Disclaimer- Naruto's not mine and all that.
It was all Naruto's fault, he knew.
Now, this seemed an entirely illogical statement.
After all, the blonde really had nothing to do with any of this mess, aside from a few minor villain roles. In fact, most of this was probably his own fault, and that Naruto was only an x-factor that helped build up to this moment.
But this was Uchiha Sasuke.
And if eighteen year old Uchiha Sasuke wanted to blame Naruto for something, generally it wasn't considered all that illogical.
And Sasuke very much wanted to blame someone for why he had nearly been killed by a very, very pissed off Hyuuga Neji.
In hindsight, Sasuke really should have known better...
Sasuke's troubles, however, did start with Naruto, that much was certain.
After a hard, exhausting day of training (Sakura had threatened to cut off medical treatment if they continued to do their best to kill each other off, so they usually ceased at maiming), Naruto had dragged Sasuke off to the Ichiraku, with Sakura passing on the offer due to an emergency at the hospital.
It had been a fairly normal meal- Sasuke would make remarks or private musings about Naruto's ability to practically inhale the ramen, and Naruto would childishly retort with mild insults and raspberries.
And then the conversation took a new turn.
"So, are you planning to come out of the closet anytime soon?"
Sasuke blinked, staring at the blonde.
Naruto's lips quirked up into a grin. "Because my time frame is starting to run out, and if I lose this bet, I am going to be so pissed off..." he continued.
"Wait." Sasuke said coldly, glaring at the blonde as he crossed his arms. "What in the Hell are you talking about? Did those knocks to the head finally break your poor excuse for a brain?" he retorted, narrowing his eyes.
"Sasuke." Naruto said seriously, unnerving the Uchiha. "Even though you left us to go with that creepy snake bastard, even though I don't know why, you've still got girls ogling you in the street."
Sasuke knew that.
In fact, though he'd have to kill Naruto if the blonde ever found out about it, they had tried to ogle him in more than just the street...
"But you haven't taken advantage of this." Naruto finished, slurping down his bowl of noodles.
"I've got other concerns." Sasuke said darkly.
"Yeah, yeah, avenge your clan, I know, I know. That asshole of a brother of yours is after me, remember?" Naruto said, waving his hand in dismissal. "But you also said you wanted to restart your clan."
Naruto leered at Sasuke in a way that made the Uchiha highly uncomfortable. "Wait too long, and you'll have to settle for some leftovers... if at that."
Sasuke wrinkled his nose at Naruto's phrasing. "I highly doubt it'll take me that long to kill Itachi." He muttered, despite his own thoughts.
His target for homicide was THE Uchiha Itachi, after all.
"Well... if you're so sure about your preferences..." Naruto began, a sleazy grin crossing his face that made Sasuke nervous in a way similar to Kakashi's smiles. "How about a little test?"
The grin on his face was so wide that Sasuke visibly had to restrain himself from punching the blonde. "What kind of test?" the Uchiha gritted out.
Naruto's grin nearly sent Sasuke into a homicidal rage.
"Oh... how about this..."
To say Tenten was surprised when Uchiha Sasuke was standing off to the side of her training ground and doing a poor imitation of nonchalance was accurate.
To say she was shocked when approached her was also a reasonable assumption.
However, to say she was utterly flabbergasted when he asked her out on a date was the greatest understatement since "Uchiha Itachi's is a bit unsafe" or "Jiraiya is a pervert".
"I... Um..." Tenten managed, blinking slowly. She had probably exchanged fewer than a score of words, if at all, with the Uchiha. Most people were apprehensive of the Uchiha survivor- not so much her, because she saw his bloodied, battered face as Naruto carried him on his shoulder all the way back to Konoha, and saw that he looked more sane and peaceful than he had in his previous time in the village.
"Why me?" she managed at last.
Sasuke's face didn't change in its impassivity. "... is that a no?" he said in response, arching an eyebrow.
Tenten let the decision roll over in her mind. On the one hand- she hardly knew the Uchiha, and most of what she knew wasn't all that great in terms of mental stability. On the other hand, he had grown up very nicely while he was away, and, what's more, had asked her out.
A kunoichi he hardly knew was one he asked, instead of someone he knew better, like Sakura or even Ino.
It would be rude, she decided, not to accept.
"Sure." Tenten said, smiling.
Sasuke gave her a curt nod. "I'll come by around six." He said quietly, and turned to leave.
As he was coming out of the training ground, Hyuuga Neji was coming in, finished with Clan duties that had kept him away for awhile.
