Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto nor do I make any profit from this.
Simple Like Him
In Dedication to Julie Ahn,
A seriously hyper-prone girl who sometimes scares me with her spazziness.
It is is solely her fault why I began writing this in the first place – so, GO JULIE-CHAN! :D
I knew you could do it! Motivate this totally unmotivated soul, if that makes sense to you...
As the ground rushed up to meet her, with a quick spring, she dodged upward again. His hand met empty space and she was just glad she had managed to avoid his strong palm - she hated when he managed to get her. Which, unfortunately, happened a lot. Her stomach constricted within itself as his previous palm swipe burned. He had purposely injected more Chakra than necessary and now she was starting to feel it's effects.
She did not touch the inside wound; rather she continued like nothing though his all-seeing eyes could see every hurting breath; every drop of sweat; every forced movement.
Without batting an eye, she reached into her pouch and pulled out five shuriken - aware that he was probably watching her do this and preparing a counter attack. She positioned each one just in between her fingers accurately, throwing them quickly and watching as he kept his eyes on her; ignoring the weapons aimed straight at him like he usually did. He had an unfair advantage, his Byakugan, but that didn't seem to be an excuse enough for him to go easy on her.
She didn't want pity, either, so she supposed it was alright that he went full out on her.
One swipe of his hand and they were thrown back at her with the same deadly accuracy.
She reclaimed them and leaped when he appeared in front of her, aiming his fingers at her shoulder. He missed when she ducked and he tried once more and once more until finally he had distracted her by reaching into his back pocket. She had forgotten Neji hardly used weapons during their spars - he replied almost solely on his hands and Chakra. So by the time she noticed that was a simple distraction it was too late.
She saw his pearl eyes flare in amusement.
This time he hit her: right on her shoulder blade.
The pain was immediate.
She cursed under her breath and, using her momentum, rebounded off a tree easily and, in mid-flight, threw her sharpened weapons at him once more.
They were obviously off course.
But Tenten never missed her target.
As she had planned, the first hit the second and quickly enough the third was thrust off course by the second and heading towards her sparing partners neck.
It grazed the back lightly and she cursed his agility once more.
That was all he needed; before the word could even pass her lips, he was in front of her once more, his palm glowing ardently and aimed one inch away from her stomach; perfectly positioned to disable her entire Chakra system if he wanted.
He quirked his lips into a triumphant smirk. "I win."
"I give up," she mumbled, rolling her eyes. "You're such a show off."
"Your speed has improved," he said suddenly, as she closed her eyes and bowed her head. She was still irritated that he had gotten past her once more but at least he had offered her a compliment; which helped ease the burn of failure.
"Thanks," she said, and hunched over. She rested her hands on her knees and inhaled deeply when he finally pulled away. She had no doubt that he would want another go. But for the time, she needed to restore peace and calmness in her body; or else she would be too riled up, too intent on winning, that she would inevitably loose – and quicker this time around.
It had happened to her before and Tenten, unlike other Kunoichi, did not like to commit the same mistake twice.
Though sometimes she did, but she neither admitted it or denied it.
"You mustn't ever lower your guard." came a voice beside her, close to her. She froze for a split second – taking in his warmth, his breath, his scent – before she charged Chakra into her legs and leaped away from the on-coming assault.
"Don't do that!" she yelled, dodging one of his palms again.
"Do what?" She was used to the way his voice always sounded serene. Not exerted. Bored. It made her work harder to at least get a labored breath out of him.
"That." She sent him a kick. He dodged. She threw him a punch. She grazed his arm but he quickly grasped her wrist and twisted it painfully behind her.
He smirked wryly when she disappeared in a poof and she came up right behind him, sending another kick to his ribs and not missing.
He hated when she did that.
"Come out beside me without my knowing," she informed, grunting as she sent him five kunai's with as much force as possible. But with a swift turn he deflected them and hit her head-on and only getting an array of weapons to block his path.
A quick Kaiten took care of that.
"Then perhaps you should pay attention to your surroundings," he advised, appearing in front of her once more, pinning her deftly to a tree, and pulling his hand back; his fingers poised, Chakra swirling beneath them. His white, watchful, eyes bore into her own as she struggled to keep her knee's from buckling at his closeness.
