Lee's Inexplicable Crush
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Note: Okay, this is kind of Part 1 Sakura bashing, but to be fair it is from right after the Chuunin Exam preliminaries, so Neji thinks she is fated to be a failure because she was kind of useless at the time and Tenten aspires to be like Tsunade, so she's not going to like Sakura's residual fangirl tendencies.
Neji and Tenten were visiting their injured teammate in the hospital after the second stage of the Chuunin Exam when Lee suddenly broke off from a rather bizarre training tale involving a porcupine, several cups of ramen, and – what else –youth when he stopped suddenly and hearts appeared in his eyes. "Sakura-chan!"
Sakura, who had happened to be walking by, stopped in to be polite. "Hi, Lee."
"Are you here to visit me?" Lee asked sounding almost painfully hopeful.
Sakura winced. "I-"
"That's great!" Tenten cut her off. They'd been there for a little over an hour already and, concerned teammates or not, there was only so much talk of youth a person could take. "Neji and I should probably go get lunch anyway. We'll just leave you two alone…"
Neji nodded his consent and followed her out of the room a bit quicker than he needed to.
"Take your time!" Lee called after them.
"Hurry back!" Sakura shouted at the same time, no doubt realizing she was stuck there until they returned.
"I just don't know what he sees in her," Tenten confessed, shaking her head ruefully as they made their way towards the hospital's exit.
"It's really none of our business," Neji replied impassively.
Tenten rolled her eyes. "Would it kill you to act like a normal teenager for five minutes?"
"I don't know but I have no intention in finding out," Neji deadpanned.
"Neji!" Tenten scolded.
Neji gave a long, put-upon sigh. "Fine. He's a failure and so is she. There, mystery solved."
"Neji! Lee is NOT a failure," Tenten defended their injured teammate.
"Lee and Gai-Sensei aren't here," Neji reminded her. "You don't need to pretend you believe that."
"I don't have to pretend," Tenten claimed.
"I notice you're not jumping to Sakura's defense," Neji remarked casually.
"Why would I?" Tenten asked, surprised. "She snubbed Lee-"
"He does come on a little strong," Neji pointed out. "And he kicked her crush's ass."
"So not the point," Tenten declared. "And did you see her fight? It was like watching a catfight!"
"You lost, too," Neji felt obligated to bring this up.
Tenten waved her hand dismissively. "It wasn't a grudge match; it was just my misfortune as a weapons user to face a wind user."
"It was fate."
"Because I'm a failure, right?" Tenten asked sarcastically.
Neji eyed her curiously. "No, because you mainly use projectile weapons and she's a wind user. You said as much yourself."
Tenten blinked. "Oh. Well, thanks."
"I didn't compliment you," Neji told her.
"No," Tenten acknowledged, "but you said I'm not a failure even though I lost. Coming from you that's…huge. I should look into picking out a dress…"
Neji shot her a withering glare. "Oh shut up."
"Seriously, though, what does he see in her? She doesn't have any of his values!"
"I suppose she's…cute," Neji looked for all the world as if the words pained him.
"He values hard work, ambition, loyalty, teamwork, never giving up…how does Sakura, cute though she may be, stack up with that?" Tenten asked rhetorically.
Neji decided to answer her anyway. "According to Sakura and Ino during their fight, their friendship started because Ino felt sorry for Sakura as her apparently large forehead made her a bullying target and dissolved because it didn't occur to Sakura that they could both be Sasuke's mindless fangirls he would never look once at, never mind twice, so there goes loyalty."
"Sakura stood up to those…Kusa nin, maybe? Or was it Oto?" Tenten wondered. "But during her dramatic haircut moment, she made it seem like that was a novel occurrence for her."
"And let's not forget during the very first stage of the Chuunin Exam. You know how Naruto felt the need to give a huge inspirational speech that ended up causing twenty-six teams to pass?" Neji asked. At Tenten's nod, he continued with, "He did that because Sakura was in the process of raising her hand. Anyone who's that willing to give up on her goals BEFORE things even get tough simply does not deserve to be a Chuunin. I'm glad she lost the prelims."
"As much as I hate to say it, you're right," Tenten agreed reluctantly. "As a Chuunin, she'd have to face far more difficult choices than gambling over a test answer."
"Then there's the fact that Lee's ambition – pointless as it is – is to become a competent shinobi. Sakura's goal in life seems to be dating Sasuke." Neji paused. "So does Ino's for that matter."
"They're giving us Kunoichi a bad name," Tenten said, disgusted. "They had better grow out of it, and soon, or I swear to God I'll knock it out of them. It's things like this that make you appreciate girls like Hinata…"
"Hinata-sama is weak," Neji said bluntly.
"At least she's not fangirl," Tenten shot back.
Neji didn't answer. He didn't need to. He just raised an eyebrow at his friend.
"At least she didn't become a ninja for the sole purpose of dating Naruto," Tenten tried again.
"Only because he wouldn't realize she liked him if she blurted out her feelings before heroically but foolishly sacrificing herself for him," Neji theorized.
