There are many words that can describe Tenten – kind, caring, beautiful, strong, skilled, and surprisingly, romantically dense is one of them, which Neji had the extreme pleasure of learning it at their latest escort mission together.
The assho- their client, is a blond man of sweet words and sly green eyes and he shamelessly flirts with the young brunette so obviously that even Lee notices, but apparently it isn't glaringly obvious enough for the young girl. It doesn't help that the assho – their client, is not subtle about his ways. At least Tenten manages to counter every single advance in polite, friendly small talk that drives the Hyuuga up the wall.
"I don't really get it Neji," she tells him on the way back home, a small frown on pretty her face. "You've been in a sour mood since we left Konoha and didn't get any better from there. So, are you going to tell me what's wrong with you?"
Both ninja are unaware that Lee picks up his pace in a desperate attempt at escape, his face getting redder with every step.
"What is so difficult to not understand? That man was rather inappropriate towards you and your actions certainly did not help the situation." The Hyuuga grumbles something under his breath that suspiciously sounding like a prayer for patience.
The brunette's brows knit together as she replays the whole mission in her head. When Tenten spends a few too much mulling over, Neji snaps impatiently, "The comment about you hair."
Dawning lights her chocolate eyes. "He said I had pretty hair, Neji. That's not flirting, just, complimenting." Tenten shakes her head. "Really, for a genius, you're a bit dense Neji."
A nervous tick in micro levels forms right under his left eye. A small wave of chakra helps him keep it in control. "What about when our client observed your… flexibility?"
The brunette tilts her head and wonders in such innocent confusion that Neji wants to sigh for the next three years. Or scream. Definitely scream.
"Flexibility is a must for a kunoichi, he just stated the obvious."
Neji stares in disbelief and he inwardly notices how utterly adorable Tenten is with her knitted brows and innocent eyes – and she is looking so lost at his anger and her pouting lips were perfectly kissable –
Neji just gives up.
Neji wishes he could give up.
After the mentally disastrous mission –in Neji's part of course – the Hyuuga comes aware to his feelings towards a certain brunette kunoichi.
Hyuuga Neji has feelings as in a romantic way.
And as if it isn't enough cause of suffering, frustration and headache in general, Tenten manages to occupy not only his every waking moment but also his dreams.
She is beauty and grace as Tenten calls his name, a breathtaking white dress is hugging her form, and his fingers itch to touch the lean form and tanned skin. Her long brown curls reaching her mid back, once free from their usual buns, Tenten is beautiful – out of this world – with her warm smile and even warmer eyes. Her laugh is like a chorus of angels captivating and alluring, and Neji thinks that he can't get any sappier than that. She is even in his inappropriate thoughts and Neji doesn't know how to cope with that fact.
Usually, seeking advice from someone with more experience with the opposite sex should be the righteous answer. However, Neji isn't as close to Hiashi-sama as to talk about girls and the other closest fatherly figure in his life is Maito Gai.
Even Neji knows how youthful disastrous and loud that one conversation would go and how it would be wise to avoid it at all cost if he wants to keep his newly found affections secret.
The Hyuuga has zero interest or desire to be the next hot topic in the ever present gossip mill of Konoha.
Spending hours mulling over his recent discoveries, Neji decides to just be a little more straightforward with his attitude and there is a slight change that Tenten could get the message. Really, he just has to go with the universally accepted romantic stuff every teenager girl shrieks over.
As cheesy and cringeworthy as it sounds, Neji starts with flowers.
Neji has never seen the Tenten near any flowers and had near to zero idea which kind or even color she would like. The only thing the Hyuuga knows is which are poisonous and which are not, so further professional advices is certainly needed in his case.
Overcoming the sly comments and embarrassing teasing from Ino is something Neji's pride can take, but rushing a wheezing Tenten to the Konoha hospital due to pollens, which the brunette happens to be allergic to, is a big blow.
Chocolates are second in his 'How to woo the romantically dense Tenten' list – which Hanabi almost breaks a rib laughing at it. Neji isn't sure how she managed to find it, but he suspects heavy abuse of her clan status and the Byakugan. Then he remembers the girl doesn't really have a sweet tooth and she'd rather eat food so spicy that one spoonful should land a normal human being to the hospital for at least a week.