"Stop that," she ended up whispering, shutting her eyes, clamping her jaw. She knew that he was well aware of her fixation with him. Her stupid little crush on him. And she knew that he used it against her; getting close to her, touching her, sending her that smirk that always made her inwardly swoon.
She solely blamed Sakura and Ino for the revealingly of her little infatuation with the Hyuuga prodigy.
How was she supposed to know they had blabbed, after they had promised not to, and that rumors spread through Konoha like wildfire?
She supposed she should have known; after all, how else could she have found out that Ino and Shikamaru had actually decided to tie the knot?
And that was exactly one hour after the alleged knot-tying.
"Stop what?" he said, just as lowly. She hated the way he lowered his voice. He knew how it affected her.
Suddenly, she decided to do something completely out of character. She had discovered that doing something out of her character – especially during their spars – had a positive affect. She usually won when she did.
"Stop—," she rose her knee and almost smiled when he avoided a clear hit to his groin, "—that!" she shoved him away, drew out two more shurikens, and shot them at him quickly; a bit hastily. She jumped up and with a deft flip in the air, slammed her foot down on his skull.
She could feel it splitting under her strength but she only smiled when it dispersed under her foot quickly enough. All too soon, her foot met earth, where it cracked under the pressure.
"That's new." a voice eased into her muse.
"Like it?" she said, running up a tree and slamming her fist in it. Neji jumped out and tried to thrust his palm into her.
"It's interesting," he said back, earning another kick-fist combo from the girl.
"You're no fun," she smiled anyway and dodged his kick.
"You know that's a lie," he spun into Kaiten and deflected all of her projectiles. "You are just annoyed that I counter all your statements with disinterest."
"When did you become psychic, too?" she mumbled, shifting out her scrolls and spilling them open, where thousands of decorative figurine's were shown. With a drop of blood, they came to life and soon she was sending him all types of deadly weapons from her rather unorthodox arsenal she had just so happened to update.
A giant axe twice her size was thrown at him.
He grabbed the hilt and threw it right back with a simply spin on his heel.
When she dodged, she saw his candid expression and she couldn't resist the giggle.
That was her downfall, she admitted that.
Again, they were back in the same position. His fingers shoved back, glowing an ominous blue; his eyes locked on hers – only this time a smirk was tugged on his face.
She remembered that it was that very smirk that made her fall – and fall hard – in the first place.
She wanted to wipe it off for the way it made her heart speed inside her chest.
The worst part? He knew that it was racing not because of their spar, but because of him.
Damn Ninja reflexes – and his Kekkei Genkai.
"You're just so easy to read," he answered her long-forgotten comment.
"Really?" she asked skeptically, pressing herself against the rough bark, ignoring the way he only inched closer. He was doing on it on purpose; she hated his haughty arrogance for her feelings. Her feelings were not something that should be taken for granted, she thought inwardly, not something for him to play with in accordance to his mood.
It made her love feel unappreciated.
Then again, whoever said her it was appreciated in the first place?
As if the last statement had burned her, she flinched away from him when he lowered his hand and nodded his head slightly at her.
Their spar was over. That was what his nod meant. There was nothing exceptionally complex about it: nod and leave. People tended to think that once she was lying on the floor, beaten and bloodied, that was when their spar was officially over. It wasn't; he would never in his right mind treat her like her. Kunoichi or not, she was still a woman and he treated her as such - much to her chagrin.
That was all he did, though, everyday. He would nod at her, take a step back, bow, and then he would simply turn and head down the beaten path they had created over the years and leave her alone in her thoughts.
Usually, she would stay for a few more minutes to ponder over her failure and then leave. Or she would find a tree, slide down it's abrasive surface, probably ruin her shirt if it wasn't already, rest her forehead on her knee's, and stifle the exasperated moan she so-desperately wanted to voice.
His hand rested on her shoulder.
She literally feel his vainglorious aura sticking to her own gloomy, rather resigned one, like tape.
He was in her space and she found, to her dismay, that she didn't mind one bit.
