Kick-starting my entries for #nejitenmonth is a long-awaited (on my part, at least) Kim Possible AU!
If you're a shipper, equivocal supporter, or reader of NejiTen, I highly recommend you get in on this July's action because there is going to be a massive month of NejiTen goodness. There's already a big, juicy, gold-plattered, five-meal course of entries floating around on tumblr as you read this - as well as plenty more where that came from, so feel free to dig in!
Prompt: Missions, "let me hold your hands for a second", rivals or friends
Disclaimer: I own neither Naruto (Kishimoto) nor Kim Possible (Disney).
Call me, beep me, if ya wanna reach me
He's the most infuriating, self-entitled, pompous, insensitive duckweed she's met since that freshman Sasuke Uchiha accidentally knocked her over while making out with Naruto and didn't apologise for it. To this day, she still throws them eyedaggers whenever they pass her in the hallways - and let it be known that Teen Superhero Tenten's projectiles always manage to hit their target.
Only this time, the collaborator isn't gay and certainly doesn't have the bad-boy aura of Sasuke - he looks like one of those Japanese dolls put out on display every New Year, with his smooth black hair, porcelain complexion and his stupid, stupid ever-present smirk.
Lee, her very competent crime-fighting partner, insists that this rival of theirs is the epitome of youth that everyone - especially her, being a young individual who isn't getting any younger - should aspire to be, so she really shouldn't aim to impale him like Vlad Tepes did to his captured prisoners every time their companies put them together to defeat the same villain.
And here's the thing: she and Lee are fine working together. Their track record is amazing! It's just that their agencies seem to be under the impression that she, Lee and Neji are bloody unstoppable.
Tch, yeah right. Every time Neji "I work alone" Hyuga joins in, they argue over whichever method should be used to defuse bombs, or how to throw a grappling hook onto the ledge of a building, or why C4 should be used to demolish a secret lair instead of the good old, tried-and-true petroleum smothered by fire. Certainly not teamwork-worthy enough for how much praise they get as a three-person unit. And really, who even cares if they've cracked down on some of the hugest villains in the 'biz when they can't stand the sight of each other in real life?
Team Guy and Hyuga Corps, apparently. And the entire world's media.
Okay, fine. Objectively, it makes perfect sense to team them up. Neji is the perfect complement to her long range, weapons-based attacks. He can block just about any manoeuvre and has amazing foresight to boot. And while they're busy securing mission grounds and planning out attack formations, Lee's usually the one who charges forth and offsets their overbearing need for meticulous planning by being so characteristically straightforward. It's usually him who manages to save the day in the most bizarre, out-of-the-box way possible.
But that aspect of their teamwork is where Tenten draws the metaphorical line. She is thoroughly and genuinely disheartened and disapproving of the notion of working with Neji Hyuga, whose agency is overly-reliant on the latest gadgets and are so, so pompous. She's an old school kind of girl who isn't afraid to mix and match with new-age technology, which is often the point of ire between her and Neji whenever they see each other (which, despite how many times she prays to Kami, is often).
At least they don't attend the same high school, because that would be the perfect recipe for a disaster. According to the research that Tenten 100% does not carry out by means of covert surveillance (she totally did stalk him, not that she'll ever admit that to Lee, but it was that one time!), Neji spends his days lounging around the posh gardens of Konoha's Academy for Gifted Individuals, moves to different classes in a private limousine because the campus is that huge, and drinks water out of golden goblets, or something. It's a stark contrast to the more...rustic environment of Konoha High but money doesn't buy happiness, so Tenten's absolutely sure that the amount of privilege that surrounds Neji is proportional to the internal conflict raging on in that tiny, tiny lump of coal that is his heart.
He should be, because just last week he actually stepped aside for her to defuse a bomb and delivered sound advice as she did it - it only took them ten seconds! And the other day Neji steadied her bleeding arm when she threw the grappling hook and carried her in his arms as they ascended the building. That's not all - the guy even let her pour petrol over Orochimaru's latest machine and set fire to it right after they jumped to safety on a helicopter.
What a prick.
Always holding open doors and spontaneously meeting her outside school gates when the day ends and escorting her home during the winter when it's cold and dark (although that took some time getting used to) and making sure she's uninjured and bandaging her when she is. Look, she didn't ask to be bandaged and she didn't ask for him to hold her hand up to administer first aid, never requested for him to make her blush, and he went ahead and did it anyway. None of those occurrences were pre-approved by Tenten so really, she shouldn't have been worried yesterday when he fell off a cliff during a mission.
Except she totally was. Lee was busy fighting off goons and she'd just received a lovely slice to her bicep when Neji was pushed by a thug the size of Mt Everest. It set off about a million triggers in her head - she recalled seeing red and throwing something at the guy's legs and trunk, and then she'd sprinted to the edge of the cliff and fired a grappling hook at the air just beside Neji, which he grabbed on to at the cable end and vaulted himself to safety with at the last second.
Tenten had started crying, and hugging and speaking gibberish - but that could easily be interpreted as concern.
Who was she kidding?
