And In Slumber
Summary: - Neji x Tenten one-shot - Tenten's fears lead to an inevitable conversation, which leads to an inevitable conclusion.
Notes: Hullo once again! Here I am with yet another NejiTen one-shot. Hopefully this one is better (in all aspects) that the others. This one proved a little difficult to write, but once I got into the swing of things, it became easier. This could be considered as one of this "day in the life of" things, but this is a particular day in the life of. Nothing SPECTACULAR happens, but THINGS happen. Hopefully that doesn't give too much away.
When is this set in the timeline? Eh...probably after the time-gap begins, because they mention things that could be considered spoilers. I also imagined Neji and Tenten to be dressed in thier new (hot) outfits, from after the time-gap...so anywhere after the spoiler-ridden part, I guess.
Anyway, here 'tis - And In Slumber. Enjoy, and please review! I would love to hear what you think, and I need suggestions, please!
"We're stopping." Hyuuga Neji stands in the clearing, white eyes staring straight ahead at the setting sun, partially obscured by the tops of the trees.
He hears a disappointed sigh coming from the bushes to his right, where he knows his female teammate was concealed. "Already?" Tenten says arrogantly, though Neji can hear the slight tone of fatigue that was just barely camouflaged. The sound of rustling leaves reaches his ears, along with the chink of kunai being stored away.
"You're tired," Neji says in reply, turning away from the red and gold hues of the afternoon sky to look at the kunoichi. Tenten flares indignantly at this, like he expected. "As am I," he added, smirking.
"You had better be," she answers, quirking an eyebrow and placing a hand on her hip. "I worked extra hard today."
The Hyuuga doesn't answer, only keeps the smirk as he walks to the nearest tree. He leans against its trunk, crossing his arms and waiting for Tenten to finish up. The girl steps into the center of the clearing, forms a few seals and mumbles, "Kai," at which her scattered weapons vanish in a puff of smoke.
Grinning approvingly, the kunoichi secures her scrolls pocket and strolls toward her teammate and the tree he was leaning against.
When she arrives, Neji uncrosses his arms and turns away to face the forest. "Ready?" he asks as usual, as he bends his knees to make the leap to the tree branches above.
Tenten doesn't answer, and the Hyuuga turns to see why, his knees straightening and an eyebrow arching in confusion. The sight that greets his milky eyes makes him frown. Tenten is sitting down on the ground, her back pressed against the same tree trunk that Neji had been leaning against previously. The weapons expert is glaring at him.
It makes him uncomfortable, but he doesn't show it. "Tenten," he says instead, in his usual monotone. "What are you doing?"
"Neji," Tenten growls, "Every time we meet, we always train, and we never take a few minutes just to rest," She angles her head sweetly, the danger leaving her voice as she raises a hand to tug on his. "Can't we stay and talk for a little longer?"
Talk. The word doesn't suit Neji, and Tenten seems to remember this at the sight of Neji's pinched expression.
She giggles, and looks up at the startled shinobi. "Can't we stay and rest for a little longer?" she rephrases the question, tugging once more at his strong hand. "It won't make much difference, will it?"
Neji stays standing, frowning at his stubborn teammate and contemplating his choices. It was true, what she said. Neji did not necessarily have a curfew...and that determined look laying in his teammate's honey eyes told him that no matter what he said or wanted, she would find a way to make him stay. Not that she really needed to, of course; Neji decides to comply with her request.
Trying not to notice the fact that Tenten's hand is still wrapped around his, he joins her on the ground wordlessly, at which Tenten smiles. "Neji, you're so sweet," she teases, releasing his hand but then linking her whole arm through his.
Neji does not reply, only turns a slight tinge of pink that he hopes desperately she does not see.
The girl to his left yawns behind a small hand. He is instantly suspicious, suddenly realizing that their training session has taken a larger toll than usual on his teammate. He doesn't bring the subject up, however; she has not mentioned it for a reason. He knows she would tell him if she felt she needed to, so all he is left to do is watch out of the corner of his eyes as Tenten struggles to keep her own eyes open.
