Authors Note: Yay. Another crap chapter of out-of-character nonsense, poorly plotted garbage, and ostentatious bullshit rambling.


"Last night, I dreamed that I was chasing a pack of wolves, trying to belong."


Chapter 2: He that makes himself prey shall be eaten by the wolf.

The morning sun was pale, the light an odd white against a rainy backdrop; the air, moist, and almost too warm for the season. A hazy veil of fog rolled along the ground in thin patches, catching the weak mist of rain; a drizzle that seemed nearly as thin as the air it self. A breeze tumbled soggy leaves across the ground, whipped them into forceless whirls that sent them spinning, for short moments, before the damp leaves stuck themselves more firmly to the sodden earth. Kiba bent down to brush one of the damp leaves from his ankle; watched it land in a rain-river on the pavement and sail away down the sloping street as if tugged by an ocean tide.

The wet weather seemed to follow him, blowing in just ahead of his return, welcoming him with its clammy fingers. It seemed to carry with it, also, the apprehension, the tense feel, that had haunted Kiba through the entirety of the mission. Glancing around, he searched for the masked faces of the Oinin; the familiar ghostly features of his fellow hunters, the empty eyes staring out with emotionless intensity, the thin forms that would disappear into the shadows as quickly as they appeared. He caught no glimpses of them.

It had been nearly a year since he had joined the ranks of the Oinin, and still, the missions haunted him. The animal in him, the wolf, reveled in the hunt; the thrill of the chase pumped adrenaline through his body, the victory of the kill drew on his animal nature. For those very reasons, Kiba had chosen to train under the Oinin, hoping to hone his already exceptional tracking skills, to master the hunt with the masked Shinobi. Always, though, the feeling faded, replaced itself with a more somber air that clouded his emotion, drew him into the same quiet that seemed to affect both the other Oinin, and the Anbu alike. He blamed the birds; the crows summoned to feast on the headless corpse of the traitor. The winged creatures filled the sky like a dark cloud, the shadowy mass pushing across the horizon and drawing closer, only to separate into a plague of screeching blackbirds that would descend to tear and rip at the flesh of the Nukenin. The sight of the birds always brought him rushing back to humanity. Sighing, Kiba wiped at his face with his hand, smearing the wet of the rain over his skin, and pushed the dismal thoughts to the back of his mind.

Akamaru strode up to Kiba's side; his large form hunkered low, trying to stay below the ruffling wind. Kiba ran his hand over the dog's whipped and messy fur, attempting to smooth the ruffled hide. Glancing at the sky, Kiba squinted his eyes, slitted pupils narrowed against the pale white of the heavens. He watched the rain fall, blinking as the mist fell against his face. The call of a bird overhead distracted him a moment, calling his attention from the rain. Kiba frowned at the distant smear of the raven. At his side, Akamaru growled excitedly at the cawing; welcoming the possibility of a hunt in the dim morning. Kiba patted Akamaru again, shaking his head.

"Not today, friend." Akamaru whined lightly, the high pitched whistle slightly disappointed.

The streets were nearly empty, the few people that rushed about were swathed in raincoats or clutching umbrella's as they hurried to their destination. Kiba took his time, unmindful of the way his clothes grew damp, stuck to his frame with moisture. It was days like this, he thought, that he most enjoyed; the onset of cooler seasons still holding tightly to the last of the warmth, thin spray of rain making the colors deeper even as it washed much of the vibrance away in the wetness. Sighing, Kiba forced himself to walk a bit quicker, his footsteps tapping softly against the street, small puddles splashing as he broke their surface with his footfall.

Familiar faces smiled at him as he passed; Ino, Tenten, he returned a wave to a rushing Naruto, exchanged a few words with Lee and Sakura, on their way to Hospital to visit Gai, who'd only just returned from a mission with Neji. The teams, though still close, had spread out over the years, separated into gatherings and friendships that were formed outside the units. Kiba himself had grown distant from Shino, their interests and personalities far too different for a more solid friendship; however, he'd remained very close with Hinata. Kiba wondered, idly, where Hinata was hiding, if she had been sent on a mission of her own; it was rare she was not more than two steps behind Naruto. Chouji and Shikamaru were still found in each other's company, their friendship unchanged. As for himself, he found more time alone than with friends, despite his gregarious personality, and on the occasions when he was sociable, it was usually in the company of Naruto and Hinata, or Shikamaru and Chouji.

