AN: I did it! I finally finished and it only took me (checks late time I updated) 3 months! :Winces:…okay okay, it's been a while. I didn't know it would take me so long, but I made a promise to myself that I would not give up on this story. I know I dislike it when authors take FOREVER to update, so I make no excuse for myself.

The sequel to Closer is up as well. It's titled Entwined. I hope you enjoy it as well. Remember to drop a REVIEW at the end. Kisses!

Chapter 5

You're holding in your hands the two halves of my heart…

Open…dial…message…close…open…dial…message…close…

He had turned his phone off, Ino thought numbly sliding open her phone pressing redial, hearing a generic message before sliding it closed and doing it again. She didn't stop until her battery was dead, even then she couldn't take her gritty eyes from the small screen.

Ino…She heard her name but didn't turn to it.

"Ino." A large warm hand grasped her phone and pried if from her fingers. She felt him sit next to her on the couch of her living room. "Please…stop."

Tears gathered and she clenched her hand closed. "He turned off his phone." Her voice was barely there. Her eyes burned and she closed them and felt him wrap his arm around her shoulder and pull her to him chest.

"I know. He won't answer my calls either." Itachi said, resting his chin on top of her head. A loud sob caught in her throat and she buried her face in his chest and cried again. For three days it was always the same and Itachi had been there the whole time.

"How can he do this to us? We didn't do anything! He won't even talk to us!" She cried, clutching his shirt. Her head throbbed, her stomach lurched and her heart burned with anger, sadness, betrayal, longing and so much more she felt like she was going to burst! She would empty out her heart and it would be full the next day. How could her body produce so many tears?

Itachi didn't say anything, only tightened his hold on her. But she could feel his grief anyways. It rolled off of him in a silent wave, so in a sense, they were sharing each other's miseries. Yet she found little comfort in that. Her heart ached knowing that Sasuke and Itachi, closer than any siblings she had known, were at odds with one another. She knew Itachi was hurting just as bad as she was though he didn't say anything about it.

It wasn't fair! Sasuke just blocked them from his life overnight! How could he do that to them? They had been through so much! She wanted to explain…to tell him again and again that nothing happened between she and Itachi. She even called Naruto but the blonde regrettable told her that he couldn't get in contact with Sasuke as well. It was like he just disappeared.

Over and over, she replayed that day in her head, trying to remember how she and Itachi ended up in such a compromising position. And over and over there was no conclusion. She remembered bringing the boxes up to the room and talking with a bellboy. After…it was blank. She strained her mind several times but it was always the same.

How had Sasuke been there, at just the right time, in just the right place? He had always been possessive, but…could he have set them up just to break up with her? No, it wasn't that…he had been sooo upset that day, going after Itachi like that so she knew, deep down in her heart that he wouldn't do something like that. But who then? And why? She and Itachi mulled over it time and time again but they didn't know anything still, three days later.

"Did you ask your parents? Your family?" Ino asked wearily.

Itachi sighed softly. "My parents are out of the country right now and the others don't know where he is either." Her heart fell and she closed her eyes. He was stroking her hair soothingly and it was making her eyes droop closed. The sound of his heart beat lulled her into a dead sleep.

XOXO

Itachi stared down at the small blonde, her head resting in his lap, attentive to each breath she took, every flutter of her eyelids, every twitch of her fingers. Ino didn't look like Ino. She looked empty and lost. He could relate. His chest hadn't stopped hurting since that day at Domi Hotel.

He sighed and leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes. He wished he could just curl up next to her and sleep. It had been evading him as well. But he couldn't, not until he got to the bottom of what had happened.

He had been busy trying to collect Domi's security footage, but it was proving harder than he originally thought. He had to go about it secretly, not wanting others to get involved with his personal business and not wanting his surname attached to those inquiries. Itachi didn't know what his father would do to Ino if he knew what had happened.

What he did know what that bellboy was involved. He had done something to that water he gave them. But as he combed through the employment records of Domi, he couldn't find a single thing on that man. Who was he? Did he have a vendetta against him? Against his family? Why were Ino and Sasuke involved if that was true? What could he have gained in this set up? Were their pictures involved that were going to be used as blackmail later on? All these questions and more were spilling out of his mind.

He absently stroked Ino's hair. As for Sasuke, Itachi had a pretty good idea of where he was, but he couldn't be certain. He had Kisame looking into things for him and should have his answers at the end of the day.

