Laughing In the Silence

A/N: Naruto Universe = Property of Kishimoto

I'm too loud. Always too loud. She on the other hand, is so quiet…every time I speak around her, I feel like I'm going to scare her off. She has the fine, delicate quality of a white lily, and I'm just a scruffy puppy that's used to rolling in the mud and chasing butterflies. Destruction is not something that I flinch at, but I always hesitate to fight her, to strike her with my dusty hands.

…Why do I always feel so clumsy around her? Why do my hands seem so coarse and my feet so large? My confidence drains when she's around me, and my heart tightens when she looks at him.


"Hinata," I called out, self-consciously picking the dog hair off my sleeves.

It was morning, and we awaited Kurenai-sensei beneath the old pine tree near the lake. Shino sat huddled in the darkness of the thick pine needles atop the tree, an obscure grey shadow that swayed in the wind. Hinata was making her way towards us, her eyes downcast and lips curved into a nervous smile. The puppy was lying in a bed of clovers, sound asleep.

"Good morning Kiba-kun," She bowed, and gave me a timid smile.

"Good morning," I said shortly, staring at her. The witty conversation about ninjutsu that I've formulated in my head fled my mind, and I felt foolish. Hinata didn't exactly help the matter, for she drifted easily into her silent shell, twisting her fingers habitually.

It was Shino that broke the quiet when he walked down the side of the tree trunk, hands swinging easily. Over the rim of his collar, I saw a smug little smile.

"Oh I wish I can do that," Hinata murmured beside me, gazing admiringly up at Shino's descending figure. A small blush colored her pale cheeks rosy, and I felt my face flush.

Suddenly, I shouted without preamble, "Oh I'll teach you Hinata!" Before she could reply I ran towards a tall tree and ran up its trunk for a few paces, and anchored myself firmly with chakra before I lost my nerves. Halfway up the tree, I looked down and saw Hinata gazing up at me with admiration in her eyes, hands clasped before her chest. She concentrated for a moment to gather her chakra in the soles of her feet, and quickly ran up the side of the tree.

"You're not too bad at this," I walked down a few paces to meet up with her midway.

Her face was flushed with exertion as she strode up at me. Just before she reached me, her legs wobbled, and she grabbed my limp hand for support. It wasn't the skin on skin contact that shocked me, but the sudden weight of her body itself. I felt my feet lose the adhesion and begin to pitch downwards. In slow motion, I saw her eyes widen with fear…but she did not scream.

…but I screamed.

"Auuughh!" My fingers instinctively closer tightly around hers, as I began to fall. My eyes snapped shut as I readied myself for the hard impact of the ground below. Her grip tightened as she slipped along…and our descent halted suddenly as the wind ceased to whistle in my ears. The silence was unnerving, so I opened my eyes and looked.

Hinata was hanging upside down from a branch by her feet, and keeping me suspended by her arm. There was a look of dazed surprise in her face as she looked down at me. I felt humiliated.

Suddenly the air was filled with bell-like laughter, and I felt her place the other hand around mine. Smiling, I reached up my freehand and allowed her to help me up.