Notes: Alrighty, an AU for my 50alternates prompts. Although I kinda stopped using LJ I still feel like I need to use these prompts. Made this a while ago. For the prompt, "Sacrifice". I guess it's supposed to be historical, but I wanted to do something out of there. Tennis. haha, enjoy?
p.s. I know there are usually 11 starters, but as to not complicate this any further, I only kept it as 5 single matches.
Tenten grumbled, sitting cross-legged on the grass outside the courts, lazily watching Coach Jiraiya as he attempted a half-hearted speech on if they tried their best, they would win. She rolled her eyes, leaning back to pluck a chip from Chouji. She patted his shoulder sympathetically. He did have to meet his childhood friend today, Nara Shikamaru, who had been one of them until he was transferred (the administration recently discovered Shika's genius, and promptly switched him). Chouji shrugged, finishing the last of his warm-up chip bag. He had immense strength, especially at volleys, which could be good or bad, depending, but he tired out easily, a weakness that Shikamaru knew just as well as she.
She had researched the other opponents they would play today, a job usually put on Shikamaru, and the information left much to be desired. Of course South Konoha Public High School had little hope they could beat North Konoha Private Academy. It was a well-known fact that North Konoha (N.K. for short) had much more prominent clans and was wealthier and more influential than middle class South Konoha, and thus, the funding for their tennis club would be immensely greater than their outdoor courts. Hell, they only had 5 courts in the local park, compared to the double number of indoor courts they had on the opposite side of town.
"Ten-chan," Jiraiya's voice pulled her out of her trance, and she looked up.
"You researched them, no doubt?"
Tenten nodded, and Kiba, the newest of the five starters grinned, "So spill it!"
Tenten picked up a stick, and began drawing in the dirt. Her artistic skills surely lacked, and she managed to draw a deformed stick figure with sunglasses.
"Aburame Shino," she declared, jabbing proudly at her drawing. The rest of her team forced themselves not to roll their eyes.
"He's pretty big on defense, and likes to stay on the base line more often than not. So, I think Kiba would do well, being proficient on the offense close to the net."
Kiba smirked, dropping onto his back to stare at the clouds, hands tucked under his head, "He's exactly who I wanted to play anyways."
True, the Inuzuka and Aburame clan had gone far back, so closely knit yet never was marriage linking the two, so that Kiba had no ounce of Aburame blood as Shino had no Inuzuka blood. It was an odd relationship.
"Next," Tenten furiously scratched out Shino and replaced him with a spiky pineapple-shaped head.
"Shikamaru," the team recited in unison. Tenten nodded, "We all know what he's good at. Famed for being an amazing strategist, and who knew what to play and where to play it 10 steps before being played. I think Chouji would do fine, since you know him the best."
Without lingering on the subject, she quickly drew the next figure, something with black circles for eyes and a heart on his forehead.
"Transfer student from Suna Academy, Sabaku no Gaara. Tends to hit towards hard to reach places and at players, a bit bloodthirsty…"
The team looked on as Tenten drew a few blood-drops. She was a little odd, the girl.
"Lee would do fine, being fast; you can get those places and dodge any uh, attempts at your life."
Lee beamed, shooting her an almost blinding thumbs-up. Naruto was getting impatient and whined, "Ne, Tenten-chan, who do I get to play?"
Tenten promptly smacked him upside the head, "I'm getting to that."
She quickly drew a lopsided fan and a stick figure with lines coming from his head to signify hair, and oddly well-drawn stick figure fangirls, the two in the front looking specifically like fellow classmates, Haruno Sakura and Yamanaka Ino.
"Uchiha Sasuke, brooding stick-up-the-ass prodigy, complete with 100+ fangirls."
"Oh crap, the fan club's coming then," Kiba groaned from his resting place, "The bastard's a nuisance."
"He's a good tennis player," she reasoned, He knows how to adjust to each opponent. He has a tendency of copying signature moves."
Naruto looked horrified, "Even my Uzumaki Number One Serve?"
