Author: Goldberry PM
Balance. Equilibrium. Or the lack thereof. [Team Gai, NejiTen]Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Humor - Words: 2,700 - Reviews: 89 - Favs: 221 - Follows: 23 - Published: 05-05-05 - id: 2381473
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Notes: OMG, total, pointless, romantic fluff. I blame on it the giddiness that comes with the end of the semester. XDXD
Tenten sat down on the edge of her pristine bed with a grateful sigh, allowing her eyes to travel over the lovely hotel room as Neji and Lee came in with their suitcases. They had traveled two hours to get there. "There" being the resort that Gai-sensei had arranged for them to visit. "A mission of love" he had called it, and there was no changing his mind when it came to missions. The reason behind the whole trip was Tenten herself.
She had fallen ill during a previous mission which had required insane amounts of time in the pouring down rain, ending with her in bed for almost three days. She was up to doing light exercise now but her energy level was still very low and since Gai had been sent on a mission that weekend, he had decided that Neji and Lee absolutely must take her to a certain resort where "she will flourish like a summer flower in the prime of youth once again!".
Tenten didn't feel much like a flower. No, she felt as weak as a day old kitten after all the traveling and she was frustrated at how long it was taking her body to recover. Lee's constant enthusiasm wasn't really helping either.
"WOW! This is the perfect place for Tenten to restore her youthful vigor!" he crowed, dropping his bags in order to clench a fist of victory. Neji gave him a disdainful look and set down his own suitcase, as well as hers. The Hyuuga had been surprisingly attentive, though reserved, through Tenten's sickness, snapping coldly at Gai or Lee when their supremely jovial natures wore her out. It had someone made her feel… special, his attention. Even now, she found him watching her expressionlessly.
"Are you alright?"
She opened her mouth to reply but was interrupted by Lee suddenly racing to her side, clasping both of her hands earnestly, a worried look on his comical face. "Yes, are you feeling alright? Tired? Hungry? You should probably eat some vegetables, they will-"
Tenten cut him off gently, knowing he meant well. "I'm alright, Lee, really. I think I'll just take a bath before dinner…" Barely had the words left her mouth then he snapped to attention, saluting her smartly.
"Fear not, Tenten! I will go and draw your bath for you! Don't move an inch!"
She smiled wryly at his retreating back and then turned to look for her other teammate, finding Neji thumbing through the dinner menu for that evening. Just a glance at the cover told her Gai had spared no expense at getting them that room, despite the fact that there was only two beds and three of them. They had all shared sleeping spaces before, but with her sick, it would be better for her to have a bed to herself, leaving Neji with Lee, something that would not be happening in her lifetime. On the way over to the hotel, Neji had simply replied that he would sleep on the floor, something that didn't sit quite right with her. After all, they were at a resort.
Rising from the bed, she went to her suitcase, reaching down to heft it onto her bed when Neji was abruptly at her side, lifting it easily and without comment. She put her hands on her hips.
"Neji, you didn't have to…" She trailed off when his eyes met hers.
"I know," he said simply, and went back to reading his menu. Surprised, it took her a minute to drag her gaze away from him and dig out a change of clothes, zipping her suitcase shut just as Lee emerged from the bathroom, soap bubbles in his hair.
"Your bath is ready, Tenten!" he yelled happily. She winced at the volume and patted him on the shoulder as she passed.
"Thank you, Lee. I won't be long."
Once inside, she shut the door to the bathroom with a sigh, breathing in the fragrant air coming off the scented water. Stripping with as much speed as she could muster, she unraveled her hair from it buns and stepped lightly into the tub, wincing a little at the temperature. It felt a bit hotter than usual but that could be because of her sensitive skin after her illness. In any case, she sank into the water carefully, closing her eyes in bliss amidst mountains of bubbles.
The serene moment only lasted a few minutes though, and her eyes jerked open as the door to the bathroom crashed against the wall, Lee hurrying inside as if she were not completely naked. Making sure there were enough strategically placed bubbles as to cover her, she sank a little deeper in the water, wondering again why she suddenly felt so hot.
