A/N: this was originally a oneshot Tenten x Shino for Minniemousemom! I cleaned it up a bit and left it open for more oneshots.

Warning: Neji bashing (not because I dislike him, but more as a plot bunny. Think of this as how he could have been...)! If you don't like Tenten/Shino, don't read it! I've already promised a future Tenten/Neji fic for all this Neji bashing (I rather like him, to be honest). Enjoy! Happy reading! :D

Don't forget to review!

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto

Tenten stormed away, her hands tightly balled into fists. How had she ever liked him?

She cursed under her breath as practice ended for the day. They had been on the same team for years, and she had always been his pillar of support. But, once again, he cast her ideas aside as if she was nobody. She was tired of him spewing all of his proverbs about "fate" and how everyone was "either destined for greatness or not", as if it was so dichotomous. Her rage boiled as she stalked away from the practice grounds. She hadn't realized how deeply she had ventured into the forest surrounding Konoha—she just needed to get away from him.

"Who does he think he is?" she asked herself,"Just because he's a Hyuuga!"

She immediately felt horrible at her outburst. She was close friends with Hinata, and the younger Hyuuga was nothing like him. He had only grown more arrogant over the years-ever since Hiashi had taken on a fatherly role in his life. It was obvious to everyone that Hiashi was setting his nephew up to take over the clan in his stead, as the leader felt that his daughter was not suitable to be head of the Hyuuga clan. Tenten, however, felt that it was a grave misconception on the clan's part. But, it was not what Hinata wanted to be. In fact, Hinata wanted to be as far away from that post as possible.

"Can't wait to see that mess when it happens," Tenten muttered under her breath as she tossed a few shuriken with the flick of her forefinger.

How had she ever thought he was worthy of her affection? Perhaps it was purely raw physical attraction, she supposed. There had definitelybeen times she wanted to rip his clothes off. Now, however, she just wanted to punch him in the mouth. Hard.

She quickly pulled a scroll from her pack, unraveling her various weaponry. She perused through the array of instruments until she found her favorite kunai. It was worn and the handle slightly bent, but it conformed to her hand perfectly. She quickly threw it at the nearest tree, and it landed with a satisfactory thud. A little satisfaction was gained from the exercise.

She withdrew it with the chakra string attached to her hand, following up with another throw. Again, it hit the tree. Each time she repeated the move, she felt a little better. It helped that she imagined she was aiming for his face. It may have been insignificant to anyone else, but her little display of marksmanship—or markswomanship—made her feel much better already.

It wasn't anything he did, blatantly. It was the way he treated both her and Lee as if they were inferior to him. While he didn't say it aloud, his mannerisms spoke for him. Lee had looked deflated from the overt way that Neji hissed taijutsu. Tenten tried to speak up for Lee, but received a similar lecture in regards to her own ninjutsu. She had been fed up. One hundred percent sick of his crap.

"Each ninja can chose from their strengths and weaknesses what medium they want to fight with," she casually explained. "Lee is excellent at taijustu—far better than anyone in our year." Lee's face had brightened at Tenten's defensive praise.

"One cannot always rely on a single method of fighting, Tenten," he had chastised her, "A well-rounded shinobi should be able to use as many different kinds of jutsu as possible."

She had rolled her eyes at his statement, "That may be your opinion, Neji, but look at other shinobi in Konoha."

"That may be my opinion, but fate has shown this to be true. Look at the failures of our previous Hokages…" And so he rambled on and on.

Tenten had comforted Lee after Neji left, telling the normally cheerful shinobi that his mentor, Gai, was one of the most powerful Leaf-nin in all of Konoha.

Fast forward to Tenten practically mutilating a random tree in the forest.

She gathered up her artillery, tucking her scrolls neatly into her backpack. She turned to storm off, catching something out of the corner of her eye. She froze at the familiar presence: Shino! Had he been there the entire time? She was pretty sure she was talking aloud. Had he heard her muttering and ranting as she mauled the poor, innocent tree?

He was leaning against the tree, his dark glasses hiding his eyes. He was motionless, and she couldn't tell if he was even awake. She walked toward him, seeing no sign of movement. She waved at him as she approached. No reply. She stepped closer, chewing the inside of her cheek as her hands on went to her hips. Still, he did not move or speak. Maybe if she peeked under his dark glasses...