Tenten nodded, attempting to look grave, "Yes, even your Uzumaki Number One Serve. But you look like a complete idiot, so I don't think the Uchiha's pride is going to stoop so low as to copy it, Naruto."
He seemed to brighten at this back-handed comment.
"That leaves one more," Jiraiya replied, and Tenten almost jumped. She had forgotten her coach was still there. She smiled, working on her best drawing, circles for eyes and long black hair hanging from the disproportional head.
She kicked at the dirt where her drawings had been as the bus (not even a public yellow school bus, no, a coach bus) pulled in, fixing the hem of her shorts, her racket propped over her shoulder, staring into the distance as the other team got off the bus and onto the courts. They all wore identical uniforms, an iron-pressed white collared shirt with the stitching of North Konoha Racquet Club & Clinic on the right side of the chest, and black basketball shorts with the logo printed on the end.
She glanced back at the rest of the boys on her team, everyone mismatching. Even she, known as tomboy Tenten, that would much rather prefer baggy basketball shorts and a T-shirt was now forced by Jiraiya to look more feminine. His reason? Nothing earth-shattering. Just that N.K. had to see that the only girl on the team was also a beauty. She knew none of them could care less.
This, of course, had to be with the assistance of President of the Uchiha fanclub, Haruno Sakura, and she was forced to wear white shorts that didn't even go down mid-thigh and that constantly rode up, a tickle-me-pink tank top, accentuating tan shoulders, and brand-spanking-new pink and white sneakers. Sakura had insisted on this get-up (all of it belonging to her), and although it lightened the load of clothes and the sneakers worked incredibly well on the clay courts, she hated it.
She could see the people that trailed behind the five best of N.K. in their little flak jackets, it wasn't the first time. They were the instructors at N.K., the ones that spotted potential, and converted towards their side. They did, after all, take Shikamaru last season, and who she spotted loping lazily towards them, his bag dangling over his scrawny frame.
She could see Maito Gai, her sensei at school waving jubilantly at both her and Lee. Lee of course was waving back, but Tenten pretended to ignore him. Coach Jiraiya was busy talking to Tsunade, and she clenched her fist, determined to prove to her that she was a more than capable player. Tsunade had started her interest in tennis and this team kept it, but no matter what, she wanted to prove to those northern preps that they were just as good.
She glanced back at the giggling gaggle of girls that almost attacked Sasuke when he got off the bus, hanging against the fence, producing sighs as they watched Sasuke get ready. Of course the fan club would show up, since after all, this team could not keep any potential meetings with the North a secret.
Ino gave her a thumbs-up, and Sakura had cheered her name, only with Tenten harshly quieting them, glancing nervously at the opposing team.
Sasuke glared at her, his eyes revealing his nuisance at seeing a fangirl on the team. Then she noticed he was looking at her legs, and she flushed, mentally cursing Sakura for making her wear something so short it didn't even look professional. She looked down before she realized with horror that there was the Uchiha fan stitched onto the hem of her shorts.
This is going to be one long meet.
"Ten-chan, play Neji-san on court two," Jiraiya grinned, gently shaking one of her buns, much to her disgruntlement, making it turn lopsided. She attempted to smile sweetly at her opponent, the white-eyed Hyuuga, who, as she had hidden from most others, was her childhood friend, much like Chouji and Shikamaru. Even more so, she preferred no one else to know (except Lee of course) that Hyuuga Neji was also her ex-boyfriend.
Neji merely looked away, more concerned to know where the court was than make small talk with his former love interest. She gazed at him; he had kept his hair long and tied at the nape of his neck, a few loose strands hanging over his eyes, a headband covering his forehead. He still was utterly handsome, and still emotionally refrained. She had broken up with him after the whole Hinata debacle, and she had been shocked by his behavior to his own relative that she feared for her own safety. But that was over a year ago.
He, by the looks of it, hadn't forgiven her.
She glanced at Lee, who tried to give her an encouraging smile as he walked to the farthest court with Gaara, who, as the rest of the team, looked nothing like her drawings.
