A/N: This story will probably be more amusing if you've seen the hilarious episode 124 of the anime, but I hope it will be fun even if you haven't.
"I am so proud of you, Lee!" Maito Gai said fiercely to his favorite student as they emerged from the forest in which they trained. "I knew that, among all of my students, you would be the one to learn the Lotus technique!"
"I thank you for your faith in me, Gai-sensei!" Lee said, just as fiercely, his eyes burning with pride that he had lived up to his beloved teacher's expectations. The two of them were walking side by side towards Konoha proper one beautiful late summer afternoon. Teacher and student had been training together since the early morning, and after a long day of intense exercise, they were famished.
"I say this calls for a celebration!" Gai said, suddenly inspired. "After all, youth in the springtime of their lives must have an opportunity to relax and socialize! Isn't that right, Neji, Tenten?" He turned around suddenly to look at his two other, oft forgotten students, who were walking wordlessly behind their eccentric teacher and equally eccentric teammate.
Neji grunted and Tenten managed a slight smile.
"Excellent!" Gai said, taking their noncommittal response for unrestrained enthusiasm. "I know! Let's have dinner together! I have just the place in mind! Anko recommended it to me! Delicious dumplings and a friendly atmosphere. It's perfect!"
Lee clenched his fists in anticipation, and his eyes lit up. "Dumplings! I love dumplings!"
"I know you do, Lee!" Gai said, practically shouting. "That's why I suggested it!"
Their absurd behavior was too much for Neji. After a long day of training—briefly with his entire team, but mostly by himself and with Tenten—he, too, was hungry and tired. Enduring another hour with two nutcases like his teacher and teammate was the last thing he wanted at that point. He scowled and said, "Actually, I should be heading back home—"
Lee stopped so suddenly that Tenten, who was walking close behind, ran right into him. "Lee!" she said, startled, as Lee spun around and fixed a pleading look on Neji. "Watch where you're go—"
"Neji!" Lee cried out. "You have to come! It won't be the same without you!"
Neji's grimace only deepened. "I'm sure you will manage just fine without me," he said, flatly.
"But Neji!" Lee persisted. "How can you say that? This is your victory as well! You help keep me going! You are my inspiration! You give the exuberance of my youth an extra boost! You are the wind beneath my wings! I am working hard so that one day I will be able to defeat you! You are the light that guides my—"
Before he could say any more, Tenten clamped a hand over his mouth and said, "What he means, Neji, is that he won't stop insisting until you do him the honor of coming to dinner." She glared at Neji significantly.
Neji held her glare long enough to tell her that he was going to loathe every minute of their time together, then looked away and muttered, "Fine." In the end, it had to be a small price to pay to stop Lee from spouting more nonsense about wind beneath wings.
Lee punched his fist into the air enthusiastically, throwing off Tenten's hand in the process. "Yosh! Thank you, Tenten! You won't regret it, Neji!"
"Yes, Neji!" Gai chimed in. "That's the spirit of youth in you that I like to see!"
Neji was reduced to grumbling incoherently as the four of them made their way toward Anko's recommended dumpling restaurant in downtown Konoha. Seeing Neji's sour expression, Tenten sighed. She was genuinely proud of Lee, but she sympathized with Neji. Gai's exuberance and blatant favoritism of Lee was just too much sometimes.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, Gai lifted the cloth hanging over the awning and ushered his students inside. A smiling hostess at the entrance bowed to them and said, "Welcome!"
"Table for four, please," Gai said. He put his hands on Lee's shoulders and added, "We're here to celebrate the boundless potential of youth!"
If the hostess thought Gai odd, she did not show it. Without batting an eye, she bowed again and led them to a wooden table with two long benches on either side. Gai took a seat next to his beloved student, and Tenten sat down across from Lee with Neji next to her. A waitress arrived and made to hand them each a menu, but Gai waved them away. "Four orders of your best pork dumplings, please!" He smiled widely at his students. "My treat, of course!"
The waitress nodded and said, "Anything to drink?" Gai looked around at his students questioningly.
"Just water for me, please," Tenten said.
Neji nodded. "Water."
"And for me as well!" Lee said.
"I'll have a bottle of sake," Gai declared. "This is a special day, after all!"