"You're unusually subdued this morning." Kiba smiled at the sound of the voice, slowed his steps to allow the other to catch up with him.

"Just tired, that's all." Shikamaru nodded in response, falling into step beside Kiba. "It's been a long few days." Kiba sighed exaggeratedly and reached up to shake some of the water out of his hair, using his fingers like a comb to roughly muss the limp strands. "What are you doing out in the rain?" Shikamaru held out his hand, palm toward the sky, and frowned.

"It's not raining." Kiba glanced to the side, studied the shorter boy's profile with sleepy eyes.

"Close enough." He shrugged, too tired to argue technicalities.

The wind pushed at Kiba's back, forcing damp strands of hair into his face; he ignored them, eyes lingering on the dark haired boy to his side. Shikamaru walked with his hands tucked deeply into his pockets, shoulders slumped back, spine bent lazily. Shikamaru, Kiba noticed, seemed closed off, introverted; a stark contrast to his own genial personality. Idly, he wondered at the friendship that had grown between them; how such an amiable companionship had developed among personalities that otherwise seemed to clash. Shrugging to himself, Kiba allowed another yawn to crack his jaw before slinging an arm over the shorter boy's shoulders. Shikamaru frowned at the contact, stiffening as Kiba allowed some of his weight to settle on the dark haired boy.

"So tired!" Kiba smiled crookedly, leaning into the shorter boy with exaggerated fatigue. Shikamaru sighed.

"Annoying." Shikamaru's comment went unnoticed in the midst of yet another yawn.

"Ah… I'll be glad to get home." A lazy smile stretched Kiba's mouth, eyes slipping half closed as he spoke. "You know…" His arm folded, bringing Shikamaru's body closer to his own. "Times like these... I have to agree with you about just laying around." Shikamaru hummed a response, a short noise of acknowledgement.

A soft whine from Akamaru called Kiba's attention away from his tired thoughts. Smiling, he reached down to pet the scruffy dog, fingers threading through wet fur, pulling Shikamaru with him as he leaned. The dark haired boy grumbled softly, but allowed himself to be pulled down with Kiba. Akamaru let out a growl of contentment, the soft scratching of Kiba's fingers pleasant in his matted fur. Kiba laughed softly and nodded toward the looming form of the Inuzuka home. Akamaru barked sharply and loped off, his claws clicking softly against the hard surface of the street as he hurried ahead of the two boys.

"He's just glad to be home." Kiba mumbled the words to Shikamaru. The dark haired boy merely nodded as the two made their way into the Inuzuka property.

Releasing his hold on Shikamaru, Kiba arched his back, stretched his arms up over his head in an attempt to relieve some of the tired stress from his muscles. Dropping his arms to his side in defeat, the feral boy sighed and trudged up the stairs at the back of his house, heavy footfall sounding against the steps. He glanced sideways at Shikamaru, crooked grin laced with hints of a childish pout. Akamaru flopped his large frame onto the porch at Shikamaru's feet, demanding attention from the dark haired boy. Kiba smiled as Shikamaru crouched to pet the dog; the latter's face oddly affectionate toward the Inuzuka dog.

"I'll be right back." Kiba slipped inside without waiting for acknowledgement.

The house was unusually quiet; the absence of growling dogs a welcome change from the noisy activity that usually flooded the home. Kiba slipped quickly out of his damp clothes, a worn pair of jeans replacing uncomfortably sodden pants, and made his way back to the front porch. At the door he stopped, his eyes scanning the hazy landscape; the late morning, sullen and grey, seemed to compliment his lethargic mood. His mind swam back to darker thoughts; birds calling shrilly as clouds rolled in with soft thunder, rain washing blood into thin rivers across the ground as the crows carried away Konoha's secrets. Kiba sighed and shook his head, trying to lose the thoughts.

