"No need to be pissy Shino," Kiba smirked, glancing over at the bug freak, sitting on a log further to the left. Akamaru whined. He, in turn, glared up at him from behind his glasses. The telltale placement of his eyebrows let Kiba know there was at least a hint of a smile under his high collar.

"Hinata's not with you?" he asked, directing his gaze behind him.

"Nah, she had family stuff," he replied gruffly.

Shino raised an eyebrow. "Something the matter? Your aggravation is irritating my bugs," he said. Kiba shuddered as one alighted from the boys finger, as though to emphasize his statement. "Kiba?" he asked, making it impossible to ignore him.

"Damn it Shino! Do me a favor and stop with the mind reading eh?" he growled. Shino raised his hands in mock surrender, waiting for it to start.

'3...2...1,' he counted down in his head.

"It's just..." Kiba started.

'Bingo.'

"Hinata makes me so mad sometimes, the way she lets people walk all over her!" he cried. Shino quirked an eyebrow, his interest suddenly piqued.

"How so?" he asked, letting his elbow rest against his propped up knee.

"Today, I saw her talking with Naruto-" Shino groaned, "and he just up and left her standing there, in the middle of her damn sentence!" They both frowned as the truth was said aloud. Usually Naruto wasn't so rude. But he'd never been especially polite to Hinata, something that pissed them off to no end. "It's just, she deserves to be happy you know? And for some reason, that idiot makes her happy. I wish...I wish I could make him see what a catch she is," he sighed.

There were several moments of silence before the much anticipated intake of breath. Shino inwardly face palmed, sensing what was about to come. It made his bugs jittery.

"We could make him! Force him to see all the great things about Hinata!" Kiba cried, raising his fist in triumph. His team mate could only sigh, lean back, and watch this blow up in his face.

"I'm interested to see how you plan to go about doing this," he admitted. Not only would it be considerably difficult to get Naruto to delve into conversation with him, but it would be near impossible to get him to sit through a list of Hinata's attributes.

"Boys. I thought I might find you here," a clear voice rang through the trees. Both of their heads whipped to the source, finding a lovely dark haired woman filling their vision.

"Kurenai-Sensei," each greeted, nodding their heads respectively.

"So...hey you guys remember that mission you went on with Naruto?" she asked. They said nothing in response, only rolling their eyes at the memory. "Funny story. I'm afraid we'll have a bit of a repeat." They stared at her blankly, willing her to stop and urging her to go on all at once. "The Hokage sent me to give you a tracking mission," she continued. "Naruto requested to accompany you and..."

"Stop! Let me guess," Kiba interrupted. "Sasuke."

She nodded. "To an extent. There are several people who know his whereabouts. However, they want nothing to do with the public, not in a time like this, with another war on the Horizon. Find these people, and bring them back to Konoha," she ordered, tossing them a file.

Kiba flipped through it catching names like Nekobaa, Aiko, and Etsuo. "And Naruto's coming?" Kiba asked, smirking deviously. Shino had the sudden urge to curl up in a ball and cry, for the sake of both Naruto and Hinata. He could only imagine how mortified his team mate would be when it was all over.

"Right..." Kurenai answered uneasily. "As per usual, Shino will be the team cap..."

"I think we should let Hinata be the team captain this time. Giver her a chance to shine," Kiba interjected.

"Oh, um. Is that alright with you Shino?" she asked, slightly taken aback. He could only nod. If he declined, she might ask why. If he had to explain, she might even side with Kiba. Which would make matters worse for Hinata.

"Fine by me," he shrugged.

"Well, alright then. You leave tomorrow," she told them before taking off, sprinting above them in the treetops.

"This is going to be terrible," Shino decided.

"I'll bet a dollar it'll work."

"I'll bet my bottom row of teeth it won't."

"Kinda harsh man."

Kiba and Akamaru were the last to arrive at the gates the next morning, in spite of waking up an hour earlier than usual. He yawned loudly as he approached, and Akamaru stumbled groggily alongside him.

