Disclaimer: Blacknbluesiren does not own anything to do with Naruto!

AN: Another post-midnight, avoiding-homework fic. This plotlet (not even really a plot! It's ridiculous!) attacked me after writing "Secrets Better Shared" for TTCF and would not rest until I had written it down (very poorly, mind). The writing style is kind of awkward, but the idea kind of intrigued me. And I like Team Eight, which is reason enough for me to write about them :D

Bending Steel

It took a particular breed of person to be a good shinobi. The job of a ninja was not one that could be taken lightly, and the people who took said job could not be taken lightly, either. To be a ninja, one had to have the brutality and ruthlessness needed to kill, the iron control and poise to never be caught, and the strength of will to not go completely insane after so many seek-and-destroy missions.

It took a rare breed of human, indeed, to be a good shinobi.

The members of Team Eight were all of that particular breed, though it usually took some digging through their personalities to find it. Hinata, especially, seemed completely at odds with the requirements of shinobi lifestyle—at first, anyway. But even though all three tracker-nin could, would, and did carry out their duties to their village with calm and efficiency, they were only human, and young at that. Even the most iron of wills had to bend sometimes.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Hinata looked up from the shuriken she was cleaning and frowned at the door. On the other side of the room, Shino adjusted his sunglasses and looked up at the ceiling.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

"Should you go up, or should I?" Hinata asked finally, setting her shuriken aside, her face tightening with worry.

"Wait," was all the bug nin said in reply. When Hinata shot him a confused look, he nodded to the doorway, where Akamaru was lying, completely still but for his quivering ears. Hinata sat back, relaxing, and picked up her shuriken again. Shino went back to meditating, and both shinobi kept an ear to the ceiling and an eye on the large canine in the doorway.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

"He's going to give himself a concussion," Hinata murmured, more to herself than anyone else. She finished cleaning the shuriken, and pulled out her kunai. She flipped over the polishing cloth and got to work on them.

"You already cleaned those," Shino informed her tonelessly. Hinata smiled a mirthless smile.

"And you have not budged from that position for nearly twenty-four hours."

Shino inclined his head in her direction, accepting the return, and fell silent again.

Thump. THUMP.

Akamaru's head shot up, Hinata's hand froze, and Shino became even stiller, if that was possible.


Barking wildly, Akamaru scrambled out of the room. Shino and Hinata exchanged a quick look—My turn or yours? Mine. Make sure he hasn't hurt himself. Of course—and Hinata leaped after the giant dog, bounding soundlessly up the stairs. Shino unwound himself from his meditative position and went in search of the first-aid kit.

Hinata followed Akamaru to the room the boys were sharing, and leaned against the doorframe.


The boy in question was sitting butterfly-style, doubled over with his head resting on his ankles and his hands over his nose and his shoulders hunched around his ears. A muffled grunt was the only response he gave her. Akamaru licked his master's hands worriedly, and Kiba looked up far enough to give the dog a wan smile. Hinata entered the room and crouched beside Akamaru so she could see Kiba's face.

"Kiba," she tried again. This time, their eyes met and Kiba smiled at her ruefully.

"Ow," was all he said. She pushed back his hair—more tangled than usual and sweaty—and frowned at the bruising that was developing across his forehead and hairline.

"What were you trying to do, give yourself brain damage?" The Hyuuga asked with a touch of exasperation. She pulled Kiba upright and ran her fingers over the damage, fingers emitting a pale blue chakra that would bring down the swelling.

"No," Kiba replied simply. "Just trying to turn off my nose. And my ears."

"Did it work?"

"No, sadly." Kiba fixed his gaze on her, more severe this time. Hinata almost cringed, feeling the practically-telempathic boy assess her critically.

"Have you cleaned your entire weapons collection yet?" He asked her casually. Hinata gave him a look.

"They got really bloody," she muttered. "They'll rust."

"They will not rust," Kiba replied mildly, his hand both firm and gentle on the top of her head. "And neither will you. You did fine."

"I was late. You and Shino nearly died because I was too slow."

"No, Shino and I nearly died because that bastard of a smuggler had really large lackeys with big, sharp blades. We are still here, though, because you arrived prepared. So don't clean your tools to death, you don't have any mistakes to wipe away."

"He's clearly not concussed," Shino commented dryly from the doorway. "He's speaking eloquently enough. Wait…maybe he is concussed."

"Hello to you, too." Kiba growled as the other boy entered the room with an ice pack and bandages. "Finally decided to join the living again, did you?"

Shino stiffened slightly and Hinata winced. Kiba smacked both hands over his nose again and groaned.

"Shit. Sorry, I'm sorry Shino, that was out of line, I'm sorrysorrysorry--"

Shino pressed the ice pack to Kiba's forehead with one hand and pried the clawed hands away from Kiba's face with the other.

"Forgiven," he said quietly. Then, with something like amusement in his voice, he wryly continued, "and yes, I did. It was kind of hard not to when you were banging around above my head like a rattling pipe."

Kiba grinned at the bug nin and took the ice pack, planting it more firmly on his skull.

"S'what I do—keep you grounded in reality."

"Indeed," Shino sat gracefully so the three teammates and Akamaru formed a ring. They were silent for a moment, Hinata idly polishing a kunai, Shino studying Kiba's head damage without outright looking at him, and Kiba still determinedly trying to block out the sounds and smells around him.

Suddenly, Hinata flung the kunai straight down, and it shuddered in the floorboards between them. The boys looked up at her. She took a deep, calming breath.

