Bugs, Dogs, and a Flower

By: roterritter

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto the series or its characters.

Genre: Romance/Action

Rating: T

Summary: Aburame Shino is secretly falling in love with his best friend's older sister, Inuzaka Hana. Yet, like a bee drawn to a flower, Shino can't resist her. ShinoHana.

Timeframe: This takes place three years after Part II, but no real references are made to it.

A/N: There is a five year difference between the two characters, but its only two more than the popular Shikamaru and Temari pairing. However to be safe I've made Shino eighteen at the time of this story.

Interesting fact, the known Inuzuka members are all named after a part of the body of a dog (claw, fang). This includes Hana whose name means nose, but the name alone could also mean flower, which in this story is particularly ironic for a certain bug using ninja.


Chapter One - Bugs

The rising sun broke through the dusky clouds to bring light across a huge forest outside of Konoha, which was still damp from a brief morning rain.

Aburame Shino walked along the wet grass and ignored the water drops falling from the vibrant green tree leaves like belated raindrops. They fell harmlessly on his tall collared coat as he brushed past the majestic trees.

He carried a small bug carrier in one hand, but it was currently empty except for the few essentials to keep a captured insect alive. It was his hobby to observe bugs, sometimes collecting them, but never to kill them. It was a strange hobby for a person whose life was already overflowing with bugs. However, on a peaceful morning like this in a silent forest without a new mission in sight, he could enjoy his quiet yet thoughtful hobby.

His own destruction bugs were busy going about their daily business within the nest, making sure their population continued to grow to accommodate Shino's own growing skills. His advancement had recently earned him a promotion to Jounin and the large gourd he had strapped to his back, which held the huge number of destruction bugs that could no longer all fit within his body or hide underneath his coat.

The gourd was a symbol of an extremely skilled Aburame, but it had earned more than one joke from his comrades and friends that it made him look like Gaara.

It wasn't that unusual to him, a large gourd was a useful object. A sand user from Suna could use it to carry sand while a bug user from Konoha could use it to carry bugs. He didn't see the humor in it, especially in something that had quickly turned into another burden to carry on his shoulders like a boulder.

Yet, there was no way around it. An Aburame's skills were based around their destruction bugs. The bigger techniques required more bugs, but their bodies could only hold so many of them and Shino had gone past the number he could hide within his coat without it being obvious.

Shino continued to walk through the forest, his eyes carefully inspecting each tree, leave, and bush for something new and interesting, while burying his inner angst with little success. The quietness was nice for peaceful relaxing, but it was easy for his thoughts to roam into the angst that almost every Aburame carried.

A distant shout broke his thoughts. It repeated again, growing closer. The voice was low and feminine. At this distance, he couldn't place it, but something about it was familiar.

"Koumaru!"

He decided to wait until the voice got closer. If someone were lost, he should offer his help. If they would take it from him, despite the excellent search and tracking abilities of Team 8, there were those who were put off by his own methods. There were far too many people to his liking that were disturbed that his bugs lived inside of him.

At the age of eighteen, he was now the age that some ninja started looking to start a family. Many of his comrades and friends were in relationships, including his own teammates. The only real bachelors weren't alone from lack of others interested in them. Yet, Shino had suffered through several rejections, during each he had hidden his reaction behind his cool demeanor as if he didn't really care, but he knew the reason for each one.

They knew his body was merely a walking nest made of flesh and blood for thousands of tiny dark bugs that lived and died within him. Few could get past the small holes that covered him head to toe, no matter how much he hid them. In a relationship with someone else, he couldn't wear his coat forever.

If things continued like this, the elders of his clan may try an arranged marriage to ensure the continuation of the family and its abilities and lineage. He wasn't the first Aburame who found it hard to be accepted because of his bugs and there were a few outsiders who wanted to marry into a superior clan, even the Aburame clan, but that didn't make him feel much better. It just made him realize a relationship outside of love might be inevitable.

"Koumaru!"

The voice was getting closer and now he knew it was a woman. In fact, it was clear enough now he suspected who it was.

Inuzuka Hana stepped out into his view from behind one of the many trees of the forest. She was still calling out for Koumaru before she even noticed him, giving him a chance to watch and take note of her before she saw him.

She wore her usual Chuunin outfit complete with a green flak jacket without pouches and tight black shorts rather than her white veterinarian uniform she wore when working in the hospital. Both of which looked good on her slim body. Her straight, brunette hair was pulled into a ponytail held in place by two hairpins and the red facial tattoos highlighted her attractive facial features.

