A/N: Written as a request from crystallized cherry. I hope this is what you wanted.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
She is training when he arrives, his footsteps muffled by the grass and his silhouette hidden in the shadows of the forest. He watches her quietly for a moment, noticing the way her hands tremble and her arms quiver in protest as she reels back to take aim. Across from her, the target boards have fallen to pieces. He purses his lips, brows furrowing in displeasure and he wonders how long she has been here. Just as she moves to launch her weapon, however, he plucks it clear from her grip, surprised at how easily she lets go.
Tenten does not turn to greet him, focusing on steadying her swaying legs, teetering dangerously from exhaustion, and feeding her starved lungs. It has been hours since she has caught her breath. Neji waits; gazing at her back with such intensity she could have shriveled on the spot. But this was Tenten and she was fearless.
The Hyuuga steps around her form, knuckles whitening as his fingers tighten around the mug of tea he is holding, glowering down at her with lilac eyes. She takes her time in meeting his gaze, and when she does, she does not falter. Her face is sweaty, her jaw muscles taut, her own eyes narrowed with determination.
"Give it back," she demands, "I wasn't finished." Her breathing becomes labored again, and it takes Neji a few seconds to realize she is on the verge of tears. He drops the kunai on the ground and gently slides a hand beneath her chin, jerking her lowering gaze back up to meet his. His hand around the mug still tightens, and it too, just like the kunoichi in front of him, is ready to break.
"Yes you are," he tells her, voice softening as her eyes begin to water. She looks away, ashamed for crying in front of a man of such strength. Neji thinks she should know better, her weakness is admirable in his opinion. "This won't bring him back." He's whispering now, afraid anything louder would shatter her beyond disrepair. Their conversation-if it could be even called that- was sliding dangerously into taboo territory, and the Hyuuga struggled to take reign over his emotions.
The wind is whistling among the treetops, and both shinobi remain silent to listen.
"I know that," she replies finally, stubbornness dripping from her every word. She wants to wipe away her tears, but finds her limbs incapable of moving. Instead, it is her teammate who brushes them away, his calloused thumb stroking her cheeks with care.
"You and Lee," he mutters underneath his breath, "if left to your own devices, would kill yourselves within a day." His tone is not angry, but somewhat laced with affection. Tenten thinks it suits him and scolds herself for it. "What am I going to do with you?" This time, the love is in his eyes as well.
Tenten bites her lip, ready to cry again. The Hyuuga saves her from further embarrassment, however, when he thrusts the warm mug in her hands.
"Drink." It is a command.
They settle themselves against the trunk of an oak tree, the bark marred and cut from the days so long ago. Tenten sips the tea without protest, letting the scalding liquid scorch her throat. Neji is gazing up at the night sky, one arm moving out of habit to massage the growing knots in her shoulders.
"It's a full moon," he observes aloud, more for his own ears than hers. Tenten does not reply, taking another gulp of tea. She hadn't eaten since the afternoon, the growing pangs of hunger in her stomach becoming worse.
Neji angles his head to watch her again, taking note of her tattered, dirty clothing, and the mud staining the bandages around her ankle. "You weren't supposed to put pressure on it this soon. Tsunade will be furious," he says, moving so as to take her foot into his lap. He unwraps the bandages with deft, cool, long fingers, his touch feather-light. He reveals a small bottle of antiseptic and fresh medical wrap from the pocket of his robes, frowning as he gazes at the red, irritated skin.
He works quietly, and Tenten is so entranced by his movement that she forgets all about the tea and her hunger. It isn't until Neji pauses to tell her, her beverage is becoming cold, that she finishes it.
"Gai sensei would be running his evening laps around the village right now, and Lee would be shouting after him, some crap about youth. And you would be at your home and I would be at mine, and we'd both sigh at how loud they were, but never tell them to stop. We wouldn't want them to stop. We wouldn't want him to leave us." Tenten stops abruptly, letting the depth of her sensei's death weigh itself on her heart, finally letting herself hurt outside the dark cave her home had become.
Neji pauses in his wrapping, and he can feel the tension in the air mount with each passing second. "He wouldn't want you to be like this," he tells her seriously, staring at her ankle rather than her face.
Tenten allows herself a small smile, and she reaches to punch Neji on the shoulder chummily. He catches her hand, however, and tangles his fingers with hers. Suddenly there is a new hunger inside of her and her stomach fills with a burning sensation to just touch and hold and love him. Neji appears to feel it too, for he hastily wraps the rest of her foot, and then settles back at her side, his fingers fumbling along her jaw.
They kiss and do not part until Tenten's fingers are knotted horribly in Neji's hair, and the Hyuuga is cradling her cheek with one hand, the other sliding down her back.
Neji presses his forehead to hers, and he can see the grief and lust jumbling and conflicting within her, coiling into a hot burning pain in her gut. He brushes his lips against hers again, before gently pushing her head onto his shoulder, her face buried in the crook of his neck.
The wind was dying down, and somewhere in the distance the streetlamps were being lit. "Stay with me." It was Tenten's turn to give him a command. Her fingers unwound themselves from his hair and came down to scrunch the fabric of his shirt.
Neji kissed her head again before detaching himself from her so as to stand. He pulled her up after smoothing his clothes (a gesture so Neji-like, Tenten grinned).
"Of course." And together, hand-in-hand, they walked home, fearless.
A/N: So I decided to explore a different way of writing with this-it is in present tense (kinda). By the way, Gai sensei died in the war (this takes place afterwards). I hoped you all liked it!
Thank you for reading and please review!