A last minute addition--I've been working on this chapter for the better part of 2 months. And really struggled with it for some reason! I'm still not exceedingly happy with it, but I worry that I won't ever be totally happy with it. So, there you go.
The idea was spawned during another late-night conversation with Rel over the outrageous antics of dear old Lee.
As with Chapter 1, POV switches with the sound effects.
Story: Tactics and Snowdrifts
Chapter 2: Espionage
Warnings: Crack pairings galore. My favorite kind.
Characters: Shino, Tenten, Lee, Kiba, Hinata, Neji, Anko, Lee's squirrel
He could've cared less that Shino was seeing someone.
Well…'cared' being the operative word. But now that he knew who Shino was seeing…well…let's just say that changed things.
"Lee. Look, all I want to know is how long its been going on! You've gotta know…I mean, aren't you two practically siblings?"
"I am sorry, Kiba-kun. I know as much as you! Oh, but what a splendid couple they will make! Alight in the vigors of youth! What will Gai-sensei say when hears?! Oh I am so happy for them!"
"Happy…yeah…" Kiba replied, a cynical smirk on his face. The fact of it was it didn't matter who he was with or why. But…well damnit! SHINO of all people was getting more action than him! And that just wasn't right. 'Ask anyone in Konoha,' he had told Hinata the next day, 'and they will tell you that the world has started spinning backwards if they hear that Shino's catching tail and I'm not!' Hinata had scolded him—well not really scolded, as the only two people who could actually scold Kiba had very large fanged dogs to back them up—and told him he should be 'happy for his teammate.'
Gee, didn't that sound familiar. This weird kid and Hinata had more in common than either of them knew. And that was creepy enough in and of itself!
He needed to do something about this now…or before he knew it he was going to be the only member of Team 8 who wasn't getting some! And that would mean the world had not only started spinning backwards, but it had flipped upside down as well!
But before anything could be done…they needed to know more. Kiba was well aware that getting info out of Shino was going to be like giving Kuromaru a bath…impossible.
"I cannot wait to talk to Tenten-san—I must give my dearest teammate my consent! I do not know much about Aburame-san, but if he makes Tenten-san happy, then I believe we shall be the best of friends!"
Kiba knew this kid was weird. But now he was beginning to think Lee was off his rocker.
Then, as if a lightbulb had just flashed in his mind, a plan began to take form. And if this slow idea dawning in his brain would be successful…he would need someone like Lee.
"Yeah…you know, Lee? I doubt Tenten's going to tell you much, mate."
"Oh, but I am sure she will Kiba-kun. You see, Tenten-san tells amazing stories like these all the time! It is a miracle that she has managed to keep this secret for so lo-"
"No, see that's the thing," he interrupted. "If she was going to say something in the first place, wouldn't she have told you when things first started?" He paused as he let the thought sink in. "Really, Lee, take it from me—chicks don't tell their guy friends about their relationships. Hinata never has."
"But, Kiba-kun, I thought that everyone knew that Hinata-chan liked-"
"Hinata-chan what? Trust me, I have never once heard her speak a word about romance. Look, all I'm saying is that, if we want to get the juicy details, we're going to have to go undercover," he grinned.
"Are you suggesting that we spy on-"
"That's exactly what I'm saying!" Kiba exclaimed, thwacking Lee hard on the shoulder, grin spreading even further across his face.
"I do not think that would be wise, Kiba-kun."
"You want to know more about what's going on with them, right? So, what harm is there in keeping an eye on them. Well, they could need a chaperone after all."
Lee's eyes grew to the size of saucers. "Do you think Shino-kun is untrustworthy? That Tenten-san would need a chaperone to protect her from him?!" Lee cried, the fear for his teammate evident on his face. "Then I will gladly volunteer my services! I would not want my teammate's honor in question!"
That wasn't what Kiba had been going for… "Well, no, Lee, I don't think either of them are untrustworthy. I'm just saying that, uh, well maybe it would be wise to keep a distant eye on them, you know?" he was fishing for words now. Damn, he really needed to think things through before he tried to articulate them from now on! "Just watch them, make sure nothing happens…but at the same time take notes of what they're doing. It won't be spying per se, just…evaluating."
"I see," Lee pondered.
At least he was considering it now. Kiba crossed his fingers. There was no way he'd be able to pull this off alone, and if he had Lee on his team, he wouldn't have to handle all the dirty work.
"Well, perhaps…it is not a bad idea." He paused, then, "How will we disguise ourselves then?"
Kiba's grin was outright feral now. Draping an arm over his counterpart's shoulder and casually leading him to the door of the Inuzuka complex, "Well you see Lee, I think I've got the perfect plan…" he all but laughed as the door swung shut behind them.
"Thank you again for your help, Hinata-chan!"
