I do not own any of the Naruto characters. Maybe I own the apple, though.
Neji suspected something was wrong with Tenten when she didn't give him her usual smile and greeted him with a dull "Hey" when they met for their training. She was slower than usual and it barely took him any effort to dodge the many kunais and shuriken that she flung at him--and he didn't even have to employ the kaiten to do it.
However, when one kunai missed a target entirely, Neji KNEW something was wrong. And so did Gai.
"Tenten, the age of your youth is being threatened!" Her thick-browed instructor announced…very loudly and passionately, with enough force to deafen an elephant. "You must tell your team what is wrong!"
Tenten stared at him without blinking, one eyebrow raised. "Nothing's wrong."
"There is no need to falsely reassure us! Flowers cannot withstand harsh storms without help from the gardener! Let us be your gardeners!"
Neji looked at his female teammate furtively. For a flower, Tenten was looking particularly dangerous at that moment.
"I. Don't. Need. Help. Gai-sensei," she gritted out, but Lee decided the time had arrived for him to contribute to the "conversation".
"Gai-sensei is right, Tenten! Clearly, something is wrong! Your aim has never been off before!"
A kunai whistled by his ear, slicing off a strand of black hair before plunging into the tree behind him.
"Or…maybe it was just a fluke," Lee hastily amended.
The kunoichi grimaced. "Actually, I was aiming for your throat."
"Tenten, violent actions against your teammate when not training will not be tolerated," Gai reprimanded his scowling student.
"I'll go run two hundred laps until my youth has been renewed," Tenten said listlessly, hoping to shut him up.
She never even made it past Neji. Upon seeing her falter, the Hyuuga promptly extended an arm just in time to keep her from eating dirt--and didn't even blink. He was just that cool.
"I believe you overdid it on the youth." Whether he was addressing Tenten or Gai was never clarified.
"The youthful enthusiasm of Tenten will triumph!" Gai told the blank-faced Neji and the watery-eyed Lee. "Her devotion for her team has made her work herself into a high state of exhaustion, but her fever's low. Put simply, our blooming teammate has a bad cold!" He then struck Good Guy Pose #73 (which was only slightly less scary than Good Guy Pose #48, in Neji's opinion). "But worry not! Our new mission is to nurse our fallen kunoichi back to health, 110!"
He didn't know if it was out of concern for Tenten's sanity or his own urge to get out of this ridiculous mission, but SOMETHING prompted Neji to try and prevent this from progressing.
"Doesn't Tenten have her own family to take care of her?"
"No, Neji, she does not!" Gai winked outrageously and the prodigy discreetly shuddered. "They are currently visiting other relatives and she is alone! So we will assist her!"
Neji sighed, and would have next tried the argument of "It was fate that she managed to become sick", but this was ruled out by Lee's exuberant outburst of "GAI-SENSEI!"
The hug-fest took place.
Right then and there, as the two performed a bone-crushing embrace, someone made a vow: He, Hyuuga Neji would do everything in his awesome power to ensure that Tenten (last name unknown) returned to the team as soon as possible. He needed at least one stable presence when dealing with these two idiots.
Making sure that Tenten got the rest and care needed to make a full recovery was more difficult than Neji had previously estimated. Gai and Lee were the ones who ran the errands and bought food and medicine while his job was to practically force it down her throat and keep a cold cloth on her forehead. Lee had once tried to spoon-feed her soup, but Tenten still retained her dignity and he promptly desisted once a shuriken had whizzed at him and knocked the spoon from his hand. Even feverish, her aim and accuracy were nothing to sneer at.
At this current point in time, Tenten was playing with her soup, letting the golden broth trickle off her spoon. She looked very tired and Neji frowned.
"You should eat."
"I'm not hungry."
"That's because you haven't eaten enough APPLES!" Gai burst into her room, arms wrapped around several paper sacks filled to the brim with groceries and the tip of a girly magazine (Neji didn't want to know).
Tenten blinked and let the spoon drop into the bowl. "…Huh?"
"'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'," he quoted. "We are, in a sense, your doctors and apples are best for your health!"
She sighed resignedly. "Does that mean if I eat apples, you'll go away?"
Gai's teeth went Ping! "Not until you're fully healed, my student!"
Neji moved the tray in order to prevent his teammate's face from plunking into her soup bowl.
"Tenten!" Lee screeched from the doorway, as Neji made sure she was still breathing and laid her on her back. "Don't give up on youth just yet! The fires--"
The two Green Beasts of Konoha stared at Neji, who regarded them impassively. "Neji?"
"Get out," he repeated. "She just fell asleep."
There was a long pause. Silence filled the room. No crickets dared to chirp. Then…
"Neji, I'm so proud!" Gai's large black eyes began leaking. "Your concern for your teammate is admirable!"
Neji considered saying that he was only doing this because he had been ordered to or because he didn't want to deal with the fuzzy-browed clones by himself, but that was only part-truth.