She sighed, and stared at the three freshly-opened balls in her hands. She had forgotten to ask Sakura where she was supposed to put these. Usually her shorts had pockets, and ended at her knees… she looked over to see Neji had already pocketed his three tennis balls.
Sakura was making frantic motions, and she could just see her motioning with large arm gestures to put them up her shorts…
Tenten grit her teeth, forcing her pride to diminish as she shoved the two balls up her shorts to nestle at her hips. Kiba whistled, commenting that now she had finally grown some balls, and she flipped him off, before stalking towards the court.
Without bothering to ask him if he wanted to rally, she set the ball in the air in a perfectly executed stroke. He sent it back double the speed, and she could only block it, falling against the net. She bit her lower lip.
"Are we starting?" he asked nonchalantly, intent on quickly ending this match. Tenten blinked, they had just started rallying.
"If you want to, Hyuuga-kun," she said in the caramel-sweet tone she only reserved to piss the hell out of him, and he knew it. His eyes narrowed.
"The faster we start, the faster it ends," he grumbled. Tenten shrugged, "Fine. W or M?"
Neji blinked. Tenten rolled her eyes, "I'm sorry, but we don't have automated machines that will randomly say who will serve first. We do it the old-fashioned way. W or M?"
"M…" Neji said slowly. Tenten nodded, throwing her Wimbledon racket in the air and catching it effortlessly, (but really, she was showing off) the end jutting out towards Neji to read. He looked at it, where the spin in the air ended with the letter. "W."
Tenten smirked, "You can serve."
Neji nodded, and Tenten threw him some balls, pulling them out of her shorts and he had seemed to pale. Tenten stood back towards the back court, getting ready. Neji aimed, throwing the ball up, and she tensed…
Suddenly it whizzed past her ear and past her peripheral vision. Her eyes widened in shock, and her body trembled. What kind of power was this?
Neji smirked, "Damn, a fault."
His second was considerably slower, but still incredibly fast, and she managed to deflect it, a pitifully easy shot that he sent flying back towards her. She had forgotten Neji's tactic at the feeling of inferiority of not being able to see his ball fly. He was fast, almost as much as Lee, and able to send back at double the speed any balls aimed towards him. And he knew her strength too, that she was 100 percent accurate where her balls flew, and she could pinpoint and send her balls towards any part of the court she wanted.
She forced herself to calm down, and sent a deep ball back before she ran towards the front. He had fallen into her trap, and as soon as the ball neared, her grip on her racket switched and she slammed it down on his side. He caught it easily, pivoting on the heel of his foot and volleyed it over her head. Her head instantly whipped back to see it neatly fall inside.
Tenten wanted to wipe the smirk from his lips as he said, "Fifteen-love."
"You're holding it wrong."
"Yes, you're supposed to switch into continental," That said, she leaned over, her smaller hand covering his. He stiffened.
Tenten rolled her eyes, "You need to tighten your grip, or else all your balls will fly out."
"I hold my grip just fine."
"You're too stubborn."
"So are you."
Tenten smiled, leaning over. "Please?"
His grip did tighten significantly and Tenten easily switched his hold, and his volley flew perfectly.
Tenten's eyes focused, slightly panting. It was forty-love, game point. She knew that the only way to win was to get his shots to fly out. His serve came barreling in, and she managed to catch it with a short volley, buying her time to sprint back towards the center line. He sent it back fast and a rally flew by, before he slammed the ball down, almost hitting her and she had cringed out of the way.
He smirked, "Game."
As they switched sides, Tenten gazed at him, her fingers brushing ever so lightly on his skin as he handed her two balls.
"You've gotten better, Neji."
He gazed at her through unseeing eyes.
It was her serve, and she threw it up, slamming her racket hard on it as it skimmed the net. He didn't even bother running towards it.
"Let," she breathed, easily slipping out the ball in her shorts to serve it cleanly into the middle of the box, and he let it back gently. She smiled at her good luck, and she slammed it against the other corner, and as his arm just managed to hit it, it swerved out of control and out.
