Note: This has been sitting on my computer for a really, really long time. I finally decided to finish it, because it's a decent piece of writing and I'm tired of it sitting here. My apologies if the end seems rushed. Depending on the reviews I get, I may take it down.
Disclaimer: I own this shiny restraining order he gave me...
Crickets chirped musically and the air itself seemed to hum, the tiniest of vibrations sent scurrying through the atmosphere. Flocks of sparrows flew about lazily, perching on telephone poles or electric lines to catch a nap. The sun shone down and caressed the village of Konoha gently, fingers of sunlight touching every figure and sapping the energy until the place was coddled into a glazed, happy stupor.
Yawning lazily, Inuzuka Kiba nestled his head in his arms, the grey hood falling over his face and black fur rustling against the mahogany table. His chest rose and fell gently as sleep threatened to overtake him. "Mmph... Akamaru, leave me alone..." Akamaru refused, his cold black nose jabbing into Kiba's cheek. Sighing, Kiba propped his head in his hands.
Hinata got out of customs. Shino got out of customs. So of course, Kiba did not. And now, instead of sleeping in on the week-long hiatus, he was stuck behind this splintery desk checking traveler's passes to make sure all of their papers were in order. "Paperwork." Kiba mumbled. "I hate paperwork."
He shot an annoyed glance at Akamaru, who was now perched on the table and staring at him cheekily. "Lucky." The dog didn't reply, but seemed to smirk as he climbed up onto Kiba's head and circled three times, laying down and making a comfortable nest in his chocolate brown hair. "Oh, rub it in, why don't you!" He groaned and threw a pen at a bug half-heartedly. Good thing Shino wasn't there, or he would have most likely gotten a beating. After a few weeks, Kiba had learned quickly to be careful not to step on any anthills.
He closed his eyes again, amplified hearing picking up even the most minute sounds. Girls laughed playfully and water splashed by the bathing area. A pencil scratched along paper furiously; probably a shopkeeper taking inventory. Some yelling from the woods. It sounded like Naruto yelling at a hapless Konohamaru: something about 'harem' and 'centerfold'. Sick perverts, Kiba thought to himself, yawning in spite of Akamaru's earlier warning.
A sarcastic, clipped voice drilled its way into his catnap. "The village of Konoha is safe with dog-boy on guard."
Snapping his head up so fast that whiplash was a distinct possibility, Kiba slammed his head on the chair with a loud crack. "Geh! Wha-" He paused. "Oh. Yeah. Uh..."
She just rolled her eyes and shoved a sheaf of tattered papers into his face. "Can you hurry it up? I've got a few people I need to catch up to."
Deliberately slowing his pace, he yawned and flipped through the papers casually. Her voice rang a bell, so casual yet sharp. Blonde hair, pulled back into four spiked ponytails, the fishnets... "You're that Sand girl, aren't you?"
"Genius." She tapped the headband around her neck, the sun catching the polished metal and sending shafts of light in every direction.
"You're very sarcastic." Kiba noted, taking his eyes off the documents in front of him and glancing up at her with a smirk.
"What first gave you the hint?"
"Which hint? Believe me, I had more than one tip-off."
She smirked back. "And you're the dog-boy who lost to that loud blonde kid in the Chunnin prelims." A slight twitch. Bingo. A minute and a half and already a soft spot found: a new record for her.
"What are you doing in Konoha, anyway?" Kiba asked, deftly switching subjects to something less... insulting. "You don't see many Sand just traveling."
"Maybe we feel like it."
For the first time, she met his stare. It was then that the Sand noticed his eyes: no iris, just a slitted black pupil. But, un-humanlike as they were, they still harbored a mischievous, playful air. Like a puppy. Not like the blank eyes of Gaara, the piercing eyes of the Sharignan, or the white eyes of a Hyuuga. Different. She tried to pin the idiosyncracy, but it floated just out of her grasp. That was irritating. She didn't not knowing, not understanding things. Miffed, she crossed her arms in front of her chest unconsciously.
Kiba marked her papers with the round rubber stamp embossed with the Village Hidden in the Leaves' taboo. "What's your name?"
"Usually, when you ask someone's name, you give yours first."
Suppressing a smart remark, Kiba spoke. "Kiba. This is Akamaru." Shaking his head slightly, he pulled back the hood to reveal the just-awoken puppy, cream-colored fur flecked with a few stray black hairs from Kiba's jacket. "Akamaru, meet...?"
