Word Count: 450
Summary/Description: Sometimes, Tenten leads, and they follow. She takes them away.
A/N: Takes place about six months after they become genin, I guess. Influenced by listening to too much of Tessanne Chin's Hideaway.
Dedication: For Penny! Happy belated birthday, hon, hope you like this. And I hope you and yours are okay.
Disclaimer: Insert witty denial of ownership here.
When they are all three of them tired, dirty, sweaty and utterly spent; when the training grounds have been scarred anew by his fists and her weapons and his Kaiten; when the sun is slung low in the sky, an orange ball of fire melting into the horizon; she grabs them by the wrists and leads them off into the forest. Powerless to resists her happy smile and extra burst of energy, Neji glides and Lee stumbles in her wake.
They are more than a little perplexed when Tenten leads them up a tree, but they follow nevertheless. It is an ancient old thing. The bark is hard, dark and grisly, and the leaves, though multitudinous, are bitten and frayed, and a dark verdant green. The branches are far-reaching and thick, and Tenten scales quickly. She finds an ideal nook, wide enough for three, and wedges herself in, waiting for them to do the same.
When they are seated side by side, a little squashed, but comfortable enough, Tenten hugs her knees to her chest, props her chin on them, and grins. Neji, to her right, raises his brows and gives her a 'what now?' sort of look.
"Now we sit," she says simply. The little niche is almost cocooned from sound, and her voice echoes slightly.
Neji gives her a dubious look.
"Hn," he says anyway, and remains where he is.
The silence that follows is unique in that it is sluiced with all of their tiny sounds: Neji's soft even breathing, a nameless tune that Tenten hums, Lee shifting in his seat restlessly as he looks around. Birds clamour in the sky, swooping and squawking. It is getting cooler and cooler by the second; it will be freezing in an hour or so. Even so, they feel warm. The creatures of the forest are coming out of their holes and bushes, ready to embrace the night.
"This is nice," Lee says suddenly, sitting up a bit. His large bright eyes still dart here and there.
Tenten beams at him, pleased.
"Isn't it?" She brushes her bangs out of her eyes, flashing circles of amber in the dim light. "Like… a secret hideaway."
Lee nods vigorously in agreement, bringing a hand up to mask a yawn.
"We should return soon," Neji reminds them in his hollow, grave voice, features stern. Nevertheless, he does not protest when Tenten touches his arm and makes promises about 'only five more minutes' and 'until Lee looks his fill'. Tenten smiles with drooping lids and touches his wrist as she does Lee's.
Gai does not find them until about an hour or so had passed. They were all three of them fast asleep.