The young woman was also the older sister to Shino's teammate and best friend, Kiba, which meant he wasn't a stranger to her. She was always friendly toward him, but Shino had a secret that he couldn't even tell Kiba.

Shino had a childhood crush on Hana and although he had grown up and apart from those days since he felt those undeveloped young emotions, she still affected him in ways that gave him butterflies in his stomach whenever he was around her.

"Hana?" he announced, not wanting to make it seem he was hiding. A fearful part of him told him to ignore her and leave, while the part that liked her wanted to be near her and the part of that was a best friend with Kiba told him to help his friend's sister. With two against one, he had no choice.

She looked at with a serious expression at first, partly from surprise, but when she recognized him, her face lightened with a smile spread on her pink lips.

"Shino!" she yelled as she jogged closer to him, her ponytail flapped behind her like a dog's tail. "What are you doing out here?"

"I…was bug collecting," he answered as he lifted the empty insect carrier. He reminded himself that Aburame were cool and collected and didn't blush or stutter when a pretty woman talked to them. "Are you looking for someone?"

She nodded her head, "I'm looking for a puppy named Koumaru. He disappeared. I managed to track him to the forest, but with the morning rain, I lost his scent."

Shino watched her look around the area, her dark eyes scanning area as she sniffed the air. He had no doubt she was using the Inuzuka ability to enhance her sense of smell by sending chakra to her nose. He was very familiar with the ability because of Kiba.

He was suddenly nervous for a second, remembering that she would have no problem smelling the destruction bugs on him. For once, someone wouldn't have to see his bugs to be disgusted with him. All she had to do was smell them.

However, he was a little shocked when she smiled at him, as if she wasn't disturbed by his presence at all. She sighed and placed her hands on her hips, "I've lost his scent completely…this is strange…not even the rain should have done this."

Shino turned his thoughts away from himself and thought about Hana's situation. The puppy was no doubt on of the Inuzuka's dog familiars, they were as much their partners as the destruction bugs were to the Aburame. Hana had her own partners, but he didn't see them now.

"Where are the Haimaru Triplets?"

"I split them up, each taking a different direction of the forest. They are suppose to call out if they found something," she told him. "But I doubt they have more luck than I did."

She turned to him and looked at him in a curious way, as if thoughtfully considering something. He was very glad for his sunglasses at the moment, not sure if he wanted to meet her dark eyes eye to eye, fearing he would betray himself.

"Shino, you could do an aerial search with your destruction bugs, couldn't you?"

She surprised him again. Hana never tried to distance herself from him, despite whatever she learned about him, which was one reason why he liked her, other than her attractive appearance. It wasn't as if she didn't know what he was capable of, Kiba had a tendency to tell his family about Team 8's missions with excitement and to Shino's annoyance, he never unembellished Shino's own actions.

Telling others about their abilities and their nature, was not something the Aburame did often. Others learned about them by watching their actions and the Aburame enjoyed the mystery that surrounded their clan. It reduced the number of people who would distrust them because they felt uneasy about people with bugs living inside of them.

Yet, Kiba's family never treated him any worse for it. In fact, despite what they knew, he was always welcomed in their home when he visited.

So despite his misgivings about showing off his bugs to someone he felt attracted to, he couldn't say no to her. Even if he did the wrong thing and refused, he would still have to face Kiba for brushing off his sister like that. Kiba didn't know how Shino felt, but refusing to help one of his family members would only hurt their friendship and he didn't want that either.

Luckily, he realized he didn't have to reveal himself completely. For once, he was thankful for the heavy gourd filled with destruction bugs. There would be enough for an aerial search without releasing those inside his body.

Shino reached back and pulled the large cork stopper off the gourd. An audible hum from inside the gourd increased as the bugs inside prepared to move. He then moved his hands into a simple hand seal to communicate his orders to the destruction bugs.

A huge, black swarm burst out of the gourd as they flew up into the sky as the loud buzzing of their wings came and went quickly. After they flew above the trees, they spread out in all directions.

"This could take a while," he warned her.

"That's fine," she told him as she rested against a tree and folded her arms.

They were both silent at first, one could never say the Aburame were masters of small talk. Shino was person of few words, he would talk when necessary, even during combat to calmly explain to his opponent the flaws of his strategy, but finding the words to say to the girl he liked was another matter.

Why did he like her?

Hana was beautiful for one thing, that wasn't hard to miss. That alone initially attracted him to her. She had the slim, ruggedness of the Inuzuka clan, but the typical features of her clan, such as the feral eyes and ragged hair, were softer on her. She also wasn't skin and bones like some kunoichi, as evident by her partially unzipped flak jacket, and her low voice could make any word sound sensual if she tried.