"You're early," Neji's leaning against his usual gate-area when she reaches the exit, a smile gracing the curve of his lips when she greets him. "And your arm is covered expertly, as per usual," he gets close to but doesn't touch the part of her right arm they both know is sliced through like butter and stitched up like a patchwork quilt. She consciously pulls at the edge of her jumper sleeve and shrugs.
"Yeah, I was discharged a few hours ago. Came to school to submit my assignment."
"The one on the physics of the Pyramids of Giza?"
"The very same," Tenten grins and taps at her temple lightly. "It took a few brain cells to pump out, but let's just say the aliens were involved."
They reach their usual bus stop - a crossroads between her small suburban home and Neji's castle - and take a seat. Tenten throws her bag down and slumps against the wall with an agonised groan. Neji's lips perform a funny little smirk and all too soon, she's plagued with the image of his body being flung off a cliff and her subsequent sobbing.
It's a topic they haven't broached since then, even though they've had a debriefing at HQ and silently helped bandage each other up afterwards. She's hoping they'll be able to come to a mutual understanding and psychic agreement like they usually do but as Neji has been as unpredictable as Lee is lately, Tenten's hopes aren't fulfilled.
"Thank you," his voice is barely louder than a mumble, "For saving my life."
Tenten feels something lodge in her throats and coughs a few times, drawing his attention. She tries not to blush at the intensity of his gaze but (probably) fails. "You would've done the same for me."
"I would have," he smiles kindly, "But I wasn't sure if you reciprocated until last night."
Good Kami, does she really come off as that horrible?
Tenten fingers the edge of her sleeve again and leans her head back against the wall of the bus stop. Then again, she had been swearing eternal rival-tude to Neji prior to last night's mission, only to do a complete 180-flip and save his arse the next day - so. That changes things. "I guess we don't always do what we think when the time calls for it. I mean I thought I hated your guts, but obviously I don't anymore and I really don't know when that even changed?" A bus that's probably Neji's route home pulls into the station but he doesn't get on. "I mean, in between saving the world and trying to submit that stupid assignment, I probably realised inwardly that there are other things to channel my hate into - and the fact that you stopped being a twat helped, like heaps." She finishes off her speech when Neji starts doing this strange, ear-splitting grin that makes her voice stop in its tracks and all of a sudden she feels like smashing her head through the glass.
"You mean," Neji says, grin still fixed firmly in place, "You like me now."
"No!" She flushes, crossing her hands before her for emphasis, "I just don't severely dislike you now - enough to save your life."
"Oh, okay," he turns back to watching buses departing and cars avoiding potholes, still beaming, "Well I don't severely dislike you either."
"Good," Tenten says with an air of finality, "Because if you did, that would be awkward."
"Anything for the missions," he smirks.
"Exactly my point," she agrees vehemently. "Can't save the world otherwise." It's her bus's turn to tumble into the station, prompting Tenten to jump to her feet a little faster than one would consider normal (but she isn't just a normal teen, so she considers this matter obsolete), and make a grab at her bag.
"Here, I'll help." Neji swipes up the bag after she makes a miserable attempt of trying to haul it up. "Your arm needs time to rest," he elaborates as she shoots him an affronted glare because how dare he assume she's not strong enough, and then holds his arm out for her to embark onto the bus.
Tenten decides not to look the gift horse in the mouth and boards, the fingers of her swinging arms brushing against Neji's outstretched hand lightly. "Um, thanks," she says as he plops down into the seat beside her, oddly close for the amount of space that's available for them, "You should probably let yourself rest too, near-death experience and all."
"I'm fine," he replies reassuringly, "An angel saved me."
Her heart suddenly performs a pirouette in her chest cavity, it's as disarming as it sounds, and she stares out of the window with her eyes popped open. By all means, Tenten is no stranger to receiving compliments, especially considering her line of work, but such things are essentially unheard of where Neji is concerned.
The logical thought-processes of her brain currently on autopilot, she reacts by pursing her lips into a smile and grinning up at him like an idiot. She feels the apples of her cheeks heating up to volcanic temperatures when Neji dips his head down and whispers something sounding exactly like, "When I met you, I thought you were Heaven on earth."
The fuses in her head wire back together, but in the wrong location, because, "And then I started talking."
Neji chuckles. "I could read the profanities off of your face. They were quite impressive."
"I'm glad. For a while I was worried you didn't get the memo." The corner of her mouth twitches before she turns her head back to the window, hiding her mortification from Neji's view. Had she just…flirted back? With Neji Hyuga? Without trying to strangle him?
There's a sudden bump in the road that sends them into the air for a microsecond, and then she feels his hand covering the top of her hand. Tenten's still wide-eyed at the window when she realises this. Should she move her hand away? He hasn't, yet - and she's assertive, damn it! A few days ago, the slightest skin contact with him would've sent him careening to the other side of the bus!
A pregnant pause ensues, during which her brain flat-wires again, and Neji apparently decides to nudge her palm around and rest his fingers in between hers. She tilts her head down slightly to look at their intertwined hands, tan patterned against a pale white, and pushes a rising sea of panic to the back of her mind. Her fingers curl forwards and find refuge on top of his knuckles.