A/N: Yosh, I'm back with a new one! Ok,ok, I know most of you are probably going to kill me for not continuing with my other fics, but this idea was floating around in my obsessive mind and it just couldn't be ignored.
This chapter is completely introductory, so not much happens in it. However, I made up for this fact by having Neji in the shower and half naked for almost all the length of the chapter… hehe, a small treat from my part!
As I was planning this whole story, an extremely sexy version of Neji came popping into my head, so Sakura's going to get more than she's bargained for! Haha! So be warned, future chapters will most probably have 'mature content' and this whole story is rated 'M'.
But enough of my ramblings, I'll let you read in peace now. Hope you like my version of things… enjoy!
Chapter I – Dissatisfied return
As silver streamed through the glass of the living room window, the front door swung open, revealing the tall silhouette of Konoha's top ANBU Captain. Turning on the light quickly, Hyuuga Neji sighed deeply, going over the few furnishings of his apartment, glad to finally be able to step into his home once more.
Stepping inside, he closed the door behind him, taking off his uniform as he walked. Mud was splattered all over his clothing and long gashes crisscrossed his arms, as if he had been running straight through a field of thorn bushes. He placed his feline mask on a table next to the sofa, not stopping as he made his way towards his bedroom, a hot shower the only thing on his mind.
Having arrived from an incredibly tedious mission just minutes ago, he had been dreaming of a hot bath through the long days it had taken his team to get back to Konoha. Stopping only to make a preliminary report at the Hokage's office, Neji had taken a direct route towards his home with the sole intention of getting cleaned up, since the accumulated grime of several days was clinging to his body like a second skin.
As was usually the case with ANBU assassination missions, their target would play a game of hide and seek for as long as possible, attempting to throw the hunter nins off. Most of the time, this strategy would work, since the ANBU team would eventually grow tired of having to be on 24 hour vigilance and would have to call on replacements to continue with the tracking. This, however, wasn't the case when Hyuuga Neji was leading a mission.
With his legendary skills and his perfected Byakugan, Neji could track a missing nin through the harshest of conditions. As a Captain, he had a 95 percent success rate, which placed him on top of all the other ANBU in Konoha, reinforcing his reputation as a prodigy.
Despite this fact, it had taken him a whole two weeks to track and eliminate this past mission's nin, a fact which had frustrated him to no end. Pushing his team to their up most limits, they had chased the shinobi to the borders of the Rain Country, where swamp lands and moors ruled the landscape. After a series of strenuous skirmishes through mud and rain, they had managed to corner the renegade ninja, ending his pitiful life once and for all.
By the time they managed to rest and clean up as best as they could, Neji had realized it would take them the better part of three days to get back to their home village. Not wanting to waste another minute in the insect infested swamp they had been forced to enter, his team didn't object when he informed them they would be moving out after resting only for a few night hours.
So, a few days later, he was relieved to find his mire spluttered self entering his home, with nothing between him and his shower.
After taking off his shirt, he untied his long hair from the high ponytail he wore, letting it fall freely down his back. After years of experience with ANBU missions, he found that it was better to wear his hair up rather than in the loose ponytail he used to wear it in. He had found himself covered by his own hair in several instances when his low ponytail had slipped completely loose; even though he could see perfectly well with his Byakugan through his dark strands, it was needless to say that having his face completely covered in hair while he was in the middle of close combat wasn't a very comfortable experience. So, a change of hairstyle had been in order.
Slipping off his trousers, he finished undressing as he stepped into his bathroom. Taking a look at himself in the mirror, he surveyed the scrapes and bruises scattered through his muscular torso. They were all minor injuries and were more a nuisance than anything else. Unconsciously, his hand went up to massage a predominant scar up on the left side of his chest. It was a memento from his vicious fight with Kidoumaro of Sound, a fight he was never likely to forget. In all his life as a ninja, Neji had seen death close up, but never that close. But even if the whole memory filled his being with apprehension, it also brought happy recollections of his younger days.
As he stepped into the shower and turned the water up to a scalding temperature, he remembered how his life had been turned from a dark void of servitude to a life full of brightness when he realized the truth behind his family history. It hadn't been an easy change, and it had taken a few well-placed punches on Naruto's part to make Neji see the light, but it had been well worth it. His resentment towards Hinata-sama had completely vanished after that, and as he hastily climbed in the shinobi ranks as only a prodigy could, he started to truly realize the fact that he had other options in life apart from serving the Main family as a bodyguard… he was capable of changing his fate.