Thunder cracked across the sky, the rumble sending vibrations through the ground, and a moment later, the sky opened up; the rain sudden and hard, poured down in a noisy hail of raindrops. The wind shifted momentarily, a cool spray of rain swept in to send cold beads of water across Kiba's skin. Chill bumps traced their way across Kiba's flesh, drawing him from his darker thoughts.

"Well, at least we made it here before it started raining, eh Akamaru?" Kiba crouched to shove the large dog away from Shikamaru before slumping down into the newly empty spot. "You've had enough of him, it's my turn." Kiba grinned teasingly at Akamaru. The large animal growled unhappily at the feral boy before slumping down against his hip, still wet fur darkening the fabric of Kiba's jeans with moisture.

"You don't bother to finish dressing?" Shikamaru's voice was disapproving.

"Eh?" Kiba glanced down at his shirtless torso and shrugged. "Well, it's warm enough…" Kiba scratched at his chest absently, nails drawing faint red lines across his skin. Shikamaru frowned and folded his arms across his chest as he slumped back against the wall.

Another light spray of rain blew across the porch, the mist falling across the lounging forms on the porch. Kiba glanced down to watch the moisture soak into the bottom of his jeans, a dark speckled pattern slowly forming against the faded blue. He folded his arms behind his head and leaned back, knuckles grazing the wall as he rested against the wood. Shikamaru, annoyed at the rain, pulled his legs up and crossed them, knee falling to rest against Kiba's thigh. The feral boy smiled at the nonchalance of the contact, allowed his eyes to slip closed.

"Ah, Akamaru, I think he's flirting." Kiba's voice was quiet, sleepy. Akamaru responded with a low sounding rumble; Kiba laughed softly at the sound.

"What are you talking about?" Shikamaru's voice conveyed his confusion.

"Nothing…" The feral teen flexed the muscle in his thigh, lifting his leg so that the contact was more apparent. He heard Shikamaru clear his throat uncomfortably, imagined the flustered look that would cross the dark haired boys face. Shikamaru shifted; the absence of contacting driving Kiba's eyes open. He glanced over at the dark haired boy and smiled crookedly, closed his eyes once again.

Drifting peacefully between sleep and wakefulness, Kiba concentrated on the sound of the rain, its hush lulling him into a restful peace. The rumble of thunder rocked the wooden planks of the porch softly; the feel reminded him of a contented growl echoing through the chest of a beast. The ebb and flow of his thoughts pushed against his consciousness like a tide, and Kiba allowed himself to drift in the daydream like state that seemed intent on pulling him beneath the surface.

Warmth settled against Kiba's thigh, the weight of Shikamaru's knee resting lightly against him. The feral boy remained still; content to wait as Shikamaru moved further into his territory. Gradually, the weight increased, and he could feel the dark haired boy settling comfortably, relaxing in the ease of Kiba's feigned sleep. To Kiba, it seemed that Shikamaru was much like the animal he was so named for, tentative and flighty, like a deer; comfortable even in the presence of a wolf, so long as the wolf remained still. Sometimes, the feral teen thought, it was an easier hunt when one let the prey come to him.

The rain pushed down in heavier strokes, clear rivulets of water streaming down in thick falls over the edge of the roof, racing to the ground below with enough throbbing force to dig small, muddy holes into the earth. The sound dragged Kiba from his tentative sleep, interrupted his contented rest on the porch. Drawing sleepy eyes open to the dim and cloudy noonday light, the feral boy eased dream from his mind and adjusted to wake. A mask, soulless eyes still and empty, hovered at the corner of his vision, still and unmoved past the blur of the heavy rain. A tenseness drew itself into Kiba's body, coiled in his stomach, as his eyes hung on the form.

