Aaand... A cyborg!Neji fic. ;) Inspired by a conversation I had with Interim (who writes awesome NejiTen and who also really needs to update!) and some prompts off the LiveJournal community, 100_prompts. Written over 3 days... This is one of my favorites among the NejiTen stories I've written (alongside Postcards and f/2.8). :) Been wanting to try this format for ages.
Naruto and its characters do not belong to me.
CyberneticSky: Ten Counts to Heaven
The sky is grey and solemn music resounds through the compounds, weaving into the grass and sturdy trees. Out in the front garden, a gathering of black-dressed figures bow their heads and listen to the priest as he extols all the good that Hyuuga Hiashi has done in his lifetime.
Neji is not affected in the least when the funeral procession drifts by his window; Hiashi is dead, and little remains to tie his loyalty to the organization. He studies his human hand, the one that will ooze blood when slashed, and wonders what it is like to truly care.
This new skin is nothing like a glove, Neji realizes, when the scientist in the lab prints it onto his mechanical arm, and the synapses connect to his sensors; he finds that he is capable of tactile senses through this upgraded skin (it is cold in the lab, vaguely), and he thinks he might be close to being almost human once more.
They examine the rest of his body next, the joints and circuits of his mechanical arm and leg, and test the precision of his eyes.
There is nothing magical about his eyes - they are a work of science, modified to scan various objects to determine their relative threat. He especially appreciates how they possess the ability to zoom (minute motors work behind his irises to alter their focus) - Neji's favorite past-time is to focus on the birds flying high in the sky, with their intricate feathers, and how they seem so free of material trappings.
Neji leaves when they give him the all-clear signal - his joints are tightened and oiled, weapons checked and polished. It doesn't make him feel any less like a tool in their arsenal.
It is not so much the explosion as the electromagnetic waves that rip through his frame, that jar his senses, every single one of them - Neji blinks and shakes his head, to clear the faint buzzing at the back of his mind.
His senses do not quite return to normal in the days following the blast, and his perfect vision is a little off-kilter - the zoom doesn't work like it used to, and the x-ray vision fuzzes up sometimes. He misses his clean sight, but thinks that he might stay with this imperfection for a little while, if just to study what it's like to approach humanity again.
His last performance evaluation occurred just before the blast, together with the new skin upgrade, and there will not be any more in the near future unless requested.
Neji keeps his private study of imperfections a secret, and finds himself having to work harder to accomplish his tasks on the police force. No one notices the slip in his abilities, and he wonders if this new dissatisfaction with himself is part of being truly human, too.
There are riots shortly after the explosion, and Neji is sent onto the streets with the rest of his team; he is venturing down a side alley to ascertain that the crowd has not planted explosives in the trash bins, when something warm and firm collides into him-
It is a human female, he realizes, scanning her repeatedly in case she possesses weapons or is another cyborg in disguise. She returns negative for both.
She pulls away; he notes the twin buns her chocolate hair is coiled into, and the too-large hazel eyes when she stares at him in shock, and backs away from him. Her clothes are that of a civilian's - dirty T-shirt and worn pants, and feet sheathed in grubby sneakers.
It is a little longer (an eternity of tense silence) before she brightens up, and extends her hand to him. "My name is Tenten, what's yours?"
Neji contemplates her appendage - her arm is lean, like the rest of her physique, and she looks almost fragile. Her fingers are grimy and her nails are blackened with dirt.
Scooters round the corners of either entrance of the alley right then, and Neji takes a moment to compute his next actions-
Tenten surprises him when she slaps the side of his thigh (the gun compartment springs open, to his bewilderment) and grabs his first pistol, slamming her back into his; Neji doesn't question her; he pulls his second gun out and fires at the rebels bearing down on them, at the same time she does. The rebels fall from their bikes, and the vehicles skid noisily along the alley floor, their low rumbles echoing in that small space.
"How did you-" he begins, turning to her when he's determined that the threats are neutralized. "Only I should have access to my property-"
"That's my secret," she beams cheerily at him, and deposits his pistol into his outstretched hand. "Your name?"
