The Byakugan Introspection
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Tenten, as she closed her apartment's door with a barely audible click and an eardrum-shattering slam, was dripping wet with a deadly scowl on her face. It was an extremely deadly scowl that suggested an armory of melee weapons aimed to hurl at anyone who even dare make a comment, so be warned.
But anyway, as good natured as she really was, Tenten had been thoroughly convincing herself that getting soaked under the rain was healthy for one's immune system— all for the sake of avoiding bloodshed. Her day had been utterly horrendous beyond comparison for several reasons, including boredom likened to the tremors you get on a D-class mission and then there's the storm which, in her own reckoning, was like a down-pour of senbon piercing your skin. It's not that she didn't like the rain. Au contraire, she loved it; she didn't mind the drizzle it poured during the first few hours of the afternoon, adding a steady pitter-patter of peace around the tree-laden area where she almost killed Lee; but what she especially loathed was the fact that it really had to pour down when she was about to go home and rest...
It seemed nature had conspired against her life today for the sake of making it utterly miserable.
She finally decided that what she really needed now was an hour or two of hot shower in the bathroom, a steaming mug of chocolate to warm her stomach and a sleep from today's activities. She was so damn tired, she couldn't care anymore if her clothes were wet, or if she was shivering or— what the hell, she just wanted to plop down on her bed and sleep like the dead for hours...
And sleep like the dead she did, by the time her pillow came within sight.
Now, if only her senses weren't clouded by the fact that Konoha was safe and sound, she would've noticed someone looming near her doorway with a placid emotionless look that gradually morphed into an all-out frown.
Hyuuga Neji didn't like what he saw with his Byakugan. It was clearly reckless of her to ignore the outcome of not changing damped clothes before sleeping. Even after years of training with his teammate, he still was getting used to the fact that she was ten times as stubborn as ever and ten times the multiples of ten as... interesting as ever. Not that he was worried or anything; he knew she was as strong as a bull so there was no problem about that at all...
Neji glared at the innocent door knob as a thought occurred. Even bulls have weaknesses and they can also suffer from common cold...
Well, okay. He was worried about his teammate.
Her immune system might be working well enough— which was a good sign that she still doesn't need a stick to walk around— but the thing that made Neji's left eye twitch was waiting for a minute without her doing anything about her case. He glared at the door again with an intensity enough to burn it down and decided, without hesitation, to barge in.
The door wasn't locked.
His frown deepened. That was a little too careless for a kunoichi. She could've been a target of some assassin or she could've been invaded by one of those fan boys in her room and then, God knows what those perverted maniacs may do! He set his jaw firmly. One of the few good traits of Neji, as he had always believed, was that he somehow manages to stay calm in every scenario. But swear to Kami-sama he'd make them pay this instant if those idiots even dare think they could touch Tenten— and he wasn't thinking about giving them a black-eye for compensation, his reason being it's too... merciful for the likes of him. He had all the intention of letting everyone in Konoha know that nobody gets to Tenten without going through him first.
He shook his head, closed the door, ransacked her closet for a white towel and went towards her sleeping form; glowering over like a tower before tapping her lightly.
She didn't even stir.
He sighed and sat near the edge of the bed, leaning in forward to get closer. "Tenten?" he called out, gently.
She still didn't stir.
Neji was determined to try again though; no matter how bad he really was with stuff like this. He was never someone who would easily give up anyway. "Wake up."
Still no response.
A vein finally threatened to pop out of Neji's forehead. "If you don't wake up, I swear, I'm going to drag you out of bed and change your clothes myself." an empty threat that managed to make him turn an interesting shade of red.
Good thing she still didn't stir.
Sighing to himself once more, Neji stared at Tenten's peacefully slumbering form for a while, taking in every line and curve on her face and the way that her bangs fell on her forehead. This image was in and of itself, against the images he had of her as someone who was completely strong-willed and was apt to punch someone when terribly worried. She looked, every inch, like a defenseless little angel; and then, he suddenly felt the tiniest urge to touch her face. He had seen her sleep like this more than dozens of times before and in every instance, the urge to do exactly that was getting stronger and stronger. His brain was still processing the thought when he realized that his hands had already moved to her face; stroking the back of it against the smoothness of her cheeks with undue lightness, as if she was something fragile and breakable...
And then, she finally stirred, lighting a small smile on her lips with her creased brows easing to relax. "Ne...ji..." she whispered.
Neji... let out a shaky breath that he didn't even realize he was holding back. His resolve in waking her up wavered a bit since she looked so peaceful it almost seemed cruel of him to disturb her. The more rational part of his brain was dictating otherwise; if he didn't wake her up, Tenten would get ill and he would most likely end up with Lee for a few days, stuck in training. The thought certainly wasn't appealing in and of itself, so he rested his hands as gently as he could on her shoulder and then shook her lightly to consciousness. "Tenten...?"
