pein. Honestly thought this arc solidified him as one of the most complex and interesting characters in the Manga.

P.S.: Probably some typos but it's late and I'm tired but hopefully you can still enjoy.