She reached down to pull them up, and was immediately felt his warm fingers wrapping around her slender wrist. She jumped from the sudden, unexpected contact.

"I-I'm s-s-sorry Shino! I c-couldn't tell if you were s-sleeping!" she yelped, her face turning red.

"You could have said something aloud, yes?" he replied stonily. His face remained emotionless.

"I'm sorry," she replied softly. "Were you here this entire time?" Please say no, please say no!

"I have been here since this morning, Tenten," he replied. "Any reason you are asking?"

"I, uh…well," she stuttered.

"Your display of aggression on that forest-abiding tree? Yes, I did witness that. Well, most of it. It was fairly repetitive, so my attention was drawn elsewhere," he replied.

Was that a smile trying to force itself upon his face? she thought. Is he laughing at me? Did he hear me cursing Neji and his future children? "Oh. Yeah..about that…"

"No need to explain, Tenten. We all get frustrated with our teammates now and then. You a little more than others," he said the last part more softly.

He realized he was still gripping Tenten's wrist, suddenly letting go. She found she wasn't necessarily disappointed with the contact. Her skin still tingled from his touch.

"Well," she smiled, "you know what Neji is like!"

"No, actually I do not," Shino replied flatly.

"Oh!" she squeaked, immediately embarrassed. "Well—"

"But, I can infer his character from my few encounters and many observations," Shino speculated, raising an eyebrow, "I'm sure he's not the most amiable person. He has a very…abrasive attitude. To put it lightly."

Tenten smiled at this rare display of amusement from Shino. "So, did it look that bad? What I was doing?" she asked meekly.

"I feel worse for the tree," he said, nodding toward the tree that was mottled with various markings from her weapons. "But, I am very impressed with your accuracy and precision, Tenten."

Her shoulders slumped at his response. Someone was finally acknowledging her skill! Shino noticed her body posture, misinterpreting it. "I am sorry if I have saddened you—"

"No!" she interrupted, "That's…not it. It's just that after hearing him criticize me for so long, I don't know how to respond to praise, I guess."

"Well, you deserve it," Shino said, his tone soft.

Tenten felt a slight flush on her cheeks. She thought it was odd that she had never really interacted with the Bug Ninja until now, and he seemed to know so much about her. It was almost flattering.

"So, uh, what exactly are you doing here?" Tenten gestured, changing the subject. "Come here often to hang out…by yourself?" She smirked.

"Actually, I do. I like the quiet. I also enjoy listening to the insects sing their songs," he began to explain.

"Insects…sing?" she echoed, unsure of what he meant. She knew he was fascinated with bugs, but even this was too much for her to swallow. She realized she was being hypocritical; she should be understanding of his choices.

"Yes. They are very unique creatures. Each sings a different song. It is simple, yet elegant," he murmured as a butterfly landed on his outstretched finger.

Huh? Tenten realized her mouth was hanging open. "Uh, Shino…why do they, er, sing?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Sometimes as a warning in regards to predators. Other times they use it as a call to attract mates," he explained.

"Oh." She replied. That makes sense, I guess. "Do you hear them now?" she asked looking around, but hearing nothing.

He nodded. "Yes."

She moved without thinking, sitting cross-legged next to him. She cocked her head, trying to hear the songs Shino had so eloquently spoke about.

"I…I still don't hear..anything," she said softly.

"Close your eyes," he instructed, his tone stern.

"Like this?" she asked, closing her eyes. She felt silly, but she did as she was instructed.

"Yes. Now breathe deeply and concentrate," he spoke quietly. "It will find you. How is that so? It is because searching for something does not always make it become reality."

Something about the inflection of his voice made her heart leap into her throat. Tenten had a feeling that he was not just speaking about the insects' lullaby. Perhaps he was referring to her desire for praise from Neji or for her longing for just one smile from the Hyuuga. Little did he know that she had long given up on the idea that Neji may one day return her feelings. Her adoration was replaced with wary camaraderie—leading to her close relationship with Lee.