"Three waters and a bottle of sake," the waitress repeated with a nod, then bowed and turned towards the kitchen.
Lee rubbed his hands together in eagerness. "Boy, how hungry am I?" He looked around at the small but cozy restaurant. "This is a great place, Gai-sensei! I'm so glad you thought of bringing us here!"
"Wait until you taste these dumplings, Lee! They are the best in town, without a doubt," Gai said, drumming his fingers on the table.
"I usually only ever eat at Ichiraku when I eat out," Lee confessed. "They serve delicious but affordable ramen. And it's the popular hang-out place for all of the genin!"
"Is that so, Lee?" Gai said. "Iruka loves to eat there as well! He's always telling us to give it a try. Come to think of it, Kakashi has been there before and I haven't! I must remedy this as soon as possible!"
Lee nodded. "Maybe tomorrow, Gai-sensei!"
Neji closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his fingers. Why me? he asked himself for the millionth time since becoming a genin.
The waitress returned and set down three glasses of water in front of Neji, Tenten, and Lee, and a cup and bottle of sake in front of Gai. "Your dumplings will be ready shortly," she said, politely.
Gai poured some sake for himself and held up his cup. "Come! A toast!"
Lee and Tenten picked up their glasses. Neji, still with his eyes closed and his head in his hands, did not move. He seemed to be trying to shut out everything that was going on around him. Tenten gave him light jab with her elbow and glared at him. He looked up and glared back for another moment, glanced at Gai's and Lee's hopeful expressions, then gave in and picked up his glass of water.
"To Lee and his eternal springtime of youth!" Gai proposed.
"And to Neji for being my eternal inspiration!" Lee added, hoping to cheer up his sullen teammate.
The four of them clinked their cups and took a drink.
"Ahhh," Gai said, feeling the sake burn on its way down his throat. "Excellent!" He set down his cup and looked across the table at Neji and Tenten. Perhaps thinking that he ought to give the two of them some attention, he said, "So Neji, tell me. What technique were you working on today?"
Neji thought darkly that his coming to dinner did not mean that he had to actually engage in conversation with anyone. "Jyuuken," he muttered.
"Ah yes, jyuuken," Gai said. "An excellent technique. How are you finding that new practice dummy I made? Is it holding up a little better?"
Neji turned his glass of water between his hands absently. "It's okay. Live practice is better. Tenten and I sparred for awhile. I closed off some of her tenketsu points."
"That was good of you to let him practice on you, Tenten," Gai said, turning to his female student. "I'm glad you are being supportive of your teammate! And what technique were you working on?"
"Well," Tenten said, "I've been trying to improve control of my chakra strings. I can only manipulate them up to a certain distance, and I'd like to see if I can increase that…"
Lee had been listening attentively to the conversation, looking at Tenten as she talked, and casually reached down for another sip of water from his glass. His hand, unbeknownst to him, grasped instead the bottle resting between him and Gai.
He took a sip and all of a sudden felt a strange sensation wash over him. His face grew warm, his head felt light, and the image of Tenten speaking started to grow in and out of focus. Must have trained too hard today, he thought dimly. I haven't eaten since before noon, it's no wonder I'm feeling faint…He felt his himself sway slightly and closed his eyes momentarily, trying to gather himself together.
"You should be able to sense the position of your object through your chakra strings, no matter how far away you are," Gai was saying to Tenten. "That is, without actually having to look at the object."
Lee opened his eyes again. Tenten was appearing slightly more in focus. He looked at her mouth, which was moving as she formulated a response to Gai's suggestion. Tenten has such luscious lips, Lee thought, absently. His gaze traveled from her mouth to her hands, which were gesturing in front of her, then to her bare arms and her chest. Lee started to wonder what Tenten would look like without her shirt on.
"I think the key is to improve the speed of my reaction time," Tenten was saying. "When I'm far away it always takes awhile for me to react, and…" She seemed to notice suddenly that Lee was staring intently at her. She stopped mid-sentence, turned to her teammate, and said, "Lee, are you all right?"
Gai and Neji looked at Lee, whose cheeks were flushed and who was staring at Tenten with a starry-eyed expression.
"Lee?" Tenten repeated, when he did not respond. "Are you okay? You look a little red. Did you overexert yourself in training today?" she asked. When he continued to stare wordlessly at her, she waved her hand in front of his face. "Hey, Lee!"
