It's another Neji/Tenten story! I started writing this about three weeks ago, but I got stuck and decided to come back to it later, but I ended up forgetting about it for a while. The characters may be a bit out of character in this story, so if they are I'm really sorry, but I'm sure you guys all know how difficult it can be to write them totally in character.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Tenten entered the training field ready for her team's usual training: Guy and Lee disappear to who knows where to train, while she's stuck with the haughty, arrogant, and rude member of the Hyuga clan, Neji. Not that she minded, although she would never admit it. Secretly she enjoyed spending time with the Hyuga and getting to know him better, even if that was mostly just guesswork from all of his 'hns'. Every time he smirked at her or looked her way she felt her heart skip a beat. She knew that she felt something more for her teammate than just simple friendship, but she wasn't ready to admit that to Neji just yet. Even if she was almost certain he already knew.
But he had no effect on her today.
She didn't feel the slightest bit of joy as she leaned on a tree next to the one Neji sat below. She could only think in disgust of how it was that time of year again, when the dandelions bloomed. Tenten hated dandelions. She didn't consider them flowers in any way, no matter how much they might resemble them. They were nothing but pesky weeds to her. Ugly yellow weeds. And the only thing Tenten hated more than the ugly yellow dandelions were the ugly white dandelions. The very same ones that were littered around the training field.
There was another reason Tenten hated dandelions so much, but she didn't like to talk about it. They reminded her of a time she would rather forget, so she used the excuse of being weeds as a reason for hating them so much. She preferred it when dandelions didn't come up in conversation so she could avoid the topic altogether.
"Nice day today, isn't it?" Neji commented; eyes closed in meditation.
"Hardly," Tenten muttered, not noticing that Neji had said something extremely uncharacteristic of himself.
She saw him look up at her, mouth opened slightly as though he were about to say something but was interrupted by a loud shout.
"TENTEN, NEJI, MY YOUTHFUL FRIENDS!"
They both turned their heads as Lee burst into the clearing with a smile on his face that seemed bigger than humanly possible. Tenten couldn't help but smile back despite her mood; his grin was infectious. Tenten watched Neji grunt and close his eyes again, but could have sworn she saw his lips curved into the faintest of smiles for an instant.
"Are these dandelions not the most beautiful flowers you have ever seen?" Lee asked joyously. Tenten's smile quickly turned upside down. She snorted and crossed her arms, closing her eyes to avoid glaring at Lee.
"Dandelions aren't flowers, they're weeds," she corrected.
Tenten opened one eye to see Lee's usually happy face look rather surprised and hurt. She couldn't help feeling bad for ruining his mood, but she was set on her opinion and refused to change it.
"Tenten, why do you not like dandelions?" he asked, and Tenten cursed the sad innocence in his voice and eyes. His innocence was both adorable and annoying, for it could make nearly anyone do as he asked and he wouldn't even realize it.
For a moment she considered opening up and telling the truth about her hatred for the weeds, but she quickly dismissed that thought. She had promised herself never to speak of that again and she wasn't one to succumb to weakness. "I...I just don't, okay?"
Lee looked as if he was going to pursue the matter further, but being the gentleman he was he respected Tenten's privacy and her right to choose whether to talk about it or not. But it wasn't like he would have gotten the chance to ask anyway, for their sensei had just arrived in a puff of smoke that normally startled anyone, although the three of them were used to it by now and were unaffected by his random appearances.
"Are you ready for another youthful day of youthful training, my youthful students?" Guy asked energetically.
As Tenten nodded along with her teammates in response, she was reminded of their sensei's overuse of the word 'youthful'. He especially liked to use the word in his lectures and speeches. One time Tenten decided to count how many times he had used the word in a lecture about endurance. She had counted fifty-three times, although she had grown bored and zoned out the last half an hour, which she was sure had contained at least another ten.
Surprisingly, Guy hadn't left to train with Lee immediately. Instead, he took a deep breath and admired the training field. "Ah, what youthful dandelions these are! It reminds me of my youth..."
Tenten ignored Guy-sensei's retelling of his genin days, instead wondering if she had gotten bad luck or something. It seemed that every conversation today included dandelions, and it annoyed her to no end. Did they know why she hated them so much, and were reminding her of it as a cruel joke? No, it couldn't be that. She was certain that neither her teammates nor her sensei were that mean.
"...Then let us be off, Lee!" Guy exclaimed before dashing off, his younger duplicate following obediently.
The weapons mistress turned to Neji, who had already made his way to the other end of the training field. He had taken a fighting stance and was calmly waiting for Tenten to do the same.
As she took out one of her scrolls and began tossing weapons at her sparring partner, her thoughts brought her back to the subject she was so desperately trying to avoid. She could tell that this would be a long training session.
It wasn't difficult for Neji to notice that Tenten wasn't focused. She had already missed him three times by a couple of inches...when he wasn't even moving. Tenten never missed when her target was stationary. Something was up.
After evading an array of weapons, he asked passively, "What's wrong, Tenten?"
Tenten flinched slightly. Was it that obvious something was bothering her? "I...I'm fine. Just thinking, that's all."
She hated the way he pried. What right did he have sticking his nose in her business? He never told her anything, so why should she tell him? Although, a part of her hidden deep inside of her was honoured at his intrusiveness. This was Neji's way of showing concern for others, and he didn't show it often. She was one of the lucky few to see his more open side.