"I still don't hear…wait!" she smiled, her eyes still closed. Slowly, the soft humming became louder, rising and falling as various tones intermingled. It almost sounded like a song…like a musical symphony.

Shino watched Tenten through his dark glasses. Her long lashes brushed her flushed cheeks as wisps of her chestnut locks floated in the cool breeze. He had rarely spoken to Tenten over the years, but he was aware of her presence. Of all the kunoichi in Konoha, he always felt like he had more in common with her. He studied her profile: the tip of her slightly upturned nose and how her soft lips curled as she drank in the musical harmony of the forest. His eyes trailed from her chin down her slender neck as he saw her breathing deepen with excitement. He had never really seen her this closely before, and was curious as to what she would look like with her hair unraveled. He had a sudden urge to unfasten her locks, watching them cascade over her shoulders.

"It's beautiful," she crooned, her lips slightly parted.

Shino blinked, realizing she was staring at him, a magnificent smile lighting up her face. He swallowed. Had she realized he was staring at her?

"Shino?" she said softly, her cheeks pink with excitement.

"Yes, Tenten," he said, clearing his throat and tearing his eyes away from her face.

"It sounded so melodic…as if they were in harmony," she breathed excitedly. He could see tears glistening in her eyes. She was overwhelmed with the beauty of what she had just heard. "I never knew that bugs could be so intriguing!"

"Most do not take the time, nor do they care...to see the beauty in the little things in life," he murmured.

Tenten studied his face. Was he still talking about the insects? She felt a flutter in her stomach at the eloquence of his explanation. She had never really been this close to Shino before, so she took the moment to drink in his features. His porcelain face was smooth in all the right places and angular in others. His dark hair was messy, but it suited him. She didn't care much for his dark glasses, as they hid his eyes, but they also complemented his facial structure. Her eyes fell on his full lips. She had never seen such lips on a man…she could feel her face becoming warm. How was she suddenly thinking like this…about Shino?

"I-I have to go," she said abruptly. She stood, smoothing her hair back as she did so.

"Did I do something to displease you, Tenten?" Shino asked, furrowing his brow in confusion.

"N-No, Shino. I just promised to meet Lee for dinner, and I'm already late!" she lied.

As quickly as she appeared before him, she disappeared. Shino sat there, feeling a small loss as his only companion abandoned him. He was used to being the outcast, the weird one. He was used to being alone. But, something about her presence brought him a small amount of happiness and contentment that he couldn't quite describe. He had never really felt a connection with anyone other than his teammates, Kiba and Hinata. He enjoyed this new feeling, risking a small, unfamiliar smile as he leaned back against the tree. He closed his eyes and listened to his kikkai buzz with the newfound excitement.

"Come on, Shino!" Kiba urged, "it's only a few drinks. Plus, what could it hurt?"

Shino shrugged, he really didn't enjoy a few drinks. He hated social events, as it was always awkward for him.

"Dude, you are going! No chance out of it," Kiba pushed Akamaru back into his house as he shut the door behind him. Shino wondered why he had taken Kiba up on his offer to meet him for drinks. He sighed. It had seemed like a much better idea two days ago.

"Fine," he muttered, "but I cannot promise I will enjoy it."

"Say that after a couple of drinks," Kiba snorted. "Besides, there will be chicks there tonight. Maybe you'll get lucky."

Shino highly doubted it. He had survived two decades without so much as kissing a woman. With the exception of two women, he couldn't think of any who would allow him to get close enough to do so. It wasn't that he didn't think about it, but that he always thought it would happen after a nice night of dinner and talking. He knew Kiba wouldn't understand, so he never spoke of it.

As if he could read Shino's mind, Kiba eyed him warily, "Shino…have you ever kissed a girl?"

Shino could feel his face turning bright red. He was not prepared for such a direct question, and was justifiably caught off-guard. "Kiba, I do not think that is something I would like to discuss with you. Why? Because it's personal."

"Yeah, right," the canine-nin muttered, "That means 'no'."

Shino sighed as they headed toward the direction of tonight's gathering. He looked at the stars. He would much rather be sitting in the forest, listening to the insects sing him to sleep.