After attaining the status of Jounin in what seemed like a blink of an eye, Hiashi-sama had granted Neji a special privilege, since he had brought much honor to the Hyuuga family with his skill and excellence: he was allowed to live outside the family complex. Knowing that the young ninja preferred to have his private space and solitude, the Clan leader saw no objection in giving this small freedom to his nephew. It was an act of trust from his part and Neji was not one to reject the unexpected gesture.
Taking up a bar of soap and a sponge, the raven haired captain proceeded to scrub himself clean, relishing in the feeling of freshness thrumming through his skin. After a couple of weeks of not being able to remove the dirt covering him properly, he thanked the heavens for the invention of the modern shower. He washed his hair devotedly as well, since there was nothing worse than walking around with a head full of grime.
Once he was done scrubbing, he leaned back against the tiled wall, allowing the hot water to soothe away the tiredness of his muscles, relieving the tension he had built up during the mission. Tracking the missing nin had been a pain in the ass to say the least, and Neji didn't like it when things didn't go as he planned. It had been quite a challenge, he had to admit, and he had enjoyed the thrill of adrenaline that came with the chase, but there were limits to one's enjoyment. The damn ninja had evaded him completely for almost five days straight and it had finally started to get on his nerves.
It was useless to dwell on it now however, since the mission was over and done with. They had trapped and eliminated the nin successfully and he should be satisfied with that. Considering all the unfavorable circumstance his team had faced during the mission, they had actually accomplished their goal fairly quickly, something he should be pleased with. After having effectively completed a mission, Neji usually returned home with a feeling of fulfillment, no matter how small the task had been.
But as he turned the water off and reached for his towel, Konoha's top ranking ANBU Captain realized that this feeling was nowhere near the neighborhood.
Neji wasn't prone to sulking or brooding… not at all. If he made a mistake, he did everything in his power to rectify it and learn from it, and this applied to his professional life as a ninja as well as to his personal life. Having lived most of his childhood hiding behind a mask of arrogance, Neji had been taught a hard lesson in humility when he had been beaten by Naruto, and it was a lesson he had learned for life. There was nothing wrong with admitting your mistakes and if they affected another person, you should try your best to apologize, rectifying your error as best as you could. There was no point in dwelling on your past and not being able to let it go, no matter how recent it might be.
As he toweled himself dry, Neji pondered the reason behind his lack of contentment. He had performed flawlessly during his mission, as he usually did, and there hadn't been any screw ups with his team either. There was absolutely no reason to feel like this… but he was.
Wrapping the towel around his waist, he made his way towards his bedroom, wet hair dripping down his muscled back. Opening his closet door, he absentmindedly grabbed the first pair of sweat trousers he could find and slipped them on, using the towel to dry his hair afterwards.
The more he thought about it, the more he was inclined to think that this strange feeling of 'dissatisfaction' he was having had nothing to do with his previous mission, since nothing wrong had actually happened. But if it wasn't his mission, then what was it?
Walking back into the bathroom, he combed his hair methodically and proceeded to tie it back up into a ponytail before tying his usual bandages over the cursed seal on his forehead. Hanging the towel on top of the shower curtain, he made his way shirtless towards the kitchen, intent on getting something to drink. Opening the fridge, he was pointedly reminded of the fact that he hadn't been home in two weeks since there wasn't a trace of food anywhere. He picked up a carton of orange juice and smelled its contents. Grimacing at the nauseating odor which met his nose, he threw it away immediately, promising he would go to the market first thing in the morning.
Closing the fridge door, he grabbed a glass from a nearby cupboard and filled it with tap water. Turning around, he leaned against the sink, taking a long drink, emptying the glass almost completely. Refilling it quickly, he made his way towards his living room and slumped down on one of his soft leather couches.
As he leaned back on the sofa, he sighed deeply, trying unsuccessfully to get rid of the feeling he had been attempting to fight all night. It was time to admit that he wasn't satisfied… but wasn't satisfied with what?
Looking around his living room, he contemplated the few wooden furnishings he had. Even though he more than had the means to extravagantly adorn his living space, he preferred to keep things simple, having had a disliking for clutter since he was very small. His apartment was exactly how he wanted it to be: basic and neat.
He had everything a young shinobi could ask for… skill, respect, admiration, friends who would happily fight at his side… he had a place of his own, somewhere where he could have his privacy and enjoy some peace. He was the top ranking ANBU captain in the whole village and he was only 24; he was a flawless professional and did his job with unblemished expertise.
