This story is dedicated to two of my best friends, Ed and Winry 4ever and Caraqueen. ^_^ You guys are absolutely awesome, and this wouldn't be here without you guys. Y'all got me hooked on FanFiction, Naruto, AND NejiTen! I love you, guys, and I hope you like this!
Oh, and by the way, almost all of the information about Tenten I got from a website, so most of it is true :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Breaking the Rules
Neji had always taken his job as a shinobi very seriously. He trained every day without fail whether it was raining, snowing, or even hailing. Long after other ninjas would have quit, Neji was still on the practice field, sweating vigorously and breathing hard. He was the model ninja, and that wasn't even considering his missions. He did his jobs quickly, precisely, and always finished what he started no matter what. There were never any loose ends.
When Lord Hokage sent their squad on a mission, he expected it to be completed without a hitch. That's why Neji, accompanied by his teammates, Tenten and Lee, and his squad leader, Guy sensei, was chosen for this particular job.
A band of rogue ninjas had been spotted near the borders of the Hidden Leaf Village. As if that wasn't enough, the dangerous group was stealing from the village's animal herds and gardens. It was only a matter of time before the ninjas did something a little more daring.
It was up to Guy's squad to drive away the rogue band, and if forced, to capture or eliminate them. It was just another job for a shinobi.
Neji found it to be a simple mission. If democracy did not work as it most often does not, then he would show these foreign ninjas just what happens when you mess with the Leaf village. Of course, not every mission goes exactly according to plan.
"There are five of them," Tenten noted officially. "Two are weapon masters, and they each have a very wide variety of blades and other lethal objects. ...I'm jealous."
"There is a water-style ninja and an earth-style ninja as well," Lee added.
Neji finished the assessment by stating, "The last ninja is a master of speed and skill and is quick with a knife. He is one of the most infamous thieves in all of Konoha. He is obviously the leader of this group."
The three genin were all crouching in the trees, peering down at the ninjas below. They had located their hideout, a small cave, and were now taking mental notes on their enemies, so they would be more prepared for the inevitable battle.
"Good job, team," Guy sensei congratulated with a sparkly smile. "There is enough for one each with one ninja left over. I can take him. Ready?"
The three ninjas nodded.
"Then let's go."
Four blurs darted down and landed just outside the small circle. The rogue ninjas, who had been boasting over their latest booty, looked up startled. The leader, the thief, grinned wickedly. "Looks like we have company, men," he growled.
Guy sensei stepped forward, his hands up in a gesture of peace. "We have not come to fight though we will if we have to," he claimed. "We have come to ask that you leave our borders."
"And what if we don't want to?" the leader sneered, already standing up and fingering the kunai in his belt. Neji noticed that the rest of the ninjas were reaching for their weapons as well and crouched down in his own battle stance.
"Then I guess we'll just have to fight," Guy decided and gave one more sparkly smile. "Fight with the power of youth!" he declared to his pupils and slashed out at the leader.
And so the battle began.
Before Guy could make a mark on the leader, one of the weapon masters stepped in front of him. The man was tall, wide, and just plain big. A leering smirk played on his lips as he raised a large morning star over his head. Guy definitely had his work cut out for him.
Lee took on the earth-style ninja while Neji was battling the water-style shinobi. Tenten took the other weapon master. It was a regular battle as far as that went. Kunai flew, battle cries bellowed, and adrenaline pumped through the veins of the ninjas. Everything was completely normal…
Until a scream echoed across the battle field.
Neji felt like time had stopped when he saw the blood. Of course, he had seen blood before - he was a ninja after all. He had seen his own blood, his comrades' blood, and blood he himself had spilled. But he wasn't sure he had ever seen so much blood…or blood that paralyzed him in his place like this did.
It was all Tenten could do not to pass out right then. The pain was exquisite and sharp, and it seemed to rack every nerve ending in her body though she knew the wound was in her torso. The puddle of blood soaking her shirt alerted her to that. All of her strength suddenly fled her body, and Tenten fell to the ground face first.
Neji barely remembered defeating his opponent before he was at his teammates' side. "Tenten," he whispered softly. When he heard no reply, his voice grew louder - into an order. "Tenten! Get up!"