"Get. Out." He favored the others with his patented I-Am-Hyuuga-Neji-And-I-Will-Cause-You-Pain glare.
Lee fled and Gai paused for a conspiratorial wink before he followed.
The Hyuuga prodigy readjusted the cloth on Tenten's forehead and glanced down at her. With her hair let down from its twin buns and her flushed face and her nose scrunched up slightly, she looked…cute.
Whoa. Wait. Alarm bells went off inside his head. Had he just thought that? Tomboyish, fierce, weapon-hurling Tenten? CUTE?
Snatching up the tray, Neji beat a hasty (yet graceful) retreat.
Thus, Tenten was alone when someone crept into the darkened room and placed an apple on her nightstand.
"Your fever's higher," Neji announced flatly, feeling Tenten's forehead. Her only response was a low groan.
"Should've eaten more apples," she muttered. "Then the two of you would stop glaring…"
As far as he knew, he had no twin. This could only mean one of three things.
1. Tenten had double vision.
2. Tenten was delirious and seeing things that weren't there.
3. He really DID have a twin that Hiashi had hidden from him and now the twin had shown up and was in the room, seen only by Tenten.
Either of the three worried him, so Neji instinctively sought adult help. "I'll get Gai-sensei."
With a movement almost too rapid for the human eye to detect (of course, he was Hyuuga Neji so he saw it), Tenten's hand shot out and caught hold of his shirt.
Neji froze. Had it been Lee, his teammate would have been a bleeding spot on the carpet. However, the one tightly clutching his shirt was the normally-sane Tenten. He couldn't bring himself to hurt her (the logical explanation being, of course, that it was impolite to damage a sick person), so he turned around, doing his best to look stern. "Tenten--"
"Don't leave yet." Even though she wasn't in her best state, this was as close to begging as the kunoichi would allow herself to go.
Pearly eyes met brown, and Neji knew with a sinking certainty that he would lose this fight.
Sure enough, when Lee came to check on them, Tenten was half-slumped across Neji's lap, her cheeks still flushed with fever. With one hand tentatively resting on her head, the Hyuuga also sported red cheeks--but for a different reason entirely.
Lee looked at Neji. Neji looked at Lee. Lee blinked and opened his mouth. Neji gave him a Look that stated, "Don't ask."
Too bad Lee wasn't all that adept at deciphering his teammate/rival's Looks--to him, they all screamed, "MY YOUTH IS DEAD." So he asked anyway.
"Why is Tenten on your lap?" AKA "Why haven't you killed her for being in direct contact with you?"
"She fell asleep and slumped over. People who are ill should rest often. I am only fulfilling my mission to enable her to become healthy once again." AKA "She fell asleep on me and I don't have the heart to move her, but I can't say that because I am Hyuuga Neji and my pride is supreme."
Lee regarded Neji steadily, then glanced down at Tenten. "I can move her very carefully, if you want. Then you can go rest for a bit yourself."
Now, he may not have been very fluent in Neji Face Lingo 101, but the stare he was presented with was a very clear "No".
"…I understand." He smiled.
"I would have done the same thing for Sakura-san." Lee saluted him and marched out of the room, while Neji tried to puzzle out exactly WHAT Lee had understood.
When Tenten awoke five hours later, the room was dark. She rolled so that she was flat on her back and blinked, waiting for her eyes to adjust. Once they did, she blinked again, willing her eyes to go back out of focus, for none other than Maito Gai was leaning over her--NOT the best sight to wake up to.
To her credit, Tenten didn't scream. Nor did she automatically try to stab him with a sharp object (which would have been useless, anyway, as she had been stripped of all weapons to avoid harming herself).
"Good, you're awake." Her teacher beamed at her. "Now keep your mouth open."
"Wha---sound of choking, gagging, and coughing-!"
Gai finished pouring the medicine down the kunoichi's throat and patted her on the back. "Yooooooosh!" He yelled as quietly as he could. "Now your youth shall take over and you'll be fine before the cherry blossoms fade!"
He was gone before Tenten could devise a creative method of injuring him. Almost immediately, the medicine took effect and a warm lassitude settled over her body. She fought it, but was rapidly losing the struggle to stay awake.
The door creaked open again. As her vision was now blurry, she couldn't see who it was, but they were coming closer. Then the person paused, setting something on the nightstand and stooping to press a feather-light kiss to her forehead.
"Who…" But sleep took hold and Tenten's last conscious thought was, if it's Lee kissing me, I'll kill him.
"You fever's almost gone!" Gai exulted, examining the thermometer. "However, to make sure you don't have a relapse, you must spend today in bed!"
Tenten was absolutely horrified at the prospect of counting the holes in the ceiling while her teammates trained and got stronger without her. "But, Gai-sensei!"
"Not another word, Tenten!" He looked about ready to cry. "Save your strength!"
