Pretty sure this is a oneshot. Inspired by crazy modified sports cars racing down the streets on Japan - video the husband showed me. ;)
Naruto and its characters do not belong to me.
Racetrack to My Heart
The air is warm and laced with the pervasive scent of vehicle exhaust. All around the underground parking lot of an office building, a number of cars lie parked, powerful engines on and purring, ready to roll at a moment's notice.
These aren't just any ordinary cars, though - every single machine is sleek and built low to the ground, spoilers at the back and polished hoods hiding engines that can send these vehicles accelerating at unimaginable speeds.
Tenten hurries alongside one of her closest friends - Yamanaka Ino, who is currently striding through the parking lot, jerking her gaze from side to side, searching for her supposed date.
"And why am I here again?" Tenten hisses with a low frown. "I told you I'm not interested in a blind date or anything of that sort."
"It's cars, Ten. Powerful babies. You won't know what you've been missing out until you hitch a ride in one," Ino tells her over her shoulder, before turning back to scan the assembled vehicles and people. Mostly guys, now that Tenten's looking closer at the people here.
She feels a little lost - it's her first time attending such a meet, after all. Who knows why on earth she agreed to follow Ino to this place? At least her clothes are right for the occasion - a neutral crop top, jeans, and boots. Hair styled in her usual twin buns. Classy enough.
Someone signals for a group meet - an energetic blond, with blue eyes rich enough to rival Ino's, and a brilliant enthusiastic grin. (Lee would love to be friends with him, Tenten thinks.) "C'mon, everybody - the race begins soon! Last one to the finish line treats us all to Ichiraku's!"
"Ramen again, Dead-last?" someone drawls. "Figures you'd only want to pay for your favorite food."
Tenten yelps when Ino grabs her arm and drags her over to the gathering group of men - most are dressed in shirts and jeans, like her, though she's very certain that they're far, far richer than they seem, if they can afford to drive cars like the ones around them.
They hang around on the edge of the circle (there are about ten to fifteen men here, and a few other girls), waiting while the blond goes over their route and plans for today.
"That's Naruto, the blond," Ino whispers to her. "And Sasuke's the one who's always acting like a jerk to him. But they're best friends."
"Um, okay," Tenten answers hesitantly. "Do you know all the guys here?"
Ino nods. "Yeah, you know Shikamaru and Chouji. The rest, I've kinda got to know through them."
Tenten surveys the group, spotting the recognizable shapes of Shikamaru's spiky ponytail, and Chouji, the only big-boned guy amongst them. "So who's your date?"
"Kiba. Red face paint." Ino nods to the side, signaling a guy with shaggy brown hair and crimson triangles painted on his cheeks. He turns and grins, and his gaze slides over to Tenten, checking her out.
Tenten blinks blankly at him, and looks away, muttering to Ino, "Some date you have there."
Ino chuckles quietly. "Don't mind him."
The group meeting ends a few minutes later, with Naruto throwing his hands in the air. "All right! Let's head out!"
Tenten looks around, worried. Who on earth is she supposed to hitch a ride with? "What do I do, Ino?" she hisses.
Ino slants her a charming smile. "Step one: Find someone whose looks you agree with. Step two: Plant your ass in his car. Simple as that."
Tenten stares dumbly at her. Some blind date this turned out to be.
"Hey Hinata, the Kyuubi's over here! Let's go!" Naruto yells, breaking her concentration.
Tenten looks over, in time to see a slim woman with long, black hair stepping forward, looking towards Naruto with a shy smile. Her eyes, though, are what makes Tenten stare - pale, pale lilac, with her pupils almost indistinguishable from her irises.
The gathered group is already scattering, though a few of them remain. Ino gives Tenten's shoulder a quick pat ("Don't just stand there, hurry and grab one!" she whispers), before hurrying off with Kiba, slinging her arm around his.
"I thought you were riding with me," someone else says in a deep baritone, and Tenten flicks her attention to the only other person who hasn't started moving - a tall man, with hair and eyes like Hinata's. Are they related?
Hinata looks sheepishly at him then. "I made plans with Naruto, Neji - sorry about that."
"You might wanna get moving, Neji - maybe you'll be in last place for once," Naruto yells at him, already halfway towards an orange-painted car. Hinata gives her relative a quick, shallow bow, and hurries after the blond.
The man - Neji? - frowns at Hinata, as if in a mix of annoyance and confusion, and looks around then. Tenten freezes awkwardly when his gaze lands on her - there isn't anyone left in the group - and gives him a strained smile.
"Um, hi," she says, looking around at the emptying parking lot, then back at him. Way to go, Tenten. "I, um, really need a ride?"
He exhales in an exasperated sigh. There are already low rumbles of cars making their way out of the basement. "Fine. Follow me."
