"Do I have to do this today?" muttered Neji, as they wove through the crowded Konoha streets.
"I told you before, you'll lose your initiative if you don't do it immediately," Tenten replied patiently. "Besides, there's no time like the present. Wait--isn't your apartment here?"
"Mmm-hmm." He fiddled with the lock, and they entered the apartment that he shared with Lee. Tenten had been in here before, of course, but the surplus of green just seemed to get more shocking each time she visited.
Tenten dropped her pack, and turned around to face her former teammate, whose arms were crossed across his chest. He was scowling at the floor. "I await your instructions," he told her. The tone of his voice made it quite clear that he expected to hear something ridiculous.
She circled him, smirking at the almost tangible murderous feelings that emanated from his entire being. "You need a hot shower," she proclaimed. "Wash your hair with your best shampoo. Shave, even though you don't particularly need to. Try and do something about the circles under your eyes. You might want to do some plucking, too."
Neji arched an eyebrow.
Tenten giggled nervously. "Never mind about the, um, plucking. I'm just used to helping Hinata get ready for her dates." Before he could properly register the words Hinata and dates, the weapons master placed her hands on his back and steered him through the halls until she figured out where the bathroom was. It was hard to distinguish the rooms here-everything was just too green.
Neji looked back at her before closing the door. "Anything else?"
"I don't suppose you have any exfoliating scrubs or moisturizers?"
Neji shut the door in her face.
Laughing, Tenten walked across the hallway to his room. It was a very pale shade of green; almost white. She wondered how long Neji had to bug Lee to get him to agree to the new shade. Aside from basic furniture, Neji's room was bare, so finding where he kept his clothes was a simple matter.
ANBU uniform, everyday jounin gear, training shirts and pants, yet more training outfits, Hyuuga robes…
Tenten sighed, feeling more and more frustrated as she dug through the clothes. Did Neji own any nice dress shirts or pants? Somehow, she doubted it.
After ten minutes of rummaging and trying to mix and match, Tenten was forced to settle on the Hyuuga robes. They would work well enough, and they were ironed already.
Besides, the blue ties and cream material would complement his eyes quite nicely.
Gathering the robes in her arms, Tenten crossed over to Lee's room. This one was considerably more cluttered, but she soon found what she was looking for.
Cologne. Bottles and bottles of it. In every fragrance imaginable.
After finally settling on one bottle, she dragged her load back over to the bathroom and knocked sharply on the door, after waiting for the sounds of the shower to subside.
"What?" Neji barked, from the other side of the door, as he pulled on his robe.
"I have your things!" called Tenten. Before she could knock again, the door was opened, and a very cranky-looking Hyuuga faced her. "What's wrong with you?"
He covered his hair with a towel protectively when she turned toward him, brandishing a hairbrush. "…It's the hair care products," he muttered, at last. "Lee used the last of mine. I was stuck with the Very Berry Sensation."
"Nothing wrong with that," Tenten countered, pulling away the towel. "It's my favorite."
"It's also Gaara's."
Tenten paled slightly, brushing the hair with greater vigor until it hung down his back, tangle-free and smelling strongly of assorted berries. "The robes are good," he said at last, his fingers brushing through the items she had deposited on the counter. "Wait. What's this?"
Neji was holding the cologne away from him at arm's length, frowning as if it was something deeply distasteful, and the kunoichi confiscated it.
"It's cologne, Neji. It makes you smell nice." Tenten pointed the bottle at him, her finger poised on the spray button.
Neji backed away unwittingly. "Come any closer, woman, and I will Kaiten you into the next apartment."
Tenten sprayed the cologne.
When Neji was again visible through the mist, he glared at her. "Only for Sakura am I putting myself through this humiliation."
"Whatever you say, Hyuuga. Put your clothes on and meet me in the living room."
Ten minutes later, Neji emerged from the bathroom, looking slightly less cranky. He had discovered that the cologne masked the scent of his hair, and that was only a good thing. Tenten was sitting on the couch, waiting.
"Sit," she instructed.
Tenten studied him for a few moments, before giggling suddenly. "I cannot believe you're almost twenty-one years old and have never been on a date." Waving off his glare, she looked over at the clock. "Sakura would be at the hospital now. You are going to go to the hospital, require to see Haruno Sakura, and when you see her, you will make some small talk before asking her to go out with you."
"…Would that be dinner?"
"Ooh, you catch on fast. Or a movie, or a moonlit walk. Use that famous imagination of yours."
Neji had a sudden idea.
"And no nighttime training sessions, because that would not be romantic."
"And above all, don't get nervous. Don't stammer or say anything stupid. Now, go. I'm going to stay here and wait for Lee--he'll be back from Sand in a couple of hours, anyway."
Neji stood up, feeling something unfamiliar in his chest. "Thank you, Tenten."
His friend rose and gave him a hug, and he smelled her familiar lavender and metal. "I'm glad that you've finally found someone, Neji. Good luck."
