Master at Arms
Thanks to all of you who have stuck with this through the long wait. Enjoy!
"They were after Hinata," Choiji stated simply, giving the girl a sympathetic glance.
The four o'clock meeting Neji had ordered had just started. While Tenten, Sakura and Ino had been at Sai's tattoo parlor the Akamichi had been questioning their Sound charges.
"They're just grunts though," Shikamaru added, hands interlocked in front of his face. "They may have just been after Hinata, but they've never been this bold before. Unfortunately there's only one thing, or should I say person, that's been added to the mix recently."
"So they're not really after Hinata?" Naruto asked hopefully, putting his arm around the girl.
"I'm sure they are," Sasuke contradicted his friend. "We've known they've been after her as the heir to The Organization for a while. Shikamaru is just postulating that there is probably more here than meets the eye."
"Underneath the underneath," Sakura giggled.
The girls, as promised, had been let in on the meeting. Although from the many scowls and crossed arms in the room it appeared Neji's word on the subject may have been the only thing keeping them there. Ino elbowed her friend in the side, suppressing a giggle of her own.
Glancing warily at Ino and Sakura, Shikamaru continued. "I'm not saying Sound is after Tenten, but everyone is in the information business. Tenten just gave Sound an excellent display of her skills."
It was Tenten's turn to scowl. However Shikamaru spoke on before she could open her mouth.
"We know Akatsuki is in the market for an arms dealer. It does not take a large leap of deduction to guess that they intended to use Tenten to get to her father."
This time Tenten did open her mouth, but what came out wasn't quite what Shikamaru had expected to hear.
"I have my own weapons distributor contacts. If need be I can get by without my father even knowing I've placed an order. Having my own contacts is la security blanket for instances exactly like this. What if I need to get my own merchandise? Make my own deals with out involving my father?"
Silence rolled as those in the room pondered the possible implication of Tenten's statement.
"Well," Shikamaru paused to choose his words, "that definitely complicates the matter."
"And now that she's part of our little, gang, I don't see any reason why Tenten can't supply us with weapons." Sasuke stated.
"Absolutely not." Tenten's voice rang out strong. "I'm not escalating a fire fight here by bringing in weapons that have no business being in a city."
"I agree," Sakura added, giggles gone. "There's no reason to cause more harm than needed."
"It could be a much needed way to protect our selves," Choiji put in tentatively. "But I do agree with Tenten. Bringing in heavier arms could end up hurting us in the end."
"Depends on what kind of heavy arms we're talking about."
"I'll think about it, Sasuke, Tenten." Neji stated effectively ending the conversation.
"I don't like that Tenten's being followed." Kiba spoke up for the first time. "We need to set up some sort of surveillance plan around her and Hinata at least for now."
"I call Hinata!" Naruto boomed, causing Hinata to blush.
Neji glances in Naruto's direction but did not contradict his statement. Tenten studiously looked at the table. Was it a bad thing that she hoped Neji would be leading the surveillance on her?
"Lee, I'm putting you in charge of Tenten's detail." Neji glanced her direction, offering a small smile as a peace offering. "Although I and Lee would both appreciate it you could try not to loose him this time."
"Mou…" Tenten pouted. "I'll think about it."
"I'll be coordinating something with the Orginization, but in the mean time the job falls to Lee and naruto." Neji finished, closing out the subject.
With the meeting wrapping up Tenten darted upstairs to Hinata's to grab her things before heading to the shooting range to pick up a few of her weapons. She planned on staying at her apartment tonight but had no intention of going unarmed. The majority of her stock she planned to keep under lock and key but a few choice items where coming with her. While appreciating the surveillance detail, Tenten would not be caught in a situation where she couldn't protect herself.
Turning the corner form the hall connecting the shooting range to the meeting room Tenten shouldered a large North Face backpack, her hand occupied with her trusty cardboard arms locker. Tenten smiled as Neji walked out of the meeting room as she rounded the corner. With out asking Neji lifted the cardboard box out of her hands, sliding it under his right arm. Standing it in front of Tenten he pushed a wisp of hair that had escaped her buns and pushed it behind her right ear. Tenten's eyes closed momentarily as Neji's finger's traveled down the outside of her ear, pausing to gently touch the new leaf tattoo.
"It suits you," Neji stated simply.
Smiling, Tenten reached up to grab Neji's hand, intertwining their fingers.
While Tenten had been none too pleased to learn that by 'detail', Lee expected to spend "every youthful moment" with her for the next several days, she had made good work on unpacking using his help. A small misshape late in the night when Lee had opened a box containing her lingerie aside, having the strange young man around hadn't been too bad. Tenten still wished Neji could have been there instead, but Lee's quirks made time go quickly and she couldn't deny that having another person around who was handy with a gun was a bad thing. Making sure Lee was comfortable on the couch Tenten turned in for the night, stashing her Glock on her bedside table.