"Neji," he tells her, and notes her staring at his eyes. "Why are you here?"
Tenten appears to be taken back for a moment, before she looks steadily at him with another easy grin. "I'm lost, do you know of somewhere I can go?"
Without Hiashi, there is little to hold Neji to protocol, too, so he brings Tenten home with him when the riots are subdued (the other cyborgs leer at them, though he is buffered by his confidence that nothing will occur between him and her). She wanders about his house in curiosity (he occupies the east wing, while his cousins, Hinata and Hanabi, keep to the west) - he allows her to, as long as she does not get in his way.
It isn't long before Hinata discovers the presence of Tenten, and Neji returns home from work the next day to find the three females seated in the dining room, chatting.
"This is proof that our cousin is still interested in girls," Hanabi says loudly when Neji enters the room. Unlike him, Hinata and Hanabi are still completely human, virtually perfect, and sheltered from the growing tensions between the political groups. Tenten fits right in with them, with her easy smile, though she lights up when she spots him from across the room.
"Hi, Neji!" she greets and waves, and he nods politely at the trio. Neji sees no point in proving Hanabi wrong, merely continuing into the kitchen for some food. The cybernetic body allows for organic sustenance, though energy is obtained more efficiently through a wall plug - he can't seem to get tired of herring noodles, however.
He heats a bowl of noodles in the microwave and withdraws it when the timer goes off; all plans to abandon the kitchen for his quarters are put on pause when Tenten steps in with a grin. "How was your day?"
Neji looks between Tenten and his noodles, and sets the steaming bowl on the counter. "Fine."
"Go ahead and eat, I didn't mean to interrupt," she tells him cheerily, so Neji picks his food up and continues to his room. She follows just one step behind him.
"Do you have a favorite food?" Tenten asks, dogging his footsteps.
Neji is very tempted to close the door in her face, but allows her in at the last moment.
"Herring noodles," he answers, and sets the bowl on his desk, sitting heavily in his chair. (The furniture is built to withstand the additional weight of his mechanical parts, though Neji takes that all for granted.)
"Your least favorite?" She bounces lightly on his bed. And moves to the middle, and bounces more.
"Pumpkin," Neji says, flatly, and tucks into his noodles. He stops chewing for a moment to look at her. "Don't you have somewhere else to be?"
"No," she grins.
"Where did you come from?" he asks in return, because maybe he can send her back to wherever she last was, and she'll stop bothering him.
"I don't want to talk about it." Tenten pulls a face, and lies flat on his bed. "Your room is comfortable. I like it."
Neji exhales, and continues to eat.
The corners of Tenten's lips pull downward when he returns home the next day with a small cut on his human arm. She leaves the conversation with Hinata and Hanabi and pads over to him, touching the dried blood. "Does it hurt?"
"Not to me." Nothing really compares to the agony of losing an arm and a leg, so Neji shrugs minor injuries off (though lacerations do sting a little more with this new skin upgrade).
It takes Neji a short moment to realize that she looks different today - cleaner, as if Tenten has been persuaded to take a bath, and dress in clothes that probably belong to one of his cousins. Tenten brightens when she notices him staring; she throws her arms out, and twirls around in front of him. "Do you like it?" she asks.
"You're cleaner than before," he answers, and across the room, Hanabi snorts, but says nothing else.
He makes his way to the kitchen, and pops his noodles into the microwave.
"Wanna know what my favorite food is?" Tenten asks suddenly, over his shoulder. He figures that she's probably standing on tiptoe for her breath to reach his neck. When Neji doesn't respond, she runs her fingers through his hair, and tells him anyway, "I like dumplings."
He pulls his bowl out of the microwave when the timer goes off, and makes his way to his room, all over again. She follows in his footsteps, and eases into the room after him, as she did the previous day.
"Can I accompany you to work tomorrow?" Tenten asks, lying flat on the bed with her head tipped backwards, to look at him.
"No." Neji dips his chin, and eats his herring noodles primly.
