Hanabi didn't approve of many things, hated even more things, but loved one thing in particular in her life: her sister, Hinata. Her sister was a gift from the benevolent angels from up above, and although their father did not appreciate the sweet Hinata, Hanabi did. Truly, their ancestors blessed them with Hinata. Hanabi – and Neji – were able to agree on that. Both Neji and Hanabi disliked one another with a passion, but they had one thing in common, their devotion to Hinata. True, there were times when they held ill will towards the shy heiress and acted out on it (Hanabi had almost pushed her into an arranged marriage, and Neji nearly killed her) but now they saw the light. Hinata was good. And most importantly, Hinata was theirs.

There was another thing both cousins agreed on. Hinata needed better friends. They were substandard and mediocre at best. They were unworthy of Hinata's presence. No, they were not even worthy to be in the same village as Hinata! From off the top of her head, Hanabi could list several traits that Hinata's friends possessed that made them unsuitable. They were always too loud, too crass, too stupid, too untalented, and much too unimportant to pay attention to. They didn't deserve her sweet patient sister. They were selfish and inconsiderate. They didn't realize the many little sacrifices that her sister had made to be with them, to support them. Hanabi had been the one to help Hinata make food for them when they had their early morning training. Her sister didn't want her friends to train without food, and had woken up before dawn to prepare the treats even though she had stayed up late to read over documents with their father. Hanabi had been the one to comfort Hinata when they had unwittingly hurt her fragile feelings. Hanabi had been the one to train Hinata when they moved on without her. Hinata let herself be trampled over by them. Hanabi hated the fact that Hinata let them do such a thing, and she also hated that she can't do anything about it.

Glaring neutrally at the grand doors that led to the outside world, Hyuuga Hanabi waited for her sister to return home. It was late, and she was a little worried for Hinata rarely arrived late and when she did, she usually found some way to send word of it home so her two overprotective guard dogs wouldn't fret and send out half the Hyuugas in the compound in search for her. Hanabi narrowed her eyes, but this time, she received no news. Beside her, she felt Neji tense. Hanabi didn't even need to look at her taller cousin's face to see the scowl. He had joined her at their usual post twenty minutes ago. Hinata was late. They had stood, side by side, for the past twenty minutes without breaking out into a physical brawl just for Hinata…and she wasn't even on time! "Perhaps," he finally said, breaking the tense silence between them. Hanabi rolled her eyes. He was just so polite, even when they were in private and she knew that he'd rather strangle her. But, Hinata didn't like them fighting, and since Hinata was bound to return any moment now, they behaved. "One of us should search for Hinata-sama."

Hanabi shook her head infinitesimally. She was training with her cell. Although Hinata had long since been promoted to the rank of Jounin, she had made a point to keep in touch with her closest friends, the members of her genin three man cell. It was such a sweet thing for Hinata to do. Hanabi, on the other hand, detested – no, loathed her teammates. When she had earned Chuunin status, she grabbed her jacket and ran for it. But Hinata's team was unshakeable in their loyalty. Neji was about to object, but Hanabi shook her head once more. Despite the fact that Hanabi disapproved of most of her sister's friends, and she constantly reminded Hinata that she had the worst taste in friends, she did consider one man worthy.

Aburame Shino.

He was strong. He was from an esteemed clan. He was kind and considerate to Hinata's feelings. He walked Hinata home after each training session, and always nodded in her direction, acknowledging her. He came over to take care of Hinata when she had fallen ill. He always remembered Hinata's birthday, and he was just so patient with her. Aburame Shino, in Hanabi's books, was the closest to perfect as anyone could get. But that didn't mean she wasn't worried all the same. Hinata was late and Shino was no where in sight.

After a few more minutes of waiting, even Hanabi was at the end of her – already short – patience. She was just about to shout at the guards to open the gates so she could look for Hinata when the gates swung open with a slam. Hanabi winced a little. Perhaps it had been a bad idea for Hinata to train under the Godaime. Although Hinata hid it well, she was run by emotions – and her temper. Casting a wary look at Neji and having a look of apprehension shot back at her, the cousins stepped in stride to meet the late heiress. They were united to better serve Hinata. That is all.

They had noticed that something was amiss when Hinata had slammed the doors open. Hinata never displayed such random violent displays of her strength unless upset or necessary. The cousins finally realized that someone had a death wish when they realized that Hinata was crying. Neji inhaled sharply and made his way to Hinata. Hanabi stayed rooted to her place, her mind whirling with thoughts as she ran over Hinata's schedule and tried to find someone to pin the blame on. Someone made Hinata cry, and that meant someone would have to answer to her – and Neji, of course. It didn't take too long before she found her answer. Hinata had been with Shino and Kiba. The younger Hyuuga heiress was delirious with righteous anger and indignation. She had trusted Shino to take care of her precious sister. After assessing Hinata's emotional state and deeming that Neji was enough to soothe her sister, Hanabi sped out the Hyuuga Compound, aching to exact punishment onto Shino. No one messed with the Hyuuga clan, and no one messed with Hyuuga Hinata.