Like Ino, Sasuke had avoided every touch of contact with him. He had turned his phone off and disappeared. Itachi would close his eyes and see the hurt and rage in his little brother's face and his throat would tighten with emotion. He felt like a failure, a fool to have been set up so easily.

But when he found out who did this to them, he would make them pay for hurting the people he loved. He vowed to himself that whoever they were would know every degree of hell.

XOXO

Sakura didn't know why her mother was in such a happy mood. For days, she had been smiling and fussing over her like she was a baby. They would go shopping and Sakura would come back with trunk loads of clothes and shoes. Her mother was very thrifty and this made her and her father very curious as to what could have put Sami Haruno in such a mood.

Here at this shoe store, a mound of boxes was piling all around her. Her mother was talking animatedly to the owner of the store, bragging about her in every way possible while a shop girl was buckling up a glossy nude stiletto pump around her ankle. They had been here for over an hour and Sakura swore she had tried on every shoe on display.

"Oh those look just darling!" Sami cooed, standing before her. Sakura managed a smile, winding her ankle in a circle to show her mom that she approved of them.

"As much as I enjoy the style, don't you think six inch heels would be a pain to walk in at Fire Medical?" Sakura asked innocently as she could. The very idea was making her wince in pain.

Sami smiled. "But you can wear these with so many of your new outfits! We'll get you some sensible flats and tennies as well so stop with the pout," She said, pinching Sakura's lower lip. She turned to the shop owner. "A girl can't have too many shoes can she? We'll take these."

Their driver hurriedly placed the shoes in the back with the clothes her mother insisted on buying her, even though there was no more room in her walk in closet. For school she said. "We'll give the rest to charity." Sakura had to resist rolling her eyes. Yes, clothes to charity, that was sooo much better than, say, food.

She thought that after shopping for half the day they would be heading home, but the driver turned onto the freeway, toward Leaf. Sakura pressed her fingers to her temple to ease the pain of a coming headache. "Where are we going now?" She turned to her mother.

"You'll be at Fire Medical for four years. That's quite the drive from Nanako Springs." Her mother said. It was true, Fire Medical was in the port city of Ember, the third largest city in Fire Country. About a seven hour drive from Nanako Springs where her mother and father lived. "So your father and I have leased a condo for you in Ember."

Sakura turned to her in surprise. She thought she was going to stay in the dorms with the rest of the medical students. "What?" While she would have loved to develop the camaraderie with the others going to medical school, having her very own place…out of the watchful gaze of her mother…was something she only dreamed of. From the look on her mother's face, Sakura knew that she wasn't pleased with the idea and wondered if her father had something to do with it.

"So we're going to go furniture shopping." Sami said, a smile tugging on her lips. "And I promise that you can pick whatever you want and I won't say a word about it."

Sakura's eyes widened. "Really? Anything I want?"

Sami nodded and Sakura squealed with excitement. Her very own place! With her mother out of her life for a short time, maybe she could start taking things with Sai a little more seriously. None from the Haruno clan was going to Ember. Most of her cousins her age were going to different colleges in different countries. It was why, out of all the medical school she could have chosen, she chose Fire Medical.

Twenty-five days until school…it was too long for her.

XOXO

Shisui felt like he was going to drown in the whirlwind that was his life. Sitting here, he felt like everything he had wanted was slowly slipping through his fingers. How did this happen so quickly he wondered, looking at the quiet woman in front of him as their fathers talked about their wedding.

The girl, Yugao Uzuki avoided eye contact with him, her head bent as she took petite sips of her tea. She had long, dark purple hair and dark brown eyes. She was pale, as was the fashion of girls these day, favoring the blushing pink makeup colors. She was pretty, he supposed, though he would have never took a second look if he saw her in the streets. He liked the vibrant, outgoing types that would punch you in the face if you grabbed their ass and cussed you out seconds later. His lips quirked on their own accord, thinking of how he met Anko the first time.

"Shisui?" He turned to his father who looked to be enjoying himself with Yugao's father. Both men were staring at him. "Why don't you and Miss Uzuki take a walk? You look like you're about to fall asleep." He mused.

