Akiko's back with a long overdue one-shot. This was a challenge to write, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm dedicating this to Santeira because her ShinoHina fics have really inspired me! If you're reading this, thanks and enjoy. Breaking away from tradition, reviewers will have their choice of cookies or brownies. Yummy!
Revealing / by kikofreako
"Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry."
-The Portable Mark Twain (Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calander)
Shino had always fascinated her.
Unlike Kiba, who usually put everything out on the table (a trait Kureani insisted would get him killed someday), Shino was not near as open or talkative as his other teammates. Instead, he chose to hide behind a tall collar and sunglasses.
This of course, Shino should have known, was like instructing a toddler not to play with a specific toy. Of course, the toddler wouldn't have noticed the forbidden toy if you hadn't said anything. But now that it was a "no-no," there was absolutely no doubt that it would be played with ten times more than any other toy in the arsenal. The glasses and collar were practically screaming to be removed– Team Eight had no option but to comply.
It didn't turn out as easily as Kiba and Hinata thought.
When the cell had first been formed, by some freak coincidence, they had all been wearing jackets. Kiba's hood was firmly attached, Shino's hands stuck like flypaper in his pockets, and Hinata's frail figure was buried deep inside her parka. Nevermind that it was Konoha: the team was dressed for snow. As time wore on, however, Hinata saw more of her teammates, literally and figuratively speaking. And she let them see more of her.
Kiba had his fur-lined hood down two weeks after training had began. As Kureani, Hinata, and Shino stared, Kiba had flashed a toothy grin and asked them what had they expected to see, dog ears? Hinata soon followed suit, finally shedding the parka after six weeks together. The weight of it had not been missed, and she had been keeping it off as the summer heat beat down upon the cell. Shino, however, had not made a motion suggesting the removal of jacket or sunglasses. This, Kiba confided to a confused Hinata, was completely unacceptable. "We have to do something about it."
It should be noted here that Kiba's "relationship strategies" are usually as ingenious as Naruto's.
After several failed attempts and several more bruises for Kiba, Hinata finally worked up the courage to stop it all. The boys reached a truce– grudgingly– and things went back to normal for awhile. As normal as things could get for their cell, that is.
"Dynamic air marking technique!" A spraying sound filled the air. "Cha, Akamaru!" Hinata cringed.
"Kiba." a deep voice intoned. Shino looked cross. "You've practiced that enough for the day."
"It's ten o' clock in the morning!"
"I know." Kiba squinted and tried to discern if that was a fact or sarcasm. Hinata giggled and put a finger to her lips.
"Why don't we t-take a break, Kiba-kun?" she inquired. "I-it's hot out today."
"Ah, fine, Hinata-chan." With a swish, he was instantly by her side. "Break it is."
Hinata blushed and stared down at her palms, tapping her fingers together nervously. To her utter amazement, a pair of hands rested on hers and gently pulled them apart. She jerked up to see Shino studying at her.
"That's a bad habit." he stated. "There's nothing to worry about here."
"Ah, g-gomen..." Pulling her hands into her lap, she flushed red at the touch. Shino simply let his head rest upon a tree trunk, wiping his brow.
"You're hot." Kiba stated mischievously. Shino noticeably tensed up, knowing what would happen now. "Don't try to deny it."
"I'm not hot."
"You are SO hot."
Both paused for a moment as the way that sounded finally dawned on them. "You're overheating," Kiba supplied. "You know you want to..."
"Take it off, man!"
"I'm not ho– overheating."
"Yes you are."
"No I'm not."
Kiba lay down and put his hands underneath his head, yawning. "Fine then. Get heat stroke and die."
Shino seemed to accept this fate and stared at something in the distance. Hinata looked back and forth at them: first at Kiba, then at Shino.
"A-ah... Shino-kun, Kiba-kun..." She reddened as both turned their attention to her. "It is s-sort of hot... what if we practice walking on water? T-that would be n-nice and cool..."
Kiba frowned. "Kureani made us walk for two weeks on one stupid lake. I'd rather slurp the thing up with a straw that walk on the lake one more time." Shino's eyebrows knit together and he shot a glare at Kiba, inwardly smacking him for being stupid.
"Still water, y-yes..." she continued, resisting the urge to tap her two index fingers together in a silent rhythm, "but on w-water with a c-current, we haven't practiced as much. Or r-rapids."
Both looked interested now. Hinata inwardly took a deep breath. "T-there's a waterfall that's by the public bath house, r-right before the water is channeled and stored. W-we could train there."
Kiba jumped up and punched a fist in the air, his mood changing in a flash. "Woo-hoo, Hinata-chan! Maybe this'll get Bug-Boy out of his stupid jacket."
Shino simply rose, straightened his collar, and began the journey to the bath house. Kiba caught up and started grinning, walking backwards in front of him.
"Oi, Bug-Boy. I know what you're hiding under that jacket." Shino's expression didn't noticeably change; although it would be hard to tell with the glasses, after all. "Maybe you've got a huge scar. You know, girls think scars are hot."
No reply. "Or," Kiba persisted, "maybe you pierced your nipple and you don't want your dad to find out!"
"I tried once," Kiba whined, "but my mom caught me and made me eat dog food for the rest of the week." He scowled. "Akamaru says it's okay. I think he's on crack." Realization dawned on Kiba and he grinned again. "Maybe you're a drug dealer and you hide crack in your coat!"