It happened one year ago, during one of her missions away from her team. She had been paired with Sakura Haruno and Ino Yamanaka, otherwise known as two of her best friends, and – prior to their departure – Hinata Hyuuga had joined them as well, claiming the Hokage had decided to send her with them at the last minute.
And when had she inadvertently spilled her secret to them? Why, on their way back, of course. Tenten had suffered minor injures while Ino had broken her ankle and wrist – both healed immediately by Sakura, their Medic – and Hinata had a few scrapes and bruises; nothing too concerning.
"Neh, ever since Sasuke-kun came back he's been really distant, hasn't he?" Ino had commented during one of their silent streaks. It happened often, Tenten noticed; they would simply run in pure silence – all equally sucked into their thoughts.
"Yeah, he has," Sakura had said, quietly. "He... was never one to speak much. Even before he... left... he was the quiet, brooding, type."
"I know, but don't you think that's what attracted us to him in the first place?"
"Heh, yeah, I guess."
Ino had, once again, successfully lightened the mood.
"Isn't Sasuke-san under probation?" asked a slightly more confident Hinata. Naruto had changed her in ways no one else could; it sometimes awed Tenten that some childish, idiotic, dense fool could influence a refined, wealthy, powerful yet timid, Hyuuga Clan member.
The wonders of being a Ninja, Tenten had blamed lamely. After all, she had fallen for one of those refined, wealthy, powerful – but not timid, rather arrogant and cocky and now more talkative – Hyuuga Clam members.
"Yep. He was also under house arrest, until recently. And he's been stripped of his ranks, too. He has to earn his way to ANBU level, after his three year penalty, that is." Sakura had explained quite smugly.
"So, what does he do to occupy his time?" Tenten had queried curiously. "Um, I don't mean to pry or anything..." She'd added hastily.
Sakura only smiled at her. "You're not, Ten-chan. He and Naruto train sometimes... and he likes to come watch us spar usually. Ever since his house arrest had finished, actually. I think Naruto convinced him to come along – or else he wouldn't," she sighed after that.
"So, still got the hots for him?" Ino had asked fairly innocently, though the coy smile had given her motives away.
Sakura practically exploded scarlet. "N-No! No, not at all! He's more like a friend now, a really close friend."
"Of course, Forehead-girl."
"He IS, you Pig."
"Ugh," Sakura had looked away acerbically, scowling at the blur of the tree's while Hinata quietly giggled and Tenten offered her a wary grin.
"No, seriously, do you like him, Sakura-chan?" Tenten had asked, simply curious. "I remember you swooning over him during our younger years but now...?"
"Well, do you like Neji-san?" Sakura had shot back, smirking when Tenten's cheeks betrayed her. She sometimes hated the way her emotions were always splayed on her face. She had to fix that. She spared with the most emotionally-inept person in the Fire Country! Sasuke Uchiha be damned.
"H-He's my sparing partner and one of my closest friends, of course I like him," she had huffed, as though offended. But Ino had only leaped closer to her, critically eying every expression that fled through her face.
Which, trust her, were a lot. Most, of which, conflicted with the prior shown emotion. It was a tricky process, if you asked her; she was mostly unaware of this display of emotions. Neji said nothing to change this and most people found her expressions humorous for one reason or the other.
"Hee," Ino had grinned. "Liar!"
"So, you do like him?"
"I don't! I mean it, not like that I don't!"
"Hmm, what part do you like? His body? It rivals Sasuke-kun's thats for sure." She had said somewhat coaxingly.
Tenten, somewhat angered by her comment, only looked away and muttered, "It's not that..."
Even Hinata looked interested.
"His eyes." She said simply. It was a battle she was losing; Ino had her ways... "I like his eyes, okay? Now please leave me alone."
"Hmm, boring." Ino said blandly. "You sure it's not his body? I heard that he trains shirtless during the summer... I know Shika-kun does! And does he have a perfect body or what!? Haha!"
Tenten had swallowed and focused on the blur of green. She focused on every step she took and every breath she inhaled. She focused on her pounding heart – which was not pounding because of how fast she was running – rather than the provocative images her mind was conjuring with every word Ino said. She was knee-deep in her story; telling them all about how unfair Shikamaru was and how much of a tease he really was.
