I do not own Naruto…

Apart from being worried with Hinata's current situation, he was also sure that his old friend wasn't carrying any money with her – a circumstance that seemed only to prove that she had gone through some very upsetting moments…, upsetting enough to be running aimlessly alone in the night.


He ran towards her and pulled her over. She was falling into unconsciousness. Nevertheless, as he lifted her up, she managed to glimpse the familiar features - the dark brown hair... the dark glasses.

"Shino…" she breathed before darkness overtook her…

It had been a long… long time. He had hoped to see her, longed to see her. Yet, with all the thoughts and conception that had passed through his mind of what and how it would be like to see her again, nothing had prepared him for tonight…

The male with dark glasses leaned against the wall with both hands in the pockets of his jacket. He was standing outside the emergency room, waiting for her – Hinata. She wasn't seriously injured, but she had scraped the left side of her forehead when she fell onto the graveled sidewalk and had also sustained a bruise on her left arm. Apart from that, she had actually fainted. His only thought then was to get her proper treatment. And so, he had brought her to the nearest hospital.

Earlier, he had immediately recognized her from the way she runs… How could he not? Haven't they been jogging and running together for years? Nevertheless, for a flicker of a second, he was also convinced that his mind and eyes were playing tricks on him. When it actually became apparent that it was really her, his heart had raced in anticipation before he brought his car to a speedy stop at the side of the road. Yet, he had not expected to find her the way she was. Hopelessly downhearted... that was how she had looked. And she had been crying…

The Aburame clenched his jaws and tightened his fists inside his pockets. Then, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. It had hurt him to see her in such a state. He had never imagined her to be as dejected as she had looked. For the umpteenth time that night, he found himself silently asking... Why was she crying? Why was she out running all by herself in the still of the night? She wasn't even in proper running attires. Where was she heading to? What had happened to her?

Standing at the quiet hallway, Shino tried to assess his emotion at the moment. His feeling had shifted from raw exhilaration when he found her…, to grave concern. From a kind of quiet uneasiness…, to a whirl of painfully-contained anger.

Just then, the door to the emergency room creaked opened as Hinata finally trudged out. In consequence, the bespectacled male quietly walked over to meet her. She didn't look up. Even when he came to stand right before her, she didn't seem to see him. She couldn't see him… her mind was in tumult. Quietly, she brushed passed him as if he was a stranger and took a seat at the nearest bench.

The Aburame stood, perplexed and worried. What did they do to her inside the room? Nevertheless, he quietly turned and took a seat beside Hinata, allowing her a little time to linger in her thoughts. He could see the bruise on her arm. It was large and almost black - she had fallen hard on the sidewalk. She also had a butterfly bandage on her forehead. The skin around the bandage was reddish and tender. The quiet male clenched his jaws again. He couldn't bear to see her like that…

"Hinata…" Shino whispered, making sure not to startle her.

She gave no reaction, her mind too caught up with thoughts he couldn't fathom.

"Hinata…" he called again, a little louder this time.

She looked up and numbly turned toward the male with dark glasses. For a second, she seemed unable to break out of her thoughts. Then, when she finally came to her senses, she pulled a tired smile.

"Hinata-san," a nurse at the dispensary counter called her name aloud.

Hinata was about to stand up when Shino gently placed a hand on her shoulder.

"It's okay, I'll get it," the Aburame stated as he stood up and quietly walked over to the counter.

Apart from being worried with Hinata's current situation, he was also sure that his old friend wasn't carrying any money with her – a circumstance that seemed only to prove that she had gone through some very upsetting moments…, upsetting enough to be running aimlessly alone in the night.

Hinata slumped back onto the bench before her mind automatically resumed its earlier rumination. It was as if everything around her didn't exist. She was in a world of her own. A painfully alienated, heartrending world.

As Shino walked up and leaned over the counter, a short lady with dark hair gave a smile before holding out two packets of tablets.

"These here, are folic acid and iron pills," the nurse stated politely. "She should take one of these every morning after breakfast."

The Aburame took a quick look at the medication and nodded before the nurse held out a diagnosis paper from a test taken earlier.

"And this is the test result," the dark-haired lady added as she presented the document before breaking into a wider smile. Then, she leaned over and whispered, "Congratulations."