"Why?" Her tone is innocent - he wonders if her mental growth stagnated while her body developed into maturity.
"It's dangerous out there," he responds, and doesn't know what to think when she begins to hum an unfamiliar tune, as if she hasn't heard his answer.
Neji has spent the past few days trying to find fault with his weapons compartment. He has not forgotten how easily Tenten accessed his pistol - the panel should not have popped open like that, with just mere impact, and try as he might, he isn't able to replicate her results with similar actions.
He waits until they're alone in his room, with his steaming bowl of noodles yet again, and turns to face her. "How did you deactivate my pistol storage?" he asks, when the noodles are on his desk.
Tenten pauses in the middle of rolling around on his bed, and looks at him, a smile playing on her lips. "I figured it out. It's not that difficult, you know, weapon compartments are typically stored in mechanical legs, they have the most room for it-"
"I asked how you deactivated it, not how you found it," he tells her, and thinks this might take a while if she's going to be misinterpreting his words.
"Oh. Um, well," Tenten looks away, and traces circles on his sheets. "I told you, that's my secret."
He narrows his eyes, but does not press the subject (for today), because he's come to realize that, as a human, she may have answers to his questions about humanity, and how to achieve it. (Neji would rather not ask his cousins - they share too much history for him to reveal his vulnerabilities to them.)
"What is it like to be completely human?" he asks, when he's finished his noodles.
A strange look flits over her face, though it might have been his imagination, because she's grinning at him the next moment. "What is it like to be a cyborg?" she inquires in return.
"I don't feel a thing," Neji tells her honestly.
"Weren't you a human before, though?" Tenten sits up and pats the spot next to her, looking expectantly at him - an invitation for him to join her on the bed.
He wonders if being physically closer to her would allow him to feel a wider spectrum of emotions, so he obliges, and lowers himself onto the mattress, inches away from her. "I lost my limbs in a car accident," he recounts. "They gave me mechanical parts and new eyes."
"Your eyes are pretty," she remarks, and leans in close to look at them. Neji feels the heat from her skin, and sees the flecks of gold in her eyes. "Surely you knew what it was like to be human before the accident though."
"I don't remember." He watches her as she examines the rest of his body, touching the new skin on his arm. Her fingers are warm, and her touch feels nice, even.
"They didn't give you skin on your leg," Tenten observes, though she does not touch him there. "Why?"
"Perhaps it wears out too easily," he guesses, and shrugs. It doesn't bother him too much - the skin on his arm feels real enough that it makes up for his deficiencies.
"I see," Tenten smiles, and she touches his arm again, and his throat. "I can't tell you what it's like to be human, but perhaps I can show you...?"
At the question in her tone, Neji looks up at her, surprised. "How?"
"When was the last time you had sex?" she asks, candidly, and he blinks at how she doesn't mince her words.
"I don't remember," he tells her again. Somehow, Tenten illuminates all the gaping holes in his person that he has never previously considered, and Neji isn't sure that he likes it. Maybe she'll help him regain some sense of humanity, he thinks.
"Would you like to?" She smiles, and touches the collar of his shirt. He's staring at her eyes, though, and wondering at how alive they look, like the rest of her personality. He wonders, too, how her warmth would feel against him, though that doesn't remain a question for long, because she's slowly unbuttoning his shirt, and her fingers radiate heat against his chest.
"I am agreeable to it," he says, and her lips curve in a delighted smile.
Tenten presses her mouth to his, lips parted; Neji thinks he remembers the motions of this, vaguely, so he responds, and she's easing him down against the bed, straddling his hips. There are faint stirrings in his body that feel familiar, more so when she parts his shirt and removes her own.
Her breasts are beautiful, he acknowledges, and so is the rest of her body, when she has hardly a stitch on and her hair falls loose over her shoulders, and she's trailing a line of heat down his abdomen, to the custom-made pant-shorts he wears.
