Not long after that, I got into the habit of invading his personal space on a more regular basis. The first time was after he'd agreed to joining me and Akamaru for our morning walk. For his sake, I toned it down a little, actually walking with him for a while before Akamaru and I took to raising hell through the trees. To Shino's credit, he didn't leave while Akamaru and I were getting our exercise. He just watched us with those creased brows that always seemed to express his severe distaste for me and my noise.

Still, how could I be expected to start the day without a little adrenaline? So maybe I got a little carried away with the whooping and yelling. Maybe I shouldn't have gone so fast.

Maybe I shouldn't have latched onto him from behind like an overeager pup.

I felt him grow tense against me, but he didn't punch me like I half expected as I half dangled from his shoulders. Instead, he was perfectly, utterly silent for a few painfully tense seconds before he spoke in that tone of his, absolutely devoid of emotion. "Get off."

I didn't hesitate to do as I was told. Even I felt like I'd been a little too bold. It wasn't like we were really good friends or anything. It was natural for me to pounce like that on Ma or on Hana, but Shino wasn't exactly a member of my family. Hell, Shino didn't really like to be touched that much in the first place!

I really was an idiot!

"Oi, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinkin' about it and I just… Ne, Shino, you're not mad, are you?" If he wasn't mad, he sure would have been if I'd told him I kinda liked holding on to him like that.

He was silent for a long time, but when he finally spoke it shocked the hell out of me that he didn't sound as angry as I had expected. "If it never happens again, I can forgive this single mistake."

How damn kind of him.

He was wrong, though, to think this would be an isolated incident. Having not been smacked down harshly the first time, I tried it again a few days later… and again a few days after that. Eventually, it got to the point where he was resigned to let me dangle all I wanted and I was more than happy with that result. Maybe I was finally beginning to break down that shell of his!

It was something else all together when he finally started talking to me. It was obvious that most of the time he thought my replies were a little on the dumb side, or that maybe I was too slow to grasp things, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. So maybe I thought he was boring and that he liked to talk about weird things that only quiet guys tended to notice. Somehow it never got boring. I always looked forward to having chats with him when we took Akamaru for his walks.

It was when I figured we'd become good enough friends that I thought I'd brave the subject of those damn glasses again. I'd done a little sniffing around town, asking here and there in an attempt to find some clue, but it sure seemed like everyone in town was as clueless about the Aburame clan as I was. I didn't like it. We were teammates, right? Shouldn't teammates know a little about each other?

He already knew more than enough about me, due mostly to my tendency to ramble on and on. Eventually I'd wind down, figuring I was boring him. After all, how interesting could stories about my problematic family life be? The story about the stink bugs in my mom's room got old pretty fast.

We'd been walking in silence for much of the morning, as we tended to do sometimes. He liked the quiet and I didn't mind letting him have a bit of it every now and then. That was what friends did, right? They did what the other wanted sometimes. Of course, walking in silence gave me far too much time to think. That could be a dangerous thing for me, sometimes. Too much thought got me into too much trouble.

"Ne, Shino." I paused, just in case he was irritated that the silence had been disturbed. Ok, so maybe I wouldn't have stopped if he'd told me to shut up, but it was nice to know, at least, that he didn't mind my talking so much. Of course, that was all before I went prying in things that were none of my business. "You ever take them off? The glasses?"

His brows creased as they always did, and he replied with his usual curt tone. "Of course I do. It can become uncomfortable to wear them while asleep."

So that was it? He wore them everywhere but in bed? How stupid! I didn't hesitate to tell him so, either. "You gotta take em off sometime! It's not like you're ugly back there or anything." I made a grab for them, but he was prepared and caught my wrist with little effort.

"Fine, fine! You don't gotta take em off!" He leveled me with that too stern gaze of his for another moment before finally releasing my wrist, obviously assuming I had given up.

I even perpetuated that false sense of security by walking along again at his side, pouting just a little like I always do when I don't get my way. Though I have been known to use the occasional pout to my advantage. Ma was immune to the trick, but Shino was a perfect target.

He wasn't expecting the second attack. Can't blame him for it, though. I don't think anyone would have expected me to go to the lengths I did to get those glasses off. I started off by latching to him from the side, arms flung firmly around his shoulders so he couldn't lift his own arms to block me as I went for the snatch. It was pretty easy. A little too easy. I think he was already fed up with me and just let me do it. Pissed off Shino or not, though, it was worth the effort.

I know I already said he had great eyes, but it kinda took me by surprise again just how intense they were, especially this time when he wasn't glaring. Instead, his face held an expression of resignation. That made me grin even more than the minor victory I'd earned by snatching them in the first place. I didn't even notice right away that I was still latched onto him like a giant leach.

He noticed, though, and expressed it with a faint sigh. "Kiba."

