Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me
Ok, finally got this thing posted after many long weeks of working on it. Got hooked on the idea for this story after watching 'Love Generation' for the tenth time so here it is. Hope you enjoy it!
Coming to Terms
Pale blonde hair fluttered in the wind, the moonlight dancing off in a gleaming, gleeful halo. Eyes the colour of the afternoon sky twinkled mischievously in the darkness, their owner stealthily creeping forwards towards the solitary figure by the lake from underneath the shadowed security of the forest.
The girl braced herself to pounce when…
"I know you're there, Yamanaka."
Pouting, Ino stepped out on to the pebbled shoreside, the sound of her sandals crunching over the rocks breaking the peace of the night.
"You could have said something, Neji. Oh wait, I forgot. You like surprising people with your incredible prodigy powers."
The Hyuuga didn't even bother turning to glance at the girl stopping a few feet away from him. His face remained tilted towards the stars, the self-same moonlight appearing to be absorbed by the midnight of his bound hair.
They had just finished up their mission and were heading back to Konoha. Kiba and Akamaru had turned in for the night, the pair of them snoring away in the tent that Ino had gratefully escaped in search of a moment of quiet. They had all grown up somewhat, all of them chuunin with the exception of Shikamaru and Neji, both of whom had sped up the ranks at an almost alarming pace. The village was enjoying peace at the moment, a welcome respite that was nevertheless disarming in its uncertainty.
"Did you want something, Yamanaka? Or did you just come out here to annoy me?"
"Got it right in one shot. Guess you are good for something."
Ino shot him a brilliant grin, the wheels whirling constantly in her head as she mimicked his motionless pose. Only after having worked together on a number of missions had the kunoichi garnered a sort of familiarity with the famed Jounin.
His expression was as implacable as always but the relaxed set of his jaw and lack of tension in his shoulders signaled his ease in the situation. The Hyuuga was always so tightly coiled, so tensely alert that Ino had taken it upon herself to knock him down a few pegs whenever she got the chance.
It always amazed her that he hadn't killed her yet.
A marginally lifted eyebrow was all the response she got.
"Kiba was just saying that he…look out!"
Leaping forwards abruptly, the girl crashed into the startled figure in front of her, her fingers moving swiftly and nimbly before she bounced back up and left the Hyuuga prone on the ground.
Artfully shielding one hand behind her back, Ino laughed sheepishly as the boy picked himself up slowly, sending her one of his patented disapproving glares.
"Whoops, sorry. My mistake. Must have been a firefly or something."
His irritated order listed off as the boy suddenly registered the dark strands of hair falling loosely in his eyes. The darkened curves of the curse scar shone clearly on his pale skin. Ino had only ever seen it once before, all those years ago at the first chuunin exam when he had removed his hiatae in front of Naruto and the rest of Konoha.
The hiatae that was currently dangling in her left hand.
"You really shouldn't keep it covered up all the time, Neji. You're going to…"
Ino's mouth snapped shut at the blast of angry chakra that hit her. Forcing herself to stay steady against the sudden urge to move back, she met a pair of icy pale eyes head on.
The Hyuuga took a single step forwards, his hands flexing by his side as if he was visibly restraining himself from wrapping them around her throat.
"Give it back."
"I…it was just a joke, Neji!"
"I said, give it back."
Ino swallowed nervously. Alright, maybe she had gone a bit too far this time. But really, it wasn't something he should be ashamed of. That was all she was trying to show him. And it certainly didn't give him the right to intimidate her like this.
Argh, you're so stupid, Yamanaka Ino! Why can't you keep your big mouth shut!
Unsurprisingly, the wave of hot chakra beating down on her grew even more. She could practically see him vibrating with anger, the colour drained out of his face until the raised veins around his eyes were almost pulsing.
In a flash, Ino found herself slamming into the ground in a painful heap, her body screaming in protest as various rocks and other protrusions dug into her flesh. Gasping at the ache in her shoulder where he had hit her, she blinked uncomprehendingly at the sight of the Hyuuga swiftly retying the headcloth in place.
"Damnit, Neji! What the hell was that for?"
Wincing slightly, she got to her feet, brushing off the debris hanging to her clothes. The colour rose in her cheeks as she snarled at him, indignation at his rough treatment clouding her better judgment to just apologize and run away as quickly as possible.
In three angry strides, Ino was in front of him, a slim finger jabbing fiercely in his chest.
"Just what did you do that for? Attacking your own teammate! You'll be lucky if I don't report this to the Godaime!"
Neji stared down impassively at her, his sudden burst of temper apparently abated enough for him to release the Byakugan.
"Stealing is also not permitted."
"I wasn't stealing! It was just a joke! Ever hear of a joke, Hyuuga? Of course not, you don't have a sense of humor!"
A large hand clamped down on her wrist, preventing her from continuing to poke at him.
"It wasn't a joke to me."
The harsh tones of his voice somehow registered through the blazing red haze in Ino's mind and she paused, taking in the beautifully sculpted face above her.
She could not read it, of course. Even his old teammates could not read him after all this time. But behind the coldness, behind the annoyance, Ino thought she could see something.
Maybe it came from all those years of having to deal with Shikamaru's similarly expressionless appearance. Maybe it came from her family ability to reach into other's minds and manipulate their thoughts and bodies into obedience.
Whatever it was, Ino thought she glimpsed something through a chink in the impenetrable Hyuuga armor.
Frowning slightly, Ino moved back, her hand dropping slowly as he released her. She stared up at him silently for a moment, her eyes narrowed in thought as he stood motionlessly.
If he was surprised by her quiet capitulation, he didn't show it. Neji nodded stiffly before turning as if to make his way back to camp.
Her request was accompanied by a hand on his arm. He looked pointedly down at it before raising his eyes to hers. Ino ignored his implied request to stop invading his personal space. She had always been a rather affectionate person and if this was going to work, then he had best get used to it.
If what is going to work? Do I even know what I'm offering?
It sounded strange, even to her ears.
Neji turned back fully to face her, his mouth thinning as he took in her solemn words.
"What do you understand?"
She let go just then, her hand raising absently to tuck some loose strands behind her ear. She did know, knew what she was offering and knew that he knew it too.
"How it feels. To be always searching."
Her voice was soft as she fixed her eyes on the calm surface of the water. Ino could feel his gaze on her, penetrating and sharp before he finally followed her example and focused on the horizon.
For once, it appeared as though she had said the right thing. The silence between them was comfortable, if a little awkward. And even though he was not standing close enough for it to be called familiar, Ino imagined she could feel the warmth radiating off him.
A/N: Neji is fascinating to me...there's something about lost souls that are crying out for an anchor that just grips me to the core.
Next update coming in a week or two. Super busy right now but please do review and let me know how you feel. Thanks!