Author's note: Okay, this story is a sidestory for my larger fiction Sandstorms and Falling Leaves, which is the sequel to one of my other stories, Desert Flower. If you don't read those first (at least through chapter 3 of Sandstorms) you will be massively lost as to what is going on here. This chapter echoes some of the events in Sandstorms chapter 3, with a focus on what Shino was thinking and feeling at the time since I focused primarily on Hinata's thought in that chapter. Future chapters will have a more balanced perspective most likely as I won't always be writing stuff covered in the main fic. I just felt this was the best point to start this story. Anyway, I'll quit rambling now and let you read it. I hope you enjoy and please review. Thanks!


Chapter 1: Like a Moth to a Flame

Shino hadn't intended to spy, not really. He only wanted to ensure that his teammate was safe. Hinata was training well outside the village with only the much weakened Kazekage for back up. That's why he planted his insects to watch over them.

He never expected to be faced with such an awkward decision. His morning training had been interrupted by his insects reporting that there was some sort of disturbance involving Naruto, and Hinata had run off into the forest. The quiet teen abandoned his practice, having a pretty good idea what had happened since he had been watching the clearing through his insects' eyes off and on. He had heard Hinata and Gaara discussing Naruto the day before and after the redhead's words...

'She finally told him.' The gravity of that thought had brought the teen to a sudden halt; standing on the village wall looking out towards team eight's training ground.

It wasn't the sort of emergency the insect wielder had in mind when he planted his spy bugs and reacting to the situation would give away the presence of his information gatherers. He tapped into the hive mind of his Kikkaichu and the vision they relayed to him had him moving again before he was even conscious that he'd made his decision.

Minutes later he landed lightly in front of his distraught teammate where Hinata sat slumped on the ground sobbing into her knees. Shino knelt down in front of her. He started to reach out to the blue haired girl but pulled back, not sure his touch would be welcome.

Hinata saved him from his dilemma by rubbing her eyes and looking up to see who had found her. Pale eyes widened in surprise as she identified him and her voice shook as she spoke. "Shino-kun."

"Hinata." The insect user said in return, unsure of what to do but wanting to see his gentle teammate's smile return. The shy, stoic teen had never been much for words and they failed him in that moment. Unable to come up with a better idea he slowly pulled his hands from his pockets and hesitantly held open his arms. Shino didn't know if Hinata would accept his embrace but he had to try something.

"Oh, Shino." The stoic teen was shocked when Hinata didn't even hesitate, throwing herself against his chest with enough force to knock him off his feet.

Scooping the girl up and settling them more comfortably against a nearby tree, Shino embraced his sobbing teammate silently. He knew nothing he could say would help so he merely held her and rubbed slow circles on her back the way he remembered his mother doing for him when he had cried as a very young child.

'Naruto is an idiot.' He decided as he continued to attempt to soothe the girl in his arms. 'Hinata is everything a man could want.' Of course, the Aburame heir knew that Naruto was involved with the Kazekage, his spies had told him that much, but it was hard to believe that anyone could turn down a confession of love from someone as beautiful and amazing as Hinata.

Hinata's sobs eventually grew quiet and Shino was acutely aware when the shy girl drifted to sleep, curled against him like a child. With nothing else to do, he took the opportunity to study his longtime teammate, tracing her features with the same gentle touch he usually reserved for handling the most delicate of insects. Her eyes and cheeks were slightly puffy from her tears as he carefully wiped away the last remnants of moisture with his fingertips. That made her lashes flutter but did not stir her otherwise so he continued. The Hyuuga girl's mouth hung open in a small oh as she breathed through it, since crying had rendered her small nose utterly useless for the task. Her long navy blue hair spilled over his arms and tickled the exposed skin of his hands and she clutched at his heavy coat with strength that might have caught him off guard if he hadn't known his friend so well.

Shino suppressed a sigh. Even when she was a complete wreck, Hinata still seemed beautiful to him. He wasn't certain exactly when it had happened but it had been over a year since he'd noticed that he was completely in love with his teammate and friend. Of course, he never expected anything to come of his feelings for the gentle kunoichi, she was fixated on Naruto. Shino knew how determined Hinata could be when she set her mind to something so he sort of figured she would eventually tell the yellow haired teen how she felt. He hadn't counted on Naruto falling for someone else first.

Shino leaned his head back against the tree and allowed his eyes to close as an almost painful rush of hope surged through him for the first time since he had discovered his true feelings for Hinata.

'Don't be stupid.' He told himself firmly. 'Be content with her friendship. She'll never want more than that.'

However, despite his best efforts the hope settled into his heart and mind and began to grow.

Shino felt Hinata's breathing change as she finally began to wake up. He sat very still, almost frozen as he waited to see how she would react to the situation now that she had calmed down.

Hinata blushed and pulled away from him, scooting out of his lap and putting a few inches between them before she managed to squeak out any words. "Sorry Shino-kun."

"Don't mention it." He said, careful not to let any emotions leak into his voice. The Aburame heir wasn't prepared to discuss his feelings with the shy Hyuga heiress, not when she had been so recently hurt by Naruto's rejection.

The girl seemed to ponder his words for a moment before she spoke again. "H-how did you find me?"

Shino blushed slightly and was glad his high collar and glasses nearly obscured his face. Hopefully she couldn't see it. "I had some of my insects watching the case someone attacked you or the Kazekage." It was a perfectly reasonable, logical precaution that had nothing to do with wanting to protect the young woman he cared for more than any other.

"Oh." The Hyuuga girl blushed. "So you know everything that happened?"

Shino nodded.

"I'm an idiot, aren't I?"

The insect wielder quickly shook his head. "No...but you're better off without him." He held up his hand to forestall the explosion he saw swelling in her at his perceived slight to the yellow haired ninja. "He's like a lantern and you're like a moth." He said carefully.

"What?" Pupiless eyes blinked at him in confusion.

Realizing that not everyone thought of insects the way he did, Shino hastened to explain. "Moths are quiet and soft. A moth is drawn to a lantern because the lantern is bright and warm but a moth can never touch that fire. The lantern cannot see the moth to return its attention because it's too caught up in trying to make itself shine. The lantern is so bright that, even though the moth may be beautiful and unique, all anyone looking can see is a lantern and a shadow as long as the moth stays close to it."

The shy girl frowned.

"But when the moth moves away from the bright light, everyone notices its beautiful wings." The young Aburame finished quietly. "You deserve better than to be someone's shadow, Hinata." He blushed again and averted his face so the pale eyed girl would not see. 'I'm an idiot. No girl wants to be compared to a bug.'

The blue haired ninja nodded slowly. 'Leave it to Shino to compare me to a bug and make it sound so nice.' She managed a watery smile for his effort. It really was a beautiful analogy. "Thank you, Shino-kun."

He nodded and stood, offering a hand to help her up. "Of course, I can still put fleas in his bed for you if you want." He offered in a perfect deadpan, knowing she would refuse but hoping the offer might make her smile.

"Shino!" Hinata gasped, covering her mouth with her hands. "Don't you dare!" She ordered, as she giggled a little at the thought.

Shino smiled behind his high collar at welcome the sound. She'd be alright. 'Mission accomplished.'

To Be Continued...

Author's Note: Okay, I'm working on chapter two which covers Hinata's thoughts after the disastrous lunch from Sandstorms chapter