The two prodigies glared at each other for a moment- Neji's seemed to be asking, "What the Hell are you doing in my training ground, Uchiha?" and Sasuke's was responding with "Piss off and die, Hyuuga."
Tenten rolled her eyes at the display of arrogant loner versus arrogant loner.
As Sasuke left the training grounds, Neji turned towards his female teammate.
"What was that?" he demanded, because he was Hyuuga Neji and he didn't ask like a jealous, lovelorn idiot who saw the object of his affection talking with another guy.
"That was Uchiha Sasuke." Tenten said plainly, knowing that baiting Neji like this wasn't good for one's health- but damn if it wasn't entertaining as hell.
"I am aware of that." Neji gritted out- excuse me, said, because again, Hyuuga Neji doesn't get frustrated that easily. "Why was Uchiha Sasuke here?"
"... no reason." Tenten said lamely, knowing that Neji wouldn't buy it.
And indeed, Neji didn't.
So before the prodigy had a chance to question her further, Tenten suddenly forced out a weak laugh and said loudly, "So, let's get on with training, shall we! Those jounin exams are coming up soon, and I'm not going to let you be the only jounin on this team!"
Neji frowned, but allowed her to delay the inevitable for the moment.
One way or another, though, he would know what was going on.
Tenten panted harshly as she sank to her knees, her weapons scattered about the training field, sweat dripping from her forehead. Neji had been extra harsh today- her price for evading his question, she supposed.
Neji stood in the center of a Kaiten created crater, a few minor cuts but nothing too serious- he had upped his game purposefully, bordering a life or death battle that was too serious for a training session.
"So... what was Uchiha doing here?" Neji said, his voice flat and level as a windy plain.
Somehow, Tenten didn't think that saying "nothing" would cover it.
"He was... asking a favor." Tenten said carefully, pulling herself to her feet.
"A favor?" Neji arched his eyebrow imperiously. "What sort of favor?" there was an edge to his tone that was usually reserved for battle.
"He... well... that is to say..." Tenten fidgeted, idly playing with the hem of her shirt. "Heaskedmeoutonadate, okay?"
Neji blinked, processing the hastily worded statement.
Then his eyes widened, and his knuckles went deathly white as they clenched.
"What?" it was not so much a question as it was a "WHAT THE HELL", but in Neji-ese.
Tenten suddenly felt the urge to go home. As in, right now.
"Well, look at the time, I should get going and change for my date. I'll see you later Neji!" she said loudly, and unsummoned her weapons as she took off running, leaving Neji standing in the center of his crater.
The Hyuuga looked impassive and unconcerned; the only offsetting thing was the rapid clenching and unclenching of his fists.
And then Lee showed up, fresh from his own private training with Gai and eager to see if any of his teammates was up for a spar, so that he could test his own limits again.
Poor, poor Lee.
"Neji!" Lee shouted loudly, raising his fist into the air with invigoration. "I am filled with the passions of youth and I-"
That was about as far as he got before Neji's control snapped.
Lee's day took a sharp turn south.
After depositing the lump of battered flesh that was Rock Lee at the hospital (lest he be admonished for bad teamwork), Neji decided that it was time for a walk around the town.
The fact that his walk would take him close to where Tenten lived was simply coincidence.
Yes, purely coincidence, and that's all. Or maybe fate.
But then again, Neji was trying to break the habit of using fate as his excuse for things.
So it was that by pure coincidence and nothing more that Neji just so happened to arrive in time to see one Uchiha Sasuke coming down from the opposite side of the road, toward a certain female chuunin's house.
He was certainly not bothered at all that Sasuke had flowers- expensive flowers, from the looks of it.
And he was most certainly not jealous when the Uchiha knocked on Tenten's door as though he had been doing this all his life, and shared a smile with Tenten when she opened the door and was handed the flowers.
And most certainly of all, Neji did not feel like punching Uchiha's face in when Tenten actually blushed, holding those flowers.
Hyuuga Neji likes to lie to himself.
It was quiet.
Sasuke, normally, was a fan of quiet. He preferred it over the noisy style of life that people like Naruto and Lee enjoyed.
Also, quiet meant that he wasn't dealing with squealing fangirls trying to jump his bones, or Naruto... being Naruto.
However, on a date with a girl, he felt that perhaps he should at least make efforts to be sociable.
Sasuke glanced at Tenten.
As he looked away, Tenten glanced at Sasuke.