His body remembers and responds before he does - Neji watches in fascination, at first, when she teases his flesh to firmness, though that increases his sensitivity somehow, and pleasure - that familiar pleasure - thrums in his body, entwined with tension and need-
She grins at him then, when he yields moisture to her, and straddles his hips again, wetting herself with saliva-
It feels as if his senses are on the edge of fragmenting when she takes him into her body, and envelops him, and just moves. Neji is gasping for air - he has forgotten this, can't believe he's forgotten this feeling, and the grin on Tenten's face widens, even as she moans softly above him, still moving-
And Neji thinks he's fracturing at the seams when raw sensation crashes through his form, and he spills into her, giving her part of himself as she's done for him.
She arches and moans shortly after, and when Tenten finally slips off, and crawls over to lie beside him, Neji turns to look at her in amazement. It seems almost impossible that this fragile human female can trigger memories and sensations like she has in the past minutes, that she has made him feel more human, and alive, than he could ever have hoped for.
"Thank you," he tells her softly. She smiles and nuzzles closer to him.
Tenten spends every night in bed with him after that.
"No." He looks firmly at her, and shakes his head. "It's dangerous out there."
"I'll be fine," Tenten insists. "Just today, please?"
Neji realizes that he doesn't want to think about what will happen if she sustains injuries, if he loses her on the field. He likes her in his bed and thinks he's getting used to hearing her talk about things that don't concern him, but it is just too risky for her to follow him to work.
"You don't know what I can do," she pleads, hazel eyes wide and soulful (her hair is back in those twin buns, though he remembers what it feels like, loose ends dragging along his skin).
"I know enough of what you can do," he tells her, and her eyes are flashing before he knows it.
"Chauvinistic jerk!" Tenten hisses at him. "Don't make me regret sleeping with you-"
"You're the one who suggested it," he argues, and Tenten throws her hands up in the air.
"It's all over the news - the riots are getting out of hand and I just want to watch your back - is that too much to ask for?" she all but yells at him, and Neji bites back a wince when his cousins appear in the doorway of the kitchen.
"You're a cyborg, you aren't immortal," she mutters savagely, jabbing a finger into his chest.
"You're human, you stand less of a chance than I do," he returns, evenly, and Tenten glares at him, but says nothing.
Neji turns on his heels and walks out, past his cousins, leaving her standing alone beneath the whirling ceiling fan.
Neji would like his perfect eyesight back right now, because he's stuck in yet another alley, and there are more rebels on either side of him than he can fell before they gun him down. Their weapons are drawn, mouths twisted in cruel smirks, because he is just another part of the police force that's silencing their disruptive protests.
He's waiting for his team to respond to his emergency signal, but there is no one coming, and the safety catches of the last few guns are being released. It's twenty to one - Neji thinks he should have said an apology to Tenten in advance, for not being able to make it home today.
His vision pinpoints the tightening of a finger on a trigger, on one of those closest to him, and he's calculating how long it'll take for him to wipe as many of the rebels out as he can-
Something dark falls out of the sky. It lands lightly, right next to him, and there is the slap of a slender hand on his thigh-
Tenten is pulling his second pistol out before he even begins to make sense of her appearance; she's crouching behind him and taking the rebels out in rapid succession, and Neji cleans out those before him, their gunshots ringing in the air.
She jerks and hisses behind him suddenly, and fires a last time, before turning to make sure that he's got all of his targets.
"Told you that you need someone watching your back," she mutters, straightening and handing his pistol back to him. His gaze lands on the hand she's pressing against the side of her neck, and the trickle of blood seeping past her fingers. Neji freezes.
"Let me see your neck," he says, storing his weapons in his thigh.
Tenten winces, and pulls her hand off the injury - it is a light grazing along her skin, a lucky miss - and Neji catches sight of a flesh-colored band-aid at the back of her neck, that he hasn't noticed before.
"What's that?" he asks, and lightly touches a finger to it. Tenten flinches away from him.
"It- It's a bug bite, I scratched at it and it started bleeding," she tells him uncomfortably, pulling a face. Neji realizes that he's never really looked at the nape of her neck, because she's facing him most of the time, or when she isn't, her hair is down and covering it. It isn't a big deal, so he focuses on the situation at hand.
