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24 October 2007 @ 03:02 pm
Arashi - nejiten F.O.I.L. entry  
Title: Evolution
Series: Naruto
Characters: Tenten, Neji, mentions of Lee and Gai
Notes: Uh, I was messing around with/testing tense shifts, sort of? I might retitle this one day.


They were twelve, and they were young.

Gai smiled brilliantly at them, full of hope and expectations that could never be dashed. Neji, Tenten, and Lee were twelve, and they were one of the few teams to pass. Neji said nothing because it was fate, but behind his blank eyes that could see past the heart, there was grim satisfaction. Lee reciprocated Gai’s exuberance because it was all he ever dreamed of, and Tenten bubbled with barely concealed anticipation because it was just what she wanted.

When the Green Beast of Konoha (and Gai told the three that they were more than welcome to call him this whenever they wanted. No, really, whenever they wanted) beamed at them and told them that today was going to be an especially exciting day, he said in a voice that boomed, “Today, we are going to test your chakra control, my beautiful blossoms of youth!”

Neji walked up and down a tree with such aplomb that not even a strand a hair was out of place. He even walked on water perfectly. Lee almost drowned even though he knew how to swim. Tenten tried her luck with the trees. She wanted to walk up the tree and toward the sky like reaching for her goals.

After her fifth try and only making it up three meters, almost explosively falling off the tree trunk, Tenten glared petulantly at the tree, wondering what she was doing wrong. She understood the concept and theory of the exercise, but it seemed understanding and executing were two different matters entirely. The girl wondered if imbedding kunai into the tree and climbing it that way would be cheating. After all, the instructions were only to climb up and down the tree without directly using your hands or to walk on wa--

“You’re focusing too much chakra into your feet.”

Tenten started, her thoughts interrupted, and spun on her feet to see Neji walking away. With one more glance at Neji’s back, she looked down at her feet before following the advice.

She made it to the top of the tree and only almost slipped twice.

--

They were thirteen, and they were growing.

One year brought many changes. Neji, Tenten, and Lee were a team now. They didn’t need an essay of words to talk to each other even if Neji were actually talkative. Missions and plans went smoothly and without a hitch. During the Chuunin Exams, something strengthened.

Jumping and dashing from tree to tree, Tenten’s eyes darted to every crook and cranny, to every dark and hidden shadow, and the veins around Neji’s eyes flooded with chakra.

“Lee’s okay and probably doing something stupid again. Some stupid training he made up on the spot,” Tenten said. “He’s missing and doing something stupid.” Her hand hovered over her kunai pouch. “He’s missing because he’s doing something, but he’s okay.” Her voice was soft, and she spoke it as if it were a mantra. After repeating her words twice, she realized quiet was probably better.

Neji didn’t say anything, but she knew it was probably what he was thinking. Their shoulders brushed against each other, and Tenten looked at her teammate.

“He’s fine,” Neji said clearly, almost grudgingly, and almost as if to reassure her. Tenten nodded.

--

They are sixteen, seventeen almost, and they are learning.

Teamwork is no longer a word brought up. Teamwork is ingrained in their very beings. Teamwork is what happens when Tenten is trapped in a huge ball of water made by some dangerous shark man that is sucking her energy, and her genius of a teammate knows how to get everyone out. It’s when she almost falls into his arms once she’s free and she thinks that it wouldn’t be anyone other than Neji, or--

Or is that something else?

--

They are still sixteen, seventeen almost, and they are slowly comprehending.

Tenten has a mission coming up, and she has to pretend to be a waitress and a cook for a small, homey diner. She knows how to cook, but she’s not sure if she can cook well enough for a restaurant. She calls up Neji because she know he will be honest. Lee would only praise her (like her parents did), and that isn’t what she wants. (It’s not that Lee wouldn’t be honest because she knows that everything Lee says is the truth to him, but she doesn’t want Lee’s truth for this mission.)

Neji comes over to her house, and she sets plates of food in front of him. She watches as he takes portions of everything she made. Tenten knows she won’t break if she sees a grimace, but she knows it will dash her spirits just a little, so she steels herself.

“It’ll do,” Neji says after a long moment.

A smile breaks over her features in relief. “Thank you,” she says, and when she follows Neji out, she tells him yes, she will meet him for one last training session before her mission and thank you again.

Later that day, Tenten actually tastes her cooking, and she laughs. Her cooking isn’t restaurant caliber, but it is certainly more than edible.

She sharpens her weapons that night and thinks she will try especially to aim for Neji’s blind spot tomorrow.

---

They will be nineteen, and they will have found their niche in life.

Tenten and Neji will meet at night, and they will lapse into a comfortable silence. The young woman will open her mouth to speak once, twice, thrice, but nothing will come out. She will sit down, and she will look up at the night sky. The young man will sit down next to her and take her chin in his hand; she will cup his cheek hesitantly.

They will kiss chastely underneath a canopy of stars.
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