Notes: (2010) - This is how much I've written in the 06-07 era. I basically abandoned this fic because I was able to think of a beginning and a middle, but no end (something I've been able to avoid from then on). So, really, if you have any suggestions on a good ending, I would love to hear them. :)


Here

For the next few minutes Hinata and Hanabi were silently walking side by side, exchanging a few glances every now and then. It was all Hanabi could do in order to resist the temptation of sprinting forward, leaving her sister behind, and have Kiba all to herself. She started diverting her mind to the cracklings of the leaves, dancing and crumbling around the legs of the two sisters as they walked. She noticed the small bugs that would scurry away from their threatening feet, as they thumped to the ground, in hopes of avoiding getting squashed. When Hanabi stepped on one of the bugs, she giggled softly. Stupid…

Hinata turned to her; unable to see Hanabi's face from the amount of boxes her sister was holding. "D-Did you say something?"

"Oh…nothing." Hanabi closed her eyes. She was starting to get just a little impatient with all the walking and talking and the…not being with Kiba.

Almost as soon as she thought of that comment, she heard her sister say, "Hello, everyone…and, Happy Birthday, Kurenai-sensei!"

Hanabi's eyes shot open and she jerked her head up. For a moment a grin shot over her face, but she quickly suppressed it. "Hello…" she said after her sister. Hanabi was looking at a small blanket spread out over the forest floor, with some food and more boxes covering it. Kurenai, Shino, and (to her delight) Kiba were crouched down around three sides of the blanket, making sure to leave room for Hinata and Hanabi.

Hanabi's manners suddenly disappeared, and she ran over to the empty side, practically dropped the boxes on the blanket, and scooted over closer to the side where Kiba was lounging on his back. She sat down with a slight smile on her face. "Hello, Kiba-kun…"

Kiba looked at her and smiled. "Hey, Hanabi-chan," and then looked up at Hinata, who was still standing a few feet away. "And hey, Hinata! Come on and sit down, we can't do all this without you, you know," he grinned and Akamaru barked in agreement.

Hinata beamed. "Y…Yes," she walked over, sat her boxes carefully beside of Hanabi's, and made herself comfortable next to her sister, and across from Kurenai.

Kiba turned his head to and fro to look at everyone once, then sighed contently. "Right! We're all here now. So we can get this little party started."

Hinata, Hanabi, Shino, and Kiba all simultaneously turned their heads and looked at Kurenai, in anticipation. She looked at them all and smiled softly. "OK. Well, what do you guys want to do first, food or presents?"

"Oh, sensei, it's your birthday…you should decide," Hinata said quietly.

"I don't care either way."

"You should! You get what you want," Hanabi piped.

"Yeah, so what'll it be," Kiba reached over and grabbed the bottle of light wine Hinata had slung over her back. "Food and drink," then he picked up a small box and held it up to show to Kurenai, "or presents? Your call," he sat both of the items in front of Kurenai.

The woman took a look at both the wine and the box, then sighed, placed a hand on her head, and closed her bloodshot eyes. "This is why I hate birthdays…Everyone's always in your face, treating you like some kinda god…" she opened one eye and looked at her pupils. "Presents. Just to get it over with…"

Hinata and Kiba both smiled, Hanabi simply sat there, and Shino…no one could really pinpoint his emotions exactly at that moment. But being his teammate for such a long time, Hinata could tell he was in a content state. "P…Presents it is!" Hinata leaned forward and reached around the bottle with her small hands and held it up, to let everyone see. "I…I got you some light wine. I didn't really know exactly what kind you like, so…um…" she slowly handed the bottle over to Kurenai, to let her see.

Kurenai took the bottle and leveled it with her face, examining it. "It says, 'Black Raspberry Fizz' so it's a fruit beverage brand..." The woman looked up and gave a warm smile to Hinata. "Thank you, Hinata. I love it," she leaned over and wrapped one arm around Hinata's back, and gave a light squeeze.

"You're welcome…"

After that it was Kiba's turn. He leaned over the blanket and reached for a box that was wrapped in brown package paper…rather poorly. When he leaned over, Hanabi was able to get a small whiff of Kiba's arm. It smelled like salt and sweat. Hanabi drunk it all in nonetheless.