Bemused, Shino stared at the nurse for some seconds before perusing the document in hand. Right at the lowest section of the paper, the diagnosis read – 'Pregnant – positive'

The Aburame swiftly turned his head toward Hinata before narrowing his eyes ever so subtly. She was still lost in her own thoughts - thoughts that he couldn't work out earlier. At that instant, he began to slowly comprehend what was actually going on in her mind as he held onto the paper– a document that provided the very answer to his unspoken concerns. Shino clenched a fist inside his pocket. For the first time since he had lifted her up from the sidewalk, he was feeling as helpless as ever. He could now understand what was actually distressing his friend ever since she came out of the emergency room - Hinata must have been more than surprised with the news. From the look on her face, she was probably in denial…


The two friends sat across a small table in the basement canteen of the hospital. The place was almost empty except for a few patrons in a seat near the counter. Seated at a far corner, dull fluorescent lights glowed weakly down at the two, making what seemed like a somber situation looked almost dismal.

Shino held on to his cup of coffee that had already turned cold. He had been keeping his eyes on Hinata... She wouldn't utter a word. She seemed to have difficulties to even look up. Maybe she was still too shocked to talk, the Aburame thought - too shocked to learn that she was actually carrying a baby… an Uchiha baby. Or maybe she felt embarrassed that he should find her in such a state – injured, sad and at a loss?

"Have a drink," the bespectacled male finally uttered, indicating a bottle of mineral water that had been sitting idly before his lady friend.

Hinata reached out both hands to numbly grasp the bottle. Nevertheless, she made no attempt to take further actions and was still unable to converse.

The silence between them reigned for another ten minutes before Shino quietly asked, "Do you want something else? Something to eat, maybe?"

The dark-haired lady dully shook her head. After that, she pulled a deep breath before looking up to finally meet her friend's gaze. Then, as she slowly caught hold of her sanity, she forced a smile.

"Shino," she called. It felt like a really, really long time since she had tasted the name. The syllables rolled out of her tongue ever so softly. "How have you been?" She slowly crafted a pleasant front. It had been ages since they had sat down together… It would be a shame to let such an opportunity go to waste… even in such situations.


"Kiba told me you've been promoted to… research advisor or something…"

"Senior research entomologist…"

"Yea… congratulations…" she uttered quietly before forcing another smile. "Sounds like a really important job."

"I suppose it is," Shino answered, before silently calling, "Hinata…"

"I'm sure it keeps you busy," she continued, trying to keep the conversation light. She was afraid to hear what he might ask. They had only spoken twice ever since she got married. Both times, it was Kiba who had called first before he had passed the phone over to him and had forced him to talk. It had been nice to hear his voice then. Somehow, she knew that he wouldn't call her by himself. He had never been conversational over the phone… He had never been too verbal in normal circumstances either. Their friendship was based more on their understanding of each other than the most complicated of words.

"Well," the Aburame strained a rare smile, "It's… tolerable."

"You have always been in love with insects... I'm so happy for…"


"Wouldn't you agree?" she continued as eagerly as she could portray. "Remember when you were accepted into the National Entomology Organization? We were so excited for you then."

The Aburame gave a quiet sigh, a little frustrated at how Hinata was trying to hide her own desolation. She was trying to avoid his questions, trying hard not to allow him the chance to show his concerns. They have been friends for more than a decade now. Somehow, he knew that she knew what he was most bothered about…

"I'm fine," Shino finally resorted. "Yes, I was really lucky to be accepted into the NE. I've learnt a lot there and have actually contributed to some of the researches too... My colleagues have been nice… helpful and… always willing to guide me whenever possible. I now head my own team of people. Basically, there are six of us - two women and four men. At the moment, I'm in charge of new species of insects found in the outskirt of town. So… that means I had to do some travelling… That's… basically it."

"And your family?" Hinata quickly added.

Shino stared into her eyes for a few seconds. She was striving to avoid the main question. "They're fine," he finally uttered. "My parents and sis… they're fine. In good health… Kiba, too," he offered, forecasting what Hinata's next question would be. "He's doing fine. The clinic's doing well. He is even thinking of starting his own pound. One that would hold stray and abused dogs… and only dogs."

Hinata gave a smile. "Akamaru would be busy then."

"I'm sure he would be."

She couldn't think of anymore things to inquire about. Her friend seemed to have cornered her as she slowly looked away, not anticipating the stretch of silence that followed.

Thereafter, Shino cleared his throat, "What about you? How have you been?"

She had dreaded those questions. They had been knocking at her door ever since the two of them had sat down in the canteen. What about her? How has she been? How was she supposed to answer such questions?

"Sasuke…" he hated the name. "Does he treat you well?"

She found herself unable to give him an answer. His concern seemed to touch the most sensitive part of her heart. She had to take a deep breath just to keep herself from getting too emotional.

