Of Strength and Weakness by Santeira
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto characters
Summary: You are strong, far stronger than you yourself think… ShinoHina One-Shot
Note: This story includes flashbacks from Bikouchuu Arc Filler Episode 151: Blazing Byakugan, My Way of the Ninja. So for those who haven't watched the episode, this will contain spoilers.
She was a great Ninja, and she was no longer that weak person.
It was no longer a futile hypnotic spell she had routinely chanted to convince herself. Now, it was truth that needed no proof. Hyuuga Hinata knew she was getting stronger, and never again would she be undervalued for her frailty.
She was now eighteen, and was a Jounin. The path in leading the Hyuuga clan for her was bright and promising. Days had gone by and her father had been proud of her achievement, so had been Neji Nii-San. Old vendetta aside, what harm could befall a duo who strived to bring the Hyuuga empire glorious honor? She was being respected, and she was now instructing the little girls in Konohagakure who aspired to become Kunoichis in the Hyuuga training ground. Sometimes she would be teamed up with Neji and TenTen to various missions. It was everything she could ever ask for.
On occasions she would meet her ex-teammates and have alfresco with them. Kiba was now a Shinobi for Konoha, and had begun to train rookie Genins with Akamaru. Sometimes he would leave Konoha for solo or trio missions under the Hokage's directions with Shikamaru and Ino. Shino, however, was now a senior ANBU captain, and was often called to lethal and dangerous missions. They were gambling with death each time, but they seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Every so often her old fear would revisit and she would begin to worry. The thought of them, waging themselves into battles with no guarantee of their safeties was distressing enough, that an everlasting separation from them would probably lead to her devastation. But she hated it when people did not believe in her, so she had tried to believe in them too. They were both strong—Kiba was an agile and accurate contender while Shino was a good plotter and quick problem-solver. She would calm at these thoughts. It would take more than just skills to bring them down.
And as she grew older, inevitably dissipated her admiration for a certain blonde with baby blue eyes. It was whether she had grown wiser, or the fact that Naruto's relationship with Sakura, that was getting more intimate ever since Sasuke's vanishing, had caused her to resort to just watching them from a distance. Naruto-Kun was now a mist that slowly faded with time, no longer within her grasps, and it no longer broke her heart to see the two of them together, reveling each other's company.
But something was amiss, amidst this new environment that was more welcoming. Something from her past was coming back to haunt her like a ghost. She did not understand it at first; it came to her initially phantasmagoric and obscure like a dream every time she was on the verge of sleep. It surrounded her in a whirlwind, and brought her to a country filled with trees and insects.
And it came to her in a full, solid outline one late noon after her rough training, during a nap in her bed she did not plan.
She saw two men and a woman, standing beside three figures on the ground. The figures were actually Naruto, Shino and Kiba.
Their bodies were swaddled in wax cocoons. Hinata felt the urge to deliver them from the wax trapping, but she soon realized that she was inside a memory. Though everything—the trees and grounds and sand—was visible, they were actually surreal, of no real essence or form. Decidedly aware of this, she walked closer to their lying figures. The three of them looked very young, and she remembered that Shino's skin was much fairer, since it was long before his ANBU days. Kiba and Akamaru were both down for the count, and Naruto was struggling his vain best to free himself of the bee cocoon. Hinata saw the tiny opening in close proximity to Shino's ears, where his Kikai bugs were leaving in a queue like an army squadron. Hinata saw them disappear into the cocoons, and she was guessing that they were now working to disentangle the trapping for her comrades' later liberation. The three adults, who Hinata then remembered as the Kamizurui clan members, were talking idly among themselves.
What was this memory all about? She tried to figure things out, but realized it was still too early to presume. She remembered that at this particular moment in memory, she was hiding herself up a tree branch, looking down from her vantage point of view to prepare for her sneak attack.
She knelt. Did this memory has anything to do with Naruto-Kun? A type of Genjutsu perhaps?
"Are you worried about her?" It was a question Hinata did not expect to have escaped Shino's mouth. He remained serene, lying on the ground, and though his gaze was filtered by his dark shades, Hinata surmised that he was looking up at the skies; the fading light was reflected in the surface of his glasses, emitting glittery, bronzy hues.
"Of course I am!" The ninja in orange retorted in an almost a frantic voice.
"She is strong…."
"Huh?" Naruto replied, almost stunned.
"Far stronger than you think…." He continued, and Hinata was startled.
In her years of seeking, fighting for acknowledgment, for recognition from her father, from Neji Nii-San, from Naruto, in those years of endless training and harsh judgment from calculating eyes, Shino had always acknowledged her. That was why he had agreed to train her, let her struggle by herself to stand up for herself, to stand up to others. He had respected her enough, to spare her his pity. He knew she did not need pity, as he too, never needed anyone's pity.
And she listened, as Shino spoke about her, about how she had strived to train in order to develop Shugo Hakke Rokujyuuyonshou, about how she had honed her skills by training with water. Naruto's baby blue eyes were wide, and Shino's voice was toneless, but Hinata could distinguish, that even though Shino had displayed his emotions as best as a piece of wood, he had narrated her story with pride—he was proud of her attainment, he was proud of her.
She had been selfish. She was not the only one who was suffering, being measured by her physical weakness that was damnation to her great clan, a soul with resolve who was trapped in a fragile body. Shino was bound in a life where everything was designated. He was feared and prejudiced for his nature, that no one outside of Team 8 saw him as more than just a bug host. Hinata had always known that he had hidden himself in a large overcoat and his eyes beneath his glasses, because he wanted to avoid attention. But he knew he could not stop outsiders from judging him. And she could not stop people from judging her as well. She had spent all her life changing herself, but Shino had accepted her, accredited her ability and fought for her even back when she was frail. How could she realize this only now, when Shino was only a being so similar to, yet so entirely different from herself?
