A/N: oh hai gaiz. Still rusty, but still writing! Thank you all for your precious reviews; you guys are the reason I'm still writing! Well, that and for Nejiten, lulz, and great justice. ;D
NarutoSD episode reference: 22
Chapter 3: Swimsuits
Since ninja had erratic free time, the kunoichi never had regularly scheduled meetups. It was more like a random call or text of "Hey, I'm free, wanna hang out?" or "OMG I gotta tell you guys this!" or "blasdfzfrrgh," which translated to "Guys I am going to get straight up drunk, there is no hope, I need a lift." Not surprisingly, it was Tenten that used the last mode of communication most frequently.
This time, the kunoichi found Tenten completely plastered, face planted straight on the bar countertop, one hand dangling loosely and the other clutched tightly around a nearly empty wine bottle as if it were the last remaining source of sanity on this poor earth. Judging by the spray of kunai embedded into the back bar and the bartender's careful edging around the patently still-dangerous weapons mistress, Tenten wouldn't accept anything else.
Immediately Sakura sighed and pulled up her medic jutsu, so Tenten wouldn't have as bad of a hangover. Meanwhile Hinata quietly told the bartender that yes, they would take care of the clearly distraught kunoichi at the bar and Ino leaned over to pluck Tenten's kunais free, neatly arranging them back on the counter for Tenten to collect.
"Tenten, what happened?" Sakura admonished, as her green glowing hands came down to rest on Tenten's temples.
Tenten turned her head to the side, blearily cracked an eye open, and then immediately closed her eye again as the world spun around. She made an unintelligible groan.
The other kunoichi were experienced enough to not bother pushing Tenten further, and just gathered around to support the much-put-upon member of Team Gai. Finally, after a couple heaves of tearless sobs and a few backrubs from Hinata, Tenten croaked out what had utterly shattered her worldview:
"Guys," Tenten sniffled, "I think Neji's gay."
Moment of silence.
"Bartender, another round of drinks."
Sakura gasped and glared at Ino. "Ino! Don't do that—"
"What? If one of the hottest guys of Konoha is officially off the market this so calls for drinks." Ino plopped down next to Tenten and poured out the rest of the wine bottle into Tenten's glass, then slid a handful of bills across and motioned for the bartender to hurry it up.
Ino ignored her and popped open the second wine bottle's cork, filling Tenten's glass to the top and shoving it towards Tenten, who morosely stared at the glass of wine before her. It had betrayed her. No matter how much she drank, she wasn't ever going to forget That Look Neji had made. It was burned into her brain, seared through like hot iron, forever to haunt her memories. Maybe she should ask Ino to erase them. The Yamanaka clan had a lot of mind jutsu, didn't they?
Tenten sighed and tugged her new-filled glass towards her. Her head was swimming and yet it still wouldn't go away.
"Tenten-san? I-I don't think, that is, um, Neji's not—" Hinata stuttered, forefingers poking together with a beet red face.
Tenten waved a floppy hand. "That's what I thought too. Nope."
"But that joke's been going around—" Sakura protested.
Tenten whacked her head back onto the bar counter. "It's no use," she muttered into the woodwork. "Neji'll never look at me like that."
Above Tenten's dejected body, three sets of eyes were the size of dinner-plates. The silence grew longer, and longer, as everyone knew Tenten was going to have to explain herself before anyone moved from this spot.
With another sigh, Tenten hunched her shoulders back up and turned her head so she wasn't mashing her mouth against wood, and began to relate her sad, sad tale.