This continued for awhile, as they continued to walk.
Behind them, a vein was throbbing in Neji's forehead with each passing second.
"So... what should we do first?" Tenten asked, venturing to break the silence as she glanced at Sasuke once again.
"How about dinner?" Sasuke said, after a few moments of contemplation.
"Sure." Tenten agreed, realizing that both of them were relatively inexperienced at dating.
So, the two went on their way, with a Hyuuga stalking their footsteps.
After asking Tenten what sort of food she preferred (Chinese food or Sesame dumplings), Sasuke decided in his head that they should visit a restaurant he had often seen but never ventured into- one that specialized in Chinese food.
When they arrived, Tenten clapped her hands gleefully, pleasantly surprised. "Oh! I've heard about this place! But I haven't had the chance to try it out yet! Thank you!" without thinking, she wrapped Sasuke in a tight hug.
Sasuke, despite himself, flushed a bit when he felt the kunoichi's slender frame pressing against him.
Nearby, Neji's Byakguan flared up and he was halfway into the Gentle Fist stance before he even realized it. Only the thought of Tenten's resentment for breaking up the date and the reminder that he wasn't supposed to be here to begin with kept Neji from beating the Hell out the Uchiha.
Suddenly, Tenten seemed to realize that she had just hugged THE Uchiha Sasuke, and broke away, flushed. "Uh... thanks." She said awkwardly.
Sasuke coughed, and looked pointedly away. "You're welcome," he muttered, and opened the door, motioning for her to come inside first.
Tenten was mildly amused to see the display of gentlemanlike behavior from the stoic Uchiha Sasuke, and, despite herself, stepped inside first.
As Uchiha closed the door, Neji was stuck with a dilemma. On the one hand, he could technically use Byakugan and simply stare through the walls, though that would only let him see chakra coils.
On the other hand, going inside physically was risky- the chance of being caught was high, even for a ninja.
An image crossed his mind.
"Oh Sasuke... you simply must try this..." Tenten murmured sweetly, holding up a piece of sweet and sour pork with her chopsticks as she placed it into his mouth.
"Oh my, you have a little bit on your lip... let me get that for you..." she murmured, leaning in-
"No. Tenten isn't that kind of girl." Neji assured himself, cursing his momentary lack of concentration.
Maybe he should go inside. Just in case.
Dinner was surprisingly nice, Sasuke reflected. To his surprise, he actually found it interesting, especially after he and Tenten discussed the various ways one could throw a kunai. Tenten seemed especially interested in his Sofushasan no Tachi (Manipulating Windmill Triple Blades), in which he would hurl shuriken tied with cords he held to pin an opponent to a nearby object.
Though it was primarily able to be used because of Sharingan, Tenten figured that she could learn to apply the technique on her own. "Sasuke..." she asked quietly, "Do you think you could teach me to use that technique?"
Sasuke was struck by an epiphany. If he accepted, he would see more of Tenten. Who, surprisingly enough to him, was quite... nice.
"Sure," he said, shrugging. As Tenten smiled, he reflected that perhaps Naruto's suggestion was the best idea the blonde ever had.
And across the restaurant, behind a menu (and next to a waiter who was growing quite impatient "Your order, sir?"), Hyuuga Neji's eyes narrowed.
"Sir? Your order?" the waiter asked insistently. Hyuuga or not, the boy was grating the older man's last nerve.
Neji turned toward the waiter and activated his Byakugan in unison with a venomous glare.
The waiter nearly wet his pants and fled in terror, babbling in a high pitched voice, "I'll come back later!"
Neji watched again as Tenten got up, smiling at Sasuke- who, thanks to his enhanced eyesight, was clearly smiling back from the curling of his lip. The two of them left the restaurant, still smiling- once again, Sasuke opened the door for her.
"What a nice looking couple." An elderly lady commented, looking quite happy.
Hyuuga Neji then experienced his second epiphany of the night.
Was on a date with Uchiha Sasuke...
And liking it.
Not since his Byakugan had glimpsed the terrible power lurking inside Uzumaki Naruto had Neji been so afraid of anything in his entire life.
He stood up sharply. His hands were shaking.
Feeling sick and more than a little lost, Neji left the restaurant.
He drifted around, not quite sure what he was doing or where he was going. He didn't feel like following Uchiha and Tenten anymore- he wasn't a masochist.
His perceptions were dulled. All he could think about was Tenten. With Uchiha.
The thought made him violently ill.
