If She grow suddenly gracious -- reflect. Is it all for thee?
The blackbuck is stalked through the bullock, and Man through jealousy

- Kipling


Naruto was not in a very happy mood. Most of his friends had been put into the hospital by some mysterious assailant; Shikamaru still wasn't awake, though that might have been him sleeping at every occasion anyone had visited. The others, though awake, were still unwilling to say anything about their respective attacks, which meant they must have been horribly traumatic.

Not even a big bowl of his favorite miso ramen could completely lift the blond shinobi out of his upset; though it did help, as he devoured it at nearly his usual pace. The only ones left unscathed by the attack, if the assailant was targeting the Rookie 9, were him and the girls. He hoped that this meant the assailant wouldn't touch kunoichi, but just in case he had set a few of his Kage Bunshin to keep unobtrusive surveillance on Ino, Sakura and Hinata, dusting off the stealth skills he'd developed as a prankster.

And sometimes, when he refreshed the Bunshins by putting new ones in, he'd receive some absolutely delightful images in his head. He grinned to himself as he mentally replayed the experience of watching Sakura – via Kage Bunshin –sway around her kitchen (she'd moved into an apartment recently – he'd helped her – and was still impressed enough by the novelty to enjoy cooking whenever possible) as she fixed herself dinner.

Sakura with her hair slightly mussed. Sakura with smears of foodstuff on her face. Sakura in a little apron and a sleeveless shirt and wonderfully short shorts. Mm, yes.

He gave a little dreamy sigh, then shifted his mental focus onto Ino tending to her plants in the morning…

When suddenly he was interrupted by two fingers glowing with chakra attempting to close his tenketsu. Instinctively he backflipped out of the way, watching with horror as Hyuuga Neji demolished the bowl of soup he had just been finishing up.

Holy (beep) on a (beeping) stick. Hyuugas could read minds! At a distance! He had to tell Neji what was up before the angry boy attempted to drive his hand deep into Naruto's ribcage. He'd already experienced that once, thanks very much.

"I swear, Neji, I only let the clones look at Ino and Sakura! Hinata's too, you know, shy for that." It was the truth!

This didn't seem to be soothing her outraged cousin. Teuchi was beginning to throw meat cleavers indiscriminately at the two shinobi, subtly encouraging them to take their fight outside his shop, so Naruto vaulted onto the ceiling using Neji's shoulders, and then ran upside-down out into the street, flinging himself onto the side of a building and scurrying up it like a treed fox.

Neji was right behind him, his Byakugan-dominated face in a rictus of anger. "You stay away from Tenten!" he yelled.

"Tenten? Tenten?" Naruto wondered aloud. "I haven't been surveilling Tenten…let's see, have I ever peeked at her? Oh yeah, there was that time in…but that was like three, four months ago, you're only reacting now?"

Neji redoubled his attempts to reduce Naruto into an orange smear.


It was a gloomy group of kunoichi who met for tea and cake in a little café near Konoha's main road, what with most of their teammates in the hospital. And if they wanted some juicy gossip from their older friend about their plan to snag Hyuuga Neji, as a pleasant distraction – they weren't going to get it.

"He's just being weird," Tenten said mournfully, lifting a forkful of blueberry cheesecake to her lips.

"Yes, and this is different from his normal behavior how?" Ino said acidly, Sakura hurriedly butting in with, "Do explain, Tenten-chan. What do you mean?" before Tenten could take offense or Hinata conclude that Ino – who dealt with her worry over her teammates by being even more vicious than usual – meant all Hyuugas were weird.

"Well…" Tenten said, chewing absentmindedly on her fork. "He doesn't come to the grounds as often – and sometimes he shows up all messy and scuffed and dusty. I think…" Her breath caught on a sob. "I think – he's training with someone else!"

She said this in the same tone as someone saying that they had caught their spouse in bed with a family member.

"And he, you know, he keeps asking and I keep hinting but he doesn't do anything. I think he's just playing with…"

"NARUTO!"

