A Gift for Shino-Kun

There are certain rules among the Genin of Team Eight. You don't make fun of Naruto; you don't forget about Akamaru; you don't ask Shino to remove his sunglasses.

You wait at the gates of the Hyuuga compound to be allowed in, regardless of the situation. You neither ring the doorbell or knock on the door at the Inuzuka household. Unless it concerns urgent news about the team or the village, you don't bother going to the Aburame home.

As Aburame Shino watched his teammate, Hyuuga Hinata, from his bedroom window as she slowly made her way to his front door, he wondered why she'd broken that rule.

For the briefest of moments, he thought that perhaps she had come for assistance with her training. This thought was abolished almost immediately after it was formed. Hinata would go to her cousin, Hyuuga Neji, or her other teammate, Inuzuka Kiba, if she required training help. She had Kanoha's resident "Genjutsu Mistress", Yuuhi Kurenai-Sensei, for any advice. She had Uzumaki Naruto to keep her spirits up no matter what. The girl had no plausible reason to suddenly appear at his home.

That was what went through his head as he made his way down the steps to the front door, so his parents wouldn't be bothered to answer it. At any rate, he knew Hinata; she'd probably take a few moments to work up the nerve to even knock. True to his predictions, when he swiftly opened the door, he found Hinata with her small fist raised, hesitantly hanging in mid air. She seemed to have been in the process of knocking, but musthave caught herself so as not to hit Shino.

If she had stopped to think about it, she would have realized how unlikely the chances of hitting her team's prodigy was.

Instead, she blushed sheepishly at the taller boy, a tiny smile on her lips as she looked up at his face. Never his eyes though; Shino's glasses and her own nerves made sure of that.

Shino remained stony-faced behind the cover of said glasses and the high collar of his coat as he waited patiently. He didn't move to invite her in, and he made no move to step outside. He made no noticeable sound as he stood in the doorway, one hand still on the doorknob. When she too said nothing, and an awkward silence fell upon them, he internally sighed. No matter how much he found the thought unappealing, it would seem that he would have to start the conversation.

"Is there something I can help you with, Hinata?"

The pale pink flush that arose to Hinata's cheeks couldn't have been stopped even if she had tried. Out of habit she cast her gaze to the ground as she slowly delved one of her hands into the pocket of her oversized jacket. Shino, whose eyes had zeroed in on the motion, only now noticed the slight bulge there. He quirked a brow and for a second, entertained the idea of that she was simply there to offer him one of her newest salves. (He really had to admit, they worked wonders on the slight burning sensation that would plague his skin hours after the kikai were released.)

Instead of the medical container that he was expecting, Hinata pulled out something far larger. Clutched in her small, pale, --and not to mention trembling, why was she doing that?-- hands, was something softer. Something quite unexpected, to say the very least.

Hinata, blushing the entire time, practically shoved the stuffed animal in Shino's face. Too stunned to say anything (though he likely wouldn't have said anything even if he knew what to say), Shino simply stared. He blinked a few times to make sure that what he was seeing wasn't some sort of illusion; he even contemplated taking off his glasses to make sure they were clean. He didn't, of course; but the sight still remained the same.

Suspended in front of his face, held up by Hinata's still slightly shaking hands, was a stuffed...was it a bear? It was some sort of animal at least. A stuffed bear-type plushy...thing. Shino was rendered speechless, though not necessarily a good or bad way.

At this point, Hinata could have sworn that her face was as bright as a fresh tomato. She mentally berated herself, suddenly realizing that this probably wasn't such a good idea. She couldn't help it though; the plushy reminded her so much of her teammate. A high collared jacket, granted it was purple, and round black sunglasses on such a small and otherwise unnoticeable creature; a mole.

She should have realized though; what would Shino want to do with a stuffed animal? He probably though her very childish right now. She didn't want to seem like a weak little girl in front of him. She wanted Shino to respect her just as much as she did him.

Hinata, who had been staring nervously at the plushy in hopes that it would vanish from her hands into Shino's, lowered both her hands, eyes clenching shut in embarrassment. Shino remained stoic, continuing to look at her questioningly. Whether she had been able to see this, he doubted. Though Hinata's strength as a konouchi and of the Byakugan had grown, she lacked the ability her cousin Neji had mastered. The ability to keep her confidence, her "cool" so to speak, under any circumstance.