She steps awkwardly behind him with a grimace. Somehow, this guy, Neji, moves with a fluid grace, and Tenten feels like an elephant clomping behind him. His car isn't too far away - black, polished, and refined. Almost like a reflection of what she's seen of him so far.
Neji stops by the passenger side door first - he opens it for her - and Tenten has a moment to gape at him. "Get in," he orders. "Everyone's heading out."
She gulps and jumps in. The door shuts at her side; Neji is crossing over to the driver's seat and settling in next to her moments later, shifting the car out of Park.
"Um, I'm really sorry if I'm hindering you in the race," Tenten mumbles awkwardly. She only notices now that the car is not very wide - she's seated closer to him than she would in an ordinary car.
He slants a cool glance at her. Smirks. "It takes more than a head start to beat me."
Tenten goggles at him. The interior of the car smells like a mix of cologne and pine - very pleasant. She sets her purse by her feet, watching as he steers them out of the basement, and up into the blinding sunlight. Neji checks for traffic, and they're on their way down the road, picking up speed in a way that presses her back into her seat.
They're behind everyone else now; the car in front of them hits a sharp turn, and Neji follows. The bucket seat prevents her from lurching into the door. Tenten stares at his long, elegant fingers when he reaches over to the center console to hit a button - the car lowers itself closer to the ground yet, if that is even possible, and she watches the needle on the speedometer hit sixty miles an hour. Eighty. A hundred.
On the roads of the central business district.
We're going to die, Tenten thinks. The buildings and trees flash by at their sides like memories from her life, and she sees the other cars ahead, slowly growing closer with every insanely-sharp turn. She jerks to one side, then the other.
"Aren't you afraid for your life?" she blurts, leaning far back into her seat. This is like watching a movie, except she doesn't know if she'll step out of the theater, still breathing and walking. Her fingers leave imprints of cold sweat on the leather cushions.
Neji's eyes flick between his side view mirrors and back at the road. "Do you have that little faith in my driving?" he asks mildly.
"Um, yes," Tenten answers, cringing. "I've never seen anyone drive at speeds like that before."
She's certain that he'd roll his eyes, but he doesn't, instead glancing briefly at her. "This isn't all there is to it."
All she has time for is a nervous gulp, and Neji steps harder on the gas pedal - they fly through stoplights and turn onto a largely-empty highway, and Tenten is left gripping at her seat when the speedometer reading goes to a hundred and twenty, then a hundred and forty.
She prays to her parents for a painless death.
The car surges forward - she sees them catching up with the closest. Tenten turns and tries to peer through the tinted windows of their opponent, and thinks she vaguely makes out Shikamaru's profile in it.
"Doesn't he mind being last?" she blurts, remembering how Ino has complained, on multiple occasions, about his sheer laziness. "I didn't think he'd even be willing to risk his neck like this."
Neji glances in his side view mirror as they pass Shikamaru's car. "He likes waiting for the stakes to build up against him."
Huh. Tenten turns and looks behind at the now-last vehicle. And promptly wobbles when Neji changes lanes sharply, swinging her towards him. "Hey!"
"Kindly remain in your seat," Neji tells her dryly. "I didn't invite you along so I can sustain injuries."
She rolls her eyes. "Well, drive better then!"
"Hard to, when you're in my way." He sends another glance at her.
Tenten flushes, and flattens herself against her seat, gulping when they approach a three-way intersection on flat ground. They don't stop, and she watches on in horror as Neji does what those in front of him have done - they plow towards the end of the road, and Neji steps lightly on the brakes at the last moment, making a sharp turn. They do not fly off the road like Tenten expects.
The car picks up speed after the turn, and Tenten releases the breath she didn't think she was holding. "We're alive," she gasps, clutching her chest.
"Did you think we'd die?" Neji returns, smug.
They pick up speed again, now on a wide road. Tenten decides to concentrate on what he's doing, instead of where they're going (ignorance is bliss, right?) and notices that his movements are deliberate - the light touch of his fingers on the steering wheel, the way he reaches down for the shifting stick.
"Do you get motion sickness?" he asks abruptly.
"No, why?" Tenten sends him a wary look. He shifts the car into Neutral.
Without warning, he makes a hard left and steps on the brakes. Tenten gets the fleeting impression that they'd spin right out of control - they're making a U-turn, she realizes - and the car skids over asphalt. There isn't time to make any sound; she watches in shocked silence as he centers the car and takes his foot off the brake, before stepping on the gas again and shifting back into Drive, going in the direction they've come from.
Neji angles another smirk at her. "Still breathing?" he probes, as if they'd been in a casual conversation.
"No," she answers, still staring blankly at the road ahead of them. "You mustn't care very much about your life."
He merely glances at her at that statement, but makes no response to it.
