guide (take it step by step, one foot then the other)


"It's nice to see that you're finally getting out of here," she comments. "Of course, I'll still be seeing you daily for your physiotherapy sessions."

"You say that as though seeing me daily is a bad thing," Neji remarks as he folds up a set of clothes. He's spent the last three weeks recovering from a mission—the nerves in his legs have been cut, preventing him from walking. He can walk now, but not without feeling wobbly every once in a while.

"Seeing you every day means that you're in deep need of medical attention." She smiles. "As your personal medic, I would like to say that seeing you every day is bad. Here." She takes the cane that's been leaning against the wall and holds it out to him. He doesn't mask his scowl. "Don't be like that—do you want to randomly collapse in the middle of the street, in front of everyone?"

He thinks it's better than the cane, but he knows the wrath that Sakura can throw upon him, so he doesn't comment. "My teammates will be helping me."

She rolls her eyes. "Your teammates won't be with you twenty-four seven." As if on cue, his team bursts through the door—Lee and Gai rather exuberantly, and Tenten following behind at a calmer pace, a smile set on her lips.

Sakura greets them one by one, before tapping Lee on the shoulder. "Will you make sure Neji-san uses this?" she asks him sweetly.

Lee salutes. "Of course, Sakura-san!" Neji mentally groans—Lee will never let him escape until the cane has been super-glued to the palm of his hand.

"Well, Neji-san, are you ready to go?" One would think that her smile is lovely—but after spending the past three weeks with her, he knows it's predatory. "I'll be seeing you tomorrow at your compound to begin your physiotherapy."

"Of course," he says, knees trembling a bit. He blames it on the bastard who severed his nerves.


He sets his jaw determinedly. "Absolutely not."

Sakura narrows her eyes. "Are you going to do this, or am I going to have to tie you down and run my fingernails along a chalkboard?" He winces at the very thought of it—it's one of his, if not only, weaknesses.

"Mere sounds do not affect me."

"You were drugged when you told me that, Neji-san—I know for a fact that it's true. Now, are you going to do this or not?"

After a glaring showdown, he lifts up his chin to keep whatever pride he has left with this woman. "Fine." Leaning back on the couch, he lifts his legs up in the air—shakily, too—and moves them as though he's riding a bicycle.

Nothing could get more humiliating than this.

"This does help, just so you know," she says, sounding business-like. "And don't worry. I'm not going to tell anyone."

"If you do, I would be forced to hurt you once I've fully recovered."

"Funny, Neji-san. Funny." She has her clipboard and is jotting down some notes on it. Meanwhile, he wonders when he can stop looking like an utter moron.

When the session is finally over, he breathes a sigh of relief. Sakura's smile is bright as she bids him goodbye at the door. "We got a lot done today—at this rate, you might be fully recovered in two weeks!" Two weeks is two weeks too long, he thinks.

But he says nothing, and manages a polite nod. "I'll see you tomorrow, Sakura-san."

"See you!"

When the door slides shut behind her, he notices how quiet the compound is.

violence (does it make you stronger?)


He can see that she's thinking from the other end of the field, breathing hard and her expression that of concentration.

"You could just admit defeat," he suggests. The training grounds are destroyed—the earth has become a rocky terrain, and many of the trees are beat down—all of that courtesy of Sakura. It's hard to think that a small girl like her has so much strength.

"Never to you!" She grins, and charges for him again. She doesn't seem to realize that he is the worst opponent for her—her strong point is genjutsu, but he can see through them easily, thanks to his Byakugan. Her taijutsu might rival Lee's—being a medic, it's the most important, as it's essential for avoiding injuries so she can treat her other teammates. However, his Juuken comes in, and she finds herself at a loss.

But the determination never fades from her eyes.

He sidesteps her punch easily, and bends down as a shadow clone aims a kick at his head from behind. Nothing works on him when he has his Byakugan activated.

When he appears behind her with the tip of a kunai gently pressing against her neck, she finally sighs and leans against him a little out of exhaustion. "Fine. You win." She pauses, and then mutters under her breath, "Again." He can't help but smirk.

"Perhaps I'll go easy on you next time." He won't admit it, but sparring with her does give him quite a challenge—despite his obvious advantages.

"No! I need the practice! What if I have to fight Akatsuki one day?" she asks indignantly. "They aren't going to go easy on me!"

"You defeated Sasori," he reminds her.

She scoffs. "If I was alone, I'd be good as dead. I had—I had Chiyo-baa-sama with me…" Her voice trails off at the thought of the deceased woman.

"I apologize. I didn't mean to bring up any bad memories." They sit down under a tree that's (miraculously) not damaged, and she starts healing her bruises, and massages her closed tenketsu.

