Chapter 19


It's so fluffy, I'm gonna die
- Little girl with unicorn stuffie


The next morning, Ino showers and eats a quick breakfast and does a last bit of tidying up before she leaves this apartment for good. Of course, this last round of tidying involves making the bed one last time, an activity that is made slightly more complex by Hidan's groggy refusal to get up.

He steadfastly ignores Ino's yells and her shaking of his shoulders and her threats about buckets of water, and he resists her attempts to drag him off the bed with impressive amounts of inertia. It is only when she lands a perfect slap on his ass – one that echoes magnificently throughout the bedroom – and says, this is art, that he evinces a sign of life by springing out of bed and chasing her around the apartment.

Ino lets him catch her and kiss her and then she makes the bed and quite heartlessly kicks Hidan out of the apartment and locks it up. She brings Kiku the key in the shop downstairs and bids farewell and good luck to her cousin. Kiku gives her a tight, teary hug, and they part with many promises to write to each other, that Ino, for her part, already knows she won't keep.

And so Ino hefts her backpack onto her shoulders and makes her way to the hamlet's front gates, where Hidan materializes out of nowhere to fall into step beside her. Ino raises an eyebrow but says nothing; after all, there are two paths out of Kurashiki, one that goes north, and one that goes south, and Ino fully intends to take whichever one Hidan doesn't, for many very good reasons.

Of course, Hidan has other ideas. Ino makes her way down the southern path for a few paces, experimentally, until she looks behind her and sees that Hidan is following her, real casual-like, his hands in his pockets, his open shirt fluttering loosely in the breeze.

And you know what? He's so pretty, with his fine features and his perfect hair and his svelte body, it makes Ino want to climb him like a tree right now. Which is annoying. Ino might actually be jealous of him, if she wasn't so drop-dead gorgeous herself.

She waits for him to catch up to her and tries not to eye-fuck him too much as he approaches.

"I'm going to Konoha," says Ino matter-of-factly.

"I know," says Hidan.

"You can't come with me," says Ino.

Hidan gives her a beautiful pout. "Yes I can."

"No, you can't." Ino gestures to the northern path. "Cloud is that way."

Hidan looks at the sunlit northern path and looks unimpressed. "So? I don't wanna go back to Cloud. That's where fuckin' katana-boy is."

"Well – your kidnapping gang is up that way somewhere too, isn't it? Go talk to them, see if they can give you any leads…"

"Eh," says Hidan, shrugging, as though this option is just as uninteresting as the first.

Ino tries again. "Isn't there some kind of Jashin temple in that general direction?"

"No," says Hidan. "The whole world is Jashin's temple."

"You know, that's a beautiful thought, but –"

"Like you," interrupts Hidan.

Ino clenches her teeth hard to hold back a smile. "Flattery won't get you to Konoha."

"What will?"

"Hidan," says Ino.

"Ino," says Hidan.

They look at each other. The blue sky deepens the colour of Hidan's gaze and brightens Ino's eyes, the breeze tugs at Hidan's open shirt and flirts prettily with Ino's hair. Falling leaves swirl in the space between them, drawing out the lines of the invisible forces that pull them to one another, except it's just the wind.

He takes a step forward. She takes a step back.

"So," says Ino. "You're definitely not going north?"

"Nope," says Hidan, taking three steps forward and crowding up against her on the southern path.

"Okay," says Ino brightly. "I am, though. Konoha is that way. So I guess I'll see you around, priest-boy. Have a nice life."

And with that, Ino gives Hidan a pretty sort of salute and a smile and prances away to the northern path.

"Real funny," calls Hidan after her.

After her initial careless frolic down the path, Ino finds her steps slowing. It surprises her, the sudden sense of lack that she feels, when she draws away from Hidan with the intention of leaving him behind forever.

Ino learns a hard lesson, then – that you don't know quite how deeply intertwined you are with someone until the moment you walk away. It creeps up on you by movements slow and gradual, here and there, progressing largely unnoticed, until the moment you try to leave – and then, it tears.

Ino pauses to process this unexpected discovery. Then she frowns and clenches her jaw. So let it tear. She can handle it.

To mask the hesitation in her step, she turns around to wave cheerfully at Hidan before carrying on. She is surprised to find that her heart swells unexpectedly in a sort of sadness, because Hidan looks bereft and so very lonely, standing in the middle of the path by himself, with absolutely nothing to his name but the amulet around his neck, his worship of Jashin, and his love for the woman who is walking away from him.

For fuck's sake. Ino rolls her eyes at her own sentimentality, but she nevertheless stops. Because the tearing, she could handle, but that heart-swell hurt in a whole other way, and if it's anything like what he's experiencing, well, ouch.

For a woman who has made such a pastime of smashing hearts, this kind of empathy is unfamiliar and rare. Ino files it away for further contemplation; for now, she has her own messy-ass feelings to deal with, on top of this clingy priest-boy.

"Useless," says Ino, shaking her head. "You didn't even bring supplies, did you?"

"Of fucking course I did," says Hidan, looking vexed. "You think I'm dumb or something?"