Lee was not quite sure how he had ended up here. He was also not sure how being covered from head to foot in snow would act as a fantastic disguise. But Kiba-kun had assured him his plan was fool-proof! And Lee could not argue with such logic!
"N-no problem, Lee-san."
Come to think of it, he did not know why it was Hinata-chan that was helping him into his disguise… "I presume that Kiba-kun has informed you of all the details?"
"Yes…mostly," she replied, as she packed on more snow.
He chuckled lightly, "At least one of us knows then! I am still unsure about why I am to be dressed as a snowman."
She did not reply but with a smile as soft as the fluff of a rabbit's tail. She was awfully intent on her work—an admirable quality! She was willing to put forth much effort to ensure the success of their endeavor.
"Where is Kiba-kun, anyway?" Lee asked, turning his head to look everywhere nearby. "I thought he would want to go over the plan again."
Hinata began to pack snow around his torso. "I…I don't know. P-perhaps Tsume-sama decided to l-lock him up again," she replied quietly. Her cheeks were steadily tinting a rosy shade of pink in the cold.
"Ah, that would indeed be unfortunate. I do not want to have to do this alone! However, if I must, I shall do my very best!" He flashed his patented smile, giving a thumbs up with his one free arm. She giggled softly and smiled her sweet, kind smile.
After a few more minutes of her diligent work, Lee found himself covered to his chin in the most wonderful snowman he had ever been part of! He would need to make sure to tell her so-
"I must cover your face now, Lee-san," she said, her mitten brushing his cheek as she began to pack in the snow. He did his best to hold back a flinch! There was no need to worry her, after all, a small amount of snow would not sway him! "I'm s-sorry…I know it's cold…"
She continued on in silence until all but his eyes were concealed in this fail proof disguise! She expertly added the finishing touches, complete with stick arms, buttons, and a bright orange carrot nose. And then, as if in afterthought, delicately wrapped her own scarf around his snowy neck.
"I will be w-watching the area around you, Lee-san…I will try my best to warn you if…anyone could intervene." She was awfully red…he hoped she had not caught cold and developed a fever!
"Thank you for your assistance, Hinata-chan! Wish me luck—I fear I shall need it!" With a final smile he hoped she could see through the snow, he turned and began to maneuver to his position. They were fortunate that Kiba had uncovered some convenient intelligence revealing Tenten-san and Shino-kun's meeting place. And despite being confined to snow being so tightly packed around his body, he found his movement was amazingly uninhibited! Hinata-chan had must have performed some sort of magic to pull off this disguise! Still, he imagined he must look quite strange should anyone be watching him as he scooted determinedly towards the edge of the forest.
He settled into a position he hoped appeared an innocent spot for someone to build a snowman, which provided him a clear view of the area.
Lee did not have to wait long. He had to wonder how whether Shino-kun had been lingering for a while, for he seemed to emerge from nowhere! He hoped that Tenten-san would be equally punctual, but—
His thought process was startlingly interrupted at the sound thump on his snow covered head! His eyes darted every which way as a distinctive chattering reached his ears. A peculiar fluffy…something…was now hanging in front of his left eye! What was this odd flying object? A squirrel! It scurried down his snowy body and began chattering worryingly as it continued to circle him.
Soon it would begin to draw unwanted attention in his direction… "Please, squirrel-san, I beg that you stop!" he whispered desperately. "My position will be given away!" The squirrel looked up at him in a way which he could only describe as indignant. "I do not mean to be rude, please forgive me! But my mission is of the utmost importance! You are more than welcome to join me, if you wish…" The squirrel peeped its apology, and scampered up to take residence on his shoulder.
In his confusion, it seemed that Tenten-san had finally made her appearance. A fortunate happening, as it would have distracted Shino-kun from the near disaster caused by his new ally.
She greeted him with the sweetest of kisses. What a pleasant pair they made! "So, you ready for some dango?" Tenten-san cheerfully inquired of Shino-kun.
Shino-kun's head, which, after her greeting, had been bowed slightly in Lee's direction turned back. "Soon," he replied as he leaned forward to share another kiss. How touching! Lee could not help the smile which mirrored the unvarying grin of his disguise.
How strange…his face was beginning to hurt. How long had he been smiling? He had not bothered to keep time, but the chaste kiss was becoming unnaturally prolonged… And why had Tenten-san nearly jumped on Shino-kun?
His eyes widened at the sight before him.
Such a kiss in public! Was this…appropriate? Would Tenten-san's reputation suffer if such a thing were witnessed?! Lee knew this must be stopped, but he was unsure of how he could possibly interrupt without revealing himself…
At that very moment, his woodland friend chose to take up perch on his long carrot nose.
…And the most brilliant of ideas occurred to him!