From the corner of his eye, he saw Yugao stiffen when he stood from the table. "Go on daughter, you need some fresh air." Her father said in a pleasant tone. For a second, she looked up and he saw her glare. Not at him, but at her father. Instantly, Shisui's hopes shot in the air. Was she in the same situation he was? Did she detest the idea of their sudden marriage?

She stood slowly, head down as he held out his arm in a gentlemanly fashion. Through his jacket, her fingers felt stiff and unyielding. He took them out of the restaurant, grabbing her jacket from the hostess. There was a small garden like area toward the back and it was empty.

Shisui found himself a bit awkward, which was an uncommon feeling he got when he was around women. But he wasn't in the mood to flirt with her. When they first met that Sunday, little conversation passed. He knew Kakazu was observing them under his father's orders. He asked about her studies and about her goals and gave generic answers to her when she would ask the same. There had been so much tension between them Shisui wondered how he lasted through it for two hours.

"It's getting colder." He commented, anxious for something other than silence.

"Yes." She said no more and Shisui sighed, and sat down on a cold marble bench. Yugao stared at him in astonishment. For a moment, she hesitated before deciding to sit at the edge of the bench.

"We don't want to do this." Shisui said, looking at her. Her eyes widened at the bluntness in his tone but then tears came to her eyes.

"We have no choice." She sniffled, dabbing her eyes and composing herself. "People might get hurt if we don't."

Shisui got her hidden meaning. "You too?" She looked up in surprise and he just smiled softly. "What's his name?"

Yugao studied him for a second in debate, but she saw the true curiosity in his eyes and sat more fully on the bench. "Hayate." She finally said. "He's a pilot in the army."

Shuisui nodded. "Tell me about him? How did you meet?" She seemed more relaxed now and chatted idly about how she met him. He was the son of their family driver and they grew up together. Shisui knew from his own experience that their romance was so taboo. The daughter of a wealthy family and a lowly driver's son? If Yugao's father was anything like his father, that relationship was doomed from the start.

But you can't fight you heart, Shisui thought as Yugao became more and more animated the more she talked about her Hayate and their secret meetings. How they became lovers, how happy she was with him. His own heart was being pulled by her story and he thought of Anko and how she made him feel.

He had been with a lot of women. A lot, but none of them ever made him come undone like she did. She was brash and violent, confident and flirty. She told you what she thought without sugar coating it and would kick your ass if you needed it. She was a passionate, daring lover who he never tired of. And then there were times when she would be sleeping when he would see the softness underneath it all. She had grown up alone and made her way through life the same way. She worked odd jobs at clubs or bars but didn't complain about it. When he would buy her things, she would grumble because of her pride, but would take it anyways.

Yugao was smiling at him when he finished and he realized that he might have said too much.

"If I could, I would give up all my money, my position to be with him." She sighed dreamily.

Shisui chuckled. "I don't know about that. Anko likes my face and my money." He said fondly and he liked his money too. Then he grudgingly sobered. "But I would do what I could to protect her from my father. Even if it means marriage."

The playful light in Yugao's eyes died. "You would really go through with this?" She asked. "You wouldn't fight for the right to be with her?"

Shisui smiled ruefully. "You don't know my father. I'm not strong enough to fight him. Not yet. He knows my weakness. I have to find his."

Yugao looked down, into her hands. "Hayate is sick but the Army doesn't know about it. My father said that if I don't do this marriage, he would tell.

"Flying is Hayate's dream, it's how he makes his living. He has three younger sisters to care for. He father died and his mother is in a center for the elderly. He only has two more years until he is honorably discharged. When that happens, my father will release Hayate's late father's service funds. It's a lot of money, but he can only get it after he is discharged. If they find out he's sick before that…they'll release him early and the service check…my father won't give it to him."

Shisui frowned in confusion. "But why? If they release him early, he should still get that money."

Yugao shook her head. "Before, when Hayate started high school, my father paid for his tuition. His father didn't make enough to send Hayate to the school he wanted to go to. Hayate is smart and his father knew his potential. So he went to my father to ask for a loan. My father saw how close Hayate and I were getting so he made a deal. He would pay for all the schooling Hayate needed as long as he joined the Army right after high school and complete full service which is five years. He did it to separate us." She said bitterly.

