Chapter Summary: Kiba's out of the hospital and eager to train, but Shino wants to wait first.

Chapter Pairing(s): Kiba x Shikamaru, referenced Chouji x Ino and Asuma x Kurenai

Chapter Rating: T for language and mild adult themes.

Author's Notes: Holy-be-Jesus, I've got FINALS coming up and I'm WRITING!? What the heck is wrong with me!!

Augh.

Disclaimer: If I owned it I would have to go to school anymore, I'd be so rich (probably).


Always Knock First

Before you enter my life -- before you enter my heart.


7: Lovers and Friends

"Aah- it's great to be outta that damned hospital!" Kiba announced, stretching in his chair. Beside him, Shikamaru slurped quietly at his drink while Chouji, across from them, clapped his hands.

"I gotto agree with you there," Chouji said, smiling as broadly as he had since the moment they'd stepped into the barbeque restaurant, "It was getting kinda quiet without you."

Shikamaru rolled his eyes and Kiba slapped his boyfriend on the back, causing him to choke.

"That's 'cuz Shikamaru here is so booring," he laughed. Shikamaru muttered around his straw and returned to slurping at his drink, this time glaring at Kiba instead of the table.

He'd kind of hoped to go out on a one-on-one date with Kiba when he'd gotten out of the hospital.

Kiba and Chouji had decided otherwise and he'd let them, but it didn't mean he wasn't going to make sure they knew how pissed off he was.

They didn't seem to care, much.

"Yosh! I want some real food now," Kiba barked, waving down a waitress, "All they fed me at that damned place was yoghurt and watery soup, though I vaguely remember Sakura brining me somethin' else... huh, that's odd. I can't really remember; wonder why."

Kiba scratched at a red triangle in thought.

"Morphine will do that," Shikamaru explained, pulling the straw out from between his teeth and examining the flattened end as Chouji ordered a large meal that he would probably end up paying for, "And it wasn't Sakura. I brought you muffins one morning."

Kiba snapped his fingers. "Oh! That's right, you did. I guess I never really thanked you, huh?"

Shikamaru shrugged, not caring so much about the thanking as he did the forgetting.

But it wasn't Kiba's fault, right?

Blame the morphine.

"Here, lemme thank you now, then!" Kiba's voice had lowered drastically, becoming slightly husky, and he practically jumped at Shikamaru, attempting to give his boyfriend a joking, wet kiss. Shikamaru wrinkled his nose and fought him.

"Kiba!" he exclaimed, "You don't have to- Kiba, not in public!"

"Oh, right," Kiba mumbled, pulling away, "Sorry. I forgot."

Shikamaru sighed. "It's alright."

The waitress, blushing almost as magenta as her hair, scurried away with the orders and Chouji examined his utensils.

Silence.

Kiba fidgeted.

He fidgeted again.

"So! Guess what I plan on doing as soon as we're through with this?"

Shikamaru shot him a look- Kiba was only tolerating being here? Where did Kiba really want to be?

Somewhere at the back of his head, a voice chirped that Kiba probably wanted to train with Shino. He never trained with Shikamaru.

Shikamaru scowled and swatted the aggravation away.

"What?" Chouji humored their friend, looking back up. Kiba grinned and wrapped an arm around the back of his chair, reclining.

"I'm gunna go train!"

Shikamaru scowled. "Oh, so you've decided to model yourself after Lee?"

Kiba was aghast, "What? No! That's insane. I could never train that much... well, I guess I could, but what's the point? I can use ninjutsu."

"You also use a lot of taijutsu with and for your ninjutsu," Shikamaru reminded him.

"Hey, hey, let's not fight," Chouji mediated. Shikamaru eyed his friend, then snorted and leaned back in his seat, crossing his legs. Kiba laughed.

"Naw, you know we weren't fighting, Chouj'," he said, "That's just the way we always act."

"No it's not," Shikamaru interjected crossly. Kiba's grin only widened.

"See?"

Chouji laughed; "Alright, you win. Ah! Food's here!"

"Arigatou!" Kiba exclaimed, grabbing a pork chop and making quick work of it. Shikamaru watched, mildly disgusted at Kiba's voracity.

He'd forgotten the state of the Inuzuka's manners.

Sighing, he put some food on his plate before it was all gone (which, between Kiba and Chouji, would happen very soon) and it was relatively quiet as the three ate.

About then, Naruto bobbed in.

"Kiba!" he shouted, clapping the Inuzuka on the back, who was in the middle of a bite of beef.

"N-Naruto!?" he choked, wiping his mouth and looking up at the boy. Naruto grinned down at him, hands on his hips.

"I heard you were let out of the hospital!" Naruto explained, pulling up a chair next to Chouji and sitting in it backwards, his chin hooked on the back. Kiba made a face.

"What're you, stalkin' me?" he spat, returning to his barbeque, "Or do you keep tabs on everyone who gets landed in the hospital?"

"What? No!" Naruto defended himself, "Just my friends. I mean, we're friends, right?"

"Of course," Kiba answered without hesitation, "But that doesn't mean you gotto keep tabs on me all the time."