"Wow, even Naruto got here before me? I'm beginning to feel like Kakashi," he joked. Hinata gave him a small smile, Naruto rolled his eyes, though he was grinning too, and Shino stood there awkwardly.

"Now that we're all here, let's discuss the basics. In the folder Kurenai gave us, it says that Sasuke most recently came into contact with a woman called 'Nekobaa,'" Shino began as they all moved to stand around him.

"We should go to her first then. Right Hinata?" Kiba asked. She looked up, surprised.

"I...I suppose so," she said. Shino grunted, still clearly displeased with Kiba's plan.

"It's your call. You're team captain for this one," he said. Hinata was only shocked into silence for a moment before she began to protest.

"O-oh, but Shino! You're always team captain...I wouldn't know what to do," she admitted nervously.

"Aw c'mon Hinata! You should go for it. I think you'd be a great captain," Naruto piped up. Kiba wanted to laugh hysterically at how well his plan was formulating thus far.

"Oh...well, I guess I c-could give it a go," she relented, blushing fiercely and desperately avoiding eye contact with him.

"Great! Let's get this show on the road!" he said, clasping a hand to her shoulder. Kiba saw her flinch, and curl inwards instinctually. Naruto seemed not to notice as he finally released her and began to walk away. "Onwards!" he shouted, clearly excited to gather information on his 'lost' friend.

"T-that's the wrong way Naruto," Hinata called. He turned on his heel, grinning like an idiot.

"You're already turning out to be a great captain Hinata," Kiba teased, laughing when she blushed and looked away, clearly upset that this had been decided without her. "Aw, don't be mad. You'll do fine," he assured her, smiling at the pout on her face. He flung an arm around her shoulders and they set off after Naruto, Shino trailing moodily behind them.

"You're sure we're going the right way?" Naruto asked again.

"Naruto, quick question," Kiba started, not bothering to glance behind him at the sulking idiot.

"Yeah?" he asked, oblivious to everybody else's irritation.

"Which team, would you say, is the most skilled at tracking?"

"Um...yours?"

"Uh-huh. So stop asking the tracking experts if we're going the god damn right way," he hissed between clenched teeth. Hinata snuck a glance behind her, sending him a look that said 'put up with him a little longer, we're almost there.'

"Alright alright, jeez," Naruto consented, settling into silence.

For about 2 minutes.

"I just want to make sure we're going the right way."

Kiba whirled around, fist raised. Akamaru growled, ready to back his master up.

"We're here." Two words that saved Naruto's life. Hinata looked over her shoulder again, as if reassuring herself Naruto was still intact. Kiba thought he saw her shoulders sag in relief.

"Almost fucked your own plan up," Shino muttered as he strode past them. Kiba and Naruto followed, each ending up standing on either side of Hinata. They were in front of a tiny village, whose gates were wide open, as if in welcome.

"We'll stay here for the night okay?" Hinata asked, meeting Naruto's eyes. He shrugged as he walked past her, muttering to himself. Kiba frowned before following him, tugging Hinata along by the elbow.

The village they ended up in was small, cozy; much like their own. The sun was only just beginning to set, and children still played outside. Their parents watched from porches and doorways, eyeing the four ninja as they walked cautiously down the dirt road.

"S'cuse me ma'am," a soft voice called. They all turned to find a little girl clutching Hinata's jacket. Her bare feet and legs were covered in dust. Her brown eyes seemed too big for her face and her smile was gap toothed. She looked up at Hinata with something close to adoration.

"I fell earlier today. My knee got skinned up, and it still really hurts. Is it true that ninjas can heal people?" she asked sweetly. Hinata didn't answer, simply bent down onto her knees, firing chakra into her right hand and resting it on top of a fresh scrape across the girl's naked knee.

It didn't take long to heal, the cut was so small. But the girl was still grateful, and the glares of the villagers seemed to soften.

"Wow Hinata. You'd be a great mom," Kiba complimented, loud enough that Naruto heard him clearly. The blonde tilted his head in consideration before nodding his agreement.