Tenten felt ridiculous. How did she let Ino talk her into this? When she and Hinata showed up at Ino's the blonde woman looked her over once before forcefully pulling her inside.

"Oh hell no," she had sighed as she rubbed her chin, examining the brunette kunoichi.

"Stop staring at me!" Tenten hissed, "I'm not one of your glamor projects."

"No, but you are going out with us, and you can at least look presentable," the blonde mused.

Tenten looked at her attire. It was her everyday outfit, as she had nothing Ino would consider suitable for a Friday night. "There's nothing wrong with what I'm wearing," she said defensively.

"No, not if you are planning on sitting around!" Suddenly her eyes lit up, and Tenten's stomach flopped. She knew that when Ino had an idea, it was usually bad. Very bad. "I'll give you something of mine to wear!" She ripped through her closet, pulling out various ensembles.

Sakura arrived to find Tenten shaking her head furiously while Ino held up different outfits in front of the weapons master. Typical Ino. "Well, are we ready, ladies?" she asked, rolling her eyes for Tenten to see.

Hinata giggled, "Once Ino is finished playing dress up, we may be able to leave."

"I'm not playing dress up! I just want to get this girl into something sexier. She has a killer body and is ruining that fact by wearing this!" Suddenly, she yanked on the front of Tenten's shirt, pulling the buttons off, "Oops, guess you can't wear that now."

Tenten glared at Ino, "Not funny."

Ino shrugged, "The black tank top it is."

Tenten's shoulders slumped in defeat. She quickly changed in the bathroom and returned to the roomful of her friends. She was met with catcalls and whistles from Ino and Sakura while Hinata clapped. She felt a blush creep all the way to her ears.

"Stop it, this is embarrassing!" she cried. She could see Ino looking her over, "What now?"

"Something is…missing," the blonde replied. Suddenly she reached forward and unfastened Tenten's hair. "A little makeup and you'll be the talk of the town."

The brunette brought her hands up to her head, "No…I never wear it down."

"I can see why," Sakura breathed. "You are gorgeous! You would need a bat to keep the boys off of you!"

"I can't believe Neji hasn't fallen in love with you yet!" Ino remarked shrewdly.

"I don't care for that idiot anymore!" she barked. She realized her error, "I'm sorry, Hinata!"

"No, no!" Hinata blushed, "He may be my cousin, but even I think he's an ass."

Everyone laughed at the Hyuuga's rare display of crudeness. It was true, Neji was developing quite a reputation for being demeaning and arrogant. Hinata worried about her father's decision to appoint his nephew as the next Hyuuga heir.

"Ok, are we ready?" Ino asked as she placed some finishing touches on Tenten's face and hair.

"Wow," Sakura breathed, "You looked amazing Tenten. Look in the mirror."

Tenten was hesitant to do so, but when she did, she almost fainted. She didn't recognize the face staring back at her. Ino had done a miraculous job on her usually unruly hair. She brought her hand up to her face. She expected bright eyeshadow and lipstick, but found none. Instead, Ino merely used a dab of blush and cream eyeshadow in a shimmery pale shade, and a swipe of mascara. She had transformed Tenten into another person.

"I can't believe I look like this. Thanks Ino," she said softly.

"Don't mention it," Ino replied, amused at Tenten's reaction.

"I won't. But you owe me for my shirt," she shot back.

"I'll buy the first round," Sakura offered, walking to the bar as the three women found a seat. Sakura returned with their drinks. They toasted to a fun-filled night, and immediately began to share the town gossip.

"Did you hear about Kakashi and Anko?" Ino whispered loudly.

"No! But what about Jiraiya and Tsunade?" Hinata offered, looking expectantly at Sakura.

"I'm not going there," Sakura said, gesturing with both hands.

"Ladies!" came the deep voice as the familiar dog-nin pulled a seat up to their table. "How's it-," he started, immediately stopping to stare at Tenten, his mouth falling open. "Holy hell, Tenten…you look hot!"

Tenten blushed as Shino pulled a seat up to the table as well. She thought she saw him tense up when he heard Kiba's remark. Could she have imagined it?

"Good evening, Shino-kun," Hinata warbled, taking a drink of her beverage.

