A/N: Team Guy love, for the win!
To those of you who are going to tell me Lee is out of character…pay very close attention to the difference between what he's thinking and what he actually says.
For more of my own personal TenTen canon, please see "The Forgotten".
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. Which is really too bad for them.
Summary: Neji may have 360 degree vision, but Lee thinks he is very blind sometimes. Very light NejiTen, with a side of Lee-love, set at the very beginning of the time-skip. One-shot.
Gravity and the Wind
Lee chewed contentedly on his simple lunch of onigiri. As much as he enjoyed training, and as often as he did it, Lee wasn't against taking breaks when his teammates needed him to. Right now, it was TenTen's turn for some one-on-one training with their sensei, so Lee was just going to have to wait until they were done before he'd get to learn anything new. He didn't really mind—it was just as important that his teammates do well as himself.
Besides, his onigiri was particularly good, today, and he intended to take full advantage of that.
Neji was settled on the ground beside him, staring quietly out onto the field. Lee would have thought he was meditating, except the Hyuuga's white eyes would not stay still. They followed TenTen as she darted around the field, trying her best to push herself harder, faster.
The mini-Green beast of Konoha swallowed and grinned, before saying in the most off-hand manner he could manage, "TenTen sure has come a long way since her fight with Temari-san."
The other boy made no noise of agreement, or of disagreement for that matter, for a long moment. Instead, he shifted position slightly, from tense alertness to a subtly more relaxed one he used only around them. "TenTen has chosen the hardest possible path for herself."
Rock Lee took another large bite from his lunch, pondering this evaluation for a moment. It was true that the path of the Weapon's Mistress was a difficult and dangerous one. There were reasons, many of them and all quite valid, why there were not others in Konoha that walked that path. Like his own mastery of Taijutsu, the method had its weaknesses, and growth was at first very slow as a person tried to learn to compensate for those. Unlike most ninja, however, their potential for growth was nearly limitless. TenTen would always have more weapons to learn, new ways to use the weapons she already knows and in different combinations. Lee could always get faster, get stronger, get better.
With this in mind, Lee spoke around his mouthful of rice, "it's the only one that suits her."
And it was true. He had known TenTen since their very first days at the Academy, when they had bonded over being alone on Parent's Night and staying after school to help Iruka-sensei straighten the classroom, when Lee's mother was working late and TenTen simply didn't want to go home. In all that time, Lee could not think of a day when weapons and their uses had not fascinated his best friend. She had mastered kunai in record time, accelerating to the top of the class in that area. He had been so proud of her.
He could still remember when Iruka-sensei had mentioned, almost as a footnote, about some Ninja who specialized in weapons usage. There were those that completely mastered one weapon, of course, but there were those rare individuals who learned how to use many, sometimes thousands, of weapon. He'd glanced at TenTen as he said this, and Lee's eyes had followed. TenTen had been sitting there, here eyes blazing with unmitigated excitement, furiously scribbling notes. Her mind had been made up that very day, and Lee had spent countless hours in the library with her after that trying to figure out how exactly one would go about doing such a thing.
He hadn't minded. Not over-much, anyway.
Neji turned his head to look at him, and Lee couldn't resist grinning, ignoring the rice he was certain had stuck to his teeth, and flashing his teammate a thumbs up as he said, "TenTen knows it is hard, but, as a true flower of youth, she is unafraid."
Neji's frown deepened, but Lee couldn't decide whether it was in response to his silly antics or what he had said. He decided on the latter when Neji responded, "that is exactly what bothers me."
Lee tilted his head to the side, lowering the hand holding his rice-ball slightly. "I did not know you were bothered by anything about TenTen, Neji-kun." This was blatantly untrue, but it was fun to say anyway because Neji, as always, reacted predictably and looked away.
"That wasn't the right word," the other boy muttered, turning back to watch as TenTen launched a barrage of weapons at their sensei, who dodged easily. "It's more of a…" he was visibly floundering for a word that would express his desire without making him seem to affectionate and Lee bit back a laugh. Neji had come a long way from his old aloof self, but expressing caring for another person was still difficult for him. "Polite interest."
Polite interest his green clad backside! Polite interest didn't come with a dark look in his eyes, the tense watching. Contrary to what TenTen said, Lee was sometimes a good observer. Anyway, when it came to the people he knew best such out of character behavior was hard to miss.
Lee shoved the rest of his lunch into his mouth to stifle his laughter. There was nothing that would shut Neji up faster than a few badly times snickers.
The other boy wasn't looking at the field anymore either, but glaring hard at the ground in front of them. There was silence for a moment as Lee waited to see if he would speak again, the quiet between them accentuated by TenTen's heavy breathing and Guy-sensei's calls for her to try harder.
Just when Lee had decided Neji was going to let the subject rest, he spoke again. "I was going through the library at the compound and happened to stumble across a book on weapons and weapon users." He looked at Lee again, the scowl on Neji's face different kind this time. "It said the survival rate of weapons masters is less than ten percent." This was not news to Lee. It was one of the first things the pair of them had learned.
He still hated to hear it spoken aloud.
He knew WHY TenTen had to take the risk. He understood, better than anyone, what it meant to have a dream you would do anything for. TenTen's dream, of becoming as strong as Tsunade-sama, and the one she only spoke of to Lee, of returning to her home-land and freeing it from the rule of corrupt officials, was worth dying for. This was, for TenTen, the best way to accomplish her goals, and the one that would make her happiest along the way.
This was not something Neji, who was still unused to the idea of consciously dreaming, would be able to fathom. Where TenTen would see that ten percent survived, Neji would only see the ninety percent that didn't.
Though it was, admittedly, a hard number to ignore. It flashed through Lee's head every time their team entered battle.
Lee frowned as he looked across the field, to where TenTen was standing. She was shuddering as she struggled for breath, hair sticking out as it fell out of place, her scrolls lying limply scattered around the field, all unfurled.
Guy-sensei looked grim as he studied her, and Lee had to wonder if maybe he didn't know the odds, too.
The younger Green Beast sat back, his legs crossed in front of him. Neji couldn't understand dreaming, but there was one thing her was guaranteed to get. "Have you ever watched baby birds leaving the nest for the first time, Neji-kun?"
The other boy quirked an eyebrow, obviously less than amused at Lee's bringing up his habit of bird watching. Lee ignored him.
"Baby birds learn to fly by practicing. They know what they are supposed to do from the moment they are born, though they can't do it right away," Lee grinned, watching as TenTen squared her shoulders and started to run once again. "Parent birds sometimes stay a short distance away from the nest during feeding times, making the little ones come to them."
Neji was watching the field again, as Guy deftly ducked some kunai TenTen had thrown, only to have them change course when she jerked some thread. The Jounin smiled at this, and so did Lee. "This may seem harsh, because the baby birds fall sometimes. Some even die. But they are the risks that must be taken in the spirit of youth if they are ever going to achieve their potential."
Lee watched Neji's frown out of the corner of his eye as TenTen flipped through the air, defying gravity in that stunning way she had. Lee wasn't sure when she'd learned it, or where, but he knew it was one skill of her's that Neji had always envied.
"Even birds have to land sometimes. They can't fight forever." Neji didn't take his eyes off of her as she spun, and Lee felt safe grinning at that. Neji wouldn't have his abilities activated at a time like this, he wouldn't see it.
"As long as a bird has a heavenly wind, though, they can keep soaring." And Lee laughed, knowing the Neji wouldn't understand at all what he was trying to say.
The Hyuuga turned to look at him, and the poorly masked confusion only made Lee grin wider.