Ino sees no evidence of a pack or a bag or anything. She raises an eyebrow. "Where?"

"Here," says Hidan. He puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a little satchel. It's the stupid gerbil pellets. Ino is torn between exasperation and amusement.

"Hope you brought the –" starts Ino.

Hidan dangles the tube of antihistamine cream at her, which shuts her up, which makes him look smug.

"Wow," says Ino. "That's almost approaching a plan. I'm impressed."

"Hey, I try," says Hidan, ambling over to her. "I have another plan, too, if my current one doesn't work out. I have, like, plans out the yin-yang right now."

"Oh? And what's your current plan?" asks Ino.

"Well," says Hidan, "Plan A is to convince you to let me walk with you, because I'm coming with you. Obviously."

Ino gives him a look.

"Plan B is to cut off my head so that I'm interesting again, and come with you."

"Please don't," says Ino.

"Yeah I'd rather not, too," says Hidan, casting about as though looking for something sharp among the trees and grass. "I forgot to bring a goddamn knife, so I'm not really sure what I'd use to…"

"Is there a Plan C?" interrupts Ino before he attempts to saw off his head with a branch.

"There is," says Hidan.

He crowds in close to Ino and continues in a conspiratorial whisper. "Plan C is, if you kick up a fuss, I'm gonna pretend to go away, but really, I'll just follow you from a distance and come with you."

Ino can't help but laugh. "Shouldn't you, like, not have not told me about that last part?"

Hidan reflects deeply upon this remark. "Maybe. Are you gonna kick up a fuss, or…?"

"Yes," says Ino, turning away from him and striding down the path. "What am I supposed to do, waltz up to the guards at Konoha's gates and say, oh, hey, I found this ninja from another village and it's kinda cute, can I keep it?"

"Kinda cute?" repeats Hidan. "I think you meant dead sexy. And I'm useful. I can kill things."

"Konoha is a shinobi village," says Ino. "I promise we have a lot of people who can kill things."

"But can they be killed?" says Hidan.

"Well, yes..."

"Well I can't. 'Cuz I'm immortal. Come on, that's, like, a huge asset. Lemme do an interview or something."

"An interview," repeats Ino. She shakes her head, imagining herself trying to explain that one to the hokage.

"Hey. I can slaughter your enemies and use them in my ritual. Obvious win-win situation here, angel."

Ino shakes her head again and they walk on in silence, except for Hidan occasionally shadowboxing falling leaves, presumably to show her his amazing skills.

"Hey, this is cool," comments Hidan after they have walked for a while. "Plan A is working so far."

"Maybe I'm walking you into a trap," says Ino.

"Pff," says Hidan. "Like you need a fuckin' trap to catch me."

He snakes an arm around her waist and pulls her close and kisses her cheek. Ino pretends to push him away, but she doesn't really try hard, because right now he's making her feel like a schoolgirl, all giggles and blushes… blushes. Giggling is bad enough, but Ino never, never blushes.

It's so stupid that this one little kiss on the cheek should be able to make her pulse race like this, but it's what he does to her, and oh barf, she really likes it.

"I also have a plan D," whispers Hidan in her ear.

"Let me guess," says Ino.

Hidan wiggles his eyebrows and leaps behind her and indulges in some exaggerated hip-thrusts against her butt. And Ino leans back and tangles her hands into his hair, and then the hip-thrusts change into some really quite sensual grinding, and he lifts her hair away and kisses the side of her neck, and Ino makes a sound of approval and slips a hand behind her to feel his package, and she finds that he is indeed packing.

"Seriously?" says Ino, giggling (again). "Here? Right now?"

"No-one to witness us but Jashin," says Hidan, "and maybe birds or some shit."

"We're moving, Hidan," says Ino responsibly, though she's almost-kind-of tempted.

"Fine," says Hidan, adjusting his pants with a long-suffering sigh. "I'll just fuckin' point the way, shall I?"

"That's… quite the compass," says Ino, looking at the bulge and determinedly resisting the urge to continue to play with it.

"It points me to where I need to be," says Hidan, swivelling his hips around like his dick is some kind of dowsing rod. Predictably, the rod points straight at Ino, who shakes her head and tries not to laugh.

They walk on, and Hidan's boner subsides, and they make their way through the autumnal forest at a good clip. Leaves swirl around them in careless loops and crunch under their feet and the air smells earthy and rich with summer's end.

Hidan variously holds Ino's hand, his amulet, then her hand again, which makes her smile in spite of herself.

"Wait," says Hidan suddenly.


Hidan pauses, as though he's trying to decipher an unknown sensation occurring somewhere in his chest.

"I think I'm happy," says Hidan.

This is so unexpected and innocent that Ino isn't sure what to say. She looks at him askance.

"Is this a... new thing for you?" asks Ino. It seems like a weird question to ask, because who has never been happy before, but then again, Hidan is a pretty weird guy.


"Oh," says Ino. "Doesn't Jashin make you happy?"

Hidan thinks. It takes him a long time to formulate his answer. "…Jashin fulfills me. It's different. You know? I dedicated my life, my – fuck, my everything – to him, and he's made it worth it, again and again. And that was enough, for a long time…"

Ino looks up at him, because it feels like the sentence hasn't quite been completed.

