Imagine: a lake of glass and crystal, shining in the sunlight and deep indigo in the shade; cliffs on three sides, pocked with cliffs and shelves for easy climbing and shelter from the heat of the sun; an outcropping of rock, a sort of natural diving board, twenty feet out and a fathom's drop into nothing but cool water.

Imagine a paradise, heaven on earth, and a plausible excuse to linger for a few days.

Imagine clothes in a line, thrown off haphazardly until the body has only shorts to cover itself.

Kiba launched off the edge of the rock, howling with joy and abandon, limbs splayed for a moment and quickly marshaled together for a cannonball. He hit the water with no small force, a smaller yip and a splash following just after as Akamaru entered just after. Both resurfaced immediately, peals of barking laughter echoing around in the closed cliffs. "Hey, Hey, Shino, come in!"

Behind his black glasses and high collar, Shino utterly ignored him as he sent out troupes of his kikai to warn him of the informant's approach. They were waiting to receive a package of data to carry, as a neutral party, to another team in the long line of 'diplomats' to give one country an advantage over another. It was very low-risk and simple, but there was no way to know when the guy would arrive and pass the torch.

"Shino, Shino, bug freak, look!" Kiba yelled for his friend. They were alone on the mission, and this was the perfect time for the dog boy to demand some answers to questions he'd been vaguely wondering about since they were kids. "I can float on my back without trying. I'm a better swimmer than you!"

The sun was eclipsed like God had grown a grudge, and Kiba opened triumphant eyes to see Shino standing above him, very calmly. This close, Kiba could sense the output of chakra to hold Shino up with surface tension as a taste in the back of his throat. He said, "That doesn't count as swimming, you bug freak."

"It does to abedus herberti," Shino said in his monotonous, clipped way.

"What's that?" Kiba asked, slipping down until the water covered his mouth and nose, and he blew bubbles.

"Water bug."

"Ah. Skimming on the top of water, are those the ones?" Kiba rolled onto his stomach, legs bent and kicking behind him, hands scooping at the water, copying Akamaru's energetic paddling.

Shino's somewhat disdainful silence was answer enough. Kiba wondered if he would have been able to hold himself on the water this long, steadily, without jumping from places to place for breaks.

"So, guess what, Shino?" Kiba started in a conversational tone, "I used to hate you."

Shino's eyebrows came together. What?

"Yep, you were always that boy with the creepy bugs and the glasses and the coat that was ready to kill me if I went too far."

Shino said, without words, I think you're already going too far.

Kiba floated back, facing the sky again. "Talking to you is a lot like talking to myself. I can almost hear you saying things back, and I try to respond to them. Imaginary conversation, see?"

You're far past insane.

"But I still trust you, because you've saved me before and I've saved you before and now we're friends."

Or you think we are.

"And I respect you because you're so much better than me. Like your chakra. Like your bugs, that I used to hate. Like the way you hide from everything, like the untouchable bastard you are."

If there's no point in this, can I go?

"The only downside to talking to you instead of myself is that I always manage to piss you off and then you sulk for a few days because I forgot that someone other than me could be hurt if I say something wrong."

I'm leaving. Shino turned to walk away.

"If I drown, will you save me?"

Shino stopped, turned back. Not even you are that stupid.

Kiba grinned, and slipped below the surface. Shino watched the surface where he'd been, waiting for him to come up and laugh about it. Thirty seconds passed, a minute, half again as much. Akamaru whined, licking sadly at the water and trying to sniff it for smells.

Shino sighed. Kiba was that stupid. He released his chakra and splashed down, his heavy coat letting him sink further and faster. He was already shrugging it and the next layer of padded clothing off as he became level with his teammate. Grabbing Kiba's waist with one arm, Shino kicked with as much purpose and power as he could muster and broke the surface not ten seconds later.

Hoisting the dog boy over his back, and pausing to allow Akamaru to clamp down on his pant leg as a piggyback ride, Shino jumped from foothold to foothold and came to the bank. He laid Kiba out, saw he wasn't breathing, and felt for a pulse. Good, it was still strong.

Without hesitation, Shino wrenched open Kiba's mouth and pressed their lips together, forcing air into empty lungs. Kiba instantly gagged and sputtered, eyes opening and hand coming up to grab Shino's forearm on the side of his head.

"You see? I knew it. You'll save me, no matter what."

Shino rolled his eyes, and realized he didn't have his glasses anymore. When had that happened, in the water? But Kiba was already not paying attention, apologizing to Akamaru for scaring him. Moving away, Shino sent out his chakra to call the bugs in the water to find his clothes and bring them to him.

"Hey, Shino?" Kiba called, head tilted to the side. "You're not wearing any of that usual stuff on your face."

I noticed. Your point?

"Can you turn around for a second?"

Shino turned, to find Kiba standing and moving toward him. What are you doing?

Kiba smirked and said, "Imagine a bug freak, whose whole image is based on his mystery and secrets. Imagine he's standing before you, glasses gone, coat gone, chakra," he sniffed, mere inches away, "almost gone."

"Kiba." Stop.

"Imagine he's got eyes like a warm night's darkness." Fingers rested lightly on Shino's closed eyelids.


"Imagine he's hotter than hell." Kiba pressed as close as possible.

"You don't know what you're saying."

"Imagine you love him…" Kiba kissed him, for arguably the second time.

Shino pulled back, saying, "What do you 'imagine' me saying now?"

Kiba stepped back, words muffled by the hand over his mouth. "I hear a lot of different things. You're telling me you love me back, you're telling me we're just friends, you're outright rejecting me, you're telling me I'm not good enough. So just," his voice cracked, the tears fell down his face, and he finished, "so just say one of them, so that it doesn't hurt so much."

Shino blinked, slowly, and leaned forward again for another kiss, just as short. "My kikai flares just went off. He's here."

Kiba stared, not understanding. In fact, they had gotten the package and were hiking away before he looked back at the oasis and smiled.

Imagine heaven on earth, and perfect, unspoken words.

I love you, too.

Wow, I've gone head over heels for this pairing in recent days, since I read a ShinoKiba on zettai-hentai. Addictive, isn't it? Should I bother writing more for this pair, even though it's kind ofagainst my style? Oh, it was bad, wasn't it? I got it all wrong...