"None of your business, Hyuga," she retorted, switching to her defensive side.
It was silent for the next few minutes as the two sparred, both close to equally matched. Then, Neji spoke up again.
"Is it about the dandelions?"
Tenten cursed silently. Could she not for once be subtle? Was she destined to be transparent, to have everyone see right through her? Or was it just with Neji?
"As I recall, you didn't give Lee an answer," he continued.
"Yes, I did," Tenten argued, dodging one of Neji's palms.
"'I just don't' isn't an answer, Tenten."
She sighed. "You're not going to give up until you get an answer, are you?"
The weapons mistress sighed again. "Fine, I'll tell you. It happened eight years ago..."
A woman and child stood on the outskirts of a small town, the little girl clinging to her mother stubbornly.
The woman chuckled. "Don't worry, Tenten, I'll be back in a week. I'm not leaving forever."
The six-year-old looked up; tear streaks were visible along her cheeks. "R-really? You p-promise?"
Her mother smiled warmly. "I promise."
Tenten smiled, but she still didn't look completely convinced. Her mother walked over to a patch of grass next to the path and picked a white dandelion, handing it to her daughter. She looked at it curiously as her mother explained.
"You make a wish and blow on it, and if all the white seeds come off then your wish will come true."
Tenten closed her eyes tightly and wished, then reopened them and blew as hard as she could. A large cluster of the seeds blew off, while the last few came off one by one. The very last seed was determined to stick to the stem, but soon it, too, was blown away.
She looked back up at her mother, who smiled in response. "You see? I'll return. I promise."
Tenten hugged her mother one last time, then watched as she walked off, turning back once to wave, which the little girl returned.
A week passed, but there was no sign of Tenten's mother...
The little girl broke down in tears after waiting all day on the seventh day, the day her mother was supposed to return. "You lied!" she screamed at no one. "You lied to me! You said you'd come back! But you lied!"
She fell to her knees and pounded the ground with her fists. "I hate dandelions," she declared. "I hate them! I'll never like dandelions again!"
"I see..." Neji said, staring at the field of dandelions. Tenten waited for him to say that was stupid, to hold a grudge against her mom through a flower, but he remained silent.
"L-let's just get back to training," Tenten said awkwardly, not wanting to continue the conversation any further. She had already broken the promise she had made herself and she felt weak for doing that, she didn't want to have anyone else, especially not Neji, criticizing her as well.
"As you wish," Neji replied, although there was still something about his expression...
They got into their fighting stances. Tenten was the first to make a move, leaping in the air and opening one of her scrolls which sent an onslaught of weapons hurtling towards him. He dodged them easily using his Byakugan, and he didn't even need to move from the spot where he stood.
So he was teasing her, huh? Well, she'd show him! She took out two small scrolls and placed them on the ground before proceeding with five hand seals. "Rising Twin Dragons!"
The two mighty dragons made of smoke appeared and twisted around one another in their majestic dance, before changing back into the two scrolls. Tenten leapt up between them at the top and began pulling weapons from the scrolls and throwing them at Neji. He deflected the barrage of weapons with his Rotation technique and sent them flying, but that wasn't the only thing sent flying.
The many white dandelions in the training field had had their seeds blown off by Neji's Rotation and were now floating gently around them in the air. Tenten didn't want to admit it, but it was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen. It was as if the air itself were made of the little white seeds.
A single dandelion was left standing intact in the clearing, seeds and all. Neji picked it and walked over to Tenten, gently placing it behind her ear. Tenten blushed from his closeness.
"Dandelions are my favourite flowers," Neji said.
Tenten blinked in surprise. "They are? Why?"
"They remind me of you," he said simply.
She blushed harder, and had to look away. "H-how so?"
"When they are yellow, they are like the sun, bright and cheerful. And when they turn white, they show their true beauty as they dance in the wind."
Tenten couldn't believe it. Was this Neji saying all of this? Or was she just dreaming? She wanted to pinch herself to find out, but she knew how stupid she would look. Especially if this was real.
They sat down and watched the dandelion seeds dance in comfortable silence for the rest of the day. Soon the sun began to set, meaning that training was over.
"I had fun today," Tenten said, fidgeting with her fingers.
"S-so...Um...Well...I-I guess that we should-" Tenten was cut off by Neji's lips pressed softly against her own. Her eyes widened in surprise, but she soon closed them and savoured the moment, which ended all too soon when he pulled away. They stood there awkwardly for a moment, unsure of what to say next.
"I-I'll see you tomorrow, then," Tenten stuttered. Neji simply nodded in reply and turned to head back to the Hyuga compound. Tenten could have sworn she saw his face slightly red, but she dismissed it as the light from the sunset.
She turned to head back to her own home, thinking about the day's events happily. Although, once her mind got to two green-clad men, she worried about what would happen when they found out what was going on between her and Neji. She desperately hoped that they wouldn't find out for a long time, if ever. Especially not their sensei. Lee was okay, but when Guy got going...there was just no stopping him.
As her thoughts travelled to the end of the day, she reached up to feel the dandelion still tucked behind her ear and blushed.
"They remind me of you..."
Dandelions were definitely Tenten's favourite flowers.