Disclaimer: Kishi and I, we don't talk. Or know each other, really. I just take liberties with his characters. Many, many liberties.
All Your Base
She opened a bleary eye at the familiar intruder.
"Neji, again?" she muttered at the shadowy long-haired figure looming over her in the dark.
"Is it ok?" he asked in a low voice. She grunted and made room on the bed for him. He lay down beside her carefully, murmuring a 'thanks' to which she yawned back her usual 'no prob.'
This was the third time he had snuck into her modest dwelling to request if he could sleep over. It seemed there was something going on at the Hyuuga compound that resulted in Neji having to wake Tenten in the middle of the night and somewhat hesitantly ask her permission to stay over. Tenten asked no questions when her team mate had not offered any further explanations, but completely refused to allow him to sleep on the floor. There was room on the nice, new bed that she had just bought using her hard-earned mission payments, and he was welcome to sleep on it as well, as long as he did not mind the danger of being drooled on or any snoring that he might hear.
Tenten went back to sleep pretty quickly after Neji settled himself beside her. They had been in similar situations after all during missions, and squashed together with Lee, to boot.
If this was going to become a regular thing though, Tenten inwardly worried that she might embarrass herself at some point and start using Neji as a pillow. He was warm and his Hyuuga garments were actually quite soft and inviting to touch, and her sleeping self might begin to consider him yet another well-purchased bed accessory and proceed to snuggle against him in a highly unseemly fashion. Even if he might not be in a position to protest, since technically he was imposing on her hospitality, it really wouldn't do to molest her team mate when he had practically put himself in her care.
She resolved to broach the possibility that they move their training sessions to the evening instead. Maybe whatever it was that was going on at the Hyuuga compound only drove Neji out at night, and he could sleep there during the day. If so, she would adjust her sleeping habits accordingly and stay up to train with him. It would be good practice for her to fight in night time conditions.
She didn't exactly notice falling asleep but it seemed only a minute after closing her eyes that a warm hand on her arm was shaking her awake, another thing Tenten was getting dangerously used to. If this went on, she had a feeling she wouldn't be able to get up on her own anymore, even with an alarm clock. Or maybe she would, but she'd be in a terrible mood for the rest of the day and unable to admit that she actually missed waking up next to Neji.
"Umph," was her first intelligent word for the day. Her first intelligent move was to restrain herself from turning to her team mate and hugging him like a teddy bear. Tenten had never slept with a stuffed animal, even as a child, but her teenage hormones were accomplishing what her childhood could not. It felt a little unfair, having to exercise control even in her sleep, but for the sake of her dignity, she had to win this battle.
"Hey, g'morning," she sat up and blinked at Neji. It was difficult to accept, but Neji naturally had perfect morning hair, whereas she looked like a tousled cat when she woke up. She vaguely hoped at some point her appearance would turn him off to such an extent that he would seek out Lee's house for sleepovers. She was sure Lee's hair could only look the same no matter what time of day or night. She had seen him emerge from fights to the death without a hair strand out of place.
"Good morning," Neji returned softly, a barely visible smile touching his features as he drew a lock of her hair towards him to gently smooth its tangles between his fingers. She was torn between thrill and insult that he couldn't help but try to fix her hair. It must be such a novelty to him to see such a disarray.
Her sense of humor asserted itself and she answered his smile with a grin, "Gimme a moment for a quick shower 'kay? Training in fifteen minutes."
He nodded. Another day had begun.
Tenten finally gave in to her natural sleeping tendencies after a week of sharing a bed space with Neji. He had revealed a little more about his situation at home, apparently there was some problem with the curse seal that made the mark on his forehead flare up painfully whenever he was in the compound. The Hyuuga were doing their research on how to solve the problem, but in the meantime, Neji endured the pain to train with Hiashi-sama and Hinata and never spent more time than necessary there anymore.
He mentioned that his family was under the impression that he was staying with Lee. When Tenten asked why he DIDN'T choose to stay with Lee, Neji had taken hold of her hands in both of his own, and asked very gravely that she never subject him to such a terrible fate. Obviously, Tenten couldn't refuse a request like that. So now she was stuck with her night time companion indefinitely.
With acceptance came surrender. She would wake up sometimes to find out she was hugging his arm rather possessively and drooling into his shoulder. He would mercifully overlook such transgressions and carefully wipe her mouth with the blanket, smirking at her stammered apologies.
"Tenten, is it true? You and the Hyuuga Neji are sleeping together?" Put that way, it sounded so suggestive. Maybe, in a way, it was supposed to. A male and a female unrelated by blood did not usually sleep together unless something was going on between them.
Tenten dimpled at her favorite blacksmith. "Since that rumor helps dispel my reputation as a prude, I will neither confirm nor deny it."