Beyond that, she was a perceptive and talented young woman. She loves animals deeply and unlike Kiba, she has a calm and collected personality, a type that is highly valued by the Aburame clan. While dogs and bugs might seem a world apart, there was so much that he understood about her.

Remarkably, she never seemed awkward around him, which in turn made him feel awkward himself because he didn't know how to deal with a woman he liked that didn't reject him. Kurenai and Hinata were a different matter, they were likefamily. Hana was different…from everyone.

However, there was another problem. She was not only his best friend's sister. She was Kiba's older sister. She was older only by five years, a difference in age that didn't seem much, except that she was grown up when he was still thirteen.

Yet, time and maturity were a matter of perspective. He was already a Jounin while she was still a Chuunin and he was arguably the most mature of the Rookie Nine boys.

"I haven't seen you in a while," she told him, her voice softened for the casual conversation. "You and little brother haven't worked together in a while either."

"We haven't," he said thoughtfully. "Although we were trained together to be an elite surveillance team, we've mostly separated lately to go into our own areas. It started with Hinata's obligations to her clan and then I was assigned to lead a number of Chuunin missions."

"Then Kiba went to work with the Military Police," she finished for him.

"Yes."

"That's the way it happens some times," said Hana as she looked up at the sky. "Since I started working at the hospital I don't have much time with my own team either."

Hana was a skilled and respected veterinarian. Konoha respected its animal familiars so much that the veterinarians worked side by side with the medical-nin and wore the symbol for "medicine" on their backs too. Many of the veterinarians were just as skilled in medical techniques as the medical-nin.

While the Aburame clan had their own experts to deal with the health of the destruction bugs' nest, Shino respected Hana's abilities.

"Little brother is also mad you made Jounin before him," she laughed. Hana was no doubt picturing the same complaints that Shino had gotten a dose of himself.

"Well…yes." He cleared his throat and looked away. "It's not because of Kiba's lack of skill. It is only a rank."

"Don't be modest, making full Jounin at the age eighteen is an amazing thing. Despite his complaints, Kiba is proud of you, but he is worried. He said you've been distant lately."

Shino looked at Hana in surprise. While his sunglasses covered his eyes, his eyebrows knitted together to show his emotion. Hana's own expression was filled with concern, but that confused him more.

"I've only been dealing with Aburame matters," he said. It was close to the truth, close enough anyway. He certainly wasn't going to tell her about his recent rejections.

His hand went and touched the gourd for a second before pulling away, but he knew he was too late as he saw her eyes catch him.

"I've never seen you with your gourd, although little brother told me about it," she said as she smiled, probably remembering one of the jokes Kiba had created.

Why did he have to pick one that looked like Gaara's. He could have picked a nice round one like his father's own gourd.

He gave her the standard line, "A gourd is just as useful to carry destruction bugs as it is to carry sand. Besides for that use there is no relation between the two."

"I agree."

What?

Hana smiled at him and continued, "There are many different ninja specialties, everything from elements, weapons, animal familiars, and more. Every ninja village can have many clans who might master their own specialty in their own way, but still might find they are similar to another clan from another village. There are cat users in Suna, but they aren't related to the Inuzuka in any way."

"I understand that part. The Aburame have their own bug user counterparts in the Stone Village," he told her. "Kiba's jokes don't bother me as much as the strain the gourd places on me. It…requires some adjustment."

She was about to ask him what he meant, but a swarm of destruction bugs returned.

Shino lifted his hand and let them swarm around it. He concentrated on communicating with them, although their buzzing and chittering was probably as alien to Hana as her dog's whimpers and barks were to him.

"Did they find Koumaru?" she asked eagerly.

"Yes," he said. He frowned at what the bugs told him, but he pointed in a direction further away from the village. "Koumaru is in that direction. There is a forest clearing not far from here. It shouldn't be hard to find."

"Thanks Shino," she told him as she started to walk off.

"Wait," he said. She turned back to him and looked at with puzzlement, the look alone caused him to pause for a second. "The…puppy isn't alone. There was a man wearing a Konoha ninja flak jacket holding the puppy. He also had a large dog with him, but I don't think he's an Inuzuka, and he seemed to be waiting."

"Waiting?" she asked. Her eyes narrowed with suspicion. Shino felt she already knew who he saw. "What did he look like?"