Shikamaru frowned, folding his arms as he watched Kiba, Chouji, and Naruto banter for a bit, trailing the blonde when he got up and flounced away.

He had been too preoccupied with Kiba before, but wasn't Naruto supposed to be away, training with Jiraiya, or something?

He shrugged it off. Maybe Naruto was taking a vacation, thought it was a little early for that...

He swatted the annoying voice rattling on at the back of his head away.

"Well, I better be going," Kiba sighed, checking the clock. Shikamaru looked up from his musing.

"Don't over-exert yourself," he cautioned to Kiba's retreating back. Kiba raised a hand in both acknowledgement and dismissal and Shikamaru scoffed, shaking his head. He turned in his seat, propping both feet up on Kiba's now vacant chair, chewing on a toothpick.

"You shouldn't worry about him so much, Shikamaru," Chouji commented over one of the last wings, "He's a big boy."

Shikamaru snorted, reaching out and grabbing another wing, "Yeah, I know, Chouji. Sixteen... and he still won't accept the fact that his body has to have time to heal. I was serious when I compared him to Lee, you know."

Chouji laughed, wiping his mouth with a napkin, "Nah, they're really different."

Shikamaru shrugs. "Everyone is different from everyone. But there are also similarities. Kiba and Lee's is their dedication to training and their loves."

Chouji tilted his head, considering it for a moment. "Nah," he said, taking the last wing. Shikamaru sighed and put his half-finished wing on the plate, letting his head fall back, staring out the window.

If Kiba was nothing like Lee, then did that mean Kiba was not devoted to his love?

- - -

After picking Akamaru up from the Inuzuka compound, Kiba headed straight to where he and Shino always trained. Akamaru was extremely pleased to be out with Kiba again and jumped and yipped the whole way, leaping right onto Shino when they arrived at the clearing.

"Kiba, please call your mutt off of me," Shino said, a little muffled, from beneath a mound of Akamaru.

"Alright Akamaru, that's enough. We know you're excited to be out again," he laughed and Akamaru gave Shino a final lick before releasing the teen, "Sorry, Shino. I didn't know he would do that."

"Fair enough," Shino stated, sitting up and adjusting his glasses. Kiba frowned and tilted his head, scratching absently behind Akamaru's ear.

Shino had never fallen over because of Akamaru, before.

Shino reached over and grabbed his crutch, using it to hoist himself up.

Oh.

Kiba frowned; "How're you gunna be able to train like that?" he asked, gesturing to the crutch, his hand slipping from Akamaru's ear. Akamaru bounded off to torment some small rodent at the edge of the clearing.

Shino frowned at Kiba's bluntness- were he anyone else, he would most likely have been offended by the way Kiba said it. But he was Shino, and he only sighed. "I will manage."

Kiba grinned, cocking an eyebrow and hip coyly. "Seriously?"

Shino nodded. He glanced at Kiba, who dropped into a fighting stance, and uttered another long sigh, pushing his glasses up slightly to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"Not sparring, Kiba," he intoned. A look of confusion passed over Kiba's face, and he rose from the stance. Akamaru wandered back over, a dead rat limp in his jaws. Kiba made a face and told Akamaru to go burry it somewhere, or something.

"Then what kind of training is there?" the younger teen asked, "I can't really train if I don't have an opponent. Akamaru's dynamic marking is spot-on, and that's really the only major variable in my fighting. After that everything's just followin' the scent."

"Have you forgotten our most recent fight so quickly?" Shino asked, shuffling away. Kiba came up behind Shino, peering over the boy's shoulder at the bug he was studying.

"Course I haven't," he said irately, "That's why I'm here to train! Are you gunna help me do it, or not?"

Shino straightened when the bug flew away, alarmed by Kiba's volume. He adjusted his glasses, putting his free hand in the pocket of his jacket. He limped to another tree. "Of course I am."

"Then what're we going to do?"

"I'm going to study insects, until my legs are better," Shino informed him, leaning over another insect, muttering it's scientific name under his breath and moving on to another. Kiba growled.

"What am I going to do?"

Shino straightened, adjusting the crutch under his arm (it was one of Lee's old crutches, and a little too short for him). "I don't know."

Akamaru barked loudly, bounding into Kiba, who stumbled a few steps, laughed, and ruffed Akamaru's fur playfully. "Careful there, 'Kamaru!"

The ninken yipped and circled Kiba's legs. Kiba returned to glaring Shino down, though much of the intensity was lost and it was almost a comical look. Shino wrinkled his nose and Kiba broke out in grins.

"Ha! I know that look," he exclaimed and Shino quickly rearranged his face, but it was too late, Kiba was continuing, "You wrinkle your nose where other people woulda laughed, you weirdo!"

Shino frowned this time.

"What is so weird about that?"

Kiba shrugged. "Most people would just laugh, bug freak."

Shino shook his head and turned away, back to his bugs. Kiba scowled.

"All right, all right. I take it back," he muttered, "You don't gotta get all touchy about it. Geez."

Shino scoffed softly, adjusting the crutch again. Kiba waited.

His patience wore out quickly; "So what am I gunna do, bug freak?"

"I said, I don't know."

