Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
Author's notes: This was going to be part of Hyuga, but I liked it so much that I thought I'd make it a stand alone. If this has been done before, I apologize, and I know it is short, but please review. I would love to know what you think.
Nursing Neji Hyuga
What time is it?
Neji groans quietly and opens his eyes. His room is light, and he can hear movement in the great house and birdsong outside, so it is obviously day. He rolls over, the very movement making his head spin, and checks his clock. The ticking apparatus reads nine forty-five. He is supposed to be at the their usual training ground in fifteen minutes. There is no way he will make it on time, and the knowledge leaves him cranky. Damn it. I'm going to be late. How could I have overslept?
Neji sits up quickly and immediately knows something is wrong. Everything hurts, not just his head, and every move he makes leaves him wanting to vomit. He is sweating profusely, clothing soaked. That makes sense, because it is mid-July and this part of the house does not have air conditioning, but he feels so cold. Too cold. The longer he sits there, trying to get up, the worse he feels.
Am I sick? He cannot remember the last time he was ill, and so privately doubts that this is the case now. To be on the safe side though, and partially because he does not know what else to do, he carefully lays back down and pulls the thin covers back over his aching body. He is shivering now, so he curls into a ball to conserve warmth and drifts back into a fitful sleep.
Neji's last thought is that perhaps someone has activated his curse seal.
Neji is re-awakened sometime later by a pounding at his bedroom door and an deafening voice repeatedly calling his name. It takes a long time for his hazy mind to place it: Rock Lee. The groggy prodigy tries to answer, to tell his annoying teammate to go away, but his voice is gone and he cannot seem to manage more than a croak.
It does not matter. A few more knocks (each ringing painfully in his ears) and Lee rolls the door open anyway. It clatters loudly, and leaves his room suddenly open to view from the hall. None of his family members are around, at least. He would hate for them to see him like this, because if he looks as bad as he feels, people will start mistaking him for Orochimaru soon.
Tenten is there, however, cautiously peeking around the doorjam. She looks rather embarrassed, like she thought he might be naked or something. Upon seeing him though, her face quickly switches to a mask of concern. For the eternally punctual Neji to still be in bed when it was nearly noon…
"Neji, my rival, you look terrible!" Lee's tone is piercing, causing both Neji and Tenten to cringe. Why must the Green Beast be so loud? He can probably be heard all the way on the other side of town, and now everyone in the village will know that Neji is ill. They will be flocking to see the dying Hyuga.
"Lee, shh," Tenten hisses. "He looks fine." It is a lie, but she is trying to make her teammate feel better. Neji is even paler than usual, his face an odd, washed-out color, and his cheeks each have a small red fever spot on them. His long ebony hair is loose, tangled, and his eyes have an unfocused look to them that she has never seen before. The bed around him is soaked in what Tenten hopes is sweat, and it is making the room smell…unpleasant.
"You didn't show up, and we became worried. Gai-sensei sent us to check up on you. He's going to go ask the Hokage if some other team could take over that mission we have scheduled later." Tenten explains it all matter-of-factly, as if she were the one reporting to the village head, but her voice is gentle. She feels genuinely sorry for her friend.
Lee props the heavy wooden shutter open, allowing clean morning air to flood into the stiffling room. Unfortunately, the window itself is placed high above the bed and he has to climb over Neji to do it. The shifting movement makes poor Neji feel even worse, and Tenten is surprised he does not throw up when Lee leaps off the bed, causing the old mattress to bounce wildly. "Lee, stop it!"
"What?" Lee asks, generally confused. "Fresh air is good for you!" He reaches up, stretching on tiptoe, and turns on the ceiling fan. It whirs to life in a cool and comforting rhythm. "A warm bath would also do wonders."
Neji wants to kill him. Oh, if only he could find the strength to get up and do so.
"Why don't we just settle for a change of clothes and some aspirin?" Tenten says, playing the ever practical voice of reason. She can tell the last thing Neji wants is to be helped to the very public Hyuga bath and be scrubbed by Lee.
"Ah! Excellent idea, Tenten! A change of clothes will have Neji feeling much better!" The Leaf Village's Handsome Devil hurries over to Neji's dresser and begins rummaging through it. Tenten winces as all of her friends carefully folded clothing comes undone. Neji just turns over and buries his face in his pillow, unable to watch Lee pawing through his things.
Why must I deal with this? Can't they just go away?
Lee turns around holding up an old t-shirt and a pair of shorts. The clothes have seen better days, and are almost to small, but the have been worn to the point of extreme comfort. "These should do. They look nice and comfy."
"Neji, you'll feel better in some fresh clothes. Lee's going to help you, okay?" Tenten gives a little wave and heads for the still open door. This will go easier without an audience, and anyway, she has a plan.
