A/N: Tenten reflects on all the kisses she's got from her teammates throughout the years.
I've been reading a lot of Team Gai fics lately and they're all so great – so much talent goes into them. I really believe that Gai is one of the most underrated characters in the Naruto series, just cause everyone flocks to the obvious geniuses. *punches air* Lets show Gai some love guys!
Some of these interactions are OOC, but hey, this entire story is OOC.
Kiss 1: The first time Tenten ever met her teammates, she'd looked at Neji and decided that he was going to be her first kiss – no matter what. She quickly abandoned that notion after their first training session ever as a team, where Neji proceeded to pound her into the ground with his jyuuken and accidentally sealed three of her tenketsu. By the end of her recovery in the hospital, Tenten had decided she'd rather kiss Lee or Gai sensei then go near the Hyuuga like that.
Kiss 2: Lee surprises her one day when she skins her knee when trying out her chakra. New at molding chakra, Tenten's feet slip off the tree and she plummets – only to be caught by Lee, who'd been watching anxiously from the ground.
While Neji went off to fetch their fast diminishing first aid kit (which would be altogether abandoned in a few weeks), Lee rolls her pant leg up and brushes the bark and dirt off the wound. When he accidentally touches the bloody mess with his mouth as he tries to blow on it, he doesn't notice, instead just wipes it off and keeps talking at that rapid fire speed he was so wont to do, but Tenten decides that it counts.
Kiss 3: Gai sensei visits her in the hospital after that humiliating defeat at the Chuunin exams. Unsure of what to say, Tenten just stares at her comforter, flipping and turning a kunai over and over in her hand, dreading what sensei would say, dreading what he wouldn't say. Sensei is unusually quiet and un-Gai sensei-like.
Just when she thinks the silence is becoming unbearable, he clears his throat. "The lotus of the Leaf Village blooms twice Tenten," Gai says before ducking down to kiss her on the head. He leaves before Tenten fully succumbs to her tears – tears she'd been holding back ever since that Sand girl threw her across the arena floor. But she understands what he wants to say.
Kiss 4: When her boys – her boys – are rushed into the hospital, Neji nearly comatose from a near fatal fight against one of the Sound Four, and Lee just barely out of the woods from that risky operation he underwent to continue to be a ninja (yet running off after the squad in that reckless manner), Tenten almost vomits from anxiety. Keeping vigil during the mornings, and pacing the halls at night, Tenten knows there's nothing to do but wait. When Shizune lets her know that Neji's in the clear and on his way to recovery, Tenten slips into his room and out of sheer relief, kisses his hand. She figured he'd give her a pass on that one.
Kiss 5: "A genius, huh? What does that mean, 'genius'?" Lee shouts at her, fists clenched, sparring forgotten. Tenten is taken aback at how angry and hurt he looks. Without the cheerful posturing and wild gesturing, she glimpses a side of Lee she never wants to see again.
Lee's anger radiates off him and she can't help but fall back a step when he advances at her. "So I wasn't born with a whole lot of natural talent, not gifted like Neji, but I work hard and I never give up! That is my gift – that is my ninja way!"
When Lee's voice cracks, Tenten's pity evaporates and all she can acknowledge is the crushing empathy she feels for him and a deep rooted understanding in knowing that they both are the underdogs. Lee feels unusually frail as she takes him in her arms. Not knowing what to say to soothe the now crying boy, Tenten just hugs him and awkwardly places a kiss on the top of his shiny, bowl cut hair that suddenly seems so limp and dull.
Kiss 6: Tenten's first real goodnight kiss is neither Lee nor Neji, but Nara Shikamaru.
It's sweet, it's a rush and Tenten feels her cheeks scald over in giddiness. The deer boy's face is also hazy and flushed when he pulls away, but after noticing something, he snaps out of his reverie, mumbles a hasty "goodnight" and darts off onto the rooftops, leaving a confused Weapons Mistress – until she notices three poorly hidden figures in the bushes.
