I'm on a roll! This piece is loosely tied to the previous one, Bingo Book, so you might like to read it first. :) Prompt borrowed from 50_shinobi on LiveJournal.
If I haven't stated it before, I will now: Naruto does not belong to me, and I am not attempting to make money off any of my fanfiction.
"A mountain of bricks?" The incredulous whisper flew from Tenten's lips. She craned her neck to the side, blinking furiously to ascertain that she had not just imagined the teetering pile in the middle of Team Gai's training grounds. "Neji, wha-"
Before her sparring partner could react, a green blur leaped out from behind the bricks, presenting itself as Rock Lee, the third member of their four-man group. Lee struck his Nice Guy pose, the whiteness of his teeth dazzling in the weak predawn luminescence. "Neji! Tenten! You are late, my youthful teammates!"
"Late?" Neji muttered next to her, his gaze narrowing.
Lee appeared not to have heard him. He flashed a grin. "I have been carrying these bricks here as extra practice. Gai-sensei said we'd be building a wall today!"
"Seriously?" Tenten glanced askance at Neji, quietly glad that she wasn't the only one trying to grasp the logic of Gai's ridiculous task. "What do you-"
Boom! The impact of a crater forming announced Gai's presence, heartbeats before he appeared in the accompanying cloud of dust. "Good morning, my youthful leaves and blossom! I see that you're all ready for today's training!" He turned to the younger replica of himself. "Good work, Lee."
"Gai-sensei!" Lee cried, tearful.
"Lee!" Gai returned the exclamation just as emphatically as they embraced.
"Oh gods." Tenten passed her hand over her eyes. They never seemed to tire of the routine, despite cycling through it daily. Neji always had a higher tolerance for their antics. Or perhaps, he merely never deigned to express his discomfiture.
"Anyway. For training today, we will build the strongest brick wall there is as an exercise in teamwork." Gai shoved a thumbs-up fist in front of their faces. "Then, we will destroy the wall without the use of explosives, as a challenge to ourselves!"
Beside her, Neji perked up. Destroying the brick wall seemed an interesting challenge, and Tenten was inclined to agree.
Much to Team Gai's surprise (and even the sensei himself), the brick wall turned out to be such a useful training tool that they decided to keep it intact for the foreseeable future. Neji had suggested it be shaped into a cube, so as to withstand attacks from any direction, and Lee swore to defeat his eternal rival in wits when the next opportunity arose. (Neji lifted his brows, but said nothing.)
The initial assault had been against the brick cube, until Tenten flung a shuriken at Neji, and he dodged, and an all-out spar amongst the trio broke loose. Tenten, being the long-range fighter on the team, took to the skies when Lee turned on Neji, firing a barrage of steel at them. The pair threw themselves behind brick for one second, two seconds, three, and Tenten had a moment to pause before a smoke bomb exploded. White and green hurtled from the confusion, searing a beeline for her. She smirked, ripped a scroll open and bit her thumb. A shower ofkunai would be enough-
Gai materialized between them so suddenly that Neji cursed, shouted, "Lee!" and kicked the green-clad male to alter their trajectories from their teacher. They landed on their feet, staring at Gai; Neji accusingly, Lee with hesitance.
"Is something the matter?" Neji turned to Gai, Byakugan veins receding from his temples.
"Well, actually, yes." Gai glanced at Tenten, unwilling to exclude her from his attention. "In your youthful passion, you seem to have forgotten that the point of today's training was to destroy the brick wall!"
Neji opened his mouth to refute the statement, but Gai stopped him with a raised hand. "However, my students, you have surpassed me with your ideas! The brick wall has turned out to be the perfect training tool! We shall take turns to practice with it in pairs. Lee! Let's run five hundred laps around Konoha. Neji and Tenten will have the first round of training with the fruit of your labor."
"Yes, Gai-sensei!" Lee saluted his idol.
On some unspoken command, the Green Beasts of Konoha tore into the forest, leaving the training grounds quieter than it had been for hours. Tenten exhaled and relished the calm for half a minute, returning Neji's gaze. Then, with scarcely a warning, she drew a handful of shuriken and sent them flying at Neji, using the momentary distraction to run up the side of the brick cube and leap into the air.
He had anticipated her move from the onset - she remembered too late that her attack should have been performed away from the reach of his all-seeing eyes - and followed on an adjacent wall, meeting her at the top with his palm extended upwards, ready to strike.
Tenten twisted away, forcing chakra into her feet to propel herself into the air. Neji mimicked her move - she cursed, knowing this was the only way he could take her down once she was airborne. She wasn't going down without a fight, however. Yanking blades out of her sleeves, she spun around to slash at him, only to have him tap right over her heart once.
She dropped to the ground lightly, tightening her grip on the daggers. Were she an enemy, there would have been chakragoing straight to her heart, and she would be dead. Neji landed next to her, relaxed, and she ducked, kicking low to sweep his feet out from under him. Tenten wasn't done, not by a long shot. It was too early in the day to be losing. Especially when she still had no idea who he wanted for a wife. Damn it, they were supposedly best friends and she was none the wiser!
In response, Neji dodged, and dodged again when she went on the offensive with her blades, forcing him backwards into the brick wall. "Haven't I won this round, Tenten?"
"Not until I say so, you haven't." She was being unreasonable, and they both knew it. Another kick to his head (he ducked), and one from the side-
Neji spun around and slipped behind her, palming her back so she hit the brick wall and air rushed out of her lungs. Her cheek bumped into rough brick.
"Tenten." His baritone was gentle, almost seductive. In a different time and place, perhaps it would have been a whisper caressing her ear. A shiver raced down her spine. "What is it?"
"It's nothing." She was glad he couldn't read her face. There was no way the lie would escape him then.
"It's about the conversation the other day, isn't it?" Neji stated blandly, stepping closer.
Tenten bit her lip. It spoke volumes about their connection that he could pinpoint the exact cause for her temper. Sometimes, she didn't know if she appreciated how he could read her so easily. At this moment in time, though, her opinion leaned strongly towards the negative. "So what if it is? I was just curious."
"And maybe I don't have an answer yet." Heat emanated into her back. Warm breath tickled her ear. Her heart raced at his proximity. His next words were so quiet that she almost thought they were figments of her imagination. "Not even to myself."
A startled gasp flew from her throat. Was Neji-
Before she had time to make sense of anything, the heat was gone, and Neji was guiding her away from the brick wall.
"Are you ready for the second round?" He was watching her with those pale lilac eyes of his, nary missing a detail. "Or do you need a break first?"
Tenten drew a deep breath, clearing her mind of thought. She would contemplate Neji's behavior when she was home. For now, she needed all her wits about her if she was to have any chance at defeating the Hyuuga genius. "I'm ready."