Neji shoots her a dark look that very clearly says, 'leave me with him and I'll hurt you,' but after more than three years together, Tenten is immune to his glares. She shuts the door behind her, and Neji hears her footsteps disappear down the hall.
Then Lee lifts him bodily from the bed, and Neji decides he is just about ready to die.
Neji is back in bed, dressed and with fresh sheets pulled around him by the time Tenten returns. Her arms are loaded with supplies, and he can only wonder how she managed to find everything: aspirin, a large bottle of water, tissues, a cool, wet washcloth, and a small plate of gentle food meant to tempt his appetite. She sets most of it down upon his nightstand, within easy reach. "Your cousin Hanabi's really sweet, you know?"
Neji blanches as Tenten hands him the plate. Hanabi had helped her obtain everything? The same Hanabi whose sister he had nearly killed? Great, the food is probably poisoned. Oh well, at least he can eat it and put himself out of his misery.
Tenten smiles as he nibbles at the crackers, taking his time with the bland food despite the fact that his stomach is rumbling. "An appetite is usually a good sign. Maybe you'll be feeling better soon."
Lee decides that since Neji is feeling hungry, he should have a larger and far more…nutritious…meal. He takes off at a run, heading for the estate's huge kitchen, and returns quickly with some concoction that Neji is sure must not be food. In fact, the genius would swear the stuff moves across the platter as he watches it. Lee grins and holds the goo under his teammate's nose. "This is my version of the Curry of Life. It is not quite as good as that stuff we had at the gold mine, but I think it will do wonders for your health!"
Tenten attempts to reason with the culinary master. "Uh, Lee, I don't think Neji…"
"Nonsense, Tenten! With this wholesome food nourishing his body, Neji will be back on his feet in no time!" Lee tries to hand the warm ceramic plate to his friend. Neji pushes it away weakly, disgusted by its very smell, and Lee shoves it back. Before long, the two are playing a game of hot potato. Tenten can only watch in horror as the hot server slips from Neji's tired hands and lands in his unprotected lap. His un-Nejilike yelp echoes throughout the house.
Great, now he is sick and burned.
Tenten exiles Lee to the farthest corner of the room and proceeds to clean up the mess. With a sigh, she helps Neji up and begins stripping the linen from the bed. One more set of sheets she will have to wash.
"Shall I read aloud?" Seated upon the rickety wooden chair in his small corner of the room, Lee pulls out a book that he brought from home. The novel is surprisingly slim, one of those light reading entertainment stories. Lee's bandaged hands cover the title, but he nods to the tome in indication. "This is supposed to be really good."
Neji frowns at the younger boy and pulls the covers tighter around his chill body. The movement pulls the burned skin on his stomach and he briefly squeezes his white eyes closed in agony. When the pain passes, he opens them again and glares. He does not care to hear a story, doesn't care to hear Lee at all. Do you have to? Why can't you be the one to lose your voice?
"Well?" Lee asks again, waiting for his answer.
Tenten nibbles on her lower lip before glancing around and taking stock of the situation. She would like to hear the story, but she does not want to disturb Neji, who looks as though he is about to fall asleep. And she doesn't want Lee nearly killing him again. Still, seated on the bed next to her Jonin teammate, she is in the perfect position to throw herself between the two if things get out of hand. "We'll, I guess it'll be okay. Just keep your voice down."
Lee nods enthusiastically, and begins reading. He does a surprisingly good job, giving each character their own voice and acting the part. Against his better judgement, Neji even begins to listen. After the first chapter though, it becomes obvious that he must have borrowed this particular book from Naruto (not having a clue, as usual), who must've stolen it from Kakashi.
"He reached out and touched her soft..."
"Lee, stop!" Tenten cannot bear to listen to any more. They are not even old enough to legally buy this novel, much less read it. The kunoichi can't help but feel as though she has been defiled. The look on Neji's face makes it plain that he feels the same.
Lee blinks owlishly and closes the thin book. The cover is now visible: bright orange and depicting a rather lurid scene. He really should have known better. "I did not think it was that bad. Sort of romantic and inspiring."
If you're a pervert.
"I don't think that's the kind of story Neji wants to hear. Why don't we read something else? Here, try this." Tenten hands him an old, tattered treatise on weaponry that she carries around. Lee sighs, boredom and disappointment evident, and flips open the cover.
Sometime later, Lee has monotonously read himself out and is snoring loudly in his chair. The book has fallen upon the floor, pages crumpled.
Neji's head is resting in Tenten's lap, pillowed comfortably upon her thighs. He is not even really sure how or when it got there, having dozed briefly during the chapter on senbon, but he is in no hurry to move it. She strokes his hair, nails ghosting gently across his scalp, and occasionally rubs his still aching temples for him. Her minstrations and his little nap have refreshed him, and he cannot help but think this is the best he has felt all day.
If only they could ditch Lee, he would get sick more often.