E: Hmm… well, I must say, this has been a wonderful, nostalgic journey. This one has a lot of clichés. A fluffy, semi OOC epilogue, dedicated to cyberwolf, starlight-15 and tomboy901, as before.
Tenten, with some help from Neji, finally got out of Hitomi's dress and gratefully took advantage of the bubble bath that Neji had drawn for her. The water was just the right temperature. She smiled as Neji walked in- he'd taken the dress to be dry cleaned.
"You know far too much about bubble baths," Tenten sighed as she scrubbed at her skin. She felt all of the tension and stress drain from her body with every moment spent in the luxuriant, ceramic tub.
"Well, I know that you like them. And that they're good for de-stressing." He took off the jacket and hung it on a hook behind the door. He sat down on a small stool beside the tub and Tenten reached out, untying his bow after a moment of watching him struggle without a mirror. She sank beneath the bubbles for a few seconds, resurfacing with a sigh as she ran her fingers through her locks.
"What's wrong?" Tenten asked, upon seeing his expression.
"It's nothing." He shrugged.
Tenten smiled deviously. "You look like you need some de-stressing," She suggested, watching him unbutton his shirt.
"I'll pass this time," Neji smirked. "I have a few things to organize."
"What for?" Tenten frowned.
"It's nothing, really. I'll be back when you're done."
Neji shut the bathroom door and sighed heavily before hesitantly picking up the phone.
"Sakura, I have a favour to ask…"
Tenten finally finished blow drying her hair about forty five minutes later, and walked into an empty room. She looked around and shrugged, donning the towelling robe Neji had given her.
A few minutes later, a showered and fully dressed Neji entered the room with a few things in a boutique bag. He stopped and stared at her for a few moments before handing her a bundle wrapped in white tissue paper.
"Think of it as a belated birthday gift."
"If I remember correctly, the gift that you gave me for my eighteenth birthday was more than public enough." Tenten replied sarcastically.
Neji just shrugged.
Tenten smiled as she unwrapped the packaging. It was a silvery mint green cocktail dress made of a soft fabric that seemed to slide through Tenten's fingers as it shimmered in the light.
"I'd love to think that you went out and bought this for me." Tenten laughed.
"Well, I paid for it." Neji added after a moment, "but I'm offended that you believe that I have no taste."
"You don't have any sort of fashion sense," Tenten replied bluntly. "Kenichi does, however." She smiled as she thought fondly of the quirky shop assistant. Tenten took a step back to admire the cut of the fabric. "So- what's the occasion?"
"It's my birthday. What else?" Neji smirked as Tenten rolled her eyes.
A few hours later (after dinner and a fair bit of full fat ice cream), the pair arrived at Dusk- a new establishment in one of the backstreets of Konoha. It was fashionable and completely exclusive. The line outside was so long that it extended around the block, and Tenten and Neji smiled and smirked (respectively) at the displays of outrage when they were given immediate admission.
Inside, the walls had been painted indigo. There were a lot of small alcoves and nooks, and the loft was strictly reserved for important guests. By some miracle, Neji had managed to secure the loft space for the evening.
The loft was raised about ten metres up, and was accessed by black stairs on either side of the room. It had another bar and more comfortable and less worn couches, with fashionable suede or leather covered ottomans that doubled as stools.
It was nearing eleven thirty, and already there were many familiar faces- Sakura, Ino, Temari, Hinata and Naruto, just to name a few. The former pair came to see Neji and Tenten.
"Hey, Neji!" Sakura smiled. "This was a great idea! I never knew that you could get us all into Dusk, let alone the loft!"
The Hyuuga shrugged.
"It's an amazing party." Ino added belatedly. "Happy birthday!" She pointed to a table, laden with large presents. "You'll find that some are… more suitable as wedding gifts, but I suppose they'll do for a couple."
Sakura elbowed the blonde with a plastered smile on her face, and they waved goodbye before joining the larger crowd on the floor.
"You look wonderful in that dress," a familiar voice drawled.
Tenten gave a dry laugh as she turned to face Kenichi. "It's easy for you to say- you're the one who picked it out!" She kissed him lightly on both cheeks before hugging him tightly. "It's good to see you, Ken!"