Shino was a little uncomfortable with the intensity of her gaze, but he slid his sunglasses back with a finger, making sure they covered his eyes. He concentrated on the image in his head, put together from the insect vision of several bugs through their compound eyes. It wasn't perfect and missing details, but good enough.

"He's a large man, broad shouldered and rugged, but he doesn't have your clan's facial tattoos. His dog also has a collar on it, which I don't ever remember seeing Inuzuka using collars."

"Because we don't!" Hana's face twisted into fury, something he expected from Kiba or her mother. Her hand clinched into a fist as she looked away.

"You know this man," he said. It wasn't a question.

She looked at him apologetically. "Inukai Kizuna. It has to be him."

"Inukai?"

"Not related," she told him quickly. "He comes from a poor family of dog trainers who moved into Konoha when he was a little boy. They aren't even ninja, but Konoha's entire school system is based on ninja training, even if the actual number of Genins who graduate is small. So, he went to school and actually had talent and he admired my clan ever since he grew up. He saw us as both ninja and dog trainers, so that's what he wanted to be too."

"So that explains his dog."

"Not quite," she said as she crossed her arms and sighed. "He admires us and tries to emulate us, but he doesn't understand us. Our dogs are our partners! We would never put a collar around their neck and we would never try to discipline them by hurting them, but Kizuna does and because of that he will never be an Inuzuka."

Shino listened carefully and watched the wave of frustration suddenly pour out of her. There were more things than she said, but who was he to dig deeper?

However, he had his concerns. "This man has Koumaru, possibly taken him and concealed his scent from you. He is also waiting, this seems like a trap."

"Perhaps." Hana gave him a warm smile of appreciating for his concern. "But not the kind you think. He's also my former boyfriend."

His eyes opened wide in shock. A twinge of jealousy filled him, even though she did say former.

"We dated for a while, I guess he saw me as his way into the Inuzuka clan, marry me and be adopted into the family, kind of like my Dad did my Mom, but without the love."

Shino understood. Ninja clans were determined to keep their advanced bloodlines and secret techniques within the clan, although the Hyuuga were the most extreme in this area. Unlike an ordinary family, they couldn't just marry off their daughters like tradition, without their secrets being born in someone else's family. To avoid marrying within the clan, even men were married into the clan to ensure the continuation of the clan's name and bloodline.

"His family was dirt poor, I guess he isn't completely proud of them and saw the Inuzuka as something better, something more honorable, but he refuses to see our way of thinking." Her hand slowly caressed her neck. Her voice was sad. "He placed collars on his dogs and sometimes I felt he wanted to put one on me. The last straw for me was a choker he gave for a gift. It looked like a collar. It was humiliating and insulting!"

He didn't know what to say in response, not after she told him information from her personal life. She had never done so before.

"Shino," her voice turned serious. "Thanks for helping me, but I can take care of this. He probably only wants to convince me to change my mind."

He didn't know what to say to that as he watched her walk way. What could he do? It wasn't his place as merely a friend of her brother's to interfere.

However, there was something about her description of Inukai Kizuna that he didn't like, that he didn't trust either. The Inuzuka didn't treat their dogs as pets or servants. They were their partners and they learned to communicate with him, much as he did with his bugs, but they also emulated them, many of their secret techniques were based on wild moves.

Yet, what Hana described was a man who didn't emulate dogs. He became their master, which the Inuzuka would find insulting since they identified so much with their dogs. It disturbed Shino to think how this man might see Hana. He didn't want to see the woman he liked in that position. Neither as the best friend to her brother nor as the young man who remembered her as his boyhood crush.

Shino made a decision.

He pulled the strap to his gourd off his shoulder and placed the gourd on the ground. If more of his destruction bugs returned they would start with this place. They should all return to the gourd without him loosing any of them and he had enough bugs still inside of him should he need them.

Shino leapt into the trees and ran from branch to branch silently. He didn't want her to think he had no faith in her, so he would hide, but should she need him, he would be there.

Next Chapter – Dogs

Shino races to defend Hana, but is forced to use his Jounin level skills.


Author's Note: This was suppose to be a one-shot, but it got too long and I didn't want to put a lot of work in this just for it to disappear off the first page in a day, so I split it into three chapters. Readers of my other stories, don't worry…this is something due to the dreaded plot bunnies, but I'll return to my other stories soon.

Inukai Kizuna is a character created by me. I needed a bad, alpha male type to help catalyze the relationship between Shino and Hana.


Version 1.1

1.0: Original

1.1: I misspelled my own original character's name! It it is Kizuna, not Kizuma. Little difference, but I choose Kizuna off of a kanji that means leash.