The third and last on his list is letters from a secret admirer and with all his hailed genius, the Hyuuga should have predicted the outcome of that one from miles away.
Indeed, the girl notices this time, however. It's completely understandable for Tenten to get creeped out from the weird mysterious love poems appearing suddenly like in her hip holster, inside her favorite book, pinned on her refrigerator, or over her pillow…
There is no need to mention that the confused Tenten thought she was being stalked and asked help from his teammates. And of course Lee and Gai-sensei, in an act of heroism, declared loudly that they'll find the culprit and have been searching the whole village for the last three days.
Neji aggressively thinks about kissing Tenten while keeping a complete straight face, and perhaps then, the dense kunoichi would understand his attempts in persuading her.
Lee finds his eternal rival – who is not as awesome as Gai-sensei's rival Kakashi-sensei, but Lee thinks they are both steadily approaching the duo – heavily abusing the training post with killer fists and bone crushing kicks. He can easily pick up that his genius teammate is having an internal conflict.
So, as the self-proclaimed best friend, Lee loudly exclaims, "My rival! What upsets you in this youthful morning? Tell me and I shall help you through your troubles!"
The Hyuuga keeps his focus on the complex moves but it doesn't matter. If a little bit of impassiveness could have fazed Lee, he'd never been where he was now.
"Gai-sensei always says that the way to a girl's heart is complicated and full of obstacles," the green clad ninja says and Neji fights to urge to roll his eyes. Although he'd die before admitting it, he's actually listening to Lee at the moment. "But when you triumph, the prize is worth the struggle." He nods sagely, his bowl cut bobbing in a rhythm. "Though the obstacle for Tenten's heart is truly challenging, believe in the power of your youth and you shall succeed!"
He staggers with the name of their third teammate and Neji's chakra filled fist goes through the worn training post, sending splinters of wood everywhere. The Hyuuga just calmly turns towards another, sturdier looking one.
Lee either doesn't notice or doesn't care, he just keeps babbling about love, conquest and many other things Neji would rather not listen. He ignores the little voice inside his head hissing about how he was listening keenly moments ago.
"Neji." Lee's tone is suddenly serious and Neji's high aimed kick misses the post by mere inches. Byakugan eyes widen with disbelief as he stares at the calm, still Lee.
Lee is standing still, huge brows knitted together and his chin tilted up stubbornly; he glares – Lee can glare? – at the Hyuuga with his beady eyes burning with determination. However, those flames are not the usual determined fires of youth but something much more different.
"Lee?" Neji finds himself asking. He is pretty much out of his depth and Neji wonders if some wayward piece of wood knocked him cold and he's dreaming the whole setting.
The green clad man sighs and all the seriousness washes away from his muscled frame like it never existed in the first place. Neji relaxes his stiffened muscles when Lee starts to bounce on his feet, smile back at his face.
"I'd be a terrible best friend-rival if I can't assist you with your matters!" and the goofy grin he gives to the startled Hyuuga is blindingly white and comfortably generous.
Strangely enough, Neji finds himself getting talked into Lee's weird but probably successful plans.
When your kick does not faze the enemy kick harder.
These are the words Lee lives by the heart and the desperate Hyuuga determines this path worth trying.
How worse could he perform?
Apparently, a hell lot more.
In a seemingly spontaneous manner, Neji suggests Tenten that they go out for dinner and tries to drop as many hints as humanly possible. There are small scented candles and slow sensual melody in the background of the little diner the Hyuuga chose. No flowers though, Neji learned that particular lesson in an embarrassing manner.
Apparently, Tenten is completely blind to all kind of his advances and the perfectly organized romantic dinner, in Neji's part, is a disappointing disaster.
"Thanks for the dinner Neji, the food was great," Tenten says when they are walking back to her apartment, side by side under the hanging full moon and bright stars. Another seemingly romantic setting and no response from the brunette, as usual. "Though, they should do something about the lights, it was difficult to see with all those candles and the smell, geez, I'd prefer blinding flash lights than those little fire cups that can poison you by the scent alone."
