watching x-files with no lights on
we're dans la maison
- Barenaked Ladies
He waited for her in her suite of rooms, growing more and more tense as the hours ticked away. He paced impatiently – looked at the things she had put up around the room, from the calligraphic scroll bearing the characters for 'sword', 'spear' and 'shield' on the wall to the mug of now-cold tea she had apparently prepared for herself and left on the table. The kitchens would have gladly –
- but she liked doing things for herself. She always had, he remembered.
By the time she came in, his nerves were strained to the breaking-point. He launched himself at her with hardly a conscious thought, and they thudded ungracefully onto the silk rug.
For a few moments, caught by surprise, she had fought back as fiercely as a trapped wildcat. He had to jerk his hips out of the way to avoid a knee to his groin, caught a flying fist with one hand, used the other to pin her dagger-wielding hand to the floor.
"Tenten – Tenten! It's me!"
She stilled underneath him, eyes searching out his face. For a moment they just stared at each other.
Then Tenten ripped her fist away from his hand and tried to punch him in the face.
"What is wrong with you?" she hissed, bending her legs at an undoubtedly painful angle so that she could kick him off. He caught her fist again, rolled them over to negate the kick, pinned her underneath him again as she tried to pull away. "Get off me!"
They rolled all over the room like a pair of wrestling children, Tenten snarling curses and threats at him. They bumped against the table, and the mug of tea on it rattled dangerously. He jerked away as a naginata that had been propped against the wall, awaiting a polishing, thudded down next to his head.
"NEJI! What is wrong with you!?" Tenten demanded again as she finally managed to roll on top of him, pinning him down much as he had done to her earlier. "Why on earth did you attack me when I came –" she trailed off in amazement, bending her head closer to him to confirm what her ears and eyes seemed to be telling her. "You – you're laughing."
'You said my name!' "Can I help it if I think you're funny when you're mad?" He grinned up at her, the expression turning his face unexpectedly boyish, and the breath caught in Tenten's throat.
She just gaped at him, for a moment, taken aback by the laughing, happy youth underneath her, so different from the distant, distracted clan-head she had been speaking to for the last few weeks. His laughing rumbled deep in his chest, and she could feel it reverberating through her. Then her eyes began to narrow, and Neji swallowed one last laugh and rolled her over on her back before she went back on her guard.
He looked down at his flashing-eyed, angry wife, and smiled, and wondered how he could when fear and regret sat so cold in his belly.
"Don't…don't leave me," he said, suddenly, almost without deciding he would. He caught only a glimpse of shock-rounded eyes before he was burying his face into her shoulder, not willing to see what her face might tell him. "Don't – please…"
"What?!" Tenten held his shoulders and shook him, the way she had used to shake Lee when he was being especially exasperating. "Who told you I was leaving you?!"
"You…I mean, I…" Neji stammered. "No one. I just…you weren't talking to me anymore, and I had…I had been…" He was uncertain, fumbling, terrified by the specter of loss that loomed before him, casting his emotions into high-strung sharpness.
Tenten stared at him for a second, and then the hands on his shoulders pulled him into a hard embrace. "You…great…daft…stupid…idiot!" she said, interspersing each loving curse with quick, light, fierce kisses on his face. "I'm not leaving you. I won't leave you. I won't leave you even if you tell me to!"
Neji began to smile again, remembering several occasions in the field when she had, in fact, disobeyed his orders to leave him and go on ahead, and stayed to fight with him. He had been nearly sick with fear sometimes, and he had scolded her, and told her she was a reckless idiot, almost as bad as Lee and Naruto – no, worse – and she had only scowled at him and not apologized.
And something deep in him had been glad that she had fought so fiercely to stay beside him.
"So…you…" His breath hitched as her lips grazed his pulse-point. "You're…not angry at me anymore?"
Tenten stopped kissing him – he stifled a little whine – and sighed. "Neji – I love you. And I'm not going to leave you." She glared at him. "Not after all I'd done to win you." Neji opened his mouth to protest – he had won her, not the other way around! – but she continued.
"But I still don't like the way you treated me - you weren't being the man I married, lately. I am your partner - I am not your servant and I am not your subordinate. I am your wife."