"Why are you even here?" he presses. "I told you that it's dangerous."
"And you would've been dead if I weren't," Tenten challenges, fiercely meeting his gaze.
Neji avoids her accusation. He re-scans the bodies on the ground, and picks his way through them, towards the entrance of the alley. Tenten follows behind him. "How did you learn to shoot like that? Were you following me?"
She looks away, and shrugs. "Yes, I followed you, but from the rooftops. Can't I just know how to operate a gun?"
He slants a look at her, studying her from the corner of his eye. "Not many have the accuracy and speed you do."
"I'm special," Tenten grins at him. "How late are you working today? I'm hungry."
Neji shakes his head, and sighs. Tenten remains a mystery to him, even after all the time they've spent together, and he supposes that he shouldn't hope to truly understand the human mind.
Information from the briefing earlier still resounds in his head; Neji alights from the police van with the rest of the team, and heads out onto the streets once again. The rebels aren't letting up, and there are riots still, people who do not approve of whom the ruling party comprises.
He slips away from the main cloud of protesters, leaving that to those of his team who possess the brute strength for crowd control, and picks his way around, searching for hidden threats, like stashed explosives and snipers tucked out of sight.
She falls into step next to him somewhere along the way. Neji throws a sidelong glance at her, and she grins at him.
"You should remain at home," he tells her. Tenten rolls her eyes.
"I'm not going to fall for that again, Neji," she chides, lightly, and smiles. "What delayed you?"
It is sensitive information, but he trusts her enough to share it in a low tone. "We got tipped off on a new variety of cyborgs. An underground organization has been building them, and a number escaped recently. We don't know when they did, but we think they're built with new abilities, to counter the cyborgs under the government. They're supposedly very good at blending in."
She is silent for a long while. Tenten sounds a little distant when she next speaks, "What are you going to do with these new cyborgs when you find them?"
"I don't know. Detain them. The investigation department will likely handle them." Neji scans the streets ahead of them for threats, and finds none.
"That makes sense," she acknowledges, and reaches up to touch her neck, where the scab is, a harsh reminder of how she saved him.
The rebels are descending upon them; he and Tenten seem like such easy targets when it is just the two of them in the open, against a dozen revolutionaries brandishing guns and torches. Neji tugs Tenten down an alley, to shield themselves, and she's picking their targets out with his pistol, concentrating on those that do not quite seem to fall with one hit.
"These aren't humans," she mutters anxiously, "I need more firepower than this to take them down."
"That's all I have on me," he tells her in return, and fires his own pistol, noting that there are only two rebels left standing.
One of them pulls the pin on a grenade, tossing it straight at him-
Tenten curses- The trajectory of the explosive seems to move almost too slowly; she's darting in front of him, grabbing the lid of a trash can and flinging it towards the grenade-
It explodes with sheer force; Neji throws himself over Tenten to shield her from the shrapnel that flies out at them. Bits of metal wedge themselves into his skin, and he hisses in pain.
There are heavy footsteps thudding towards them, through the resulting smoke, and he pulls himself off from Tenten, to ascertain that she has not been hurt.
She's staring back at him, one deep cut on her cheek glinting silver.
Neji stumbles backwards in shock; she whips her head towards the sounds from the oncoming attacker, its heavy footfalls hinting at parts of a body made of steel. The cyborg is aiming a gun at them when it emerges from the smoke, its barrel glowing and ready to fire-
"Oh for fuck's sake," Tenten snarls, and hurls herself at the cyborg. She grabs its metallic arm - Neji watches in stunned silence when it shuts down instantly, lit eyes dulling, the low hum of energy fizzing into silence. Tenten pulls her fist back and sends it flying into the cyborg's face - it tips backwards in an arc, and slams hard into the ground. "One left."
Neji can't bring himself to move, even when the next cyborg follows the first; this one is firing blindly into the alley, and Tenten glances once at him, as if assessing his situation, and then she's sprinting forward again, grabbing at their last opponent through the dissipating smoke.