Their eyes meet, and his are suddenly full of things that he doesn't know how to say, and Ino's heart beats a little faster and she doesn't know why.

"I must've done something right," says Hidan. He holds her hand to his chest, so that her fingers and his fingers are entwined with his amulet. "Because he put you in my life…"

Why does it feel strangely like the world has stopped breathing?

Ino feels lightheaded, almost enough to be called dizzy, only it's not quite that, it's something else, a slight euphoria that is alien to her, and yet, she's heard about it, she thinks, if this is what it feels like…?

And oh god – now he's got that look that Ino has seen so many times before, that impending declaration of love look, that I'm-giving-you-my-heart-please-don't-crush-it look, that look of eminent vulnerability and despair, because he knows he's in deep now…

"And you're… angel, you're just…"

He trails off. His warm hand on hers feels like it might be shaking a bit, from a fear that he is very right to have, considering that this is Ino, and he knows, he knows what she does with the hearts of men. And yet here he is, giving his to her, which is probably the most foolish and crazy thing he's ever done in a life filled with foolish and crazy things.

Except, perhaps it is not so foolish, because, with a sudden thrill, Ino realizes that she does not feel like running away. In fact, her heart feels peculiarly full, and it is not an unpleasant sensation.

She pulls his hands to her chest. "Hidan?"

He is utterly lost in her eyes. And Ino knows that doesn't only own this one's heart, she also owns his soul.

Ino squeezes his hands.

"…What?" says Hidan dreamily.

"I thought I told you not to fall in love with me."

"Can't not," he breathes. "Your fault."

"But what about Jashin?"

"What about him?"

"I don't think he'd approve of all of this non-slaughter…"

"He does. In a thousand ways, angel," says Hidan. He leans his forehead against hers and conviction makes his eyes bright. "He sent you to piece me together, he put you in my dreams, he put you in my prayers… fuck, he gave you my amulet, that was some kind of miracle… you're my goddamn angel."

He presses a kiss to her forehead, and it's the sweetest, mushiest damn thing, and Ino kind of just wants to die right now. And she blushes again and she feels too shy to meet his eyes, like a girl on her first date, and she has some serious butterflies going on in her tummy which contribute to this interesting feeling that she's somehow floating.

His lips find hers, gently, and the kiss takes her breath away even if they've kissed a lot and they've made out and they've slept together and god – why does he do this to her…?

"I need you to tell Jashin something for me," says Hidan, staring straight ahead and appearing to collect himself.

"What is it?" asks Ino dazedly.

He squeezes her hands to his chest, makes brief eye contact, stares at the trees, takes a breath, takes a bigger breath.

"Tell him I – tell him I love his angel and I'll do anything for her, and I'll protect her from the bullshit of this world, forever. If she'll let me."

And then he just stares at her with that violet gaze, with a strength of feeling and devotion that makes her knees weak.

And Ino feels a little like she's melting inside, and a little like she can fly, and a little like her heart wants to burst. And she suspects that this may all be a little bit of falling in love.

"Wonder-girl?" says Hidan, finally noticing Ino's unfocused stare.

"Oh god," says Ino, pressing her fingers to her warm cheeks and turning away from him. "I am in so much trouble..."

He is, of course, oblivious to her sudden realization. "What?"

"I think I…"

"You what? You think you what?"

"Nothing," says Ino, because she is not ready, because this can't be happening to her, she can't be in love, not with him, what did she do to deserve this, god damn it all to hell.

Ino stares at Hidan, who is still looking at her expectantly, and she realizes that she still owes him an answer.

"Okay," says Ino.

"Okay… what?"

"Okay, I'll let you. You can come with me."

He does a double-take at her. "…Really?"


Hidan turns away with a very stoic face, then, when his back is to Ino, he does a few vigorous victory fist pumps.

"…So," says Hidan, turning towards her again, just as stoically. "What you're saying is, I took for-fucking-ever coming up with like six different plans, for no good reason."

"Well," says Ino, "I don't think that they're all unusable."


"Yeah," says Ino. "We can still go to Plan D, later."

"You know," says Hidan, slipping his arm around her waist. "I really like that idea."

They walk on along the sunlit path, very much together now. And maybe she's an angel, and maybe he's a priest, but right now they're just two idiots kind of in love with each other when they really shouldn't be. He squeezes her tightly to him and looks at her and says he's the luckiest fucking guy, praise Jashin, and she looks up at him and smiles that smile that dazzles him and she feels like she might actually be the lucky one here. Because she has been loved by many men, but here at her side is a man who loves her with a love more deep and true than any of those who came before him, a love simultaneously so mortal and so spiritual that it's a good thing he was already a little crazy because otherwise…

He kisses her and she kisses him and they walk on. And this could be everything or nothing at all; this could be the best thing that ever happened to them or the biggest mistake of their lives; it could be the path to heaven or one of many roads to hell, and, really, there's only one way to find out.


The end.

(Or, perhaps, the very beginning.)