If he'd been prepared to scold me again, he didn't go through with it, which I was very glad for. I didn't want anything to distract me from my rapt attention on those eyes. Eventually, though, thoughts did intrude and I was left wondering just what I was doing. I must have looked like a real idiot this time, staring at Shino like he had snot on his nose. Even more strange was the fact that he hadn't once tried to push me away. That could mean one of two things:

He had given up on ever getting rid of me. Or,

He didn't want to get rid of me.

My ego being what it was, I naturally thought it was B. That was probably the only reason I was bold enough to do what I did next.

I snagged the high collar of his jacket and despite the faint noise of protest he made, gave it a firm tug, pinning it down with my hand. It was the first time I'd ever gotten a real look at his face. I must have smiled like an idiot, but I didn't care. It was another victory… and he hadn't shooed me away yet. Even after I'd completely unmasked him.

It was only natural to go a step further, wasn't it? I used that thought later to justify what I did, but deep down I knew damn well I'd been too bold right from the start. If I'd really been paying attention I would have noticed just how damn uncomfortable he was. I would have noticed the tension in his shoulders and the way he shifted his head back just a little in an attempt to put some distance between us. But I was a selfish brat, then, and I didn't notice a damn bit of it.

All I noticed was how nice his lips looked when he scowled at me like that.

Wasn't it only natural to steal just a little kiss? Just one…. Just one, quick, fleeting kiss. Just to see if he'd let me.

I hoped so much that he'd let me.

For a moment, it seemed almost like he would, but I think he was in momentary shock. I can't really blame him for that. I was shocked, too. Shocked and overwhelmed. I'd never kissed anybody before and if anyone had ever told me my first kiss would be with some stoic bugfreak, I would have laughed. Especially to think I had initiated it.

I had hardly begun to enjoy the kiss when I felt a pair of strong hands on my shoulders. My heart leapt into my throat. Was he actually going to reciprocate? Did he actually like it? I was still wondering when he gave me that firm shove, sending me stumbling back a few steps.

That was enough to break whatever spell I'd been under and bring me back to reality. Shino was glaring at me, his eyes dark and intense as ever, and despite the cold shiver of fear that had suddenly raced up my spine, I couldn't help but stare like an idiot… like always. What the hell was wrong with me?

He didn't say anything, only held out his hand and I complied, returning his glasses without a second thought. Maybe I was still in a bit of shock. It really never fully registered what I had done until hours later and I still only remember the actual moment in a kind of dark haze, almost as if it had never happened. Hell, I only knew it did happen because Shino kept such a distance from me for the rest of the day.

He had retreated immediately, though it never looked like a retreat. Shino never rushed anything, even if deep down he wanted to get the hell away from me. It wasn't in him to be so crude in anything. And despite how stupid I felt watching him walk away, I still had to admire that about him. He was so strong.

I could never be like that.

Of course, later we had to show up for training and pretend nothing had happened, which was pretty damn simple for a guy like him. On the other hand, I suck at hiding anything. I did well enough as usual, but my heart wasn't in it. I liked to think he noticed, but he never said anything about it. Maybe he didn't really pay as much attention to me as I did to him. It was probably just selfish of me to think that he thought about me. Shino had better things to think about. That's what made him a better ninja.

After that day, I decided it was probably a good idea to back off. I didn't see Shino for our morning walks, but then I didn't expect to. Still, even if I hadn't expected him, I was painfully disappointed. It wasn't the same without Shino there to scowl at me when I acted like an idiot. It made acting like an idiot a lot less fun when there was no one to be annoyed by it. So poor Akamaru had to tolerate me moping around instead of actually giving him any decent exercise.

I guess Akamaru must have been pretty happy when Shino showed up again a few days later.

On the other hand, I wasn't happy at all. I didn't trust his reasons for showing up entirely yet, especially given the awkward silence we'd maintained for the past few days of training. So why now did he show up?

It wasn't in me to show my suspicion though, especially because the last thing I wanted was to frighten him away. So instead I simply greeted him like I always did, acting as if nothing at all were out of the ordinary. Shino seemed to agree to the game and so we went along on our walk like we had so many other mornings. I wasn't a very good actor, though, and it wasn't long before I was fidgeting as we walked, stealing glances at him every now and then. But Shino never once even looked my way.

I know he wasn't doing it on purpose, but he was driving me absolutely insane. I went along in silence for as long as I could, but eventually all the words I was holding back boiled up to the surface and came out in a flurry of noise.

"Oi, Shino, you just gonna walk there and not even say anything to me? We not talking anymore, but we're gonna pretend everything's fine? Say something, would you?" He didn't respond. Hell, he didn't even look like he'd heard me.

"Oi! Say something, bugfreak! Did you like it or not?"

Still, Shino didn't respond. He simply drew to a stop, gaze still fixed ahead on the path. I stopped a few steps beyond him, turning to face him. What was he thinking? If I'd been brave enough, I would have snatched those stupid shades away so I could see his eyes, but I wasn't quite in the mood to die that day. Not yet, anyway.

"Say something, damnit!"

