Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Really. I'm serious.
And... we'll assume this takes place post-war. Probably.
Tenten had been thinking far too much that morning, and that was always a dangerous thing.
Namely, she'd been contemplating a story she'd heard from Hinata the prior evening; the girls of the Konoha 12 had met for dinner, as they occasionally did when schedules permitted. The shy Hyuuga girl had never been very talkative, but that merely meant that when she did choose to talk, she inevitably had something interesting to say. And in this particular case, it had definitely piqued Tenten's curiosity.
She mulled it over as she flung her backpack over her shoulder and headed out the door, listening to the satisfactory click of the lock behind her.
"Naruto-kun was telling me the other day…" Hinata began, almost so quietly that Tenten couldn't hear her over the incessant babbling of Ino Yamanaka, who only froze in her rambling when Tenten put up a hand to shush her.
"About his mother. She was the Kyuubi's Jinchuriki, before Naruto-kun. He was telling me about when she was younger. How she got kidnapped once."Hinata explained hesitantly.
"Kidnapped?" Ino narrowed her eyes skeptically as she cut the quiet girl off. "Don't you think it's a bit careless for the village just to let their only Jinchuriki get kidnapped?"
"Well, that's kind of the point." Hinata continued softly. "They didn't really care about her… none of them other than the Fourth. He was the only one who noticed her disappearance, and he immediately went after her, all by himself."
"How romantic." Ino intoned quietly, and Sakura, who remained silent on her other side, nodded her agreement.
"What crap." Tenten muttered under her breath, but it still must have been too loud, because three faces turned to look at her, identical expressions of incredulity reflected on them.
"Oh, come on, Tenten!" Ino poked her arm. "Even you know that's completely romantic."
"And even if you don't see it that way," Sakura added, "you know it's what all of our teammates would do for us if anything ever happened."
"Shino and Kiba would track me down immediately." Hinata agreed.
"Heck, even my lazy ass teammates would do something if I were ever kidnapped." Ino laughed lightly. "We're fortunate."
Tenten trudged up the hill and let that thought carry her to the training grounds. Was she really fortunate? Certainly not like Naruto's mother, saved by the Fourth. She was pretty sure that Lee would come after her, if something ever happened, but the more she'd contemplated it, the more doubtful she'd become about Neji. Would he genuinely be so concerned as to come after her, or just view it as another product of shinobi lifestyle, to be dealt with by the team assigned to her rescue, if such a thing happened? It was a question that warranted answering.
As usual, her stoic partner had arrived before her, and Tenten took a moment to stare at him as he silently meditated before starting to pull out her gear. It only took that extra instant of her silent attention and his eyes snapped open; his iridescent pupils moved smoothly to regard her.
"Is something wrong?"
"No." Tenten shook her head quickly and turned back around, completely missing the skeptical quirk of the eyebrow given by the Hyuuga boy at her all-too-nonchalant dismissal.
When she turned back around and he still hadn't moved, she knew she wasn't going to be able to keep up this front. With Neji, it was best to just be direct about these things.
"I was just thinking," she prefaced, and Neji smirked slightly, glad –not for the first time—that Tenten was not a normal girl who would pass things off as fine and wait for him to inquire further. It spared everyone a great deal of pain and tribulation.
"Do you know much about the Fourth?"
Tenten realized when the question slipped out that it hadn't been the one Neji was expecting. He paused ever so slightly in the process of standing up, and when he turned back to her, there was the barest hint of a question in his expression.
"In what capacity?"
Apparently, that had been the correct question, because Tenten got notably flustered.
"His, umm… well, some of his missions as a young man. Did you know he once saved the Jinchuriki of the village when she was kidnapped?"
"Yes, I did." Neji said levelly, but the slightest edge in his voice belied a curiosity that hinted that he still didn't quite know what this was about. Tenten pulled out two of her best scrolls and began fiddling with them, glad that she had something to occupy herself with rather than having to stand and deal with Neji's penetrating gaze.