As seemed to be becoming par for the course, Tenten was again in a rush getting ready for school. Running around the house with her blouse unbuttoned, hair cascading down her back and toast in her hand had Lee sitting on the couch doubled over in laughter. Eyes closed to protect her youthful innocence of course. After force feeding Lee the other piece of toast, Tenten stuffed her arms into her leather jacket and rammed her biking helmet down on her head.
"Twenty minutes. Perfect, we should be able to get there in ten, no problem." Tenten told Lee as their feet pounded down the stairs of her apartment complex accompanied by the banging of Tenten's messenger bag against her thigh.
Making a cursory scan of the street the duo jumped on their respective bikes. Revving the engine a few times to get warm, Tenten secured her messenger bag before speeding off. Lee would catch up. No matter what Lee had said about tardiness being alright with Neji to talk them out of it, she wanted to hold herself to a higher personal standard.
Tenten first new something was wrong when Lee's Honda never caught up with her. The second cue was the metallic Chrysler 300 series Sedan she kept catching in her side mirrors. Curious, Tenten made a sudden right, cursing when the Chrysler followed. Assuming Lee had been deterred she considered her options as she took another sharp right. At this time of day only someone intolerably stupid wouldn't assume she was heading to the school.
The thought of why someone would be chasing her to the school was derailed as another metallic Chrysler 300 jerked out of an ally into the lane in front of her. Pulsing the breaks, Tenten's tires left skid marks as she came to a halt throwing her right leg down to keep herself and the bike from skidding sideways down the road. Breathing hard she physically turned the Kawasaki, ignoring the blood she felt trickling down her right leg where the asphalt had scraped off skin. Speeding down the street in the direction she had come from, Tenten took pleasure in the high pitched squeal the first sedans tires made as the driver attempted to follow her.
Making it to school had now become her top priority. Even if whoever was chasing her had someone at the school waiting, Neji was at the school. With this though in mind Tenten made a hard left onto a one way street going the opposite direction as she heard the first pop of a gun being fired. Leaning low into the bike she weaved through cars, risking a quick look backward as she blew through the next intersection. Wincing she faced forward again as a bullet grazed past her riding helmet. The two sedans where still on her tail.
'Fast is good then,' Tenten thought to herself. Outnumbered and with only one weapon speed was her best friend. Saying a silent apology to those she would inconvenience by ignoring the traffic laws, Tenten sped up, groaning as the two cars followed her through the red light. Letting out a breath, Tenten jumped the curb, guiding the bike onto a pedestrian walkway. The path wasn't familiar to Tenten, but she remembered a similar path ran by the school that wasn't supposed to be used by anyone that had a motorized vehicle. Mumbling apologies as pedestrians jumped out of the way of her speeding bike she allowed herself a small smile as the Chryslers faded from her side mirrors.
Tenten's smile widened as the school parking lot came into view, her luck had come through.
The sound of metal on metal and screeching tires was the only warning given as one of the metallic sedans crashed through the security barrier at the school. Tenten's hands flew to her head as she was violently thrown from the bike. Her skid across the parking lot was stopped by a curb, forcing the air out of her lungs. Coughing, Tenten struggled to sit up, reaching for the Glock on her thigh holster she was forced to the level the gun with two hands when her right was shaking to much to aim on its own.
Her first shot bounced off the windshield. 'Bulletproof,' Tenten scowled, re-aiming her gun at the tires as the passenger side door creaked open. Her next shot, which was going to be the bastard's ankle, was stopped when she heard shouting from familiar voices and gunfire from across the parking lot.
"NEJI!" Tenten yelled, not caring how scared her voice sounded at the moment. A few seconds passed before Neji emerged at a run through two parked cars opposite her position. Skidding to halt in front of her, Tenten almost had to look away at the intensity in Neji's eyes. "Neji…" she started quietly, unsure of what to say. Crouching down, Neji pulled Tenten to his chest, kissing the top of her head before standing back up, positioning himself between her and the car. Shikamaru, Choiji, Kiba and Sasuke had taken up positions around her and Neji as well.
Perhaps seeing they were outnumbered the sedans door slammed shut, the driver forcing the car into reverse and speeding out of the parking lot.
Dropping his gun, Neji pulled Tenten to him again, running his left hand through her hair.