"So it's the end of summer, right? And Gai-sensei says at least once per summer we have to enjoy our springtime of youth, forgetting the whole summer/spring thing. Whatever. I wasn't complaining 'cause it'd be a great break from missions…"
Besides, their last mission had been in Suna. And Tenten much preferred the sand at the beach with a cool ocean than getting sand everywhere and no time for a bath. So sure, Tenten jumped at the chance to relax at the beach. Plus, it gave her a chance to test something out. Last time Hinata and Ino had pulled her aside and tried explaining why Neji had been acting so weird. Tenten, at the time, had thought it'd been a giant coincidence, but what if it was true? So she'd been hoping that, well, something would happen…
She should've known better. The last time she'd gotten a new swimsuit, Lee and Gai-sensei had spent it training-slash-try-to-see-Sakura's-swimsuit anyway and Neji was still a silent stick-in-the-mud.
"Right. Yeah. So, you know, Sakura said Naruto looked pretty hot when he trained with the waterfall—"
"Shut it, Ino-pig!"
Tenten continued, ignoring the tussle right over her. "So I figured, hey, if I get all wet and then walk up to Neji, something'll happen, right?"
And that's what she'd done. Dove into the ocean, swam around a bit to cool off and give an impression that she wasn't keeping track of Neji's position underwater.
So when she'd risen up from the water, her gaze had been directly at Neji.
"Except he wasn't looking at me, or at least nobody. No, he was, he was—" Tenten hiccupped. "He was staring at LEE—"
And then there were three simultaneous cries of, "NO WAY!"
Ino grabbed Tenten's shoulders out of Sakura's hands and began shaking Tenten like a rag doll. "Listen to me, Tenten! You must've been looking from the wrong angle, or it's those huge Byakugan pupils, because I swear that Neji is crazy about you and there is no way in hell that Neji was looking at Lee—"
"But he was!" Tenten wailed. "He was blushing!"
Another simultaneous round of, "NO WAY!"
Tenten groped for the wine bottle. "Lemme at it, it's not enough, I can't forget it—"
Sakura shoved the alcohol aside and tried to get Tenten to focus. There were flailing arms and streaming tears and possibly some snot (obviously, Tenten was Distraught with a capital D) until finally Sakura thought screw it, I'll explain to Tsunade-shishou later. With a second light touch to Tenten's head, Tenten instantly collapsed back down, fast asleep.
Everyone else stared at Sakura. Sakura put her hands on her hips. "What? If Tenten kept going at it she was going to get alcohol poisoning—"
Hinata still looked poleaxed, but Ino managed to shake herself out of shock and lift a finger to point behind Sakura. When Sakura glanced around to see what had her normally impervious friend/rival in such a daze, Sakura nearly fell over in shock herself.
It was Hyuuga Neji.
He made a straight beeline for his knocked-out teammate, only giving Hinata a cursory nod of respect, before scooping up Tenten in his arms. No one said anything. Everyone else just stared, with Hinata still holding up her cellphone with her thumb still on the Send button from texting her cousin earlier, "Tenten v. sad. Help?"
With Tenten cradled in his arms, Neji turned around and walked right out the bar without saying a word to anyone.
As if this were a perfectly normal occurrence, Neji strolled through the streets of Konoha carrying Tenten. He did, at least, take the care to choose a path where there were few passerby at this late hour. Neji made no effort to try waking his female teammate.
Because he was pretty sure Tenten would kill him if she knew the truth. The whole truth.
The truth was, Neji had actually been looking at Tenten the entire time until she'd come up out of the water. Suddenly embarrassed, Neji had furtively changed his gaze to look at anywhere but Tenten and happened to turn towards where Lee and Gai-sensei were training with shellfish.
Neji would never admit that he'd been peeking, after all.
It'd been hard enough not to say anything rude when Tenten skipped out in a tiny little red bikini, with that grin of hers. Or to drop his sunglasses when she slipped into the water and rolled around like a sleek otter. Or to not turn completely beet-red like his cousin did when Tenten rose up out of the water, skin glistening in the sunlight—
His hands tightened protectively around Tenten. If he was lucky, no one would ever, ever figure it out.
x x x
Back in the bar, Ino was the first to break the silence.
"Someone please tell me they got that on camera."