As she waved her hand in front of his face, Lee suddenly grabbed it and gripped it tightly with both hands.
Startled, Tenten stammered, "Lee...!"
"Tenten…" Lee said, his voice slightly slurred. "Tenten…you are…the most beeeautiful kunoichi in Konoha."
"What?" Tenten said, turning red. Neji narrowed his eyes at his teammate and Gai looked slightly surprised.
"Lee, my boy!" Gai laughed. "I never knew that Tenten's youthfulness had attracted your attention!"
"Your lips...are so luscious," Lee drawled, paying no attention to his teacher.
Tenten laughed nervously, her face now an even deeper shade of red. "Uh…thanks, Lee." She attempted to draw her hand back, but Lee had it in a vise-like grip. "Um, Lee? Will you please let go of my hand?"
Instead of obeying her request, he clasped her hand even harder and rubbed the back of her palm with his thumb. "Your hand is so…rough, like sandpaper…a kunoichi's hand…"
Tenten looked, bewildered, from her teacher to her other teammate, then back to Lee. "Lee," she said, slightly more forcefully. "I asked you to let go of my hand. What's wrong with you?"
"Lee, my boy," Gai laughed again, "now is hardly the time to be wooing Tenten! Why don't you let go of her…"
Lee continued to stare at her with starry eyes. He kept one hand on Tenten's and ran the other slowly down her arm, towards her chest. As soon as she realized where he was reaching, Tenten used all of her strength to twist away from his grip, jumping back and knocking over the bench as she did so, making Neji stand up to avoid falling over. She backed away from the table with a confused expression.
"Lee!" Neji barked. "What's the matter with you? Get a hold of yourself!"
"What?" Lee yelled, glaring at him. "You want some?" Suddenly enraged, he slammed his hands down on the table, stood up, and with one heave, swept their table to the side, causing their glasses to smash onto the floor as the entire table turned upside down. Gai stood up in shock. "Bring it!" Lee got into an unusual fighting position, swaying slightly. "What? Are you a coward?"
Neji narrowed his eyes and clenched his fist. "Why, you little…" He swung his fist at Lee's face, just to make him snap out of his trance, but Lee blocked it easily and landed a punch squarely at Neji's chest, sending him crashing backwards into a neighboring table. The women sitting at the table squealed as Neji turned their table onto its side and sent all of their plates and utensils flying.
Gai gaped at his student. "Lee…you just…you just…"
"Achoooo!" Lee cried out. "Take that, Neji!" He struck another pose. Still swaying, he looked over to where Tenten was standing and staring at him in disbelief. "Tenten!" he said, loudly. "Did you see that? Did you see what I…hic!...did to Neji? A genius…hic!...can be defeated with…hic!...hard work!"
Tenten turned to Gai with a bewildered expression, but just as she looked away from Lee, he dashed over and caught her in a tight embrace.
"Lee!" Tenten yelped in shock as he put his arms around her waist. "What do you think you're doing!"
"Tenten!" Lee shouted into her ear. She winced in pain at the volume of his voice. "Have I ever told you…hic!...that I…hic!...I…"
Before Lee could say any more, Neji had picked himself up and came charging at Lee with what looked like an intent to kill. He swung his fist at Lee's head again, but Lee darted backwards just in time, letting Tenten go. As Neji continued to swing at him, Lee leapt, dodged, ducked, and slid to avoid Neji's punches. Finally, he caught Neji's hand in a block and shoved his shoulder into his opponent, sending Neji flying backwards again into a different table. Pandemonium erupted as the restaurant's clients dashed outside to get out of the way, screaming and yelling at the fight that had broken out.
"Tenten…" Lee shouted again. "I can…hic!...protect you…hic!...from…hic!...bastards like…hic!...him!" He stumbled towards Tenten with his hands outstretched, aiming for her chest.
Gai finally shook himself out of his initial shock and leapt in front of Lee. "Now, Lee, let's just calm down! You're getting a little excited…" He put his hands on his student's shoulders and lowered his face to Lee's level in order to look him in the eye. "Calm down, Lee!"