The figure of the masked Shinobi seemed more a specter, a lingering memory, than a living being; it's stillness uncanny and it's silhouette so heavily obscured by the torrenting rain. Kiba turned his head slowly, eyes catching, still, on the mask, as he strained to focus his sleepy eyes. A blink sent the form, painted mask and all, into the swimming background; the shape drowned in the fall of the rain. For long moments, Kiba remained tense, staring into the rain, waiting for the Oinin to appear somewhere in his vision. He wondered if it had been a dream, or if he were called to duty again so soon.

"What is it?" Shikamaru's voice was drowsy. Kiba, startled, turned; his eyes meeting two dark orbs, sleepy, but curious. Kiba relaxed back against the wall, his skin scraping against the wood; Shikamaru allowed his calm stare to linger.

"I think one of my dreams followed me out for a minute." Kiba reached up to rub at his face, hands reddening his cheeks and eyes as he scrubbed away the last remnants of his nap. Shikamaru frowned, but said nothing. "I thought I saw someone." Kiba shrugged and dropped his hands to his lap, leaned toward Shikamaru until his head fell against the dark haired boy's shoulder.

"Ah, Akamaru, I think he's flirting." Kiba felt the subtle lift in Shikamaru's shoulder, punctuating the words, and a smile spread across his face; his lips drawing tight against his teeth.

"Did you just make a joke?" Kiba knitted his brows in confusion as he lifted his head, cocked it to the side to stare at Shikamaru. A soft laugh thrust in his chest at the strangeness of the dark haired boy's words. Shikamaru shrugged.

"Had to get your head off of my shoulder somehow." Kiba narrowed his eyes, studied the calm composure of Shikamaru's face.

"Well…" Kiba smiled, the curve of his lips almost sadistic in their angle, and shrugged to himself. His body rising to sit up fully, the feral boy repositioned himself on the porch, his posture relieved of the stress that had shadowed it only moments before. "other places to put my head…" The comment ended in a wink; the meaning of the words defined in the feral boy's actions as he turned and moved, positioning himself directly in front of the dark haired boy. A moment later Kiba leaned back, his body slumping to the floorboards as he rested his head in Shikamaru's lap; the warmth of the other's body warming the back of his neck and shoulders. "Better?"

"Infinitely." Kiba stared up at Shikamaru's frowning face, smiled brightly at the sarcastic venom in the younger boy's voice.

"Ah, well, this is definitely more comfortable." Kiba raised an eyebrow at his friend, crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes.

"Idiot." Shikamaru's comment went unnoticed.

"By the way…" Kiba cracked his eyes open, looked up at Shikamaru; the dark haired boy's eyes were already boring into his own. "I am flirting." The feral teen watched a light blush paint itself onto Shikamaru's frowning face, watched his eyes dart away briefly, uncomfortably, before settling back; the awkwardness now absent.

"Idiot." Kiba ignored the painless insult and allowed his eyes to slip closed once more, focused his senses on the weather; the slowing pace of the rain as it trailed off, the rush of the wind as it buffered against the streaming water and the wood of the porch.

The low growl of a still sleeping Akamaru rumbled like an engine off to the side, and the smooth and silent breath of Shikamaru's lungs hid somewhere beneath the soft noises that hovered at the porch. A tentative tug pulled at Kiba's sleep, the fleeting feel of fingers tangling in his hair and then, nothing; he waited for the feeling again, wondered if it, too, were a dream. Again, fingers pulled through his hair, nails scraping softly against his skin, and the feral boy pushed a small growl of contentment out of his chest. Opening his eyes slowly, Kiba fixed his blurry sight on Shikamaru's face, watched as the dark haired boy's fingers steadily swept his hair back. The action bold and thoughtless, as if he were simply petting a sleeping dog.

"If you want me to kick my leg like a pup, you have to scratch my belly." Shikamaru frowned, drew his fingers back. A low hum of laughter shook Kiba's chest as another scowl worked it's way across the dark haired boy's face. Shifting, Kiba lifted his arms, threw them over his head and back, wrapping them around Shikamaru's waist. The feral boy smiled amusedly at the tension that stiffened his friend's posture, and locked his fingers behind the dark haired boy's back.