"I don't even know you," Tenten realizes suddenly. "And I'm putting my life in your hands."
His lips twitch. "Why even attend this event?"
She heaves a sigh, sinking down into her seat. Drags a hand down her face. "I didn't even know what this was going to be - Ino said it was a blind date."
He raises a dark eyebrow, keeping his eyes on the road. "A date?"
"I assume you're single," he tells her.
Tenten narrows her eyes at him. "There's nothing wrong with being single," she snaps.
"Why not?" he asks mildly.
Tenten stares at the profile of his face. "Why not?" she echos. "Are you out of your mind?"
"No." Neji looks at her from the corner of his eye, and Tenten realizes that he's riled her up on purpose. She glowers at him. "This is some scheme of Yamanaka's, then."
"You mean Ino planned for this to happen?" Tenten sputters.
He shrugs lightly. "She tries to match people up. I see why my cousin left for Naruto today - Hinata usually rides with me."
Tenten blinks, remembering the quiet girl from before. She's Neji's cousin? "She seemed nice," Tenten recalls. "Unlike you."
The look Neji sends her is intent, but unreadable. "And I prefer my women a little less... vocal than you are."
She gapes at him. "Are you insulting me?"
"That depends on how you perceived that statement," he informs her mildly.
Tenten glares. She hasn't met anyone as arrogant and infuriating as this Neji person. "Well, I prefer my men less conceited than you are," she snipes.
"You've been missing out, then," he responds.
She doesn't know what to say to that, so she remains fuming in her seat while Neji continues to make sharp turns and overtake other cars, still at that breakneck speed that is really going to get them killed at some point.
They approach the central business district once again, with fewer cars in front of them this time - just two. Tenten watches, fingers sunk deep into her seat, as Neji pulls a fast turn on one car, and drives into the parking lot of a Japanese place just after the first of the sports cars in the race.
"Not bad for heading out last," Neji comments, scanning the parking lot with those unnaturally pale eyes of his. "And especially with a noisy passenger like you."
Her eyes widen. Tenten doesn't register Neji unbuckling his seat belt. "Noisy? What the hell do you mean by that-"
And his lips are on hers, drowning her voice out. Tenten freezes in utter shock as Neji claims her lips with the most persuasive kiss she's ever received.
She realizes that she doesn't have anything to lose by giving in, really, except for maybe her pride, but his tongue is sliding over her lip and she's hardly able to catch her breath. Tenten answers him hesitantly - and stops thinking when her tongue meets his in a heady dance; she parts her mouth to him, is barely aware of him lowering the passenger side seat and pressing her down, shifting his head for better access.
Her insides are melting hot and she's tangling her fingers in his hair when someone knocks unceremoniously on the tinted windows, breaking them back into reality.
She sits upright, bumping her forehead hard against Neji's nose, breathing hard. He licks his lips, unperturbed, slants a smug glance at her. "We'll come in first the next race. There's plenty to do while we wait."
Tenten flushes a bright red, staring as he gets out of the car, and walks over to her door, pulling it open for her. What happened to her irritation at him for being so annoying?
Almost all the cars are in the parking lot now; Naruto is standing right by Neji's car with a bright grin, and as Tenten steps out, her cheeks cooled somewhat, she spots Ino leaning against the side of Kiba's car, grinning triumphantly at her. She frowns at Ino, mouthing, Nothing happened!
Ino rolls her eyes, mouthing back, Yeah, right.
"Are you free this afternoon?" Neji asks quietly beside her, and Tenten swallows hard, looking back at him. He's even more beautiful from the front, she realizes, and catches herself remembering the silkiness of his hair. And lips. And tongue.
"Um, yes," she fumbles uncomfortably, swallowing hard. Her stomach is most definitely not flipping because of that.
"I look forward to getting to know you better," Neji tells her mildly. The quirk of his lips sends her mind spiraling too close to the gutter, and Tenten nods mutely, wary of shooting herself in the foot with some stupid reply.
This isn't the first blind date she's been on - but Ino was right: this is definitely the most unexpected one ever. Especially when Neji flicks a casual glance over her body, and she feels herself heat all over.
Lunch couldn't possibly end quickly enough.
A/N: (1) Not sure where to take this... so it's going to remain a oneshot. ;) I do have several other ideas to write, and am working on another oneshot... And yes, the husband took us out driving, and we hit 130mph (200kmh) for a bit... it was insane. ;)
(2) Plus, I actually also agreed to continue Interim's Warm and The Gamers... Will work on those at some point - just so you guys know. ;)
(3) Among the oneshots I've written, do you guys have a favorite so far? ;)
As always - if you enjoyed this, leave a review! And happy Valentine's Day/half-priced chocolate day on Sunday! Husband and I are totally celebrating by going to get discount chocolate. ;)