Notes: cowritten with CCS AnGeL. We're both insane. Written in the wee hours of dawn from August-September, so pre-chapter 238. Kindasorta Neji/Tenten.
(reuploaded for some minor edits and things i didn't catch before; and yes, this is a multi-parter; 8 parts, to be exact).
2005.02.08: reuploaded again because FFN got rid of some of the ellipses. People, you need to tell me when I'm missing things.
Part One: Sacrifice
Their mouths dropped open as they watched the tree crash to the ground. Tenten winced when Neji started on a fourth, and even Lee was rendered speechless by the time the seventh tree met its doom.
Apparently Neji didn't like forests. Or something.
"Neji, my prodigy, what is with the environmental destruction today? Did the innocent trees do something to interfere with your budding youth?" Tenten suppressed a groan. Her teacher would HAVE to make things worse, wouldn't he, she thought, watching in awe as the tenth tree knocked over an eleventh.
"No." The short answer would normally have deterred most sane people. Then again, Gai wasn't exactly sane.
"Then Neji, tell me what is the matter! Your teacher will help you put things to right so you can enjoy the springtime of your youth once more!"
"Neji!" pleaded Gai, slinging his arm around the boy's shoulders. Neji shrugged it off immediately. "You must confide in me!"
"At this rate, Konoha's forests will be decimated!"
"The wildlife will not survive! Konoha will lose her springtime! Why even," and Gai slipped into a conspiratorial whisper, "the squirrels will have no place to live."
"I don't care."
"Neji!" Lee roused himself from his stupor at the mention of "squirrels." "I cannot allow you to destroy our natural habitat! The squirrels will not be left homeless!" Lee struck a pose. Tenten couldn't even remember what it was called, but she knew it was the seventy-eighth pose in Lee's repertoire. "I will defeat you or do seven hundred push ups with only one arm!"
Tenten groaned. Not only was her teacher insane, but her teammate as well. But then again, this wasn't news.
"Neji," she started, "don—"
Oh shit. Did he just slip into that stance? Lee was fucked.
"Lee, I don't thin—"
"Tenten, I will protect the squirrels, even if it costs my life!" declared the boy, his eyebrows stringing together as he frowned with concentration.
So Tenten did the only thing she could do. She got out of their way. "Sensei, aren't you going to stop them?"
"Tenten, you need to understand. Young males, whether they are tigers, stags or humans, have this primal urge to FIGHT one another from time to time." He grinned at her, the whites of his teeth still startling and frightening her a bit. "When that happens, you don't get involved."
"Not even as their teacher, would I be willing to get involved." He winked and gave her a thumbs up. "Don't worry, they won't kill on—"
"Oh shit." Gai ran to stop the fight.
"You were SAYING Gai-sensei?" Tenten muttered as she whipped bandages and antiseptic out of the first aid kit with the ease of long practice. She glanced over her shoulder to assess the damage, and lugged the entire kit with her, just in case.
"Of course, tend to him first." Neji's voice was cool. She shivered at the implied insult behind it.
"He's severely hurt, Neji! And unconscious! What has gotten into you today?"
". . . nothing." He glared at Lee's prone body. "He pissed me off."
"He did no more than he usually does," snapped Tenten, unwrapping the bandages around Lee's hands so she could check them for damage. "Look, Neji," she said, pausing for a moment, "if this is about yesterday. . ."
"Yesterday?" Gai perked up. Neji's eyes narrowed.
"Then what has gotten INTO YOU?"
Her lips tightened into a thin line. He was really pissing her off. Then again, this wasn't new. "Fine," she said, turning her attention back to Lee. By the time Lee regained consciousness Neji had disappeared. She tried her best to ignore the shouts going on in the village.
"What happened?" Lee was groggy. Gai nearly sobbed.
"Oh Lee! You've returned to the land of the living! You will not waste the flower of your youth any longer!"