"Temari of the Sand."
"...Temari of the Sand." Akamaru gave a small snort and a bark. Kiba raised his eyebrow. "Hmmm?"
"You talk to your dog?"
"I don't have one."
Kiba laughed. "You must have had a deprived childhood!" Temari was silent and Kiba's laughter faded away awkwardly. "...oh. Sorry."
"What are you sorry for?" she snapped, her fiery tempter flaring up and almost biting off his nose. "Look, I have people to meet. If you would..."
Temari was interrupted by a woman's call. "Sensei?"
"Kiba, what in the world are you still doing out here?" she asked, incredulous. Then, seeing his bemused expression, sighed. "The doors to the village closed a half an hour ago. No one in, no one out. Your shift's finished."
"Whaaaatt?" It wasn't Kiba who spoke this. "I need to leave! He's got my papers authorized, anyways."
She shook her head and spoke over her shoulder to a still-shocked Kiba. "Maybe if you didn't doze off, you wouldn't be sitting here any longer than you had to." Her figure retreated into the distance as Kiba's sensei left to attend to whatever needed attending to.
"Kurenai-sensei..." He trailed off. "Dangit."
Temari was about to explode. Secretly, Kiba pictured a volcano with the steam pouring out, and he was right in the line of fire, unfortunately. She spluttered an obscenity, face red. "You mean I'm stuck here... all night!"
Kiba smirked. "Yeah, pretty much."
"I really want to punch you." she simmered, feeling her fingers twitch. She again muttered something that would have to be censored under her breath. Kiba raised an eyebrow. Akamaru barked.
"Yeah, I guess I should." Kiba remarked to the dog, completely ignoring the still-fuming blonde. "...Hey! Don't lecture me!"
Temari was livid. This guy wouldn't shut up long enough... I could've been out of here! Gaara is going to murder me. She glanced at Kiba. He's fighting with his dog. I'm stuck here with a guy who can't win an argument against a stinking puppy. Another censored word. Turning abruptly, she surveyed the walls. One... two... three... four... five... six... crap. She silently wished Kiba a slow, painful death. I can't even sneak out. The full night squad must be posted, for crying out loud!
Meanwhile in Kiba-land, Akamaru was winning the debate with incredible finesse.
"Listen, you-" Kiba fumbled with his words, trying to save a last bit of dignity. "She won't– I can't– you aren't–" Sighing, he gave up. "Fine. You win. Happy now?" A bark. "Ha ha ha. So funny I forgot to laugh." Turning to Temari, he stood up and crossed his arms. "You want something to eat?"
Kiba took a mental picture of her expression and stored it away for future amusement. "Should I speak slower?"
"What... uh..." Temari gave up. "Sure. Whatever."
He looked a little surprised. "Eh...is the noodle bar okay?"
She was still in slight shock and wasn't functioning well enough to formulate a sarcastic remark. "Uh, sure."
"Cool." Turning abruptly, he began the journey to the eatery, talking a mile a minute while Temari trailed behind him. "Uh, I hope you don't mind, but sometimes Naruto shows up there and... uh... well, you know Uzumaki well enough to finish the thought yourself, I guess. They've got this ramen that he's obsessed with. Actually, I think he's obsessed will all ramen, not just theirs. Sakura-chan told me that when Kakashi first met them, he only talked about two things: ramen and becoming Hokage."
His chatter didn't reach Temari, who was taking a breather and truly absorbing in the sights of the village. It wasn't splendor, but there was something about it that the Sand lacked. Something... once again, it slipped out of her grasp. Leafy trees towered above them like fingers shading the people from some of the harsh sunlight and creating a natural umbrella. A few terra-cotta tiles crunched beneath her feet as they passed by a construction zone. This place had some sort of air to it, but what? As hard as Temari tried, she couldn't place this feeling.
"...so then Hinata faints, right there!" The last bit caught her attention as they stopped abruptly. "Crap. There's Naruto."
Empty bowls surrounded his figure as he dug into a bowl of the noodles, miso spilling out the sides. "Iruka-sensei, it's been like, forever since you treated me!"
He smirked. "Who said I was treating you?"
Naruto almost spit out the contents of his mouth. "WHAATTT?"
"Kidding, kidding. But I'm not made of money." He noticed Kiba and smiled. "Hello, Kiba. And Akamaru."
The dog barked a reply and Kiba waved. "Hey, Iruka-sensei!" He sat down at one of the seats opposite Naruto. Not a coincidence. "What are you guys doing here?"
