Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. So if you recognize anyone or anything from the anime, I'm just borrowing.

Takes place sometime before Shippuuden

Chapter 1

"Shibiki," Shibi said firmly to his eldest son who was about to leave for a short mission.

The young man's entire body tensed, but he nodded without turning back. "I will not forget."


Shino returned home from training and let himself in through the back door. His mother was making some sort of stew. He knew because he'd caught the scent from several blocks away.

There she was, standing in front of the stove with an enormous ladle in one hand as she stirred and stirred. Her soft brown hair was pulled up in a loose ponytail. A single spiraling strand had escaped on the left side. She was a beautiful and kind woman. Her pink apron cascaded over her full, round belly. Shino walked up to her, pulled down the edge of his collar with one finger, and gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek.

"Hello, Shino sweetie," she smiled back at him.

"Hello, mother."

"Please set the table. It's just the three of us today because Shibiki has a mission."

Shino nodded and gathered the bowls and silverware. He finished laying out the flatware for the bread when he heard a quiet sigh from the kitchen.

"Mother?" he asked, quickly going to see what was the matter.

Kinako Aburame stood massaging her brow with one hand.

"Mother?" Shino asked quietly. "Is something bothering you?"

"Oh! Oh, no. It's nothing. Well, nothing that serious." She gripped the handles of the pot tightly.

Her son's hands came down gently but firmly. "Mother, you shouldn't be lifting heavy things at this stage in your pregnancy," he reprimanded gently, though he softened his words with a kiss on the crown of her head. "Let me get it."

"Hm, hm," she chuckled. "Alright. You're such a good boy, Shino."

"That's because I have a very good mother," he reminded her with a smile. Even if it was a bit hidden by the collar, his mother still knew it was there.

He and his mother sat and waited patiently for his father to arrive, which he did not much later. The Aburame's were very punctual people.


Short of vegetable salad, vegetable stew was Shino's favorite. Shino was halfway through his second bowl before he realized that his father looked as troubled as his mother had earlier. He watched them patiently from behind his sunglasses. They seemed to be avoiding some subject, perhaps because he was in the room, which further piqued his curiosity.

He looked at each of his parents in turn. Which is more likely to say something first? Probably mother. Shino returned his full gaze to her.


"Yes, Kinako?"

"Did you…talk to Shibiki?"



A long moment of silence passed.

"Did he…say anything important?"

"He will be back from his mission on time."

"I see." His mother poked her spoon into her bowl and shuffled a few carrots around.

"Mother, you need to eat something," Shino prompted gently, "especially since you are eating for two."

His mother wrinkled her nose at him in a playful way. "Yes, mother."

"That's my line," Shino smirked, but he was glad to see she was managing a few bites. Usually she inhales her food, so something must really be bothering her.


Shibiki and Shino Aburame were very different. Whereas Shino was reserved in general, Shibiki expressed his emotions more openly. But Shibiki was also prone to slight bouts of depression, while Shino actually had a playful side that not many people knew about.

The brothers were alike in many ways as well. Both Shino and Shibiki looked just like their father, though Shino had his mother's eyes—even if no one ever saw them. Both were skilled and valued members of the Aburame clan that took their shinobi responsibilities seriously.

Honestly, five years ago, if someone had asked Kinako Aburame which of her sons would have the easier time finding a wife, she would have picked Shibiki. He was handsome and outgoing, smart and generous. But now he was twenty seven and without any marriage—or even dating prospects—in sight. The village girls seemed to have a problem with the idea of bugs crawling throughout their prospective husband's body. That was the reason Shibi had been arranging omiais (marriage meetings) left and right, even though Shibiki hated them.

"Anata," she whispered softly as she and her husband sat in the family room. She absentmindedly ran her fingers over her knitting while he looked through omiai information cards.


"Maybe…maybe we should just give Shibiki more time. I don't want him to feel like we're forcing this on him…"

"We're not forcing him to get married," Shibi insisted. "We're just making sure he gets the chance to meet some girls. It's…more challenging for an Aburame to find his perfect woman. If he doesn't meet any girls from outside of the village, he may never find a chance to meet 'the one.'"

"He just seems so unhappy about it all…"

"If Shibiki finds a girl he wants, then I won't force him to go through any more omiais, but until then it's a father's responsibility to look out for the well-being of his son."

"I know. And I know you love him very much…"

"But?" Shibi prompted patiently.

Kinako smiled. "I just wish it wasn't so hard for him."

Shibi nodded and sighed. Then he looked up with a smile—though, again, it was difficult to see. "Have I thanked you today yet for marrying me?"

Kinako laughed. "At least twice since breakfast."

Shibi went back to his cards. After a few moments he huffed and slumped back into his armchair. "Shoromaru really had it easy. Three boys. Three sisters. Three babies born within months of each other."

