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Iron Under Water

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Sparring could be a lot like sex, for some shinobi. And there was no question that most ninja out dancing were more or less sparring to a beat. But this was the first time Sakura had ever seen two people dancing, sparring, or having sex so intensely without ever touching.

"Mmm, look at that," she murmured, leaning back against Sasuke's chest.

"Hm?" Naruto asked around Sasuke's earlobe.

"I think she means Hinata and Neji," Sasuke said, husky, gathering her closer on the bench they were all sharing.

Hinata and Neji were on the dance floor, moving around each other just a breath apart, flowing like water, like one person breathing in and out. It was the Gentle Fist, and yet it really, really wasn't. Naruto's breath drew in audibly as Neji twisted his hands around Hinata's outstretched arm, skimming just above her skin, and she turned with it, sinking right down to the floor under the not-force of that move. In the next beat she twisted fluidly on her knees and rose up again inside Neji's arms, hands pressing them open as he gave back a fraction before her palms. The way Neji's lips parted on a silent gasp as he yielded to the not-pressure of her hands and stood for one instant utterly exposed, if only Hinata had chosen to let her hand touch him, made Sakura swallow dryly. She could see the bone-wrenching force of those moves, but perfect control that held them back, made them flirtation instead of threat.

"Wow," Naruto whispered, and she could feel his hand tightening against Sasuke's stomach.

Neji turned to let Hinata's hands sweep past him as she stepped in. She recoiled in a long, whiplash curl from his returning hand not quite against her ribs, bending backward until her hair brushed the floor and his hand passed over her and it was Neji's turn to give way as her arm swept up. They moved fast as the music ran, but never hurried, never touching, utterly aware of each other. As they pivoted around each other, chest to chest, their parted lips were so close Sakura felt like she was watching them kiss. Or maybe something more intimate than that. Those pale, locked eyes were burning in the lights of the dance floor.

Hinata smiled with a flash of mischief as the beat paused, and the quirk of Neji's mouth answered her. On the downbeat, she drove a palm straight for his chest and he swirled around her, fingers striking at her back only to be flung wide by the sweep of her arm as she spun. Every movement was unrestrained, now, full force strikes thrown aside by counters that still never actually touched skin. It was as arrogant a display of power and control as Sakura had ever seen, and heat tightened her stomach as she watched them tease each other with that force, always caught back at the last second.

They didn't touch until the very last, as the music faded. Hinata's hand flashed out and Neji's arms fell to his sides at last, accepting her blow, trusting her control. Hinata's palm hovered a breath away from his chest for one last beat and finally, softly, came to rest against him. Sasuke made a low, husky sound in Sakura's ear and she shivered. Hinata smiled up at her cousin, soft and open, and his rare smile answered her, careless of anyone who might be watching. Neji's hand caught hers as they finally stepped apart a little, and their fingers stayed twined as they left the floor.

"What... what was that about?" Sakura asked softly. "I've never even seen them spar together in public, much less do something like that."

"Well, she's won Neji, hasn't she?" Sasuke murmured. "He probably wanted everyone to know it, and see why."

"I was right the first time." Naruto slid his arms around both of them. "Nobles are weird. But that was really hot."

Sasuke laughed and leaned back against him. "You thought so?" he purred. "Come on, then. Let's dance." He flowed up to his feet, pulling them with him toward the floor, and Naruto's teeth gleamed in the lights as he followed.

Sakura laughed too, as Sasuke pulled her back snug against him, and she pulled Naruto tight against her, feeling the ripple of movement slide from one to another of them. It was good, the open release of just moving together, and all the more so tonight after watching all that passionate not-touching. She caught a glimpse of Hinata leaning in Neji's arms among the tables, hands laced possessively behind his neck, and smiled.

Maybe she'd stop worrying quite so much about Hinata.