Kiba doubled over, coughing. When he caught his breath again, he stared up at Shino. "What the hell did you do that for, Shino?" The taller young man raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. What is his problem? He sure has been touchy today. They were shopping for Hinata's birthday gifts. Kiba really wanted to find something special for her, since she was always willing to help him out. And he had just pointed at something that he thought she would really like, when Shino had punched him in the stomach. What the hell was the guy thinking?

The necklace sat on its stand behind the glass of the case. It was silver, with a long chain that had links of three different sizes. There was a pendant hanging from it that he thought was an opal, though he wasn't sure. It reminded him of her eyes. Shino cocked his head to one side behind the high collar of his coat, looking down at it. He turned to Kiba. "Do you really want to get her something like that? She might take it the wrong way and pass out." Kiba blinked in surprise. He had not been thinking about that. He had only been trying to find something he was sure she would like. When he told Shino this, the solemn young man's shoulders shook in silent laughter.

Normally, Kiba followed his teammate's advice. But he had never really liked being laughed at. So, grumbling, he paid for the necklace and had the clerk put it in a small box, wrap it up in shiny white paper and put a nice silver ribbon around it. He mumbled for Shino to continue his shopping by himself, and stuffed the box into his pocket, stalking away. "Arf!" Akamaru came trotting up to him, and jumped into his arms. The dog whined. "It's ok, Akamaru. I'm just a little mad at Shino. It's not like I'm trying to…" He blinked. Oh. Kiba's hand strayed to the squarish bulge in his coat pocket. That would be a problem, then, wouldn't it?

Walking through the light snowfall, Kiba kicked at chunks of it with the toes of his sandals. All the while, he thought. His relationship with Hinata was just him being protective of his teammate, no matter what Shino might think. Or was it? Ga! Stop that, man! You really don't need to start thinking that way about Hinata. Neji will kick your ass! Just thinking about the older shinobi and the way he looked at him gave him the creeps. He always seemed like he was on point of smacking Kiba. Hard. The both of them were very protective of Hinata, and if anything, they should have been friends because of that. And it was for that reason he didn't understand what Neji's problem was.

Akamaru scrambled up into his jacket, clinging on behind his neck. Kiba pulled his hood further over his face. The wind was getting colder since the sun was about to set. Hurrying up the street to his house, the square package kept bumping against his leg. I'm not going to start feeling guilty about doing something nice for Hinata. That sounded way too much like something Shino would do, all because he was constantly thinking of the team, and how what he did with and for Kiba and Hinata would affect the "dynamics of the team." Bullshit, Shino. You just don't wanna get too close to anybody. You might like it too much. This made him snort in laughter, and Akamaru made an inquisitive whine behind him.

"Nothing, buddy. Nothing at all." He reassured his friend before doubling his pace. Running for a few minutes, he stopped thinking. Sometimes, it was just easier not to think at all. Then, he noticed how close he was to his house. He slowed to a light run, then to a trot. As he rounded the corner onto his street, he ran into something solid. "Oof!" He yelled in surprise as he knocked the solid thing to the ground.

Sitting there in the snow, glaring up at him, was Ino. "Gomen, Ino-chan!" He was just about to keep on moving toward his house when she grabbed the leg of his pants. "What is it, Ino-chan?" The girl raised an eyebrow, and he realized that he was being really rude. "Ah…" He reached down and grabbed her hand, hauling her up off of the ground. Instantly, the girl was all smiles. His eyes narrowed. What's going on?

"Kiba-kun…just the man I wanted to see." Ino crossed her arms under her breasts and smirked. Kiba didn't like the look of this, and he glanced around for an escape route. Akamaru's small whimper next to his ear told him that she was up to something, alright. "You know what Thursday is?"

This took him by surprise. "Uh, the twenty-seventh?"

Ino's smirk grew. "Exactly. And what is the significance of that date?"

Finally, he caught on. Inwardly, he breathed a sigh of relief. He thought she was really going to do something evil to him. "Um, it's Hinata-chan's birthday."

"Very, good. A smart boy, just as I thought. So, I was wondering. Did you get Hinata anything yet?" He nodded. She smiled. "Good. I was just on my way to find you and Shino, since I know you'd want to be in on the surprise party." She looked around, suddenly alarmed. "Um, can we go inside? I don't want anyone to hear me plotting." Kiba blinked, his surprise showing all over his face. He was also trying not to laugh at her paranoia. He nodded, sighing, and led her over to his house.

"So where are we supposed to have this party, anyway?" He asked, munching on potato chips. Ino sat on the couch, her legs crossed, leaning on the arm of the couch. She pursed her lips.