"Then let's practice that see-pee-whatever-it-is that you used to save me," Kiba said, folding his arms, "If you ever drown..." he hesitated, remembering his dream. He shook it away, starting with a new breath; "If you ever drown, I want to be able to save you."

Shino turned to Kiba, leaning a little due to his crutch, and fixed the boy with a look.

"No."

"Why not?" Kiba whined, "I know you're the all-mighty, indestructible Shino, but that doesn't mean I couldn't ever be able to save you!" After a moment, "And what about Hinata, or Kurenai? What if they drowned and you weren't there and it was just me to save them, huh?"

Shino fidgeted with the crutch, "No."

"Whhyyy?" Kiba whined, proudly displaying his kicked-Akamaru face. Shino rolled his eyes behind the shades, but Kiba knew the look.

"Because."

"Because why?" Kiba pressed, edging closer. Shino leaned away.

"Your breathing passages are not yet fully healed," he said, "CPR falls under the umbrella of things you should not do for at least another week."

Kiba scowled. "Damn Sakura! Damn Tsunade-baa-chan!" He stormed around the clearing for a while, blowing steam, and Shino watched, hoping the Inuzuka would not squash any bugs.

"Damnit, screw myself!" Kiba finally wound down, sitting in the middle of the clearing, arms and legs folded. Shino limped over and stood beside Kiba, not looking at the boy.

"I have thought of something for you to do," he said at long last. Kiba didn't look up.

"Oh?" he said.

"Oh," Shino answered.

"Aren't you going to tell me?" Kiba sighed, poking at the dirt with a toe.

"Yes," Shino said after a moment, accommodating the crutch in a way where he could get both hands in their pockets. "Tactics. We will work on your strategy and tactics when fighting."

Kiba groaned, flopping back in the dirt (Shino vaguely wondered how the Inuzuka could be so unconcerned about the dirt that would undoubtedly get in his hair and down his clothes); "For a whole fuckin' week?"

"Yes, for a whole..." Shino hesitated at the profanity, "week."

Kiba snorted and rolled onto his side, sand clinging to the back of his jacket. Shino fought the urge to wipe it off.

"Fine," Kiba sighed through his nose, "But that still stinks."

Shino shrugged. He didn't care what Kiba thought of it, as long as Kiba's body got the chance to heal fully.

"What about 'Kamaru?" Kiba mumbled, picking at a tuft of grass. Shino watched him do it.

"I can send Kikaichu for him to track," Shino suggested. Kiba shrugged.

"Sounds okay to me," he mumbled dejectedly, tiring of the grass and returning to drawing in the dirt. Shino shook his head and sent out a good number of Kikaichu for Akamaru to find. Kiba sat up and waved Akamaru off, who was only too happy to have something to do, and bounded off.

"Oh!"

Both boys looked in the direction of the exclamation and ensuing loud fwump as a body hit the ground.

"Hinata?" Kiba asked, getting up and dusting off his butt as he walked over.

"Y-yes," Hinata answered, getting up and brushing herself off, blushing, "Akamaru just came running past and I... fell, I guess."

Kiba laughed, "Yeah, sorry. Didn't know you were coming.

"Hinata-sama," Shino greeted.

"Shino-kun," she acknowledged with a nod.

"Don't feel bad 'bout it, Hinata," he said, "Shino here fell over, too! Course, Akamaru jumped on him, but it's all the same in the end, right? You both fell."

Hinata blushed and covered her mouth as she giggled. Kiba grinned proudly, ignoring the sharp glare Shino shot him with ease. Shino sighed.

"It is good you arrived just now," he said, "We were about to begin training."

Hinata eyed the crutch, a look of perplexity creeping over her face.

"Tactics and strategy!" Kiba explained happily. She made an 'oh', face and followed them back to the clearing.

"Oh, I forgot," Shino said suddenly, stopping and Kiba ran into his back, muttering and rubbing his nose. "Did you speak with Naruto-san?"

A blush spread across her face again, a deeper red than before and she pushed her index fingers together. "K-kind of. Why?"

"I was wondering if you knew why Naruto-san was here. I was under the impression he had left to train with Jiraiya-sama for two years."

"You're right," Hinata said, "B-but N-n-n-naruto-kun said he was here on vacation."

"Ah, right," Shino said, "I suppose that makes sense."

Kiba snorted. "That's absurd. Naruto wouldn't come back after less than half-a-year."

"It's only for a v-visit, Kiba-kun," Hinata reminded him. Kiba snorted again and shrugged.

"Whatever. Ignore the dog, I get it."

"That's not what she meant, Kiba," Shino said. Kiba waved it off.

"Yeah, yeah," he said, "Let's just get this damned training over with."


I think I'm getting better at making longer chapters... (this was nine pages in word) and... I covered everything I needed to, so yay for me!

Hmm... a bit of ranting about my life then, since I didn't do it in the Author's Notes...

The school band concert was this Friday (yesterday, I guess) and my parents were there. I went to point out the guy I like, 'cuz Mother has been bugging me to know since forever, but I didn't realize that he was right next to me until after I had pointed and said (rather loudly) "That's him!" and he was like, "huh?"

Yeah... so embarrassing!