Neji tried to say he had never thought of her like that, she wasn't a servant, he hadn't been treating her like the Main treated the Branch, had he?…something of his frantic denial must have shone in his eyes, because Tenten cupped his face in her hands and gave him a soft, gentle kiss that made him sigh into her mouth.
"I know. I know. But, Neji, even if you didn't mean it – I felt like you were pushing me away. Like being the clan-head was so important that you…you had to…" Her voice faltered as she remembered lonely nights, watching Neji sleep beside her and realizing they hadn't spoken to each other at all the whole day through.
"I…I missed you – I wanted you to miss me too…"
It was Neji's turn now to kiss her face, moving slowly from her brow to her half-closed eyelids, dropping one on the very tip of her nose. "I did miss you," he said, lowly, eyes looking deep into hers. "And I was scared that I had driven you away…"
"I wouldn't let you," Tenten told him, flinging her arms around his neck, fingers tangling into his dark hair. "I'm going to make you remember you married me, not the clan!" she told him fiercely, finally breaking into the wide, wild grin he had not seen for too long. He couldn't help it – he had to kiss her.
He felt her smile against his lips. A rush of joy bubbled up in him, and he smiled back. He knew they would have to talk, would have to decide on ways to make this work, that the easy dynamics of their relationship as shinobi – the rough-and-ready partnership won through years on the battlefield and off it - would not be enough for a relationship as husband and wife – they would have to compromise, and cooperate, and make a real effort.
But she wasn't going to leave him. She was going to stay by his side – forever, and ever, and ever.
Neji stalked imperiously into the council-hall, moving so fast and so quietly that several councilors activated their Byakugan reflexively – somehow he made their nerves scream, "Attacker, attacker, big scary attacker."
Hiashi, an elder now that he had stepped down as clan-head, watched his nephew curiously. He had considered stepping in when the boy showed no signs of putting the Council in its proper place, but perhaps – perhaps his help would not be necessary. He relaxed as much as he could in the formal seiza position, and smiled a small, quiet smile to himself.
"Let us begin." Neji's voice snapped like the cold of a winter wind.
"…all right, we do not patrol the northern borders."
"But if we did, there might be samurai!"
Neji coughed, once, and all the councilors' heads immediately swiveled towards him. (Hiashi was forced to duck his head to hide a twitching mouth – he knew where Neji had picked up that little trick)
"We will have our shinobi meet with Kurosawa. They will operate under his orders," Neji commanded, his voice inviting anyone to just try arguing. "There will be ten shinobi in each team, and they will leave tomorrow evening. Councilors Haromi, Hitamarou; I will leave the equipage up to you. Is that clear."
"Yes, Hyuuga-sama," came the murmur from eleven throats. (Hiashi was too busy trying not to laugh to answer).
There was a rustling of fabric as the councilors readied themselves to leave the room – only to be abruptly frozen as Neji's hand came down once, sharply. The sound seemed very loud in the sudden thick silence.
"Pray remain seated, Councilors. We have not finished our business yet."
Hakeru sputtered, "But our young! They will – they will…"
His older brother Hamato agreed, "Look, Hyuuga-sama, I'm all about values, but…"
"I think that community service will be good for them. It will allow them to learn how to interact more readily with the outside world," Neji said calmly.
'And you have fond memories of your own forced community service, don't you, Neji,' thought Hiashi, remembering a fifteen-year-old Neji stumbling back to the compound covered in mud and drying mortar, his hair full of wood-shavings, his arm slung over his teammate's shoulder – and looking utterly happy (for a Hyuuga). 'Your lovely young wife's suggestion is indeed a valid one.'
"We recommend Kaempfert do the construction of the new wing," said Haruhi softly – he was the youngest of the councilors, but one Neji trusted.
"Yes, it now turns out that his operating costs are projected to be lower than Ford's…" Hyouya said, adjusting the spectacles that were unique among the Hyuuga – sometimes Neji thought he wore them just for their disconcerting effect when the light glinted off them.
"Ford's last customers are getting frantic," Haruhi added diffidently, glancing at a stack of papers.
"Very well. Hiashi-san? Would you handle the signing of the contracts?"
Hiashi inclined his head. "It would be my honor."
Neji looked at his uncle – he did not smile, but the look in his eyes was less driven than it had been. "…thank you."
"So are we all agreed?"
"Yes, vanilla is the finest of the flavors."
"That will be the ice-cream we purchase in the next month, then."
