Author's Notes: Written for Ten Squared's August challenge, "drifting."
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am making no profit from this fan fiction.
Dedication: To Blooming Cosmo on her birthday!
Love To A Weapons Mistress
Tenten would like to say that Hyuuga Neji and the feelings he holds for her is the reason she is able to fly.
They train at sunset, and the light dazzles in white-gold beams through parts in the forest canopy, gleaming off his hitai-ate and tangling in the loose ends of her hair. He fights, for once, with a weapon, a scythe – practice for the unlikely event that his chakra should run low during live combat – while she counters him with an invention that appears to be little more than a dozen kunai on a line of wire. To the unaware, it is a primitive tool.
In Tenten's hands, it is deadly and certain to be the cause of many enemy deaths should she ever need to use projectiles and trapping equipment to make a close-range weapon. Neji's Byakugan is activated, but the tense veins around his eyes tighten further as his focus sharpens. Genius or not, he is at a disadvantage here.
The concept is not altogether unlike how Tenten thinks of their relationship. In the world of emotions, she feels as unskilled and without technique as Neji does using a weapon other than his hands. Neji, though not raised in a bright and affectionate environment, has far more comfort in his position as her lover than Tenten did in her position as his. She knows this, does not bother to deny it.
It is the very opposite of what most of those who knew them would expect. She knows she is not detached the way her teammate is often perceived to be, rather, she believes herself a far warmer person by nature. People and interaction with them has always come easily to her.
As they spar, a fine sheen of sweat makes Neji's body glow, and Tenten wonders if that is what he sees on her each day. A glow of determination.
So why, why does she construct a wall as soon as Neji begins to look at her more softly, as soon as his touches are no longer necessary contact points but caresses? He has never shied from her, never frozen in his appreciation of her – unlike Tenten, who has on more than a few occasions asked him to let her step back and slow down.
She flies when supported by him as a shinobi on her team – she can handle him most effectively when she thinks of him that way. But as soon as the day is done and their professionalism slips (and there had been a time when Tenten believed his never would), Tenten finds herself not grounded, but floating aimlessly, like a bird whose wings are wet and cannot soar. Neji keeps her drifting, unsteady, carried by a pulsing inner sea.
She wraps her line of kunai around her arm, all points aimed outward, as Neji runs at her with the scythe. His hair waves behind him like a dark flag, signaling the onslaught of power. His muscles are technically stronger than hers, but when used in this manner, hers are the better.
She loves him, yes, so much so that even in her state of disrupted flight, she cannot bear to let him go. There are moments she feels she must have those looks and touches or she will wing straight into the sun and burn. Other times she fears he'll be too much for her and let her drown. Simply, love terrifies her.
Fortunately, Hyuuga Neji is far too brave and far too stubborn to not see both of them through that terror, ironic as the situation is. The taciturn man keeps the cheery woman upright. It's almost frustrating enough to be embarrassing.
She knocks him flat with the sheer force of the wire, pressing with such perfect accuracy against the center of his hitae-ate to force him to lose balance. The kunai points merely graze him, and he lands on his back with the scythe turned outward. There are holes in his shirt, and he wastes no time in pulling off the ruined and thus-useless garment and tossing it away. A pleasingly toned torso is revealed, but Tenten smirks because he is panting – well, maybe because of the torso, too.
Of course, Neji would never be ashamed of her, either.
"Obviously, this isn't my style," he grits out, leaving the scythe on the ground as he gets to his feet.
Tenten doesn't resist a grin. "Well, that's too bad. What will you do if you use up all your chakra, Neji?"
And truly, that makes all the difference.
The Hyuuga stares into her with eyes of no color. Warmth not caused by exertion fills her from head to toe. "It seems I will have to rely on you, Tenten."
The simple fact that he is willing to stake it all on her – his life, his love, the happiness he has come so close to never having – it is boggling, but it exhilarates her even as it makes her doubt herself with fear.
She lets go of the kunai-strung wire as he walks toward her, his pace suggesting something that isn't a fight. It falls into a coil of danger near her feet. Neji brings a hand up to cup the back of her neck and make her lift her eyes to his.
"Can I do that?" he asks softly.
Perhaps it isn't so bad to be drifting, to have time to think and worry and realize. Maybe it really is time to depend on Neji as well.
Neji lowers his face to hers, his lips hovering just over her mouth. After several heart-racing seconds, it is Tenten who closes the distance between them. She finds she loves the way his pulse speeds under the fingers she holds to his neck.
"Of course," she whispers after they part.
And he does.
So does Tenten. And that is love to her.