Disclaimer – Shino, Ino, and the Naruto universe is the intellectual property of Masashi Kishimoto. This story is not intended to make any sort of profit.

Author's Note – Not sure if I will continue with this, since all of a sudden, I have a bajillion Shino-centric plot-bunnies. But I might as well put this out there, and judge by reader reaction if I should continue with the story.

Spoiler Alert – Manga spoilers.

Pairing – Shino/Ino. Could it ever be anyone else? lol!

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The hospital was quite empty today. I felt as if I were the only person there. It wasn't a bad thing at all. It meant that I didn't have to look after a lot of people. I sighed with a bit of relief, as I sat down on at the reception desk. I eyed a clip board that was placed at the edge of the table, and looked at a list of names written on it.

"Lee, Rock."

I smiled as I began pacing down the hall to his room. He was a familiar face. I thought that I could keep him company, as he was the only person in recovering condition today, but not until later on I realized that I was the one who needed company. It had been almost 4 months since Asuma died, and the others and I have already changed so much since then. Shikamaru grew distant to Chouji and I, completely absorbed in his vendetta against Akatsuki. Chouji had matured in more ways than I could ever imagine. He felt responsible for Asuma's death, and strived to become as strong as him, vowing to protect Shika and I with all his power.

As for me? Well, I wasn't so sure. I feel as if I had never really changed much. I got through the grieving process as anyone else would, but somehow, I stayed my course, striving to become the strongest kunoichi of all my peers, even my eternal rival, Sakura. It was her day off today, and had she been with me today, I probably would have told her off for no other reason than just to pump me up and motivate myself to become better than her in medical ninjutsu.

I arrived at room 1041. "Rock Lee" was inscribed on a piece of paper taped to the door facing the hallway. I turned the knob and opened.

"Lee-kun! What the hell are you doing?"

I beheld the sight of Lee doing push-ups on one arm, the other arm in a sling

"One thousand forty eight, one thousand forty nine, one thousand fifty!"

He turned to face me. His expression, at first filled with excitement and determination, switched to a confused, disappointed look. He stopped his pushups. "Oh, it's just you, Ino-chan."

I was furious. Had I not worked at that hospital, I would have slammed my foot on his back while he was still in his push-up position. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? You're supposed to be in bed!"

He pouted, and sulked back into the hospital bed. He lazily draped a blanket over his lower body.

"Ino-channnnn! Why do you have to be so mean to me? Sakura is a lot nicer!"

That boy really didn't know how to talk to girls, did he? I shot an electrifying gaze at him. "Sakura?"

He jerked at my stare, and weakly laughed, "Oh, ha-ha! What I meant was," and he started thinking to himself, mumbling random things that I couldn't hear due to the figurative steam coming out of my ears, "I thought Sakura was working today, so I wanted to impress her!"

At that moment, I realized that it was the same excuse he made the last time he was sent here. It seemed like he made a habit of always getting injured on missions, hoping that he would be attended to by the pink-haired girl. What did he see in her anyways? It didn't seem as if she had any noticeably attractive features, at least compared to my own. Hell, even Naruto had a crush on her as well.

What about me? Doesn't anyone love me anymore?

I cried on the inside, exposing a gloomy face to my patient.

"Ino-chan, did I say something hurtful! I didn't mean to! I'm so sorry!" Lee began to panic at my expression.

"It's nothing, Lee-kun. I'll be fine." I lied.

For a long time, I was confident in my abilities to seduce men. I had the curves. I had the hair. I had the charisma. I had everything. And I still do. But somehow, I began to think that maybe that wasn't enough. I did my routine check-up on the boy with the bowl-cut in front of me, this time making earnest conversation with him. I said my goodbyes as I left, and promised Lee that I would get Sakura to visit him someday.

I returned to my chair at the reception desk, slightly exhausted by my visit with Lee. Not physically, but emotionally. I guess I couldn't really deal with the sudden fact that I haven't really had any exciting romantic adventures with anybody in the longest while. There was too much change in the world around me, with Asuma gone, Sasuke a lost cause, and Shikamaru still reeling from it all. There never seemed to be an opportunity for anything remotely eventful in my love life. This trend would only continue.

The double-doors that marked the hospital exit slammed open. Numerous medic-nin and others stormed their way in, most carrying with them an injured shinobi or other. It was dreadful. Almost looked like a massacre. I peered in from a distance at the scene, at first with confusion, then with sudden shock. Faces of people that I knew. Shikamaru. Chouji. Hinata. Whole squads of ninja, with various degrees of injuries.