"Well, I was wondering that myself. I thought we could have it at my house, but I was going to get a few more people before I made any real decisions. My parents are fine with it, and have offered to buy all of the supplies, even though Chouji will definitely be coming, and they know how much he eats…But anyway. I was wondering, Kiba, if you would be the one to lure her to my house for the party." Ino's sly look did not escape him.

What the hell? Everyone is going nuts. Me included. "Ino, how am I supposed to do that?" He shook his bag of chips at her, and talked with his mouth full. It came out more like, "M-no, ow m'I pose ta do 'at?" Ino glared at him, and he swallowed his food. He repeated himself so that she could understand, and then she laughed.

"Kiba, you're a smart guy. You should be able to think of something. Why not ask Shino? Maybe he can help?"

"Hell no. I'm not talking to that jerk right now." Kiba fumed silently over the fact that Shino had punched him for no real reason other than to get his attention. It was something that Naruto would do, not Shino. Yep. Everybody's nuts lately. "You gotta help me think of something if you're gonna volunteer me for this, Ino-chan."

The blond kunoichi sat and was obviously in deep thought for some time. Then, a wide smile spread across her features. "You could say that it's a date!"

Kiba's jaw dropped, and hung open for a good thirty seconds. A date? But that would mean that I would have to pretend to be interested in her…Just then, a small voice in the back of his head said in a very sly tone, who said anything about pretending, baka? You got her that present, against your and Shino's better judgment, all because you thought she'd like it, and because it reminded you of her eyes! Shut up. I can't think of her that way. I just can't. The part about the present was true, but really, did he have to ask her on a date? "Ino-chan, I'm not sure that it's a good idea. Wouldn't that be messing with Hinata's emotions?" Kiba was fighting a blush after that mental conversation with himself. "I mean, you know how sensitive she is…"

Ino nodded, thinking. "Well, unless you come up with a better idea, Kiba, dear, we'll just have to go with that." He really wished he hadn't let her in his house. She was still grinning slyly at him. What was she up to? She must really like watching him squirm.

"I swear, Ino, if this ends up hurting Hinata in any way, I'm coming after you, and I'm not gonna hold back."

Her grin faltered for only a fraction of a second, at his tone. An instant later, however, it was back. "Why, Kiba-kun, I don't know what you mean! What's this protectiveness for? Or, maybe it's not protective…is it possessive?" His hackles started to rise, and a low growl rumbled in his throat. Ino held her hands up in a defensive gesture. "Wow. You really can't take a joke today, can you, Kiba?" Slowly, he began to calm down. Why did she always have to push his buttons like that? It was really annoying. Maybe that's why Shikamaru just pretended not to hear her most of the time. Getting frustrated with her only egged her on, it seemed.

"Who else have you recruited into this plot of yours?" He asked curtly.

"Well, so far, it's me, you, Shikamaru, Chouji, Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke, but only because Naruto made him. Really, what is that guy's problem?" Ino's preference for Sasuke seemed to have evaporated suddenly one day, though it was not entirely unexplained. It was because that idiot had run off that her teammates had to go after him, and it was because of him that Chouji had nearly died. She and Chouji trained constantly now, and Shikamaru was having trouble keeping up. Chouji's girth had shrunk considerably, though Ino started to worry about him if he got too thin. Kiba would never understand women, especially not Ino.

"What about Neji and Tenten and Lee?"

"Well, I haven't really gotten to them, yet. They were my next stops. Also, I was wondering if you could talk to Kurenai-sensei for me. She loves Hinata like she's her daughter. Could you invite her for me?" Ino's voice had taken on a strange tone, and he saw that she was thinking, looking inward. She rose and started for the door. "I have to go now, Kiba. I'll talk to you about this tomorrow. Meet me at noon, at the bridge?" He nodded. She walked out, closing the door softly behind her.

Boy, is that a weird woman. He sighed. He was being forced to ask Hinata on a fake date, and that bothered him. It wasn't just that she was his teammate and he didn't want her to get hurt, but there was something in him that wanted her to be happy, and he didn't see this making her happy at all. Wait a minute! She said Naruto was already in on it, so why didn't she ask him? Oh, Ino, you're gonna pay for this! He growled in his throat again, and Akamaru jumped out of his coat, and sat there looking up at him. The dog had his head cocked to one side, as if to ask, "Are you ok?"

He sighed and nodded to Akamaru. "I'll be fine, buddy. Just as soon as this is all over." Kiba reached into his pocket and pulled out the present he had gotten for Hinata. This sucks. As he looked it over, he wondered how he was going to pull off asking Hinata out on a date without sounding like a total idiot. He also wondered how he was not going to get his face pounded by Neji. Again, he thought of the situation he was in, and said aloud, "Akamaru, my friend, this whole thing sucks." The dog let out a loud "Arf!" of agreement.