It makes him feel almost insane, the way he wants her to look at him. A deep, snarling hunger settled in the pit of his heart that constantly craved the light, fluttery touch of her hand against his.

'…Okay?' she asks him, eyes light and questioning. He finds himself noticing the elegant curve of her neck, the vague hollow beneath her cheekbones, the perspiration beading at her hairline. Already, he has forgotten her initial question. She repeats it and he is mesmerized by the way her lips move, the flash of her white teeth as she smiles, the blood smeared across her cheek.

Oh. Right. Bathe. He nods in affirmation, flicking his eyes over toward a barely-visible stream. Saying something about starting a cooking fire—it is safe here, they've already concluded that with the help of her high perception and his insects—he makes a show of turning his back, and feels his mouth curl when she laughs breezily.

Everything about her seems very natural. Her figure is long and willowy; her hair is windswept and disheveled; and her smiles are bright and serene. With the addition of her heightened senses—he had learned just after becoming her squad leader that she was adept at reaching out with her mind to touch upon things even he could not detect—she seemed to be the very extension of nature itself.

Being very quiet as a rule, he has long since learned how to observe people and take note of both their attributes and flaws. While she seemed cocky and self-centered at first glance, she was, in reality, a very humble and thoughtful person. She seemed to take extra care to show that side of herself around him—always addressing him respectfully on missions, forever asking him if he needed anything, wanting to do what she could to help. Most people would never know this side of her, simply because they refused to look beyond the obvious. He delved deep into her very spirit, and handled it with the utmost care.

Perhaps that was why she was so very comfortable around him.

Returning with slightly damp hair and a comfortable bounce in her step, she tosses a small object to him. 'Here,' she says, bending to pick something off of the ground beside him, 'Use my water for cooking, and I'll go fill your canteen.'

He had always been told by his comrades and family that he was a young man with an old spirit, and as such he seemed to find poetry in everything, though he very rarely chose to put it on display for the world to see. The way she walked possessed the languid grace of wheat swaying in the breeze; her voice was as waves lapping gently against the shore; and the manner with which she conducted herself had both the wonderment of a child, and the sensuality of a woman.

Distracted by observing her, he did not even hear her speak. 'Here you are.' Her brows crease slightly in concern when he doesn't acknowledge her, and she kneels to his level. 'Shino? Honey?'

Abruptly, he snaps out of his reverie, and looks at her. She grins. 'It's a good thing this isn't enemy territory.'

And he remembers just where they are. In the woods outside of Konoha—having volunteered (or been victimized? He wasn't sure) to lead a camping trip for their daughter's Academy class—surrounded by nine-year-old children, and he with a very dead rabbit in his hands.

'Maybe,' Ino teases him lightly, 'This is why there are so few husband and wife teams nowadays.'


Because this pairing ismy guilty pleasure. And, oh yeah, I don't own the series Naruto, or the characters Shino and Ino.