One of the medics looked at me, and ran to me. He was one of the senior staff members, and I technically reported o him, due to his position. "Ino-san. Can you do us a favor?"

I nodded. This was no time to be complacent.

"Good. We need you to attend to one of the injured. He's not in critical condition, but his chakra flow is disrupted. You have to look after him."

I wasn't sure how to respond. I've done practice procedures with Sakura before, but never on live subjects.

"We trust you, Ino. We are running short on staff. I know you can do it."

"Okay, sempai." I smiled.

I was directed to one of the empty recovery rooms. There weren't enough surgery rooms to accommodate everyone, and the air surrounding everyone who had suddenly arrived hung low with ominous dread. I was left alone to wait for a bit, then two other shinobi, both who were unfamiliar to me, carried with them another boy, and laid him on the bed in the room. "Please take care of him." They said as they left.

I stood in front of the bed, not yet paying attention to his face. So many things were going through my mind; I didn't know where to start.

Okay. First of all, who is he?

The boy groaned, rolling over to his side.

"Yikes!" I said, instinctively. "Can't let you lie down that way, Mr., um..."

I looked at his face finally. It was that Aburame boy.

"Shino."

"Oh, Shino. Don't worry, I'll look af-"

He groaned even louder than before, this time grasping hard at his stomach.

"The...Insects...Auggghhhhh!"

My instincts took over. I set him down as firmly as I could on the bed. I concentrated chakra at the tip of my index and middle finger, and used it as a knife to open up his jacket and shirt, revealing his chiseled abdomen. Under any other circumstances, I would have awed at its shape, but it was sweaty, bloody, bruised, all sorts of things.

Most noticeably though, vibrating.

I was scared. Skin isn't supposed to vibrate like that. I decided to investigate. I continued with my chakra knife, and sliced a horizontal line across his belly. Then a little deeper. A little more. The cut wasn't deep enough to expose his innards, but enough to reveal, at the time, the most gruesome thing I had ever seen. Insects. Thousands of them. Eating away at Shino's flesh.

From the Inside.

I screamed, disgusted. I had to swallow back a bit of bile that crept up through my throat. I continued prodding.

"Please...chakra...they feed...chakra..."

Then I remembered what sempai said. He needed chakra. I quickly concentrated on his chest, and performed a few seals.

Pig. Wolf. Ram.

I placed both my hands onto his shoulder, glowing a soft green color on top of his. I concentrated hard, visualizing the chakra flow. It wasn't a problem of recirculation, but Shino simply didn't have any chakra left in him to feed his insects, or whatever it was that he was trying to explain. I stopped. There was nothing he could do. He had lost control of them.

I began to sob. At this rate, he would lose all bodily function and die. I couldn't let that happen. I lost control of what I was doing, and was simply forcing my palm onto his chest, and unloading my chakra onto him. I knew it wasn't going to be enough, but I had to hope. He calmed down slightly, and the vibrations in his torso lessened until it disappeared.

I sighed a little bit, tears rolling down my face still. I continued to feed some chakra into him, but the most frightening thing happened. The bugs began to emerge from his skin, crawling all over his body. They followed the trail of chakra, leading back to my palm. It seemed to have happened all at once, but before I had noticed, they were all over my hands, and they spread onto my arms.

They crawled everywhere, tantalized at the taste of my own chakra. I screamed, but nobody seemed to have heard me amongst the panic inside the hospital. I feared for my life, and then I felt multiple pinches. I yelled again, this time with both fear and pain. The bugs began to burrow, and they disappeared inside me. I felt weird, and lightheaded. I stared down at my own arms, and saw nothing but instantly forming scars.

I gulped, and looked back at Shino. His breathing was slow and steady; he seemed to be ok for now. I felt multiple tingles throughout my body, underneath my skin. I felt my chakra drain slightly, but not completely. Perhaps it was the combination of this, absolute exhaustion, and the stress, that caused me to collapse onto the bed. Right on top of Shino. With the last bit of energy that I had, I thanked the Heavens that Shino was alright. I embraced him as much as I could, and blacked out shortly after.

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Author's Note - So yeah, she's got bugs now. How will she deal with it? What about Shino? Will they be drawn together by this? Too many questions! Oh well, a bit of a cliffie, I'm sorry lol.