"Don't worry about it." She shakes her head, her hair falling into her eyes. "I just wonder, sometimes…would life be better if I wasn't a shinobi?"

It's a moment before he answers. "I suppose we all wonder that." Life would be boring without the fighting—but if he's never come to know the pride, the exhilaration of battle, would he still think that? These thoughts occasionally cross his mind when he's meditating, but when Sakura asks him, he's almost compelled to find an answer for her.

"I miss Sasuke." It might seem like a random change of topic, but it makes sense to him. When he looks at her, and her eyes look sad.

He looks up at the leaves of the tree, the sky, and everything beyond that. "I suppose we all do."

poison (corrupted from the inside out)


"How many times will I have to do this?" she asks exasperatedly—but he can sense the concern in her voice, and that's enough.

"I apologize for having to waste your chakra."

"That's what medics do, Neji-san." It's raining and it's cold, but her chakra is warm in his chest. He's grown accustomed to the feel of her chakra—he won't have anyone else, because she's the best. The poison that's raging in his bloodstream, burning him from the inside out, abruptly stops travelling, and begins to recede. "You're lucky I'm on this mission with you," she mutters. "Not many can deal with a poison that works this fast."

"I will properly thank you with flowers when we return to Konoha." His voice is raspy—he's hardly in the condition to speak.

"No need. Flowers eventually die anyway."

"We all eventually die anyway," he points out, wincing when she slowly extracts the poison through his skin. His bare chest is exposed to her so she can work more efficiently, but the rain is still cold, and he is soaked to the bone. When Shikamaru and Kakashi approach them, he knows the enemy has been defeated. (He barely got any action.)

"How is he?" Shikamaru's brows are furrowed, as if thinking deeply.

Sakura wipes the rain out of her eyes. "I'm working on it, but it'll probably take a while. And even then, to jump that quickly back into battle…" He closes his eyes. He hates not being useful.

"We'll take a couple of days off. We need to anyway—Sound knows we're here, and that doesn't do well for infiltration." Kakashi sighs. "You doing okay, Neji?"

"Fine." He concentrates on the feel of Sakura's chakra, instead of the bitter letdown in the back of his throat.


The poison leaves his limbs weak and wobbly, and he has had enough of appearing weak in front of Sakura, but he says nothing as they settle into the inn that they're staying in for the next couple of days. Shikamaru is rooming with Kakashi, and Sakura with him—she claims that his health will be at risk if it's not so. It doesn't stop him from frowning in distaste when he finds it difficult to remove his wet clothing.

Sakura, who exits the bathroom in her tank top and shorts—her pajamas, she claims, but he thinks she's just trying to boost her self-esteem—and stares at him for a moment before giggling softly. "Do you need some help?"

"You have degraded me enough as it is," he says shortly. "I'm fine, thank you."

"You're having difficulties removing your vest," she points out. "What happens when you get to the thinner articles of clothing?"

"You are not," he grinds out, "seeing me unclothed." He stands up to head to the bathroom, but finds that all of the strength in his legs has been lost. He falls back onto his bed, hopeless.

"I'm sure I've seen men with much more impressive bodies than you," she says, unaffected as she moves closer to him so she can help him undo his jounin vest. "Men that, I assure you, are very eager to let me see unclothed." When his vest is off and hung on a chair to dry, she moves to his hips so she can remove his holster and scrolls that are soaked through and through. He can't help but tense every muscle in his body, every nerve standing on end.

"You are," he says slowly, dangerously, "invading my personal space."

"That's all nice and well, but you're being difficult." She forces his wet shirt up and over his head, messing up his hair in the process. A growl sounds in the back of his throat. "C'mon. Stand up, so I can get your pants."

"If I could stand, I would be in the bathroom already." A part of him wonders if she knows how suggestive she's being right now.

She sighs. "Lie down, then." He glares at her for a brief moment before doing as told. "Lift up your hips." He feels what little is left of the blood drain from his face. "Do you need help?" He can't tell if she's honestly concerned, or if she's just mocking him.

He manages to lift his hips, though, and she pulls his pants down, revealing his white briefs.

He bids what's left of his dignity goodbye.

holy (to bathe in water so pure…)


"I have had enough of your superiority complex," he says when she suggests to bathe him.

"You're going to catch a cold if you don't shower, and look at you! You can't even stand!" She gestures to him, sitting with a bathrobe wrapped around himself and God, can't she put on some more clothes?

"My immune system is flawless," he says, but even as the words leave his mouth, he shivers.

"And when I'm alone, I'm a leprechaun," she says sarcastically. "We're getting you in the bathtub." He would attempt to free himself from her evil clutches, but it would only result in failure and looking pathetic, so he does nothing as she picks him up and carries him bridal style (the nerve of her!) into the bathroom.