She groggily opened her eyes. "Oh..." she closed it again, "Hi Neji..."
It took her three seconds to process this. And when she finally did, her eyes bugged out; pulling her self to sit up straight and blink at him.
Neji's face remained placid.
Then, she frowned at him, "What the hell are you doing here?" she asked, severely.
"I think that should've been obvious by now." He answered, flatly; making sure that the towel was visible to her eyes. What he told her wasn't entirely a lie, but there was just something in her today that made him consider the thought of pissing her off. He didn't want to admit it out loud but, honestly, he certainly found pleasure in making her seemingly unruffled toughness go cat-eyed and irritated.
And she obliged his whim, "Hyuuga Neji..." she paused to inhale sharply, "Get—"
His smirk deepened. "Here." He stood up and handed her the towel; gaze nailed on her apartment's floor as if it was suddenly the most interesting thing in the world. "Dry yourself before it gets worse..."
She could only blink at him and at the towel, simultaneously; profusely wondering if this was the aftermath of a year in a Jounin mission. She really didn't know. She couldn't decide. Her thoughts were merely landing on the idea that she was still asleep and this was all part of a dream.
Neji waited, looking extremely uncomfortable by the minute, while Tenten blinked and wondered some more.
Was he sick?
"Take it." He said, trying with an effort to control any extra amount of blood rushing up to his face. When he realized that Tenten wouldn't move for at least a minute more, he decided to just dump the stupid towel on her head. "Fix yourself. Now." And that, in Neji's tone, implied an order.
The action must've, finally, woken her up since her hand abruptly reached for the towel and moved it around to dry her face. Then, she peeked out of the towel with a strange look. "Good afternoon, Neji."
Neji opted for nodding as his neutral reply. It was like him anyway and it sort of removed the option of opening a topic to excuse himself from barging into her territory. In the first place, he couldn't just tell her it was his impulse that drove him to follow her from the forest up to her home. No, he couldn't do that. It would give away the fact that he actually overheard their conversation; and doing so would risk the closeness that they've established since their Genin days. He couldn't risk something as important as that was.
In whatever angle you try to picture it, Tenten will always be... special to him in every way and he would gladly crack the skull of anyone who would even dare lay a finger on her.
"So..." casually put, but she still deprived him the comfort of waiting. "Mind explaining the nature of your intrusion?" From the looks of things, Tenten was critically scrutinizing every line etched on his face. He looked... entirely tensed, which was surprising since this was, after all, the only and first time that she had ever seen him act... weird under normal situations. And tension was an unusual thing for the unfazed Hyuuga Neji since originally, nothing could trouble this guy.
Well, that was until now, at least.
When Tenten heard him coughing, she immediately took that as her second clue. Neji never even coughed in that manner except if he was severely injured or he somehow acquired pathogens— which she often thought was even scared of getting within fifty feet of his diameter. Add that to the fact that Hyuuga Neji never coughed uncomfortably with a blush instead of his normal—
Was he even capable of blushing?
She blinked and looked at Neji carefully as if he grew another head. "Oi..." she said, "Are you feeling well?"
It shows that she really was worried, but you know Neji. No matter how the situation went, he's always determined to abide by the rules he set up for himself. And rule number one was to radiate an air of superiority and confidence at all times. "I was going to ask you out."
Tenten concluded that he really was turning an interesting shade of pink. She let him slip through it though; rerunning his words in her brain to process its meaning and then abruptly smiled before loosening the buns on her head. "Don't tell me you woke me up for training." She glared daggers at him. "And you just got discharged from the hospital so I don't think you're entitled to any brisk movement or chakra usage."
"..." replied Neji. He just couldn't get it if she was toying with him or he just didn't realize how dense Tenten really was until now. "Actually, I woke you up because I was worried about you getting sick."
That, sort of, caught her off guard. "Wow..." she smiled at him, "I didn't know you cared."
"Of course I do." He immediately snapped, "I don't want to end up stuck with Lee during training."
And that, sort of, sent her soaring happiness plummeting down the ground with an unhealthy sounding thud. "I thought so..." she mumbled. The inner Tenten, however, was fuming with irritation and was already weighing decisions between wanting to pound Neji with a sledgehammer and performing acupuncture on him with a set of kunai as a replacement for specialized acupuncture needles. "Well anyway," She opted for civilized conversation instead. "Sorry Neji. I just got out of training today and I'm dead beat." she smiled brightly at him, "And I think you could use some rest too after your mission in the Sound Village, ne?" She said, "How did it turn out anyway? You were either unconscious or sleeping whenever I come for a visit."