"Neji kicked you and you hit the tree pretty hard," Tenten answered, motioning towards the tree that had been the cause of it all, watching her teacher and teammate hug warily. You never knew when they would break out into random sparkles. "I think you broke the fall with your head. Can you see how many fingers I'm holding up?"
"Yes," the boy answered happily. "Seven."
". . .you better lie back down for a moment," Tenten said, pushing him back down. "Gai-sensei, let him go."
"Yes Lee?" She was putting away their medical supplies. She reminded herself to get it restocked as soon as possible. They really went through it much too quickly for her liking.
"Did I save the squirrels at least?"
She sighed, brushing her bangs off her forehead in an impatient move. "Yes you did."
"Good." The boy seemed content to lie there, having his teacher sob over him. Lee did like attention. "Oh, Tenten?"
"What did you do to make Neji so mad?"
"Um. . ." she rolled the last of the bandaging very slowly. "What makes you think he's mad at me?"
Lee snorted. It was uncharacteristic coming from the happy boy. Then again, he was suffering from a head injury. "Tenten, you're the only one that affects him this way."
"Not true," she muttered. "There's also his family."
It was Gai's turn to snort. "There's that also."
"You never make Neji angry," continued Lee. "Sensei and I always do, but you're always very careful around Neji. So what did you do?"
Tenten rubbed her forehead as she closed the medical kit. "I turned him down."
". . .WHAT!"
"I didn't mean to!" she wailed.
Gai frowned. "No wonder he was unfocused today. But Tenten, I thought you enjoyed life! You're still a blooming flower in the springtime of your youth! Why would you do such a thing?"
She sighed, snapping the medical kit shut. "He asked me to train with him."
Lee blinked, clearly not possessing all of his mental functions yet. "So? Don't you train with him all the time? And you're holding up three fingers."
She took her hand away from his face, allowing him to sit up cautiously. "Yes, but usually when we train, it's for his benefit. But this time, he wanted to train me."
"Don't look at me like that," she said, sounding cross and not caring.
"AND YOU DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS A DATE?"
"How was I supposed to know? Normal guys do not ask girls to TRAIN with them as a DATE!" she retorted.
"Hmm, yes, I see your point," Gai said, fingering his chin. "What did you say when he asked you?"
"I told him that I had to go home and help with dinner and that I wouldn't be able to."
Lee and Gai stared at Tenten.
"What?" she snapped.
"Tenten, I have a solution for your troubles," Gai intoned. Tenten shifted uneasily.
He leaned forward so that he could stare at her in the face. She resisted the urge to back away from her teacher. "RUN!"
"WHAT? THAT'S YOUR SOLUTION?"
Lee nodded. "I agree Sensei. Tenten, you need to run far, far away."
". . .I was thinking of apologizing, you know," she said. Her team was made of lunatics, she thought.
Gai and Lee shook their heads in tandem. "You've made an enemy of Neji, Tenten. You need to run! Run into the mountains!"
". . .you're mad," she muttered. "Can't I just apologize?"
Gai and Lee gaped at her. "DO YOU WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WITH HYUUGA NEJI? ARE YOU INSANE?" they screeched.
"I'll place you in the witness protection program! Your family and the Hokage will understand. Jiraiya-sama will accompany you, and you can live in the mountains. I'll come visit you every month to bring you provisions so you won't become a hermit by living in the mountains an—"
"Sensei, I am NOT going anywhere with Jiraiya-sama. He asked me to pose for his next volume of that book of his."
"Tenten," Gai reached over and put his hands on her shoulders, shaking them with all the force of the passion in him. She felt nauseated. "My flower, my beautiful peony, you mustn't waste your youth attached to Neji. It's. . .not healthy." By now he was sobbing on her right shoulder with Lee clinging to her left. "You will thrive in adversity, Tenten!"
"I am NOT running away with Jiraiya-sama," she said. "Can't you imagine what his reaction would be like?"