Shoromaru was Shibi's older cousin. His three sons had recently married three sisters they met while on a mission together. And now he had three grandbabies. It really wasn't fair.

"Do you think the Kari, Kari, Kari girls have a cousin or something?"

"Honey, you really have to memorize their names sometime."

"Ah, ah." Shibi waved his hand dismissively. Then he moved over to sit next to his wife. He cradled his arms protectively around her stomach and back and nuzzled her cheek. Gently, he rubbed his hand over her belly. "At least we've got some time before the next one has to get married."

"Next one?" Kinako blinked. "What about Shino?"

"Shino's not the omiai type. He isn't one to open up to strangers. And besides, if I can't even find a wife for Shibiki, who managed to ask out every one of the girls in his Genin year, and the three above and below, then I'm definitely going to have a tough time with Shino. I've decided not to worry about it until the time comes."

"Now, now," Kinako scolded. "Shino is a very warm-hearted boy."

"I know. I know. I love him for all that he is. But he's not like Shibiki. Shibiki has the girls lining up. At least until they find out about the bugs." Again Shibi sighed. "Why did you marry me, again?"

"Because I fell in love with you."

"But how did you first react when you found out about the bugs?"

Kinako was silent for some time. When she finally answered, it was with careful reservation. "I…I was a little scared of them. But I loved you, so I was willing to…be patient. And then I got used to them," she shrugged.

"I have a good feeling about this next omiai. I think we'll find the one for Shibiki."

Kinako sighed, but she decided not to worry anymore and let herself melt into her husband's arms.


None of the women of the Aburame clan were ninjas. This was for many reasons. The first and foremost reason was that there weren't many female ninjas to begin with. Konoha's previous Genin cohort, the Konoha 11/12, was an exceptional year with a 1 to 2 ratio of girls to boys. (A/N: As I recall, there were only about two or three non-Konoha kunoichi at the Chunin exams. And Shikamaru had to fight both of them. Hee, hee!) There were many more girls attending the Ninja Academy these days, but in the past only the famous clans had sent their girls.

So there usually weren't many kunoichi to begin with. Also, because of the unique—

and sometimes ostracizing—nature of the Aburame's ninja specialty, the kunoichi that there were often found romantic interests in the other available young shinobi. But the Aburame men, once married, always made their wives happy. They were loving and family-oriented, if not usually expressive.

The Aburame's also tended to have boys. It was an odd quirk, but that's the way it was. Shino was reminded of insect hives where there were many males, but only a few precious females.

The Aburame women, at least the ones that lived in the Aburame clan's compound, were very close. That closeness had only been magnified by the addition of three inseparable sisters. Of course, things were a bit hectic with all of the new babies around.

Shino pondered all of these things as he walked through the pathways of the courtyard, making his way to the area that the women had unofficially claimed as their own. Often they chatted and sewed, or did other small domestic tasks to keep their hands busy as they spent time together. It was a large, comfortable room furnished with overstuffed cushions and sitting chairs.

Shino gave a gentle knock on the screen door.

"Come in, Shino," his mother called.

"How did you know it was me?" he wondered as he stepped in.

"Motherly intuition," she answered saucily. Actually, it was because he was the only one who ever knocked.

"Oh good, I have to go to the toilet and hang up a load of laundry," said his Aunt Karika. "Shino, hold Kariko for me."

A baby was thrust into his hands. Shino and his cousin looked at each other curiously. At first he held her at arm's length in front of him, but a quick glance at his other aunts told him he wasn't quite doing it right. Shino adjusted his hold on the child so that he was cradling her the same way his Aunt Karimi and Aunt Karime were holding their sons, Soramaru and Sorumaru.

Kinako patted a cushion next to her and Shino moved to sit beside her.

"What's on your mind, Shino?"

"Father and I have a mission."

"Oh, I see."

"We can refuse it if necessary," he explained.

"Why would you do that?"

Shino looked meaningfully at her full stomach.

"Oh, Shino, I'll be fine." She brushed aside his concern with a wave of her hand.

Kariko, the youngest of the Kari, Kari, Kari babies, was the first girl born into the Aburame family in a long time. Her tiny fist reached up toward Shino's face.

Shino looked down at her, wondering if this was a sign that something needed to be done.

Kariko burbled at him.

"Does she require something?" Shino inquired.

His mother chuckled at him. "Nothing in particular. Just attention will do."

Shino looked at the child deliberately.

The small hand still reached for his cheek. The tiny fingers brushed against his face.

"Let her hold onto your finger. Babies like that," his mother advised.

Shino held up one finger in front of Kariko's nose. She stared slightly cross-eyed at the digit before trying to put it in her mouth. Eventually the two figured things out.

When Karika got back from her chores, Kariko was fast asleep in Shino's arms, her tiny fist still gripping his finger tightly.