A/N: I write way too much for my own good. I know. Aside from my personal… obsession/"healthy" addiction to fanfiction and all things NejiTen, I hope you enjoy this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Neji's elbow was propped on the table, his fingers fisting around his hair as he eyeballed the status report. His head ached and he was dangerously close to succumbing to sleep. He was seated in a tent located within a forest near the northern border of the Land of Fire. It was the dead of night and even the slightest noise put him on edge.
Outside, his subordinates were resting, eating, or performing some other task to maintain a healthy level of comfort.
It was a clear night, the stars and moon visible through the leafy canopy of bending limbs. The air was cool, and the wind blew silently, as if it could sense the uneasiness, as if it could hear the thrumming hearts, some beating wildly, others coming to a stop.
Neji let out a frustrated growl as he grabbed his ink brush and scribbled down a message. Tenten, who had been looking at the reports over his shoulder, tilted her head to the side, debating whether to speak or let him be. Deciding on the former, she slowly reached out and gently laid her fingers on the Hyuuga's shoulder.
"Neji, you should get some sleep. I'll take over things," she whispered, knowing anything louder would startle him out of his wits. It frightened her to see him like this: he was always so calm, collected, fearless. If he was ready to fall out of his chair at the drop of a pin, she should have been curled on the floor having an anxiety attack, or maybe even be dead.
Neji didn't respond at first, and his teammate assumed he was either deliberately ignoring her, or so absolutely consumed in his work, he didn't hear. "Neji," she said again, her fingers scrunching the fabric of his shirt. His head snapped in her direction, his eyes flashing first with concern, then annoyance.
"What?" he hissed, narrowing his eyes in a glare. He clutched the back of his chair, as if he were fighting the urge to spring at her. Tenten bit her lip, just a tad intimidated by the authority and irritation in his voice.
"You should get some rest, Neji. I can take over for the time being, alright?" she repeated, her hands fisting. Her tone remained gentle, however. She knew raising her voice would be no good: Neji would think she was trying to give him orders.
The Hyuuga scoffed at her proposition, turning back to his work. Had he been composed of lesser pride, stubbornness, and form, he would have gladly indulged the notion. But not tonight, it wasn't safe. If he were to go to bed now, he and his comrades would surely never awaken again. "You go to sleep, Tenten," he said, pausing mid stroke to send her a leveled glare," That is an order."
His teammate frowned at the back of his head, unable to decide once again. She wanted to argue, and had it been a circumstance of less dire proportions, she would have until he relented. But even she knew the composure, the strength it took to be captain; the natural leadership Neji beheld was greater than her most redeeming qualities. If the enemy were to attack, she would not be able to order the way Neji did. It wasn't in her nature. She would do as he commanded, she concluded, but she would check to make sure he wasn't killing himself over these reports. "Alright, but don't stress." She turned on her heel and exited the tent.
Neji watched her go, part of him wanting to follow or at least ask her to bring her sleeping bag in the tent and rest within his sight. He was unsure of himself, unsure if he could handle the immense pressure on his own. She was his stone, his rock. She kept him stable and on his feet, all the while maintaining her own equilibrium with such inhumane grace. He swore if the world were to turn upside down, and everything on the planet was sent into a moving frenzy, she'd be standing still, with the earth revolving around her.
He shook his head, directing his attention back to the matter at hand. Lee's squad was retreating, having been ambushed and heavily injured. Shikamaru was still scouting the border, searching for any remnants of the enemy. Tsunade hadn't been sure whether or not their foe had already crossed into the Land of Fire (the notes made by the Anbu were hastily scribbled). They were close, that was sure, since the three squadrons under Lee's command (they were to fan out into the surrounding nations) had already engaged in combat.
He began to write again, meticulously going over every sentence inscribed. He hadn't ever been so confused before. He had never encountered a mission in which he couldn't fully trust the messages sent to him by his friends. But then again, this wasn't a mission: this was a war. The difference in terminology shifted all the positions on the battlefield. I was a fool to think everyone would stay put. This is a survival of the fittest, and only a complete idiot would never move.
The tent flap was pushed open by a petite hand, and Tenten stepped inside, smiling sheepishly. Neji's heart skipped a beat, hoping she'd stay. "I forgot my scroll," she explained, hurrying over and gathering said object into her arms. "Goodnight," she whispered before leaving him alone again. All the while, Neji hadn't met her gaze; if he did, she would see he needed help, that he needed her. He wouldn't have to utter a sound: his eyes would scream everything she'd ever need to hear.
"Goodnight," he responded, even though he knew she was already out of earshot. He rubbed his temples, desperately trying to get a grip. He felt he was clawing at water; no matter how much he dug, he would never find purchase. But if Tenten were there beside him, he may actually believe he would find something to hold onto. She brought with her, an air of hope and sweetness, with a hint of underlying power. She could, if she very well wanted to, send him into tomorrow (she already had him daydreaming, something he considered a shameful act) with just a smile. She disarmed him and knocked him off his feet without any knowledge of it. She was scary, beautiful, intelligent, caring…
He stopped himself. I have to concentrate.
"Do you want something to drink?" Tenten asked, poking her head into the tent. Neji's eye twitched. She was going to kill him.
"No, Tenten. Go sleep," he replied, gritting his teeth. The female watched him for a moment before walking away with a sigh. She was just looking out for his wellbeing, something he should be grateful for, yet she was such a distraction.
Neji slowly trailed a hand down his face, breathing deeply. Just focus. Just ignore her. Damn it! She's harder to handle than all this chaos. Fortunately for the Hyuuga, Tenten did not disturb him again until he had dispatched the last messenger hawk.
It was dawn, the nights nowadays passing much too quickly. Everyone slowly stirred, groaning about the aches brought on by sleeping on the rough soil. Tenten was the first person Neji called for to brief on the strategy.
She glared up at him, groggy and tired. For a moment, Neji wanted to send her back to Konoha. He did not want her to shed blood for something that would never reciprocate the gesture. He wanted her to be safe. She looked so harmless and innocent in the early morning sunlight. He nearly forgot she was the Weapon Mistress of the Leaf. But in the next instant, he decided he did not want to be separated from her for a second. He had gone through great pains already to keep her by his side. (Tenten was originally supposed to head Lee's squad, but the Hyuuga had convinced Tsunade it was vital she stay with him. Their teamwork was flawless, after all. )
Tenten tapped her foot impatiently and crossed her arms, "Well?"
Neji chuckled, bending down to press his forehead to hers, "I changed my mind. I wanted you to take a few men and set up some traps, but now I want you to go back to sleep."
Tenten huffed, turning away, but Neji caught her shoulder. He slowly brought her gaze back to his, "In here, Tenten, with me. I know you'll keep me safe."
His teammate blinked at his words, before failing at holding back a grin. She squeezed his hand and closed her eyes as he planted a tender kiss on her forehead.
"Is that an order?" she teased, relishing the feel of his lips on her skin. Neji rolled his eyes at her playfulness, but he responded anyway.
"Only if you don't come willingly."
Tenten punched his shoulder, her eyes filled with mirth. She slipped outside to grab her sleeping bag, and when she returned, Neji was already half-asleep in his. She shook her head. He was an idiot, but he was also the thing she loved most. She settled next to him, intertwining her fingers with the Hyuuga's once more.
Outside the world fell apart, but they stayed frozen together.
A/N: That was cute, ne? Thank you for reading and please review!