By this time, the sunlight had deepened into the red-gold of dusk, slanted across the floors, disappeared completely into the blue shadows of night. Neji had sent for servants to light thick white wax candles, and the meeting proceeded in the faint, flickering light of the candle-flames.
The councilors were still in formal seiza position, their pride not allowing any of them to be the first in decades – not since Hyuuga Higure, who had showed up to every council meeting blind-drunk and had still only fallen out of seiza once – to relax from the formal position. However their faces were beginning to show the strain – even Hiashi was looking a little less than completely relaxed.
Neji looked slowly over the papers he held in his hand, set them down, turned his face towards the councilors who had summoned him.
"And is that it?"
One of the eldest nodded frantically, caught himself, and managed to cough out in a restrained voice, "Yes, Hyuuga-sama. That is the last of the issues pending."
"So." Neji paused, steepled his fingers. Some of the councilors unconsciously leaned towards him, their nerves straining at this last bit of silence. "With this, all clan business is taken care of."
"Yes!" gasped out one. "Yes, it's all finished. Everything is signed, decided. There is nothing left for you to do, Hyuuga-sama."
"I see." Neji abruptly got to his feet, startling the councilors, some of whom swayed backwards or almost keeled over. "In that case, I bid you goodbye, councilors. I will see you in a week."
He did not wait for the confused Hyuugas to get to their feet before he inclined his head to them, the traditional signal for the end of council, and strode quickly out of the hall, his robes billowing in his wake.
The councilors blinked confusedly at him, then at each other. Hiashi, who had unobtrusively shifted from seiza into a more comfortable lotus position, smiled to himself as he watched his nephew all but run away from the hall.
'So, is that how it is, Neji?' he thought, steepling his fingers to hide his smile much as his nephew had done earlier.
Tenten was carefully placing her newly-polished naginata into the teakwood weapons-case that had been her wedding-gift from Gai-sensei when the door to her rooms slid open. She whirled just in time to have Neji engulf her in a hard embrace, his hands sliding down her sides to her hips. She staggered with the force of his embrace, keeping her balance only barely.
"Neji!" she gasped. She pushed a little at her husband's chest. "I'm happy to see you too, really, but can you not try to knock me to the floor every time? I've still got the rug-burns on both my knees…"
Neji suddenly looked her straight in the eyes, Tenten's breath catching at the expression in their darkened depths. "Let's go," he announced, and began tugging at her wrist.
"What?" Tenten stammered, following helplessly in his wake as he pulled her through the twisting turns of the Hyuuga household, remembering only just to place her feet exactly where Neji was placing his – the floor tended to chirp if she didn't. "Neji!" she protested as Neji's pace sped up. "Where are we going?"
"My – our rooms," came the terse answer. Suddenly he turned his head to glare at her, not faltering in his pace as he did so. "When we get back, Tenten, you are going to move your things back into the master-suite."
"Get back? Get back from where?" Tenten demanded, not really registering her unconscious agreement with his order – Neji did, however, and turned his head back, satisfied.
He ducked into his rooms, finally letting go of Tenten's hand long enough to change into a sturdy set of traveling clothes. A suddenly silent Tenten could only gape at him – he smirked, the expression hidden behind the cloth of the shirt he was pulling over his head, and resisted the urge to preen. He tugged on his old jounin-vest, the rarely-used garment still appearing new, and promptly began to fill the many pockets with money, supplies, and kunai.
"Here," he said, turning to his gaping wife and tossing her the vest she had left in the closet –it was still stuffed full of weaponry and scrolls, he knew. Tenten caught it in numb hands.
"Put it on," he ordered, as he scribbled something onto a sheet of paper. Bemused more than accepting, Tenten did so, smoothing the green fabric over the well-used tee-shirt and shorts she usually wore when she polished her weapons.
"Neji," she said, as he seized a third sheet of paper. "Will you please tell me – " she was cut off as Neji seized her wrist again and pulled her out of the room. She rolled her eyes, deciding she'd have to wait until her husband's inexplicable spate of insanity subsided before getting any answers from him.
Neji paused before a Hyuuga Guardsman, opening his mouth to say something – only to trail off as the Guardsman winked at him. Neji blinked, unsure he had actually seen that – not from a Guardsman, surely, those stern warriors who had never been particularly friendly to him, the upstart young clan-head.
