Disclaimer: Characters, settings and the universe of Naruto belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
Chapter One – Happiness
The cool wind whispered through the trees of Konoha, bringing with it the soothing rustle of leaves and the scents of spring. The early evening air was light and peaceful, the sun filling the clearing with a soft, warm light that filtered through the foliage and down to the three shinobi. One was sitting under a tree, legs crossed with one leg slightly on top of the other, hands on knees; a typical lotus position. The other two were in the middle of a spar, one running along the branches, the other on the ground, running parallel to her.
To the meditating ninja's ears, the only sounds that broke the peaceful birdsong and the otherwise quiet afternoon was the sound of steel hitting the ground and various unfortunate trees, mixed in with the inarticulate cries most common to taijutsu experts. There was a cry when his teammates' constant noise would have annoyed the Hyuuga prodigy beyond reason before he'd snap at them to stop interfering with his meditation. Now, however, he just sat still, letting the sun's light warm his legs slightly as he took in the birdsong and the sound of his friends' spar. The latter was no longer an unwelcome nuisance. If only, Neji thought, their afternoons could always be this peaceful.
"If I cannot drink this milkshake in one breath, I shall do three hundred laps around Konoha on one arm!" Neji heard his green-clad teammate proclaim. His previous good mood from the clearing had evaporated the moment the three had left the training grounds for the night. Tenten, their team's kunoichi and resident weapons' mistress, had suggested they all get a milkshake for their efforts that day. Neji didn't need the reward, but he'd agreed to go with his team. After all, the Jounin was far fonder of him than he'd ever have imagined he would become in his Genin years.
He would have been happier if it were only him and Tenten, away from Lee's self-imposed dares and tasks. Though the two had made great progress in bonding with each other, there were still times Neji thought the other boy was stupid, crazy, or both. This was one of those times.
"Lee…" Tenten sighed, sipping her strawberry milkshake slowly. She had an exasperated look on her face, always the one that had to reign in him and their sensei when they began like this. "if you drink your milkshake so fast, you'll get brain freeze." She warned him, not so much angry as weary.
"Oho!" their bushy-eyebrowed friend grinned, striking a Nice Guy pose. "Then, if I get brain freeze, I shall still do the laps around Konoha!" he proclaimed and proceeded to suck vehemently on his banana-strawberry milkshake before the two saner members of his squad could stop him. Both Neji and Tenten sighed as he let go of the glass, yelping and holding his head. "Ow ow ow ow!"
"Told you so." Tenten sighed, looking at the boy sympathetically. She knew the pain would pass soon enough; brain freeze was only temporary, after all.
It spoke in favor of Neji's transformation that he didn't throw a scathing remark at his teammate. Instead, he looked up from his vanilla milkshake and mixed it with his straw. "There's no point in doing laps around Konoha." He told him.
"But I set the challenge and now I must complete it!" Lee said, standing up and throwing his stool back in the process. Several of the café's patrons turned to look at them, then returned to their drinks and companions. Any commotion caused by the Green Beasts of Konoha was by now a familiar sight. Most didn't even bat an eyelid when Lee smacked down several ryo on the bar in front of him and gave a stiff salute, dedication written in his eyes. "I must complete my laps before midnight!"
"Lee-" Tenten tried to save the situation, but lee was already off, having rushed for the door and done an impressive handstand right outside it. Then, ligting one of his hands behind his back, he proceeded to hop along on the other at high speed. Tenten looked after him, sighing again at his eagerness – or stupidity, whichever you preferred – and turned back to her drink.
Neji hadn't even turned. He could see Lee even with his Byakugan, but he had no interest to see his teammate hop off. Finally, some peace.he thought, massaging his temples slightly; his friend's proclamations and insane dares often gave him a headache.
"He's gone." Tenten.
"Yes." Neji. They sat in silence for a while, both drinking their milkshakes in companionable quiet. When the team was gathered, lee usually monopolized the conversation, forcing replies and protests out of Tenten, indignant responses and eyerolls from Neji. When it was just the two of them, though, it was rare for one to try and fill the silence. Both could communicate in few words and, really, preferred it that way. There was enough clamor when their teacher and other teammate were present to satisfy them both for the day.
"I wonder if he'll finish his challenge before he has to go to the bathroom." Tenten mused. Naji raised an eyebrow, his mouth quirking up in a smile.
"I hope so." The Jounin replied, the two turning back to their drinks.
It was almost eleven PM when Neji and Tenten began to walk homewards. The two never walked each other home, as Tenten didn't want to feel like Neji was escorting her in the dangerous night and Neji didn't want her to approach the Hyuuga compound. However, as their respective abodes were in the same general direction, the two usually walked together to a point where they had to part. Though the pair hardly planned for it, through the years this point had gradually become less convenient for both of them; it had begun as the exact mid-spot which was closest to both their homes and drifted from there so that, in the end, both had to backtrack somewhat when they parted. Neither complained, though; both found the other's company pleasing and the arrangement stuck.
As Neji Hyuuga nodded farewell to his teammate and leaped off, running along the top of a fence towards his clan's compound, he smiled slightly to himself. The day had gone by quite pleasantly, he had to admit. They had spent a very fruitful morningtraining, had eaten lunch at his favorite restaurant, and in the end, Lee had only struck four Nice Guy poses.
Life could be worse, he mused as he carefully disrobed in his room, folding the day's clothes neatly on the low table in the center. As he donned his night clothes and unrolled his futon, he had to smile to himself again.
Life is good. he thought privately as he drifted off into slumber.
Author: Thank you for reading and please look forward to Chapter Two: Youthful Departure. And remember, leaving reviews makes us happy. ^_^