"Don't waste your breath. She's done for," the leader told him. "I never miss my target. I give her an hour…tops." He smirked triumphantly.
Neji clenched his fists and glared at the ninja. "But you weren't the one fighting her. You stabbed her in the back while she was distracted, you coward!" he accused.
The rogue ninja shrugged. "You do what you have to do, kid," he said before disappearing to join the fight against Guy.
Neji wanted nothing more than to tear that guy apart limb from limb, but he knew he couldn't. If what the ninja said was true, he had one hour to take Tenten back to the Leaf village to the hospital. That wasn't very much time for the journey he had ahead of him.
A slight groan escaped Tenten's crumpled form. "Tenten, you're conscious. I'm going to remove the kunai from your back. This may hurt, but it must be done. I'm sorry," he told her hastily, but he made sure to keep his voice calm and steady. He didn't want her to know how scared he was.
Neji didn't wait for Tenten's reply before grasping the hilt of the kunai. He hesitated for a moment…it was much deeper than he had originally thought… But it had to be done. Neji pulled. Tenten screamed. The kunai hit the dirt.
Tenten's body began trembling as more blood poured from the open wound. Neji froze, panic threatening to overtake his heart. Focus! he mentally shouted at himself. Neji took off his tan shirt and wrapped it around Tenten's torso, hoping to stifle the flow. He then took off his shinobi headband, something he absolutely hated doing, and used it to tie the shirt tightly around her waist.
Neji didn't think about what he was leaving behind. He didn't think about how Lee and Guy were fighting two enemy ninjas each. He didn't think of how he was completely abandoning his mission and therefore permanently scarring his perfect record.
The only thing occupying Neji's mind was getting Tenten to the hospital.
Neji scooped Tenten into his arms bridal-style. She was unconscious now, and cold sweat coated her skin. Neji tried to ignore how blood was already beginning to seep through his shirt.
And just like that: they were gone.
Tenten eased back into consciousness about five minutes into their journey. "N-Neji?" she whispered, trying to focus on his face. Why in the world was he holding her like this? And with his shirt off?
"I've got to take you back to the hospital, Tenten," Neji explained. "Your injuries are serious, so we need to be as quick as possible."
"But the mission-?"
"-is not important right now. All that matters is getting you cared for."
Tenten stared up at Neji in utter disbelief. Suddenly, a new glint lit up in her brown eyes, and she began poking Neji in the chest vigorously.
"What are you doing?" Neji snapped, surprise breaking into his usually stern voice.
"There is no way the Neji Hyuga I know would say that the mission is 'not important' - especially just because I'm injured, fatal or not. It must be a transformation jitsu," she stated calmly, still poking hard though it was doing little good. In all honesty, it was probably hurting her finger more than anything. Talk about rock-hard abs.
Neji sighed. "Tenten, it really is me," he assured her.
"Prove it," Tenten demanded.
"Tell me something only Neji would know about me," she ordered.
Neji thought for a moment. "You talk in your sleep," he told her.
Tenten considered this before tossing it away. "An enemy ninja could have found that out. Something else."
"Your blood type is B."
"Anyone could look in my records and see that."
Neji sighed. "Your birthday is March 9, and you like to spend that entire day resting and staying as far away from missions as possible. Your face changes expressions when you're reading, depending on what's going on in the book. You're an extreme feminist, and you despise weakness and having to depend on someone else. Your nose crinkles slightly just before you drift off to sleep though you don't know it. You hate pickled plums. You're left handed. You're naturally curious, and you hate being kept out of the loop. You keep a rough and stern front, but you have a softer side that won't hesitate to comfort someone in need. You also have a certain fondness of weapons that's a little scary sometimes. …good enough?"
TenTen was stunned into silence. Since when did Neji know so much about her? She didn't even know he paid attention to her as anything more than a teammate. "Okay…I believe you," she admitted and looked down at her torso, unable to look him in the eyes.
This only made it worse however. She saw his shirt wrapped around her wound which explained his shirtless-ness, but it didn't explain why he cared so much. Seriously, what was going on?
Neji himself was actually a little surprised. He had never realized how much time he spent studying the brown-eyed girl. He certainly didn't know that much about Lee.
Neji sprinted from tree to tree as fast as he could. Hearing Tenten's voice only made him that more urgent to get her to the hospital. How much time had passed since that ninja declared she only had an hour? He didn't even want to think about it.