"This mission," she said slowly. "Was horrible. I don't think I have ever seen so many dead bodies in my life. Certainly, I have never seen so many dead children in my life." Her eyes swam with tears and she swallowed down a sob.

"I never want to come back here again," she finished in a tiny thread of a voice. Akamaru whined and shoved his head onto her lap. Hinata made a strangled sound, somewhere between a wail and a laugh, and buried her face in the soft scruff of the dog's neck. She felt a calloused hand on her head—Kiba—and a softer hand on her back—Shino. She sniffled, tears running hot and salty down her face.

"I gotta say I second the motion," Kiba's voice was hollow, a mockery of its normally upbeat tone. "I'm going to have nightmares for months, and if I ever smell mint again—EVER—I will probably vomit. And have more nightmares. Shit, what am I going to do about my toothpaste?" Hinata laughed weakly and reached out blindly to rub Kiba's knee comfortingly.

"We'll find you a different flavor." Hinata brought her head up and rubbed her itching eyes, cursing the headache that always raged after she cried.

"It was a particularly…painful mission," Shino said, so quietly they almost didn't hear him. Kiba's head swung toward the bug nin and Hinata peered at him through her fingers. Shino shifted, grabbed the ice pack sliding off of Kiba's head and holding it there firmly.

"It was a hard mission," he continued, "but, given the circumstances, I think we did well. Had we not done…what we did, that whole town would probably have been decimated."

"Blown up," Kiba snarled, rubbing his ears again. "Blown to smithereens, all screaming metal and roaring gunpowder and that stupid, sick smuggler with his bombs and his…his…fuck those kids had explosives strapped to them!" His hands clamped tightly over his head and he looked like he would start banging it against hard surfaces again. Hinata grabbed his hand and they got into the mindless contest they always got into after particularly awful missions: who could break who's fingers first.

"Forty-seven." Shino said abruptly. His teammates looked at him again.

"Forty-seven what?" Hinata asked, apprehension coiling in her stomach.

"Forty-seven children. Forty-seven walking bombs."

Kiba convulsed, curling up on himself like he wanted to disappear. Hinata could feel the hole in her heart tearing open wider.

"Only ten went off."

Hinata opened her eyes. Kiba slowly unwound himself. Shino pulled off his sunglasses—something he only did with his teammates and only when they were alone—and fixed both of them with his gold-eyed stare.

"Ten," he repeated firmly, looking first Hinata and then Kiba in the eye. "Ten, out of forty-seven. That's thirty-seven children who did not blow up. Thirty-seven saved. Plus the village." He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and his glare intensified.

"Before either of you think yourselves as failures, perhaps you should go back to that town and talk to the thirty-seven you saved. The twins, for example," his gaze pinned on Kiba, and the dog-nin couldn't look away. "The ones tied to the bridge. The ones you saved even though it nearly blew off your arms in the process. Or how about that little girl," his gaze slid to Hinata, and she bit her lip. "The one with the doll. She would be dead right now, except you were there to get that explosive off her and run her to safety."

"And those boys," Kiba muttered, rubbing his temples and nodding. "Those boys who were so doped up they didn't even realize they had explosives on them…how many kakai did you have to use to get all that shit out of their systems once you got the bombs off?"

"Quite a few."

Hinata's breath rasped in her lungs and she sat up straighter. Trust Shino to put things in perspective. It had been a horrible mission, but they had not failed. Casualties happened—it was part of life, part of their lives, and the fact that the number was so much lower than it could have been was proof that they definitely did not fail. Had they failed, hundreds would have lost their lives, not just ten.

Still, knowing that they had lost those ten still hurt.

Kiba sighed, lurched to his feet, and stumbled to his bed. He grabbed the mattress, blankets and all, and hauled it onto the floor. Once he had dragged it over to his teammates, he flopped down, his upper body and head on the mattress, his legs sprawled across the floor. Hinata grabbed the blankets, arranging them to cover three instead of one, and curled up against Kiba's side. Shino stretched out on her other side, his sunglasses back on their perch, and she flung the blanket over him. Akamaru huffed happily, clearly glad to see his human companions less upset, and sprawled across three pairs of legs, blithely ignoring the grumbled protests from the boys and Hinata's squeak of surprise.

Kiba dropped off to sleep first, unsurprisingly. His face was blissfully free of tension—finally—and he flung one long arm over Hinata, pulling her closer and fisting his hand in Shino's jacket, pulling him closer. Shino rolled his eyes and put his head on his crossed arms. He fell asleep soon after. Hinata lay between them, staring out the window at the starry sky, and felt that iron will that made Team Eight Team Eight slowly right itself again, like tempered steel being straightened over a forge. Because better that steel bent and folded under pressure, able to be straight and strong again when the pressure let off, than for it to hold stiffly and shatter when the stress became too much. Yes, it was much better to bend if one lived a shinobi lifestyle.

It was with that thought in mind that Hinata finally managed to close her eyes.

AN: And there you go. Not brilliant, by any means, but I think it's honest, in a way. To me, anyway. If I had to catagorize, I would say that Kiba would be the one who would take missions hardest because he IS so exposed to the emotions of others. Hinata, being the kind girl that she is, would feel responsible for all deaths/injuries and feel that if she had just done something differently, things would have gone better. As for Shino, being the rational person he is, he would keep things in perspective for his more emotional teammates, but stay close to them as well—because even the most reserved of us need to know our friends are nearby when the shit hits the fan 