"Yeah Hinata! Now that I think about it, you really would be a good mom. Kids love you!" he said. She blushed, hiding behind Shino to avoid Naruto's cheerful grin.

'Exactly as planned!' Kiba thought.

'This is going far too well. It'll be more of a disaster than I thought,' Shino decided.

They kept silent on their search for a place to stay, Hinata avoiding everybody but Shino.

"Here you go," Hinata said softly, pouring everyone a cup of tea before seating and serving herself. As soon as they'd found an Inn to stay at, they'd settled down into conjoining rooms, the boys only a knock away from where Hinata was sleeping. Their room was a bit more spacious, the reason they were sitting on the floor there, relaxing. Akamaru, unfortunately, had to stay outside. The Inn Keeper had made it perfectly clear dogs, even ninja hounds, were not welcome.

"Thanks Hinata," Naruto chirped. She only nodded at him, offering a smile but not meeting his eyes.

"Thank you, Hinata." Shino took the cup graciously.

"Hey, thanks. You'd make a great wife you know that?" Kiba said matter of factly, sipping his tea. He tried to smile as she glanced, blushing, at Naruto, who was watching them intently.

"U-um...thank you?" she managed, hiding behind her tea cup as she drank.

It wasn't long after that she excused herself to her room. Kiba couldn't help but notice that Naruto's eyes followed her the entire way. It probably helped that she wasn't wearing her usual unflattering jacket, and had opted with comfortable sweat pants, which hugged her legs. Kiba had to admit, even he couldn't help but stare at the way her hips swung when she walked away from them.

"Focus! The point is, she's catching Naruto's attention! This is great," he reminded himself, tearing his eyes away from his team mate.

Below them, several cats stalked around, as though guarding the place. Akamaru growled low in his throat.

"Nekobaa is here alright," Hinata confirmed quietly.

"Alright then, let's get this show on the-" Naruto was abruptly cut off as he lost his footing, tripping down the incline to the bottom. Hinata, at the last minute, reached to grab at him, but missed and clutched at a fistful of air instead. Kiba grabbed her jacket as they both toppled over the edge.

Doing some quick thinking, Kiba pulled her against him, covering her mouth with his hand to muffle the surprised squeek she let out once she found herself falling. They slid down together, Kiba taking most of the impact when they landed at the bottom.

Luckily, they ended up a stretch from where Naruto was now being dragged away by several cats, and were concealed by some bushes. Kiba kept his hand over Hinata's mouth until the danger passed.

He looked up at Shino, the only one who hadn't fallen like an idiot, and sent him a few hand signals, telling him to proceed with the original plan, and ignore the minor set back. "Stay with Shino boy!" he whispered to Akamaru, who looked as though he was debating whethor or not to follow his master.

"Alright Hinata, let's get moving," Kiba whispered after Shino had disappeared. He stood, offering a hand to Hinata and helping her stand before brushing himself off. "You okay?" he asked. She swallowed thickly before nodding in reply.

"N-Naruto..." she started.

"Naruto will be fine. What we need to do is get close enough to Nekobaa to ask her a few questions," Kiba interrupted. Hinata nodded, and began to stealthily make her way to a window that they had, luckily, landed directly in front of.

"Give me a boost," she said. Kiba cupped his hands together, wincing in pain as Hinata's short heel dug into his palm. He easily lifted her so that she could see into it. "Nobody in there." She tugged at the edge of it. "And it's unlocked," she grinned down at him as it slid up without a sound.

She slid through it, pulling Kiba in with her. They both landed gracefully on the floor on the other side.

There were no cats in sight, so they proceeded into the hall. The place couldn't be too huge after all. Certainly they could find an old woman somewhere.

They weren't wrong. It was pretty simple to follow the smell of fish to a room lit only with one small candle. There, tied up on the floor, was Naruto.

"Idiot," Kiba whispered, shifting closer to his team mate in order to see better through the key hole they were peering through.

Perched above Naruto, was an old woman with whiskers like a cat, and long silver hair. On either side of him were two cats, ready to pounce, and behind them stood a young girl who was probably Nekobaa's relative of some sort.

