Just something to get me back into a writing mood. Should be updated relatively quickly, since each part will be pretty short.

Very loosely based around the fairy tale, split into five parts.



It begins like this:

Team Gai pretends to forget that they are due back in Konoha by tomorrow evening, that the Hokage is expecting them to report on their first A-rank mission at nine p.m. sharp; or rather, Neji pretends to forget. Gai and Lee wax tastelessly lyrical on the beauty of the crooked little stream glinting through the vast wheat field, and Tenten smiles and yawns and shrugs off her pack - "First dibs on a bath."

But the slight flush on her cheeks betrays the collective sentiment: all of them are still giddy from the addictive taste of success after their most challenging test yet, and their relief is as palpable as their pride. They are still too young, like children who, upon the first affirmation of what they always guessed they were capable of, still feel faintly surprised and unbearably excited at the enormity of what they could achieve in the future. The sobriety of routine in Konoha can wait; Team Gai needs one more night under the open sky. (Tenten glances at Neji as she heads for the stream. He watches her steadily while she passes him by, his eyes never leaving her until she is by the water, fingers curling around the top button of her shirt, and when he finally turns away to join Lee and Gai in their makeshift campsite both of them know exactly what it means. )

By the time they are all cleaned up the sun is only a brittle gold gleam on the horizon. The boys make their way back from the stream with their hair still damp and cold against their necks, dissipating the hot adrenaline burn that had continued to drum its way through their nerves hours after the final fight. The darkness is thicker near the ground, trapped by the tall stalks of wheat bristling past their hips. Tenten is a good distance away from the campsite, walking slowly through the field, fingertips trailing along the heavy tips of the stalks.

"I'm over here," she calls out unnecessarily, waving. Lee and Gai wave back at her and loiter cheerfully around the campsite to set up a fire, displaying unusual reserves of tact. Neji regards her silently from a distance while she continues moving out, looking at the pale, lithe lines of her bared forearms in the dark. Then he slowly walks out after her, each step a quiet rustle, and when he catches up there is no hesitation in the way his fingers curl securely around her wrist.


"Hmm?" She stops; turns calmly; lets him tug her gently towards him. They are both carefully nonchalant about it all, as if this is perfectly normal and they have done this a thousand times before.

"It's nice out here," she murmurs. Her fingers come up to touch his temple. "Does it still hurt?"

"No." He shakes his head.

"You used the Byakugan for far too long," she says. "You know what Hiashi-sama warned you about last time." The danger of putting too much pressure on the delicate nerves around the eyes, the risk of burn out. Temporary blindness; death for a Hyuuga in battle.

"Hn." He doesn't want to talk about that. The fight had been hard and his Byakugan had faltered near the end from the strain of hours of continuous use, but they had come out relatively unscathed, victorious. Right now there are other things on his mind. His other hand comes up to cup her elbow, tracing along her forearm, skimming across her shoulder to the nape of her neck. Her skin is still moist.

"You'll catch a cold," he says. Then, leaning down and quieter: "……..Let down your hair."

She arches an eyebrow. "Why?" It is almost ridiculous, the way both of them are pretending that this new proximity, this physical tenderness they are sharing isn't thrilling them. After all, this has been a long time coming. How long? she wonders briefly. Tenten doesn't know when she first started wanting him, when he started wanting her, when the realization of the mutual attraction became something both of them gingerly accepted and cradled between them.

"I like it," he tells her honestly. A deliberating pause. The after-flush of their success has temporarily loosened his inhibitions and makes him bolder, less careful. "Do it for me."

She smiles and pulls out the ribbons slowly, shaking loose her hair. The thick chestnut tresses are wavy from being constantly tied up; he combs his fingers through them, smoothing them out. Her hand comes up to rest on his shoulder and she tilts her face towards his, presses a kiss on the stubble darkening his jaw. "Is that all you want?" she asks softly, teasing.

"No." He draws a quiet gasp from her when he suddenly slides his arm around her waist and pulls her flush against him. "But it's a good start."

He likes the way her laugh feels against his chest, likes the warm friction of his skin on hers. This is how they begin: the kunoichi lets down her hair and becomes his lover, the two of them stranded in the middle of a vast field, hidden from view by the dark. They dabble with love clumsily, like children dipping their hands into a fountain, like children playing with knives; love still feels like a new victory, and they are young enough to believe they can afford it.