a/n This has been a really fun ride all:) Thanks for the sweet reviews, I love you all madly:)

Also, I'm having an epic updating fit, and will have updated 4 fics before the weekend: "Better Off Dead," "Song of Aether," and "The Forest" in addition to this lovely piece. Check'm out if you'd like!

Happy weekend, and thanks for being epic readers:)

Updated to the song "The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade" by the Joy Formidable:)

Chapter four: The Mission

Shino stares at Kiba as he runs off to find his bimbo-girlfriend. What the hell was that dog-brained ninja talking about? Shino swears that Kiba is such an idiot. And worse, the dolt just drained half the sake bottle at one go. Did Kiba even care what lengths Shino had gone through to pilfer the bottle? Tsunade-sama and her gooneys had been guarding the so-called "open" bar like hawks; he had been forced to expend chakra, even in his inebriate state, just to get past the drunkard-sama.

Of course, they could have been guarding the bar because Rock Lee had just enjoyed a "youthful" taste of sake and is now "passionately" sparring with Guy sensei, Tenten, and Neji. When Shino had left the bar, he heard rumors that Genma and his cousin Akemi (well, second cousin once removed…or was it first cousin twice removed? He can't remember…) were placing bets on who was going to be the winner. Personally, he had his money on Lee.

"Hey Shino…" Hinata ventures when he returns. She is fidgeting with her glass.


"Well…is there something on your mind?" When Shino doesn't respond, Hinata presses on, "Because if you are drinking like I am, it's to forget something. You know," she calls airily, "I didn't think anyone could be as upset as I am today, but I think you're upset."

"I'm upset?" he mutters. Hinata nods solemnly. "Maybe I just don't like parties?"

"You don't like parties, but you are also upset. Are you afraid of ending up old and alone in a house full of c-cats, like me?"

"You always stutter when you say cats; do you not like cats?"

Hinata chews the inside of her cheek. "I don't like cats. But you are changing the subject."

Shino groans and leans his head against the tree trunk. Hinata is quite forthcoming while under the influence of alcohol. Perhaps he should not have plied her with so many drinks? Shino sighs heavily and decides to tell her the truth. "I'm going to end up old and alone in a house full of bugs."

Hinata wrinkles her nose. "Are you joking?"


"Oh." She sips her beverage thoughtfully, and when she finds her glass empty, drinks directly from the sake bottle. "At least you like bugs?" she offers at last.

Shino's mouth twitches upwards in a grin despite himself; Hinata is awfully cute when she's intoxicated. "Yes, but you won't visit me if my house if full of bugs."

"What!" Hinata squeaks, slamming the sake bottle down on the ground. "That's not true! I like bugs, too!" she huffs. "And I would always come to visit you, even if your house was full of c-cats."

"Thanks, Hinata-chan." Shino reflects for a moment. "The party is dispersing. May I walk you home, Hinata-chan?"

Hinata nods enthusiastically. With slow, deliberate moments, Shino rises from the ground and offers Hinata his hand. "Oh, the room is spinning," she moans.

"We're outside."

"The outside is spinning?"

"Yes," Shino mutters gravely, bearing her weight on his arm. "I'm sorry I gave you so much to drink—"

"I'm not." She smiles at him, her face flushed. "Come on; I'm sick of this wedding."

They stumble through the gates and towards the Hyuga compound. The full moon casts everything in silvered relief; Hinata's eyes glow like the moon itself, and he is relieved that she is smiling and giggling like an idiot. "I'll bring you a hang-over cure in the morning," Shino offers. "You'll need it."

"Hey Shino!" Hinata shouts. "Hey, Shino? I thought of something f-funny!"

Shino is unable to suppress a chuckle. "What?"

"Your bugs don't bug me. Get it? Get it?" She titters at her own inept joke, but Shino finds it endearing.

"Thanks, Hinata-chan." He means it, too. He feels warm and fuzzy, and not just from the copious amount of inebriants.

"See, Shino? 'Cause you are my best friend in the whole world, and your insects are your jutsu, and any girl that matters is going to see that! So you won't end up old and alone in a house full of bugs, okay? 'Cause I won't let you. That's my promise, and my promise is my ninja way, so it's not ganna happen. Okay? Okay!" she yells.

"And I won't let you end up old and alone in a house full of cats," he counters. "That's my promise."

"So it's a deal! Yosh!" Hinata leaps away from his steadying arm and into the middle of the street. Is it just his imagination, or is Hinata striking her own version of a Might Guy pose? Shino might have been deeply disturbed if he had not been so throughly sloshed.

"It's a deal," Shino adds in all seriousness, holding out his hand. Hinata reaches out and they shake on the deal. "You know Hinata, I'm going on a mission that calls for two people, and I'd love to have you come with—"

"Yes! I will come with you! Yosh!"

"Er…don't you want to know what it is first?"

"Oh." Hinata scratches her head sheepishly; then, she is stumbling over her own two feet and falling towards the ground. Thankfully, Shino catches her, even though he is a bit unsteady on his feet himself. "What's the mission, Shino-kun?" Hinata chirps without missing a beat.

"Hunting for rare insects who have the ability to manipulate chakra," he replies, adjusting her against his side. Some part of his mind muses that she fits quite perfectly against him, that it is comforting to have his arm across her shoulders. And it occurs to him that as much as she is leaning on him for support, he is leaning on her. "I think your Byakugan will be invaluable—"

"How long will we be out of the village?" she asks, her eyes sparkling with moonlight and mischief.