"You're growing up so fast," Kazu sighed, both at the battered blade she had submitted for repair and at her answer. "This'll be ready in three days."
"Thank you!" she bowed gratefully to him before heading home.
"What?" Tenten opened her eyes and found Neji looking at her quizically.
"Nothing," she beamed. "This is bliss."
"I'm just making breakfast."
"Yes, that's what's so great," grinning so widely her face threatened to split, she stood up and began to set the table for two, humming a little. Neji stared at her a bit longer, bemused, before turning back to the stove.
"I hope you're not getting tired of being around me all the time," he muttered.
"I am happy to be around you in any situation that doesn't involve your practicing the gentle fist technique on me." Tenten was firm. "I hope you're not finding ME insufferable yet."
"No," he was quiet but sure.
Considering the alternative, Tenten finished his thought silently and bit back a sigh. Again this arrangement brought up mixed feelings within her. On one hand she was glad he trusted her. On the other she wondered if he found her only marginally better than a green beast of Konoha or a splitting headache.
She came awake before Neji, as was becoming more usual now that he was getting used to sleeping at her place. His calm, even breathing denoted the deepest of slumbers, evidence of his utter exhaustion.
While Lee was the most famous Team Gai member for his hard work, it didn't mean his team mates spent their days lazing about in indolence. Neji wasn't a prodigy simply by being instinctively gifted. He honed his skills to perfection with a tenacity and will that impressed even the Hyuuga clan head to the point that the Main House secret techniques were being revealed to a Branch member in acknowledgment of Neji's talents and determination. Tenten, of course, knew this through personal experience. She was his sparring partner, after all.
After training with her, he would train at the Hyuuga estate. Then he would come to Tenten's house worn out and sometimes snappish but more often than not he would have dinner for the two of them. A meal improved his mood significantly, then he would help her sharpen her weapons, as evenings were pretty much the only time she had to do so, between missions, chores and her own personal weapons training. They would discuss scrolls they had read on battle strategies and if the discussion drifted onward to lighter things that would set Tenten giggling and Neji looking less stoic, it was normal. Konoha was full of entertaining events, after all, and a Hyuuga's sight could behold most of them. Neji did not consider himself a gossip if he only shared interesting data to one person, and one he trusted not to be a blabbermouth, either.
Tenten was always gentle with Neji, although this treatment did not extend to training, of course. She lived by her principle of being a confident, self-sufficient kunoichi, and set her mind on seeing Neji as a friend and genius she admired. It was simpler that way. She would smile to herself at feeling the warm presence at her back, and then quietly get up to shower and prepare for a new day.
Tonight, however, was something rather out of the ordinary. Her back was still to her teammate, a position she had schooled herself to get used to once she realized the current sleeping arrangements might go on longer than expected and the mortifying arm-hugging-drool incident. But Neji was pressed against her, much closer than before. And his arm was slung around her waist in what could only be called a hug.
She went stiff all over as she came fully awake, caught in indecision. After a quick internal debate, she decided not to wake him. It was enough for one of them to be embarrassed at the compromising position they were in. This was training. Training! With all her ninja skill, Tenten extracted herself from her teammate's grasp without disturbing him, and rushed red-faced to the bathroom.
Neji appeared none the wiser.
And then another night his hand was under her shirt. Tenten successfully got out of bed without waking him that time as well, although she was somewhat distracted during their sparring session that day.
Neji stayed out of her apartment that night, and the succeeding one, until Tenten found him camping out on the training grounds the third night and forced him to come home with her. He still couldn't make her admit what had been bothering her during training, but she told him a girl had to have her secrets, and he would just have to respect that.
With something that Tenten imagined might be a tone of regret, Neji finally told her the curse seal had been sorted out and it was no longer unbearable for him to be in the Hyuuga compound.
"I am in your debt." She panicked as he actually began to bow to her.
"Not at all, your staying here was the best thing that's happened to my place," Tenten assured him hurriedly, motioning for him to stop, "I tidied up, started eating home-cooked meals, and generally paid more attention to domestic duties because of you!"
"You have made me," she considered striking a Gai pose and discarded it almost immediately, "a better person by sleeping with me, Neji."
They stood in silence for a moment after that declaration, and the wind blew gently in through the window. Then Neji's shoulders began to shake, as he raised a hand to his mouth to stifle his chuckles. Now mortified a hundred times beyond the time she had woken up to find herself drooling on the Hyuuga, Tenten buried her face in her hands while helplessly giggling.
"I will keep that in mind," Neji's eyes glinted in quiet amusement.
It was one of those occasional times that Tenten managed to beat Neji at sparring, and since it wasn't because she had surprised him with a new technique, she had a feeling that something was preoccupying him.
