It's been a great month for nejiten, and I am very keen to see this event being repeated next year, possibly with more people getting involved as well! Bigs thanks to everyone who enjoyed these oneshots!
Week 4 prompt used: it isn't my fault you're perfect, gifts
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto!
because Team Gai is so extra
"Your new hurdle assessment piece: in pairs, you will be assigned an egg to care for over the next month. Now, please come up to the front to draw your partner's name."
Because she has no surname, Tenten is the first to draw a name from the weird, sparkly blue top hat that Mr Hatake insists on displaying year-round, even though it's a little frayed at the edges and losing the rich sapphire colour it used to have. She remembers Temari the Senior telling her that it's because he actually stores his porn books in it, though no one's ever come close enough to the hat to find one. He also wears a mask, for some reason, and she's pretty sure that it's against Departmental Regulations but Mr Hatake is also the coolest health teacher on campus so she isn't about to cross that line. Yet.
She dips her hand into the hat, swirls it around a bit, prays that she'll have a partner who'll help her pass and not shatter the egg, then picks up a piece of paper that's folded so precisely it's an exact square. Opening it up, Tenten is awarded by the most shocking revelation of her life. Who in the blazes is 'Neji Hyuga'?
Neji Hyuga, apparently, is that guy who sits right at the front with his hair immaculately tied into a ponytail and snaps out lines that border between poetry and insults. She honestly has never paid much attention to him, only now knowing that he's been topping the academic board for so long that no one - not even the teachers - bother acting surprised when he scores highest every year. Also, he's the cousin of Konoha High's wallflower, Hinata Hyuga, a sweet sophomore who's so quiet and kind that no one in the school wants to pick on her, ever. Which is why their relation comes as another shock to Tenten because Neji (who actually talks a lot in class, to her surprise) is probably the worst person she's ever met.
"Hi, I'm Tenten," she holds out a hand for him to shake. Their seats are being reassigned to whoever their new partners are, and amongst all of the shuffling and shouting that's going on, Tenten is one to always remember etiquette because she's a good girl who was raised right by the orphanage caretaker. The same doesn't seem to go for him, because he leaves her hanging and replies with a stiff nod. "Okay," she slumps into her new, disgustingly warm, seat, "nice to meet you too."
"Let's just get this over and done with," he says with an air of finality. Tenten sputters, her eyes darting between the egg sitting before them and his stoic face. He returns her incredulous gaze with one of impetuousness. "We only need to talk whenever the assignment entails it."
"Wow," she mutters to herself, then side-eyes him, and decides to completely skip over the part where she wants to retain her etiquette, "You are such a loser."
That gets his attention. Neji swivels in his seat, abhorred. "I don't think I recall you topping the school's academic board."
"I came first in PE, doucheface," she hisses back when Mr Hatake's powerpoint slides pop up - a sign for total silence that no one has ever listened to in the years he's been teaching here (so, five).
"Ah, a subject for men."
"Yeah, well," her brain is rifling through the vast database of insults she stores in her mind whenever she's in the shower and arguing with an imaginary person, "If you look at that list, you don't even qualify as one."
Neji stares. Mr Hatake finally manages to quiet down the class with a horn he keeps stowed away in his top drawer. Neji continues to stare, to her satisfaction. "I don't like you."
"Neji," Mr Hatake calls out, having caught him for breaking the Sacred Rule of Silence, "Kindly refrain from defying authority for today, thank you."
From her slumped posture, elbows on the table, fingers holding her pens and paper in place, Tenten tilts her head back and lets out a silent laugh.
"Look," Tenten sighs for the fiftieth time since entering the Hyuga Compound. It's a large mansion with marble floors, columns and staircases; she's slipped once or twice, because that's how polished it is. They're in Neji's room, deciding on a name for their egg (which apparently takes more than the six allotted hours of a school day when it comes to Neji Hyuga's 'List of Adequate Baby Egg Names, Condensed and Revised for Tenten's Stupidity') and timetabling their shifts. "Could you please stop thermoregulating the egg? Literally nothing has changed in the past two hours. Give it a rest."
He almost gasps in astonishment, but she counts it as a success when he finally removes his thermometer from the mini marble egg bathtub. Don't ask, because she'll tell you anyway, but Neji claims that his little cousin Hanabi has a Thing for collecting elaborate, custom-made egg-holders. Tenten doesn't buy it. At all. "Excuse you. My child will be cared for in the way I deem fit."
"Wow," she watches him fuss over his - their - egg like a mother hen and massages her forehead delicately. "I think I just understood something."
"Nothing flattering for you, that's what."
"I don't need flattery from you when I have Eggbert to care for."
"Hold up," Tenten places her palms in the air, affronted, "Eggbert? I thought we agreed on Eggs Benedict?"
Neji scoffs with his nose high up in the air. "No child of mine will be named Eggs Benedict. How barbaric."