They all thought for a moment, and shuddered. Some things were too much for even Gai and Lee to handle.
"Sensei," Lee said, sounding ill, "Sending her to live with him is a bit. . .extreme."
Gai nodded, looking rather green. "Perhaps. But we must think of something!"
"I guess I'll just have to apologize." She lived to be fifteen; it would be a good time to die.
They stared at her. It was really quite disconcerting since they had to look up at her since they were still clinging onto her for dear life. "Tenten," Lee said, his words coming out slow, "do you actually LIKE Neji?"
". . .That's none of your business," she huffed, shoving her teacher and teammate off of her. They fell in a heap.
"Don't worry Tenten," Lee said, rising slowly to his feet. "I'll protect you from the likes of Hyuuga Neji! No matter what may happen, he will not be allowed to lay a hand on you! That," and he grinned, going into his nice guy pose. Tenten resisted the urge to groan. "is my promise." His teeth went ping!
"I'm just going to apologize," she muttered, clambering to her feet. "Much easier than running into the mountains with Jiraiya-sama."
"I wouldn't count on that," muttered Gai and Lee, but she ignored them.
She had to find Neji. She paused for a second, listening to the screams. She might as well take the scenic route and figure out how much death and devastation he had carved, she thought. She sighed. How the hell was she supposed to get Neji to stop with a mere apology?
She stopped short at the sight of ruin that lay before her. Store roofs were broken; some even taken off completely. Naruto's favourite ramen shop was missing a wall and—were those deer running around the streets?
"Oi," a voice said from behind her. "Do you see something wrong with this picture?"
Tenten whirled around and came face to face with a very annoyed Shikamaru. He wasn't really angry, as it took too much energy to be angry. Nevertheless, he was wearing his patented "I-am-so-very-annoyed-because-you-are-making-me-do-something-troublesome-and-it's-cutting-into-my-cloud-watching-time" face. "Um. . . no?" she tried.
This was somehow her fault. Shit. Where was Jiraiya-sama when she needed him? This would be the perfect chance to run away with him to a dark, desolate—oh God. She wasn't THAT desperate. Not yet, anyway.
He pointed to his house and then to a white fence, which had a monstrous hole in it. "Do you see that hole in the fence?"
". . . Yes," she admitted. They watched a deer trying to slurp from a bowl of ramen.
"STOP IT YOU STUPID DEER—GIMME BACK MY RAMEN!" someone yelled. Both Tenten and Shikamaru watched with equally bemused expressions as Naruto chased the deer off and proceeded to avenge his bowl of ramen by running after the deer.
Shikamaru sighed. He sighed again when Naruto flew into the garbage can. He should've known it was smarter than Naruto. "Do you see the empty deer pen?"
". . . yes," she said in a small voice, putting her face in her hands.
"Now, what's missing?" he asked as he wrangled a deer back in the pen, trying to cover the hole with his body. Damn, this was too troublesome for words.
"Shikamaru-kun. . ." she felt horribly guilty now. This was Neji's work all right. He never did anything half assed. She was sort of surprised he didn't slaughter the deer while he was at it.
Within minutes he managed to get three of the six deer back, still using his body as a makeshift plug. She managed to rein one in with her chakra strings, and he gave her a nod of thanks. "What did you do to piss Neji off anyway?" he asked, wincing when the deer that made Naruto launch himself into the garbage head butted him in the rear. "I better get the afternoon off for doing this crap. . ."
"I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO NEJI! WHY IS IT MY FAULT!" she screamed. Thankfully, it was mostly drowned out by Naruto's epithets, which were getting more colourful by the second.
"No one else affects him this way," he said dryly, raising an eyebrow at the ramen shop roof, which picked that particular moment to implode.
Tenten scoffed. "HIS FAMILY DOES!" She felt the ridiculous urge to add "So there!" but restrained herself. Barely.