"So, you thought you could sneak into my home?" the woman started, piercing eyes never leaving Naruto's face. For once, he kept completely silent, only meeting the woman's stare in defiance. "I know who you are," she continued, eyes seeming to soften momentarily.

"That so?" Naruto asked.

"You're Naruto. How could I ever forget Sasuke's description of you?" Naruto's head snapped up at the mention of Sasuke's name.

"Do you kno where Sasuke is?" he asked, fighting to keep his voice steady.

"I'm sorry...he wouldn't tell me anything like that. He's different now than he was as a child. Something in him has died. You're wasting your time," she said sadly.

Naruto bit his lip, holding back a rebuttal.

"Is this it then? Is he finally tired of fighting for this prick?" Kiba muttered.

"You're right," Naruto admitted dimly. "He's not the same. But he's still Sasuke. And so, even if I am wasting my time. Even if I'm a fool for trusting him to come to his senses someday, I can't give up on him." He looked into Nekobaa's eyes, and an understanding seemed to pass between them.

Then a smoke bomb crashed through the window.

"Shit!" Kiba cried as the smoke immediately reached every corner of the room and began to leak out the door. Kiba pulled Hinata back as cats came racing from the room.

"Shino must have realized this was pointless and set off a distraction for us to escape," Hinata muttered.

"Then what are we standing here for?" Kiba cried, grabbing Hinata's hand with one of his and using the other to cover his mouth as they ran through the cloud of smoke and out into the open.

They were at least a mile away before their eyes stopped watering. They stopped for a moment, drawing ragged breathes in.

"N-Naruto," Hinata gasped out.

"He probably...got out himself," Kiba answered.

"Have to...make sure," she said, already starting back.

"What the hell...was in that gas?" Kiba asked as he fell to his knees. He saw Hinata sag against a tree a few feet from him before sleep over came him.

"Ugh. What happened?" Kiba wondered. He sat up gradually, dragging himself up slowly. Memories of the past hour slapped him across the face, and he felt nauseous. "Hinata!" he remembered, suddenly alert. He frantically scanned the area for her, eyes finally landing on a still form a few feet from him.

He moved quickly at first, then slowed down once he realized the only thing that accomplished was making him want to vomit.

"Hinata," he said again, landing hard on his knees in front of her. She was curled on her side, long hair splayed along the ground and across her force. She didn't seem like she would be waking up any time soon.

He knew he had to get in a more secured area. Any moment, enemy ninja could be upon them.

"Damn it Hinata," he groaned, sliding his arms under her. This was going to be hell in his half awake state, but he'd have to manage.

He groaned again as he lifted her up. Despite her petite frame, she was incredibly heavy!

"Sorry Hinata, the jacket is going to have to go," he murmured, removing it with one hand while using the other arm to support the rest of her weight. It had become a training habit for her to wear weights in her jacket. Unfortunately, Kiba wasn't in any condition to be carrying training weights.

He scooped her up once again, attempting desperately to avert his eyes from her...above average chest, scantily covered by a thick mesh top. He swallowed thickly.

"Removing that damn thing in front of Naruto should have been the highlight of my plan," he muttered. He began to run. Slowly at first, only just stumbling along, then gaining momentum and finally finding what he'd been looking for.

Shino had made it his personnal job to make it Kiba's job to survey the land around their target. About a mile away was an area surrounded by thick forest, and caves. Lots and lots of caves. A few were abandoned. One of those few is where he finally laid Hinata down, and stopped to rest himself.

He noted that it was dark outside. "No way in hell am I going out there to get firewood. I'd rather freeze than have my face mauled off by a bear," he sighed to himself.

"Kiba?" a soft voice called from behind him. He turned turned to see Hinata propping herself up on one elbow and staring numbly at him. He was at her side in an instant, feeling her forehead and asking over and over if she was okay.

"I'm fine! Hey...where the hell is my jacket?" she cried.

"I had to take it off to carry you here. Too heavy."

"Are you kidding me? What has been up with you lately Kiba?" she asked, eyes flashing in anger. He sat back on his haunches, surprised at her sudden outburst.