"Neji and I will train for you!" Lee adamantly declared. "Listen to Gai-sensei and do not waste your youth!"
Neji stepped aside to avoid being mashed as Lee and Gai wailed each other's names and hugged.
Now Tenten felt like crying.
"The mission was to nurse Tenten back to full health," the prodigy interjected. "Therefore, I will not be with you until she is out of bed."
"…" said Tenten.
"…?" said Lee.
"…!" said Gai.
Neji's face remained emotionless. "I train with her," he reminded them. "When she's in bed, she can't train."
"You could always train with Lee," Tenten said dryly.
Tenten protested, Lee ranted, and Gai wept, but the Hyuuga would not be swayed. So it was that Gai went to train Lee while Neji forced Tenten to drink her drugs--err--medicine. She was out like a light.
When she woke up, it was to her great surprise to see her stoic teammate seated in a chair by her bed, his head bowed and his eyes closed.
"…Neji?" She reached over and prodded his shoulder tentatively. He didn't move, and, straining to hear, her ears detected soft, rhythmic breathing. He was asleep.
Tenten gazed at him for a moment, pursing her lips before she picked up the apple on her nightstand. Who kept leaving them? She hadn't been able to see who it had been last night…but it had to be someone from her team. Gai? He'd been the one to bring up the apple adage. Lee? He was so enthusiastic that he'd go for it (although she'd probably wind up with a bushel of the fruit if it were him). Neji? He always smirked at Gai's speeches. Now shouldn't be any different.
"Itadakimasu," she murmured, taking a bite.
As dusk lengthened into twilight, Tenten again lay fast asleep. The door slowly swung open and a shadow slipped into the room, closing the door behind it with nary a squeak.
Just a little closer…
The figure stole to her side, setting the expected apple on the stand. Then, as he leaned down to kiss her forehead…
"Can't you do better than that, Neji?"
As Hyuuga Neji, he could not be expected to show surprise. So he simply stated the obvious as he straightened.
"You're observant." Most of the time, anyway.
He declined replying, so Tenten sat up. "Why? And don't say anything about fate or fulfilling your mission, or I'll put a few shuriken to good use once I'm up." Not an idle threat. He was familiar enough with the weapons mistress that she'd follow through if need be.
"An apple a day…"
He bent down slightly and grasped Tenten's shoulders. As an after-thought, he reclaimed the apple and ate a piece.
The kunoichi watched him, mesmerized. What was he doing?
"An apple a day," Neji repeated, his face nearing her own. "…keeps the doctor away."
He was now so close that their noses were touching, and Tenten tried not to blink repeatedly. Neji's eyes gleamed ivory in the pale moonlight and she saw the trace of a smirk.
"Earlier…you asked if I couldn't do better than that, correct?"
"I was only kiddi--"
Tenten's feeble excuse died a horrible, graphic death as Neji suddenly claimed her lips with his own, caressing, massaging, getting deeper by the second…
He's KISSING me! Her mind screamed. Hyuuga Neji is kissing ME! Her next thought was, I'm REALLY glad it wasn't Lee, which was followed by I can't believe he listened to Gai-sensei, and a very small part commented thoughtfully, He tastes like apples.
When they finally broke apart for some much-needed air, with their cheeks stained a deep crimson, Tenten smiled.
"I feel much better now."
A Week Later…
"Don't glare at me like that. You made me drink it EVERY DAY."
Tenten handed a sullen Byakugan user a cup of medicine and grinned approvingly when he reluctantly drowned it. "And it's your own fault for kissing me when I was still sick."
Neji just looked at her, hiding a smile at her mock-exasperation. When he'd fallen ill, his teammate had insisted on "returning the favor" and taking care of him. Hinata had even helped by talking Hiashi into letting the kunoichi into the compound for nursing duties. Although he'd said nothing, Neji was grateful. Having someone so cheerful and no-nonsense for a nurse was much better than any of the other Hyuugas staring poker-faced at him and not speaking unless absolutely necessary.
After checking his temperature, Tenten heaved a sigh. "I have to go check on Lee now. You know how he is--he's probably trying to train."
"You didn't kiss him," Neji commented...half-statement and half-accusation.
The brunette laughed and daringly kissed his forehead as his arms rose to hesitantly wrap around her. "No, he caught it by himself." She studied the curse mark on his forehead, exposed without his hitai-ate, then kissed it again. Neji's arms tightened.
"I'll come back," Tenten promised, wriggling free. Just before she reached the door, she whirled and threw something at him with uncanny speed. Neji, without batting an eye, caught it and looked at it as she left with a small but genuine smile creeping onto his pale face.
It was an apple.
Oh, that was so much fun! Really! I had no idea it was so long…anyway, reviews are appreciated. I was debating on Neji just kissing her cheek, but decided against it. Oh, well. Thanks for reading!