Posting a day early because we're going on a long weekend road trip! :) Inspired by expiration, who yelled "BEAUTY" and I was suddenly struck by inspiration. ;) Not quite Beauty and the Beast, but you get the idea.

Naruto and its characters do not belong to me.

Beautiful Beast

"I read a book yesterday," Tenten announces one morning, when they arrive at Team Gai's training grounds in the predawn quiet. It is the kind of silence that falls when the birds stop chirping, while the sky turns a lighter shade of blue, and the air is still cool around them.

Neji sets his things beneath the great oak, beside Tenten's, and looks curiously towards her. "I didn't think you read."

She scowls at him. "Of course I read!"

"Aside from erotic literature, you mean," he mutters, and Tenten glowers, a light flush tinting her cheeks.

"Hyuuga Neji!" she snaps. "Will you listen to me?"

He breathes a long-suffering sigh and rolls his shoulders back, stretching to prepare for their back-to-back spars. "I am listening."

"As I was saying," she continues archly, dropping down beside him to do her own stretches. "I read a book yesterday. It was titled Beauty and the Beast."

Neji raises an eyebrow at her. "What was it about?"

"Not important," Tenten says, waving dismissively. "What is important is that after reading that book, I've decided that I want to be the Beauty. And you can be the Beast."

He stares at her. "What?"

"I've had enough of you being beautiful," Tenten informs him, angling a reproachful stare in his direction.

Neji blinks. "I'm beautiful?"

She frowns. "Haven't you looked in a mirror?"

"All I see is me," he replies, a furrow wrinkling between his eyebrows.

"Well, you're beautiful." Tenten huffs. "But I want to be the beauty this time."

For all of his genius, Hyuuga Neji has nothing to say to that. So he remains silent.

"I got stuck, though," Tenten admits after a while, her shoulders sagging. "I don't know how to be beautiful."

Neji frowns harder. "Why even bother?" he asks.

Tenten scrunches her face up. "Because... you're beautiful and I'm the girl on our team. I'm supposed to be the beautiful one."

"I'm not beautiful," Neji tells her.

"You are!" There's a bit of a distance between them now, courtesy of his exercises. Tenten props her fists on her hips and strides over to face him. She checks his various features off on her fingers. "Your lashes are thick, you have double eyelids, you have high cheekbones and pretty irises. Your nose is pointed and your complexion is flawless. You have perfect teeth and eyebrows and your lips are so damn kissable and-"

Neji raises a perfect slender eyebrow at her.

Tenten pauses for a moment to think over what she's just said.

The sheer awkwardness of her last line steals all the breath from her lungs. Her cheeks burn a bright crimson. "Um. Forget the last bit - I, um, it was a mistake and um."

She looks around the rest of the clearing for something to take his attention off from her, and finds nothing of note. Damn it!

"Your ears!" Tenten blurts suddenly, grateful to have remembered something else that she hasn't mentioned. "I mean, they don't stick out like a monkey's, and, well, I meant you have nice lips in the way that they aren't all thick, and, um."

"Are you now trying to insult me?" Neji questions flatly, folding his arms.

"Yes! No! Um. I was just telling you why exactly you're beautiful," Tenten harrumphs. "But we should get started on training."

Neji holds her stare for a moment longer, before starting forward, towards their training grounds. "Sure."

They're midway into lunch before Neji brings up their conversation from the morning.

"How do I become a beast?" he asks, and Tenten pauses in the middle of chewing.

"By being uncouth?" she suggests through her mouthful of food.

Neji raises an eyebrow at her again.

Tenten winces and claps a hand over her face, making sure to swallow her food before speaking. "Well, um, I guess there are various ways to be a beast," she muses.

"Like Gai-sensei?" Neji asks dryly.

They share a cringe.

"No green spandex, please," Tenten tells him. "But what if you wore spandex that wasn't green? Or orange?"

He narrows his eyes. She sees the cogs turning in his mind, and raises a hand to stop his thoughts.

"Wait. See, what if you wore white spandex? Or black? That isn't as unsightly as green," she says contemplatively. "Lots of people wouldn't mind seeing you in white spandex."

There's a trace of suspicion in his eyes. "Is that you or your erotic literature talking?"

Tenten flushes. "I don't read erotic literature that much, okay? And, um, I don't think of you in spandex. Not at all."

"I saw three books of Icha Icha on your bedside table when I visited," Neji points out.

She gapes at him. "I thought I closed the door to my bedroom!"

"You left it ajar." He looks at her, eyebrows raised in challenge.

