A/N: This is a kind of sequel to my other NejiIno story, 'Knowing you'. If you're curious, go to my profile and look for it. Though, I think that it's understable without reading that story first.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Many thanks to my friend/beta-reader/supporter, Francesca. She edited this oneshot. You know how I adore you.
The ceiling was white and the room was silent.
Sometimes, Ino Yamanaka hated how everyday, ordinary things could so easily remind her of him.
A sip of green, mint tea (his favorite) or even the mere scent of it and she could already feel his soft taste in her mouth, the faint memory of his tongue gently caressing hers in a passionate kiss- And, there. She was all aching with longing, anxiously awaiting him.
Because he always came to her, sooner or later, but... always.
Sometimes, it was pleasant to allow herself a moment of girlish daydreams, while gently tracing white petals of a lily with a slim finger. The same he brought her last time they met, being the first and only flower she'd ever got from him.
But not today. Not anymore.
Hell, just as irony would have it, today she was filled with longing even more, her own bed seeming foreign and yet so painfully familiar with his musky scent lingering all over the pillows and covers.
Staring dumbly at the ceiling from her lying pose, breathing his scent in deeply, Ino slowly stretched her arm towards the white, seemingly endless space above her.
It seemed like it was impossible to grasp it.
Just like Neji.
Rumors were quickly spread among fellow ninja in Konoha, with Ino being one of the most interested in them. The blonde liked to be well informed, as a spy, carefully storing every bit of information she heard for further use. Who knows when it will come in handy, and plus; it was always a good training for her memory (A spy's best friend, as Morino Ibiki always taught her.)
But, when Sakura visited her a few hours later in the flower shop, she really wished she didn't know that much.
Nevertheless, the pink-haired medic excitedly brought her the news and that was how Ino landed on her bed, wide-awake in the middle of the night, waiting more anxiously than ever.
A quiet sound of the window opening and she held her breath, feeling the presence of another, painfully familiar person in the room. The one that right now sat gently on her bed, both arms supporting his weight on both her sides.
His warm breath, with a subtle hint of the ever-present mint tea, tickled her face and she could feel his slim, soft fingers brush away few strands of hair that rested on her face.
Blue eyes met white, pupiless orbs.
His movement stopped and the hand went back to its previous location.
Ino hadn't moved an inch when he drew back, Byakugan eyes carefully examining her face. She settled for simply staring at him, observing his reaction.
"You heard." Neji stated quietly, his deep voice barely a whisper.
"Of course I did! The whole village is talking only about that!" Ino snapped, lifting herself up and switching on the light. She sat on the bed, face to face with the man.
The said man merely watched her, the yellow light reflecting in his white orbs. "Those are only gossips. No arrangements have been made yet."
"Yet? Yet? So, you do admit that the Hyuuga clan has been discussing about arranging a marriage for you? Because they are worried that because of your unsociable lifestyle, the genius of the Hyuuga's won't leave any heir? ...Well?"
"Yes." The word left his mouth in a rush, his face still the stoic mask he always wore.
The fists on her lap tightened. "Well then, what are you doing here?"
The Hyuuga remained silent.
"You know we can't keep it like this forever. This...this thing that's between us, because you sure as hell can't call it a relationship! You come to me whenever you want in the night, disappear before I wake up; do you honestly think it can last forever?"
If Ino was a little more observant, or maybe if her vision wasn't blurred by small tears, she would've noticed the tension in his body visibly growing with every spoken word.
"Why do you intend to keep our meetings secret, anyway?" The blonde spat. "Are you ashamed of being with me? Don't think I will always welcome you with open arms, being your last resort, someone to fuck whenever you're angry-"
A hand slammed into the wall, creating a small crack, just beside her head.
A cold glare burned into her shocked blue orbs.
His eyes seemed like fire, a furious desperation clearly present in the emotional look he gave her. Unconsciously begging her to understand him...
"You've got it all wrong..."
Ino looked at him, wide-eyed. "Then tell me, how it really is. What am I to you?"
Neji slowly removed his palm from the dent in the wall and left, through the same open window.
"Tell me, Neji!"
She could still clearly hear every word he spoke to her and the intense gaze, as she sobbed violently into the pillow.
She wanted so badly to be able to read his emotions at that moment.
Ino's fist tightened then fell limply on the bed again, by her side.
He never specified what he felt for her (and neither did she) and when, on that significant mission, they got a tad closer, Ino thought it was better not to think about the future and just focus on present instead.
Maybe it was her mistake.
Back then, she thought that she could read through his actions quite well.
Those soft caresses during their nights together...
All the loving whispers that filled the night silence, mixed with their erratic breathing...
Every time they touched, every time she got that feeling, which (She hoped so, at least) Neji got as well...
Ino Yamanaka was quite sure she could understand what those actions meant.
Apparently, she was wrong.
"Sometimes, I have the feeling that I don't know you at all, Neji." Tenten sighed, her hand gracefully twirling a kunai in her hand, before throwing it lazily into a tree's bark.
Her training partner didn't even bother to comment on her statement, choosing to smash a wooden pole instead.
Tenten observed his actions warily. Early in the morning, the Hyuuga appeared on her doorstep, demanding a taijutsu training session when Lee was away with Gai.
Of course, having a long friendship with the man, the woman knew that Neji only trained traditional taijutsu when he was greatly frustrated. His every day training consisted of mastering Hyuuga techniques and the Byakugan.
"Come on, let's take a short break. It's noon already and the heat is starting to get unbearable. I brought some tea...mint?" She offered, briefly glancing upwards.
Neji stopped his movements and obediently sat beside her, in the cool shadow of a tree. He took the offered cup stoically.
