Blind Dates and Secret Crushes
Part 2: Neji Asks Questions
Early morning in Konoha meant beautiful azure-hued skies, fresh crisp air, the sounds of birds chirping their daily morning rituals to the other and the undeniable sounds of a certain long-haired shinobi practicing a few basic fighting routines in the middle of the lush forest.
Neji Hyuuga, now eighteen and quite tall for his age, sank to the ground in a weary heap. Sweat dripped off his skin in shiny rivulets as he had long taken off his shirt earlier. Half-dressed and not really caring if anyone saw him in such a state, he eyed the wooden stump before him, a small smirk of satisfaction coming to his lips as he noticed that in just a few days, he would finally knock it down to the ground. Years of kicks and punches against the hard stump had caused it to weaken considerably.
He closed his eyes and allowed himself to relax, hence getting rid of the byakugan he had been using for the past hour or so. Unknown to many, using that technique wasn’t exactly all fun and games. If used for an extremely long time, the pain and strain around the eye muscles could be quite trying on the body. And being who he was, Neji would have rather died than admit this weakness to anyone. Absently, his hand reached for the faint scar on his left shoulder. It was the very place he had suffered the almost deathly blow from one of Orochimaru’s henchmen. Remembering that fight and for whom they had suffered it for, sent the teen gritting his teeth in bitterness.
Sasuke. Uchiha Sasuke. They had gone through hell and back for the ungrateful bastard and even after five years, the emotions were not so easy to get rid of.
A sudden rustle of leaves above him, had his lashes flying open in readiness for a possible attacker. To his inner relief, he saw that it was only a flock of birds flying towards the south. Pale-colored depths stared at the beautiful blue of the sky above him with a small smile gracing his lips.
Once upon a time, Neji would never have taken the time to admire such mundane and silly things. But thanks to a certain fight during the chuunin exam, he had come to learn that not everything was decided by one’s fate and destiny. One could choose whatever path he or she wanted to walk through. He had learned that lesson quite well and from an unlikely teacher at that.
Who would have thought that the bumbling fool would turn out to be the most rational person out of them all? Neji’s smile widened at the thought of fighting with the blond shinobi again. The very thought of engaging in battle with one as strong as Naruto was enough to get his blood and adrenaline flowing again.
But there was something more. Something even he had tried to tell himself to ignore over the years.
It was quite strange really. Neji was never one to give in to matters of the heart and realizing that he was actually harboring feelings for the blond teen had given him cause to reconsider his thoughts and actions lately. It wouldn’t do to let Naruto know how he felt. What good would that do for him? And besides…he had a reputation to protect. Neji Hyuuga was one of the most respected chuunin in the village. He had no time for trivial matters like…like… love.
He got to his feet and began to make his way back towards the village. He frowned lightly as he tried to remember those on patrol for the week. Tsunade had given him a list of chuunin on duty and since this was the fourteenth, it was…
Naruto and Sasuke.
He stopped walking as their combined names fell from his lips softly. It had felt so natural to say their names together, almost as if those two were meant to be. Shaking his head at his foolishness, he stepped out of the clearing and straight into the arms of his teacher.
“Gai-sensei!” he gasped in surprise, kicking himself inwardly for not paying much attention to everything around him. That was quite unlike him.
The teacher seemed just as surprised as his hands had reached out to steady the teen. He smiled warmly at his student. “How are you this morning, Neji? Working hard I see.”
The chuunin shrugged and slipped his t-shirt over his head quickly, suddenly feeling self-conscious at being half-dressed in front of the older man. “Yes, I was,” he replied a bit too curtly before wishing he hadn’t done so. Gai was quite the astute teacher and could read through any of his moods quite easily.
However, the man refused to indulge in Neji’s sour mood. “Tenten and Lee are on their way to the Hokage’s place for their instructions. You should hurry up and catch up with them.”
“Right,” came the non-committal answer as Neji had already begun to make his way towards said building and out of the older man’s sights. On second thoughts, he figured it would be best to make a quick stop at his home to clean himself up a bit. He couldn’t appear in front of Tsunade looking so…sweaty.
The genius spun around quickly and almost fell down in his shock as he watched the running bundle of energy speed towards him.
Naruto grinned widely and stopped inches before him, having to hold his knees as he tried to catch his breath. “Whew! I have been looking all over for you.”
The dark-haired boy blinked in genuine surprise. He and Naruto had not really had any cause to ‘chit-chat’ as friends over the years. He wondered what the blond could possibly want with him now.