Shino had felt her coming, so had Kiba, but chose not to do anything but wait. Akamaru whined in displeasure when a strong killing intent permeated the air as she drew closer. Shino frowned. What was wrong? Instead of voicing his thoughts aloud, he opted to patting Akamaru's back comfortingly. Whatever was wrong with Hanabi, they'll deal with it as rational ninjas of Konoha. Of course, his positive thoughts waned when he saw a fist come flying at him. She was so angry she didn't even bother with her family's gentle fist technique. He let her hit him squarely on the jaw as Kiba and Akamaru howled in disbelief somewhere in the background. Surely a mere Chuunin couldn't have been able to land a hit on his Jounin self.

When the second blow came, Shino had already disappeared into a puff of smoke and reappeared behind Hanabi. "What is the meaning of this?" He asked coolly. Hanabi just let out a stream of obscenities that definitely did not become the second heiress of the Hyuuga clan and continued to attack him. There was a reason why Shino never associated with women besides Hinata. They were all irrational and dangerous. Hanabi merely proved it. When Kiba made a move to come to his 'aid' Shino shook his head slightly. He could manage this on his own. Kiba obliged and moved away into the shadows.

After a few more swings—Shino needed time to think too, you know—Shino pieced together the jigsaw puzzle that was his current situation. Hyuuga Hanabi, from what pieces of information he had gained from Hinata and his own brief encounters with her, was always cool and collected. There was no possible way that she would be this enraged – enraged enough to attack a jounin – unless something important had happened. Belatedly, Shino realized that she had always been overprotective of her sister. She'd do everything in her power to prevent her from being hurt, and if Hinata was hurt, someone will pay. But there was no way Hinata had been hurt. She had been fine a while ago when he and Kiba had dropped her off. Hinata was also able to handle herself now, so she couldn't possibly have fallen into harm… Shino didn't understand the situation, and decided to ask the girl. She obviously knew what was going on. "Did something happen to Hinata?"

Apparently that was the wrong question to ask the obviously aggravated Hyuuga. She snarled nastily and flushed an even deeper red. Shino couldn't help but think that she looked adorable. "You'd know wouldn't you?! I trusted you! Why the fuck did she came home crying?!"

"You trust me?" Shino smirked softly, Hanabi flushed – for another reason entirely. He couldn't help but be a little pleased. He – and the rest of Hinata's acquaintances – was vastly aware of her disdain for all of Hinata's friends. But then again, she had treated him much kinder in the past compared to the way she treated everyone else. But then this wasn't the time to ponder about how Hanabi thought of him. He had to get back to the matter at hand. Catching Hanabi's wrists, he pulled her closer and locked her arms by her sides. She struggled futilely, but stopped after a bit. Shino nodded and said softly. "Hinata seemed fine when she left Kiba and us."

"I don't know what you did to her, but she was crying." Hanabi spat vehemently, her silvery orbs glaring holes into him. "I trusted you to take care of my sister. Having her return home sobbing her eyes out is not what I expected or appreciate!"

"Perhaps," Shino said, and Hanabi couldn't help but grind her teeth. Why the hell did he sound like Neji? They were both so mysterious and polite. It was annoying. She was tempted to do something to him – anything – just to make him lose his cool. Shino was oblivious to her thoughts as he continued, "Perhaps, I should arrange a meeting with you to better understand my role as Hinata's…" He paused for a while to mull over his words, "…protector sometime next week? Say, Wednesday?"

Hanabi's breath hitched. The foul words that were about to leave her lips froze. With wide and astounded eyes, Hanabi stared. Was he asking her out? Wasn't he angry that she had just appeared out of no where and punched him square in the face? It was apparent that he had no idea why Hinata had been crying, and she felt even more embarrassed. She had wrongfully accused him of hurting Hinata! And now he was asking her on a date?! Would this even be considered a date? He didn't even ask her properly! What could she say? He was waiting for an answer, and the grip he had on her arms immobilized her efficiently. She wanted to say yes…but then, she barely knew him! He was just her sister's teammate. Nothing more, nothing less…but there was the possibility. Was she even allowed to go on a date?

Sensing Hanabi's confusion, Shino continued in false calm, "How do you feel about Korean barbeque? My friend recommended the restaurant to me but I have yet to try it. Will you be free then?"

"S-Sure." Hanabi said breathlessly. She was sure she was going to faint. But wouldn't that be embarrassing? Supposedly pleased by her answer, Shino let her go, only to reclaim the arm closest to him. She looked up at him inquisitively. He merely shrugged and said, "Allow me to walk you home." Hanabi nearly swallowed her tongue in shock. He was serious! Was he going to date her? Surely he was too old for her! A date didn't mean that they were serious! And…and…

"Okay." She heard herself say and allowed herself to be led by one Aburame Shino back to the Hyuuga compound.

Hinata smiled triumphantly from her perch a few ways off. Shino and Hanabi made such a cute couple. After all, Shino was the only one she trusts with her sister.

Edited: July 17, 2009