"I was afraid when Lee never checked in this morning that something had happened, and then when he showed up here without his bike, all black and blue." Neji kissed the side of Tenten's head. "You're staying with me from now on. I don't want to think about what might have happened if you'd been taken"
Tenten let out a small whimper as Neji pulled her tighter to his chest. Slowly pulling her away from his chest, Neji's hands closed into fists as his eyes cataloged Tenten's injuries. Her head was untouched, thanks to the ridding helmet. But blood covered the right side of her lower body where scraps from sliding across the cement had started to bleed. Tenten didn't want to think about the bruise she could feel forming on her back where the curb had stopped her slide.
"Neji," Tenten wheezed, "I am so sorry. I feel like everything has gone wrong for you since I got here."
"This is not your fault." Neji replied, tone broking no argument. "And I would be hard pressed to say nothing has gone right for me since you got here." He leaned in, pressing his lips to hers softly. "I have you now, don't I?"
Tenten remembered smiling at the statement before the adrenaline and shock wore off. Neji rushing towards her was the last image she remembered before her eyes rolled into the back of her head.
Cradling Tenten in his arms, Neji turned to his friends, eyes cold.
"Sasuke, I want you to find out who's behind this. Shikamaru will help you. And Sasuke, any means necessary." The other boy nodded in the affirmative before leaving with Shikamaru in tow.
Turning to Kiba he continued. "Get Sakura out of class; bring her to meet us back at the compound. Choiji tell Naruto to bring Ino and Hinata back to the compound. I want everyone in one place. After that, get Tenten's Kawasaki and bring it back to the compound. We'll decide what to do from there."
Tenten came to in Hinata's room. Sakura was sitting in a straight backed chair next to the bed, a bowl filled with red water at her feet. The pink haired girl jumped when Tenten attempted to push herself into a sitting position.
"How are you feeling?" Sakura asked, handing Tenten a glass of water and two aspirin.
Tenten nodded in thanks before down the aspirin with a gulp of water. "Like I got thrown into a curb," she joked with a chuckle. Wincing as her back tightened.
Sakura smiled sympathetically. "No ribs are broken." Tenten raised an eyebrow. "or bruised for that matter."
"Sure feels like it," Tenten grumbled.
"Yes, there is a rather nasty bruise running the length of your back where you hit the curb." Sakura tapped her finger against the side of her head, "I don't think I've ever seem Neji as angry as when he saw that."
Tenten let out a squeak, "Neji undressed me!"
Sakura chuckled, "No. But he wanted to be appraised of your injuries. I showed him a picture." Her face turned dark. "I pity the fool who caused this when he gets a hold of them."
A soft knock at the door interrupted their conversation. Sakura unfurled herself from the chair, walking to the door and admitting Hinata and Ino.
"Tenten!" The two cried, running to the side of the bed.
"How are you?" Hinata asked in a quite voice. "The last time Cousin was so upset was-"
"When you were abducted by Cloud in sixth grade," Ino supplied. "Seriously girl, he's got it bad for you."
Tenten tried to hold back a chuckle but failed, grimacing again as pain shot through her back. "No laughing for a while," she stated glumly.
"You'll be a little stiff for a few days," Sakura supplied. "But getting some light exercise should actually help quite a bit. We'll keep you on an aspirin regiment and alternate heat and cold for the first twenty four hours."
Silence followed, and Hinata grabbed Tenten's right hand in a comforting gesture.
"I honestly don't think I've ever been so happy to see anyone as when Neji ran through those two cars," Tenten said quietly.
"Girl, you've got it bad too." Ino stated, smiling.
"Any idea who's behind the whole thing yet?" Tenten asked.
"No," Ino pouted. "Shika's keeping me completely in the dark. I think he's afraid that I'm going to orchestrate something like the other night and put us all in harm's way again."
"He's just worried," Hinata stated. "After today," she looked toward Tenten, "I'm sure they're all thinking about it being me, you or Sakura this happens to instead of Tenten." There was no question about who 'they' referred too. "Naruto asked me to stay with him tonight again."
"Kiba stated in no uncertain terms that I wasn't to go anywhere without him," Sakura added.
Ino mumbled something under her breath.
"What was that Ino-pig?" Sakura asked, grinning.
"I said, Shikamaru asked me to be his girlfriend," Ino stated, a soft smile on her face. Sakura let out a high pitched squeal, causing Hinata and Tenten to cover there ears.
"That's great Ino!" Sakura gushed, pulling her friend into a hug.
"He must have been really worried," Hinata added.
"Now we just have to get Naruto to officially ask you out and all four of us will have boyfriends."
"Uh," Tenten interjected. "Neji's never actually asked me out."
"He will," Sakura and Ino replied at the same time.
Phew. That was a long time in the coming (insert excuse here). Hopefully those of you still reading, or those of you reading this for the first time were satisfied. I have the next few chapters outlined so hopefully I can get them up in a semi-timely fashion. No promises.
Reviews are to authors like ramen to Naruto.