"Tenten! Are you alright? Has your burning flame of youth been doused by-"
"Lee!" she said irritably. "Really, you have to stop checking on me every five seconds. I'm perfectly fine! I-"
And then Neji was striding into the bathroom, his dangerous glare searing Lee to cinders where he stood. "Lee! What do you think you're doing?" His voice was tight and Tenten noticed that he kept his eyes averted from her like a gentleman.
Lee looked honestly surprised. "I just wanted to make sure that our teammate was-"
Neji's eyes narrowed. "NOT while she's bathing, Lee."
Again, Lee looked confused. "But, Neji, it's only Tenten…"
Tenten's eyebrow twitched. Only? What did he mean by only?
Suddenly, the water seemed much too hot and she realized she could feel her heart thudding in her chest, beating fast. The steam from the water stuck to her skin and hair and made breathing difficult. Her vision swam and she felt a little light-headed.
Hearing Neji and Lee still arguing, she reached out for the side of the tub and tried to sit up a little, her fingers shaking with her still depleted energy reserves. She gasped as the temperature suddenly became unbearable.
"Neji…" she said, weakly, disoriented, and felt his attention shift to her. "I think I'm… the water…"
The Hyuuga quickly grabbed a towel, still glaring at Lee over his shoulder as he came to her. "Lee, you made the water too hot. Get out."
When the other boy had left, still spouting apologies, Neji knelt by the tub, a concerned note in his voice as he spoke carefully. "Can you stand?"
She nodded haltingly. "I think so." She wasn't concerned about the fact that, in a few seconds, she would be completely naked in front of him. She trusted Neji and they had certainly seen a great deal of each other during their years together. Still, they weren't thirteen anymore and, if the pale tint on Neji's cheeks was any indication, he was very aware of that.
However, it was either get out of the bath or pass out and possibly drown. Tenten went for the former.
She stood slowly, water rushing off her body, and when she had straightened all the way, Neji wrapped the towel around her in one smooth motion. The action, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), knocked her off balance and she fell against him, the upper part of her body against his chest.
For one perfect moment, they stayed that way, neither of them speaking. Then Neji's arms tightened around her and he lifted her bodily from the tub, setting her on her feet gently and releasing her by stepping back.
"Will you be alright by yourself?" he asked, his gaze fixed on anything besides her. She held the towel a little closer to her body and hoped her face wasn't as red as she thought it was.
"Y..Yes. Thank you."
He nodded curtly and turned on his heel, closing the door behind him with a soft click. Immediately, she sat down on the cover of the toilet seat, vainly trying to control her breathing and the strange tingly feeling where his arms had pressed against her bare skin.
And she wondered if it was the heat or his touch that was making her dizzy now.
After they had finished eating, Lee wanted to dance, the very thought of which made Tenten nervous, but Lee was insistent. After all, he had to make up for the bath incident and it was only one little dance so would she please, please, PLEASE dance with him?
Telling herself she was much too soft, she agreed, much to Neji's silent chagrin, and allowed Lee to lead her to where a whole group had gathered to dance. The first dance wasn't too bad, the tempo not too fast, and she smiled as Lee twirled her around, her dress whirling about her knees. But when the third one came and went and Lee still showed no sign of wanting to stop, Tenten had to put her foot down.
"Lee, I'm tired. I'm going to go-"
"But, Tenten!" he cried, "The fun is only just beginning! You must let your radiant youth shine through or you'll never get well!"
"That's…uh…good advice, but I need to sit down-"
"Lee," a stern voice reprimanded, "She's here to rest. Let her be."
Both of them swiveled to find Neji coming towards them, obviously intent on making sure Lee didn't dance her into oblivion. She flashed a grateful smile at him before turning back to Lee.
"You go ahead, Lee," she said, "I'll watch your…uh…youthful… display from the table." He perked up immediately and flashed her a thumbs up, gyrating into the crowd as a slow song started up, the melody drifting across the dance floor.
She looked towards Neji and then around as various couples closed in around them, blocking their exit to the sidelines. She stepped up to him and, when he looked down into her face, she smiled hesitantly, unsure of his reaction.