She's bouncing on her feet and a satisfied smile is stretching her thin lips. Tenten looks happy and content and Neji's worn patience snaps and he speaks before he can stop himself.
"Your awareness is questionable," is the Hyuuga's offhanded comment. Tenten stills and her fingers twitch. "If I hadn't been in several missions with you, I would have difficult time comprehending how you even notice the ground you walk on. Seriously Tenten, for someone whose aim is near impeccable you're rather out off-range."
That is the day Neji learns to think his words before speaking them out loud. The tongue lashing and vivid threats towards his manhood with pointy blades is enough for the Byakugan user to understand it.
Hanabi's smug smirk when he went home just added salt to his wound… and to the throbbing red fingers etched on his left cheek.
"You'll never gonna get her like this, you know that right?" Hanabi chirps happily the next morning. Neji keeps going through his katas, expertly ignoring the young teen who sat at the nearest rock.
"Ignoring me won't get you laid."
Neji grunts but it sounds more like a low growl. "Getting laid, as you put it, is not my main intention Hanabi-sama."
The young teen rolls her eyes as she starts to swing her legs. The action makes her seem more childish and adorable than usual but Neji knows better. Right under those round cheeks and bright eyes, a manipulative little minx is waiting for opportunities to cause mischief. Hanabi knows full well how to make use of her seeming sweetness, and Neji would often be able to dance around her innocuous plans. Often.
"I do not need assistance," especially from you is unspoken but heard by both. "I'm managing just fine."
Pale lavender eyes widen as Hanabi throws her head back and lets out a roaring laugh. The merry sound goes on for a while and a delicate arm curls around Hanabi's middle in a desperate attempt to anchor herself. Neji thinks that maybe she'll seriously break a rib this time.
Neji's experienced body executes the katas, though they are rougher than the usual flowing movements. Every move is worse than the previous as Hanabi's mocking laugh rises in volume in the background.
"It was funny at first, but with every failed move it just got sad. Really, Neji-niisan, how can't you see the solution with our prized eyes is lost to me." There is still trace of laughter in her voice and her pale eyes are shining with tears of joy.
The older Hyuuga abruptly stops his katas and turns his irritated gaze at the girl. "Please, indulge me."
"Hey now, I wouldn't want to spoil your so called efforts," she responds cheekily and Neji catches some inner joke in her tone. As if she wasn't the one to mention his girl problems in the first place.
Neji reins his immediate instinct to attack the little spitfire and Hanabi gives her favorite cousin a big smirk that's all teeth and no innocence. She knows his train of thoughts somehow, and Hanabi immensely enjoys Neji's internal struggle.
"The solution just happens to live right next your door." She winks and with a mischievous giggle, springs towards the clan house. The older Hyuuga can't stop the feeling that even with the hint he is missing something.
Neji stares her retreating back, the gears of his mind functioning full mode. To the left of his chambers lives Sasaki-jisan, defensive, stern and socially impossible to get near to.
And to his right resides Hinata-sama and how could any of the two hel-
If there is someone more frustratingly dense then Tenten in Konoha that person would be none other than the next Hokage candidate Uzumaki Naruto.
And said person was going to marry Hinata-sama next month.
Hinata-sama, somehow, managed to get through that thick blond skull and captured the infamous prankster's heart.
Byakugan eyes flare to life, and Neji sprints through the village, looking for his next clan head. He isn't a little bit surprised to find the heiress in Ichiraku ramen with Uzumaki inhaling ramen in inhumanly speed.
The blond's messy eating habits – or the lack off – are a topic to sigh over for another time as Neji bows hastily and drags the startled woman outside. It speaks volumes of their relationship as Uzumaki doesn't realize his eating partner is currently kidnapped by her fellow clansmen.
"How did you court Uzumaki?" Neji delves right into the heart of the matter. He just can't do it anymore.
The question startles the heiress but fondness soon follows her initial shock.
"Just be upfront with your feelings Neji-niisan. I'm sure Tenten-san would appreciate it."
Neji blinks owlishly. How did everyone notice about him and Tenten? First Lee – of all people – then young Hanabi – no surprise there – and now Hinata-sama.