If he had everything anyone could ever want, then why did he feel so empty?
The reigning silence of the living room did nothing to answer his question.
A loud pounding on his door pulled him out of his reverie. Lifting himself up from the sofa with the grace of a cat, Neji went to answer the door.
"About time you got back to Konoha!" Naruto shouted once the Hyuuga had opened his door.
"Good to see you too," Neji mumbled under his breath, but Naruto seemed not to hear him. Looking up, he found the blond wasn't alone.
"Neji-san!" Lee exclaimed, elbowing Naruto out of the way, "I'm glad to see you are back! How was the mission?"
"Too long and too tedious," he replied sincerely.
"Haha! Spoken like a true ANBU captain," Kiba said sarcastically from behind Lee.
"Hmmph," a dark voice sounded from Kiba's right. "Did you get more than you bargained for this time, Hyuuga?" As he finished the question, the speaker leaned into the light of the doorway, a smirk plastered on his face.
Neji chuckled in response, matching his leer perfectly. "I'm afraid that will never happen, Uchiha."
Sasuke smiled in response but said nothing.
Six months ago, Neji had led a mission to eliminate a renegade nin which had led his team deep into Sound territory. Luckily for him, Naruto, Tenten, Shikamaru and Lee had been with him, for the battle which had ensued would have been lost if he had been accompanied by amateur shinobi. In what seemed to be a mere coincidence, they had been able to finally take the missing nin down near one of the many hideouts of Sound's leader, Orochimaru. Hearing a commotion near their position, they went in to investigate, not at all prepared for the sight which greeted them.
In the opening of an underground lair, they found none other than Uchiha Sasuke fighting for his life not only against Kabuto, but against Orochimaru as well.
Naruto had been impossible to control and before Neji could even begin to form a plan of action, the blond had already rushed towards the fight, two Kyuubi tails trailing behind him. After that, Neji had no choice but to engage his team in the fight.
Naturally, Orochimaru called for reinforcements as soon as Naruto approached and they came out by the dozens from the cave opening. The group was incredibly hard pressed, but with Lee's speed, Tenten's expertise and Shikamaru's brain, they managed to pull through. Neji, on the other hand, was forced to go head on with Kabuto and he was forced to give his all in the fight. They battled for what seemed like hours and the Hyuuga prodigy thought he would have to call a retreat. But from the corner of his eye, Neji suddenly saw a flash of immense energy fly by, only to see it crash directly into Orochimaru's chest.
As the snake man fell dead in a pile on the ground, Neji used Kabuto's distraction at seeing his master defeated to land his killing blow. Lifting his face to survey the scene, the Captain's eyes landed on the panting forms of Naruto and Sasuke, standing side by side; it was then that he realized they had used their combined forces of Rasengan and Chidori to bring down the infamous immortal shinobi.
Collapsing from the strain on his body, Sasuke fell like a rag doll. Catching his former team mate in his arms, Naruto's battle frenzy came to an end. As Neji watched the blond cradle his long lost comrade in his arms, he immediately knew he was standing in the middle of an enormous conflict of interest.
His duty demanded he take the Uchiha's life right there and then. The missing prodigy had been declared an 'S class' missing nin years ago and it was Neji's obligation to eliminate him without a second thought.
However, as he watched Naruto embrace Sasuke's blood splattered form, he knew that assassinating the renegade shinobi wouldn't be easy, and he would have to fight the blond to the death to achieve his goal. Also, he knew the history between the former team mates and he himself had formed part of the original mission to rescue Sasuke. At the same time, the Captain owed an unimaginable debt to Naruto, a debt he had never been able to truly pay back and this circumstance allowed him to repay the blond four times over.
So consumed was Neji in his thoughts that he jolted back to reality only find his whole team, Naruto included, staring at him, awaiting his next move. The blond's blue teary eyes were essentially pleading with him, since all of them knew this was Neji's decision to make.
Letting out a deep breathe, the Captain gave his verdict.
"Uchiha Sasuke will be taken back to Konoha as a prisoner, where he will receive trial over his actions."
The overwhelming tension which had been engulfing the people present dropped like a lead weight.
Naruto let his tears fall freely in gratitude towards Neji's merciful decision. Giving the circumstance, the blond knew very well that this was the best the Captain could give him, and in truth, it was more than he had ever truly expected.