But then the Guardsman actually gave him a thumbs-up. Neji gaped, and a deep blush spread across both his and Tenten's faces as they realized what the Guardsman was approving of.
"I…er….I…" Neji stammered. He fought the urge to actually fidget as the Guardsman beamed encouragingly at him. He took a deep breath, and thrust the notes he had hastily scribbled in his room at the Guardsman. "Would you please take these to the councilors they are addressed to? I will be leaving for…for a short while, with my wife, and…"
"Say no more, Hyuuga-sama," said the Guardsman, smiling broadly still. "I understand. I was a newlywed once, too."
"Yes, and your besottedness was the stuff of legend," Hiashi said dryly, suddenly appearing. The Guardsman laughed. "Well, Hiashi-san, my Yolei was worth it, don't you think?"
He winked at Neji again. "Don't worry, Hyuuga-sama. I'll see to it that things will be alright when you come back." He turned and vanished into the darkness, already heading towards his captain; Hyoraku-taicho would love to hear of this. (His captain was secretly a sucker for romantic stories)
Neji turned nervously towards his uncle, the man that had raised him for most of his life. "Uncle," he said, slipping back into his childhood form of address. "I…"
"Neji," Hiashi said, surprising both Neji and Tenten with the warm smile that spread across his face. Tenten blushed a little, thinking that when Hiashi-san smiled like that, she could imagine what Neji would look like when he was older. "You don't need to explain anything; the clan will still be here when you return."
Neji nodded. "Thank you, uncle." He hesitated, then said, "I…I told the Captain of the Guard and the head of the Council that you'd act in my stead until I came back."
Hiashi inclined his head. "I would be glad to act as your regent until you come back." Then he raised his eyes to meet Neji's again, an even more surprising glint of mischief in them. "Just make sure I'll have a grandnephew or a grandniece to hold soon."
The young couple blushed furiously. Tenten was still trying to force sounds out of her mouth when Neji recovered, smirked, and took off, tugging Tenten in his wake.
They disappeared over the compound-wall; Hiashi smiled as he watched them go.
'You'd be so proud of your son, Zashi,' he thought, mentally speaking to his twin as he often did. 'I know I am.'
"NEJI!" Tenten yelled, at the end of her patience as they sped over the rooftops of Konoha, heading at full speed towards the gates. "I'm not moving another step until you tell me – "
She was cut off as Neji halted, spun her into his arms, and gave her a kiss that left her clinging to Neji as her knees buckled. "We're going on our honeymoon," Neji whispered in her ear, nipping at the lobe as he did so. "Being that it was so rudely interrupted the last time."
"Wh- what?" Tenten panted, trying to focus her spinning thoughts. "Wait, but…we didn't even pack…"
"We'll buy what we need when we get there," Neji assured her, still nibbling on her ear. Tenten shivered, and tried to speak normally. "Where's…where's there…?"
Neji shrugged. "I don't know. We'll decide on the way?" He grinned, Tenten feeling it more than seeing it. "And this way, no one will be able to summon us back until we want to come back."
He abruptly pulled away from her, and smirked as Tenten made a little breathless whimper before she caught herself. She scowled at him.
"You arrogant son of a…"
He silenced her with another kiss – a gentler one this time, deliberately keeping the contact light so as to not be tempted to begin their honeymoon right here on the rooftop of some random Konoha villager.
"Let's go," he whispered again, and this time Tenten followed him entirely willingly.
Despite an initial uproar, which was soon settled by Hiashi and the Hyuuga Guard, the Hyuugas did not send anyone after their clan-head and his young wife.
No one, therefore, heard from them until exactly one week since the council meeting, when they both returned looking very relaxed, tanned, and clad in tropic-weight clothing.
Neji called, of course, for an immediate council meeting. They quickly disposed of any business that had built up in his absence – which, thanks to Hiashi's capable stewardship, was much less urgent that the councilors would have led him to believe.
Neji brought up the last item of business himself. "Councilors," he announced smugly, his teeth showing very white against his tan as he smirked. "I will be requiring the use of the nursery wing very soon."
A stunned silence – then another uproar.
In the midst of the noise and pandemonium, Neji answered his uncle's soft query in a tone of absolute self-satisfaction.
"She's due in thirty-six weeks."