Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Naruto.
Author's Notes: I was in need of a little light humor after all this angst I've been writing lately so here's the result. Please enjoy. ;)
At 9:05 on a Wednesday morning, Tenten learned that Neji had kissed Sakura.
She had been picking out apples from the street market, running her fingers over the shiny skins before having the manager bag them for her, exchanging the same pleasant courtesies that had left her lips every Wednesday morning for months. It was a bright day, the sun pale and gold hanging just above the roofs of Konoha. The air was pleasant with just a touch of spring and the cherry blossoms would be blooming soon. The birds were singing and she was feeling light-hearted with the knowledge that she would be meeting Neji that afternoon for practice.
Then Ino stopped her in the street, her face practically shouting victory. "Have you heard the news?"
Re-adjusting her bag of apples, Tenten looked at the younger kunoichi hesitantly. For Ino to be this cheerful, something big must have happened, and it probably had something to do with either Sasuke or Sakura. Tenten wasn't all that sure she really wanted to know.
Ino clapped her hands together, her smile just shy of being evil. "Sakura kissed your teammate last night!"
Tenten blinked. "She kissed Lee?" Despite the fact that she would never have thought it possible, the idea was actually pleasing. Tenten was very fond of Lee and if he somehow had managed to win Sakura over-
But Ino was shaking her head. "No! She kissed Neji."
Suddenly, the day was very dark. Tenten felt her stomach drop, her eyes widening as she started blankly at Ino who was still chattering away, crowing over the fact that her rival was now out of the running for Sasuke's attention. The wind that blew was no longer warm, but chilly, and she felt herself tremble slightly, like a leaf in the breeze. Her mind was numb with shock. Neji and Sakura had kissed? Surely… surely Ino had to be mistaken.
"Are…are you sure, Ino?" she asked shakily, interrupting the other girl. "Neji and Sakura…"
"Kissed," Ino finished, looking at her strangely. "I know, it's a bit surprising, isn't it? Who would have thought?" A gleam of triumph flashed in her eyes. "Just wait until I find that Forehead Girl! I can't believe she didn't tell me she had a crush on-"
Tenten turned away, hoping her face didn't show how much her heart was breaking. "I'm sorry. I've got to find Lee. See you later." And she hurried off, barely seeing the people she passed, her mind whirling. How could she not have known that Neji liked Sakura? She knew Neji better than anyone else, or at least she thought she did, and he had never once mentioned Sakura or even glanced at her in a way that could be indicative of hidden feelings. Neji was never very emotional but she would like to think he would have shown some form of affection for the girl, if indeed he really had kissed her.
The image of him kissing Sakura in the moonlight was enough to make her halt abruptly, her chest constricting, and making whoever was behind her run smack into her.
"Ow!" Naruto grumbled as he stumbled backwards. Tenten caught her balance and turned to look at him, forcing a semblance of normalcy into her voice.
"Naruto! I'm sorry, I was…" But he was already brushing himself off, his face downcast.
"Aaa. No big deal," he replied flatly, glancing up at her briefly, seeing her for the first time, "Tenten." He looked depressed and not at all his usual energetic self. It seemed he too had heard the rumor.
She smiled a little, brokenly, although he didn't notice, and watched him amble off, his eyes on the ground. She had a feeling he wasn't the only other ninja affected by the news and, indeed, she found Lee right where she expected to. He was at his favorite training spot, sitting at the base of a tree that looked to have received about a thousand of Lee's kicks. He was drawing meaningless patterns in the dirt, his shoulders hunched.
Knowing he had already sensed her, she sat down next to him silently and handed him an apple from her bag. He took it without a word, biting into it listlessly. She watched him for a moment before leaning back to look at the sky, wondering why she had thought the day pretty when there were so many clouds.
"So you've heard," she said. It wasn't a question.
"Do you think it's true?"
"Sakura-san wouldn't lie."
She blinked. "You talked to Sakura?"
He shifted slightly. "Well, no. I heard from Ino, but she would know, right? She's Sakura-san's best friend."
Tenten pressed her lips together. "I suppose." He finally looked over at her, his expression gentle.
"What about you? How are you doing?"