"Step back and show us the dress," he snapped. "It looked alright on the manikin, but I suppose it looks better on you," he commented dismissively. "Turn around…"
Neji could not help but admire the way that the dress seemed to wrap around her form, softening her curves. It was backless and the hem swished about her knees, offering glimpses of tanned skin. There was a thin layer of silvery lining beneath the green chiffon that reflected the dim light. A jagged crystal shard, with her name and a camellia engraved on opposite sides, hung on her neck while several slim bangles adorned her wrists.
"You look gorgeous, darling." Kenichi stopped a passing waiter and the three took the offered flutes of champagne. "To a wonderful dress and an equally wonderful... kunoichi," he toasted, and they drank in Tenten's honour. "Happy birthday," Kenichi added, with a ginger pat on Neji's shoulder. "Strange thing to offer at an eighteenth birthday party," Kenichi muttered to himself, before taking another sip and wandering off.
"Kenichi?" Tenten placed the glass back onto the bar.
"As soon as he found out, he insisted that I invite him." Neji shrugged, and placed his drink next to hers. "Come on; let's go back down."
The beat of the music thrummed through Tenten's body as soon as she walked back into the crowd. A stranger stepped in front of Tenten with a lustful look in his eye, but Neji shoved him away before he could speak. Tenten looked down to hide her smile. The Hyuuga pulled her close to his body, and she instinctively wrapped her arms loosely about his neck.
"I suppose I get a little bit more freedom, as opposed to the last time we did this." Neji suggested coyly, his hands beginning to slip from her waist. The look Tenten gave him told him, quite clearly, that he would probably be forced to reattach his own hands later, should they stray any further.
"I think I could be getting used to those looks," Neji smirked as he leaned in to kiss her.
Like last time, Tenten tugged sharply on his hair, forcing his head back- and his lips away from hers.
Her lips swept briefly over his skin and Neji's temporary discomfort was absolved as she released her grip on his locks. So, his lesson learned, Neji kept his hands on her hips, swaying rhythmically with the music.
"Later, after this…" In spite of the loud music, Tenten heard every word. "I have something to show you."
"What is it?"
"If I told you now, it would defeat the purpose of a surprise, wouldn't it?"
Tenten smiled up at him. "I guess it would."
Later that night, the wedding cake was cut. Neji noted that the plastic bride and groom had been removed, and replaced with eighteen candles. Confetti and glitter was raining from the ceiling, falling onto skin, and entangling in hair.
Tenten smiled as she combed her fingers through his hair, almost laughing at the cascade of paper and glitter that had found a place in his locks.
Neji was glad that the glitter and the cake were almost all gone when they left the club at around two thirty the next morning. Tenten was feeling rather helpless in Neji's arms as he walked- the amount of dancing Sakura and Ino had forced her into had left her limping with blistered feet. Neji hadn't been able to abide by it, and insisted on carrying her back, with one hand supporting her back and the other hooked behind her knees. Her arms were draped instinctively around his neck, and she sighed, her lips grazing his collarbone, and her eyes fluttered shut.
"Thanks, Neji." She said softly when Neji put her down. She rubbed her eyes as she opened them. "Where are we?"
"This is my new house- Hiashi-sama bought it for me, as a wedding gift." Neji looked around. The furnishings were simple and austere, and of a neutral palette. Tenten placed her silver heels on the floor.
"It looks nice." Tenten said quietly. "Will you keep it?"
"Yes," Neji replied, taking the weapons expert into his arms, folding them around her as she leaned into the curve of his body.
Tenten was almost dozing quite comfortably, her head raising and lowering with Neji's chest, and she felt his heart pound beside her ear.
"Mmm?" she looked up at him, and he gently slid a finger beneath her chin to raise her mouth to his, gently gathering her into his arms. They broke apart, and Tenten languidly met his eyes. They held fiery sparks, and the sight of them sent tingles running up and down her spine. He kissed her again, the passion of them rising to meet the emotions he felt inside, and Tenten responded in kind.
Neji stood, and Tenten with him, their lips still entwined. Her hands were on his shoulders and his hands rested upon her hips, his grip firm and sure.