"Neji?" He was staring up at the sky while she finished returning her weapons into scroll form. Kazu had done good work on the katana, and she was planning to concentrate more on it in future bouts.
He glanced quickly at her, as if startled to see her observing him. Then, to Tenten's immense surprise, a faint blush became visible on his cheeks.
"It was a good match," he looked away, trying to cover up.
"Yes. Is there something else, though?" Tenten didn't used to pry into his affairs but she felt they were much closer now, and it could be justified, considering that it had affected his performance this afternoon. He looked troubled, and seemed to gather his wits about him, before facing her.
"It's--" he faltered, and Tenten saw a more than passing resemblance to Hinata at that point, aside from the Hyuuga eyes and hair. She waited. He would never show this side to anyone else. He always acted more confident around everyone, covering up any uncertainties with a veneer of arrogance and indifference. Neji trusted her enough to be vulnerable around her. It was a testament to Tenten's self-control that she hadn't thrown herself at him yet.
"It's nothing," he sighed.
"Neji," she pouted. She was unsure of the effect she would generate, considering that she was all sweaty from the workout and covered in dirt, but she had given up a long time ago trying to act as demure as Hinata around him. Sure, she tried to project the professional, tough ninja to everyone, to be just like her idol Tsunade, but Neji knew best that, deep inside, Tenten was a girly-girl and would do the pout and the eyelash-batting and out-Ino Ino when she was alone with him. It was sort of a release for her femininity, and she liked it that Neji would tolerate such behavior from no one else except her.
"Tenten," he returned, expressionless.
"Neji." Slightly louder.
"Tenten," more monotone.
"Ne-" she looked around suddenly, fearfully, then turned back to face his upraised brow, "Ah, just checking for waterfalls, rainbows and sunsets. We were doing the Gai-Lee thing." she explained. He tried not to smirk.
"Really though, are you sure it's nothing?" she set her scrolls on the ground and closed the distance between them. "Maybe you have a fever?" she placed the back of her hand lightly against his neck to check his temperature. Heat from a fever would explain the redness, perhaps. It was back in full force, by the way. Hinata had nothing on this blush.
"Tenten," she met his white gaze for a moment, then watched in confusion as he deliberately shut his eyes. He raised his hand towards her--
"N-Neji! Your hand is on my boob!" Tenten's flush now rivaled his. He wasn't using his Byakugan, but she didn't think his aim would be THAT bad when his eyes were closed.
"So it is," he didn't move, "Strange where you allow me to put my hands when you think I'm asleep, isn't it?"
He felt her chest heave as the import of his words struck her, "You were awake during those times!?"
He took his hand away and opened his eyes, ready to accept punishment, "I'm sorry Tenten. I took advantage of you. I shouldn't have pretended. But did you actually think I would unconsciously do that in my sleep to any girl who happened to be next to me?" her wide eyes met his again, and he had no idea what she was thinking or feeling. Despite the advantage of his bloodlimit, he was blind when it came to reading her. He could never be objective when it came to Tenten.
"You-- you-- " the fact that she liked him warred with her innate sense of modesty. She wore more clothes than Sakura and Ino combined, and fully approved of Hinata's fashion sense. "So it's just ME you want to molest?"
Not quite how he would have put it, but there it was. He hung his head, and waited for his doom. He sensed that she was trembling, and tried to control how shaky he was himself. Maybe those were her last words to him. Maybe she would hit him now, and never speak to him again. It was fitting, he really had taken advantage. All that hard work, to build up trust, to get to this point of closeness, and he had ruined it.
"Neji," his head jerked up at the sound of laughter in her voice. Tenten was blushing like crazy and half-hiding her face in her hands, but she was giggling and shaking her head, both at herself and at him, "Ever heard of the terms 'first base,' 'second base' and 'third base?'" He shook his head.
She rose up on her tiptoes and kissed him. "That," she said breathlessly, "was first base." She laughed at his dumbfounded expression. "Where you got to place your hand awhile ago, and the other night, was second base." She wagged a finger at him, "Shame on you for interchanging the two."
"And third base?" he inquired faintly, barely registering that the only thing she was upset at was that he had not kissed her before groping her.
"Ah," she tried for a knowing look, but ended up still looking embarrassed and cuter than Neji had ever seen her, "That's AFTER the wedding, should we ever get that far and want to have babies. And trust me, you're not going to get away with that by pretending to be asleep beside me."
A/N: In the end, Tenten proves she is a semi-prude. Sex only after marriage? How old school! (Well, that's how I want to portray her, so there). Title is from that famous ungrammatical internet phrase "All your base are belong to us." Or in this case, are belong to Neji.