“Is there something wrong?” he asked as politely as he could while idly noticing just how flushed the shinobi’s skin looked now from his exertions. Neji could feel his hand twitch a little and he had to stuff in into the pocket of his pants as he struggled not to reach out to touch Naruto. Hearing that harsh breathing was enough to get his imaginative mind running towards other ways in which he could make Naruto breath that way. Sweet Kami! He had to stop thinking like this!
“No, nothing is wrong,” Naruto finally managed to blurt out as he rose to his full height. He was not as tall as Neji but had still grown considerably over the years. That shock of blond hair was much longer now and the Hyuuga clan member could only marvel at just how much Naruto was beginning to resemble a certain Hokage.
“Then what is it?” Neji asked with a bewildered look on his features. “You aren’t trying to back out of patrolling this week are you?”
Naruto shook his head with that same infuriating grin on his face. “No. Don’t worry. I am having a blast patrolling.” He gave a quick glance around as if to make sure no one was looking before moving closer to the dark-haired boy. “Listen,” he began in an urgent whisper. “I was kind of hoping I could ask you for a favor.”
“Uh huh. You wouldn’t mind, would you?”
For you, Naruto…anything. Neji blushed darkly at his errant thought and shook his head rapidly, before having to nod as he noticed the disappointed look that had come to the blond’s visage.
“Uum…I meant yes. I don’t mind helping you out. What is it that you need?”
Naruto beamed and reached into his pockets. He pulled out a scroll and held it up to Neji’s face. “I need this to go to Sasuke, but I can’t take it to him because Iruka-sensei and I are going on a field mission.”
Neji blinked. “A field mission? But you can’t…!”
“Shssh!” Naruto placed a finger against the flushed boy’s lips. He gave another furtive glance around before leaning even closer than before. Neji could clearly see the darkened blue hues of Naruto’s eyes and he could feel his knees trembling a little. And then there was the fact that Naruto’s finger was against his lips. All he had to do was part them and he would have that digit right in his mouth.
“I know I’m not supposed to be going, but I couldn’t resist,” Naruto pleaded with his best puppy-got-lost look. “Will you patrol with Sasuke in my place? I will make it up to you on your next patrol, please?”
Neji really didn’t want to do any rounds with Sasuke, but who was he to refuse Naruto’s request especially after being asked so nicely.
“Alright,” he agreed reluctantly as he accepted the scroll. “So where do we meet?”
“We usually meet at the bridge at about…uh…in less than an hour. You had better hurry,” Naruto added quickly. “Sasuke doesn’t really like to wait.”
Neji scowled at the notion of having to deal with the arrogant Uchiha clan-member, but masked it quickly as he noticed Naruto was beginning to openly stare at him.
“Do I have something on my face?” Neji asked with a puzzled frown.
“So why do you keep staring at me?”
Naruto had the grace to blush. “Ah…eh…it’s nothing. Oops! Would you look at the time! Iruka-sensei will be so mad at me if I don’t meet him soon. Thanks a lot for your help, Neji! I won’t forget it!”
And hardly giving the dark-haired boy a chance to reply, he gave Neji a light wave and jogged back towards the village.
The astute genius stared at the harmless scroll in his hand and then towards the disappearing figure of the kyuubi with a light frown on his handsome features.
Something isn’t right here, he thought ruefully. But he had made a promise to Naruto. It was time to keep it, whether he liked it or not.
Naruto, for his part, was congratulating himself on achieving a small feat. He would never have thought that Neji would be so willing to accept his offer so quickly. He had been ready to make up some story about how dire the situation was if Neji had proven to be stubborn, but instead the readiness in which the older boy had agreed had turned out to be a blessing.
Moving quickly, he made his way towards a secret route that Konohamaru had shown him the other day. The younger boy knew every hideaway there was to know and this particular route would take Naruto towards the bridge where he could safely spy on the two boys he had thrust together.
This was the time to test his theories. Who did Sasuke have a crush on? The most likely case would have been Neji since both boys were practically identical in mannerisms. Both had issues with smiling much or being friendly with others but at least Neji had made an effort over the years to be nicer to others – especially to Hinata.
A small smile came to his lips at the thought of the quiet and shy girl. She had turned out to be pretty cool and still met Naruto once a week for lunch at the ramen shop. It was almost always her treat despite Naruto’s insistence on paying for the meal.