Neji, plainly, looked at her. Obviously, the Godaime Hokage-sama wasn't joking when she had told them a year ago that the assigned A-class mission could be elevated into an S-class mission fit for the ANBU. There were still a lot of crazy lunatics out there running around to conquer Konoha like the dead Orochimaru had; so he guessed everything was inevitable. "The important thing is everyone got out alive."
She considered this for a while; then, perked up. "I guess." She said and then proceeded to untying the buns on her head until it all fell down on her back, "Lee was worried sick and he was already blabbering something about not being able to assist your 'valiantly courageous yet wavering flame of youth in heavy battle' when you need it most." She smirked at him.
Neji shrugged. "Plausible." He said. "What about you?" he was fighting the urge to sound desperate in hearing her woes.
"Me?" She stopped drying her head to peek out of the towel once more. Neji was never someone who usually cared about what she thinks. "More or less the same..." she shrugged nonchalantly and continued drying her head to hide a smile. "But leave the 'flame of youth' thing to Lee. There's no way in hell are you going to hear that out of my mouth."
Tenten felt him raise an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Hmm... I think I prefer: Tenten was worried sick and she was already blabbering something about not being able to assist your sorry ass in heavy battle when you need it most…" she looked thoughtful for a while, and then nodded approvingly, "Yeah... that would do."
Her tough-girl... preference made Neji frown. Regardless of how beat he was on that mission, bordering on getting owned himself, he still managed to kick those idiots' asses to death by a millimeter of chakra advantage. It was known throughout Konoha that Neji Hyuuga doesn't consider failure as an option because for one, his pride was at stake; number two, he IS a genius and was therefore obligated to live up to that standard; number three, he still has a lot of unfinished businesses to take care of to even pass out on his life at an early age; and number four, the lady sitting right across him with an apparently wide grin that shamed Naruto's WAS one of his unfinished businesses.
And she's only "worried sick" about him? The thought made Neji frown harder. For heaven's sake, he's worried to death about her getting sick, what kind of injustice was this? "Hmph." Replied Neji; arms crossed on his chest and gaze directed heatedly at the wall, it almost burned through it. He was severely hurt by her cruel lack of trust in his abilities all because of that damned mission!
"But I would be lying if I said that."
His head snapped back at her. "What?" he's not sure he heard it right.
Tenten smiled sweetly at him before abruptly jumping out of bed. "Nothing..." and then a grin was plastered on her face when she had her back facing him already. "If you could spare me ten minutes, I'll offer you a mug of chocolate... It's still raining outside and I don't think you have an umbrella with you." Then, she suddenly frowned, speaking more to herself while retrieving something out of the closet. "And even if you have, I bet you would most likely prefer to walk around without utilizing its purpose."
And it was then did she feel warm pressure surrounding her wrist; taking her by surprise. How he managed to get this close without her sensing his movements, she couldn't quite figure out. Tenten was now only aware of the gentle-kind of force that he was exerting to pull her closer and, surprisingly, she deemed it unnecessary to turn around to see the expression on his face. She felt it, if that was ever possible. And seriously, she didn't mean to utter her umbrella-comment out loud for him to hear but long before she realized what was going on, she had bumped on his chest already.
She looked up at him, blinking.
He looked down on her, placidly; his usually blank eyes were unusually speaking in volumes.
After knowing him for years and years, Tenten figured that the expression on his face wasn't reducing her uneasiness— even by a puny point zero raised to the negative nth power millimeter. Butterflies began its merry flight round and around her chest which, Tenten felt the need to swat away with a mosquito swatter. "Need anything?" she almost choked on her words.
After a brief three seconds of silence, Neji let out a calculated sigh. "I believe you misunderstood my statement."
"Er... what do you mean by that?" she wasn't originally always half-witted when faced with situations like this. Tenten wasn't vain but she knew she was unbelievably cute enough to net the hearts of men around the block if they weren't too intimidated by her shinobi skills. The problem now was, any situation— especially situations like this— with a guy named Hyuuga Neji, was far beyond the calling of "normalcy" all for the sake of a dictionary's honor in and of itself. She blamed the disappearing gap between them. His closing proximity was reaching the brink of thoroughly and detrimentally sending her senses off to near silliness; and she wasn't the thirteen-year-old Tenten who was only vaguely aware of how nice his scent was. At the age of twenty-five, she was more than aware of how his scent screamed tales of his "yummy-ness", and it certainly wasn't helping in the annihilation of butterflies that suddenly infested her chest— even for a bit!
"I'm asking you out."
She blinked at him, "But... I'm..." she suddenly stopped and groaned, refusing to be caught off-guard, "I'm a little out of chakra to be of complete use in a spar, Neji... and you're not completely healed yet and... and Tsuande-sama might reprimand you for—"
Neji rolled his eyes. "Who says anything about training?"