She let out a loud and admittedly an obnoxious 'OUT', and he glared back at her. But it didn't matter. With one point after a pitiful game with none, she could do it.
The notion was short-lived, because every hit forced her only to volley it back, and she backed up as a high volley came towards her. She swung as soon as it was close, instead of a quick smack as he expected, and Neji almost faltered, sprinting closer towards the net, and then Tenten tripped.
He had completely missed the ball on purpose, staring at her as she was sitting on the floor, her ankle twisted painfully. Ino had given out a loud shriek, instantly growled at by Kiba, and Jiraiya was looking worried. She grunted, giving a few experimental squeezes. No use, it was throbbing, but she struggled up.
Her cheeks flushed pink with embarrassment. Smooth.
Neji's eyebrow rose in what seemed like concern.
"I'm fine," she said, giving a thumbs-up to the skeptic watchers.
"You can forfeit if you want to," he said offhandedly. Tenten shook her head. She couldn't forfeit to him. Returning to the serving position she called the score, already thirty-forty, and slammed it down. As she dashed towards the ball, a streak of pain ran up her leg, and she managed to let the easy ball fall out.
She had lost the game again.
Neji frowned. Tenten was hurt; it was obvious, the way she winced when she forced herself not to limp back. He considered going easier on her, since playing the way he did during the first two games had put a toll on him, and he tried to keep his erratic breathing at rest. Not all his shots could be aces, he knew that.
Still, his teammates wouldn't let him live it down if he lost to a girl, no less, a girl wearing an Uchiha fan on her shorts.
His eyes narrowed as he could still see it. She wasn't a member of his fan club… was she?
He knew he might as well just beat her quick, to stop her suffering.
Tenten let out a grunt as she swung the ball over, a low throaty sound he rarely heard from her, a nostalgic sound. He shot it back, quickly stepping closer towards the net, and slamming a ball down. She eyed the ball, running back, eyes squinted in the sun before she just chucked at it. It managed to fall into his distance, and he gave a short volley, and Tenten wasn't able to recover in time. She ran right into the net, panting.
"Just give up," he mumbled, and her fingers tightened on the net before she lifted her head, walked across the net towards his side, and jabbed him in the chest.
"I. Am. Not. Losing. To. You," she practically shouted, accentuating each word with a jab at him. His chest began to ache. Then she pivoted on her heel and stalked back.
What a fiery-tempered woman. But then again, it was one of the reasons why he had liked her in the first place.
"You know Neji-kun likes you," Lee grinned suggestively, motioning towards the Hyuuga playing on the courts. Tenten rolled her eyes, walking over to grab more balls from the hopper.
"Neji is only a friend, I only know him through tennis," she reasoned.
"But tennis is his, and your, life."
"We won't even see each other next year."
"Different schools means nothing! Tenten-chan, enjoy the springtime of youth!"
Tenten ignored him, moving over towards the opposite side of the court.
He sighed. He had one the first set easy now with her injury, and the second one didn't seem to be much of the problem. The game score was already 5-love, and he just needed one more to win the whole match. His breathing wouldn't return to normal, and his muscles began to ache.
He had already saw Chouji and Shikamaru shake hands last game in the corner of his eye, and when Chouji shrugged tiredly, Tenten had looked sympathetic. Shino was on his last game, and he couldn't tell about Sasuke's or Gaara's.
His eyes focused on Tenten intently as she walked over towards the back court. As soon as she was ready, he let it fly.
The game heated up as every game did, and somehow, the score just kept up a relay-race, leading up to a deuce. He frowned, relaxing his breathing as he served. She gently hit it back, and she instantly ran towards the front.
Lob over her head.
He aimed and twisted his racket. He tensed, before he heard a loud "OUT". His eyes narrowed. It was in.
"What?" Tenten glared at him, "I'm not lying, it was just out."
Tenten huffed, as she signaled Jiraiya over, as he did Tsunade. They positioned themselves on opposite sides of the net, and watched intently. Tenten swung her racket to hit the far corner, and again headed towards the net. Neji spotted an opening, and smirked, smacking the ball towards it. He could see Tenten run…
He glanced at Tsunade. She nodded.