Gai, Lee and Neji tumble out onto her feet, all in one stage of hysteria or another. While Gai chokes back sobs and crows gleefully about how the beautiful lotus of their team is finally blossoming, Neji hisses "this was their idea!" and "I had nothing to do with this!" over and over again. Lee is uncharacteristically quiet, before an outburst so loud Tenten just knows all her neighbors now know what had just happened between her and the Nara boy.
"Congratulations on your first kiss Tenten!" Lee shouts, throwing his arms around all of them, "Shikamaru-san is a worthy ninja to bestow such a gift from your precious petal lips! Let us celebrate the springtime of youth together as a team and remember this moment!" Tenten wishes she could die.
Kiss 7: "Sakura-san and I have been getting along very well!" Lee gleefully shouts as he skips from one rock to another. "She said she'd be waiting for me to return from this mission! Maybe if things go well, I'll get a kiss from her!" he hopefully concludes.
The winter snow has melted, making the rivers swell and run furiously, but the fastest way to get back to Konoha is to cut through this particular stretch of land, nevermind the risks of fording rivers at this time of year. Tenten is about to laugh at her teammate when Lee, in his undying enthusiasm and giddiness, becomes careless and missteps, falling into the river.
The weighed down boy is immediately swept out towards the middle before disappearing under the surface all together and it takes Tenten a moment to realize that the hoarse shouting that she's hearing is actually her and that she's already thrown herself into the freezing cold to try to paddle out towards him, without having taken off her pack first. When she pulls her frozen teammate out of the water and onto the bank, his lips are blue and he's not breathing.
Tenten tries not to panic, tries not to scream aloud in fright. She was a kunoichi damnit, and she was going to act like one instead of falling apart like some hysterical nitwit. Trying to remember the basic medic lessons Iruka sensei taught them at the Academy, Tenten laces her hands up, one behind the other and begins to push at Lee's chest. Nothing. Tenten opens Lee's too still mouth, gently holding onto his chin, and covers his mouth with hers, forcing air down his throat, willing him to live, to breathe, again and again and again. And he comes to, sputtering up mouthfuls of water, wheezing and gasping for air – but he's alive damnit, and he's going to make it home to get that kiss from Sakura. Tenten wants to crush him against her chest and cry, but backs off to let him breath.
As they near the gates, they catch a glimpse of pink hair standing near the entrance. Tenten feels the thrill of expectation and apprehension run through Lee's shoulders as he turns to her. "Tenten!" he grins at her, "you are my highly esteemed teammate and friend, and while my heart belongs to Sakura-san, I cannot disregard your precious kiss of life that saved me today! Thank you!" With that, he speeds off, whooping and hollering at an equally enthusiastic rosette haired girl who was running towards him.
Kiss 8: When Lee and Tenten make Jounin, Neji of course having been ahead of them by a full two years, Gai sensei pulls out all the stops and insists on a team night out on the town. While Lee doesn't partake in the liquor (not like he needs it, anyway), Gai helps himself to a few saucers of sake, much to their collective surprise. Neji smiles and congratulates Lee, the taijutsu master with no chakra, and Tenten, a nongenius, on their efforts and is remarkably chatty – for Neji, that is. Sensei on the other hand, is on the quieter side, smiling softly into his saucer, a telltale moisture constantly gathering in the corners of his eyes.
Tenten is flying high on euphoria and liquor – after all, it wasn't everyday a girl got promoted to jounin status – and the future is bright, the future was beautiful and it was hers for the taking. Her slightly drunk mind deducts that since this is not an everyday, normal team outing, it's okay if her behavior deviates from the usual.
Standing up abruptly, Tenten makes it a point to lean across the table and take each of their faces in her hands, kissing their upturned faces rather fervently. While Neji just "hns" and pats her shoulder, Lee embraces her wholeheartedly and Gai squeezes her hand.