The blonde boy swallowed and pointed a chopstick at Temari. "What's she doing here?" Temari leveled her eyes and propped her chin on her hand. Kiba smacked him.
"Shuddup, Naruto. I'm getting her something to eat, okay?"
He said nothing, but climbed up onto the table and looked straight at Temari, a snapshot of the pose he and Sasuke were put in before the 'incident' as it was jokingly referred to. "Hmmm..."
Temari returned the gaze and spoke calmly. "If you don't get away from me now, I will shove this chopstick up your nose and sic Gaara on your blonde butt." An obvious bluff in her eyes, but she knew very well that Naruto wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box, so to speak.
"Five... four... three..."
"Creepy Sand girl." Naruto mumbled, hastily 'getting away'. He scooted his chair as far away from Temari as possible without bumping Iruka-sensei and continued to glare venomously. That was, until Iruka-sensei grabbed him by the collar and hauled him onto his back, mumbling something about how this was going on his tab. The stand was suddenly empty, save for two teenagers waiting for their noodles.
A brunette slid their bowls over and smiled warmly. Kiba said something, handed her a few coins, then held up a few noodles to Akamaru. Temari just watched and ate soundlessly.
"Idiot Naruto," Kiba mumbled, shoving a truckload of steaming pasta into his mouth, canine teeth poking out sharply.
"Why'd you do this?" Temari blurted, throwing her chopsticks into her porcelain bowl unceremoniously.
"What? I always give Akamaru some of my food."
"Not that." She blew out a long breath through her nose. "Why did you buy me dinner? I'm not a charity case, and I didn't ask for any of this."
"Oh, that?" Kiba continued to eat, slurping the noodles nonchalantly. "Well, Akamaru said that I should. Besides... I was stupid and it's my fault you're stuck here anyway. Why should you have to suffer because I was stupid?"
She didn't return the comment she had thought up: that she was suffering already. Because, watching him gorge himself on noodles, she got a little bit closer to pinning what was so different about his eyes. The simplicity of the statement stunned her: "Why should you have to suffer because I was stupid?" Why did he care?
Kiba was starting to irritate her. Because he was something Temari did not understand. And anything that she didn't understand, she had to research until she did. It was her shinobi way.
"Plus," he mumbled through a mouth of ramen, "I want to know how your hair sticks up like that. How much spray do you put in it every morning?"
"We've been sitting here for an hour," Kankuro groaned, letting his head roll back on his shoulders. "What in the crap is she doing?"
Gaara, to no surprise, didn't answer. He just continued to stare at the door to Konoha, as if he was willing Temari to step out and explain to them why she was so late. Kankuro continued to ramble, oblivious to the world around him.
"So, she tells us, 'Look, I'll just pick up some supplies and meet you guys outside, okay?' It's girls. They start shopping and you don't see them for three years. They sleep in the store and eat from the sample carts!" He picked at the drying face paint on his cheek. "You'd think a girl with a giant fan strapped to her back wouldn't be too hard to notice, but no, every single person leaving denied seeing her. I think it's a conspiracy. Someone's trying to off Temari! That Naruto kid must be in it, and-"
He turned to Gaara. "What?"
Kankuro opened his mouth, then closed it again, leaning back and deciding to sulk silently. For his health.
"What are you doing?" Kiba asked, watching Temari as she slowed her pace and looked into the distance. She sighed, and turned around.
"I was just thinking. Kankuro and Gaara are out there. They're both waiting for me."
Temari groaned. "It's been more than an hour, and they're going to have to sit there all night. Gaara's going to ki-" She stopped and chose her words carefully. "... Gaara's going to be annoyed."
Kiba shifted nervously. "Your brothers..." he started, then trailed off, trying to find the right adjetives.
"Yeah." Temari finished. "You hit the nail on the head."
Another silence settled in, not as awkward as before. She gazed up at the sky, tinged black and still darkening, dappled with tiny white pricks of light. It wasn't like Suna, where staring up at the sky would earn you a week's worth of sand grains in the eye. Temari breathed in the cool night air, cicadas droning loudly. Baki is going to murder me... we're supposed to be at that meeting tomorrow. Not that she was looking forward to the incessant arguing of stuffy diplomats, but she would rather be forced through that then Baki's silent punishments of D-ranked missions and grueling training sessions.
"Hey." Kiba's voice jerked her out of her musings. "I know you have somewhere you need to be."
