Sweet Sixteenth

Neji had chased Tenten when she wanted him to catch her (to lure him into a trap, usually) - when she didn't want him to catch her (and he had to use all his skill and every bit of in-born advantage to track her, wily little vixen that she was) - but he had never chased her as he did now, when she fled with as little thought and as little finesse as a doe running from the hunter's arrow – and all the wild's speed and instinctive movements to go with it. She ran lightly, but frantically. The Hyuuga estate was on the edge of Konoha proper, as suited their clan's secretive and privacy-seeking ways - not only for them, but for their neighbors' sake as well. And Tenten knew this, and was running into the forest that bordered the village, eyes hot and mind a blazing blank except for the need to get away.

But Neji was hot on her heels – his own eyes hot with adrenaline, with something primeval that called him to chase what fled from him so fleetly. She could not shake him, she could not pull away, and his constant presence at her back drove her frantic, until at last she stopped and wheeled like a wolf at bay, and snarled at him. She groped for blades, but had none, for once - it was Hyuuga custom (and a practical one too) that none came to their table armed. But she had hands, and slim-muscled limbs, and kicking feet, and behind them all a red haze of anger and rage and frustrated, humiliated pain. She flung herself at him.

They grappled, none of the cleanly-executed movements drilled into them by years and years of training, rolling on the mossy forest floor. Tenten was a hissing, spitting wildcat, a roiling ball of enraged fury and fingers crooked into claws - but Neji had weight and height on her, and soon he had her pinned beneath him. She struggled wildly, the doe in the hunter's net, but no doe had screamed with such rage.

Then Neji kissed her again, swallowing her enraged cries into his mouth, and Tenten went still with shock underneath him.

When it was over, she was staring up at him with eyes gone round and huge, and her mouth hung slightly open. Neji had to grin at the sight, had to grin because of having just kissed her, and rested his forehead against hers. His hold relaxed, once she was no longer bucking for escape.

"You didn't give me a birthday present yet," he told her. He kissed her again, but lightly, his lips at the corners of hers, at her neck, on the underside of her jaw. "But ...all...I...want...is you, Tenten." He stopped kissing her so he could draw back, a little, and look her straight in the eye, white-silver to amber-brown.

Tenten stared back - and then her face twisted in fury. "You - utter - BASTARD!" she screamed, taking advantage of Neji's loosened hold to break free, rolling to her feet in a single fluid motion that showed all her training hadn't deserted her in this extreme of emotion.

Neji stumbled to his feet after her, his movements considerably less graceful - and was just able to dodge the senbon she flung at his shoulder, proving she had remembered that she never went anywhere unarmed, clan protocol or no. "T-Tenten..." His display of speaking prowess would have made his cousin shake her head regretfully.

"You bastard!" she said, again, not as loudly but every bit as fierce. "A present? I'M to be a present? After all I've - all the - you BASTARD!" Normally Tenten was rather eloquent, possessing quite the vocabulary from all her hours in the library. When she began to repeat herself like that it meant she was very close to an utter loss of control.

"Tenten - "

"I am going to cut your limbs off with a red-hot katana, ask Sakura to reattach them or grow you new ones out of that goddamn mane of yours, then cut them off again!" She screamed, and suddenly a katana was in her hand. Neji automatically and prudently took a step backwards. She was moving onto detailed threats, now. This was not good - not good at all.

"Never mind limbs, I'm going to take off your ..."

"Tenten, I'm sorry."

"...and feed it to...huh?" Tenten trailed off, astonished.

Had Neji just...?

But he never apologized! Never! At least not beyond a "Hn," in a vaguely conciliatory tone.

"I'm sorry."

Now he was doing it again!

Neji took a step closer to her, and continued in a low, intense voice: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to - "

"To assault me?" Tenten exclaimed, taking a step back, and then another as he matched her retreat with a quick-stepping advance.

"Yes! I mean no! I mean..." He took a deep breath. "I'm not sorry for kissing you, I can't pretend I am, because I've wanted to do it for a long time. A - very long time," he repeated (and this was even rarer than Tenten repeating herself), but in a softer voice.

"And..." A hint of a smirk touched the corners of his lips. "I felt you kiss back, that first time."

Tenten turned bright red, and she shyly averted her gaze. Then she remembered what he'd done, and lifted her head in defiance and new-waked anger. "You have a lot of nerve..."

"But I am sorry for what I said afterwards," Neji continued, hurriedly, his eyes seeking hers, locking her in his silvery gaze. "I - that's not why I did it. Not entirely - no, not even mostly. It was just - the last thing that tipped over. Don't you see? It was all I could say! The other things - " He looked visibly frustrated with himself. He'd always valued actions over speech. And here was speech, failing him. "The other things, the real things behind the kiss, they were - too much to say, don't you see? Don't you see?"

He was begging now. Tenten gaped at him, eyes sweeping over white-knuckled hands clenched into fists, the tension almost humming in his body, a chest heaving up and down for breath from the rare, impassioned (if slightly incoherent) speech, the way he leaned towards her... and his eyes. Wide and dilated so she could almost see his pupil, almost Byakugan but without the veins - and open to her, so open, emotions running through them for her to read like she never had before.

"I..." She swallowed hard, and Neji echoed the action in his own nervousness. "I've given you - I've given you weapons, a CAKE, all my attention and my time and my...and this isn't enough for you? You have to HAVE me?"

'Yes,' Neji didn't say. "...no, that's not what I..."

