Seeking Comfort

Joint project of BullyKilla and neonate
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Neji, Sakura, Shino, and Chouji.
Summary: This summer in Konoha…Neji jokes, Sakura flirts, Shino gossips, and Chouji eats.

Disclaimer: Last year we tried haggling for the copyright of Naruto with Kishimoto-sensei. He wanted a lifetime supply of pork ramen. We went home defeated. This year, we'll try again…

The weather was imitating hell that day in Konoha. Every inhabitants of the shinobi village could be seen wearing less than their usual attire. Even the conservative elders of the village were baring their wrinkled limbs to combat the hellish temperature. To put it short, it was a day when the birds cry from having too much feather.

Everybody was flustered and getting increasingly indecent, except for one person.

Hyuuga Neji stood unmoving, fully-clothed in his high-rise-collar shirt and full-right-limb bandages. The temptation to take off the forehead protector from his sweating brows was great, although what is a shinobi if not skilled in the art of resisting temptations? And he was a very good shinobi. Really.

But…a thought occurred to him. His bandages, wet with sweat, were starting to bother him a bit too much for his convenience. Neji didn't know how to describe the feeling on his skin without sounding childish. They, ah…they itched, dammit.

He surveyed his surrounding. As far as he could see was the Forest of Death at the end of the village. Hyuuga Neji liked high places. It had been a habit for him to seek places of great height such as the radio tower. As a child he used to imagine that he could fly if he was able to climb high enough. Besides, the breeze up there was so much better. And as people say, old habits die hard.

However, only dead air greeted him when he climbed up the rooftop of the Hokage's office.

His face fell, disappointed, but he refused to leave the spot. He liked watching the clouds from there too. Anybody who thought that watching clouds was exclusively Nara Shikamaru's hobby was greatly mistaken, albeit the genius chuunin took the activity to another level. Neji appreciated the calmness of the sky and at times when everything else failed him, the blue sky provided a much sought comfort. The view of flying birds, soaring as if the sky belonged to them, pleased him beyond anything else.

Speaking of birds, where are they?

Neji didn't know that most birds had taken refuge in the cool forest. They just felt too heavy to fly that day.(1)

From where he was seated the streets of Konoha were clearly visible to him. He saw Akimichi Chouji walking while carrying and slurping a gallon of cookie dough ice cream (Neji didn't think Chouji was into sweets, but oh well…). What struck Neji was the absence of bandages from Chouji's person. That got Neji thinking. What if he too relieved himself from the itching bandages? After seconds of careful consideration, he shook his head. Nah, that would be undignified. Totally so not Hyuuga.

So Neji suffered another bout of itch attack silently.

Suddenly a movement from below caught his attention. A glimpse of blinding pink jarred him back. He knew only one person in the village who possessed that kind of unmistakable color. Funny, his only vivid recollection of her was when she had been crying under the wooden gates of Konoha for the Uchiha boy. That girl was shamelessly tearful in front of six boys and a dog. Back then he didn't think much of her. A kunoichi is a ninja, and a ninja does not show his or her emotions. Yet, she practically had been shedding rivers.

He'd heard the rumors that the Hokage herself had been training the girl to become a medic nin. Usually Neji wouldn't care much about other people's business, but for a genin to attract Tsunade's attention was quite remarkable in itself. He supposed that the Haruno girl had some redeeming qualities, after all.

As if sensing his absentminded thoughts about her, the kunoichi in question turned her face upward to meet his gaze. She blinked once before adjusting her sight. "Hyuuga-san?"

"Hn," came the half-hearted reply. He wasn't sure that he liked being caught staring, although it had come to his attention that most people found him a world-class staring act.

"What are you doing up there?" she asked, one hand shielding her face from the sun.


"Training." Neji's standard reply number one.

"Doing what?"

Was that amusement that he heard in her voice?


Now she eyed him with pity.

"Cooling down is also a part of training, you know," he said off-handedly. No, I'm not crazy yet.

"I see," she replied with a sweet smile. That took Neji aback. Girls, well, girls don't smile at him, you see. They are supposed to be deathly afraid of him, with Ten Ten as an exception though the weapon-mistress was hardly categorized as a girl kind of girl in Neji's dictionary.

"Haruno, I heard that you've been training with Hokage-sama?" he started. Neji didn't know what prompted that question; it just rolled out of his tongue.

"Yeah, I was also kinda surprised when she agreed to train me," Sakura answered sheepishly.