"Please, my woodland friend! Something must be done, and I am…a bit disabled. May I trust that you will assist me?" His voice echoed in the cavern of snow. The squirrel quirked its head in a way which Lee could only assume implied his new friend's assent.
"My thanks! I will leave the task in your capable paws! May all your efforts save the day!" The squirrel chirped, quirked its head one last time, then bounded merrily off into the forest.
Lee was not sure if he had managed to get through to the creature, but if past experience served, it was highly likely that his little friend would be of great value!
He did not need to wait long for his new friend to act. As he watched from his remote location, a delightfully fluffy tail appeared at the foot of the pair, successfully distracting them from their previous…engagement. What a wonderful creature! Tenten-san was safe from disgrace once again!
Lee was about to heave a sigh of relief…until the hailstorm of squirrels seemed to completely envelop his friends! Pouncing squirrels fell from every limb hanging above their heads, chasing them away with all their wild might!
Lee watched the spectacle with worried eyes. "I did not mean…that way. Oh I hope no one will be injured."
Tenten-san made certain to voice her displeasure as they both immediately vacated the area, leaving the largest pack of squirrels Lee had ever seen in their wake. How lucky that Lee knew their next destination… How unfortunate that his disguise drastically slowed his travel time. He would need to be careful to avoid prying eyes as he scooted towards the dango shop!
When he arrived, he found them situated quite happily at a small seating area under the local dango shop's overhang. Tenten-san seemed to be chatting happily, (of what, he was not near enough to tell), and Shino-kun did not seem to be showing any strong emotion whatsoever, a characteristic, Lee noted, which was very like Shino-kun. Lee was not known for his skills in observation, so he prided himself greatly that he noticed Shino-kun subtly take hold of his teammate's hand. Lee found himself smiling again—he really did not know why Kiba-kun had been so suspicious!
While Shino-kun and Tenten-san were being served, Lee's stomach began to growl. He really should have had lunch…
He watched them intently, as another patron passed before his line of sight. "Nice outfit, Lee. Say hi to that sensei of yours for me, yeah?" Mitarashi Anko-san said as she walked away with a wave, a skewer of dango between her teeth. How had she known it was him?!
Slightly disconcerted, he directed his attention back to his charges. Tenten-san was currently feeding her own dango to Shino-kun.
Tenten-san never shares her food! She must be feeling ill… And now she would be getting Shino-kun sick too! He watched as Shino-kun gladly accepted the delicate dumplings. "That cannot be sanitary!"
He had not realized he had said the latter aloud until Shino-kun turned his face in his direction. Oh no! Had he let himself be discovered! He forced himself to stare straight ahead. There was a chance Shino-kun may believe it had been another patron.
How was it that the simplest discomforts always chose the most inconvenient times to affect him? The biting cold was beginning to sting his eyes, and he found himself fighting the urge to blink. Finally, Shino-kun turned his head again, but as Lee could not see his eyes, he was uncertain if he was still being watched… But the pain had become unbearable, and he could not fight the inevitable blink.
Oh how he hoped Shino-kun had not seen.
He continued to watch the pair as they enjoyed their meal, and once they finished, watched as they strolled in the direction of the nearby park.
He scooted along behind, but never too close to be spotted. When they finally reached the park, they took up residence on a remote park bench. Lee decided it would be wisest to stay out of sight, even despite his perfect disguise. The incident at the dango shop had him concerned of Shino-kun's suspicions.
Picking a spot on a more publicly traveled path, yet still near enough to complete his mission, he watched as they seemed to merely take enjoyment in each other's company. Speaking amicably, and still surreptitiously holding hands, Lee was certain that theirs was a Springtime which bloomed even more soundly in the winter!
"Lee. What the hell are you doing?"
He had not heard him approach from behind.
Lee was so nervous, he began to sweat! It was vastly important that he not blow his cover! Tenten-san would be so displeased with him… Perhaps if he continued to stare straight forward, Neji-kun would leave him be…
"You know I can see right through that disguise."
Drat. He supposed that was true… "Ah, Neji-kun, could you please step to your left? You are currently impeding my line of sight—I cannot complete my mission."
The appearance on Neji-kun's face had become quite exasperated. "What mission?" He stepped aside to glance behind him. The understanding began to dawn on his face. Whipping his head back, he not-so-subtly stared directly over Lee's head. "Are you…spying on them?!"
"Not spying, Neji-kun! More like…evaluating," Lee quoted Kiba-kun.
Lee could feel Neji-kun's tension through the layers of snow. "Explain to me. WHY would you want to stare at THAT all day. It's emotionally scarring enough just to know it's happening…"
Lee was about to respond until he realized his honored rival had already turned away. Emotionally scarring? From what he had seen so far today, there had not been anything which would scar him! In fact, it was more endearing than scarring!
