Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto in any way, shape, or form. The characters used all belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
by insert cliche
The first time Neji saw Tenten, he was at a public performance by a dojo from across town, watching her exhibition routine. She was on the stage with a blade in each hand, flipping and dodging and hitting imaginary opponents who, if they had been real, would surely have been dead already. Neji knew skill when he saw it.
She had the strangest style of fighting he had ever seen, because it was quite impure and she preferred the air to the earth. She would jump up higher than a normal human being could, start executing some of the most complicated flips in the martial arts repertoire, and manage her weapons at the same time with a fluid grace that could surpass that of a dancer's.
She might not have been the most impressive, especially not when compared to a strange pink-haired girl who had truly abnormal strength or a loud and hyperactive blonde who used sheer stamina to wear his opponents down, but she was captivating all the same.
His companions agreed.
"What do you think, Neji? Is she not one of the most youthful students up on that stage?"
"I wonder how she would do in our dojo. After all, Tsunade-sensei told us to scout out new students, right?"
"Ino, have you ever dealt with rival dojos that want their students back? Troublesome."
"Shut up, Shikamaru! You're just a total lazy-ass!"
Neji tuned out the squabbling pair behind him, and made a note to find out who that girl was.
Tenten sighed, sheathed her katanas, and zipped them into her bag. It had been a long day, with shows every hour and weaponry show-and-tell in the time in between. She just wanted to get away as quickly as possible, go home, and go to sleep.
Fate, however, had different plans for her.
The moment she walked out of the preparation tent, Tenten was mobbed by little kids, all of them clamoring for yet another demonstration. They latched onto her legs and pulled on her uniform, and Tenten had no way to free herself unless she heeded their wishes. The girl put her bag down and retrieved a handful of shuriken and a few kunai, and started throwing them at a target that had been pasted onto an old, battered tree.
The children stayed silent, completely awed by her perfect aim and skill. Nobody, not even Tenten herself, noticed how one of the bigger kids swiped a shuriken and hid it in her sleeve.
"Hanabi, where did you get that shuriken?" Neji frowned at his younger cousin, because there was absolutely no way she could have gotten a real, functional weapon through simple purchase. One had to be over sixteen to legally purchase any martial arts weapon.
Hanabi frowned back and clutched the metal star tightly. "None of your buisness," she said petulantly.
"On the contrary, younger cousin, it is," Neji countered. "If you stole that from a performer or from one of the blacksmith shops, then it will be returned immediately. Unless, of course, you want me to tell Uncle about how his own daughter acted like a common thief."
"No!" Hanabi yelled. "I want to keep it!"
"Fine." The seven-year-old pouted. "It's that brown haired girl."
Neji sighed and said, "If you are trying to make me give up and let you keep the shuriken, think again. Perhaps a few more details?"
Hanabi continued to pout. "That weapon girl with buns on her head."
"Better. Now would you like to lead me to her to apologize and return her shuriken?"
"...you're a big fat meanie, Neji-nii-san."
Tenten was packing her bags yet again when she noticed that one of her shuriken was missing. After a moment, she turned around abruptly and started looking everywhere for the weapon. What if one of the kids had taken it? If that had happened, she'd get into so much trouble with Hatake-sensei.
"Excuse me. Does this belong to you?" A deep, level voice interrupted her train of thought.
Tenten whipped around to find a tall boy with long hair and strange white eyes looking at her, shuriken in hand. He was grasping a younger child's shoulder tightly, and she realized that the little girl must have swiped the weapon while nobody had been looking.
Upon further analysis, Tenten discovered that it really was her shuriken. She sliced her name onto each and every one of her beloved weapons, even if it messed with the balance. It gave her a sense of power.
"Yes, it is! Thank you so much for finding it!"
The boy frowned for a second, and then nudged the younger girl. "My cousin stole it a little while ago. I think she has something to say." He emphasized the last three words, which had been mostly directed at the fuming child. "Hanabi..."
The little girl crossed her arms and bit out, "Sorry."
Tenten smiled. "As long as nobody got hurt, then I'm fine. Thanks so much for returning this to me."
The stranger nodded back, then held out his hand. "We're sorry for inconveniencing you. I'm Neji Hyuuga, by the way."
Tenten stuck out her own hand, and they shook.
"Tenten. Nice to meet you."
Neji couldn't shake off the feeling that he had seen the girl even before they met.
Neji was out getting groceries when a girl suddenly ran right into him, knocking the multiple bags of food onto the pavement. Slightly disoriented, he looked up at the attacker.
It was that Tenten girl. Who was also ranting like crazy.
"Ohmigosh I'm so sorry I was just running from my friends and this looked like a safe spot and I didn't see you and I blame it on Sakura and I really didn't see you are you okay I'm really sorry doyounneedhelporsomethingIca n-"
The girl started, then blinked at him. "Woah, how did you know my name? Are you a stalker or something?"
Neji couldn't help but want to bang his head against the wall. "I'm Neji. I believe my cousin stole one of your shuriken before."
He saw her eyes widen in recognition. "Ohhh. Right. Anyways, I'm really sorry about this. Can I do anything to make up for it?"
"It's fine. But would you like to have a coffee with me after I drop these off?"