"I'm sorry," she starts sarcastically, "It's not my fault you're so perfect. After we inaugurate the egg into your clan, shall we decide on Eggbert von Hyugastein's bedroom decor?"
"The best suggestion you've made since...well, ever."
Tenten groans. This is going to be a long month.
Despite the looming threat of mid-year exams catching on, Neji sticks to their shift timetables like a slavedriver and insists on getting the compulsory 'joint parenting outing' out of the way so that he 'never has to see her face again'. Like he can even help that. They literally have every class together.
Because he's the one forcing her out of her procrastinatory slumber, though, she gets to choose where they go - egg-racing in the park with Lee, since he refused to pay for a huge dinner at Konoha's most expensive restaurant (The Golden Flower) for their family.
Reputedly the most active person in all of Konoha, tying only with Mr Gai, Rock Lee wears spandex-green jumpsuits on a constant basis and emulates his idol Bruce by spending almost every waking second in the gym and dojo, if not on his extremely sleek bob. He's overwhelming, but he's also Tenten's best friend, as well as someone Neji once described to her as 'pitiful' and 'annoying', so that's why they're meeting up with him.
Predictably, Lee's egg is painted forest green, complete with orange leg-warmers and a mini-bob, and is called the 'Springtime of Youth'. Tenten takes utter delight in the cringe that spreads across Neji's face when he realises that they have to spend the next ten hours with Lee unless he agrees to spread out 'joint parenting outing' over a month instead of a day.
Anyway, the race is amazing. Lee puts all of his energy into everything he does, so it's a complete obstacle course of sloping slides and mazes for the waxed eggs to roll through. She places all of her savings (so, fifty cents - she likes to buy things, okay? Shut up, Neji.) on Eggbert von Hyugastein and is shockingly backed up by Neji's big, fat, fifty-dollar bill. The gesture catches her off-guard, because he's actually smiling at her, but then Lee declares the betting pool closed and starts the race.
Here's a snippet of how it goes:
"Lee's winning. LEE'S EGG IS WINNING. SPRINGTIME OF YOUTH IS WINNING. NEJI."
Neji calmly squints at their egg, dressed to the nines in tailored Hyuga robes, to move faster down the padded obstacle course. It works; Springtime of Youth suddenly comes to a halt, giving Eggbert the precious few seconds it needs to gain ground. Tenten whoops and tackles Neji into a headlock.
"YOU'RE AMAZING. NEJ, WE'RE WINNING!"
Neji manages to claw his way out and straighten his robes with enough dignity to make the Queen feel ashamed. "I told you," Tenten's seconds away from crying tears of happiness when she looks at him, "Eggbert is telepathic."
"My baby's growing up," Tenten wipes a tear away from the corner of her eye as she leans her head onto Neji's stiffened shoulder. "Our baby's growing up."
"Honey, I'm home!"
Neji opens the door to his room and greets her. "I prefer being called Neji."
"I was talking to Eggbert, loser."
"Oh," Neji replies, trying not to look too disappointed.
Tenten places her bag on the ground and coos at the egg perched in its diorama-room, in between the mini-marble columns and Picasso paintings on the walls. "How's my widdle baby doing? Mummy's home now and she has a gift!"
Tenten extracts a decorative egg cup with 'SPELL-BINDEGG' printed in bold over the surface and situates it in the corner of Eggbert's room.
Neji joins her and smiles down at his child. "They grow up so fast. An hour ago Eggbert rolled over."
She gasps in delight before letting her face fall. "I've been meaning to ask," Neji turns around and quirks up an eyebrow. "Don't you think I should get some home-time with Eggbert now? You've already had your two weeks and I am the mother of our child."
Neji gawks at once. "But-what will I do in my spare time? This is just cruel."
"You'll still get to see Eggbert every second day and on weekends - it's not like I'm taking it from you forever."
Neji gives Eggbert a pained look and says, "I'm sorry this is the way things have turned out, son. But understand that your mother and I love you very much. It's just best for you to know what it's like to have a mother before you come back and live with me forever."
Tenten turns to him, aghast. "Forever? What happened to equal coparenting? I'm family too! I deserve to be with my baby and if you won't accept that then I demand full custody. In fact," she grabs Eggbert and the cup and seizes her bag from the ground. "Good luck seeing my baby again."
It's a little dramatic, even for her tastes, but it's her baby. She can't help it if eggs bring out the drama queen inside of her.
"Are you going to keep ignoring me?"
Tenten sniffs, like Neji sitting next to her like he always does in class these days is the beginning of the apocalyse. Eggbert is sitting on her side of the table for the in-class examination of egg-health.
"We have to make up someday. Eggbert needs both his parents. I'm sorry I tried to take you out of the picture, but I've thought about it and I think we can come to a compromise."
She turns to him with a slight smile. "You mean it? You don't think I'm a horrible parent anymore?"
"No," Neji shakes his head encouragingly, "I think we both have our strengths and weaknesses. It's up to us to give Eggbert the family it deserves."