He doesn't know if she's been shot - all he knows is that Tenten shuts this next cyborg down just as easily, and it crashes into the grimy alley floor with a heavy thump, dead to the world.
She is panting when she returns to him, her eyes more gold than hazel, and she's scratching at the back of her neck, where he remembers seeing the band-aid.
"You're not a human," he finally states, and the feeling of betrayal is raw and ugly in his chest.
"I'm not," she replies in a small voice, and doesn't meet his eyes. "I never said I was one."
"You deceived me," Neji says. He's thinking back to all those nights they've spent together and never once - not fucking once - did he think she could be anything like him, with her warmth and softness and how she opened herself to him-
"Will you listen to me if I explained myself?" Tenten asks, glancing at him, before looking away. She seems a lot smaller now.
"Go home, Tenten," he tells her, his voice hard, and the shields around himself impenetrable.
Tenten isn't in his room when Neji returns home that evening. The house is quiet - it seems as though even Hinata and Hanabi have shut themselves away today, and the solitude is a bitter taste on his tongue. Neji has never realized just how much he's come to expect Tenten's presence around, until the day he finds out that she isn't what he thought she was.
He's gone into the lab that afternoon, to have his vision and injuries fixed, and it feels a little strange to have the x-ray functions work as they should, and the zoom focusing quicker than it has of late. Neji still feels more human, and less of a robot than he's ever been. He supposes that he should thank Tenten for that, though all he can think of is how she might have been planted in his presence as a spy, how she can turn on him at any moment, because she knows his blueprints, and his weaknesses.
Neji feels a little empty when he imagines that she might have left him for good.
He does find her, eventually, in one of the other rooms; she is huddled by the window, and there are band-aids all over her body. Dried tear tracks streak down her cheeks.
"I was afraid that this day would come," she says to no one in particular, when he pauses feet away from her.
"Who are you, and what is your purpose here?" he questions, his tone flat. Neji keeps his hand by his thigh, in the event that he should need a weapon to defend himself with.
Tenten exhales heavily and turns to look at him. Her eyes are dull, melancholy. "I am Trial 10971B of the CyberneticSky project. My abilities are cyborg control and firearm warfare, supplemented with emotions and a body that is almost like that of a human's, to minimize detection by scanners."
"My scans showed you negative for cyborg material," Neji recalls.
She gives a wry smile. "That is how I was built. To avoid detection."
"Who do you answer to?" he presses, ignoring the way Tenten's smile lights her face with a bittersweet sort of beauty.
"You." She looks steadily at him. "My creators are known as the ANBU. I escaped from their laboratories recently. Eighty-one days ago. I met you fifty-nine days ago."
"I don't believe you," Neji states. "For all I know, you may be a bug planted here while the underground groups bide their time."
Tenten gives him a sad smile then, and gets to her feet, walking slowly over to him. She's holding a little grey device in her hand. "Take this. It is a remote that will give you complete control over me - I created it." She places it lightly in his palm when he reaches out for it, and continues, "Pushing the button with the asterisk completely freezes me, whatever I may be doing. I will not sense or emit signals."
Neji flips the remote open. There are two buttons - one is marked with an asterisk, like she mentioned, and the other is plain, with no indication of its function. "And the unmarked button?"
She looks at the floor then, the smile fading away from her lips. "It erases my memories and returns me to a blank slate. You'll be able to program me with anything you want then. The port is at the back of my neck." Tenten reaches up to touch the nape of her neck again, and draws a deep breath. "The second button has to be voice-activated first. You have to issue the voice command, 'CyberneticSky, terminate your program,' and then push the button."
"Why are you doing this?" Neji asks, at length, looking between her and the remote. It isn't logical for her to offer him complete control over her being.
"So you'll trust me. I don't know of any other way to do this, Neji," Tenten tells him, her voice pained.
He stares at her. "Why would you-"
"I love you," she admits, her voice cracking at the edges. "I may not be human, but I love you."