Tenten let herself be guided to Neji's bedroom, her mind only on Neji, and his mind only upon her.
They broke apart, hesitating, and avoiding looking at the bed.
After a moment, Tenten spoke.
"So, Neji- do you have any other secret girlfriends, fiancées, wives, arranged marriages I should know about?"
Neji detected the slight bitterness in her voice, but she did not move away from him.
"There is," he whispered, "nothing in my mind other than you, Tenten."
Tenten cracked up in laughter, her eyes lighting up.
"I don't think I expected that one." She sighed and rubbed her hands across his shoulders.
"You make it sound like I have no heart sometimes."
"I used to wonder…" Tenten smiled. "… especially when I found out about Hitomi."
"So how long are you going to hold this against me?"
"Um… for as long as I can…" Tenten murmured as Neji leaned closer to her. Her eyelids lowered, and she cleared her throat. "I mean," she said, her eyes snapping open once again. "You only kept the fact that you were going to be married from me- I don't think that it's so much of a big deal, after a month, right?" She said sarcastically. "You'll just have to keep making it up to me." She smiled.
"And for how much longer will I have to keep this up?"
"Oh," she smiled, her fingers tracing the veins upon his wrist, "just until I say so."
"Well I'll see what I can do, then." Neji smirked and leaned in to kiss her. She turned her cheek to his lips at the last moment.
Unperturbed, he planted little, light kisses upon her cheek, and then left a trail of them down the dips, curves and hollows of her neck … and then up once again to her chin and, finally, to her mouth. This time, she let him take her lips with a sigh.
After a moment, she broke away.
"But the thing is-"
Neji rolled his eyes.
"We just spoke about this."
"The conversation we had was not nearly as long enough as I would have liked." Tenten smirked, and Neji wiped it off her face with a single kiss. Tenten laughed and tried to push him away, but he only pulled her into him so her head rested on his chest, her hands were firmly caught by his.
"I mean- you only broke my heart a month ago because you didn't tell me that you were going to get married, and you strung me along like an idiot. And don't try apologise-"
"Stop trying to kill the mood," Neji growled roughly against her skin, and kissed her again, the heat melting the last of Tenten's inhibitions and resolve.
His hands roamed across her skin as he kissed her, tracing intricate, nonsensical paths across the creamy expanse that was hidden beneath the ruffled hem of the green dress. It was all he had wanted to do since he had first seen her put it on.
Neji's hands tugged playfully- teasingly- at the top of the zipper while tickling her bared upper back lightly and Tenten growled, frustrated to no end. He was enjoying this pointless taunting!
Kissing her once again, Neji gently pushed her backwards into the wall, his fingers combing through her lustrous hair while his other hand moved to the loosening straps.
She broke away from him, an indignant spark lit in her eyes. She didn't realise her hair was (in Neji's opinion) sexily tousled to the sides, tendrils falling into her face, glittery snowflakes clinging valiantly to some strands. Her lips were swollen from the kisses he hadn't been able to control and all traces of lip gloss had vanished more than a few hours ago.
"What is that look supposed to mean?" Tenten demanded huffily.
"Nothing- I just think you're so incredibly beautiful … it's just too bad you still have those clothes on … because …" Neji whispered the rest of the words in her ear, and she blushed, and punched his shoulder playfully, pushing him into the wall.
"Pervert!" she said loudly, and Neji pulled her gently closer to him, stopping all of her words and thoughts with a simple, sweet kiss. He looked into her eyes for reassurance and their positions were suddenly reversed.
Neji's hands delicately but steadily removed the dress she'd been wearing, caressing the soft skin as the zipper smoothly came undone. Then, he gently guided her to the bed, and they somehow ended up on top of the covers, the dress falling from Neji's sure hands as he left soft, swift, worshipful butterfly kisses along the newly bared skin, and up to her mouth, where he confidently banished all of her fears with another kiss.
Getting used to the idea, and warming to it quickly, Tenten's hands found the buttons of Neji's charcoal grey shirt. With her nimble fingers, she began to unfasten them, one by one, knowing that she was driving Neji insane with anticipation.
Her fingers danced sensually across his heated skin, a polar opposite to the frenetic patterns he created upon her back.