They regrouped and readied themselves as quickly as possible, placing the corpses of Orochimaru and Kabuto in the body bags they always carried for elimination missions. Sasuke was tied up to prevent his escape in case he woke up, but that never happened, since he was unconscious all through the journey. Naruto carried him through the long miles of travel back to their home village… naturally, he didn't even complain once.
Afterwards, they found out that moments before they came into the scene, Orochimaru had attempted to perform his body-transfer technique on Sasuke after years of waiting patiently. Naturally, the black haired ninja had refused and had put up a fight, knowing this moment had been inevitable from the beginning. The snake man had managed to commence the jutsu however, and had sucked out much of Sasuke's chakra before he managed to escape from his grasp. He made it as far as the hideout's entrance where he almost collapsed from exhaustion; he was forced to make a stand there and was fighting a losing battle until the rest of them showed up.
Neji's team's timing had been nothing less than perfect.
The trial was long and dreary and it lasted for many weeks. In the end, the Hokage gave out her judgment after having a private 4 hour discussion with Naruto. Sasuke would be forced to repay his debt to Konoha by performing certain services, which weren't at all easy and most of them involved a high risk to his life. Second, he would have to divulge all the information he had on Orochimaru and his operation and would be forced to help eliminate the remaining members of the Sound Village. And third, Uzumaki Naruto would be held responsible for all of Sasuke's actions until the Hokage deemed prudent; if the Uchiha stepped out of line even once, not only would his life be forfeit, but Naruto's as well.
By the acceptance of these terms, Sasuke was considered a Konoha shinobi once more.
Naruto almost had a heart attack of happiness, tears streaming down his cheeks as he embraced the Godaime and Sasuke at the same time. To say he was ecstatic would be a gross understatement. The celebration lasted for a few days and all the shinobi of their generation joined in, even though there were more than a few people who were skeptical with Tsunade-sama's decision.
It took Sasuke quite some time to fit in once more with Konoha's routine, and he was forced to take his chuunin exam once more. Needless to say, he passed it with a flourish, heading directly to his jounin exam in a small period of time. In private, it took a while for his comrades to trust him again, but in truth, none of them were surprised to find how deeply he had changed. He confessed that after the threat of Akatsuki was eliminated and his brother Itachi exterminated by his own hand, his thirst for vengeance satiated, he found he had nowhere to go, nowhere to go home to, therefore, he had been forced to stick with Orochimaru and serve him.
Even though he didn't regret any of his actions, which given his circumstances, all of them could somehow understand, he truly appreciated all they had done for him, especially Naruto, and was glad to be able to rejoin their ranks. The arrogance with which he usually walked around wasn't gone, but it had a softer edge to it. It was easy to see that the experiences he had faced through the years had affected him greatly. He was easier to approach and his smiles showed up more often than before. And naturally, Naruto was his shadow from dusk to dawn.
But despite it all, there was one shadow missing from the former Team 7 and through the whole process, she had remained at a distance…
"Well, are you coming or not?" Naruto asked loudly.
Neji shook his head momentarily, jolting out of his thoughts.
"I'm sorry?" he asked in confusion.
Rolling his eyes, the blond was clearly at the end of his patience. "I said we were going over to the pub to catch a few drinks. Are you coming with us or not?"
Even though he had just come back from a mission, Neji suddenly realized that he wasn't at all tired. Going out and having some company would also be good for him and would help him to avoid that discomfiting feeling he had been experiencing since he got back.
"Sure, give me just a second to change," he said and without waiting for a reply, he went back into his apartment. After only a couple of minutes, he emerged, wearing one of his trademark white short-sleeved shirts, a relic from his past he was reluctant to part with; he had, however, updated the shorts he used to wear in his younger days with some black trousers.
"Let's go," Neji said, as he closed the door behind him.
"Yosh!" Naruto exclaimed as he put an arm around Neji's shoulders. Immediately, Lee came up on his other side and mimicked the gesture. And so, buried between the boisterous calls of Konoha's Beautiful Green Beast and the Kage Bunshin Master, Hyuuga Neji walked down to the nearest pub with a look of resignation on his face.
But despite this fact, he was truly glad to be in the presence of his friends.
And so, the game board is set! After thorough psychological analysis, we can see how Neji's behavior clearly implies that he's in desperate need of a girl. Haha! Luckily for him, I plan on giving him what he needs. Let me know what you think and I'll be updating ASAP!