"Hn. As long as you don't screw up, that'll be good enough I suppose."

Sakura frowned, tilted her head, and paused before answering, "Hold on. I'll go up there. It hurts my neck to talk with you this way."


Too late, the kunoichi had jumped onto the awning and used it as a stepping stone to leap higher. She landed effortlessly in front of Neji, and crossed her arms menacingly. "You were saying?" One fine eyebrow lifted, and Neji recognized the signs.


"Yes, Hyuuga-san? Is the hot weather affecting your manners? What you said was rude, even if you don't believe in my ability. Do you think I am bound to be a screw up?"


"Don't take that personally," Neji huffed.

"Easy for you to say, you're not the one taking the insults," she retorted.

"Yes, but I still have to think them."

Now it was her turn to be taken aback. Her lips quivered a bit before breaking into a wide, goofy smile. "You're making jokes," she said with disbelief, "unsuccessfully, but still…"

"I'm training my mental capacity, Haruno," he snapped.

"It must be hard, Hyuuga."

"Very. Don't you see I'm being serious here?" he smirked, and was awarded by light giggles that escaped the pink-haired kunoichi. He had thought that she would not laugh or smile again after the mission to retrieve Uchiha Sasuke had ended up a failure. Somehow at the back of his mind there was an image of her crying forlornly under the huge gates, looking absolutely breakable.

"I think the hot weather is getting to you," Sakura said amidst her giggles.

"Tch, this? This is nothing. You should see Gai-sensei's private sauna. Now that's hot." Neji didn't know what possessed him to say such ludicrous things like that, but her immediate peal of laughter was enough.

"Hyuuga. I think you even got a heatstroke!" Sakura had never expected to find Neji, of all people she knew, attempting bad jokes with his straight poker face.

"Well, medic, isn't it your job to know these things?" he scowled mockingly.

"Yessir, a really bad case of heatstroke, I'd say."

"And the cure?"

"Ice cream!" she said happily.

"What a genius! I want strawberry. Go buy me one," he said while handing her a crumpled bill.

"What a miser, this is not enough."

"Hey, I'm not buying yours," he replied.


"I heard that."

"You're supposed to. Banana you said?" she teased.

"Yes, pink bananas with green dots." Neji was now grinning like an idiot. He was not supposed to grin. Members of the Hyuuga clan don't grin. Perhaps the weather is a tad too hot…

"Ugh, fashion victim."

"What do you know, kunoichi?"

"At least those colors look good on me," she replied, indignant, hands on her hips.

"And I look smashing in red trousers."

"Oh, for the love of Hokage, Hyuuga! Spare me the horror," she rolled her twinkling green eyes.

"Well, I suppose purple is really my color…"

But Sakura was already leaning against the railing, holding her stomach, laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. That made Neji's grin grow even wider.

They continued bickering for a while, each having their own arsenal of insults and gags. Above, the sun in its full regalia glared intensely and the impossible temperature grew hotter.

Hyuuga Neji flushed and leaned against the railing to support himself. He felt a throbbing headache and his mind was swirling. From a corner of his eyes, Neji saw a black beetle perching calmly on the hot steel of the railing. He tried to blow it away but it remained adamant at its spot. Funny beetle…never seen it around before.

"Haruno, I think I am getting a heatstroke," he said gruffly, still leaning and scratching his bandaged right arm. Now Neji felt like throwing up. He wondered if he did vomit, how long would it take to reach the grounds from this height? Well, his mind answered, it depends on the initial velocity of said spew… simple physics.

"That's good, Hyuuga, because I think you're a much nicer person when you get a heatstroke," Sakura declared with a wink.

"No, really. Haruno, I think I'm sick."

Right after that statement, Hyuuga Neji—Konoha's number one rookie, prodigy of the Hyuuga clan, and an overall cool guy—dropped down like lead to the floor. The last thing he heard was Sakura's panic cry and the buzzing of wings.


Oh, the beetle…

... funny.

And the world went black.

To be continued

Message from BullyKilla and neonate:

(1). We lied. We blatantly lied about the birds being too heavy to fly. They're aerodynamically made. They'll fly, unless it's 350 degree Fahrenheit inside your oven.

(2). Why summer? Because the Fire Country's located in the equator. Its climate is tropical, and unless you're thousands of feet above the sea level, you'll never see snow. Are we sure about this? Nope.

(3). We love to hear what you think! This is our first joint project and we even have a beta. Thanks Ranier!