Ten minutes later found the Hyuuga striding through the streets, wishing that it wasn't quite so warm. His skin was already flushed, and he refused to amount it to anything besides the heat.
He glared at a bush of lilacs he was passing, cursing Tenten's penchant for matchmaking. The kunoichi had been responsible for at least half of all the couples in Konoha, it seemed. Wondering what on earth he was going to say to Sakura, Neji paused in front of the hospital doors.
He had fought S-rank criminals. He had passed the infamous jounin exams with flying colors. He was widely considered as the greatest prodigy in the Hyuuga family.
And the mere thought of asking the pink-haired jounin-to-be on a date filled him with unease.
Summoning every ounce of his considerable amount ofcourage, Neji strode through the glass doors and requested to see Haruno Sakura. The apprentice in front of him checked his papers. "She is seeing a patient right now--however, you can wait for her in her office, in room 301."
When Neji entered the empty office, he wasn't quite sure what to expect. Some part of him thought it would probably be decked out in pink or green décor, with pictures of flowers on the walls.
He was pleasantly surprised to see that the office was painted in mainly neutral tones-light blues and cream. The desk and chairs were made out of the same polished wood that he could find in his uncle's office. The walls did have pictures of flowers on them, but they were done in light oils, and were considerably less bright and flashy than he had expected.
"Neji?" asked a surprised voice, after a few minutes. Sakura entered the room, closing the door behind her, and gave him a smile. "You're not due for a checkup for two weeks. Could it be that you're actually beginning to care about your own well-being?"
"Just a little bit. But I blame it on your negative influence."
She grinned mischievously, before flinging herself down on the leather sofa with a relieved sigh. "Come on, sit."
Neji sat, thinking that women seemed to enjoy ordering him around. "You look exhausted."
"Long day." She stretched. "I actually have a break coming up in about ten minutes. Then I get a grand total of two hours off, and then I have the all-night shift."
"Harsh," he commiserated, while mentally thanking her for the unwitting opening she gave him. Maybe this asking-Sakura-out thing wasn't going to be that difficult, after all.
"Oh, I forgot, you ANBU people have hours like that almost every day." The medic-nin tempered her words with an affectionate smile. "Tsunade-sama considered appointing me, but…I wasn't sure if I could adjust to that lifestyle. I've become rather attached to my sleep."
"One gets used to losing it, after the first few months. I've found that it's overrated."
Sakura laughed, partly out of surprise. In the year and a half that she had known him as more than just an acquaintance, she sill hadn't gotten used to his dry sense of humor. He had always looked so humorless, before. She supposed that it just showed that one didn't really know a person until you had been their medic for months at a time.
Come to think of it…
Neji looked a little uncomfortable. "Sakura?" he asked abruptly.
"I…do you…I mean, do you have any plans for your break?"
Sakura had a vague inkling of what was going on, before she shrugged that away. Just the wishful thinking of a young woman who hadn't been on a date in years. Nothing more. "No, actually, I don't."
Neji took a deep breath. "Would you like to go out with me? For dinner?"
Sakura felt her world collapse around her ears. "Are you serious?" she all but squeaked.
The Hyuuga prodigy gave her one of his custom what-do-you-think looks, but she couldn't see the flash of uncertainty in his white eyes.
Before he could say anything more, the kunoichi startled them both by flinging her arms around him, knocking him over to the other side of the sofa. She was a little surprised to notice that he smelled vaguely of cologne and Very Berry Sensation. "That sounds like a lovely idea," she beamed, before letting go of him.
The entire smiling business was somewhat unfamiliar to him, but Neji attempted one anyway. It wasn't as brilliant as Lee's, being rather shy, but Sakura seemed to like it. He stood and helped her up; as she led him out of the office, Neji couldn't help but walk a little taller, feeling a sense of self-accomplishment.
"Aren't those lilacs nice?" Sakura asked as they passed the bush he had glowered at, not an hour earlier.
"They're beautiful," he concurred.
As the sun set, Neji found it ironic, that with Sakura happily walking beside him, the world looked a lot brighter than it had that morning.
The next afternoon at Ichiraku, Tenten was eating her customary lunch of chicken ramen. She hadn't seen either Neji or Sakura since last evening, when she had sent him off, and she wondered what happened between them. Judging by the high success ratings of those she set up, the weapons master was willing to bet that their date had went well.
Her musings were cut off by the sudden arrival of her pink-haired friend. "Good afternoon, Tenten!" Sakura greeted cheerfully, setting down her pack and climbing onto a stool beside her.
"You look happy," said Tenten mischievously. "Anything I should know about?"
"You'll never believe what happened last evening."
"Neji asked me out on a date. Neji!"
"You're joking." Tenten took a large bite of her ramen, to conceal her big smile.
"I never joke," Sakura quipped, using the stolen phrase.
She clicked her chopsticks. "Details?"
As Sakura quite happily indulged, Tenten grinned.
She was going to be absolutely unbearable at their wedding.