"Yeah, them too," he agreed as Naruto finally got out of the garbage can and chased the rest of the deer back into the pen. "I heard you turned him down and now he's going on a homicidal rampage," he added.
". . ." Gai and Lee were dead. They were so dead, they were dead yesterday. The chuunin noted her expression and mumbled something about finding the rest of the family deer.
She bid goodbye to Shikamaru, wished him luck on fixing his fence (he might have said something about troublesome girls under his breath, but she wasn't quite sure) and made her way to find Neji.
"All I have to do is follow the path of destruction," she laughed a little in spite of herself. Was she insane? Going to confront Neji? Neji on a rampage? It was a death wish waiting to happen. Getting groped on a daily basis by Jiraiya-sama in their hidden cave almost sounded appealing.
She followed the booming sound. It could only be Neji, she thought, circling her way back into the forest. How bad could it be? Sure, he's got issues with his family, and he's sort of a homicidal freak, but at the worst, he could only be. . .surrounded by at least a dozen fallen trees. "Hey Neji, you think you have time to train me today?" she asked, walking behind him. She took care to be very nonchalant. Now would not be the time to make him think that this was a pity date.
". . ." He didn't even turn around to face her. She could see his shoulders were tense. Shit. He could kill her and no one would hear her scream. Or if they did, they wouldn't help her anyway. You don't piss off the Hyuuga prodigy and live.
"I wanted to. . . apologize," she chose her words with as much precision and care as she could. "I really did want to train with you, but my mother needed my help. She's a terrible cook, you see, and my grandparents were coming to visit," she said in one breath.
She coughed a little. There has to be an easier way, she thought. "So. . . still up for it?" She gave him her best smile, knowing he could see it. Please let him fall for this, she begged. Please.
". . . fine," he relented. There was no inflection in his voice. "Meet me here in an hour."
"Sure." Oh this is bad, she thought. What did I get myself into?
She walked slowly and painfully towards the training site the next morning. She would make it, she vowed. She definitely would. She got up two hours early to do this.
"Tenten!" Lee ran to her side, slinging her arm around his shoulder the moment he caught sight of her. She leaned most of her weight onto him, and he grunted. "What happened?"
"Training with Neji," she said through gritted teeth. Even with her numbed arms, she could feel Lee stiffen in sympathy.
"Oooh." He paused to offer her a piggyback; she accepted. Screw pride; she had spent three hours training with Hyuuga Neji last night. "Tenten, are you sure. . .?"
"No." She let her arms hang loosely around Lee's shoulders. It hurt too much to try to hold on.
"I should've gone with the pervert," she muttered.
Lee jumped, making Tenten slide off his back with a jarring thump. She almost cried. They were SO CLOSE. A few more steps and she would've made it.
"What pervert?" repeated Neji.
"Uh, nothing," chorused Lee and Tenten. The girl gave up her dignity, and let Lee pick her up. She could feel Neji's eyes following their every move, but at this point, she could care less.
"I'll meet you in the school's indoor dojo. Your genjutsu is weak," Neji said.
There was no way in hell she was training tonight. No way. He could trash all of Konoha for all she cared, but there was just no way. "Uh, Neji?" It hurt to move her lips even.
He looked at her. ". . ."
Ah shit. ". . .I look forward to tonight."
He nodded and left before he could see the tears welling in her eyes.
"Don't worry Tenten." Lee gave her a reassuring smile. "Gai-sensei and I will leave you expensive offerings every day on your grave! And we'll offer prayers every night! Your brave sacrifice will not be forgotten!"
"Make that three times a day," groaned Tenten. "You can skip praying for my soul; I think this training is karmic payback enough."
Lee grinned. "Done," he said, dropping her on the ground long enough to do his good guy pose. Her muscles screamed.
"On second thought, my mortal soul could still use some help."
"I'll pray twice a day," her teammate promised generously.
Maybe the mountains weren't such a bad idea.