With a light grunt, he fell to the ground and held his breath. Knowing that he was spying on two very shrewd boys was going to be the tricky part of this. He just hoped that they wouldn’t notice him too quickly. It would ruin everything he had so carefully thought of last night.
Sleep had not come easy by a long shot. Naruto had spent the better part of the night tossing and turning on his narrow bed. Images of Sasuke… Sasuke’s hand on his shoulder…on his wrists, Sasuke’s breath against his skin. Hot and heavy…
He had closed his eyes and much to his embarrassment had found himself having to visit the bathroom twice in the space of a hour. Needless to say, Sasuke’s confession had the blond all in a tizzy, but he was still determined to see his plan through. He would find out once and for all who had claim over Sasuke’s heart and then…and then what? Naruto wasn’t even sure of what he would do if it did happen to be one of the males he planned to pair him with.
The sound of footsteps approaching had Naruto holding his breath and peeking through the clump of bushes with growing anxiety. Sure enough, the object of his thoughts was walking up the narrow strip of wood that made up the familiar bridge. Sasuke stopped somewhere in the middle and promptly leaned against the wooden rail, with hands stuck in his pockets and his eyes closed. He remained still for a long moment, allowing Naruto to drink his fill of the quite handsome teenager to his satisfaction. Sasuke was a bit taller than he was and through years of training, had developed a broad chest that tapered off to lean and slender hips. His dark hair had grown to shoulder-length, but it was still kept in its ragged style. Naruto idly wondered what it would feel like to run his fingers through those black tresses. He was sure Sasuke wouldn’t like it, but still it didn’t stop him from dreaming about it.
Another set of approaching footsteps had Naruto turning quickly to notice Neji, now dressed in his chuunin uniform, walk up to the still figure.
“Where’s Naruto?” came the curt question from Sasuke who hadn’t bothered to open up his eyes.
Neji grit his teeth at the insolent greeting before tossing the scroll he had been holding into Sasuke’s hand. “He told me to give that to you. I will be patrolling with you today…”
“It’s okay,” Sasuke cut in quickly as he opened up his eyes and pushed himself away from the bridge. “You don’t have to come with me. I can do it on my own.”
Neji shook his head, his frown deepening. “Tsunade’s orders. Two chuunin at all times, Sasuke.”
“Surely you can make an exception this time around.”
Naruto felt his chest tighten considerably as he watched the argument. This was definitely not the way people who had crushes on each other acted. It looked as if Neji and Sasuke couldn’t even stand being in each other’s presence.
Inner voice – Yes!
Rational voice – The day isn’t over yet. Things could change.
Allowing the rational one to take over, Naruto sighed softly and continued to watch.
Sasuke ran fingers through his hair and gave a low sound of exasperation before reluctantly following the striding boy’s lead with a sullen look on his face. He was going to kill Naruto for doing this to him.
An hour – no, a very looong hour later, Naruto had just about had enough of this spying game. Nothing was happening at all! Both boys had gone about their duties like robots, neither smiling nor talking to each other much besides pointing out instructions or directions.
He yawned and glanced at the sky above him. It would soon be early evening and time for their patrol to be over. Laying back on the rooftop with a small sigh, Naruto closed his eyes and decided to take a nap for a few minutes before going back to spying.
He opened them up quickly as he heard the unmistakable voice of Neji right below his perch.
“So, do you want to get something to eat now, Sasuke?”
Eh? What’s this? Why was Neji’s voice no longer cold? The older teen sounded more relaxed than normal! This was bad!
“I don’t mind,” Sasuke replied with a similar casual tone. “Where do you want to go?”
No! No! Don’t go with him! Naruto pleaded fervently as he scrambled across the roof to lean over the edge. Sure enough Neji and Sasuke were leaning against the building, hands stuck in pockets, with small smiles on their faces.
What the hell?!
“I was thinking of something a bit…different today,” Neji said with a small grin now. “Does sushi sound good?”
Sushi?! Sushi was expensive! How could Neji get the money for that?! Not that it was important right now…and why the hell was Neji inviting Sasuke for sushi?!
Naruto watched in growing horror as that dangerously sexy smile Sasuke had flashed to him the other day appeared on his face again.
“No,” came the breathless whisper from the dark-haired boy as he leaned closer to his senior. “Sushi sounds excellent, especially when it’s combined with you dripping with soy sauce. Mmm…makes me want to lick you completely.”