"I'm sure he's not that bad," Tenten disagreed.
"I'm sure he is. He has not noticed Hinata-sama stalking him yet, after all, and she's been doing that for years," Neji pointed out. "Still, I'll concede she behaves more like a shinobi than Sakura and Ino. Not that that's saying much, but…"
Tenten looked up at him, starry-eyed.
"Oh, stop that," Neji said irritably.
"Stop what?" Tenten asked innocently.
Neji shook his head in annoyance. "Never mind. As far as teamwork goes, Sasuke seems to think his team is useless. I'm not sure I disagree. Sakura worships Sasuke and thinks Naruto is an idiot. I also agree with her assessment of Naruto. Naruto thinks Sasuke's overrated – and given Konoha's love affair with him is probably true – and Sakura can do no wrong, which we know to be false."
"To be fair, they do seem to be improving," Tenten said diplomatically.
"They're on a crash course to self-destruction," Neji proclaimed grandly. "It is fated."
Tenten winced. "So close."
"To what?" Neji asked, almost certain that he did not, in fact, want to know.
"You went a little over nine and a half minutes without talking about fate," Tenten explained.
"Is there some reason you were keeping track?" Neji inquired politely.
'I want to see if it is humanly possibly for you to go ten minutes without talking about fate," Tenten revealed.
"Of course I can!" Neji said, looking a little affronted.
"While you're conscious?" Tenten asked skeptically.
"I really hate you sometimes," Neji informed her unceremoniously.
Tenten shrugged. "Could you really be friends with someone you didn't hate at least a little?"
"Point," Neji admitted. "The last item on your list is hard work. I will readily admit that Lee's progress is impressive. He has at least high-Chuunin level taijutsu. Of course, that's not nearly enough to be qualified to be a shinobi, but no one can deny Lee tries harder than anyone else. Have we heard anything about Sakura trying hard?"
"She tries hard to get Sasuke to date her," Tenten offered lamely. "Hasn't ever given up on that either."
"That's really not the same thing at all," Neji told her.
"Then I've got nothing," Tenten said cheerfully.
"Sakura is very devoted to Sasuke, but that doesn't seem to be very helpful for Lee, does it?"
"Why does she like him?" Tenten wondered aloud. "He's cute? He's brooding? He's rich? Everyone else wants him?"
Neji snorted. "Lee is none of those things."
"Neji!" Tenten admonished.
"What?" Neji asked defensively. "It's true!"
"How did you manage to grow up in Konoha's second-most prestigious clan and not learn any tact?" Tenten demanded.
"Oh, I learned it all right," Neji assured her. "I just don't' feel the need to waste it on the weak."
Tenten's hand twitched towards her weapon holster. "I'll show you weak…"
Neji sighed. "Oh, for heaven's sake; I don't mean YOU, Tenten. You're just the only person I respect that I trust enough not to bother."
"Neji…" Tenten said, touched.
Neji shuddered. "Don't go getting all sentimental on me."
Tenten rolled her eyes. "Heaven forbid we have a moment!"
"…What did you mean Konoha's SECOND most prestigious clan?" Neji asked suddenly.
"Well," Tenten began, looking a little surprised, "the Hyuuga are very respected in Konoha and with the Byakugan you guys are greatly valued as shinobi."
"Second?!?! Whose first?" Neji demanded.
"Sasuke," Tenten replied promptly.
"A person is not a clan!" Neji insisted.
"The Konoha constitution would have to disagree. It states that both the Senju and Uchiha clans will always be the most prestigious in Konoha so long as a single member resides here," Tenten explained.
"Why aren't the Hyuuga considered third then?" Neji was curious despite himself.
"Tsunade-hime lives elsewhere," Tenten replied.
"So, let me get this straight…" Neji said slowly. "If SASUKE were to live elsewhere then…"
"Neji, stop it," Tenten instructed.
"Stop what?" he inquired innocently.
Tenten snorted. "I know you too well for that; stop whatever scheme you're hatching to get Sasuke out of the village. It won't work."
"I'm wounded that you would think that of me," Neji informed her.
"I'm sure you are," Tenten said absently. "So in other words…it's hormones?"
"Probably," Neji confirmed. "That or else he's REALLY looking 'underneath the underneath', as Kakashi always says."
"You know, I never really got that," Tenten confessed. "If you're looking underneath the underneath of something, wouldn't you just be looking at the top?"
Neji shrugged disinterestedly. "Probably. But hey, is it really that surprising that Gai-sensei's so-called 'eternal rival', the mask-wearing porn-reading chronically late Kakashi, is insane?"
"I guess not…" Tenten admitted. "Do you think we should head to a restaurant soon? You know, seeing as how we ditched Sakura with Lee and he's feeling particularly youthful today?"
Neji thought about it for perhaps half a second. "Gai-sensei will be by in an hour or so. I'm sure she can hold on until then. Who knows, maybe he'll inspire her…"