"Hinata," he replied. Tenten could swear he was keeping his eyes on her face. She tried to ignore the feeling.

"So, who wants to enjoy a fun night with me?" Kiba asked, grinning as he sat back in his seat. Everyone laughed, though Tenten wasn't entirely sure that he was joking.

"Get a life," Ino rolled her eyes.

"Help me find one?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Fat chance at that," she remarked, as Sakura snorted. Hinata giggled softly.

"Oh look, here comes Neji," Kiba muttered as Neji approached the table.

"Hinata," he nodded toward his cousin, she bowed her head in return. "Tenten," came his smooth voice, as his lavender eyes focused on her face for much longer than she liked. "It is good to see you out. Your new looks suits you," he responded, not tearing his eyes from her face. Tenten could feel herself blushing. She could see the muscle Shino's jaw twitch out of the corner of her eye.

"Hi, Neji, don't worry about us," Ino replied stonily. She elbowed Tenten.

"Hello Ino, Sakura," he responded, finally tearing his eyes from Tenten's face. "I'm, uh, going to get a drink, does anyone need anything?"

A sea of heads shook in unison as he disappeared to the bar, glancing over his shoulder at Tenten. She refused to meet his eyes, though relishing in the unwanted attention of the arrogant Hyuuga.

Take that, she thought.

She could see Shino studying her from behind his glasses. She absentmindedly traced her forefinger around the rim of the second drink—Hinata's treat. She didn't realize the effect it had on the two men as she lazily teased the cup with the tip of her finger. She turned her attention to Shino.

"So, Shino, any more music in the woods?" she asked cryptically.

He enjoyed their secret conversation, as well as the look of surprise from Kiba, "It is an ongoing event. You are more than welcome to listen anytime, Tenten. If you want to, that is." In his usual manner, his face was a clean slate.

"Wha?" Kiba howled, looking from one to the other, "Are you two…boinking?" He was ready to kill himself if it were true.

Tenten blushed furiously, kicking Kiba under the table. It was Shino who spoke, "I think it is rude to assume that Tenten would do such things, Kiba. And myself, also, for that matter. I thought you knew me better than that."

He risked a small smile at the last comment as Tenten chuckled before sipping her drink. She was not used to the humorous side of Shino, though she rather liked it. Perhaps that was the drink's doing.

The brunette kunoichi stood. "I guess it's my turn for drinks. I'll be right back," she said over her shoulder.

"Dude, she is smoking!" Kiba drawled as she walked away. Shino was not happy at his friend's blatant disrespect.

"No chance in hell," Ino retorted.

"Fuck you, Ino," he replied.

"Again, no chance in hell." Sakura guffawed at Ino's well-placed retort.

Tenten was waiting at the bar while the bartender ignored her. Neji noticed his teammate, walking around to greet her. He raised his hand to the bartender, who immediately rushed to the two.

"Yes?" the rotund man inquired, sweat beading on his upper lip.

"Whatever the woman wants," Neji said slowly. "Put it on my tab."

"Actually," Tenten thought, "I'll have six beers."

She inwardly smiled, knowing it was a rude gesture to order everyone's drinks on Neji's tab, but he deserved it. His face blanched slightly, but he recovered quickly.

"Thanks Neji!" Tenten flashed a dazzling smile.

"No need to thank me," Neji crooned, leaning toward her. "So, what brings you out tonight, Tenten? I've never seen you here before."

She shrugged, "Ino talked me into it. They wanted me to get out and mingle with the crowd."

"I see. Anything…or anyone you like?" he leaned closer. She could smell his cologne. It was expensive, of course. Only the best for Neji. She disliked his sudden, arrogant interest in her.

She decided to toy with him. "Maybe."

He raised an eyebrow, his lavender eyes drifting down her body before returning to her face. She saw the movement from the corner of her eye as Shino left the table and approached the bar. She heard him order two drinks—one for him and the other for Kiba, no doubt. She knew that he had seen the sudden attention she had gained from Neji, and was possibly ready to help her if needed. Again, perhaps it was the drinks making her think that way. Three drinks had done quite a number on her sobriety.

Neji raised his hand, gaining the bartenders attention, "Yes, Neji-sama."