Nibbling on her bottom lip, Neji acknowledged her hands with an approving growl, the low vibrations emitted from his chest spreading across hers. With a smile and a laugh, Tenten pushed him away, but he refused to let her go, pulling her back down on top of his stomach.
The garment fell from his finely sculpted shoulders in a graceful motion, Tenten now exploring the exposed planes of Neji's abdomen, her tongue tracing a gentle path around Neji's navel. She smiled devilishly as he gave into her ministrations, her hands moving to the waist band of his pants as her mouth explored the dips and curves of Neji's firm muscles.
Breathing, Neji found, became incredibly difficult when Tenten removed his pants- leaving him only in his black satin boxer shorts.
Deciding that it was certainly an appropriate time and place to show Tenten that her feelings were more than just reciprocated, Neji pinned her beneath him once more, his fingertips trailing against the smooth lace of her underwear as he kissed her, their breaths intermingling.
Her heart was pounding rapidly; all she could hear was the sweet, heady rush of blood through her body, and Neji's breaths that were as frenetic as hers. His hands traced nonsensical patterns up and down her thighs, and a tremor rippled across her skin- a chill wave despite the heat.
She gasped and tore her lips away.
"Are you okay?" he asked her worriedly.
Biting her lip, Tenten nodded, and Neji kissed her sweetly yet again. It seemed to work, and the kunoichi responded just as warmly as he.
Neji's fingers slid beneath the elastic that rested on the arc of her hip, sliding them inch by inch down her thighs as he kissed her intensely. When they, too, lay discarded upon the floor, Neji ran his fingertips up her thighs, slowly, skimming gently over smooth curve of her hip, past the straps of the white bra that she wore, up to her face, which he held lovingly as he kissed her passionately.
Tenten pulled away for a moment, searching his eyes. This was what they wanted; she knew that… what was holding them back?
"Neji…" Tenten bit her lip and looked away. Neji slid his forefinger beneath her chin and tilted her face so the only place she could look was into his eyes.
She saw her feelings confidently reflected within them; she saw the words she'd tried to say, and the answer he would have given her had she the courage to ask him. With a smile, that weight upon her shoulders vanished and he kissed her passionately.
Soon, there was nothing upon their skin except for those blissful sighs that were like music to Neji's ears; a caress as it danced down his back. They were vulnerable, physically, mentally and spiritually- everything was ripped away, and they rediscovered a quiet innocence that had been lost when they'd washed blood from their hands for the first, and most definitely not last, time.
Every kiss, sigh and word between them was cherished- and they were lost to the world, knowing only that other soul beside them.
Bathed in the afterglow of her high, Tenten smiled serenely as Neji pulled the bed sheets over them.
He held her within the lean circle of his arms, his lips resting against the middle of her forehead as her heart beat slowed, and soon, she felt no difference in her heart rate and Neji's. She felt so content, and so peaceful with this sole individual- this one person she knew she could be herself around, and not have to be guarded about anything at all – that she never wanted to leave.
Neji watched her as her eyes drifted shut, feeling utterly relaxed- the opposite of the effects the intense hypersensitivity had brought on- a delicious euphoria that had outdone the effects of adrenaline by far.
"Neji…" Tenten whispered, saying his name like another silken caress as it glided sensually down his back.
Neji's hand did not move from where he had placed it (on the small of her back) but he kissed her ear affectionately to show he was listening.
"Neji… can I stay the night?" she asked, completely ruining the entire atmosphere.
She was stripped to the core- all because of this one boy who had somehow stolen her heart at the age of twelve, and a young man who broken it at eighteen- a scant month ago…
"I think that's a given, Tenten." Neji smirked.
With those words, Neji kissed her on the lips, gently, saying all the thoughts in her mind. She belonged to him, now- and he belonged only to her.
…and had now returned everything a hundredfold.
Tiredly, his mind shut down as his fingers ran one last time, tracing the smooth curving line of her spine, smiling as she murmured intelligibly and shifted against his body, and he fell asleep, knowing only her scent and her heartbeat.