"…I'll need you to be more specific Hinata-sama. "Neji murmurs grudgingly. The older Hyuuga is good at following orders not deciphering mushy feelingy things.
Hinata-sama shakes her head, the ghost of a smile gracing her lips she admits, "It wasn't easy, it never is, but if you can give her something solid, a proof of your affections, there is no way for Tenten-san to mistake your actions nii-san."
Neji's eyes cut across the street and zeroed on the fluffy red scarf hastily draped around Uzumaki's neck and Neji understands just a little bit better.
For the next ten days, Neji spends his time knitting his love.
…he really does.
After kindly bullying Hinata-sama to teach him the art of knit work, which doesn't take neither much persuasion nor difficulties to learn, Neji is left with deciding on something that would suit his taste and hopefully Tenten's.
He debates for the right color for two days and settles with red. It was the color that worked on Uzumaki and red is the color of love, right? So, Neji takes his efforts for granted and goes with a rich red color. Furthermore, Neji thinks that Tenten would look dashing with red.
The Hyuuga isn't very patient or interested enough to go with something different, so a red scarf it is. He knits and knits and knits sometimes get tangled or he glares at his handiwork but, no matter his skill level on the subject, Neji manages to knit a beautiful fluffy scarf that meets his expectations.
The only thing left, is to give his solid proof of determination to the girl that he loves and drives him wild at the same time.
It's easier than it sounds.
"I just want to be upfront and say that I visually enjoy you," Neji says, thrusting the wrapped package at Tenten's fingers with a bit more force than he intends to. "Actually more than that. I… I'd very much like to spend the rest of my days with you." At the frozen look he receives, he hastily adds, "Shall you wish of course."
"Oh," Tenten exclaims a lovely shade of pink dusts her cheeks. "So, all this time…" She shakes head. "You were flirting with me?"
Long digits tightened over the green package. "I thought you…" The brunette trailed off, the pink shading darker.
"Thought what?" Neji stresses, eyes narrowing in a deadly glare. He thinks of all his failed plans, the teasing he got, the sleepless nights, the jealousy and he demands answers.
Tenten swallows nervously. "I thought you were gay," she whispers into the night, her chocolate eyes looking everywhere but the tall man.
Neji's thoughts come to a sudden halt and he just stares. A few painful and awkward moments pass between the duo before Neji can bring his act together.
"… Is it the hair?"
Tenten bites her lip and Neji forces his gaze up to her eyes. He can't let himself get distracted now, especially not by those sinful lips.
"Partly," Tenten confesses, her voice barely above a whisper. She is fidgeting and seems like she'd prefer to just disappear from the sheer embarrassment. "…I thought you had a thing for Lee."
The brunette furiously shakes her head; her calloused hands are flailing in the air and she almost hits Neji with the forgotten gift. "I know, I know, I know. It sounds stupid, because we're talking about Lee but, I just, I saw you two and it made sense, cuz why shouldn't it…" She hurriedly spoke, wide eyes apologetic and movement's heretic. Tenten looks to be minutes away from fainting as all the blood in her veins seem to be rushing at her face at once.
Neji rubs his tired eyes and fearing the answer yet to stubborn to leave unanswered questions asks, "What did you see Tenten?" It's slow, but Neji is getting his act together.
Tenten takes a deep breath and clears her throat. "You two are really close and when you guys train… it's like pent up sexual frustration. I thought you were always snippy and rude to the poor Lee because your clan would have never allowed you two to be together." At this point the red is slowly receding from the brunette's face and as if possible Neji's disbelief soars to impossible levels.
"You were suffering because of your love and you didn't want your one true love to suffer just like you. In an act of rudeness you kept being a jerk to him so he won't have to go through the same pain as you did."
Neji stares, and Tenten squirms under the heavy gaze.
"Your imagination has no limits, Tenten. I have no such feelings towards Lee." The Hyuuga's voice is carefully blank but his eyes show how much he wants to bang his head to the nearest flat surface.
He thought she was dense; not this.
"Sorry." The girl rubs the back of her neck sheepishly. "Anyway, let's forget about the last five minutes."