"One more?" she asked. "We'll never get out of here until the song's over."
He gazed at her silently for a long moment and she wondered if she had overstepped her bounds. She and Neji had always had a connection and she didn't want to jeopardize that just because of some girly notion of-
But then he took her hand and pulled her to him, her arms going around his neck, and they were dancing as if they had done it a million times before.
Tenten was in heaven.
The feel of Neji's hands on her waist was electrifying and, somehow, soothing all at once. In the circle of his arms, she felt… safe, something that was a little disconcerting for her. She had always been able to defend herself, but with him… she knew that, at that moment, nothing would be able to hurt her without getting past him first.
It was nice to be taken care of, once in awhile.
With a soft, weary sigh, she laid her head on his shoulder, her eyes closing, breathing in the smell of wind and wood from his clothes. And, miracle of miracles, Neji allowed her to, guiding them around the dance floor silently. Anyone observing him would have noticed the soft look in his pearly eyes and the careful way he held his dance partner, gently and surely as if aware she wasn't quite herself yet.
All to soon, though, the song was over and, with a goodbye wave to Lee, they went back up to their room, Neji's hand on the small of her back the entire time and she wondered if it is was because he thought she would collapse at any moment or if he simply wanted to touch her. In either case, she said nothing and dropped onto her bed the moment they were in the door, bone-tired and adrift in all the pleasant sensations of the evening. Praise Gai-sensei for sending them away for the weekend!
Neji secured their room for the night and she felt something warm bloom in her chest when he set a glass of water by her bedside without a word. She hadn't known he knew that her throat often got dry while she slept.
Feeling suddenly bold, she reached out and caught his wrist, actually hearing him inhale at her touch.
"Are you sleeping on the floor?" she asked sleepily. He turned his head to look at her, his eyes bright in the darkness.
"Don't," she murmured, and he blinked. "There's more than enough room here."
She barely had time to register the quickening of his pulse before he disengaged his wrist from her fingers. The hollow baritone of his voice was strained.
"Are you trying to test me?" he asked finally, stiffly. She blinked, coming a little more awake at his tone.
"I'm just a man, Tenten." A muscle in his jaw ticked and she shivered at the way he said her name. "Even I have my limits."
Her heart quivered. So she hadn't been wrong. There was a reason he had been acting differently towards her and now… now she was flirting with dangerous, dangerous territory.
But Tenten was not a kunoichi who shied away from a fight. The path she wanted would be difficult but, if what he was saying was true, he might be willing to walk that road with her, no matter the hurdles.
Shifting slightly on the bed, she reached out and curled her fingers into his, tugging on his hand to make him look at her again and, when he did, she trembled at what she read in his face.
"Stay with me," she whispered in the silence, "Nothing has to happen, just… stay with me." And she pulled him down into the bed, smiling as his body slid over hers until he came to rest next to her. He was tense and, though he would never admit it, unsure, so she pressed herself into his side, placing her head in the crook of his shoulder, curling her body up slightly to make herself comfortable. Sighing happily, she closed her eyes and felt him relax in turn, breathing out the tension in his body until he, too, felt sleepy.
"Much better than sleeping on the floor, isn't it?" she teased a few minutes later, her voice muffled by his shirt. As expected, he didn't reply, but his arm slowly curved around her waist, the movement full of the hesitancy that came with an evolving relationship. In return, she draped an arm over his chest, loving the way she could feel him breathing.
If this was some sickness-induced dream, she hoped it would never end.
And it didn't until approximately two thirty in the morning when an exhausted Lee stumbled into the room and found them twined together, sleeping peacefully. His eyes grew to the size of dinner plates and his voice came out a high-pitched wail.
"NEJI! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? YOU'VE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF TENTEN'S WAVERING FLAME OF-" A pillow hit him smack in the face with the perfect aim of a half-awake Tenten.
"Go to sleep, Lee," she murmured, snuggling back into Neji's side. "Everything's alright." She smiled a little and repeated what she had been telling him all day.