He grabbed the box and held it up to Kurenai. She took it, smiled at Kiba, and carefully unwrapped the paper, making sure not to rip it. She dug her fingernails under a few creases, and finally made an opening. She slid the box out from under the paper, used her nails to rip the duct-tape off the box, and lifted the lid up. She carefully reached in, evading some more package paper stuffed in the box, and lifted out what seemed to be a small necklace. When she lifted more of the string out, the end of the necklace revealed a small fang.

Kurenai looked up at Kiba, and he started explaining. "It's the fang from one of the most loyal dogs the Inuzuka clan has ever partnered with—Shiromaru. When the most well-known, special canines pass on, it's traditional to take either a fang or a claw, and tie it to a string to form a necklace. Usually it's passed on to the heirs of the Inuzuka clan, but hey, you know. I'm not really much of a jewelry man," Kiba smiled, and watched as Kurenai carefully tied the string around her neck, and held the fang in her hands, observing it. "They say that whoever wears the fang of a most respected canine partner, will have good luck on the battlefield. Of course, I don't really believe in all that luck and omen mumbo-jumbo, but still," he shrugged.

Kurenai looked at Kiba and smiled. "Thank you, Kiba. I'll be sure to wear it whenever I'm about to go on an elite mission," she leaned forward and gave Kiba the same one-armed hug that Hinata received.

Kiba stirred for a moment, and blushed slightly. It was barely visible, but Hanabi saw it. Aww! He's so cute when he blushes! I guess he's not used to women showing gestures like that…Hanabi glanced over at Kurenai, who was continuing to gaze at her new necklace. That's good, though. He's…pure. She silently giggled.

"Well…last is Shino-kun's…" Hinata quietly stated, looking over to her comrade.

Shino looked back at Hinata, then grunted, reaching behind him to grab something from a back pocket.

"Lately I've noticed that the tint of color in your makeup has become…paler. It gave me the reason to believe that you were running out, so I've purchased an extra amount…" Shino stated, releasing the contents of the gift in his hand before letting his sensei find out.

Nonetheless, Kurenai happily took the gift and opened it up to find a surplus of makeup boxes, taken from the very company she enjoyed buying cosmetics. She smiled warmly at Shino and gave him the one-armed hug. Shino didn't react.

"Well, now that that's all done, let's get to some eating," Kurenai announced. She reached over the blanket and started handing out drinks and snacks to everyone across the blanket.

"Let's…let's eat!" Hinata smiled.

.o.

After the 'party', Hinata and Hanabi helped clean up the food and paper, and began to head on home. Both were now carrying small bunches of ripped paper, and a small portion of the leftover snacks for themselves. On the way home, the two sisters were silent to each other once more.

After a few minutes of silence, and realizing they were about halfway home, Hinata decided it was a good opportunity to apologize appropriately to Hanabi.

"Umm…Ha-Hanabi…?"

The younger sister's ears pricked up, and without turning to look at her sister, answered, "Yes, Hinata?"

Hinata slightly blushed and started doing that…thing…with her fingers. "Umm…well…It's just…the other day…"

Hanabi's ears twitched again, and this time she lifted her head to look at Hinata. "The other day…?" Oh, now I remember…

"Y…Yes. I just wanted to say…sorry, Hanabi-chan…" Hinata breathed, barley audible. Her grip on the snacks tightened, afraid that bringing up the past events would spawn an argument. Her shoulders slightly tensed up when she heard her sister speak again.

"Hinata…it's okay. I already said it was fine, didn't I? Just think nothing more of it, 'kay?" Hanabi replied. She wasn't smiling, though.

Hinata looked at Hanabi, and relaxed. "Th…Thank you, Hanabi-chan…" she then smiled.

Hanabi's face became warm. "All right, now that that's settled, let's just focus on getting home, I really need to train some more."

Hinata giggled slightly. "Training seems to be the most important thing to you, Hanabi-chan."

You don't even know the half of it. Hanabi thought, her mind directing towards the image of Kiba. "…It could be."

Hinata giggled again, and smiled warmly. "Let's hurry on home, then…"

To be continued...