Authoress Pre-ramble: I am alive! It has been longer than I would have liked, but alas, many things have been conspiring against me! Time is definitely one of them. There just doesn't seem to be enough of it to go around! There's also the fact that work is kicking my butt. And then there's the awesomeness of me getting to pal around with some Muskogee Creek Native Americans I've recently befriended. As a result, some totem information may morph a bit to conform to new information I gather. And last, but not least…my health has been uncooperative…mystery hives covering my entire body for weeks on end is NOT fun.
A hearty thank you to all readers and reviewers who have waited patiently and not so patiently! And a shameless plug for CasaHouse The Code. Go read and review! My next project is a collaboration with him taking place after his fic, and that means you guys have to get him to finish his current story!
Title: An Interlude of Bears and Insects
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, and this makes me sad. It also means I make no money from this venture. Naruto belongs to Misashi Kishimoto. I do own Paige Stone, my OC! All information regarding animal totems was collected from Dancing The Wheel by Sun Bear and Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.
Main Pairings: ShinoxOC
Rating: M for mentioned adult themes
Warning: AU, Post-series start time. Rookie 9 is 23-24 years old. Fic mentions pagan religions, if you can't handle it, don't read! Also is OC-centric. Hold your pants, all will be revealed as the story progresses.
An Interlude of Bears and Insects
She was tossing and turning…again. This made for a solid week of sleepless nights. Letting out an exasperated sigh, Paige Stone kicked off the covers to let the cool night air get at her skin. Squinting to get a look at the clock across the room on the dresser, she let out a frustrated groan, rolled over, and buried her face in the pillow Shino normally used. The clock announced it was only 2:00AM…15 minutes later than it was when she last looked at the time.
To say she missed her husband would have been a ridiculous understatement. Paige filled her days with her new found friends, family, and even a new job, but it was the nights that couldn't be filled. She missed knowing he was next to her. She missed falling asleep in his arms. She missed his warmth and his strength that let her ease her mind and fall asleep peacefully. Aburame Shino hadn't needed any shinobi skills to capture her heart. The two of them seemed to just fit together. And it was this time apart that drove that point home further than anything else for Paige.
Paige rolled over again, clutching Shino's pillow to her chest and let her mind wander, hoping that maybe sleep would come if she stopped trying to turn off her thoughts and just let them run their course. She found herself thinking about the conversation that started her current predicament and also guaranteed that she'd have future times of this as well.
The letter was delivered by courier—probably a recent academy graduate—with the simple instruction of "For your husband, Aburame-sama". The seal on it signified it was from the office of the Hokage.
"Thank you," Paige replied. "I'll be sure he reads it right away."
The courier left after giving a polite bow and another "Aburame-sama".
Shaking her head at her own inability to get used to being addressed as "Aburame-sama," Paige walked back to the office of the home where she knew Shino was poring over paperwork for both clan and council. Her heart was racing. It had only been one month since their wedding and three weeks since the announcement of her pregnancy to the clan and their friends. The message had to be important. The situation just had that feel to it.
Shino looked up from his desk as she entered the room. Tilting his head slightly he asked, "Who is it from?"
"The Hokage," she replied, handing over the scroll. Standing to read over his shoulder, Paige felt as if the floor had been pulled out from under her, and leaned to grip the desk.
Shino turned slightly to lend Paige some support.
The message read simply, "Your suspension is over. You are back in ANBU mission rotation."
"We knew the suspension was temporary." Shino ran his hand in comforting circles on Paige's back. "I'm glad she gave us this much time without missions." He encircled her waist with his arms and she spun to shift her weight to her own two feet again.
"I don't like it," she frowned. Trying to hide her frustration by looking up at the ceiling, she continued. "I understand it. I won't ask you to leave it... But don't ask me to like it." Looking down at her husband Paige tried to put on a brave face. "You're shinobi, but I don't like the idea of you being far away from me…of you in danger, of you being hurt…" her voice trailed off, revealing her emotions.
Shino stood and wrapped her in a fierce embrace. "I do not like those ideas either. But I am shinobi…trained to protect village and clan. I will do whatever it takes to come back to you from every mission."