Tenten's smirk couldn't be any wider, and she said proudly, "five-one."
Kiba, who had just lost his, and cheered at hers. It pulled him out of his mode, and instantly she was catching up, making him even more exasperated, trying to hit an ace and only getting it out. The score instantly climbed up to five-four.
In the middle of her serve, there was a scream. Her ball dropped down, and before he knew it, she was sprinting, cutting through Sasuke's game, narrowly missed getting hit to skid by Lee's side. He was bleeding. Badly. The two games left were immediately postponed, and everyone hurried over.
"Tenten-chan, I am fine," Lee was mumbling, coughing out blood. Tenten was instantly ordering for the first-aid kit. She turned to look back at him slightly, and said, her voice hard and cold, "Neji, go with Shikamaru and get water."
Then she turned away towards Sakura and Ino and told them to fetch the nurse.
Neji couldn't help but follow. There was a small feeling of jealousy, was it, of the bleeding heap in Tenten's arms, who Tenten was revealing a massive amount of emotions and turmoil over. Gaara wouldn't have to forfeit right?
"Just forfeit!" her exasperated tone could be heard all the way by the water jug. Shikamaru looked sullen.
"Lee is really important to her."
"I know," Neji grit out, coming out a bit too harsh. Shikamaru glanced over at him and didn't respond. Finally, Tenten and Maito Gai forced a forfeit, Lee in no shape to play, and that had set the team game score. North Konoha Racquet & Clinic won.
Tenten was helping Lee walk towards the fence to sit down. Neji glanced over at their court, before walking over towards her.
"Now, Lee, stop fidgeting… god, I wish my parents weren't away, I would ask them to get a ride for us…"
"Tenten-chan, do not worry, I can crutch home just fine…"
"No you can't Lee! Just sit there… and don't move. I'm going to get you some water."
Neji watched them, standing a distance away. They really were close… Lee was a lot closer to her than he had ever been, even when they were together.
He intercepted her as she was at the water jug. He noticed she was using her own water bottle to give him…
"Oh, what Neji?"
His frown deepened and he crossed his arms, "We have a game to finish." The emphasis on 'we' came out unexpected.
Tenten stood up, capping the bottle, "Oh right."
She had forgotten. Tenten glanced at him, and shrugged, "I forfeit."
"Because Lee's hurt."
"I'm sure he's going to be fine if you're not watching him 24/7," he noted that he was practically complaining now like a spoiled brat. He should be happy for a forfeit.
She looked up at him, and her eyes hardened, and her voice was that harsh cold tone from before, "You told me to give up before."
Then she brushed past him. He looked back to see that expression instantly melt off her face as she smiled sweetly down at Lee.
Lee had been taken off to the nurse's office, to get his arm wrapped and given a sling, his head bandaged, and to get crutches. Lee had insisted that she not come along, since she did a lot already, so she busied herself to call both her and his parents. She rummaged through her bag, unable to find her cell phone.
Crap. I left it at home.
Tenten sighed, plopping onto the floor. She winced, muttering a low 'ouch' as she gripped her ankle, the throbbing worsening (or at least, she finally took notice of it now that it was too late). She looked off towards the courts, at Sasuke's and Naruto's heated match. They were rivals, weren't they?
She struggled to stand, using the fence as support. She'll ask to borrow Ino's phone or something.
Then there was a phone shoved at her face. She looked up to see Neji, who wasn't looking at her.
She looked down at it and took it, muttering a quiet, "Thanks."
His phone was a sleek sophisticated new model, and she gazed at in awe, before quickly just dialing Lee's parent's number. After explaining the whole thing and assuring the hysterical mother that Lee was fine, he was in the nurse's office and would liked to be picked up, she handed the phone back to Neji, who was waiting by her side. She let out a tired sigh, before allowing her legs to give out and to sit against the fence.
"Sorry I can't finish the match," she said awkwardly.