"Just got me thinking, you know…" Unwrap the scrolls, make sure the seals are ready… "…if something were ever to happen to me…" place the scrolls back in their holsters… there weren't that many preparations she could fake, so she'd have to be getting to the point pretty quickly… "…well, I mean, I just hope that you would… you know, come after me. Not just leave me to be kidnapped."
Her eyes flickered up to meet Neji's gaze, and she immediately regretted it. His expression was one of complete condescension, as though she had just said the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard, and the accompanying amused "hn." served as decent proof that her assumptions weren't too far off. Tenten could only hope that the red in her cheeks wasn't too prominent, and after a few moments, she turned away to check on weapons that weren't really there just so she could regain her composure.
Glancing down at the scrolls attached to her side, her face still burning, she made a decision.
"You know what?" She turned back around after a few moments, all semblance of embarrassment gone. "Let's do hand-to-hand today. No weapons for me, no Kaiten for you. Good? Good."
She didn't even wait for his agreement, just dropped her scrolls and weapon pouches, falling into a fighting stance. Neji responded in kind, only slightly fazed by his teammate's strange behavior.
They moved forward like dancers, perfectly in step at the start of the spar. Tenten's first few blows were careless, however, and Neji caught her easily in the side when she missed a simple block. The blow threw her off balance, and in the few seconds it took her to regain her center of gravity, she realized something: while Neji's apparent indifference had saddened her initially…
Tenten stood back up, and this time, every movement was serious and calculated. Her eyes blazed with fresh anger. If he didn't think her valuable before, he'd find a reason to after this spar.
Neji didn't immediately note her fury, at his own peril. When she came at him at full-speed, he barely had time to react to the strike at his chest, and the foot that had come around to aim at his shin grazed the skin. He immediately jumped back, about to start the Kaiten, but then he remembered the stipulations of the spar.
As Tenten charged at him again with redoubled effort, he had to wonder if it had been an entirely good idea to agree to this.
Every blow Tenten aimed at him seemed to have twice the energy of the one before, and he was fairly certain that even with all of the fiery outbursts he had witnessed from his teammate over the years, he had never seen her attack someone quite this ferociously. That view was confirmed when a mistimed block allowed one of her kicks to catch him in the chin, knocking Neji Hyuuga, the genius of his clan, to the ground like a ragdoll.
And Tenten wasn't done. Even as he hit the ground, she was ready with the next attack, and Neji rolled to the side just in time to miss getting driven into the ground by a fist to the stomach.
He sprang back to his feet, growing more concerned by the minute. What in the world did Tenten think she was doing?
"Are you trying to kill me?" He barked, missing another close blow to the head.
Tenten shrugged her shoulders casually even as she moved forward. "Killing intent. Isn't that the point of hand-to-hand combat?"
This time, Neji was ready for the blows; they might have been ferocious, which caught him off guard at first, but he was slowly acclimating to her strike pattern, and her aim was getting slightly inaccurate in her anger. When her hands shot toward him, he deflected one easily and managed to catch her wrist, restraining the other shortly thereafter by twisting her arms behind her back.
"Would you care to explain why you seem to have gotten into your head that I'm an enemy rather than your sparring partner?"
Tenten struggled against his grip, but he seemed to have effectively immobilized her for the time being. She scowled.
"Well, obviously if I ever got kidnapped, I'd have to fend for myself, so I might as well hone my combat skills now while I can." She snarled back at him, trying to ignore the sensation of her stomach doing acrobatics, as it had recently taken to doing whenever she found herself in such close proximity to Neji. Apparently even righteous indignation didn't prevent that.
"What?" The pure shock was palpable in Neji's voice, and Tenten exploited his moment of confusion, breaking his slackened grip to propel herself away from him. She landed on the other side of the training field, panting slightly from exertion as she looked up at him, her brown eyes still accusing.
"Given your earlier response, I wouldn't be getting much help from you." Her statement was met with a look of pure stupefaction, which on Neji Hyuuga still looked something akin to stoicism on anyone else. Only the subtle tension of muscles along his forehead and cheeks gave a clue to the workings of the mind going on beneath the surface.