It took Lee a few moments to discern why his vision had suddenly gone from upright, to sideways. He must have lost his balance! Or perhaps Neji-kun had bumped him as he left… If he did not remain undercover, he would have yelled out to Neji-kun to come to his aid, but judging by the steadily receding sound of his rival's footsteps, it was probably too late anyway.
His line of sight was vastly narrowed…he could not see any higher than Tenten-san and Shino-kun's ankles. Ankles which were now moving.
And towards him!
Oh how he hoped his feet were not exposed…
Silently, he pleaded that they would not think anything of a fallen snowman on the side of the road…or that they would not see him at all… He was beginning to think the latter was surprisingly likely, as Tenten-san's feet were still centered in his range of visibility. And steady approaching from barely a meter away.
Oh dear. He cringed as he braced for impact!
Shino had been aware of their emissary from the beginning. It was not until the incident at the dango shop that he had been fully able to determine the identity. And as he was well aware that Lee meant them no harm, it did not seem an important matter to mention to Tenten. Not to mention the fact that he knew her reaction would be…violent.
In fact, he found himself sympathizing with the boy as he flailed around like a ragdoll in Tenten's hands, snow flying in every direction.
"What the hell were you thinking, Lee?! How long were you following us like that?! I'd think you'd respect our privacy!"
Perhaps he should feel offended as Tenten did. But she was serving a much more efficient punishment than he would be willing. It was also clear there were external forces to blame. Lee was an odd one, this much was certain. However, he would never have come up with something so idiotic on his own.
He consciously chose not to, rather than failed to, acknowledge the new presence that had joined their midst.
"Hey Shino, what's shakin'?"
"Kiba. You have bathed."
"Yeah, well, Hana wouldn't let me out of her sight till her dogs were clean…she swears I owed her a favor, which DIDN'T by the way. You can't wash the dogs without washing yourself too…"
"I believe you will…owe Lee a favor soon." Shino studied his teammate's reaction. He had started at the mention of Lee's name, but it appeared he had not so much as noticed the chaos five feet to his right.
Until a carrot-nose to the head knocked him off his feet.
"Whoa! What the heck's going on here?"
"I should think that would be obvious to you."
Kiba watched the spectacle with wide eyes. Tenten had given up on shaking sense into Lee, and was moments away from beating him into the snow. "Heh, uhm. Obvious? Why would Tenten beating up Lee be obvious?" he asked as he vainly attempted to stand.
"Why?" Shino loomed over his fallen teammate. "You told him to spy."
His expression was a sorry attempt at covering the truth. "Spy? Me? On who? You and Tenten? I would never drea-"
Kiba would think again before subjecting anyone to his dirty work.
He would also think twice about letting Akamaru urinate wherever he pleased.
A dawning comprehension and immediate fear painted Kiba's features as the kikkai hovered ominously over his head, laden with a burden of ominously colored snow. He attempted vainly to dislodge himself from under Shino's foot.
It would seem Kiba would need another bath. Shino would be certain to inform Hana-san.
Now, however, he must rescue another conspirator before he found himself the subject of Tenten's target practice.
"You were SPYING on us? Ugh…can't a girl get a private moment with her boyfriend once in a while?!"
"I was not intending to spy, Tenten-san! I was…" he fumbled for the words, "…making myself available should something go awry!"
She stopped beating him into the ground long enough to instill the fear for what could come next.
"You mean to tell me you were protecting my honor…" Lee nodded his head vigorously, "…dressed as a SNOWMAN. Lee! My honor does not need your protection!"
And with that, she stood, turned on her heel and all but launched herself at Shino. 'Her teammates were worried about her honor? They should be worried about his!' she thought maniacally as she showed just how close she could get to him.
In her mind's eye, Lee's expression read of shock, confusion, and violated innocence as she indulged in the extremely rare public display.
Too bad Neji wasn't there.
Just around the corner, and already disgruntled Neji nearly tripped over his own feet.
It was time to gouge out the Byakugan. They weren't worth this.
For the first time in his life, Neji found his thoughts mirrored the Inuzuka's expression (which he managed to catch just before hastily deactivating his family's signature ability): a copious mix of emotions ranging from appalled to incredulous.
As he silently tried to smooth the broken pieces of his brain back into place, he was unceremoniously interrupted as a familiar chakra signature blew passed him.
"Lee-san! Are you ok?"
He knew it was a mistake to reactivate the Byakugan before he did it… There, stooping to aid the green maniac, was Neji's own dear cousin.
"I-I am sorry, Lee-san! I f-failed to warn you!"
"Do not worry yourself, Hinata-chan! I am alright! I am sorry about your wonderful disguise though...the snowman seems to have met a most unfortunate end!"
Forget his already emotionally fragile mind breaking. Never mind the horrifically cold temperatures.
Neji's brain had officially melted.