"When my father makes a deal, he goes by each and every word in the contract. When he means five years, he means five years. Even if Hayate were to be discharged early with full honors, three years isn't five years. He would have to forfeit the service check and that's something he won't do." She shook her head. "He can't, he has his sisters and mother to think of. And he won't take money from me no matter how many times I've offered." She blinked back her tears and looked up to him. "My father left me with no real options."

Shisui grabbed her hand. "They did this because they want what they want. Even if it means sacrificing their children's happiness. My father wants land, your father wants the profits that will come from that land under the Uchiha clan. They threaten the people who we hold most precious so we do what we can. Even if it means letting them think they win."

Yugao raised her brows. "Letting?"

"We can marry and we can give them their union, but we won't give them one thing they desire most from us."

"Which is?"

"You're an only child right?"

She nodded.

"We won't give them an heir."

Yugao let that thought stew a bit before she spoke. "But don't you have an older brother that's getting married too? Wont he give you father a grandchild?"

Shisui laughed. "Obito and Rin are getting married, but they don't want children just yet. Rin is in medical school and doesn't want any distractions. Obito is too whipped to go against her wishes. It will be a while before they have any children."

"But how long will it be before they start demanding a grandchild?"

Shisui scowled. "They can demand all they want. It's not up to them whether we have a kid or not. They can't force us no matter how hard they try."

"But they will find a way." Yugao said softly. "I know they will."

Shisui gave her hand a squeeze. "Then have a child. If it comes to that, have a child. It just won't be mine." His tone left a hinting note which she caught onto quickly.

"You would really let me do that?" She asked, astounded.

"I'm going to perfectly honest with you." He began seriously. "I'm going to be with Anko. No matter what. Even if she has to be my mistress, I can't let her go. She's going to hate me, she's going to scream about her rules, she's going to mess around with other guys just to get back at me but I won't ever let her go. Ever."

Yugao studied his face, her eyes searching his intently. He didn't hide the truth of his words from her. She had to see that this was how it was going to be between them and he was not going to apologize for it.

"You must really care for her to suffer so much abuse." She finally said. Shisui grinned, his seriousness fleeing into nonchalance.

"I like it rough." She blushed at that and withdrew her hand from his as she got to her feet.

"I didn't think things would turn out this way Shisui, but I'm glad they did. If you're willing to go to such extremes to protect her and be with her then I would be a coward if I didn't do the same for the person I love."

Shisui stood as well. "Should we tell them the good news then? Set a date and all of that?" He offered his arm and she took it, smiling wryly.

"They'll be ecstatic."

XOXO

Two weeks later

Ino lived through her days numbly. She didn't go out, didn't visit friends, didn't leave her house. She was stuck in the same place, stuck in her memories and stuck in her immeasurable heartache. Even Itachi's visits had dwindled and he only came over maybe three times a week. She didn't mean to push him away, but seeing him made her think of Sasuke.

Shikamaru and Choji would visit, but leave just as quickly. They would try and coach her out of her depression. She was dwindling into nothing, they would say. She thought they were just overreacting but the shock of their words came to her when she looked at herself in the mirror. She looked like a madwoman. Her hair was lifeless, her eyes sunken in. She had lost so much weight that her face just looked gaunt and her ribs and hip bones protruded.

Look what he did to you…a voice inside of her whispered. Look at what you became.

You did nothing wrong…

But if I hadn't been so close with Itachi then maybe Sasuke wouldn't have gotten the idea that we were doing something behind his back all this time.

How many times do you have to defend yourself to him? What did you do to make him think those things?

I had been friends with Shikamaru and Choji…

So? They were in your life before Sasuke. What? You had to change your life around because of him and his insecurities? Why do you have to give up your best friends for him? Did you ever ask him to give up anything for you?

…no…

You let him do this to you. You let him break you, foolish girl. You have nothing to be guilty over. He didn't even let you explain. He decided all on his own and didn't give you or Itachi a chance.

He didn't.

And he called you a whore, unworthy of him and his love.

He did.

He said he didn't need you to love him.

He did.

He did this to you, he broke you.

He did.

You let his delusions win. You're pushing everyone away. What will happen when there is no one left?

Are you going to live your life like this? Feeling unworthy? Feeling betrayed? Feeling like your world has stopped?

I don't want to…

You're strong Ino. Stronger than Sasuke will ever know. Strong enough to move on, to get your life back. Don't let him win! He threw away your love, he left you. Now it's time to pick up the pieces of your life. You can put it back together. You don't need him to live.