"Two shots, please."

He never took his eyes from Tenten's face. She could feel herself turning red. Neji must have mistaken it for naïve admiration, which was quite the opposite from the rage boiling inside of her.

He is such a pig! she thought to herself furiously.

As quickly as the bartender disappeared, two shots were before them. Neji lifted the small glass, raising it toward Tenten as she took hers between slender fingers.

"To team camaraderie," he murmured. She nodded her head before quickly drinking the syrupy, sweet liquor. She felt her head spin slightly at the sudden intake of alcohol.

"So, you were saying," he inched closer. "That there was someone you may be interested in…"

Tenten wasn't sure if she should keep playing the game or end it there. It was just too easy, and felt so satisfying to toy with the bastard. He deserves it, her inner self instigated.

"Yes," she smiled, leaning toward him, "Tall, dark, and handsome, you could say." She saw the lavender eyes flicker their interest. Hook, line, and sinker, she thought, knowing very well that he had taken the bait.

"Perhaps he returns your feelings?" Neji prodded.

Tenten bowed her head in mock sadness, "No, I don't think he really knows I exist."

"I'm sure that's not true. A beautiful kunoichi like you.." he trailed off, lightly brushing her hand with his fingers.

She felt sickened at his contact. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a change in Shino's posture. She was sure he was listening. She met Neji's eyes, with as much hope as she could muster. Acting had never been her strong point.

"Do you think I should tell him how I feel?" she asked timidly.

He nodded, "I think you'd pleasantly surprised." She could smell the blatant self-absorption emanating from him. She felt a delicious sense of justice at her teasing.

"How do you think I should tell him?" she asked, her eyes widening innocently. Or so Neji thought.

"Perhaps you shouldn't tell him," he replied mysteriously,"You should show him."

Tenten thought about his words, taking in their meaning. What a fucking bastard, she fumed. Her mind was hazy as the alcohol entered her system. She suddenly had an idea. Before she could talk herself out of it, she spun around—grabbing Shino by the front of his shirt. She could see his eyes widening behind his glasses at her sudden movement.

"Tenten—" he began.

Before he could say anymore, she whispered, "Just play along, Shino!"

Tenten pressed her lips against his, holding his head there with her other hand. She prodded his mouth open with her tongue, hoping he would reciprocate. She had nothing to lose, except a friend. Her heart raced in satisfaction when he allowed her tongue to dart into his mouth. He pulled her hips closer to him, hesitant at first and unsure of what to do. She was surprised at his lack of experience, though he appeared to pick it up quickly. She leaned into him, running her fingers through his short, spiky hair. She could hear Neji's sharp intake of breath at the spectacle.

Moments later, she risked a peek and could see he had stormed off. Minutes later, they had still not broken from the kiss. It was Shino who ended the debacle, lightly pushing her away.

"I think he's gone, Tenten." Shino murmured, breathing heavily. His face slightly red.

Tenten gasped in realization: she had prolonged the kiss—not because of Neji, but because she had enjoyed it!

"Thanks," she murmured, embarrassed at her behavior. "Shino, I'm sorry!"

He shook his head slightly, "No, I understand. I was not trying to eavesdrop, but I could hear your entire conversation. He disgusts me."

Tenten was surprised as his fervent vehemence. She felt almost…joyous at Shino's dislike of Neji's advances. She wasn't sure that was what he was inferring, but she allowed herself to relish in her own make-believe thoughts.

"Get a room, you two!" Kiba howled from across the room.

"Your drinks, my lady," the barkeep barked, licking his lips nervously. She gingerly took the six beers, handing two to Shino, thanking the bartender.

"Cancel his drinks," she said, nodding her head in Shino's direction.

"You are quite…shrewish," Shino replied, studying the two beverages.

"Thanks!" Tenten grinned. She was still thinking about the kiss as they walked back to the table to tell their story.

"Fuckin' awesome," Kiba said with admiration, "You fucked with Neji and it worked!"

"Yeah, I guess so," Tenten replied as she finished her sixth drink. She was feeling woozy and dizzy. "I think I'm calling it a night, guys!" She stood, knocking over her empty bottles. "Sorry!" she slurred.

