A/N: Oh my God! I haven't published anything for two months! TWO WHOLE MONTHS! It is an outrage! But thanks for holding on so long. Life's been crazy. My spring break's starting next week so keep your eyes peeled for updates.
Special dedication to AliceOtaku for her birthday! Love you girl!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
The wind was howling in the distance. The stars overhead formed an intricate design across the sky, infinitely stemming from the full moon. Underneath a barren canopy, Team Gai had set up camp. Thin strands of smoke curled from the newly ignited fire, carried west by the breeze. Neji sat erect, mind silent and eyes squinted in suspicion, as shadows of dancing flames cast an eerie darkness across his face. His fists were clenched and he appeared to be biting the inside of his cheek. He was clearly in a sour mood.
Tenten lay near him, snugly wrapped in her sleeping bag; eyes closed though she was still awake. Her fingers were knotted in her blanket, scrunching and wrinkling the fabric horribly. She, unlike the Hyuuga, was deep in thought; amusing herself with the fact their roles had switched. She inhaled deeply, the heavy scent of the forest momentarily fogging her brain. She cracked her eyes open rather forcefully after a moment, however, refusing to give into drowsiness. Turning her head slightly, she peered at her teammate.
"Neji," she croaked, then cleared her throat. She called for his attention again, waiting patiently to receive it.
"Yes, Tenten?" he finally asked, turning his gaze from the crackling fire to her face. She patted his sleeping bag, lying vacant beside her.
"Sleep won't you? You checked the area fourteen times! There is no one out here! A couple hours of rest will be extremely beneficial to your health," she said. She watched the male consider this, but sighed exasperatedly when he opened his mouth to protest.
"I am not tired," the Hyuuga responded, his lie painfully evident.
"Neji! A few hours only! You-
"On the contrary, Tenten. A few hours of rest is exactly what'll get us killed. We are fighting skilled, dangerous, rogue shinobi as well as the Akatsuki! This is war! Not some third class escorting mission!" he contradicted, a severe glare marring his features, as if affronted.
Tenten remained silent, one hand letting go of her tormented sleeping bag to pull up a few blades of grass and twiddle them between her fingers. Neji watched her, eyes squinting in agitation. Just as he began to turn away, however, she responded.
"I didn't come out here without accepting the potentially fatal risks I'd have to take, Neji. And neither did you, Lee, Gai, or anyone else. You can't be afraid," she said quietly, dropping the torn up grass on the ground. She gave him a leveled stare, knowing she had struck a nerve.
The wind had turned icy and Tenten drew her blanket to her chin, shivering.
"I am not afraid. I am not weak. I am not going to sleep. It is my responsibility to head this squad while Gai (here he nodded at their dozing, heavily bandaged sensei) recovers. It is my responsibility to keep us coordinated and alert. You will not object to what I say. Understand?" He said tartly, his knuckles turning white from strain.
Tenten refrained from prodding him for half an hour, feigning sleep when he glanced her way. They were all tired and edgy and longing more than anything to be done with it all; to just go home and never have to set eyes on another kunai or shuriken or scroll again. Tenten and Neji had had this continuing argument for weeks, currently not on the best of terms friendship wise.
Tenten drummed her fingers on her stomach, counting seconds with each beat. After a minute, she spoke: "I saw a canary yesterday. It was really pretty. I wanted to show it to you, but…" She trailed off, not wanting to voice what exactly had happened the previous day.
"Perhaps if you had been more alert we could have saved Lee's leg," Neji told her, gesturing to their other teammate, who was sprawled out and blissfully unaware of anything. He smirked, feeling smug as he was clearly winning their verbal spar.
"It was dead! A senbon was embedded in its chest! I wanted to show it to you to alert you of the possibility of an enemy within our vicinity-"
"You think a dead bird is pretty?" Neji interrupted, fingernails digging into his palm. His ears perked as he heard his teammate mutter something sounding like "idiot" under her breath.
"I did not mean-"
"Perhaps you should go back to Konoha. If we're fighting a war and you find dead things to be somewhat attractive, then maybe we ought to take considerable measures against you as well. Your betrayal could be an eventuality," as soon as Neji had uttered the last few words, he regretted them deeply. It was now he who had dealt a low blow.
Tenten's eyes met his in shock. A second later she had turned her back to him, anger and hurt radiating from her form. Neji pursed his lips as he reprimanded himself in his mind. You need not be so tactless and easily irritated. Mighty fine way to treat your girlfriend. Neji sighed, wanting nothing more than to bang his head against the nearest tree until he fell unconscious.
Tears streaked down Tenten's cheek and she hastily reached up to wipe them away. How dare he! Saying I'm a traitor! I am going to snap his bloody neck in half and throw him into a river. That obscene, juvenile, idiot-
"I love you." The words hung in the air between them, even the wind seeming to come to a standstill to listen.
The brunette female blinked, an enormous huff hitching itself in her throat. She heard shuffling and then felt calloused, long fingers brush away the remaining tears on her face. Neji bent down to press his lips to her temple, gingerly tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear all the while. He shifted again to settle into his sleeping bag before gently seizing her shoulder and turning her towards him.
Tenten watched him with weary doe eyes; her fingers harassing her own sleeping bag once more.
"I love you," Neji repeated, knowing Tenten understood he was trying to apologize. The female set her jaw gearing up to punch him in the face he was sure. But her muscles finally relaxed and she mumbled, "I love you too" amid a jumble of curses and inappropriate names.
Neji gave her a soft, loving smile, and nudged her nose with his. Tenten scrunched her face at the ticklish sensation, letting out a breathy little laugh. The Hyuuga felt relief flood his system; she'd forgiven him so far. He'd still have to make further amends, however. "I know," he began after they'd quieted to a somewhat comfortable silence, " that you'd never-never betray us. I am confident that Team Gai would not be The Team Gai without you. And- for goodness sake!"
Neji pried her fingers from her abused sleeping bag and trapped them within his own. "Leave the blanket alone!" he said, pressing her hand to his heart. Tenten grinned; his romantic gestures and mild annoyance was such a Neji way to behave out in the middle of a forest while under dire circumstances. He was reverting back to his old self she noted happily.
The Hyuuga sighed irritated and not even bothering to finish, though a twinkle of amusement glinted in his eyes. After an hour of trivial chatter, Neji wrapped Tenten in his arms and fell asleep.
After all, whom was he kidding?
Between the two of them, Tenten always won.
A/N: Hmm… I don't know if I really like how this turned out, but I did like the fluffy ending. Tell me what you think! Thank you for reading and please review!