A/N: Oh. Wow. My angst-button is acting up again. It's a deathfic, mostly Neji-centric. Only one spoiler (most of the deaths mentioned here don't actually happen).
Disclaimer: Naruto (c) Masashi Kishimoto
Neji turns around and looks.
He shouldn't need to turn around to look. Wasn't that what Byakugan was for? He did it anyway.
Tenten and Lee don't act surprised, even though they are. Or maybe they aren't. He's weird enough that they shouldn't be surprised anymore by anything he does.
He makes a mental bet against himself for which of them will speak first.
Neither of them does.
For once, Lee isn't crying. And Neji isn't surprised. Lee cries over things that are so trivial that he probably couldn't cry now even if he tried.
Tenten isn't crying. She's a girl. She's supposed to cry. Even if she hates the stereotypes set on kunoichi, he's seen her cry before, at things far less important than this.
It's stupid to be so depressed over it. It's happened before, hasn't it? It always happens. It happened to Ino and Shikamaru and Chouji. It happened to Shino and Hinata and Kiba. It's going to happen soon—he thinks it, and his heart doesn't even clench at making a realization like this—it's going to happen soon to Naruto and Sasuke and Sakura.
It makes him feel weak to think that the first one to cry is him.
But he can't help it.
Neji sees him, lying there, and collapses on the ground, because seeing it with his own eyes and not the Byakugan makes it a thousand times worse.
He's always been a masochist. Is that why Tenten and Lee weren't surprised?
And against himself, he reaches out a pale, muscled arm and every long, calloused finger and touches the rigid, warm, sculpted face that is the most peaceful it's ever been.
He reaches out and brushes an eyebrow. It's so big, he almost smiles, but then he feels the tears and he wants to kill himself, or break something, or drink all of the Hokage's sake and never think again.
He is shinobi. Shinobi do not feel this when this happens.
His arms do not support him anymore and he slips, and somehow Lee is still fast enough to catch him, and Tenten is just a little bit slower but she gets there all the same.
They hold him, Hyuga Neji, and Hyuga Neji is being held by that weapon-wielding kunoichi with no last name and that taijutsu-nin with no talent.
And, not for the first time, he wonders why he is on Team Thirteen.
He's always been superstitious. It is in his nature. Thirteen has never been a good omen.
He's almost relieved when he feels tears on his shoulders and realizes he's not the only one crying anymore.
Tenten screams, but no one really hears her.
They're in the middle of a war; Kakashi and his former team are inches from death somewhere and they should be off helping them, and Neji stopped believing in destiny a long time ago but he just knows that Kakashi won't leave alive.
It's the greatest test of will, to see the ones they have admired and learned from their whole lives spread out in death, vulnerabilities visible like never before.
He felt it when his father died, and for the first time in his life he sympathizes with Sasuke.
The enemy that killed Gai is dead and, in a blatant and pathetic and childish fashion, his dead body's been pummeled so that no chakra will ever seep out and there's kunai and shuriken sticking out of it and there's about a thousand bruises in the shape of Lee's fist, even though it was Gai's jutsu that brought him down without a scratch on him.
Tenten hugs him in a way he would never have allowed. Lee buries Neji's face in his chest strokes his hair soothingly, and soon Tenten is doing it too, and they're still angry and shocked and crying, but the motion of their fingers through that long, dark hair calms them.
Maybe that's why Hyugas have long hair.
And then, finally, when they stand up from their positions of mourning, they all sit back down around Gai's body and fall asleep and stay that way, waking ever so often from nightmares of blood and gore, until Neji opens one eye and sees a bunch of medic-nin around them looking devastated and concerned and they're brought back to Konoha and put in the hospital for a month.
For once none of them try to leave. Lee doesn't train, though he knows he should and that's what Gai-sensei would have wanted. Neither does Tenten. And Neji, even though he doesn't have to, finally drags them to the training grounds and forces them to be shinobi again.
And then Tenten who never knew her father and Lee who never had a father and Neji who lost his father look up at the sun and smile about how it blinds them like that smile.