"I'll walk you home, Tenten," Shino offered.

She shrugged her indifference. She had felt his eyes on her all night, and she couldn't deny that she hadn't enjoyed it. Basked in it, even. She could still feel his soft lips against hers. Why was she suddenly so enamored with the Aburame? Once again, she chalked it up the alcohol. They walked home in silence, Shino supporting her as she quietly contemplated the night's events. They reached her apartment and she unsteadily turned to Shino. The moonlight spilled across her face as she spoke.

"Shino, I'm really sorry…about tonight.." she trailed off as she swayed. He reached out to steady her.

"Please do not lose sleep over it. I was glad to be of assistance," he replied.

She slapped him playfully, "You are such a good guy! I'm glad I got to know you."

"And I, you," he agreed. Something about his tone sounded so…sad.

"I don't normally take advantage of my friends, so I hope you don't think I'm like that!" she tried to offer an explanation.

"I do not think ill of you, Tenten. In fact, I think very highly of you and your skills. You are a gifted ninja," his tone was serious. She was sure he was looking into her eyes.

"Shino? Can I kiss you again?" she asked suddenly.

He was silent for a few moments. "Perhaps you should ask that when you are not inebriated, Tenten. You may feel differently in the morning," he responded.

"But I don't want to wait until the morning!" she pouted. "Was it that bad for you? The kiss?"

He studied her, carefully choosing his words. Over the past few days, he had found her more intriguing than anyone he had ever met. Upon seeing her tonight, he felt attracted to her in a way he didn't know possible. When she kissed him, he couldn't help but pretend that perhaps she had meant it.

"It was not bad," he began, "but I do not just kiss anyone. I think it is something that should be shared between two people who want it to happen. Who care about one another."

"Oh. That's boring," she remarked, steadying herself with her free hand.

"I'm sorry you find me so boring, Tenten. That is my feeling about the issue," he replied. He sounded hurt by her indifference.

"You are not boring, Shino," she said, cupping his face in her hand. His skin was smooth and warm in her cool palm. "I think you are very interesting."

"A lot of people would disagree," he whispered softly.

"Well, then they don't know you. Screw them!" she huffed, dropping her hand. She could still feel the warmth on her palm.

"Thank you," he murmured.

"For what?" she slurred, confused by his sudden seriousness.

"For what you said," he pointed out. "Not many people want to get to know us Aburame."

"Well, they are assholes. I rather like you, Aburame," she said, putting her arms around his neck. She could feel her stomach turning at the concoction she had placed in it that night.

"I like you, too," he said as she suddenly stood on her toes, brushing his lips with hers. When he didn't stop her, she pushed her lips against him hard, kissing him more fervently. He softly unhooked her hands from around his neck, bringing them to her sides.

"I'm sorry, Tenten, but I do not think you know what you are doing. This is not what you want. You are, er, drunk."

She looked at him angrily, "I know what I'm doing, thankyouverymuch!"

Suddenly, she felt an urge to empty her stomach. She leaned over and threw up on his feet.

"Oh, shit!" she muttered, wiping her mouth. "Shino! I'm so sorry."

He looked at his feet, then at Tenten, "It happens."

"No, I'm so sorry!" she said, tears falling down her face. Why was she crying? "I ruin everything!"

"How about we get you cleaned?" Shino asked her, gesturing toward her door. She sobbed quietly, unlocking her door with unsteady hands. Her tears continued to fall, as he removed his shoes, carrying them in front of him.

"I'm sorry," she repeated as he began to wash them in her sink.

"Do not worry about it. It was merely vomit," he explained.

"But on your shoes!" she cried.

She slumped down on her bed, leaning back into her soft comforter as anger and humiliation washed over her. It was the last thing she remembered.

She awoke in the morning, the light causing her head to pound. She groaned as she felt the throbbing headache that reminded her of the night before. She also remembered kissing a certain shinobi. A certain shinobi who had escorted her home.

Her eyes flew open. She was still wearing her clothes from last night, but she was neatly tucked into her bed. Had Shino done this? She remembered sitting on the edge of her bed, but that was it. She pulled the covers over her head, groaning to herself. What an idiot!