With that declaration from him, Paige lost her battle and began crying. She knew that was not a promise that Shino could make. He would try, she was sure of that. But no shinobi can promise to come back from every mission alive. That was part of the job…being ready to die for village…and clan.
Sitting up in bed, Paige violently wiped away the tears that particular memory stirred up. Unfortunately she had been a bit too violent and disturbed the carefully hung shelf that was above the bed's headboard. Paige was now buried under a small avalanche of teddy bears. Chuckling at her predicament, she picked one teddy off the top of her head and looked at it.
Shino really was a big softy. Each and every bear was from him. It had started with the one he gave her in the hospital. Paige sifted through the pile of plushies looking for that particular one and flopped backwards, cuddling it after she had found it. He was her favorite one. The second one had been innocently sitting upon her bed when she was released from the hospital early. More sifting through the pile and that one joined the other in her arms. She mused that Shino really was enabling her "addiction" to the cuddly bears. Never knowing when one would show up in their bedroom, Paige had an additional reason to enjoy going to bed with Shino.
She blushed at her first reason for excitement at going to bed with her husband. The sex was amazing! Passionate. Fiery. Gentle. Loving. Never boring. How could it be boring with an Aburame? Shino was stoic outside, but with her, he was open. And Paige reveled in all of his emotions that were revealed to her and his family, no one else.
Paige looked at her armful of teddies. "Well, now that I've made myself lonely and sexually frustrated…"
Glass and plastic eyes blankly looked back at her.
Groaning at herself for talking to plushies…again…her thoughts wandered next to the one bear that did talk back. Matohota's twisted sense of humor always kept her guessing. Paige was thinking of one lesson she got that almost ended up in political disaster.
"Hunting?" she asked.
"Hunting," was the reply. Matohota's expression hinting at the amusement he was getting out of Paige.
"And how are we going to accomplish this, Tiblo? Throwing kunai at squirrels?" she retorted to the smirking grizzly. She never knew one could pull off that facial expression until she started meeting regularly with her totem.
A snort was her initial reply. "I'm going to show you how to build your own bow and make your own arrows."
"Uh huh," Paige raised an eyebrow, "and then we shoot squirrels?"
"Hardly," the bear shook his head and then grinned. "There's a herd of deer close by, I'll take you on your first hunt."
Unfortunately for Paige, what Matohota had hoped would be a quick lesson, took 2 weeks. Work was done in the afternoons since Paige had started her shifts at the Konoha Hospital with being appointed the clinical manager of their psychiatric ward. One afternoon was dedicated to carving the bow. It took another afternoon of struggling just to string it. She left that lesson with a few bloodied fingers and a black eye from sudden lack of tension when the string escaped her grasp. The rest of the first week was taken up with the making of arrows. There was a lot of cursing, but damn if Paige didn't take pride in a job finally completed.
Next was target practice. That week started out easy enough, and similarly to how Shino trained her to throw kunai. Paige attempted to hit a stationary target from an ever increasing distance and then at different angles. The real challenge came when Matohota wanted her to try and shoot the target while it was moving. "Did you think your prey would just wait around for you to kill it?" snarked her totem after she failed to hit her target again.
"Survival of the fittest. I'll pick off the ones dumb enough to wait around," was the sarcastic reply she gave with a shrug and a smirk. Paige knew she should really start learning how to predict her targets movement and shoot where her target will be instead of where it was, but she was also getting frustrated.
This whole "lesson" started when she bugged Matohota to teach her more of the old ways. But the day that stood out the most about that particular lesson was the day of the actual hunt. Paige should have asked more questions, but hindsight was always clearer vision.
It was one of those perfect days, not too hot, not too cold, and not too many clouds in the sky. Matohota lead her to where the deer were foraging in the forest, carefully explaining to her the importance of keeping downwind of prey. He led her to a small bottleneck in the undergrowth. "Stay here. I will drive the deer to you while you take aim from under cover."
Paige nodded her assent and moved to take cover behind some undergrowth. She watched through the leaves as Matohota walked towards the herd and strained her hearing for signs of an approaching stampede. Granted this was not going to be the most graceful of hunts, but it looked like her totem was going for something she couldn't screw up too badly for her first hunt.