The Aburame shifted in his seat, "What happened earlier? …Why were you running all by yourself?"

Hinata swallowed hard. She needed distraction. Shino's apprehension of her situation made her want to cry. Yet, she knew she couldn't shed tears in front of him. She didn't want him to see her so weak and sad. Stalling time and an emotional breakdown, she uncapped the bottle she was holding and took a sip.

He watched her closely. He knew she was trying to evade the question in hand. Yet, he could see that she was in pain. Sasuke hadn't treated her well…

"Hinata…" he called again after another pause, a little surprised at his own insistence. "Why were you crying?" he asked with an ever-present ache in his heart. "Did he chas…"

"Shino," she interrupted. Somehow, at this point in time, she realized that avoiding her friend's questions any further wouldn't help. Slowly, she picked up her courage to face the Aburame. She was also finally picking up the familiarity they had left off months ago. "I… I have been… fine," she related, tears threatening to form in her eyes. "Fine… until… until recently."

The bespectacled male kept his eyes on her, quietly studying her features, her expressions. He wasn't going to interrupt her… She was finally opening up to him.

"Do you…" she continued slowly, recalling a certain event that took place the day she became an Uchiha. "Do you remember…, during my… my wedding dinner… you… you hit Sasuke…?"

He hadn't forgotten… not at all. But he could see that there was something more to the question. She wasn't trying to be on an offensive side. Somehow, he had a sinking feeling that what he had sensed that night, more than eight months ago, had started to affect Hinata's life… in a dreadful way.

"Why?" she asked quietly.

It was Shino's turn to keep mum this time, contemplating on how best to answer her question.

"Did you…" she continued with much difficulty, her voice shaky from controlling her emotions. "…did you already… already know something then?"

They stared into each other's eyes before Shino softly sighed. Then, to portray his unadulterated sincerity to the answer he would provide, he slowly took off his glasses. He squinted for a second, the lights temporarily affecting his vision, yet he kept his gaze on his lady friend.

Hinata's mouth turned dry, a little hesitant with the Aburame's earnestness. Shino only ever took his glasses off when he's really upset or dreadfully serious. Part of her was hoping that her friend would tell her a lie… Say he didn't know anything at all… Say he punched her husband because he was... purely jealous? Yet she knew that Shino wasn't one to act impulsively. Kiba, maybe. But not Shino. There must have been something behind his actions that night... Something that she had only just recently found out.

"It… it's okay," she stammered and looked down. Suddenly, she was afraid to hear what he might convey.

"Hinata…" Shino uttered softly. "I suspected something…"

She swallowed again to ease the knots in her throat. At the same time though, her heart started beating furiously. She could almost predict what Shino would tell her. Part of her wanted to hear it straight from his mouth. Another part of her couldn't help hoping that he would say something completely opposing.

"Something between Sasuke… and Sakura," he continued.

She could feel her eyes brimming with tears now. Shino's statement only served to confirm how foolishly naive she had been.

Once again, they fell into a stretch of silence before Hinata timidly asked as she lifted her head, "Since…, since when?"

He could see a tear roll down her cheek. It was distressing… poignant. She was really in pain.

"I only sensed that during the wedding dinner… If I had known it earlier, I..." he stopped, quickly putting his glasses back on. Somehow, some things are better left unspoken…

A/N : I've actually started a Sasu/Hina story (to redeem myself for making Sasuke so bad in this story. I've been feeling guilty for a long time). It comes under the title 'If You Ever Know.' Interested, check out my profile for more information. Thanks!

I also need to thank all of you who have taken time to review my last chapter. Somehow, I am guilty of this very, very late update. I know trying to explain the reason behind would not do much to help (and nobody would be interested in my explanation, too. Lol!).

Anyway, apart from all of you whom I've replied to earlier, I want to extend my personal thanks to those whom I couldn't reach.

To panda (took you 15 chapters to find this interesting), anonymous san (glad you like the 'emotions' in the story); hinatafan (I couldn't stop laughing at the 'unholy threesome'); rosvo (being able to drive any reader to tears, made me feel like all those crazy late- night writings were actually worth it); ah (I do agree with you – "Naruto, you coward!"); Dr. B (glad you loved the previous chapter. I hope I still 'rock' after this); bellacarin (as original as it gets? Well, that really made my day) and awsomeness (I wonder if, after this chapter, you would still want to read more of Shino. Lol!).

Once again, thanks for all the reviews!

- softwinds -