She thought could hear breathing from across the room, so she peeked out and saw Shino splayed across her futon. So he had stayed the entire night? She inwardly cringed, this was going to be embarrassing. She tiptoed out of bed, wanting to wash the sour taste from her mouth. She carefully closed the bathroom door, brushing her teeth furiously. She washed her mouth multiple times as she risked a peek into the mirror. She wiped the smudged mascara from under her eyes. She would thank Ino for her fabulous make over later. Her hair was unruly, but it had a sexy bedhead appeal. She opened the door, finding Shino awake, sitting up and rubbing his eyes under his glasses.

"You wear those while you sleep?" she asked, indicating the dark glasses. When he didn't respond, she forced more conversation with an apologetic smile, "I'm sorry, that futon is not the most comfortable to sleep in."

"I have noticed," his voice was gruff with sleep.

"Shino, please let me make you breakfast, it's the least I can do," she offered, as she started to pull the pans from her kitchen cupboard. She reached into her refrigerator, searching for the small carton of eggs.

"Fried eggs and…I have fish!" she said excitedly, more to herself. She found cold miso soup as well, placing it on the counter. "And miso soup," she frowned. Was that enough

"That sounds acceptable," Shino answered, as he stretched his stiff muscles.

"You can clean up in the bathroom if you'd like, I'll start breakfast," she forced another smile, hoping he found her cooking suitable for his tastes.

She didn't dare heat up the three-day-old rice; she didn't want to risk making them both ill. She grabbed a few fruit she spied on the door of her refrigerator—she would slice them as well. When she had successfully cooked an edible breakfast, they sat opposite one another at the small, round table. They remained quiet as they ate, with the occasional polite comment interjecting their breakfast. Tenten's stomach finally began to settle as Shino helped her clean the breakfast mess. When they were finished, he stood awkwardly in the doorway.

"Tenten, thank you for meal. It is getting late, I should be leaving now. My father will wonder where I am," he said, a slight frown playing on his lips. She liked the way his forehead crinkled when he thought about something. His hair was its usually messy nest, but she thought he looked…adorable.

"It was the least I could do," she mumbled, looking at the shoes he was holding in his hand. The memory of last night suddenly washed over her. She groaned, "I'm..I'm very sorry about last night."

He sighed, though she didn't know if it was out of annoyance, "There is no need to apologize. I understand."

She blushed slightly as she remembered the conversation they had the night before. Something about him standing in the sunlight the peeked through her curtain and the way he looked this early in the morning made her feel confident.

"Um, Shino?" she said, suddenly bashful. She stared at her feet through her thick lashes as she wrung her hands.

He raised his head, "Yes?"

"I…uh, erm, I meant what I said last night," she replied quickly, glancing at him shyly. She could see his face register confusion, followed by surprise as he quickly masked his emotions.

"I see," was his reply.

She took a step toward him, remembering the feel of his lips against hers. She was surprised at her sudden boldness, and new interest in the young man. Something about him was so…alluring.

"No, I don't think you do," she replied quietly.

He furrowed his brow in slight confusion, and she took advantage of the moment as she stepped close to his warm body. She stood on her toes, pushing her lips against his. He didn't respond at first-to her disappointment. Her stomach suddenly sank, had she misread him this entire time?

As she pulled away from him, she heard his shoes fall to the ground as his hands clasped around her waist. Suddenly, he pulled her against him, bringing his mouth down on hers. It was exactly as he had remembered from the night before: soft, warm, enticing, and exciting. He could feel his heart race. The kiss broke after several minutes, and Tenten smiled tenderly.

"See? It wasn't the alcohol speaking." His cheeks burned red, momentarily. She lightly touched his face with her fingertips.

"Shino?" He raised his eyebrows, questioningly. "There's this place in the woods, where one can hear the insects sing…would you accompany me there. Tonight?"

Her voice was soft as she studied his face, her own heart pounding in her ears. She saw a brief smile twitch at the corner of his mouth as he understood her words. It was where they had first really talked, where she had gotten to know him better.

Instead of words, he answered her by kissing her, more tenderly than before.

It's a date! Tenten thought, as she melted into the kiss.