It was getting steadily darker now, as the afternoon slides into evening.
He was about to suggest they head back, when Tenten finally speaks. "Neji, can I tell you something?"
He nods, and she continues.
"Do you remember when they brought you back from your fight with that sound-nin?"
Neji's dry expression was answer enough; he did not remember, for he was unconscious.
Tenten laughs nervously, sliding her arm back from his, and instead letting it rest in her lap. "Oh – yeah, sorry," she pauses before she continues. "Well, I remember. And..." she pauses, directing a sidelong glance at her companion. "You're going to think I'm so ridiculous."
The Hyuuga releases a breath that almost sounds like a chuckle. Smirking, he says, "I already do, so it doesn't matter."
Even in the growing darkness, Neji sees the pretty blush that fills her cheeks at his comment. She groans, embarrassed. "Never mind!" the disgruntled kunoichi exclaims, turning away.
Confused at the usually confident Tenten's newfound insecurity, Neji starts, his eyebrows furrowing. "Tenten – wha - ?"
His words were cut off, however, when he catches sight of the expression on her face as the weapons expert suddenly whips around and throws her arms around him in a fierce hug. Immediately, the Hyuuga stiffens. What the - ?
After a few stunned seconds, in which Neji could only stare wide-eyed at the head of brown hair buried in his shirt, he manages to say, "Tenten – why are you hugging me?"
"Don't do it again," she says quietly, ignoring his question.
"Don't leave without telling me again."
Startled by Tenten's sudden surge of emotions, and wondering why she cared so much, Neji struggles to find words to say. He finds many – It's my duty as a Konoha shinobi, or There was no time to let you know, or maybe even It's not that easy, Tenten – but he cannot muster up enough energy or courage to tell her that fulfilling this promise is just not possible.
An emotion that Neji had never thought to name erupts in his gut as Tenten draws back. He sees once again, in those eyes, the flurry of emotions fighting to keep themselves in check.
She settles back into her previous position, her face slightly pink and looking troubled. She refuses to meet Neji's all-knowing eyes.
And once again, Neji cannot say anything.
He is saved from doing so, however, by Tenten's voice. He is relieved to hear that the vulnerable tone her voice had last took on has vanished. She hides her vulnerability well. "We should head back now," she says, starting to stand up. She still does not meet his eyes.
But as she starts to turn, Neji catches her by her wrist, at which Tenten stiffens.
"It's getting late, Neji," she says, in a tone of false nonchalance.
"You were going to tell me something," the Hyuuga prodigy reminds her, wondering why he was going to such lengths to find out.
"It's not important."
Neji mimics her actions earlier and pulls her back down. She does not do so willingly, however, and lands awkwardly.
"Neji!" she exclaims, scowling, and attempting to stand back up, "I just said it's not important!"
He does not allow her to leave, his hand still clutching tightly onto her wrist. He watches the various emotions flutter across her face. He scoffs softly. "You're being stubborn again, Tenten."
The kunoichi looks away, to the path that would lead back to the streets of Konohagakure. "You should talk," she mutters indignantly.
Ignoring the slight, the Hyuuga continues. "You convince me to stay with you, and you bring up my fight with the Sound," his gaze pierced through her resolve, and he almost sees her crumble. "You want to talk to me, and yet you are backing down. I have never known you to be so cowardly, Tenten."
Tenten lets her knees buckle, and she slides back onto the dirt. She looks at the ground. Silent.
"What is so traumatizing that you cannot get past your insecurities?"
Tenten makes another halfhearted attempt to wrestle her hands out of his grip.
To her surprise, he lets go.
To his expectations, she doesn't leave. Instead, she gazes at her released hands for a few moments, and then says quietly, "I had nightmares."