"Neji, you need to stop."
"What?" Neji panted. Sweat glowed on his brow where his headband normally would have been. His body was obviously beginning to feel the strain.
"Your pushing yourself too hard. You need to stop and rest for a few minutes, Neji," Tenten told him, concerned.
"I will rest when you are in safe hands."
"I am in safe hands," Tenten assured him. "But you need to stop - just for a little bit."
Neji didn't bother answering.
"NEJI HYUGA, STOP RIGHT NOW!"
Neji stumbled on the next tree limb and was forced to stop, or he was going to trip, fall, and take Tenten with him. "What is it?" he snapped, clearly irritated.
"Neji, if you keep going like you are, you're going to pass out at the edge of the Leaf village. I'm too weak to even walk, so I'd just have to lay there until you woke up which could be hours. If you rest now, we'll be able to make it all the way to the village," she explained quickly as if she was afraid he'd take off before she could finish.
Neji thought this over for a minute, hating that she was right. It was what she said about him passing out for hours that got to him. She didn't have hours - less than one.
"Fine," he surrendered. "We'll rest for ten…no, seven minutes."
Tenten sighed though she knew this was as good as she was going to get. Neji jumped down to the ground and leaned Tenten against a tree. He then sat down across from her.
Neji almost wished he hadn't. From this view, he could clearly see the beads of sweat coating her waxy, pale skin. Her breaths were ragged and raspy. The shirt he wrapped around her torso was now soaked with blood.
"You can lose four pints of blood without dying," Tenten stated, guessing at his thoughts. "I've probably lost three…and a half. I'm sure I'm good though."
Neji didn't like those odds. He abruptly stood up. "We're leaving."
"You've only sat down for two minutes - tops!" Tenten protested.
Neji waved her words away. "That's not important. I need to get you to the hospital."
Neji scooped her up in his arms before she could say anything against it. Once again, they were in the trees. Neji picked up his pace to even faster than before. He estimated that he was about two-thirds through with the journey, but that wasn't good enough. There wasn't much time…
When Neji finally arrived at the borders of the Hidden Leaf village, he was absolutely exhausted. Not only was the journey long and hard, but he had taken it at full speed and with Tenten's added weight. If it weren't for the fact that Tenten was fading fast, already to weak to even lift her head, Neji would have passed out on the spot.
But he couldn't do that. He had to get Tenten to the hospital. Neji was dead on his feet as he stumbled into the waiting room doors, almost collapsing on the floors. "We have an emergency," he announced loudly. "I need your best surgeon; we have a ninja down!"
Soon, there were people in white coats everywhere. Neji's nerves were already strained, and this was not helping in the least. "I need you to operate on my teammate," he explained impatiently. "Now!"
After several minutes of tense explaining, Tenten was finally taken away on a stretcher to the operating room. Finally fulfilling his mission, Neji collapsed in a waiting room chair. Tenten was with the surgeons. Tenten was safe. And that was all that mattered.
Sleep threatened to take Neji, but he refused to let it win. He would not succumb to unconsciousness until he was absolutely sure that Tenten had made it through the surgery safely. Until then, he would wait on pins and needles for her return.
Hours passed, and Neji had not moved. The sun had set long ago. Finally, a nurse came to him, telling him that Tenten was out of surgery and resting in a hospital room. She would have to stay overnight, but she would be fine.
Neji's face remained impassive as he followed the nurse to Tenten's room, but on the inside, he was cheering in such a way that anyone who would have eavesdropped on his mind (how strange that would be) would think that he had gone completely and utterly insane. Maybe he had.
"This is the room," the nurse said, motioning to the door. "Visiting hours end in ten minutes until tomorrow morning in which they will begin again at six." The nurse left, leaving Neji outside the door.
When Neji entered the room, the first thing he noticed was Tenten's bloody clothes along with his soiled shirt and shinobi headband piled on the floor. His next thoughts were thoughts he'd rather keep to himself.
"Neji," Tenten greeted warmly. She was, indeed, wearing a hospital gown, so all was well as far as that goes. Tenten sat up briefly at Neji's entering before wincing and falling back against the pillow. "It's good to see you," she choked out, trying to hide the pain.