"I don't know why do you intend to keep all of it in secret, anyway. Just introduce her to your clan and tell them what the situation is. Or else you'll be trapped in a loveless marriage and I don't think I'll stand another conflict with the Main Clan. I had enough for a lifetime."
White eyes shifted to her. "Who are you talking about?"
"Don't play your games with me, Neji. I'm talking about Ino Yamanaka, of course."
His look turned suspicious. "How do you know about her?"
"It's not hard to notice your slight, but sudden change in that cold attitude when I've known you for years." Her brown eyes rolled.
His fists tightened. "I won't do it. They once took away everything I had...I don't plan-"
"Yes, I know, I know." Tenten interrupted hurriedly, worried that her teammate might go into another angst fit. "But you were a child back then. Now, you're a full-grown man and things in the Main Family changed too, if I'm not mistaken. Are you still afraid?"
"I am not afraid." Neji stated firmly, in a slightly sulking way, as much as he'd allow to show, anyway.
"Whatever you say, Neji." Once again, Tenten rolled her eyes. Then, her expression softened. "She means a lot to you, right?"
A nod. "I...need her."
"Then fight for her, Neji. Don't let anyone take Ino away from you." Tenten felt that her point was made in such clear way that even Neji Hyuuga, completely clueless when it came to girl's heart, understood her perfectly.
She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Go to her now, Neji. She mentioned sometime ago that she needed to buy supplies for her flower shop, so try looking in the market. Make things right with her, once and for all."
Somewhere above, in the wide branches, a bird chirped before setting off.
Neji stood up and gave a slight smile, before heading towards the market.
Tenten smiled with satisfaction of doing a good deed. After having have to deal with Neji when he was still in conflict with the Head Clan, she wasn't exactly keen on experiencing it again.
Ino really did Neji some good. He was, in his own specific way, happier and much easier to get along with. It was greatly appreciated by her and Lee.
And perhaps, she thought, if it'll continue for a longer time, one day Neji will be smiling more often, laughing even...
And what's most important, the past sins and mistakes of the Hyuuga clan can be finally put to rest.
Noon was the busiest time on Konoha's market, with families going shopping for ingredients necessary to make dinner and children assisting their mothers in hopes of getting some extra sweets.
Neji steadily maneuvered through the crowds, his Byakugan eyes shifting in hopes of spotting that specific, pale blonde hair.
He halted, white eyes narrowing when the target was found at the grocery stand, in the middle of the long line. Not taking his eyes off her, the Hyuuga spoke to the nearing man. "What do you want, Kiba?"
"What, you're doing shopping too? I need some dog food, what about you?"
"I'm busy." Much to Neji's dismay, Kiba wasn't the one to let go that easily.
"Busy with what?...Oooooh." A snort, strangely resembling a bark, left the younger man's lips when he followed the Hyuuga's gaze.
"And here I was, all the time thinking you were gay. With your long hair and loneliness and such."
Neji had the elegance to remain unaffected. "I am not gay."
Kiba chuckled yet again, clearly enjoying the sudden chance to tease the Hyuuga genius, completely unaware of the latter consequences of his actions. "It's kind of suspicious, though. Hinata mentioned something about the possibility that you and the Yamanaka are together but I've never seen you act like a couple. Why?"
Neji's jaw clenched. "I. Am. Not. Gay." He stated through gritted teeth, tearing his gaze away from Ino to grant the Inuzuka with the 'I-will-pull-your-brain-out-from-your-nose' look.
Kiba smirked. "Prove it."
The expression on Neji's face changed and gracefully, he made his way through the crowds, nearing the oblivious blonde, all the time followed by Kiba's victory gaze.
Make things right.
Swiftly, his hand grabbed Ino's arm, twirling her around so that they were face to face. In an urgent, almost desperate motion, his lips crashed against hers.
Kiba's jaw literally dropped.
The market went silent, everyone staring at the famous, cold-hearted prodigy, witnessing with their own eyes when the said prodigy deepened the kiss with no hesitation (and no resistance from Ino) by sliding his tongue into her mouth.
Slowly, they parted, with Ino being stunned and speechless and Neji stoic as ever.
The Hyuuga's eyes moved over the crowd, sending the 'One-word-and-I-will-shove-your-brain-up-your-ass-this-time' look, lingering extra long on Kiba.
Then, still followed by everyone's curious gazes, the couple left the crowded place, with Neji tugging Ino away, towards the Hyuuga house while she tried to say something coherent, all the time gesturing widely.
Because she was his freedom and he will fight to keep her with him.
"Why is it called a caged bird, anyway?"
"It's supposed to emphasize our dependence from the Main Family and the inability to live as freely as we would've wanted."
"Oh...so, we're supposed to be like birds in cages, never allowed to fly in freedom?"
"That's what they wanted, but...Neji, whoever said that birds are free?"
"I heard about a certain kind of bird that migrates to the north, having to cross the sea. Many of them die in the journey, from exhaustion. Even though they can fly as they desire, when the flight is endless and the bird has nowhere to rest its' wings...sometimes they may even regret being born that way. They might regret being able to fly."
"So why do they?"
"Because Neji... A true freedom might mean having a place or person to return to...And I suppose that's what keeps them going."
A/N: YES, I know what you're all thinking. No writing from me in such a long time and when I finally post something, nstead of updating my ongoing stories, I write a stupid, silly oneshot. For some reason, NejiIno (and, as I'm beginning to think, ItaIno) is a pairing that I can't seem to think of a good plot and/or write it properly. Not like I can write properly other pairings, but...NejiIno is just harder. And at least I have good ideas for plots for SasuIno and ShikaIno fics.
At first, I hated this oneshot with burning passion but after re-reading it for few times...And few reassuring words from my friends, I started to...like it a bit. So! Please, please, please review!