"Let me see your leg."
Tenten shrugged, "I'm fine. I'll just go home… and icepack it… and then-"
He was ignoring her right then, kneeling down to examine her ankle. As soon as he pushed pressure she winced, swatting his hand away. He looked at her seriously, and said in a grave tone, "If I don't bandage it, your recklessness will only make it worsen, and it will affect your tennis skills."
Tenten nodded as he reached for the bandages.
"Is that really how he shows affection?" Jiraiya asked exasperated, watching as Neji with all seriousness and professionalism wrapped her ankle.
Tsunade nodded, as Jiraiya rolled his eyes, "There's not even any lingering touches!"
"You pervert," Tsunade dismissed. Jiraiya shrugged, "Everyone in tennis knows they've gone out. Except they didn't really do much except play tennis."
"And then that whole incident with Hinata-san, brutally injuring his own cousin in tennis…" Tsunade said, eyes still watching Naruto and Sasuke's game.
"Didn't they resolve all of that?" Jiraiya asked. The woman beside him nodded.
"Neji's life revolves around tennis."
"So does Tenten-chan."
"Which is precisely why we keep them on separate teams," Tsunade turned, patting her former friend on the arm and walked away as Naruto let out a whoop of winning.
In the end, Naruto's surprising win was the only one, and the South Konoha Public Courts decided to work much harder.
Tenten was playing Naruto, having the abilities most like Sasuke, and was keeping up fairly well.
That is, until the middle of practice, when Lee who was sitting on the sidelines yelled, "Ohayo Neji-kun!"
Tenten missed her serve, the ball bouncing in front of her and she flushed. That had never happened. She signaled Naruto to take a break and turned to see Neji staring at her. Tenten had forgotten what he looked like in normal clothes, and he looked quite nice in his jeans, tee, and a black jacket, stylish black sneakers on his feet.
She bit her lip, instantly self-conscious. She wasn't really wearing anything like the last time she's seen him, just basketball shorts and a loose tank top. She walked over, Neji acknowledged her presence, and her fingers curled into the fence.
"How's your ankle?" he asked, eyes still fixed on hers. Tenten lowered hers, looking down at the wrapping around her ankle.
"It's a lot better, actually."
Neji just nodded. Tenten knew what the silence meant, he wanted to be with her alone. She unhooked her fingers from the fence, bending down to pick up her water bottle and taking a quick swig. She passed by Jiraiya, saying she'll be out for a bit and the coach merely glanced at Neji and nodded.
Neji met her at the gates and they took a stroll down the park, her fingers fidgeting with the water bottle.
"Tsunade considered you coming to North Konoha," he said finally. Tenten looked up at him, her heart had skipped a beat.
"I'm afraid I can't do that," she replied after a moment's hesitation. "I really like this team and I'm out to be the underdog and beat guys like you and all that crap..."
They had stopped walking, and their pause was filled in with the sounds of children play.
Neji frowned, and Tenten just sighed.
"You've gotten a lot better at tennis," he said.
Tenten shrugged, "Never as good as you."
The silence returned and Tenten turned her head up at the clouds.
"Why did we break up?" Neji asked and Tenten froze, looking back at him. She bit her lip, and scratched her head. His eyes were disappointed.
"I don't know, just with everything, different schools, our rival tennis teams, it just wouldn't have worked out…"
"It was the Hinata thing, wasn't it?" his voice was accusing and resigned, more of a statement than a question.
Tenten's shoulders dropped, "I've never seen you like that, just so angry at the wrong person and it… scared me."
Tenten looked up and Neji wasn't looking at her, he looked defenseless. Tenten tried to smile.
"I heard that things got better, that you've changed. I just felt like you'd never forgive me, I didn't trust you, sorry."
He looked at her, and Tenten brushed a strand of hair away from his eyes. She took a step back and put both hands on her hips, challenging.
"Ne, are you busy later?" she grinned. "We still have a match to finish."
He smirked, and merely leaned down to kiss her in answer.
Notes: Awww... cute. Comments would be appreciated.