Tenten stares crossly at him. "Well, for the record, I did not bookmark anything to do with spandex."

"Fishnets?" he asks.

Yes. "No. How did you know what fishnets are, anyway?" she retorts. "I thought you were all about training."

"You can't not know the basics of bedroom attire," Neji informs her primly.

This time, it's her turn to stare. The next thought strikes her so hard that it almost blows her over. "Are you-" She gulps, and tries again. "Are you a... a bedroom beast?"

He sends her a very affronted look, a blush rising to his cheeks. "How did you even come up with that idea?"

She tries to prevent her attention from lingering too long on Neji-the-bedroom-beast. "I- I just figured that since you knew so much about bedroom attire..."

Neji frowns at her and returns to his bento, chewing slowly.

"Have you had sex?" Tenten blurts suddenly, and Neji erupts in a coughing fit.

She winces and leans over to clap him on the back, to help clear his airway. (Well, at least beauties don't choke on food like he just did.)

It's some time later before Neji regains his composure, gulping tea down to clear his throat.

"What kind of question was that?" he bristles, forehead creased in a frown.

She sends him an indignant look. "It was just an ordinary question! Lee wouldn't have choked if I asked him the same thing!"

Neji glances sullenly at her. "He might be the beast you're looking for, then."

Tenten cringes at the thought of Lee in the bedroom. No. Just no. "It has to be you," she insists.

"Why?" he asks then, puzzled. "Why must we be one or the other?"

"Well." Tenten pauses, and realizes the absurdity of their conversation. "I was just having some fun, you know."

He seems to be content with her answer, and she relaxes, stretching out when she finishes her bento.

"I can almost believe you've never had sex, though," Tenten says suddenly, her thoughts drifting back to their conversation.

Neji looks uneasily at her. "Why are you returning to that?"

"Because. I'm curious. Would you be a beast in bed?" she asks, with her best attempt at pulling an innocent expression.

He flushes. "Am I supposed to know?"

"Well, you'd know if you've had girls tell you that," Tenten grins impishly.

"I don't see how you're so convinced that I'd be..." Neji pauses, as if there were something distasteful on his tongue. "That well informed."

She stifles a smile. "Well, going back to our earlier discussion, you're a beauty. But if you throw in all those bedroom considerations, then you may well be a beautiful beast instead."

It's a while before she manages to yank her drifting thoughts back to the present.

Neji scans her warily. "You like the thought of me being a beautiful beast."

In bed, her mind adds helpfully.

Tenten freezes, her stomach flipping. "I didn't say that!" she yelps. Red stains her cheeks.

Neji isn't letting her get away with it this time, however.

"You were thinking it," he informs her. "Your eyes were glazed over."

She gapes at him. "I- Were they?"

He fixes her with his lilac stare then, and Tenten isn't able to look away. "Supposing you were the beauty," Neji says slowly, "And I were the equally-beautiful beast, and we found ourselves in a bedroom situation-"

Tenten gulps, and her imagination spirals out of control.

"What would you do?" Neji pauses, looking expectantly at her.

She can't - doesn't know how to - answer. "I... don't know," she tells him feebly.

Because he can't possibly find out what she'd want to do.

Figures that he'd turn the conversation against her.

Neji begins to pack his empty bento box away, tying it back into its wrapping cloth. "I was surprised that you didn't think of yourself as a beauty," he says at length.

Tenten stares at him. "Why do you say that?"

He gives her a smug glance. "Because the worth of your beauty isn't based solely on your looks," he answers. "Though your lips are pretty damn kissable as well."

It takes a moment for his words to sink in, and when they do, Tenten's mouth falls open. Her cheeks prickle with heat. "You- you-"

Neji sets his things to the side, and stands to resume light training exercises. Tenten scrambles up to follow him, lunchbox set aside.

She snuffles in surprise when he steps in front of her suddenly, lowering his mouth to hers. Tenten feels her heart stop at the warm pressure of his lips. "Neji," she squeaks, stunned.

"The only question that I have, really," he pauses, sending her a sly smile, "Is whether you're a beast yourself."

Neji turns away to let her comprehend his question. She gapes at him, and the unspoken connotations of his words.

"Wouldn't you like to find out," Tenten eventually mutters, when she regains her senses, stalking towards him with a scowl.

The twitch of his lips tells her he does, and preferably sooner than later.

A/N: My Neji and Tenten talk a lot. Like seriously. o_o And yes, this is very similar to "Philosophical". ;)