Mr Hatake walks in twenty minutes late with his briefcase, and Tenten sniffles and slides Eggbert to the middle of their table. "Okay."
"I don't want to see Eggbert go," Neji whines when the alotted month is up. Tenten's sniffing beside him as they walk up the steps into their classroom. "You think you know a person but they're really just an inhumane teacher trying to steal our babies away from us."
They reach the door to the classroom, where they're greeted by Lee's strange green egg, Naruto and Sasuke's predictably smashed egg yolk and Sakura and Ino's bowtied egg, and Neji makes a strange hissing sound.
"My precious," he clutches Eggbert to his chest and glares at Mr Hatake, who's not late for once and rolling his eyes at them humourlessly. "You will not take my baby from me."
"It was never yours to begin with," their teacher calls out flatly, because yes, chickens lay eggs.
Churlishly, Tenten stomps to her desk and shouts, "You're never yours to begin with," Neji in tow with Eggbert still held tight against his chest. They take their designated seats at the front and glare up at the teacher in silent protest.
Mr Hatake ignores their passive aggressive intervention and drawls out the names of partnered groups to walk up to the front for presentations. Predictably, as Kakashi always calls people at the top of the roll, she and Neji are called up first. They make a show of whipping out her custom made shuriken USB drives when they go up, terror-inducing glares still glued onto their faces and aimed at Naruto, who's suddenly confused as Hell.
"It is time," Neji starts when their very detailed slides finally pop up on the screen, "to ask yourselves a question. Who are you?"
There's a groan at the back of the classroom that Tenten silences with Kakashi's blue whiteboard marker. Neji continues. "I am Neji Hyuga."
"And I am Tenten."
"Today we bring to you not a presentation, but an expression of our souls. Our time together with Eggbert von Hyugastein has taught us many valuable lessons." There's a slight cough when Eggbert's name is brought up.
"Humility," Tenten quips, slamming her closed fist into an open palm as each new word is accompanied by a different picture of Eggbert wearing different costumes, "Patience. Creativity. Respect. Cooperation. Bonding. Compromise." She shoots a megawatt smile at Neji that he doesn't have enough time to properly absorb but responds to with gusto nevertheless.
"We found ourselves struggling to juggle work with family, fun with stress, and sternness with flexibility - but in the end, we pulled through and learned the true meaning of parentage. And that is, responsibility."
Neji retakes the helm and places Eggbert on the front desk. Their PowerPoint presentation lands on the final picture - one of Neji and a Tenten smiling down at their baby. "After a month with Eggbert, I can safely say that if anything happens to my baby I will make everyone's lives a living Hell." She beams proudly at how he maintains his classic straight-faced, no-nonsense face. The classroom remains deafeningly silent. "Many times, I have considered electrocution, but apparently that's illegal when performed deliberately."
"Apparently," Tenten reinforces with a dagger-like glare at the audience.
"And now I ask you all - who are we? We are parents," the slides move alongside Neji's words. "Parents who love, hate and sacrifice for their children. I think I can vouch for everyone here that they would devote their lives to their children. Except you, Lee. You'll chase them away with green spandex."
"Hear hear!" Lee cheers from the back, causing several others to join in with the standing ovation. Neji and Tenten bow at the front with ear-splitting grins on their faces before walking back to their desks triumphantly. The whooping does down as Mr Hatake heads to the front of the classroom, mildly dazed.
"Thank you, Neji and Tenten, for that shining pearl of wisdom. You truly...outdid yourselves," he allows a brief silence to commemorate his words, "Now, who would like to go next?"
The classroom immediately shrinks back, leaving Lee to stand up from his desk exuberantly and march to the front with lines of determination on his face. "Me! Me!"
"You know, we don't have to hang out after school anymore." Tenten swings her backpack around her shoulder and smiles at Neji, who's standing beside her expectantly. They'd received an A, of course, though Neji's been whining about the lack of a '+' and Mr Hatake's lack of a spine, apparently, for not being able to stomach empty threats. She's just glad that they scored so high, really, and that they got to keep their egg.
"True, but I've been meaning to say something."
He waits for her to finish rifling through the rest of her papers and look up at him before continuing. "I think you're great."
"Oh. Thanks!" She replies brightly, pretending that Neji Hyuga overtly displaying his thoughts isn't throwing her off a ledge at all.
"I mean," he seems to retract a few mental steps, a little deflated at her reaction, "If you ever need anything, like lunch at The Golden Flower, or a movie partner, or perhaps-"
"Hold up," she stops him, her palm pressed directly over his sternum. He flushes a little at the contact but clamps his jaws together regardless. "What are you trying to say?"
"Date," he blurts out, face reddening, "Would you like to go on a date some time?"
"Sure. How about this Friday?" Grinning, Tenten lets go of her hold over his chest and skips a little when they exit the classroom. Neji positively beams.
"That sounds perfect."