Tenten took the opportunity to prepare another attack, confident that she had rendered him immobile long enough to get in a good blow, possibly to end the match altogether.
What she had failed to recognize, however, was that her opponent was still Neji Hyuuga. And not merely Neji Hyuuga, but Neji Hyuuga who was now aware of precisely why his sparring partner was so infuriated with him.
His arms snaked out before she even had a chance to set herself up to land a blow, catching her right forearm and twirling her around with effortless grace to pin her shoulder with his palm to one of the multiple targets that were littered around their training ground. Under his iron grip, she had nowhere to go.
"Tenten," he began in a voice that was infuriatingly calm. "You seem to have gotten a mistaken impression from my earlier response."
She tried to strike out with her knee; he snapped his own leg forward, locking her leg in place.
"I had assumed that you would understand the implications of such a question, but I see now that perhaps I need to explain. You see, when you asked whether I would come after you if something were to happen to you, I assumed the answer would be obvious. It only makes sense, considering that you are my teammate and closest companion…"
Tenten, at this point, had been contemplating what other means of escape she had, and had been about to jerk her head forward to collide with his, but the last words stopped her. Unfortunately—or as she would recall later, rather fortunately—Neji anticipated the movement, and responded accordingly. Before she was able to move her head, his forehead moved to rest against hers, essentially pinning it to the target board behind it. Tenten was suddenly very nervous for reasons that she could not fully express effectively in words.
She also became quite suddenly aware that she was, for all intents and purposes, completely entangled with Neji Hyuuga.
"… that you would know, without my having to tell you, that any self-righteous bastard who dared to try to take you away from me…" His lavender gaze bored into hers, and as it flickered from her eyes down to her lips, which were dangerously close to his own, he smiled just slightly. "…would have hell to pay for it, many times over."
Tenten felt the blood rising to her cheeks again, and this time there was absolutely no way to hide it. Just when she felt as though something within her was about to burst, he pulled away slightly, raising an eyebrow as he regarded her.
"Of course, that's assuming they would even want to try to kidnap you in the first place, with all the trouble you'd give them."
Tenten glared at him, but her anger was rapidly dissipating. Neji was aware of the fact and he just smirked, which only served to slow the process.
And so, Tenten did the only thing that would wipe that self-righteous smile off his face…
… fortunately, Neji was quick enough to avoid the potentially crippling blow to a sensitive area.
Tenten whipped around, crossing her arms as she looked warily at her smug training partner.
"So… you mean that?"
Neji moved back toward her, closing the space between them so rapidly that it made Tenten's head spin. By the time his hand touched her chin, all pretense of anger was gone.
"Tenten." The slight amusement in his voice at her skepticism was enough to warrant a retort, but Tenten found herself easily distracted from any response by the sudden pressure of his lips against her own.
"Definitely fortunate." Tenten murmured against his lips, and he pulled away slightly, giving her a questioning glance. Tenten merely smiled, pulling him back toward her.
"So I suppose we're calling this a draw?"
Neji anticipated it even before she spun out of his arms and back into a defensive stance. At that moment, Neji Hyuuga—genius that he was—had no idea how the woman before him, with that beautiful, unquenchable spirit, could ever doubt that he would always fight for her.
She gave him a wicked grin.
"Not on your life."
A/N: So... yeah. Felt like writing a NejiTen oneshot, so here it is. (I think I've been experiencing a bit of writing withdrawal after finishing Shadows... But hey! At least this is less depressing than the last NejiTen I wrote...) I'd been mulling over the idea for this story for a while, after watching the Shippuden episodes with Kushina and Minato, who are utterly adorable. It finally came together as the product of a furious writing session yesterday and then some tweaking after I watched a couple episodes of Naruto this afternoon. (I'd forgotten how intense Neji's battle with Kidomaru was... yikes. O.o) As it stands, I'm pretty happy with the way this turned out.
Anywho, reviews are treasured. Leave one, if you'd be so kind. Thanks for reading! ^_^