Vanguard and Wasp
(spoilers up to manga 540)

Konoha was in the throes of war. The day had been hell, and Shino was glad to be back to base. Even though he was still working.

He'd been assigned to the secondary watchers post, backing up Kiba and Neji who were in the more chakra-intensive first watchers post. That is, until Neji had gotten a bit too carried away and forced he and Hinata to take up their post. Kiba was 'tending' to the Hyuuga, probably by yelling and asserting his alpha male status. As per usual.

Shino guessed that Kiba was glad for the break from surveillance duty. Privately, he had questioned putting the dog-boy as the first watcher. Although Kiba's skills as a tracker and sensor were unquestionable, the Inuzuka was vanguard material and he knew it. No need to squander his chakra when other ninja were more suited to it.

Namely, he and Hinata: the natural wallflowers and shadows.

Hinata was scanning the area with an air of quiet intensity. He could feel the pulse of her chakra like a low bass through his skin, and the potency of it made him frown a bit. "Don't push yourself too hard," he said mildly. "Remember, my destruction bugs are also scattered all over the area."

Hinata did not waver. But she was ever polite and was compelled to make an effort to show appreciation for the unheeded advice. "Thank you, Shino-kun. But I want to do the best job I can." She took a brief moment to close her eyes. When she opened them, her aura of intensity had magnified. "We're fighting this war to protect Naruto-kun," she asserted. "Failure is not an option."

He declined to reply. Shino recalled Naruto, and wondered vaguely how his father was doing. He had this tickling feeling that Naruto shan't be contained for long, and he's worked with insects far too long not to trust his instincts. He knew his father felt it too.

In fact, Shibi had taken the rare step to actually share his apprehension with the Hokage. However, Tsunade was definitely not one to trust instinct, and Shibi's barely-audible objection to his mission had been dismissed at the briefing. So his father was on the island, with a line of insect communication open. Shino would likely know before even the barrier squad when Naruto escaped.

They slipped into a comfortable silence, and Shino knew it was going to be a long night.

Midnight seemed to arrive quickly. The night was a bright one.

Hinata was sitting cross-legged, leaning against the short earth wall tiredly. Shino had settled himself into a meditative lotus position and was just now starting to cramp. He gradually uncurled his legs, absently asking his kikkaichu to work the kinks out of his muscles. They were sluggish to reply: his chakra was running low.

Hinata looked at him without turning: a purely Hyuuga trait she fell into when her Byakugan had been active for too long. "How are you feeling?" she asked politely.

"Adequate. My insects are continuing to function normally. And yourself?"

"Fine." It wasn't convincing. Shino raised one dark brow skeptically, and Hinata blushed. She motioned to her temples. "I think I've got a little bit of chakra buildup." Which would be causing a vertigo-laced headache.

Shino frowned a bit and moved forward, brushing long, pale fingers across her forehead. He called his kikkaichu to his fingertips and let them pull wisps of chakra from her temples. Hinata sighed a bit in relief, and Shino drew his hand back. "Thank you, Shino-kun."

"It is not a bother. Why? You're my teammate." Shino leaned back against the wall and loosened the telepathic bonds with his insects, relieving the strain on his depleted chakra. Hinata settled in next to him and wrapped her arms around her knees.

"I'm worried," Her words were small in the night. "I'm worried I'll fail, and we will lose the war."

"I am doubtful that one failure would cause all one-hundred thousand the Five Shinobi Nations to lose this war." It was his best attempt at jest.

Hinata looked at him, her lips quirking into an unsteady smile. "D-don't forget the samurai, Shino-kun."

"Of course. The samurai as well."

Hinata suddenly scooted next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. It took everything in him not to stiffen in surprise, or jump back. Instead the only visible reaction was the almost comical raise of his brows over his glasses. Hinata sighed, and he could feel her breath through his jacket.

After the search for the Bikochu two years ago, he and Hinata had often gone bug-hunting together.

She used it as a training exercise for her Byakugan, and it proved to be extremely effective. Enough so that even the Aburame-hating Hyuuga Hiashi had consented to let his heiress train with the "Aburame roach." Shino had never much cared for politics, or what others thought of him (it would drive any Aburame crazy, so they stopped caring early on in life). Shino was just glad for the company. Quiet company.