"... But I bet Tenten gets more action than me, right Ten-chan?"
"Eh?" Had been her intelligent response.
"Aren't you and Neji dating?" Sakura had supplied, raising a brow at her pink cheeks.
"W-What!? NO! No, Neji and I are not dating, you guys! Where did you even hear that?" Tenten had said hastily.
That was when it all began to fall apart; her carefully hidden secret, the thing no man or woman on the planet she thrived on was suppose to know.
"Noo?" Ino had stretched, "But.. do you want to? Date him, I mean." She was grinning and Hinata had increased her pace to glance at her expression – completely forgetting she had the Byakugan. Sakura was looking rather wryly at Ino's probing skills but overall curious. She meant well, thought Tenten desperately, but this was not the type of 'well' she appreciated.
"I-I... Well, it's just that, it's not like that but... if you look at it from my vantage point... well, I..." In the end, she only clamped her jaw and ignored their practically glowing faces.
"You like Neji." Ino had stated bluntly.
"You like Neji-san?" Sakura had said ponderously, a grin threatening to break the thought.
"Y-You like Neji-nii-chan?!" Hinata had virtually squeaked, owlishly blinking at Tenten with something akin to admiration and glee.
"I never said that!" She had blurted at the last minute. But it was too late; the damage had been done. Ino and Sakura had gone on ahead and feverishly gossiped. She heard her name or his name pop up frequently.
It annoyed her to no end but she kept quiet on account that she was above such immature behavior.
Though she was sorely tempted to go ahead and aim a few kunai's at them... they would dodge, she was sure...
She resisted the urge: Neji held no respect for childish, immature, Kunoichi.
She sighed. Even when she wasn't in his presence, she was still abiding to his silent rules.
Oh, man, she had thought, glancing at Hinata, and raising a brow.
Hinata was smiling to herself, lost in her own little made-up world that, blind to the others, involved wedding dresses and mini Neji and Tenten's running across the great Hyuuga grounds. The Hyuuga clan did not reinforce the marriage law on those below Royal level. That meant that Neji, a simple Branch member despite his obvious brilliance and her fathers fondness for him, was not entitled to arranged marriages such as the ones she, apart of the Main branch, was.
He was free to marry whomever he wished and this meant that Tenten was as eligible as any other woman.
After all, if it was one thing she knew about her cousin, it was that he tolerated no weakness: Tenten was a prefect candidate. Not only did he acknowledge her as his equal but he enjoyed her company to an extent (a huge extent) and he was often associated with her. That mean that he practically spent every waking breath with Tenten – whenever his duties to the Main branch didn't get in his way, that was. And he did not have many duties to uphold.
"What are you thinking about?" his voice cut through her reverie. She stiffened when she felt it too close to her ear. There he was again.. teasing her... playing with her...
"S-Sasuke!" she blurted, thinking about how much Sakura adored him even though she was stubborn to admit it. She guessed that had been the wrong response.
He stiffened and suddenly that arrogant, confident aura surrounding him had switched to something a bit more hostile...
"Why were you pondering over Sasuke-san?" he asked calmly, but she could pick out the cords of annoyance and anger.... and confusion.
That's how well she knew him.
"B-Because... because..." she cleared her throat. "Because I can?" she said lamely.
Neji grasped both her shoulders, set her straight, and stared into her wide chocolate eyes deftly. She noticed the way he had gotten severely closer and now she could practically smell his earthy scent. Not that she couldn't before it was just – she could smell him better now. Yeah.
"You should not be thinking of Uchiha," he told her sternly. Then he leaned down, his breath brushing her cheek, and she could literally feel his smirk. Feel it. That's when you know you've fallen hard. "Not when you should be thinking of more pressing matters..." he trailed, letting his palm brush a her cheek lightly.
Oh, she sounded breathless. She inwardly smacked herself. He was only touching her cheek – no need to get all floaty about that. She probably had some dirt rubbed on there and he was being a good Samaritan and brushing it away. She was so not in denial.
She felt her insides give an uncomfortable lurch. She was always a horrible liar; especially towards herself.
"Me." he said plainly.
Her jaw slacked. "You?!"
Could his ego get any bigger?
