Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto

This One Shot had Beta help from two very wonderful authors: wingedmercury and Sakura's Unicorn. Without them, it's likely, this story would have never have been published. A great BIG thank you to both of them for their tremendous encouragement and support. If you happen to find yourself with extra time, I encourage you to check out what stories they have to offer, and as always, I'd love to see you pay things forward with a constructive review.

And now onto the featured story...

Near the far wall of their living room, Tsunade sat alone on the couch, her lips pressed into a grim line. Now that Ino had hastily departed, Sai had burning questions that ached for answers, and he made a beeline for her.

"Why did this occur?" he demanded.

Tsunade closed her eyes.

"Sai," she said sadly. "Sometimes...these things just happen."

"Tsunade-sama, be honest with me," he said with seriousness. "Did we do something wrong?"

Tears formed at the corners of her eyes. "No." She cleared her voice and wore a solemn expression. "There's nothing either of you did or didn't do that led to this. I'm sorry Sai," she said, voice slowly becoming less audible. "It just wasn't meant to be."

He frowned as he slowly took in her words. "I see," was all he said.

Minutes passed. Several times it looked as if Tsunade wanted to say something, but nothing was shared. The silence started to bother Sai, so he attempted to read into her thoughts by observing her facial expressions, but that led nowhere. It was as if something was there, right before him, but it was just out of his reach. Eventually, he knew it was time he actively did something, and Sai knew just whom he needed to see.



"I think it's best I find Ino. Would you mind letting yourself out?"

"No. Of course not." She wiped a tear from her cheek and tried to compose herself.

He paused, remembering common courtesies. "Thank you for coming," he added, as he extended his hand.

She took it weakly, and shook, letting her hand drop back into her lap. With eyes downcast, she said softly, "I wish I could have done more."

He could find nothing to say to that, but nodded once, as he moved toward the front door of his home.

Sai?" she spoke again.


"I'll be at the hospital today, but you can stop by anytime either of you need me, okay?"

For a moment, he paused, fingertips still on the doorknob. Why would they need her for anything else? Still, he didn't question Tsunade. Konoha's top healer was wise beyond his years, and he dared not think he knew better than she. "Understood," he responded before giving it another thought.

Glancing back, he took in Tsunade's dejected look, and closed the door. Heading down the road, his footfalls became more hurried, as thoughts of the early morning came to mind. The pain. The blood. The shock. The recent events were fresh, but in many ways, they still didn't feel real. The racing of his heart cued him in that something was wrong, but before he could put his finger on it, he switched his focus to the events the day before.

Yesterday. He calmed. Ah yes, yesterday, everything was fine. In fact, life was pretty perfect. He paused remembering the happiness. During the past few weeks, our entire world revolved around the tiny life growing inside of her. We were thrilled to be blessed. He reveled in the moment, replaying days gone by. It felt nice to recall all of the special moments, but as seconds passed, the pleasantries were soon overshadowed by the truth that loomed. Alarm bells went off, and he was jolted back to the present. What am I doing? He chastised himself. It was over. Nothing more could be done. Even Tsunade's renown healing powers weren't enough to change the outcome, and it was time to move on and put this behind them.

Before he could help himself, he resorted back to logic to find a solution to the problem at hand. It was comforting to fall back to the matter-of-fact ways of ROOT, even if deep down he knew better. With determination, he laid out a plan.

"I need to be there for Ino," he vowed, not quite sure on the details, but certainly willing to try.

The search to find his wife was quick. Within a few minutes he found her sitting on a bench, staring out at an abandoned playground in a nearby park. As he approached, he immediately knew something was wasn't quite right. There was no trace of Ino's spunky personality. Instead, her beautiful form stood like a statue, perfectly composed, but with an underlying melancholy that suddenly made it hard for Sai to breathe. All at once, something stirred inside him. Tamping it down, he inched in front of her. Sai had never seen her like this, and it began to worry him.

"Ino?" he called out, but she didn't move. He leaned in to caress her cheek, but she remained unresponsive. Suddenly, his stomach twisted when he noted those beautiful opal eyes, once filled with wonder and love, now looked hollow and empty.