Inches. Mere breathless inches separated the two boys lips now. Naruto could feel his chest constrict painfully. He was going to die. He knew he was. If Sasuke dared go any further, he just knew he would…
“Kiss me, Sasuke. Kiss me now,” came the soft command that left no room for compromise.
And with a chuckle, the genius Uchiha leaned in to claim his prize….
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! DON’T DO IT, SASUKE!!!”
Naruto tried to maintain his balance but realized he was going to fall anyways. With hands flailing about, he tried to hold on for as long even though he never ceased his plaintive cries.
“Don’t you dare touch him!!!”
“Don’t kiss him! You can’t!”
He opened up his eyes to blink dumbly at a certain Uchiha’s face above him. He gave a quick glance around and noticed to his chagrin that he was still lying in the same spot as before. There was no sign of Neji, which meant that…
He had dreamt the whole thing up!
“What the hell are you yelling about?” Sasuke asked in genuine confusion as he stared at the flushed boy below him. “And what’s this about me not kissing someone?”
Naruto turned a million shades of red at the latter question. He had inwardly prayed that the other shinobi had not heard his first cry…or second or third, but now it was time to think up some excuse and a feasible one at that.
“Oh…ah…I was just…just…dreaming about…about you and a…a…”
A low bark heard from a distance was heard and Naruto finished quickly. “…a dog!”
Sasuke blinked. “A…dog?”
“Yeah, that’s right! And you were about to kiss it…so I told you to…eh…stop.”
The genius raised a brow. “And what’s wrong with kissing a dog?”
Yeah, Naruto, his mind taunted. Just what was wrong with kissing a dog? “It was dirty, Sasuke,” he retorted with a wrinkle of his nose. “Dirty and smelly. Why would you want to touch such a thing?”
A tense silence fell as they regarded each other for a moment before Sasuke replied with a quiet. “Ah, I see.”
Naruto eyed him warily, knowing full well that Sasuke had probably not bought his story in the slightest. With every intention of bolting from the scene before he made a fool of himself, he was stumped into disbelief as Sasuke made himself comfortable on the rooftop beside him. Naruto felt his mouth go dry. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stop Sasuke today if what happened last time…well…happened again.
But when the dark-haired boy made no attempt to begin a conversation, Naruto cleared his throat and asked as flippantly as he could.
“So…how did it go with Neji today?”
Sasuke shrugged and lay on his back with hands behind his head. He closed his eyes and replied casually. “It was okay.”
Naruto felt something cold fall to the pits of his stomach and he had to clench his hands into fists to stop them from trembling. “Oh?” He was surprised his voice sounded so normal.
“So…eh…you liked being with him?”
Sasuke shrugged again. “It was okay.”
“Stop saying that!” The blond finally cried out in frustration. This caused Sasuke to open up an eye in surprise.
“What’s your problem?” he asked. “It’s not my fault you decided to skip out on patrol today.”
“I didn’t skip out. I just…” He couldn’t come up with anything this time around.
Sasuke eyed him for a moment longer before saying curtly. “He kept asking about you.”
“Neji,” came the cool response. “Every other chance he got, he kept asking about you.”
The kyuubi wasn’t sure of what to make of that and he was spared from asking a dumb question as his companion continued heatedly.
“What does Naruto do? Is he stronger than before? Is he good to work with?” He gave a light snort. “What the hell do I look like? Your keeper?”
With a light grunt, he rose abruptly to his feet, a light frown of displeasure on his face. “He was acting as if he had a crush on you…even though he wasn’t that obvious with it.” He turned to regard the stunned shinobi for a moment with eyes that were dark and unreadable. Naruto squirmed with a whole lot more than discomfort at the gaze as he struggled to find something to say.
“I wonder what he sees…” Sasuke began again, but then stopped and shook his head lightly. He spun on his heels and finished lightly. “See you tomorrow, Naruto and try not to skip out your duties, okay?” And with a quick wave, he ‘vanished’ from sight, leaving an even more confused and disappointed Naruto in his wake. He had hoped that Sasuke would have wanted to kiss or touch him but he guessed he would have to wait until next time. If there was a next time.
So, what in the world had he achieved today? It was obvious that Sasuke did not have a crush on Neji and that was a huge burden off his shoulders, but then again a whole other problem had arisen with Sasuke’s bombshell.
Neji Hyuuga had a crush on him?
What in the world was he supposed to do with that piece of news now?!