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Gentle Fist

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Hinata doesn't dare stop to reflect: they're only sparring, but sparring is useless as training if you don't do it hard. Dust kicks up around her feet as she moves, her breath and her limbs in time, her Byakugan telling her how Neji's chakra is flowing and where he's going to strike next. There's no wasted energy in his attacks, only spare precise minimalism, the essence of the Gentle Fist.

And that's how she surprises him—with a moment of outrageous extravagance she learned from Naruto, a wild attack that seems to declare itself far in advance. Hinata can see Neji's brows crease with annoyance as he shifts his stance to intercept, and he bats away her attacking fist with no trouble—just as her other hand snakes out and finds the tenketsu just below his breastbone, a solid jolt of power leaving her fingertips.

Neji lands on his back in the sand. Hinata follows him, crouches beside him even though she can see the slowed movement of his chakra and knows he isn't trying to rise. He meets her eyes and she tries to tamp down the tiny thrill of triumph. Stay on your guard, she reminds herself.

"Hinata-sama," he says, and the address actually sounds respectful rather than mere clan formality. He raises a hand—slowly, too slowly for an attack, but Hinata catches his wrist automatically, her body still on high alert.

Neji actually smiles at that, just a tiny quirk of his lips, but it's enough. She can read him that well, after all this time. He lets his Byakugan go, drops all pretense of keeping up his guard, so Hinata can read the intent suffusing his chakra now. Her breath catches.

She doesn't let go of his wrist, but she moves to match him: when their lips meet, it's entirely mutual.