Neji was at her side immediately. "Have you had pain medication?" he asked.
Tenten waved the question away. "I'm fine. The surgery went well, and the pain is only an afterthought. All thanks to you." She smiled warmly at the last words.
Neji looked away. "That's what teammates are for," he muttered.
Tenten blushed. "Yeah…well…I think I owe you…something at least…"
"Visiting hours are over."
Tenten sighed at the sharp voice of the nurse, her disappointment and relief mingling.
"Don't worry. I'll be back tomorrow," he promised, grabbed his forehead protector, and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Tenten sighed. "I just wanted to say thank you for saving my life," she told the empty room. "And that I really appreciate that not only did you run a solid twenty miles with me in your arms, but you did it almost without stopping. I like you a lot, Neji. It just took me almost dying to figure it out." Tenten sighed wistfully once again and closed her eyes to go to sleep.
Just outside the hospital door, the nurse also sighed wistfully. "Ah, young love."
When Neji made it back to the waiting room, someone was waiting for him. "Hello, Guy sensei," he greeted coolly.
Guy was wearing a stern expression that looked strange on his normally exuberant face. "Come walk with me," he ordered grimly.
The two shinobi left the hospital without a word and began walking the streets of the Hidden Leaf village. "I know what you want to talk to me about. I know what I did wrong," Neji said.
Guy completely ignored Neji's words. "Do you know where Lee is right now? He's at home, fast asleep. The poor kid was completely exhausted after fighting two enemy ninjas all on his own. I'm tired myself even being the excellent shinobi I am." Guy took this moment to give a sparkly smile, but he quickly turned scolding again. "We were already down one ninja, and one more just left."
"Tenten's fine by the way since you asked," Neji pointed out spitefully. "She made it out of surgery without a problem."
Guy looked a little uncomfortable at this but chose to ignore it. "You abandoned your mission," he stated sternly.
"I did it for a teammates' wellbeing."
"And you sacrificed another teammates' wellbeing for it!" Neji looked away angrily, but that didn't stop Guy's accusations. "What if Lee would have died because of this?"
"They were nothing but rogue ninjas. That's not a battle you die in," Neji said, his voice even.
"But you would have abandoned the mission even if it was a fatal battle," Guy pointed out. Neji didn't deny it. "Neji, you must never abandon a mission again. It goes against the ninja way even if it was in the name of youthful love."
Neji's eyes flashed dangerously. "I don't know what you're talking about," he claimed quickly.
Guy chuckled, his stern demeanor finally lifting to show his true nature beneath. "Now, now, Neji, there's no use denying it. You practically glow with the burning of love. Ah, the power of youth," he mused as he sauntered away.
Neji was left in the dark, empty streets of the Leaf village all alone.
After making a quick stop to his home to put on another shirt, Neji returned to the hospital waiting room where he slept for a few hours before he awoke promptly at ten minutes until six. When the minute hand finally hit the twelve, Neji was opening the door to Tenten's hospital room. She was still sleeping, but Neji didn't mind. He liked hearing her talk in her sleep.
"…wanted to say…just wanted to say…" she mumbled in a whisper. Neji grinned fondly to himself and then sat down in the chair next to her bed. He would wait for her to wake up.
He didn't have to wait long. "Neji?" her voice was faint from sleep, and her eyes were glazed over and slightly pink.
"Good morning," he greeted warmly.
"Good morning," she repeated. "How long have you been here?"
"Not long," he assured her. "Let me go get you some breakfast." When Neji returned with a tray full of food, Tenten was much more awake and alert than before.
"Thanks," she said, smiling. "Will you put it on the table for now?"
"You need to eat to get your strength back up," he advised, but complied with his wishes.
Tenten nodded. "I know, but I want to do something first. Will you come over here for a second?"
Slightly confused but curious, Neji walked over to Tenten's bedside. She motioned for him to come closer. Neji leaned down until his face was barely inches from hers.
She kissed him.
Neji had no idea what he had expected, but it certainly wasn't this. And he definitely hadn't imagined how…how… Neji lost the ability to think or do anything at all as Tenten's lips collided with his own.
When she pulled away, Neji was at a loss for words.
"I just wanted to say thank you," she whispered.
"For saving my life."