Lee breathed heavily into his teacher's face and fixed him with a glare. "Gai-sensei…hic!...I can't let even…hic!...you get in the way of…hic!...of…hic!..." Instead of finishing his sentence, he twisted himself away from Gai's grip and landed a kick at his teacher's stomach. This time it was Gai who was sent flying backwards into the back wall of the restaurant, winded and astonished at the force of the blow.
As soon as Gai had caught a whiff of Lee's breath, however, he knew immediately what had happened. "Lee!" he shouted to his beloved student, picking himself up from among the shards of broken plates and glasses. "You're drunk!"
"Yes, I am!" Lee yelled, dashing and jumping on top of another table. His sandals landed right on a plate of pork dumplings, squishing them. "I know I'm drunk! I'm drunk with LOVE!" he pronounced.
Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Tenten leapt at Lee from behind in an attempt to grab and subdue him. He avoided her lunge and managed to catch her arm, turn her around, and hug her from behind. "Tenten!" he shouted into her ear again, eliciting another grimace from his teammate. "What say you we…hic!...go somewhere…hic!...a little more…hic!...private!" With one hand he started to undo the buttons on the front of her shirt.
Enraged, Neji leapt up and tackled Lee, sending all three of them flying off of the table and spilling outside. Gai ran out of the restaurant and saw Neji and Tenten wrestling with an out-of-control Lee, who kept trying to grope Tenten's chest. A crowd of onlookers stood at the edge of the road, staring.
"Lee!" Gai shouted, rushing over to them and grabbing Lee from behind. "Tenten, stay back!"
Tenten broke away, folding her arms close to her chest while Lee flailed his legs and managed to catch Neji in the face with a kick. Neji doubled over backwards with an angry roar.
"Neji, help me restrain him!" Gai shouted, tightening his hold around Lee's torso. "Calm down, Lee!" Neji clenched his teeth and managed to grab Lee's legs. Lee continued to struggle.
"Gai-sensei! Do something!" Tenten shouted.
Gai thought for a moment and said, "Tenten! Your shuriken…snap him out of it!"
Tenten reached into her pouch immediately, took out a shuriken, and hurled it at Lee with precision. As planned, its edge knicked Lee's check, drawing a small amount of blood before wedging itself in the outside wall of the restaurant.
All of a sudden, Lee grew still. He stopped his kicking and flailing, and blinked. One hand reached up slowly and touched the blood on his cheek. His eyes grew wide as he saw red on his finger tips. He looked up first at Neji, who was holding his legs and then at Gai, who had his arms locked around Lee's shoulders.
"Gai-sensei?" Lee said, groggily. "Neji?" Neji unceremoniously let go of his legs and Gai set him back on his feet. "What happened? Why were you holding me back like that?" He blinked fiercely and swayed again. Gai caught him before he collapsed onto the ground.
"Come, Lee," Gai said, affectionately, relieved that Lee had finally returned to his right mind. "You've had a long day…" He put one of Lee's arms around his shoulder and started to guide him down the road away from the restaurant.
"What happened, Gai-sensei?" Lee was muttering, leaning into his teacher as he was led away from the scene of destruction. "Where am I…"
Neji and Tenten watched as their teacher and teammate made their way slowly down the road. After a moment, they turned to each other.
"Are you all right?" Neji asked, gruffly.
Tenten sighed, letting all of the tension out of her body, and looked up at him. "Yes, thank you." She noticed that his left eye was starting to swell. "Oh no, Neji, your eye…" she said, reaching up to his face.
"Your shirt..." he began, reaching toward the undone button of her shirt. They caught each other's eye, then froze as they realized that they were still being watched by a crowd of onlookers. They lowered their hands simultaneously and looked away from each other.
"Hey! You two!" A burly man who could only be the owner shouted at them from the door of the restaurant. "What the hell have you done? Look at this mess!"
Tenten said, "It wasn't our fault—"
Neji said, "Our teammate, he—"
"I don't give a damn about your explanations!" the man shouted, his face purple with anger. "I hope you know what this is going to cost you!" He grabbed two brooms and shoved them in their hands. Neji and Tenten stared at the implements they had been given. The man took in their blank expressions and shouted, "Well? What are you waiting for? You're not going anywhere until you clean this place up!"
Neji and Tenten gawked at him, and looked at each other. Then they simultaneously opened their mouths and angrily yelled, "LEE!"