He was cut off as Tenten kissed him.

There was a single moment of perfect, shocked silence. Tenten smiled against his lips as she lay one hand gently against his chest, feeling his heartbeat galloping underneath her fingertips.

Then Neji lunged at her, knocking her back against a tree, and proceeded to try and devour her. Or at least that's what it felt like to the startled girl. She gasped, then involuntarily made a soft sound from deep in her throat as Neji took the chance to deepen the kiss. Her head was whirling and she needed the tree at her back to keep her balance. And she was all too tempted to lose herself in Neji's hungry kiss...

But what fun would that have been?

Finally, panting lightly for breath and with both hands braced on his chest, Tenten managed to push him away, grinning as she noticed the wild look in his eyes and the deep flush on his pale skin. So it wasn't exclusive to Hinata, after all. She forestalled another lunging attempt to kiss her by cupping his face in her hands, laying a gentle kiss on the tip of his nose. Neji stared at her, his eyes with the two concentric rings that marked the awakening of the Byakugan - though without the veins popping up underneath his skin - and Tenten (who'd never been able to study it this closely) thought the second ring, the one around where his pupil would be if he had normal eyes, was spinning slightly, and remembered the rumors of Sharingan being a genetic offshoot of Byakugan.

"Neji," she said softly, "Haven't I proved myself enough to you?" She cut off a frantic reply with a single finger against his lips. "But if you want another present...fine. I'll give you one more, since you're a demanding brat." She grinned at him as she said it, though, and Neji felt a giddy joy rising up inside him, until he felt as if he should be hovering off the ground. She forgave him! She kissed him! She...

"I give you my leave to court me," Tenten told him, then giggled at his dumbstruck expression. With a final kiss on the very tip of his nose, she flitted off back towards the Hyuuga compound, calling over her shoulder. "Whether you WIN me - because I can't give myself away like that, Neji - is another matter. But you can try."

And then she disappeared into the shadows of the forest, fleeing lithe and light as the wind, and Neji chased her in a sort of dreaming daze, following the sound of her laughter and half-seen flashes more than anything else, and didn't notice they were back at his clan compound at first...

...not until an angry mob of his cousins attacked him.


Began writing BEFORE July 3 (the day after being my brother's birthday) but didn't finish until now. Writer's block nothing. This is - like - writer's Berlin Wall. Writer's Siegfried Line. Something huge and bulky and impassable.

But I slogged and I forced myself (witness the painful phrasings in the middle, especially) and here 'tis! Sorry if any of you were waiting.

...now, this is the time for you to leave, unless you wish to listen to a mini-rant that I indulged in with a friend. (slightly edited)

Additional Author's Note: On My Irritation With Forgiveness

I know Our Lord Jesus Christ told us to forgive, but I find myself really irritated by this in some fics - fanfic and novels and movies. I am talking about the girl forgiving the guy (as I see it) too easily.

Am I a vengeful person? Maybe I am. I dunno. It's just...I read/see these stories. I'm the first to admit I'm a sucker for soap opera "one has wronged the other" storylines. It doesn't even have to be lovers, can be siblings, friends...parent/child...The parents ignore the child, or the sibling does. Oh, and of course the lover ignores/cheats on/hurts his significant other, that's there a lot. It's fairly cliched, and I am the first to admit it, but if you like the characters at all it sucks you in and makes the work a real page-turner. It's a guilty pleasure, but it is a pleasure. ...like junk food. Yes. Cliched situations like this are the junk food of writing.

What makes me angry is when the wronged one forgives the other one - "so easily" I always think. Which is what is making me wonder if I am a vengeful person. I want the other one to do MAJOR LEAGUE REPENTANCE

I'm always shrieking, "WHAT?! That's IT?!" During one romantic comedy thingy, I remember... Oh yeah. It was Notting Hill, which I love. HUGH GRAAAAAAAANT. Ahem. Anyway. The female lead came to his shop, delivered a line, all was sunshine and flowers again. I was so irritated. Now, mark this, I wanted them to get together, and I wanted their ending to be sunshine and flowers. I just wanted a little redemptive suffering, damn it!

Or, how about when I was in first year high school, and reading those slim teenage romance novels with the photo-covers. (now it's all comic-style, I note). And you don't know what it cost me to admit that. There was high school drama, there was cliches galore. There was the "guy kisses another girl" and I realized by the end of the novel that I wanted the girl to find another guy from then on. I didn't CARE the first guy was so sweet, that he "realized I wanted you" right away, or that he wrote a song for her. (Because I recall they were all in a band.) My friend who lent me the book told me I held grudges. I told her I thought the guy would cheat. She said it was obvious he wouldn't, but I protested why would it be obvious to the main character? Why wasn't she even wary at all of him?

...actually, I think it's not so much the gifts-and-apology than the quickness of it. If the guy gave chocolates, but the girl was wary for some time before accepting him back, or even a "...but they weren't as close as they had been FOR SOME TIME" I'd feel better. It's the instant "THEN EVERYTHING WAS FINE" that irritates me. Heh, I wrote a forgiveness scene myself and I've been kicking myself over whether I wrote it too fast, actually. (I just wanted SOME sort of resolution. So I can see why people do that. It STILL irritates me, especially for when the sins to be forgiven are beyond verbal faux pas or accidents or forgetting things.)

Or maybe, like I said, I'm just a vengeful person who holds (imaginary?) grudges? ...it would make sense for how I write Neji.

end rant