"...I'm not a drug dealer, Kiba."
"I know. You're a drug dealer with a pierced nipple."
Hinata overheard Kiba's statement and her eyes boggled. "S-shino-kun...?"
"I'm not a drug dealer with piercings!"
All was silent for a moment. "Woah, Shino!" Kiba snickered. "I didn't even know you COULD yell. Maybe you really do deal–"
"Eh, there i-it is!" Hinata exclaimed, cutting Kiba off and pointing at the small, twenty-foot fall.
"Wonder if there's a good view from there..." Kiba murmured, grinning just a bit.
"Don't even think it, Kiba."
"You suck, Shino."
"Shino-kun, Kiba-kun, please..."
That day had been unsuccessful. The jacket had been soaking wet and stuck to Shino's body– and yet it stayed on. Kiba had almost screamed in frustration. It wasn't until two weeks after the Bikochu incident that it had finally come off.
"Why don't you take it off?"
"Why do you want me to take it off?"
"Just... because!" Kiba huffed. "Because, ah... it's like..." He couldn't piece together the words. Finally, he gave up and fell silent, folding his arms across his chest and scowling.
"I-I think what Kiba-kun is trying to say," Hinata murmured, "is that we're your t-team. T-there's nothing to be worried about. Remember?"
It was silent for a long while. Shino heaved a sigh and stood. Both watched, transfixed, as he tugged the jacket up, off, over his head and completely gone.
"Shino-kun..." Hinata murmured.
"The kikaichuu." Shino stated simply, sitting again. "Each Aburame is a host. From birth." Absently, Hinata ran a hand against her own arm, cocking her head.
"Yeah, we know that, Bug-Boy." Kiba interrupted. "But why–"
"Most are given one female bug and two males. The two fight over the mating rights for the female, and the weaker bug dies, ensuring a strong offspring." He paused. "Instead of a female and a male, I was mistakenly given two females and one male. Thus, the kikai multiplied at an accelerated rate." Shino sounded like he was reading something out of a textbook, a speech that had been rehearsed over and over and now was finally being given. "Because of this, my kikai population grew faster than my body. And when there's no room..." He trailed off.
"...things rip." Kiba finished.
Shino was covered in scars.
A white muscle shirt stretched taut across his toned figure, loose enough to breathe but tight enough to fit. All across his arms, neck, collarbone, were pale, white scars. Most were only an inch long, but two or three jagged cuts sprawled six inches across his frame. Hinata didn't want to think about what was under that shirt: for more reasons than one, she admitted to herself, blushing slightly.
In some places, his skin was thinner looking, whiter. She presumed this was where the kikai exited and entered. Hinata was jolted out of her musings as Shino reached for the jacket again.
"Dude." Shino stopped, glancing at Kiba. "It's ninety degrees out today. Forget about the stupid jacket."
"What, ya think we can't handle it?" he pried, baring his teeth in a challenge. "Come on. You and me, one-on-one. Bring it, Aburame." A ghost of a smile, and Shino stood, falling into an offensive position.
That had been the end of it: or at least, the discussion of it. Both Kiba and Hinata knew where the line was drawn; the glasses were taboo. So they simply let it be. Don't ask, don't tell.
So how come, Hinata asked herself, did she want to know so badly? Was it the fact that he was standing in front of her now, hands in his pockets, telling her that the mission was "difficult" and that casualties were "probable?" Was it the possibility that he may not be coming back? Or maybe, it could just be the fact that she wanted to see him for who he really was. Past the rank of ANBU Captain. Past the role of Heir to the Aburame Clan. Past the icy exterior that was expected of him.
Hinata just wanted to see Shino.
She started as a pair of hands slid over her own. Dimly, she realized she had been tapping her fingers again.
"Shino-kun." Looking up at him, she bit her lip. "J-just... I mean..." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Come b-back safe, o-okay? T-the... team n-needs you..." She felt him stiffen a bit, as if he had been hoping for something that hadn't come. She realized that he hadn't let go of her hands yet.
And that she didn't want him too.
"Arigotou, Hinata." With that, he turned, letting her palms slip from his in one smooth motion.
Something is not right here.
She stood there, watching him walk away for what could be the last time. Just saw him walking away, and realized that she was so sick of following behind others' backs.
Before knowing what had happened, Hinata was running to catch up to him, spinning him around by the shoulder, wrapping her arms around his figure, burying her face into his long, high-collared jacket. "Hinata...?"
"C-come back, o-okay?" she murmured, the sound muffled in the folds of his coat. "B-because... I think I n-need you too."
Silence. Tenatively, he slipped his arms around her waist and breathed in. "Teamwork, Hinata-chan," he said in a tenor that made her quiver, "is keeping your promises."
Pulling away slightly, she cocked her head and ran a finger along the rim of the dark glasses, wrapped her hand around the slim stem... then stopped.
It was okay.
She couldn't force something onto him, something he wasn't ready for or didn't want. Just as if Kiba and Hinata had pulled of his jacket themselves: something would have changed. Shino would have forgiven them, surely– but it still would have changed. Biting her lip, she settled her hand his shoulder. "Um..."
His breath tickled her ear. "When I come back, Hinata-chan. Promise."
It dawned on her then, as she reveled in his embrace, that something was finally right.