"What do you mean?" he asked after a slight hesitation.

"I've been getting nothing but praise and encouragement from you lately. It's weird. And now you have the courtesy to carry me places?"

"Hinata, you were out cold. What was I supposed to do? You're my team mate," he told her.

"Since when have you cared about anyone but yourself?" she screamed.

"I care plenty! I care about my village, my clan, and I obviously care about you!" he yelled back.

"Name one thing you've ever done for me."

By the time he was done with the whole story, she was blushing from head to foot. Her anger had faded, and she was back to her shy self.

"K-Kiba! Why would you do that?"

"I told you. I care about you," he huffed, turning from her.

She laid a hand on his shoulder, lifting herself up to sit beside him. "Please don't do things like that. I...I don't even like him anymore," she said, voice laced with sorrow.

"Then why did you blush so much whenever he agreed with me?" he asked, not quite believing her.

"I wasn't. I was blushing because i-it was y-you," she squeeked. He rolled his eyes.

"I-I'm serious! I love it when we train together because you're always handing me compliments. What you've been saying lately though...it made me really happy, to be getting so much attention from you. Nobody ever notices my good qualities," she admitted.

He turned to her at last, deep black meeting pale lavender. "Nobody else has taken the time to," he smiled.

"I'm glad you did," she said. Both leaned forward, brushing their lips across each other's once before deepening the kiss. Kiba surprised her by being incredibly gentle, and Hinata surprised them both by pushing herself against him, silently begging for more.

One of his sharp fangs nipped at her lower lip and she obliged him, opening her lips slowly, teasingly.

Kiba took his time, allowing her to play and explore his mouth before he took control, sliding a hand into her hair and yanking her head back as he broke the kiss to bite at her neck and collar bone.

He smirked against her ivory skin as he realized if her father or Neji ever found out he did this, he'd be a dead man.

His smile widened as he figured he'd have to take his chances. This was such a rush, there was no way it was a one time thing.

"You," he managed between kisses, "are everything I said you are."

She reached up to pet his hair. He blinked, looking up to see an almost sleepy expression on her face. He blushed, noticing the bite marks all over her. No way she could cover it all up.

"My father won't be happy about these," she reprimanded him. It seemed she was the first to finally come to her senses. Kiba shrugged.

"It's what dogs do. They tend to mark what belongs to them," he growled softly. She raised an eyebrow, but didn't argue with him. Which he counted as a win.

"Uh...Kiba? Hinata?" They both jerked around at the voice. Neither had heard the blonde approaching, which was a first.

"So...um. Sorry we didn't find you earlier. Akamaru got a whiff of the gas and couldn't smell for awhile after he woke up." Kiba was suddenly very awake, and he tore himself from Hinata's embrace. Said girl was currently frozen in shock.

"Is he okay?" Kiba questioned.

"He's uh...he's fine. What exactly was going on here?" Naruto asked, glancing between the two.

Kiba tensed, suddenly defensive of the small body behind him. He subconsciously moved in front of her. It's true, what they say about wolves. They mate for life, and are extemely protective of their chosen lovers.

He reached behind him, helping to pull her off the ground.

He was still holding her hand when he passed the sputtering ninja.

"What did you get on Nekobaa?" he asked.

"I helped get her out of the place. She told me everything she knew," Naruto answered.

"Good. Let's meet up with the others now. We'll take this information back to Konoha before we try any others on the list."

By the time they got back to Konoha, everyone was in shock of Kiba's blatant affection for team mate. They had begun to wonder what all had happened while they were seperated.. He had an arm wrapped securely around her waist, holding her close to her side. Every once and awhile he'd lean over and whisper something into her ear, a wicked grin plastered across his face. She would blush, but smile nontheless.

"So, who wins?" Shino asked, striding up beside them.

"Nobody. I may not have gotten her Naruto, but the goal was to make her happy remember? Hinata, are you happy?" She nodded.

"That's the end of it then," he said, nuzzling his nose into Hinata's neck.

Neji really would kill him when he saw those marks.