She waved a hand dismissively. "I'm fine! I mean, why would I be upset? Neji… Neji can do what he wants."
Lee's voice was kind. "Tenten."
She sighed, pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on them. "Alright, I'm miserable. What about you?"
"Same." He threw his apple core into the bushes. "I never thought I would lose Sakura-san to Neji. It's bad enough I can't beat him in training, but this…" He shook his head and she reached over to pat his shoulder.
"I guess I've lost too," she said quietly, "and I didn't even know I was competing." She laughed a little. "That's even worse, isn't it? To be so in the dark?"
"I'm surprised, really. Neji talks to you even if he doesn't talk to anyone else."
She smiled painfully. "I guess that just means he thinks of me as friend."
Lee's expression dropped. "Oh." He paused, choosing his words carefully. "Then, you're giving up?"
She winced. She didn't like putting it like that, but what else could she do? It's not like she had ever told him how she felt. If Neji liked Sakura there was nothing she could about it, and she wouldn't have tried anyway. To her, Neji was important. If he wanted something, she wasn't going to deny him. It was not in her to do so. She could fight anyone else, but not him.
She took a deep breath and hardened her resolve. "I'll go on supporting him, Lee. It's what I'm good at, after all." Smiling bravely for him, she reached over and ruffled his hair as if he were her younger brother, making him grin a little. "And besides, there are other ways to make the one you care about happy, right? You did promise Sakura that you would protect her."
He blinked and then sat up straight, his expression resolving into the determination she was used to. "That's right! No matter what, I will never let anything happen to her."
"There you go, Lee! Gai-sensei would be proud!"
And as if she had said the magic word, he sprang up and pumped a fist in the air. "I will never give up, Tenten! I must be true to my eternal dreams of youthful romance!" He turned and gave her a salute. "I'm going to go run laps around the town and prove my devotion! Do you want to come?"
"Uh, no thanks, Lee. I'm just going to sit and think for awhile. You go ahead."
With a jaunty wave, he was off and running. Once he was out of sight, Tenten leaned back against the tree trunk and let herself break, silent tears falling down her cheeks. She had managed to keep herself together for Lee, and she had meant what she said about supporting Neji, but that didn't mean she wasn't heartbroken. Shattered wishes hurt her just like they hurt everyone else.
She practically jumped, one hand flying to the tears on her face as Neji appeared a few feet away. She had forgotten they were supposed to meet to train and, of course, Neji always showed up early. His life revolved around practice sessions.
He was frowning at her, too, hands at his sides as he gazed at her. Clearing her throat, she grabbed her paper bag full of apples and stood, wondering at her horrible luck. Why did he have to come now? She had already been defeated; couldn't she have one moment to mourn by herself without being made to feel weak?
"Ah, it's nothing," she replied, wiping her tears away with the back of her sleeve. "I'm just being stupid." She looked away, hoping he hadn't read too much in her eyes. "Uhm, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be able to train today. I… I'm not feeling well."
She turned, her insides quaking, but only got a few steps before he called after her.
"Is it Lee?"
She swung back, confused. "What?"
He took a step towards her, his face remarkably stern, almost… angry. "Did Lee make you cry?"
Her eyebrows drew together in puzzlement. "What? No. Why would you think that?"
Some of the heat left his gaze and he glanced away briefly. "I heard this morning." He paused and she waited for him to continue. When it was plain he wasn't going to, she put one hand on her hip.
"Heard what?" she prompted, a little impatient. All she wanted to do was leave so she could cry her heart out in peace. Talk about having a horrible day.
He frowned again as if she was purposefully being difficult and his voice had an edge she had never heard before. "About you and Lee. I don't know why you hid it from me, although it's obvious you weren't thinking. Our team will be off balance because of this."
She shook her head. "What in the world are you talking about? If this is some attempt to cover up you and Sakura kissing, I can't understand-"
He jerked. "What?"
She paused, suddenly even more confused as to what they were talking about. "You and Sakura," she began slowly, "Ino told me this morning that you two had…" She trailed off at the surprised look on his face and something clicked. "It isn't true," she breathed and he shook his head slightly. "Then you didn't…"
"I didn't kiss anyone last night," he said firmly. His voice changed again as he watched her. "I'm assuming then that you and Lee aren't…?"