But what could he do? It was her life. She had to live it, and make her own choices. He couldn't make them for her, and even if he could, she'd never forgive him for taking away her choice.
... Sometimes he really wished that this tiny thing called a conscience (reawakened due to Naruto's fist connecting with his jaw years ago) had stayed silent.
Suddenly, his head connected with something- something fleshy and firm.
Neji blinked... He recognized that jacket... and...
Oh Dear God... NO!
"NEJI!" Maito Gai laughed boisterously, grabbing Neji bodily by the shoulder. "What has upset you so that your keen vision has been disrupted?"
Neji sighed. He knew that once Gai started, it was near impossible to derail his line of questioning.
Sometimes, he wanted to ask if Gai had been with the Anbu Interrogation Squad before he came to teach.
Other days, he just wished Gai wasn't so... Gai.
"I... I was just going home." Neji said lamely.
Gai laughed again, obviously disbelieving the Hyuuga. "Come now, Neji! I am your teacher! If you cannot trust me, who can you trust!"
Neji bowed his head and sighed again. He didn't want to spill the whole truth... but a little couldn't hurt.
"Gai-sensei..." he began slowly, hesitantly. "If... if you were to realize that you were on the verge of losing something precious, but didn't want to risk losing it by trying to get it back, what would you do?"
Gai gave Neji a very speculative look for a moment, before he smiled, and, in a quiet, assured voice, said, "Listen well, Neji. You are a young man, and young men make mistakes. But if something is precious to you, then you must fight for it!" he posed, but this time, Neji didn't feel very scornful or annoyed.
He felt... grateful.
"Thank you... Gai-sensei." Neji mumbled.
Gai gave him the "Nice Guy" pose. "Now go, Neji! Go and fight for what is precious to you!"
Neji took the fast way (i.e. the rooftops) to Tenten's house, pushing chakra into his feet relentlessly. He had to get there... he didn't really know why... but he had to.
Tenten... she was his teammate, his friend, his comrade. Any more than that, he really did not know. The last time he had felt anything stronger than those feelings of friendship, of comradery, his father had still been alive.
Desperation like he had never known was the only thing he was feeling now.
As he jumped down from a rooftop, only a few meters away from Tenten's house, he spotted them.
Uchiha's back was to Neji, so he couldn't see what he was saying. Whatever it was though, it made Tenten laugh, a tinkling, wonderful sound he had never taken the time to appreciate before.
"No, no, I'm sorry." She said, smiling. Apparently, Uchiha said something else, to which Tenten nodded too, smiling and blushing softly in the moonlight.
Neji's fists clenched.
Uchiha said something else, and Tenten smiled softly- a wonderful, beautiful thing that illuminated the silvery moonlight around her.
Neji's breath caught. His eyes read her lip movement unconsciously.
"Yes," she said quietly, and leaned in toward Uchiha, agonizingly slow, her lips inching ever closer to the Uchiha's face.
Neji couldn't watch, his fists went slack.
He was gone in less than a second.
Sasuke arrived at Team Gai's training ground early the next morning, having told Naruto that he would be taking the day to help teach Tenten some techniques and tricks that the Uchiha clan had perfected.
They weren't clan secrets... just techniques that Sharingan was all but required for.
When he arrived, however, Tenten wasn't there just yet.
But a quietly, but truly and absolutely pissed off Hyuuga Neji was.
Prodigy glared at prodigy.
Finally, Neji moved into the Gentle Fist stance without warning, his Byakugan flaring. "Uchiha. Fight me." He said quietly, firmly.
Sasuke smirked, and his Sharingan appeared, replacing black with crimson. His stance shifted as well, into the stance of an Uchiha. "Fine then."
Neji rushed forward, striking outward fast and furious. Sasuke's Sharingan caught the rapid movements and he ducked, avoiding the strike and coming out with a sweeping kick.
The Hyuuga pulled back and avoided the kick narrowly, before thrusting his palm forward. "Hakke Kusho! (Eight Trigrams Empty Palm)"
Sasuke was blasted backward by the technique, but quickly regained his balance, landing on his feet, slightly winded. Despite Sharingan, it was clear that at close combat, the Hyuuga held the advantage.
"Katon: Hosenka no Jutsu! (Fire Release: Art of the Phoenix Flower, the Touch-Me-Not)" a wave of fireballs spewed out of the Uchiha's mouth, tearing towards the other prodigy.