She secretly thought it could. He was nineteen now and he had physically and emotionally grown – that meant the praises for him had also grown. Which meant his ego had inevitably gotten inflated. Which meant he was now rivaled with Sasuke Uchiha and when you rivaled an Uchiha ego-wise, you know you have a problem.
"Yes," he rose a brow, "I believe we covered that."
She pushed him away slightly, scowling up at him. He towered a good head above her. He had had a growth spurt somewhere between last year and this year, she conceded when she strained her neck. "What makes you think I would even think of you!" she fumbled with her shirts hem, still scowling.
"Because you have been for the last three years and I see no reason why that should change," he said, almost mockingly. She hated that but at the same time it made her heart flutter. "It's rather endearing, actually."
"Endearing my ass," she mumbled, avoiding his amused gaze.
"Hmm, such vulgarity," he chuckled deeply. Huskily. He was good, she'd give him that. "That is not very lady-like of you, Tenten."
"I am a Kunoichi," she said clearly, ignoring her burning cheeks and his widening smirk. "I do not have time to learn proper etiquette."
"Nicely put but that wasn't what I was expecting," he revealed.
"What was then?" she sounded more like herself now. She inwardly sighed; he seemed to notice this. She inwardly damned him and hoped he noticed that too.
"Nothing concerning," he gazed at her cheeks. "You're blushing."
"Thank you captain obvious."
"I was being sarcastic."
"So was I."
Tenten resisted the urge to growl and looked away, her blush only worsening when he leaned further down and followed her head, watching her pink-turning-scarlet cheeks.
"It's intriguing..." she heard him mutter.
"It's intriguing the way your cheeks turn so red," he smirked humorously, "It almost rivals Haruno's flushed complexion whenever Uchiha speaks to her."
"You—" she sputtered furiously, "Uwah! Just shut up, Neji-kun, no one asked you!" She kept ducking, moving, hiding, her face from his view and each time he followed until his hand grasped her chin and pined her head back, lifting his own to gaze down at her.
She hated the way the bright sun that filtered through the gaps between the trees made the planes of his face enhance to give it a more ethereal glow.
He caressed her cheek and her blush increased two-fold, then he leaned down until his lips feathered over hers. She felt her heart stop for one, brief, second.
He did not...
No way... This was Neji. Neji. NEJI! Neji Hyuuga did not go to such extreme lengths. Neji Hyuuga did not openly show affection. Neji Hyuuga only used her own feelings for his own amusement – he did not return them! No, no, no!
This went against everything she had learned from the Hyuuga prodigy.
It was a known fact that Neji hated enclosed spaces. He hated anything that – to him – felt suffocating, felt as if he was being trapped within. Even being within the protective walls of Konoha was a stretch – he loathed anything that reminded him of the bloody walls of the Hyuuga Manor. All the torture his uncles and aunts had put him through. She had once, before reaching their usual training grounds, listened to him mutter about his awful uncle and his impossible demands.
She never again tried to prob why he hated returning home - that personal rant she had eavesdropped in had been enough. And she was sure Neji knew, too, because it was severely difficult to even sneak up on a Hyuuga. They had superb reflexes.
Relationships in themselves were caging, Tenten had concluded one dark, gloom-filled, night. They chained you to your significant other and – though willingly – you were to be faithful, affectionate, and honest with them. They were someone you trusted. They were someone who you were to show open love to. They were someone special.
But that meant you weren't free anymore.
And that meant that Neji Hyuuga would try to avoid relationships as much as possible – even being her best friend, her closest companion, was far fetched.
He relied on her too much already, and she was cognizant of this as well.
But she didn't mind because just being close to Neji was enough.
"What are you thinking?" he asked her once more, pressing his forehead against her own. She was consciously aware that they were deep in the forest. No one was with them. Lee and Gai were probably running a marathon through the village and her friends and his friends alike were somewhere promptly enjoying a steaming bowl of ramen and chatting amongst themselves.
And here they were, one trying to openly show his emotions for once in his life and the other one dead confused as to what was happening.
"Why you are being so... emotional," she answered absently, her face showing a mix of confusion, happiness and suspicion. Neji rather like her numerous expressions; he found them kind of cute – not that he would ever be caught dead using such a feminine term.
