Ino’s dreams are almost as pretty as she is, and almost as perfect.
There is a princess, a knight in shining armor, and a prince. Ino is the knight in shining armor, beautiful and strong. She knows the princess very well and loves her as much as she wants to protect her. She holds her and goes on adventures together and whispers of a perfect future in her ears.
But the princess fell in love with the prince.
Neji thought he gave up on dreams when his father died. He was in a world of bitterness and terrible fate and deemed no one could escape it. He believed that he has no dreams and he’ll live and die bound to what he hates.
Only, when Naruto comes in, he sees that the world bound by fate was his dream. And he’s trying to find a new one.
He wants it to be with Naruto.
But Naruto’s eyes are firmly on Sasuke.
Sasuke’s dreams were never his own. At first, there were about living up to his father and becoming like Itachi so he could protect what he loved. He never questioned the dream handed to him. Later, he threw away that dream for a bloody path of revenge and stuck to it with obsessive devotion.
Until Naruto threw himself in Sasuke’s world without warning and Sakura clawed her way into Naruto-and-Sasuke’s world with warning and Sasuke allowed it anyway. It was an off centered dream, because Sakura wanted her happy ending, Naruto just wanted to be happy, Sasuke didn’t know what happy was.
The Naruto-Sakura-Sasuke dream world challenged the bloody path Itachi gave Sasuke. But the Naruto-Sakura-Sasuke dream world wasn’t really a dream he chose. He's afraid to really step into that Naruto-Sasuke-Sakura dream world that Naruto and Sakura have.
But he doesn’t want to live on Itachi’s bloody path anymore.
So he decides to throw them both away, break his all of ties to the dream world and Itachi’s bloody path.
Only, he’s never broken is his ties with Itachi and Naruto and Sakura stubbornly want their Naruto-Sakura-Sasuke dream world and follow him wherever he goes, determined to bring him back. And Sasuke’s always aware of them, as aware as he is of the Uchiha ghosts he’s gathered, when they’re away.
The shadows of Naruto and Sakura presence start to find a place with the Uchiha ghosts and Sasuke knows never to interfere with the ghosts who he must avenge.
Ino sometimes trains with Sakura.
She touches every inch of Sakura’s skin that she can get away with and tries not to shiver when Sakura gets a little too close or warm breath covers Ino in all the wrong (right) places.
Sakura is stronger now.
In Ino’s perfect dream that means they would be strong together, but Sakura’s dreams have become different than Ino’s and are firmly with Naruto and Sasuke.
Ino had forgotten that the knight was often lonely when she created her dreams.
Naruto always keeps his promises, and he made a promise to help the Hyuuga clan so Neji’s not surprised that he’s keeping it.
He’s a storm of change that has Sakura’s cleverness and Sasuke’s experience behind him.
Hinata still blushes at him and Neji feels a twinge of jealously when Naruto gives Hinata a smile he gives no one else.
He questioned how he knows different types of smile Naruto has and when he found the answer he wasn’t entirely surprised.
Sasuke’s not quite in the Naruto-Sakura-Sasuke dream world and he’s not sure when he’ll be able to. He’s acknowledged he wants it, because it was a nice feeling that he’d forgotten how to name when Itachi died and Sakura held him and Naruto rested his head on Sasuke’s shoulder.
He’s still lost and maybe a little afraid and bitterly anger. He takes it out on Kakashi, who still knows exactly when to lecture Sasuke, when to let Sasuke vent and when to let Sasuke sit next to him silently while Sasuke craves his touch.
Sasuke’s maybe bringing Kakashi into the Naruto-Sakura-Sasuke world, but maybe he’s a crutch that he still desires because he’s extra aware of his father’s ghost clinging to him when he’s with Kakashi.
Sasuke’s body is tense for a long moment when Ino kisses him, hoping to taste Sakura. She shoves her tongue in Sasuke’s mouth and presses her body as close as she can against Sasuke’s.
Knights are supposed to protect the prince, not use them, but Ino’s pretty dreams are cracking and are filled with the blood the knight spills that dirties the shining armor.
Ino can feel the ghosts sticking to him and tastes them clearly. Maybe that’s why he’s responding instead of pushing away, maybe he wants someone else to feel the ghosts with him for awhile.
They burn within Ino and seem to slowly sink into her heart. The faint taste of Sakura on Sasuke’s lips is gone by the time they’ve worked their clothes off.
When Sasuke delivers news to Neji from Naruto, Neji asks many questions he knew the answers to, so that he can watch Sasuke. He wants to know why Naruto went through so much to make sure Sasuke couldn’t break the ties that bound them together.
He can’t figure it out.
He only sees the lingering bits of Naruto within Sasuke.
If he were more impulsive, he would have done something about it; touched him, tasted him, pulled him close so that he can feel every bit of Naruto. But he also sees the many ghosts Sasuke also harbors and Neji’s got enough ghosts of his own.
The Uchiha and the Hyuuga split for a reason, after all.
Sasuke lets Ino kiss him, because, in the end, it doesn’t really mean anything, and it allows him to ease the burden of the Uchiha ghosts, if only for a moment. When Ino’s gone, he feels guilty for his weakness.
He never denied that he was a masochist when Orochimaru purred into his ears while his fingers inched slowly down his pants.
Sasuke offered to be a middleman for the Hokage and Hyuuga clan and work next to Neji because Neji looks at him and sees Naruto and not Sasuke (like everyone saw Itachi). It’s a familiar feeling from his childhood and helps center the off-center Naruto-Sakura-Sasuke(-Kakashi) dream world.
He only sneered at Kabuto when Kabuto pressed his lips against his neck and called him a tool.
Ino had watched Neji and Sasuke speak outside the Hokage’s office many times while she waits for Sakura to finish talking with Naruto before deciding to make her move.
She sees the look on Neji’s face, looks at Sasuke, and then back again at Neji, who is eyeing Sasuke’s lips a little to closely. She felt as if she’s looking into a cracked mirror in those moments.
Her dreams of the princess, prince and knight are already warped beyond what they should be, so she felt no guilt when she finds herself wanting to touch Neji. Maybe she’ll feel Naruto.
And Sakura is filled with Naruto. She’s always up for another piece of Sakura.
Neji returns Ino’s advances because she offers him a bit of Sasuke, who he still wants to touch, despite the fact he can see it’s a bad idea.
Her hair and eyes aren’t dark enough, even though he can feel the lingering ghosts on her body. Her hair is blond and eyes are blue, though, so he doesn’t push her away.
Sasuke’s Naruto-Sakura-Sasuke(-Kakashi) dream world has begun to filter through Ino and Neji. Because he can taste Sakura on Ino now (and he’s not ready to taste the real Sakura) and can feel Naruto on Neji’s skin when Neji brushes against his skin in a calculated manner (and Neji’s much more careful than Naruto’s, so Sasuke is more in control.)
And the Uchiha ghosts linger within all of them.