"Yeah," she said slowly, skeptically. "What's your point?"
He grinned. "Do you remember Aburame Shino?"
"You did what?"
Shino stared at Kiba through mirrored lenses, arching an eyebrow.
"Quit lecturing me already. It was stupid, I know." Kiba paused, running a hand through his hair. "Back to the question. Will you do it, or not?"
Shino leaned back against the wall in defeat. "I can do it. But we'll need Hinata here too."
"Yahoo!" Kiba punched his fist in the air. "Oi, Bug-boy, I'll buy you lunch sometime, okay?" With that, he ran out of the room, passing a very confused Temari who was trying not to step on any spiders or bugs.
"Kiba, where in the heck are you going?"
"Getting Hinata. Just wait right here for a sec." With that, Kiba was gone in a grey and brown blur. Temari sighed and leaned back carefully, brushing an insect out of her way gently. ..why me...
"Okay, T-temari-san... please s-stand here." Hinata gestured to a spot about five feet from the boy with the mirrored sunglasses, taking her place in the middle.
Kiba crossed his arms. "Since Shino's awesome and all, he knows Shunshin. Hinata's from the Hyuuga clan, so she's good with chakra." Hinata blushed. "She'll blend your chakra with Shino's, he'll do Shunshin, and you'll be poofed outside Konoha." He paused, then grinned. "We're pretty much the best team out there right now."
"Whatever, dog-boy." Temari rolled her eyes. "Modest, too."
Shino was already sick of the conversation, it seemed. He performed hand signs slowly, adjusting his speed so that Hinata had time to meld the two's chakra into one seamless flow.
Kiba shifted from one foot to the other. "So... if you're in Konoha again, you wanna train with the team?"
Temari glanced at him, startled. Then she smirked. "If you think you and your puppy can keep up."
Hinata giggled, then composed herself. "Okay, Shino."
He spoke in his distinctive low tones, no wasted movement in his strong yet soft gestures. "Shunshin no Jutsu."
And just like that– Temari of the Sand was gone.
Kiba touched the ground where she had stood with one hand. "It worked, then?"
"Hai, Kiba-kun." Hinata threaded her fingers together behind her back, rocking back and forth. "I-it's late... I'd better b-be going, or Father will s-start to worry..."
Kiba nodded, not really paying attention. "Yeah, me too, I guess. I'll walk you home."
He followed Hinata out slowly, quiet for once. Kiba started as he felt a hand placed on his shoulder. Turning, he saw Shino standing there awkwardly. "What?"
Shino didn't answer for a moment; he wasn't sure of his words. "Kiba..." he started, then stopped. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. "You should know... if you go through with this, you're going to be whipped."
Kiba stared for a moment, then flushed red. "I– she's–" Faltering, he crossed his arms. "You read too much into things." With that, he turned and joined Hinata.
Shino shut the door behind them and allowed himself the tiniest hint of a smile. Or perhaps you don't read enough into things.
Kankuro was irritated.
Temari finally shows up with this weirded-out look on her face. Just poofs right in, like she was just going to show up any old time at her convenience. Then she didn't have the food that she was going to get anyways. And he was hungry, dangit!
"I bet you ate it all," he had said, just to annoy her. "Not like you'd be able to tell, though."
"How can I say this tactfully? Your hips... well..."
Kankuro had a bruise on his cheek, but Temari had a bruise on her pride. So in his twisted logic, they were even. Now they were traveling at double speed just to get back to Sunagakure on time, and it was her fault.
"So." Kankuro prodded. "This Inuzuka guy. Is he hot?"
"You shouldn't be saying that. You're a guy."
"You know what I mean," he retorted, determined to get an answer for his poorly-worded question. "Is he?"
"Just shut up, Kankuro." It was silent for a spell, the only sound breaking the quiet their sandaled feet thumping gently on the boughs of the trees that were so abundant in Konoha. "He has the weirdest eyes."
"His team does, too..." Temari trailed off, clicking a nail on her teeth.
"I'll send you on a research mission, then."
Kankuro and his sister turned to the owner of the deadpan voice. Gaara turned and fixed a bored stare onto them. "A shinobi needs to understand their allies, lest they become enemies later."
"Oh." Temari mumbled. As she watched her two baby brothers, she realized that there was the slight possibility that they had been worried about her. And maybe, just maybe, she understood the eyes of Inuzuka Kiba a bit more.
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