This was Shino, the Aburame Shino she once knew. The Aburame Shino who was now slipping through her fingers from her own laxity. She wanted, wanted so much to touch his face then, that even with the awareness that she was in a dreamlike realm, her fingers moved to touch him, but she could not feel anything. Her forefinger penetrated his flesh into nothingness, like a mere hologram that held no core.
And it began to crumble, this memory. Time was stealing her from this memory, back into the world of substance and reality, back onto her bed. But still she could hear Shino's words—they were soothing, his beautiful voice.
His beautiful soul.
She could hear, the chirping of birds and the buzzing of insects around her house, the symphony of the forest that reminded her all too well of Aburame Shino.
Go to him, Hinata. She heard Naruto's voice in her head. Go!
So, it was Naruto-Kun's Genjutsu after all. He had wanted to confide in her the conversation he had had with Shino that moment.
But would she be able to defeat time for this memory? Was there still a room in Shino's heart, after all these years, to envelop her in?
Nothing was eternal, but it was a chance she was willing to take. Even if he would decline her, it would be a fate she would savor, because it was only the fate she deserved.
And so she ran. Ran out of her house, traversed the courtyard, along the sandy path, running onwards to her treasured past, to the one person who did not judge her, who had believed in her. The surge of mixed emotions, nervousness, remorse and uncertainty and insecurity, they were there altogether, but she just wanted to be sure…
The daffodils were in full bloom; they danced at the violent tickle of wind. The leaves were ruffling; its sound was only just audible. This was Shino's favorite place. He used to kneel and train his bugs in this area, the unofficial Team 8's training ground. She wanted to laugh and cry all the same. This setting was unsurprisingly too familiar, but she did not appreciate it back then. She freefell on the grass bedding with arms stretched, letting the wind embrace her. This place had never failed to lift off the weight she had been forced to carry. It was a place so peaceful and comforting. What had she hoped to find? For Shino, who was now a captain for ANBU to be here, just because she had hoped for him to be here?
She smiled bitterly; she had always been naïve.
That voice. She could have pinched her arm to validate that it was not a dream. She tilted her head slightly upward, and saw a figure towering above her.
She immediately sat, her shy posture turned marginally to face him, as Shino lowered his stature to sit beside her.
And he was still the same, expressionless face and relentless composure, a set of eyes concealed beneath his dark glasses. He was wearing his sleeveless ANBU vest, which did exceptionally to exhibit the firm, chiseled muscles of his shoulders and arms. His hair was as bushy and as spiky as it had been, and Hinata deemed that she must have seemed weird, staring at him like this. But it was only to him that she would allow her true self to surface, because she knew he would not question anything.
"Shino-Kun, this must be a remarkable coincidence, I was thinking about you…"
"This meeting. It isn't a coincidence."
Almost stunned by Shino's words, Hinata felt her cheeks burn.
"How…how did you know I was here?"
There was a long pause, as Shino straightened his long legs to rest on the grass bed.
"I…. sense things. Hinata wishes to ask me something, right? What is it?"
The memory of a past more distant than the one she had seen in her room came flooding to her mind like tide all over the sudden.
It was a fine morning at this very same place. Kiba and Akamaru was shooting themselves on the tree stems like bullets, daring each other, the winner depended on who was faster, and they were having a good time still. Shino was examining a tree trunk to observe a colony of insects. With both hands resting leisurely behind her back, she would chatter endlessly while Shino would listen tirelessly. "But it's nice, isn't it? That the three of you have your talents and hobbies."
"You should find yours too." Shino had answered. "So, what is it?"
"Uh…" Hinata was a little surprised at his insistence. Kiba and Akamaru was still training in glee up on the trees, and they seemed intent on not being quiet about it too.
"You wanted something, am I right?" Shino added, his voice sounding calm and stagnant like lake water, carried to her by the zephyr.
She mused in her silent reverie, before answering.
"Yes. I wanted you to help me with my training."
It must be one of the Aburame abilities that she had overlooked. Had not he been able to sense her intentions back then?
And it could only mean one thing too. He had also been able to sense her feelings for him right now. That was why he had come here for her. The prospect made her feel even more insecure. What did he think of her now? Was he laughing at her, now that he had been revealed to her deepest, darkest secret? But he never seemed to have been able to laugh at anyone.
He never laughed anyway.
"Then you still…. do you still…"
She said those words tremulously, keeping her head down, eyes firmly shut, as though readying herself for a punishment. She could hear her own heartbeats thundering, but at that moment she felt strong fingers lingering on her chin, slowly slanting her head up, and she saw a glassless pair of ordinary brown eyes bore into her own innocent white ones.
"Of course I still do."
With the spectacles gone, she saw honesty in his eyes, the emotional screens that were simply the window to his soul, which was why he had hidden them. Unaware of the crystalline droplets that were now filming her own eyes, she asked him one last question.
"Why? Why do you still wait for me?"
She could have sworn that he almost smiled.
"Because you are strong…and only a strong woman can make me feel this weak," he answered, his manners as calm as ever.
As he folded his arms around her and whispered into her hair, she placed her chin to rest on his shoulder, and saw the translucent world disintegrate, melting into her tears.
Written out of guilt for writing a dead Shino. I hope I've made it up. Thanks.