"What are you doing?" Kiba shrugged at the soft question, ignored Shikamaru's discomfiture.

"Getting more comfortable." Shikamaru snorted softly, shifted in Kiba's circle of arms as if trying to find a space there free of Kiba's touch.

"I have to go soon." The dark haired boy folded his arms across his chest as he spoke, his voice betraying the nervous tension he was attempting to dress as annoyance. A frown creased Kiba's features, drew the smile from his face.

"No. You aren't getting away so easy this time." The slight growl in Kiba's voice betrayed his displeasure, caused Shikamaru to tense. Kiba smirked, his lips curling into familiar mien, and tightened his arms about the dark haired boy as if he were a wolf tightening his jaws on his prey.

"Kiba…" Shikamaru's voice was uncomfortable, the following sigh, annoyed.

Releasing his grip, Kiba used his now free arms to reach for Shikamaru's frowning face. His fingers curled around the dark haired boys neck, threaded into the hair at the nape of the other's neck, and pulled the younger boy downward. Faces inches apart, Kiba narrowed his eyes, studied the unease that flitted in his friend's eyes. A quick, nervous breath puffed from between Shikamaru's lips, buffered against Kiba's face; the scent reminiscent of fear to the feral boy's heightened senses. Shikamaru's hands found the porch, fingers splayed against the surface for support; Kiba could hear his nails scratch softly against the wood. A crooked smile tugged at one corner of the feral boy's mouth, revealed one wolfish fang, before another tug of his arms brought Shikamaru's mouth against those smiling lips.

Soft warmth met Kiba's mouth, Shikamaru's lips still against his own; the feral boy fought the urge to devour the dark haired boy's mouth with the hunger that had suddenly taken hold deep in the pit of his stomach. Patience, Kiba realized, was not one of his virtues, but he held his ground; prolonged the stillness. Damp wind pushed in across the porch, drew moisture across his skin as he breathed; the wet patterns felt like cold fingers. Kiba lessened his grip on Shikamaru's neck, allowed the other to pull away until he found the dark haired boy's eyes with his own.

Shikamaru's face was traced in fine lines of anger; his brow creased, pale lips drawn in a tight line. Kiba allowed his amusement to play in his features, chewed at one side of his lip as he stared up at the dark haired boy; Shikamaru's expression deepened, but he did not pull away. Curious, the feral boy tugged gently at the younger boy's neck; there was no resistance. Another gentle pull brought Shikamaru's face closer still, and Kiba allowed a small puff of breathy laughter to escape his chest. The dark haired boy's eyes narrowed, his expression softening as his tongue darted out to moisten frowning lips. Shikamaru bent of his own accord, slowly closing the gap between them, and pressed his lips softly against Kiba's; the timid meeting eliciting more annoyance than excitement in the feral boy's state. Kiba brought his mouth against Shikamaru's with force, teeth clicking against the other boy's, and impatiently drew the dark haired boy into a more energetic kiss. Kiba left nothing of romance in the gesture, instead pushing deeper into unbridled lust as Shikamaru began to respond.

Sore mouths broke apart minutes later, breath chipping at each other's bruised lips. Kiba smiled wolfishly up at Shikamaru, slid his hand from neck to chin, and used his thumb to stroke the younger boy's lips in a parody of gentleness. Shikamaru frowned, his flushed face drawn and confused.

"You bit me." Shikamaru's words were calm, betrayed nothing more than irritation. The feral boy smirked in response, watched with satisfaction as the younger boy chewed softly at a small split in his lip.

"Mine." Kiba nearly growled the word, the statement, an echo of the possessive declaration that he had made some nights before. Shikamaru snorted softly, wrapped his hands around Kiba's wrists and drew them from about his neck.