"You three…" Tenten hesitantly ventures, but resolves to finish. "You guys, are the closest thing I have to a family… my family." The three men just nod, but judging from the smirk on Neji's face, she was going to get soooo much shit about this one when she sobered up.
Kiss 9: "My youthful lotus is blooming yet again!" Gai sensei booms as she makes her way down to him, slipping an arm through his. "My beautiful Tenten, no one and nothing can match the power of your springtime youth today!" Normally she would have laughed it off, but today, Tenten's grin outshines even Gai sensei's normally brilliant and blinding smile.
It's sensory overload walking down that aisle: the almost manic grins of all those familiar faces turned to look at her as she passes them by; the flashes of cameras; the smell of her bouquet; the rustle and weight of her dress; the pounding of her heart that just gets louder and louder; and the reassuring feel of sensei's arm in hers.
When Gai lifts her veil off her face, Tenten feels a wave of shyness she's never experienced before around her team, this awareness that she was crossing over into territory they couldn't follow. Lee and Neji are at the altar to give her away, and the three of them tenderly kiss her chastely before letting go of her hands. Tenten doesn't hesitate to flash them the "nice guy" pose before turning to smile at her groom.
Kiss 10: It was dark, but Tenten can't tell if it's actually night. The fires above Konoha have been blazing for several days already, and the soot, smoke and ash just spread throughout the air, choking the life and light out of everything. Tenten knew they were winning, knew that the Will of Fire would prevail in the end, but at the moment, all was lost and she was drowning.
As one of the fastest and heavy hitting teams, Team Gai is one of the first to leave for the frontline. Reinforcements will come as soon as possible, they're assured, but at the moment, they're one of the few that would have to serve as the first line of defense, meant to hold the enemy off for as long as possible.
As a kunoichi, Tenten knew that this would be the defining moment of her life. This was what she had been bred to do as a shinobi. Her specialty in mass weapons ensures that she is essential to this – to take out as much of the enemy as possible with the least amount of effort and risk. This is the war that will make her and the rest of the Konoha 11 legends, awe-worthy and cool in the eyes of the future fresh faced, snot nosed genin that were sure to run about the Academy grounds. But it doesn't matter anymore, none of it does.
"My youthful lotus," Gai sensei croaks up at her, "do not be afraid for me." Tenten cradles as much of her sensei's body in her lap, ignoring the fact that his spandex suit has been ripped to shreds by shrapnel, a rather large section of his torso's been clawed right off, and his long intestinal track is spilling out onto the forest floor. Even the mighty Gai is human sometimes.
While Kakashi and his ninken dash off to find a medic team, Neji and Lee take it upon themselves to secure the wounded enemy nin strong enough to survive the haul back to Konoha, where a certain fate awaits them. Tenten doesn't notice that her boys are dispatching the fatally wounded littered about them rather … savagely. She dashes away the angry tears that keep building up in her eyes and scoffs at his charred and bloody - but still smiling - face.
"I don't know what you're talking about sensei, you're going to be just fine," she grouses, "you've had worse before you know. When you get out of the hospital, maybe you should take up a challenge with Kakashi to work on your speed a bit more – that way the next time you can dodge that chakra grenade completely." She winces when Gai tries to chuckle – it just made more blood spurt out of his wounds – and cups his face closer to her, willing him to live long enough for the team to get there. If Tsunade herself didn't see to him, Tenten swore that she would viciously hound the hag herself until she did.
"Yosh. The lotus of the Leaf Village blooms twice," he sighs, feebly trying to pose with his remaining thumb. Tenten just pulls him closer to her as she rains down kisses all over his face – his nose, his forehead, his cheeks – even his slack mouth, smoothing his hair off his brow.
A/N: I'm really sorry for the angsty turn it took with the very last kiss, but the plot bunnies took me there! I don't want Gai to die, ever! :(