The four kunoichis' heads snapped around as the enraged scream ripped through the air, just in time to see an orange blur whip past them, followed closely by a white-cream one. They bolted to their feet and stampeded to the doorway, and managed to catch the two shinobi just vanishing around the corner.

"Let's go!" yelped Sakura, mentally running through the medical jutsu she'd have to use on either or both of them. Hinata and Tenten were already shooting ahead of her.


Naruto took his stand in the first clearing outside Konoha that he came to. His tactics lacked either the tricky bent of his prank-oriented mind or the subtle veneer of sophistication beaten into him by his instructors – he simply produced crowds of Kage Bunshin who tried to dog-pile Neji and stop the berserk Hyuuga's movements. Unfortunately, as Neji annihilated any Kage Bunshin he touched, the most Naruto could do was keep Neji occupied.

He slipped into the battle himself, finally, accepting that even if it was his fault – he was a red-blooded male, how could Neji blame him – he'd better defend himself or risk being placed under obaa-chan's tender mercies for an indeterminate amount of time. He ducked underneath Neji's spinning kick, tried for an uppercut, dodged as Neji flowed around his fist and tried to slam into the beginning of the 64 Hands sequence.

"Dammit, Neji, I said I'm sorry!" Naruto yelled at him.

"You can't have her," Neji bellowed back, paying little if any attention to Naruto's protests. "I don't care if Tenten likes you, I won't…"

"WHAT?!"

The scream came from five different throats – Naruto's, and then from Tenten, Ino, Hinata and Sakura. The two boys froze as they heard their female friends, turning to look at them. For a moment both sides only stared dumbly at each other.

Then Tenten was storming across the field, drawing to a halt before Neji with an air very much like a warhorse rearing before an enemy. "And just where, Hyuuga Neji, do you get off spreading stupid rumors like that?" she demanded. "And beating poor Naruto-kun for something that isn't even true?!"

"You…you said you liked him!" Neji said in his defense. "You said you liked the boy with the rare eyes…"

"And you thought I meant Naruto?" Tenten asked, her eyes wide with disbelief. "Neji, have you ever looked in a…For gods' sakes! Do you not remember when I said he was top of his class, pride of his clan? No offense meant, Naruto, but however many things he is, he isn't that."

"Well…" Neji stammered, now recalling the previous statements. "When…yes, you said that, but…I'd talked to the others already, and even when they fit your descriptions you still said it was someone else, so Naruto was the only one left, and…" His eyes widened. "Did you mean…did you mean Lee?"

The girls' eyes, too, had widened as the truth had dawned on them.

"So when I…when I said those things about geniuses, clans, top-rankers…you thought I meant the other boys? And you…for me…Oh, Neji!" Tenten squealed, throwing her arms around him. "That's so sweet!"

Neji staggered back slightly, a pink flush spreading across his Hyuuga-pale face. "Tenten?" he said, his voice pitched to a question, as hope built in his eyes.

"It was you, you idiot!" Tenten laughed, burying her face into his shoulder. "I meant I was in love with you!"

A huge smirk spread across the Hyuuga prodigy's face, twitching at the edges as it came perilously close to being an actual smile. His arms came around Tenten's waist, and she sighed happily as she returned his embrace. Their eyes met, and whatever they saw in each other's caused a glow of happiness – complete with bubbles and sparkles - to almost visibly spring up around them. This would have been the perfect time for a sweet, perfect, first-time-tender kiss –

- except that Neji was then attacked by one angry shinobi and two rather angrier kunoichi for his assaults upon their teammates, Tenten's suddenly choke-tight hold preventing him from escaping.

"I do love you, Neji, but honestly you deserve this."


ended.

AN:

Wellup, it's done! I hope you guys enjoyed. I'm not entirely happy with the ending, but I had fun writing the start and middle so I decided to at least complete the fic. Hope it's not that bad.

A lot of people mentioned how idiotic Neji must be to forget the previous tags; believe me, I agonized over that until I realized I hadn't written the fic at all, and decided to make Neji homicidally-forgetful for the purpose of plot. Please to be accepting this plothole. bows