She blinked at him blankly. "You mean, you weren't asking me out for a spar?"
"I'm asking you out on a date."
She blinked at him again, blankly; opening her mouth to say something but decided to shut her mouth long before the words eased out instead. Then, her forehead creased.
Neji stared at her with a frown. "What is it now?"
She mirrored his frown. "But it's raining." Her frown, eventually, deepened at an afterthought. "And according to Tsunade-sama, you need to rest."
"Who cares about what she says..."
He received a glare.
Neji sighed dejectedly. "Well she didn't order me to stay in bed until I fully recover, did she?" he reasoned, "and besides, we don't have to go out literary and risk our health for the sake of having fun." Well, he could be persistent when he wanted something. And as if on cue, she sneezed again. Neji had anticipated that effect ever since the moment he realized it was really pouring cats and dogs— and she was under it and she was actually planning to sleep with those wet clothes on. If only he didn't know any better, he may as well conclude that she was planning to kill herself with pneumonia. "Spare me the thought of worrying." He frowned.
Tenten sweatdropped. The words "Neji" and "fun" coming together was extremely out of this world in her opinion; but anyway, she was extremely moved by his sudden outburst of emotions. It was uncharacteristic of him, but she was really touched by his willingness to lay down his cool, suave and unfeeling shell for her sake. Even for once, he had somehow made her feel... special. "Hmm..." she said, a little too thoughtfully, "I guess the weather has its effects on you, huh?"
Neji simply stared at her and entertained the urge to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "Will I take that as a yes?"
She smiled at him, "You make the call for deliveries and I'll see what we can watch after I dry myself."
Several hours, an order of delivered food and two movies later, "draped over each other" was the appropriate term for descriptions.
The Byakugan Introspection
Sometimes, eavesdropping can lead to good things...
"You were talking about the things you should do on first dates?"
"Uh... well, according to Kakashi-sensei, kissing is almost a prerequisite to informing someone that your feelings for each other are mutual... in a date... then he mumbled something about how I should read a well-recommended book by Jiraiya-sama, and then slacked off with that orange book in his hands again..."
"... And you actually believed what those two said?"
"... Only if you would approve, I suppose..."
And that's all there was until the door opened with a deafening slam...
"NEJI-KUN! TENTEN-CHAN! I'm glad to see that you both are finally appreciating love in the springtime of—GAH!"
… and after a pair of kunai was thrown...
... There wasn't anymore...
After the door slammed and the swish-thuck-thuck sound of a pair of kunai hitting the door was heard, Neji and Tenten were suddenly surrounded by a complete comfortable-sense of silence— in a position that can even make Hiashi-sama's nose bleed, irregardless of Lee's appearance in the most uneventful of times, of course. Anyway, there was really something to say about two top-ranked shinobis, in their own rights, experiencing something... nice, other than the thrills of missions, rigorous training and enduring two bowl-headed teammates tightly engaged in their usual ramblings of youth power. Generally, they were draped over each other and the couch, in a way that would make the great Hyuuga clan head himself issue an order for Neji to marry Tenten within ten seconds to preserve their clan's honor and dignity. Not that he minded; that's for sure. If it was Tenten, he'd willingly tie the knot anytime, anywhere and have plenty of little Neji-s and Tenten-s running around the lawn.
"Hm?" he looked at her, half smiling.
"Where were we again?" She said, tugging on his robe; pulling him closer and closer until their lips were only a point zero-zero raised to the negative nth power nanometer apart.
He allowed a full smile to pass on, "Allow me to remind you..."
The insignificant gap was, finally, nowhere to be seen.
Outside, Lee stood in front of Tenten's door with a proud grin on his face; triumphantly pinning a note. "There!" he exclaimed; walking away from the area while whistling a happy tune. "I never really thought of Neji as someone who would listen to conversations... but I'm glad Tenten hooked him on in a manner that even he wouldn't figure out."
He knew they would kill him if they read the note; but, as he had decided a few minutes ago, bruises and lacerations were nothing compared to the joy of witnessing his teammates "finding and enjoying true love in the springtime of youth".
And the note simply read: WAIT FOR MATRIMONIAL ENGAGEMENT ANNOUNCEMENTS. DO NOT DISTURB.
.the end. promise. end na talaga.
A/N: The last part made me laugh at my own silliness. Damn. I am such a fan girl. XD XD XD This is something that I wanted to get off my chest XD. Nothing fancy but thinking about how Tenten and Neji would spend their first date if a storm was present... and, well, add Kakashi's influence and Jiraiya's perverted book without Neji actually realizing its content gave me fits. I know. He's not a saint. But I must admit that it WAS an irresistible temptation. Dargh! Thanks for reviewing minna-san!