I don't think he had expected me to become quite so hostile, but he seemed to have underestimated my propensity for overreacting. I'm not sure what exactly prompted him to answer me, though I'm pretty sure he was just trying to get me to shut up. That always seemed to be the purpose of his actions. "What is it you would like me to say?"

Damn that evasive bastard. Though I tried to stop it, my lips curled into a snarl and I nearly told him to get lost. But then that wouldn't get me any answers. Somewhere behind my temper, I recognized the fact that he was being evasive, and I wasn't going to let him get away with hiding behind those glasses anymore.

"I want you to say, 'Yeah, Kiba, I liked it!' But I'd settle for a damn, 'I hated it, keep your damn hands off me!'" Stupid bugfreak.

His brows creased at that and for whatever reason it made me furious. He was going to glare at me for that and keep hiding behind those damn glasses. I hated those glasses. Even if I could read him well enough from behind them, I wanted nothing more than to let Akamaru play fetch with them. It was only then, after indulging myself in a few minor fantasies about his glasses covered in puppy slobber, that I noticed he still wasn't responding.

That broke me. I finally lost what little temper I had left. I made a grab for his glasses, but was stopped as quickly as ever by his hand, which caught my wrist in a bruising grip. Oh, so he was pissed off, too? Good!

I made another grab at him, but this time I went for the collar, a move which he didn't expect, and while he managed to catch my wrist in an equally painful grip, I had also managed to catch his collar, which I held on to for dear life, pulling it down as much as I could manage.

It was hard to tell, because collar or no collar, Shino was always equally unexpressive. Still, I'm pretty sure he was furious with me. Good. It gave me all the more desire to wipe that look off his face and force an answer out of him. That was the reason I used my grip on his jacket as a basis to pull myself closer and give him a real kiss. Not that same stupid peck.

I didn't really know what a real kiss was then, though. I'd seen people do it before. I'd seen some guy kiss Hana once and, as odd as it sounds, that was the image I conjured up as guidance. Some guy whose name I didn't even know who was trying to make out with my sister.

It didn't help that she'd smacked the shit out of him when he was done.

It also didn't help that Shino was, once again, painfully unresponsive. In fact, he was so unresponsive that he didn't even bother to push me away this time. In fact, his grip on my wrists loosened. Maybe he was giving up…

I growled a little when I drew back, glaring daggers at those damn glasses that only reflected my own anger back at me. "When someone kisses you, you're supposed to kiss back. Those are the rules!"

His brows narrowed again when I mocked him like that and for the first and only time ever, Shino replied to my taunting with what might have been the barest hint of anger. "It is my understanding that a kiss is something shared out of mutual interest, not forced upon another party." He paused, but not for enough of a span to earn an angry reply from me. "But you have always forced everything. I suppose I should be grateful you did not kill us in the process."

There have only been a few times in my life that I've been really shocked by something. I don't mean just surprised, but really truly shocked beyond reasonable thought. This was the most shocking of all of those moments… more than all the rest combined. But really who could blame me for never thinking in my wildest dreams that Aburame Shino would ever kiss me? Ever.

This time I was the one who didn't respond. I had been successfully shocked silent, a fact that probably pleased him very much. In fact, it had probably been half the reason for the kiss. It didn't last, though. It struck me when Shino finally drew back that he was probably less knowledgeable about this kind of thing than I was. It wasn't like he had a sister to spy on. Even if he'd had a sister, she probably wouldn't be the type to kiss anyway. That was the first time I realized that I had an upper hand over Shino.

"I thought the rules stated that one was supposed to return a kiss when it was given."

Normally that might have pissed me off, but this time it managed to push away every bit of tension that had been building in me since that ridiculous walk began. Shino looked surprised as hell when I only responded by laughing rather loudly and latching firmly to his shoulders. "Hai, hai! Those are the rules!" And for once, I was more than happy to follow them.

Finally, after what had seemed like a million foiled attempts, Shino and I managed to succeed in our first real kiss, the first one we really shared. It was clumsy and awkward and in every way both ridiculous and wonderful. I forgot in that moment that Shino drove me insane half the time or that he made me look bad all the time. I forgot that bugs still made me squirm and that I still had to work really hard not to crush them on sight. Mostly, though, I forgot exactly where I was and what I'd been doing and when we finally stepped apart, I wasn't sure what time it was or how long we'd been entwined like that. All I knew was that my cheeks were pleasantly flushed and I felt warm all over. It was an overwhelming feeling of contentment and pleasure that I wouldn't soon forget.

Neither of us said anything, but after sharing something so intimate, it wasn't necessary. He wasn't glaring at me anymore. His expression was passive, more content than I'd ever seen it before. I didn't need to ask if he'd liked it. Nor did I need to tell him I had liked it. In fact, we didn't say much of anything. We agreed in mutual silence to continue along the forest road. We watched Akamaru dart on ahead, bouncing his way in and out of the bushes. After that morning, Shino never neglected to meet me for a morning walk again.