Read It Aloud

Yugao

Summary: Tenten finally finds a painless way to tell Neji how she feels. What happens if things don't go entirely as planned?

Author's Note: First Naruto fic ever, so… I still have to get used to this. And it's a NejiTen one-shot, because I've been greatly inspired by all the nice stories everyone's written of them. But that still doesn't change the fact that I'm pretty new to this, so… please… go… easy on me. Please?

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and I make nothing out of this.


"Read it aloud – I've got nothing to hide from you."


She had never felt more like a coward in her entire life.

Tenten tightened her grip on the folded piece of paper in her hand. Usually, unless it was for sparring with Neji or a mission, she didn't exert so much effort on something – especially not something as mundane as a piece of paper. She sighed, and looked at the creased, slightly rumpled sheet with something close to sympathy.

That morning, she had finally decided how to tell him how she felt. Over and over, she had cursed herself for it. She was no coward, and she knew it – but why did she have to resort to a scrap of paper to let Neji know?

Maybe, she told herself, I'm not as brave as I ought to be.

And so she had written him a note. It was a stupid, childish idea to begin with, she had told herself. You're giving him more reasons to think of you as weak.

But she ignored the nagging little voice in her head. The letter was finished, and she had folded it up neatly in a square that fit into her palm. She resolved, at the very least, to bring it to his house on her own. That much, she had courage enough for.

But if she did have the courage for it, as she thought, why was she standing in front of Neji's door, hand poised in midair but too scared to knock?

Because she had hoped that when she brought it to his house, he would be away. It was a stupid idea, anyway; it was only a few hours since they finished sparring. There was barely the ghost of a chance that he would not be at home.

She sighed, dropped her hand in resigned defeat, and made to turn away.

Not today, she told herself. Sometime else.

"Tenten, come in."

She froze at the sound of his voice. Had he always known she was there?

She steeled herself, and slid open the door. His room, like the other rooms in the house, smelled faintly of candles. Windows let in the soft, late afternoon sunlight. Outside, the sky was painted tangerine that faded into purple in the horizon – the way it looked every sunset. And Neji…

His back was turned to her, but he asked, "What is it, Tenten?" quietly, calmly, as was his way.

No matter how long she had known him, the sound of it this way always sent chills up her spine.

"I…" she began. She hadn't really thought about what she was going to say to him. "Um… a message just came for you." Though she knew he couldn't see her with his back turned, she motioned to the slip of paper in her hand anyway.

When he didn't answer, she just nodded. "I'll… just leave it here, then."

"Wait."

He had pushed himself up off the floor, and turned to look at her. His clear eyes were searching hers, as they had for years since they met. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he spoke. "Read it aloud."

She stiffened. "Um… excuse me?"

"Read it aloud, Tenten," he said simply, not moving from where he stood. His face – which, like always, carried that hard, expressionless gaze – was unreadable.

She took a step backward. "I wouldn't want to invade your… privacy. Why don't I just leave it here, and you can just…"

He shook his head. "Read it aloud, Tenten. I have nothing to hide from you."

She was silent, and his voice was barely a whisper as he added, "The question is, do you?"

"Do I what?" she asked.

"Have something to hide from me?"

She closed her eyes. "Of course not, Neji," she said quietly, taking the piece of paper in her hand once more and crumpling it before returning it to her pocket. "But you've always known, anyway."

Author's Note: I'm sorry, I know it's pretty pointless, and not a very good try even for a first-timer. But I'd really, really appreciate constructive comments. Thanks for sparing some time to read this.