Neji is more than happy to comply with Tenten's request.
Tenten coughs into her fist and as if just noticing, she waves the package in the air. There is still an adorable trace of pink under her tanned cheeks. "So, what's this gift of yours?"
The Hyuuga lets his lips curl in a faint smile. It's actually very amusing to see the usually head strong kunoichi desperate to change topic and embarrassed put of her mind. Setting aside the absurdity of her mind, Neji is surprised that he isn't actually mad at her for her misinterpretations.
Love is blind after all.
"Why don't you find it out?" Neji says, and Tenten can pick the subtly hidden teasing under his words. Also the you-can-see-a-smile-if-you-squint doesn't really put Tenten's mind at ease.
"I'll never hear the end of this," she groans while her fingers carefully peel the pale green package. "You've made it yourself?" Tenten asks in wonder. She's caressing the fluffy material and without a second of hesitation she wraps the scarf around her long neck.
Neji nods, feeling a bit of blood rushing at his cheeks. "How did you?"
"It's very long." She points out the dangling ends which are technically longer than they should be. "And the knitting is screaming amateur."
The Hyuuga raises one unimpressed brow and Tenten giggles. Neji perfectly knows that his scarf is nothing but perfect, he wouldn't dare give something of low quality to the woman he is intending to marry.
Holding up the red scarf, Tenten points out. "There's a small hole here."
… perhaps, Neji isn't that skilled at knitting as he hoped.
The Hyuuga clears his throat. "Does this mean your answer is yes?"
A huge grin that reminds Neji of Gai-sensei, settles on her lips and she nods reverently. "Of course you silly. The only thing that kept me away from you because I thought you were off limits."
Absentmindedly, Neji thinks how different things could have turned out if he had gathered his wit and asked her out without his silly plans. Definitely succeed, and with his manly pride intact.
Neji's hands curl around Tenten's shoulders and he pulls the brunette into his embrace. It feels right to have her pressed against him and Neji feels her shoulders shake from laughter. The smell of iron and weapon oil and Tenten envelops Neji as he buries his nose between those two adorable buns.
"For the records, I'm not gay. I'm very much into women, mind you."
Tenten shakes her head and with a whim wraps the overly long scarf around Neji's neck, sharing her new, most precious item with her always, most precious person.
"It really is longer than the traditional stuff."
The Hyuuga unintentionally flushes and prays that the darkness hides his cheeks. "… I might have exaggerated the length by a few inches."
Tenten snorted. "You call this a few inches?"
"…Perhaps a bit more."
The brunette laughs and no matter how much Neji likes to hear her laugh, the teasing is directed to him so he does what he's been dreaming for a long time.
He kisses her, swallowing the cheerful sounds which slowly morph into little gasps as the kiss deepens. Her fingers curl around the soft brown strands of his and Neji's chest rumbles in low growl.
The Hyuuga pulls back first, as much as he wants to continue the long awaited kiss, these kind of actions are hardly appropriate but Neji wants to make it right for them. However when a small panted breath escapes those kiss swollen lips pushes dangerously his fragile restraint. He allows his hand to curl around Tenten's smaller one and she instantly squeezes the pale digits.
Neji coughed to hide his whine-groan and stares ahead to avoid the glazed chocolates he loved. "It's getting rather late. Let me take you home."
Tenten nods slowly, and Neji swears he could see steam coming out of the now beat red kunoichi.
Good to know that he isn't the only one dramatically affected by their sudden affections.
"That… be good." Tenten mumbles, furrowing her nose deeper into the scarf. She can smell the faint scent of cherry wood, soap and Neji. Not that she is complaining, the familiar scent manages to calm her raging heart and Tenten decides to secretly sleep with the beautiful gift.
Nothing cheesy, really, it has a really soothing and calming aura. It has nothing to do with the gorgeous man walking beside her.
Wind picks up and Neji tugs his end of the scarf and the slightly shivering Tenten. Happy with her personal heater, the brunette looks at the bright scarlet scarf connecting them and she thinks how it looks like a red threat. As if their fates were always intertwined but now it had a physical manifestation.
A red thread of love.