He froze. Ino was the lively one, full to the brim with emotion. There was never a time she wasn't ready to share herself happily. She was bright and cheerful no matter what the circumstance. In fact, it was that dedicated spunk that finally coaxed out the emotion he never knew he had. But where did it all go? That special something she carried so brightly within her? Sai couldn't find a trace of it, and it began to terrify him. Ino. Please. Don't do this. Tell me. How can I help you?

Kneeling down, he frantically searched her eyes again, but they remained blank. Instantly, his heart sank. She was blocking out the world, burying her feelings, and slowly withdrawing. He scrambled to fix this, but had no idea where to begin.

With nowhere else to turn, he found himself clinging to the solid advice given by her best friend, Shikamaru, years ago, when he asked how he might help her overcome the death of her father.

"You can't solve this," Shikamaru said seriously. "But give her time and try to let your heart feel her thoughts. If you can't exactly understand what she's going through, just be genuine. It's important you be by her side, Sai. That's all. Do your best. In time she'll let you in, and just by being there, it will help you be the partner she needs."

Carefully, he slid onto the bench next to her and took her hand in his. When she did nothing, he snaked his other arm around her and pulled her closer. Slowly, her eyes fell to his hand near her abdomen where the baby once was, and she stiffened.

In an instant, he felt his heart constrict as he watched the sorrow and pain surface on her beautiful face. Lovingly, he kissed the top of her head and caressed her arm in hopes of providing her with reassurance, but ironically with each stroke, he found his own walls weakening, as he watched her crumble before him. Tenderly, he whispered the simple phrase, "I'm sorry," in her ear, and that's all it took for things to unravel.

"I lost the baby," she whispered, seeming like she was trying to come to terms with it but not wanting to believe the words. "I lost the baby," she repeated. This time louder and more panicked. He could feel the sting from the desperation in her voice. "Don't you understand?!" She shouted, unable to hold back her roiling emotions. "Our little one is gone... forever!"

"Ino..." he began, but stopped when she unleashed an agonizing cry.

Taking in a sharp breath, he hugged her closer.

"We'll make it through this," he tried to assure her. He was determined to be strong for her, for them. The loss was raw and palpable, but he knew beautiful things came to life when love was present. Ino of all people had shown him that. Death was a constant in the life of a Shinobi and a reality they were trained to accept.

"It's hard," he said, trying his best to stay calm. "And I'm so sorry Ino... We're going to miss the baby... I already do."

A whimper escaped Ino's lips, but he held strong. "It doesn't erase the pain, but please, just know I'm here for you."

He gave her a light squeeze and tried his best to share his warmth.

"I love you. More than anything."

Clinging to him, Ino trembled, as her heartfelt tears began to pour out. Time felt like it was at a standstill, and in the moments that followed, her sadness weighed heavily on him, and her desperate question haunted his psyche. "Don't you understand?!"

Sai's mind raced furiously. He wanted to help. He really did. He just had to...to...understand. And then his eyes widened. Only Sai and Ino existed now. Dreams of their happy little family had vanished. Their precious little baby, that special little life they lovingly created together, was now nothing more than a distant memory.

This isn't real. It can't be real, he told himself, but looking down at his broken wife, there was no way to deny the truth. All at once, the world around closed in on him, and his breaths became labored. Even though he had tried to provide comfort for her in his arms, he felt helpless, and when she unexpectedly cried out 'Why?!' in a wail so fierce and so broken it was impossible to ignore, pain pierced his tender heart. There was no answer to her question. No words to ease her pain. Their child was no longer alive. In that moment, Sai's guard was finally torn down, and for the first time in years, fresh tears stained his pale cheeks.

Author's Note:

There are no words to express what I feel for those of you who have gone through this kind of loss. For now this is a one shot, but if inspiration hits, perhaps I'll try taking this in a happier direction or try a different take on these characters with another story. It's my first Ino/Sai fic, and my first time using a Beta, so good or bad, please review and let me know what you think. As October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss month, I would like to dedicate this story to all of those who have been through this. My heart breaks for each and every one of you.

October 30, 2016 announcement: I wish to thank all who have joined the Fanfiction Review Movement. There are currently 33 of us. Each and every one of you have made a difference for sure! For those new to the idea, please see my profile for more information, and if interested, review or PM me to let me know if you'd like to make the pledge to constructively review. Thanks everyone!