They remained that way for a few seconds. The stuffed mole (purple in colour, with a high-collared purple jacket, black round sunglasses, and even a little cane sewn onto one of his hands) hanging loosely from Hinata's hands in the air between the two Genin. The Hyuuga heiress was so flushed her face was literally radiating heat, eyes clenched shut and head hanging down. Shino had moved both of his hands to his pockets, shoulders a little stiffer than usual and eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly. Neither of them had spoken a word since Shino's initial question.

It wasn't until Hinata was stuttering out apologies of how sorry she was for bothering him and turning around to leave, still clutching the mole, that Shino moved. Lifting his right hand out of his pocket, he gently took a hold of one of Hinata's wrists. Slowly, once he was sure she wasn't going anywhere, he moved his hand to the toy, for that's what it truly was, and lifted it from her grip. Hinata's eyes snapped open, shining with faint hope, and she looked at her teammates face questioningly. Her flush had reduced to an adorable pink hue once again, her small lips twitching as a smile waited to grow there.

Shino stared thoughtfully at the small burden he clutched easily in his hand, wondering what he should do next. He thought maybe he should ask Hinata why she had given him the little plushy. He considered asking her where in the world she had found such a thing in the first place. A small part of him, the easily boxed up and shoved to the back of his mind part, briefly entertained the idea of asking whether or not she had given one to Kiba as well. But all that came out was a slightly hesitant, "...Thank you...?"

This seemed to be enough for the Hyuuga heiress though, as her lips promptly curved up into a smile. She poked the tips of her index fingers together gently, unconsciously, as she turned so that her entire body was facing Shino. Only then did she realize what she was doing, and promptly opted to clasp her hands behind her back. "I...I hope you don't mind that I g...got that for you, Shino-kun. I'm sorry, I...I know it's not really a...all that useful...it isn't at all, really. But...well, when I saw it, I th...thought of you..." Her flush deepened and she was suddenly speaking, not to Shino, but to the sky. "I...it was really...cute."

Hinata's stammering and blushing was something that Shino had accustomed himself to; it had taken the girl a month of daily training for hours on end with her teammates before she was comfortable enough to stop. But she still stammered and mumbled whenever she was nervous or embarrassed about something. Maybe it was this. Maybe it was the way she looked when she said it. Though it was more likely just what she had said. Either way, Shino felt a sudden rush of heat spread to his cheeks, and he could have sworn his glasses had slid down a bit. "Hinata..."

Cheeks still flushed, lips still curled up into a smile, Hinata stared at the spot just in front of Shino's feet. "I...I'm sorry for bothering you, Shino-kun. I...I'll be heading home now..." She turned away from him then, feet followed by body, slowly followed by head. Shino's eyes caught hers in the small instance before she was gone, having scurried off almost quicker than he could blink. A tiny part of him noted how impressive her speed had become, though most of him was trying to make head or tails of his suddenly pounding heart and sweaty palms. Wordlessly, he stepped back into the house, closing the door behind him, still holding the little plush in his hand.

It stared back up at him with glasses that were almost identical (though much smaller) to his own. And a few minutes later, it surveyed his room from where he had gently placed it above his bed.

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A/N: Alright, I know it's wierd, but bare with me, okay? Unbetaed, as usual, aseither it never got to my beta, or she hasn't gotten around to it yet . This has been done since before the new school year, but yeah...

The plushy is not of my own creation--anyone reading this ever seen Happy Tree Friends? Well, one of the characters in that is "The Mole"; and the moment my friend Alex and I laid eyes on him, the first thing out of our mouths was, "He looks like Shino." It's been eating away at my brain ever since--especially when Alex drew a picture of Shino with a plushy of The Mole. Granted they're about the same size in the pic, but yeah...

Disclaimer: I own absolutely none of the characters used or mentioned throughout this fanfic. The characters are Kishimoto-Sensei's property, and the plushy of "The Mole" belongs to the makers of Happy Tree Friends.