The darkness is almost complete, and the temperature begins to drop. Neji nods, to show Tenten he was listening as he gathers fallen leaves for a fire, knowing that they may not be leaving anytime soon.
To give herself something to do, or to distract herself from the conversation it seems, the female shinobi stands and does as he does, all the while speaking. "When you left, Lee came and found me."
Another nod from Neji.
"He told me that you left with the others to find Uchiha Sasuke."
A miniscule frown sets on Neji's lips. He remembers. He still sorely regrets having left that day without letting Tenten know. But again – he had his reasons.
In a mission, friendships were useless, and friends were liabilities. Stopping by to let Tenten know he was leaving and may never come back would laden him with guilt, and would slow the pace down. As a Konoha shinobi, he needed to ensure the success of a mission.
However – seeing Tenten now...it seemed a different matter entirely. Neji tunes into her voice once more.
"I was left to imagine what could happen to you, Neji, and well – I couldn't sleep."
Neji arranges the leaves into a neat pile, and motions to Tenten. But the kunoichi is already reaching into her pack. She takes out a book of matches, handing it to Neji, who takes it without meeting her eyes. Sighing tiredly, Tenten shuffles off to the tree behind him.
He hears her fatigued voice, continuing her tale. "And when I finally did fall asleep, I had nightmares."
Neji never questions the attachment that Tenten shares with him. It would bring up unnecessary and awkward questions that neither want to answer; not just yet. He goes about his building a fire, head buzzing, but showing no outward signs of the emotions pressing at his heart.
When Neji doesn't react, she starts again.
"Nightmares of you. Dead." It is said simply, as though it is a common occurrence.
The Hyuuga freezes in the act of striking a match. There is silence, and the flame that Neji has created dies out with a sputter, casting them in darkness once more. Neji struggles to keep the sudden rush of emotions that comes with the proclamation inside himself, and the darkness is heavy and silent. After a few moments, he repeats quietly, "Of me." And suddenly, he resumes his match-striking, angry with himself for losing himself for even that one moment. Another flame ignites. He drops it softly into the bed of fallen leaves.
Tenten, it seems, has nothing more to say. She falls into silence and watches the fire overtake the crackling leaves.
Neji watches the growing fire for a few more moments, before straightening and glancing over at the kunoichi. She meets his eyes, and offers a small, tired smile that he answers by joining her at the trunk of the tree.
They fall into a comfortable silence, letting the fire spread its warmth over their tired bodies.
The quiet lasts only a few minutes, until Tenten breaks it once more. "Do you still think I'm ridiculous, Neji?"
The question catches Neji off-guard, and his eyes widen, his head turning to survey the kunoichi to his left. What should he say? But his apprehensions vanish when he sees her face.
She is smiling again, and it is a teasing smile. She angles her head much like the way she had done earlier. Neji's heart pounds when he sees her warm honey eyes sparkling in the firelight. "Well?" she demands. "Do you?"
Despite himself, Neji smiles. He turns to the fire once more, and answers, the smile morphing into a smirk. "You'll never stop being ridiculous, Tenten."
The girl chuckles. "You know you love it," she shoots back. And suddenly; gently, she lets her head settle on his shoulder.
And for the second time in one night, Neji is left to stare at the mass of strawberry-smelling brown hair settled comfortably against him. It was a terribly invasive move, he thinks. And it's rather funny that he doesn't seem to mind.
So he lets her be, and after some minutes, her breathing is soft and regular; she is asleep.
Neji makes sure to stay perfectly still, for he knows she needs the sleep that her nightmares had stolen. In the light of the fire, he seeks out her hand. And when he finds it, he closes his hand around it, and his eyes as well, dreaming of a future with her that he knows will someday arrive.
Neji is not ready for it; not just yet – so for now, he is content only to chase her nightmares away.
So? What'd you think? Was it too OOC? Did I mess up with the tenses? This is one of my first times writing in present tense, and it took a little getting used to. ;;;
Again, comments and SUGGESTIONS are welcomed with open arms!