Sunlight streamed in from the skylight the next morning, and the shinobi stirred, unused to the light source. He peeked through lowered eyelashes, gazing down at the tranquilly sleeping woman in his arms; team mate, best friend- lover. The sunlight cast a warm glow upon her skin- bared to her hip- and he gently ran his hand up against her back, resting it protectively on the small of her back, the smooth tendrils of her hair gently caressing his fingertips. She murmured, and turned her head slightly, her lips grazing the skin of his inner arm.
Tenten felt incredibly at peace. It was the best she'd felt in a long time, actually, considering the fact that she could be a completely lousy morning person. The bed, pillows and blankets smelled so much of Neji, and she burrowed herself further into his smooth chest, sighing happily. He smelt nice in the morning, and it was even nicer… considering that they were both absolutely naked.
The kunoichi's body responded automatically to her memories of the previous night, an almost idiotic smile lighting up her face as she gazed upon her lover, propping herself up onto her elbow, her hair flowing back over her shoulder.
Tenten's senses were suddenly overwhelmed by everything around her- the smell of Neji's skin, the feel of cool, crisp sheets against her skin, the sight of a completely naked Neji in the morning, the taste of his kisses still lingering around her lips… a completely naked Neji?
Oh yes- Tenten could definitely get used to waking up like this in the morning; she thought as her mind drifted back to what had happened last night after they'd gotten home from Dusk…
Neji sighed as Tenten slid out from between the sheets, pulling on the charcoal grey shirt Neji had worn last night and wrapping it around her form.
Lacing his fingers behind his head, Neji sighed as she left the room.
"Tenten- come back to bed!" he called out.
Tenten sighed and stuck her head back into the bedroom.
"I'll be back in a minute."
Walking into the kitchen, Tenten poured herself a glass of water and sipped at it slowly as she stared out the window. When she'd finished her drink, she focused her eyes, and froze.
"Hiashi-sama?" Tenten asked timidly.
"Tenten," he replied pleasantly.
The kunoichi hastily wrapped the shirt tighter around her body.
"Um… so what are you doing here?"
"I would ask you the same question."
Biting her lip, Tenten blushed. It was more than self explanatory. Her hair was tangled and mussed from sleep. She was standing in Neji's kitchen, naked save for Neji's shirt. It seemed that Hiashi just wanted to hear her confirm his thoughts.
She cleared her throat before meeting his gaze levelly. "I stayed the night." She replied coolly. It was hard, keeping a straight face. It was even harder to keep a straight face while looking Hyuuga Hiashi in the eye. He seemed relatively pleased with her answer, thought she suspected he hadn't really listened.
"Well, I came to see Neji, and ask him if he still wanted the unit."
Neji walked into the kitchen wearing shorts and a shirt.
"I see." Hiashi nodded.
"How is Hitomi?" Neji asked, purely out of courtesy.
"She's not very well, at the moment- but all she needs is time."
Silence fell, and Tenten twitched.
"Well, have a good afternoon." Hiashi said and left the apartment calmly, shutting the door behind him.
When he shut the door, Tenten waited a full ten seconds before releasing the breath she was holding.
"That was so embarrassing!" She said, hitting herself on the head.
Neji tugged gently on her arm, pulling her into the warmth of his chest, and kissed her languidly.
"Good morning," he whispered after they broke apart.
Tenten looked up and met Neji's eyes. Her fingers found their way to the skin on his smooth chest and she began to draw imaginary circles across the sculpted muscle. Her other hand rested upon his head, twining gently with the jet black strands of hair. A glittery speck fell from her fingers, and Tenten smiled.
"So I was thinking today…" Tenten said with some difficulty.
Neji sighed, cupping her cheek with his right hand, and used his other to detach her fingers from his hair and intertwine their fingers gently.
"If there was time…"
Tenten stopped talking.
"You're rambling." Neji smirked. "And ask me later."
"Because you're only wearing my shirt."
"What has that got to do with anything?" Tenten asked, frowning.
She understood immediately after when he kissed her yet again, a hand wandering beneath the dark fabric of the shirt.
Oh yes, they both could definitely get used to seeing this in the morning.
Just another note: I would be eternally grateful if you'd take a look at the sidefic to this- it's called 'A Blossom With Reason' – you can access it by clicking on my name- and even more thankful if you'd review- so please go check it out!