I don't…

It hurts, I know. But it will get better. But you need to take that first step.

Ino's throat clenched with emotion and tears filled her eyes but tears didn't fall. She fought them back this time. She knew everything that had transpired between her and her inner self was all her doing. But the voice who was coaching her forward…it sounded like her mom. It had been a while since she thought about her. She wondered how she would have dealt with her breakup if her mom had been here.

After a week of wallowing in heartbreak, he dad had found out what had happened at Domi Hotel. He had cursed Sasuke and his family but it had been Itachi who had calmed him down. He had explained that someone had set them up and not to be too angry with his little brother. He had assured him that he would get to the bottom of it.

It didn't do anything to lessen her dad's anger toward Sasuke. Seeing her wilting in front of him made him grow angrier and angrier. There were times when she would be so depressed that she would crawl into bed with him for comfort. She would cuddle up to him like a little girl and cry. He would soothe her the best he could.

"Your mom would be better at this. I'm sorry baby girl."

She probably would have, but at least he was trying. That made her feel better. Now, standing and looking at her reflection in the mirror, she thought about those nights. About Itachi's visits to check on her. About Shikamaru and Choji hanging out with her until they got impatient with her wallowing in misery attitude and left. She was grateful to them. Even if Sasuke hated her for this, for something she didn't do, at least she had them. They knew the truth, they knew that she had loved Sasuke and had been faithful. They knew that Itachi loved Sasuke and would never break that bond.

Part of her wanted to understand Sasuke's point of view. Seeing her and Itachi together in bed must have been a shock. But he should have listened to them! He should have trusted in them!

There was a knock at her bedroom door and she quickly pulled on a shirt and some shorts. She opened it to see Itachi out there, peering at her in worry.

"I rang the doorbell but no one answered so I got worried and…picked the lock."

Ino stared at his anxious face before starting to giggle. Itachi's face folded into surprise. "You've been here so much, I thought you had a key."

He looked bemused. "You always left the door unlocked foolish girl." He said.

"Everyone knows what my dad does for a living. They don't take the chance of breaking in here." She said, a grin feeling foreign on her face for a moment. He stepped back and she joined him in the hallway. "I'm starving. Let's go down and see if my dad has been grocery shopping." She gave his hand a little tug before heading down stairs.

He followed silently, watching her closely which was a little unnerving. She managed to find some things to make a sandwich from and there was half of a bag of chips in the pantry. They ate in silence, Ino finishing her food before Itachi.

"Ino…"

"A while ago a got an acceptance letter from Kriss Sato's Elite School of Fashion Design in Tea Country." She said suddenly, picking up her plate to put in the sink. There was a pile of dishes already and she wrinkled her nose. Her dad was never good at housekeeping. "I never got the chance to tell Sasuke. My dad and I were working out the details still."

"Ino…"

"After mom died, we had a family meeting, just the two of us and decided that we would put the house up for sale." She paused. "There are just too many memories here. My dad is going on a mission in a month and doesn't know when he'll be back. The money from the house sale will be more than enough for my tuition. I can get a little apartment off campus too." She said with a shrug. "It's only a week and a half before classes start." She finished quickly.

Itachi stood and went to her. He grasped her by the shoulders. "Ino." His voice softly commanded her to look up at him. Her blue eyes met dark serious ebony ones. He has such long lashes she thought absently. Itachi really was beautiful. "Are you really okay? It's not good to force yourself."

Ino closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm…okay. I can't dwell on it forever can I?" She opened her eyes. "Life doesn't stop because of one break up." Though it felt like it did.

Itachi watched her for a second before nodding. "We'll get to the bottom of what happened, I promise." He dropped his hands to his sides.

Ino smiled. She knew she could trust his words on that. "In the meantime, school is a good way to pass the time huh?" Even if it was in Tea Country. "Can I call you when I'm settled?" Her voice was wobbly, but from a different heartache. She had made up her mind to go to Tea Country, but it meant leaving her father, Itachi and her other friends behind. She was going to miss them.

Itachi pulled her into a hug. "You know you can. Anytime. I'll always answer."

She hugged him back, getting lost in his warmth, in his concern and care. "I'll miss you." She whispered. Most of all.

"I'll miss you too Ino." He said into her hair, tightening his hold. "You're someone who is unforgettable."