She starts running the water while he's sitting on the counter, and he tries valiantly not to think of her hands rubbing him here, there, everywhere once he's in the water. He is never in positions like this around other women, so why Sakura, of all people? The one woman he wants to impress—

Wait. Backtrack. Not impress—the one woman he highly respects. Of course. (Tenten comes close, though. For earning his respect, he means.)

He can't stop the muscle under his eye from twitching when the water stops running and she unties his bathrobe. And then pulls his briefs down. "Don't be difficult."

"I am not being difficult," he says, as calmly as he can. "I am being a dignified man."

She rolls her eyes. "I've bathed Kakashi-senpai before, and he put up less of a fight than you."

"That is because Kakashi-senpai is a sexually deprived man—"

"Now, now," she hushes as she carries him and sets him down gently into the water. Despite everything, it's warm, and feels blissfully good against his cold skin. "I need no implications about how active your sex life is. But if it makes you feel better, I'll try not to look. Not that there's anything I haven't seen, anyway."

He glares at her, but she's too busy soaping up his torso. (Oh, God, her hands—)

He involuntarily swallows when her palms run over his chest, leaving suds in their wakes. This was not how he envisioned her seeing him naked. Well. Not that he ever envisions her seeing him naked, but yeah. Anyway.

Her hands promptly move to his thigh, and he twitches. A bad part of him twitches.

No. Not while he's still living. Being aroused by Haruno Sakura bathing him is at the very bottom of the Shame Well, and he is not ready to plummet to the bottom of the Shame Well just yet—he is not getting aroused, he is not getting aroused——

"Like I said, I'm not looking," she reminds him. "So please stop praying under your breath about being aroused."

If he could, Neji would choose that moment to die.

devotion (faith as sweet as a promise, sharp as a knife)


"Oh!" Tenten's eyes widen as she reaches a realization. "I get it!"

Neji tilts his head to the side in question.

"You like Sakura!" At this, he promptly chokes on the onigiri he's eating, and it takes a few long moments of Tenten patting his back roughly before he regains his composure enough to sit up straight and clear is throat.

He glares at her. "I do not like Sakura-san."

"Oh, c'mon—it's all there! The need to impress her, getting all hot and bothered when she touches you in ways that aren't dirty in the least—"

"I do not get hot and bothered."

"And you get so jealous when Naruto hangs out with her! Even when Lee gives her flowers!"

"I do not get jealous." And it's true. He doesn't. He just doesn't feel that Naruto and Lee are good enough to spend time with her or give her flowers. Jealousy is not an emotion that he's capable of, and for once, he's not ashamed to say so.

Tenten rolls her eyes. "Trust me. You like her. It's not like you can trust yourself with these things." She brightens up, and a flash of green catches his eye. "Lee!"

"Tenten! Neji!" Their third teammate enters the vicinity, and Neji contemplates his impending doom. "What brings you two here this fine day?"

"Hey, guess what?" Tenten says excitedly. "Neji has a crush on Sakura!"

For the briefest of moments, Lee looks crushed, before having the life return to his eyes again. "This is wonderful, Neji! Your feelings of love are finally blossoming! And who is better to be the recipient of these feelings than Sakura?"

At this point, denial is futile, so he just grunts.

"Okay, so here's the plan of action…" He's pulled close by both Lee and Tenten, and he feels the dread beginning too build in his stomach.


"Um…Neji-san?" Sakura inquires when she finds him at the front desk of the hospital. "Is something the matter?"

He knows Tenten and Lee are hiding behind a nearby plant (and rather obviously, too), which doesn't help with the pressure. It takes a full five seconds for him to swallow and say in a strained voice, "Dinner. Tonight."

She raises an eyebrow. "This is a little out of the ordinary."

"There is nothing wrong with being out of the ordinary." Unfortunately for him, his keen shinobi ears pick up Tenten's giggling. He doesn't see how this is funny.

"Well, it should be alright…I'll just have to talk to Tsunade-sama to make sure I have he evening off. Will this be formal?" The way she smiles at him makes him stand a little straighter, raise his chin a little higher.

"Of course."

"Then I'll see you tonight, then."

"I'll pick you up at seven."

When he exits the hospital, followed by Lee and Tenten shortly after, he decides that maybe he does like Sakura. Just a little.

notes: m00kie has pointed out to me that i have posted 37 fics in 2009. so i'm going to aim for 38 this year! :) and what else is better than the start the year with some nejisaku? (something m00kie sometimes encourages me to write more…heh.) there are 30 prompts, and i'll be posting five per chapter—therefore, six chapters!

happy new year, everyone!