Neji's eyes narrowed. "Hakkesho Kaiten! (Eight Trigram Palms Heavenly Spin)" suddenly, the Hyuuga was a bright blue blur of chakra, spinning so rapidly that his form was nearly indistinct.
The fireballs were smashed upon Neji's absolute defense, and dissipated upon impact, before the prodigy was lost in the dust storm kicked up by the spin.
Now, Sasuke might have been an Uchiha and one of the most powerful ninja in his age group, on par with Hyuuga Neji in terms of skill... but Sasuke wasn't even half as pissed off as Neji was at that moment.
Sasuke's eyes widened as the blurred form of Neji tore out of the brown dust storm. "Hakke Rokujuyon Sho! (Eight Trigrams Sixty Four Palms)"
Sasuke felt each and every blow as Neji pummeled him brutally. A low groan and spittle came out of the Uchiha's mouth as the attack continued.
Finally, the sixty fourth blow, an open palm strike, smashed into Sasuke's chest, hard.
Sasuke made a low groan as he finally fell to his knees, groaning and gasping in pain. His Sharingan could literally see the disruption in his chakra... this was bad.
"I won't let you have her." Neji said quietly, standing over him, Byakugan still blazing.
"W-what?" Sasuke said, blinking as he felt another wave of pain sweep over himself. Only the fact that Naruto had endured this sort of beating and still won kept Sasuke from keeling over completely.
Neji's nostrils flared. "I said-"
Tenten came upon the scene, eyes wide as she dropped her summoning scrolls in shock. The materials clattered to the floor softly. "What... what are you doing!" she shrieked.
"Tenten... I..." Neji coughed slightly. "I wish to... that is to say..."
"I'm waiting." Tenten said impatiently, tapping her foot. "I'm dying to hear why you're trying to kill our guest. He was only here to help teach me some techniques!"
"Oh, is that all?" Neji's voice was thick with sarcastic disbelief.
Tenten's eyes narrowed. "Just what the Hell are you implying?"
"Just that you should keep your liaisons away from the training ground." Neji hissed.
Tenten blinked. Then she blinked again.
And then, much to Neji's chargin...
She laughed. She laughed loudly, slapping her knees and nearly crying laughing.
Neji's face was sour. "Exactly what is so funny?" he asked irritably.
"You're jealous!" Tenten shouted, pointing at him and laughing still. "I can't believe it... you're jealous!"
The Hyuuga's eyes narrowed dangerously.
Tenten sighed, wiping off some tears of laughter. "You idiot." She muttered, rolling her eyes. "There's nothing to be jealous about. I asked Sasuke to come and train me."
"Then why did you kiss him?" Neji asked, an edge to his voice.
Tenten was not intimidated, and in fact, realization dawned on her face, just before it twisted into indignation. "Were you spying on me?" she demanded, glaring at him furiously.
"... that's beside the point." Neji said flatly.
"I kissed him on the cheek!" Tenten snarled, stamping her foot impatiently. "And do you want to know what else? I told him that, while he was nice and charming and handsome, I already wanted someone else!"
"Who?" Neji couldn't stop himself from asking.
"... you." Sasuke coughed slowly, glaring up at the Hyuuga. "You Goddamn idiot, it's you!" he probably could have said it nicer, but he was currently suffering the aftereffects of a severe Gentle Fist beating, so his vulgar attitude could be forgiven.
Neji went stock still, and his already pale face went whiter.
Tenten stared at him, giving Sasuke a grateful nod. Her throat was tight- she was hanging on Neji's next word.
"I... I..." Neji tried to speak, tried to articulate... anything. Tenten stared at him expectantly.
"Just kiss her, dumbass." Sasuke grunted. I'm going to KILL Naruto when I see him...
And Neji did just that
Naruto cackled loudly from his position in the bushes. "Looks like I win the bet, Sakura-chan!" Naruto grinned cheekily, turning to his partner in crime.
Sakura sighed. "Fine..." she muttered sullenly, but didn't really look all that disappointed. In fact, there was an odd sparkle in her eyes... "I'll go out with you." The sullen look dropped and she smiled. "But let's hope you can match up to Sasuke's performance on his date."
Naruto grinned widely, laughing loudly, happily.
Getting a date with Sakura, fixing up Neji and Tenten (both excellent but pathetically blind people, in his opinion), AND having Sasuke taken down a notch?
Today was the best day ever.
A/N - This turned out with a bit more Neji angst than I intended... still, it was fun to write. Feedback is always appreciated- I'd like to know if the characterization of Neji toward the end was too out there or not, especially.