Neji doesn't know what to make of her words; they are resounding in his head, over and over, so he decides to test her device, to see if she is telling the truth.
He presses the button with the asterisk, and it is as if Tenten deflates a little - the glow in her eyes disappears, and she does not move. Neji steps closer, to study her; she does not follow his movement, even when he walks a complete circle around her. He touches her arm - she is still warm, but slowly losing heat.
The realization that she has been speaking the truth hits him, like a slap to his face, and he doesn't know what to think. She has kept her identity from him, and she has placed herself in his personal space, without revealing that she can be used against him.
His thumb hovers over the unmarked button, tracing its rubbery material.
He thinks about the consequences of that, of erasing all her memories of him and her, so there wouldn't be any remnants of Do you have a favorite food and That's my secret and I'm special-
Neji finds that he can't bring himself to do it.
Tenten is not Tenten without her cheeriness and smiles and warmth, and Neji realizes that he is scared by the prospect that she will not ever return to being the woman he knows.
He is pushing the button with the asterisk before he knows it, and it is as if she's inhaling when life returns to her eyes, and she focuses on him again-
Neji wraps his arms around her and pulls her tight against himself, suddenly afraid that he might lose her for good, somehow or other, somewhere along the line.
"I can't do it," he whispers in her ear. "You make me feel human again. I- I can't lose you."
She laughs, softly, and embraces him, burying her face in his shoulder.
They do not need any other words that night.
"Tenten will be staying here with us indefinitely," Neji informs Hinata and Hanabi at the dining table the next morning. "All we know is that she's a human female I picked off the streets."
She's told him that Hinata was around when she got home yesterday, and Hinata was also the one to ask if she needed medical attention, in concern, grudgingly supplying only a box of band-aids when that was all Tenten requested. The wounds will heal, Tenten's assured him. Her cybernetic body knows how to handle minor injuries.
"Why don't you just marry her, and we'll all live happily ever after?" Hanabi suggests, cheekily, and Neji sends her a sharp look. Tenten flushes next to him. "Our family name offers plenty of protection."
He glances at her then, not having thought of that possibility, and she offers him a small smile in return.
"Maybe," Tenten says quietly, looking at the table, and she squeezes his fingers when he slips his hand into hers.
"Maybe," Neji echos, and thinks that he finally knows what it means to care.
A/N: It got a little mushy at the end... But I loved it. ;) Thoughts?
And... since I'm feeling generous, have an outtake:
"This doesn't mean that I don't foresee the possibility of mishaps occurring to you while we're out on the field," Neji tells Tenten, who is ambling alongside him. He's procured a better pistol for her, and feels safer now that she's a little more armed.
"You're such a worrywart, Neji," she grins, and laces her fingers through his. "We've all got to die at some point."
His lips thin. Neji frowns lightly, and looks around them, just in case. "Later than sooner, hopefully. We haven't spent a very long time together."
"Two years and three hundred days isn't long enough for you?" she teases. Tenten nudges his side. "What do you think our kids would look like, if we could have them?"
It is wishful thinking on her part, though Neji does wonder about it sometimes.
"They'll have your eyes," he tells her, "Brown sometimes and gold at others. Dark hair and a smile like yours."
"I didn't think you were so cheesy, Hyuuga Neji," she tells him, and grins anyway.
"You underestimate my ability to consider the various possibilities, Hyuuga Tenten," he returns smugly, fingering her slender digits, where there is sometimes a ring, and sometimes not. "My mental abilities are still intact, no matter what you reduce them to sometimes."
"Are you saying that I'm capable of turning you to mush?" she asks in delight, eyes sparkling.
His eyes narrow. "I am never mush," Neji retorts.
Tenten rolls her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, you're over and above being a human."
"Perhaps at times," he acknowledges.
"'At times'? she echos disbelievingly. "You're an insufferable prick most of the time."
Neji smirks. "Only to get a reaction out of you."
Tenten sends him an aggravated look and mutters under her breath. "Just you wait, Neji, I'll make you regret your words."