It is the second time his usually meek teammate has interrupted him. Not that he minds—it's just surprising is all. "At least a month."

"And it would just be you and me? No sickeningly sweet couples? No Kiba and Miss. Big Tits? No Naruto and Sakura?" she asks with mounting excitement.

"Hinata, I think you've had too much to drink—"

"Shino! Answer the question!"

"It would be just you and me," he answers, amused at her piqued tone. Her voice isn't shrill, but breathless and full of laughter. "I hadn't picked the second member of my team yet; I was waiting. Mother wanted me to choose Akemi…" He makes a pained face, his mouth puckering as if he's just eaten something sour. "But I'd much rather go with you—"

"Yes! Yes please!"

"Hinata, don't jump up and down, we're going to fall—"

But it's too late, they are already falling, and gravity is a cruel, unforgiving force, even for ninja. Luckily, Shino manages to shield Hinata from most of the impact, though he does hit his head on the packed earth. It's all right though; he doesn't feel it.

"Sorry," Hinata mumbles, embarrassed. "I was excited."

"You sure you won't be bored with just me? For a month?" Shino asks, too disoriented to move. "I could ask—"

"Oh, Shino, your head is bleeding!"

"It is?"

"Uh-huh. I'll kiss it and make it better." Hinata's lips glow blue; for a moment, Shino thinks he's hallucinating things, but no, her lips are glowing, and she's kissing his forehead. His skin tingles and he is hot and cold and shivering; it's a very confusing, contradictory set of feelings. "There, all better," Hinata breathes.

Hinata is still sprawled out on top of him, and they are still a tangle of limbs from their epic, drunken fall. She is giving him a curious look; it is the kind of look he often gives to new and exotic species of chakra bugs that he hasn't quite figured out yet.


"Shhhh," she whispers, putting a finger to her lips. "I'm thinking."


She squints down at him. "It's very hard to think right now… Hmmm."

She stares at him for a long, long time. Shino feels beads of sweat dripping down the back of his neck; he can hear the blood rushing in his ears, drowning out all other sounds. Finally, Hinata mumbles, "Well that's interesting." She presses a finger to her lips; Shino finds the movement very disconcerting.

"W-what…?" Great. Now he's the one who's stuttering.

"I think I like kissing you."

Shino stares at her in stunned silence. His mouth opens and closes, but no sound comes out. "O-oh," he finally manages.

"But I'm not sure if it's the alcohol, or…"

"Maybe you're over-thinking it," Shino responds too quickly, with what he hopes is cool logic. "Maybe you should do what feels right."

She nods animatedly. "See Shino, 's why I like you on my team. You always know the right thing to say!" Without further ado, she leans down and presses her moist lips to his.

For a moment, Shino feels like he's suspended in the air, like a dragonfly coasting on a breeze; then, he's overwhelmed with that hot-cold tingling sensation again, and Hinata's lips are on his and—dear gods, is that her tongue in his mouth?

Just when he's relaxing into it, there's an obnoxious barking noise. Shino tries to block it out, but the damn dog keeps barking—

"Oh shit, Shino, are you taking advantage of Hinata-chan?" Kiba growls, his sharp fingernails extended. Hinata raises her head and levels Kiba a heated glare. Shino is left gulping for air like a fish on the end of a fishing line. "O-oh, s-shit, my b-bad," Kiba stutters. "Looks like Hinata is taking advantage of Shino. See I got worried when we couldn't find you guys at the party and I knew how drunk you both were and then I smelled you guys but I didn't know who was on top so…so I'll just be leaving now."

Kiba backs away slowly; however, Akamaru is convinced that Shino and Hinata are having a puppy pile. The giant ninja dog jumps on top of Hinata and Shino and licks the two of them with enthusiasm, crushing them in the process.

"Kiba," Hinata grumbles once she extricates herself from the mess of limbs, "you are so not invited to the mission."

"Whoah…were you guys on your way to…dude, I so do not want to be invited on that mission. Oh shit! Oh shit oh shit. Hinata, were you suggesting that we have a threesome?"

Hinata blinks. "What's a threesome?"

"Kiba," Shino growls, "you are an ass."

There is a moment of stunned silence—accompanied by a thick tension in the air, like the feeling before a battle begins—and then, Team Eight proceeds to break down in hysterical laughter. Shino swears he has never laughed so hard in his life; his sides are heaving, his eyes are watering, and he cannot breathe. From the looks of it, Hinata and Kiba are having similar problems.

When they finally recover, Kiba and Shino ineptly escort Hinata to the Hyuga compound, careening around corners and howling with laughter in the process.

In the morning, Hinata thinks she is dying; she learns that she is only having a hangover, and is relieved. As per his promise, Shino visits her with a hangover cure in hand: willow bark tea mixed with orange juice and a teaspoon of honey. Hinata makes a face while she drinks it, and to Shino's relief, she is only slightly appalled as she remembers the events of last night. She still agrees to go on the mission with Shino and begins packing after the hangover cure works its magic.

Kiba, however, is still not invited to the mission.

a/n author is smiling like an idiot, entirely too pleased with herself. Please review and let me know your thoughts ladies and gents:)