Tenten's eyes narrowed, and she stared at him for a bit. "Are you asking for a date?"
Neji's face reddened slightly, but he tried to stay calm. "Just as friends, or something."
Tenten stared for a little while longer, then brightened up. "Okay! Let's go!"
Tenten didn't know why she felt such a connection between them.
"Alright, everyone! There's a martial arts competition in Konoha this week. Chunnins and above only. Weapons allowed. If you're interested, get forms from Shizune. If not, then go back to practicing, brats!" Tsunade stuck her head into the dojo, yelled for a bit, and went back out.
"What do you think, Neji? You going to join?"
"You should! It would be a shame to let all of your youth go to waste!"
"Lee, shut up. I'm too tired to hear this again." Shikamaru Nara had walked over and collapsed on the floor next to the two boys. "The tournament's too troublesome, anyways."
Kiba walked over, and sat down. "Who's competing? I am, and Shizune wants a rough head count."
"ME! The Green Beast will prevail!"
"Me!" Ino called from across the room.
"I will." Sasuke Uchiha had joined the group. "Hyuuga, you going?"
"Undecided," Neji deadpanned.
Sasuke smirked. "What, scared you're going to lose?"
"...count me in."
"Winner, Neji Hyuuga!"
"Winner, Naruto Uzumaki!"
"Winner, Sakura Haruno!"
"Winner, Sasuke Uchiha!"
"Winner, Shikamaru Nara!"
"Next match, Tenten versus Neji Hyuuga! Would competitors please come up!"
Neji looked to his left, and saw Tenten running up to the ring. He got up and stretched his arms for a moment before heading in the same direction.
"Fancy seeing you here," Tenten laughed.
"I could say the same," Neji smiled inwardly. He had known she would be at the competition.
"Competitors, please shake hands."
They shook, and stood for a while, chatting.
"So...we're going to fight each other. Think you're gonna win?" The brown haired girl was grinning, daring him to make a move and start the match. Neji chose to ignore her wishes.
"Tenten, I know I'm going to win."
Tenten raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? Sure you're not bragging?"
The tall boy smirked. "Would you like to see for yourself? You don't seem to trust my words."
Pulling a thin sword out of her uniform, Tenten laughed again and started walking towards him. "Maybe I will."
At last, the dragon and phoenix are reunited, in love and battle alike.
"That was amazing, Neji! You did really great!" Tenten, ever the optimist, was trying valiantly to get her companion to stop sulking about his defeat in the finals.
Neji ignored her.
"Come on, Neji. It's not like your life depended on victory. You did really well, okay? Now will you please stop sulking so I can enjoy my cookie like a normal person?"
The long-haired boy huffed, and turned his back on her before mumbling, "I shouldn't have fought you."
Tenten was quite confused. "Why? Was I not good enough, or something?" She held a piece of chocolate-chip cookie out as a peace offering.
Neji accepted the food, and answered only after finishing the small snack. "I shouldn't have fought you. Then maybe I could have won against that Naruto guy."
His companion took a moment to digest his statement. Then she smiled. "Was that a compliment? Are you saying that I was good enough to tire you out?"
Tenten smiled, then laughed out loud. "You're actually a really nice guy, Neji. Did you know that?"
Neji turned around again and looked at her. "-pretty."
She turned around and looked at him. "I didn't hear that. Can you say it again?"
"It's-" He cleared his throat.
"Your laugh. It's pretty."
Neji knew he loved her.
Tenten knew she liked him.
But it didn't matter. They would be okay, as long as they stayed together.
They were sparring together for multiple reasons. One, they had been bored, and neither of them had wanted to sit around doing nothing for hours. Two, Tenten wanted a rematch from the competition. Three, their fighting styles suited each other. Neji would spin into different spots to avoid Tenten's weapons, and Tenten had to continuously dodge Neji's hand-strikes.
They had chosen to ignore the fourth reason, which was that the two of them enjoyed being in each other's company.
"Yeah, Neji?" Tenten threw a kunai as a distraction device, but was forced to abandon her plan and save herself from yet another of Neji's so-called "Gentle Fist" strikes. She thought it wasn't a good name, since they hurt like hell. She jumped to the side, and waited for him to complete his thought.
"Do you believe in reincarnation?"
Ducking again, Tenten twirled around gracefully and stared at Neji. "Like the kind where a soul is born into another body? No."
Neji continued to run after her, but was forced to stop after a barrage of shuriken came his way. "Fate, then?"
"I don't know. Maybe?" Tenten threw a few more shuriken to gain time, and jumped behind her opponent.
Neji came to a sudden stop, and Tenten was forced to change momentum as not to stab him in the chest. She stopped a few feet away from him, and waited for another thought.
"Good. Because I believe that I've met you before this time, and I know that we were meant to be together."
Tenten froze, and looked at him. "Are you saying that we're soul mates?"
And then he kissed her.
It took Tenten a few moments to recover, but recover she did.
After they had restarted their sparring match, she said, "Neji, I love you and all, but save the kisses for our dates, okay?" Neji said that he would.
It might have been a trick of the light, but when Neji saw her charge at him with rusted blades in her hands, he swore it looked like blood.
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