Not that he was being sexist or anything... it just stained his manly pride to use such an Uchiha-like word. The Uchiha tended to use that word a lot when describing Haruno during their group conversations.
In fact, most of his conversations were made up of Sakura, Neji noted.
"I've always been slightly more emotional than I was when I was fourteen, Tenten," he replied dryly.
"I know that – ever since you got over yourself," she ignored his pointed glare. "But you... don't like me.. like that." she said slowly.
"I don't?" he echoed, "Or do I?"
"I don't know – you seem to know me better than I know myself," he said slyly.
"But.. I... you don't! Right?" Her voice shook, sounding confused.
"Is that what you think?"
"Then I don't." he said simply.
She felt somewhat hurt. "You don't...?"
"Is that not what you think?" he shot back smartly. She still felt hurt by his response – it was something she dreaded to hear should she ever confess and even in jest it still hurt – but at the same time hopeful at his playful tone.
"I... don't know anymore."
"But you are sure I don't."
"You're not to suppose to like me..."
"Tenten, that's not an answer."
"It is to me."
"Tell me why."
"Just because," she mumbled stubbornly. He pressed closer to her, tugging the corners of his lips into a sly grin when she shifted and groaned.
"Yes, that's me."
"Because you've never shown interest before!" she finally caved. "I don't know why you do now..."
"Perhaps I was still debating my feelings towards you?" he answered logically.
"I didn't want to get my hopes up, you dumb Hyuuga," she mumbled to herself. "You are someone who doesn't like to be attached to another person because of your trust issues." She ignored his scowl. "I just didn't want to mess up our friendship with these unreasonable feelings I have for you. There, happy?"
She rose a brow and made the mistake of rising her head, which made their lips bump for a second.
She ducked down immediately.
He only quirked his lips into a grin for an instant.
"T-T-Then?" She cursed her weakness.
"Be honest," he said bluntly.
She closed her eyes. This was it – all these massive hints, the brief kisses between them, the way he was pressed so closely to her – those should have sufficed enough to kill whatever doubt was left in her but she couldn't help it: what if he regretted this?
"Don't think about it – or else you'll never get it over with." Sakura had once told Hinata when she was planning to confess her love for Naruto. Tenten had tagged along and, for some reason, her words had stuck to her subconscious.
Don't think about it...
"I-I really..." she trailed off, looking down at her pressed bodies. "I think I love you Neji," she sounded somewhat wondrous. He must've caught that, too, for he chuckled.
"Good." and then he was there no more and when Tenten looked up, bewildered, he was picking up his pack and leaving like nothing had ever happened.
"W-wait! That's it?!"
"Hmm?" he paused and looked back, extremely amused. She shouldn't have opened her mouth but she had to know.
What did this mean? Were they still friends or were they something more...?
"That was too easy," she said firmly.
"Some things are just that simple."
"But—nothings simple with you!" she cried frustratingly.
"This certainly is."
"Neji! No! Get back here!" She dashed to her pack and swung it over her shoulder, scowling when she saw his figure farther away than before.
"Tomorrow. Same time." Was his only farewell, humor clear in his words.
"Damn you, Neji, get back here!"
"That is not a very nice thing to say to the object of your affection..." his voice was farther away and she stomped her foot.
"GAH! Like you should be talking, Mister I-am-better-than-you!"
"Nothing untrue..." she could barely hear as she tried to catch up.
"Neji! Wait up, you cannot just leave after all this! NEJI!!"
She could barely hear his chuckle as the wind carried his humor towards her...
She sighed instead.
Again, the wonders of being a Ninja.
A/N: Whoa, I wrote this in a time-span of three hours. I feel rather accomplished actually. I haven't really been into the NejiTenten fandom ever since a certain jaded friend of mine introduced me to the wonders of Dramione! Yay! Whoever has beef with this HP pairing – LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!
Please review , it'll not only make me ubber happy but it will make my enthusiasm for Neji and Tenten increase by two percent (kidding... it's actually by about six or seven lol depending on how in-depth and thought-provoking your review is. Yeah, that about covers it.)