She could almost laugh. "No, of course not!" Had he really thought she and Lee were together? Then, could it be that the reason he has been so angry was…
He stepped closer to her, frowning again. "Then why were you crying?"
She jerked backwards as if he had touched her. "I…" Her mind went blank. "I was just…" Luckily, she was saved by two people rustling into the clearing, both she and Neji turning to see Sasuke and Sakura headed towards the bridge where Team 7 usually met for training. Sasuke was walking alone, hands in his pockets as Sakura trailed after him, watching his back with a confused expression. If possible, Sasuke looked even more angsty than usual.
And suddenly Tenten thought she knew why. Strange really, she would never have guessed that about him. Cupping one hand around her mouth, she called to the two younger ninjas.
"Sakura! Over here!"
Both Sakura and Sasuke glanced over at them, Sasuke's gaze growing noticeably darker when he saw Neji. Sakura just went pink up to her hairline. Neji crossed his arms over his chest and looked disgusted with the whole situation.
"Don't worry about those nasty rumors!" Tenten said, pitching her voice so that they could hear her. "Anyone who knows you won't believe it." She gave the kunoichi a knowing smile and Sakura's eyes widened, her head turning to steal a glance at Sasuke.
"T…Thank you, Tenten-chan!" she called back, playing along. "And I apologize for the trouble, Neji."
Neji grunted but Tenten waved to her, hiding a grin as Sasuke's brooding aura disappeared, his eyes flickering between Sakura and Neji as if to make sure there was nothing lingering between them. After a moment, he turned on his heel and started off towards the bridge again, his voice drifting back over his shoulder to his teammate.
"Let's go, Sakura."
Sakura's face lit up and she hurried after him with a joyful, "Yes, Sasuke-kun!"
Tenten smiled after them, already feeling lighter, until she caught Neji watching her expressionlessly and nervous butterflies started doing somersaults in her stomach. She brought up her bag of apples like a shield against that piercing gaze.
"You really believed," he murmured, looking both annoyed and amused at once. "You really are an idiot."
She flared like a struck match. "You're one to talk. You thought the same of me and Lee!" She blinked then, eyes widening. "Lee. He doesn't know yet. I need to find him."
She was turning in the direction of the perimeter gate when she felt Neji's hand catch her wrist, stopping her. A tingle worked its way up her arm and she looked back slowly, her heart threatening to gallop right out of her chest.
He smiled slightly, with that arrogant tilt that said he was in a good mood. "Are you up for some training now?"
"Well, Gai, I hope this proves just how ridiculous your plan was," Kakashi drawled, watching as his own two students headed towards the bridge. He had a good hour to waste until he could be properly late to meet them.
"What are you talking about, Kakashi? My plan worked perfectly!" Maito Gai exclaimed, peering through the bushes at Neji and Tenten who were standing awfully close as they talked. "Do you not recognize youthful romance when you see it? Our students are positively ripe with hidden desires!"
Kakashi arched his visible eyebrow. "And what about your Lee? He's not getting anything out of this deal."
"Of course he does, my eternal rival! His determination will know no bounds once he learns that the rumors are untrue. He will win Sakura for sure." Gai flashed him a gleaming smile. "Are you ready to admit your defeat?"
Well, it was true that their little plan had revealed a lot of undercurrents in their students' relationships, even if it looked like they had a long way to go. Kakashi sighed. "Yes, yes, alright, we're even." He whipped out a book and started reading nonchalantly as Gai did a little dance. Wondering if he should stick around and see the fireworks, he decided safety first and jumped upwards into a tree just as Tenten cleared her throat, she and Neji standing over Gai with thunderous expressions.
Startled, Gai snapped upright as if he hadn't just been spying on them, a sparkling smile full of teeth directed their way. "Ah, my glorious pupils, at last you have-"
Calmly, Tenten brought up a hand full of shuriken, an odd little smile on her face. "Shall we, Neji?"
The Hyuuga smirked.
"Now, now, you must understand that the brilliance of romance cannot be diminished by- AHHH!"
Up on his tree limb, Kakashi shook his head and jotted another mark in his book.
Gai: 226 - Kakashi: 227