A/N: Set, I think, the morning that Neji leaves with Shikamaru and the others (chapter 182, for those who don't know), and my little "explanation" for what the hell he and Lee were doing awake at that hour, since no one ever gave one. Shikamaru was of course called out, Naruto and Chouji were both woken up, and Kiba was out for a walk, but no one explained why Lee was out of bed and wandering the village or where they found Neji. This annoyed me, because I am anal that way.

Anyway, just a little scene, and vaguely shounen ai, but vaguely friendshippy too (though mind, that's one hell of a friendship I'm talkin' about).

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"White Heat"

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Lee can smell Neji's hair. It's a little musty, like he's been crawling through someone's attic or someplace else he oughtn't be. It has fallen loose and is hanging in both of their faces, because Neji has him pinned on the bed, carefully avoiding pressing down on any place that might cause pain. It depresses Lee to recognize how many of those places there are. He can feel the other's breath, and he's breathing it in himself and knows Neji is breathing in his.

The Hyuga's eyes are as blank as always, and his expression is even blanker.

"Hey." His voice, finally. Lee is a little puzzled to hear that he is a bit breathless. Did he run here?

He was just thinking, waiting for something to happen. Thinking about the operation, and just what the words "fifty percent" really mean, when you get down to it. And Neji had appeared out of nowhere and pressed him down on the bed and started staring at him. This had been going on for at least five minutes now.

"Hey," he says as well after a moment's silence.

"Don't die yet, alright?" Neji's eyes are still blank, but the intensity in them is remarkable.

"I won't," Lee says automatically, with total honesty. Perhaps he is wrong, but it is what he believes, so it is true in its way.

Neji's eyes are white. They have always been white. They reveal so little, and yet . . . yet . . .

Right now, Lee can see more in those empty irises than he has ever seen in all of anyone else.

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* ende *

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. : crimson rage and azure despair : .