A roar sounded not too far off.
That was her signal to be at the ready.
The sound of angry men shouting.
Releasing the tension she had built up in her bow, Paige was officially confused. Closing her eyes she listened and could hear the oncoming deer. Paying attention to her gifts she then felt Deer approaching her and groaned. Paige Stone of the Aburame was apparently on Nara clan holdings. Putting away her weapons to hopefully smooth over any ruffled feathers…or fur, she tried to convey a very large BAD IDEA feeling towards Matohota to get him to stop the chase.
"Why should we stop when we have a chance to count coup against a rival tribe?" her totem suddenly asked from beside her.
After letting out a rather undignified squeak at being surprised, Paige explained. "They are not rivals. The Nara are part of Konoha and our allies." She stood up and waved with a smile on her face at the oncoming angry shinobi. "And I really hope we just didn't start a war between the Aburame and Nara," she muttered under hear breath while still smiling. Spotting Shikamaru she began walking towards them. "As someone who is representing the clan as co-leader, and especially in Shino's absence, I'm hoping we can fix this."
"As representative of the Aburame…does it count that I have 3 kunai stuck in me as compensation?" was the snidely asked question from her totem.
Stopping to pull out the mentioned kunai and inspect the damage, revealing it to be relatively minor, Paige replied, "It's a negotiation point."
Shikamaru and his father stood opposite Paige, flanked by unhappy Nara. Technically the head of the clan was Shikamaru, but he was too lazy to be bothered with clan politics. His father still ran things.
Bowing a little lower than protocol demanded and holding out the kunai, Paige addressed both Shikaku and Shikamaru, "I apologize for our unannounced entrance. I did not know we had passed into Nara clan holdings." She righted herself when she felt the kunai taken from her.
"How troublesome," announced Shikamaru. "I didn't want to have to do anything today and then you two showed up and made trouble." Somehow managing to look rather bored, he asked, "Just what were you doing scaring all of our deer."
Deciding one couldn't really outwit a Nara, Paige replied, "I was being taken on a hunt." Paige gestured at the grizzly next to her that looked a little put out by politics, "Matohota said he would teach me more of the old ways. Although I would have suggested somewhere else if I had known this was your land and your deer."
"There are no other deer in Konoha besides the Nara. We have ensured they have little competition. It was a troublesome thing for our ancestors," Shikamaru sighed.
"Hunting deer in Konoha is poaching from the Nara," announced Shikaku.
The grizzly shifted next to Paige. "I acknowledge the Nara's ability to thwart my attempt at counting coup on their herd and in turn their warriors' abilities to count coup on myself. I do not seek compensation. I am not Aburame and my actions should not be held against them or Taksi."
"He means me," explained Paige to the raised eyebrows she received. "It means little sister."
"You have a talking bear as your brother?" questioned Shikamaru. "How troublesome."
"We wish to negotiate a treaty for hunting privileges," announced the mentioned talking bear.
It was Paige's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Who is apparently good with negotiations…"
Within the next hour the strangest agreement between clans to go into the Konoha legal archives was composed. The Nara would call upon the Aburame, in the person of Paige Stone when they needed to harvest antlers to make medicine. The Aburame agreed to use tranquilizers during the harvesting period. This allowed Paige some target practice. However, at select times of the year, the Aburame were to be called upon to thin the herd and maintain the optimum balance between the genders to encourage breeding. The two clans parted ways, each with what they wanted. Matohota and Paige got their hunting privileges, and Shikamaru had even less work to do when it came to tending his clan's deer.
One successful hunt later, Paige looked down at the deer that was transported back to her little clearing on Aburame land and wondered what next. And to her growing nausea, Matohota explained in detail exactly how to go about skinning and sectioning a deer. Setting about her new task, she was extremely thankful it was late afternoon and well past when her morning sickness lasted.
However after the skinning and sectioning, her totem described her next assignment for the next day.
"You want me to do WHAT with the brains!?"
Authoress Post-ramble: Comments, questions, criticisms? Leave a review or send me an email at and just leave something in the subject line about the story so I know it's not junkmail!