Wiping at the wetness that trailed his chest in patches, Kiba settled himself again in the dark haired boy's lap, shifted comfortably against the now relaxed form beneath him. The rain still rushed down to earth in fat torrents, it's heavy fall tearing at the once placid surface of the spring, digging muddy holes into the soft grassy earth. The storm, however, had drifted off, leaving only the rain in it's wake, the steady rumble of thunder almost too distant to notice. The noonday light grew brighter, despite the downpour, as the hours wore on; the darker storm clouds replaced with lighter rain clouds that allowed the white glow of the sun to filter through.

The wet weather that had exhausted and sobered Kiba only hours before, now brought him to repose, drew him into a more languid sentiment, and yet choked him with a hunters passion. The feral boy, however, simply lounged; belly half-full of self-satisfaction, as if will dinner, and tried to practice more of the patience that had won him the younger boy's momentary submission. Shikamaru's face, still stoic, hovered above, head tilted back to gaze sightless at the ceiling; arms thrown back to support his recline. Reaching over his head once again, Kiba slid his hands beneath the loose shirt that draped over Shikamaru's frame, fingers trailing soft skin and grazing prominent ribs as they moved further beneath the cloth. Shikamaru drew a breath, held it; his body still and muscles tightened against the touch.

"Kiba… Don't." The words were clipped. Kiba raised his eyebrows, curled his fingers until his nails scratched at the warm pliable skin beneath them. Shikamaru remained unmoving, quiet.

"Stop me, then." Shikamaru said nothing as Kiba's fingers continued their assault.

A break in the rain brought a breeze; ripe with the scent of fresh earth and something more subtle. Kiba drew his hands to a stop suddenly, stilled his entire body as he investigated the strangely familiar scent that had carried in on the air. Shikamaru shifted uncomfortably in the pause, his breath hitching nervously as he detected the tension in the older boy's motionless form. Kiba let out a soft hiss, begging silence and stillness from the dark haired boy. The wind pushed in again, stirred Kiba's bangs; the feral boy narrowed his eyes, used his foot to wake Akamaru from his sleep. The large dog cracked his eyes open without moving, let out a nearly silent growl. Kiba nodded, returned the growl with one of his own, and tapped his foot against the beast again. A moment later, Akamaru disappeared into the rain, his feet silent against the wet ground.

"We're being watched." Kiba kept his voice hushed, low, as he glanced up to connect eyes with Shikamaru. The dark haired boy nodded, aware of the presence. The feral boy watched the play of thought in the dark haired boy's eyes curiously, hunting for the thoughts behind the unaffected expression.

A short howl melted through the sound of the rain, echoed against the walls of the porch. Kiba growled low in his chest, his breath rattling out noisily as his eyes slipped closed in resignation. He knew what it was that disturbed his rest; the shadowy figure that had haunted the edge of his vision all day since his return to Konoha. The masked Shinobi, doubtless, waited in the edge of the trees, ready to steal more of his peace and sanity. Kiba drew himself up quickly from the other's lap, crouched low at the edge of the porch ,and glanced toward Shikamaru. The dark haired boy narrowed his eyes, nodded his understanding. Kiba ducked his head once at the younger boy before he slipped silently into the sheeting rain, slitted eyes dark with irritation.

The rain, cold against Kiba's skin, ran in rivers down his bare back as he pushed his way through the heavy fall of water to find Akamaru. Kiba fought to see past the haze as he ran, his concentration only faltering as he shoved his dripping bangs from his face; the gesture rife with annoyance and anxiety. Akamaru waited patiently, hackles up, just inside the edge of the forest; a low growl greeted Kiba as he arrived.

The empty eyes of an Oinin mask stared out from the obscuring rain, bored into Kiba's own. He greeted the Oinin in proper fashion, narrowed his eyes against the rain in an attempt to better see the fellow hunter. As if in a dream, the haunting call of birds seemed to echo in his head as the Oinin stretched out his hand to Kiba; a wooden tube wrapped tightly in his fingers. The proffered scroll, no doubt, detailed yet another mission that would draw Kiba's mood onto solemn ground and take him away from home for more long days of hunting and death. The feral boy took the scroll obediently and ducked his head in a bow; when he raised his head, the Oinin was gone.