Ino knows what this must look like.

Her comrades gather around her and she is crying, of all things.

The very idea. Yamanaka Ino, crying over anything.

And she knows what they must think of her.

Shikamaru delivered the news with as much cool detachment as he possibly could. But Ino knows Shikamaru and Shikamaru knows Ino right back. There is nothing detached about it. Because Shikamaru might be the smartest, but he still has a heart, and he knows that what he is saying will dismantle the foundation of life as they know it.

"We've been given the order," he said, and she doesn't think she'll ever forget the look on his face as he said it, "to kill Uchiha Sasuke."

He meets Ino's eyes and she barely registers the reactions of the other shinobi and kunoichi gathered around her. She just stares right back at her teammate and she knows that he understands what this will do to her. She knows he's probably the only one who ever could.

Tears well up in Ino's eyes. It's hard to breathe. Years of practiced calm and rigorous kunoichi control go flying out the window, and she covers her face with her hands and breaks down completely.

What she must look like. What they must think of her.

Kiba scoffs from beside Akamaru.

"What are you crying for?" he demands, with all the contempt in the world for someone who flirts with her on a daily basis. His dog is quiet, but they're on the same wavelength all the time, aren't they? Which means Akamaru must be as disgusted with her as Kiba is. "He's a traitor. Pull yourself together."

His words are harsh, but he's a shinobi, right? And shinobi have to make the difficult decisions.

Tenten jumps to her defense. Sisterhood. Kunoichi looking out for each other, and whatever. Ino cries and wishes Tenten would shut up, because no one understands except maybe Shikamaru, who is silent.

"Leave her alone, Kiba!" Tenten snaps. "She's losing the boy she cares about, don't you get it?"

Ino cries harder because none of them get it. Especially not Tenten.

Shikamaru goes to tell Sakura and Naruto. They are Sasuke's (former) teammates, and he takes it as his morbid duty to let them know that they will be hunting down and murdering the boy they've worked so hard to save. But before he goes, he stops to see Ino at the gates, sitting on a little stone bench and still crying her eyes out.

She looks up at him, taller than she ever noticed, with all the solemn dutifulness of a strong Konoha shinobi, but still that boyish devotion that makes him her Shikamaru, her most trusted teammate. He doesn't say anything at first, and the calm night air is interrupted only by her strangled sobs and her perfect nails draw bloody red lines on her thighs where she sits, trying to pull herself together.

"We're…we're really gonna have to k-kill him, aren't w-w-we?" she whimpers, and it sounds pathetic to her own ears. Because she is supposed to be a strong, ruthless kunoichi in the Yamanaka vein, and to carry on like this is an offense to her clansmen, but she really just cannot calm herself down.

Shikamaru won't judge her, though. Because Shikamaru is the only one who understands what she's feeling right now.

"Orders," he says quietly, and she feels him watching her. "I'd ask you why you're so upset…but I already know, so it's a waste of breath, ain't it?"

"I know…what everyone must…be thinking," Ino chokes out, because the tears catch in her throat and make it hard to speak clearly. "That…I'm still into…Sasuke-kun. Or whatever."

He sighs. "Yeah. That's what they think."

"But that's not what you think, though."

"No. It's not."

Because Ino is not in love with Sasuke-kun still. She never was. Like every other little girl in the Academy, she was seduced by the idea of him, by being the lucky girl to nab the best-looking boy in their year. By being the best, because Uchiha Sasuke would accept nothing less. By being better than archrival Sakura.

But Ino's grown now. And she's learned her lesson. She's learned that she is nowhere near as shallow as she is perceived. She's learned the difference between real, lasting love (he's standing right in front of her, knowing her and empathizing with her and understanding her), and what competitive childishness she felt for Uchiha Sasuke growing up. She's learned that, for sure.

Even if no one thinks she has.

And above that, even, the most important person in Ino's life is not Uchiha Sasuke. Never him. Nor is it Nara Shikamaru, who understands her and maybe loves her back as much as she loves him.

It's Sakura.

Sakura, her best friend. Sakura, her motivation. Sakura, her sister-she-loves.

And Sakura is the one who loves Sasuke, who loves him unselfishly and without any expectations. Who will work herself to death to bring him home, to save him, to protect him. Who had a real connection with him before he left, one that she fights for even today.

And Ino cries and cries and cries because Sakura is going to have her heart broken yet again, and she doesn't even know yet.

Ino does not shed one tear for herself the dark day Shikamaru tells them what must be done with the absent member of Team Kakashi. What they must think of her, those who don't know her reason for breaking down, her loyal comrades.

She has earned their pity at best, their scorn at worst. Poor Ino, still in love with Sasuke-kun. Poor Ino, crying selfishly for the destruction of a silly childhood dream. Poor Ino, who can't differentiate love with competition, true connection with a fleeting crush.

But Ino does not care.

Ino cries and loses herself and breaks down because her sister-who-she-loves is about to have her heart ripped out. And she can do absolutely nothing to prevent it.

note.. because your relationship with your best friend will always be more important than any stupid boy who comes along.

xoxo dayzeeeee.