The pair would traipse the forests surrounding Konoha, often running into teams returning from a mission, or setting off on one, or genin teams exploring their homeland, or jounin playing an advanced game of hide-and-go-seek. They would greet everyone with a soft hello and continue on, searching for the elusive red disk alpine butterfly, or the camouflaged walking stick, or the migrating green darner. Hinata would pack cold lunches and they'd eat after they'd exhausted themselves or located their quarry, and if the day was sunny and languid enough, they might doze under the large leafy branches of Konoha's redwoods.

She was what he had wished for in a friend in the halcyon dreams in his Academy days.

Shino felt her head resting on his shoulder now, dozing lightly, her face caked with grime and dried-off blood she'd missed. Funny, he thought, that we have essentially come full circle. This was just an advanced bug hunt with poorer weather.

Hinata shifted and looked up at him through her Byakugan eyes. "What are you thinking, Shino-kun?"

"Our targets used to be insects," he replied. "Now they are people."

"Are they really, Shino-kun?" Shino paused—and he saw Kabuto in his mind, white Zetzu armies, dead bodies of people he once cared about attacking their precious ones.

She was right, as she usually was in these matters. She's always seen so much more than him.

It's an hour before their shift ends, and Shino was covered in moths.

Hinata was giggling behind her hand, not even trying to contain it. Shino sighed. When his chakra dipped too low, he had trouble controlling the Aburame telepathy. Which meant that instead of precision control over kikkaichu, he got extremely loose control over anything in a certain radius of himself. In this stage of chakra depletion, it meant that the night moths were drawn to him as a candleflame.

Hinata reached out her hand and took a dusky brown moth from his hair, examining it. "What kind, Shino-kun?"

"Death's head hawkmoth. How can I tell? There's a the skull-shape on the thorax."

Hinata nodded. "They say that butterflies are personifications of a person's soul. Swarms of them are harbingers of doom… Maybe you should watch out, Shino-kun."

He was amused. "Well, these are moths, not butterflies. And if they were truly bad luck, several of my family members would be dead by now, not to mention the entirety of the Akimichi clan."

Hinata released the moth, and it promptly fluttered back into his hair. "I didn't know your family tended toward butterflies," she replied.

"Every Aburame has kikkaichu, but most also have an affinity for another specific type of insect, which manifests itself in better psionic control of that breed," he recited. His father actually wrote that particular textbook.

"What's your affinity?"

No one had ever asked him that before. Shino blew a moth from the tip of his nose before answering, "The wasp."

Social wasps, specifically. Most would have pegged him for the solitary strains, if anyone actually knew that much about the apocritia suborder. But they would have been incorrect.

He could relate to the precision of the wasp: one sting, with lethal venom. They were protective to the death, but unlike the kamikaze bees that would die with one hit (ask those fools of the Kamizuru clan about that), wasps were more durable. They persevered. And the social wasps, they understood the hive mind. They understood the drive to protect their queen.

His wasp affinity developed a year after Team Eight is formed. Shino hardly thinks it a coincidence that he was so strongly drawn to a queen-protecting breed after being assigned on a team with a heiress. A heiress with milky white eyes and the frailty of a moth.

Their relief finally arrived, late. The lack of discipline was unusual for sand-nins, and Shino treated them both to his best glare before departing with Hinata.

They both need to sleep. The day tomorrow will be long and bloody.

They walked quietly, not making much conversation, which suited them both just fine. The path split, and it comes to the moment where she veered right and he veered left. Hinata paused. "Shino-kun?"


"I… I wanted to thank you. It was a pleasure sharing a shift with you."

She bowed lightly, and Shino was pleased at the compliment and felt he should return one. "I feel the same. It has been… different since graduating to chuunin. It is pleasant to spend time with you again."

Hinata blushed bright red, but she smiled. It is these moments that they will hold fast to tomorrow when they're killing. "Stay safe tomorrow, Shino-kun. I will see you soon."

He nodded. She turned and headed back to the Hyuuga tent at a steady clip, to check on her clan, to protect her family. It was time for him to do the same.

The day had been hell—but the night hadn't been so bad.


This takes place during the panel in the manga chapter 540. And after it.

I wrote a little Shino and Hinata friendship piece, because there seems to be a severe lack of Shino on the fandom. And I'm a ShinoHina OTP person. This was also inspired/motivated by the awesome "20 Truths About The Aburame" by QuietInsomniac. It's on my Favorites list and should be checked out if you at all are interested in the Aburame clan. And even if you aren't.

Anyway, hope you liked it. Drop me a review!